Monday, October 14, 2013

1492: Conquest of Paradise

1492: Conquest of ParadiseDirector Ridley Scott brings Columbus to life in this impressive film which, when released in 1992, coincided with the 500th anniversary of Christopher Columbus's discovery of new lands surrounding two unknown continents. For this reason alone, the film deserves to be treasured by viewers all over the world. The subject of Conquest Of Paradise, of course is Christopher Columbus, played wonderfully by French actor Gerard Depardieu (Green Card, Cyrano De Bergerac). Depardieu brings a lot to the role, and creates a realistic portrayal of Columbus. I can't see how any other actor, could bring more to the role, than Depardieu did. In terms of casting, Depardieu's a perfect fit for this role, he resembles Columbus, has a nice smile and sort of a middle age appearance to him, with his long shaggy hair. The rest of the cast shines, and engages the audience. Armand Assante, Sigourney Weaver and Michael Wincott are among some of the film's cast members, and the performances they give are solid. The film succeeds on four of its noteworthy merits. The first one would be Scott's directing, and his reputation for incorporating vivid & gorgeous images into all his films, the second one would be its historical accuracy, the third one would be its score, composed by Vangelis, who can create gorgeous paintings like Scott can, but only to the music he makes. Finally the fourth one would be the casting of Depardieu, who can add spice to basically any film that he stars in.

When this film was released most critics were too analytical about it, and the film didn't draw in big crowds. Now, how films like this get lost amongst the trees, is really mysterious. I think this film's a classic, and maybe others will once this film gets its deserved exposure. The film is full of defining Columbus scenes, it's like traveling back in time, if you haven't seen this film, please do so.

This is the 1492 Definitive Edition release out of Brazil. It is region 0 (ALL). It is the first widescreen release available in the U.S. The quality is very good and it worth to pay a little more because it is widescreen.

The greatest mistake that could be made in 1492 was avoided. Columbus is not portrayed as a simple, lovable hero on a heroic quest in the land of the heathens. This alone makes for an interesting movie, but it is a masterfully crafted journey populated with well-developed characters.

The screenwriter has the intelligence to stage a large part of the movie in Spain so the viewer can see the European civilization that Columbus brings with him. He comes to the New World from a land of Byzantine beauracracies, heretic burnings, constant war, and overpopulation.

Columbus (despite a French accent) plays his role brilliantly. He is an educated, naturally curious man, who is charismatic and politically adept. But he is also impulsive and has a quick temper. Though he thinks differently than most Europeans, he is still a person of his times.

This film has sunk into obscurity because of its lack of a simplified happy ending but it is still one of Ridley Scott's best. The cinematography, Vangelis' music, and the plot are all wonderful. I hope that one day this film will be resurrected.

Buy 1492: Conquest of Paradise Now

More appreciated, perhaps, for its soundtrack than its cinematic content, Ridley Scott's retelling of the Columbus story is a well-paced, well-written and well-acted masterpiece. In the abstract, the pairing of Scott with this assignment seems all wrong given the nature of most of his previous work. However, it's just this same innovation and starkness which characterised `Alien', `Bladerunner' and `Thelma And Louise' that serves him so well in crafting a nearly immaculate mediaeval epic.

Scott's strengths have always been his technique, his compulsion toward making a perfect picture as well as an indefatiguable eye for symbolism and allegory. All three elements are certainly present in `1492, Conquest of Paradise' and act together as a fulcrum over which he can lever an essentially impossible story into place. A lesser director would have been overwhelmed by the scale of the subject matter's intrinsic demands but Scott does more than maintain a consistently high standard throughout this movie.

The film itself has a crisp texture and deals with its subject with religious attention given over to establishing a maximum of historical accuracy and a mininum of academic conjecture. By way of Scott's vivid depiction, the viewer feels the anticipation of the explorer with him [Columbus], the thrill of the voyage into the unknown and the horror of the errors made after the discovery, all the while being forced to inhabit the sweaty, bewildered consciousness of a Fifteenth Century observer. It's really quite fitting that Gerard Depardieu was given the role of Christopher Columbus. A heavily accented Francophone, he struggles with his lines in many parts of the movie, symbolising, maybe, the diffculty Columbus actually experienced in communicating his plight to a not-so-sympathetic Spanish Court.

The sets are vast, impressive and symptomatic of Scott's obsession with translating every aspect of the Italian mariner's quest to film before, during, after and well after his discovery of the New World. We learn about Columbus as an individual, as a man with deep flaws as well as tremendous strengths someone who failed every bit as miserably as he won well. Through Scott's lens, the New World is gold-plated paper mache an Eden which proves to be horribly fragile. The honeymoon in this Paradise is a shortlived one and soon the New World falls to the greed of an Empire, its people soon vanquished by the insanity and insensitivity of the Spanish.

