"French Connection II: Return of the Frogs"! If you want to get things… More"French Connection II: Return of the Frogs"! If you want to get things done, then you need to go for the source, thus, this time around, good ol' Popeye Doyle takes France! Oh, oui; "Marseille calling to the faraway towns; now war is declared, and battle come down!'" Amazing how this series is still older than "London Calling", but that's not the only historical liberty taken here, because where the first film was a loose interpretation of true events, here, they just make a bunch of junk up to try and wrap up the story. Yeah, you can always trust that Hollyweird will go and mess up some artistic ambiguity, although, I am glad to get some closure here, because when I usually watch a John Frankenheimer film, I'm hoping that it comes to some kind of an end eventually. Now, that's not to say that I don't enjoy Frankenheimer films, as much as it is to say that I think that there was still some time left on "The Iceman Cometh" at its premiere when this film came out a year-and-a-half later. Man, that was a good film, and this film is pretty decent, too, but it's barely even up to par with its predecessor, and it's certainly not as refreshing as said predecessor.
Although I find the original a little overrated, there's no denying its importance as an innovative police drama, but with this sequel, there's hardly anything new, and I would be much more okay with that if this film didn't have the nerve to conform to conventions which the predecessor transcended. As if that's not annoying enough, a lot of the tropes are of a surprisingly fluffy nature which contradicts the hard seriousness found throughout the predecessor, and is found in plenty of glimpses here, in a way which jars into and from the lighter tones unevenly, when there is, in fact, tonal kick, that is. I will go so far as to admit that, although this sequel is less compelling, it's more entertaining, as there's more activity to plotting and liveliness to direction than there was in the distinctly meandering predecessor, and yet, John Frankenheimer still hits some directorial dry spells, exacerbated by moments in which plotting activity lapses. Clocking in at two hours, this film is longer than its already overdrawn predecessor, and although there is a little more going on, there are still periods of meandering which help in retarding momentum, while a lot of the narrative activity I am talking about proves to be filler which altogether lightens up a sense of actual progression. The film gets to be a little uneven in focus, when it is focused at all, and when you couple that with the dry spells and inconsistencies in tone, you end up with a meandering affair, sort of like the somehow superior predecessor. Well, just as the predecessor in question was ultimately dropped just shy of rewarding by natural limitations to its minimalist plot, this film is secured by its own natural shortcomings, and yet, in all honesty, this story concept still holds the potential to do what the predecessor couldn't do: reward, for it offers more dramatic weight to ultimately betray with familiarity and even more tonal issues. I think I may be even more disappointed here, and yet, just as I enjoyed the predecessor, I enjoy this lesser, yet still decent film of decent writing.
Honestly, there really wasn't much to Ernest Tidyman's script for "The French Connection", but what it did offer was some genuine originality and a gutsy, almost nuanced attention to realism, and here, Laurie and Robert Dillon and Alexander Jacobs turn in a script whose dragging and conformity, particularly to fluffier touches which don't exactly fit amidst the seriousness, although that's not to say this screenplay abandon plenty of wit and memorable set pieces to hold your attention, until highlights in writing nuance come into play. There are occasions of solid realization in characterization and dramatic writing that I wasn't really expecting here, and although they are simply occasions found within an uneven script that is typically not much more than light, they provide glimpses of what could have been. Yes, there is potential present, for although this film suffers from natural shortcomings, just like its predecessor, there's still plenty of conceptual intrigue to this subject matter, and it's typically found within areas that bypass fluff for an unexpectedly solid deal of humanizing material that is truly brought to life by the portrayals of well-drawn characters. There are decent performances found throughout the film, particularly with, say, the charming Bernard Fresson, but it does ultimately come down to leading man Gene Hackman, who never loses that hard charm which made his rough, but well-intentioned cop role in the predecessor so iconic, and is sometimes given the opportunity to really flex his acting chops. In my opinion, what really drives this film up there with its predecessor is a segment introduced somewhere around the halfway mark that offers way more dramatic weight than what was ever seen in the predecessor, portraying a period of pain and vulnerability which defines new depths within the Jimmy "Popeye" Doyle lead, and is driven by Hackman's often astoundingly penetrating emotional range, in addition to heights in direction. Although I wasn't crazy about William Friedkin's slow-burn storytelling in the predecessor, its sophistication and subtle intensity drove the final product a fair distance, whereas John Frankenheimer's direction here feels less assured, and yet, with that said, Frankenheimer does not hit quite as many slow spells, and really livens things up with anything from engrossing action sequences, to an application of his thoughtfulness to the heights in tension which subtly, but surely, resonates. There are times where this film matches the kick of its predecessor, and times in which it treads ground of engagement value that the predecessor failed to achieve, and while this effort is, on the whole, pretty underwhelming, maybe more so than its predecessor, what it does right secures it as just as endearing as the original, which also could have done more.
In the end, the film falls into plenty of surprising conventions during its tonally and structurally uneven, and often blandly cold progression along a narrative of limited consequence, yet enough meat for fair writing, strong acting, and sometimes gripping direction to secure "French Connection II" with its predecessor as a decent and often compelling, if improvable police drama.
2.75/5 - Decent
I'm interested in the fact that this was the first R-rated film to… MoreI'm interested in the fact that this was the first R-rated film to score Best Picture, therefore, with "Midnight Cowboy", an X-rated film got it first. Nevertheless, this film is hardcore enough for me to ruin some childhood memories by saying, "So we've been told, and some choose to believe it; I know they're wrong; wait and see! Some day we'll find it, the French connection!" I was attempting to go for some kind of irony there by referring to something as cheery as "The Muppets" in a discussion about a film this brutal, but this film was always to be a little bit cheesy, because, come on, we're supposed to take French drug trades seriously here. I'd say that cartoony cheesiness on the level of "The Puppets" in this film is also reflected in Gene Hackman's character having a nickname taken from a cartoon character, but Popeye means business, almost as much as this film's Popeye. Shoot, this director is the dude who went on to do "The Exorcist", so you know that this film is going to be both bone-chilling and... a little slow. No, the film is reasonably compelling, but by no means is it especially fast-paced, you know, when it doesn't come to exposition.
