Goodbye to Language
Jean-Luc Godard's latest free-form essay film may be, more than anything else, a documentary of a restless mind.
Wael Khairy is an Egyptian journalist born in London. After five years in the UK, his family moved back to their home country, Egypt, where Khairy has been living in Cairo ever since. His passion for cinema started at a very young age when his father gave him an old video cassette of "Jaws" as a birthday gift, the viewing of which triggered a movie-watching frenzy. Eager to know more about the art form of the twenty-first century, he devoted most of his time to reading and learning about motion pictures. At the American University in Cairo, he studied Communication Media Arts, Film, and Business.
He writes on a regular basis, and, while he works as a film critic for Egypt’s only English-language film magazine C, he prefers to write about the history of motion pictures, film theory, and film analysis. To satisfy this preference, he created his own blog, The Cinephile Fix, where his film essays and reviews are available for movie buffs around the world to read. His goal of having most of his work published and publically recognized, he has achieved! He has always felt that film was a medium often misunderstood as simply a form of entertainment (much like video games) and, while it is that, some films exceed that notion, becoming masterpieces of art, regardless of the medium.
Ramin Bahrani made his fourth Ebertfest appearance with a touching screening of his masterful "Goodbye Solo" and a Q&A moderated by David Bordwell.
I walked into "Life of Pi" with extremely high expectations. After all, Ang Lee is a masterful director who helmed two of the greatest modern love stories in film. The trailers assured me that it was a must-see for the visuals alone, and then a friend said that it would transform me to another world through groundbreaking use of cinematography to manipulate the membrane of water. I walked in expecting the greatest use of 3D in film history; I walked out with much more.
Every couple of years I stumble upon a film that transcends its traditional entertainment purposes and goes for something more divine, ambitious and philosophical. When a film like this comes along, it reassures me that film is indeed the greatest art form of our time. Movies that had that awe-inspiring effect on me include: "Last Year At Marienbad", "The Exterminating Angel", "Persona", "2001: A Space Odyssey", "Dark City", "Enter the Void", "The Thin Red Line", "Eyes Wide Shut" and "Synecdoche, New York". I like to call them life-changers.
On his last day on the job, John Ottway sits in a bar full of workers. Most are involved in a violent brawl, but he sits alone isolated and unbothered by his surroundings. His sad eyes seem lost in thoughts of hopelessness. As he walks out in the cold mist to a remote spot, we learn of a suicide letter he's written to the wife who left him. Ottway holds the barrel of a rifle in his mouth and closes his eyes, ready to pull the trigger. The unlikeliest of signs makes him remove the rifle, the howl of a wolf in the dark.
Joe Carnahan's "The Grey" tells the ironic story of a suicidal man who ends up fighting for his life after a plane crashes into the wolf-infested wilderness of Alaska. I don't know about you, but the first half of that sentence interests me more than the second half.
"Maverick" starts with the protagonist in the middle of nowhere. He helplessly sits on a horse; his neck is at the end of a noose tied to a tree branch. The men who put him in this vulnerable situation surround him. They drop a bag containing a snake and ride away. If the horse bolts, Bret Maverick dies. It is one of the most attention-grabbing opening scenes in film.
The first two "Terminator" movies were to me what "Star Wars" was to previous generations. Every kid wanted to be Eddie Furlong. The prospect of having a badass mother who didn't freak out when you grabbed a gun was overwhelming. On top of that young John Connor had his very own Terminator to command!! When I first watched those movies it was the violence of the first film, the special effects of the second and the time travel paradox of both that kept me up most nights in awe. I must've watched them a hundred times and I still give them credit for kicking off my interest to science fiction and the many mind boggling philosophical ideas that come hand in hand with the genre.
The Driver is the best at what he does. "You put this kid behind the wheel, there's nothing he can't do." He doesn't rely on luck and spontaneous driving; he knows what he's doing. He studies his environment, analyzes human behavior and acts accordingly.
As he drives you can tell that every move was planned ahead of time, every turn calculated with absolute precision. His plan is unpredictable; that's why watching it unfold in real time is so damn electrifying. He comes out of nowhere surprising his foes and disappears in plain sight just as easily. The driver is always in total control of the situation.
All this is projected in one of the most intense opening scenes in recent memory. The driver is a stuntman who moonlights as a getaway driver. "Drive" begins at night minutes before a getaway. Most chase scenes lack this kind of intensity, for the driver doesn't rely on sheer speed to grab our attention.
Elia Kazan's "On the Waterfront" has been discussed endlessly by film fans, critics and film historians. It's easy to see why, for "On the Waterfront" can be studied from various perspectives. On the one hand the film reflects a time in history when some Americans named names before the House of Un-American Activities Committee much like Terry Malloy does in court. It has also been argued to be Kazan's answer to Arthur Miller's play "The Crucible" or his redemption and justification for falling victim of Joseph McCarthy's witch-hunt of the 1950's.
When a great influential film comes out, we usually get a backlash of cheap knock-offs. After James Cameron's "Titanic" we suffered through Michael Bay's "Pearl Harbor." When "Pulp Fiction" came out people praised its genius but its influence drove the genre to a creative blockage. Everybody wanted to be the next Tarantino. Directors probably asked themselves "What would Tarantino do?" before violating their own originality. Like most imitations, of Rolex watches or anything else, they look the same but don't work the same.
During the revolution Egyptians referenced "V for Vendetta" more frequently than any other work of art. Protestors held up signs that read "Remember, remember the 25 of January." On the internet, Photoshop was used to alter Pharaoh Tout Ankh Amoun's face into a Fawkes smile.
Sarah Abdel Rahman, an activist who ended up on TIME magazine's cover page during the revolution referred to scenes from the film when I discussed the revolution with her. Guy Fawkes' bumper stickers are stuck on the back windows of dozens of cars driving through Cairo traffic; his mask painted red, white and black resembling the Egyptian flag. The list goes on and on, there's no doubt about it, in 2011 "V for Vendetta" stirred up as much conversations in Egypt as when it first spread controversy the day it was released here.