Posts Tagged ‘Sarah Gadon’

A Deadly Passion

Ferrari

Director: Michael Mann

Cast: Adam Driver, Penelope Cruz, Shailene Woodley, Sarah Gadon, Patrick Dempsey, Jack O’Connell, Agnese Brighitini, Leonardo Caimi, Gabriel Leone

Running Time: 2 hours and 10 minutes

Film Rating: 8 out of 10

Film Editor Pietro Scalia deserves an Oscar nomination for Best Editing for director Michael Mann’s latest biopic about the founder of luxury car brand Ferrari, Enzo Ferrari superbly played with complete brutal dexterity by Oscar nominee Adam Driver (Marriage Story, BlackKklansman) who deserves to be nominated for Best Actor for Ferrari.

Counterbalancing Enzo Ferrari’s sleek business operation of manufacturing sports cars and racing cars is Enzo’s wife Laura Ferrari expertly played with the right degree of bitterness and scorn by Oscar winner Penelope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona). The scenes between Enzo and Laura are electrifying and required two really talented actors to make this complex marriage which was more like a business arrangement believable and toxic.

Enzo Ferrari has a mistress and a child from another woman, Lina Landi played by Shailene Woodley (The Descendants), whose insistence that Enzo recognizes the paternity of the little boy is just one of the problems that skilled tough business man Enzo has to figure out as he needs his international drivers to win the formidable and highly dangerous Italian race Mille Miglia which occurred with relentless loss of life.

American director Michael Mann kept a low profile in the 2010’s after huge critically acclaimed successes with Collateral, Public Enemies and Miami Vice. So its great news that Michael Mann has returned to the director’s chair with Ferrari a stylish, brutal and atmospheric film about the founder of Ferrari capturing in minute detail the Italian society of 1957 filled with machismo, racing drivers that would die like flies and most of all the glamour that Italian car brands like Ferrari and Maserati brought back to Italy after the gloom of the post War years of the late 1940’s which gave birth to the film movement Italian Neo-realism.

In actual fact Michael Mann incorporates some of those Neo-realist film techniques into Ferrari particularly Enzo’s scenes with the fickle but pushy Italian press and those scenes in the Barber shop and on the Italian street.

Ferrari’s international cast includes Patrick Dempsey as racing car driver Piero Taruffi, British actor Jack O’Connell as racing car driver Peter Collins along with Italian stars Gabriel Leone as Alfonso de Portago and Leonardo Caimi as Brusoni.

The emotional crux of Ferrari is the difficult and complex relationship between Enzo and his volatile wife Laura, beautifully played out on screen by Driver and Cruz. Laura held all the financial power for Ferrari while Enzo dreamed big but needed to take the luxury car manufacturing company to a new international market with an urgent cash injection.

From the devastating car crashes to the glamour around fast cars and luxury, Ferrari is a fascinating and authentic tale of an ambitious, hardnosed businessman that would not be known outside the Italian world.

Enzo Ferrari created those red sleek sports cars which are now synonymous with speed, luxury and affluence. As a film, Ferrari plays on that primal fascination that men have with competitive driving often at the cost of looking after their own families, a deadly passion which has to be sought to protect their egos, reputation and virility.

Ferrari is a highly recommended biopic, beautifully directed by Michael Mann and expertly acted by the two main leads with sumptuous cinematography and cutting edge editing.

Michael Mann returns to form in Ferrari which gets a film rating of 8 out of 10 and is definitely worth seeing for those that enjoyed such excellent films as Ford v Ferrari and All the Money in the World.

Read more about Enzo Ferrari herehttps://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Enzo_Ferrari

Spiritual Sacrifice

Indignation

indignation

Director: James Schamus

Cast: Logan Lerman, Sarah Gadon, Tracey Letts, Linda Emond, Ben Rosenfield, Noah Robbins, Danny Burstein

Logan Lerman (Noah) has come a long way from portraying a teenage hero in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians franchise. He proved his acting abilities in the David Ayer war film Fury and now takes a central role in director James Schamus’s film Indignation based upon the novel by the Pulitzer Prize winning author Phillip Roth. Roth’s novels are notoriously difficult to be adapted to the big screen.

