How to open Pandora’s box? About 10 Cloverfield Lane

What is the lesser evil in the times of undeciphered apocalypse? 10 Cloverfield Lane invited both experienced filmmakers and debutants to its crew to answer this question, coming up with a tense, punchy,  terrifying, powerful response.

10-Cloverfield-Lane-Trailer-Family-Dinner

The distributors decided it’s high time for us to be scared in spring: in March, The Witch finally made its way to the silver screens, and The Boy made all the viewers play by its rules (or did it?). If you could see only one of them, however, the one set in a basement carefully isolated from the environment after an assumed apocalypse sits at the top of the ladder. PS. If you haven’t seen Cloverfield in 2008, don’t despair – it’s the idea (and J.J. Abrams, by the way) that connects them both!

On the way to escape her fiancé, Michelle’s car gets struck by a careless driver. After regaining her conscience, she wakes up in a room in a basement and has a feeling that she has been kidnapped. After a failed attempt to escape, she gets to know that the apocalypse has struck the Earth – the air is polluted after a nuclear attack which nobody survived. Her abductor introduces himself as her saviour – but at the back of her mind, Michelle ceases to believe what she is being told. As she tries to convince her new housemate that something is wrong, she begins the investigation – and the audience keeps on guessing with her.

The story will keep you in constant suspicion. Should we believe what we are told? Is there a back story behind the creepy, eccentric bunker owner? Surprise comes after surprise, twists to the story open Pandora’s chest(s) and burn bridges in seconds: nothing is what you think. The scriptwriters Josh Campbell and Matthew Stuecken and Damien Chazelle put together a compelling plot with bits of darkened humour woven between the scenes.

You can’t help that the cast, based strongly on three characters: the female heroine, the crazy dictator and slightly silly sidekick seem to be the foundation of many horror films. It’s all about their relationships, building trust and the chemistry between them that keeps you building solutions in your mind before you have them violently destroyed. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, John Goodman and John Gallager Jr who lie, cooperate, conspire and learn how to live together as the last people on Earth. Especially John Goodman as Howard, the know-it-all leader, makes for a really eccentric character who balances between “the father of the family” and psychotic despot. This freak certainly is guilty of something, we think – or is he going mad because of the circumstances? One of many questions to answer.

If you set out to watch a clever thriller that will make you wiggle in your seat in anticipation, 10 Cloverfield Lane is definitely the one to watch. The danger is in the air – but the hints are dropped one by one, creating a war zone a few feet underground, as opposed to the outside world, which is not a better option at all. Tough choices to make, intrigues and weirdly adjusted daily life composed a film that doesn’t overwhelm you with questions but keeps your brainwaves on an hyper-high level throughout.

10 Cloverfield Lane opened in the UK on the 9th of March. 

Oscars 2016 predictions. Totally personal bets by Psychedelly

Warning: if you’re placing your Academy Award bets by any chance, don’t use these as your guide. Most of them are my polite wishes and hopes, so don’t take it as if I actually was good at predicting the  Oscar winners in 2016. Plus, I’m still looking forward to seeing Spotlight and The Big Short when it’s released in the UK, so, well, it might change. And these stand against what everybody says, because, duh. But if you missed out on something, it might help you to catch up, if we connect on the spiritual level of the same film taste. Just saying.

Plus, the list below is more than unobjective. Just a personal preference of a person who’s seen outrageously high number of films this year. *coughs* A feuilleton. Just a film feuilleton.

Best Picture – Bridge of Spies

source: official FB page of Bridge of Spies
source: official FB page of Bridge of Spies

If you know me, you may think I’m too interested in spy stories and history (Cold War especially) to be objective: Bond, then Leo Demidov from Child 44, Mission: Impossible of course, Spy and The Man From U.N.C.L.E on the light side and… Wait, I love crazy journalist investigations too, so I’m looking forward to Spotlight release, after all, Room was devastating, and I was deeply moved by Brooklyn as an immigrant. The Revenant was decent, I think, with its celebration of pain. As much as these films would definitely make my list of the best films of the previous year, I didn’t get such a strong thrill watching any of those (if you don’t count weeping for half of Brooklyn, but more about this below) in comparison to the one that shook, stirred and pushed me back into the seat: Bridge of Spies. The story of a lawyer who gets the task to defend a USSR spy and grows to the role of an “independent diplomat” kept me watching, guessing and anticipating. Tom Hanks’s Donovan is cheeky, witty and makes the most unexpected choices. All hail Spielberg, I was enamored by this flick.

Leading Actor – Matt Damon, The Martian

source: official FB page
source: official FB page

 I know, the man who has been waiting for this prize seems to have no real competitors this year, plus he ate raw liver on the set of The Revenant (yummy, no?), so who will hold him back?! Well, give Leonardo DiCaprio a general prize for the 25 years in the industry, for I don’t think he cares about Oscars anymore; he doesn’t need to as everybody is convinced about his excellence anyway, and he probably booked himself a massage after the award after-party like his fellow Titanic colleague did before Golden Globes. I adored Michael Fassbender in Steve Jobs, where he presented the main character as an unstable visionary because it was inspirational; what’s more, portraying a real person accurately always takes great skills, a lot of imagination, and careful research. Redmayne’s got one, and to be honest, his role in The Danish Girl was outshone by somebody else. Matt Damon has one already, too, but he managed to grasp that funny and determined guy stuck on Mars, and even the lengthy picture didn’t feel tiring to watch with mostly one person on the screen. Performing a monologue and acting without interacting is challenging – Oscar for Damon, please!

Leading Actress – Saoirse Ronan, Brooklyn

source: FB
source: FB

Nominated leading ladies didn’t make the choice any easier: each one of them delivered a remarkable performance. Cate Blanchett has a leading actress Oscar for Blue Jasmine, and she excels in bringing eccentric ladies to life on the screen, but did she top her previous award-winning role? Seriously, I think that should be the rule. Then we’ve got Jennifer Lawrence, who played the inventor and entrepreneur Joy; but the rule above shall apply (as much as I adored her strength to inspire and praised her in my Joy review). Brie Larson gave me goosebumps when I went through the story of her character in Room, so she takes the second place in this category, but again, there was a good young competitor alongside her – Jacob Tremblay will get his own Academy Award one day. Let me tell you: that Irish girl crafted by Miss Ronan made me weep for about 70 percent of the projection time. I cried when she cried for being homesick, when she couldn’t utter a word in the shop she was working in, and when she gave a final motto to another girl setting off for America. If you can create a character that is so strongly relatable, you’re winning an Oscar and unlimited free cake. Dear Saoirse Ronan, I hope you get that award, girl.

Supporting Actor – Tom Hardy, The Revenant

source: official FB page o The Revenant
source: official FB page o The Revenant

As much as Sylvester Stallone is likely to get the award for his new Rocky spin-off, let me cast my own nomination. Tom Hardy seems to have a preference for these crooked violent guys this year, in Legend and London Road a few months ago, and with the exception of utterly human Max from Fury Road. He makes such a believable asshole that you just sit in the cinema and try to fight your inner anger towards the antagonist. Maaan, I never thought I’m gonna need anger management skills in the cinema…

Supporting Actress – Alicia Vikander, The Danish Girl

source: official FB page
source: official FB page

I loved Kate Winslet playing a Polish marketing executive (she was trying to do the accent, which was cute and amusing at the same time) who kept Steve Jobs together. Rooney Mara in Carol was delightful, and her ability to express innocence and naivety was superb. However, let’s talk about the girl who can transform and make a bigger impact than a lead character. Alicia Vikander started the year with excellent Ex Machina and the creation of a robot who learned how to manipulate human feelings. Then, in the summer, her British spy girl in The Man From U.N.C.L.E amused and enchanted, sporting ultimately awesome outfits too, but that’s a topic for another discussion. Finally, she topped it with The Danish Girl – and the lady who encourages the creation of her partner’s new incarnation as a joke to suffer profoundly later and support him through his transgender journey ultimately proved her talent. This girl’s acting skills are exquisite, so she deserves to be pulled out of the “underrated” category.

Cinematography – The Revenant

source: official FB page
source: official FB page

I haven’t seen such a gory film in ages – yet what really caught me and became my main point after leaving the cinema was that such an ugly topic was so beautifully shot. Nature is captured with attention to detail, and that allows for showing its importance in the storytelling. Also, the daylight through the tree branches, the afternoon on the snow – in one on the interviews, Innaritu revealed that they used just the natural light. And it’s a delight for the eye. Even such warm colours and vintage feeling from non-digitally shot Carol, my second runner-up, lost by a tiny bit.

