Tag Archives: Film Review

‘Hawaii’ (1966) – film essay

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Religion is a man-made institution that has a hierarchy with a set of values and norms as dictated in protocols. Even the reformation trailblazer Martin Luther, who protested against institutional abuses of the Church, is not entirely free from the criticism. Thus, I hold a healthy amount of preconception about a religious individual whose outwardly practice of faith incongruent with his or her inwardly reflection of personality, which is a view shared by Gandhi’s opinion attesting, “I admire Jesus, not the followers of his.” The movie “Hawaii” (1966), an American drama about Calvinist missionaries and the Hawaiian natives directed by George Roy Hill, echoes the sentiment conflated with the profundity of religious zeal and the nature of humanity laid bare in the clash of cultures.

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The epic adventure story is structured around stern Calvinist Reverend Abner (played by Max von Sydow) with his faithful and delightful wife, Jerusha (played by Julie Andrews). Abner’s devotion to the religious cause at the urge of young Hawaiian prince Keoki at the Yale Divinity School brings them to the beautiful heathen islands of Hawaii. Abner is a good man disoriented in the realm of dreary religiosity and ethnocentrism. He sees the beauty in his wife Jerusha and the land of the people he comes to serve but averts his eyes from it with the Bible on the one hand. He keeps all-natural feelings of love, joy, sadness, and even jealousy locked in his puritanical castle of mind and preaches the ire of God that imbues the natives with fear, not love. One look at him will make a man like Captain Hoxworth (played by Richard Harris) infuriated with contempt for the loss of her beloved Jerusha to such ungainly zealot. Abner is, in short, a man of God and would like to think him so as the will of God he serves.

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Max Von Sydow’s skillful performance of the role of Abner invokes both contempt and sympathy for the character who does not know how to act in the intimacy of human relationships. It seems that Sydow is particularly good at playing a clergy as he also did as veteran Jesuit Father Merrin in “The Exorcist” (1973). The tall slim figure carries the intellectual air without the pretentiousness that separates him from the mass, giving him the likeness of a suffering philosopher in the wrong place at the wrong time. In playing the internal character in the external context of reality, Sydow does a beautifully nuanced job of capturing all the inner conflicting emotions ranging from joy to disappointment, to ire mixed with envy, and to sorrow. Thus, Abner’s follies and foibles are forgivable and, in fact, a medium for his new conversion into the religion of Charity, Hope, and Faith.

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The movie portrays a realistic portrayal of a missionary living in a foreign land. The excellent Jesuit method of enculturation is possible only when he is celibate without a family to support. Then, even mastery of enculturation guarantees no eradication of racial and cultural pride of the actor. Perhaps, the wish of an entirely benign messenger of the Gospel is vain mother to the thought in the ideation of an impeccable man of God. The best thing is to accept our human fallibility by which the meaning of God and the purpose in life come to a realization. “Hawaii” shows us a process of conversion into the mystery of faith occurring not in the pagan natives but Reverend Abner in the beautiful kaleidoscope of nature’s sceneries and the people living in them. This movie deserves its merit on the list of great films of all time for the posteriority.

‘Orca’ (1977) – film essay

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The Jaws is tremulous; the Piranhas ferocious, and what about the Orca? The analogy of the famed aquatic creatures may seem to be a visible cue on the a priori synopsis of a tale of horrors in the watery main. Still, it is this foregone array of the said creatures that spotlights “Orca,” a 1977 American film directed by Michael Anderson, under thematic limelight with a story told like a rime of an ancient mariner. With the image of its amiably rotund colossal body provoking neotenic affection in a sense, the Orca betrays the primal instinct that belongs to its species as well as ours and pushes us on the suspenseful iceberg to the Antarctic Ocean of Pathos.