One of Philip Roth’s novel’s The Human Stain was adapted into a provocative 2003 Robert Benson film starring Anthony Hopkins, Nicole Kidman and Wentworth Miller. Roth’s outstanding novel American Pastoral has recently been made into a film starring Ewan McGregor, Jennifer Connelly and Dakota Fanning.

Schamus does a sterling job of bringing Indignation to the big screen and Loman is nuanced and brilliant as the seriously conflicted young Jewish freshman Marcus who has a crisis of faith while attending a conservative Ohio college which forces the students to attend mass every Sunday.

Religious disaffection, sexual repression and social pressure are all perfectly framed within the 1950’s Korean War where young American serviceman were being conscripted to fight in the first of many US led foreign wars against the Communists.

At college Marcus while working in the library is attracted to the gorgeous Olivia Hutton who is not only sexually provocative but also slightly mentally unstable. On their first date Olivia performs a then unspeakable sexual act on Marcus, which releases years of pent up repression and rage.

Marcus fights with his roommates and soon requests a transfer which comes to the attention of Dean Caudwell wonderfully played by Tracy Letts (The Big Short). The religious conflict is evident when Marcus tells Caudwell that he is happily atheist, even though he was brought up in a Jewish home and worked for his overbearing father in a kosher butchery back in suburban New Jersey.

When Marcus falls ill, his sympathetic mother Esther Messner wonderfully played by Linda Emond (Julie and Julia, Oldboy) comes to visit and soon meets the illustrious Olivia. In the emotional crux of the film, Marcus makes a deal with his mother to stop seeing the clearly damaged Olivia superbly played by Canadian actress Sarah Gadon (Cosmopolis, A Royal Night Out).

This arrangement along with Marcus’s continued conflict with Dean Caudwell on religious grounds has disastrous effects. Much to Caudwell’s horror, Marcus even quotes from the philosopher Bertrand Russell in his defence of atheism and his anti-establishment viewpoints.

Indignation is an intelligent exploration of one young man’s coming of age and his ultimate spiritual sacrifice on the cusp of what could have been an illustrious future. Logan Lerman and Sarah Gadon hold their own in Schamus’s tightly controlled script based on Roth’s novel.

This atmospheric period drama is recommended viewing for those viewers that like their cinema thought-provoking, but ultimately Indignation does justice to Roth’s complex literary aesthetic.

 

Vlad the Impaler

Dracula Untold

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Director: Gary Shore

Cast: Luke Evans, Dominic Cooper, Sarah Gadon, Charles Dance, Diarmaid Murtagh, Art Parkinson, Noah Huntley

15th Century Transylvanian Prince Vlad is forced to protect his kingdom from the onslaught of the expanding Ottoman Empire as the Turks threaten to invade his lands enslaving teenage boys for forced conscription to the Turkish army. Through many bloody battles, Prince Vlad, suitably played by Luke Evans (The Fast and the Furious 6) gets the nickname of the Impaler who impales invading armies and unfriendly villagers on gruesome stakes.

Dracula Untold starts in 1442, the height of the middle ages, with Prince Vlad and a group of men entering broken tooth mountain, whereby hidden in a dark cave an evil force looms. That force is an immortal vampire who made a pact with a demon for his eternal bloodsucking powers.

As the Turkish forces advance on Transylvania headed by Sultan Mekmet downplayed by the swarthy Dominic Cooper (The Duchess, The Devil’s Double) threatening to enslave the male population of Vlad’s precarious kingdom and also his precious son Prince Ingeras played by Art Parkinson.

Craving supernatural powers, Vlad rushes off into the evil liar and confronts his fears by sipping from the blood of this manipulative master vampire, wonderfully played by Charles Dance (last seen in HBO’s Game of Thrones) in exchange for extraordinary strength and acute nocturnal abilities.

However like all pacts with the devil there is always a catch. If after three days Vlad drinks human blood again then he will be immortalized as a vampire forever and as per his order of the Dragon, will eternally take the title of the infamous Dracula. However Vlad the Vampire in the course of three days shies away from shining silver, sunlight and wooden crosses, revealing his true form to his disconcerted legions.