Costume Design – The Danish Girl, or Carol (this is the point where I can’t decide)

Costume Design – The Danish Girl There are a few strong competitors here. Carol was absolutely stunning in terms of clothing choice, and it did have its importance in the story – well, if it wasn't for these gloves, nothing would have happened. Cinderella was sweet and enchanting with a baby blue dress and crystal heels, too, or the costumes for Blanchett again (these ladies work together effectively - Cate always looks like a style icon, it seems!) – and makes the second nomination after Carol for Sara Powell this year. Mad Max was creative, fiddling with imagination, inventing the surreal landscapes and creatures - these warriors in weird masks especially – but I need to ask for recognition for The Danish Girl. Period-accurate, and nota bene essential for the entire “personality” and “gender” storytelling, it recreated the Dutch bohemia and served as an expression device, too. If I could make two win, this film would be on the pedestal - with Carol, of course.
source: official FB page

There are a few strong competitors here. Cinderella was sweet and enchanting with a baby blue dress and crystal heels, too, or the costumes for Blanchett  – and makes the second nomination after Carol for Sara Powell this year. Carol was absolutely stunning in terms of clothing choice (Powell’s choices seem to  work for Cate – the actress always looks like a style icon, it seems), and it did have its importance in the story – well, if it wasn’t for these gloves, nothing would have happened. Mad Max was creative, fiddling with imagination, inventing the surreal landscapes and creatures – these warriors in weird masks especially – but I need to ask for recognition for The Danish Girl. Period-accurate, and nota bene essential for the entire “personality” and “gender” storytelling, it recreated the Dutch bohemia and served as an expression device, too. If I could make two movies win, and I can, because I’m not the American Academy and I can imagine I can reward literally anybody, that would be The Dutch Girl and Carol.

Documentary Feature – Amy

source: official FB page
source: official FB page

Okay, I will make the exception from the “I’m not sure or haven’t seen the most of the nominated films in the category” statement here. I saw just two of the nominated documentaries, so I can’t be fully helpful in terms of comparison, but I think Amy absolutely deserves an Oscar. The unknown facts and footage shown to the world for the first time unleashed the environment that had such an impact on the vulnerable artist, and the lack of right people in right places which contributed to the loss of a talent who semi-voluntarily dragged herself to the bottom.

Sound Editing: Mad Max: Fury Road

source: official FB page
source: official FB page

As much as I omitted any other sound and music-related category, I need to come back to this one. After watching Mad Max: Fury Road back in May I was awed with the storytelling medium, both visual (so the composition of acting, filming, effects) and completed with sounds and music. Without uttering much verbally, especially within the first minutes of the film, the story didn’t lose a bit of its richness. The beginning of the film carried little dialogue and much more of body language and exceptional sound design, so I hope to see an Oscar winner for those who worked on this remake. Star Wars comes just after, with its sound design, with all the robotic beeps (I have a strong admiration for BB-8, don’t judge) and ear-shattering explosions polished to bits, as always.

Writing: Adapted Screenplay: Brooklyn by Nick Hornby

source: official FB page
source: official FB page

I read (some) of those books. I watched the films. The Martian did pick up on the most important and cinematic moments, so it’s definitely award-worthy. Room is a shattering story, and drills in your mind just by suggesting the idea of the freaky Fritzl (although everybody related either to the book or the motion picture say that it’s a comparison that is far too strong). Nevertheless, I need to see that an accurate adaptation of such a positive emigration story, crafted with the cheerful vibe and uplifting motto, deserves an Oscar for a screenplay.

Writing: Original Screenplay: Ex-Machina by Alex Garland

source: official FB page
source: official FB page

I praised Inside Out for entwined storytelling on two levels earlier this year, but I really hope it gets the general award for Best Animated Feature Film. Bridge of Spies is my second runner-up: as I said before, the twists in the story, strong lead character and his reactions create something truly electrifying. But when I saw Ex-Machina among the nominations, I knew it had to be my Oscar bet. It was love from the first scene, that story: the experiment on developing artificial intelligence gone wrong, the thoughts on machines and feelings and future predictions. Yeah, it does make you think that the humanity is doomed and people do not think the consequences of their inventions  over thoroughly, but it makes for an engaging story which you follow with a handful of options for the finish, and what happens at the end will surprise you anyway.

The ordinary becomes extraordinary. About Joy

Mangano family is the most bizarre mixture of people: Joy keeps her perpetually arguing ex-husband and father in the basement, helps out her careless mother whose only entertainment are soap operas, takes care of two kids and gets the strong support of her grandmother. Always inventive, she looks for the way to make her life, overloaded with taking care of others, smoother – and she comes up with the invention that puts her on the junction between success and financial doom. The new film from David O. Russell, featuring his favourite squad of Lawrence, Cooper and De Niro, is intensely entertaining – though it operates with narration so extraordinary for a blockbuster at times.

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We know the story – because which one of us wasn’t once told that we’re meant to shake the universe? She was no different; when she was little, her grandma told her that she was meant to do special things. And that wasn’t just a random, cheerful remark to keep her beloved grandchild’s hopes for future up: her nan saw a little creative girl who needed to be pushed out of her comfort zone. Joy Magnano, the lady who started as a kid with paper cut-outs serving as tale-telling props and came up with the idea of the Magic Mop years after, turns out to be one of the hottest inspirations of Oscar season. Although a biopic about a lady who innovated the mop might not sound very compelling at the beginning, the cast, script and production slightly redefine the idea of a film inspired by a real person. With mixed points of view, a sweet “never give up” message and a strong inclination to empower with “I don’t need a prince”, or “I am a hard-working entity on my own” kind of moments – especially because the films is claimed to be inspired by the stories of daring women – it is worth watching even for a burst of motivation. Isn’t it that others have it worse?
As Neil (played by Bradley Cooper who appears in the film briefly) mentions, the ordinary becomes extraordinary, and it doesn’t take much on the shopping TV channel – but besides the glamorous stories that everybody admires, we get to know the real price of success: both financial and emotional.
It’s not just about the serious business and motivational catchwords – the film doesn’t lack hilarious scenes at all. Robert De Niro seems to be on top of his comedy momentum in 2015, with The Intern just a few weeks ago – and he builds a funny character in Joy, too. An indecisive conformist who doesn’t believe in her daughter shines in the scenes with his new partner Trudy (Isabella Rossellini) and Joy’s ex-husband Tony (Edgar Ramirez). Similarly, Virginia Madsen nails it as socially-awkward lady bound to the reality of a small screen in front of her. Such a character could accumulate pity from the empathetic audience who wildly cheer Joy’s likeable character on. What’s more, badly played, it would be a sad obstacle, an antagonist – instead, she created a character who is superbly amusing. Scenes from soap operas which she watches were recreated in the manner of Dynasty: the extravagant costumes and over-the-top hair portraying the fictionalised life of the upper crust are used as a side storytelling device for the main story and include some uproariously stiff moments that everyone has seen at least once or twice on the fly. And towards the end, you can’t help the feeling that Russel’s entire film had a goal of parodying that well-known, simple soap opera convention, too, with all these twists and turns.
Besides American soaps and Dragons-Den-in-the-garage moments that are there to entertain, Jennifer Lawrence wraps the entire film together with bewitching, inspiring, strong character just like her creation, Joy, loops the cotton for her one-in-a-kind mop. The protagonist is not afraid to show what she’s worth and fights for what she thinks she deserves, and the American Academy Award winner grasps the subtleties of her personality – firstly, the woman made of platinum but also the unstable, tired, vulnerable creator with artist-like mission of making the world better starting with what she knows best: the household.
Due to storytelling mediums, the mock-biopic gets a bit unreal at times. Narration is led by Joy’s grandma, who is very often silenced; Joy’s dreams of being a key character in a popular soap mix are entangled with real life events, and some scenes – especially those including a one-man, or one-woman for that matter, parade, lots of snow, the sun, and a pair of oversized shades – merge into a feeling of surreal trip. While it is difficult to follow at times, it’s also what makes a film about the self-wringing mop inventor something more than just a tale of a self-made woman working her way up.

Joy opened in the UK on the 1st of January.

Do you want fries with that? London on the Burger Day

Constituting sixty per-cent of the sandwiches sold around the world, burgers are usually the most common and (probably) the most addictive meal choice – and a growing trend, somehow. With the entire excitement about them becoming quite fashionable and as the city where the most expensive lobster-caviar-fine beef hamburger, worth £1100, was created last year in a restaurant in Fulham, London gets a fair chunk of its expertise. Let’s imagine what Londoners are going to be up to on the Burger Day.

source:sxc.hu
source:sxc.hu

From the simple combinations to really sophisticated ones, London probably has seen it all when it comes to flavour combinations. Nevertheless, some answers come up repetitively. For instance, conventional ketchup and burger sauce are not so bland for most of the burger fans.

