Thursday, August 27, 2015

#Venezia72 Check No. 9 - The Americans

There are three directors that come from America or better said United States of America, two directed one film -the only animated film in competition- and one has a film that spontaneously look -very- mainstream as has huge movie stars.

Charlie Kaufman

Born on November 19, 1958 in New York City, New York, USA. He spent his sophomore, junior and senior years in West Hartford, Connecticut, after moving there from Massapequa, Long Island. In 1976 he received his school's Diane T. Weldon Scholarship for Achievement in Dramatic Arts upon graduation. After graduating headed off for Boston University but transferred to NYU to study film.

No doubt that he's known better as a writer than a comedic actor, lyricist, producer or even as a director; so there is no surprise when most of his early life was spent writing press articles and -unsuccessful- TV scripts. He moves to Los Angeles and after a few years with no steady job starts to write for "successful" TV shows like The Dana Carvey Show, Ned and Stacey and more. Then in 1999 everything changes for him when he writes the screenplay of Being John Malkovich (his first Academy Award nomination) soon followed by scripts for 2001 Human Nature, 2002 Adaptation (his second Academy Award nomination), 2002 Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, and 2004 Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the script that gave him the Oscar for Best Writing, Original Script -shared with Michel Gondry and Pierre Bismuth.

His directorial debut feature film was the 2008 amazing Synecdoche, New York that opened in competition for the Palme d'Or in Cannes. Then follows an obscure TV movie (or perhaps more a TV pilot) in 2014, How and Why, a comedy with an interesting cast of non-TV actors like John Hawke, Sally Hawkins, Michael Cera or Catherine Keener.

His second feature film is also his animation debut film, Anomalisa, the movie he directed with Duke Johnson. So let's check info about Duke Johnson before going into their film.

Duke Johnson

Born on March 20, 1979 in St. Louis, Missouri, USA. Not much info about the director and producer that in 2006 did his Graduated -from AFI- Student Film from Marrying God that collected some local honors. He seems to have work before in animation as has some nominations at the Annie Awards for directing an episode of TV series Community and TV series Mary Shelley's Frankenhole.

Anomalisa is Johnson's debut feature film.

From 2015 Toronto fest the following info about film.

"I have this very adverse reaction to Hollywood romances," Charlie Kaufman once told American broadcaster Charlie Rose. "They've been very damaging to me growing up." In Anomalisa, he and co-director Duke Johnson adapt 2005 Kaufman's play of the same name into a mesmerizing work of stop-motion animation. This story of two unlikely lovers is very much a romance — but one that's been forged in one of cinema's most distinctive minds.

If something I absolutely agree is that Kaufman is one of cinema's most distinctive minds as his Being John Malkovich script was truly mind blowing for me and his debut feature-film Synecdoche, New York was hypnotic and mesmerizing; believe that specially these two Kaufman works show how different his mind is from others in world cinema. So do I have expectations?  Yes, I do.

The second-most interesting thing I find regarding this movie (first is Charlie Kaufman) is the stop-motion animation technique, which believe can be "refreshing" in this world of so much advanced animation techniques.  So, my expectations regarding this movie are high for the story and for the animation technique.

Basic info about Anomalisa
Director: Charlie Kaufman and Duke Johnson
Writers: Charlie Kaufman
Language: English
Runtime: 90 mins
Production Countries: USA
Production Companies: Starburns Industries, Snoot Entertainment
Distribution: HanWay Films (International Sales), William Morris Endeavor Entertainment (US Sales Agent)

Cast: (voice) Jennifer Jason Leigh, David Thewlis, Tom Noonan

Plot Summary
Michael Stone (David Thewlis) is a successful motivational speaker with fans across the country, but inside him sits a knot of anxiety that renders much of his daily life meaningless. Everything and everyone just seems the same to him. (In a brilliant stroke, Kaufman and Johnson give almost all other characters the same look and sound, voiced by Tom Noonan.) But then Michael meets Lisa (Jennifer Jason Leigh) on a speaking-tour stop in Cincinnati. Lisa is an anomaly. Michael and Lisa begin with prickly, cautious conversations and then move towards love. But, unlike in a conventional Hollywood romance, that romantic arc is neither simple nor obvious. The love scene at the heart of Anomalisa should instantly rocket up the list of cinema's greatest. It's intimate, awkward, heartbreaking, and deeply erotic despite the fact that the lovers are made of felt.

Anomalisa from Duke Johnson on Vimeo.

Drake Doremus

Born on March 29, 1983 in Orange, California, USA. Studied directing at the American Film Institute (AFI) and is the youngest fellow ever accepted into the AFI Conservatory.

In 2006 he does his debut feature film Moonpie, a romcom that was followed by a couple of short films. Then two more comedies, 2009 Spooner and 2010 Douchebag that opened in competition at Sundance. But it is his 2011 Like Crazy the one that propels him to a different cinema plateau when film wins the Sundance Grand Jury Prize, a film that also has the merit of (effectively) introducing Felicity Jones to American audiences.

Then he does a TV Mini-series, The Beauty Inside and his 2013 Breathe In that opened in Sundance. We arrive to 2015 Equals that will open in competition at La Mostra. Have seen some of his films and found them more entertainment than anything else, so I'm very curious to find the reason why one of his films made it to the competition in the oldest film festival in the world.

This is the kind of movie that I do not need a festival to know about it as just the cast will make me know and watch film. Besides my fascination with Kristen Stewart -that started long before the saga that make her famous, I'm paying attention to Nicolas Hoult career as his latest performances have been quite remarkable, like for example, in the Mad Max installment and in Dark Places. So, indeed, if film makes positive waves in Venice is alright and if it doesn't, it's the same -as yes, film is must-be-seen for me (lol) just for the cast.

I know, I know, Kristen Stewart could be considered for La Coppa Volpi Best Actress, especially after winning France's Cesar, but if/when she is going to win awards I really hope she does it with European productions. Sigh.

Basic info about Equals
Director: Drake Doremus
Writer: Nathan Parker
Language: English
Runtime: 101 mins
Production Countries: USA
Production Companies: Route One Films, Scott Free Productions
Distribution: Icon Film Distribution (UK), Mister Smith Entertainment (International Sales)

Cast: Kristen Stewart, Nicholas Hoult, Guy Pearce, Jacki Weaver

Plot Summary
Equals takes place in a utopian society where violence and crime have been virtually eradicated — via the genetic elimination of human emotion. People like Nia (Kristen Stewart) and Silas (Nicholas Hoult) live calm, uneventful, drone-like lives. The two work alongside each other in a large office, creating informational publications and exchanging the occasional pleasantry. Life is simple, until a rumor starts to circulate: a disease has broken out, one that causes people to manifest emotions. If discovered by the powers that be, the infected are sent away, never to return.
Silas suspects he carries the disease, and when this is confirmed, he becomes an outcast. But he is drawn back to Nia, who is also infected but has managed to hide the symptoms far better than he. Upon discovering that they are similarly stricken, they need to decide whether to stay and hide or to run for freedom.
This future is, at first glance, a beautiful one: high windows, greenery, light-infused work spaces, food and shelter for all. But the viewer starts to feel unease at the spectacle of empty-eyed people moving through yet another day. Equals poses the question: could we scientifically suppress the strongest human emotion, or is love so strong that it can truly conquer all?

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