melancholia poster by drmierzwiak
April 16, 2012
Happy Birthday, Sir Charles Spencer Chaplin (16 April 1889 – 25 December 1977)
THE GREAT DICTATOR SPEECH:
I’m sorry, but I don’t want to be an emperor. That’s not my business. I don’t want to rule or conquer anyone. I should like to help everyone – if possible – Jew, Gentile – black man – white. We all want to help one another. Human beings are like that. We want to live by each other’s happiness – not by each other’s misery. We don’t want to hate and despise one another. In this world there is room for everyone. And the good earth is rich and can provide for everyone. The way of life can be free and beautiful, but we have lost the way.
Greed has poisoned men’s souls, has barricaded the world with hate, has goose-stepped us into misery and bloodshed. We have developed speed, but we have shut ourselves in. Machinery that gives abundance has left us in want. Our knowledge has made us cynical. Our cleverness, hard and unkind. We think too much and feel too little. More than machinery we need humanity. More than cleverness we need kindness and gentleness. Without these qualities, life will be violent and all will be lost…
The aeroplane and the radio have brought us closer together. The very nature of these inventions cries out for the goodness in men – cries out for universal brotherhood – for the unity of us all. Even now my voice is reaching millions throughout the world – millions of despairing men, women, and little children – victims of a system that makes men torture and imprison innocent people.
To those who can hear me, I say – do not despair. The misery that is now upon us is but the passing of greed – the bitterness of men who fear the way of human progress. The hate of men will pass, and dictators die, and the power they took from the people will return to the people. And so long as men die, liberty will never perish...
Soldiers! don’t give yourselves to brutes – men who despise you – enslave you – who regiment your lives – tell you what to do – what to think and what to feel! Who drill you – diet you – treat you like cattle, use you as cannon fodder. Don’t give yourselves to these unnatural men – machine men with machine minds and machine hearts! You are not machines! You are not cattle! You are men! You have the love of humanity in your hearts! You don’t hate! Only the unloved hate – the unloved and the unnatural! Soldiers! Don’t fight for slavery! Fight for liberty!
In the 17th Chapter of St Luke it is written: “the Kingdom of God is within man” – not one man nor a group of men, but in all men! In you! You, the people have the power – the power to create machines. The power to create happiness! You, the people, have the power to make this life free and beautiful, to make this life a wonderful adventure.
Then – in the name of democracy – let us use that power – let us all unite. Let us fight for a new world – a decent world that will give men a chance to work – that will give youth a future and old age a security. By the promise of these things, brutes have risen to power. But they lie! They do not fulfil that promise. They never will!
Dictators free themselves but they enslave the people! Now let us fight to fulfil that promise! Let us fight to free the world – to do away with national barriers – to do away with greed, with hate and intolerance. Let us fight for a world of reason, a world where science and progress will lead to all men’s happiness. Soldiers! in the name of democracy, let us all unite!
April 15, 2012
My Movie Year is a blogathon created by Fandango Groovers. The goal is to choose a favourite year in movies, and present our top 5 films from that same year. After many, many lists - mostly of films from the 1990's and 2000's - I've managed to cut it down to 2007 and 2009. Though they were both amazing, I must choose one.
The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford was the first movie I went crazy for. I couldn't stop talking about, I've watched it countless times, I even made a presentation about it in high school - that's how obsessed I was. A few months later, I made another oral presentation: There Will Be Blood. And sure enough, a few months later, another one: I'm Not There. Needless to say I grew fond of speaking in public. With these three gems I learned more about Bob Dylan, opened my eyes to how insanely talented Daniel Day-Lewis is, and found my life-long project: to defend Casey Affleck's trembling voice.
In 2007 I also discovered Ryan Gosling's talent before he became a super-hero (Lars and the Real Girl), one of my favourite music artists, Edith Piaf (La Môme), a way to enjoy a western film (3:10 to Yuma), a reason to love Ben Affleck (Gone Baby Gone), and yet another one to stalk scottish men (Atonement). I fell in love with naked gingers with the british comedy Death at a Funeral, and my adoration for the Coen Brothers grew stronger thanks to No Country For Old Men - and with it I found a spaniard that I could bear. Into the Wild reinforced my belief that veggies are insane, Zodiac spiked my interested in serial killers and lobotomies, and with Funny Games I learned that loosing my life can sometimes be fun!
But if I were to be truly objective about this, I'd go with 2009. It was a year of remarkable films, from all around the world, whether with big budgets or independent. Films like Io Sono l'Amore, and Coco Avant Chanel had impressive scenes that stood out and still remain in my mind; some films introduced me to incredible artists like Peter Sarsgaard and Carey Mulligan (An Education), Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man), Anna Kendrick (Up in the Air), and Sam Rockwell (Moon); others provided me with a different perspective on artists that I already loved, like Andy Garcia (City Island) and George Clooney (Up in the Air).
But five other films did even more than that, and became instant favourites. I was, and still am, mesmerised by Haneke's dark, cold tale in Das Weisse Band and I never left the theatre more satisfied about spending €10 than when I watched Inglourious Basterds. A Single Man is a wonder to the eyes, with an absolutely perfect sense of beauty and style - and we'd expect nothing less from Tom Ford. 2009 was also the year I had the Francis Ford Coppola right in front of me when attending an uncomfortable, but rewarding, screening of Tetro, at the Estoril Film Fest. And then there's Andrea Arnold's hypnotising direction in Fish Tank, featuring one of Michael Fassbender's most brilliantly subtle performances.
