Monday, July 18, 2011

The Favourite Game

The Favourite Game – Angelic Childhood Memory

“The Favourite Game” (2003), also known as “Le jeu de l’ange”, is a Canadian film. It begins with this piece of pure whiteness in a Montréal park and also ends there:

“The Favourite Game” was adapted from the novel of the same title. The novel has this to say about Montréal:
“Some say that no one ever leaves Montreal, for that city, like Canada itself, is designed to preserve the past, a past that happened somewhere else. This past is not preserved in the buildings or monuments, which fall easily to profit, but in the minds of her citizens.”
Montréal seems to match the protagonist, Leo Breavman (J.R. Bourne) who preserves the memory of his childhood, a past in his mind that happened elsewhere.

Young poet Leo creates his work about his feelings and the intense moments he shares with the women he loves; Tamara (Sabine Karsenti), Shell (Michèle-Barbara Pelletier) and Lisa (Cary Lawrence). He is unable to commit to any one of them because the uncommitted relationships are the source of his constant flow of inspiration.

He puts an end to his brief but torrid affair with Tamara because he wants to rediscover himself.

Then he falls in love with Shell passionately. Their love is beautifully captured on film and as the night approaches their intertwined images gradually merge into the moon:

This sunset image is also almost perfect:

When Leo leaves her, Shell’s heartbreak is artfully expressed through the car mirror:

Here comes Leo’s “true love” in his childhood memory of Lisa the child (Ashley Lang):
“Lisa the child had evaded me and was still perfect, suddenly making all other women less perfect. They were still beautiful, but somehow less crucial.”
“Lisa the child, that perfection remained, preserving the past. Everything could be preserved forever, like my connection to Shell, and in that moment, I remembered.”

“I remember flying over the snow and landing. And then I carefully stood up to look behind me at a perfect imprint, both human and angelic, in the perfect whiteness behind me, and that, that was the favourite game.”

 A perfect novelist and a wonderful film director (Bernar Hébert) made this film capture their own sense of perfection.

True love is pure and it is a series of perfect moments in your memories, especially the childhood memory, almost angelic, the pure whiteness.

I think that the film should be called “The Angel Game” to match the French title “Le jeu de l’ange”.

The novel “The Favourite Game” is an autobiographical novel of the author, Canadian singer-songwriter, musician, poet and novelist Leonard Cohen.

Leonard Cohen is a typical idealist, a hopeless romantic perfectionist. Only a perfect childhood memory can fulfill his sense of “true love”.

He is, after all, a “ladies’ man” (though he has spent 10,000 nights alone) with a charm that doesn’t grow old with age.

The crowd tends to forget about the screenwriter in their praise for the writer of the novel. Even though Leonard Cohen may have supplied the base of a storyline, the film would not be exceptional without the screenwriter’s remarkable contribution. The excellent movie quotes about Lisa the child and the imprint are all created by the screenwriter Peter Putka, independent of the novel, and you cannot find comparable related texts in the novel.

This novel/film excels in its meaning rather than its storyline. Peter Putka understands the main idea of the novel so well that he expresses it in the form of film narration even better than Leonard Cohen does in the novel.

Sunday, March 18, 2007


Terabithia – A Kingdom of the Heart

I went to watch the movie “Bridge to Terabithia” because I read this excellent book and was really touched. It was originally written for middle school children and won the New Berry Award. The bridge to the friendship between Jess and Leslie in the book was mainly reflected by the description of Jess' thoughts since he is a very introverted boy.

I was moved again and again by the way Katherine Paterson delicately wrote about their friendship. I can only use the phrase "it's just so much" to summarize how I feel. Their profound friendship is like an endless eternity; even such an outstanding writer cannot show you all and she leaves you broad space to feel, to relate, to imagine, to realize and to understand.

This book and film are not only for children. It's not a perfect angelic type book but it's deep enough for you to think to enjoy as an adult. The only part I was trying to avoid was the tragedy.

The Book and the Movie are a Best Match

The good thing about the movie is that it softens the tragedy and strengthens a more positive view. The book and the movie are like a best match. The movie puts the imagined images into reality in front of your eyes. The book was written early in 1970s. What was Terabithia in the author's eyes at that time?

When I read the book I liked Leslie already, however, it's still an enchanting surprise when I saw the role performed by AnnaSophia. In the book Leslie has brown hair, and in the movie, she has blonde. The role is more beautiful than I imagined. It's amazing to see such a young yet mature and potential movie star.

