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Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Michael (2011)

I first saw Markus Schleinzer’s Michael at the Chennai International Film Festival in December 2011. The festival was powered by obscure films from unsung directors and with respect to narrowing down my choices, I certainly had my work cut out. I don’t like going by plotlines. Stories don’t matter to me nearly as much as storytelling and characters do. Critical acclaim was the only deciding factor. But most of these films hadn’t even been released. Michael premiered ‘In Competition’ at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival. I learnt of the premise only after the presenter said “The film is about a paedophile who locks up a kid in his basement.” My hopes were up. I like films that permeate into the dark depths of the human mind. Michael did that and more.

A half-bald man is just getting home from work. The house is a barren place. Empty. Quiet. Lifeless. You hear the sound of things being moved, things being dropped, things being carefully placed. The window blinds fall. He takes the stairs down to the basement and unlocks a heavy metal door. “Come on” he says. A little boy walks out of an unlit room. They share a silent dinner and watch TV hoping to inspire a hint of life into their lives. The boy is urged downstairs, back to the basement. The man follows shortly after and shuts the heavy metal door behind him. The film cuts to a visual of the man washing his genitals. Say Hello to our lead character, Michael (Michael Fuith). And his boy toy, Wolfgang (David Rauchenberger).

The Mill and The Cross (2011)

As interesting as watching paint dry is a phrase that might ring true to many with regard to The Mill and the Cross.  Story, characters, human element… they all take a back seat. It’s all about the visuals.

 At first, The Mill and The Cross seemed to me like a series of paintings with moving objects that were heading nowhere. And I had intended to bring it up in a critical manner. The film evokes stillness and boredom in you. But only as it should; echoing the feelings of an artist who, bored out of his mind, taunts a helpless spider with a stick. The spider hobbles around in its dewdrop studded web but remains unwilling to abandon it. Inspiration gushes in and sets the creative juices flowing. Time stands still, the artist seizes the moment and it all flows onto paper. When he begins to see the beauty of the town, you slowly involve yourself in the film and recognize its beauty. That’s a rich payoff, the realization that all of this documentary-style spying has amounted to something meaningful.

The Goodfellas

You might be confused at seeing a prefix ‘The’ to the title of Martin Scorsese’s ‘Goodfellas’. The purpose of this article is to address, and expose, the characterization of Goodfellas. What makes the Goodfellas so appealing? They don’t give a fuck. The approach director Scorsese and Editor Thelma Schoonmaker employ at making them give off that vibe is more than meets the eye.

Scorsese chooses long tracking shots to introduce us to the Goodfellas. You come to know of their quirks. Take their style of nicknaming, Jimmy Two-Times who always said everything twice”I’m gonna get the papers, get the papers.” Or that the sons were named Peter or Paul and their wives were all Marie. The three principal characters here are Henry Hill(Ray Liotta), Jimmy Conway (Robert Deniro) and Tommy Devito (Joe Pesci). They work under caporegime Paulie (Paul Sorvino).

Let’s begin with Henry Hill and his ambition. “Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a gangster. It meant being somebody in a neighbourhood full of nobodys. It meant belonging somewhere and being treated like a grownup.” The moment that line falls on your ears, you believe it.
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