Mini-Review: La Brassiere (2001) – A Tale of Bras and Men
Johnny (Sean Lau) designs men’s underwear. Wayne (Louis Koo) is a taylor. None of them knows anything about the mystical female undergarment that is known as the bra. Samantha (Carina Lau) is the manager a Hong Kong company that sells bras all over the world. Her dream is to create the “ultimate bra”. To succeed in her intent she decides that it should be a man’s job to figure out this ultimate challenge. Johnny and Wayne are completely clueless to what makes a good bra. They also don’t seem to know a lot about women, but they’re willing to learn. Plus everyone working in the bra business is so beautiful, so why not? Continue reading
What Movies Did You Watch Last Week?
Ever since I watching Midnight in Paris in late November 2011 I have fallen in love with the films of Woody Allen. Since then I regularly sought out his films, watched them, re-watched them and I still haven’t seen every movie the guy has directed. His catalogue is seriously amazing. I haven’t seen a Woody Allen film I disliked or wouldn’t revisit. Even in his weaker films there’s still plenty to enjoy. This past week I only watched three movies, again, and two of them were Woody Allen films.
Why only three films, again? This time it’s because I watched a television show, which I rarely do. I saw that the first season of Lilyhammer was out and the premise sounded intriguing enough to me for some reason. The show is only eight episodes and it’s about an Italian American gangster who testifies against his new boss and then has to flee the country. The guy’s wacky enough to pick a godforsaken town in Norway instead of some tropical paradise, but that’s exactly what makes the show so enjoyable. I felt this weird attraction to Scandinavia myself and their culture and people fascinate me (at least as far movies are concerned).
The show starts out pretty great, but then becomes just this mafioso being all macho and shit. I mean he’s all right, but there are just so many coincidences and he’s always right and everyone one else is dumb (according to the writers anyway). I don’t like when a character “becomes” morality. If you’ve seen one or two Bud Spencer movies you’ll know what I mean. It’s when everything a character does is right and everything he doesn’t do or dislikes is wrong and he has no flaws. It’s really annoying. The show finale however manages to tie up everything somewhat nicely and the so-so/bad episodes are entertaining enough to sit through. Recommended with a grain of salt. Now on to some films!
‘PICK OF THE WEEK’
Hollywood Ending (2002) – 7.5 (IMDb 6.4) – Comedy, Romance (USA)
Written, directed and starring Woody Allen Hollywood Ending is a charming romantic comedy about a Hollywood director (played by Woody Allen) who tried to transition into art house, but became irrelevant. His ex-wife, married to a big studio executive, feels guilty for leaving him and decides to offer him the opportunity to direct a mid-size budget film about Manhattan. Left with basically no choice Allen’s character agrees to do the movie, but feeling too much pressure and blocked by his anxieties he becomes temporarily blind.
I love the premise of this film and its execution is very funny. The film seems to be autobiographical to some degree, then again most of Woody’s films are, and I’m just a sucker for any film that is about film. There’s a lot of commentary on the film industry and a lot of jokes that are still poignant and spot on even over a decade later. I was in need for a lighter, romantic film with Woody’s distinct tone and atmosphere this week and this one came at just the right time. An underrated and overlooked gem in Allen’s filmography.
La Dolce Vita (1960) – 10 (IMDb 8) – Comedy, Drama (Italy)
Everyone Says I Love You (1996) – 7 (IMDb 6.8) – Comedy, Romance, Musical (USA)
Musicals are generally not my thing, but this one was pretty great. It also helps that it makes fun of musicals a little bit, but in a loving way. Everyone Says I Love you is about a New York family and every family member’s romantic pursuits, but the film mostly focusses on Woody Allen’s character who’s trying to get over his ex-wife. He meets a beautiful woman in Venice and his daughter helps him get into her pants, thanks to the fact that she casually listened to all of her shrink sessions. The film is filled with musical numbers and even some choreographed dances, which however never distract from the story. Oddly enough they also don’t ruin the pacing or atmosphere, but rather help the film overall. I was quite surprised actually.