I have included some of the unforgettable scenes of the movie and the how film maker made them so beautiful: Leslie swung across through a rope to Terabithia, Jess and Leslie's private kingdom:

Leslie was so happy to feel the freedom in their private kingdom:

Leslie was looking at Terabithia from the top of the tree:

Jess and Leslie were looking at Terabithia from the top of the tree. Leslie says, "Close your eyes, keep your mind wide open."

Here the imaginary Terabithia appears vividly right in front of your eyes through the film maker's creativity. That's the best part of the film making; it helps your dreams come true and this recreation of the book also lessened the sense of tragedy and brought the audience a more positive one.

Leslie's last smile remains on my mind. When Jess and Leslie ran back home in the rain, Leslie was turning her head and smiling, "See you" and then disappeared in the rain. How could Jess know in advance that that moment would be the last goodbye with Leslie? The film maker did make the moment still for a few seconds but it's still too short. It's so beautiful. It does help ignore the tragic feeling. Yes, why should we forget? We could just remember those beautiful moments; Jess will always remember.

A movie is always a recreation of the original book; that's why most movies are "better" than the original novels, especially when the film maker is more literature oriented and enriches the movies with more terrific dialogues. However, I would say, in Bridge to Terabithia, the book and the movie are equally good and without the book there wouldn't be this movie. If I were the film maker, I would translate Jess' thoughts of the book into monologues through the entire movie, because this is the best part of the book. That’s the very reason the book succeeds; it allows the reader to understand the depth of the friendship. That’s what the movie vitally lacks.

I do like to hear kids say, "I prefer the book"; in this way, they will still be active readers and intelligent, and the new literature will keep being written. As a grown-up, even I want to hold such a kingdom in my heart; I would also name it Terabithia.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

A Knights Tale

A Knights Tale - Can You Change Your Fate?

I rarely watch action films but I watched this one because I wanted to watch Heath Ledger after I saw his performance in Brokeback Mountain. He is good at playing different types of roles in different types of films. In some films you may not even be able to recognize his faces while you are enjoying his performance. But I always recognize him since he is cool and kind of my type of guy.

It's a film to teach children to be knightly, brave and courageous; it's a film to encourage people in the belief that to change their "stars" is possible.

It's a 14th-century adventure epic with a 20th-century contemporary twist. The music inspiringly incorporates classic 1970s rock tunes and creates an anachronistic bridge between "then and now". It inventively applies Queen's "We Will Rock You" track to the opening sequence of this 21st Century Chaucerian tale. Peasants from the Middle Ages stamp their feet and clap in the bleachers as they watch their most extreme sport, jousting.

William, as a peasant squire, is more knightly than any noble. He shows mercy and kindness by withdrawing when his rival is hurt. Still he rides and it's not in him to withdraw even when he realises that Prince Edward is in disguise in order to be able to compete. Others withdraw when they recognise Edward but William doesn’t run and put himself to the hazard of a dozen royal guards putting him in stocks.

The story reaches its climax when William is hurt, when he is wearing no armour because he cannot breathe with the armour on. He asks his best friend to lash the lance to his arm because he can barely grip the lance and still he finishes and unhorses his rival. What courage!

There is one scene that is very simple yet touching whenever I watch it. It's when William is back to his home 12 years later and meets his blind father. Christopher's performance is so great in this short dialogue:

Does he live?
Aye he does. He is very well. He wanted you to know that he changed his stars after all.
And has he followed his feet? Has he found his way home at last?
Yes father.

This film is very entertaining and enjoyable, but the most amazing part of it is the introduction of the writer Chaucer; it's what makes this film outstanding.

Paul Bettany's performance is spontaneous from his first speech "we walk in the garden of his turbulence" when William won a sword match, to introducing William to "everybody else here not sitting on a cushion" aiming at "today you find yourselves equal for you are all equally blessed" and his tale about William being the seeker of serenity, protector of Italian virginity and the enforcer of our Lord God, and to the final speech introducing William as "one of your own, born a stone’s throw from this very stadium". All these marvellous speeches help get people’s attention and win people's heart for William.

This film outperforms all other action films for me.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Brokeback Mountain

Brokeback Mountain – A Love Story as Beautiful as the Mountain

This film is about a gay love story, no, I would not say that, rather, I would say that it's a love story that happened between two men Ennis and Jack; as Ennis and Jack said, "I'm not queer" "Me neither". I admit that it's a long way for conventional society to accept homosexuality, even if Canada officially recognizes and legalizes same-sex marriage and hosts gay pride parades yearly, I have to say homosexuality is not widely recognized as being natural. Perhaps it's because homosexuality is mostly related to eroticism rather than feeling. I will not focus on homosexuality's being recognized, rather, I would like to talk about this film, this love story, this feeling.

