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Sunday, 24 February 2013

Jiro Dreams of Sushi (2011) - fliXposed... Documentaries

"I would see ideas in dreams. My mind was bursting with ideas. I would wake up in the middle of the night. In dreams, I would have visions of sushi." - Jiro Ono

'Jiro Dreams of Sushi' is a 2011 American documentary directed by David Gelb and edited by Brandon Driscoll-Luttringer.

The documentary centres on 85 year old Jiro Ono, world renowned as the worlds greatest sushi chef, and his sushi restaurant, Sukiyabashi Jiro, which is located at a subway station. The film also examines Jiro's relationship with his two sons, Takashi and Yoshikazu, both of whom are sushi chefs.

Jiro is passionate about sushi and even at age 85 has no plans to retire. He says "If I don't keep on working, my body will become worthless." Jiro has a strong belief in having passion for your field of work, and suggests the number success factor is repetition and perfection.

Did you know...

  • Director David Gelb intended to make a documentary about sushi restaurants in general (called Planet Sushi), but after eating a Jiro's restaurant, decided Jiro's story along would make for interesting subject matter
  • Most of the photography was filmed over the course of one month (January 2010), with ten months of editing

Awards and nominations...

  • US Motion Picture Sound Editors Golden Reel Award nomination for Best Sound Editing (sound effects, foley, dialogue, ADR and music in a feature documentary)
  • Online Film Critics Society Award nomination for Best Documentary
  • Phoenix Film Critics Society Award nomination for Best Documentary
  • Phoenix Film Critics Society Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film
  • San Diego Film Critics Society Award nomination for Best Documentary

Closing remarks

Watching Jiro prepare sushi is fascinating. Jiro is a perfectionist who meticulously places each element on the dish delicately and beautifully. I felt like I was watching an artist painting a canvas, with Jiro's canvas being his plate, and sushi his paint. These beautiful images are accompanied by a melodious soundtrack, with much of the music composed by Philip Glass.

Despite the simplistic subject matter, Gelp does a superb job in centralising much of the narrative around Jiro's relationship with his two sons, and his relentless approach to perfection.

Jiro's inspirational words of wisdom are powerful and can be applied to anyone regardless if their career path. Although I personally am not a fan of sushi, I found this film to be inspiring and Jiro's creations mouthwatering. Overall, I enjoyed this film very much.

Sunday, 17 February 2013

The Master (1992) - fliXposed... Import

'The Master' (in traditional Chinese: 龍行天下) is a 1992 Hong Kong martial arts action film written, directed and produced by Tsui Hark and starring Jet Li, Yuen Walsh, Jerry Trimble and Crystal Kwok.

Jet (played by Li) arrives in Los Angeles to visit his former kung fu master Uncle Tak (played by Walsh).  Along the way, Jet befriends a group of hispanic Americans, who want him to be their Master.
The film's villain Johnny (played by  Trimble) is making his way through Los Angeles, defeating Kung Fu masters in order to be the best. Jet decides to stop Johnny in an attempt to protect Uncle Tak.

Did you know...

  • Jet Li broke his right wrist during the filming of the movie
  • Although the film was made in 1989, it was not released until 1992

Alternate versions

The US release of the film removes four minutes of footage, including:

  • the opening scene, where Anna fights a gymnastics student
  • a scene were Anna is banned from gymnastics school
  • a scene of Jet walking through Los Angeles
  • a scene where Jet finds Anna beaten up

Closing remarks

Although cut from the American film, the opening sequence in the Hong Kong version of the film features some energetic and entertaining gymnastic performances, although this makes little (if any) contribution to the film's story, hence it's deletion.

As the film is set in America, the dialogue is half Cantonese and half English. Most importantly the Mandarin speaking characters do not understand the English speaking characters, and vice versa.
While this can feel a little annoying to the spectator and confusing at first, I found it to be an effective mechanism to show the impact of language barriers in society, and the importance for migrants to assimilate and learn to speak the native language of their host country, in this case English.

The film's plot of weak, with no compelling motivation for the violent acts in the film. That said, there are a few funny moments including a memorable scene with a cab driver.