Also surprising is how good everyone sings. This film has a great cast and some of the actors aren’t exactly known for their singing abilities, but it’s great to hear them try and they’re all quite impressive, even Woody himself. The themes of the film are of course familiar territory for Allen, but the ending in Paris and all of the romantic moments really make this one of the sweetest and endearing Woody Allen films. The musical aspect is also great because, the numbers are so purposely exaggerated that you don’t even try to take them seriously or as part of the real story, but accept them as the inner state of the characters, as an expression of how they feel, rather than as a plot device, like most genre films would do. And that’s precisely why it all works so well.
What Movies Did You Watch Last Week?
Some weeks I just don’t feel like watching a whole lot of movies. Last week was one of those rare weeks. What happened? Nothing. I was feeling a bit sad for whatever reasons, so I didn’t feel like watching movies. Yeah, I know that sounds weird. Also I started the week off with a bad film and then tried to watch something else, but didn’t even finish it. Oh, and I also started watching Krzysztof Kieślowski’s The Decalogue, which I highly recommend. So anyway, here are a couple thoughts on the three films I watched.
This Girl’s Life (2003) – 5 (IMDb 5.7) – Drama (USA)
Sometimes a movie misses the mark by so much it’s not even funny. This film was supposed to be about a porn actress and her life. As thrilling as that may sound the movie is devoid of anything titillating, sexy or even vaguely entertaining. There’s no real story, which is not a problem per se, but if you don’t care about the main character it can become a bit boring. James Woods is the only good thing about this film. His performance is so charming, but not even he can save the film from its unfocussed and convoluted storytelling. What else can I say? I was let down by this film. I was expecting a critical look at the porn industry, instead this film almost glorifies the business. I’m sure if you’re a huge porn star you have more autonomy and “choice”, but to make it seem like it’s all roses and flowers is a bit too naive for me. In short: This film is a waste of time. Lots of unnecessary subplots that lead nowhere, no balls or sense of ethics and zero idea of the concept of artistic integrity.
‘PICK OF THE WEEK’
Identification of a Woman (1982) – 7.5 (IMDb 6.8) – Drama, Romance, Criterion (Italy)
Much like with Federico Fellini, my favorite Michelangelo Antonioni films are the black & white ones (though Red Desert of course is fantastic). Of the later half of his career though I have to say this is probably one of his best works. The film is about a director who falls in love with a woman, but someone doesn’t want them to be together. Just like most of his films stuff doesn’t get resolved. Everything remains a mystery. Who threatens them? Why? Who is this woman? I really liked this film. It’s gorgeous to look at, like every Antonioni film. It has a splendid cast, like every Antonioni film. And it’s deliberately paced, just like every Antonioni film needs to be. Once again it’s one of those movies you can’t really explain to people, you have to see them, experience them, live them. The best part about this film is the very ending. I always admire a bold ending and this one is definitely one of the best endings I’ve seen in a long time. It’s enigmatic, quiet, yet so incredibly powerful. Highly recommended.
The Bow (2005) – 8.5 (IMDb 7.1) – Drama, Romance (South Korea)
Old Folks in Movies
If movies are a reflection of society and our reality, it was only about time until they caught up with the fact that the Western population is aging. Better conditions, food, scientific discoveries, less babies per couple and other factors are responsible for this. I’m not really interested in how we got there, but I find it fascinating that the “older” segment of the world population is increasing. Right now we have the highest percentage of old people since, well maybe forever. I know this doesn’t sound very scientific, but that’s not the point. The point is that the very way we live will be changed by the fact that there are more elderly people.
How is it going to change, David? Oh, I don’t know, I’m just a marketing student. I guess there will be more products and services targeting this growing older market segment. Of course there will be also problems, like: How are we supposed to get enough money for pensions? Should grandma and grandpa still be allowed to drive? And what if the whole world starts smelling like old people? I’m exaggerating a bit here, but yes, ageism could turn out to be an issue. Some people think old folks are useless, some mature people themselves think that once they’re retired they’re worthless for society, because they don’t work. I know this is all interesting, but let’s talk about movies.
