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Films yet again

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Yet another batch of film comments coming along here. This time featuring V for Vendetta, Good Night and Good Luck, Barfly, Tsotsi, Maria full of Grace, Camera, 11:14.

V for Vendetta

The Matrix guys turning a cartoon I don’t know into a film? With some political message? Probably not too remarkable. But then V for Vendetta turned out to be an all right film anyway. Not utterly brilliant or sophisticated but I was entertained rather well.

They played their cards well. Having a little Big Brother / Hitler parody in the film ruling Britain (too bad we had the German version in cinema) and scaring its people until the strong mysterious ‘V’ who was at the receiving end of some odd medical government experiments in his youth decides to take revenge. Not directly but by inspiring people to come together against the suppressive regime and have some fun on the way (this is the twenty-first century after all… we won’t get revolutions unless they offer entertainment).

And hey, we have ugly politicians rulers rambling on about terrorism and we have an underground station fight scene, we see talk show hosts die and have some real butter (be sure to treat yourself to some egg in the basket). Entertaining!

V making an egg in the basket in the film

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

Good Night And Good Luck

We can hear words like ‘terrorist’ and ‘communist’ thrown around in a similar way in Good Night and Good Luck, a film about the McCarthy era in the U.S. This film has a good chance to go down as the most stylish film of the year – being in gorgeous black and white with people just looking cool all the time. And even with plenty of cigarette smoke all through the film.

The film deals with the tendency of the U.S. government in the 1950s to accuse people at random and people they didn’t like in particular of being ‘communist’ or something equally distasteful. And then those people were forced to attend dubious inquiries about their lives and attitudes to make sure there’d be a country of happy and ‘good’ Americans in the end.

But this didn’t work out. And the film shows how journalist Edward Murrow and his colleagues presented some cases to the public and confronted McCarthy. The good thing is that they won their cases. A good sign for the American public I’d say. Just for this affair, the film is rather interesting to see as I was born many years after it took place and it has been nothing like a historical note – a historical sidenote about a far away country, to be precise – to me so far.

The fun – or rather, no-so-fun – bit about the film is that some of the situations in there do resemble the present political situation in the U.S. (and more and more around the world) today as well. And, without the need to be explicit on this, the film points you at the parallels in today’s world to what happened back.

And even if they won’t look as cool as they did back then… let’s just hope some journalists will have the guts [and, more unlikely, I guess, the support of their superiors] to keep a reasonably close eye on today’s public servants.

Shot from Good Night and Good Luck showing Murrow

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]


Following my post on the Bukowski centred film Factotum, Tom suggested that I should watch Barfly to get the more rough and run-down atmosphere I expected to come with Bukowski. And that was an excellent suggestion.

In Barfly we see in part the same stories of Bukowski’s alter-ego Henri Chinaski (played by Mickey Rourke whom I didn’t recognise although he’s been in Sin City), but they look much more real. And dramatic. We see the writer and drinker who just can’t push himself to go for a ‘decent’ lifestyle but who is firmly set in his world of alcoholism, poverty and living on a day-to-day basis.

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]


A film from South Africa and an Oscar winning one at that! Tsotsi is a thug living in shanty town near Johannesburg. Together with his gang he makes do by robbing people and occasionally spilling their blood. One day he wants to steal a car, has the woman owning the car wanting to stop him and shoots her. That’s irritating because he definitely didn’t expect her to make any trouble. And only a bit later Tsotsi finds her baby son in the back of the car and we understand her actions.

He takes the baby to his home but doesn’t really know how to look after it properly – particularly while nobody may know he has the baby in his room. While looking after the baby – by forcing a mother he sees in the street to feed and clean it and by stealing toys from its home – he has many flashbacks from his own childhood. We learn about his mother being ill, his father being violent and him eventually growing up as an orphan.

And we see how he knows he has to return the baby to its parents. After a while he actually does return the baby and is arrested in the process. And seeing that makes you almost feel sorry for him: the first time he shows any decency – a trait that one of his friends kept claiming he lacks – he is arrested.

Apart from the strong story it’s also amazing to listen to the film. The music is remarkable and the language spoken – a mix of English, Afrikaans and some native African languages, I think I heard some Xhosa clicks and IMDB lists Zulu as another language – is rather unique and typical for the region.

Tsotsi and the baby in his shack.

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

Maria full of Grace

A film about drug smuggling. María is unhappy with her life in Colombia’s flower industry and gets the ‘opportunity’ to earn a lot of money by swallowing little drug pellets to smuggle them into the U.S. What starts with everybody being helpful and friendly ends horribly with one of the other girls in the business dying and María losing her confidence in those new drug-business ‘friends’.

Seeing this was quite depressing. It didn’t take much effort to get into a mode where the value of the lives of the ‘mules’ were just a little number in the business of drug trading. So whose fault is what’s happening there? The girls’ who aren’t happy with doing the slave work for commodities in the rich countries? Sure it’s their ‘choice’ to start working in that area? Or should we blame the people who send those girls over? They have the huge profits after all. But I fear there’s no way to keep them – or their friends – from working in that highly profitable sector. Capitalism, baby!

So we may want to blame our governments for making the drug business this profitable. I’m not an expert in this area, but to me it looks like our restrictive drug laws (a) work in a way that harms many of the people who get involved in drug trade for some reason or another, (b) don’t stop the drug business from being highly profitable, indeed, (c) actually make the drug business much more profitable than it could be if there were a proper market and (d) possibly protect one or two morons in our countries from starting to use drugs and suffer from that. So, uh, why can’t we just say ‘bad luck morons’ and start selling the ‘real’ drugs right next to the alcohol?

María at customs in New York - shot from the film.

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]


Camera is one of the later Dogma 95 films. It revolves around a camera which is bought from and re-sold to the same store over and over again by different people. We get to see what they use the camera for in between.

While some of the many episodes are a bit sinister of vaguely dramatic, I have to say that this wasn’t a particularly good film. A nice idea perhaps but in the end a bit dull and not particularly dramatic. Especially when compared to the other Dogma 95 films I’ve seen which manage to use the technical limitations for good.


A small town at 11:14 at night. A phone call is made, some car accidents happen, a guy loses a ‘body part’, people are killed… and all these things are subtly related. During the film we learn how they are related and how every single person involved in this hasn’t exactly behaved cleverly or properly at some stage.

Because everything is so thoroughly interwoven, it takes a number of runs through the same time span – seen from different perspectives – to understand what’s going on. And to assume that it seems unlikely that the police will be able to figure out what ‘really’ happened afterwards.

Not an overwhelming film but still an enjoyable one.

[Buy at amazon .com, .uk, .de]

May 8, 2006, 0:02

Tagged as 11:14, barfly, camera, charles bukowski, country:za, dogme 95, egg in the basket, film, george clooney, good night and good luck, maria full of grace, tsotsi, v for vendetta.


Comment by gummi: User icon

The Matrix guys turning a cartoon I don’t know into a film?

Just to say; the ‘V for Vendetta’ story was originally in a British comic book that was defunct after a few volumes (I have a few of those old comics somewhere). It was then picked up many years later by DC comics and published serially, and then eventually as a graphic novel. From what I remember, DC comics was bought by Time Warner Incorporated, who -coincidentally- helped to distribute ‘V for Vendetta’, ‘Good Night and Good Luck’ and ‘Barfly’, as well.

As the character said, “there is no such thing as coincidence.” :p

May 8, 2006, 15:41

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