Posts tagged “Philip Seymour Hoffman

Remainder (2015)

I just caught Remainder (2015) purely on recommendation from Mark Kermode a film he compared with Synecdoche, New York (2006) another film that caught my imagination in terms of how realities are constructed, both within the film and the theoretical consequences of those constructions. When Tom (Tom Sturridge) suffers brain damage in an awful accident in London, his whole life becomes fragmented. Having to start over again really. Learn to walk, move, to be him again, which is something we never really see, more a version that is after the accident. After a massive payout from the accident he’s in a financial position to try to understand what happened to him. That’s before we see a guy who alienates his brother, his ex and those who just want to help him. Is this him before after the accident, an abrasive guy who just can no longer function normally in society. You would want to steer clear of this guy for a while at least, could it be the brain damage that has altered his personality? None of these questions are really answered.

Instead with a payout (around £8.5 million) he sets about reconstructing a fractured memory. With the money behind him he can start to realise what is going on in his tormented head. Turning to Naz (Arsher Ali) who is quickly hired as his PA, producer and general assistant who takes more than he really has to. A guy who is the conscience of the film – not that you’d really know as he is rather passive unless really needed, You could easily read a sexual relationship of dominator and dominated – Naz being mostly dominated throughout this odd yet rather fascinating film.

I would like to have known how the accident first occurred as we discover it acts as time-loop that would in theory allow the events to unfold infinitely which would allow for a more horrific and disturbing film than what we have. So what do we have when he’s back on his feet. A loner with financial freedom to try and reconstruct his memory, or one specific one, as the clip above begins to really move the plot forward which up until then does drag, as we like Tom are unsure of where things are going, just as much as we are. After the meeting which goes pretty well, we begin to see the perfectionist really breaking out, the control freak who through ear pieces and pure power, his memory starting to resurface. It’s rather odd to see an old lady being told at whim to move forward and then in reverse, to have the sound levels reduced, everything is at his whim. It’s not virtual reality – or is it. It’s a reality that he has constructed to allow him to explore what is or what.

I’m very much reminded of Synecdoche, New York when a theatre director Caden Cotard (Philip Seymour Hoffman) construct and direct a whole world. Yet there’s more creative freedom in this controlled environment. He allows his actors to bring their own interpretations of the roles. It’s a collaborative construction, not one that’s dictated. He has the remote control. There’s no delegation here. The similarities lie in the loss of time, it has no meaning here, only to allow us to re-enact what is going on in and now outside of his head. Both are driven for the truth and at great cost to the men. Before long we see him paying actors to play-out a more intimate moment in his flat, is his torturing himself or wanting to understand this moment in his life. He’s deadly serious and shows no or little thought for those who are part of his recreations.

The action moves from the block of flats to a reconstruction of a bank where a robbery took place, Tom’s fascinated to understand what went on there, how it played out. But why, and how is that connected to him. Only a guy he knew – Chris (Jumayn Hunter) whose killed and believed to be linked to the crime. It’s an avenue he must explore, an instinctive urge within him to explore. He doesn’t care what lengths he goes to, he’s almost suicidal in his acts. The robbery becomes the central focus of the film as Tom begins to pay for a full-scale replica of the bank, the street it’s on and the sky above. It’s like a film set without the cameras to capture the action, no audience to witness the crime, just actors who blindly replay the scene over and over again. A time-loop which can be controlled at his whim.

I was disturbed at the lengths he goes to, the control freak nature of the character makes him very unlikable, yet we carry on watching as we want to know what is this all about. A clinically controlled set that is carrying out the same test right up until the final test where reality is the new variable, shaking up the cards, going out to the real location, the actors have been lab-rats in one giant laboratory experiment, with no real purpose more than to explain the fragments of the mind of a guy that you come to really dislike. It’s the whole process and methodology that keeps you involved in the dark film that really gives you little to work with.

Patients who suffer with amnesia would relish being to have the freedom to re-enact scenes from their fragmented or lost memories in hoping to fill in the lost parts of their long-term memory. I was drawn to the low-key initial creations, the drawings and cardboard models that allowed Tom to start to piece together his past, which turns out to be a vicious circle he is doomed to repeat, there’s no room for change here, not like in Groundhog Day (1993) which allowed weatherman Phil (Bill Murray) to relive and learn from the day and improve himself in order to finally escape this loop which first was too much to handle. Tom is nothing like Phil, who was just as unlikable to begin but finds redemption in his ability to learn and grow. This is pure sci-fi that shows sometimes are destiny can sometimes never be altered. Flawed yet deeply fascinating, with questions that are left unanswered after seeing a guy we hardly know become someone you care little about yet your hanging onto know whats going to happen


No Blinking (2015)

Speeding up the delivery of dialogue from a scene from The Master (2012) dir.Paul Thomas Anderson looking again at the relation between Dodd’s (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Quill (Joaquin Phoenix)  made in response to the previous test video by removing the silence to have only the dialogue remain.

