FANTOMfilm No. 43 (February 08)

These days, several interesting films are entering Czech film distribution. The Czech viewer has no chance but to attend films coming from abroad, primarilly because the quality of Czech films is very low. The 43rd issue of FANTOMfilm is mainly focused on new films by Tim Burton, Ang Lee, Sidney Lumet, James Gray, David Cronenberg, Joe Wright et al. Special attention has been given to the new Coen brothers' film No Country for Old Men. In an extensive analysis, Marek Nagy (first time published here) looks at the context that the new film of Coen brothers is entering into. Two more texts are to be presented in this issue of FANTOMfilm: the first one about Takeshi Kitano's films and the second one about the filming style of Quentin Tarantino in his Kill Bill. A short report from the 58th Berlinale is added as an extra bonus.

Road of Coen Brothers

The films of Joel and Ethan Coens are a highly interesting crossover between the Coen brothers' own original takes on several popular genres (thriller , western) and meanings characteristic of art cinema, wherein themes of fate, chance, evil and their respective existential dimensions are played out in film noir/(anarchic) comedy settings.

The subject matter is delivered and amplified by superior cinematic techniques, including point-of-view storytelling, sound and music score, editing and cinematography.

This essay focuses primarily on the joining principle of certain aspects of form and meaning in the Coen brothers films and point out their creative exploitaition of audience expectations linked to specific genres.

Marek Nagy

Kill Bill

Kill Bill by Quentin Tarantino is well known as a compliment to Martial Arts movies, Spaghetti Westerns and Japanese Samurai movies. The director combined various references to the above mentioned genres with popular music and a Manga-style animation. Robert Richardson (director of photography) was inspired by a number of camera techniques and procedures, quite symptomatic for some (very specific) genres -- zoom, unusual movements of camera etc. Tarantino decided to re-create visual qualities of these old movies, which are very grainy, scratchy and where colours are faded. The result is an unorthodox mix of visual styles and techniques that brings it back to its film models (exemplars).

Lukáš Masner

Flowers and Fire, Peace and Destruction

The Japanese film maker Takeshi Kitano has got the status of a unique and contradictory person within the international film industry framework and in this Kitano’s position lies a grain of irony. Abroad, he is mostly perceived as an icon of violence, as a creator of action films full of blood and outrage, or – in the better case – as an extraordinary cinematic auteur who takes prominent Western (Jean-Luc Godard) or Japanese (Yasujiro Ozu) directors as an influence and who rediscovered and improved the old yakuza genre with bringing it to the domain of so-called High Art. In Japan, his native country, Kitano was regarded as a rescuer of Japanese reputation in international field in the ’90s, but his films were quite poorly accepted at home; in view of ordinary Japanese audiences Kitano’s films were too violent, too nihilistic, too furious. In the eyes of the Japanese, Kitano is a TV star, actor  to newspapers and magazines, author of short stories and novels, and also a painter; many of his films remained rather unnoticed.

The films of Takeshi Kitano may look like something not easy to approach, though the plot itself in many films is very simple. However, Kitano brings new energy and distinctive auteur tag into films and he builds them under the law of contradictions and paradoxes. Even though violence is the most visible thing in his films, it is not the most important element of them: the fundamental expression is established by omnipresent contrast. The rough violence is tightly connected with stoic calm of a scene shot by static camera. In this atmosphere the unexpected eruption of violence is shocking and all the more harsh. Kitano puts together brutality  and loneliness of external world with warmth, calmness and certain muted heartiness of character’s internal world, of ambient nature, of the world of art. Kitano’s films are not only the plain tough-guy stories and many of them possess a specific originality rising from different sources: from the formal point of view, Kitano can remind us of traditional Japanese masters (Ozu) and their relationship to traditional Japanese art and philosophy (Zen), but he is also inspired by popular genres (yakuza genre) or by Japanese literature (manga) and in a sense he anticipated the „detached style“ of Japanese cinema of the 1990‘s.

Hana Stuchlíková