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The President of what?

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The President of what?

#121

Post by brokenface » May 31st, 2012, 4:22 pm

Under the Bridges (Kautner, 1945) 9/10

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An utterly lovely film, the old story of a woman coming between two good friends. Made in Germany in 1945, but without a whiff of war, these friends work together as bargemen, travelling up and down between Germany and Holland. The girl is a lonely character who they spot lingering on a bridge one night, looking like she might throw herself off.

These two men are somewhat awkward, too used to moving around to have ever had the chance to settle down with a woman. They set to wooing her in their own styles and so their friendship becomes strained as they wait for her to decide.

So nothing radical in the plot, but the characters are pitch-perfect and the setting both sets and suits the mood. The only other barge movie I can think of, off-hand, is L'Atalante, another splendid film. Barges ftw ^_^
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#122

Post by brokenface » June 2nd, 2012, 1:10 am

Prometheus (R. Scott, 2012) 7/10

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For the first time in years, actually gone to see a new film on the day of release, due to some enthusiastic nerdy friends. I'll spoiler it all, 'cause I happily knew nothing in advance other than it being a vague prequel to Alien (though I won't go into any detail on plot)..
Spoiler: click to toggleShow
Film looked beautiful. Skipped the gimmick version and watched it flat, like films should be, and it's a lovely looking space movie. Alien planet & spaceships & creatures all present and pretty.

What I liked is that it didn't go the action/horror route. There was some dramatic bits, but it was more pure science-fiction, asking questions about the universe and us. I do think it threw a few too many plot strands in and they got a bit tangled at some points - I noted in the credits that it was co-written by one of the guys who wrote Lost, which is kinda noticeable in the way it plays out.

My other complaint is a kinda nit-picky point that the characters do not often act in logical way. I don't just mean in a horror movie don't-go-upstairs way. For a scientific investigation, they are weirdly haphazard about everything and things just don't always ring true for human reactions..but then perhaps this is Ridley Scott doing his old what-is-human thing.

Anyway, I think it will satisfy people who like sci-fi which focuses on ideas more than details. It's not a rehash or anything that will diminish the Alien films, which is a definite positive. It unavoidably falls into some cliché territory, but also offers enough new and interesting to be worthwhile.
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#123

Post by insomnia » June 2nd, 2012, 9:20 am

I really enjoyed Prometheus but I've got to agree that the plot is a total mess. Fassbender, Rapace and Theron were great and Alba was really funny. Great gore and especially the extremely beautiful space visuals more than made up for the plot.
Now you might say, why like this one and not Avatar. Well I thought Avatar was derivative, annoying, badly acted, far too long and mostly ugly in its designs, while Prometheus had none of that.

I too knew nothing in advance and kept my hype level to a minimum. I've seen people who were expecting a Second Coming get really disappointed (as expected) so I'm glad I enjoyed it a great deal.
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#124

Post by brokenface » June 7th, 2012, 7:00 pm

Source Code (D.Jones, 2011) 5/10

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It's an elongated Twilight Zone episode, but I'm sure Twilight Zone would've taken it to a much darker place at the end. Definitely a case of concept over characters. I do like a good high concept science fiction film, but here instead of developing interesting ideas from the concept, it's mostly just a vehicle to deliver first thrills (the action-movie trappings in 'simulated' setting thing of Matrix, Inception, etc - but this has diminishing returns once you've seen the train explode once) and then attempt to manipulate emotions (though surely no-one can given enough of a crap about the characters to fall for this).
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#125

Post by brokenface » June 10th, 2012, 11:32 am

Les aventures extraordinaires d'Adèle Blanc-Sec (Besson, 2010) 7/10

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I quite enjoyed this. It has a pretty goofy charm. Adele Blanc-Sec is a Tintinny adventuress in early 20th century Paris. The extraordinary involves a pterodactyl & various mummies coming to life. There's also some broad comedy, with mixed results. It's like a kids film, but with some elements decidedly un-kiddy (the odd gruesome death). All in all, it's rather confused in tone, but the setting is splendidly done (though the CGI ain't quite up to blockbuster scratch), the heroine is likeable and I appreciate something which just rolls full steam ahead with its own offbeat style.

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#126

Post by brokenface » June 10th, 2012, 1:18 pm

En le ciudad de Sylvia (Guerin, 2007) 2/10

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Blue-eyed pretty boy lurks in cafes leering at and drawing pretty women. He then starts to stalk one of them who he thinks is a girl he used to know called Sylvia.

I was drawn to this film by the comparisons made - Rohmer, Last Year at Marienbad, Vertigo...three of my favourite things. Alas, this film is worthless. I like people-watching in real life, but I have no love for a film full of contrived people-watching and nothing else. There is next-to no dialogue, presumably because the images are supposed to do the telling. A noble attitude but there's really just nothing being told, so I can only suspect the creator didn't bother writing dialogue because it would simply highlight how empty the film is. Lots of pretty people sitting or standing around doing very little, with a few ugly ones thrown in for deeply insightful ( :rolleyes: ) contrast. Lots of 'ooh see how arty things look when the wind is blowing or when viewed as reflections' - okay, some of these shots are quite nice (hence 2/10 rather than 1/10) but they are wasted here.

