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October films

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The films of the month: Full Metal Jacket, Brick, Elementarteilchen, Crossing the Bridge, Drabet, Breakfast at Tiffany’s, Bedazzled, The Devil wears Prada, Drugstore Cowboy and more.

Full Metal Jacket

While I’m a big Kubrick fan, I hadn’t managed to see Full Metal Jacket so far. Probably because I’m not a big fan of war films and didn’t want to be disappointed by Kubrick. It turned out that this fear was completely unnecessary. With his wonderfully long scenes and slow speed, Kubrick first brings us to a military training camp showing how people are turned into soldiers.

This is done showing both the benefits of that system and possibly its necessity but it’s also done with a smirking eye. The filming is great there with endless scenes, people being filmed from ground level (a few Riefenstahl moments there I guess) and a lot of soldier chanting and ‘Sir’ shouting that you’d expect from a military film.

Soon after having been made into soldiers, the guys move on to Vietnam. After a tame beginning away from the front lines, they find themselves along the front lines. There are ups and downs, there’s senseless killing, there are bvoth cockiness and tension, there are friends dying, anger, revenge.

A really great work in my opinion. Everything is shown. Yet it has none of the patheticness that the usual war films want to bring with them.

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


When looking around the actors of Mysterious Skin on the web recently, I saw that its main actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt also did the film Brick last year. I thought he was quite good in Mysterious Skin and read that the film made it to Germany just now anyway, so I wanted to give it a shot.

I thought that neither the film nor the acting was particularly impressive. A kind of school detective story but with real criminals, drug dealing and killing going on while the main detective Brendan gets beaten up all the time but isn’t put off from investigating all these things himself.

To their credit, the film doesn’t even pretend to be realistic. But I still failed to ‘get it’.

A shot from the film with a geeky detective easily identified by the Rubik's cube he holds

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


I assume I just shouldn’t have watched this film to begin with. I thought that Houllebecq’s book ‘Atomised’ which it is based on was quite crap to be honest. (And by that I don’t mean that it was ‘controversial’ as many say but just that it was a somewhat pointless lineup of people hating themselves and sex.) And presumably the idea of removing whatever French esprit might have been in there and turning it into the German film Elementarteilchen (Atomised / Elementary Particles) whose main characters Bruno and Michael are played by Moritz Bleibtreu and Christian Ulmen who in turn are among the German actors / television personalities who I think should most urgently not appear on screen again wasn’t the best. Still there aren’t that many German films each year and some people said the film was quite good. And I disagree with them now.

All that said, the role of Michael in the film is a scary one in the sense that he is a scientist who on the one hand is very successful in his job and gets to live the ‘good life’ because of that (picture a geek driving a convertible…) while he somewhat fails to take an active role in his life. That immediately made me wonder who of the people I know will end up like that. Which in turn didn’t make the film more cheerful either…

The font in the titles could be Contax?

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

Crossing the Bridge

Fatih Akin made fantastic films like Solino and the highly acclaimed Gegen die Wand. So I was curious when hearing about his 2005 project Crossing the Bridge which explores the musical side of Istanbul.

To be honest I have never been to Turkey and it’s not at the top of my list of countries I want to go to (although I’ve heard friends say that it’s a worthwhile experience). And I don’t care too much about Turkish music or even know any that would get me hooked on the film. And from that low level of enthusiasm the film was all right. A few nice shots there. A bit of cultural exploration here going from indie-rock to hip-hop to more ‘oriental’ music to gypsy jazz and showing how all of those styles co-exist and intermingle in Istanbul.

Perhaps an interesting cultural vision and a nice view on what looks like an impressive town. But not all that remarkable as a film. The fact that the film was set up as an ‘exploration’ of the music in Istanbul by the elderly overweight bassist of Einstürzende Neubauten whom we see jumping around to the ‘great’ sounds he discovered and recording them on his Powerbook (Titanium with a broken right hinge if I spotted that correctly) all the time, doesn’t help.


Istanbul cityscape

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


Drabet (Manslaughter) is a Danish drama about a social studies teacher who has an affair with one of his former pupils who in turn becomes a killer in some activist attack. Her in prison, him separating himself from his wife, her not coping and not admitting because him telling her so, her coping with the situation but him not being able to cope anymore. Everything kind of ruined in the end. Not really a bad film as it’s dark, dramatic and tense, but not too exciting either.

Which is a shame because Per Fly, the film’s director also made Arven which I considered to be quite good.

Breakfast at Tiffany’s

We re-watched the wonderful Breakfast at Tiffany’s once more after a long time. I mean we had a bunch of girls living below us who loved sitting on their window sill, singing and playing guitar – with the only problem that in all of sound, charm and attitude they couldn’t compare to Audrey Hepburn.

It’s also amazing to watch this film with its constant smoking and drinking from today’s politically correct perspective. I just isn’t done anymore. And then I feel obliged to mention the great cat in the film (although I usually dislike pets and prefer black as a colour) and that ‘Jets to Brazil’ poster in the appartement which made us wonder whether or not it inspired the name of the band (and possibly the Trains to Brazil song/album by the Guillemots?).