“I like both simple and cheese burgers, I don’t like too much variation,” Tristan states. “And normally I’d just get chips on the side, if anything.”

“’I just like burgers. If I go McDonald’s, I get a chicken one… Actually, I do fancy a chicken one!” Chloe claims.

“In Gourmet Burger, there’s a chicken one, it’s got peanut sauce or whatever it is,” Theonie recommends, and her friend Chloe follows up, “I like their bacon ones, they’re so good!”

“With fries.”

“I like the onion rings as well.”

“Or coleslaw!” the girls agree upon their side dish set.

Everybody who is vegetarian or vegan knows the struggle of being limited in terms of choice when eating out with friends.

“I go to Gourmet Burger Kitchen and I get a Dippie Hippie Burger, that’s the only vegan burger available there,” says Desire. “And some water alongside, probably. Nothing else is vegan, so I usually have to get some other snacks from elsewhere.”

There have been some issues with vegan sauces, too. Anything worth noticing for those who avoid animal produce?

“Maybe some guacamole?” Desire recommends. “I don’t really know many vegan sauces! I’ve just recently become vegan, I started in February, so I’m still exploring new vegan stuff.”

And if they could think of anything you fancy on top of your burger, what would it be?

“You know what? Poached egg, I’d love that, or bacon!” Ashley says.

“I’d say, smoked bacon or some kind of weird cheese,” Tristan agrees.

“I normally eat burgers with burger sauce, but if I had a choice, I’d try it with curry sauce,” Mary confesses.

“Pineapple,” Theonie offers.

“Mushrooms,” adds her friend.

“And fried onions. I’m really into adding those to everything now,” Chloe laughs. “So good!”

And what are the weird combinations, according to Londoners?

“There was one that had sweets on it, I think it was Skittles and stuff, so I’d probably say it’s sweets,” Tristan tells me.

Saying that, is there anything that should never be on a burger? It turns out that the list might be quite extensive – and bacon has as many advocates as haters at this point.

“You should never put strawberries on a burger,” Desire says. “I’m okay with pineapple, cause that’s meant to be in the hippie burger, but never strawberries!”

If we’re hitting the fast-food place, we might avoid anything healthy as well. Many people don’t like vegetables in their burgers, too. Pickles seem to be particularly unappealing alongside burgers (author’s note: and I think it’s weird, considering all the admiration the McDonald’s hamburger pickle online trend got – but it’s different, I have some Polish problems).

“If there’s gonna be vegetables, just salad, lots of onions, that’s cool, but no tomatoes and no pickles!” Ashley says. And her daughter Sandra joins the team: “Pickles, gherkins, anything like that… No gherkins! Gherkins are awful!”

“Vegetables, like broccoli and that sort of stuff, should never be a topping,” Tristan adds.

And there comes the question – does such a thing as a healthy burger exist? With an average 450 calories per serving and lots of fat, it can be quite restraining for those who carefully pick what they eat.

“Yeah, kind of, cause I make burgers at home and they can be quite healthy,” Ashley states. “Just buy lean mince meat, and yeah, you can do it!”

But is it just about the ingredients?

“The bread itself is not really healthy, so…” Chloe says. “You can make them healthier, but not healthy.”

Mary disagrees with that, too.

“Not really, no, I’ve never seen a healthy burger,” she shakes her head. “I get bean burgers, but it depends mostly on how you cook it… Healthy burgers? No. Especially if it’s fast-food.”

“Just eat the burger,” Chloe advises. And Theonie adds, “Just because you need a bit of everything in your diet, there is a possibility of it being healthy from time to time.”

And where does a Londoner go for a burger? Those who like their hamburgers fast and typical (or are in a hurry) go for fast-food places like Burger King. For some gourmets, the answers vary from joints such as Byron, Honest Burgers and GBK, to independent burger restaurants.

“I go to Gourmet Burger Kitchen, or sometimes we get a burger in T.G.I Friday’s,” Ashley recommends.

“Bodean’s!” says Millie. “Mhm, or Five Guys,” interrupts her friend Tilly.

On the Burger Day, a lot of restaurants prepared voucher codes and discounts. Most of the companies offer 20% discount on all burgers today – but going local, you can find even more. The basic list of places can be found here, but popping in the small restaurant may be a great solution today. Some of them, like Craft Kitchen, prepared 2-for-1 deal today – if you choose to go there today, you can pay half price for your main.

And, honestly, because every day is a burger day… With Craft Kitchen in Clapham South, we prepared a chance to repeat the celebration a week after – and pick something from their well-crafted menu!

How to enter? Let us know what the burger named after you would include in the comments below, and share this post on Facebook / Twitter / Instagram with a hashtag #craftpsychedelly. The most creative person wins a burger main for two and a cocktail in Craft Kitchen!

Competition closes next Wednesday.

Calm waters destroy the river bank. About Mistress America

Tracy moved to New York and doesn’t find it easy to make it, whether in her social life or in her dream writing career path. But a meeting with a stranger who is to become her sister brings an instant creative influence, which develops the action and becomes the foundation for a final disaster. The second Noah Baumbach’s film that 2015 brought, “Mistress America” is a fantastically funny take on the generation of millennials, that escalates the events with pressure in the air and comedy timing on the side.

Lola Kirke and Greta Gerwig as Tracy and Brooke. Source: Mistress America official FB page.
Lola Kirke and Greta Gerwig as Tracy and Brooke. Source: Mistress America official FB page.

Tracy is the least popular girl among first-year college students. She says things that simply cannot be accepted by the cream of society, and she tries far too hard to write stories for which she seeks the acceptance of the literary club. She simply doesn’t feel that she fits in, until her mum arranges the meeting with the daughter of her new partner and Tracy’s sister-to-be. Brooke is her complete opposite; she takes on every opportunity to do – from designing, through looking for the restaurant investors to being a part-time spinning instructor. She lives in Times Square, tweets her heart out and climbs on stage to dance with some indie band that nobody knows. Tracy becomes so inspired by her uber-cool mate that after the first evening spent with her, she secretly writes a story based on the image of her new family member she gets. And if you could potentially think that this combination won’t go any further, this ying-yang becomes the friendship that changes the two of them. Soon, the situation gets rowdy when Brooke takes Tracy on a trip to Connecticut to ask for the money from her millionaire ex-friend, supported by Tracy’s friend and his jealous girlfriend.

The second film of 2015 from Noah Baumbach after “While We’re Young” which came out earlier this year, it touches the problems of two ends of the young generation spectrum. For the previous film, reliving youth became the main tie of the leading characters to the hipster couple; “Mistress America” sketches another side of the society, with liberated, independent young adults starting earning their own experiences and, due to the nature of the times they happened to live in, trying to do everything and nothing at all. The first film set huge expectations in terms of humour and plot, and new Baumbach’s work, co-written with the leading lady Greta Gerwig, doesn’t leave the audience with anything less. His skill of portraying the society, people-watching with class and storytelling with wit, serves for the fast and funny image that keeps the spectator waiting for every single upcoming second, holding a mirror to distort the perception for the target audience – and make them laugh at themselves.

Two main characters make their entrance with style and fight for audience’s attention. Both Greta Gerwig (as Brooke) and Lola Kirke (as Tracy) pull it off – the troubled harmony between them relies on the sisterly chemistry they manage to build up on the screen, and the lovingly witty dialogue that you could listen for in the popular cafes and bars where the twentysomethings hang out. Their relationship almost touches the role model – mentee scheme: Tracy is absolutely in love in everything that her stepsister does and supports her all the way, even seeing her obvious flaws, the lack of long-sighted perspective and almost neurotic excitement about everything. She is grateful to be taught, and becomes confident enough to start her own literary society and believe in herself enough to try to seduce (with mild effects) her college friend Paul (Matthew Shear). It works both ways, however; Brooke gets the support and grows in confidence with a dedicated fangirl by her side, believes in her creativity and decides to change little things about her own life.

The climax of the story, set in Connecticut, is perfectly absurd and catastrophic for Tracy. The sequence of the events, when the fate becomes confused and splits the number of successes, failures and compromises between both of the girls, is funny in a thrilling way. The unexpected characters (the intelligent pregnant lady, the weird neighbour) who witness the situation and join the final judgement are as stable as a flag in the wind: they believe what they see, and follow the person who managed to take the lead at the minute. The dominating character, triumphant and losing at the same second, is Brooke – and even if her “almost sister” took over the business pitch and helped a lot, due to the daring portrayal of herself in the short story she turns back to the person “she thought she knew”. It just confirms the feeling of the pastiche on modern society that lingers in the air from the very beginning – the rapid changes in the events around the mansion keep the stream of action impetuous. As some Polish saying goes (KASIA, GODDAMN!), “calm waters destroy the river bank” – and how the excitement is built, from silence before the storm as the characters are introduced thoroughly yet softly at the beginning while spending time with each other to the final scenes and loosening the tie at the end, can be compared to the lively waterfall that brings the huge transformations as the bizarre pressure turns into reality again.

