What Movies Did You Watch Last Week?

I really wanted to check out Woody Allen’s newest film last week, Blue Jasmine, but unfortunately I didn’t get to it. So instead I caught up with some obligatory Pedro Almodóvar. Why is that? Well, once again Allen inspired me to to so, because I noticed that he collaborated with quite a few people that Almodóvar has worked with, or is it the other way around? Either way, I was in the mood for some cinema español, but I made the unforgivable mistake of watching two movies by the same director in a row. Normally, that’s not an issue, but with auteurs making their films so personal, often discussing the same themes, creating the same atmospheres, casting the same actors etc. the problem is that I will now mix up the two films in my mind. It’s silly I know, but I’m sure this doesn’t only happen to me. Does it?

Diary of a Nymphomaniac (2008) – 3 (IMDb 5.6) – Drama (Spain)
diary of a nymphomaniac
It’s no secret I’ve been growing more and more excited for Lars von Trier’s upcoming film Nymphomaniac. In my excitement for a film I usually try to seek out films that could be similar or discuss the same topics. Unfortunately, Diary of a Nymphomaniac is a terrible film. Most of it has to do with a truly detriment screenplay, like one of the worst I’ve ever come across. Zero believability. It doesn’t help that the actors aren’t exactly top class either. The film follows a young woman struggling with her own sexuality. Not that I would know much on the subject, but correct me if I’m wrong, but if you’re a sex addict that doesn’t just disappear because you “fall in love”. Aside from that there’s a huge problem with one character who also changes overnight and goes from prince charming to generic drunk & abusive husband. All in all just a lousy film I can’t wait to forget.

Machete Kills (2013) – 5 (IMDb 6) – Action, Crime (USA)

Happy People: A Year in the Taiga (2010)
– 7.5 (IMDb 7.6) – Documentary (Germany)
happy people
It’s getting real cold where I live during this time of the year, but I’m sure it’s nothing compared to Siberia. Directed by my favorite documentarian Werner HerzogHappy People‘ follows a group of hunters in one of the coldest places on “God’s wide earth” (as Herzog likes to refer to our planet). I’m not sure the film works as good as some of his other documentaries, but it’s still a very detailed and accurate-feeling portrait of the Taiga and the people living there. I can only imagine the incredible and insurmountable challenges Herzog and his crew must have faced shooting this film at below 40-50°C, sometimes even underwater. There are some beautiful and stunning images only he could capture.
I have to wonder about the film’s title though, which I’m not sure I completely understand. Herzog calls the hunters “happy people”, because they’re free from the government (no taxes), in their jobs (no boss) and in their social ties (no families). Then however in one scene he reveals how many hunters have problems with alcohol. So is the title supposed to be ironic? I sure hope not. All in all just a gorgeous documentary with some great insights into a disappearing culture I’m sure not many are familiar with. Check it out!

Volver (2006) – 7 (IMDb 7.6) – Drama, Comedy, Crime (Spain)
Film Title: Volver
I was really surprised by Volver, most of the Pedro Almodóvar films I had seen up until this point were really kitsch (on purpose of course), but lacked a more “naturalistic” or straightforward or even credible storytelling approach. This film is very believable, although you do believe there’s possibly something fantastical going on at some point. Why am I being so cryptic and secretive? I don’t want to spoil the films’ plot, I think it works best if you go in and watch it knowing as little as possible. Of course being an Almodóvar film it looks beautiful (I love his crazy color palettes), the actors are great (namely Penélope Cruz and Lola Dueñas) and the humor is so weird you kind of need an extra second to “get it” and decide if you can get behind it. One of the problems I seem to be encountering with most of the director’s films however is the script, which seems a bit unfocused at times and goes into subplots and side plots which either don’t pay off or aren’t necessarily essential to the story overall. Maybe it’s also a matter of editing, though I like how he paces his films usually.

Talk to Her (2002) – 7 (IMDb 8) – Drama, Romance, Comedy (Spain)
talk to her
Another beautiful film by Spanish auteur Pedro Almodóvar, Talk to Her (original title: Hable con ella) is a slightly twisted, but nonetheless romantic love story of two guys in love with a woman who is in a coma. That is all you really need to know plot-wise. Once again the film is absolutely stunning and a joy to look at, the actors are fantastic, the director’s signature humor is there, but the script wonders off in all kinds of directions. For example there’s a lengthy faux silent era film, which is quite good mind you, however slows the film down and distracts the viewer (possibly even confusing them). One of my biggest takeaways from the film is Leonor Watling, as the dancer who’s in a coma, maybe it’s because she’s so beautiful, but I felt that she conveyed so much without barely doing anything. When all is said and done this film gives you a lot to think about, but it does so without being annoying about it, which is precisely what I like about a director like Pedro.


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