With all the mythologies and movie histories surrounding Dracula and vampire, director Gary Shore refreshingly decided not to go the gory or sexually explicit route and in turn creates a tame if not entertaining historical version of Dracula in Dracula Untold, assisted by some great visual effects especially the fight sequence between Vlad and Mekmet amongst bags of glittering silver.

Canadian star Sarah Gadon (Cosmopolis, Belle) plays Vlad’s voluptuous luckless wife, Mirena who unfortunately has to become the bride of Dracula…

Whilst this film is not Twilight or the elegant Neil Jordan film, Interview with a Vampire, Dracula Untold is a mild yet enjoyable middle of the road historical epic about the origins of this mythical bloodsucker giving more credibility to his alter ego as a merciless Transylvanian Prince Vlad, who was willing to sell his soul to the devil to save his mountainous kingdom.

Unlike Francis Ford Coppola’s 1990’s film Bram Stoker’s Dracula, this film is a less ambitious version of the iconic bloodsucker helped by good performances by Evans and Gadon with more seasoned actors like Charles Dance and Dominic Cooper adding some credibility whilst the film focuses more on the historical origins of Dracula than any of the contemporary post-Victorian Gothic reincarnations.

Dracula Untold is recommended viewing for vampire fans and those that like their blood sucking a little light on the veins, moving the film swiftly out of violent epic mode and more into the historical fantasy genre.

The Zong Massacre

Belle

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Director: Amma Asante
Cast: Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Tom Wilkinson, Penelope Wilton, Miranda Richardson, Emily Watson, Tom Felton, Sam Reid, Matthew Goode, Sarah Gadon, James Norton

South African British actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw stars as Dido Elizabeth Belle, a mixed race woman who has the fortune to be rescued by her father and installed at the Hampstead home of his Uncle William Murray, the 1st Earl of Mansfield, who also happens to be the Lord Chief Justice for the infamous Zong trial which featured prominently in British society at the end of the 18th century.

The Zong Massacre – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Zong_massacre revolved around a British slave ship which jettisoned half its cargo including a great many slaves in the West Indies, drowning them in the Caribbean Sea because there was not enough drinking water on board the slave ship while heading from modern day Ghana to Jamaica.

The Liverpool merchant owners of the slave ship sought insurance compensation for lost cargo which caused a public trial and an outcry back in England as it highlighted the horrors of the 18th century slave trade, naturally bringing up the age old question of can there ever be a price put on a human life. The history of the Zong trial and the massacre of the slaves on board takes centre stage in director Amma Asante’s riveting and slightly contrived social-historical drama Belle.

Like Amazing Grace, Belle centres on the last decades of the British slave trade and portrays a society on the brink of change. Set in England in the 18th century under the reign of King George III (the mad one!), Dido Elizabeth Belle –  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dido_Elizabeth_Belle tells the story of Dido Belle a mixed race heiress and under the guardianship of Lord Mansfield must navigate her way despite her title and wealth through the apparent prejudices of 18th century British society.

Dido_Elizabeth_BellePainting by Johann Zoffany, 1779

Accompanied by her first cousin Elizabeth Murray, played by Canadian actress Sarah Gadon (Cosmopolis, A Dangerous Method), who was without a dowry, Belle and Elizabeth need to secure suitable husbands, both of which apparently come in the form of the Ashford brothers James and Oliver played by British actors James Norton (Rush) and Tom Felton of the Harry Potter franchise.

However Belle or Dido as she is referred to in the film has her sights set on an ambitious abolitionist lawyer John Davinier, played by Australian actor Sam Reid (Anonymous) who is assisting the 1st Earl of Mansfield in the legal case regarding the Zong Question as it was politely known in 1783.

belle

Ably assisted by a consummate script written by Misan Sagay, Belle is an absorbing and intelligent social-historical drama, similar to the Michael Apted film Amazing Grace with less of the apparent cruelty of Steve McQueen’s Oscar winning film 12 Years a Slave.

