Posts Tagged ‘Ralph Fiennes’

2016 Berlin Film Festival

2016 Berlin International

Film Festival Winners

2016-biff

The 66th annual Berlin International Film Festival was held from 11th to the 21st February, 2016

The Berlin International Film Festival known as the Berlinale takes places annually in February and is regarded as one of the most prestigious film festivals in the world.

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Opening Night Film: Hail, Caesar! directed by Joel and Ethan Coen starring Josh Brolin, George Clooney, Alden Ehrenreich, Tilda Swinton, Ralph Fiennes, Jonah Hill, Scarlett Johansson, Frances McDormand and Channing Tatum

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Golden Bear for Best Film:  Fire at Sea  by Gianfranco Rosi

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Silver Bear for Best Director:  Mia Hansen-Løve for Things to Come

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Silver Bear for Best Actor:  Majd Mastoura for Hedi

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Silver Bear for Best Actress:  Trine Dyrholm for The Commune

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Silver Bear for Best Script: Tomasz Wasilewski for United States of Love

Killers and Liars

Spectre

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Director: Sam Mendes

Cast: Daniel Craig, Lea Seydoux, Christoph Waltz, Naomie Harris, Monica Bellucci, Ben Whishaw, Ralph Fiennes, Rory Kinnear, Dave Bautista, Andrew Scott, Jesper Christensen

British director Sam Mendes follows up his 2012 blockbuster Skyfall, with the 24th installment of the 007 franchise aptly named Spectre, which serves as a pastiche of all previous Bond films, but particularly referencing Casino Royale, Quantum of Solace and Skyfall.

With a truly spectacular opening sequence shot during the Day of the Dead festival in the sprawling and crowded central plaza of Mexico City, Spectre promises better and bigger cinematic moments. On all accounts, Spectre delivers although at times, the Bond film could have been more tightly edited.

The action sequences in Mexico City, Rome and Tangier are gripping and the production design and cinematography are quite startling, shading the film between sequences of extreme illumination and murky darkness in keeping with the sinister undertone pervading the entire narrative.

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Mexico City and Tangier are beautifully done, with gorgeous colours contrasting against the monochromatic elegance of the Roman streets at midnight or the snow covered Austrian Alps during ski season.

The Tangier scenes are clearly influenced by Bernardo Bertolucci’s classic film, The Sheltering Sky, especially when Bond and Dr Swann disembark from the Moroccan train into a sweltering Saharan desert, while the previous action on board mirrors that of The Spy Who Loves Me. Audiences should watch out for Dave Bautista (Guardians of the Galaxy) as the Spectre henchman Mr Hinx who has a penchant for popping a man’s eyes out with his thumb nails.

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Daniel Craig returns as James Bond looking slightly weary and a tad less nimble but nevertheless maintaining a smirk on his face along with those dazzling blue eyes. In a stroke of genius casting, French actress Lea Seydoux is brilliant as Dr Madeleine Swann, daughter of the Pale King, whilst the villain is suitably menacing and at times slightly camp, Franz Oberholzer better known as the evil mastermind with a penchant for white Persian cats, last seen in You Only Live Twice, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and Diamonds are Forever.

Naturally, Oscar winner Christoph Waltz (Inglourious Basterds, Django Unchained) is fabulous as Bond’s crazed arch enemy, but somehow does not make as brilliant an impression as Javier Bardem did as Raoul Silva in Skyfall.

With the absence of Judi Dench as M, Ralph Fiennes, appears craggy and irritable as the new M, reminiscent of the original M in the 1960’s Bond films. Refreshingly, Naomie Harris as Moneypenny and Ben Whishaw as the technically gifted Q have bigger roles in Spectre, acting always as Bond’s necessary sidekicks. Watch out for a brief but glamourous cameo by Monica Bellucci as Lucia Sciarra and Jesper Christensen as the ubiquitous Mr White, last seen in Quantum of Solace.

