FilmJerk Favorites

A group of unique directors and the essential works that you've got to see.

||| David Lean |||
David Lean

Honored with the American Film Institute Life Achievement Award in 1990, Lean’s body of work (ranging from the intimate film to the grandiose epic) demonstrates an obsessive cultivation of craft and a fastidious concern with detail that has become the very definition of quality British cinema.

Adapted from Noel Coward’s one-act play, Lean takes a potentially boring story of middle-age flirtation and tenderly creates one of the most enduring and poignant romance films ever made. Brilliantly underplayed, two happily married strangers meet by chance in a railway station and fall desperately in love, but never physically express the undercurrent of passion that exists between them, even during their final gut wrenching separation – if your heart doesn’t ache, you’re just not human!

Demonstrating moments of intimacy through gigantic display, Lean sets up the greatness of Pip’s expectations with the magnitude of his frightful encounters; one with an escaped convict, whose emerge into the frame reminds us what it’s like to be a child in a world of oversized, menacing adults, and another with the meeting of mad Miss Havisham, in all her gothic splendor.

Peter O'Toole made an enigmatic and lasting impression in his debut role as British officer T.E. Lawrence, who helped Arab rebels fight the Turks in WWI, and Omar Sharif has perhaps the greatest cinematic intro of all time as he magically appears through the ghostly waves of the desert heat, achieving Lean’s compulsive drive to create the perfectly composed shot. Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn, Jose Ferrer, and Claude Rains round out this incredibly talented and magnetically charged cast.

Recommended by CarrieSpecht

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Brothers Grimm, The

By BrianOrndorf

August 26th, 2005

As much as I respect Terry Gilliam and downright love some of his movies, he isn’t the first name that pops into mind when the term “consistent tone” is used. “Brothers Grimm” is the latest Gilliam carnival ride, and, while carefully made, the film crumbles quickly, dissolving into a noisy, overblown fantasy/comedy experience not even the glorious Monica Bellucci can save.


Brothers Will (Matt Damon) and Jake (Heath Ledger) Grimm are two traveling 19th century con men, roaming the German countryside claiming wild abilities to defeat demons and witches of all sorts. When the French government (led by Jonathan Pryce), captures the brothers, they send to them a desolate village where the children are mysteriously disappearing at a rapid rate. In way over their heads, the siblings attempt fake their way around the situation, but when it is revealed an evil queen (Monica Bellucci, not in the film nearly enough) is at the heart of the problem, the brothers need more than their wits to survive.

Though he’s tried mightily over the years, “Brothers Grimm” marks Terry Gilliam’s first film in seven years to hit the big screen. The former Monty Python visual wizard has always believed that more is more, and “Grimm” plays right into his arms. A noisy, tonally berserk fantasy horror film, “Grimm” quickly reminds the viewer why is it’s so hard for Gilliam to find funding for his visions these days.

I don’t mean that as a slam on Gilliam – any man who could make something as poignant and delightful as “The Fisher King” is a friend of mine. “Grimm” just indulges the director in the most unfortunate ways. Built upon the themes of fairy tales and a fictional look at the birth of the Grimm writing career, the picture tries to style itself a comic fantasy, with heavy dark undertones of witchcraft and danger. Right from the outset, Gilliam is encouraging his actors to silly it up in an effort to stave off the rowdy nature of the visuals and the story, and in the hands of Damon and Ledger, the jokes wilt right away. While both are talented actors, they can’t breathe under the weight of Gilliam’s frantic camerawork and special effects. This leaves all the attention on the artifice of “Grimm.”

This being Gilliam, a man known for his meticulous production designs, “Grimm” is an eye-popping visual extravaganza encrusted in the director’s favorite substance: mud. From the sinking roads to the actors’ faces, everything is covered with mud. Mud even plays a character in the film, in a scene where a sludge monster rises from a well, steals a little girl’s face, and chases her around. Shot on mammoth soundstages, Gilliam does his best to liven up the space with period ornaments, a large assortment of bugs and creepy-crawlies, and distorted camera lenses. Yet the film feels claustrophobic, and with the lion’s share of the action taking place at the Queen’s foreboding tower, the epic scope that Gilliam is trying to achieve is constrained by the single locale. “Grimm” is another visual exercise for Gilliam, along the lines of “Time Bandits” or “Brazil,” but it lacks the exhilaration and ingenuity of the earlier pictures. It feels like the filmmaker is spinning his wheels with this misguided attempt at fantasy, fumbling to relight the fire that once propelled his vision so effortlessly.

If Gilliam can be counted on for optical lavishness, he can also be counted on for chaos. “Grimm” maintains the Gilliam streak of motion pictures that just don’t know when to quit. Because “Grimm” is such a high-maintenance production, Gilliam overcompensates in the action department, staging scene after scene of screaming terror and confusion. It adds up quickly, and grows tiresome immediately. Panic isn’t a sword Gilliam has ever wielded with ease, and he frequently infuses “Grimm” with a madcap, berserk spirit that the screenplay isn’t prepared to support. If “Grimm” were a marathon runner, it would be heaving at the side of the road within the first mile. I doubt any potential audience members have the kind of stamina Gilliam is looking for to enjoy this wild, wacky look at the birth of fairy tales.

My rating: C-