You are here

2011

Samsara

Samsara

I wouldn't get into a fight with her if I were you

dir: Ron Fricke

How do you even review something like this? It ends up saying more about the reviewer than the movie reviewed.

Samsara isn't a sequel to Baraka, the amazing, awe-inspiring 'documentary' from the 1990s that I've watched a billion times and whose soundtrack I've listened to even more. It's a continuation of Baraka, same director, same incredible 70mm film footage, same globe-trotting footage and same blissful lack of narration.

While I've seen Baraka so many times that it's become like the wallpaper of my skull, it exists in a pre-review time, before I was ever presumptuous enough to start thinking critically about films, about film as a medium, and, even worse, before I had the gall to start writing about them.

Samsara supplies me with a curious opportunity: How do you write about something that has no (obvious) narrative or story, which isn't really documenting anything other than how awesome-looking some bits of the world are, and which it's almost impossible to describe beyond saying stuff like "And then there's a shot of the Pope's arse, and then there's a narwhal, then there's a glacier, then there's a guy picking his nose at Roppongi Station, then there's a massive sand dune and then" which I could do for thousands of words and still get no closer to capturing its point or essence?

Rating:

Natural Selection

Natural Selection

You can pick your family, but you can't pick your genes

dir: Robbie Pickering

Every now and then you need a quiet, chilled-out flick as a bit of a palette cleanser. A bit of cooling pickled ginger after the burning momentary wasteland of wasabi. A nice, clean beer after a nasty shot of rotgut whisky served in a dirty glass. Most of the last twenty or so films I’ve watched have been pretty intense, so something light and breezy is surely desirable.

Natural Selection is one of those flicks I knew practically nothing about before watching it, other than it was a big hit at the Sundance Film Festival some time or another. Something being a big hit at the Sundance Film Festival doesn’t usually make me want to watch something especially much, in fact it’s more likely to make me recoil in horror and contemplate watching another Michael Bay film instead.

But it was liked by a few people who I take seriously, and so I thought I’d give it a whirl.

It’s an odd bird of a flick, but nonetheless it’s an enjoyable one about a woman going on a very modest journey of reflection and self-discovery. Thankfully, this doesn’t involve Julia Roberts or Tuscany or getting a vibrator for the first time.

Rating:

Your Sister's Sister

Your Sister's Sister

Make a choice and stick with it next time, ya drunks

dir: Lynn Shelton

What is Mark Duplass bribing people with in order to keep turning up in all these films lately? Has he got some great weed? An abundance of serious green bankroll from all those indie megahits he’s co-directed or starred in? A fantastically long penis that not only hits all the right spots but sings a sweet, melancholy torch song afterwards?

However he’s doing it, here he is again, at least from the perspective of my week, in that I’ve accidentally seen him in two films in only a few days. What a harsh coincidence. What cruellest fate in the kindest month.

At the very least I can console myself with the fact that I enjoyed his performance, goofy performance at that, much more than I did in Safety Not Guaranteed. It helps that he’s not playing a mental case here. His character here, all the same, is somewhat depressed, and a bit obnoxious, so it’s not like he’s stretching himself out of all shape or comfort zones.

A group of friends, and the brother (Duplass) of a guy who died the previous year, get together to remember him and to have a drink in his honour. We don’t know who the guy was, but one of the attendees (stand up comedian Mike Birbiglia) gets up and says some nice words, making people, including Iris (Emily Blunt), an ex-girlfriend of the guy, get all misty-eyed and nostalgic.

Rating:

The Turin Horse (A Torinoi Lo)

The Turin Horse

Depression in cinematic form. Enjoy, you lucky so-and-sos!

dir: Bela Tarr

Sometimes you watch a film knowing you’re not going to enjoy it. It’s with the foreknowledge that the reason for watching the film is not the pursuit of entertainment or escapism; it’s with the expectation that the experience is going to be a difficult one with no promise of redemption or eventual meaning.

