Friday, September 28, 2012


Auteur John Woo's "Face/Off" is a very unique beast. It has the zany energy of all of his other films while still maintaining solid characters with distinct motives. As a general rule of thumb, most of the things in the movie are presented directly to us in the plot. However, that is not to say there aren't some things which John Woo leaves us to infer. It is just that the story itself is so straightforward and clear that it never seems like much of a jump. For example, we, the audience, must infer that Castor Troy, Archer's archenemies, kills all of the people that know about Archer's covert mission to swap faces with him, since we don't see it on screen. 

John Woo hops right into the story with "Face/Off". The first scene we are presented shows us not only these two rivals, the terrorist Troy and cop Archer. It also shows one of the most pivotal moment's in Archer's life, which forever after he becomes a changed person: Castor Troy kills Archer's youngest son in an attempt to assassinate Archer. Their whole rivalry is because of this moment. Archer becomes a changed man. He spends the next couple years of his life trying to finally catch Troy. This becomes the crux of the story. Everything falls back upon this. It is only when this is finally resolved at the end once Castor Troy is finally killed for good that the family, along with Archer, can finally move on as they accept a new adopted child to the family.

The story is very straight forward temporally. It is after all a major blockbuster type film, which is conscious of this fact. The film doesn't take itself too seriously and isn't afraid to go into huge crazy spectacle driven fight scenes. However, since the film does follow heavily both Troy and Archer, there is a fair amount of crosscutting and some simultaneous action. For example, we see Archer break out of the prison that he is put in as Troy after he swapped faces with him, but we also see what Troy is doing during this time to stop him from his office in the CIA. The film itself is 
surprisingly clean. All the characters' arcs are complete by the ending of the film. Castor Troy is now finally dead, Archer's family is finally at rest, Archer chooses to let go of the loss of his son by choosing not to get the bullet wound scar reapplied to his chest, and they adopt a new son. It is a traditional and intentional Hollywood  ending.

The story follows Archer first and then Castor Troy second. We are not restricted to one character's knowledge. We actually get a substantial amount of dramatic irony throughout the film, since we know what both of these two unstoppable forces are doing and how they are plotting against each other or walking into each other's traps. It is a live action game of Spy v. Spy in the form of cop v. terrorist. We do get an idea of the characters' mental states but only through performance and some flashbacks.

Do not be confused, this is a Hollywood film. Or it is a Hong Kong/John Woo style Hollywood film
After all, they do swap faces in the movie.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Life Lessons


The camera is a huge part of this film. It is a character in itself, in a sense. It is motivated by what type of movie this is. The film is expressionistic and about Lionel- a creative. Lionel gets these bouts of creativity which he tries to attain through having a muse. The camera taps into this and is expressionistic and majestical in a sense as well. There is a lot of movement as Lionel himself- or at least the way we see him and his world is like this. It is actually when shots are static that they become tense because the precedent for it makes it seem weird. An example of one of the strongest moments of the camera work, in my opinion, is when Lionel is actually in the act of creating or at least about to create- and just as Lionel is hit with a wave of inspiration, the camera surges forward into him like a rush of (expressionistic) creativity. This camera and style continues throughout the film and is almost like a motif in the film.

The movie itself almost has a cyclic quality as well. At the beginning, Lionel cannot create because he doesn't have his muse with him. We see that Lionel needs a muse in order to create and as a result tries to do his best to always have one even if it gets in the way of his life and actual relationships with others. The film ties up at the end once his old muse leaves and his work is completed, he finds a new muse at his art gallery- meaning the cycle of Lionel getting a muse, working, and losing one will keep on continuing as Lionel does this to placate his artistic needs, which are, to him, the most important things in his life. This cycle also ties up the film in general throughout. It is cyclic and the characters are almost static. The music itself also is an indication of the cycle and works as a motif and lends in to let the audience know about and how to feel about certain moments.

The colors of the film are a big part of it as well, which makes sense because it is a very colorful film as in it is about painting. At the beginning of the film, when everything is seemingly alright within Lionel and his muse (or at least not as bad as it gets in the end), the colors are more primary ones. However, as the film progresses, the color palette becomes a darker more mundane one as his relationship with his muse deteriorates. His muse's clothing as well is a big indicator of this as well. By the end, she is wears a pure black dress.

Just like Lionel, Scorsese himself has his own color palette consisting of camera, sound, editing and colors for his work of art, "Life Lessons".