Thursday, March 24, 2011


Acclaimed filmmakers Alan Parker and Adrian Lyne have shared many similarities in both style, theme as well as the people they have worked with. Both men were born in Britain in the 1940s. They both started in advertising in the 1960s and 70s. Parker elected to be a copywriter; Lyne went the commercial directing route. Both also worked extensively with cinematographer Peter Biziou, and 80s megastar Mickey Rourke. Parker made his theatrical film debut in 1976 with the all-children musical Bugsy Malone. Four years later, Lyne made his own youth-themed debut with the female teen drama, Foxes.

Parker and Lyne are both very intellectual filmmakers with an innate sense of the intimacy that is shared between two individuals. In 1978, Parker had his first international success with Midnight Express, a drama that centered on an American imprisoned in Turkey for drug trafficking. Oliver Stone won an Academy Award for his original screenplay. Parker achieved success again in 1980, with the musical Fame, which spawned a TV series and a theatrical remake in 2009. He followed it up with the unusual, music-themed film Pink Floyd The Wall, which has maintained a cult following due to the nature of the film which is an adaptation of Pink Floyd's enormously successful 1979 album The Wall. In 1984, he directed Birdy starring Matthew Modine. In 1987, he directed the noir thriller Angel Heart, which starred Mickey Rourke as a 1950s detective and Robert De Niro as the devil who makes a deal with him. In 1988, he received the second of two Oscar nods for Best Director for the film Mississippi Burning, a highly acclaimed and controversial film during its release.

Three years later, Parker continued experimenting with music and film and directed The Commitments, a wonderful movie centered around the formation and success of a band put together through a random process. This is in fact the way it was done in real life. The producers of the film chose several young aspiring musicians as the members of a new band The Commitments, both a musical group and the stars of the film. The band turned out a great album together, but most of the cast chose not to continue in film and have not starred in any movies since. In 1996, Parker directed another musical, this time starring Madonna, called Evita. The movie was a box office flop. Parker capped off the 90s with Angela’s Ashes based on the acclaimed novel of the same name. He has only directed one other film since, and that is the 2003 drama The Life and Death of David Gale, a brilliant thriller starring Kate Winslet and Kevin Spacey. Parker is now 67 years old and has no plans to make subsequent films.

Adrian Lyne made a splash in the movie industry around the same time Parker did. He directed the 1983 smash hit Flashdance, and Lyne found his first big global success. He revolutionized the stylized and musical approach to film during this time, and Flashdance would win an Oscar for Best Original Song. He followed it up with one of his most controversial films, the 1986 romantic thriller 9 ½ Weeks with Mickey Rourke, and Kim Basinger. The film was infused with raw sexuality, and rich with dreamy sequences of the splicing of food and intimacy.

Lyne was nominated at the Academy Awards the following year for his most successful film to date, Fatal Attraction, which also received Oscar nods for its female lead Glenn Close as well as for Best Picture of the year. Lyne continued pushing boundaries with his dark thriller Jacob’s Ladder, a paranoid horror film that told the tale of a Vietnam war vet haunted by dreams of another life. The 1990 film starred Tim Robbins, and remains one of the more underrated movies of its genre.

In 1993, he directed the box office hit Indecent Proposal starring Robert Redford, Demi Moore and Woody Harrelson. He next directed the second adaptation of the controversial Vladimir Nabokov novel Lolita, the first adaptation being of course the 1962 version directed by Stanley Kubrick. In 2002, Lyne returned to the romantic thriller genre one more time and made the adultery drama Unfaithful, starring Diane Lane and Richard Gere. This was Lyne's final movie, although there are plans for him to direct Back Roads, currently slated for a 2012 release.

The impressive body of work the two have compiled is something that has to be noted and praised. Their incredible sense of visual worth is astounding and evident in almost ever film they've made. Both men have received sizeable criticism and an underwhelming positive response to many of their films. Lyne’s debut, Foxes, is a great example of a little-seen gem that has gone under the radar over the years. Lyne has also managed to create many films with style, and panache, something that was attempted by countless directors but only rarely achieved successfully. Parker also had a period of about two decades where he continuously made worthy films but only won acclaim for a few of them.

Over the course of time, after viewing the majority of their films, it became clearer to me that the remarkable output during their careers is something that simply should not go unnoticed. While they are not the greatest filmmakers that ever lived, certainly never achieving the enormous success of directors like John Ford, Roman Polanski, Alfred Hitchcock or Martin Scorsese, they still have released numerous films of note, and should deservedly be amongst the top of the lists of best directors of the 80s and 90s.

Saturday, March 19, 2011


L’Apartement, France, 1996
Dir: Gilles Mimouni
Starring: Vincent Cassel, Monica Bellucci, Romane Bohringer

L’Apartement, or The Apartment in English, is a taut, suspenseful, almost Hitchcockian type romance thriller that you probably have never heard of. The film stars Vincent Cassel, and Monica Bellucci, as star crossed lovers right out of classic Shakespeare. Combining many genres into one mold is a very difficult thing to do. Writer/director Gilles Mimouni, does it and does it in style. Eerily enough, this is the only film that Mr. Mimouni has ever directed, written, or involved with in his entire career. It has been 15 years and he has yet to be associated with any other production.

