Posts Tagged ‘review’

VFFF: Le voyage du ballon rouge

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At the Vancouver French Film Festival last night, Hsiao-hsien Hou’s 2007 release The Flight of the red ballon offered an excerpt from Parisian life. With long takes and slow camera moves, it seemed like a bit of an excuse for Pin Bing Lee to show off some beautiful cinematography.

The narrative and the visuals seem an extension of Felix Vallotton’s 1899 Le Ballon painting above. It’s on display at the Musee d’Orsay, Paris, France behind protective glass. The painting is our story – although transported to the contemporary city (or at least the city at the time Children of Men was released in theatres in France) – and the glass is rather literally often a store window between us and the actors.

Thus we often are looking at two things at once. It’s important to point out that these aren’t Spielberg rear view mirror kind of reflections.

I always felt as if the camera was squeezed into tight spaces at oblique angles to emphasize these reflections. Then again Paris is nothing but tight spaces and oblique angles when you aren’t above it’s glorious skyline.

We also get this sense of nostalgia and restlessness from some slight intensity in exposure. We’ve got the use of great summer lighting – open skies with heat and lens flare.

When I wasn’t watching the fantastic imagery, I was watching Juliette Binoche balance her hectic character against her calm son. Half the time I was mesmerized when she slowed down just enough to be exhaling with the calm of an early morning post marathon peace. Her character was so wonderfully believable at the edge of emotional collapse – struggling to maintain coherence. Too bloody real life for fantasy but not too far away from magic.

Speaking of which, the almost perfectly spherical balloon had a small but magic role: as if it were following along with us, sometimes waiting for as at the next scene. It had an odd compassion that the characters almost took for granted or ignored as if it were the camera. It was outside the story as much as it was in it. I found myself wondering how they manipulated its flight.

Dripping gold leaf and the most deadly foe

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I find that animated features are so closely linked with children’s narratives that when a mature animation comes along, complete with gore and sexual allusions, it takes me a while to adjust (this is a cartoon, they shouldn’t be doing that!). Aside from the more blatant story deviations in Robert Zemeckis CG epic Beowulf, there is one that sticks out the most.

The filmmakers felt the need to exaggerate the terror that Grendel’s mother possesses and the danger that she threatens. There are only a few key steps that are required to really make this happen and in the process ensure that this becomes the blockbuster ode to the Anglo-Saxon heroic oral tradition that it really should be.

First off, let’s cast Angelina as the great object of all male lust – a pretty scary thought, either because of her market value to all the gamers who are dying to see this film or because of the nature of the motivation behind this deviation.

Next, let’s make her more powerful than Grendel. She kills only one man in the epic poem, but our unfortunate CG Beowulf wakes after the victory-over-Grendel-celebration to find all the men in the mead hall dead and hanging from the rafters. Suddenly she is much more monstrous.

Lastly and best of all, the one thing that will make her stature more terrifying than any foe that Beowulf has ever faced, the one thing that will solidify her both in the hearts of all those gamers and in the halls of fear and wonder as stunningly powerful, stunningly beautiful and glowing in all her twenty-first century adaptation glory, is her shoes. Let’s clad her only in dripping gold leaf and heels. Man, if she has time to braid 12 feet of hair, can rip !@#$ up, walk on water and do it all in heels as if it were a regular day at the water cave she must truly be the anti-Christ.