Plus points, erm...Good film to watch if you are thinking of going to Strasbourg and want to get a flavour of the place, I guess, as it is all location shots walking around the streets of the town. Oh, and at one point the protagonist goes to a club where they are playing Heart of Glass. Which temporarily lifted me out of the stupor. Yay for Blondie.
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#127

Post by insomnia » June 10th, 2012, 1:58 pm

Saw that one too recently and I quite liked it. It's more a film about the point of view of a person that's unfamiliar with the city he's in while he tries to take up his surroundings than a plot driven narrative. The whole creepy episode in which he keeps following the girl without mustering up the courage to talk to her was rather exciting and the way the film keeps playing with PoV shots and staging as well as consistently giving beautiful images makes it constantly engaging.
I get why you would say it's empty but I don't agree. It's just trying to tell something that you aren't looking for.
The images do in fact do the telling: what else do you do in a city when you're visiting other than looking around. I don't believe it's trying to be much more meaningful than that. As someone who enjoys travelling, walking around cities, etc I enjoyed this quite a bit. But I'm sure it's easy to dismiss as artsy fartsy garbage.
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#128

Post by Limedebois » June 10th, 2012, 2:06 pm

Would you highly recommend this one to Dimitris? I guess there's a lot of doors to open after a long (and empty) panoramic shot.

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#129

Post by brokenface » June 10th, 2012, 2:25 pm

insomnia on Jun 10 2012, 07:58:56 AM wrote:The images do in fact do the telling: what else do you do in a city when you're visiting other than looking around. I don't believe it's trying to be much more meaningful than that. As someone who enjoys travelling, walking around cities, etc I enjoyed this quite a bit.
So do you think the protagonist is supposed to be like an exaggerated version of tourist? We look at him and go 'hmm creepy stalky behaviour' but then we have to look at ourselves and our motives for being tourists (or indeed for watching films as this is tourism too). I just think that if that is the case, why try and put in the 'mystery' aspect of Sylvia? And why make it an hour and a half long when the point can be made within 10 mins of him sitting in a cafe staring at people.

Might have worked for me as a short, I suppose.

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#130

Post by insomnia » June 10th, 2012, 2:42 pm

Well, you've kind of said it there yourself, haven't you? Part of what made it work for me as a feature film was the mystery that kept the whole thing engaging and interesting. If it was just a montage of a guy walking through a city then it could as well be a short. This way instead of being a film about a person's interaction with a strange place it adds a layer of interaction with people too. Surely it's partly about voyeurism and I do believe we're meant to feel somewhat uncomfortable by his behavior. Yet what do we do as tourists (and filmwatchers)? We observe things. Sure, it's a very old concept, linking film and voyeurism, but the tourism angle gives it a sort of fresh approach I think, and even if the idea might be tired by now, it still sort of holds up.

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#131

Post by allisoncm » June 10th, 2012, 2:52 pm

brokenface on May 29 2012, 01:32:12 PM wrote:The Girl Cut in Two (Chabrol, 2007) 5/10

A film uncertain in tone - is it supposed to be taken seriously as drama, or is it a dark comedy? Not really satisfying as either. The plot is a mish-mash of soap opera and arthouse clichés, while the characters motivations are hard to understand. If comedy is intended, it didn't really work for me. Woody Allen is referenced at one point and it has something of the feel of one of his latter day efforts which sometimes suffer from similar uncertainty.

Ludivine Sagnier plays a TV weather-girl who falls for two men - one a much older writer, who she loves for reasons not made too clear (is it the usual Freudian father-figure thing? sexual chemistry? we are left to guess) and the other is a somewhat unstable wealthy young man, the only discernable attraction of whom appears to be his money. She makes a choice, tragedy ensues, nobody is left much the wiser as to what any of this means.

Sagnier is very easy on the eye and acts in a laconic Chloe Sevigny style, and the supporting cast is generally fine. Production looks fairly low-budget, almost made-for-TV. Can't imagine this one staying long in my memory.
This one has great character development for Ludivine Sagnier's character, great dialogue and is based on the true story of Evelyn Nesbit. I think this is Chabrol's last masterpiece, even though I love Bellamy too.

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#132

Post by brokenface » June 10th, 2012, 3:08 pm

insomnia on wrote:Well, you've kind of said it there yourself, haven't you? Part of what made it work for me as a feature film was the mystery that kept the whole thing engaging and interesting. If it was just a montage of a guy walking through a city then it could as well be a short. This way instead of being a film about a person's interaction with a strange place it adds a layer of interaction with people too. Surely it's partly about voyeurism and I do believe we're meant to feel somewhat uncomfortable by his behavior. Yet what do we do as tourists (and filmwatchers)? We observe things. Sure, it's a very old concept, linking film and voyeurism, but the tourism angle gives it a sort of fresh approach I think, and even if the idea might be tired by now, it still sort of holds up.
Fair enough and good points on the tourism angle (though I can think of films that have gone there before - e.g. L'Avventura or even M.Hulot's Holiday). I guess the more coherent criticism I should have made is that the mystery aspect seemed way too under-developed to hang a film on. Enigmaticness (if this is a word!) becomes the crutch for the whole film - whereas with, say, Last Year at Marienbad, while similar in one respect, there's tonnes more going on; infinitely more we can try and decipher about the characters and location. I don't mind having to do the work, in terms of figuring things out, but I resent a film which gives the suggestion of mystery but doesn't really give you anything to work with.