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Spectre, which stands for the Special Executive for Counter-intelligence, Terrorism, Revenge and Extortion is subtly portrayed as a pervasive and dangerous shadow organisation responsible for all sorts of international atrocities, which in the 21st century is particularly apt. As the visual references abound throughout Mendes’s Spectre, it will only be the serious Bond fans that will spot all those cinematic clues. In this respect, Spectre pays tribute to the success of the longest running film franchise ever, without undermining its inherent and enduring appeal.

Spectre is highly recommended viewing for ardent Bond fans, although some might find this film slightly long and the narrative muddled, but then again, one has to identify all the past 007 signifiers, for Spectre to be truly appreciated.

The question remains, much like the creepy opening sequence, is there life after Spectre?

 

 

 

In The Shadow of a Literary Giant

The Invisible Woman

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Director: Ralph Fiennes

Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Felicity Jones, Kristin Scott Thomas, Tom Hollander, Michelle Fairley, Michael Marcus, Joanna Scanlan, Amanda Hale

Oscar nominated actor Ralph Fiennes follows up his first directorial debut Coriolanus with a film adaptation of a novel by Claire Tomlin, The Invisible Woman, which centres on the brief but doomed love affair between celebrated Victorian novelist Charles Dickens and Nelly, known as Ellen Tiernan a young actress half his age, superbly played by Felicity Jones of Hysteria fame.

As a director Ralph Fiennes seems to find his creativity for portraying the Victorians from skilled director Jane Campion with many shots looking like a pastiche of scenes from her hit film The Piano and the later film Bright Star.

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As an actor Ralph Fiennes who also plays Charles Dickens is naturally brilliant, inhabiting a larger than life famed author who clearly desired literary attention and popularity more than the love of his massive family. Fiennes does not detract from Dickens reputation as one of the greatest Victorian novelists of the 19th century who went to detailed efforts to document through literature the hardships of the British population during the Industrial Revolution especially illustrated in his celebrated novels Oliver Twist, Hard Times and Bleak House.

This period of literature especially during the mid 19th century and which characterized the reign of Queen Victoria was called realism and along with Dickens, spawned a range of brilliant social commentators including George Eliot, Elizabeth Gaskell and Thomas Hardy who all highlighted the plight of the poor especially the appalling conditions of child labour.

The Invisible Woman centres on the period of friendship between Charles Dickens and the novelist and playwright Wilkie Collins, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wilkie_Collins played by Tom Hollander who wrote The Woman in White in the early 1850s. Here Dickens, aged 45 in rehearsal for The Frozen Deep, a collaborative play written with Collins he meets the gorgeous Nelly (Ellen Tiernan) along with her supportive mother Mrs Frances Tiernan played by Kristin Scott Thomas, ironically Fiennes co star in the Oscar winning film The English Patient.

Despite being married with 10 children, and a 27 year age difference Charles Dickens is scandalously captivated by Nelly who is actually the same age as his oldest son Charles Junior played by Michael Marcus and there is an awkward scene in the film whereby Dickens Sr having resolved to separate from his wife is walking with Nelly through Hampstead and comes across his oldest son Charles, who discover the affair.

Unfortunately as illustrated in The Invisible Woman the love affair between Dickens and Nelly is short lived but she remains the muse for Estella the female character in Dickens most accessible and famous work Great Expectations (published in 1861) who Pip falls in love with.

Felicity Jones adds layers of subtlety and complexity to the character of Nelly a woman who becomes the object of the great novelist’s affection who soon realizes that their affair is ultimately doomed and she will be the one most affected by this relationship. For Dickens, his love of fame and literary greatness trumps any real devotion to Nelly and naturally divorce was out of the question. Nelly realizes that she is living in the shadow of a literary giant and her role in his success will be eclipsed by his fame and popularity.

The Invisible Woman is a thought-provoking and intelligent period piece which at times lacks variety and is slow moving. Fiennes as a director makes a fatal decision not to use much soundtrack in the film, which clearly needs a more suitable musical score. At least The Invisible Woman got nominated for Best Costume Design but lost out to The Great Gatsby at the 2014 Academy Awards.

Viewers get the impression that if Ralph Fiennes had been content on just playing Dickens and letting a more experienced director like Mike Newell or Jane Campion remain behind the camera, The Invisible Woman could be a remarkable film.

