As stated in the previous post, a problem or hurdle for biographical films is the possibility that the story might dilute the mystique of the individual in question. Another hurdle, however, is crafting a story that is compelling enough for people to watch; the assumption in the case of Amelia Earhart is that people already know "the end."
This is the challenge for the filmmakers of Amelia, a film that hopes to reveal the life of the legendary aviatrix prior to her even more legendary disappearance. Hillary Swank strikes a remarkable likeness to Earhart's natural, non-fashion plate looks as well as what must have been her unfettered passion for aviation. From the trailer, it seems director Mira Nair will be approaching the narrative from the standpoint of how Earhart's pioneering spirit & ambition affects the men in her life, played by Richard Gere and Ewan McGregor, and captivates the entire nation. This could possibly be the proper way to tackle the subject matter as it creates a thematic opportunity to explore how certain individuals and the populace itself are impacted by her ultimate disappearance. It would be even better if the story were told from the perspective of those around her, perhaps Gere's character, but it is already obvious that Swank as Earhart will be the center of the film.
Kudos must be given to Mira Nair's storytelling. There are some gorgeously shot scenes in this film with Nair utilizing color only the way someone with an aesthetic background from Indian cinema could. She imparts very dreamy, almost free flight elegance to the flight scenes which is important when trying to visually relate to the audience how Amelia Earhart felt about flying.

James Cameron proved that knowing how a true life story ends, doesn't necessarily mean a film about (or even set around) real events should or will follow audience presumptions. Amelia Earhart's achievements (they were many and remarkable) and mysterious disappearance is set in history; what remains to be told is what the life she lived and void she left meant for those who knew her. Let us hope that Nair, Swank, Gere, and company will circumvent presumptions and exceed expectations. The film is set for release on October 23rd.


Double Chanel

Coco avant Chanel

The danger of autobiographical films is the chance that they may actually take away from the mystique or rub the gleam off of the legend. However, in the case of Coco Chanel, the "Chanel" brand is so powerful and influential in modern fashion history that it might be easy to forget that Chanel is the name of a remarkable woman. Coco avant Chanel attempts to trace the life of Gabrielle Chanel from her childhood when she learned sewing in a convent school, to a youth singing at cafes where she received the nickname of "Coco", and through her meteoric rise as fashion innovator. Audrey Tautou takes on the role of Gabrielle from young adulthood and it easy to appreciate the reasons for her casting. Tautou bears a similar sleek physique to the actual Gabrielle Chanel that makes her look just as graceful and smart in Coco Chanel designs and an intensity behind her eyes that sells the uncompromising passion of the genuine individual. Behind the camera is Anne Fontaine, no stranger to female-centric narratives and before this turns you away with the assumption of "chick-flick," one should bear in mind that Fontaine has chosen to follow Gabrielle Chanel's life as it influenced her creative process. In particular, how the clothing of the various men with whom she had relations throughout her life inspired her trademark, modernist women's fashions. This should in theory keep the film devolving into overt romanticism, though admittedly, it is a very fine line for Fontaine to walk. It will be interesting to see if she successfully manages to steer the film solidly on the course of Coco the artist rather than Coco the courtier.

Coco avant Chanel will be released by Sony Pictures Classics September 29th in New York and Los Angeles as Coco Before Chanel. Official website is here.

Coco & Igor

Based on the novel by Chris Greenhalgh who also adapted his book for the screen. The film obviously departs from Coco avant Chanel as it has less to do with Coco Chanel herself, but her relationship with composer Igor Stravinsky, though their attraction toward one another remains an analogy for the theme of "passion" in a staid era.

Source: Cinemovie.fr

Directed by Jan Kounan and starring Mads Mikelsen (Casino Royale) as Igor Stravinksy while Anna Mouglalis portrays Coco. As mentioned previously, Fontaine has the difficult challenge of delicately balancing Coco's romances and professional career. Kounan, on the other hand, is bringing to life a book which specifically focuses on a relationship between a man and a woman who happen to also be two significant figures in their respective fields. I am being intentionally non-descriptive as this setup could truly be about anyone, and has been seen before. What remains to be seen is if the story can distinguish itself by revealing how the love affair affected the artists. Did his time with Coco further Stravinsky's music? Did her time with Stravinsky contribute to Coco's designs? Though both were trailblazers of the early 20th century, did their romance typify the decadence of the era, or herald the end of it? Are there more conflicts for Coco beyond the period's feminine propriety and the obligatory showdown with Stravinksky's wife? Kounan certainly has just as difficult a challenge as Fontaine, perhaps moreso. Fontaine has only to keep the film on a singular course, but Kounan has many thematic paths in front him and navigating those paths toward a relevant film without losing one's way is far more difficult. The players all seem capable of the task, but many elements must fit together perfectly in order for this film to differentiate itself from any other film about a transient love affair.