A halfway comparison could be made with Certified Copy, which I didn't like much either, but there at least there was enough offered about the characters in their interactions & dialogue for them to feel like people and for the mystery to be somewhat engaging. But what engages is personal, so I appreciate that others may find this one engaging.
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#133

Post by brokenface » June 16th, 2012, 1:03 am

The Headless Woman (Martel, 2008) 1/10

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I'll start out honestly: I did not understand this movie. But as I am arrogant enough to consider myself capable of understanding movies should they offer something understandable, I point my finger at what was on the screen. This strikes me as a film that is too lazy to write characters, relationships or story. It hides behind a veil of 'mystery' and deliberately throws in numerous undefined characters & undeveloped plot points to give the appearance of something substantial when there is really nothing there.

I read through the reviews on IMDB in an attempt to seek what I might have missed, but all I found was people peppering with words like 'enigmatic', 'mature' and 'intelligent' to try and convince themselves there was something more in this film than appeared. Only one nailed it the way it deserved: http://www.imdb.com/user/ur16555590/comments

It looks consistently ugly & badly framed and, from my view, there is nothing to recommend. One of the worst wastes of time I've endured - yes, sometimes provoking extreme reaction should be applauded, but here...nah. I would love to hear a defence of this film, if someone is willing to back it up..

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#134

Post by mightysparks » June 16th, 2012, 2:44 am

Your review sounds like how I feel about a lot of popular films, even about the way the reviews use words like 'enigmatic' :P
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#135

Post by brokenface » June 16th, 2012, 11:31 am

I often like mysterious/enigmatic films (Resnais, Lynch, Antonioni, some Haneke etc), but they have to offer something to make the mystery feel worthwhile. All we have here is some vague suggestions about how rich families look after their own (no shit), told without any interesting characters, plot, dialogue or visuals to drive the mystery.

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#136

Post by mightysparks » June 16th, 2012, 11:35 am

Yeah, I just meant the reviews of some films where no-one says what's good about it, they just use lots of descriptive words and never actually tell you anything. Sometimes Often I'm left wondering why people like these 'popular' films so I go to read reviews and I see so many that leave me more confused than I was before.
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#137

Post by brokenface » June 16th, 2012, 11:52 am

Aye, I wasn't disagreeing, I know the feeling. Just an afterthought to my review..

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#138

Post by brokenface » June 26th, 2012, 12:37 am

Cosmopolis (Cronenberg, 2012) 10/10

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This review will involve a lot of meandering sidetracks and anecdotal detail. But no spoilers. Bear with or just skip to the end*

I left the cinema about an hour ago and have been writing this review ever since in my head. And as I'm in a somewhat confused state of mind, it is rather muddled in my head and I'm already forgetting half of it. That said, all this initial second-guessing was planned (I started off thinking about writing this parenthesis about forgetting about what I hadn't even really thought about writing about yet). Ooh meta.

There are certain provisos to bear in mind. I am in Dublin (sidenote to the sidenote - another great cinema today, the IFI...Dublin is well served for cinephiles :thumbsup: ) attending a conference on evolution, so I spent the day listening to people talk about bacteria and phylogeny and metagenomics until it was bleeding out of my eyes. I did the same yesterday and followed it with drinking and misery (the football, naturally), and almost zero sleep and as such have downed more coffee than I've drunk in the past three months combined over the past 48 hours. Couple this with the slight twitchy unease of coming off from some fairly meaty antidepressants, being in a city I don't know surrounded by a whole load of people I don't know, and a wee bit of alcohol to balance the coffee and here we are. It's midnight or so, and I am in a room which is almost an exact replica of the room I lived in for a year when I first went to university in a completely different city about 8 years ago...add a sense of physical and temporal dislocation to the confusion.

I should probably get onto the film. The point of the above was to say that this messy combination of factors fortuitously slotted into place in my head as seemingly the precise cocktail required to go into this film.

You may have noted I gave it 10/10. It is, of course, not a perfect film. I don't tend to give 10/10 scores and it is thoroughly against my rules to give 10/10 on a first viewing, which is why I had to give it 10/10. I am certain I will wake up tomorrow and wish to change this score to obey my rule (as well as edit this garbled mess of a review). But I shall not. Subjectivity is king, and subjectively speaking, for my brain on this day, this film was 10/10 and such it shall be rated.

For the first 15 minutes I was pretty sure I hated it. It makes no attempt to disguise just how pretentious it is (I have not read the book, nor any Don DeLillo, so I cannot know anything there). But it is also weird. Yay, Cronenberg is being weird again :D Though, I should say, this is not typical Cronenberg weird (i.e. it ain't got much in the way of body horror). I'm fairly sure a lot of people will hate this film, but that is far preferable to his last, which nobody either loved or hated (A Dangerous Method).

In style it probably most resembles Crash of all Cronenberg's films - perhaps not surprising as that was his last real adaptation from well-known literary source. The script is relentless and suffocating. You feel like you are never going to escape the stream of words, a feeling exacerbating by the sharp editing where it always cuts to the person talking at the exact moment they start speaking.

Things are consistently disorientating (cf. the synergy with the personal circumstance) - there is the one central character, whose journey the film follows, but new characters keep being added and only a few recur. Most get just one extended scene. They are sometimes well-known actors though usually take a minute to recognize.

