1513 words on Films
From time to time good films even win Oscar awards and No Country for Old Men is one of them. While the story could just be a poor guy runs across a crime scene with a load of money that just wouldn’t do the trick. Add a highly competent manic killer with a faible for air pressure to the mix and things become much more interesting. Where I don’t mean ‘interesting’ in a tacky way. Up to the killing everything is done in moderation.
The good actors, the clean shots and the typically Cohen-like colour style completed the enjoyment.
After liking Kim Ki-Duk’s films I thought I should try other Korean stuff and was pointed to Git, a.k.a. Feathers in the Wind by Il-Gon Song. It is also a film that doesn’t need many words and includes a stunning skyscape or three. We follow a film-writer to an island where he wants to write and is supposed to meet an ex of his on a date they agreed on a decade ago. Instead he just finds the girl looking after the hotel who is into tango. Then a piano arrives as do sad news.
Actually things don’t seem as absurd as they sound in the film itself. But still I only thought it was an ‘OK’ film, not a brilliant one. Somehow it couldn’t keep the tension for me.
I like short films, I appreciate Michelangelo Antonioni’s work, I love Wong Kar-Wai’s films and Steven Soderbergh made a few good ones as well. And yet, Eros, three short films by these directors didn’t impress me too much. Particularly the first film by Antonioni went straight past me. But unlike with L’Avventura or Il Deserto Rosso, I believe this time it wasn’t my fault. While this film was the most generous with nudity of the three, it would have needed much more to make it ‘worthwhile’.
The Soderbergh film was in fact rather cool and cheeky. What else could you say about a film that features snooze buttons and an analyst throwing paper airplanes from his office window.
You’ll be very vulnerable now. The final part by Wong Kar-Wai around a taylor and one of his clients was most likely the most on-topic for the film’s sujet but it didn’t quite do it for me.
I just like Michel Gondry’s films. [Or rather I am very tempted to think that the guy is a one of the very few creative people who are allowed to make films.] And Be Kind Rewind (to be seen here as
Abgedreht which is exactly the kind of clever/funny translation advertising people should be shot for) was no exception. Videos get erased in an old-fashioned video store; the guys decide they have to simply re-film them; they do it - and people love the results, particularly when they can participate in making the films. That doesn’t save the video store in the end but is a great experience for the community around the video store.
The whole re-filming idea certainly evoked a cringing ‘just like YouTube’ feeling in me. And perhaps the film shows the lost opportunities of such web-2 video. Unlike most of the stuff you see online, the re-makes were done shabbily but still with a light-handed style and playfulness that is usually missing online. From Ghostbusters to 2001 to Driving Miss Daisy many films are re-created and we get a little side-note on racism here, a little Hobbes quote there and of course some copyright lawyer turning up to destroy the fun in the name of the movie business - without making any fuss about it.
If you want to restore your sense of childlike wonder, drop your tech-toys and watch this film instead.
Ensemble, C’est tout - or rather Zusammen ist man weniger allein, as the film was called in Germany (apparently going by the name of Hunting and Gathering in English) - was quite popular at least in the small cinemas here recently but it took a long time before I got round to seeing it. Apart from the charming Audrey Tautou, the film features the story of three people who end up living together and following their rather distinct lifestyles.
And thus we have a stutterer going by the funny name of Philibert, a cook who needs to look after his mother and their poor neighbour. Add some some love and caring in the form of well intentioned kitsch, add a bit more until it’s more than necessary and there you are. Amusing but a bit too sweet and kitschy for me in the end.
The South African TV documentary Story of a Beautiful Country sounds a bit clichéd: A guy drives all the way through the country in a minibus and films people from all walks of life with a hand-held camera while they sit in the back of the minibus. However, the different people he interviews give a broad picture, with the common theme that, yes, things were bad, problems aren’t solved, quite likely many new problems are coming - but at the end of the day all of them love their country and are positive that they’ll make it.
Encouragingly, I got the impression that this attitude is very common in the country. Sure, people will bitch and complain. And then they’ll try to make the best of it. It’s their country after all.
I quite like films where people are stuck in a dire situation and develop into some sort of drama or tragedy. And thus They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? was recommended to me. And deservedly so. A fantastic film set in the Recession era U.S. around a ‘dance marathon’ in which the couple lasting the longest wins. The ‘competition’ lasts week after week and the participants get to know each other, from the old sailor to the couple expecting a baby to the main protagonists Gloria and Robert who actually joined up just for the dance.
While everything starts fairly upbeat, things become depressing as people wear out and are submitted to additional ‘competitions’ and races that make them suffer just ‘because we can’™ and because it’s fun to watch. Seeing this in a film from forty years ago about an era eighty years ago suggests that today’s humiliating ‘reality’ shows are more an ‘acquired taste’ than a result of modern cynicism.
What also fascinated me was the question on what’s actually happening in the film and what the protagonists think for really. Gloria is world weary and presumably doesn’t care about anything. Yet, she is hurt by her dance partner Robert being seduced by another girl. Robert, on the other hand, is picture as the naïve youth who can dream staring at the ocean or into the sun but who’ll get himself locked up in a dance marathon for weeks. A guy who at the same time seems to be oblivious of the girl he’s dancing with for weeks and stares at her with huge eyes which seem like he’s going to eat or at least kiss her the next minute. Yet none of that happens. Yowza, yowza, yowza!
Hafið (aka The Sea, aka Die Kalte See, but I really wanted to use the ð) is a 2002 film by Baltasar Kormákur who also directed 101 Reykjavík. With Festen at the back of my mind I am tempted to classify it as ‘Scandinavian Family Tragedy’ - however wrong that may be once you think about it.
The film’s main topic is the sea and fishing. A family-owned fish filleting business that’s a part of the village, that’s tied to fishing quotas, that stopped being profitable in comparison to ‘modern’ fishing vessels with their own fish processing just on board the ship. And there the past and the present clash and the boss and father calls his children home from whereever they are to sort out the situation after he had written down his memoirs. The kids don’t care for his business, he detests his kids, people get drunk, fires start and tragedy ensues with their stepmother-slash-aunt keeping the countenance.
Despite its 1980s-ness I was quite impressed by Koyaanisqatsi when I saw it last year. The composition of all those situations and the people really seemed to catch something. Unfortunately Godfrey Reggio’s 2002 film Naqoyqatsi continued the same idea with a slightly darker mood and much less of the fascination. Perhaps because the scenes used in the film seem much more anonymous. Or perhaps because the film has been overly treated with what were considered ‘amazing’ colour, morph and 3D effects around 1995.
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