This engaging if slightly uneven period piece is saved by the sustaining performance of Felicity Jones who carries the subject matter of the film beautifully. The Invisible Woman is recommended viewing but not absolutely essential and will most likely appeal to literary scholars who are familiar with the writers of Victorian social criticism and ardent Charles Dickens fans.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charles_Dickens

 

Fading Reign of Art Nouveau

The Grand Budapest Hotel

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Director: Wes Anderson

Cast: Ralph Fiennes, Jude Law, F. Murray Abraham, Harvey Keitel, Willem Dafoe, Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson, Bill Murray, Tom Wilkinson, Tilda Swinton

Moonrise Kingdom director Wes Anderson assembles a hugely talented ensemble cast led by the irresistable Ralph fiennes as Gustave H.  a suave Concierge at The Grand Budapest Hotel who gets embroiled in a whimsical art theft after his benefactor dies mysteriously and her evil son Dimitri played by Adrien Brody pursues the eloquent and flamboyant Gustave in a fictitious republic of  Zubrowka representative of a modern day Yugoslavia or even The Czech Republic, but emblematic of a crumbling decadent and ravaged Eastern Europe.

The Grand Budapest Hotel is a wonderful plot, inventive, hilarious, witty and beautifully orchestrated matched by a superb ensemble cast the likes of which haven’t been seen on screen for years including Oscar nominees F. Murray Abraham (Amadeus), Harvey Keitel (Bugsy), Willem Dafoe (Shadow of a Vampire), Bill Murray (Lost in Translation), Edward Norton (Primal Fear), Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton), Saoirse Ronan (Atonement) and Jude Law (The Talented Mr Ripley) – all consummate character actors and brilliant performers in the own right.

Each perfectly constructed shot in the Grand Budapest Hotel is a pastiche of old European movies and landscapes reminiscent of a time between the wars when civility was still in fashion. When Old European Hotels were lavish and comfortable establishments with Bell Boys, Lift Operators, Chefs and naturally charming yet slimy Concierges adding to the intrigue of its elegance. When Hotels were places to spend a week, when time was plentiful and guests came to languish in the extraordinary facilities of these beautifully decadent Hotels which populated the ski slopes and small towns of Austria, Germany, Italy and Switzerland.

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Even though, the fictional country,  Zubrowka is representative of a mixture of Eastern European countries which all suffered under the Nazi’s and then under the Communists, the institutional history of such a charming hotel remained the centre of a town’s attraction, where legends of its fabled guests were passed down over the decades. The Grand Budapest Hotel reflects an era when Art Nouveau reigned supreme especially in the 1930’s. This comedy set in 1932, featuring a complicated and whimsical if not absolutely witty plot is deftly handled by screenwriter Anderson who makes sure each of his cast members whether on screen for a second or for several scenes delivers a perfect performance.

The cast also includes Lea Seydoux, Mathieu Amalric, Owen Wilson and Tilda Swinton. Inspired by the works of 20th century Austrian writer Stefan Zweig, The Grand Budapest Hotel is expertly crafted, dazzlingly assembled and wonderfully executed. A real treat of a film which will sure to delight audiences for years to come  much like the Hotel whose guests found its hidden charms suitably enchanting. Highly recommended viewing and a winner of the Grand Jury Prize at the 2014 Berlin Film Festival, The Grand Budapest Hotel is marvelous, whimsical, witty and comical with an underlying menace attached to the action, making the comedy almost tragic in its relevance.

 

 

 

Eccentric Lesson in Etiquette

Great Expectations

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Director: Mike Newell

Cast: Jeremy Irvine, Ben Lloyd-Hughes, Holliday Grainger, Helena Bonham Carter, Jason Flemyng, Ralph Fiennes, Sally Hawkins

Charles Dickens published Great Expectations in 1860 just ten years before his death in 1870 at the height of his literary fame. Naturally over the past half century there has been several film versions of this classic realist novel, but Four Weddings and a Funeral director Mike Newell has captured the essence of Dickens in the new film version of Great Expectations starring Oscar nominated British actors Helen Bonham Carter (Les Miserables, Wings of a Dove) and Ralph Fiennes (The English Patient, The Duchess) as Miss Havisham and Abel Magwitch respectively.

