1/4/09

My Week in Film (12/29 - 1/4)



Choke (2008)
(Directed by Clark Gregg)

oh, wow, a movie worse than Wanted. I know how to pick them! Just a really ugly and depressing movie. This comes from a fan of the source material. Whatever laughs there are ring of desperation and a general misery. And the dramatic stuff was just awful. I couldn't wait for it to end...

1/2




The Wrestler (2008)
(Directed by Darren Aronofsky)


Good if sub-Dardennes at time. The comparison is justified at times but the film hits too many obvious dramatic beats along the way. Not enough quiet scenes of working. Anyway, the film is more naturalistic than expected and that's a good thing. We see Randy's routines early on. The way he works out, gets a tan, gets his steroids, etc. We're shown the backstage area and the fighters going over moves and routines. These scenes are the ones that work the best for me. They have an off-the-cuff feel. Rourke is pretty great. His sheer presence and physicality is what makes the performance so good. You can see that the pain behind the cuts and bruises is real. The sacrifices that Randy makes to be able to hear the roar of the crowd. Once stripper and daughter are introduced, the film gets into more comfortable dramatic territory if slightly less satisfying. I mean, that stuff works and is powerful but it's handled in a way that doesn't fit the more naturalistic aspects. It works but it feels different. Anyway, yeah... the man is a beast.

★★★





An Affair (1998)
(Directed by Lee Je-yong)

This was alright throughout its duration. It tells the story of a 38-year-old married woman who begins an affair with her sister's fiancee. This is all told using almost Korean Drama aesthetics. Very bland (although I also took a lot of screenshots of this one, mostly cuz the staging of the actors was nice). At first, we are shown her daily routines and how she goes about her day. We sense a desperation there. She drops off her kid for some summer camp thing. She sits at some business dinner of her husband's. She stares off into nothingness. And then comes the younger man. At points, their affair didn't amount to much other than "hey, they really enjoy having sex together!" (but, to be fair, it's pretty hot) but other points we do sense their fear of stagnation. The acting is pretty good. Mostly very low-key which I enjoyed. The two leads do have some chemistry and the heat in their scenes together is palpable. Everything plays out mostly realistically. But, then it ends. And that ending, I feel, does away with the stuff that came before. It suggests something that I don't think would've really happened. Me = conflicted.'

★★1/2




Ley Lines (1999)
(Directed by Takashi Miike)

hmmm, Miike. What a weird man. Bouncing from low-budget Yakuza films to weird body horror stuff to children's films to whatever. Ley Lines finds him deep in arthouse mode. He takes what could be an ordinary thriller and slows it down, way down. Apparently, this is the culmination of Miike's Black Society Trilogy (thematic trilogy about alienation, identity and uh... urban violence or something; the other two entries are 95's Shinjuku Triad Society and 97's Rainy Dog). The film follows a couple of youths who have Chinese ancestry and are looked down upon in their own little community (check this out for context). They figure that the way to better themselves is to go to Tokyo and try it out. However, Tokyo is pretty much a horror show. Sex and violence are everywhere. Quickly, they start selling some kind of chemical drug, hook up with a hooker (who's in many scenes beaten -- and takes part in what's probably the most disgusting POV shot I've ever seen (nsfw and ewww)). The scene has a purpose (to show how much she's being exploited -- she's from Shanghai, they're exploited even more in Tokyo!) but it still reeks of some of the shock stuff that Miike is known for doing. The youths find moments of happiness in it all but the film has a fatalistic streak to it and we wonder if they'll be able to set themselves apart from this world. The film has some pretty striking cinematography at points and Miike def knows how to stage a scene (I took many screenshots) and that makes the film better. There's also some other interesting stuff like whenever the characters say a racial derogatory term, it's bleeped out on the soundtrack, whenever genitals are shown the way they blur them out is hilarious (more context) and there's four uses of this really great tango music that are just sublime. Also, Naoto Takenaka (one of my favorite that guys from Japanese cinema is in this and it turns out he directed Tokyo Biyori? wtf). Anyway, while a lot of things were really good about this movie, I still have major issues with Miike's pacing. I like that he slows things down a notch but, at points, it's just ridiculously slow (which makes scenes of Takenaka speaking in Chinese (without subtitles -- might just be my copy) really hard to sit through). So, yeah. I want to check out the rest of the Trilogy now.

