Bobo (Mira Barkhammar) and Klara (Mira Grosin) are best friends. They love candy, pretty boys, but most of all: Punk music. Wait, isn’t punk dead? Not according to these two young ladies. One day while at their local youth center they decide to try to make some music themselves. Not having any experience of ever playing a musical instrument whatsoever they are very bad at it, but then they have an idea. Why not ask the Hedvig (Liv LeMoyne)? Who’s Hedvig? She’s your typical goody two shoes Christian girl, awesome guitar player though. Hedvig decides to join the band, but first they’ll have to totally mess up her long blond hair and convert her to punk rock. Continue reading
A young prostitute (Rodleen Getsic) is having a hard time making a living, blowing half of her hard-earned cash on drugs and getting robbed of the other half by her clients. Most days she’s wandering around towns giving occasional blow-jobs and snorting illegal substances up her pretty nose. One day she’s so fucked up, she ends up raped by her client, who then tears through her backpack and steals all her money. With no pimp to protect her and nothing to eat she is forced to hop on the first truck she sees. The guy (Jeff F. Renfro) seems all right. They share some coke. He starts getting weird. He touches her inappropriately. She tells him to stop. He doesn’t. She passes out. He locks her up in the back of his truck. She wakes up. He is torturing her. There is no escape. They’re in the desert, nobody can hear her scream. He shaves her head, films her, chains her, puts a mask on her, leaves her naked on the floor: The bunny game begins. Continue reading
This week The Spectacular Now may or may not come to your local art house. Wait, it’s not? Oh, right only four theaters (let me guess LA & NY?): No worries! Here are five coming-of-age films that are readily available for you to watch on home video or the internet.
While three weeks ago we discussed young adults in ‘arrested development‘, coming-of-age films are just as popular sub-genre, but they’re actually about young people ‘successfully’ transitioning into adulthood. Why is the genre so popular? Well, Hollywood knows their target audience’s age (bravo!) and so they’ll make movies that speak to them. Also these movies are about “firsts”, mostly focussing on first sexual experiences, because let’s face it that’s what’s interesting.
Most of you might be familiar with the American coming-of-age films and there are a ton of films about the subject. Wikipedia reports more than two-hundred movies, plus hundreds of teenage movies exploring the subject one way or another. Now, not to be a snob, because I love US cinema, but to encourage you to look for a different spin on things let me recommend you four foreign films and only one American. These also happen to be some of my favorite films, so again, not trying to be a snob here.
5. Amarcord (1973, Federico Fellini)
Some say this is Fellini’s most personal film. Looking through his book of dreams (his diary, original title: il libro dei sogni) this summer I found many images he drew that feel like they could fit in the same universe as this film. This film is a glimpse inside his mind and where he grew up. In fact the small town in Emilia-Romagna becomes a character itself. Amarcord means, translated from the local dialect, “mi ricordo”: I remember. Memories tend to be fuzzy, they tend to have a dream-like quality, and we can all agree that films are like dreams. This film got a lot of critical acclaim, but you should watch it because it’s also funny (in typical Fellini fashion) and melancholic and if you’re a Fellini fan: This is one of his best films and he has one of the most impressive filmographies I know of.
4. Show Me Love (1998, Lukas Moodysson)
Fucking Åmål (original Swedish title) is the story of two teenage girls and their romantic relationship. The film is set in a small town in Sweden and Moodysson shows just what it’s like to be a teenager in school, the relationship with your parents and your peers. Living in the German-speaking part Switzerland I found that a lot of the things I experienced or felt were the same as in this film. When I watch American films it feels distant, I can still connect, but this actually felt as if it was about my youth, even though I never was a Swedish teenage girl. This film is honest, it perfectly captures the time and place, it’s sweet and romantic and everything I love about Moodysson. It’s about wanting to get away from home, and feeling trapped in a small town and I certainly knew that feeling growing up.
3. The Virgin Suicides (1999, Sofia Coppola)
Who hasn’t thought about suicide at least once in their life? Certainly growing up you think about it a lot. Sofia Coppola’s début feature film is already a beautiful, tender film, but a very depressing one. Tonally, it’s unlike anything she has directed since. Every time I watch it it makes me sad and I totally feel like the Lisbon girls, although I don’t kill myself at the end. Even at this early stage of Sofia’s career she’s great at directing young actors, capturing the 1970s essence and drawing you into the film with great music and spectacular cinematography. I don’t know if I’d recommend this film to depressed people, but it’s certainly the best American coming-of-age film I know, because Sofia doesn’t shy away from uncomfortable subject matter and is not afraid to show what it truly feels like to be a teenager. There is also a mystery element to the film which gives it an aura of weird sadness.
