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.

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Bandidas

By BrianOrndorf

September 22nd, 2006

Luc Besson turns his attention to the western genre with “Bandidas.” Chillingly featherweight, but still oodles of corset-and-six-gun fun, the peppery charms of stars Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek routinely save the picture when Besson and his production team run out of things for the actresses to do.

Bandidas

When a ruthless enforcer (Dwight Yoakam) sweeps across Mexico deviously swindling small towns out of their banks to control a railroad line, he leaves behind a bloody trail of bodies in his wake. Two of the dead are the fathers of Sara (Salma Hayek) and Maria (Penelope Cruz), two polar opposite Mexican women who decide to team up and rob the banks before the bad guys can get to them. With the reluctant help of an American “criminal science” officer (Steve Zahn), the bandidas ride across Mexico, attempting to liberate the country from the clutches of evil.

After spending an extended amount of time tackling the action genre with superb results (“District B13,” “Unleashed”), producer and co-writer Luc Besson is looking for a change of scenery. Taking his to-the-point filmmaking formula to the western stage, “Bandidas” is a strangely entertaining action comedy that accomplishes a lot more Mexican fun and adventure than the last Zorro sequel could muster. It’s incredibly inconsequential, buttery entertainment, but it’ll surely put a smile on your face if you can find a way to appreciate its rambunctious spirit.

Debuting directors Joachim Roenning and Espen Sandberg waste little time getting to the heart of this venture, using a measly 20 minutes of screentime to set up both Maria and Sara’s impetus for revenge. From there, the film tears off in dusty, corset-pinched fury, putting the two actresses through minor stunts, speedy comic banter (well, as speedy as the actresses can get with their accents), and some cat fighting for fans of physical comedy and general perverts.

Clearly, this is a huge departure in tone for Hayek and Cruz. Given the chance to play with jokes and guns, the actresses take great delight in the project, willing and able to go wherever Besson can dream. Cruz especially seems to be having a ball, freed from her traditional heavy dramatic roles and set loose in a Wild West setting. Friends behind the camera as well, Hayek and Cruz share tremendous chemistry, and their goofy, competitive interplay keeps the film rolling when the filmmakers have trouble deciding what exactly to do with these bank robbers, or how best to exploit the actresses’ roman candle sexual appeal – settling on a single iffy scene where the duo assume the guise of saloon prostitutes to convince Zahn of evildoing.

A slightly wacky western comedy, “Bandidas” doesn’t exactly hold much dramatic weight. In keeping things so frothy, the film sometimes, even at 85 minutes, runs out of inspiration. The climax involving gold bars, a train, and a bullet-time skirmish comes across as a contrived, ordinary way to close the film, replacing the magnetism of Hayek and Cruz with overthought action to exit on a grand note. If anything had been clearly demonstrated by this point, it’s that Hayek and Cruz should be the focal point no matter what action beats the story demands.

My rating: B