Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Overdue FILM ROUND-UP 2015: Part II

Inherent Vice - (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson) This adaptation of the Pynchon novel of the same name is a hazy and neurotic testament to the hangover: lost love, the sixties and opportunity are reduced to unreliable ghosts, economic disillusionment and a consuming ache of nostalgia. A terrific film, great performance by the mutton-chop sporting Joaquin Phoenix and terrific play in the soundtrack between jukebox classics (Neil Young features heavily) and the curling melancholy of Jonny Greenwood’s score. A rich and unsettling film. 8.5/10

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Frank –  (Lenny Abrahamson)A wonderfully written and enjoyable comedy about the antics of a deeply eccentric band. Michael Fassbender wears a massive paper-mache head for most of the film’s duration. Loosely inspired by Frank Sidebottom while drawing on other outsider musicians or aficionados of the tinkering avant-garde of pop. 7/10

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Girl, Interrupted – (dir.  James Mangold) Hammy but watchable film that attempts to clumsily provide an explicitly female imagining of One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest without satisfying any of the questions of gender and representations of mental illness that should involve. A broad stroke of a film. 4/10
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Shoah – (Claude Lanzmann) Less a film and more of a vital artefact of witness. Through talking heads, interviews and visiting the camps, the history of the holocaust is remembered and described without recourse to any footage from the time. Providing the form of documentary with a whole host of challenging ideas and questions to digest (matters of translation, legality and ethics are woven into the film’s complex value and its systems of credibility), it is a film that bears witness first and foremost to incomprehensible but very real horror, but also to how and why such horror might disturb traditional methods of representation. At around nine hours it is a necessarily exhausting and upsetting watch that, existing outside of cinema to present evidence and exploration of events that deny understanding but not remembering, should be seen. Not as a simple or self-aggrandizing act of morality but as a piece of work whose scale, variety and duration, compels the viewer’s thought, discussion and engagement in ways that other mediums cannot provide.

Pretty Woman – (dir. Gary Marshall) Richard Gere is creepy. I kinda lost it at that really. I know, I know – it’s a classic – it has positives…but I just couldn’t stop watching the first half as though it were an unhinged drama (couple of longer shots and I could imagine a Haneke version). I could go into why it all seemed so sinister, in many ways I guess its obvious, but meh – ant be arsed right now. I think with the right soundtrack the first half of the film could be fairly disturbing. Surely there’s a youtube version… 6/10

Jack Smith: The Destruction of Atlantis – (dir. Mary Jordan) A fascinating documentary on the NY underground filmmaker of ‘Flaming Creatures’ fame. A must for anyone interested in avant-garde film or even the possibility of living life in a way that refuses or strives to refuse capitalist expectations. 7.5/10

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Cavalry - (dir. John Michael McDonagh) Moments of brilliance streaked through with less brilliant problems in pacing and style…sometimes didn’t feel as blackly dramatic or powerful as it seemed to think it was…the premise, though interesting and though supported by moments of great script and acting, was also responsible for a slightly ambling Miss Marple feel to its unravelling narrative and the eccentric community. Really not doing justice to this film…which does have some great moments, intelligent intentions and possibly the most arresting first words heard in a film! 7/10

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Pull My Daisy – Directed by Robert Frank and Alfred Leslie and with a characteristically improve-sounding narration by Jack Kerouac, this is a comical and mischievous portrait of beat poetry…lounging around, drinking, smoking, talking and playfully following the moment as it arrives – starring poets: Allen Ginsberg, Peter Orlovsky and Gregory Corso; the artists Larry Rivers and Alice Neel; musician, David Amram; and actors Richard Bellamy and Delphine Seyrig.

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Cuban Fury – (dir. James Griffiths) Think Run Fat Boy Run with heels – lightweight, predictable, silly and fun…in the way that Nick Frost or Simon Pegg tend to be fun when estranged from the writing partnership and direction of their Edgar Wright films. 6/10

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Double Indemnity – (dir. Billy Wilder) Classic, solid noir. Not really my cuppa…dynamite hard-boiled dialogue that seems consistently poised between parody and unintended hilarity…but, y’know its Billy Wilder: so it’s a great film…just not one of my favourites from him (prefer The Apartment, Sunset Boulevard or Ace in the Hole). 7/10

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Limitless – (dir. Neil Burger) A film destined to be enjoyed after a couple of beers and stumbled across on channel five…or something like that. Weird/weirdly embarrassing cameo from Robert deNiro. But, if expectations, standards and intellect are dispensed with, it gallops along fairly efficiently, gleefully doing away with the cumbersome distractions of continuity, acting, good effects…and settling instead for an enjoyable, if immediately forgettable, energy. Something to do with pills that give you limitless capabilities – Bradley Cooper is the limitless fella…and yeh, that about does it. 5/10

