Thursday, November 17, 2011

8 1/2

Anyone who has ever had experience as a Director, from short films to plays and beyond, can relate to protagonist Guido's plight.

Experiencing a not-often talked about issue, "Director's Block," famous director Guido Anselmi struggles to finish his new science fiction film. The story felt autobiographical, and I would not be surprised if Frederico Fellini was experiencing and voicing his own "Director's Block" at the time of this production.

My favorite parts of this film were Guido's dreams...which may in fact have been Fellini's own dreams or memories. His flashbacks are vivid, candid and extremely intriguing. While somewhat confusing, as most dreams are, you do get a sense of a man conflicted between sentiment, values, truth, memory and reality. The stories that Guido wants to tell mirror or relate to his childhood, but he is surrounded by an entourage of friends and colleagues who try to convince him that an audience would not care to or be able to follow such personal tales.

As a writer, I have long believed that the very best stories that one can tell are those that are truthful, personal, and real. I certainly empathized with Guido as he struggled between trying to tell an entertaining story, and live up to his fame, or to give others a glimpse into his very personal childhood experiences.

Another compliment to the film is the precise beauty of it. As a fan of mid-century, modern design, I absolutely loved the sleek lines of each set, and perfectly coordinating contrasting colors. Each shot was also meticulous, and made this film feel more like a piece of art that must be preserved than a mere rental from Netflix.

I love to tell human stories, and to me, 8 1/2 is just autobiographical, real, human story. Though there isn't a tremendous battle, a car chase, or a huge climax, this film proves that sometimes our inner battles are extremely interesting,  worth sharing, and can take the audience on an amazing journey of their own.

Y Tu Mama Tambien

Boys!!! Why do teenage boys think with their bodies rather than with their heads or hearts? And why do so many grow up to become men who think with their bodies rather than with their heads or hearts?

Rich kids Julio and Tenoch are no different than some of the young men that I went to school with, and their plight at times frustrated me, but at other times helped me to better understand the male psyche.

Anyone can tell a tale of adolescence, of the excitement of being on the threshold of adulthood. Sex, drugs, jealousy, confusion, pain, and pure joy. Where the Cuaron brothers excel is weaving in the contrasts between the safe lives of these two upper class boys with the stark poverty and cruel truths that lye just outside their protected worlds.

The character of Luisa, a beautiful, exotic woman, who surprisingly joins the two best friends on a journey to the beach, was unexpected and exciting. Imagining that she would grow bored of their antics, she instead seemed rather to enjoy their youthful exuhberance. As expected, she causes a rift between Julio and Tenoch, a much needed interruption that brings about frank honestly and the emergence of the harsh realities of adulthood.

Adulthood can bring about unexpected change. Sometimes that change involves growing up and apart from people whom you once cared the most about. Having shared extremely intimate and powerful experiences, Julio and Tenoch return from their trip to the beach forever changed. Sadly, their friendship paid the ultimate sacrifice, and the two would never again know that close connection they once shared.

Alfonso Cuaron took on a daunting task here. Casting was critical, as the lead roles called for two young men who could not only portray carefree youth, but who could also tackle emotional and physical intimacies powerfully. I have long been a fan of Gael Garcia Bernal, playing the character of Julio, who can make me smile or cry in the blink of an eye, but I appreciated Diego Luna's portrayal of Tenoch even more. Putting forth a brash, confident facade, it was his moments of heartbreak, from realizing his girlfriend cheated on him, to watching Luisa take up Julio for an instant, that moved me. Cuaron did an amazing job of bringing out the childish antics as well as the pain of adulthood from these two great actors. While most of the dialogue was filled with teenage vulgarities, it was the narrative of the characters emotions that drew me in. Describing the pain of being hurt by your best friend as a "stabbing pain that sits just above your stomach," and relating it to the most painful, confusing experiences as children, was screenwriting brilliance, in my eyes.

The narrative of the landscape and the people throughout their journey to the beach was also extremely moving.  The Cuaron brothers brought to live a vivid Mexico, one with interesting people, places, and stories that should be told and shared.