The film gives you hardly any background on its characters right away, and I ran with that, expecting gradual exposition to compensate, but to my surprise, this film ended up feeling more interested in its action and conflicts than their motivations and the characters involved in them. Obviously, these characters are drawn well enough to be memorable, seeing as how they are well-portrayed and ushered in a number of roles which went on to be conventional in police dramas, yet there's still a surprising lack of depth here, which distances you from the characters, just as coldness in directorial storytelling distances you from most every other aspect. William Friedkin incorporates his trademark hyper-atmosphere here, yet he doesn't exactly have the chilling material of "The Exorcist" to bite here, thus, the film resorts to a certain quietness and limpness to pacing which are pretty dull, and recurrent. I'm really not getting the praise for this film's fast pace, because a slow pace is very characteristic in this drama, and although it can be respected for its audacity and frequent effectiveness, more than that, it brings momentum to a crawl as the key blow which sends the final product falling just shy of rewarding. Of course, like I said, a slow pacing is a criticism that one might attach to, say, Friedkin's follow-up, the very rewarding "The Exorcist", and considering that the issues of this film tap out with expository shortcomings and a limp pace, while the strengths stand firm, the final product seems to stand a great chance of rewarding, and would have if "The Exorcist" didn't have a certain something which compensated for questionable storytelling touches: a richer story concept. As things stand here, there's not much to complain about largely because there's not much to discuss in the first place when it comes to this certainly inconsequential, but dramatically lacking story, whose natural shortcomings combine with the few, yet considerable inconsequential shortcomings in order to render the final product underwhelming and overrated. With all of that said, what the film does right, it does very well, enough so to come to the brink of a rewarding point that, honestly, can be found within a story concept of limited intrigue.
I just got done going on and on about how Robin Moore's fictionalized account of the true story of Eddie Egan and Sonny Grosso isn't quite juicy enough to craft a story concept which can guide this drama through its storytelling shortcomings, but as a realistic dramatization of a police pursuit of men in intricate drug trades, this subject matter remains pretty bitingly intriguing, as surely as Ernest Tidyman's interpretation boasts elements of biting cleverness. Short on exposition, Tidymin's screenplay doesn't have much depth which might have transcended the natural shortcomings of this action-oriented drama, but it's very rarely short on sharp dialogue, memorable set pieces, and an audacious realism which was uncommon at the time, and can at least be respected for that. It's debatable just how much Tidyman broke ground here, and sure, the formula of this film has been explored so faithfully and so often by so many different sources that, by now, it actually feels sort of like the same old same old, but it's impossible to deny the impact that this film had on the police drama, and how it made such an impact largely because it is so engaging. Tidyman, with his many flaws, can't make the film so engaging on his own, and that's where director William Friedkin comes in, with an atmospheric underplay of style of overplay of quiet intensity which is all too often too slow to be anything more than bland, yet not consistently distancing, as it reflects a sophistication that is always intriguing to some extent, particularly when gripping action - reportedly structured around the ultimately removed, and subtly dynamic "Black Magic Woman" cover by Santana which people were just starting groove out to during the making of this film - comes into play, and when enough material to draw upon with thoughtfulness sets in to establish tension. There's little actual dramatic consequentiality to Friedkin's storytelling, and that defuses a lot of momentum, but where the final could have leaned closer to mediocrity than compellingness with all of its limpness, there is enough written and directorial sharpness here to hold your interest, about as much as the performances. Needless to say, the performances are seriously underwritten, but for what the performers are given to do, they all deliver, and that especially goes for Gene Hackman, whose commanding, yet somewhat humanized charisma sets a standard for the rough and ultimately well-intentioned cop role that many have tried to emulate since this film. There's not much to praise here, just as there's not much to complain about, but as surely as each complaint is a big one, each strength is solid, and while such a formula isn't going to be enough to make the final product truly rewarding, it is enough to make a very decent, if underwhelming classic.
When the connection is down (Ironically, I type these words while my internet connection is down... if anyone is vaguely interested), a lack of characterization depth, a great deal of dull spells in direction, and thinness to the dramatic consequentiality to the story concept itself secure the final product as underwhelming, but if there is intrigue to this subject matter, then it is done so much justice through clever and innovative writing, sophisticated storytelling, and a thoroughly charismatic performance by Gene Hackman that William Friedkin's "The French Connection" comes to the brink of rewarding, even if it's only the brink.
2.75/5 - Decent
"You can lose your sight of it all, and the darkness inside you can… More"You can lose your sight of it all, and the darkness inside you can make you feel small, but I see your true colors shining through!" Man, forget Cyndi Lauper, especially here, because we're talking about a cop movie, and it's that good, old-fashioned, generic kind of man's man's cop movie, with Robert Duvall, and Sean Penn with aviator sunglasses. You've got to love that one, cheap-looking DVD cover for this film which features that, in front of hood rats and explosions, because it shows you just how desperate Dennis Hopper is to look cool as a filmmaker. Interesting how before he was the bad guy in "Speed", Hopper, as a director, was actually guiding the cops to save the day, yet apparently still cause a lot of explosions along the way. That DVD cover must have got most of this film's money towards explosives, because I don't know how much this film can spend on hardcore action, what with its being an independent film that was likely already out a good bit of money when it got Sean Penn and Robert Duvall on board. That investment must have paid off, because people put almost $50 million into the box office and over $20 million in rentals to see Duvall and Penn take on the Bloods, Crips and Mexican gangs. Man, this movie sounds cool, but no, it's not quite that exciting, even though it doesn't put a great deal of attention into certain depths.
The film opens up telling you not much of anything about the leads beyond their mission, then proceeds to meander along the goings-on of East L.A., as seen by both the cops and the gangs, and does so emptily, doing little to truly flesh out its characters, and not even having enough action to compensate for the lack of depth, like other police dramas of this type. Of course, outside of that, this is more of the same as a police drama, putting in just enough twists for you to better notice the tropes that ultimately make this a predictable, almost manufactured-feeling effort, despite an ambition which might not even be just. There is a fair deal of intrigue to this story on paper, and in execution, it is done plenty of justice, but at the end of the day, this isn't an especially meaty story concept, and it grows harder and harder to deny this the more the film drags along. Clocking in at two hours, this film outstays its welcome, and more so than you might guess, even with all of my complaints about this narrative's natural shortcomings, as it goes packed with so many layers and shifts in focus that storytelling gets to be seriously uneven, - if not episodic in feel - when it's not packed with so much do-little material that the storytelling gets to be borderline monotonous. Before too long, the film gets to be just plain aimless, meandering along with pacing and structuring so disjointed that it has to be seen in order to be believed as a blow to entertainment value and sense of momentum almost as serious as cold spells in direction which range from bland to dull. The final product left me a little cold, and although it is more inspired than I expected in a number of ways, it's also flimsier than I expected, ultimately falling flat as yet another somewhat forgettable police thriller. With that said, the final product entertains enough to get you by, or at least Dennis Hopper does.