What compelled me to watch this film, The Turin Horse, and review it, for you, the utterly nonplussed reader?

Curiousity, dear reader, nothing but curiosity.

I have heard of Hungarian director Bela Tarr, but never seen one of his films before. They are famous, or notorious, for being extremely long, consisting of very long, uncut scenes of people not doing very much. His most famous film, Satantango, is over seven hours long. He’s the quintessential director of the kinds of films people who never watch arthouse films think arthouse films are all like.

As such, The Turin Horse is practically the epitome of a parody of European arthouse films: it’s in black and white, the tone is overwhelming in its sombre dourness, there are peasants in peasanty clothing doing peasant things, the soundtrack is a repetitive, depressing four tone dirge, and what dialogue we hear (or read, since it’s subtitled, unless you’re Hungarian) is either trivial, makes no sense or is pretentious drivel and the point of it all is almost a complete mystery even to the most attentive and hopeful of viewers.

Rating:

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (Bir Zamanlar Andolu'da)

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia, a whole bunch of people
didn't live happily ever after

dir: Nuri Bilge Ceylan

This is a remarkable film, a very long film, in which very little happens. It's about something fairly important, in that three car loads of gentlemen for most of the film's length are driving around the bleak landscape of Central Anatolia for an important reason, but that reason seems to be out of proportion with the journey they endure.

In essence it becomes less about a murder investigation and more about the men involved, even though we get the barest amount of information about them. And then they drive on and on.

As the film opens, there are three men we observe behind a window, chatting about stuff and laughing, and then one of them gets up and looks out the window. This takes a fair amount of time.

The next we see, after the titles, is a barren landscape in fading light, as a bunch of cars drive across, looking for something. It will be a long time for us and them before they find anything. More so for us.

What follows is a very naturalistic, very mundane police procedural, but don't for a second confuse it with a CSI: Turkey. It's not a forensic investigation or even an investigation. These chaps know who committed the crime, and the guilty are there with them as they drive around in their cars. In fact, there's not a scintilla of mystery to the proceedings. There's just cold hard reality.

Rating:

The Hunter

The Hunter

Support your local Greens candidate, or Willem will come after you

dir: Daniel Nettheim

The Hunter is a sombre, icy film from last year that I didn’t get a chance to see in the cinemas at the time. It’s a pity on the one hand because I’m sure the sometimes harsh Tasmanian wilderness would have looked sublime up on the big screen.

Alternately, my perplexity at the ending and the point of it all would not have been lessened by the big screen experience.

A German biotech company called Red Leaf hires a man, a manly American man (Willem Dafoe) to go out into the Tasmanian wilderness in order to find the last remaining thylacine. As in, the Tasmanian Tiger which has been long thought extinct.

It’s all hush hush, and the company treats this as if they’re planning to whack the pope (which is not a masturbation euphemism, though maybe it is). Martin, as Dafoe’s character is called, travels to the backwaters of the backwater that is Tasmania, and is unimpressed with his surroundings. It doesn’t help that the place he happens to be staying seems to be infested with hippie children and the power is out.

Rating:

Burning Man

Burning Man

You should really let a doctor have a look at that. There's
got to be a cream for it, or at least an injection

dir: Jonathan Teplitzky

This Australian film from last year has nothing to do with the week-long Burning Man festival in the States which happens every year (which coincidentally starts today, Aug 27th) and is capped off with a massive effigy of a burning man. It is, however, about a man who is burning.

He is burning with desire, with the clap and probably a few other factors are making him blaze, but as the film opens, what he’s burning with is actual fire.

Tom (Matthew Goode) is a chef, and like all chefs depicted in film, is a hard-charging hyper-caffeinated arsehole. Well, maybe it’s not fair to say all of them on film are Type A personality arrogant arseholes. I think there was one who wasn’t. It might have been Remy the rat from Ratatouille. But all of the rest of them tend to be shown as alcoholics and drug abusers who shag anyone at any time.