If you know anything about this film other than it being Cronenberg doing DeLillo, you probably know that it stars every 14-yr-old-girl's dreamboat, that dude from Twilight. There were no more than 20 people in my screening, but a group of four women walked out after about 45 mins - I took this to mean they are Twilight fans who didn't know quite what they were getting into. I note this for re-assurance. He is not an amazing actor, but he is okay - hell, possibly even great - and if the film is scaring off his core audience, it clearly did something right and should not be tainted by that particular association.

The other film this most reminded me of is Frank Perry's The Swimmer (and gosh, I thought I was being smart, but I google Cosmopolis and The Swimmer and see several others have already made the comparison - maybe the thought had already been implanted though I'd barely read anything about Cosmopolis. This bothers me). Anyway, it is about a man taking a journey to his own mortality through an unreal world which somewhat resembles the real world through a strange lens. It follows its own logic and it takes a little bit of time to get into its groove - hence my difficulty with the early section.

Questions of mortality hang over everything (another death metaphor, sir?). Did I mention how pretentious this is? (the film too) The extreme capitalism is piled on a little thick, but does provide some humour and some potent lines.

Okay I've hit the wall. Caffiene crash. If anyone actually read all of this, I'm sorry (but say hi!). This started out structured in my head, but quickly descended as I transmitted it to screen. I need to sleep. This whole thing deserves deletion but I shall post it as a reminder to myself not to write like this again.

---

*Quick summary for those who skipped to the end: It is a very subjective 10/10 - I loved this film today and perhaps only today. Any other day and I might've written just as much trashing it, 'cause it may well be a terrible, pretentious mess. But maybe it is great. You should watch it.
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#139

Post by insomnia » June 26th, 2012, 9:18 am

I thought it was great too. My screening had people walking out in droves. I'm sure about 20 people left during the film. I always find that amusing tbh.
I thought Pattinson was quite good in the role and I loved the dialogue. I get what you're saying by calling it pretentious but I don't think it is. They just literally got that weird-ass dialogue from DeLillo, so people that don't have a high tolerance for pomo writing or the ones that just came for Pattinson will probably hate this.

Also, I happen to be leaving for Dublin tomorrow! I'll be staying for till monday morning. If you've got recommendations on things to do (cinemas to visit) or anything they're more than welcome :P

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#140

Post by bal3x » June 26th, 2012, 12:05 pm

antidepressants + alcohol = not a good combination... just saying :)
Not a Cronenberg fan myself, but I've enjoyed a couple of his films, his recent efforts seem different from his earlier work though, haven't seen them though.

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#141

Post by monty » June 26th, 2012, 12:08 pm

bal3x on Jun 26 2012, 06:05:05 AM wrote:antidepressants + alcohol = not a good combination... just saying :)
Not a Cronenberg fan myself, but I've enjoyed a couple of his films, his recent efforts seem different from his earlier work though, haven't seen them though.
I prefer the body horror Cronenberg over his recent efforts.

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#142

Post by bal3x » June 26th, 2012, 12:15 pm

monty on Jun 26 2012, 06:08:46 AM wrote:
bal3x on Jun 26 2012, 06:05:05 AM wrote:antidepressants + alcohol = not a good combination... just saying :)
Not a Cronenberg fan myself, but I've enjoyed a couple of his films, his recent efforts seem different from his earlier work though, haven't seen them though.
I prefer the body horror Cronenberg over his recent efforts.
My favorite of his is Dead Ringers, I did enjoy The Fly, The Dead Zone and Videodrome as well.
From the "recent" ones I saw Eastern Promises and A History of Violence - those were not bad as well.

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#143

Post by brokenface » June 26th, 2012, 1:58 pm

insomnia on Jun 26 2012, 03:18:46 AM wrote:I thought it was great too. My screening had people walking out in droves. I'm sure about 20 people left during the film. I always find that amusing tbh.
I thought Pattinson was quite good in the role and I loved the dialogue. I get what you're saying by calling it pretentious but I don't think it is. They just literally got that weird-ass dialogue from DeLillo, so people that don't have a high tolerance for pomo writing or the ones that just came for Pattinson will probably hate this.

Also, I happen to be leaving for Dublin tomorrow! I'll be staying for till monday morning. If you've got recommendations on things to do (cinemas to visit) or anything they're more than welcome :P
Cool. Yeah I probably need to read some DeLillo to get a more proper flavour of his style of dialogue. Took a bit of adjusting. Pretentious is not a good word to use. I hate it when I see it used particularly against writers I like.

For Dublin, I haven't had a lot of chance to sightsee due to being at conference most of the time. But I have been to two very nice cinemas in the evening. The IFI for Cosmopolis - this is right in the heart of Temple Bar area (where a lot of pubs/restaurants are), & the screen I was in was excellent. They've got reissue of The Discreet Charm of the Beourgeoisie playing next week, they trailered it - would've loved to seen that on big screen if I was still around (hopefully it's playing around UK too), so I'd recommend trying to catch that.

The other cinema was The Lighthouse which is a really cool building & I loved the screen I was in. Saw Moonrise Kingdom there. Got a great cafe which lets you use the wifi
even if you don't buy anything :D It's in place called Smithfield Plaza, and I nearly didn't find it - found the plaza, but it was v.quiet and the cinema is slightly hard to spot at first. It's a wee walk from the centre, but not too far.

