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falderal : a moving images blog

Archive for February, 2014

A Night in Casablanca ; 1946

Monday, February 10th, 2014

Director: Archie Mayo
Actors: Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Chico Marx, Charles Drake, Lois Collier, Sig Ruman
Country: U.S.A.

This is my first Marx Brothers movie and I thought it was ok. I still haven’t watched Duck Soup so I’m definitely not writing off the Marx Brothers as “not my cup of tea”. For the most part, I found this movie quite dull even though I adored Groucho Marx’s lines and found the gags in Count Pfferman’s (Ruman) room (when the “Count” is trying to pack) but they weren’t enough to entice me to make me want to watch another Marx Brothers film right away.

I don’t really have much to say, although surprisingly enough, I was very much put off by the last scene when the Marx Brothers’ characters chase Beatrice (Verea). I know that several old Hollywood movies make people side eye them (well, current movies too) but to see a woman express her want for a romance and have to run away from three lustful men scared me. I knew that it was meant to be comical, but I found it so disturbing and frightening that it left a really bad taste in my mouth.

Random, but it was amusing to see Sig Ruman play a Nazi because I will forever associate him with Colonel Ehrhardt from To Be or Not to Be.

IMDb Link: A Night in Casablanca

Pi ; 1998

Tuesday, February 4th, 2014

Director: Darren Aronofsky
Actors: Sean Gullette, Mark Margolis, Ben Shenkman
Country: U.S.A.

I was very surprised that I enjoyed this movie. Lately I have been thinking quite a bit about what kind of movies I like. I know that for the most part, my genre of choice is romantic comedy and that I prefer narrative films, so I figured that I like anything that is mainstream and easy to watch. When I was in high school and during part of my college days, I suffered from special snowflake syndrome and wanted to watch obscure movies that no one knew about or cared for non-linear and foreign films. Part of that phase did stem from me being interested in them, but my intentions weren’t very pure and I think I cared more about the cool points than actually educating myself. Anyway, it’s been awhile since I watched anything that was “challenging” (unless Quentin Tarantino’s works falls into that category) and to my surprise, I enjoyed Pi immensely. I think it’s the editing style that kept my attention the entire time because the quick cuts and close ups made it feel as if the pace of the movie was going faster. I also liked that technique in another Aronofsky film, Requiem for a Dream (2000), because I think that it made habits look cold and calculated, which for the most part they are because we always do certain things a certain way at a certain time.

As for the story, it was captivating for me because it was about a man’s search to find out a pattern behind the stock market and the obsessive quest is enjoyable (uh… painful?) to watch. I liked seeing how this obsession ruins Max’s (Gullette) physical body and his mental state and how his search for an explanation runs him into trouble. The closer he gets to the truth behind the numbers, the more he cannot handle it physically or mentally because perhaps it is as if he is playing with fire and his headaches and paranoia are all signs for him to back off something that is beyond his control. The way the movie played out and how it ended reminded me of people’s quest to understanding the world and believing in God. Whether or not I believe in God or believe people should believe in God is beyond the point of the post, but when I talk to people who believe in God or even just a higher being, many say that it is faith and that it’s not about trying to find an explanation for everything. Believing in God gives them a sense of lightness and comfort, and it reminded me of how Max ends up in the end. I see Max as finally being content once he gives up trying to find numbers/explanations for everything and can just enjoy being. Or maybe he’s content because he finally understood the numbers and also because he has learned to stop thinking about it and just accepting whatever he has learned in his quest.
What happens to Max also reminded me of how someone’s identity is shaped and how one’s interests become tied to one’s identity. For Max, his obsession with his quest to find the pattern in the stock market becomes his identity. He has nothing other than this quest and his quest is his identity and it physically manifests itself as well through the headaches and the paranoia. He is one with the numbers, just as he said about being the one who was chosen to understand the number sequence. What I liked was that the film medium allows the viewers to only know about Max in relation to numbers and we don’t know how he is outside of the scenes we see of him. This allows the viewers to once again associate Max’s identity to numbers. I think what’s so great is that this movie is so visibly shot on film that one can’t help but be aware of all this. And speaking of that, I absolutely love the look of this movie.

On a side note, I also couldn’t help like the film since it mentions the Kabbalah because in my favourite manga series, X, the Kabbalah is shown in the artwork and also in connection to the tech savvy character, Satsuki. Sort of a connection to this movie, ey?

IMDb Link: Pi