Archive for July, 2011

AMADEUS, Milos Forman (1984)

Posted in Biopic, Drama with tags , , , on July 17, 2011 by Toi Brownstone

Unable to  count the times I’ve seen this film nor the places where I’ve seen it, I just can tell you they’ve been many.

Years passing, I’m more aware of the movie genres I prefer, and period ones are not my favorites, to be honest, although got to admit, I really like some on them. Amadeus is the clearest example.

I’m a music lover, and can appreciate classical stuff, and even enjoy some operas, but I seldom listen to any, prefer rock or folk music, I find it more direct and make me feel more alive. Still, I’ve loved Mozart’s The Magic Flute since I was a kid.

The story of Amadeus is seen from Salieri’s (F. Murray Abraham) experience, which gives a more personal, subjective and moody tone to it. Salieri was the other composer working for the king in Vienna, quite established, he was always left aside, eclipsed by the born nature talent of his colleague Mozart (Tom Hulce), something he’s never able to accept nor overcome, turning his frustration into hatred towards God and the musician, and consequently moving him to focus on humiliating and destroy his enemy’s reputation and life.

Thus, through the eyes of Salieri, rise, decline and fall of Mozart are depicted in this film.

Milos Forman really found the perfect combination to tell us a history, which without Salieri’s presence, probably would had failed straight away.

The starting point is simply awesome. Salieri tries to kill himself cutting his throat unsuccessfully and he’s immediately checked-in into an asylum. Once there, as no therapists really existed, the closest option to release all his frustration and justify why he wanted to die so badly, was by means of confession, to a poor young priest.

Following the logic timeline, there are some interruptions by the narrator, so the most remarkable moments in Mozart’s life, witnessed by the envious composer, are detailed, avoiding extra expendable stuff.

Salieri shows a party time young composer, who doesn’t care much about money, and loves women, booze and fun. Trespassing royal etiquette constantly, the king seems to to worry about much, something that a straight and religious person such as Salieri, cannot stand.

The composer eventually puts an end to his Christian worship, unable to understand why God does not punish Mozart for his actions, nor helps him to get the grace of the king. At this point, Salieri will constantly pulling the strings to defeat Mozart and drive him to failure, by means of cheating, spying and a key element for putting his revenge into work, the Achilles’ heel of Wolfie: his father.

Relationship between father and son had never been a tender one. Leopold (Roy Dotrice), was a strong character, who brought up Wolfgang in a very strict and disciplined way. Thus in Vienna, when the young composer was away from his father’s influence started enjoying pleasures of life, self-indulging. Once Leopold settles with his son and his small family, arguments among him and his daughter in law, Constanze, become regular, affecting Wolfie tremendously.

Salieri, observing, calculating and analyzing Mozart’s situation, keeps waiting, until the piece is ready to be hunted.

And eventually this moment arrives with the death of Leopold Mozart. Banned from the Royal court, Wolfie’s financial situation is as bad as his deteriorated physical condition, and needs money badly. His so called friend, Emanuel Shickaneder, requests him  to compose an opera for middle-low class, a singspiel, combining singing and spoken parts, in exchange for few money, he’ll receive payment after the release of the work.

At this point, Salieri starts the machine for his revenge, and dressed in black with a sinister and threatening mask, same outfit he saw Leopold wearing at a mask party, and acquainted with all the familiar situation, thanks to a maid he contracted for spying the Mozarts, knocks at the door entrusting him the task of writing a mass for a death person, a requiem. No need to say, this assignment will become an obsession.

And this is the part I love most, as a consequence of all the envy that moves Salieri to become a worthless human being.

Parents are more influent over their children than we think, and many childhood traumas mark our personalities in such way as to affect personal relationships and our daily living. As depicted in the film, Leopold had a strong personality, characterized by righteousness and discipline, demanding too much from his son. Obviously the father figure became an obsession when Mozart’s physical and mental condition was at stake. Seems that, on one hand, Wolfie feared his father, and on the other, he was constantly seeking for his approval. The Requiem, was a torture and some sort of penitence act to be forgiven by his dead father, a burden he wasn’t able to face and overcome, an eventually meant his own death.

Regarding Salieri, I was discussing on his behavior with a friend just today. He said somehow he understood his behavior as an act of frustration. A straight hard working man, trying his utmost to be talented and recognized publicly in Vienna, whose main obstacle in achieving his goals is a frivolous young Mozart, with amazing skills and such amazing ability to create on the go, as to catch everyone’s eye. Needless to say, the composer was sick of this man and lost his faith in God, not understanding such injustice. Once this accepted, thanks to the lack of discipline of Mozart, Salieri starts a game of discrediting him subtly in the eyes of the king, humiliating and blackmailing Constanze, and eventually driving the genius to such exhaustion  and insanity as to force him to work in his deathbed. Despite all his efforts to get some satisfaction with all this, Salieri will end up his days frustrated for not getting the satisfaction he was looking for so badly. Guess living with such heavy burden on your back for the rest of your days must not be the best for your state of mind.