There are plenty of areas in which Dennis Hopper, as director, doesn't seem to have much of an idea as to what he's doing, what with the meandering, unfocused storytelling, but that directorial thoughtfulness can be commended for its being somewhat unique in the context of a film of this type, and for hitting moments of effectiveness which provide glimpses into what could have been. If nothing else, the subtle engagement value holds you over until Hopper delivers on some surprisingly thrilling action sequences to offer heights in a liveliness which rarely falls so considerably that you can't get some sort of a grip of the value of this story concept. This may be somewhat thin subject matter which has been done time and again, but through all of the conventions and natural shortcomings, in addition to all of the convoluted bloatings, there stands a promising portrait on gang violence, and police actions against it. Michael Schiffer's writing more-or-less obscures the potential of this film, it gets to be so flimsy, with conventions and issues in focus and pacing, as well as other issues to meet some undeniable strengths, which range from occasions of memorable wit, to moments of convincing effectiveness in a gutsy portrayal of police procedural and gang affairs. There are some surprises of uniqueness and interesting thoroughness in this drama, yet outside of that, there's not much to compliment in this still-adequately engaging affair, carried about as much as anything by the performances. It is ultimately the underwritten performances which keep most consistent in this film, and even then, there are some weak supporting players, but only a few, who can be forgotten next to the charisma of and chemistry between Sean Penn and Robert Duvall which never fail to hold your attention. The engaging efforts of the leads may be challenged by the many shortcomings of the film, yet they most recurrently represent the inspiration that goes into making the film reasonably engaging, with some solid highlights to accompany more than a few lowlights.
Bottom line, little is said about the characters, and about a little uniqueness is placed into the aimlessly overdrawn, uneven and often blandly cold handling of a story of limited consequence, but not such little consequence that highlights in action, direction, writing and acting don't secure Dennis Hopper's "Colors" as a serviceable, if often limp study on the police's and L.A. gangs' brutal interactions amongst themselves and with each other.
2.5/5 - Fair
First it's "The Exorcist", and now William Friedkin is moving on to… MoreFirst it's "The Exorcist", and now William Friedkin is moving on to sorcery, so he ended up being pretty big on dark magic and what have you in the '70s. Seriously though, what made "The Exorcist" such an effective thriller was its actually underusing the titular exorcist for the sake of focus on how messed up the girl was, and here, there is actually not sorcery going on, and not much else to distract you from the fact that, at the end of the day, this is a gripping dramatic thriller about truckers. I'd say that Friedkin could make it tense if anyone could, but even "The Exorcist" had its slow spots, and you know that this film is in for some, because it's based on a French novel, and therefore a remake of a French-Italian adaptation back in the '50s. Well, "There Will Be Blood" was something of an avant-garde drama about oil, - something that this film actually isn't slow enough to be - and it was awesome, although, in all fairness, its intrigue to us ignorant Americans was augmented by the fact that when they got around to speaking, it was strictly in English, and not English accompanied by French, Spanish, German... Italian, Dutch, Danish, Czech, Hungarian, Russian, Swedish, Finnish, Norwegien, Celtic, Latin, Yiddish and Klingon. I exaggerate, but to be the big American interpretation of Georges Arnaud's "Le Salaire de la peur", this film is so ethnically diverse that it stopped by Germany and picked up Tangerine Dream to do the score. They probably couldn't afford Kraftwerk, because they spent enough money on this project to blow at the box office like the oil well in this film. There sure is a lot of money up in flames on and off of the screen, probably because people weren't especially interested in seeing an American film that they still had to read, which is unappealing enough, with the many other issues of this nonetheless decent, but held back film taken out of account.
As excessively overdrawn as the film's development segment particularly is, it doesn't really feel as though this drama says a whole lot about its characters, who would feel much more fleshed out if the film wasn't so intentionally disjointed with its characterization, and with its plotting overall, for that matter. I reckon the sloppiness of the storytelling peaks with the development segment, which has the nerve to be episodic with its attempts to set up the stories of its leads which eventually converge, but even after that, each segment gets a jarring introduction, and each layer within the segments is juggled unevenly, due to the tightness of the segments' being handled unevenly. Pacing is ultimately a key issue here, even within Walon Green's script, which drags on and on at times, particularly with material whose significance to begin with is about as questionable as yet another aspect which goes plagued with unevenness: storytelling style. I've joked about the level of artiness one might expect a film of this type to take, but this rather American take on certain European filmmaking sensibilities leaves storytelling to alternate between realist traditionalism in plotting, and borderline abstractionism to thematic, stylistic and existential over-plays, in a jarring manner which is almost as distancing as consistency in atmospheric coldness. Yes, whether it simply be steadily moving along its narrative, or getting caught up in some sort of unconventional storytelling lyricism, this film moves along with a quiet intensity that neither Green nor director William Friedkin can justify with material for the thoughtfulness to draw upon, resulting in many a long, slow-burn period which is mostly simply a little bland, and all too often just plain boring. Some will be able to embrace the style of this offbeat drama enough to be rewarded, and others will dismiss the final product as dull and distant, and although I fall somewhere in between these extremes in opinion, I still find the final product held way back by its aspirations to be something it probably shouldn't be and isn't realized enough to be: a thriller too wrapped up in its meditativeness to truly thrill. Nevertheless, the film has more than its fair share of compelling moments to all but compensate for the many questionable aspects, and does so with the help of certain elements within the stylistic attitude that helps in making the final product so underwhelming.
Now, as intense as this thriller tries to be, it's debate whether or not Tangerine Dream's overly '70s electric and krautrock sensibilities consistently fit into a score for this film, but the soundtrack of this film remains respectable in its being rather unique, and in its bringing some liveliness to this cold project, when it's actually utilized, that is. The style of this predominantly quiet opus is much more reliant on its environment, and although that sort of naturalism distances in a lot of ways, it also engages, as the film does an almost outstanding job of selecting immersively distinct and sweepingly diverse settings for cinematographers John M. Stephens and Dick Bush to lens handsomely. Storytelling style may be way off here, but other forms of artistic expression found here and there throughout the film are just about engrossing, primarily aesthetically, and partly narratively, in that it draws your attention more into the film and, by extension, the dramatic potential of the film's story. This interpretation of this story is so undercooked, uneven and, to a certain extent, existential that it's pretty hard to see the dramatic possibilities of this film, but it's there, in the form of an adventurous plot, tense conflicts, and intriguing characters who are at least nuanced in concept, and in their portrayals. Characterization is nearly paper-thin in Walon Green's script, but it's still hard to be totally distanced from the characters, for each member of this cast carries enough charisma and, of course, chemistry to sell the characters and their dynamic, and to play anything but a small part in driving this conceptually intimate portrait on man's struggles with the environment, each other, and themselves. The onscreen talent is there, enough so to make up for a lot of the offscreen misguidance, and yet, the flaws in William Friedkin's directorial storytelling are so considerable that they stand a chance of doing a great deal of damage to the final product's engagement value, which is never firmly secured, but held as adequate by what Friedkin does, not simply well, but very well with his thoughtful storytelling, augmented here by a naturalism that, under the right circumstances, immerses, especially when tension mount to an almost gut-wrenching extent. There are some seriously gripping occasions in this film, and between them is a whole lot of nothing going on, but about as much which is genuinely intriguing, not to where the final product rewards, yet to where the drama resonates as an ultimately decent thriller.
