The Thin Red Line

USA (1998)
Dir: Terrence Malick

Cast: Jim Caviezel, Sean Penn, Adrien Brody, John Cusack, George Clooney, Ben Chaplin, Nick Nolte

Set in Guadalcanal during WWII, this film broods on the devastating effects of war on individual US Army soldiers during the conflict and the battle to take over the islands. Based on a James Jones novel of the same name, this departs from the familiar old war-movie genre and offers fresh insight into the hearts and minds of each soldier as well as the usually faceless enemy himself. I found the cinematography quite stunning, the camera lense lingered indulgently over palm trees and striking avian life as well as the bloodied corpses in battle. A truly poetic and moving war movie that I would highly recommend.

Rating: 7.5

Three Seasons

Vietnam/USA (1999)
Dir: Tony Bui

Cast: Ngoc Hiep Nguyen, Hanh Kieu, Don Duong, Diep Bui, Huu Duoc Nguyen, Harvey Keitel

A poetic story of three separate characters whose lives converge at a point and then depart on their separate ways again. Hai, a cyclo driver falls in love with Lan, a hotel call girl whom he occasionally drives home in his battered cyclo, but she continually rebuffs him as he is poor. Kien An, a lotus-picker, sings sweetly with the other women at her job, and is asked by the reclusive Teacher Dao to write down his poetry for her - - this seems to form the poetic centrepoint of the film; Teacher Dao's pained narrative, his longing to be free of his suffering from leprosy and Kien An's intense awe of him and how she gradually feels deep love and compassion for him. And lastly, an American GI comes to Saigon in search of his long-lost child and meets Woody, a child street vendor who chases him through Saigon when he mistakenly thinks that the old GI had stolen his suitcase of motley wares. Beautifully shot and very moving.

Rating: 7.5

Toto le Héros

Belgium (1991)
Dir: Jaco van Dormael

Cast: Michel Bouquet, Jo De Backer, Thomas Godet, Gisela Uhlen, Mirielle Perrier, Sandrine Blancke, Peter Böhlke, Dider Ferney

A surreal and charming movie with a catchy and cheerful little jingle playing throughout, it cynically but humorously narrates the life of Thomas from childhood until his death as an old man. Both Thomas and Alfred were born at the same time but a hospital fire results in a hasty evacuation, and as a result, Thomas bitterly feels he had been switched at birth and given to the wrong parents. His neighbour Alfred has wealth and privilege, everything Thomas desires but desperately lacks and he blames Alfred for his life's deficiencies. And so he embarks on a heroic fantasy life and sets out to bring Alfred to his knees.

Rating: 6.5

Trois Couleurs: Bleu
(Three Colours: Blue)

France (1993)
Dir: Krzysztof Kieslowski

Cast: Juliette Binoche, Benoît Régent, Florence Pernel

This is the first of a trilogy of films based on the French "Liberte, egalite, fratenite". This Blue film deals with Liberty, and starts off with a horrific car accident in which the husband and child of a music composer are instantly killed. The film then follows the woman in rebuilding her life and her attempts to emotionally detach herself from life and hence, achieve that "liberty" from emotional attachment, but ends up being accosted by various people from her past with their own needs and desires. Kieslowski's trademark soundtrack (by Zbigniew Preisner) adds force and drama to the otherwise brooding and emotionally meandering film.

Rating: 6.0

Trzy Kolory: Bialy
(Three Colours: White)

France/Poland (1994)
Dir: Krzysztof Kieslowski

Cast: Julie Delpy, Zbigniew Zamachowski

I usually insist that films that I watch have some degree of verisimilitude, apart of course, from obvious fantasy/sci-fi movies which I am not a fan of anyway. However this film with its unlikely storyline (which still wanted to be taken seriously) left me wanting. This film, the second in Kieslowski's famous trilogy, is themed on Equality. The marriage between the protagonist, a hairdresser Karol and Dominique is dissolved on the grounds of non-consummation, and Karol returns to the harsh winter of his native Warsaw to recover from the emotional fall-out. There, he plots to wreak his revenge on the woman he loves who had spurned him, but does he really have the nerve and will to carry it out?

Rating: 5.5

Trois Couleurs: Rouge
(Three Colours: Red)

France/Poland (1994)
Dir: Krzysztof Kieslowski

Cast: Irène Jacob, Jean-Louis Trintignant

The last in the Kieslowski Three Colours trilogy, this is also the strongest film of all and is heavy with visual cues and cinematic artistry. Valentine, a young model living in Geneva meets a retired judge when she runs over his dog in her car. They begin an intense friendship and she discovers that the lonely judge eavesdrops on neighbour's conversations to pass his time. Torn between reporting him and ignoring it, Valentine delves further to discover the motivations behind a desperately lonely old man for whom existence no longer has any meaning. This film is beautifully shot and heavy with the same kind of visual cues that made Double Life of Veronique the masterpiece it was. However, some filmgoers might find it too contrived. I loved it.

Rating: 7.0

Copyright ArtemisWorks 2002