Lately there’s been an increase in elderly protagonists. This weekend Bad Grandpa, a film about a mischievous grandfather, comes in theaters, next week a bunch of old farts will party it up in Last Vegas and in a couple more weeks Alexander Payne’s road-trip Oscar contender Nebraska hits the road (Go Bruce Dern!). Red, Up! and almost any Oscar-bait film the Academy of grey white men love is about people well past their prime. Since this is a recent phenomenon, it’s not surprising that most of my favorite films about old folks will be recent.
As much as I sound like a tool when I talk about old people, I actually like these kinds of movies quite a bit, and I do respect the elderly. However, much like other “minorities” or people on the “fringe of society”, increasingly I get the feeling they don’t want to preferential treatment. Now more than ever they feel empowered. It’s their time. They’re not ready to die yet. They still got life in them and even if they’re weak and tired they can still kick ass, be cool or love, which coincidentally brings me to the first film I want to discuss.
Amour (2012, Michael Haneke)
In Amour Michael Haneke shows what true love is all about. The film about the elderly couple caring for each other on their last days together is a touching, realistic, but bleak film. It shows the harsh side of aging, the suffering, the regression, the weakness, the hurt, the feelings of desperation, anger, coldness even. Even though Haneke’s portrayal may seem detached and lacking of empathy, that is how life is. There’s nothing romantic about a decaying body. Most of those notions were imparted us by Hollywood. The sad truth is that we all die. I don’t know if there’s a happily ever after, but in Amour at least they had each other.
Harry Dean Stanton: Partly Fiction (2012, Sophie Huber)
The documentary of legendary cult actor Harry Dean Stanton is not only one of the best examples of existentialist cinema, but a truly spectacular looking film. The film explores themes such as the meaning of life and if such a notion exists at all. Sophie Huber tires to discover if Stanton is satisfied with his life. Would he have changed anything? He has achieved so much, does that make him happy? Could he die in peace? Is there something missing? I’m not going to lie, in certain parts this was a most heartbreaking film, mainly because it’s all real and because you feel so much for this man who for the first time appears real and human.
Gran Torino (2008, Clint Eastwood)
Clint Eastwood’s Gran Torino is more about showing that old people can still be badass, they can still look cool and connect with the outside world. There is hope. He still got it. Yes, he may have made some mistakes throughout his life, but who hasn’t? It’s never too late to make things right. It’s never to late to be a hero. It’s never to late to drive a slick-looking Ford. This film is also about prejudices, racism and so many other things. While it’s certainly the most romantic and possibly unrealistic of my picks, it’s also the one you hold on to, because let’s face it as much as those other films may be realistic and true we also go to the movies to escape sadness and heartache.
Broken Flowers (2005, Jim Jarmusch)
Carried by a brilliant performance by Bill Murray Jim Jarmusch’s Broken Flowers is about an aging Don Giovanni that finds out he may have a son somewhere. The film shows his loneliness, the man’s regrets, it’s about boredom, ennui, mal de vivre. It’s also about making peace with yourself, your past, who you were and what you did. To be able to forgive yourself and live with all your flaws is to love yourself. There are rarely clear-cut answers in life, there’s rarely a movie moment. To quote Sofia Coppola’s short film Lick the Star “Everything changes, nothing changes. The tables turn and life goes on”. Not everything resolves, but that’s okay (“I’m sure that’s so gay”).
About Schmidt (2002, Alexander Payne)
This is arguably Payne’s best film so far, but it’s just so sad and depressing. Jack Nicholson’s character is a lonely old man who just seems to be waiting to die. After a life that he felt was pointless he is finally retired, now what? Why not take go on a road trip, after all that’s what indie films are all about, aren’t they? One of my favorite things in this film is James Glennon’s (RIP) cinematography, it’s very stylish (almost too much) for a film like this, yet it is so beautiful and really helps conveying a sense of loss and desolation. It’s been a while since I’ve seen this film and I don’t know if I’ll ever be able to watch it, but it’s definitely a stunning cinematic triumph.