When the journey ends, you find that the final product doesn't say enough about its characters, keep consistent enough with focus, pacing and storytelling style, or keep exciting enough with all of its chilled thoughtfulness to reward, yet where the film could have really fallen flat, stylish score work, immersive visuals, intriguing subject matter, engrossing performances, and gripping directorial highlights drive William Friedkin's "Sorcerer" as a decent naturalist thriller which could have done more, but does enough to get you by.
2.75/5 - Decent
"You'll think it's tragic when that moment arrives, - ah - but it's… More"You'll think it's tragic when that moment arrives, - ah - but it's magic, it's the best years of our lives!" I figured I'd go with the much less popular Steve Harley & Cockney Rebels song, because I'm tired of Modern Love's "Best Years of Our Lives", and because the Cockney Rebels song's release is a little closer to this film's. Well, maybe I could have gone with the Modern Romance song when you look at that way, for although this film was released back in 1946, I think that it bled over into 1982. I see that they abridged this film's title from "The Best Years of Our Lives... in Real Time". Well, clearly, back in the '40s, people didn't have much to do, because this three-hour-long opus was the most-watched film since "Gone with the Wind", although, in all fairness, it's not like anyone who went to see "Gone with the Wind" had much time to see anything else afterwards. I'd say that MGM sure knew how to get people interested in punishingly long dramas which were partly about war, during a time of war, and I think I know what their secret was: ...making the film good. So yeah, this film is far from a waste of three hours (Now, after 36 years, it might get on your nerves worse than Modern Romance's "Best Years of Our Lives"), but it's still no "Gone with the Wind", for a number of reasons.
Well, actually, this film may be less histrionic than "Gone with the Wind", and it is certainly less histrionic than many other films of its type, although it remains more melodramatic than it probably should be as a generally genuine portrait on the struggles of war veterans, hitting certain touches in dialogue, characterization and dramatics which suffer from classic, dated sensibilities. Robert E. Sherwood's written dramatics are not the only ones to have fallen short with the test of time, for William Wyler, even with all of his subtle touches, gets a little carried away with his handling of the unsubtle writing and Hugo Friedhofer's emotive scoring, until sentimentality sets in, betraying the unique grace of this drama by falling back into the conventions of the time. Really, formulaic storytelling holds this film back in a number of ways, because whether it's melodramatic or not, the familiarity of this film sort of blands up a primarily engrossing affair, whose conventions can at least be appreciated for standing among the handful of consistent aspects in the plot. Perhaps I exaggerate the unevenness of the focus to this narrative, but storytelling ambitiously tackles three separate portraits on the struggles of a man returning from war, and does so with a certain inconsistency that convolutes the sense of importance of each story, and derives from the film's lack of tightness. Falling just short of three hours, this film's runtime is questionable, and seeing as how as big a problem as anything in the final product is bloating, Sherwood's script is packed with fat around the edges that drags filler to the point of meandering, and taints material with excess that it typically of a melodramatic, or formulaic, or focally uneven nature. Pacing proves to be the root of all issues in this film, and on top of that, it keeps you around longer than it probably should, and no matter how compelling the final product always is, this drama falls short of what it could have been under the weight of an ambition too great to transcend limitations of the time. Still, like I said, the film compel thoroughly throughout its questionable course, even though its story concept promises to really enthrall.
Alcoholism, financial struggles, finding new love amidst the collapse of the old, and coming to terms with limitations one brings home are all conflicts found by veterans returning from war to a world which was not what they dreamed of, and that makes for an overblown and melodramatic, but powerful story concept that helps a great deal in making the final product so rewarding. Of course, it does ultimately come down to the interpretation of intriguing subject matter, and when it comes to that, Robert E. Sherwood drops the ball in a lot of places as screenwriter, getting melodramatic and excessive, but tight where it counts, making sure that there's enough going on to prevent dull spells, and putting a then-daring and still-powerful deal of attention into the heavy depths of this dramatic subject matter. Although genuineness lapses at times, where this script could have really succumb to dramatic superficialities of the time, it's not afraid to get relatively edgy, and even on paper, it engrosses in its capturing the hope, anguish and other layers of memorable, humanized characters which are further sold by a strong cast. The material may be a touch too dated for the performances to really prove outstanding through the years, but everyone delivers, and that especially goes for the leads, whether it be Dana Andrews as a traumatized man who struggles both to satisfy his wife and with feelings for another woman, or Fredric March as a now-alcoholic family man, or the particularly unevenly used and, in my opinion, show-stealing Harold Russell as a good-spirited, but ultimately handicapped veteran who must learn to live with his limitations and how his peers interpret them. There's a lot of emotional commitment put in each one of these performances, and although they were more remarkable at the time, they remain piercing to this day, much like an offscreen performance by William Wyler that can make or break the engagement value of this drama. Sure, this film flirts with flat spots, thanks to Wyler's sentimentality and failure to completely compensate for pacing issues through tight scene structuring, but Wyler never allows entertainment value to abate, holding your attention until moments of dramatic realization which range from compelling to penetrating in a fashion which was ahead of the time. This film could have gone far if it was even more realized, but as things stand, the final product is never less than engrossing as a conceptually important and ultimately rewarding drama.
In conclusion, some histrionic and formulaic writing and sentimental direction shake the genuineness of this drama, while uneven focus and an excessive structure which stands at the root of most all of the issues shake the momentum of the final product, until it falls short of what it could have been, yet by no means so short that worthy subject matter, audacious scripting, compelling performances and inspired direction fail to make "The Best Years of Our Lives" a rewarding classic of a portrait on the painful struggles war veterans found in themselves and the world around them upon returning home.
3/5 - Good
I heard that this guy is a passionate architect, but he must really… MoreI heard that this guy is a passionate architect, but he must really love his job if he built a fountain for his head. Man, that sounds stupidly surrealistic, but no, this isn't exactly what I was expecting from David Lynch's first film, although I don't guess you can ever predict what kind of film a three-year-old will make. Yeah, this is too old to be as trippy "Eraserhead", which is bogus, because you're going to need some audacity if you're going to be adapting an Ayn Rand novel. Granted, I haven't read any of her books, because, you know, contrary to what many may believe based on my watching so many blasted movies, I have a life to get to eventually, but she did know how to push the envelope further than they were capable of doing in Hollyweird, circa 1949. ...Mind you, she actually wrote this screenplay, but she went on to do the critically panned, yet oddly commercially triumphant "Atlas Shrugged", so maybe her dramatic competence was beginning to slip by the end of the '40s. Yeah, people, I think we can all agree on what is truly the most satisfying adaptation of Rand's "The Fountainhead": Rush's "2112" album. I don't exactly know how this novel relates to that album which Neil Peart says was largely inspired by Rand's works, or rather, "genius" (He must have found something better to do than read "Atlas Shrugged"), but I'll take it, because this film isn't exactly doing anything for me, though not for a lack of trying.