Oh, an excellent pub for beer was Messrs Maguires, which is on the riverfront, just nr the main couple of bridges. You can get Guinness anywhere but that place did its own brews :thumbsup: If I wasn't heading home tomorrow myself I'd say let's catch a drink!

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#144

Post by insomnia » June 26th, 2012, 2:06 pm

Thanks! I'll probably take a look at those two.
Yeah, it's a pity our dates just don't match. It would be pretty cool to have a drink with someone from the forum.
I'll be there early in the morning thanks to Ryanair's stupid flight times :( . Anyway, enough derailing of your thread :)

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#145

Post by brokenface » June 30th, 2012, 8:12 pm

Himizu (Shion Sono, 2011) 7/10


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I'm not too good on contemporary Japanese cinema, so this is the first Sono film I've seen. It was quite tough-going. It's an in-your-face film - extreme teenage angst against backdrop of poverty & the 2011 tsunami.

The central character, Sumida, has a difficult (to say the least) relationship with his parents - a father who has left but pops back every now and again to beat him up and try to scrounge money, and a mother who doesn't appear to care all that much about anything. He works in his family business - renting boats from a little shack - and there are a group of folk who are homeless from the earthquake camping outside. And then there is his classmate at school Keiko, also from a troubled family, who has a rather obsessive crush on him.

This is only the briefest of background - the film takes in all kinds from yakuzas to murder & suicide, with some dark humour and surreal aspects (some of it is presumably dream-sequences, though it is a little disorientating). There is lashings of violence - Sumida is beaten up more times that I can remember, and as the world treats him with violence, he strikes back, notably at Keiko (who is not afraid to hit back either) and then the corrupt wider world. It is a very angry film and this all gets pretty relentless. The film did feel quite long at just over 2 hrs with this intensity, losing impact with overuse.

But there is great cinematography (particularly some of the flashback scenes seemingly genuinely shot in towns flattened by the tsunami - I read that the whole tsunami aspect of the film was added on the fly, as it happened just before the movie was due to be shot in that area), great performance by Sometani Shouta in a very difficult role and, while as I say, it was a tough watch, but it felt like a worthwhile challenge

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#146

Post by brokenface » July 1st, 2012, 2:53 pm

Old Joy (Reichardt, 2006) 6/10

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I liked Wendy & Lucy, so I thought I'd try and forget the utter tedium of Meek's Cutoff and give another Reichardt film a go. This sits comfortably between them.

It's very relaxed and the two characters & their friendship ring true. Couple with a nice lulling Yo La Tengo soundtrack and plenty of nice forest scenery, and it's an easy 75 minutes. Makes me want to go camping in the woods again. There's not much to the film - 2 old friends who've gone diverging paths in life (one towards conventional wife/family, the other - played by Will Oldham - an ageing hippy on the margins) and trying to rekindle old friendship in the light of this.

All in all, it's perhaps a little too laid-back to really be a feature film. Watching old friends smoke pot and chatting is a whole lot less interesting than, well, smoking pot and chatting with old friends.
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#147

Post by brokenface » July 6th, 2012, 12:04 am

Zhantai/Platform (Jia Zhangke, 2000) 2/10

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The only comment on ICM about this says "A work of subtle genius." If it is genius, it is certainly too subtle for me. The film is about being young in a time of big change in China (70s-80s), which sounded potentially interesting. For me it lacked in several important aspects of film-making, namely writing, acting, editing and cinematography - and though I don't mention directing, he's ultimately responsible for all of the above.

I just spent most of the film asking: why did he just show that scene? And if he had to show that scene, why did he shoot it like that? Maybe I lack imagination or something, but I rarely came up with answers that were in any way satisfying. The odd shot looked nice, but this seemed more down to chance than anything - if you have enough shots in a film, you're bound to get a few that stand out.

Film just felt like a constant flow of short episodes that were generally neither particularly interesting in and of themselves, nor did they add much to any broader point. And it was 2 and a hours long, making the whole thing feel more and more unbearable as it went.

I cut a couple of screenshots to illustrate:

1.

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Here we have a conversation between a man and a woman, who are perhaps forming a relationship. It is shot in such a way that at all points one of them is hidden behind a wall, and at several points both of them are hidden behind the wall. We never see them in close-up or in any way that helps us understand them as characters - there is a wall in the way. Now presumably this wall is metaphorical - but even so, does the whole conversation need to be shot entirely in such an ugly and distancing manner? It's like he actively does not want the audience to get close to the characters, which begs the question why include the characters at all?

2.

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I call this one 'Girl Fiddles with her Hair for a Couple of Minutes'. It may only have been one minute. I just see this and think WHY? Why, why, why? It is not an interesting shot, the character is too distant for us to really see anything about her other than the fact she is fiddling with her hair and it lingers. Why is this in the film? If it is supposed to draw me into the film's pace, it fails, because all it does is me think 'why am I looking at this?' and brings me out of the film.

3.

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I call this one 'Rubbing it In'. Man sits in car with song playing. Lyrics are on-screen and perfectly encapsulate my thoughts regarding the film at that moment.

