Film review: Ghost World (2001)

Two rebellious teenage high school graduates despise everything that’s normal in suburbia. This makes for some very amusing, sarcastic dialogue. Enid knows what she doesn’t care for, but has no clue what she does want, she is constantly changing her appearance.

It’s that rare movie where I think it surpassed the comic book it was based on, both are so quotable. Check the memorable quotes section on IMDB here

I love the wicked bummer humour used on many occasions:

“I can’t relate to 99% of humanity”

The film does a good job making the actors cartoony, the make up, costumes and the setting, and in my opinion manages to capture the world of the graphic novel. Scarlett Johansson as always is cute, almost as if God decided she was too beautiful, so he has to punish her by giving her a deep voice, ha ha ( : (That is if you find a deep female voice unattractive)

To me, the Greek supermarket scenes are the funniest parts.

The running time just flies by, no dull moments. One of the best films I can think of that portrays teenage angst and insecurity, and just hanging out and being mischievous from a girl’s point of view. Quite dense (in a good way), there are a lot of small details and pieces of dialogue which may reveals themselves on multiple viewings. A film you can return to and easily rewatch.

As other reviewers write, a film you can relate to if you’ve ever felt out of place in life. About the teenage fear of being trapped in a grown-up future and choosing the wrong grown-up identity. And it evokes sympathy for the judgmental and cynical Enid, as she finds beauty in others’ flaws.

An interpretation of the phrase “ghost world” is that it illustrates the fact that today, everyone seems to be living in their own world, thus making the objective world a “ghost” world. The term can also apply to the way in which both Enid and Becky, but especially Enid, are haunted by the past.

The film won a number of awards for the screenplay and acting. My rating is 9/10




David Boring / by Daniel Clowes

While watching and reviewing Ghost World, I also took the time to read arguably Daniel Clowes other masterpiece, the graphic novel David Boring, which I was recommended by a blogger friend. Was an entertaining read. It features on Times’ ten best graphic novels of all time list. Love that name, David Boring, can you imagine someone saying: Hi Boring! David is our teenage narrator living in 1998 together with roommate Dot. Only 116 pages, so a quick read. The only weakness I could find was the family gathering on the island, where suddenly people started killing each other, which strained believability. More raunchy and with more characters than Ghost World, and again some unforgettable quotes. I’ll share a few of them here:

Page 12: “You can never really trust someone who remembers every embarrassing detail of your adolescence”

Page 47: “Aside from getting shot in the head, David, what have you done with yourself”

Page 73 “More and more, I can’t stand to hurt any living creature. I’m too fearful of revenge…”

Thanks for reading! As always, let me know what you think in the comments below

Film review: Easy Rider (1969)

The filmmakers challenged the Hollywood formula at the time. A film made for young people by young people about “the real America”. Many artists on the soundtrack were from the counter-culture. None of the actors were big stars in 1969. Easy rider is widely regarded as the original road movie.

On the dvd, the Harley Davidson motorcycles are compared to horses in a western:

The film is also about the sadness of the end of the 60s. About two young men experiencing the ultimate freedom while crossing the United States on motorcycles, and became a symbol of free-spirited reaction against society.

Throwing your wristwatch away was an image used to reflect opposition:

It mesmerized critics with it’s perceptive look at America, the plot consists of stories Hopper heard, about people getting stopped at the boarders because of long hair. The film is about how people are scared of free individuals, not so much due to them being free, but because they perceive them to be dangerous.

Peter Fonda’s character Wyatt “Captain America” has a sensitive side, Billy (Dennis Hopper) is more outgoing, while Jack Nicholson’s character George Hanson seems more educated. For Nicholson, Easy Rider was his star making performance. Keeping with the western theme, Wyatt was named after Wyatt Earp and Billy after Billy the Kid.

