Solaris (1972)

‘See, I love you. But love is a feeling we can experience but never explain. One can explain the concept. You love that which you can lose: Yourself, a woman, a homeland. Until today, love was simply unattainable to mankind, to the earth. Maybe we are here to experience people as a reason for love.’ Kris Kelvin

Yep, this is Solaris. Now I could do a pretentious review of this, and believe me there are quite a few of those out there, but I know you can spot them, (giving you some credit here) so I am going to keep it simple.

Solaris centres on widowed Kris Kelvin, a psychologist sent to a space station to investigate what has happened to his friend Dr Gibarian and two scientists onboard. The space station is orbiting Solaris an ocean like planet that seems to be emitting strange signals.

Kris arrives to find that things have deteriorated onboard, the station is in disarray with parts of the station broken. He learns Dr Gibarian has died, due to an apparent suicide,  the two scientists Snaut and Sartorious are alive but not in a healthy place. Snaut warns Kris to be careful about what he does on board, he also gives him a good tip of sticking paper strips to the air conditioner as the ruffles sound like leaves moving in the wind, which can help with sleeping (nice).

On his first night Kris’s late wife Hari appears to him, he is shocked to see her or this life form appearing as her, and finds a way to get rid of her by putting her in a rocket (as you do). However the next night she reappears. It is from here Kris starts a process of self-discovery on life and love.

Solaris is a fascinating film, one that needs to be seen more than once, bear in mind it is 3 hours long but it touches on so many themes that it is worth the effort. It has a trance like allure and the music is hypnotic, I felt absorbed and numb at the same time.

Some of themes it touches on are whether humans are in love with a person or their perception or memory of the person, how much do they actually love the real person. Are humans devoid of actual love? Do they love themselves more than anyone else – are they narcissist? Do they make decisions for their own gain? Hari ends up making a decision that takes her above her newly acquired human emotions, but does this also mean that alien forms are more advanced than humans? Is there intelligent life out there? Also are life events meant to happen and you cannot escape fate?

Life and death are explored and the exchange between Kris and Snaut is well, I’ll leave for you here;

Snaut: When a man is happy…the meaning of life and other eternal themes rarely interest him. One should take them up at the end of ones life.

Kris: But we don’t know when that end will be, so we hurry

Snaut: Well don’t hurry. The happiest people are those who have never bothered themselves with these damn questions.

Kris: A question is always a desire for knowledge…but we need secrets to preserve simple human truths. The secrets of happiness, death, love.

Snaut: Maybe you’re right. But try not to think about all that.

Kris: To think about it is to know the day of your death. Not knowing it practically makes us immortal.

Tarkosky (Director) shows nature as having a calming effect on Kris, whilst the space station as stoic and dangerous – that is until Hari arrives – which I noticed on second viewing. This contrast and juxtaposition is very well done and shows the directors subtlety in letting the viewer pick it up, if you were to further analyse it does sort of sounds like Adam and Eve, but anyway.

The cast are very good, in particular Natalya Bondarchuk as Hari, when she appears the film really takes off. The ending also gets you, not going to spoil it.

Tarkosky gave us Solaris, and it is a very good film, one he is most known for. I highly recommend checking this out, it definitely is a bucket list film and you can tell why.

Rating 5/5

Rumble Fish (1983)

Dennis Hopper (Father): ‘No, your mother…is not crazy. And neither, contrary to popular belief, is your brother crazy. He’s merely miscast in a play. He was born in the wrong era, on the wrong side of the river… With the ability to do anything that he wants to do and… finding nothing that he wants to do. I mean nothing’.

The above quote from Rusty James (Matt Dillion) father about his brother The Motorcycle Boy (Mickey Rourke).

Motorcycle Boy: ‘Even the most primitive society has an innate respect for the insane’

Rumble Fish is Francis Ford Coppola’s adaptation of S.E Hinton’s novel about two brothers and their desire to break out of their environment. Rusty James is a young and simple boy who yearns for the past of gang wars and of times when his brother The Motorcycle Boy ran things, he has no real direction in his life and his brothers shadow hangs over him. The problem for him is his brother has left town and there has been a treaty of no gang fights.

He plans to shake up things and picks a fight with Biff, however things don’t according to plan and he gets hurt, but, his brother turns up to save him. The arrival of his brother attracts the attention of the local police force who start to monitor the Motorcycle Boy. Rusty is happy to see his brother and starts thinking things are going to be the same again and he can take over from his brother, but his brother is not the same as he was, he is more withdrawn and distance than ever before.

