Saturday, September 11, 2010

Quick Film Reviews #2

Ghost World
I'm going to avoid the obvious comparison for this film because it makes me feel like I'm doing it a disservice. I suppose it's a cult film of a sort, but even so Ghost World seems to be much overlooked, even by those who like a bit of late teenage direction/existential-angst. It's ambitions may not be extraordinary, but the film is a wonderfully sharp and well formed piece. It's very well acted, funny and compassionate, but I always thought the ending was also very depressing. Didn't find that quite so much this time, but there's still something to my previous opinion.
The only small thing that does get to me is that the film displays hollywood's inability to cast physically unattractive actresses. Not that there is anything in the story that implies Enid should be, but I'd still like to see how it would play out if she was not so nice to look at.

Little Miss Sunshine
I've seen Little Miss Sunshine twice before from never quite all the way from the beginning. I've also not seen it with Amy laughing her head of at bits of the film. I've never seen someone laugh so much at a horn before. Makes an excellent film even better.
Slight qualm on reflection: is the mother in the film anything more than the conventional harassed but determined and loving mother character?

Aguirre, Wrath of God
On an entirely different note, Werner Herzog's film is a bit like Apocalypse Now if it was set in South America, with Conquistadors rather than Americans and dubbed into German. Klaus Kinski as the self-destructive Aguirre sways about unnervingly, looking at people as if he's sizing up the best place to stab them. I can see its considerable merits - minimalist storytelling, a lush and unrelenting backdrop, a psychotic sense of inevitability, so-on. It reminded me of a shakespeare play at times, even though it's far from wordy; something about the pace of events, the arrangement of characters and the tragic narrative format.
Despite all that, for some reason the film didn't quite click with me. Maybe the "civilised people go mad in jungle" is a little passé, or maybe you just need to be in the right frame of mind. Also I was a little distracted by the how the guy playing the priest looked and acted just like Julian Barrat.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Quick Film Reviews #1

Cross-posting some old posts, because I feel like it.

Duck Soup
It's probably lost a little over time, but Groucho's wit is sharp, and even the clowning raises some laughs. Entertaining enough to watch in its own right, but ideal if you want to know what the Marx brothers were all about.

I raved a bit about this film before. If you want a film that doesn't necessarily make much sense or have any real plot, but batters you with ideas and with hatred for the bourgeois, this is for you. Even if you don't think that's what you want, you should watch it anyway.

The France of Godard's week end is a place where people are united only in despising one another, in a countryside covered in wrecked and burnt-out cars. Middle class are callous, shrill, greedy, murderous, working class are static, ambling, dull, materialistic. Godard's only sympathy seems to lie with revolutionary theory. If the cannibalistic, hippy "Seine-Oise Liberation Front" are an example of it in practice, then of the liberating effects of violence (chez Fanon) are not what was hoped for.
Weekend is a looking glass reflecting colonial violence back into the heart of France, as its characters reference torturing in Algeria or fighting in Ethiopia.

Princess Monononoke
The story goes that the US distributors bought Princess Mononononoke thinking they were getting a nice twee film from "the Japanese Disney", then didn't know what to do with it. It is certainly the most adult of the Studio Ghibli films I've seen - none of the others have a man getting his arms shot off in the first fifteen minutes. I've seen it a few times now, and what struck me last time was just how complex it is. The basic plot isn't particularly difficult to follow, but the number of factions, none of whom have clear-cut morals or motivations, is impressive by any standards. There is magic, but there are no magic solutions in this world, just people learning and struggling to get along.

It was good, but I I was a little underwhelmed. A bit melodramatic (in a negative way), I guessed a couple of the twists (and I'm very bad at guessing twists) and an ending which, while not quite deus ex machina is at least somewhat unsatisfying. The most memorable scene may be the protracted fight along the length of a corridor. It's not a masterwork of martial arts choreography nor a study in painful and bloody realism, but in the confined space it has a wonderful linear progression that's very aesthetically pleasing.