This film offers a good bit of style and a great deal of limitations, and heights in both go reflected within Robert Burks' cinematography, which both held back by and thrives on a black-and-white color palette, which falls over crisp definition and occasionally ingenious plays on lighting in order to establish an almost noirish flavor that is handsome, if not captivating throughout the drama. This visual style, in addition to such other artistic touches as nifty visuals, supplement the aesthetic value which is decidedly as impressive, if not more impressive than anything else in this narratively sloppy affair of respectable style. Of course, if inspiration stands so firm in directorial style, then King Vidor can go only so far with his shortcomings in directorial storytelling before hitting highlights, and sure enough, when Vidor hits, entertainment value is sustained, occasionally augmented by genuine dramatic tension. Make no mistake, much more often than not, Vidor falls flat, and about as often as he hits highlights, he just about embarrasses with his dated, if not outright incompetent missteps, yet the fact of the matter is that highlights stand, helping you in seeing the potential here. Although I have not read any of Ayn Rand's classic material, I don't suppose her dramatic competence was ever even close to the level of her thematic competence, for even in concept, this story is a hopelessly melodramatic affair whose sloppiness will be touched more upon later, and whose genuinely worthy aspects are very much worthy, in their establishing some biting histrionic intrigue, and plenty of intriguing themes regarding business' and society's interpretation of questionable innovation, and how innovators interpret the critical. While more limited than fans of the original, ostensibly non-cinematic like to think, potential stands, and it's hard to deny that when it comes in glimpses through commendable style and heights in substance. Still, on the whole, the final product is surprisingly mediocre, being a misguided take on a misguided story which isn't even sharp enough to be as thorough as it ought to be with its characterization.
Over-celebratory of its themes and shamelessly manufactured with its dramatics, this film needs more than just adequate flesh-out in order to thrive as a character study, and the characterization here, with its lack of immediate development and shortage on gradual exposition, simply isn't up to the task of getting you invested in contrived and thin characters. Nonetheless, as undercooked as the film is, it, at just shy of two hours, still has plenty of time to drag its feet, not just through cold spells in King Vidor's direction, but through meanderings in Ayn Rand's script, whose bloating in plot layering doesn't exactly gel with all of the aforementioned expository bumblings. Rand's over 700-page epic is adapted into a two-hour melodrama which is all over the place with its pacing and structure, with enough of the source material's dynamicity retained for the messy structuring to lead to some serious focal inconsistencies which make the final product almost exhaustingly convoluted. Still, there is something consistent throughout the storytelling, and that is conventions, because even though there is a potential for uniqueness, the execution of a promising story is so riddled with tropes that the final product stands as just plain trite, with nothing new, - despite its following themes of rejecting conformity to artistry - and most everything questionable about Hollywood formulas of this time. I don't know if it's simply the test of time doing a number on the filmmaking abilities of this drama, or sheer incompetence which modern critics disregard, but I'm just not comfortable with this film's very Hollywood lack of subtlety, which draws thin roles for too many of the performers - save decent leading man Gary Cooper - to portray questionably, and too many embarrassingly shoddy dialogue pieces and obvious visuals and set pieces for you to get past the contrivances which are even found in concept. Again, Rand's dramatic writing seems to have always been beneath her thematic writing, and this film reflects that through a layered, but startlingly melodramatic and occasionally unfocused plot that thematic value could make up for, and perhaps would have made up for if it wasn't for all of the incompetent miscalculations in structuring and subtlety which betray thematic value, and further stress the blandness and misguidance of this story, until the final product is barely ever truly engaging. Sure, there are compelling moments found here and there throughout the film, and there's enough of them for the final product to all but achieve a decency which is ultimately lost by utterly erroneous filmmaking that make the final product yet another misfire of an overrated classic.
Overall, handsome visual style and other attractive stylistic touches to direction which hits a few dramatic highlights to do a degree of justice to intriguing subject matter, thus, the final product borders on a decent state that is ultimately lost amidst the thin characterization, bland dragging, exhaustingly convoluted unevenness, genericisms, and dramatic incompetence which, behind a hopelessly melodramatic and overwrought story, make King Vidor's "The Fountainhead" a mediocre piece of dated, melodramatic filmmaking.
2.25/5 - Mediocre
"Now I realize who killed the Prince of Tides! How can you tell how it… More"Now I realize who killed the Prince of Tides! How can you tell how it used to be, when there's nothing left to see?" Yeah, I don't think someone as perky as Jimmy Buffett necessarily fits here, because you know that you're in for a chilling ride when you look at the premise of being stuck in the tides with Nick Nolte. This film is actually about some dude trying to, as Wikipedia puts it, "overcome the psychological damage inflicted by his dysfunctional childhood", which makes me question all of the acclaim being directed as Nolte, because acting psychologically damaged can't be much of a stretch for him. Well, this character must be at least a little bit crazier than Nolte, because Nolte was enough of a decent-looking guy back in the day to maybe earn him a lady who is a little better-looking than Barbra Streisand. Honestly, I suppose Nolte is going to hook up with whoever Streisand wants him to hook up with, because she's also directing here, and I'd trust her advice, seeing as how she seems to know what to do when it comes to calling the shots. So yeah, this film is quite good, although Streisand stands to craft this thing with a little more uniqueness.
This film is very '90s in feel, and that piece of conventional direction makes the other storytelling tropes all the more glaring, and it's hard enough to disregard the predictability of this romantic drama on paper, especially when the film gives you plenty of time to soak in the conventions. Clocking in at about 132 minutes in length, this intimate drama is simply too long, holding your attention throughout its course, - largely because it takes advantage of the length to flesh things out pretty thoroughly - but still dragging its feet with filler, if not material that isn't grand enough in scope to justify its excessiveness. When the film isn't jarring between its layers, it's sticking too deeply with its storytelling formula throughout its lengthy run, resulting in a sense of repetition whose aimlessness still cannot obscure the predictability. If the familiarity doesn't make this narrative predictable, then it's the contrivances, which include dialogue of great snap, but limited believability, and characterization which, in addition to being stereotypical, feels manufactured in a way that forcibly drives certain conflicts. This type of manufactured characterization, while not as serious as I might lead you to believe, stands as a supplement to this film's melodramatics, which are generally compensated for solidly by many a genuine storytelling touch, yet still stand, occasionally as soapy, when backed by some overt sentimentality to Barbra Streisand's storytelling which betrays what subtlety there is to this affair. The final product is never less than thoroughly compelling, but Streisand seems to want this film to be more than what it can be with all of its shortcomings, and such an ambition ironically stresses the issues of the drama, until it finally falls short of what it would have been if there was more comfort to Streisand's efforts. Nonetheless, Streisand's and the other storyteller's inspiration stands firm enough to make the final product a consistently compelling and ultimately rewarding melodrama that even endears on an aesthetic level.