Anyone who has spent time with people like this in real life knows how false a picture of the food services industry this truly is. I mean, I’ve known stacks of people working like this in high pressure kitchens, and they NEVER drank on the job or smoked dope during a break or shagged co-workers in the alley behind the restaurant. Also, they never get trashed after work every other night, nor is Monday the night when they tend to go completely crazy, since they’ve usually worked all weekend.

Rating:

Irvine Welsh's Ecstasy

Ecstacy

They're trying to remind me of something... not sure what

dir: Rob Heydon

I approach anything to do with Irvine Welsh with a great deal of trepidation these days, but I was curious to see this, since I recall reading the book way before my fear and loathing for Welsh began.

And what I recall is that the book had three stories, one having to do with some hospital plagued by a necrophiliac and a romance writer, the other to do with some armless girl rendered armless in utero due to some Thalidomide-like chemical and the football hooligan she enlists for revenge, and a third story I don’t remember that well.

That third story alone serves as the basis for this flick, which follows the adventures of ecstasy gobbler Lloyd (Adam Sinclair) and the various addled people in his life. It’s a good thing, too. My main reason for losing interest in Welsh’s writing is that I just can’t handle the sexual horror stuff he dreams up and messily expels onto the page. Everyone has limits, and I reached mine a long time ago with him, even as I acknowledge Trainspotting to be a landmark book (and subsequent film).

Rating:

Damsels in Distress

Damsels in Distress

They're so ever so tiny and distressing

dir: Whit Stillman

It's been ever so long since Last Days of Disco. Barcelona was an age ago, and Metropolitan, your first flick came out so long ago they've already put out 20th anniversary editions of the film. And now you've gifted us with another film to add to your in no way unique but still much appreciated genre of wordy upper class twits fumbling through life and live.

With Damsels in Distress, you're reminded, if you liked his previous films, of why you liked his previous films. If you hated the other ones, and I've spoken to people who think Barcelona was the most fucking obscenely tedious flick in cinematic history, and these are people who'd sat through some of Bela Tarr's eight-hour epics or Tarkovky's Solaris in single sessions, then Damsels in Distress will also fill you with that deep abiding rage you'd forgotten all about.

For me, it was like catching up with an old friend. Such an occasion can be both a good and bad experience. You're reminded of what you liked about them back in the day. You're also reminded that, with no 'present' between you, all you share in common is a common appreciation of moments distant in time, and that's just nostalgia.

There's no future in that. There is a future, hopefully, for Stillman, it's just that I wish his films didn't fall apart like cheap underwear at the end.

Rating:

Wrath of the Titans

Wrath of the Titans

I feel something, that's for sure, but it's certainly not wrath.
Mild perturbedness perhaps. They should have called it Mild
Perturbedness of the Titans. That would have saved it, yeah.

dir: Jonathan Liebesman

Clash of the Titans didn’t have any Titans in it. Wrath of the Titans has a Titan in it.

Lovers of simplistic arguments take heed: therefore, Wrath of the Titans must be a better film than the film that spawned it or at least more truthful in its advertising. It has a Titan being Wrathful, so needs must be true.

"Must" implies "has to". It's not an ambiguous word. There's certainty in it.

Shame it's a fucking lie.

This film is terrible. It's embarrassing to watch good actors like Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes, Danny Huston, almost everyone else except Sam Worthington shame themselves like this for a paycheck. Only a paycheck could justify this. Why else, and who else was demanding this? Doesn't this seem like a completely bizarre alternate-universe object that somehow squeezed through some portal from some other place where people needed to a parody of how truly unnecessary a flick could be?

There are scenes where a very bearded and very bedraggled Liam Neeson is having... something leeched from him, but also, there's this white, sticky stuff all over him. It’s bizarre and unintentionally comical.

Rating:

Pages

Subscribe to 2011