Category Archives: Blind spot series

El secreto de sus ojos (2009): March Blind Spot

Director: Juan José Campanella; Main Cast: Ricardo Darín, Soledad Villamil, Pablo RagoGuillermo FrancellaJavier Godino;

El-Secreto-do-Sus-Ojos

I was really looking forward to watch this film and my expectations weren’t disappointed! It’s an engaging, multi-layered story that intertwines events in the mid-seventies and in 1999, all connected to a homicide investigation. Benjamin (Darin) is a retired Argentinian federal justice agent in 1999, he’s writing a novel based on an old case with the hope of understanding it better and finding some closure. In 1974, Benjamín, his assistant Pablo Sandoval (Francella), and newly hired department chief Irene Menéndez Hastings (Villamil) were personally affected by the brutal rape and murder of Liliana Coloto, in particular after witnessing the extreme grief of her husband, Ricardo Morales (Rago). They doggedly pursue the investigation, notwithstanding the incompetence and the willful near-sightedness of the justice system, finally zeroing on Isidoro Gomez (Godino) as the real killer. I won’t add more details about the plot to avoid spoilers for those who have not seen this film but rest assured there are some interesting twists.

Campanella expertly juggles the past and present storylines, making the viewer slowly discover different sides of Benjamin while he builds up the case, in the past, or he revisits it, in the present. Through his eyes, we get to know the other key players and see different explanations of events he didn’t witness directly, which are especially intriguing since one of the main themes of the film is about remembering the past and being stuck in it. Although Benjamin is aware that historical accuracy is not paramount for the novel, the process of revisiting the case is a necessary step to be able to move on also with his personal life.

The director works flawlessly all the technical aspects of the film and keeps the viewer engaged from start to finish. There are some beautiful shots of interiors and of Buenos Aires that complement well the brilliant performances of the cast. Darin is the soul of the story while Villamil is the heart.

As a final note I must say that now that I’ve seen this film I appreciate even more the ambiguity of the title: “sus” means not only “their” but also “his” or “her”. Riveting —9/10

This post is part of the Blind Spot Series 2016, a blogathon organised by Ryan at The Matinee

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Steamboy (2004): February Blind Spot

Director: Katsuhiro Ôtomo; Main Cast (Voices): Anne SuzukiMasane TsukayamaKatsuo NakamuraManami KonishiKiyoshi Kodama;

steamboy

I must confess I found this film a little underwhelming. This is the first feature film by Otomo after his unforgettable masterpiece Akira. There are more that fifteen years between the two movies and they couldn’t be more different story wise, however they both have a boy as central character around which everything revolves. In this film Otomo goes steampunk, setting his tale in England, 1860 circa, or, more accurately, in an alternative version of it.

Young Rey Steam (Suzuki) is a gifted inventor as his father Edward (Tsukayama) and his grandfather Lloyd (Nakamura). They are all skilled engineers and have great dedication to their work. Edward and Lloyd are pursuing their research in America since they couldn’t get appropriate funding in England to achieve their goals (apparently brain drain is a problem even in sci-fi anime). They manage to design a new device called “steam ball” (not the most creative or inspired of names, I must say), which contains highly pressurized vapor of a particular type of water, and revolutionise the current state of technology. Rey receives one of these new devices in England and a mad chase ensues. The warmongering and greedy Americans want to utilise it for evil purposes while Rey and his grandfather and the British Empire have more peaceful uses in mind… well at least Rey and grandpa do, the Brits want to prosper and maintain their supremacy (my my, who would have guessed!).  The theme of technology employed in the service of mankind’s self-destruction is not a new one and applied better by Miyazaki in a few of his films. Howl’s Moving Castle, that also came out in 2004, uses magic as metaphor but it’s the same concept. In this film sadly most the characters are one-dimensional, little more than stereotypes, leaving the viewer too detached to really care what happens to them. In addition, suspension of disbelief needs to be put in high gear (pun intended) to be able to follow the story and enjoy all the complex, imaginative and original machines and inventions.

What I find very engaging is that the pace of this film never slow down. There is a lot of camera action that I’ve never seen in an anime before. Instead of quick edits, some scenes are panned, zoomed, or rotated with incredible accuracy, as if they were actually filmed rather than being drawn. This is the strongest suit of the film since the story feels rehashed and the characters are not particularly endearing. Ingenious —6/10

This is my second post in the Blind Spot Series 2016, a blogathon organised by Ryan at The Matinee

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Network (1976): January Blind Spot

Director: Sidney Lumet; Main Cast: Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter FinchRobert DuvallNed Beatty;

Network

Television is indeed a cut-throat world. Network and corporate executives exploit the mental break-down of a veteran news anchorman for the sake of ratings and monetary return. Summarised in this way, the film sounds like a jaded, cynic view of TV news in the seventies but it is so much more! It manages to introduce some surreal elements into a serious and realistic narrative that becomes one of the harshest criticism of television, entertainment and business world. Furthermore it uncannily predicts what happens to television in the next forty years: reality shows, exploitation of the worst gory events to improve ratings and such. Faye Dunaway show a wonderful combination of fanatical glee, workaholism and sheer determination as Diana Christensen, the producer who takes the reins of the news section of the network. She replaces Max Shumacher (Holden), an old-timer with integrity and also personal friend of Howard Beale (Finch), the anchorman in question. Beale’s ravings are illuminating and still actual (and downright hilarious) and Finch is fantastic to watch, no wonder he has got an Oscar for this role. To add more quality to an already stellar cast there’s Robert Duvall as Frank Hackett, face of the corporation, that recently bought the network, and ultimate shot-caller. His character might come across as one-dimensional, only driven by quarterly returns and stockholders’ expectations but Duvall manages to imbue him with some vulnerability that makes him more credible. The heart of the film is Holden’s Max: a man who is going towards his twilight years and finds himself fired, rather unceremoniously. He is viewed by Hackett as the past in TV news and he is considered both expendable and a threat to the network. All of this because Max refuses to use his friend Howard as freak-show to be paraded in front of millions of people. Max is the only silver lining of the film: someone who clings to his humanity (both the good and the bad) and doesn’t surrender and turn into a humanoid like Diana. Lumet’s directing is flawless and inspired and Paddy Chayefsky’ s script is pure gold. My favorite scenes are: Arthur Jensen’s (Beatty) speech about the primal forces of Nature and the contract negotiation between the far-left-wing revolutionaries, the communist activist and the network representatives; both are hilarious and amazing. Riveting —9/10

 

This is my first entry to The Matinee‘s Blind Spot blogathon. So far so good!

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