Happy Cinco De Mayo

If you are interested in a good Mexican film to watch in honor of Cinco de Mayo then look furhter than Los Olvidados (The Forgotten Ones). Directed by Luis Buñuel, this 1950 film follows a group of children who live in the slums of Mexico City. The film combines neo-realist and surrealist elements to tell the story of this street gang.

Los Olvidados is the film that earned Buñuel international recognition; he won the Best Director prize at the 1951 Cannes Film Festival. It is considered to be one of the greatest Mexican films of all time.

Buñuel would direct films in Mexico until 1955 and they are definitely worth checking out. I, for one, will be revisiting Los Olvidados as research for my thesis.

Going to see The Class

The Class, which won the Palme d’Or last year, is currently playing at the Amherst Cinema. My friend Zoe and I have been talking about seeing this movie for quite a while (at least since last semester). Hoepfully, The Class will be playing this weekend so we can finally see it.

Almodovar’s Broken Embraces at Cannes

I’ve heard rumors that Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodovar’s next film Broken Embraces will show at Cannes. Here is a preview of the film which opens in Spain March 18.

This year in Spanish cinema, Pedro Almodovar is the new black.

Oscar-winning director Almodovar’s latest film Broken Embraces drops his distinctive comic melodrama for the best tradition of “film noir,” the dark and stylish film genre used in many crime dramas.

Set for release on March 18 in Spain and in the rest of Europe in May, the film stars recent Oscar winner Penelope Cruz in the role of a tragedy-dogged aspiring actress.

“The film noir genre is one of my favorites,” Almodovar told reporters at a screening of the film on Friday. “The fact this film was really “black” was what was very satisfying.”

Broken Embraces centers on a quartet of characters in the movie business whose lives are interwoven in a torrid tale of love, power, secrecy, betrayal and vengeance. There is the actress Lena (Cruz), script writer and director Mateo, film producer Judith and unscrupulous financier Ernesto.

The dark and stylish cinematography recalls classic Hollywood thrillers of the 1940s and 1950s, including one scene where Lena’s jealous lover pushes her down a long, winding staircase, evoking a similar scene in Henry Hathaway’s The Kiss of Death.

Almodovar described Broken Embraces — his 17th film and with the highest budget yet of 11 million euros ($14.16 million) — as “the story of my \love for the cinema.”

Spain’s most famous director is known for melodramatic tragedy mixed with frenetic comedy in films like Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown and Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down!. He won the Oscar for screenwriting Talk to Her, about two men who form an unlikely bond when both their girlfriends are in comas, and he has only flirted with film noir style in earlier films, such as Trembling Flesh.

Broken Embraces marks the fourth collaboration between Almodovar and Cruz, who last month won the Oscar for best supporting actress in a role as an eccentric Spanish painter in Woody Allen’s Vicky, Cristina, Barcelona.

Cruz was effusive in her praise of Almodovar. “I’ve been obsessed with his films since I was a youngster,” she said, adding that if she were told she could only work with one director for the rest of her life it would be “without doubt” Almodovar.

I am taking a seminar on Pedro Almodovar’s films this semester so I will be beyond excited if Broken Embraces does indeed show at Cannes.

Review: The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)

At the age of 43, Jean-Dominique Bauby, the editor-in-chief of French Elle, suffered a stroke. When Bauby woke 20 days later, he learned he was suffering from “locked-in syndrome.” His mind was intact, but due to paralysis Bauby was unable to speak and only able to communicate by blinking his left eye.

Using a system where the letters of the alphabet were arranged by frequency of use in the French language, Bauby blinked when the letter he was thinking of was read. This is how Jean-Dominique Bauby wrote his resonating memoir, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, which was published two days before his death in 1996, a year after his initial stroke.
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a challenging work to bring to the screen. Much of the narrative is Bauby’s thoughts as his mind wanders to escape the daily stress of his paralysis. But director Julian Schnabel and screenwriter Ronald Harwood take Bauby’s mesmerizing prose and adapt the into a film that is equally breathtaking.
French actor Mathieu Amalric portrays Jean-Dominique, an unbelievably demanding role. But Amalric rises to the challenge, perfectly balancing every aspect of Bauby’s life, before and after his stroke. Most importantly his character is true to the novel; he is never cliché or undignified.
Likewise, Emmanuelle Seigner, Marie-Josee Croze and Max von Sydow are exceptional in their roles as Celine-Bauby’s former partner-his speech therapist and his aging father, respectively.
While performance is essential to this film, Schnabel’s exceptional direction makes The Diving Bell and the Butterfly unlike any other viewing experience. The narrative begins with the flutter of an eyelid and the realization that you are in Bauby’s mind as he learns of the effects of his stroke. Nearly every frame is constructed so the world is as Bauby sees it-blurry, off-kilter and restricted.
But Schnabel delves further into Bauby’s life experiences, weaving between his imagination, his past and his relationships with friends and family. This allows the viewer to not only experience Bauby’s wonderfully fulfilling life, but to explore the power of imagination and the essence of being alive. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly is a daring film that does not fall into an obvious trap of sappiness or melodrama. It is an inspiring, visually tantalizing and truly beautiful film.
Since its release in May 2007, The Diving Bell and the Butterfly has received endless international and domestic acclaim at events like the Cannes Film Festival, Toronto Film Festival and the Golden Globes. Recently, the film was nominated for four Academy Awards: Best Director, Best Adapted Screenplay, Best Cinematography and Best Editing. While it was ineligible in the Best Foreign Language Film competition, Julian Schnabel’s nomination solidifies The Diving Bell and the Butterfly as one of the best films of 2007.
If you had asked me last week which films I wanted to win the most Academy Awards, I would have picked There Will Be Blood or Juno. But now, having seen Schnabel’s brilliant adaptation of The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, I hope that this film gets the edge it needs to beat out Hollywood’s big names on Oscar night and get the recognition it deserves.
Published: Mount Holyoke News
February 7, 2008
Updated October 20, 2010