The film closed the Cannes Film Festival this past May, but has yet to be scheduled for general release, though Kounan shot both a French-language and English-language version of the film.


The Wolfman

The trailer for Universal's modern remake of one of their classic movie monsters premiered yesterday. Overall, the production design and tone of the film are accurate for the material. It is the stellar cast, however, that really sells me on this film—quality players all around. And I think that is really important for material such as this. You need performers who will deliver the gravitas of the situation convincingly. Since these stories served as allegory for the age in which they were first written, it will key to not let key themes get lost in the "monster" spectacle these types of films tend to do. So far, it seems the filmmakers of this current iteration are not shying away from the dramatic elements of the story's original incarnation.
The film is due to be release February 10, 2010.


Anime Feature Round-up


When timid eleventh-grader and math genius Kenji Koiso is asked by older student and secret crush Natsuki to come with her to her family’s Nagano home for a summer job, he agrees without hesitation. Natsuki’s family, the Jinnouchi clan, dates back to the Muromachi era, and they’ve all come together to celebrate the 90th birthday of the spunky matriarch of the family, Sakae. That’s when Kenji discovers his “summer job” is to pretend to be Natsuki’s fiancĂ© and dance with her at the birthday celebration. As Kenji attempts to keep up with Natsuki’s act around her family, he receives a strange math problem on his cell phone which, being a math genius, he can’t resist solving. As it turns out, the solution to the mysterious equation causes a bizarre parallel world to collide with Earth, and it’s up to Kenji and his new fake family to put reality back in order.

Despite what one might believe, director HOSODA Mamoru's follow-up to the critically acclaimed The Girl Who Leapt Through Time (highly recommeded) is a bit of a rarity these days. Most anime is produced specifically for younger audiences though the image of anime abroad is "mature entertainment" rather than "kiddy fair." However, that really is a problem of perspective—a comparison of "cartoons" versus "anime." In reality, while there are anime that are certainly not meant for children, broadcast at late night time slots, the anime industry's bread & butter still come from the lighter fair broadcast during weekday and weekend primetime as well as summer film releases. Auteurs like HOSODA, MIYAZAKI or KON Satoshi, who make anime for "film lovers" are few. Though this summer like every other has seen a good number of animated films, most are feature-length episodes of popular animated TV series, even the surprisingly successful Evangelion 2.0. The budget and production schedule required for a true feature-length effort is viewed as risky. That is why it is very special indeed when a film like Summer Wars gets released. Many of the staff from The Girl Who Leapt Through Time return including scriptwriter OKUDERA Satoko and character designer SADAMOTO Yoshiyuki (Evangelion, FLCL).
The film retains the stylized realism in character design that is a trademark to SADAMOTO, which incorporates well with the lush, painted backgrounds. The use of CG to represent the "parallel world" seems appropriate and remarkably does not clash with the artistic style of the film. In a time when many western production companies have turned their back on cel animation, it is probably no surprise that it is Japan that is still keeping 2D animated features alive. 3D certainly has it's place (see following), but one can only truly appreciate "animation" as the art form that it is when one can see hand illustrated characters brought to life against hand painted backgrounds.