April 10, 2012
I believe it's safe to speak freely about this, now that it has been four months since the season's finale, but still...
** this article contains spoilers **
Those who follow the show certainly know what happened to Jimmy Darmody on this season's finale. There's also a pretty good chance he was one of your favourites. Now, Jimmy was played by Michael Pitt, so I write this article on no innocent time: today is Pitt's birthday, how suitable is that. Another reason for writing this now is that I re-watched the two latest episodes of Boardwalk Empire earlier this week, and I still got mesmerised, not only with the final scene, but with everything that happens in, and since, Under God's Power She Flourishes. So let's start with that; the episode that reveals most about this fascinating character's past.
Like any great gangster story, Boardwalk Empire struggles with the recurring theme of the righteous path versus the path everyone in the series seems to follow. Its characters live both moments of proud in their crime achievements and of sorrow for all they suddenly see as sins. In Under God's Power this subject takes centre stage, and is cleverly summed by a discussion between Nucky and Margaret: in a parable about how generosity can save your life, Nucky seemed to think that such a virtue is the weaker path of those who lack cleverness.
And if there is anyone who suffers above all from divine retribution is Jimmy Darmody. In the previous episode we gasped as his wife, Angela, was murdered by Manny Horvitz in an act of cold revenge. Now we get valuable insight into their relationship, through flashbacks that dominate a great part of the episode - a proper move, but a nice one too, for she was a lovely character that we were just now starting to understand. So Jimmy lost his wife, and with a fresh dose of heroine at hand, he lets himself go in an anonymous hotel room, dwelling in past memories.
It is through these trips to his past that the not so shocking truth about his relationship with Gillian, his mother, is revealed. Their strange dynamics are noted in a subtle way throughout the series, even pointed out by other characters, but it was hard to foresee the depth of the sickness between the two - we're talking incest, of course. However, from the moment mother and son walk into a bedroom after a social gathering, and Jimmy starts "taking care" of a drunk Gillian, it's hard to picture a different outcome for that scene. As writer Howard Korder points out, neither of them where forced to do anything, it was something that had been cooking for years; she had him at age 13, and formed the closest bond she has ever had with anyone, one she started to twist from the moment he was born.
Add this to having Nucky Thompson as a father figure, and it's easy to get Jimmy's own words: I'm what time and circumstance has made me. And time and circumstance made him the kind of man who would and did try to kill his own mother, and succeeded at killing his own father. He confessed the torment and secret wish to do this to Nucky before, regretting not having done it yet, to which Nucky replies that it's only natural that he couldn't harm his own father, for it was family - a judgement that will later resonate in Nucky's actions, and Jimmy's outcome.
But the most shocking element of this murder is how Gillian, after nearly being killed by Jimmy due to her cold reaction to Angela's death, sides with him against the Commodore when he tries to kill Jimmy, inciting her son to kill his own father. A strikingly intense scene backed-up by powerful performances, that manages to go from failed matricide to failed infanticide to actual patricide, in one successful tragic climax.
The sudden destruction of Jimmy's world could only culminate in his own fall. The final episode's title, To the Lost, comes from a recurring ad lib by Michael Pitt himself - a drinking salutation to the soldiers who died in the war. This was a category he explicitly included himself in, when saying to Nucky upon facing his very death: I died in the trenches, years back. I thought you knew that. But despite considering himself as good as dead, Jimmy knows his actual end is near, and so he tries to make things right, or as right as he can. The only possible outcome was as clear to him and it was inevitable to the storyline: not sure of what Nucky would do, he held a pistol when receiving him; and too sure of what Nucky would do, he brought no arm to their late night meeting in the rain.
As said by the show's main character, blood runs thicker than water, and so Nucky pulls the trigger, twice, but not before delivering the final, brilliant words that made him a full-on gangster: I'm not seeking forgiveness.
James Darmody was one of the most compelling characters of the show, product of magnificent character building work. And in the hands of Michael Pitt, it was the very thing we all excitingly looked for in every episode - he had me hooked.
here's a great tribute to Jimmy, using an appropriate song, Blood Crosses, by Pitt's own band, Pagoda.
April 9, 2012
Despite becoming a commercial film star of French Cinema, I can only speak for Belmondo's earlier roles, as an alluring figure in some of the most influential films of the french Nouvelle Vague, and for which this actor is still regarded with delight.
With a breakout role in 1960, as a young criminal obsessed with Humphrey Bogart in Jean-Luc Godard's À Bout de Souffle, Belmondo effortlessly took many breaths away - he certainly did take mine. His somewhat strange features, tanned skin and irreverent attitude only made him the more interesting, and at the hands of this iconic director he could've never gone wrong. Collaborating with Godard again in Une Femme est Une Femme and Pierrot le Fou, he traded what was left of his innocence for a more daring, rugged look, creating a delicious contrast with Anna Karina's delicate ways.
Belmondo also worked with director Jean-Pierre Melville in Léon Morin, Priest, for which he got nominated for a BAFTA, and in a more sleek role as a gangster in Le Doulos - a complex and gorgeous film that combines elements of film noir and Nouvelle Vague, though it divided critics.
Wether opposite Jean Seberg or Anna Karina, Jean-Paul Belmondo was the perfect symbol of french youth in the 60's, ever captivating and of course, handsome - but a particular kind of beauty, his own. There is a lightness to him that keeps us from looking away, an effortless charm exhaled at all times, wether he is lazily smoking a cigarette or making funny faces. And it is that special something that prevails until today, the day Jean-Paul Belmondo turns 79 years old.