Newell’s triumph in this version of Great Expectations is capturing the essential British aspect of the story about Pip, a poor orphan who is rescued from the fate of becoming a rural blacksmith and elevated into London’s fashionable high society by a mysterious benefactor whose fate he is inextricably entwined with right from the beginning.

The other great triumph of this version of Great Expectations is the superb casting of energetic young and gorgeous actor Jeremy Irvine as the twenty-something Pip who has to negotiate rite of passage in London’s high society inevitably through his men’s club the Finches with the help of his tutor the practical solicitor Mr Jaggers beautifully played by Robbie Coltrane.

Pip through the eccentric Miss Havisham, eternally bedecked in a spidery wedding gown, wonderfully played by Helena Bonham Carter is first introduced to her ward Estella, who soon grows up into a magnificent young woman, wonderfully played by Holliday Grainger and over the course of the two hour film, Pip and Estella’s lives interlink through past connections and present repercussions.

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Besides Alphonso Cuaron’s 1998 version of Great Expectations modernized and set in Florida and New York starring Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow, the previous version of this novel was filmed by the great director David Lean back in 1946. With the current trend for traditionalist entertainment especially in light of the success of British TV series Downton Abbey, director Mike Newell’s significant decision to leave Great Expectations in its rightful Victorian setting is an important and ultimately shrewd choice. From the gorgeous sets to the fantastic male costumes of the young Victorian dandies, enough to inspire a flamboyant range of Vivienne Westwood menswear collection, this version of Great Expectations will make all period purists rejoice at its elegance and simplicity.

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Naturally in line with similar Dickens novels Great Expectations is populated with an eccentric and unique range of delightful Victorian characters one of the reasons which have made his novels so evocative and enduring. Pip is surrounded by his simple country Uncle Joe Gargery played by Jason Flemyng and Mrs Joe played by Sally Hawkins and in London is guided by Mr Jaggers’s generous assistant Wemmick played by Ewen Bremner of Trainspotting fame. The alpha male in the young gentleman’s club, the Finches of Avery Square and Pip’s nemesis is the ruthless Bentley Drummle played by Ben Lloyd-Hughes.

Great Expectations like any rags to riches story, similar to Vanity Fair and My Fair Lady places its narrative arc firmly in the tough lessons of Life and Etiquette and is essentially a wonderful coming of age story of a young person who is mysteriously placed in opulent circumstances only to discover the sinister motives behind such an unexpected social elevation. The costumes are superb, the acting brilliant, helped especially by Fiennes and Bonham Carter and made more palatable by the enthusiasm of screen newcomer Jeremy Irvine who embodies everything the hapless handsome hero should be: innocent, impressionable and ultimately fated to discover his true origins.

The only criticism of Great Expectations is that the first part of the film is severely dark and also the editing and cinematography could be better, whilst the narrative and rich characterization makes this version of the English literary classic worth watching on the big screen, hopefully reintroducing 21st century film audiences to the wonder of Dickens as its never seen before.

2002 Toronto Film Festival

2002 Toronto International Film Festival Winners

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Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) takes place every year in September in Canada.
Films which premiere at Toronto are often nominated for Academy Awards the following year.

TIFF does not hand out individual prizes for Best Actor or Actress but focuses on amongst others the following awards:
People’s Choice Award & Best Canadian Feature Film

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Opening Night Film: Ararat directed by Atom Egoyan, starring Charles Aznavour, Christopher Plummer, and David Alpay

Whale Rider

People’s Choice Award: Whale Rider directed by Niki Caro, starring Keisha Castle-Hughes, Rawiri Paratene, Cliff Curtis and Vicky Haughton

Spider

Best Canadian Feature Film: Spider directed by David Cronenberg, starring Ralph Fiennes, Miranda Richardson & Gabriel Byrne

Razor Sharp 007 is Back

Skyfall

Super Suave Spy Back on his Home Turf

From Shanghai to Scotland, Skyfall, the 23rd film in the James Bond franchise is both an intriguing espionage thriller closer to a John le Carre novel, yet beautifully retaining all the quintessential 007 traits which have made all the Bond films the most successful franchise in cinema history from fast cars, exotic locations, dangerous animals and naturally nubile Bond girls leading the smartly suited spy to the evil villain who is always masterminding destruction, mayhem or in this case, revenge.