Wyatt and Billy meet various people on their journey:

Along with other 60s soundtracks like for example Mrs. Robinson, it revolutionized how music is used together with film. Easy Rider used contemporary rock music for the bike sequences, this obviously helped bring in young audiences and created an atmosphere of the times. The words of the songs are part of the story. The music was part of Dennis Hopper’s and Peter Fonda’s record collection.

My personal favourite moment on the soundtrack is probably Born to be wild from the opening credits:

It returned millions of dollars on its $400.000 investment, and has become an iconic piece of American cinema, a cult film. Easy Rider received two Oscar nominations, best original screenplay and best supporting actor (Nicholson). The success of Easy Rider helped spark the New Hollywood phase of filmmaking during the late sixties and early seventies. The major studios realized that money could be made from low-budget films made by avant-garde directors.

According to director Dennis Hopper, “an easy rider lives off a whore, he’s her easy rider, he is the one she loves. She gives money to him, he doesn’t pimp her”

Spoilers on the ending: When Peter Fonda says “we blew it” near the end, we are left to speculate what he means by that? Did they blow the chance to be something different, and did their rebellion fail?
Or did they take it as far as they could? At the end of the day, was their trip a selfish journey, which didn’t really accomplish anything? Having money and freedom does not always equal happiness. According to wikipedia, Wyatt realizes that their search for freedom, while financially successful, was a spiritual failure. I guess if they enjoyed themselves, then at least they had fun!

In comparison, Julie’s learns in the film Three Colors Blue (1993) that she must fill her freedom with something meaningful in order to go on living. Freedom is not worth striving for. We run away from freedom, as soon as we get there.

For film critic Roger Ebert, the film plays today more as a period piece, but it captures so surely the tone and look of that moment in time in the late 60s.

Easy Rider features people smoking dope for real, which was not something that you would normally see actors do!

Among the best road movies out there I think with many colourful characters!

Readers, any thoughts on Easy Rider?




Film review: A Love Song For Bobby Long (2004)

Ok, I admit I went a bit crazy in taking screen snapshots for this review. One of those rare films I feel improved for me on the second viewing. The story is about misfits in New Orleans, some of the themes are friendship, growing up, being a writer, and alcoholism. The screenplay is based on the novel Off Magazine Street by Ronald Everett Capps.

My favourite scene is when Scarlett Johansson spends the day in the airport reading, together with the beautiful song in the background can bring a tear to my eye.

The film really makes New Orleans look so beautiful and I felt like jumping on a plane and visiting. Though watching this indie makes you feel like you are already there. Credit must be given to cinematographer Elliot Davis for creating the atmosphere. Interestingly, Davis was also responsible for the cinematography in the first Twilight film, which I visually liked quite a bit.

Oh, and you get to see John Travolta dancing! An atypical role for Travolta, some of the best acting I’ve ever seen by him, should have been nominated. The film was not given much love by critics, and didn’t do well at the box office. Maybe it will gain a cult following on dvd? One of the negative reviews pointed out Johansson and Macht are both too gym-toned and poised for their loser characters.

I like the little details sprinkled into the story, which you have to pause the movie to properly notice. Has some quotes from different writers that can give you food for thought.

In the behind the scenes documentary on the dvd, director/writer Shainee Gabel says the city of New Orleans was the inspiration for making the film, the beauty of decay. Every few blocks there was a church and a corner bar with regulars, and a great tradition of oral history that they would tell you their life story. She thinks romanticism has become an illness for the broken character Bobby Long (Travolta), books, and writing have become more beautiful, exciting and romantic than his real life, and his problem with alcohol feeds that. Bobby has created a fantasy world about what he is and what he was, to the point where he’s forgotten what he’s lost, and he’s forgotten what was important to him. In the movie he is forced to remember, which is both a happy and painful experience.

The director thinks that washed-up Lawson Pines (Gabriel Macht with the beard in the screen shots above) is someone who doesn’t have a lot of confidence, who didn’t grow up with a lot of support, and when he grew up, he had a professor who took an interest in his career and cared (Bobby Long).

As Roger Ebert notes, its unusual to see an American film take its time, and remarkable to listen to dialogue that assumes the audience is well-read.