They spend the next few days getting back time lost and Rusty learns more about his brothers trip to California, Rusty asks him what it was like he replies:

The Motorcycle Boy: ‘California is like a beautiful, wild… beautiful, wild girl on heroin… who’s high as a kite, thinking she’s on the top of the world, not knowing she’s dying even if you show her the marks’

It is lines like this that make the Motorcycle Boy so intriguing and fascinating to watch, Mickey Rourke is brilliant at delivering them, you can’t help wonder if he hadn’t entered boxing he could have had a much more meatier roles.

The brothers are reunited with their father, an alcoholic lawyer who doesn’t have a job and spends most his time in bars wasting away his welfare cheques, the loss of his wife being a massive factor in this behaviour. Rusty learns his mother is alive and living in California, he feels let down that his brother and father did not tell him this. The restlessness in both brothers leads to events that sets them on a course that they will never forget.

Stewart Copeland drummer of the Police provides the music and the song ‘Don’t box me in’ is a favourite of mine. The film is shot in black and white and the cinematography is standout, there is one scene which will stay with you, it involves the rumble fish which appear in colour which the Motorcycle Boy finds fascinating as he is colour blind. The time lapse shots are a amazing to see and are perfectly balanced with the chimes and of course the drumming provided by Copeland. The cast is also easy on the eye – even Tom Waits.

I first saw Rumble Fish about 15 years ago (yep showing my age here) and wondered what was that? Why am I being recommended this film? What is this telling me? (coincidentally this was the same time my father banned me from riding his motorcycle and any motorcycle period) But the more times I have revisited this the more I have understood it to be a simple story told in a stylistic and overreaching way. My summary is essentially we are all lost in our youth and yearning for something to happen or save us or guide us, normally that the guidance comes from a peer we respect or idolise such as a parent or an older sibling. But what happens when they too are lost? Well I think the only way to combat this is through self discovery which can take some time to achieve, while some get there, others never do, so the search is the ultimate point of life.

I thoroughly enjoyed the film and would recommend, don’t expect it to be just an art film for teenagers, there is depth if you look for it.

Rating 4/5

Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987) Nice

Remember when people used to be nice? I quipped to a colleague days before our office broke up for the holidays (I can’t remember what it was that made me ask that) anyway it was a rhetorical remark, but my colleague went on to mention a host of reasons why people are no longer nice – politics and the ongoing effects of the recession being two – I agreed with her on the reasons but I wondered if the reasons were just an excuse for people to express their true colours.

Anyway I thought about films in which people have changed their views, luckily there are a few, but the one that stuck in my mind was John Hughes ‘Planes, Trains and Automobiles’

The film stars Steve Martin (as Neal) and John Candy (as Del) who play two characters who could not be more different, they meet accidentally when Martins plane is cancelled he decides to travel with Candy to get home in time for Thanksgiving, but he keeps running into problems and gets more and more antagonistic and rude, luckily Candy is there to soothe things over (or make them worse). It is essentially a buddy film, but as with all Hughes films there is an underlying message.

The film features a number of hilarious encounters and memorable conversations, the most memorable, most imitated and probably one of the most powerful happens when they row and Candy delivers his best performance:

Del: You wanna hurt me? Go right ahead if it makes you feel any better. I’m an easy target. Yeah, you’re right, I talk too much. I also listen too much. I could be a cold-hearted cynic like you… but I don’t like to hurt people’s feelings. Well, you think what you want about me; I’m not changing. I like… I like me. My wife likes me. My customers like me. ‘Cause I’m the real article. What you see is what you get.

This is a particularly poignant scene and definitely gives a gulp moment. We then see a change in Martins character and his opinion of others. He realises that he has been unfair to Candy, just because Candy is a larger than life character and can be annoying at times, he is still a human being and he should not be judged after all he does not know his background or life.

Strangely I am reminded of a time when a former colleague told me that as a finance person I shouldn’t smile (not sure why – are finance people expected to be dull and somber?) anyway I gave (a Cheshire Cat) smile at every opportunity I found at him for the rest of the time we worked together – I think I won him over. (By the way I am not always a smiley smile face in case you expect it when you see me, it does depend on who you are and how I feel!)

Anyway I like the idea of being nice to each other and treating each with respect and humility, even when it feels like the world pretty much sucks – (I don’t mean go overboard Stepford Wives way) after all if we don’t be nice then people might start to forget what nice is, and then you are left with a world of hate, animosity and confusion. I don’t like hate and have never hated anyone, yes there have been times when I have been disappointed with people and their behaviour/actions but I have always tried to look past it, to find some decency in them, even when at times it felt like I have hit a brick wall I have never judged, instead I have reached out, anyway I think I have digressed here.