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There was much anticipation leading up to Skyfall as it also marked 50 years of James Bond, when the first Bond film burst on the screen in 1962 introducing Sean Connery as Bond in the exotic Dr No. Whilst a lot has changed in 50 years, the essence of Bond as a suave, international spy chasing after megalomaniac villains in far corners of the globe has always been the same. In Skyfall, whilst there is more angst explored in the relationship between Bond and M, there is an equal share for the hideously brilliant villain, Raoul Silva, played with psychotic panache by Oscar-winner Javier Bardem who is hell bent on revenging M, head of Mi6 for allowing him to be captured by the Chinese as the British relinquished Hong Kong in 1997.

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Skyfall also marks a departure from other Bond films in that there is less exotic locations outside the UK but more British based action which is equally thrilling especially the Tennyson quoting assassination sequence in Westminster or the brilliant explosive climax at Bond’s long forgotten Scottish family estate Skyfall in rural Scotland.

What really raises the level Skyfall is the brilliant direction by Sam Mendes of American Beauty and Revolutionary Road fame, who not being an action director brings more dysfunctional characterization and interpersonal twists to the Skyfall narrative complimented by the brilliant acting talents of Bardem apparently handpicked by Daniel Craig to play the villain and of course Dame Judi Dench as M, Bond’s shadowy, yet tough mother figure. All Bond’s mother issues are resolved in Skyfall along with coming to terms with a tragic childhood in the remote Scottish highlands.

50 Years of 007: The Actors Might Change but the Characters Remaining Intriguing…

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Skyfall is superb yet not conventional multi-layered Bond film crisply shot by Roger Deakins’s excellent photography especially noticeable in the Shanghai Skyscraper sequence, and while the action sequences are not as outlandish as some of the previous more bizarre Bond films such as Moonraker or The Spy Who Loved Me, this is the threadbare, recession hit 21st century and not the lavish late 1970’s.

Daniel Craig holds his own in his third portrayal as Bond and is more comfortable in this iconic role as a razor-sharp, still sexy and slightly jaded spy always ready for action. From a fabulous attention-grabbing chase scene in Istanbul to the wonderful opening sequence which is both lethal and seductive, choreographed to British singer Adele’s gorgeous rendition of the themesong: Skyfall, viewers are promised a seductive, slick and emotionally engaging Bond film.

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Of particular note is the engaging encounter between Bond and the ruthless suggestive villain Silva, an expert internet hacker in an abandoned island outside the Special Administrative Region of Macau. The scene between Craig and Bardem is absolutely superb with Javier Bardem using the full range of deviancy as the enemy of Mi6 and a ruthless hypnotic villain. Skyfall is razor sharp cinema, occasionally funny and essentially British and promises not the end of a franchise but an elegant re-alignment of the Bond universe for the Second Decade of the 21st century living up to the charming Bond family motto, The World is Not Enough….

Subtlety is in the Context

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If viewers loved Stephen Daldry’s brilliant Oscar winning adaptation of Michael Cunningham’s novel The Hours, then you will appreciate this talented director’s screen adaptation of German author Bernhard Schlink’s novel The Reader. Daldry somehow manages to get the anguish of his female characters so artfully portrayed, with Nicole Kidman winning an Oscar for her portrayal of Virginia Woolf and now Kate Winslet finally gets the recognition she deserves for her brilliant and complex portrayal of Hanna Schmidt in 1950’s Germany in a multi-layed narrative about secrets, the essence of history, justice and seduction…. The Reader’s subtlety lies in the context of youth versus experience, secrets and lies… Highly recommended.

The Reader also stars David Kross (later to be seen in Steven Spielberg’s Warhorse) and veteran German actor Bruno Ganz.

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