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5 stars

AI: Artificial Intelligence

dir: Steven Spielberg's Mexican non-union equivalent
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Oh beautiful people, what with the planes falling out of the skies and the burning of empires, and thousands of souls going to meet their makers, is it even appropriate to talk about something as unimportant as a film? A movie, in fact? Yes it is...

Let me create a hypothetical situation for you: You work as a job placement demon, as they all are at those particular agencies. You have two positions to fill. Job 1 requires a qualified person to take the reins at a child care centre. Job 2 requires a highly qualified and experienced person to take control of a whorehouse. Yes, a whorehouse. There's no other adequate PC term that can be used in its place. Brothel always sounds kinda dirty to me. Which is appropriate, me guesses.

You have only two people on your books in terms of wanting jobs. They are both hungry, hungry for the acclaim that comes only from working in a prestigious position. Unfortunately for your Key Performance Indicators, those two people are Steven Spielberg and a very dead and overrated / underappreciated Stanley Kubrick. Let's say that you're in the added unfortunate position whereby they get to decide which jobs they get to go for. Hilarity ensues.

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Tokyo Drifter (Tokyo nagaremono)

Tokyo Drifter

I have no fucking idea what's going on...

dir: Seijun Suzuki

1966

What the fuck was all that about?

Tokyo Drifter is cool. It’s cool in the sense that the hero is the hero because he’s cool. He looks cool, he dresses cool, and he has his own theme song, which is played a bunch of times and which he even sings through the course of the film. So what if the flick makes no sense? It’s cool, you squaresville-daddy-o.

The film looks pretty. There’s a very interesting use of colour and sets. The clothing is nice. Other than that, this flick is fucking insane. I wouldn’t recommend it to someone I hated.

Maybe it’s too quintessentially Japanese, but I doubt it. The movie, at the very least, is somewhat more comprehensible than the last one of Suzuki’s that I saw, but that’s not saying much. Made in an obviously cheap and nasty fashion, the flick eschews continuity and logic to construct a story that does not make sense on our planet.

Tetsu (Testuya Watari) is a yakuza gangster who’s really good at looking cool, walking around casually, and being loyal to his boss. When his boss decides to opt out of the criminal game, Tetsu loyally goes along with him, like the dog that he is. Some other gangsters want to screw Testsu’s boss out of the ownership of a building, so some violence ensues. Tetsu doesn’t want to kill anymore, so he takes some beatings. Then he decides he no longer has a problem killing people, so he kills a bunch of people.

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Solaris (1972)

Solaris

Cool poster. Shame about the nonsense though...

dir: Andrei Tarkovsky

Solaris is supposedly a towering achievement in Soviet filmmaking, right up there as the Russian answer to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, from the Russian director most considered an auteur and visionary, er, just like Kubrick. Fans of Solaris say it’s an insult to compare the two. Detractors say it’s being too kind.

And by all the gods did they get that right. Both films, judiciously used, are a viable substitute for anesthetic narcotics in modern surgery, and have, hopefully less side-effects when they knock viewers the fuck out. There are stretches of 2001 that knock me out every time, every single goddamn time I see them. Solaris is like that except it has this effect for most of its interminable length.

The stories are very different. People who saw Stephen Soderbergh’s recent remake with George Clooney in the lead role will know generally what it’s about, but others will be stunned, stunned I tell you with how out there the premise is.

Solaris is a strange planet with a strange ocean. People who’ve gone there report strange things happening to them, but they are not believed. A psychologist called Kris Kelvin (Donatas Banionis) is sent to a space station orbiting the planet in order to find answers as to what’s caused the scientific mission to fall into disarray.

When the film opens we are greeted with around 10 minutes of nature scenes. Ten goddamn minutes of water in a babbling brook, reed fronds floating lazily in the water, some frogs, wet rocks. This is even before you’ve realised what a deathly experience the flick is going to be, which is like the jab you get in your hand before they switch the gas on.

The nature scenes around Kelvin’s father’s house are important only in that they establish that Kelvin is from the “natural” world, and will spend most of the rest of the film wandering around in an unnatural environment far from home.

Before he sets off into the cosmos, there are something like 15 dull minutes of Kelvin driving around Tokyo through the uninteresting industrial bits and lots of tunnels. Lots of goddamn tunnels.

In the scenes detailing Kelvin’s journey to Solaris, despite being well rested and fully caffeinated, I swear on all that is unholy it knocked me out at least a dozen times. I kept passing out, rewinding the DVD in case I missed anything, and then passing out again.

I’m not a sleepy, dozy individual generally. I don’t drink when I’m watching flicks for the first time, and ganja has never been a part of my daily diet. So how it could have this power effect on my brainwaves is a mystery to me. It’s just that good, it must be.

Rating:

A Clockwork Orange

dir: The Great Almighty Stanley Kubrick
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1971

Kubrick routinely is praised as probably the greatest director who ever deigned to pick up a camera and yell at people in order to get them to do what he wanted. Who am I to shit on the great man’s legacy?

Nobody, that’s who. Sure he’s made a stack of good films, and a few bad ones. I will say though, without fear or favour, that A Clockwork Orange is probably the crappiest of his holy, vaunted oeuvre.

That’s right, I’m saying it’s worse than Eyes Wide Shut.

A bad Kubrick flick is better than most other director’s best flicks, but it’s still a chore to sit through. And I say this as a fan of the man and his directorial vision. I love many of his films. Hell, I’ve even voluntarily sat through Barry Lyndon a few times and roundly enjoyed it. And I’ve probably seen 2001 more times than the average footy player / actor goes through rehab unsuccessfully.

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