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Archive for July 16th, 2018

by Sam Juliano

Yes I adore France for their films, literature, music, food and history as much as I do any other country in the world. However, on Sunday my heart was with the Fairview, New Jersey and area Croatians and the Cinderella soccer team who have captured the hearts of the world with their inspirational, improbable run! The silver medal and the top player in the World Cup tournament is no small achievement for a small nation of four million and fans have every reason to cheer!

The long-running Greatest Television Series Countdown Part 2 will conclude in a few days.  I’d like again to thank all the writers, followers and those leaving comments.  It really has been quite a ride and a learning experience.  We will be breaking from any further polling countdowns for quite some time, though we do have a proposed Greatest War Films Countdown shaping up for April or May of 2019.

We saw two films in theaters over the weekend. Both were extraordinary. The first – an Israeli production “The Cakemaker” thematically recalls Lubitsch’s ‘Broken Lullaby” and Ozon’s “Franz” but the love triangle examined in a quietly enveloping style is the best of its kind since “Sunday Bloody Sunday” and the culture class (Israel and Germany) is finely delineated as passions simmer in a culinary-attuned work that re-imagines the delectable prowess of “Babette’s Feast.” Tim Kalkhof, the German baker and lover of the Jewish man married to Sarah Adler are exceptional in a film that eschews the grief experienced by the two to examine instead a primal instinct that fuels an unlikely association. The sublime piano-laden score by Dominique Charpentier is one of the best of the year. The film competes for my own favorite of the year ***** (5 of 5) (more…)

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by Dennis Polifroni

Most movie-goers see film as an exclusively visual medium.  We marvel at what’s splayed across the screen, particularly the fantastic, and we allow the visuals to transport us to places and times, both past and future, we will never experience or live to see.

So often we take sound for granted.  To most, it “just comes” along with everything that is shown up on the screen as it flickers past the light of a projector.  Because of this, often times the sonic landscapes that the filmmakers kill themselves to create to enhance the imagery is pushed to the side and never discussed when evaluating the greatness or the failures of a film.  Charlie Chaplin was a filmmaker that lived in a time when silent movies slipped into obscurity due to the advent of “talkies”, and when creating further chapters of the adventures of his most famous character, “The Little Tramp”, he realized that by still keeping him and his surroundings silent, and punctuating the visuals with key sound effects, he could jolt the audience in moments of high comedy or the most tender moments of pure pathos.  Chaplin was, by and large, a silent film director. However, knowing full well that he could not fight the onslaught that sound movies were mounting against his perfected form, he decided to make sound work for him in ways that other silent filmmakers didn’t and saw the death of their careers. Today, even though sound is still considered a given, the sound fields that movies use to help three-dimensionalize the visuals add to the experience, pull us into the experience of seeing movies almost as if we are stepping over the lower border of the screen and entering the world depicted.

Steven Spielberg and James Cameron are masters of using sound to their advantage.  Imagine what films like JURRASIC PARK or AVATAR would feel like if the stereophonic sound that envelopes us were only coming out of a single speaker directly behind the screen?  The music, voices and effects would all jumble into one annoying mish-mash of undescernable sound. Frankly, it wouldn’t make any sense, become annoying, and the filmmaker would be forced to choose what he felt was most important to hear in each specific sequence.

The beauty of John Krasinski’s horror/thriller, A QUIET PLACE, is that the visuals are secondary to the sounds that propel the story and individual sequences.  Sound, both delicately minute, or accidentally explosive, can mean the difference between living and dying. Frankly, I cannot recall a film, at least since I started writing about them (or since Francis Coppola’s THE CONVERSATION), that uses sound so effectively, so perfectly placed and timed, and so startlingly.

A QUIET PLACE plops the viewer in the near future, about two years from now (2020), and our planet has nervously settled after a destructive attack from an alien race from another planet.  The remaining survivors of the attack, strewn across states in small familial groups, go about their days scavenging canned food and medicine from abandoned stores and warehouses, fishing and tending to backyard crops.  We follow one of these families, the Abbott’s (two adults and their three children) as they quietly go about their daily routine in a ghost town that they used to call home. For an end-of-the-world chiller, these actions and depictions are nothing new.

Yet, as this all goes down, we notice something immediately unfamiliar (even for a horror film).

No one member of the family is wearing shoes or socks.

There are no boots, no sneakers, no stiletto heels a woman of class would wear out for a night on the town.  The children tip-toe down the aisles of a drug store placing canned goods and small boxes gently into their packs as their mother, Evelyn (the ever sensational Emily Blunt), delicately turns a bottle of pills so they don’t rattle in the slightest.  No one says a word, and they are all communicating with each other in sign language for the hearing impaired. Even the smallest and youngest of the Abbott clan, 4 year old Beau (the adorable Cade Woodward), talks to his sister in the exaggerated hands signs.

Whatever is out there, it becomes immediately and abundantly clear in these first few moments, bases its reactions, and actions, on sound.  Even the most minute tinkle or whisper can summon them and, as we will see in one of the most shocking and unexpected sequences of these first few moments, they come in lightning fast and furious.  These new conquerors are a flash of razor like talons and row after row of teeth.