With the alchemy of the relationship that Gerwig and Kirke create on the silver screen, the traits of the young generation caught with a careful eye of a witty observer and the action that keeps on being pushed forward with an unbelievable flow, “Mistress America” becomes a must-watch for everybody who looks for a good, thoughtful comedy this summer. I’ve gone on a search, there’s been a few, but none of them so intelligent and cleverly built – with a dash of absurd that guarantees a good laugh, too.

PS. How I love the fact that Baumbach loves McCartney just like me!

PS 2. There goes the comment about how I reviewed more than a biopic again. Relatable? LOL.

Little voices speak your mind. About Inside Out

Few people are gonna admit to that, but everyone has those little conversations in their heads going on. Thought battles, stream of consciousness – call it what you want, they’re on every healthy person’s mind even if they don’t comprehend that concept. Pete Docter, the creator of Up and Monsters Inc., took the idea and gave voices, bodies and personalities to emotions. Have you ever been ashamed to use the metaphor “this voice in my head tells me that…”? Well, you won’t be anymore – when you see Inside Out. 

Inside Out, Disney/Pixar. Source: film's FB page.
Inside Out, Disney/Pixar. Source: film’s FB page.

The main story seems to be simple – Riley, a happy child from Minnesota, moves to San Francisco. And as you could expect, as every little girl, she finds it difficult to adjust to the new environment. Her first day at school doesn’t go well, the new house isn’t the enchanting castle of her dreams, and everything she loves seems to have been left behind with her old friends and hobbies. That’s the point when the usual bundle of joy faces the emotional struggle. Nevertheless, the real adventure is hidden in her mind: the vibrant headquarters, the home of emotions and a busy workplace, try to maintain her well-being. And unfortunately, at the time of the huge changes, Joy and Sadness get lost outside the control room with the main memories and try to find the way back, while their colleagues – Fear, Disgust and Anger – try to keep the state of normality, waiting for their missing co-workers to come back.

Pixar’s mission is educating through entertaining – and as always, the audience won’t leave the cinema disappointed. The different aspects of human mind are portrayed in a playful way, easy to grasp for both the youngest and slightly older moviegoers. Difficult concepts are merging into a small visual miracle: Long-Term Memory is pictured as a storage room full of colour-coded memories, and those which are “the core” ensure that the islands of personality are maintained properly. Abstract Thinking is a dangerous path that simplifies the difficult concepts on the way to comprehending them, which is visualised as a space that morphs three-dimensional characters into simple shapes. On the journey, the emotions pass through the land of Imagination, an enormous playground full of bizarre buildings and characters. Similarly, the dream factory is a film studio, which remakes some of the memories, works on the most entertaining, abstract stories and combines nightmares in a manner of horror films. Even the remark about mixed up facts and opinions is a part of a huge lesson about one’s mentality. The journey to subconsciousness – “where the troublemakers go,” as Sadness states – could be used as the primer of Freud for children, with the biggest fears locked up in the restricted area.

Storytelling takes up the duty of making many interactions behind the human brain clear, but the main aim is to describe the science of growing up. It shows how life events help the kids become teenagers and lay the foundation beneath the adult life – alongside changing interests and ultimately losing long-forgotten imaginary friends. Altogether, we get the explanation of maturing built on two parallel grounds. It’s human on two levels: the family story is ordinary, but that makes it believable and gives the simple background to the complicated psychedelia of Riley’s mind. Additionally, the concept of the anthropomorphised feelings, with their habits and personalities on their own which reflect their functions, shapes another level of narration – the emotions make mistakes too, influence each other a lot and don’t always agree, but that creates the tender core of the behind-the-scenes-of-an-individual plot.

What is easy to notice, the burst of colour in the animation happens just in the “control centres”. The outside world is cold and greyish, San Francisco is not sunny and summery at all, and that atmosphere just seems to justify everybody’s behaviour. On the other hand, the city includes things which are scary from a perspective of an eleven-year-old, like broccoli and cool kids, which makes their childhood moments of sadness even more dramatic (who doesn’t remember THOSE details?!).

Some scenes, one of which is featured also in the trailer, that compare the emotions hidden in the brains of people in different stages of life and of different genders and how they respond to each other are utterly hilarious. And there’s some lovable description about the differences in the brains of men and women which will definitely make you chuckle. A bonus – hilarious credit scenes. The teacher bit captured my assumptions about the thoughts of those who have to cope with educating the general public. Myself, I’m definitely identifying with that blasé punk girl from the pizza shop. Emo girls from Riley’s school – oh, emotions and soft side hidden under the eyeliner! Relatable, too, especially if you used to be a cool kid of that sort.

Attention: make a note of this plus mark this in bold and italics, and probably in some sort of large print. The film shows that every single emotion has its role – and even if Joy seems to be the boss that has everything under control, Inside Out showcases also the importance of protective Fear, reasonable Disgust, purifying Anger and cathartic Sadness. They all work as a team to fulfil their job role because the person they belong to is important to them; none of them is purposely destructive and all of them maintain the healthy moderation (which is quite an optimistic concept, but that’s the matter of a whole new discussion). A lesson on growing up and understanding yourself, Inside Out’s age recommendation starts at the first phases of consciousness and finishes at reasonable adults who’ve seen a lot and are willing to take a journey back to get to know more about themselves. Wonderfully complicated, yet not too scientific, it is a tender, cute package of emotional little events, neatly grabbed together and braided tightly to create two perspectives. The final outcome? As always, Pixar will make you learn, laugh, evoke your imagination and maybe even wipe a nostalgic tear off your face.

PS. A first non-biopic review here… what do you say now?! 

Less of a hopeless romantic. About The New Sorrows of Young W.

Edgar Wibeau is a youngster who seemed to be raised perfectly despite being a product of an incomplete family: an excellent student and hard-working apprentice is set as an example to his fellow colleagues. Despite this, an event in the factory, where he stands up for himself for the first time, pushes him to change that happens to be crucial – and eternal.

left: "The New Sorrows of Young W." book cover, Pushkin Press; right: "Young W. and Charlie", Psychedelly
left: “The New Sorrows of Young W.” book cover, Pushkin Press; right: “Young W. and Charlie”, Psychedelly

Ulrich Plenzdorf was a notable German playwright and writer, who was raised in the shackles of communist East Germany. Having studied philosophy, but eventually graduating with a film degree, he released a number of works crucial for “reading the contemporary German”. In the group of his most recognisable works, however, “The New Sorrows of Young W.” remains on top. Drawn to the matters of isolation, the differences between the rebellious individual and how the society influences them or how one responds to a big ideology, in 1972, he sat down to create a social critique of GDR’s social system that made him famous on both sides of Berlin Wall.

Before the novella came to life, the play under the same name was shown – and the sensations that come with watching a dramatic work on stage definitely stays with the reworked piece. The book evolves around the messages which the protagonist sent to his friend; modern letters inspired by Goethe’s book and recorded on a few cassette tapes. The narration, based on his father’s conversations with his friends and colleagues in a profound urge of figuring out the events prior to his son’s death and the commentary of the ghostly presence of Edgar himself, lets the reader uncover the motivations behind the guy who suddenly changed, moved to Berlin from the small town of Mittenberg and started faking the life of a painter. Different angles create a captivating insight into Young W.’s life in Berlin and his process of growing up, stitching the fictional prose close enough to the feeling of reading non-fiction. Darkly realistic and a bit philosophical, it’s an experience of growing up packed into a story which could be one in million. What can prove this theory is the similarity to “We Children from Bahnhof Zoo” by Christiane F., based on real-life events. Despite being set in a far more liberal West Berlin, we get the shared characteristics of the era which fluctuated over the Iron Curtain. The confessionary character of the narration also brings the books together – and even if Plenzdorf’s piece is more conservative and his character more sensible, the feeling of rebellion still connects both books. Nevertheless, his crafty storytelling clearly marks the fiction while using the boundaries set for a documentary.

The protagonist’s habits and beliefs are carefully crafted, merging into a mosaic of a downright weirdo. It needs to be said that he might be the most wicked combination of Goethe and Salinger, with a need to venture, discover, live and negate. Trying to play a misunderstood genius, he declines most of the second chances he gets while falling for a committed girl – and uses Werther’s lines to deliberately confuse people around, rightfully convinced that they won’t know their background or understand the meaning behind them. And he partly succeeds in the creating the image of himself – people think he’s a nutter, picking up his self-measurements and accepting them as their own. His narration is woven with relaxed speech and quotes, making him somewhat friendly despite the arrogance and overconfidence (which he doesn’t even bother to hide). The speeches of other characters don’t seem to say much about them, but there is plenty to read behind the lines: Dieter’s emotionlessness, Charlie’s uncertainty, Willi’s encouraging and caring personality. That contributes to revealing Edgar’s traits, too, in the longer run.

