Showing posts with label Jodie Foster. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jodie Foster. Show all posts

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Taxi Driver

When I started writing about cinema almost eighteen months ago, there was one film above all others which I was nervous to write about. A year and a half, over five hundred reviews and approximately 470,000 words later, the same film was still looming large over me. That film was Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver, my favourite of all time. The unease came from two perspectives. On the one hand I didn’t feel as though my writing, limited in experience and knowledge as I am, could do it justice while I was also conscious about penning a review which ran for thousands of words and which no one would have the interest or time to read. It wasn’t until earlier this week when a friend said with some surprise that he couldn’t find Taxi Driver on my A-Z that I thought that time to review it had come. So with the added expectation of an audience waiting, I sat down to watch my favourite film once again.

Within ten seconds of the film starting, a bright, broad smile shone across my face. The entire film came back to me within the first few frames and I began to think ahead to the magnificent scenes which were to follow over the coming hour and fifty minutes. My excitement grew as the quickening snare and saxophone of Bernard Hermann’s score rose to meet the opening shot of a New York taxi appearing from behind a column of steam. The movie creates an off-kilter sensation within these first few seconds and it’s a feeling which continues to ride throughout the movie. The opening titles are a deep shade of blood red and forebode the bloodshed to come. The closeness of the taxi as it brushes past the static camera also creates a sense of excitement and danger and the jumping; out of focus lights as seen from inside the taxi make the viewer try in vain to pinpoint something recognisable. The eye darts across the screen in search of an image to grasp but is left wanting. Wanting that is until Travis Bickle (Robert De Niro) walks out of the steam and into a taxi office.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore

"Is it sexy?"
"Sexy for Phoenix.."

Martin Scorsese’s forth picture and the forth in my Scorsese in Sequence series is Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. Alice Hyatt (Ellen Burstyn) is a ex lounge singer turned housewife who lives with her pre teen son Tommy (Alfred Lutter) and her emotionally cold and distant husband Donald (Billy Green Bush). After Donald is killed while driving his truck Alice takes the opportunity to travel through the South Western States of America in search of work as a singer in order to get to Monterey where she hopes to settle and rebuild her singing career.

This is Scorsese’s first film that is overtly comedic. While each of his three previous films had occasional funny moments, Aliceis the first Scorsese film that I’d describe as a drama-comedy. This doesn’t mean that it’s a laugh a minute popcorn film though. Like all of his funnier films (The King of Comedy, After Hours) there is still a strong dramatic thread to it and it can be sad and even distressing in places.

The film opens with an idealised view of Alice’s childhood in which she is stood outside a house, clutching a doll. This scene is quite surreal and feels like a homage to the Wizard of Oz. The set features obvious fake backdrops and what looks like a flimsy set house and is filmed with a deep red filter. Unlike Oz where Dorothy wants to escape Kansas it feels like Alice is looking back on her childhood wishing she could escape her adult life and return to that idealised red world.

Friday, 3 February 2012


Imagine a middle class version of Jerry Springer or Jeremy Kyle. Swap the Blue WKD for eighteen year old, single malt Scotch, the tracksuits for sharp suits and sharper tongues. Takeaway the child with six possible fathers and introduce an argument regarding a child’s fight and you have Carnage, the brilliant new film from Roman Polanski.

Set in Brooklyn though filmed in Paris due to Polanski’s ongoing legal problems, Carnage is set around two middle class couples meeting to discuss an altercation between their eleven year old sons. Almost the entire film takes place in the Brooklyn apartment of Michael and Penelope Longstreet who are played by Jodie Foster and John C. Reilly. They are joined by Alan and Nancy Cowen, played by Christoph Waltz and Kate Winslet, whose son is seen attacking the Longstreet’s boy in the films opening scene.

What starts off as a civil conversation, albeit with subtle antagonistic undertones soon unravels into a hostile; vomit strewn mess with arguments covering everything from hamsters to Darfur by way of toilet flush mechanisms. The angst of middle class political correctness is felt as both sides desperately try to remain calm and polite while losing control of their tongues more and more with every sentence. One of the best things about the script is how the arguing and bickering isn’t contained between the two couples. Every now and then it will switch so that perhaps it is three against one or drawn on gender lines. This enriches the film and stops it from stagnating. It is often when one person in particular is turned upon by two or three of the others that they shine, John C. Reilly for instance although excellent throughout, is at his best when backed into a corner by Winslet and Foster.

The acting on the whole is outstanding and the ensemble cast works very well together. Each actor is given at least a couple of moments when they can come to the fore and show what they’ve got but the other three are always ready and waiting in the middle distance for their turn. If I had to choose I’d say that Kate Winslet gives the best performance overall but both Reilly and Foster have scenes where they are sublime. Waltz, plays the role of an arrogant, slightly slimy lawyer who never fails to say what he thinks and while I don’t believe this is a stretch for him, he plays it rather well, especially considering he is not performing in his first language. Inglorious Basterds was no fluke.

What adds to the wonderful script and acting is the setting. While the apartment helps to intensify the tension and feeling that all are trapped, it never feels overly claustrophobic. On a few occasions, the Cowen’s are on the verge of leaving and get as far as the elevator. You can feel yourself urging them to get in and run but something always stops them. This is both adds to the tension and is comical.

The comedy is where the film really had me. The dialogue is cutting and sharp-witted and there is a laugh almost every couple of minutes. In fact, I laughed more during this film than in any since I saw Black Dynamite maybe two years ago. The looks between each couple are also perfectly timed. The whole thing feels very natural which makes it even funnier. Nothing seems forced. The more farcical moments are timely and spread thin.

If I did have one complaint about the film it would be in its marketing. The trailer features a scene in which a mobile phone is ‘disposed of’. The phone plays an integral part in altering the casts emotions during the film and each time Waltz answered it I was waiting for what I’d seen in the trailer. This distracted me somewhat as I was thinking to myself “this must be it…” each time I saw it emerge from his inside jacket pocket. While this isn’t a major problem, it annoys me when films give away too much in a trailer. Christoph Waltz’s and John C. Reilly’s reaction to what we see makes up for having seen it so many times however, is one of the funniest parts of the film and also where it turns into Carnage.