OBLIVION ISLAND—Haruka and the Magica Mirror—

Your favourite teddy bear. That model kit that took so long to complete. The picture book you used to read over and over again. The shining stone you found that day in the park. Where do all your childhood's treasures go when you grow up? In this story, we meet fantastic creatures that gather all these little objects that fall into oblivion as they are forgotten by their owners when they step into adulthood. These creatures sneak into our world from a different dimension, and unseen by humans, they take all the ditched and forgotten "treasures" into their world. Here, they use their booty to build their own city, a fairy tale-like place called... Oblivion Island!
The story follows Haruka, as she stumbles upon this world in search of a mirror very dear to her. There, she befriends and is aided by a fox named Teo and the two embark on an incredible adventure as she also discovers the things we lose as we mature.

source: Nippon Cinema

I believe there are two very important things one should take away from the above trailer. First, the incredible well-realized fantasy world in which Haruka falls into is something that's been missing from animated features, both from Japan and abroad, cel animated or 3DCG. Even Pixar still tends to ground their films in a solid reality, though the perspective from which they are told may be whimsical (a toy, insects, cars, a robot, etc). A setting like Oblivion Island, I believe, has yet to be seen and one has to wonder why that is. At any rate, it is wonderful to finally see what amounts to be a fairy tale realized in film narrative once more. The second point is the technical prowess on display. In my humble opinion, Production I.G. is one of the finest animation houses working today and they have turned their incredible artistry and experience in 2D animation and translated it quite brilliantly into 3D. You have to admit, despite what we've seen from the likes of Dreamworks, Pixar, Sony, etc., this film has a distinct look and feel that only an animation company like Production I.G. could deliver. I would even say that this is the natural evolution of Japanese animation's approach of cel animation to the digital medium. It is not just a re-interpretation of 2D methodology into digital, but a rethinking of how digital technology can bring to life their 2D ideas. In other words, it's still about the art and artistry. According to the company's sale sheet:
Oblivion Island: Haruka and the Magic Mirror will inherit the unique expressive style that has made Japanese animation hugely popular around the globe, and at the same time it will pursue a completely different texture from Western style 3DCG animation.
The film took 4 years with a staff of 200 to complete, and I think the efforts in "dedicating time and resources to the establishment of a fully equipped [3DCG] production environment" certainly shows.



Surveillance is an appropriate title for a film that is essentially about "point-of-view." As the word "surveillance" suggests, there is a scene to be observed, from which details and information can be extracted. Two Federal agents, played by Bill Pullman and Julia Ormand (pictured above) are charged with reconstructing the events surrounding a grisly crime. The narrative borrows from the storytelling device employed by Kurosawa Akira in Rashomon whereby the perspectives of characters regarding a single event begin to reveal subtle truths about the situation.

Naturally, the reaction might be to think you've seen this before, but one has to bear in mind that the director of Surveillance is Jennifer Lynch. As such, one has to expect something different and in fact, viewing the trailer reveals an ability to steer interesting and compelling characters on a collision course that superficially seems almost genetic. One other point to bear in mind is where Rashomon was primarily concerned about revealing truth from the perspectives of its protagonists, Surveillance seems to be about the lies itself, particularly what purpose obfuscating the truth serves and the impact this ultimately has for those who perpetuate them.

Stack some gruesome imagery as only a Lynch can depict on to this thematic foundation, and the final product looks to be a competent and taught thriller. View the Standard Def and High Def trailers here at Apple.


Le Premiere Cercle

Actor Jean Reno has a special place in a lot of cineastes' hearts. He has managed to make a career playing characters with a hard edge, but who ultimately proves to be "good" at heart. He has a screen presence that is hard to ignore with a gruff voice that sells the dark cloud with the silver lining aura. It is therefore surprising that he has yet to tackle a purely villainous role. Perhaps it's a personal choice, but with is abilities and that piercing countenance, he has surely been offered such characters. It is therefore quite fortuitous to have learned of this film in which he plays the godfather of a ruthless crime syndicate in control of the underworld in Southern France.
The Malakian clan, a family of Armenian gangsters, is lead by the brilliant and violent godfather Milo Malakian who rules his world with an iron fist. His son and heir, Anton, dreams of breaking free in order to live out his love for Elodie, a clan outsider, and make his own choices.
But the gang's inner circle is engraved in blood. To escape, not only does Anton have to counter his own destiny, but also the man who has sworn to bring his father down: Inspector Saunier. A struggle to the death ensues around the audacious and spectacular heist that the Malakian clan is preparing as its final job.
From this synopsis, the film seems to tread over well known themes in gangster films, especially those from Hong Kong. Regardless, the film may finally give Reno the opportunity to express some true, wicked menace, though the fatherly angle might rub away some of the charcoal of his heart to reveal that familiar "silver lining." Even in such a case, let's hope the silver is a little more tarnished this time.

Source: Allocine France