Belle, along with a nuanced performance by Gugu Mbatha-Raw features a superb supporting cast including Emily Watson (The Book Thief), Penelope Wilton (The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel & Downton Abbey series) and the brilliant Tom Wilkinson (Michael Clayton) as the Earl of Mansfield who takes Belle under his guardianship at Kenwood House, Hampstead.

This is a fascinating portrait of England at the end of the 18th century, whereby race and politics as well as class and legitimacy ruled a conservative society constricted further by prejudice and ruled by desire for European commercial superiority, which despite its horrors was the main reason that the slave trade come into existence and historically changed  the West African, European and Caribbean demographics. For lovers of historical drama with a social conscience, Belle is recommended viewing and an exceptionally interesting film.

Descent into Random Chaos

Cosmopolis

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Director: David Cronenberg

Cast: Robert Pattinson, Juliette Binoche, Matthieu Amalric, Paul Giamatti, Samantha Morton, Sarah Gadon, Jay Baruchel

Published in 2003, American writer Don DeLillo’s philosophic diatribe on the randomness of contemporary American culture showcases a society on the brink of paranoia, valueless violence and dysfunctional oligarchs, Cosmopolis was originally praised by literary critics as a prediction of a truly unpredictable urbanized consumer society which thrives on wealth and more inherently lack of wisdom. Naturally the book is set in Manhattan, New York, the site of the 9/11 terror attacks on the Twin Towers and the heart of Wall Street, where corporate greed has run riot, a metropolitan pantheon of the perverse.

Cosmopolis focus on the young,  vain, egotistical and hypochondriac billionaire Eric Packer who trades in all the world’s fluctuating currencies from the comfort of his sleek, multifaceted stretch limousine. A vehicle, where he can have sex with his financial advisor, have his prostate examined while predicting the currencies in Asia, pour a vodka and unemotionally view the thronging masses rhythmically rioting on the Manhattan streets as they protest job losses, raising inflation and an impending economic meltdown. DeLillo’s post 9/11 novel, almost predicted with certainty the 2008 financial crisis of Wall Street rupturing the entire American Capitalist system as the collapse of the subprime mortgage lending schemes which crippled international banks and caused contagious economic havoc.

Enter Canadian director David Cronenberg (The Naked Lunch, A History of Violence), whose claustrophobic film version of Cosmopolis starring Twilight’s Robert Pattinson as the deadpan, psychotic bored billionaire Eric Packer along with a host of briefly seen international stars from Juliette Binoche (The English Patient), Matthieu Amalric (The Diving Bell and the Butterfly) and Samantha Morton (The Libertine) who are all captured in a series of sporadic dialogues with Packer which ultimately serve no purpose whatsoever emphasizing DeLillo’s dissatisfaction with contemporary discourse and the apparent random rhetoric attributed to contemporary language, making for a quirky and unintelligible script, purposefully devoid of significance.

Whilst as a novel, DeLillo crisply conveys the descent into chaos and violence that Packer’s journey across downtown Manhattan will lead to, all in the search of a haircut, the novel’s perilous message is lost on the big screen. Cronenberg’s Cosmospolis does not convey many exterior shots of New York but like the novel confines the action mostly to the limousine and the diner, inherent symbols of American excess and corporate convenience: a dystrophic society ready to consume itself.

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Cosmopolis is difficult to watch, almost uncomfortable from the random and bloody violence to the prospect of seeing Pattinson cooped up in a Limo for most of the film, and unlike Mary Hatton’s brilliant film adaptation of Brett Easton Ellis novel, American Psycho, does not make use of the Manhattan skyscraper iconography. Unlike American Psycho, Cosmopolis comes across onscreen as a pretentious film without much substance, but then that is conveyed more accessibly in DeLillo’s slim and scathing prosaic prediction of an American society consumed by greed, vengeance and mistrust.

Best part of Cosmopolis is the final scene between Robert Pattinson and Paul Giamatti (Sideways, The Hangover Part II) who adds an uncharacteristic level of deviousness to an otherwise thinly plotted but ultimately vacuous narrative.

Audiences should not expect stunning visuals or any cathartic release, after all this is pure Art House Cinema Cronenberg returning to eccentric cinematic form and not intent on delivering  a more substantial mainstream thriller like his brilliant Russian gangster film Eastern Promises.

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