There's an almost surprisingly considerable deal of attention being placed into the style of this drama, with Stephen Goldblatt delivers on often flat, and just as often hauntingly subtle cinematography, while James Newton Howard really impresses with a formulaic, but grand and captivating score that supplements resonance, when it doesn't exacerbate sentimentality. The aesthetic grace of this drama sort of intensifies a sense of manufacturing here, but much more than that, it livens things up, doing a lot to drive the entertainment value which in turn does a lot to draw your attention towards the genuine value of this drama. Although formulaic and rather melodramatic, this story is rich with potential as an intimate study on a man coming to terms with his own demons as he works to define his suicidal sister's, and finds new love along the way, at least brought to life by a solid script. Becky Johnston's and source material author Pat Conroy's script has plenty of repetitious fat around the edges, and gets to be manufactured with its histrionic dialogue and characterization, but it is nonetheless pretty strong, with generally razor-sharp dialogue and an amusing sense of humor to liven things up amidst realized and thorough exposition which tosses in some surprises to break up the monotony and predictability of this formulaic melodrama. Barbra Streisand's direction further reinforces the engagement value of this film, with tight pacing that keeps entertainment value consistent, until punctuated by a certain sentimentality that, when realized, transcends contrivances in order to resonate with its drawing you into the struggles and triumphs of well-drawn and, of course, well-portrayed characters. Where this character study truly thrives is in its performances, as just about everyone convinces and has a time to shine, and yet, hardly anyone flirts with the effectiveness of leading man Nick Nolte, who is asked to do only so much, but does it all impeccably, whether he be delivering on the sparkling charm of a good-hearted man struggling to escape his past through humor, or delivering on the enthralling emotional range which sells this man's gradual achievement of revelation and a new grip on life. Nolte, especially with his electric chemistry with Streisand, carries this intimate drama as one of the key sources of inspiration which allow the final product to transcend its shortcomings as a thoroughly rewarding affair.
When the tide falls, under the pressure of conventions, repetitious dragging, and melodramatics which are made all the more glaring by sentimentality threaten to leave the final product to fall short of its potential, and on the backs of handsome cinematography by Stephen Goldblatt, beautiful score work by James Newton Howard, witty and well-rounded scripting by Becky Johnston and Pat Conroy, heartfelt direction by Barbra Streisand, and solid performances throughout a cast which Nick Nolte stands out from, "The Prince of Tides" rises as a rewardingly intimate portrait on finding personal revelations in yourself through family and new love.
3/5 - Good
After something of a lengthy hiatus, Jonathan Demme made a booming… MoreAfter something of a lengthy hiatus, Jonathan Demme made a booming comeback in 1998 by paying homage to both of his dramatic claims to fame, by simultaneously dealing with prejudice and illness like he did in "Philadelphia", and with mental insanity like he did in "The Silence of the Lambs". Actually, maybe the people in this film aren't too crazy for believing in ghosts, as Oprah Winfrey has, in real life, certainly been possessed with the most evil of demons: ...liberalism. Seriously though, Winfrey and Danny Glover are together again in what is basically the spin-off to "The Color Purple" that we've all been waiting for, as we wanted more Winfrey, and, you know, felt that "The Color Purple" just wasn't long enough. I joke, but this is pretty much a passion project for Steven Spielberg, even though Spielberg wasn't even involved in this project, because it's pretty much the crossover between "The Color Purple" and "Poltergeist" that, come on, was totally expected, you know. No, this is actually the crossover between "The Color Purple" and "Ghost", because now that Whoopi Goldberg has been adequately harassed, it's time for Patrick Swayze to take out the rest of the cast of. Man, that would be one seriously lame twist for this film to come to after a whopping three hours of well, being pretty good. I'd say that this is a pretty satisfying sequel to apparently everything that came out between the mid-'80s and the mid-'90s, although it would be more so if it was tighter, in a number of ways.
If this effort's runtime seems to be rather questionable for subject matter of this type, that's because it, at just shy of three hours, is, and yet, at the same time, it's not long enough, as there are some distinct lapses in expository depth that Akosua Busia's, Richard LaGravenese's and Adam Brooks' script neglects to compensate for all of its bloating of repetitious filler, if not overwrought material. Although developmental shortcomings that leave many of the chapters in this narrative to jar stand as a big issue, bloating is as big a problem as any, getting so carried away with flashback segments, each characters' personal struggles, and other plot aspects that it can't seem to get a consistent grip on focus any more easily than it can on the themes of this drama. The film alternates between being a study on former slaves seeking new life with the horrors of the past at their backs, and being a supernatural horror-melodrama, and although both themes are thoroughly intriguing, the overambitious and overwrought exploration of them both leads to tonal inconsistencies, some of which are glaring in their seeing storytelling jar between dramatic steadiness and horrific intensity, both of which keep consistent in being backed by some lapses in subtlety. The script and Jonathan Demme's direction place a great deal of attention into somewhat graphic, if not disturbing happenings and imagery which is respectable in its audacity, but all too often too gratuitous for the good of subtlety to tone, which might be able to compensate if it wasn't so chilled so often. More than anything, Demme places a high attention into atmosphere and limp, disjointed storytelling which often borders on abstractionist, and frequently dulls things down, due to there being only so much biting material for the thoughtful storytelling to soak up throughout the final product's three-hour course. No matter how compelling this film is, it could have been so much more if Demme's heart was more firmly secured in the right place, and if there wasn't such a lack of realization to Demme's already questionable vision, thus, as things stand, the final product stands as an uneven, well, mess. It's almost by some miracle that the film ultimately rewards, but the fact of the matter is that, with patience, you'd be hard-pressed to not be compelled by this somewhat flimsy, but promising drama.