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Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans – (dir. F.W Murnau)  I remember enjoying this but, unfortunately, don’t remember a great deal of detail…due to my amnesiac grasp of particulars all I am left with is its distinctly charming atmosphere and a sense of the magic of silent cinema as a period of film which retains the ability to still appear innovative and unexpected today. It is based around a melodramatic triangle of love and betrayal, involving a transition from the countryside to the city – involves one unforgettable scene of comic intermission in which a piglet is chased and light-hearted chaos ensues. More films should have pig-based intermissions.8/10

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Pride – (dir. Matthew Warchus) Thought this was going to have indigestible serving of schmaltz and clumsy moralizing but actually, despite inevitable moments of sentimentalism, this is such a dam feel-good film and is relaying such a valuable and positive message that you’d have to be dead or heartless (which might be the same thing) to resist its joyous good will. It follows the ‘Gays and Lesbian Support the Miners’ campaign prompted by the miner’s strike in 1984, an activist group that focused their attentions on one particular mining village in Wales (Onllywn). Features a terrific cast on great form: Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton, Dominic West, Paddy Considine and Andrew Scott all turn in memorable performances. Lump in throat territory by the end. 8/10

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Ratcatcher - (dir. Lynn Ramsay)  Lynn Ramsay’s first film is a grim portrayal of a sensitive child’s guilt; after witnessing a boy drown without intervening – as he later believes he could/should have, the film immerses itself in the bleak poetry of a run-down and destitute housing estate in Glasgow and how the boy relates to his surroundings and the struggle of his young conscience. Shot through with moments of occasional beauty, black humour and sensitive cinematography, it is essentially a pretty depressing watch…but one that clearly demonstrates Ramsay’s natural ability to draw lyric moments from dark subjects. 7/10

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The Omen -  (dir. Richard Donner) “I did it all for you Damien…” This classic creepy kid film, though pretty well established as a canonical horror and hugely influential, feels dated and pretty dull throughout.  Didn’t do much for me. The best scene is the child’s party in which the housemaid plummets to her hanged demise, the stark and unexpected brutality of this action when juxtaposed with the carnival-esque children’s party is a queasily unsettling achievement. 6/10

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Arsenal –  (dir. Alexander Dovzhenko) Part of Dovzhenko’s War trilogy. Out of the three films I enjoyed this one least, however if you enjoyed the other two, it is worth seeing for a sense of comparison and exploring the director’s varying stylistic leanings. My favourite of the trilogy is probably Earth, a film that felt perfectly judged and cohesively poetic – something like a pastoral cine-poem for the Russian peasantry…or something like that…what I remember etc. Meanwhile I recall Zvenigora being slightly more eccentric and bizarre …lots of arresting sequences and strange atmospheric shifts. 7/10

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The Elephant Man – (dir. David Lynch) Lynchian glory. John Hurt is astounding, heart breaking and unforgettable. The nuanced interactions between him and Anthony Hopkins are masterful. Keeps the dystopian industrial decay of Eraserhead, pluming smoke and seeping dark factory fumes around the edges of most outside scenes. Also has a circus-troop sequence that becomes nightmarishly redolent of Browning’s Freaks – clearly, and unsurprisingly, a big influence on Lynch. 8/10

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Leviathan - (dir. Verena Paravel and Lucien Castain-Taylor) Often referred to as a documentary, this film began its life with the notion of exploring the real fishing community where Melville’s fictional blubber baiting epic was set…however, once the filmmakers set out on one of the fishing boats, the actual kinetic, hectic and visceral experience of sea-fishing took centre stage at the film’s new ‘leviathan’. Using innovative camera technology, small cameras were inserted and ambitiously mobilised throughout the ship – providing close shots from the mast, the hull, the skimming waves, soaring wings of gulls and the gory confetti of fish scraps thrown overboard. While the restlessly sea-sick camera work may take patience for some it certainly rewards. Unforgettable and kaleidoscopic images render the ship’s journey and the catching of fish into a near alien experience of, ocassionaly nightmarish or dream-like, abstraction. Objects and viewpoints spiral, tip and invert, until it feels as though gulls are flying through the ocean and fisheads are dropping from the sky. The cameras pick up everything, from the boat’s machinery, its bloodied catch, and the weathered crew with the same democratic scrutiny…close ups of crewmembers render them just as abstract, just as animal or elemental as the ocean over which the vessel careers. This is a visually stunning, uncompromising and progressive achievement that manages to crash, soak and soar through lyrically unexpected passages; finding hallucinatory and transportive power in the agile and imaginative recording of what is very tangibly real. 9/10

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