#270/ 365 – ‘Rashomon’ (1950) – 88 mins
IMDb Challenge #158 / 250 – Ranked #81 – Lovefilm
In the woods, the bandit Tajomaru (Toshirô Mifune) rapes Masako and then murders her husband. At a trial, all three give self-serving accounts of the incident. Later, a woodcutter who has witnessed the crimes gives another, more objective view of what happened.
This was my first time of encompassing a piece of work from acclaimed Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa, with more to follow on the iMDB 250 in ‘Ikiru’ , ‘Yojimbo’ and the one everyone speaks highly of ‘The Seven Samurai’.
The film executes some stunning cinematography, in the opening shots, the rain pours down with a surreal force. Rashomon boasts a memorable performance Toshiro Mifune as the manic bandit this albeit is slightly over the top from time to time. Kurosawa in the films simplicity under serious intent does ask the question what is truth? as the film quotes – “It’s human to lie. Most of the time we can’t even be honest with ourselves.”
#271/ 365 – ‘Pan’s Labyrinth’ (2006) – 119 mins
IMDb Challenge #159 / 250 – Ranked #75 – iTunes
Spain, 1944. Young Ofelia (Ivana Baquero) is taken by her pregnant mother (Ariadna Gil) to live with her Fascist commander stepfather (Sergi López) in a remote town. There she meets a faun (Doug Jones) who tells her that if she performs certain tasks in another world in which dark creatures lurk beneath, she will become queen of a magical land.
This, the acclaimed Pan’s Labyrinth was another first for me today. Guillermo del Toro dark fairytale deserves every accolade that is thrown at it, as it is a masterpiece of accomplishment from the Mexican filmmaker. The production design works beautifully which swells and falls within its darkness and light. Cast to perfection is Sergi Lopez as the evil and sadistic Captain Videl a man who dispenses justice without reason to anyone he suspects is against him – a performance to add to the best screen villains list of all-time.
Where Pan’s Labyrinth excels the most to make it a searing and exquisitely absorbing picture, is through Ofelia’s challenging life path she must follow from both inside and outside the imaginary Labyrinth – a perfect example of this journey comes in the sequence when she draws a door with the magical chalk leading her into the banquet room and into the path of the faceless Pale Man, a creature that sits motionless with eyeballs in the palms of his hands – I only wish that had been more of the Pale Man on show.
#272/ 365 – ‘The Prestige’ (2006) – 130 mins
IMDb Challenge #160 / 250 – Ranked #74 – iTunes
Celebrated Victorian stage magician Alfred Borden (Christian Bale) stands accused of the murder of professional rival Rupert Angier (Hugh Jackman). The Prestige traces the course of their bitter feud, as their respective acts of sabotage become ever more deadly.
“Are you watching closely?” – Well you need to be in this dazzling and atmospheric period drama of obsessive rivalry that broodingly builds up between the two successful magicians, who are in search of the ultimate illusion. Christopher Nolan for me is one best and most versatile filmmakers working in Hollywood today. He shows he can working equally well in complex narratives like this and Memento, but at the same time prove he can output flawless blockbusters in the Batman franchise.
Hugh Jackman and Christian Bale are excellent as the feuding magicians; Jackman plays the suave Angier who emits charisma and stage presence to a tee and Bale excels as the man who as technique and is a genius for new ideas. Whilst David Bowie as Tesla, the reclusive electrical pioneer adds a quirky performance.
Nolan keeps you genuinely on the edge of your seat with, The Prestige’s startlingly clever jigsaw of twists. One is so incredibly simple that you’ll be kicking yourself on why you didn’t see it sooner, whilst the other leaves you – well??
#273/ 365 – ‘Reservoir Dogs’ (1992) – 99 mins
IMDb Challenge #161 / 250 – Ranked #66 – DVD Collection
Five total strangers team up for the perfect crime. But something goes wrong. One of the men is the rat, an infiltrator working for the cops. But who?
Quentin Tarantino wrote, directed and starred in this cool heist story that went on to achieve instant ultra-cult status. The heist-gone-wrong story was nothing new to audiences, but this is a heist movie with a difference. You don’t actually see the robbery. You see the build up – Joe (Lawrence Tierney) putting his team together and giving out there ‘cover’ names, Mr. White (Harvey Keitel), Mr. Orange (Tim Roth), Mr. Blonde (Michael Madsen), Mr. Blue (Eddie Bunker) and Mr Pink (Steve Buscemi). and you see the aftermath, but not the heist itself. It’s like a whodunnit but without the murder.
In Reservoir Dogs, his debut movie Tarantino showed the immense talent he has for writing snappy, sharp and poetic dialogue. Tarantino lets his characters talk. And, boy do they like to talk Mr. Brown explains on the underlying meaning of Madonna’s Like A Virgin – “Like a Virgin’ is not about this sensitive girl who meets a nice fella. That’s what “True Blue” is about, now, granted, no argument about that.”. Whilst Mr. Pink explains at great and fantastic length why he refuses to tip.
Tarantino also does masterful job in blending music here utilising “Stuck in the Middle” by Steelers Wheel into the on-screen mayhem, if you’ve already seen ‘that’ scene you’ll know what I mean. If not, lets just say it involves Mr. Blonde’s knife and the cop’s ear – guess the rest.