Overall, a below average Hong Kong crime-action film, and is not anywhere as good as John Woo's pre-Hollywood era films.

Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010) - fliXposed... Documentaries

'Cave of Forgotten Dreams: Humanity's Lost Masterpiece' is a 2010 history documentary film directed and narrated by Werner Herzog.

To provide some context, in December 1994, three explorers set off across the Ardeche River in France where they discovered a hidden cave, untouched by mankind for over thirty thousand years. The cave is now known as the Chauvet Cave. The walls of the cave are decorated in prehistoric cave paintings, and it's floor scattered with fossilised bones.

Werner Herzog received special exclusive permission from French officials to access and film the cave. the cave is forbidden to the general public. Filming guidelines were strict with the film crew not permitted to touch any part of the cave, or to step off the narrow two foot wide walkway.

Did you know...

  • The cave is closed to the general public - Herzog received special permission from the French Minister of Culture to access and film the interior
  • Warner Herzog was only allowed to bring 3 people into the cave with him - cinematographer Peter Zeitlinger, sound recordist Eric Spitzer-Marlyn and an assistant
  • The film crew were required to wear special shoes and suits, which had not had contact with the outside world
  • Due to near-toxic levels of carbon dioxide and radon, the crew were unable to stay in the cave for more than a few hours each day
  • The 3D cameras were custom built for the production, and were assembled inside the cave
  • The film were only able to use battery-powered equipment, and lights which did not distribute additional heat
  • Werner Herzog is not a fan of 3D film, and chose to film the cave in 3D to enable the viewer to experience the contours of the cave walls - Herzog does not intend to use 3D again in his films

Awards and nominations

  • Central Ohio Film Critics Association Award winner for Best Documentary
  • Dallas Fort-Worth Film Critics Association Award winner for Best Documentary
  • Kansas City Film Critics Circle Award winner for Best Documentary
  • Los Angeles Film Critics Association Award winner for Best Documentary/Non-fiction Film
  • New York Film Critics Circle Award winner for Best Non-fiction Film
  • Online Film Critics Society Award winner for Best Documentary
  • USA National Society of Film Critics Award winner for Best Non-fiction Film
  • Vancouver Film Critics Circle Award winner for Best Documentary
  • Washington DC Area Film Critics Association Award winner for Best Documentary
  • American Cinema Editors nomination for Best Edited Documentary
  • Broadcast Film Critics Association Award nomination for Best Documentary Feature
  • Chicago Film Critics Association Award nomination for Best Documentary
  • Chlotrudis Award nomination for Best Cinematography (Peter Zeitlinger)
  • London Critics Circle Film Award nomination for Documentary of the Year
  • Motion Picture Sound Editors Golden Reel Award nomination for Best Sound Editing (Sound effects, foley, dialogue, ADR and music) in a Feature Documentary (Eric Spitzer)
  • San Diago Film Critics Society Award nomination for Best Documetnary
  • Satellite Award nomination for Best Motion Picture Documentary

Closing remarks

The documentary is beautifully filmed by Herzog, with effective use of sound, including a haunting musical score. There are also some moments, where there is no music, but the sound of a heart beating in the silence.

The film gives the film spectator a sense of actually being at the cave. I haven't seen the 3D version of the film, but I can only imagine how enhanced and realistic the experience would be in 3D. I found it fascinating to see the way in which nature protects and preserves itself, when untouched by man. Many of the cave paintings are self embalmed, looking freshly painted. After watching this film, you can't help but wonder what other hidden treasures are waiting to be discovered.

Thursday, 14 February 2013

Happy Valentines Day... Reel Romances

Today is 14 February, known to the Western world as Valentine's Day.

If you're planning to have a cosy night in with a DVD, popcorn and some chocolate, here is a selection of my favourite romantic films, which you may enjoy...

Keen to hear what your favourite Reel Romances, so feel free to post a comment.

Starring Deborah Kerr & Cary Grant, a couple who fall in love aboard a cruise ship agree to meet again in 6 months on top of the Empire State Building. But a lot can happen in 6 months...