2. Fat Girl (2001, Catherine Breillat)
À ma sœur! (literally: to my sister) is a film about two sisters competing with each other. One is beautiful, but very naïve when it comes to sex, the other is, well fat and unattractive, but a bit more street smart. Both are on summer vacation and the film is about their first sexual experiences and how that changes the dynamic between them. It’s also about depression and apathetic parents. Like most of Breillat films it shows you explicit sex scenes that aren’t sexy. It’s raw, but always loving even when it’s uncomfortable to watch. The beauty of it is that Breillat doesn’t judge its characters, in fact this film is partly autobiographical. I haven’t seen all of her films yet, but I think this is without a doubt her masterpiece. I have to re-watch it because it’s been a while, but it’s definitely in my top 100 and the ending is just jarring. If someone says they saw it coming, they’re lying!
1. Turn Me On, Dammit! (2011, Jannicke Systad Jacobsen)
This was one of my favorite films of 2011, and that was a great year for film, but Få meg på, for faen made the top 10. From the first scene of the film, which is Helene Bergsholm masturbating on the floor, I knew this was going to be a great one and it was. Much like Show Me Love this is about a teenage girl who wants out of her small town in Norway. She has these weird sex fantasies that lead to her getting a “bad” reputation, you know how quick that can happen in small towns. It’s a funny film, it’s very ‘girly’ sometimes, which makes it cute and ‘innocent’ even if it does treat some adult themes. I also like the look of this film and the costumes (sounds weird to say I know), I look forward to checking out more films by Jacobsen. As I always say: We need more women directing!
That’s it for this week. The films were in chronological order, not order of preference, because I don’t have the heart to do that. I realize the sub-genre is vast and these five films barely scratch the surface so I’ll go ahead and recommend the films of John Hughes for those of you that want something more American and mainstream and Gregg Araki if you’re more on the indie side. If you feel that there were films that I left out that absolutely need to be mentioned, please leave a comment and let me know!
The good movies took up most of my viewing time this week: As it should be. I’m thankful for new discoveries, but I have a hard time picking a favorite, having to choose between consistently good quality filmmaking, but nothing sticking out in particular. I’ll do my best, for you.
Showgirls (1995) – 8 (IMDb 4.3) – Drama, Comedy (USA)
Why does this film get the ‘disappointing re-watch’ label? Quite simply: I revisited Showgirls on monday and it wasn’t as good as I remembered it to be or built up in my mind. It’s still a misunderstood and underrated film I very much recommend, but it’s not the masterpiece I made it out to be. It’s flawed and has some problems. It still deserves to be called good, because it’s a campy/cheese triumph. A great success story and commentary on showbiz. What disappointed me a little bit was the character of Nomi (Elizabeth Berkley) who was a bit annoying and whiny, I remembered her to be totally badass and likable. Guess I was wrong. Still, crazy sex scenes and hilarious dialogue. Some of the cabaret scenes are a bit long, but other than that it’s good fun. Oh, and this is for my American readers: You think you’re pronouncing Versace right, but your not! No offense.
Drinking Buddies (2013) – 7 (IMDb 6.6) – Comedy, Drama, Romance (USA)
The mumblecore aesthetic might have been overly criticized and made fun of (part of it is envy), but Joe Swanberg really came around as a filmmaker and proved that he has got some real talent as a filmmaker. Drinking Buddies is a fun comedy with heart, embarrassing moments (as you’d expect from the sub-genre and the director) and even some genuinely original ideas. Olivia Wilde is the best part of the film in terms of performance, she really made me chance my mind about her: She’s more than a pretty face. Anna Kendrick is good and finally does something different in terms of acting. The boys (Jake Johnson, Ron Livingston) are good too. Horror director Ti West makes an appearance in this, believe it or not. The story follows two couples and their relationship problems. What I especially liked about this film was the ending, because after all the characters go through you’d expect a certain type of ending, but it’s completely different and funny and charming, leaving no questions open. I know, it’s hard to talk about a film without spoilers, but trust me: You’ll love and remember that ending. Good script.
