REVIEW: Anton Chekov’s The Duel

Anton Chekov’s The Duel
Directed by: Dover Koshashvili
Written by: Mary Bing (screenplay), Anton Chekhov (book)
Starring: Andrew Scott, Fiona Glascott, Tobias Menzies and Michelle Fairley

Films of a certain nature achieve a literary quality;  ones with a large cast of complex characters or with a sweeping narrative arc that transforms a main character to either a tragic or heroic end.  Almost by default, a film like The Duel achieves this.

Clumsily titled with the novel’s original author at the beginning, Anton Chekov’s The Duel is a film rich with complex character motivations and difficult psychological questions.  If you are one of the presumably few who would enjoy a movie that falls under the category “Darwinian melodrama,” then boy are you in for a treat.  For the rest (and most) of you, sadly, there is not much here outside a sometimes-stirring philosophical musing set against gorgeous scenery.

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ARCHIVE REVIEW: Oldboy

Oldboy
Directed by: Chan-wook Park
Written by: Jo-yun Hwang, Chun-hyeong Lim, & Chan-wook Park (screenplay, Nobuaki Minegishi (comic)
Starring: Min-sik Choi, Hye-jeong Kang, Ji-tae Yu, and Dae-han Ji

Chan-wook Park makes no secret of his influences.  From Tarantino-esque violence to Frank Darabont’s Shawshank Redemption, this movie’s story and visual style are the cut-up pieces of movies new and old.  Is it a coincidence it came out the same year as Kill Bill?  Someone with a PhD in film studies could probably have a field day, but I was grossed-out and bored.

Oldboy is the kind of movie sold as a visually-stunning thrill-ride that makes you think. Other than keeping up with the fairly simplistic story amid all of the visual prowess, not much thinking really takes place.  People mistake the “gasp!” twist near the ending for actual thematic depth, when in reality the only means to this movie’s end is driving out the memories with a hammer to the head.

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ARCHIVE REVIEW: The New World

The New World
Directed by: Terrence Malick
Written by: Terrence Malick
Starring: Colin Farrell, Q’orianka Kilcher, Christian Bale, Christopher Plummer

Fairy tales are the ultimate sense of wonder and escapism for our society. With an entire culture fixated on Disney classics, princesses who fall in love with soldiers, forbidden love and foreign romances which are really more Americanized than we think, it is difficult to place realism and authenticity into the mix.

Stories of enchantment often require singing, colors, happy endings and no subtitles to satisfy our desires for fantasy. It is pathetic in a way. Our culture could not be content with a fairy tale didn’t have these elements; otherwise we strip it from the fairy tale genre. Sure the words fairy tale mean magic, fabled or legendary, but must swooning love stories be doused in Hollywood conventions, Americanization, modernization or artistic eye-candy to make it romantic?

In Terrence Malick’s retelling of the classic Pocahontas story, he explores just that concept. Putting realism and authenticity into a classic fairy tale, he experiments with cinematic devices to convey something more raw, something more tangible and something more real. Continue reading