All in all we’ve learned, that most films about old folks are depressing, sad and even hard to watch sometimes. However they’re also true and real and sometimes we need to be reminded of our own mortality and that no matter how cliché it may sound: Life is short. I will stop typing now before I start to cry. Thanks for reading and remember, there are happier films you could be watching, but if you want something to think about these five films surely will do it. Make sure you’re in the right mood and mindset otherwise you’ll just end up being beat up and suicidal. I’d like to end on an funny and upbeat note and quote an old guy in American Movie (1999): “It’s alright, it’s ok there’s something to live for: Jesus told me so”.
Diablo Cody’s Paradise (2013)
Lamb Mannerhelm (Julianne Hough) is a beautiful 21-year-old Christian woman living in a sheltered, conservative small town in Montana with her parents. After a horrible plane crash she miraculously survives her faith is shaken. She has to come to terms with the fact that her body will be forever disfigured, due to severe burn injuries. Lamb decides to leave her hometown and go to Las Vegas to do all the things her church and family forbade her. On her mission to Sin City she meets William (Russell Brand), a charming British bartender and Loray (Octavia Spencer) an aspiring filmmaker slash nightclub singer who become her unofficial guides. Soon however Lamb realizes that an excessive lifestyle, the polar opposite from what she was used to, is no fun either. Maybe not everything her parents taught her was as bad as she thought. Maybe she belongs more to Montana than Nevada. And maybe she’s not as perfect as she saw herself. Continue reading
Bad: Eugenie (1970) and The Devil’s Carnival (2012)
Eugenie… The Story Of Her Journey Into Perversion (1970) – 4.5 (IMDb 5.4) – Horror, Drama (Spain)
Loosely based on the erotic works of the Marquis de Sade Eugenie was a rather terrible film by Spanish cult director Jess Franco. The film is about a young girl who is sexually abused and tortured by two adults. Unfortunately and much to my surprise, despite its premise the film was incredibly boring, bland and hardly violent. Not that it would have made any difference, because the actors were terrible, the script was awful and repetitive and the filmmaker’s attitude unexplainably annoying. Aside from some cute visuals, an interesting concept and a couple of moments the Eugenie is as forgettable as its title character. What a wasted opportunity.
The Devil’s Carnival (2012) – 4.5 (IMDb 6.2) – Horror, Musical (USA)
I’m starting to believe that Darren Lynn Bousman’s Repo! The Generic Opera was the only good story he had in himself. While we’re lucky he got to tell that one and share his incredible vision with the world, he hasn’t proven himself to be a solid director when working with original scripts. His sense of pacing, compelling characters and engrossing storytelling seems to be nonexistent when it comes to work on his own material: Maybe he should go back to sequels and remakes. Anyway, The Devil’s Carnival is sort of a quasi-sequel to ‘Repo’ or something, but it’s bad. Why? Because it’s just three stories set in hell and none of them are that interesting, in fact I’d say they’re pretty boring and tired. Aside from nice costumes, an impressive cast and great art direction I’d say this film is not worth seeking out.
Five Favorite Exploitation Films
This weekend Robert Rogriguez’ Machete Kills (the sequel Machete) was released in the States. Normally I sequels don’t interest me, but ‘Machete’ was planned as a trilogy. At the end of the first film it is hinted that “Machete [the character] will return in Machete Kills and Machete Kills Again“. At first I thought it was a joke, but then, much like the faux trailer part of the Grindhouse double bill (which comprised Quentin Tarantino’s Death Proof and Robert Rodriguez’ Planet Terror) the film became a reality. At least the first sequel, seeing the poor box office performance now it’s fair to speculate if the Mexican iteration of James Bond will return in Machete Kills Again. Long story short: This week we’re talking all things exploitation.
What is exploitation? What does that mean? I’ve tried hard to explain the concept to my brother, but of course I make more sense on paper (or screen) than in real life. I’ll try my best to keep things simple. Exploitation cinema or exploitation film are usually low-budget films that are also poorly produced (artistically) and usually appeal to an “adult” public. Due to the lack of big bankable stars, professional special effects and other general budget restrictions exploitation films by definition try to “exploit” a current trend or genre niche. These films are known to the general public as b movies and sometimes manage to attract cult followings, rarely are they appreciated by critics, although some older ones are considered classics today, they were mostly viewed negatively by the critics of the time, because of their “excesses”.