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“Orca” is a story of love and loss, two indispensable acts in a drama of romance adumbrated by a shadow of vengeance. The story develops around the two main characters: captain Nolan (played by Richard Harris) and an orca. However different they may seem, Nolan and the orca share grief for the loss of their beloved families. While Nolan accepts the painful loss in love, the Orca cultivates it in the extreme measure of dander, forcing their sorrows in the deep blue ocean where the detritus of instinctual sensations and impending consequences is buried with the serenity of fulfilled ire. Neither of them is guilty nor guiltless by the terrible measurement of fate. In this suspenseful tug-of-war between Nolan and the orca, one must succumb to the dreadful denouement of the outcome, but who will be the one entitled to the victory over the terrible deed held in watery abeyance?

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Contrary to the acerbic reception of the film as a copycat of “Jaws,” “Orca” is a unique drama. It is visually stunning and emotionally touching with a beautifully melancholy thematic music composed by the great Ennio Morricone, who aptly translates the innermost feelings of the characters in polyphonic strands of human voice and strings that elegantly interweaves the story.

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“Orca” is a poetic film that gratifies our visual and auditory senses and perfects them to thoughts as though by reading a poem evocative of riveting images of nature that both entertains the heart and satisfies reason. It is a story of a man and a beast whose histories find each of their lives sorrow and loneliness enough to disarm all hostility and plunge all wrath into the bottom of the ocean for good with their names written in water.

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‘Ocean Waves’ (1993 film) by Tomomi Mochizuki – review

ocean-waves-49Some stories are better told in animation. The characters become vividly alive in a way that your imaginary world effortlessly conjures up before your very eyes by a witchcraft of wondrous imagination. It’s a world of fantasy, but it is also a realm of parallel universe where reality is poetically translated through the avatars living in the creator’s make-believe world without the alloyed feelings and crafted emotions by way of thespian performance. It also enables the characters to perform feats of wondrous physical motions and a wealth of emotions effectually, which real persons can hardly accomplish. That said, animation as an established genre of performing art deserves of legitimate artistic appreciation and merits its own place in the canon of cinematography.

“Ocean Waves” a 1993 Japanese anime television film directed by Tomomi Mochizuki and written by Kaori Nakamura based on the 1990 eponymous novel by Saeko Himuro is worth noting the beautiful cinematic qualities and elegant storyline that spreads through the mind and lingers there in alterations so deep that they are felt almost physical. The setting of the film is in the city of Kochi, located on the Japanese island of Shikoku. It tells of the first love developed by Taku Morisaki whose story flashes back to his high school years in Kochi as he catches the sight of a familiar woman whom he has fallen for on the platform opposite at a Tokyo subway station. It’s Rikako Muto, a bright and beautiful new girl transferred to his high school. At that time, Taku did not realize that he was besotted with her. However, as Taku narrates the events that have brought her into his life, Taku comes to know that for all these times, he has been crazy about her. It’s a moment of great awakening of love, an epiphany of adulthood, all in the calm recognition of meaning of love as to see the essence of another human being in the inner most core of who the person is. Taku and Rikako has known their own faults and frailties since they first met in school, and now they see one another’s innermost core of their personalities, which are the essential traits and features of the beloved person to actualize their potentialities in love with awareness and understanding.

The emotions are elegantly nuanced in the narration, but we know that the feelings are all present in the ways that the characters move and talk. That is the beauty of this animated film that renders no less visual and dramatic effects than other genres of film. Director Mochizuki is a young, ambitious director whose punctilious attention to details and the authenticity of the ambiance and theme of this film speak to our lost days of innocence in this world of collapsed grand narratives, gratuitous sensual expressions and super abundance of raw, unbridled charge of emotions that are hard to be empathetic to the minds of those who are likely to find solace in quietude. Walt Disney said animation offers an effective medium of story-telling and visual entertainment which produces pleasure and story that people of all ages everywhere in the world can enjoy and relate to. For these reasons, this film is worthwhile to be noted.

‘Bad Ben – The Way In (2019)’, by Nigel Bach – review

I don’t know why I am drawn to this bold middle-aged curmudgeon named Tom Riley, who fashions himself to be a self-professed paranormal investigator. While I liked the Mandela Effect one about which I even wrote because of its refreshingly ingenious takes on a genre of horror film, it never occurred to me that I would be contracted with the uncanny charm of this ireful, cloddish Jersey man’s fiasco of battles with a legion of nine demons commandeering in the same beautiful house to no end. That’s the gist of this hilariously polished offbeat film about Tom Riley, the alter ego of director Nigel Bach, and that’s why he returns with his own legion of demons in this ‘Bad Ben – the Way in.’