You kinda gotta take your hat off to writer/director John Krasinski.

Nothing in his past as a film director could have possibly pointed to A QUIET PLACE.  Known mostly as an actor/director of comedy films, the mild-mannered Krasinski (as well as co-screenwriters Bryan Wood and Scott Black) is an avid lover and fan of silent cinema.  Upon reading an early draft of A QUIET PLACE (again, by Wood and Black), Krasinski went into discussions about creating a film that would resemble a modern version of those movies he loved.  The spec script, tightened by the director, relied on almost no spoken dialogue and, like Chaplin practiced in the early years of “talking pictures”, would present only the most necessary sound to raise tension, fear and, occasionally, a tender moment.  A QUIET PLACE uses it’s sonic aspects as way of communicating the dangers of this new world and the reasons behind each characters movements and personal/inner conflicts.

 

One sound that is always there is the background score.  Marco Beltrami’s boiling, stirring strings whip the careful movements of the performers into a frenzy of desperate action while simultaneously sending out a warning to the viewer that the dread is on the move and, most likely, quickly heading our way.  Beltrami’s score is one of the most effective compositions for a horror film I’ve had the intense pleasure of listening to (between my body jolts and verbal whimpering) since John Williams chugging piano motifs for the shark in Spielberg’s JAWS (1975) and Jerry Goldsmith’s demonic, gothic choir for THE OMEN (1976).  It’s a score that knows, perfectly, when to punctuate the frenetic tracking of an action sequence, and when to know how to slowly dissipate in a tender moment.


The film is a series of sequences that raise the prospects of danger involved with every move the characters make.  In the quiet moments, we see how the family prepares for the possibility of an attack, the lengths they go to to sound-proof their lives.  But, for all of the precautions they take, the screenplay throws monkey-wrentches into the narrative machinery that will have the audience wondering “if this or that happens, how will they survive?”


I have to admit, no set piece in A QUIET PLACE is without danger and, yet, I don’t think I was prepared, either mentally or physically, for the detail of Evelyn’s pregnancy.  The sheer hint that this woman is walking through this nightmare landscape with child (that will start screaming the moment of its birth) immediately puts the viewer on edge even when we find out that the birth won’t happen for some time.  Every turn she makes, every step down a flight of stairs, has the viewer holding on for dear life and Krasinski, with his ever roaming camera, and Charlotte Bruus Cristensen’s lightning fast editing, knows where to point our eyes in the life saving, delicate silence that may, or may not, house a demon.  Something as simple as an errant carpentry nail had me gasping for air as the camera passes it in a fleeting shot that, at the moment, might not seem ominous at all. But, that’s the genius of A QUIET PLACE. It’s a film that tells us to notice everything and take nothing for granted, that every sound we make is important for the characters survival and our movie-going sanity.  This film is a meticulously perfect foray into pressed upon desperation and ingenuity.


The performances are the icing on the cake.  Keeping largely silent throughout the film, the physicality of the performers becomes tantamount to telling the story.  Communication is given to us by expressive eyes and wild movement of the hands. A particular stand-out in the performing pool is 14 year old Millicent Simmonds.  This 14 year-old, deaf actress, playing the Abbott’s oldest daughter, a deaf-mute, almost single handedly conveys the familiarity the characters have with their dangerous and bizarre landscape.  She walks through the sets and locations of A QUIET PLACE with an authority that hints at a world that only she can truly survive in, and the emotions her lack of hearing robs her of. Her moments during the finale with Krasinski (perfect as the father desperately trying to teach his kids how to survive long after he’s gone) relay a kind of pent up release that says more without words, and much through tears and quivering lips, than reams of dialogue would have.  Simmonds is the performance heart and soul of A QUIET PLACE, and her presence is to remind us that perseverance and determination to live free, even under the most horrifying of situations, is a rite that no conqueror can take from us.


A QUIET PLACE unnerved me in the best possible ways.  It’s a superior film that brings its scares on us through the simplest of set ups.  It’s relentless, explosive, gut-wrenching horror that works because of the delicate humanity that lies at stake.  The Abbott’s are very real people that work and live and love together, to help each other and hope to keep safe, even when hope seems to be fleeting.


This one earns its body jolting scares and is a contemporary classic that is destined to frighten, and refrighten, generations of filmgoers to come.


One of the VERY BEST films of 2018.

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A QUIET PLACE

(USA 90 mins) DVD/Blu Ray


p. Michael Bay, Andrew Form, Brad Fuller  d. John Krasinski w. Bryan Woods, Scott Beck, John Krasinski  e. Christopher Tellefsen photo. Charlotte Bruus Christensen m. Marco Beltrami


Emily Blunt (Evelyn), John Krasinski (Lee), Millicent Simmonds (Regan), Noah Jupe (Marcus), Cade Woodward (Beau), Leon Russom (man on the road)

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