★★1/2



Boy Meets Girl (1984)
(Directed by Leos Carax)

hmmm, I've been working my way backwards in this Alex trilogy thing. Neither the '84 or the '86 are as good as the '91 but I'm glad I've seen them. This is a night film and the pace sort of reflects it. There's a lot of time when not a lot happens but then you meet the person and the night just picks up and you're talking for hours. Basically, Lavant tracks down a girl whose voice he heard and tries to meet her. Carax's characters all come with their own romantic problems and baggage. They're liable to do anything but feel comfortable doing nothing. The cinematography is pretty great and the leads are extremely appealing (as usual) but the film doesn't really begin begin until the leads start talking. It's all prologue to that. When this occurs, the film just takes off into the stratosphere for me and all the sensibilities of Carax's other films that appeal to me the most shine through here. This isn't to say that the rest is bad, it just pales to these scenes. And it doesn't have that really intense emotionality to it that other Carax films have. Instead, we get a dreamyish, half-romantic, half-wandering sort of thing which I like... but can get boring. Anyway, I could watch that girl tap dance forever... and it looks really, really great.

★★★




Don't Touch the Ax (2007)
(Directed by Jacques Rivette)

This was so good. But I can't really say why. Like, when I was watching it, I kept asking myself "why... why is this so fascinating? so watchable?" I'm still not sure. The film is basically all about power games. Depardieu and Balibar give such great performances. The son of the dude is basically this hulking beast who has no regard to societal rules and just wants the Duchess to be his. The Duchess is more complicated. She says she loves him. But that's it. She allows him to visit her daily but without consummation. Anyway, there's an elegance to this shit that only Flight can stand up to. Such measured camera movements, placing, everything. It was glorious. The story itself is kind of weird in that I'm not sure why I find it so fascinating (it might just be the actors) but there's something about the conversations (and the use of intertitles from Balzac's novella) that's really awesome. And I love how Depardieu looks. He's craggy as fuck. Just stands there ready to pounce but can't or won't or will. Yeah...

★★★1/2



L'Argent (1983)
(Directed by Robert Bresson)

Money, get away.

so sez Robert Presson, eh, I mean, Pink Floyd. But yeah.

feet, hands, doorways, glances, motorbikes, car chases, shootouts, ique, frames, french, $= evil, jailz, ohshi, ohshiohshiohshi, dogs, don't touch the axe, dayum.

★★1/2

Bresson ranked or something

1. A Man Escaped
2. Diary of a Country Priest
3. Mouchette
4. Pickpocket
5. Au Hasard Balthazar
6. L'Argent

I'm surprised I've seen this many.



Three Monkeys (2008)
(Directed by Nuri Bilge Ceylan)


This was pretty gangbusters image-wise. So good. All the shadows, the people, the occasional landscape. That stuff was all great. But, damn, this felt slow. At first, I was into it. It was just the son and the wife sort of living their lives. Hanging out, basically. But, other stuff happens. And while that stuff looks great (really, really great), it's not very interesting. Basically, after the husband comes back, I start losing interest. He's basically the narrative shoe drop which sets the shit in motion and meh meh meh. However, while I didn't believe some of the stuff at the end, the ending is pretty awesome. Just thunders and meanness and hell yeah. I'm looking forward to Climates and Distant.

★★1/2



Swallowtail Butterfly (1996)
(Directed by Shunji Iwai)

This is without a doubt one of the weirder movies we're likely to encounter in the bracket. I have no idea what this is. I'm not sure how to describe it. Basically, it follows immigrants who have gone to Japan because the Yen was really powerful at the time and they hope to strike it rich. The film explains in this in the opening minute in a cool Chou-Chou-esque thing majigger that was getting me all excited because I'd been disappointed in Iwai's other films. Anyway, the film then goes into the story of Glico and Ageha and how they meet and whatever. Then they meet other Yentown-ers who are living in some weird makeshift town outside the city. It's paradise. The movie tells us is paradise by shooting it all like a fucking music video. Granted, it looks awesome but when you follow it up by two other performances by Chara (the actress who plays Glico), it gets a bit ridiculous[. After this, the film turns to the struggle of these Yentowners to start some band and have a club. Then some random dude pops up 40 minutes in and starts asking questions and pointing fingers in what's probably the best scene in the film. This movie is just really surreal, honestly. There's such erratic shifts in tone and such blatant self-indulgence at display. I mean, what happens when you have scene after scene of stuff that doesn't gel together at all, a very distraught roujin. More interesting stuff: the film is mostly in English. Apparently, most of the characters can't speak Japanese (cuz they're immigrants) so they speak in English, or, rather, Engrish. Some scenes are incomprehensible to me cuz of the accents at display. Plus it's just surreal. And you get such great lines as "let's see your stomach, you fucking kangaroo." Great, great entertainment. I'm pretty sure this movie is awful (in a Southland Tales kind of way) but it's so damn entertaining and weird and doesn't bring up retarded political bullshit (at least not totally incompetently like in ST), that I can still enjoy it. I'm not sure what all of this means, actually. I really don't.