Although you shouldn’t judge a book by its cover, Plenzdorf ‘s inspirations are clear from the first glance – the title bears an obvious reference to Goethe’s classic “Sorrows of Young Werther”. We have to remember, however, that the main character doesn’t really understand Werther’s suicide and argues with his behaviour in a clearly modern fashion – if it wasn’t for the tragic event, he wouldn’t go for that solution himself. Despite being less of a hopeless romantic than his role model, he’s an equal product of his times as his predecessor. Here reveals the attention to detail that the writer’s style bears: Edgar’s outfit consists of fashionable jeans instead of Werther’s iconic yellow camisole, he grows long hair to oppose the values implied at home, he loves jazz and looks for all the hip places around the capital to listen to live music. Even if he admires “that High Old German” and tries to express himself with the similar style to puzzle people, he uses mostly slang to speak his mid and is able to judge and respond critically to the accusations or guesses surrounding his death. Furthermore, the author also shares a few themes with J. D. Salinger, whose creation is intensely admired by Edgar. Holden Caulfield certainly influences his behaviour and sets his personal standards; he even compares Werther to the main character of “Catcher in the Rye”, stating that “this is the real life”; he even suggests that Salinger and Goethe “should meet up and talk” to figure out the weaknesses of the miserable protagonist of Romantic period.

What’s interesting about the book are the political ideas behind. Dieter becomes a symbol of communism that contradicts itself, indicating the class system embedded in a society aiming at being classless; an avid follower of this political orientation with Marx, Engels and Lenin on his bookshelves represents also the “new bourgeois”. Edgar both agrees to and criticises the ideology as he mocks his love interest’s partner. Even if the book doesn’t get up to becoming a huge manifesto, it does evaluate the conformism, both in terms of accepting values that seem to be useful or harmless and despising the widespread opinion without a true understanding. That almost touches Stanisław Mrożek’s “Tango” and his ideas of youthful revolution – to rebel against the (lack of) values, a young person needs to hit them with their distorted mirror image. Moreover, the vibe which the story brings captures the similarities in social critique and storytelling means between the two dramatists.

With a piece of writing so intelligent and “indie” from a modern perspective, Plenzdorf cleverly combines viewpoints of multiple narrators and blurs the line between the fiction and reality with the documentary concept. Using a set of images – or rather “podcasts”, as the reader is lead through the plot guided by the theatrical feeling which is possibly a product of how the story was told earlier – one enters the world of the young guy who is desperate to escape class limitations and the safe boundaries of his life. Honest, bohemian in its purport, deliberately political and unapologetically youthful, it becomes a window to the soul of a rebel in a society that was forced to adapt to sameness due to circumstances – and if you think of it, that becomes a clever lesson for young adults nowadays, in the society that values originality less and less.

PS. I was thinking of setting myself another reading list… and taking myself (and you, my dear Reader) on a literary trip around Europe till the end of my holidays. And the idea sprang to my mind while I was wasting my precious time while window-shopping in Waterstones again… so take this post as the beginning of a series or something.

The cacophony behind the harmonies. About Love and Mercy

“Pet Sounds” have always sounded like drug songs pouring out of an opened mind to me, as that has always seemed to explain the decade’s charming, expressive infusions with mixed senses – however, I was hardly aware that in the Beach Boys’ case, the psychedelia was due to the mental conditions of one of the members. The biopic, however, explains Brian Wilson’s story in a delightfully moving, dazzlingly experimental “Love and Mercy”, directed by Bill Pohlad.

source: "Love & Mercy" official FB page
source: “Love & Mercy” official FB page

It’s 1965 and the Beach Boys are at the peak of their career. America blasts “I Get Around” at every party, “Surfin’ USA” steals the airplay and the young boy band seems to describe every aspect of youth culture the teenagers cling into. But for Brian Wilson, it’s high time to experiment – he wants something fresh and is ready to defend his creativity even against his father. As the time travel speeds up, we face the same artist several years older – and struggling with himself, over-medicated, trying to find the person he was once again.

It needs to be stated – Brian Wilson’s life was filled with storytelling potential, and the biopic certainly hit all the right strings. Capturing both the mellow image of the sixties gracefully mixed with pop superstar lifestyle insight and the paths taken by a wandering, sick, yet genius mind, it takes a step to shake the addressee with every single medium available. We start with a script by Oren Moverman, who tried his hand in painting the life of a musician of the psychedelic era once again (he was a scriptwriter for “I’m Not There” about Bob Dylan). The plot combines two decades, creating parallel worlds, or rather an image of maturing, wrapped into images of slipping from the top, misunderstanding and being left alone with the illness and a greedy, sly therapist. Here is where Melinda (excellent performance of Elizabeth Banks) joins in, trying to save the singer with a little help from the housekeeper Gloria. Paul Dano does a terrific job of wearing the skin of an inspired, slightly “dandy” genius working on the iconic album. He depicts young Brian with confidence – both as a musician, when he plays, sings and seeks for the right outcome, and as a troubled young soul who does not really understand what is happening within himself and looks out for spiritual explanations. It all adds up, creating the representation of refreshingly youthful desire to rebel against the conventions and follow the role models. Similarly, John Cusack grasps the nuances of schizophrenia to portray mature Wilson, describing his odd behaviour and wired ways of thinking connected with inner fears. Another outstanding performance was delivered by Paul Giamatti, who plays the therapist of the musician. His character is even more insane than his patient, and despotic enough to be a real danger to the vulnerable artist he takes care of.

A time machine gives you a return ticket (or shall I say, a travelcard for two hours?) from the Sixties to the Eighties – lovingly documentary-like insight from the band’s story mixing with the psychedelic feel and the realistic image of the struggle that comes with paranoid-schizophrenic personality allows “Love and Mercy” to challenge the biographical aspects of the film without giving up on the artistic experiments that aim at showcasing the protagonist’s subconsciousness. The film indulges in the sixties atmosphere, almost combining all the trippy feelings with the state of restless mind. Blurred lines between the reality and the imaginary world of paranoia are intensified by the montage, shaped by visual metaphors and raw, psychedelic images from the beginning to end. The audience can certainly feel the switch between the eras as the effects swing back and forth accordingly, creating a masterpiece that is easy on the eye, yet simply mind-blowing and forcing to think, compare and keep the track of subtleties. That allows us to see not only the development of Brian’s mental issues, but also takes us through the process of his band maturing musically – the fascination with The Beatles who just have ditched touring to close themselves in the studio and come back with “Rubber Soul”, the creativity flowing, the need to discover, experiment and escape the “boy band” label are strongly tied into the story.

Sound design is also contributing to sad, yet fascinating insight into Wilson’s head: starting with the process of composing and slipping into the outer world becoming unbearable, the sounds – from the ones used during recording as Brian tries to produce them right as he imagined to the voices and noises in his head – are as vital to the film as the classic Beach Boys songs (think “Best of…” albums – it’s as simple as mentioning “Surfin’ USA”, “I Get Around” or “Good Vibrations”). The cacophony sometimes gets horrendously scary and overwhelming, but that probably was the intention – and it’s refreshing to hear pop-to-rock transition clashing with the loudness of the composer’s mind.

The extraordinary game of fighting the schizophrenia hidden behind the creativity and a strong desire to become better than the best, a dollop of classic songs (who doesn’t like that, honestly?!) sprinkled with great acting and topped with the imagery and sounds is not a piece of cake in terms of being simple, but it certainly is food for thought – from the starters of pop background, through the main course of a mental issue to the dessert of the smooth visual side. A quote that could summarise the story itself is Wilson’s bandmate opinion on his new tunes from “Pet Sounds” – “even the happy songs seem to sound sad”. Altogether, it’s an image of the transition crafted with attention to detail, so happily sad that the outcome tackles the bigger and smaller issues daringly and successfully.

