Samouraï Cinema has only been at large for a few months, but a taxing student existence has forced the blog to go on hold until later this year. Any film reviews that I write will appear at Under the Wire for the time being. I will compile a mass review of every film I’ve seen at cinemas over the coming months when the Samouraï returns.
A story within a story within a story within a story, The Grand Budapest Hotel is paradoxically Wes Anderson’s most cartoonish (Fantastic Mr. Fox aside) and darkest film. Fatal violence, colourful language and liberal use of stop-motion animation permeate the tale of Zero Moustafa, a refugee ‘Lobby Boy’ and M. Gustave H a highly adept concierge at the lavish hotel. Heavily fictionalised, set predominantly in 1932, Budapest is a joyous crime film of intense energy and emotion, co-written by Hugo Guinness and inspired by the work of Viennese author Stefan Zweig.
A Lego mini-figure named Emmet Brickowski leads a satisfying life of pure conformity in his city Bricksburg. However, the supreme power Mr Business plans to glue the world together permanently. Revealed as the ‘Special’ he must assist the marginalised ‘Master-Builders’ in liberating his threatened world. The Lego Movie is an original children’s film, and despite blatantly advertising many companies, it praises the importance of imagination against an overly-structure, mundane society. Occasionally the storyline submits to corniness, but mostly it is high-octane fun, more exhilarating than many actions films.
Eerily meditative, Only Lovers Left Alive is a bizarre vampire film that slow burns as though it was medieval roast mutton. Set in Detroit and Tangier, the two lovers are coming to terms with the idiotic 21st Century reality and improved surveillance which impedes on their vampirical tendencies.
Somewhere I lost my way. A Samouraï must be agile and remain hidden when possible. I have failed the fundamental law of the code. From now on, my reviews will be much shorter in length and the star symbols will return to the top of the article, with the continuation of sub-categories. Good luck fellow wanderers!
Astonishingly, Haifaa al-Mansour’s Wadjda is the first ever film entirely shot in Saudi Arabia, a country with no cinemas. The title comes from the titular character, an 11-year girl living in the suburbs of the capital Riyadh. Wadjda is a rebel; she wears Converse-style shoes under her cloak, listens to ‘devil’ music on a beaten up radio and above all desires to purchase a bicycle so that she can race her neighbourhood friend Abdullah. This world is very unusual to me, and women are not encouraged to be seen in public, especially not on two wheels. A domestic issue over the bearing of a son prevents Wadjda’s parents from buying her the bicycle, therefore she begins an amusing entrepreneurial mission, selling mix-tapes, bracelets and partaking in dubious activities as a messenger for girls at the school. Previously uninterested in the Muslim faith, a Qur’an recital competition with a big cash prize opens and her unconventional focus on the holy book drives her towards a personal freedom.
12 Years a Slave is adapted from the memoirs of African-American Solomon Northup, published in 1853. It is a tale of exploitation, and that cruelty can be horrifyingly graphic. Oppression has been a constant in human civilisation, and while this film takes place over 150 years ago, in regions throughout the world the disgusting practise of slavery, essential to the film, is still commonplace. Northup suffers greatly from arbitrary repression of race, but he is a lucky one, having been born a free man, but as an adult kidnapped and sold into slavery. Many go through the tireless manual labour, filed with tortuous punishments, for their entire lives. Steve McQueen’s incredible film reminds us in the present, the savageness of human nature, and the extremely cruel measures individuals take to obtain power and wealth. Although the Thirteenth Amendment abolished slavery in December 1865 following the American Civil War, its massive effects are still felt in the gap between the black and white population in contemporary society.
The Samouraï is nimble. There is little time to act. This new review system, focusing on the Samouraï’s most valuable film elements, will ensure that a healthy balance of life can be realised.
The Strength of a storyline. It’s originality and intrigue.
The performance of actors in achieving this narrative.
The aesthetic qualities of the film, particularly the use of cameras.
The film’s score and sound editing.
The overall result of all above elements. A 5-star rating retained.
Finally regaining oxygen after a devastating ordeal, Dr. Ryan Stone sheds her space suit and curls into a fetal position – her will to live reborn – reminiscent of the Star Child in 2001: A Space Odyssey. While that film was a disturbing psychological trip, Gravity is essential a powerful survival story, set in a place where life is ‘impossible’. It has been seven years since Alfonso Cuarón directed the terrific dystopian thriller Children of Men, and from the first shot it is understandable why – it took more than four years to complete. Gravity is an unbelievable piece of art, flawless for a layman its depiction of space, breaking the boundaries for what can be achieved with computer graphics and a camera.
Llewyn Davis, played by the suave bearded Oscar Isaac, is a ‘fucking asshole’. He’s rude and aggressive, even to the people who love him, who let him sleep on their couches. A struggling folk singer, Davis cannot afford to purchase a winter coat to get through the harsh New York winter, and as he trudges through the snow, shivering from the cold, a musical future gradually disappears before his eyes. Has this harsh attitude arisen due to his dire living situation, or is his position due to the disposition? This is left unanswered by the virtuosic Coen Brothers, who have created another complex and engaging film.