The story happened at Brokeback Mountain, somewhere in the middle of Wyoming and Texas where Ennis and Jack were living with their wives and children. Ennis' words truly expressed the oppression from the society: "Two guys living together? No way." Therefore, they have to stand living in this way, hiding their feeling, "once in a while" the isolated Brokeback Mountain became their only "dating" site. They suffer; their marriages suffer; what if they live together? The story ends with Jack's death. It's not that without his death the film can't end; it's that his death indicates the true situation for homosexuality.

It's a coincidence or arrangement that the film was made in Canada where homosexuality is at least more recognized than in most other countries? If a homosexual love story is as beautiful as Brokeback mountain, it should be appreciated.

La Vie Avec Mon Pere

La Vie Avec Mon Père - Writing is Rewriting Life

This is a successful Québec film with Hollywood influences. There’s no intense story but “The Life with My Father” has impact nevertheless. You would be excused for overlooking it because of its uninspiring title, however, you will find the title just right when you watch the film. It is romantic but not ordinarily romantic. Its strongpoint is how it portrays the personae in every detail.

Famous writer François wrote only one novel in his life – but what a novel! He likes the women, the wine but most of all his sons, Paul and Patrick. The two brothers are opposites; Paul is an unconventional apprentice writer while Patrick directs a multinational corporation in the pharmaceutical industry. After a long absence, François reappears in their life, alone, without a penny and sick, but always with the same urge simply to laugh, to like … to live.

Here is the conversation between François and Paul:

François: How’s the writing? Paul: I’m blocked. When I sit down at the computer … I go blank. François: Forget reality. See where the words take you. Paul: I can’t start if I don’t have the ending. François: I started my best sentences not knowing how I was going to end them. What if they don’t end?

The film’s title is “The Life with My Father” but it indeed is about life in general. Writing is rewriting life. We all start our lives without knowing how we are going to end.

This is François’ monologue:

One son makes empty promises (Paul); the other sees only obstacles (Patrick). What’ll happen when I’m gone? You’re constantly sniping, contradicting each other … It’s not about getting anywhere. What matters is leaving, looking. It’s not about destination. What matters is what happens along the way. That’s what’s amazing. The detours, the hitches along the way … the encounters, too, especially the encounters. Success, failure, illness, they’re just distractions, really. Life puts things in our way. What matters is how we respond to them and what we leave behind.

This is exactly what he leaves behind.

He is worried about how his sons’ will fight and bicker with each other when he’s gone so he asked Patrick to promise him:

He (Paul) is a good boy, you know. He’s more fragile; that’s all. You’re strong. I’m not worried about you … For a long time I thought you’d be the writer (but Patrick didn’t while Paul did)… Promise me one thing; look after Paul. Unconditionally, okay?

He asked Paul the same.

Paul published his first novel about the life with his father and is successful. When he’s asked, “Have you capitalized on your Dad’s success?” Patrick answers for him, “What can a father bequeath other than an attitude? A house? Money? Anyone can have those. A father’s words first enable us to interpret the world. Paul could have written his book without his father’s input. But he couldn’t write it if his Dad hadn’t been part of his life.

That’s what François leaves behind.

The film is also beautiful visually with its pure white theme. Here are some unforgettable scenes to share with you:

François’ illusion of this gorgeous blonde:

Family reunion at the skating rink:

I am grateful to the novelist, the director who made this delicate film with its finely portrayed characters and the actors and actress’ for their impressive performances. My life is richer for having seen this film.

I luckily captured the image when Paul, Patrick and Paul’s girlfriend Sylvie were together, and when they were at their most beautiful moment – smiling, Paul’s loveliness, Patrick’s charm and Sylvie’s grace. Everyone is imperfect but this image perfectly shows their most beautiful side. I have omitted François but his beauty is in his wisdom, his words.

Hélène Florent who played Sylvie’s role is a very special actress; although her role is not as important as the other three characters her performance is remarkable.

There is another very similar Québec film; it’s called “the Barbarian Invasions” and it’s an Academy Award Winner. However, I prefer “La Vie avec Mon Père”.

“The Barbarian Invasions” may contain more content and may have some successful trivia or you may talk about the “meaning” it brings you; but “La Vie avec Mon Père” has finer character portrayals.

The two fathers (the lead characters) in the two films both like women but “the Barbarian Invasions” shows this in a less beautiful way, and therefore, leaves the main character less meaningful.

The theme of “La Vie avec Mon Père” is pure white – winter with snow; the theme of “the Barbarian Invasions” is mature autumn which is also great, however, it didn’t make enough use of this beautiful season; on the other hand, if the main character is not beautiful, then even the most beautiful season loses its beauty.