‘PICK OF THE WEEK’
A Hole in My Heart (2004) – 7 (IMDb 4.5) – Drama (Sweden)
A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy (1982) – 7 (IMDb 6.6) – Comedy, Romance, Fantasy
This week Woody Allen’s new film Blue Jasmine was released in the US, of course they’re still working on it here in Switzerland. Feeling in the mood for
love some Woody, I decided to watch one of the films of his I hadn’t seen yet. “What? You make a top five of Woody Allen’s films and you haven’t even seen all of them?” Well, I’ve seen all of his masterpieces, except for Bananas.. Okay, come on, the guy has made almost fifty movies! So anyway, A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy is a charming, typically Woody Allen type of comedy. Great acting and actors, references to Shakespeare and Bergman, great pieces of music by Mendelssohn and some great nature shots. What more can I say? If you like Woody Allen, I’m pretty sure you’ll know what you’re going to get: Interesting reflections on life, smart and silly laughs and just a very honest, romantic, sweet film.
Side note: Italian audiences will be familiar with the basic structure of this film, from the annual dose of cine-panettoni (Italian Christmas themed sex comedy) they drop on us every December. If you want to see where they shamelessly copied everything from, turning it into something vulgar and painfully unfunny, check out this film (and Woody Allen’s grandiose catalogue in general) instead. You won’t be sorry, I promise!
As you can see, I ended up giving the ‘Pick of the Week’ title to Lukas Moodysson’s A Hole in My Heart. I was tempted to give it to Woody Allen’s A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy, but I had just given him that title last with Zelig. Furthermore, A Hole in My Heart is unfairly underrated (especially on IMDb) and so I wanted to give it some love. Drinking Buddies is a great new release, you should check it out, but it’s nothing really revolutionary and I have a feeling we haven’t seen the best of Joe Swanberg yet. While Showgirls has the highest rating on here, it was kind of a disappointment, but also I prefer to single out first time viewings, instead of re-watches. Enough self-indulgence. See you next week! Enjoy. Bye.
Eric (Björn Almroth) is a weird troubled kid living with his father Rickard (Thorsten Flinck) an amateur porn actor. Eric spends most of his days cooped up in his dark room listening to industrial rock, doing nothing. While Eric is trying to do anything to avoid his father and not hear him having sex in the living-room, Rickard is concerned that his son is drifting away from him, not respecting him. Geko (Goran Marjanovic), Rickard’s colleague, tries to reassure him. Things start to get out of hand when Tess (Sanna Bråding) an aspiring porn star visits their home to shoot a double penetration scene. The home, isolated from the rest of the world, becomes a microcosmos of its own and everyone seems to be loosing their mind. Continue reading
The line-up for the 70th edition of the world’s oldest film festival was announced today. Some of my favorite directors are showing off their new work at the festival this year like: Kim Ki-Duk, Lukas Moodysson and Sono Sion. There’s even a new Coppola: Gia (Sofia’s niece, the daughter of her deceased brother Gio) presenting her debut feature Palo Alto, hopefully joining the ranks of her other family members as an accomplished member of the industry.
The Rooftops dir. Merzak Allouache (Algeria, France)
L’intrepido dir. Gianni Amelio (Italy)
Miss Violence dir. Alexandros Avranas (Greece)
Tracks dir. John Curran (UK, Australia)
Via Castellana Bandiera dir. Emma Dante (Italy, Switzerland, France)
Tom at the Farm dir. Xavier Dolan (Canada, France)
Child of God dir. James Franco (USA)
Philomena dir. Stephen Frears (UK)
La Jalousie dir. Philippe Garrel (France)
The Zero Theorem dir. Terry Gilliam (UK, USA)
Ana Arabia dir. Amos Gitai (Israel, France)
Under the Skin dir. Jonathan Glazer (UK, USA)
Joe dir. David Gordon Green (USA)
The Police Officer’s Wife dir. Philip Groning (Germany)
Kaze tachinu dir. Hayao Miyazaki (Japan)
The Unknown Known: the Life and Times of Donald Rumsfeld dir. Errol Morris (USA)
Night Moves dir. Kelly Reichardt (USA)
Sacro GRA dir. Gianfranco Rosi (Italy)
Stray Dogs dir. Tsai Ming-liang (Taiwan-France)
OUT OF COMPETITION
Space Pirate Captain Harlock dir. Aramaki Shinji (Japan)
Gravity dir. Alfonso Cuaron (USA)
Moebius dir. Kim Ki-duk (South Korea)
Locke dir. Steven Knight (UK)
Unforgiven dir. Lee Sang-Il (Japan)
Wolf Creek 2 dir. Greg McLean (Australia)
Home from Home — Chronicle of a Vision dir. Edgar Reitz (Germany)
The Canyons dir. Paul Schrader (U.S.)