A film about Humanity, about the consequences of Man's greed and the uselessness of his remorse, this is one picture that has virtually everything going for it. Excellent art and set direction, impeccable acting (even from the somewhat miscast Sigourney Weaver in the role of Queen Isabella) and the richness of Scott's camera work bleed through a sound canvas formed by the premise of this very grand screen story. Vangelis's music gilds this film to the point that that soundtrack almost adopts the form of a story itself, running parallel to the visual work.

You can't lose with this. High entertainment and a firm educational grounding give `1492, Conquest of Paradise' every right to recognition as an unfairly forgotten screen classic from the early Nineties.

Read Best Reviews of 1492: Conquest of Paradise Here

Ridley Scott, best known for such films as Gladiator and Black Hawk Down, is well-known for creating movies that are visually stunning. A trained graphic artist, Scott has an understanding of composition, color, and lighting that few other directors come close to mastering. What Spielberg does for pacing and narration of stories that can be followed by all, Scott does for visual magic. And 1492 is arguably Scott's best work.

Unfortunately, this movie did not receive the popular nor critical attention that it so rightly deserved. There are many possible reasons for this: at the time it was introduced (1992) there was another Columbus film that was really bad. I'm sure many of the negative reviews of that film didn't help ticket sales for this one. Secondly, the political correctness of the time had cast Columbus into an unfortunately negative image. The Columbus in this movie is neither the hero nor the villian extremists wish to make him out to be, so the film does tend to alienate both extremes in its attempt to portray Columbus as that one kind of historical figure many people seem to have a problem with: a human being.

The film itself does have its flaws. The script is a little awkward, as is the pacing. But on the visual and technical side, this is a film that powerfully transports the viewer to that time. Every scene seems obsessed over. The costumes, the position of the sun, the light, even the food. You can feel the cold, the heat, the dust.

Even the music is wonderful. Most of it is electronic based, composed by Vangelis who is best known for his theme to the movie Chariots of Fire. Some have complained this is a bad mismatch, as electronic music wasn't around in Columbus' era. However, neither were contemporary orchestras that drive the scores to many historical movies. While at first unusual the soundtrack for this movie is a perfect fit, serving to powerfully infuse Scott's brilliant visual composition with just the right emotional vibration.

Gerard Depardieu would not have been my first choice for this role, but his performance is certainly very impressive. While it's not the Columbus I was expecting, it is a wonderfully human performance. Many have griped about Depardieu's accent, claiming he's difficult to understand and feeling it's not sufficiently Italian. However, keep in mind that Columbus was from Genoa (and remember where that is). As all of the Spanish characters are speaking English in this film, Depardieu's French accent stands out from everyone else in the same way that Columbus' accent most likely stood out from his Spanish companions 500 years ago. What some people seem rather bothered by I actually found rather fitting.

So what do we have here? A movie that's visually stunning and a technical masterpiece, but a little awkward in the script. If you've been impressed by the visual aspects of other Ridley Scott films, notably Legend, Blade Runner, and Black Hawk Down, be sure to see this. Put aside your prejudices, forget historical authenticity, and simply enjoy one of the most visually impressive films available.

(I was originally going to give this movie 4 stars in recognition that it does have some flaws. However, the visual qualities of the film so make up for the shortcomings that I had to move it up to 5.)

Want 1492: Conquest of Paradise Discount?

A curiosity piece with a politically correct slant, "1492" is an epic drama well worth viewing. It is held together by the fabulous cinematography (on location in Spain and Costa Rica by Adrian Biddle), the splendid score by Vangelis, and the powerful screen presence of Gerard Depardieu; it could however, have used some subtitles, not for the dialogue of the island natives, but for Depardieu...his English is appalling, and at times hard to decipher.

The "evils of civilization" are represented by the lust for gold, massive scenes of violence where impaling on swords and sharp sticks seems to be the "gore du jour", and the bigotted, and avaricious "Moxica", played by Michael Wincott, who always makes such a good villain. Others in the cast of note are Sigourney Weaver as a beautiful Isabel, and Armand Assante as Sanchez.

This film gets one historical thing right; the people who opposed Columbus' voyage did so not because they thought the world was flat (a myth many still believe) but because they thought he was incorrect in his calculations of the earth's circumference, which he an enormous amount. Lucky for Columbus, the New World was waiting to be discovered !

At about 2 ½ hours, it could have used some trimming, but it's nevertheless an intriguing film, and a must for history buffs and Depardieu fans.

"Paradise and hell both, can be earthly; we carry them with us wherever we go".

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