Ok, I will not go into the ending of the film as it is pivotal to the story, but it definitely leaves a tear in your eye, and a rendition of the Paul Young song Everytime You Go Away is pretty cool. I thoroughly recommend the film, I think it is Hughes best film. The acting is top notch and both actors are given enough material to chew through and flex their skills.

The film is a good example of redemption, friendship and more importantly helping each other. Candy does not have to do anything for Martin, but he goes out of his way to help him (a good Samaritan) because it is in him and his character to do it. Martin returns the favour as he sees his generosity and he learns about Candys life. It is testament of Candys character that even with all the things in his life he is still jovial and upbeat – he doesn’t have to be – but everyone handles things differently, just as long as we all get on and along.

Rating 5/5

Collateral (2004)

‘A guy gets on the MTA in L.A and dies, think anyone will notice?’

This is the line Tom Cruise’s contract killer Vincent delivers to Jamie Foxx’s cab driver Max at the end of a long day, it is quite a line.

The evening starts well for Max after he has a good fare where he ends up winning a bet and getting a girls number, his dream of owning his own business of limo cars is getting closer. But things get bad very quickly when he picks up Vincent. Vincent gives Max an option to take him to five stops for $600 Max reluctantly agrees.

The first stop seems fine, until a body comes crashing down from an apartment onto Max’s cab. It becomes clear that it was Vincent who killed the man. Then follows a cat and mouse ride when Vincent has to complete his job with Max in toe.

The screenplay is exquisite, the back and forth banter between Vincent and Max is brilliant, see examples:


Vincent: Okay, look, here’s the deal. Man, you were gonna drive me around tonight, never be the wiser, but El Gordo got in front of a window, did his high dive, we’re into Plan B. Still breathing? Now we gotta make the best of it, improvise, adapt to the environment, Darwin, shit happens, I Ching, whatever man, we gotta roll with it.

Max: I Ching? What are you talking about, man? You threw a man out of a window.

Vincent: I didn’t throw him. He *fell*

Max: Well what did he do to you?

Vincent: What?

Max: What did he do to *you*?

Vincent: Nothing. I only met him tonight.

Max: You just met him once and you killed him like that?

Vincent: What? I should only kill people after I get to know them?

Vincent: Max, six billion people on the planet, you’re getting bent out of shape cause of one fat guy.

Max: Well, who was he?
Vincent: What do you care? Have you ever heard of Rwanda?

Max: Yes, I know Rwanda.

Vincent: Well, tens of thousands killed before sundown. Nobody’s killed people that fast since Nagasaki and Hiroshima. Did you bat an eye, Max?

Max: What?

Vincent: Did you join Amnesty International, Oxfam, Save the Whales, Greenpeace, or something? No. I off one fat Angelino and you throw a hissy fit.

Max: Man, I don’t know any Rwandans.

Vincent: You don’t know the guy in the trunk, either.

Strangely Vincent brings Max out of his shell on this night, Max does not know what he is capable of until he meets Vincent, which begs the question who really is Max. There is a interesting point Vincent makes to Max:

Vincent: Look in the mirror. Paper towels, clean cab. Limo company some day. How much you got saved?

Max: That ain’t any of your business.

Vincent: Someday? Someday my dream will come? One night you will wake up and discover it never happened. It’s all turned around on you. It never will. Suddenly you are old. Didn’t happen, and it never will, because you were never going to do it anyway. You’ll push it into memory and then zone out in your barco lounger, being hypnotized by daytime TV for the rest of your life. Don’t you talk to me about murder. All it ever took was a down payment on a Lincoln town car. That girl, you can’t even call that girl. What the fuck are you still doing driving a cab?

There is a great scene when Max has to pretend to be Vincent to Javier Bardem’s Felix. This scene has excellent wide shots and close ups of both actors at their very best. Another brilliant scene in what can be described as an interlude happens when Max and Vincent are stop at the lights and a coyote crosses their path, both of them stare at it and it stares back at them dead in the eye and then runs away. The song Shadow of the Sun plays in the background, and you can get the sense that this night is not going to end well, and both of them know it – brilliant scene.

Tom Cruise is excellent as the cold blooded sociopath killer, he delivers a amazing performance – probably one of his best (to note he also runs in this film – perhaps part of his contract) he has a good counterpart in Foxx who gives a rounded performance.
There are elements of the last act of the film that felt a bit of a copout, I understand the film needed a conclusion but it sort of felt rushed.

The film is shot similar to director Michael Mann’s Heat and has very strong elements of his show Miami Vice, the handheld shots are good and lead you to be more involved in the moment, I also liked the sound editing and hearing what real bullets sound like – frightening. The supporting cast are also very good – watch out for the Jazz club scene. The tension in he film is also top notch.