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Please come and tell me I missed the entire point of the film and all these things I'm criticising were actually the whole point, or something. I shall go and read some critics and see if they can explain why it's so highly acclaimed, on TSPDT, etc. Maybe I just lack the understanding of the cultural background. As it is, I was waiting and the wait seemed never-ending :(

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#148

Post by monty » July 6th, 2012, 12:51 am

I agree in your assessment, brokenface. This one was indeed a chore to sit through.

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#149

Post by insomnia » July 6th, 2012, 1:53 pm

Again it's me that's going to call you on this but I think Zhantai is pretty genius. Not my favourite Zhangke maybe but still.
I'll talk technically first then about substance.
I see your points about why you think the film isn't technically well-achieved but I think you're missing what the director is going for. This is cinema that consists of very long takes and long shots, definitely inspired by the likes of Antonioni. Using offscreen space and long shots, placing characters out of view or somewhere where it basically drowns in the surroundings, which is often something you do in order to show some kind of ill-feeling or alienation, etc. I think all of the screenshots you've chosen are perfectly framed and conceived for what the film is going for, which is keeping you at a critical distance from these people. This kind of cinema is also very theatrical and I don't mean that in any bad way whatsoever. It is all about long takes with characters placed at a moderate distance from the screen and complexely staged and moving around in the frame. It's something you see often with these kinds of meditative asian new wave cinemas. Like in the films Hou Hsiao Hsien or Tsai Ming Liang for example.
And maybe you'll think, so what? But if you look at recent films coming from Hollywood, everything is done in close-up and every action you see is analysed and fragmented in the cutting room because they all seem to like extremely quick editing. This way actors don't need to know how to move properly anymore and there's nothing really technically accomplished about a 2 second shot that you can repeat ad infinitum. I think filmmakers like Zhangke are a refreshing 'antidote' for cinema that stays away from slowness and technical complexity.

A great deal of the substance is found in what happens in the background with all the social changes the country goes through and how it affects this group of people. He intentionally kept you somewhat distanced from the characters because he wants you to look at them as a group (or at least that's how I see it) and he wants you to reflect what those changes actually did to the dynamic of the group and thus the people.

I personally like Still Life more than this one, but I believe this is a monumental achievement that wouldn't seem out of place in a list with somewhat similar masterpieces like City of Sadness by Hou Hsiao Hsien or A Brighter Summer Day by Edward Yang. They all use people in the foreground and social change in the background in such a way that makes for brilliant cinema imo.
Last edited by insomnia on July 6th, 2012, 1:55 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#150

Post by brokenface » July 6th, 2012, 2:48 pm

Thanks for your thoughts. I can see some similarity to Antonioni in look, but I think he uses this kind of distancing for a very different cause - he has the exterior representing the interior of the character's minds (generally representing his own depression/existentialism) - so while it is distant, you also have the sense of getting into the character's head(s).

With Platform, as you say, the characters are so distant that you only really see them as a group. I just can't really handle a film that gives you zero personal anchor - an abstract style to make an abstract point. I found the external changes hard to gauge without really knowing China. I don't know Hsiao-Hsien & Ming-Liang, but I get the sense I will struggle with them too..

"But if you look at recent films coming from Hollywood, everything is done in close-up and every action you see is analysed and fragmented in the cutting room because they all seem to like extremely quick editing. This way actors don't need to know how to move properly anymore and there's nothing really technically accomplished about a 2 second shot that you can repeat ad infinitum"

That's true of some cinema, but there's plenty of big name directors in Hollywood who aren't hyper-kinetic & do make technically complex shots - Coen Brothers, Paul Thomas Anderson, Jim Jarmusch, etc.. There were plenty of scenes in Platform which just looked improvised, more like Cassavetes/Pialat-style, but with the actors in the background rather than foreground. Maybe they were intricately planned - and some like the woman dancing in the office clearly were - but many didn't really feel like it.

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#151

Post by insomnia » July 6th, 2012, 3:50 pm

"That's true of some cinema, but there's plenty of big name directors in Hollywood who aren't hyper-kinetic & do make technically complex shots - Coen Brothers, Paul Thomas Anderson, Jim Jarmusch, etc.. "

Oh, definitely. But unfortunately those auteurs aren't exactly a majority. I was just saying that I find these long intricate takes to be refreshing, definitely in comparison to recent tendencies in mainstream cinema.

"I found the external changes hard to gauge without really knowing China."

I guess this might be the biggest hang-up honestly. I do know quite a bit about (recent) Chinese history and I think it's very interesting. But I can really imagine that if you don't you will not like this film or get why people praise it for being so brilliant because it definitely is subtle.

"I don't know Hsiao-Hsien & Ming-Liang, but I get the sense I will struggle with them too.."

Yeah, I think so too. They're not exactly easy watches, I think these are rather niche films.

"Maybe they were intricately planned - and some like the woman dancing in the office clearly were - but many didn't really feel like it. "

Yeah, this is something that seems to be coming back, like in the comment sections of some Bela Tarr films. But it's not like these directors just randomly start shooting these scenes. They're rehearsed and worked out, which is another reason why I called these films theatrical.