Amadeus is a story of admiration turned into envy, frustration, vengeance and regret. The way events follow, you start feeling pity for Salieri, and in the end you finish sympathizing with poor Wolfie, so focused on pleasing his dead father as to being unable to realize someone, closer than he could ever imagine, was manipulating his life and fate to fatal consequences.

Plot and its development are simply perfect, performance of F. Murray Abraham is impressive, musical part outstanding…I only got positive words for this film. Two thumbs up for Amadeus.

ROSEMARY’S BABY, Roman Polanski (1968)

Posted in Classic, Horror with tags , , , on July 6, 2011 by Toi Brownstone

Rosemary’s Baby is one of these films impossible to recall how many times I’ve seen, and still haven’t got tired of.

Today I’m having a very relaxing day, taking it really easy, being listening to music in the morning, I’ve switched on the TV thinking I’d find the standard crap, but surprisingly the initial credits of the film were rolling and although I hate watching movies on TV due to ads cuts, today it was fine to go on watching.

Still remember one of my best friends saying, when he was a kid, got so much traumatized by the film, he hasn’t the balls to review any more. I love it, though.

I wouldn’t consider it a horror film, although the whole story can make you feel uneasy, and the more I watch it, the more I think Polanski has a twisted mind.

This young couple moves to a new flat in Manhattan, it’s funny is located in Dakota building, which became famous because of  the assesination of John Lennon. Truth is that when I saw it in my first visit to Manhattan, the building impressed me for both its beauty, and for something sinister and menacing in the air. Probably I was suggested by the background it had, but definitely made an impact.

Anyway, Guy (John Cassavetes) and Rosemary Woodhouse (Mia Farrow) move to this new and beautiful apartment in a bad reputed building with a record of mysterious past events. Soon, their weird and eccentric neighbors, Roman and Minnie Castevet, will welcome them and force a close friendly relationship with the young couple. Against all odds, Guy  starts spending much time with them, especially with Roman, a fact that Rosemary somehow does not understand nor accept too well, plus he turns moody and kind of awkward to his wife.

Forgot to remark Guy is a not very successful actor, and the releasing punching ball for his frustration is obviously Rosemary.

When the situation among the couple is suffocating and almost unbearable, Guy, all of a sudden, accepts, even encourages his wife, to have a baby, something Rosemary has wanted badly for long time. In a traditional romantic attitude, he arranges the perfect night for the baby being conceived, and Rosemary is completely charmed. However something strange happens after dinner, and she falls unconscious.

During her deep sleep, she has hallucinations, in which her neighbors are present, and an evil creature rapes her.

Curiously, she gets pregnant. This is the perfect excuse for her neighbors to take active part in their lives, suggesting doctors, taking care of her…but something seems wrong, very wrong.

Although a gorgeous girl when young, I’ve never been devoted to Mia Farrow. The truth is that, despite Polanski’s determination to cover the role of Rosemary Woodhouse with a strong woman, such as his own wife Sharon Tate, the final decision of Farrow as the lead role is simply perfect. The actress combines this innocent appearance with her thin and small body highlighting frailty, fitting the pregnancy process during which poor Rosemary’s energy is sucked to dry up to the point, such decline threatens her life.

If you think about it, Guy Woodhouse visually hasn’t much importance in the film. I mean, all the plot and most of scenes are clearly focused on his wife, and he stands aside, or seems to. Right at the end of the film, when all makes sense, you get the clear picture that all the events have happened due to his appetite for success. As a selfish and frustrated actor whose only wish is to become established, famous and respected, he comes to a point in which he chooses to deal with the Devil rather than keep on struggling for himself, in order to achieve his goals, at any cost. And sells his wife…sad and pathetic.

Can you imagine? The person you love and trust most, not only gives up on you, but also betrays you on his/her own behalf, and you don’t even get the chance to decide whether you accept or not. In Rosemary’s Baby, Polanski deals with Satan himself, but this is an ordinary issue in real life.

Focusing on the film story, a secret society of powerful people looking for the heir of the king of darkness, and this poor girl, Rosemary, for no apparent reason ends up being the mother of the Evil. The dichotomy here is, would you assume that role and care for the little monster or end up putting a bullet in your head? Boundaries and love between mother and son are said to be the strongest, but imagine the scene…terrible.

Whenever I think of Rosemary’s Baby and these circumstances, The Omen also comes to my mind. You see? There’s a limit trespassed the parents cannot endure any longer and try to put the kid in a coffin, once they get acquainted with the situation and the meaning of his existence. However Polanski just focuses on the conception of the evil and leaves the door open to many possibilities.

Polanski’s taste for the twisted and the dark, had already been manifested in Repulsion, for instance, but I’d love to go back to the past and peep the reaction of the audience at the cinemas while watching the film. Sure I’d be plenty of fun people in shock.

Rosemary’s Baby is a classic, a benchmark in films related to the occult, any fan of horror should watch to understand what came next.

You don’t need blood splatter or guts, or amazing special effects to create horror films, you just need good ideas, be able to play with the minds of the audience and create uneasy situations, playing with fiction and reality, highlighting the unknown, to create fear and and a feel of lack of safety. I reckon that’s the key for delivering a good horror film, and Polanski really knew about it.