A Most Wanted Man (2014)

A Most Wanted Man (2014)If there was ever a reason to watch a film or write a review, one of them should be the late great Philip Seymour Hoffmanin his last real dramatic performance. I’m not counting The Hunger Games series as he’s not a lead. In A Most Wanted Man (2014) he assumes the role of German intelligence agent Günther Bachmann the leader of a team of agents that have been held accountable for failing to stop 9/11. So already there is a lot of heavy back-story in place. I thought originally the film was based in the immediate wake of the devastating attack 14 years ago. You’d think in the time that had passed water would have gone under the bridge and the intelligence community could once more trust this German unit who have a friendly Muslim in their sights.

You’d think if they had enough evidence they would be allowed to investigate Abdullah (Homayoun Ershadiand his links to a shipping company. A man who we see little of at the beginning, we catch up with him much later in the film. Instead focusing on a much younger Chechen Muslim who has appeared from Russia seeking asylum. Very early on you can scene there is a feeling of mistrust amongst all concerned agencies who aware of what’s going in Hamburg. Will Bachmann be given the time and space to carry out his investigation. It’s not just the fellow German agencies on his back, the American’s in the form of Martha Sullivan (Robin Wright) who wants to support him, yet needs him to open up for the relationship to work. 

All the focus is on the weighed down shoulders of Bachmann who Hoffman is completely, it’s not just his accent but his whole being, except for the very end which can forgive, that little extra touch as the mask falls off for a moment. Trying to get persuade everyone to carry out his plan. To go along with his operation which relies on civilians to carry out task for them.

With the friendly Muslim set-up we leave him to his own devices as we focus our attention on Jamal (Mehdi Dehbi) comes on the scene, making contact with lawyer Annabel Richter (Rachel McAdams) who represents him at a bank where his father has a large amount of money deposited. Making contact with banker Tommy Brue (Willem Dafoe) who is the real key the eventual mission being a success or not. From the trailer it’s a very different and thankfully mis-leading piece of advertising that paints him as a traitor to Bachmann.

Coming from the same writer that gave us Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (2011) which I barely remember, it did have a heavy atmosphere of the cold war, a world where you could trust anyone, even those who you are supposed to rely on for solid and concrete information. This is not the same film in Germany, we have moved on from that world to one where we can’t trust the innocent on the street. A whole religion carries the stigma of a few who carry out terrorist acts, the sense of suspicion has spread further than the underworld of spies.

A meeting of the two world collides here in a country that itself has seen it’s own share of upheaval, brought down to its knees before Fascism which let it be destroyed before it was later decided. Now agencies come together for the war on terror, yet there is still in-fighting amongst the good-guys. As the plan is allowed to come together, trust has been hard won from lawyers and bankers we believe it’s in the bag before the truth comes out to kick Bachmann in the backside once more, one mistake that cannot be forgotten.

For Hoffman’s last leading role in a film you can’t ask for a better one, not that he knew it was his last, you could see he was in his stride of giving his best, from the smaller parts in the nineties to the larger than life characters. Supported by actors who actually deliver decent accents, which is beside the point, theres no messing around from this bunch in this thriller. I think there could have been some lighter moments to ease the tension, its hard to say where they might come. More time could have been spent exploring Jamal who was basically repeating himself, adding very little to the character so you can’t really sympathise with him. All this fades away when you have Philip Seymour Hoffman centre screen.

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Hard Eight (1996)

Hard Eight (1996)It really is purely coincidence that I have caught a few Paul Thomas Anderson films recently. which are also considered part of a loose trilogy, which has only just been made aware to me. Of course this is an opinion I both respect and intrigued by. A trilogy I have watched in reverse, Magnolia (1999) first before watching Boogie Nights (1997) before watching Hard Eight (1996) the focus of this review. It would be hard to ignore that fact that the writer-director’s new film Inherent Vice (2014) and the other two films I have recently taken in, some comparison will come into this.

Being Thomas Anderson first feature film I can obviously see the foundation in his cast of actors which he uses for the first three films at least. And the beginning of a wonderful working relationship between the late Philip Seymour Hoffman who has only one scene with “old timer” Sydney (Philip Baker Hall) who is a hard character to fully understand at the start, taking under his wing a down and out guy John (John C. Reilly) sitting outside of cafe. A mysterious smartly dressed figures just on the edge of frame walks in and offers John money, a cigarette and a coffee. All this but why, why does he take this down on his luck guy, teach him how to play at casinos, to learn the systems without being caught, all this in the opening scenes. Lead by an actor who was practically an unknown before Anderson found him, raising him from TV to the big screen. An actor who would otherwise be a character or supporting actor is giving the job of leading this dialogue heavy film.