Friday, September 15, 2006


Simone Review: Insane Celebrity Fans

It’s a great film not just because it has a perfectly beautiful imagery; every single word of tag lines, monologue and dialogue is meaningful. Let’s sample the story that contains these masterpieces.

Viktor’s confessions to his ex-wife Elaine outlined the setting of the story:

“Do you know why I, Viktor Taransky, two-time Academy Award nominated director overseeing the most cherished movie project of my career, am walking around with a pocketful of cherry Mike & Ike’s?…It is because Miss Nicola Anders, supermodel with a SAG card God’s gift to cinema, has it written into her contract that all cherry Mike & Ike’s be removed from her candy dish along with strict instructions that any room she walks into should have seven packs of cigarettes waiting for her three of them opened, that there be a personal jacuzzi within eighty paces of her dressing room, and that any time she travels, her nanny must fly with her first class.”

“We used to decide who would play what role. We told them what to wear, what to say, who to date. When they were under contract, we could change their names if we wanted to — more than once!”

This film speaks in the Director’s own voice; it’s a snapshot of the dominance of movie stars over filmmakers and of the blind adoration fans have for movie stars.

Then Viktor met Hank. VIKTOR: I don’t know anything about computers.

HANK: That’s why you’re so perfect. You have something I don’t have…An eye — for performance…You and me, art and science…we are the perfect marriage.

Hank left Viktor a gift that changed Viktor’s career and life and Viktor made Hank’s wish come true. The gift was some computer codes that invented a perfect fake person named Simone to help Viktor re-cast the almost done film when the leading actress mentioned above walked away.

What did this change bring to Viktor? Movie fans’ insane adoration for the non-existent fake actress, Simone was not the attention Viktor expected, as Elaine had said, “This woman — she controls your destiny.”

Viktor made the tough decision to deconstruct Simone. Here comes the most touching and sad scene:

Viktor’s monologue:

“It’s the only way, Simone. If it’s any consolation, you’re going to live on in the public’s heart like all the other tragic figures that went before their time. There’s no love like posthumous love.”

“It’s a phoney-baloney world. The women are surgically enhanced, the athletes are on steroids, the singers are lip-syncing if they’re even singing at all, the news is entertainment, the politicians are bought and paid for — we’re living one big lie…You’re more authentic than the people who adore you…It wasn’t that the artists had no respect for the art. They had no respect for me. Someone like you, you have so much love showered on you — I just wanted to feel one tiny drop on my face…Here I’ve been trying to convince the world that you exist, but I was really trying to convince them that I exist. It’s not that you aren’t human, Simone, it’s that I am.”

The image of Simone’s face gradually begins to deconstruct — pixel by pixel — as the virus takes hold.

Now comes our discussion. Who is more important, the director or the actress? I think everyone is important. As Elaine said, “It was a team effort.”

IMHO, a good story from a novelist and its adaptation by good filmmaker both play significant roles. A meaningful story will not only entertain audiences but also inspire them. Audiences will be impressed by good performers based on the depth of the roles and actors interpretations. The players are important when their performances are impressive. However without a meaningful story and without the integrated expression of the story even the best movie star’s performance will only be at entertainment level.

e.g. the other film I reviewed, called “The Favourite Game” I almost don’t remember the actors and actresses. For me, other actors and actresses could equally well play those roles. The reason why they are not too outstanding is probably because their mother tongue is French and in the movie they have to speak English. But this film is still marvelous, the integrity, the meaning of the story and the scenes.

Also, in another film "Femme Fatale", the leading actress Rebecca Romijn’s performance is absolutely excellent, however, in “Simone” she played a minor role as Simone’s latest stand-in and decoy. She is not noticed by audiences at all but she is a good actress. The director made her role a minor one. No matter how superlative her performance was, she didn’t have a stage in “Simone” to show her talents. What if she played Simone’s role? I think she could also be packaged like an angel.

There are also other parts of the film “Simone” that may be worth your attention.

When Viktor wondered why every fan wanted to see Simone in person while his daughter Lainey never asked, Lainey said, “I love her but that doesn’t mean I need to meet her…What’s Simone going to say to a fourteen-year-old anyhow? She’s going to be polite because you’re my father but we’re not suddenly going to become friends — we have nothing in common…Anyhow, she gets more beautiful in my head every day. Why kill the dream? What do they say, ‘don’t get too close to your idols, they always disappoint you.” She has refreshing and wise thoughts compared with the insane celebrity fans, what about you?