Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Slowing down the pace

Hello readers,

Definitive Bond Marathon: Octopussy (1983)

(Directed by John Glen)
The Octopussy mission was a perfect demonstration of how even the smallest, comparatively lightweight incidents may only be masking matters of extreme importance. It all began when 007 (Roger Moore) was tasked with accompanying one London’s art experts at an auction where a Fabergé egg was available for buyers. Bond brought along a fake, which had made its way to London after being found in the hands of the deceased 009 in Berlin. While at the auction, 007 successfully swapped the fake Fabergé for the real one, and hoped that the buyer (or seller) who be revealed, for there was fear that the Russians were involved in selling off fake treasures to raise funds. The buyer was non other than an exiled Afghan prince named Kamal Khan (Louis Jourdain), whom Bond then followed to Rajasthan India.

It was there that the grander scheme behind this art dealing was revealed. Khan was in fact a close associate of a power hungry Soviet general, General Orol (Steven Berkoff) who intended to set off a nuclear bomb in West Berlin. The ‘wild card’ as some would say, was a beautiful and astonishingly beautiful women who went by the name of Octopussy (Maud Adams). She was a successful businesswoman and among her many trades was the production of circus acts. It was through her circus troops that the real versions of the jewels were smuggled into the west while General Orlov assured that replicas would remain in Kremlin treasury.  But would Octopussy assist Bond in his desperate attempts to stop General Orlov and Kamal Khan, or was she a supporter of their plot as well?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Capsule reviews: 3 Superman films

Last week on Labour Day Monday Mpix in Canada featured a Superman marathon, with the first three entries of the franchise playing back to back to back throughout the morning and into the afternoon.

Superman: The Movie (1978, Richard Donner)

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Shaw Brothers Marathon: Heroes of the East

Heroes of the East (1978, Lau Kar-Leung)

Marriage. There is almost nothing like it. Harmony and bliss with the one person with whom you feel the closest to in the entire world. The love which binds two people together so strongly can emanate from any number of things, such as common interests, even in the smallest of things. It is interesting how some marriages and various other relationships can come undone by matters one least suspects. Pride, for one, can be a mighty big killer, especially if one has too much for one to swallow and thus must abide by it. Such is the dilemma facing the central couple in Lau Kar-Leung’s 1978 classic film, Heroes of the East, who not only come together because of their shared love for martial arts, but eventually grow apart due to their respective adherences to the disciplines they know best, which, in the case of the historical China-Japan rivalry, can be a tremendous matter of national pride, enough to wash away whatever love once existed.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Definitive Bond Marathon: For Your Eyes Only (1981)

(Directed by John Glen)

As the years moved along, it became increasingly evident that among the greatest threats to England and her allies were the sudden disappearances of highly sophisticated weaponry. It was coming to a point where our enemies no longer had to create the technological terrors themselves but only steal them from us. On this occasion, MI6’s system alerts were raised upon learning that one of our proudest concoctions, the ATAC (Automatic Targeting Attack Communicator, used to help coordinate Royal Navy fleet ), which had been secretly hidden in the St Georges posing as a fishing boat in the Sea of Albaina, vanished. The ship sunk and, to make matters worse, a marine archaeologist called upon by us to retrieve the prized invention, was murdered before he could ever complete his duty. Clearly, something was up.

007 (Roger Moore) was dispatched to find the killer, a certain Hector Gonzales (Stefan Kaliphan), at his Spanish estate, but Melina Havelock (Carole Bouquet), daughter of the deceased and on a personal revenge mission, was one step too fast and killed Gonzales with a crossbow. By indentifying one of Gonzales’ associates at the scene, a ruthless killer named Locque (Michael Gothard), Bond was able to locate an individual with whom Locque once had ties to, a businessman and former intelligence liaison, Aristotle Kristatos (Julian Glover), who directs 007 towards the figure apparently after the ATAC, a smuggler and former partner who goes by the name of Columbo (Topol). But investigation brings only confusion to the matter for once 007 finds himself in Columbo’s clutches, the smuggler, rather than liquidating 007, makes a case for his innocence in the entire affair and explains that the real threat is in fact Kristatos, who is on the hunt for the ATAC in the hopes of selling it off to the Russians. 

