Friday, October 3, 2014

Fantasy & Paranormal Films: 4 of the Best!

Wings of Desire, Wim Wenders, Bruno Ganz
Wim Wenders film stars Bruno Ganz as a guardian angel on duty in modern day Berlin who desires to become human and mortal so he can join a circus trapeze artist. I'll confess that I've had problems in the past getting into some of Wenders' films. Many go too over the deep end on the existential and intellectual elements and result in my ending up feeling alienated. This film, however, leaves one feeling connected to the entire world plus infinity. There is an inspiring romance (in German cinema no less!) between angel turned-to-mortal Bruno Ganz and a beautiful circus performer. Before he becomes a mortal, there are wonderful moments of him and the other angels standing guard over us mortals, listening and watching us.

I felt as if I were immersed in an epic poem in those scenes. This film is also beautiful, flowing like a painting and done in a mixture of black & white plus color. There are wonderful acting moments throughout by the entire cast but especially by Bruno Ganz and Peter Falk. I haven't seen Ganz in a role this good since he played the Count in "The Marquise of O" for Fassbinder. I tried watching the American remake of this movie, "City Of Angels" with Nicholas Cage and Meg Ryan and couldn't bear watching what we (Americans) had done to this Cannes' award winner. Well worth owning, this film can be watched over and over, just like any great piece of art.

Last Wave, Peter Weir, Richard Chamberlain
Peter Weir's first and best film. Before Peter Weir became an American director, he was an Australian one. This was no surprise since he was a native Australian. His films made there are terrific and especially this one. That he used "Dr. Kildare" (Richard Chamberlain) in such an atypical role only added to its charm. Chamberlain plays a barrister defending five aboriginal men in the Sydney Australian courts. The climate is very strange as he takes on the case. It seems to be raining almost all of the time. We do learn that the area has been having way above average rainfall.

He starts having visions of "the end" with a lot of water. One of these visions also has a huge wave coming in. As he works with his aboriginal clients he believes he is coming to share in their mystical experiences. There seems to be a prophecy that the aborigines know, i.e. that the continent will drown.

Is this a tidal wave coming to Australia which only the aborigines can see? Weir is subtle so he does not bang you over the head with some horror or disaster spectacular. This film is a lot more thoughtful than that. As such, it raises an interesting issue about our letting our instinctual abilities all but disappear whereas tribal cultures still use them to tie into aspects of the non visible world. The aborigines believe in two worlds, the everyday and the Dreamtime. They see things in the Dreamtime which cannot otherwise be known. This is counter to everything this barrister has believed in prior to working with these clients.

This is a wonderful film which I've seen more than once and suddenly feel like seeing again.

Bedazzled, Dudley Moore, Peter Cook
I thought this film was going to be dated with its being made in 1967. It is not. Instead, we get a look at the comic team of Dudley Moore and Peter Cook at the beginning of their partnership, when they were absolutely brilliant together. Many Americans don't even know this aspect to Moore's career. They believe his career started with the film "Ten" with Bo Derek. It did not. Moore was from the UK as was Cook. Moore was a classical pianist who had graduated from Oxford. He was also a very funny guy and paired with Peter Cook, he was downright hilarious.

Peter Cook plays the devil in this film and he approaches Moore, a short order cook, with a tantalizing offer to improve his life, for a price of course. Moore is not getting anywhere in the love department as he is madly in love with a waitress and she barely notices him. So he takes Cook up on his offer. The way this works is that Moore gets seven wishes in order to win the waitress's love. What the devil doesn't count on is the entrance of the Seven Deadly Sins - including Lilian Lust (Raquel Welch). Moore and Cook are comedic foils for one another from that point forward.  

This film was remade by Brendan Fraser and Elizabeth Hurley. The remake is not bad. I've seen both. This one is the classic but the remake is also enjoyable. 

Both Peter Cook and Dudley Moore died some time ago. Cook had terrible problems with alcoholism and died fairly young in his 50s. Moore lasted into his 60s but got some terrible neurological disease which had him wasting away for years before his death. They were both terrifically talented but their partnership did not last long. By the time Moore came to make "Ten", the comic duo was long over.

Unbreakable: Bruce Willis, Samuel L. Jackson
M. Shyamalan made two terrific films. This one and "The Sixth Sense".  Bruce Willis was the lead in both films and in this one he is the lone survivor in a terrorist bombed rail disaster.  He doesn't have a scratch on him.  The owner of a comic based art gallery (Samuel Jackson) has been searching for him and approaches him to discuss how he survived.

Both of these actors have been in their fair share of cinematic bombs. I am glad to report this most definitely is not one of them. They are both extremely talented and this film shows off the best aspects of their ability. Jackson's character is breakable. He suffers from a rare disease where one's bones break in response to the slightest of incidents. He is embittered by this and has found some refuge in his comic book store where he loses himself in the superheroes and their counterparts, the villains.

Willis is disbelieving when Jackson suggests he is "unbreakable", that he is a superhero who doesn't even know it consciously (although he may on a subconscious level). Willis decides to test Jackson's assertion and gets his son to help him in these tests. Just like Superman must beware of Kryptonite though, Willis must beware of water. It is his one weakness.

This is a wonderful film and even if you think Bruce Willis is over the hill and someone you don't care to see in anything again, you will be wrong in bypassing this film. He is definitely at his very best in this film.

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