PS. Doesn’t it seem like I always review biopics here? I had “Amy” and “Danny Collins” in my mind beforehand, so maybe it’s mainly the stories of real people that move me so much? Hashtag, the life of an aspiring journo…

“Can these eyes lie?…” Margaret Keane’s battle for “big-eyed waifs” | “Czy te oczy mogą kłamać?…” Jak wyglądała walka Margaret Keane o “wielkookie dzieci”

Polish version below | Kliknij tutaj, aby przejść do wersji polskiej

Terrified sweet eyes, watching every move of the viewer from the canvas, melted hearts of people on both sides of the Iron Curtain: paintings signed with the Keane surname were hanged in the main office of UNICEF and won the attention of Moscow dignitaries. Both the great and famous of the time, such as Joan Crawford, and housewives or students were buying what they could afford – be it an original canvas or postcards to hang on a fridge or locker. However, no one had a clue about the fraud behind the big-eyed children of Walter Keane, which was proved years later with a paint-off.

margaretkeane2

Although people quickly surrendered to the magic of the big eyes, the critics were not always friendly. In 1964, New York Times critic John Canaday called one of Margaret’s images “tasteless”. But she had knowledge, craft and experience to defend herself. She often mentioned that her

childhood was marked by two great obsessions – art and spirituality. Sickly and shy, she spent a lot of time dwelling on difficult matters. In a TV interview in 2012, she admitted that she always loved to paint. The margins of her notebooks were always covered with sketches – showing her fascination with eyes since the very beginning. Those artistic timid attempts convinced the teachers of her talent. The girl was signed up for art classes and painting remained a combination of philosophy and a kind of therapy. Watkins Art Institute and then Traphagen School of Design polished her talent and provided her with the necessary artistic background. As the post-war reality which was still far from the vision of the sexual revolution of the Sixties, the role of women was still limited to the kitchen and the children’s crib. And Margaret soon decided to fulfil the obligation imposed by society, but the first marriage ended painfully for her. Unfortunately, it was just a prelude to the next, equally unfortunate chapter.

At the beginning, Walter and Margaret seemed to be the perfect couple. Even their past was alike – when they met, they were both single parents after the dissolution of their first marriages. “After all, he was simply charming,” Margaret recalled later, adding that she was convinced that her admirer is also a painter.

But we must remember that this “flippancy” of Keane brought them media attention. It all started in a local pub in San Francisco, where the Keanes displayed their works. Soon Walter got into an argument with the owner, which ended up as an article in the San Francisco Chronicle with photos of paintings. It undoubtedly stepped on the gas pedal of their careers: the next step was to own a gallery, opened in 1958. However, matching the predispositions of a real estate agent, Keane decided to sell art in a way he would sell apartments – on a massive scale. Soon, the world has gone mad about mugs, postcards and posters, which gazed at the owner with the big, beautiful, sad eyes. In the group of the people impressed with this phenomenon was even Andy Warhol. Meanwhile, Walter set out to conquer the social elite. To build his position in the art world he hired Tom Wolfe, who praised Keanes’ business under a pseudonym. Moreover, he came up with a political ideology behind “his” works: he explained the energy surrounding the paintings with the trauma caused by his post-war youth, spent in Europe. We have to remember that the interest in the rights of children was yet to rise: the UN Declaration of Rights of the Child was introduced only in 1959, and the Convention on the Rights of the Child was still to come with the end of the Eighties – nevertheless, Walter explained their movement with struggling orphans on the streets of Berlin, massacred by the war – and it became the philosophy behind the “big eyes”.

Throughout this period, Margaret remained in the background. Deprived of her style, which in fact wasn’t associated with children orphaned during the war but her own experiences, was forced to develop something new. So there came portraits signed with her name: swan-necked, fragile women and almond-shaped eyes have become her trademark. There was some buzz about her briefly: “Life” described her as “withdrawn, brought to life when the conversation switches to the occult”. It was Walter who enjoyed the fame and adoration. “Nobody painted eyes like El Greco, and no one can paint the eyes as Keane,” he boasted to the same magazine. The woman couldn’t fight the status of her husband: when Walter travelled and moved in circles of celebrities, the media depicted her as an ideal wife, painting on the breaks between raising the children and taking care of the household. She worked in a locked room, protecting valuable secret and creating paintings attributed to then her partner.

When Mr. Keane dealt with “developing the company”, his wife decided to start her life all over again. In 1965, she applied for separation and moved to Honolulu. Afterwards, she explained that she couldn’t stand living with someone constantly criticizing her, being eternally jealous and spending most of his time on parties. Why didn’t she withdraw before?

One of the reasons was the fear of coping with daily life on her own. “I didn’t think I could support myself and my daughter, and he brainwashed me it was my fault he couldn’t paint,” she said in the aforementioned interview in 2012.

When she began life again in Hawaii, she found it hard to paint. However, the real breakthrough came in 1970, when she confessed that Walter wasn’t the father of “big-eyed waifs”. News electrified the world of art, and Margaret became braver. “He wanted to learn how to paint, and when he was at home – which was not often – I tried to teach him,” she explained, challenging him: “Give us paints, brushes and canvases and put on Union Square at noon, and we’ll see who can paint the eyes”. Walter never responded to the challenge, defending himself with excuses instead and fleeing abroad until the court forced him to come back. His melting savings forced him to act: in 1982, he decided to fight with his wife for about one and a half million dollars, with a court case to prove the authorship. Margaret defended herself cleverly, ending the quarrel with a famous, 53-minute show of painting in the court, which proved her ability of painting. When Keane was asked to do the same thing, he excused himself with a sore shoulder, summing up: “Margaret would copy everything, even Rembrandt”. For the rest of his life, he remained quite bitter, backbiting his ex-wife with almost paranoid mannerism at every single possibility. On the other hand, for ex-Mrs. Keane the well-deserved golden age came – Margaret still paints her big-eyed kids, listing Modigliani, Gauguin and Van Gogh as her inspirations. Last year, we could see Tim Burton’s devotion to the potential of the huge scam story.

“It was a very emotional experience for both me and my daughter,” Margaret confessed to “Daily Mail” after seeing the film for the first time. “It seems to me that Walter was presented exactly as he was – but I also think in reality Walter was probably even more crazy,” she added.

To prepare the article, I used the book “Citizen Keane” by A. Parfrey and C. Nelson and articles from “Daily Mail” and “Awake”.

Wersja polska

Przerażone oczęta, obserwujące każdy ruch widza z płótna roztopiły serca ludzi po obu stronach żelaznej kurtyny: obrazy podpisane imieniem Keane oczarowały UNICEF i podbiły serca moskiewskich dygnitarzy. Zarówno tacy wielcy swoich czasów, jak Joan Crawdford, jak i
gospodynie domowe czy uczennice, kupowali to, na co mogli sobie pozwolić – czy to płótna, czy pocztówki do zawieszenia na lodówce i w szkolnych szafkach. Nikt nie miał jednak pojęcia o tym, jak wielkie oszustwo kryło się za wielkookimi dziećmi Waltera Keane, co lata później udowodniła bitwa na pędzle.

source: Margaret Keane's official FB page
source: Margaret Keane’s official FB page

Chociaż zwyczajni ludzie szybko poddali się magii wielkich oczu, krytycy nie zawsze byli przyjaźni. W 1964 roku, krytyk New York Timesa John Canaday nazwał jeden z obrazów „bezguściem”. Margaret miała jednak wiedzę, rzemiosło i doświadczenie, by się bronić. Wspominała często, że jej dzieciństwo naznaczone było dwoma wielkimi obsesjami – sztuką i duchowością. Chorowita i nieśmiała, dziewczynka spędzała wiele czasu na rozmyślaniach. W wywiadzie telewizyjnym w 2012 roku przyznała, że zawsze kochała malować. Marginesy jej zeszytów pokryte były szkicami – od początku pokazującymi jej fascynację oczyma. To te nieśmiałe artystyczne próby przekonały nauczycieli o jej talencie. Dziewczynka zapisana została na zajęcia ze sztuki, a malowanie pozostało dla niej połączeniem filozofii i pewnego rodzaju terapii. Watkins Art Institute, a potem Traphagen School of Design oszlifowały jej talent i dały artystyczne tło. Niemniej jednak powojenna rzeczywistość, która daleka była jeszcze od wizji rewolucji seksualnej lat sześćdziesiątych, rolę kobiety osadzała w kuchni i nad dziecięcym łóżeczkiem. Wkrótce i Margaret przyjęła na siebie narzucony kulturowo obowiązek, jednakże pierwsze małżeństwo skończyło się dla niej boleśnie. Było to jedynie preludium do kolejnego, równie nieszczęśliwego rozdziału.