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#152

Post by brokenface » July 6th, 2012, 4:57 pm

insomnia on Jul 6 2012, 09:50:20 AM wrote:"That's true of some cinema, but there's plenty of big name directors in Hollywood who aren't hyper-kinetic & do make technically complex shots - Coen Brothers, Paul Thomas Anderson, Jim Jarmusch, etc.. "

Oh, definitely. But unfortunately those auteurs aren't exactly a majority. I was just saying that I find these long intricate takes to be refreshing, definitely in comparison to recent tendencies in mainstream cinema.
Sure, but I do think these are really two extremes we're talking about. I find there's plenty in the middle that satisfies me cinematically - don't tend to like either the hyper-cut or the super-slow, they annoy me in different ways.

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#153

Post by insomnia » July 9th, 2012, 2:47 pm

brokenface on Jun 15 2012, 07:03:32 PM wrote:The Headless Woman (Martel, 2008) 1/10I would love to hear a defence of this film, if someone is willing to back it up..
Just saw this, and I quite liked it. I'll try and write some points of defence but keep in mind that it's all first impressions, I still need some time to get my head around it completely.

Firstly I don't agree with it being badly filmed. I thought it often looked very beautiful, often a kind of impressionistic style with a lot of out-of-focus colour dots, as well as densely framed and staged compositions.
Then I don't really get what made you have this strong negative reaction to not understanding everything in this film. I think it did rather well in keeping me in the dark the same way the main character was. It's a disorienting experience and you just have to go along with it. That was largely the point as it's a psychological mystery film.
Your reaction kind of reminds me of people having very negative responses to Lynch films because they think everything about those films is supposed to be instantly understandable.

I think a whole lot is going on in this film, the main character becomes completely disoriented because of guilt. For the accident, class issues, etc. That confusions seems to run in the family as well, seeing as that aunt/mother character was almost completely delirious at points. The performance of the main character was great too.

I kind of agree with some reviews saying it's like crossing Hitchcock with Antonioni. Only Martel completely makes it her own with distinct visual style and South-American setting.
Last edited by insomnia on July 9th, 2012, 2:50 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#154

Post by brokenface » July 9th, 2012, 4:42 pm

I was probably in a bad mood when I wrote that review ;) The thing with a disorientating psychological mystery film is I either want to enjoy the ride or, failing that, get some sort of insight/payoff that brings light to the disorientation suffered. This one did neither for me personally - the only insight I got was rich people probably looking after their own, and the journey to this point was completely unengaging..

I just get tired of cinema that so prides itself on anti-cinematic style - i.e.characters that are so underdrawn & uninteresting as to be no different from random strangers you could watch in the street, conversations that are left deliberately out of shot & hearing, absence of music or drama or humour. None of this draws me into the mystery - it pushes me away from caring about even trying to understand it.

ultimately it's precisely because I love stuff like Lynch, Antonioni, Hitchcock, that I find something like this so disappointing. I'd say even on a bad day with a tiny budget, any of those three would've made a film out of the basic premise of Headless Woman that was infinitely better on just about every level.

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#155

Post by brokenface » July 12th, 2012, 10:28 pm

The Turin Horse (Tarr, 2011) 5/10

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Let's start this review of a highbrow film with a lowbrow reference. Bela Tarr is a cinematic Dementor. His images sap all joy and happiness from the world. This one takes it to the extreme point - over the course of the film we systematically lose everything we need for life until there is just nothing.

Having said that, I do take slight masochistic pleasure from watching one of his films (except The Man From London :yucky: ). Especially at the cinema, where you get to feel other people's discomfort as well as your own. The first walkout occurred during the 2nd potato-eating scene (yes this is exactly what it sounds like. but grimmer.)

The best section of the film by far is the opening shots of the horse & cart. The opening image, with the horse is coming towards you, it looms down off the screen at you. It is awesome and almost scary. We then get sucked into the absolute horror of existence of this particular horse pushed ever forward with a massive load on its back from various angles, accompanied by some powerful strings. The shot cuts off its legs so we just see the straining body appearing to both be moving and going nowhere. Everything that the film says is said here.

The film could only go down from that, and sure enough it does. Down, down, down, down, down. The remainder is an utterly miserable experience. Long, constipated takes of peasants going about their daily routines over and over. Watch the daughter help her father undress. Now watch her dress him in his house clothes. Then cook some potatoes. Then eat some potatoes. And stare out the window. All while the relentless gale howls. The end is coming. The weight is heavy. This might be hypnotic. But Bela cannot resist holding each take long beyond the point necessary - here's a nice shot, he says (mmm, yes, I agree) Now stare at it until I say you may look at something else (mmm, okay, if I must. Er, I've kinda got the idea now. Please show me something else. PLEASE, BELA!).

There are two points at which the routine is broken up - once by a visitor who spouts a long Nietzschian monologue which was almost impossible to take in when you brain has been dipped in Tarr for the past half-hour, then by some rowdy gypsys. Both threaten to bring a bit of life to the film, but Bela is quick to extinguish this and get back to the grinding squalour.

The best actor in the film is the horse, who truly portrays the horrifying weight of existence. Balthazar finally has some equine competition.

I will say I'm glad I caught it at the cinema, at my last opportunity. I am also mightily relieved that I can now say I will never watch it again :)

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#156

Post by brokenface » July 15th, 2012, 9:21 pm

L'heure d'été/Summer Hours (Assayas, 2008) 3/10

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I'm gonna get myself a reputation as a hater if I keep clogging this thread with negative reviews. But damn, it's just easier to write bad things. I saw Lone Star last week and really liked it, but couldn't think of much to write.