Readers, any thoughts on A LOVE SONG FOR BOBBY LONG ?

Film review: The Double Life Of Veronique (1991)

Review intended for those who have already watched the film, spoilers may occur.

A French film directed by Polish director Kieslowski, possibly one of the trickiest of his films to understand I think.

The story is about two identical looking women called Weronika and Veronique. Weronika lives in Poland. Veronique lives in France. They are both played by Irene Jacob, and both have talent as a singer. A tour bus from France travels through Krakow, and Weronika spots Veronique, who is her doppelganger, Weronika smiles, and it seems evident in her curious gaze she would like to speak to her, if she had not seen her, would both women’s lives have been different you wonder. The comparisons between the two women in appearance and spirit being just a series of amazing coincidences is one interpretation.

The first third of the film takes place in Poland, the remaining 2/3 in France. The mistakes the Polish girl makes, the French Veronique senses intuitively, the same story is changing or being revised. They become one person on a spiritual level, Veronique has learned from Weronika’s mistakes, even though they have never spoken to each other. Two souls, but the same thoughts, what is strange is that distance is the key to the unification. They are far away, but spiritually very close. Perhaps Kieslowski is saying we as humans are all one big family and not so different on the inside, no matter if you are Polish, French, or whatever. Or a message could be that you should listen to what your body is telling you in the case of Weronika, and not push yourself too hard.

There is a certain mystery whether a double exists. If we look long enough would we find that double? And even if we found such a person, would we even want to spend time with them or would it be too awkward? Is it comforting to know that another people in the world might have the same thoughts, ambitions and appearance, so we are not alone, or do we prefer to imagine that we are completely unique? These are interesting philosophical questions that Kieslowski’s film got me thinking about, in fact while writing this very review.

Talking of doppelgangers, I think its not just a physical double the story is hinting at, but that mental inner doubles are out there, who feel or think like we do. I personally would much rather meet the later ( :

For James at cinemasights, one interpretation of the film is that the two women are in fact the same woman who exist in two parallel universes. As the train rolls through the city we see the exterior world through the small ball, which flips the image upside down. This creates the idea of a universe running parallel to the one we are observing. The reflection of her in the window also indicates a double.

The Double Life Of Veronique was about something that usually you can’t film – intuitions, perceptions, all this inner landscape of sensation, Irene Jacob recalls (…) these little things which in the end, are the main driving force behind what we do, what we end up doing. They are not easy to portray or film. Irene Jacob talks about in an interview: We talk about things we have done. But really, daily life is just as full of feelings, of premonitions… of solitude sometimes… of intense moments of completeness. You can feel very complete, but then sometimes, feel empty, hollow. And suddenly feel very receptive to all that happens each day, to all the little things that happen outside ourselves, ultimately. But Kieslowski, she says, refused to discuss the underlying themes of the film with her. That would have meant speaking about metaphysics and chance and doubles. He told me that because the film could be taken on such a poetic level we had to be very concrete. For him, metaphysics and chance was something always there in banal, everyday life – a piece of light, the rain, she recalls. His theory was that if you said to people that you already knew what the film was about, nobody would offer any suggestions.

It was no accident that Kieslowski’s late features, from The Double Life Of Veronique onward, have women as protagonists. As he told the author Danusia Stok: “Women feel things more acutely, have more presentiments, greater sensitivity, greater intuition… The Double Life Of Veronique couldn’t have been made about a man.” Kieslowski attempts to show the world from a woman’s viewpoint.

Must be tough to be the boyfriend of Weronika or Veronique, they both feel a connection to another person, and not so much the lover. Alexandre, Veronique’s lover, is held at a distance, like in any relationship between people we can never get inside each others head. He tries to reach her and makes her into a piece of art by portraying her in his new puppet story. There is a dream of wanting to be joined spiritually, which perhaps lifts the body and soul above the earthly circumstance, is this achieveable in fleeting moments through art or other situations? Alexandre wants to know her, and Veronique already has it to a certain extent, but doesn’t fully understand the connection with Weronika, and nither do we the audience comprehend this. Alexandre is also an ambiguous character, does he really want a relationship with Veronique, or is she merely a jigsaw piece in his current artistic venture?