Na początku Walter i Margaret zdawali się być parą idealną. Nawet ich przeszłość była podobna – gdy się poznali, oboje byli samotnymi rodzicami po rozpadzie pierwszych małżeństw. „Przez lata był po prostu czarujący” – Margaret wspominała później, dodając, że na początku przekonana była, że jej adorator również jest malarzem.
Ale pamiętać trzeba, że to „charakterek” Keane’a przyniósł im zainteresowanie mediów. Na początku Keanowie obrazy wywieszali na ścianach lokalnego pubu. Walter wdał się tam w awanturę z właścicielem, zakończoną artykułem w San Francisco Chronicle i zdjęciem obrazów ze ścian. To nacisnęło pedał gazu ich kariery: następnym krokiem była własna galeria małżeństwa, otwarta w 1958. Jednakże, jak na agenta nieruchomości przystało, Keane postanowił sprzedawać sztukę tak, jak wcześniej sprzedawał mieszkania – na masową skalę. Wkrótce świat oszalał na punkcie kubków, pocztówek i plakatów, z których smutno patrzyły wielkie oczy. Pod wrażeniem tego fenomenu był nawet Andy Warhol. Tymczasem Walter wyruszył na podbój elit towarzyskich. Do budowania swojej pozycji w świecie sztuki wynajął nawet Toma Wolfe, który pod pseudonimem wychwalał biznes Keane’ów pod niebiosa. Polityczną ideologię „swoich” obrazów wyjaśniał swoją powojenną młodością, spędzoną w Europie. Zainteresowanie prawami dziecka miało dopiero się pojawić: Deklarację praw dziecka ONZ przyjął zaledwie w 1959, a Konwencja Praw Dziecka miała nadejść dopiero pod koniec lat osiemdziesiątych – niemniej jednak filozofię za „wielkimi oczyma” Walter tłumaczył swoim poruszeniem sierotami w Berlinie, mentalnie zmasakrowanymi przez wojnę.

Przez cały ten czas Margaret pozostawała w tle. Pozbawiona swojego stylu, związanego nie z dziećmi osieroconymi podczas wojny, ale jej własnymi doświadczeniami, zmuszona została do wypracowania czegoś nowego. Tak pojawiły się portrety, które podpisywała swoim imieniem: łabędzie szyje i migdałowe oczy stały się jej znakiem rozpoznawczym. Wspominano o niej przelotnie: „Life” pisał o niej jako o „wycofanej, ożywiającej się, kiedy temat rozmowy przęłączał się na okultyzm”. To Walter opływał w sławę i uwielbienie. „Nikt nie malował oczu jak El Greco, i nikt nie potrafi malować oczu tak, jak Keane” – chwalił się temu samemu magazynowi. Artystka nie mogła więc skutecznie walczyć ze statusem męża: gdy Walter podróżował i obracał się w kręgach celebrytów, media przedstawiały ją zazwyczaj jako żonę idealną, hobbystycznie zajmującą się malowaniem w przerwie od wychowywania dzieci i zajmowania się domem. Pracowała pod
kluczem, chroniąc cenny sekret i tworząc obrazy przypisywane potem jej partnerowi.

Kiedy pan Keane zajmował się „bywaniem w towarzystwie”, jego żona postanowiła zacząć życie od nowa. W 1965 wystąpiła o separację i przeniosła się do Honolulu. Tłumaczyła potem, że nie mogła wytrzymać dłużej z kimś ciągle ją krytykującym, wiecznie zazdrosnym i spędzającym większość swojego domu na wystawnych rautach. Nie pozwalała jednak zepchnąć się w kąt: kiedy po raz pierwszy ją uderzył, ostro się przeciwstawiła. „Nigdy więcej nie podniósł na mnie ręki. To jedyna rzecz, o którą stanowczo walczyłam” – mówiła. Dlaczego więc nie wycofała się wcześniej? Jeden z powodów był strach przed tym, czy poradzi sobie sama. „Nie wiedziałam, czy dam radę utrzymać siebie i swoją córkę, a Walter zaserwował mi pranie mózgu, powtarzając, że to moja wina, że nie potrafi malować” – wyznała we wspomnianym wywiadzie z 2012 roku. Kiedy zaczęła życie od nowa na Hawajach, trudno było jej malować. Prawdziwy przełom nadszedł jednak w 1970 roku, kiedy wyznała, że to nie Walter był ojcem „wielkookich dzieci”. Nowina zelektryzowała świat sztuki, a Margaret stała się odważniejsza. „Chciał się nauczyć, jak malować, i kiedy był w domu – co nie zdarzało się często – próbowałam go uczyć” – wyjaśniała, rzuciwszy wyzwanie: „Dajcie nam obojgu farby, pędzle i płótno i postawcie na Union Square w samo południe, a przekonamy się, kto potrafi malować oczy”. Walter nigdy na wyzwanie nie odpowiedział, broniąc się wymówkami i uciekając za granicę, dopóki nie zmusił go sąd. Pod ścianą postawiły go topniejące oszczędności: w 1982 roku postanowił zawalczyć z żoną o półtora miliona dolarów, wytaczając proces o udowodnienie autorstwa. Margaret wystąpiła z przemyślaną obroną, zakończoną słynnym, 53-minutowym pokazem malowania, który zwrócił jej prawo do malowania oczu w jej stylu. Kiedy o to samo poproszono Keane’a, wymówił się bolącym ramieniem, podsumowując: „Margaret skopiowałaby wszystko, nawet Rembrandta”. Do końca życia zgorzkniale, z paranoiczną niemal manierą dogryzał swojej żonie.

Dla pani Keane nadszedł natomiast złoty wiek – Margaret wciąż maluje swoje wielkookie dzieci, inspirowane, jak opisuje artystka, Modiglianim, Gaguinem i Van Goghiem. W ubiegłym roku zobaczyć mogliśmy natomiast film Tima Burtona, poświęcony właśnie historii tego olbrzymiego oszustwa. „To było bardzo emocjonalne doświadczenie, zarówno dla mnie, jak i dla mojej córki” – powiedziała Margaret „Daily Mail” po obejrzeniu filmu po raz pierwszy. „Wydaje mi się, że przedstawił Waltera dokładnie takim, jakim był – ale myślę, że tak naprawdę Walter był chyba jeszcze większym wariatem” – wyznała.

Do przygotowania artykułu wykorzystałam książkę „Citizen Keane” A. Parfreya i C. Nelsona oraz artykuły z „Daily Mail” i „Awake”.

The woman who broke into souls: about Big Eyes | O tej, która włamywała się do dusz: recenzja filmu Wielkie oczy

Kliknij tutaj, aby przejść do wersji polskiej | PL

What would you do if the years of hard work and developing your own style were, in the end, credited to somebody else? Based on a real-life story, new Tim Burton’s film brilliantly tells the story of a woman with a gem of the talent that gets “stolen” by the man of her life as a lie becomes the destruction of her self-confidence and many opportunities to get the well-deserved recognition.

Amy Adams as Margaret Keane. Source: promotional materials of the distributor
Amy Adams as Margaret Keane. Source: promotional materials of the distributor

Leaving her husband and trying to begin a whole new life in San Francisco, Margaret tries to earn her living with a dull job and selling her art for a song. Her private life seems to get better when she meets the self-proclaimed artist Walter there – and before too long she falls for him. In defence of her daughter, she decides to marry him. They try to settle themselves in the world of art, and they kick-start their exhibition by a scandal described in a local column. Nevertheless, it’s Margaret’s style which becomes noticed – with her signature big, sad eyes of people she meets. She’s not allowed to succeed, though; her partner starts taking the credit for her works. Soon “big-eyed children” become a commercial hit, and Walter becomes a celebrity – giving his wife a duty of keeping the manipulation alive by painting and the infernal pleasures of sharing the same surname. He gets her tangled in the net of lies which seem to unravel in every single situation the Keanes find themselves into – and the way out equals many choices which, for Margaret, seem to be impossible to bear.

The tension grows as the sense of justice keeps on being tested all over throughout every single second of a hundred minutes. The plot is based on the real-life events, but the foundation of the true story is backed up by outstanding acting. Watching Amy Adams as Margaret, who tries to sort out her life and ends up caged again, is just confirming her acting excellence. She is powerful both in her helplessness of keeping the secret hidden behind the scenes of the well-marketed art business and in the strength she finds to fight with her “other half” who harms her every single day. Tackling the subject of being caught in a destructive relationship, she examines and brings the understanding of something that can’t be easily unsnarled and left to the fore. As she changes and becomes ready to fight, Margaret shouts out the positive message with her every single act – there is a way out; no pressure can be eternal if it’s being fought and one can protect themselves from mental abuse.

