Friday, 28 May 2010

The Life of Leo

Ever since he appeared in Catch Me If You Can, and, with the- likable at times- thriller The Beach, something about Leonardo Di Caprio changed forever. A change for the better, might I clarify, as he began a journey into maturity and undertook a transformation to become an exceptional actor. Romeo and Juliet had its moments, but displayed a young, pretty and not-so-credible persona.

Regardless of the mega success of Titanic, such a role was off-putting (as a male viewer) as nothing in it challenged or affirmed any real credibility as an actor as he went through the motions. He was a boy. However, one must applaud whoever advised him to work on what have turned out to be a string of top quality films, which in turn secured his transition from adolescence to a talented, critically acclaimed professional. His talents are not to be doubted and it's therefore no coincidence how he's managed to affiliate himself with some of the best; including Danny Boyle, most recently Christopher Nolan and more frequently, Martin Scorsese.

In truth, Catch Me If You Can was solid and enjoyable. Tom Hanks complemented Leo's cheeky, as well as intelligently likeable performance perfectly. The film had directorial prowess with Spielberg at the reigns either, which helped things along nicely.

Yet it would seem from that point, as Di Caprio approached his thirties, his acting developed in a way that drew him to more serious and complex roles.
Shutter Island (pictured right), saw him, once again, play the role of a cop, but in a completely different context, which is set in the 50's. For most part of what was an atmospheric and intriguing thriller, Di Caprio played the role excellently, only scuppered by the unoriginal ending, but then, I guess it depends on what expectations you have going into it.

Notably, it has been his collaborations with Scorsese on no fewer than four features in the last eight years, that have brought him to the forefront of his profession, where he has successfully- as well as convincingly- portrayed a variety of roles. Referring to his impressive and dynamic performance as Howard Hughes in biopic tale, The Aviator (pictured left), to the undercover role of Billy Costigan in Oscar-winning, The Departed, affirms him as of my favourite actors. Another gritty and superb performance, he played the paranoia induced character well, complimented by a fantastic ensemble cast including Jack Nicholson and Martin Sheen, to name a few.

Which take us nicely to his latest release, Inception, which- by the looks of the trailer- appears to be a blend of Dark City and The Matrix, which frankly excites the pants off me.

At times it's easy to define Di Caprio as a talented, yet typecast actor. Criticism directed his way suggests he isn't all that diverse. Typical of an edgy, paranoia filled role, yet surely one could define De Niro as similarly typical in the roles he played and to great avail?

The way Leo's career is going, it wouldn't be inconceivable to suggest somewhere down the line he could have such iconic status as De Niro himself. Saying that, it'll take many more acclaimed roles and a few more collaborative efforts with Scorsese et al before such legendary status is awarded.

It's fair to say that Inception will be getting Leo yet more positive critical attention and due respect he rightfully deserves. Roll on July 16th!

Sources: The Internet Movie DataBase
Photos: Google

Thursday, 6 May 2010

The Hidden Gem: Brilliant films you've probably never heard of... The Belleville Rendez-Vous

The world is a cynical place. For example, were I to suggest the idea of spending 80 minutes watching a silent, French animation, you would probably find any excuse to avoid such a perceived punishment.
I'm certain a majority of retorts would include 'what, a cartoon for kids?', or 'oh no, I don't do subtitles'. If, you too, find yourself muttering the same narrow minded thoughts, then be prepared to miss out on something truly special.

Les triplettes de Belleville, or The Belleville Rendez-Vous as was per UK release title, is one of those obscure films that, whilst some may find odd, others will find utterly enchanting.
The story follows Champion who, trained by his little old grandmother Madame Souza (complete with clubbed foot), is obsessed with cycling and is preparing for the Tour de France. During the race Champion goes missing, suspicious he has been kidnapped, Madame Souza, along with their overweight and lazy dog Bruno, set off on a journey to rescue him.

To address said qualities of its silent nature, it does have small amounts of dialogue (albeit it in French) at various points, but the story is told in such a brilliant way that it has little need for dialogue at all.

The films strongest point has to be its stylistic approach, with the animation as its most appealing factor. Forget anything in the realm of Disney because these uniquely designed characters are like nothing you've ever seen and have such a sense of originality, makes it impossible not to fall in love with.
In fact, the characters are so aesthetically intriguing, the simple yet effective story plays a back seat, as you find yourself visually enthralled by director Sylvain Chomet's artistry.

The story has a sophisticated level of intelligence and humour, rendering it more adult than child orientated, which I always find refreshing in the genre. A simple and charming story coupled by wonderfully created, vibrant characters, give Les triplettes de Belleville acclaim for being not only a memorable, but brilliant film.
Admittedly, it's not going to appeal to everyone, and yes, it has a somewhat freaky look, but if you're searching for something different, then this could be for you.

Photos: Les triplettes de Belleville (2003), imdb images