A period piece study on the struggles of black men and women during and following slavery, a melodramatic portrait on standing by family, and, just for good measure, a supernatural thriller, this film's story is way to focally and thematically overblown to handle all that tightly and evenly, especially with this film's experimentalism, but, so help me, it's daringly original, as well as compelling in its considerable dramatic and thematic value. Toni Morrison's novel carries a lot of potential to be made into a gripping screenplay, and sure enough, although Akosua Busia's, Richard LaGravenese's and Adam Brooks' script, with its mightily uneven structure, plays a big part in holding the film back, its gutsy, if sometimes gratuitous attention to chilling detail with edgy characterization, shocking themes and intentionally loose ends for viewers to ponder upon makes the film a commendable artistic expression, even with its writing style. As for Jonathan Demme's directorial style, even though it too has a lot to criticize, it delivers in its realized orchestration of, if nothing else, pseudo-gothic cinematography by Tak Fujimoto, and haunting score work by Rachel Portman, which is both beautiful and tonally effective. The visual and musical style do a lot to define the substance of Demme's direction, whose impact is actually held back by an ambition to pursue near-abstractionist experimentation, but is very rarely, if ever lost under the pressure of artistic bloating and slow spells, thanks to an inspired edge to dramatic meditativeness and striking imagery that, upon meeting realization, hits hard. When Demme's direction gets to be questionable, the reward value of the film is seriously threatened, and when it works, the horror aspects are downright terrifying, and the drama is powerful enough to secure reward value, with no small aid from the performances which truly stand out: the onscreen ones. Everyone delivers, whether it be Kimberly Elise as a young woman who comes to take matters into her own hands for the sake of her family, or Danny Glover as a good-hearted and uneducated man who comes to find shocking revelations regarding a place he thought was of refuge, while standouts include the amazingly convincing Thandie Newton as a handicapped wanderer who comes to a loving family, with dark secrets, and the relatively briefly used Lisa Gay Hamilton who appears in flashbacks as a broken slave woman who struggles to escape agony for the sake of her welfare as a woman and a mother, and eventually grows into an unstable woman wracked with guilt who leading lady Oprah Winfrey portrays impeccably. Winfrey is a revelation in her emotionally charged and harrowingly layered portrayal of a woman who slowly, but surely, breaks under the overwhelming pressure of pain which has followed her throughout her life, but hers is not the only nuanced performance, for there is plenty of subtle inspiration found on and off the screen to transcend the shortcomings with intelligence and resonance.
When the curse is lifted, uneven focus deriving from uneven pacing and overwrought plot structuring, in addition to an unevenness to what tonal bite there is in questionably, if not dully experimental storytelling, hold the final product back, and even threaten reward value that is ultimately firmly secured by original and engrossing subject matter's being done enough justice by generally intelligently edgy writing, beautiful aesthetic style, resonant direction, and across-the-board powerful and nuanced performances to make Jonathan Demme's "Beloved" ultimately gripping as an experimental, chilling, moving and altogether harrowing exploration of family and facing demons, both literal and symbolic.
3/5 - Good
It's gritty, black-and-white melodrama set in deep snow, and it… MoreIt's gritty, black-and-white melodrama set in deep snow, and it features wolves, so I don't suppose cinema gets too much more Central Europe than this. Mix that all in with hyper-experimental storytelling which more-or-less ensures that the film is not quite as exciting as its subject matter, and you have yourself one classic European snoozefest. Oh yeah, who would have guessed that the idea behind 162 minutes of the Middle Ages, entirely in Czech, could be made into a boring movie? No, people, this film is reasonably engaging, and at any rate, I think that some respect is due here. I mean, seriously, people we're looking at what the people agree is... [b][u]the greatest Czech film of all time[/u][/b] (time, time, tim, ti, echo...), which would seem more like a high honor if, you know, this wasn't the only Czech film that people see. No one seems to keep up with Czech cinema, and yet, it's surprisingly busy, so how do you know that this, of all Czech films, is the best? I hope not, because even though this film is decent, it doesn't set too high of a standard for Czech filmmaking for me, for a number of reasons.
Clocking in at about two hours and three quarters, this film promises to be an epic, and in terms of its being so heavily layered with its narrative, I suppose it is, yet there's hardly enough scope or dynamicity to justify a relatively sprawling length which is achieved largely through near-monotonous filler, and an even greater excess in material. The many narrative layers of this drama should fit reasonably snug in the context of the plot's progression, but if there is a sense of excess to the material, then it is stressed by a sense of episodicity, which sees the film spending too much time with each segment, yet not enough to flesh them out enough to make the eventual focal shifts smooth. The film is seriously uneven with its focus, just as its uneven with its pacing and, yes, even its style, which is often grounded, or at least highly atmospheric, until jarring into a touch of abstractionism which is not realized enough for the film to flow with its themes. As if that's not aggravating enough, on top of being uneven, the style of the film is already pretty problematic by its own right, because beyond pacing and focal consistency, there are such questionable structuring moves as the awkward placement of a text prologue before each segment, or overly thematic imagery, or ostensibly somewhat disjointed characterization, whose experimental tastes distance one's investment almost as much as experimental direction which relies too heavily on artistry and atmosphere to dramatically thrive. The combination of an overblown narrative and an overwrought style, and neither structure aspect's being as realized as they should be, render the film, well, sort of monotonous, at least when pacing is further stiffened by a chilled directorial atmosphere which dull things down, occasionally as tedious. When I say that tedium is occasional, I mean that the 160-smomething-minute runtime comes in handy by allowing the dramatic lowlights to be spread out few and far between, although, with that said, the film never abandons its problems, challenging them time and again with solid strengths, but not quite formidably enough for the final product to be memorable for anything beyond its aesthetic value. Still, as much as the film tries your patience, it shouldn't completely overpower it, because as artistically unrealized as this drama is, it has plenty to commend, even when it comes to visual style.