Christoph Waltz charms the audience in exactly the same way Walter enchants everybody around him. The utter manipulator, sure of his skills, conquers the world by indulging into the social side of the art scene and making use of it constantly. He becomes the creator of the imperium, dragging art to commercial side and making sure that he can get every penny out of his wife’s works. It also poses a question of connection of art to its creator. His character treats art as something that brings loads of money and can be easily reproduced if there’s a need and the possibility of selling it. For the purposes of promoting “his” business, he decides to sell prints, pictures and gadgets, which makes the arts much less unique. It’s Margaret who describes the eyes as “windows of the soul” and is able to introduce the concepts behind her signature details further. As they are not formally “hers”, she still looks for the ways of expression that would create something on her own without “hurting” her husband and shyly defends her rights to the fame she deserves. This way, the art bohemia which is tightly laced with media is shown both as a brutal, almost celebrity-like, fad-lead environment, but also as something that had let people shout out their feelings in a non-verbal way for centuries. It definitely wakes up the thought – when the borders between the artist’s perception of the world and his works overlap and when the high concepts become the applied arts?

What is worth noticing, the issue of the superiority of men over women is being examined in the drama, too. From the very beginning and the question, “Does your husband allow you to work?” that the leading lady hears in her job interview, the brutal reality of her times before the further emancipation brought by the Sixties, which lets Walter get „people don’t buy woman art” as an alibi, is highlighted. Walter forces Margaret into thinking that she needs him because of his abilities to put spells on people by telling soothing, weepy stories and interacting with the art world. That is how the unhealthy vibe grows, along with tiredness that she feels. Again, the film gets a slightly feminist nod as it acts in favour of women – showing as the vulnerable and fragile character develops, turning into a truly strong heroine.

What gives the movie a tang of the visual creativity is playing with the theme of the eyes. One of the moments that became remarkably haunting is the surrealistically ending scene which features Margaret shopping in the local supermarket. Suddenly, everybody becomes “big-eyed children”, staring at their creator with disillusionment and pity. Creepy as can be, it seems to slap the audience with the main character’s disgust with what her husband did as he turned the art into the craft. Later on, her urge to respond with narrow eyes and edgy models justifies her feelings once again. In this film, images speak louder than words and actions sometimes – and that’s what completes every other manifestation of feelings and opinions.

A dark modern tale of the Cinderella enslaved by her own Prince Charming carries a moral and several statements – being equally an engaging film and an intellectually demanding watch. Tim Burton gives us what we might expect from him. The outcome is a compelling drama with a strong plot and superb acting – and several issues to keep the audience thinking and leave the cinema truly stirred.

Wersja polska

Co zrobilibyście, gdyby lata Waszej ciężkiej pracy i pracowania nad własnym stylem zostały przypisane komuś innemu? Oparty na prawdziwej historii, nowy film Tima Burtona genialnie opowiada historię Margaret Keane – kobiety z niezwykłym talentem, który “przywłaszcza sobie” jej mąż – a jego kłamstwo staje się początkiem problemu z jej poczuciem własnej wartości i końcem możliwości uzyskania aprobaty i rozpoznawalności za wszystko, co stworzyła.

Waltz and Adams as Walter and Margaret. Source: promotional stills.
Waltz and Adams as Walter and Margaret. Source: promotional stills.

Zostawiwszy męża, Margaret próbuje ułożyć sobie życie w San Francisco. Próbuje zarabiać na siebie, pracując w fabryce mebli i sprzedając swoje obrazki za grosze. Jej prywatne żyie wydaje się wkraczać na nowe tory, kiedy poznaje samozwańczego artystę Waltera. Walcząc o zatrzymanie przy sobie córki, decyduje się na poślubienie swojego nowego partnera. Oboje próbują zdobyć rozpoznawalność w świecie sztuki od wystawy w lokalnym klubie. I popularność przychodzi: zaczyna się od artykułu w lokalnej rubryce plotkarskiej, styl Margaret zostaje doceniony – a wielkie oczy jej postaci poruszają niemalże każdego, kto ma okazję obejrzeć wystawę. Niemniej jednak, to nie ona zdobywa sukces – jej nowy mąż przypisuje sobie wszystkie obrazy. Wkrótce „wielkookie dzieci” stają się komercyjnym hitem, a Walter celebrytą. Jego żona przez cały czas ma obowiązek utrzymywania kłamstwa przez malowanie w zamian za pieniądze i rąbek „wielkiego świata”, do jakiego Keanowie się wdarli. Łgarstwa rosną z dnia na dzień, a Margaret staje przed wieloma wyborami, które wydają się stanowczo za trudne.

Napięcie rośnie z każdą chwilą, w której nasze poczucie sprawiedliwości zostaje wystawione na próbę. Chociaż historia opiera się na prawdziwych wydarzeniach, wspaniała gra aktorska uzupełnia jej filmową wartość. Oglądanie Amy Adams jako Margaret, która próbuje ułożyć swoje życie i wpada w pułapkę po raz kolejny, potwierdza tylko jej umiejętności. Jest niesamowicie przekonująca i w bezradności, z jaką jej bohaterka trzyma się sekretu za kulisami kręcącego się biznesu, i w sile, którą znajduje do walki z codziennie niszczącą ją „drugą połówką”. Dotykając tematu niszczących związków, przynosi wyjaśnienie czegoś, co nie jest wcale proste do rozsupłania i wyciągnięcia na wierzch. Wraz ze zmianami w jej zachowaniu, pozytywny przekaz Margaret wręcz krzyczy z ekranu: zawsze jest wyjście, żadna presja nie może trwać wiecznie, jeśli znajdzie się siła do walki z przemocą psychiczną.

Christoph Waltz urzeka widownie w dokładnie ten sam sposób, w jaki Walter oczarowuje wszystkich dookoła. Manipulator, przekonany o swoich zdolnościach, podbija świat zagłębiając się w towarzyską stronę środowiska ludzi sztuki i robi z niego użytek. Staje się twórcą imperium, przeciągając sztukę w stronę komercji i upewniając się, że jest w stanie wycisnąć każdy grosz z prac żony. Jego postać traktuje sztukę jako kurę znoszącą złote jajka. By promować „swój” biznes, decyduje się na sprzedaż licznych reprodukcji: pocztówki, obrazki, plakaty i gadżety obiegają Amerykę i sprzedają się jak świeże bułeczki, co sprawia, że ich unikalność spada. Ale to Margaret opisuje oczy jako „okna duszy”. To ona umie opisać to, co zainspirowało ją do stworzenia swojego „znaku firmowego”, szukając równocześnie możliwości dalszego tworzenia czegoś własnego bez sprzeciwiania się mężowi. W ten sposób, artystyczna bohema – ściśle związana z mediami – jawi nam się jako brutalna, prawie celebrycka, rządząca się przemijającymi trendami, ale również jako coś, co zawsze pozwalało ludziom na wyzwolenie uczuć w niewerbalny sposób. To wszystko przynosi pytania: gdzie nakładają się granice świata artysty i jego środowiska, i kiedy wielkie idee stają się sztuką (niemal) użytkową?

Warto zauważyć, że dyskusja o równouprawnieniu również idealnie wkomponowała się w dramat. Od pytania, które pada na początku: „Czy mąż pozwala pani pracować?”, które główna bohaterka słyszy podczas rozmowy kwalifikacyjnej, po brutalną rzeczywistość jej czasów jeszcze sprzed rewolucji seksualnej lat 60., która pozwala Walterowi usprawiedliwiać się, mówiąc: „ludzie nie kupują sztuki od kobiet”, wplata się w wydarzenia przez cały czas. Walter przekonuje Margaret, że jest jej potrzebny. Powatarza jej, że bez jego umiejętności oczarowywania ludzi, opowiadania łzawych historii i zadawania się z ludźmi sztuki byłaby nikim. Tak rośnie niezdrowa presja, wraz ze zmęczeniem, które odczuwa główna bohaterka.

Kreatywność od strony wizualnej pokazuje wykorzystanie motywów z obrazów Keane. Jedna ze scen szczególnie wrywa się w pamięć: Margaret, podczas zakupów w sklepie, otoczona zostaje przez wielkookie dzieci, patrzące na swoją „matkę” z rozczarowaniem i żalem. Odrobinę przerażające, ale zdaje egzamin – i policzkuje widownię zniesmaczeniem, jakie czuje główna bohaterka nad wszystkim, co robi jej mąż. Chwilę później, jej chęć odpowiedzenia na tę wizję przez znalezienie „nowej siebie” ujawnia się w autoportrecie, w którym niewiele jest miękkich kształtów, a oczy postaci są mniejsze. Film mówi obrazami – czasami nawet głośniej, niż słowami i czynami.

Przygnębiająca współczesna baśń o Kopciuszku zwiedzonym na manowce przez księcia z bajki przynosi i morał, i kilka ważnych wniosków. Tim Burton przynosi nam jednocześnie wciągającą historię i intelektualnie wymagający obraz. Z tego filmu chyba nikt nie wyjdzie nieporuszony – widz dostaje dramat z pasjonującą historią, świetną grą aktorską i istotnymi problemami, które zostawiają pole do dalszej dyskusji.

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