Saturday, March 7, 2009

Иваново детство (Ivan's Childhood) by Andrei Tarkovsky

In a debut that would rank among the greatest in the history of cinema, Andrei Tarkovsky (best known for the original version of Solaris) brings us a heart breaking story, Ivan's Childhood. The picture follows a small cast of Red Army soldiers, including an eleven year old kid named Ivan and a young woman soldier (yes, the Soviets had women fighting on the front in the Second World War) named Masha. Ivan's parents were killed by the Nazi invaders and he is hung up on revenge. He becomes a great spy for the USSR going on many dangerous missions to spy on the German foe.

While we're never told, specifically, what battle of the war this takes place at, there is a passing reference to the Volga which would lead one to believe that it is near the time and the place of the infamous Battle at Stalingrad. In any case, the battle period and name does not matter, in fact, one does not see an actual German soldier in the film but one time in shadows as two guards are passing. There are also two other times that you here German being spoken by a person of screen.

In these respects, Ivan's Childhood is unlike any war film that I've ever seen, and it is refreshing. It plays, in fact, a little closer to a suspense film than a war film, though it has the historicity of a war picture. Ivan's Childhood is a must see for any lover of history or of world cinema. It is a truly top notch film that has survived the passing of time--and the empire in which it was created.

Watchmen by Zach Snyder

Zach Snyder's Watchmen is a delicious addition to the newest level of visual eye-candy. Not since the days that Technicolor stopped making films have there been so many (starting with The Matrix in 1999) of films that have been quite so visually stunning as the films we've seen in the past few years.
Watchmen is only Zach Snyder's third feature film (Dawn of the Dead (2004) and 300 (2006)) precede this offering to the world of cinema. And, without a doubt, this is his best picture to date. In fact, it may even go without saying that this is one of the top 5 "comic book" movies ever made. The story, based on the (graphic) novel by Alan More, though he goes uncredited in the film. (The reason for putting the word "graphic" in parentheses is because Watchmen has, seemingly, stepped beyond the world of graphic novels and placed itself into the category of full scale literature, even being named one of the 100 best novels in the English language since 1923.)
So, it goes without saying that the story is strong, powerful, and incredibly relevant to today. The movie looks great, and yet, there is something that is missing, though I cannot place a name or finger on it. In all, however, it is a minor hangup in an excellent picture.