Why is the song "My Way" used as a recurring motif? lol

★★1/2



An American in Paris (1951)
(Directed by Vincente Minnelli)

wow, this surprised the hell out of me. I expected a good time thanks to Kelly but what I didn't expect was a weird undercurrent of sadness and melancholy (I don't know maybe it was just me) but the "Our Love Is Here To Stay" tops anything from Singing in the Rain (minus the title song, I think) and was just so damn romantic, I loved it. But, overall, this isn't as good. And, although I love the idea of the spectacle of a Red Shoes-style stuff starring Kelly, I just wish he'd never seen that movie cuz it would make this a total masterpiece. Cuz the ending is resolved in like two minutes and although I don't expect realism from something like this, certain moments earlier had a quietude to them that felt totally realistic and awesome. So, this probably needed an extra scene at the end, instead if a 18-minute ballet ;) I liked it, but still, it's just exhausting to watch when you're so wrapped up in the fates of these characters. But, yeah, Kelly is the man.

★★★★




His Girl Friday (1940)
(Directed by Howard Hawks)

okay, so this was like Bringing Up Baby but not as zany/annoying and with the awesomeness of that movie tripled. Plus it has Rosalind Russell who is amazing. And Cary Grant who is amazing. Seriously, the movie brings the lulz. Just thinking about the dude who brings the reprieve and how he keeps talking about his wife is hilarious. Comparing it to Baby again, the movie doesn't just depend on the zaniness of the characters. In fact, there are moments of genuine emotion to me and there's almost a mean streak (with a wink) to the characters which is awesome (again). So, yeah, good one pix!!!

★★★★1/2



Young and Dangerous (1996)
(Directed by Lau Wai-keung)

uh, young guns join the triads and do good. Interesting! Apparently, this guy was also the cinematographer on Chungking Express so I expected some interesting visuals, hopefully. But, it seems that was for naught. At points, there's cool neon-stuff + slo-mo stuff but that's about it visually. The camera is jumpy and kinetic and that's cool but there's not much happening otherwise. Apparently, this film was the basis for something like nine sequels (two of them in the same year) so apparently it was a big deal. I can see why, sort of. The story is pretty basic. The young guys try and make good in the triad but get fucked bcuz they're young and some old dude is like "hell naw, motherfucker, I got this" or something or other and plot stuff happens and whatever. It's pretty conventional. It reminds me of the movies I used to see on Saturday afternoons on the WB cuz I had nothing else to do and it was on. Probably, the movie's interesting aspect is that it was based on a manga and the film pays homage to this by sometimes fading into stills from the manga (directly reproduced as live-action film). It was pretty surreal and awesome watching the introduction of the characters. It gave me hope that it would do something interesting with this. But, it seemed content in just randomly doing it without purpose (although it definitely was pretty cool at the end, even if the ending is totally stupid and awesome). uh, points off for having totally awful music. Plus points for having totally awesome dialogue exchanges. Uh, yeah.

★1/2




Serial Mom (1994)
(Directed by John Waters)

Pretty obvious but still sort of fun although it gets tiresome by the time Suzanne Sommers shows up and starts being Suzanne Sommers. Turner is pretty great as is Waterston. The kids suck. Too bad they didn't chew gum and stuff. The still is probably my favorite part. Whatever, friendo.

★★




À nos amours (1983)
(Directed by Maurice Pialat)

What a messy movie this is. Not messy in aesthetics or anything like that, just in the emotions that it contains and the feelings that it expresses. Sandrine Bonnaire plays a young girl named Suzanne who has begun to discover the power she has over men. But the film never succumbs to thrills. Suzanne's affairs are viewed as sad and are never really romanticized. She's looking for love in all the wrong places~ Her home life might be part of the problem. There's definitely issues with her Dad and her brother. They're almost too overprotective and concerned with her sexuality (reminds of renaissance plays!). But it's even more complicated than that. Pialat himself plays her father in a performance that's pretty amazing. There's two conversations that Suzanne has with her father that are so great. They explore their complicated relationship in such an unsentimental way. The way Pialat looks at Bonnaire kills me. And their talk on the bus or whatever is one of my favorite moments of all time. I think what I appreciate the most is the depiction of this odd, odd family. One where hysterics and pain are the rule. It's like all they do is slap and shout at each other. It's odd that it's so touching. I can't explain it. It's just the look. Can't wait to see more from this man.