What are some examples of exploitation sub-genres? Well, there’s all kinds, but here are the most notable. There’s the biker films (films that revolve around the biker subculture), blaxploitation (cast with all or mostly black actors, dealing with social issues), cannibal films (usually about white men going to the jungle and rarely coming back in one piece), carsploitation (like the biker films, only with cars), chambara films (Asian folks wielding big swords and stuff), giallo films (usually Italian mystery/slasher/detective stories), mondo films (quasi-documentaries set out to shock you, also see shocksploitation), nazisploitation (films about the depravities of World War II), nudist films (naturalist lifestyle pieces), rape & revenge films (women castrating men for their evil doings), sexploitation (soft core pornography), slasher films (probably the most famous exploitation sub-genre usually involving serial killers slashing up naughty teenagers), spaghetti westerns (Italian westerns, not actually about food), splatter films (movies with a lot of gore and blood) and women in prison films.
What do all these films have in common? Mostly: A lot of violence, sex, nudity, language. They are more about getting a visceral reaction in the viewer rather than subtlety and genuine drama. Most of the time there is a point or message, but it gets lost in all the depravity and degeneration depicted on-screen. The beauty of these films is that they don’t take themselves too seriously, don’t judge their characters and posses a firm sense of morals. Many times these films get wrongfully discarded as immoral, cruel and disgusting. However underneath a surface of apparent vulgarity hides a strong moral center and a clear sense of right and wrong.
Many exploitation films were depicting and anticipating social issues that only years later entered the popular consciousness. Thanks to their low-budget they were allowed to freely address civil rights, female empowerment and other social issues, long before those were even brought up in mainstream cinema. Casting African-Americans, Hispanics and women in the lead roles these films were innovative and way ahead of any “politically correct” bullshit. Paradoxically by being more offensive, they were more respectful of human diversity and portrayed different ethnicities more sensibly, genuinely and free of hypocrisy. It is the very nature of exploitative cinema that allows it to be more auto-critical of our Western culture and values, but without coming off as pedantic and still managing to entertain.
Exploitation cinema was at its height in the 70s, but the first exploitation films date back to as early as cinema was invented. Lately, with Tarantino and the so-called “Splat Pack” (a group of directors comprising Robert Rodriguez, Eli Roth and Rob Zombie among others) this kind of cinema has experience a resurgence to some kind of degree. Quentin Tarantino’s Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2 (chambara films), Death Proof (carsploitation) and Inglourious Basterds (nazisploitation) are probably favorites, but since I mention those fairly regularly I wanted to mention seminal works, films that were very influential for contemporary filmmakers. I also tried to pick five different sub-genres. So in honor of Machete Kills: Here are five of my favorite exploitation films!
5. Freaks (1932, Tod Browning)
Freaks is often referred to as the first exploitation film. The film is about a group of “circus freaks”, the type of people “normals” look at with disgust, fear or just morbid curiosity. Tod Browning however treats his characters with respect portraying them as humans. Yes, they’re flawed, petty, selfish and sometimes even evil, but aren’t we all? By not giving them a special treatment, but portraying their humanity, suffering and passions just as our own he manages to show that the only difference between us and them is a physical one. Social “classes” and hierarchies exist just as much in their world as they do in our and people go through the same life experiences, feelings and emotions. The film is not easy to watch, the characters are very empathic, relatable and real which makes the viewing experience all the more compelling. This film inspired Werner Herzog’s Even Dwarfs Started Small and it’s one of the most memorable films I’ve ever seen, though I don’t necessarily feel ready to re-watch it because of its strong and powerful resonance, which is definitely overwhelming.