This is one has some slightly interesting background to the production. Essentially the film came about from the Musee d'Orsay trying to produce a portmanteau film with Assayas & Hou Hsiao-hsien & someone else. This fell through but two films came from it: Summer Hours & Hou's Flight of the Red Balloon. This explains the obsession with museum objects running through the film, culminating in a scene which is just a direct commercial for the Musee d'Orsay - it's not manifestly different from your average blockbuster also trying to sell Nikes - and they are not usually so shameless as to include a scene where someone goes to marvel at the Nike shop.

I thought the film started okay as a light drama set around a family reunion. Edith Scob is in this part and is the most interesting character, but it just went in a direction that I could not care less about: the difficulties 3 very wealthy people have in dealing with their mother's estate when she dies. Just what will they do with the Corots? :sleeping: Oh, and it contains the amazing insight that young people tend to have different priorities and tastes to old people :o

There is a vague sense of nostalgia, of the same resonance as you'd get from your average teen coming-of-age film or heartwarming made-for-tv drama - but I cannot begin to imagine why this has such an enhanced critical reputation. The dull characters are competently acted, there's nothing notable about the visuals or the structure. Nobody has much interesting to say. It's just utterly meh. Probably a 4 or 5 out of 10 film, but the fact something so bog-average is rated so highly makes me mark it down further :P
Last edited by brokenface on July 15th, 2012, 9:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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#157

Post by brokenface » July 21st, 2012, 10:40 am

The Dark Knight Rises (Nolan, 2012) 6/10

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Well, it was quite entertaining. Best not to think too much, because if you try and work out character's motivations for taking particular actions at particular times it is quite difficult
Spoiler: click to toggleShow
:huh: of course they drive the bomb around the city constantly with several decoy trucks :huh: of course they'd send EVERY SINGLE POLICEMAN into the sewers simultaneously
- numerous cases of the plot serving the action scenes rather than the other way round.

Some bits are unintentionally hilarious
Spoiler: click to toggleShow
"You should use your real name....ROBIN!!!!!!!" and the painfully cheesy use of kids on a school bus as the go-to Gothamites-in-peril in the finale
but the film as a whole lacked much evidence of a sense of humour - the odd mid-fight quip aside. Takes itself very seriously, which is hard not to get a bit cynical about, when the goings-on are so plainly ridiculous. I'm not advocating for a Batman & Robin style film, but I'd say the first two Spiderman films got the balance about right between playing it straight and acknowledging the essential silliness of superhero shenanigans.
Spoiler: click to toggleShow
I did like that it started to feel a bit like Escape From New York during the 2nd half with the eccentric bad guys in control of the city cut-off from mainland :D
Overall I'd rank it a bit below The Dark Knight. Lacked a character as compelling as the Joker and was even more obvious in hammering home its themes. But it's a blockbuster action film and it does the whole blockbuster action thing fairly well.
Last edited by brokenface on July 21st, 2012, 10:40 am, edited 1 time in total.

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#158

Post by mightysparks » July 21st, 2012, 10:56 am

Indeed. I found it entertaining for an action movie, but doesn't do much more for me than that. Obviously I like it more than TDK, but I also found that whereas The Joker did 'stand out' as the villain (I didn't like his performance much, but in terms of the focus on the character), this one just had so many characters and not enough development for any of them.

And it did take itself ridiculously seriously. It started annoying me after a while. Especially with those 'emotional' scenes :yucky:
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#159

Post by Nuclearplanet » July 29th, 2012, 11:10 am

brokenface on Jun 1 2012, 07:10:56 PM wrote:Prometheus (R. Scott, 2012) 7/10

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For the first time in years, actually gone to see a new film on the day of release, due to some enthusiastic nerdy friends. I'll spoiler it all, 'cause I happily knew nothing in advance other than it being a vague prequel to Alien (though I won't go into any detail on plot)..
Spoiler: click to toggleShow
Film looked beautiful. Skipped the gimmick version and watched it flat, like films should be, and it's a lovely looking space movie. Alien planet & spaceships & creatures all present and pretty.

What I liked is that it didn't go the action/horror route. There was some dramatic bits, but it was more pure science-fiction, asking questions about the universe and us. I do think it threw a few too many plot strands in and they got a bit tangled at some points - I noted in the credits that it was co-written by one of the guys who wrote Lost, which is kinda noticeable in the way it plays out.

My other complaint is a kinda nit-picky point that the characters do not often act in logical way. I don't just mean in a horror movie don't-go-upstairs way. For a scientific investigation, they are weirdly haphazard about everything and things just don't always ring true for human reactions..but then perhaps this is Ridley Scott doing his old what-is-human thing.

Anyway, I think it will satisfy people who like sci-fi which focuses on ideas more than details. It's not a rehash or anything that will diminish the Alien films, which is a definite positive. It unavoidably falls into some cliché territory, but also offers enough new and interesting to be worthwhile.
this was awesome probably one of the best Sci-Fi Films of all time and I try not to exaggerate that. WAY better then Aliens. Ridley Scott knows his Sci-Fi well :thumbsup:

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#160

Post by Nuclearplanet » July 29th, 2012, 11:11 am

mightysparks on Jul 21 2012, 04:56:04 AM wrote: And it did take itself ridiculously seriously. It started annoying me after a while. Especially with those 'emotional' scenes :yucky:
indeed *claps*

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