★★★★




Holiday (1938)
(Directed by George Cukor)

Damn, shit was bleak. Cary Grant must keep his individuality while everyone else in the movie is sipping haterade. Of course, Katharine Hepburn was great in this and she had great chemistry with Grant and stuff. I actually expected something like Bringing Up Baby which led me to be surprised at the general heaviness of some of this stuff. Everyone around them is trying to get them to conform to the normal ways of living. But they just won't have any of it. What do you do if you're trapped in the kind of life Hepburn and her brother are stuck into? Suck it up and drink yourself into a stupor. Luckily, we have Grant doing one-handed backflips to remind all of us to say "fuck you" to other people. That shit don't matter.

★★★1/2



Sombre (1998)
(Directed by Phillipe Gandrieux)

You're plunged into sudden darkness. No clue what's going on. There is a man and a woman. There's the pain. No context. No nothing. Just acts. Unspeakable acts. All of them fragmented to hell. All of them in the darkness. fuck, this was intense. It's a serial killer movie without plot, without dialogue, without. It depends entirely on visuals and mood and its narrative strategy to keep it going. At first, it's just aggressively elliptical and confusing and even experimental in its approach. But... Its soundtrack is a dirge of electronic noises. The man kills. I think we are immersed in his experience. But it lets up, allowing "others" to occupy the film's universe. This is the entry point for the film. And from there, we shift perspectives (sort of). We are on someone's side. The implications of the film's story are quite intriguing... involving victim complicity and other bullshit but I don't really care much about that. This thing is a nightmare.

★★★1/2



Unbreakable (2000)
(Directed by M. Night Shyamalan)

Agreed with Sean that Shyamalan does unusual things with his camera for a mainstream movie. Like, the opening credits sequence that moves back and forth between Bruce Willis and the person next to him making for a needlessly long take. Anyway, whatever. Really enjoyed the slow pace of this. The acting was also pretty excellent. I think I sometimes forget how cool Bruce Willis can be in a movie. He's understated and whenever he opens a doorway in the house and all you see is his silhouette... awesome. Jackson is creepy as hell. I almost couldn't believe it was him just because of the way his face looked. And the ending... the ending is good, even if it's kinda cheesy. I actually might check out his other movies now...

★★★




The Rules of The Game (1939)
(Directed by Jean Renoir)

Exquisitely shot and acted, yes, but. Really enjoyed how the servants sort of imitated the people they served. The rich have romantic dalliances and are buffoons so the people in the kitchen will be as well. The performances are pretty excellent and there's even moments of sadness and reflection in it all. I like that the film skirts being a boring comedy of manners by pretty much skewering everyone and everything. I'm not even sure that the people who are "sincere" (those boring people) are left alone. I think the film only really begins to be interesting when they hit the country home and whatever and the dynamics of upper and lower class become the main focus. It's here when I had the most fun with the film. Anyway, Renoir as Octave is definitely the best part of the entire film. Just the bear costume was enough for me. uh, I should rewatch The Grand Illusion. That was better.

★★★




Matador (1986)
(Directed by Pedro Almodovar)

woo! sex and violence! Of course, this was great. Right off the bat, violence is sexualized. And after that, it don't stop. I feel kind of weird about liking this so much. I mean, any movie with completely gratituous shots (maybe) of the packages of young matadors AND sex scenes culminating in death is bound to make me feel weird. There's also some really weird stuff regarding how many times someone's tried to rape this girl. "huh?" It's too bad that Banderas sort of stops being in the movie after a while cuz he's great but fuck, Nacho Martinez is so good in this. He's totally handsome and yet when you watch him (with the opening scene on your mind), you realize how sick all of this shit is. Awesome. Where are my shoes? Love how weird this thing gets, giving Banderas visions and eventually elevating its culmination by topping it off with an eclipse. I feel strange now...

★★★1/2

I went crazy this week...

Jhon's Movie of the Week is.. His Girl Friday

3 comments:

face said...

So many things wrong, maybe a few right. However, the real question is, what's sex with Leos Carax like?

roujin said...

scored to david bowie, I presume.

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