Needless to say, this hyper-atmospheric art film is a little too reliant on its environment, but the deep snow setting of this lyrically bleak drama was always going to be instrumental in the establishment of both tone and aesthetic value, and sure enough, this film's beautiful environment goes complimented by cinematography by Bedřich Baťka which, while held back by a black-and-white palette, is playful enough in lighting and scope to attract you into this film's handsome world. Of course, the most impressive artistic aspect of this film is Zdeněk Lika's score, because whether it be flaunting biting pieces which range from sweeping to chilling, or delivering on outstanding triumphs in choral classical compositions, it proves to be more near-astoundingly beautiful, and decidedly effective in the context of this pseudo-epic. Limitations of the time sort of hold the artistic value of this film back, making it harder to deny the dramatic fumblings which highlights in style could have made up for, but the fact of the matter is that aesthetic value is rich enough to play a big role in making the film reasonably attractive. This attractiveness allows you to soak in the subject matter of this drama, which, as I've said time and again, is overwrought, with an exhausting amount of layers to mishandle with focal unevenness, in addition to stylistic unevenness and questionability which further thins substance, but hardly into obscurity, for their is enough intrigue to this Middle Ages adventure thriller and provocative deconstruction of humanity to hold up a lot of potential. Maybe this film could have soared, if it wasn't so caught up in its artistic license, because the final product really is about as reliant on style as it is on substance, and that betrays the potential of this film, though not quite as much as it could have. Frantiek Vláčil's direction feels more confident than genuinely realized, jarring between and rarely fully fleshing out his vision of a subtle drama and solid artistic expression, but no matter how much Vláčil's questionable touches hold the film back, when it comes to style, there is plenty of striking imagery and haunting plays on technical value and musicality to establish plenty of commendable aesthetic value, and when it comes to substance, when he gains a grip on his thoughtfulness, he delivers on a piercing subtlety and grace which was a fair ways ahead of the time. This was an innovative film, and it can still at least be respected for that, make no mistake, even if its touches will always be questionable, and yet, there have been much greater artistic misfires, with this misguided opus being well-drawn enough as an artistic endeavor and chilling drama to endear, despite being challenging.
Kdy sníh konečně taje, near-exhausting excessiveness and unevenness to plotting, an uneven and already questionable style, and near-monotonous cold spells to atmospherics render the final product pretty decidedly underwhelming, but not the misfire that it could have been, because through a haunting visual style, outstanding musical style, intriguing premise, and generally stylistically sharp direction, Frantiek Vláčil's "Marketa Lazarová" stands as an adequately intriguing and occasionally engrossing, if overwrought classic in Czech and art cinema.
2.5/5 - Fair
"Ben Hür Adam"! This is sort of like that, in that it's a religiously… More"Ben Hür Adam"! This is sort of like that, in that it's a religiously charged, epic biopic, only it's not nearly as long or, well, as interesting. Some would figure that "Ben Hur" wouldn't be quite as interesting, because it's over three-and-a-half hours long and over 50 years old, but it does have the distinct advantage of not being entirely is Turkish. Now, that isn't to say that this film isn't interesting... although it is to say that I'm the only jerk out there who finds this film interesting, but then again, just I and some dude in Turkey are the only ones who saw this film. Man, they... as in the only people who have heard of this film, keep going on and on about how this film opened at number two in Turkish box offices, but this is Turkey we're talking about, and even by those standards, this film didn't make number one. That's a shame, because I find this film adequately engaging, at least more so than, um, Hüzzi-Hüzza Yahtzee, or whatever the name of my fellow viewer of this film is. Shoot, maybe you should take his gibberish over my words, because this film must not be too interesting if this is the best opener I can come up with, and sure enough, even I find intrigue challenged.
This film isn't quite, well, competent to do a lot of things especially sharply, so it should come as no surprise that this film does just about nothing uniquely, following a formulaic and ultimately predictable path that can't even justify its length. You all should know how much I enjoy long films, so you can understand my excitement about seeing how this film fills its runtime of roughly two hours and three quarters, and how disappointed I am to find little outside of repetition, because as if directorial dry spells aren't enough to slow down momentum, Mehmet Tanrısever's, Mehmet Uyar's and Ahmet Chetin's script, in addition to the story concept itself, do enough damage to momentum. What separates this sprawling biopic dealing with a great social figure from something like "Ghandi", or "The Greatest Story Ever Told", or "Malcolm X", or all sorts of dramas of this nature, is a shortage on a sense of consequence, for although the conflicts and scope are distinguished, this film is too much about Said Nursî wandering about, and not enough about what Nursî was fighting for, thus leaving the repetition of the storytelling to border on monotony. The structure of the film is distancing enough, but what truly loosens your investment is the film's cheesiness, found within a surprising amount of cheapness to technical value, and within what I assume is trite dialogue, made all the more contrived by lapses in the subtlety of Tanrısever's efforts as director. It's hard to not appreciate the sheer ambition that Tanrısever pumps into this project, and yet, such ambition leads to sentimentality and other forms of overemphasis on conflict which struggle to compensate for shortcomings in momentum, only to end up stressing the final product's other shortcomings. There's something almost propagandistic about this film's storytelling, and that establishes a sense of dramatic laziness which, when backed by questionable structuring, betrays what potential there is to this surprisingly minimalist, and ultimately underwhelming epic. That being said, the film is far from a waste of time, for ambition does meet inspiration on a number of occasions, to bring life to subject matter of considerable value.
Said Nursî was a controversial visionary who opposed tyrannical social oppressions in order guide people to artistic and spiritual enlightenment, and although his story is a familiar one which is held back enough by its boasting only so many urgent conflicts, it remains worthy, and it would appear as though Mehmet Tanrısever, returning from a hiatus of an almost whopping twenty years (He's the Turkish Terrence Malick, folks) realizes this, arguably too much, taking on this film with too much ambition for you to ignore the natural shortcomings, as well as with enough inspiration to help in immersing you into the value of this subject matter. The immersion value is certainly helped by the art direction, which, quite frankly, is lacking in this period drama of little attention to setting detail and scale, but has its share of highlights to attract you, though not as much as Yildiray Gürgen's and Tevfik Akbasli's score. The soundtrack gets a little contrived at times, and it's rarely, if ever all that original, but it is haunting in its beauty and in its resonating with more genuineness than a lot of the storytelling aspects, being about as consistently effective as the acting. There really isn't much for the performers to work with, but for what they've been given to do, they do more than this drama probably deserves, with emotional and naturalist portrayals that is particularly human within the efforts of worthy leading man Mürşit Ağa Bağ. Bağ's realized charisma embodies Said Nursî's presence of wisdom and good-heartedness, - and how it evolved through the years - and helps in driving the drama, yet still cannot do so alone, for Tanrısever needs to keep his own efforts realized enough to breathe life into this drama which runs such a risk of falling flat. Tanrısever, at least as director, seems to try too hard, and the final product ends up falling a great distance shy of a potential whose limitations are actually emphasized by Tanrısever's overambition, and yet, Tanrısever never allows pacing to fall so greatly that entertainment value is completely lost, being kept fair enough to hold you over until the genuine dramatic highlights. There are some moving moments here, and I really wish that they were more consistent, as there is depth to salvage in this project which is still done enough justice to engage the patient adequately.
All in all, the film takes too long to tell a formulaic and repetitious story with a solid hint of cheesiness and sentimentality, thus, the final product fails to pick up enough momentum to soar, even though there is still enough inspiration to score work, acting and highlights in direction to make Mehmet Tanrısever's "Hür Adam: Bediüzzaman Said Nursi", or simply "Free Man" a decent, if flimsy ode to a great figure of enlightenment in relatively modern Turkish history.
2.5/5 - Fair