Jane Wyman stars as an upper clad widow who falls in love with a younger man, played by Rock Hudson. Directed by the brilliant Douglas Sirk

Greta Garbo in her second portrayal as Anna Karenina (she had previously played the role in the 1928 film 'The Kiss'). I haven't yet seen the new 2012 version of the film, so can't comment as to which version is better.

James Cagney kidnaps Bette Davis, at the request of her father to prevent her from marrying Jack Carson. Matters are complicated when they find themselves stranded in a deserted town in the middle of the desert. Lots of laughs in this very funny romantic comedy.

Directed by David Lean, a married woman falls in love with a stranger she meets while waiting for a train.

CAMILLE (1936)
Greta Garbo's plays Marguerite, a courtesan forced to chose between money and love in a tragic tale of star crossed romance.

Ingrid Bergman must choose between Humphrey Bogart and Paul Henreid in this classic romance.

Elizabeth Taylor stars as Cleopatra alongside Richard Burton in one of the most expensive films ever made.

Kylie Minogue in her film debut in the story of forbidden love in 1950s Australia. Co-stars Charlie Schlatter.

Marilyn Monroe plays Lorelei Lee, the ditsy blonde bombshell who is in love with diamonds, diamonds, diamonds. She's joined by Jane Russell, who plays Dorothy Shaw, who is love with men, men, men (including the entire American Olympic team).

The greatest romance ever put to screen tells the unforgettable saga of Scarlett O'Hara, played by the beautiful Vivien Leigh

Complications arise when a Caucasian girl introduces her parents to her African-American boyfriend. Stars Katharine Hepburn, Spencer Tracy & Sidney Poitier

A romantic comedy with a difference... 20 year old Harold (played by Bud Cort) falls in love with 80 year old Maude. Entertaining, a lot of fun & a good soundtrack.

JEZEBEL (1938)
Warner Bros.' great southern romance stars Bette Davis as Julie, in love with Henry Fonda.

The original French film version of Beauty & the Beast is a magical romance experience for both the young and young at heart. One of my favourite French films.

Possibly my favourite film of all time. Judy Garland falls in love with the boy next door in this musical romance.

Baz Luhrmann's colorful musical stars Nicole Kidman as a courtesan. Memorable cameo by Kylie Minogue as the Green Fairy.

9 SONGS (2004)
Controversial film tells the love story of a young couple, intercut with 9 songs performed live at The Brixton Academy. The film pushed boundaries with its explicit unsimulated sex scenes, which some consider crosses the very fine line of pornography.

After suffering a nervous breakdown, Charlotte Vale (played by Bette Davis) breaks away from the clutches of her overpowering mother and finds love in Paul Henreid.

ON THE TOWN (1949)
Gene Kelly & Frank Sinatra play sailers on leave who find love in New York. Co-stars Ann Miller & Betty Garrett

Tracy Lord (played by Katharine Hepburn) has last minute wedding jitters when her ex-husband visits just before she is about to be remarried. Co-stars Cary Grant & James Stewart.

Doris Day and Rock Hudson make the perfect romantic couple in this immortal romantic comedy (or sex comedy as it was called)

A reverse Cinderella story, where a commoner finds his Princess. Stars Olivia de Havilland.

Bette Davis stars as Queen Elizabeth I in a retelling of her love affair with Robert, Earl
Of Essex. Co-stars the beautiful Olivia de Havilland

ROMEO & JULIET (1936) / (1968) / (1996)
Pick a version...
* 1936 - Norma Shearer & Leslie Howard... My personal favourite version
* 1968 - Franco Zeffirelli classic version with Olivia Hussey
* 1996 - Baz Luhrmann's contemporary twist to the Shakesperean classic

David Lean directs Katharine Hepburn & Rossano Brazzi in this beautuful filmed love story on location in Venice.

Possibly the greatest musical ever written, tells the story of Romeo & Juliet in 1950s New York City. A great supporting cast with brilliant music by Leonard Bernstein.

WHAT'S UP DOC? (1971)
One of my favourite romantic comedies stars Barbra Streisand with Ryan O'Nesl & Madeline Kahn.