Roger Ebert thinks it’s a puzzle not to be solved, instead a poetic overture on the power of senses and sensibilities, about seeing oneself at a distance.

A very interesting idea I think to perceive yourself from a distance, something we do when we hear our own voice recorded and don’t recognize it, or see ourselves on film when others have videotaped our body language. Can be an eye-opening or surprising experience. We have an inner perception of how we are perceived, which may or may not match how others perceive us. If there is a mismatch of the inner and outer we can feel misunderstood. Being able to see yourself from a distance, or asking others how you appear, can help in making people comfortable around you, because then you sense for example how you behave in a group situation. Would we change anything in our lives, if we watched a big brother film of a day in the life of X? I don’t know. Depends on if we are happy with our lives, or want a change. Perceiving yourself in such a way sounds very narcissistic, so perhaps it’s good we can’t watch ourselves! There will never be a common perception of any given person anyway, everyone will have a subjective opinion about someone, which is constantly evolving, depending on many factors, how well they know him or her, and if they can relate, etc.

Veronique senses there is another individual like herself, and she intuitively decides to act differently than Weronika did, and stop singing. If we see a friend or a movie character in a difficult spot, in many cases its easier to give advice and suggest a change, than it is to alter our own life. It’s interesting to contemplate if some people imagine a fictitious “other self” to try and see how they might conceivably act in certain situations. A dress rehearsal to real life without risk. Weronika is such a person I think for Veronique, a similar person she can project her own feeling onto, who may or may not really exist, and on an internal level mirror herself in, an avatar? If Veronique did continue singing, then the worst-case scenario is what happened to Weronika. Sort of imagining or predicting certain situations in your head is very difficult to do, but in the case of Veronique she knows herself so well that she can foresee a problem, a very unique talent or whatever you want to call her gift. I think the smartest people can foresee many steps ahead, and avoid disappointment in that way. If you know what you are capable of, then you avoid what you can’t do I guess. Then again, if you shy away from pushing yourself to the limit, life may become boring, if you don’t challenge yourself enough.

From interview book Kieslowski on Kieslowski: “You can describe something that maybe doesn’t happen on screen, but which by virtue of the music exists. It’s interesting to bring something to life, which is not in the actual film or the actual music. By combining film and music, a certain atmosphere arises.”
“Restriction, necessary restrictions and necessary compromise, evokes a certain imagination and agility and inspires an energy, which puts you in a position to invent original solutions and ideas for the script”
“when your heart stops, the bar on the machine is completely horizontal. And one time Veronique holds her shoelace tightly and realizes what this means”

“Veronique is constantly having to decide, if she should follow the path of the Polish Weronika or not; if she should give in to her artistic instinct and the excitement, the art contains, or if she should give in to love and all that it entails.”
“I imagine that Veronique doesn’t spend the rest of her life with Alexandre. You see her cry near the end. She cries, when he reads to her, and the glance towards him does not suggest love, because in reality he has used her. He has used her for his own personal gain. I think she is a lot wiser at the end of the film, than at the beginning. Alexandre makes her aware that there is something more, that the other Weronika really existed. It’s him, who discovers the photo. Veronique hadn’t even noticed it among the dozens she had. The photo caught his eye, and maybe he understood what she could not comprehend. He understands and uses the photo. The moment he uses it, she understands, that he probably was not the man she desperately had been waiting for, because in the same instance this was revealed, something of hers, which was terribly intimate, as long as it wasn’t spoken of, was used. And when it had been used, it was no longer hers; and when it was no longer hers, there was nothing mysterious about it. It was not something personal anymore. It had become a public secret.”

