Faith is a topic Martin Scorsese can't quite shake, courting controversy with complex films like The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) and Kindun (1997). And now he has adapted the Shusaku Endo novel into this profound exploration of religion. As seen through the eyes of a 17th century Jesuit priest in Japan, it's a dark, contemplative film that sometimes feels a bit too murky for its own good. But it also has bracing insight into our need to believe.
At the centre of the story is the disappearance of Father Ferreira (Liam Neeson) as Japan cracks down on foreign religions in 1640, brutally persecuting local converts. Back in Portugal, two of Ferreira's proteges, Rodrigues (Andrew Garfield) and Garrpe (Adam Driver), volunteer to go in search of him. But the journey is dangerous, requiring them to trust exiled Japanese drunk Kichijiro (Yosuke Kubozuka) to sneak them into a rural village near Nagasaki. There they find an underground group of devout Catholics who are hiding from the cruel Inquisitor Inoue (Issei Ogata). After they split up to search for Ferreira, Rodrigues is captured by Inoue and interrogated by his interpreter (Tadanobu Asano), who is determined to show him that Christianity can never take root in Japan.
The film has an eerie resonance in today's divisive global climate, where everyone seems determined to protect their own culture from any outside influence, especially a religion that seems to run counter to long-held traditions. But the film's deeper themes explore the idea that we all have a yearning to understand the world and our existence in a way that makes sense to us. So debating the relative benefits of Christianity and Buddhism is actually beside the point. When the movie lets these ideas simmer under the surface, it has real power, especially in Rodrigues' experiences, which are gruelling both physically and emotionally.
Continue reading: Silence Review
Lyme disease in the Long Island burb is the horror malady of the moment, as constructing new homes smack dab in the middle of the woods may be beautiful but it is also nightmarish. Radio announcers point out that Lyme disease causes psychiatric disturbances and severe mental disorders. Mothers weep at the thought of their kids contracting it and duct-tape the kiddies' clothing together to keep out the ticks. But if Lyme disease is the rampant contagion that all fear, it must have seeped into the residents' skulls and infected their brains. Because the only sensible parental character in Lymelife is Charlie, and he is obviously nuts.
Continue reading: Lymelife Review
Based on a true story, Casino is the tale of Sam Rothstein (Robert De Niro), the best of the old bookmakers, who is hand-picked by his mob bosses "Back Home" to go to Las Vegas to run the Tangiers Casino. Sam has to contend with managing the bosses' skim going out the back door, cheats at the tables, the law breathing down his neck, and strung-out hustler Ginger (Sharon Stone), whom Sam falls for, and, despite his better judgment, eventually marries. Add to the mix Nicky Santoro (Joe Pesci), who basically reprises his role from GoodFellas as a "problem solver" with a temper from hell, and it's pure chaos in the high-glamour world of 1973 Las Vegas.
Continue reading: Casino Review
The single Mom is Sammy (Laura Linney), an organized bank loan officer living in her small-town childhood home. The loner is her scraggly brother Terry (Mark Ruffalo), a troubled wanderer coming back to ask Sammy for cash. And while this seems pretty basic from the outset, Lonergan has some smart ideas up his sleeve.
Continue reading: You Can Count On Me Review
The film I'm talking about is Martin Scorscese's Kundun, the Dhali Lama film of 1997 that was nominated for four academy awards but walked away with none (sadly). With a cast that no one's heard of it still managed to pull off what is becomming impossible: make a great film about a religion that is, for the most part, misunderstood. Make you sympathize with the Tibetans, and hate the Red Chinese, and, at the same time, illustrate the drama of the Dhali Lama's early life.
Continue reading: Kundun Review
For 246 minutes and two stuffed-full DVDs, Scorsese takes the viewer who's willing on an epic journey through the movies of Italy, starting with the Neo-Realist movement that sprung from the aftermath of World War II. Snippets of Italian movies are shown, with Scorsese narrating about their historical importance and/or impact on him, personally. Sometimes he'll show various versions (old print vs. new print, American TV version vs. original version) in order to aid your understanding of the work.
Continue reading: My Voyage To Italy Review
A shocking disappointment, Bringing Out the Dead marks Scorsese's first film since Kundun, and his first contemporary movie since Casino. So neither of these took place in New York, but Scorsese is so in love with his hometown, it shows through in all his work. Dead actually begins with the title card, "This film takes place in New York City" (or something close to that), just so there's no confusion.
Continue reading: Bringing Out The Dead Review
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