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May Films

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This month with The King is Alive, Supertex, 99 Euro Films, Primer, Blood Brothers, The Saddest Music in the World and more.

The King is Alive

I won’t manage to watch all Dogme ‘95 films - the last time I looked at their by now dysfunctional web site, their number had grown beyond 60 - but I did manage to add #4, The King is Alive to my list of watched Dogme films. And while not outstanding it was still rather good and grabbing my attention throughout.

The film starts on a comfortable South American bus. Quite literally, it’s going nowhere. The driver is clueless, he is going South by compass and the compass is jammed. They end up in the middle of nowhere without food or the chance of anybody passing by soon. So one of them - apparently an experienced outdoor person - instructs everybody how to survive in the abandoned village they stranded at and starts walking for help.

The group of holidaymakers has difficulties dealing with the lack of comforts and service at first - and likewise at taking the danger of their situation seriously, but soon they get into a rhythm and to pass time one of the travellers reproduces the script of King Lear so they can perform it as a play. This gives plenty of opportunities to learn more about the people in the group, see them interact and struggle with one another as we know it from Dogme films. A more subdued drama than in some of the other Dogme films, but drama nonetheless.

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

Supertex

Supertex is a 2003 German film playing in Amsterdam based on what apparently was a popular novel. It looks like a well made German TV film more than something created for cinema.

In the film the family owning the ‘Supertex’ cheap clothing company plays the main role. Their father built the business, is proud of it and has his sons joining him at the company. At the same time he doesn’t let them do any real work or take and decisions there. While one of the brothers, Boy, can happily live with that unsurprising life, the other, Max, one starts feeling unappreciated and decides to leave the company.

Add some family drama (discovering their father has a maitresse, his girlfriend having personal problems and thinking that going to Isreal helps them) for confusion, the father eventually dies, leaving everybody in a tumble. People have difficulties coping with the situation and eventually Boy decides to leave the company while on a business trip to Casablanca which he cannot handle (he opens a portaloo business later on - not kidding!) while Max is quick to return to the family and the company to keep things running.

Stereotypical TV film, not just from the looks.

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

99 Euro Films

The wonders of digital filmmaking! In 2001 people decided to let young filmmakers take a cheap camera and make a film for 99 Euros (possibly as an introduction to the Euro era?). The result is this collection of 12 short films. Northern German guys sitting on a car drinking Jever, a guy letting other people punch him with boxing gloves for a small fee, elderly German tourists complaining about shouts in a foreign hotel, and so on. The films are so short that they only need a single idea - and a dedication to putting them on tape for 99 Euros. Not world shattering but quite cool.

guys sitting on a car with beer

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

Primer

Primer is a fundamentally geeky films about some engineering types discovering a strange device with the quasi magic power of time travel. They can’t make too much sense for it but go for a trip anyway a few times, eventually changing little things here and there.

While the film may be clever because of the way it plays with things happening parallel, I ended up finding it a bit pointless. The film looking like a modern day TV series with wrong colours all over the place didn’t help either. It reinforced my idea that they started with a clever idea and then had to pull all sorts of ‘clever’ tricks to make it into a film because they didn’t have a good story.

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

Blood Brothers

Blood Brothers - a.k.a. Jiang Wu is a Hong Kongese gangster film, taking you along the story of the ‘blood brothers’ Hung and Left Hand who worked their way to the top of the local mafia down from the very bottom as clueless youths. By now Hung has a family and starts thinking ‘responsible’, while Left Hand suggests he should remain more relentless when people don’t do as they’re told. Not least because of the relentless attitudes people want to see them die, and they do. Ironically in a situation not unlike a crime from their own youths.

Nice and clean film of parallel storytelling.

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

The Saddest Music in the World

The Saddest Music in the World tries hard to defy description. When asked what it is about one could say that it’s about the 1930s depression along with prohibition, alcohol business and public entertainment (possibly giving a slight hat-tip to They Shoot Horses Don’t They? which at least I was reminded of epoque and public-contest wise). One could equally well say that it’s about a drunken doctor who amputated the wrong leg of his girlfriend while his son was watching - cue drama and hate there - and worked from then on to create replacement legs made of glass and filled with beer (beer legs - better than a beer belly!) which are wonderful but soon destroyed by the music of a depressed cello player. Or one could say that it’s about two brothers one of which claims to be Serbian, plays cello and carries the heart of his deceases son conserved in his own tears with him at all times, while the other works on broadway shows and dies at the piano with a piece of glass from his lover’s broken legs in his stomach (all that it a burning show-arena, naturally). Finally one could just point to the title and say that it’s about a contest to find the saddest music in the world (strangely a worldwide contest taking place in the U.S. in which ‘Africa’ competes as a single nation and yet Serbia is a full contestant.)

None of these descriptions would be wrong, but it takes all of them to get an idea about the film. And by the time you try to turn that into a consistent description, people are likely to consider you insane because that’s what it sounds like. However, it still makes quite a cool film on screen. Add an arty-farty look (mostly) in fake black-and-white with a hint of that early 20th century poor focusing and uneven exposure and it’s even interesting to look at.

Narcissa in the film

Choice quotes: I’m not an American - I’m a nymphomaniac.Sadness is just happiness turned on its ass.

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

Other

Despite liking Tim Burton and Johnny Depp I had never seen Edward Scissorhands, that has been corrected. Nice film, even though it’s a bit too kitschy for my taste. Religulous [YouTube] is one of those modern mockumentaries taking the piss at religions. That sounds like a fun idea at first, but it’s quite simply boring and non-entertaining because obviously nothing interesting can happen in such a film.

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

June 1, 2009, 14:34

Tagged as 99 euro films, bill maher, blood brothers, ching-po wong, country:hk, country:nl, dogme 95, edward scissorhands, jan schütte, johnny depp, king is alive, primer, religulous, shane carruth, supertex, tim burton, william shakespeare.

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