The film was remade in America in 2004, as Wicker Park, starring Josh Hartnett and Diane Kruger. The movie was a failure at the box office and did not achieve the same critical success as its predecessor. Produced in 1996, L’Apartement is the production in which Cassel and Bellucci met on and began their relationship. They are now married and have two children. They have become a power couple in France, and have both achieved sizeable fame in America and all over the world as well. Bellucci starred in the last Two Matrix films in 2003, while Cassel was last seen in Darren Aronofsky’s successful throwback horror film Black Swan.

It seems peculiar that the filmmaker has not been involved in other work, and a hopeless romantic might think it has something to do with the surreality of L’Apartement. The story surrounds several people, who, unbeknownst to all but one of them, are indirectly involved with one another. Max, played by Cassel, is engaged to be married. On his way to a business trip, he bumps into an old flame, who never managed to say goodbye properly years before. He follows her but then is trapped in a game that he has no control over. Because while on the search for Lisa, the former flame in question, he bumps into another girl, supposedly also named Lisa, and suddenly everything turns into Single White Female, but in a much more sexy and mysterious way.

is a film that only the French could produce. This type of storytelling is bizarre and unusual and rarely do filmmakers succeed with such methods. It is not the typical, simple thinking film. It is quite complex, and even though it is not flawless, it earns many points with its boldness and risk taking. The film also stars Romane Bohringer and Jean-Philippe Écoffey as the mysterious “other Lisa” and Lucien, Max’s best friend. The film garnered much acclaim during its release and it managed to win the BAFTA for Best Foreign Film. It also helped shoot stars Cassel and Bellucci into the mainstream subconscious. If you haven’t seen L’Apartement, I seriously recommend you check it out. It is not a film which disappoints.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011


Two For the Road, USA, 1967
Dir: Stanley Donen
Cast: Albert Finney, Audrey Hepburn

Sometimes, a movie will not age well, and in time, become a misrepresentation of itself. Stanley Donen’s 1967 classic Two For the Road is exactly that. The film stars Albert Finney, in one of his finest roles, and Audrey Hepburn, in what would be one of her last performances on film. It trails the funny, sad, and turbulent relationship between them over a ten-year period. During that time, they fall in love, they start a family, they move up the social ladder, they have affairs, they separate, and inevitably end up at a crossroads together.

It is an extremely well written film, whose author, Frederic Raphael won an Academy Award in 1965 for the Julie Christie satire, Darling. Raphael also achieved notice in the late 1990s, while collaborating on the adaptation of Arthur Schnitzler’s 1926 novel Traumnovelle, or Dream Story. The screenplay that followed resulted in the film Eyes Wide Shut, Stanley Kubrick’s final masterpiece.

Raphael even wrote a book about the experience of working with such a master director in the novel Eyes Wide Open, a play on the title of the film it’s experiences are associated with. Kubrick died in March of 1999, several months before the film and book were released, thus not given the chance to refute the travesties written in Raphael’s memoir.

Two for the Road
however is a brilliant analysis of a relationship from start to finish. That’s the thing with a film. It is born when you press play. It dies when the screen is black again. It doesn’t die per se, it simply sails off into the sky and you usually never hear from it again unless there’s a sequel. Brilliantly filmed and edited by a group of all-around talented Brits, and starring two enormously talented performers in Finney and Hepburn. Audrey did not make another film for nearly a decade after the release of this film. When she returned to acting, she starred in only four more films, before passing away in 1993. Finney meanwhile has collected five Academy Award nominations along the way to present day. His last high profile role was in the Tim Burton film Big Fish.

Two for the Road
is a brilliantly well-crafted examination of two people who fall in love and marry and endure many hardships along the path to happiness. It is therefore not surprising that Kubrick chose Raphael for Eyes Wide Shut. Mr. Raphael has a unique sense of the emotions of people and the up and down lives of married couples who’ve been together for some time. He wrote Two For the Road when he was only 35, meaning his insights into love and sex and marriage were way ahead of his experiences, which means he simply possessed a rare talent, which I think is front and center in this piece.

After careful examination, you might even call this one of the great wit-infused romance dramas ever made, alongside other films like His Girl Friday, Annie Hall and When Harry Met Sally. It has an incredibly bold and radical style of filmmaking, alongside a story that broke barriers that went unnoticed because it was released the same year as other barrier-breaking films like The Graduate and Guess Who's Coming to Dinner.

Two for the Road
is most importantly a fearless movie. It was not afraid to discuss openly the sex lives of a married couple. It had no reservations about demoralizing marriage in the modern day. It of course benefited from being released in the late 60’s which was an era of radical moviemaking and helped give birth to intelligent films like this one. One that, with retrospective in hand, can be clearly seen as an inspiration for a generation of filmmakers that followed.