Superstition, prophecy, premonition, intuition, dreaming – all this constitutes a human beings inner life; and all of this area is the most difficult thing to capture on film. Even though I know it can’t be captured, how ever hard I try, then I still work in that direction to get as close to it, as my ability allows me to.”

“If film really aims to achieve something – this is how I see it anyway – it is for a person to find themselves in the material.”
“There’s a great story I was told by an American journalist. He read a novel by Cortazar about a main character, who’s name, surname and life was identical to the journalist’s. If this was a coincidence or not the journalist couldn’t say, so he wrote to Cortazar and told him, that he had read the book, and suddenly discovered, that he was reading a book about himself. (…) The journalist told me about the reply, where Cortazar was excited about, what had happened, he had never met the journalist, never seen him, never heard of him. And he was overjoyed by having created a character, who existed in real life. It was in connection with Veronika, that the American journalist told me about this.”

Cinematographer Slawomir Idziak was interviewed:

The Double Life Of Veronique started with a very funny story. I was shooting a film in Berlin when Krzysztof called me one day. He wanted to meet, so we met in Berlin. He told me the following story, ‘I’d like to make a film about a phenomenon I read about recently in the paper. When they come up with a kind of rat poison in the US, European rats know about it the very next day, though they have no way of knowing about it that quickly. It’s an odd phenomenon and I’d like to make a movie about it.’
In the particular case of The Double Life Of Veronique, the most important thing was Krzysztof’s assertion, based on his declaration that he wasn’t interested in the obvious differences between the two countries, what’s used in every film in the so-called ‘West’. All this he deemed to be irrelevant. He was interested in a central character who, regardless of place, regime or politics, is a person with all the same problems. He wanted these two worlds to be identical, to be the same.

Veronique is an example of a film where a director expected his artistic partner, his cinematographer, to suggest a look for the film. The work on the set always started with his rehearsals after which he would ask me how I’d like to film it. Sometimes, of course, he could see a scene differently and disagree with me and, naturally, his decisions were final. But, as a rule, the cinematographer suggested how a scene should look. The film ended up having a green/yellow colour.

Both the use of colour, and daily activities of a sensitive twentysomething female French girl may have influenced Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s Amelie (2001). Spoiler: David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive could also be compared, in that Weronika could be Veronique’s dream, a dream which Veronique learns a lot from. Could the title The Double Life Of Veronique be hinting it is Veronique’s dream?

Much like the Three Colours Trilogy, classical music plays an important atmospheric role, so lovers of that type of music are in for a treat. The scene of an old person struggling along and being watched is also similar in The Double Life Of Veronique and the Three Colours Trilogy, and connects the theme of the films. The dual role of Weronika and Veronique gave Irene Jacob a Best Actress award in Cannes.

I love the visual imagination and attention to detail, and certainly a very interesting film to interpret. Notice I call it a film, not a movie. And to me holds up to quite a few viewings, which is obviously a sign of a film of high quality.

Readers, I’d love to hear any comments on The Double Life Of Veronique!



interview transcripts: Kieslowski’s world and book Kieslowski on Kieslowski

Film review: Blue Velvet (1986)

In a very honest and personal frame-by-frame interview with Cousins (on youtube), Lynch talks about the beginning of Blue Velvet, how it’s a slow dreamy feeling, where things can go either way.

A disturbing vision of small town life in America. Kyle Maclachlin plays a voyeuristic amateur detective named Jeffrey, and he is sort of director David Lynch’s alter ego, with that trademark buttoned-up look. Lynch stated in the interview above, that he doesn’t like wind on his collarbone.

Lynch is a very visual storyteller. Those blue curtains in the opening credits sure are strange and dreamlike, they don’t look like regular cloth. They represent what the film is about, something hidden. A theatre curtain that will soon reveal the story. Another indication of delving beneath the surface is the iceberg model at the police station, which probably symbolizes that certain things are out of sight to the people of Lumberton, most of the iceberg is below the surface.