In this installment, Riley goes back to the haunted house of which he was a former owner to rid the demons thereof at the request of a new owner before the family moves in. He accepts the offer for none other than an existential need of money, hence the repertoire of his wrestling with the demons begins: the toy girls still wreak havoc of already edgy borderline neurotic Riley with seven other demons, introducing Clown and Voodoo dolls that look irritatingly menacing without diabolic charisma. Well, that’s the point of this new film by Bach, who seems to render the ambiance of irony fused with comedy and tragedy, which is another stance on life itself according to his view of reality. At least, that is what Bach visualizes his way of weltanschauung with go-aheaditiveness and hubris even though the motives are for lucrative rewards. But then who will pillory the man in need when we all need it to get by?

Mad, bad and bold Riley is here again to do his job, and he does it with his trademark dour humor and grumpy face that render his continuing saga of ghost-busting all the more realistic and business-like, which is all the more refreshing and oddly attractive and highly addictive. If you do not like the person of Riley for his ill-temper at his worst, you can appreciate his resilience, optimism, and courage against the forces of evil at his best. This is Bach’s finest hour.

‘A Harlot’s Progress (2006)’, directed by Justin Hardy – review

71+BMGiROqL._RI_Throughout human civilization, prostitution has been arguably something of a necessary evil, intentional or unintentional, an institution of erotic bartering between a client and s prostitute for wants of flesh and fortune. For a client, it’s all about releasing his rapacious libido in a brothel, whereas for a prostitute offering a pleasure of the flesh can be a means to a social mobility in a period when women’s place was confined by biological determinism. But that social mobility would be possible with the intervention of Goddess Fortuna. ‘A Harlot’s Progress’ follows a life of an unfortunate prostitute named Mary through the eyes of William Hogarth, an English painter and social critic renowned for choice of his subjects crossing the strata of the social class system for inspirations.

The painter Hogarth chooses Mary as his unofficial muse for various paintings depicting modern moral subjects as a series of picturesque statements of social criticism on the oppressed conditions of the poor whose lives are already determined by their biological and social statuses. Likewise, Mary’s downfall from a beautiful courtesan to a common, over-the-hill backstreet slut is already a foregone conclusion for the nature of the profession. Besides, she’s not exactly cut out for a fine prostitute with artful plans to forward her rank and condition; she has a pride but no courage. She yearns for a polite society, but her frailty of character prevents her from advancing in her career to a mistress of a high-birth man. In other words: Mary chose a wrong job that ruined her life.

The film is said to be based upon a true story with references to the famous figures of William Hogarth and his friend Henry Fielding, the author of Tom Jones. It gives the veracity of the event with a charge of authority, rendering the story of lachrymose life of Mary emotionally powerful and factually unchallenged in the veneer of historicity. Yet, in terms of objectivity of the stance that the film takes, its view on prostitution in the 18th century London is clearly askew on the side Mary because she is cast as being a victim of the social evil with her purity of the soul torn apart by men’s rampant animalistic sexual desires as presented by all uniformly unattractive and perverted men on screen. In fact, the only pitiful character in the film seems to be Mother Needham, who is mercilessly abused on the pillory for three consecutive days and nights of stoning, defiling, and cursing from the public who were once or twice her clients and neighbors. The sight is sufficient to incite pathos because of her plea for life authentically delivered by the excellent performance of actress Geraldine James.

No one can throw stones at Mary for her life of “sin and depravity” because there’s no one who is immaculately cleared of guilt and sins to judge her character as arbitrator of morals. But then she is responsible for her own life with her own free will to choose to be a harlot. For not all destitute women driven by abject economic conditions are succumbed to the trade of the flesh. Nonetheless, this film is a good period drama that resurrects the ethos of the time with the parlance, habits, and costumes of different classes peculiar to the 18th century, well executed by a cast of classically-trained fine thespians.