The pace of this film is bewildering, nothing is spared, spoken with confidence, if we want to know what is going on, we best pay attention to this lightning speed film. Having the pace that can only be replicated by Jackie Brown (1997) a year later. Jumping forward 2 years we find a few more characters, new location, a relationship has formed between Sydney and John, almost like partners working the casino network, except it’s not really that at all, blind us to what is really happening. Has John been taken in by Sydney? What we find is a gentlemen who is as wise as his years, wanting and demanding respect, a skill has learnt from somewhere in his past.

We meet a waitress Clementine an un-confident woman who wants to make something of herself, berating herself to male guest in order to get the tips she needs to save up. Similar characters are found in the form of both Julianne Moore who maturity to the vulnerable female role in the subsequent films. Her lack of confidence see her make both the best and worst decisions in her life as we see more of her. Whilst C. Reilly’s characters are pretty much the same, men wanting a better life for themselves, roles he’s not really had since meeting Will Ferrell. 

What I have seen develop is the unique cinematography that sweeps across the scenes to reveal the complex people that we meet in these complex spaces. Seeing the wide open and usually empty worlds where they all find themselves, its all about the bigger picture in the small worlds that we are absorbed into. Along with the haunting soundtracks that build up the tension, the signature moments that are perfectly timed to indicate that a dramatic life changing moment is about to occur, something small that will alter the course of the film.

I personally find that two bookends of the “trilogy” more compelling, building up characters however many we find. Hard Eight is obviously more intimate as we have so few. Where as Magnolia is on another scale completely, a multifaceted beast that looks at the lives of seemingly unconnected lives over the course of a day that builds up into a crescendo of emotion as we move from one to another. Boogie Nights was more comedic to me as it explored pornography during the 1970’s, focusing on the actor Dirk Diggler (Mark Wahlberg). There are the complex characters, the industry that has it’s inevitable highs, before the smutty downfall.

Hard Eight is a little film that packs quite a punch, my review only scrapes the surface of what these three films are all about. The beginning of so much more, a cast that would be built up as the fins grew more ambitious. A more intimate film that explore the fragility of the character as they use each other in different ways. I only wish I could have seen these films in order, I have however seen the an early appearance of Philip Seymour Hoffman showing glimmers of something special, taking on any character, big or small, making them memorable, getting his moment in The Master (2012) who owns the screen.

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Capote (2005)

Capote (2005)With the sad passing of the actor Philip Seymour Hoffman I had to find the time to watch his only Oscar-winning performance as Truman Capote in the dark Capote (2005) a film that I was previously wasn’t concerned about, thinking I would have far longer to get around to this film. Unaware of the actors battle with drugs that abruptly took him away. Leaving behind him a career of incredible performances in both Hollywood and art-house films, knowing at the time he was still very much hard at work.

Nonetheless I felt compelled to now view Capote with a renewed sense of respect for the actor who I already respected. His performance is completely transformative, going down the dramatic route of loosing weight, much like the Matthew McConaughey in Dallas Buyers Club (2013). Hoffman’s attention to the role goes into overdrive, taking on a high-pitched voice which at first unnerves the audience, not used to the writer of Breakfast at Tiffany’s and In Cold Blood which was the focus of the film.

When a family shooting in Kansas in 1959 catches the attention of Truman Capote he is compelled to use this news story as the basis for his next book. Like most artists, starting with the inspiration, not sure of the final form until it starts to take hold and forming, as he and friend fellow author Harper Lee (Catherine Keener) go on a research trip, at first in the guise of a magazine. There is an unusual fascination with the events for Capote as he meets the investigating detective Alvin Dewey (Chris Cooper) who wants very much to solve the case in a town that is not used to such tragic events.

The fascination for the case becomes almost a fetish for Capote as he seeks out all the evidence, to visit the girl who discovered the bodies of the family to the men who are finally brought in. Wanting to share their story with the world. Which for most would be just another newspaper story to sell the paper. Here we have another aim entirely to show to the country what can happen when things go wrong for people, their actions and the consequences.

Forming a careful bond with the convicted men who now await their final sentence, the book that Capote aims to write will remain incomplete until he has the truth of what happened, which lies with Perry Smith (Clifton Collins Jr.). The relationship is based on power and desires, all one way, leading to years of internal struggle and turmoil for Capote as he writes what is to become his last novel. Even with friends around him he finds it hard to really open to them.

Hoffman is mesmerizing as a man who is far smaller than him, taking on the life of a legend of modern literature, instead of the Audrey Hepburn classic for which he is more fondly remembered. We find the man, openly homosexual in a time that is still not ready to accept his lifestyle, being incredibly bald in his direction to seek out the truth, a truth that may cost him his sanity and happiness. Visually the film is very muted in tone with the dark subject matter. In a writers world, as one seeks out his newest project and another on the sidelines is being pushed into the limelight for To Kill a Mockingbird which later saw Harper Lee spending the rest of her life in seclusion. The writers life is full of struggles to get a book in the form they want, which can cost more than you first hope. The line between journalistic professionalism and distance is blurred in the endeavour for a story, from which you may never return.

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