Che strano chiamarsi Federico Scola racconta Fellini dir. Ettore Scola (Italy)
Walesa. Man of Hope dir. Andrzej Wajda & Ewa Brodzka (Poland)
OUT OF COMPETITION — DOCUMENTARIES
Summer 82 When Zappa Came to Sicily dir. Salvo Cuccia (Italy, USA)
Pine Ridge dir. Anna Eborn (Denmark)
The Armstrong Lie Alex Gibney (U.S.)
Ukraine Is Not Brothel dir. Kitty Green (Australia)
Amazonia dir. Thierry Ragobert (France-Brazil)
Til Madness Do Us Apart dir. Wang Bing (Hong Kong, China, France, Japan)
At Berkeley dir. Frederick Wiseman (USA)
Je m’appelle Hmmm… dir. Agnes B. (France)
Little Brother dir. Serik Aprymov (Kazakhstan)
Il terzo tempo dir. Enrico Maria Artale (Italy)
Eastern Boys dir. Robin Campillo (France)
Palo Alto dir. Gia Coppola (U.S.)
Ruin dir. Amiel Courtin-Wilson & Michael Cody (Australia)
Fish and Cat dir. Shahram Mokri (Iran)
We Are the Best! dir. Lukas Moodysson (Sweden-Denmark)
Wolfschildren dir. Rick Ostermann (Germany)
La vida despues dir. David Pablos (Mexico)
Algunas Chicas dir. Santiago Palavecino (Argentina)
Medeas dir. Andrea Pallaoro (USA, Italy)
Still Life dir. Uberto Pasolini (UK)
Piccola Patria dir. Alessandro Rossetto (Italy)
La prima neve dir. Andrea Segre (Italy)
Why Don’t You Play in Hell? dir. Sono Sion (Japan)
The Sacrament dir. Ti West (USA)
Other interesting films could be The Sacrament, from horror director Ti West, David Gordon Green’s new film Joe (in competition) and documentary on Federico Fellini by Ettore Scola. I’m probably not anticipating the same films that most people are, because of my snobbish tastes, so what are you looking forward to?
Last week was a great week for movies at my house. I watched three Woody Allen films, re-watched one of last year’s favorites (Spring Breakers) and one of my all time favorite films: Lars von Trier’s Dogville. I also managed to squeeze in a short film by Lukas Moodysson called Talk (1997). All in all a very satisfying week for movie watching. How about you guys?
‘PICK OF THE WEEK’
Zelig (1983) – 7.5 (IMDb 7.7) – Comedy, Fantasy (USA)
A black and white faux documentary written, directed and starring Woody Allen as a human chameleon, literally. Charming film, funny, thoughtful and probably one of Woody’s best film. I also like Mia Farrow in this, she’s great as the psychologist trying to cure Woody Allen’s character from his strange disease. I guess Woody was trying to make some kind of social commentary and of course reprising his usual themes (love, art, death) and the film has much more going on under the surface than what it looks like. Good film, works for me, recommended.
Spring Breakers (2012) – 8.5 (IMDb 5.7) – Crime, Drama, Comedy (USA)
Alyce (2011) – 7.5 (IMDb 5.1) – Horror (USA)
Good horror movies aren’t easy to come by these days, Alyce is certainly one of the best American genre films in a while. Successfully mixing comedy and horror (which is never easy) Alyce tells the story of a young woman that accidentally kills her best friend and her subsequent descent into madness. The film works so beautifully thanks to Jade Dornfeld’s convincing performance and a witty script. While the story and the subjects discussed in Alyce are hardly new or original its execution is well above average genre fare. The only thing bothering me is the blatant social commentary, which I agree with ideologically, but is poorly presented and mostly out of place.
Scoop (2006) – 7.5 (IMDb 6.7) – Comedy, Mystery (USA)
Another great Woody Allen film from his British period this time. Scoop starring Woody Allen himself, as well as Scarlett Johansson and Hugh Jackman is a funny comedy/mystery. Typical Woody Allen humor, an intriguing case and some great performance make this film worthwhile. The story revolves around a young journalist (Johansson’s character) that gets a scoop about a serial killer from a dead journalist. Helpless she turns to Woody Allen’s character, an illusionist, who assist her, if only because she is so incredibly good-looking. Hugh Jackman’s character is the suspect and does a fantastic job at playing this charming rich kid above suspicion.