4. Django (1966, Sergio Corbucci)
When I heard that Tarantino was making a film in the world of Django I immediately had to watch Sergio Corbucci’s film. The Western genre is one of those genres that never really interested or attracted me, so I don’t feel qualified enough to talk about it, but I’ll still give it a try and my proverbial two cents. What I liked about Django is that compared to most exploitation films it “holds back” a little and actually restrains a bit of violence and doesn’t show a lot of the racy stuff that would have probably been shown in similar genre fare. Django is the story of a lone bounty hunter that goes from town to town in search of bad men to kill. He always drags his coffin around with him and of course that’s because he keeps the heavy artillery inside there and nobody would dream of open it. The film was also very influential for Robert Rodriguez who unabashedly loves unusual weaponry and gadgets (just look at the those Spy Kids films).
3. Cannibal Holocaust (1980, Ruggero Deodato)
Cannibal Holocaust is one of the most famous cannibal films and considered one of the most shocking films of all time. It’s about a group of filmmakers that go to the jungle to make a film about the local tribes and their rituals and way of living. Unfortunately most of these guys are more disrespectful and savage than the local cannibals (as weird as that may sound). So instead of just doing their work they decide that raping the women and killing the indigenous population is totally okay. Naturally because of the sins of a bunch of douchebags the whole crew will have to pay. The film is extremely well-made, but very violent and crude. There is real animal torture, which is terrible, but adds to making this film incredibly depressing and sad. However if you can get past that it’s also one of the best explorations of human nature I’ve ever seen. As much as I don’t support animal cruelty it does help making a point and for what it’s worth they actually ate the animals that were killed (namely the big turtle, poor turtle).
2. Tenebrae (1982, Dario Argento)
Tenebre (original title) is one of my favorite giallos. It’s one of the few brightly lit horror films, which is ironic, because “tenebre” means “darkness” in Italian. The film looks great and has a kind of supernatural, almost surreal atmosphere going on and for me it’s more about the score and how this film feels, rather than the plot. Like most giallos, the story is a bit convoluted and full of twists and turns, but at the end of the day Tenebrae still makes a little bit of sense and that’s why I can embrace it and recommend it. I remember liking the acting, the cinematography and Dario Argento’s trademarks most of all. It also helps that the film is set in Rome, I’m always a fan of that. Critics consider it to be one of Argento’s best, but I’d say that I prefer Suspiria and Deep Red (aka Profondo Rosso) is definitely up there: He has just made so many great films and I think that people need to be reminded of that, especially nowadays.
1. Showgirls (1995, Paul Verhoeven)
Now then: A sexploitation cult classic. Paul Verhoeven’s Showgirls is an over-the-top, almost caricatural portrayal of a young woman trying her luck in Las Vegas as an exotic dancer. After a series of ups and downs she finally manages to arrive at the top of Vegas nightlife entertainment, but at what cost? The film is not meant to be taken very seriously, it’s full of auto-ironic and self-aware humor and yet many people accuse it of not being realistic. The joke is on them however, because clearly they don’t understand the film and the director’s intention. Just like you would expect from a sexploitation film there is a lot of sex and nudity, but while some might say that its depiction is gratuitous and vulgar. In the context of Las Vegas entertainment it would be ridiculous not to show any tits and asses, just like it would make no sense for a low-life New York gangster character to talk like a Harvard English professor (unless of course that’s he used to be a professor, but what are the odds?). Anyway, I like this film because of how it deals with complex and fascinating themes such as friendship, work ethic and gender roles.
Meh: A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (1971) and Going the Distance (2004)
A Lizard in a Woman’s Skin (1971) – 6.5 (IMDb 6.9) – Giallo, Mystery, Horror (Italy)
Una Lucertola Con La Pelle Di Donna is considered a classic of Italian giallo cinema of the 1970s. I wasn’t overly impressed with this film who just tried to pull to many stunts and constantly seemed to want to put one over the viewer. I guess if you like lots of plot twists and reveals every ten minutes you’ll love this one. However I found the characters poorly developed (aside from their physical traits), the actors seemed mostly stale (maybe it was the dubbing) and the whole film was essentially just plot-driven (which I tend to not be a huge fan of). Lucio Fulci certainly is a capable director and I appreciate his crazy camera movements, but aside from looking stylish, a couple titillating scenes and having a dope score by Ennio Morricone the film didn’t have much else to offer to me. I felt a bit let down and there are definitely much better giallos you could and should watch before this one.