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Shaw Brothers Marathon: The Water Margin

The Water Margin (1972, Chang Che)

The topic of scale has not been broached in the Shaw Brothers marathon thus far. Admittedly, with the exception of Come Drink With Me, most of the films analyzed have been characterized by comparatively smaller scales than what one might be encouraged to anticipate from martial arts action adventures. Sets that clearly look like sets and not necessarily large ones at that, costumes that clearly look like dresses which only exist in the world of the movie, medium sized casts, etc. None of these elements are slights against the pictures discussed, only that the indication up until this point has been that Shaw Brothers rarely, if ever, ventured into making truly epic films. Chang Che, evidently enough one of the most prolific directors in the studios famed history, made strides to up ante by a considerable degree with his 1972 film The Water Margin, a film that tries to be epic on almost every platform imaginable including the actors’ credits if one can believe it.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Thoughts on the summer of 2011 and the FFM

The second of two summertime film festivals in Montréal, The World Film Festival, ended last week, and, with Labour Day weekend now over, it is safe to finally close the book on the summer of 2011.

Monday, September 5, 2011

FFM Montréal 2011 : Rue Huvelin

Rue Huvelin (2011, Mounir Maasri)

The release of Mounir Maasri’s Rue Huvelin feels timely considering the recent socio-political uprisings which have led to dramatic regime changes in parts of the Arab world since the start of 2011. Tunisia, Egypt and, about two weeks ago as of the writing of this review, Lybia have all undergone significant change due mainly to the populations’ threshold of tolerance towards their respective dictatorial regimes being smashed. Push came to shove one time too many and it was now the turn of the government’s stranglehold on power to be smashed. Rue Huvelin’s concern may lie with another Arab country, Lebanon, but takes a look at what was happening in the early 1990s. What makes the Lebanon example of civil unrest is the source of the oppression for unlike in the three other countries mentioned above, Lebanon’s problem stems from outside its borders, namely, Syria. With Rue Huvelin, director Maasri elects to show audiences what tensions existed (and still exist today) within Lebanon from the point of view of the vocal university students in the capital Beirut.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Definitive Bond Marathon: Moonraker (1979)

Following the United States’s successful mission to the moon in 1969, space technology developed at a lighting quick pace, with many players very keen on participating. Not all of said contesting parties were state representatives. A multi-billionaire Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale), of Drax Industries, was one of the more significant shuttle construction companies at the time, and when one of his top vessels was stolen while on loan to the Americans, MI6 sent 007 (Roger Moore) to investigate the matter.

It was at Drax Industries that 007 met a certain Dr. Holly Goodhead (Lois Chiles), a top scientist and top astronaut working for the corporation. Bond hopped around the world on the trail for increasingly revealing clues as to who stole the space shuttle and why. From California, to Venice, to Brazil and outer space itself. Two revelations were made as Bond zig-zagged to and fro, the first being that Dr. Goodhead was, in actuality, a CIA operative posing as a scientist with strict orders to investigate any wrong doings at Drax Industries. The second discovery was that Hugo Drax himself was the perpetrator behind the theft (of his own space craft). All his efforts to aid the American space program were but a ruse. His personal vendetta against humanity, as one might say, led him to gather fatally poisonous toxins from plants that would eradicate human life on our planet, the toxins being launched from outer space where he and his selected population of the world’s finest men and women would create a new civilization from within a secretive space station.

Friday, September 2, 2011

FFM Montréal 2011: Sengadal

Sengadal/The Dead Sea (2011, Leema Manimekalai)

With Sengadal, Leema Manimekalai pulls off quite the triple play. For one, she arrives with her feature length debut. Second, she succeeds at filling the dual role of director and actress in the picture. Third, and arguably the most interesting coup, is that she succeeds in creating a near-perfect blend of fiction and fact. While the plot per say is an invention and the people on screen were indeed under Manimekalai’s direction, Sengadal is not only inspired by the real struggles of Sri Lankan fisherman fleeing prosecution in their home country and migrating to India, but most of the actors seen are actual people living in these incredible conditions.