Au Hazard Balthazar (1966) – 7 (IMDb 7.8) – Crime, Drama, Criterion (France)
This film is a classic and part of the criterion collection, so it was about time I checked it out. This is the first film by French auteur Robert Bresson that I’ve seen and I enjoyed it. It’s about a young girl and her (mis)adventures, all of which are tied together by this donkey that shows up in her life very early on. It’s a character piece I would say, an exploration of many themes part of the human experience, so it’s difficult to pin it down to just one, because it’s about a number of things. Strong performances, a well wrought screenplay and gorgeous black & white cinematography are what sticks out for me in Au Hazard Balthazar.
Dogville (2003) – 9 (IMDb 7.9) – Crime, Drama (Denmark)
Small Time Crooks (2000) – 7 (IMDb 6.5) – Comedy, Crime (USA)
Considered one of Woody Allen’s lesser films Small Time Crooks is actually an excellent exploration of what fame and fortune can do to people. It’s also features one of Allen’s most hopeful endings, this and Midnight in Paris are as close at it gets to a happy ending for him. I really dug the story of this normal Manhattan couple who suddenly makes a lot of money selling cookies. The wife wants to be part of high society, but the “real” rich people don’t care about her, because she’s ignorant and has bad taste. Her husband, a thief, doesn’t care, he seems to be missing their old life. He was content with what he had, even if it was mediocre.
The Purge (2013) – 6.5 (IMDb 5.6) – Horror, Thriller (USA)
Great concept doesn’t always equal great movie. The premise of The Purge is that in the future the US government will legalize crime for one night of the year, so that people “get it out of their system”. The film is about a family whose home is invaded and how they have to fight to survive. Besides plot holes and a cheesy script, I must say the atmosphere and tension mostly work. It’s the cast that sells it. The social commentary is so obvious I won’t discuss it, but it does make you think and it does bring up some interesting questions and issues. At the end of the day though this film is more interesting from a philosophical stand point than a filmmaking one.
That’s it for this week. I tried to keep the reviews really short: It saves time. See you next week!
Birger Andersson (Sten Ljunggren) is a retired Volvo employee that has nobody to talk to. Feeling lonely and isolated from society he visits his former workplace everyday in hopes that ex-colleagues might still have time for him. But everybody’s busy and nobody has time for a boring old man. Birger doesn’t give up. He starts randomly calling people in the phonebook, but soon that’s no fun either. Miraculously, a young
Jehovah’s witness Hare Krishna recruiter, Mahapadu (Cecilia Frode), shows up at his door. Briger isn’t interested in religious talk, but he is looking for companionship. After a couple minutes Mahapadu realizes she probably won’t make a new disciple and decides to leave, but Birger has something else in mind. Continue reading
Container is “a silent movie with sound”, according to Swedish director Lukas Moodysson. The film does not have a traditional three-act structure or any recognizable narrative. The visuals are only loosely related the monologue read by American actress Jena Malone. It’s more of an experimental/avant-garde/art film intended to elicit a certain kind of feelings, or no feelings at all. Someone described it as an “open letter to God”. Knowing Moodysson’s strong Christian beliefs I would have to agree: The voice over repeatedly mentions themes and images pertaining to Christianity. Just like Moodysson’s other films it is also about celebrity and pop culture, consumerism and the horrors of civilization, namely the Second World War and Chernobyl’s catastrophic nuclear accident. Continue reading
Lilja (Oksana Akinshina) is a sixteen-year-old girl living in a depressing, rural small town in Estonia with her mother (Lyubov Agapova). One happy day her mother tells her that they’re moving to the US. Lilja is overjoyed. It finally looks like her dreams of leaving Paldiski are coming true, but then her mother leaves without her. Abandoned with her mean, greedy aunt, left with no money and living the shittiest apartment imaginable things aren’t looking to good for Lilja. As if it couldn’t get any worse her BFF spreads false rumors about her in school, so she turns to the only person that consistently had her back: a little kid named Volodya (Artyom Bogucharskiy). Lilja quits school, occasionally prostituting herself just to get by, not to starve and pay the bills. One night she meets a dark, not so tall, stranger that offers her a ride. Once again it finally looks like things are turning around for her, but they’re just about to get a lot worse. Continue reading