Film Review: MUSEO (MUSEUM) (Mexico 2019) ***** Top 10

Museo Poster
Trailer

In 1985, a group of criminals mock the security of the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City to extract 140 pre-Hispanic pieces from their showcases.

Directors:

Alonso Ruizpalacios (as Alonso Ruiz Palacios), Alonso Ruizpalacios

Writers:

Manuel AlcaláAlonso Ruizpalacios (as Alonso Ruiz Palacios)

It seems that Mexico has surprised international cinema with two unforgettable films this past year – ROMA and now MUSEO.  

What happens when two slackers who know nada about artifacts decide to steal and sell them?  MUSEO tells the amazing entertaining and credible possibility of a ‘true’ story.  The titles say at the film’s start: “This is a replica of an original (story).”

Two students and best friends plan on robbing the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City and steal precious Mayan, Mixtec and Zapotec artefacts.  There is hesitance at the start as one of them Ben (Leonardo Ortizgris) is looking after his frail grandfather and he does not wish to abandon him as it might be their last Christmas together.  On the other hand, the more insistant  and confident one, Juan (Gael Bernal Garcia) uses the Christmas gathering he is at as an excuse to to do the robbery as he has the perfect alibi of being at the Christmas dinner thus sneaking off  soon after.  The funniest thing about all this is that Juan has to borrow his dad’s car as the getaway vehicle.

While everyone celebrates Christmas, the two thieves manage to break inside the museum and steal hundred of pieces. They return home to see on the news how their deed is described as an attack on the entire nation and realize that there is no turning back.

There are many pleasures to be derived from director Alonso Ruizpalacios’ film.  First and foremost besides his excellent camerawork, visuals and cinematography Damian Garcia, Ruizpalacios is able to surprise his audience with a host of other things.  One of the film’s most ecstatic moments is when Juan and Ben have just gotten away with the stolen artifacts, driving off in the car.  There is the look of elation on Juan’s face, as he cries “We did it.”  Ben’s response is “I need to pee,” when he suddenly stops the car and takes the pee.  The look of relief as he pees is just as gratifying as Juan’s previous look of elation.

The cinematography of the theft at night in the museum and the escape through the dark tunnels are magnificently shot.  Ruizpalacios and his d.p. Garcia has a series of still photos flash on the screen really quickly one after the other, that evokes an effect like stop-motion animation.  One part involves the light coming on and the pair leaving a hammer on the ground when the guards  are making their rounds.  This is suspense worthy of Hitchcock.  There are also images that astound during the museum theft.  For an image, it is usually the background that is still and the foreground (the subject or subjects) that moves.  Director Ruizpalacios reverses the effect.  As the thieves remain stationary the foreground, the background comprising of dust particle and little moths form the movement in the image.

The film covers several genres including family (dysfunctional) drama and suspense thriller.  One common complaint is that films that cover more than one genre never settles on one.  This is true for MUSEO as well but Ruizpalacios proves that his film can still work with multiple genres working side-by-side.

The story also plays like a buddy film as the thieves are two childhood friends.  Yet the odd thing is that their personalities are as different as night and day.

MUSEU is a total delight for cineastes especially with its constant cinematic surprises around every corner.  The best foreign film I have seen this this year.  Opens at the Bell Lightbox.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qsf4wQqLrQk

Advertisements

Film Review: THE DEATH OF STALIN (UK/France 2017) ***

Submit your Screenplay to the Festival TODAY

The Death of Stalin Poster
Trailer

Follows the Soviet dictator’s last days and depicts the chaos of the regime after his death.

Director:

Armando Iannucci

 

Stars:

Steve BuscemiSimon Russell BealeJeffrey Tambor

Joseph Stalin dies unexpectedly turning his ministers into panic.  There is a re-balance of power and power grabbing, a state funeral and other un-niceties.  The premise appears perfect for a black comedy.

THE DEATH OF STALIN, as the film is appropriately called can be divided into three parts, with sufficient chaos devoted to each.  The first part of the film establishes who is who around Stalin.  The  second is the passing of Stalin and his funeral.  The third is what happens after with Stalin’s ministry.  The film is described on film sites as a ‘comedy’.

Among the who’s who is Nikita Khrushchev (Steve Buchemi) who starts taking charge after Stalin’s passing.  Lavrentiy Beria (Simon Russell Beale) receives the worse end of the death, being accused of murder, execution, torture and yes, multiple rapes of little girls, of which Beria demands a fair trial.  Other well known actors Michael Palin (of Monty Python), Rupert Friend, Paddy Considine and Jeffrey Tambor add to the impressive cast making up ministers of various departments like defence, agriculture and so on.

Unlike his previous hit IN THE LOOP, Iannucci ’s THE DEATH OF STALIN, treads on the same grounds of political humour bordering on satire but turns out more crass and desperate for laughs.  The word ‘fuck’ is uttered too often and sounds out of place in a setting where the real Stalin and his men actually should be speaking Russian.   Example: When Stalin’s son is its on making a speech at his father’s funeral, Khrushchev’s response is: “and I want to fuck Grace Kelly.”  The questions: “What the fuck is going on?” is uttered many times.  The running joke of enemies of the State executed, tortured or imprisoned is fondly used.  When Stalin suffers a hurt attack and a doctor needed urgently, it is remarked that all the old doctors have been sent to he Gulag.

The film feels artificial with English spoken throughout, instead of Russian with subtitles.  The spectrum of accents is distracting.  While Buscemi speaks as if an American, the majority including Stalin speak with a strong British accent.

Despite the variety of accents, the performances are quite convincing.  Each actor could pass of as a Stalin comrade.  Buschemi is particularly hilarious, though the use of vulgarities could be toned down a little.  Jason Isaacs is also memorable as the Russian field marshall who is very fond of punching those he does not like right in the face, and then joke about it.

The sets, costumes and production design is to be commended for an authentic period Russian piece. 

In THE DEATH OF STALIN, which premiered last year at TIFF, cheap jokes and crass humour with lots of vulgarity appear the order of the day!  But these still bring in the laughs.  Just don’t expect classy black satirical humour but crass black satirical humour.  The ending is superb though with a shot of Leonid Brezhnev watching over the new proceedings like a cunning fox.

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ukJ5dMYx2no

 

Submit your Screenplay to the Festival TODAY