Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Taxi Driver

One of the great pleasures in attending any film festival is the chance to see older movies that haven't been seen on a cinema screen in a long while. So, when perusing the festival booklet beforehand, I was flicking through the pages and stopped when I saw that this much celebrated American classic was going to be playing at the festival. Excellent news for a film fan like me!

It has had a major spruce up (Remastered at 4K) for the digital age, for its introduction onto possibly the last physical format, Blu-ray disc. Thankfully, the cinema gods insisted upon brand spanking new 35mm prints as well, and goddamn, the film has never looked better! New York just jumps off the screen and assaults you in every way possible, so gritterly realistic is Martin Scorsese's & Screenwriter Paul Schrader's vision of a cesspit of human waste & misery. At least, as depicted by the main protagonist, Travis Bickle.

Speak of Bickle, and rather obviously, its the actor Robert De Niro who brings him to life, in a way that possibly Scorsese & Schrader couldn't have even envisaged. De Niro, famous for his intense preparation for movies, duly threw himself into this role, driving real New York taxi's to get a better sense of what taxi drivers see in their line of work. This work ethic manifests itself with a star making performance that made many take notice of the intensity that De Niro would bring to most roles in his early career. As to why he has now seemingly gone 'missing in action' these days? Only De Niro can answer that question properly!

While revisiting this classic, it was also refreshing to watching early career defining roles for a young Jodie Foster, a radiant Cybill Shepherd, and a disturbingly long haired pimp played by Harvey Keitel. I say disturbing, only because he just doesn't look right with long hair! Seen too many movies from the 80's onwards where Harv only had shortish hair. Of course, this POV is in retrospect, so it probably wasn't as jarring back in 1976 for cinema goers as it is for us fans these days.

Everything else about the movie is damn near perfect. The skillful direction, the masterful acting, the eclectic edgy Bernard Herrmann soundtrack, the superbly written screenplay, the nervy cinematography, all combine to create a movie that is justifiably, an American classic.

Buy it, or watch it at the least. A movie you must see - before you die!

Monday, August 22, 2011

New Zealand International Film Festival 2011: Day 1, Movie 1

How Much Does Your Building Weigh, Mr Foster?

First cab off the rank for me was this entertaining & informative doco on one of the worlds leading architects, the peerless Sir Norman Foster. With projects such as the Millau Bridge in France, the 'Gherkin' in London to name just two, he truly has stamped his personality on these iconic testaments to mans ability to create something that is not just on the landscape, but seemingly, an integral part of it. Great and influential architecture is more than just good design, it doesn't happen without vision from the person most responsible, the architect.

Although this film runs in at a brisk 78 minutes, it covers enough ground to give one a great sense of the background, events & circumstances that put Foster in a position to create unique & highly functional buildings for his clients, buildings that went beyond what they needed. Foster has produced over his long working career, seminal pieces of architecture that are testament to his ability to see past the mere nuts and bolts as it were, he could more than effectively visualize how any given building would function with the upmost efficiency for those people who had the great fortune to work in a Norman Foster building.

My only slight criticism is that the movie could have been longer! More time to wallow in the talent on display would have been great. More 'money shots', in slow-motion could have elevated this movie higher in my rankings. But, since great doco's on architects are reasonably thin on the ground, I'll have to grateful that at the very least, in this age of communication, we are making strident efforts to celebrate those people whose creativity makes this world of ours a much more enjoyable place to live in. That ain't such a bad thing, is it?

78 Minutes? That's not much of your time to put aside and enjoy the work of Sir Norman Foster...