Going the Distance (2004) – 6 (IMDb 5.3) – Comedy (Canada)
I tend to be a sucker for a good teen sex comedy. Going the Distance is a standard, cliché film that will satisfy your urge for a raunchy and unrealistically romantic romp. We’ve seen this story a thousand times before: Guy and girl have to do the whole distance thing, girl cheats on guy, guy finds out he deserves better. Nothing new, but also a fairly entertaining film, aside from some annoying misogynist and the usual unnecessarily and excessively vulgar humor. Films like this one however almost need to be excessive and completely unrealistic, because that’s what you watch them for. Well, that and the eye candy. I’m not going to lie and say I hated this film, because it was fun to some degree and I am an unabashed fan of the sub-genre, but of course I can’t put it in the good category either. I must say the film made me feel a bit old with its 2000s pop-punk soundtrack and Avril Lavigne. One last thing I’ll mention is Mayko Nguyen, it’s no secret I have a thing for Asian chicks and she’s a fox, I wish she was in more movies!
What Movies Did You Watch Last Week?
Last week I was a little bit under the weather. Unlike most people I watch less movies when I’m not feeling so well. I also started watching Shoah, the nine-hour documentary on the holocaust, that’s why I’ll only discuss four movies this week.
Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) – 7.5 (IMDb 8.7) – Adventure, Western (Italy)
After catching up with Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America, I wanted to watch ‘West’ and I noticed that I had already seen bits and pieces on TV. I really enjoyed this film, probably more than ‘America’, because it’s shorter and it has Claudia Cardinale, who is one of the most beautiful woman you’ll ever see on screen. The film is about a man who gets killed, but we don’t know why at first. Her wife, Claudia Cardinale’s character, was just returning home only to find everyone dead. She decides to return to New Orleans, but the local mobsters have some unfinished business. Also, there’s a wise-guy with an harmonica and some serious gunplay skills. Besides the eye candy, I loved Ennio Morricone’s score (once more) and the recreation of the old wild west. The actors do a fine job, but I wish the ending wasn’t so bittersweet for some reason, though I’m sure I would hate a “happy ending”.
L’Age D’Or (1930) – 6 (IMDb 7.5) – Comedy, Drama, Criterion (France)
When I watched Luis Buñuel’s L’age d’or my head was kind of exploding. Not because of the surreal imagery or the rats, but because I was medicated and down with the flu, so I don’t know if my judgment of this film is entirely fair. I liked it, but I felt that we’ve seen a lot better from this particular director especially further in his career. The film is a series of vignettes, following a bourgeois romance and exploring themes that Buñuel would return to in every picture ever since: Family, church and society. This film clearly influenced great directors such as Pier Paolo Pasolini, Woody Allen and Lars von Trier and many more I’m sure. To me Salvador Dalí’s vaguely linked storytelling felt more absurdist than surreal, even in terms of humor. It’s not a bad film, I can certainly recognize it’s technical merits, but it’s not one of those I’ll feel like revisiting anytime soon.
‘PICK OF THE WEEK’
Mein Liebster Feind – Klaus Kinski (1999) – 8 (IMDb 7.8) – Documentary (Germany)
Easily the best film I’ve seen all week. This is a documentary directed by Werner Herzog and starring the great german auteur as he discusses his professional and private relationship with Klaus Kinski. Herzog shot five feature films with Kinski and even lived with him before he was famous. In the film Herzog recounts his tumultuous love-hate-relationship with the actor that seemed to be a crazy egomaniac with some serious rage issues. In some scenes he just seemed possessed. I’m not exaggerating. Herzog also interviews a couple people that worked with Kinski, such as Claudia Cardinale who co-starred in Fitzcarraldo. To his leading ladies he seems to have been a real gentlemen, but to everyone else he was just impossible. He always needed to be the center of attention and as soon as he wasn’t he lost it. He certainly was a great actor, that’s why Herzog put up with all his shit, but sometimes they just wanted to kill him. Literally, or so they say.