In the first few minutes, the man waving from the fire truck is interesting, is he waving to the audience, and why? Perhaps to make us aware that we the audience are also voyeurs like Jeffrey is.
I love the metaphor of the insects down in the grass, an insect battle that encapsles everything dark under the surface of the perfect green lawn and white picket fence. Things are not what they seem.

Jeffrey’s role models at home and his childhood world is kind of falling apart, the story is a coming of age tale about Jeffrey discovering the real world outside the safe environment of his family. He goes on a journey to the dark side of Lumberton and himself.

Lynch on Blue Velvet:

“Surrealism deals with things that are hidden beneath the surface, and in most of the cases the subconscious. Blue Velvet is a film that deals with things that are hidden within a small town called Lumberton, and things that are hidden within people”

Blue Velvet can be perceived as an examination of how sex can lead to domestic trauma, fear, power and on occasion euphoria. Lynch’s first film Eraserhead is comparable, a film seen by some as founded on sexual anxiety.

Some were shocked by the erotic content, which is ambiguous. Critics hadn’t seen anything like Blue Velvet before when it came out in 1986.

Cinematographer Frederick Elmes claim in the dvd extas, that Lynch has found that spot in our subconscious where there is a little bit of a voyeur. What could be seen that shouldn’t be seen. He thinks it’s a film about what people think about, not what they talk about or do.

Blue Velvet, and other Lynch films have been accused of glorifying violence. According to Lynch in the interview book Lynch on Lynch, the wild, unpredictable Frank Booth is similar to Killer Bob in Twin Peaks, in that he seems to represent masculinity at the extreme – twisted, violent and psychotic. Some people were upset with Dorothy’s masochism and Frank’s extreme sadism, a sort of sado-masochistic relationship, where you are confused if Dorothy is willing or unwilling. In the interview book, Lynch points out it isn’t right to assume that a character like Dorothy is every woman. Movies tend to stereotype, suddenly if he is a black man, he represent all blacks. The actress playing Dorothy, Isabella Rossellini, interpreted her character as someone masking herself because she is afraid of what she looks like. She’s shy and she hates herself. The wigs and make-up was because she wanted to look like a doll – perfect – to hide her madness. The more she becomes a victim not to elicit sexuality, the more she does. I played her that way: Everything she did turned out to be something she didn’t mean! Certainly plausible that a part of Dorothy enjoys being kidnapped, an escape or a change from her daily life? A few critics point out that Dorothy’s apartment could represent a mother’s womb, the walls are pink and red colours, she is a mother who has lost her son. The building she lives in is called Deep river. Several critics have talked of the themes of family. Jeffrey finds a perverse substitute for parents in Dorothy and Frank.

Lynch had final cut, which he would have for all his subsequent films as well. What I like about his films is how he is artistically uncompromising, he doesn’t go for box office records, but makes a film he wants to make.

David Lynch explored many similar themes of the “disease” lying just under the surface of small town America in his later television series Twin Peaks (1990-91)

In spite of the disturbing elements, it’s the visuals and funny dialogue that stay with me, I think my favourite quote is uttered by Dennis Hopper: “We’re taking our neighbour for a joy ride!”

A bit of trivia. Contains several references to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Jeffery is warned not to go to Lincoln Street. Frank Booth’s name evokes John Wilkes Booth, Lincoln’s assassin. A reference to Lincoln also appeared in Mulholland Dr.( The blue-haired lady sits in the same position as Lincoln did in the Ford Theater)

Spoilers ahead. Some film critics claim the ending is a parody, things are not really resolved. There is still much twisted sexuality and violence in Lumberton. The bug in the beak of the bird near the end is a clear signifier that there will always be darkness to balance the light.

One of those films where you are not sure how to react. Will definitely divide audiences, Roger Ebert hated Blue Velvet, and thought the issues should have been taken more seriously without the comedy.

Doesn’t seem to be much point rating, as my reviews are always recommendations. Anyhow, here goes: 8/10



Readers, any thoughts on Blue Velvet?