A great film spanning the whole range from the past to today. From Capote to The White Stripes (singing the last song of Elephant together with the singer Holly Golightly) if you wish.

And while at the topic of the wonderful Audrey Hepburn – Charade was on as well. Not quite as outstanding as Breakfast at Tiffany’s I’d say, being a bit long and slowly paced and possibly overplaying her naïveté, but still charming. And this one was directed by Stanley Donen.

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


And while at the ‘devilish’ side of things, there’s the original 1967 version of Bedazzled which features the actual devil making an effort to catch people’ souls. In particular that of cook Stanley who fancies waitress Margaret and reckons that trading in his soul for some wishes might help with that.

Of course they don’t, but there are some good laughs on the way… like the devil’s salesman skills when ushering Stanley through the fine print of the lengthy contract and all those situations Stanley gets into via his wishes which of course don’t make him happy at all. Presumably because he didn’t specify things precisely enough. I.e. with the devil teasing him on formal loopholes… which in turn sounds quite familiar from politics or legal matters where people wiggle their way out from otherwise clear situations on mere formalities.

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

The Devil Wears Prada

The Devil Wears Prada must have been a huge success in the U.S. and only recently made it over to Germany. Its preview with Meryl Streep giving the über-bitchy fashion magazine boss Miranda made me chuckle. As mainstream films go, this one wasn’t overly surprising and a bit too long. But it did have its moments.

And half of those moments came in part from Miranda being a complete bastard having ridiculous demands all the time and completely refusing to acknowledge the effort her subordinates make all the time to make sure her coffee is there in time and hot enough (why Starbucks rather than a proper coffee machine, I wondered – but even that may be part of the beautiful reflection of superficiality we are offered), that the illusion of a perfectly lined up and good looking world is maintained.

Miranda: 'Nono, that wasn't a question' While the other half of those moments came from college girl Andy who accidentally makes it to be Miranda’s assistant and does the job well on the merit of being smart rather than a fashion victim. Apart from her good looks which are enhanced by increasingly hotter clothes throughout the film, that’s probably an aspect many of ‘us’ could relate to. When do you cross the boundary between a ‘job well done’ and ‘selling out’? It’s hard to say.

What can I say - fun entertainment that might have been better with some more pain at the end and 20 minutes less. And a really bad title for the film (and book). What exactly is devilish there if you don’t want to stamp the whole wonder of capitalism as satanic? (Which the film doesn’t.)

Uh, and sometimes a blue belt is just a blue belt…

Doing the makeup in iChat

That’s all.

Drugstore Cowboy

A film about drug addicts, directed by Gus Van Sant with William S. Burroughs in a small role? Drugstore Cowboy couldn’t possibly be bad. It was made in the late 1980s, so it couldn’t be overly great either, but thanks to all the other points it ends up firmly of the good side.

The story is about Bob and his gang who are drug addicts and make their living by robbing pharmacies. They’re quite good at it and only get harassed and threatened by the police rather than arrested. But as things go, this life isn’t without problems and after one of them dies of an overdose while they’re in the middle of a police convention, Bob decides to drop that lifestyle and join some methadone project… where he starts living a more ‘normal’ life and chats about drugs with a an addict priest - played by W.S. Burroughs.

I thought the receptionist in the methadone house was quite cool.

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


I also re-watched A Life Less Ordinary which was probably my favourite film of 1997 – Possibly a bit too cheesy to be cool, but still a fun idea and a hot Cameron Diaz in there. I didn’t like Mala Leche, a film about wannabe-drug dealers from Chile. And then I re-watched the fantastic Arizona Dream with its flying fish and machines, its car dealer, neurotic women around a young Johnny Depp and of course the dog. Finally there was To Die For, an old film by Gus van Sant which is an all-right fun film about a woman who wants a career in television and does everything to get it. Going through my old videos we found Polanski’s Dance of the Vampires (it seems to be called Fearless Vampire Killer in the US, which sucks as a title, IMO) which remains a fantastically fun vampire film. As I taped this about 15 years ago, following some classic episodes of Sledge Hammer (the one where he defuses a nuke…) watching it was also a trip down history lane reminding me how TV (logos, commercials) looked back then.

October 31, 2006, 0:10

Tagged as arizona dream, audrey hepburn, bedazzled, breakfast at tiffany's, brick, cameron diaz, charade, crossing the bridge, dance of the vampires, devil wears prada, drabet, drugstore cowboy, elementarteilchen, emir kusturica, ewan mcgregor, fatih akin, film, full metal jacket, gus van sant, johnny depp, joseph gordon-levitt, life less ordinary, mala leche, meryl streep, roman polanski, stanley donen, stanley kubrick.


Comment by Chris: User icon

I believe the coffee from Starbucks in ‘The Devil Wears Prada’ is, sadly, just a product placement. Like Apple’s computers, Mercedes S Class limos, or constantly ringing Sidekick. (Yeah, I’m a techno bitch, I see those things in movies.)

October 31, 2006, 19:04

Comment by thomas: User icon

useless fact for the day… the bit in FMJ that plays in the empty town was actually filmed in London.

November 2, 2006, 12:29

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