Tag Archives: Coen

back-to-back

Counterpoints, double (triple) bills, sides of the same coin, variations on a theme… The thrill to see favourite films reflect and complement each other.

The Sheltering Sky (dir. Bernardo Bertolucci, 1990) & Hideous Kinky (dir. Gillies MacKinnon, 1998)
Two journeys to Africa for disenchanted Westerners, and to the edge. Insightful direction that does justice to the complex original novels of Paul Bowles and Esther Freud, arresting performances, and strong female leads by Debra Winger and Kate Winslet, that take us face to face with the unknowable.

Round Midnight (dir. Bertrand Tavernier, 1986) & Bird (dir. Clint Eastwood, 1988)
Two stories of jazz, of talent and doom side by side. Two sax players – jazz legend Dexter Gordon plays a fictional jazzman; Forest Whitaker, in his first leading role if memory serves, is Charlie Parker. Once-in-a- lifetime leads, made possible by two truly supportive supporting acts.

Quills (dir. Philip Kaufman, 2000) & Lunacy [Sílení] (dir. Jan Švankmajer, 2005)
Two takes on the charismatic, intense, radical, notorious Marquis de Sade, while imprisoned in an insane asylum. Probing the limits of free will, challenging our very notions on pornography, authority, sanity. Two films that pull no punches. And a tour de force performance from Geoffrey Rush.

Capote (dir. Bennett Miller, 2005) & Infamous (dir. Douglas McGrath, 2006)
Made practically simultaneously, two powerful versions of Truman Capote’s infatuation with the murder case that inspired In Cold Blood. There is integrity in both, and i am forever fascinated by comparing writing, tone, pace, themes visual and verbal. And the charismatic casts, with Philip Seymour Hoffman and Toby Jones on the title role, Catherine Keener and Sandra Bullock as his grounding companion Harper Lee, Clifton Collins Jr. and Daniel Craig as his dark alter ego Perry Smith.

El Espiritu de la Colmena [The Spirit of the Beehive] (dir. Victor Erice, 1973) & El Laberinto del Fauno [Pan’s Labyrinth] (dir. Guillermo del Toro, 2006)
The trauma of the Spanish civil war through the eyes, the soul, of a child. When reality becomes unbearable, a young girl retreats into a world of her imagination; which proves just as frightening and cruel as her suffocating life.

La Belle at la Bête [Beauty and the Beast] (dir. Jean Cocteau, 1946) & The Company of Wolves (dir. Neil Jordan, 1984)
Fairytales for grown-ups – the way they were intended. Telling of the wild side in human nature. Though filming with meagre means in occupied France, Jean Cocteau still manages to bring a touch of magic and create an enduring classic. And, more recently, Neil Jordan co-writes with Angela Carter a daring update of Little Red Riding Hood.

Forbidden Games [Jeux Interdits] (dir. René Clément, 1952) & Turtles Can Fly (dir. Bahman Ghobadi, 2004)
Children at war.  Making sense of life and death, in a farmhouse in occupied France, in a Kurdish refugee camp in Iraq. Tales, amusing and devastating , of childhood endangered, resilient, imaginative, lost; of its ever-surprising (though sadly not endless) talent for survival.

Sunset Blvd. (dir. Billy Wilder, 1950) & Mulholland Dr. (dir. David Lynch, 2001)
Tales of Hollywood; of dreams, desire and loss; of success, excess and decay – told by a dead protagonist.

The Fog of War (dir. Errol Morris, 2003) & Il Divo (dir. Paolo Sorrentino, 2008) & The Iron Lady (dir. Phyllida Lloyd, 2011)
A frank, brave face-to-face with Robert McNamara; a mesmerising personal take on sharp, obscure, fiercely private Giulio Andreotti; a fictional portrait of an elderly, frail Margaret Thatcher as she loosens her iron grip on the here-and-now. Three controversial, larger-than-life political figures in intimate, intelligent, candid close-ups.

Pi (dir. Darren Aronofsky, 1998) & Waltz with Bashir (dir. Ari Folman, 2008)
A brain looking at itself – the obsessed mathematician looking in numeric patterns for the key to the universe; the traumatised soldier searching for his own locked-away memory. Both very personal; each with its own visualisation of existential angst – the grainy, shaky, fragmented black and white; the beautiful and chilling animation – so effective, it nearly becomes part of the viewer’s own life experience.

Le Doulos (dir. Jean-Pierre Melville, 1962) & Miller’s Crossing (dir. Joel Coen, 1990)
Two ‘handsome movie[s] about men in hats’. And about friendship, loyalty, double-cross, the balance of power, love, loss, betrayal, integrity, taking sides… above all, in style.

The Beaches of Agnès [Les plages d’Agnès] (dir. Agnès Varda, 2008) & Marina Abramović: The Artist is Present (dir. Matthew Akers, Jeff Dupre, 2012)
Two honorary ‘grandmothers’ – though i prefer them grandes dames – one of the nouvelle vague, one of performance art. Two wonder-full, witty, endlessly inventive artists tell of their life, of their art, of Art and Life. Powerful, playful, moving, mind-altering stuff.

 

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