This is the End (2013) – 5 (IMDb 7.4) – Comedy, Fantasy (USA)
This is the worst I’ve seen last week. The film about the apocalypse and how a bunch of actors would react to it. The interesting gimmick is that everyone plays a version of themselves, of course most of it is characters archetypes and has little to do with the actual persons or so I should hope. The film mostly plays on the persona of actors such as James Franco, Seth Rogen, Jay Baruchel Michael Cera and Emma Watson which are some of my favorite or likable current Hollywood actors. I loved watching them in the film, they were funny (especially Cera and Franco who’s just so damn likable), but the script was just to convoluted and sometimes overly cliché to be even appreciated on a so-bad-it’s-good level. It felt like Your Highness all over again. The “religious” or fantasy aspect was bad, even if to some degree it made me think, their idea of God is not something I’d agree with. Beyond that some jokes fall flat or are badly timed, the film’s pace is off multiple times and the CGI is some of the worst I’ve ever seen in a major studio release. All in all a forgettable film, with a few good and genuinely funny self-referential moments.
That was my week in movies. If you want to share what you watched last week feel free to do so. If you have seen the films I mentioned: What did you think of them? Would you agree or disagree with me? Either way: See you next week!
‘Good’ Movies You Watched Last Week?
I watched three great films this week, makes me happy. I also re-watched a couple Spike Jonze shorts, which are available on YouTube. Their very short and incredibly quirky so they’re well worth your time. The main event for me this week in terms of movies was The Bling Ring. I waited for this film for more than a year. I wish Sofia would be more like Woody Allen. Anyways, going into the theater I was very excited, but at the same time worried that I would not enjoy it, but I totally did. It was great. The theater audience seem to “get” the movie. They all laughed at the jokes. I wasn’t distracted much by the people next to me (as it usually happens) and some people even stayed for the end credits, which resulted in me missing my train, but it was totally worth it!
If you haven’t seen Sofia Coppola‘s The Bling Ring yet: Make it happen, support good cinema! The film didn’t make a whole lot of cash, probably because it was marketed as something it wasn’t, or because of its cast of newcomers (who are all amazing!) or maybe because Sofia is not interested in making a film that is telling you exactly how to think and feel. Fact is this is my favorite film of 2013 so far, and it’s more than likely going to end up in my top five for the year (if not maintaining the top spot). I’d also like to single out Taissa Farmiga as my favorite supporting role in the film. She doesn’t have a lot of screen time, but she does the most of it, while also looking very sexy and alluring.
Fitzcarraldo (1982) – 8 (IMDb 8) – Adventure, Biography, Drama (Germany)
Certainly Werner Herzog’s biggest film in terms of budget. Fitzcarraldo is the film about a crazy entrepreneur trying to bring the opera (namely Caruso) to the Andes. In his nutty quest to make money and gain some sort of respectability from the Peruvian high society he decides to get into the rubber business. As it turns out to get to the land he bought will have to literally move his ship over the mountains. The film is just as incredible as its premise and fully delivers on every level. Klaus Kinski is great as the title character and so is Claudia Cardinale. There aren’t a lot of other faces that I recognize in terms of actors, but that’s never a problem, because all the talent in front of the screen is just as good and qualified as the people working behind the scenes. I’m not big on adventure films, but this one is fun, thoughtful and very engrossing. Good job Werner Herzog!
‘PICK OF THE WEEK’
The Bling Ring (2013) – 8.5 (IMDb 6.4) – Crime, Drama, Comedy (USA)
Office Space (1999) – 7.5 (IMDb 7.8) – Comedy, Crime (USA)
Very funny film and incredibly quotable. There are so many great lines in this one. It kind of makes you wonder where Mike Judge’s career went. Office Space is about a guy that has officially had enough of his job and is not going to take a single minute more of the corporate oppression. He and his friends decide to “steal” money from his company. The film may take a while to “get started”, but once it does it is very entertaining and charming. I like how the sadness and uniformity of corporation is reflected in the costume design and the cinematography, through depressing tones and monochromatic brushes of brown and grey. The film is very funny, but never vulgar or silly. The characters are very relatable and human, never turning into caricatures, while still drawing from well-known archetypes. All in all a very enjoyable comedy.