Overall a good film – which plays to our own struggle between good and evil and who really matters in this world. Catch it for Cruise not saving the world.

Rating 4/5

October 1st 2018

Ok, this is not like my usual posts, but, I feel I need to put it down in writing as October 1st 2018 will be with me for some time.

I had taken the day off from work as annual leave to take my car for an MOT test, I thought I would do it earlier this year and not leave it last minute (yes I am a nerd).

My brother and I (and as with every MOT I take my Dad aka The Dude) all got into the car and made our journey towards the MOT centre. It was a normal journey, everything going smoothly, then we came to a junction and things all changed.

I am not going to go too much into the details as the insurance companies are dealing with this, but, as the car came hurtling towards us I felt things go into slow motion.
They say at times like these your whole life flashes before your eyes…it doesn’t.

As the car crashed into us my glasses flew off my head and landed across the dashboard, I felt a judder as the seatbelt pulled me back to my seat – they DO save lives. I hit my seat and my head caressed the headboard. Everything was quiet.

I opened my eyes and searched for my glasses. I found them on the dashboard, I put them on and assessed myself, my brother and my dad. We were safe and we were alive. I breathed. I breathed again.

I gathered my thoughts and got out of the car, I assessed the damage, it was bad. The car was a write-off, my beautiful economical from A to B motor was now a wounded dying animal. I have always wondered if cars do have a soul (I know they are inanimate objects) but the thought of it is optimistic, and also scary if referring to Stephen King’s Christine. I called the police. The police separated the two cars and swapped insurance details with the (killer) driver, that animal had destroyed my car.

As I waited for the recovery vehicle to come and pick up it up, I realised the full extent of what had happened, I had survived a car crash. This was not to be the end of my day.

2am I was sitting in an ambulance heading towards the hospital, my Mum (aka The Lady and a recent heart attack survivor) had taken a fall from the top of the stairs and it looked bad. We arrived at the hospital and the initial scan revealed a broken neck, I stayed with her. 12 hours later when I knew she was stable I left and the Dude took over. I went out and felt the fresh air on my face, I breathed, as Denzel Washington’s Alonzo said in his famous last speech in Training Day ‘ah what a day, what m*********ing day’

Life is short, and things can change in an instant, but that does not mean you stop living it, because otherwise that is a wasted life. October 1st 2018.

Mandala (1981)

The Korean Film Festival continued into its second season of Korean Film Night cinema with ‘Rebels With A Cause’ perspective. The season ran between July and August at the Korean Cultural Centre and focused on individuals (students, everyday workers, teachers, monks and soldiers) who have rebelled against the norms of society.

Over the course of six weeks, six films were screened, I had the opportunity to attend Im Kwon-Taeki’s Mandala (1981).

Mandala is an interesting film, it is based on Seong-dong’s book of the same name.
The film follows two very different characters who embark on a journey of self-discovery across Korea. Pob-un a young Buddhist monk who has quit his university studies and left his girlfriend to search answers of human existence and Ji-San a elder monk who indulges in all the pleasures available on Earth, especially alcohol.

They both meet by on a bus when Pob-un saves Ji-San by vouching for him to the police but they decide to go their separate ways until they meet again by chance and decide to continue their journey together. This scene is quite interesting and powerful especially when the camera pans back to show the beautiful rural countryside and the two heading off in the same direction. It makes the viewer question if the two will continue with their friendship and for how long.

There are many subject matters within the film including understanding one’s own existence, religion and of course individualism – subjects which have pretty much been of staunch debate since the dawn of society and perhaps more important now than ever before.

The film balances its subject matter well – at the heart is a serious matter – but there are elements of comedy, particularly from Ji-San and the scene featuring the unveiling of the Buddha statue in front of the female crowd.
The cinematography is amazing, more evident in the scene of the two monks sitting and eating while a young woman walks down the steps to knock on the door, and there is of course the finger-burning scene which is memorable for its own reasons. The music is interwoven with chanting all of which adds depth and atmosphere.

The film runs at 112 minutes which, but I’m afraid to say does drag at times and perhaps pacing could be an overall, albeit small criticism. I can understand the desire to build character but it is slightly laboured.

Buddhists might pick up that the film is loosely based on Wonhyo, but, as someone who is not a Buddhist I felt I did not need to know this to understand what it was trying to say – which is a good sign of good filmmaking. I would definitely see it again, perhaps in a few years time to decide whose outlook on life I preferred, Ji-San and his desire to indulge in all pleasures or Pob-un whose search for meaning and existence will only end when he does, a conundrum we perhaps all face in life.

Rating 3.5/5