What would normally have been another retread of a terribly familiar film concept is given new gravitas with its direct handheld style. Kristian Levring, one of the founders of Dogme 95, thrives under the audiovisual constraints, giving full attention to the group dynamic. The setting is a constant source of excitement, the shades of saturated orange reminding one of the suffocating heat. The range of characters unfortunately also means a range of performances – where one actor might be thoroughly convincing, the next is hammy enough to shake the viewer back into reality. In a way, the King Lear performance draws subtle reference to this unevenness, resourcefully turning it on its head to breathe new life into the film.
Sunday, 19 September 2010
Sunday, 12 September 2010
Transnational director Urszula Antoniak sidesteps the obvious option of making Anne (or even the entire film) mute in order to hit home her isolation, but the character’s refusal to divulge information about herself, coupled with her hard-to-place accent and fiery disposition, depicts her as an untamable sprite figure. Little is revealed about Martin either, and in this way the two have an unspoken understanding, one that the audience can latch onto the moment the characters realise a shared taste in music. It’s a film one could imagine Michael Winterbottom making in a slow year, but Antoniak shows only enough of her story to leave the viewer wanting to revisit it again and again.
Thursday, 9 September 2010
The Weather – short remake of Berlin, Symphony of a Great City?
Expectations – interview snippet which means little out of context
Me – dark, brooding depiction of sexuality, with notes of sci-fi
Meditation – entertaining portrait of a loving matriarch with an unusual hobby
Danthing – utterly surreal computer animation, reminiscent of Guy Maddin
My Things – sentimental, and a sweet interpretation of the title;
Light Apparel – baffling proverbial piece about gender inequality
Archaeology – mildly interesting documentary which discusses the Sami people
Centre – superb experimental short which keeps a moving ball at the centre of the screen
Life In Six Steps – ambitious Reggio-esque documentary which doesn’t quite gel together
Berlin Retour – unusual time-travelling WWII short with a questionable aesthetic
Casting – weak comedy which aims to subvert the stereotypes of Danish women
Peeping – culture-shock drama; feels like an excerpt of a bigger film
Dreaming – typical political fare from Dušan Makavejev, with cheeky self-reference
Bliss – inaccessible fragment of a conversation between the artist and Vietnamese friends
My Father – touching short about memory; could have been longer
Pork And Apple Stew – dreadful absurdist animation
Rhythm – decent piece on samba, although tenuous link to the theme
Tobacco – shows a prematurely aged woman smoking; subtle yet effective
Why Don’t We? – tries to conclude the film with a previously unacknowledged message
Though frequently acknowledged as Thailand’s first film noir (‘noir’ is a bit of a misnomer here as each scene is a rich tapestry of colour), Black Silk has more poignancy than the average thriller, contrasting the metropolitan with the traditional. Certain elements, such as Prae’s position as the widow fallen in with a bad lot, seem to anticipate Đặng Nhật Minh’s marvellous postwar When The Tenth Month Comes, a film that similarly entertains while retaining a sense of realism in its characters. Action in the film is subverted ironically by the inactivity of the camera – a double murder uses a maximum of three angles, with most of the event being caught in a single take. Full credit must go to Ratanavadi Ratanabhand, who brings to the role of Prae a quiet but persistant elegance.
Wednesday, 8 September 2010
Fassbinder could never be accused of lacking ambition, and in The Niklashausen Journey he becomes his most politically direct. The film uses anachronisms to invite reevaluations of contemporary German politics, with particular resonance with the possible reunification of Germany. He also uses the presence of a medieval peasant amidst modern characters to underline the ridiculousness of revolutionaries comparing themselves to historical figures by dint of their ability to recite ideologies with conviction. One particularly mischievous example sees Böhm preaching Marxist slogans to anyone who will listen, before singing a paean to Lenin. Naturally, a film with such grand aspirations is bound to be uneven, and it is difficult to tell what Fassbinder wanted his audience to make of the characters’ contradictions. As such, it does not have the sincerity of Pasolini’s more overtly political works, sharing more in common with Derek Jarman’s later Jubilee. Uncompromising but unbalanced.
Monday, 6 September 2010
The American Soldier is one of those Fassbinder films that spends a lot of its screentime both revering and parodying cinema, and here the target is film noirs and the gangster genre. Remarkably, even with such a thin premise, it succeeds in holding one’s attention. Even in its most high-octane moments, the film carries on in a plodding pace, a choice that deliberately steals the plot of its frivolity and adds a touch of realism. The gorgeous photography, comprising glowing whites against pitch black, keeps Münich in perpetual nighttime. The character of Ricky could easily have come from one of Fassbinder’s first three features, but gone is the impish sarcasm and dispassion that made films like Gods of the Plague so enjoyable. It’s by no means a bad film, but it does leave one wanting.
The film was commissioned by the Foreign Affairs Ministry of Phuket in the hopes of drumming up tourism for Phuket, and director Aditya Assarat manages to eke out a narrative while maintaining focus on the island’s beautiful scenery. Cleverly using the theme of memories to keep his protagonist travelling around, Assarat colours the film with gentle humour and optimism. Lim Su-jeong, famed for roles in A Tale of Two Sisters and I’m A Cyborg, But That’s OK, has honed a decent American accent and pulls off the sense of the out-of-her-depth pop diva without even singing a note. Veteran action star Sorapong Chatree is charming as the fatherly chauffeur, the antithesis of Jin’s jaded superstar. At thirty minutes, it’s perhaps a little too short to make an impact, and longer than predicted for what is essentially a cinematic postcard. Nonetheless, there is sweetness in every frame, coaxed along by a wistful indie soundtrack.
While there have previously been intellectual cinematic explorations into sado-masochistic practices, Women’s Flesh disturbingly appears to be designed solely for thrills and, quite terrifyingly, is not the most extreme feature by infamous director Tamakichi Anaru. Nothing in the film suggests the viewer’s need to ‘understand’ or empathise with these women, their actions little more than a graphic display. Though utterly abhorrent in its themes and purpose, the film is at least interesting for its extremely lo-fi shooting style. VHS artefacts make each image difficult to make out, while a soundtrack of noise and electronic blips adds a supernatural element to the proceedings. Far too pointlessly morbid and puerile to warrant attention, Women’s Flesh is a bewildering bit of VHS-era gore designed merely to shock and disgust.
Friday, 3 September 2010
Browning’s love of the macabre makes the theme of infidelity in The Unknown so much more vivid as abnormality becomes Alonzo’s alibi for trustworthiness. Nanon’s disgust for the hands of men is a clear reference to the predatory nature of male sexuality, and Alonzo’s secret, coupled with his double thumb, make him a particular threat to Nanon, one that only the audience recognises. His decision to have his arms amputated is in effect a misguided castration, a metaphor deeply shocking even by implication. Lon Chaney does a commendable job in an unusually difficult role. Carefully designed and expertly paced, The Unknown is a hugely entertaining thriller.