The Bear (1988)
Tcheky Karyo, Jack Wallace, Andre Lacombe, Bart the Kodiac Bear, Youk the Bear Cub.
Written by Gerard Brach.
Directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud.
A bear cub is made an orphan after its mother is killed. Setting off into the wilderness, the young bear befriends a huge, wounded male that is being tracked by hunters. And that’s basically the story extent of this riveting, wonderfully shot film set in British Columbia at the end of the 19th century. It was once a popular phrase in Hollywood to “never work with children or animals”, yet any complications that may have arisen on The Bear are never evident. The film is seamlessly executed, combining the most astounding animal ‘acting’ ever seen on screen with absolutely first class cinematography from Philippe Rousselot. The human characters have little dialogue, and necessarily take a backseat to the animals – they could even be considered underwritten and at times suffer from some poor dubbing. But this is never a consideration once the viewer is captured by the spell of this truly timeless film that should not be thought of as a ‘childrens movie’. And I guarantee it’s the only film in which you’ll ever see a bear tripped out on mushrooms. A personal favourite.
Fat Man and Little Boy (1989)
Paul Newman, Dwight Schultz, John Cusack, John C. McGinley, Laura Dern and Bonnie Bedelia.
Written by Roland Joffe & Bruce Robinson.
Directed by Roland Joffe.
Roland Joffe is not a filmmaker I particularly admire. Whilst his career has been peppered with excellent films such as The Killing Fields and The Mission, his style often creates a dull visual experience, only lifted by the work of his cast. Fat Man and Little Boy is no exception, at times lacking the motion that elevates a drama and saves it from being (for want of a better word) “stagey”. Fat Man tells the story of J. Robert Oppenheimer (Schultz) and the team assembled by General Groves (Newman) to devise and construct the atomic bomb. Dealing with the inherent crisis of conscience, the brilliant team overcome obstacles aplenty in their road to creating a heinous device that would hopefully (and naively) bring an end to the idea of war. It is an interesting and compelling story, brought to life by an excellent cast, led by the great Paul Newman and ably supported by Schultz and Cusack. The film fails in many respects, but those unfamiliar with the Manhattan Project will find much worth in Fat Man and Little Boy – others may be discouraged by its distinctly Hollywood telling.
Al Pacino, Steven Bauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Robert Loggia, Harris Yulin and F. Murray Abraham.
Written by Oliver Stone.
Directed by Brian De Palma.
Tony Montana (Pacino) arrives in Miami as part of the Mariel Boatlift, when Castro opened the gates of Mariel Harbor and let over 100,000 Cubans immigrate to the USA. Like many, he is a criminal, and soon ingratiates himself into the underworld of Florida, eventually flourishing through bloodshed to be the king of cocaine. Despite a grandiose performance from Pacino, this turgid mess is unrelentingly oppressive from the get-go. Sleazy and brutal, Scarface is one of the overrated director De Palma’s lowest moments. The absolutely seedy underbelly of Miami is brought to the screen in vivid detail by the production department, but it seems that screenwriter Stone couldn’t edit his own material or even know when the hell to quit. The film itself has been glorified into a cult phenomenon on no solid basis aside from its graphic violence and nihilism – transforming the character of Tony Montana into an iconic figure. I don’t think that was the point…
(Wadrick Jones is a freelance writer for GritFX and will post weekly thirty second film reviews on this blog.)