A long time ago I still thought I should just try and watch all Dogme 95 films, but at some stage their number exploded and that became infeasible. Still, the way in which those shaky Dogme films bring you ‘close’ to the protagonists remains amazing. And with an impressive film like Festen kicking the genre off, I keep expecting the worst and most dramatic things to happen in those filme. Not with a blast, but simply by dragging you in.
Gypo is a British dogme film - #37, if you need to know - featuring two broken families. That of Helen, mother of three, and grandmother before 40 who works night shifts at a supermarket, has to look after her grandchild because her daughter Kelly still goes to school and hopes to do something more creative than watching soaps on telly. And that of Tasha who fled to the UK with her mother Irina from the Czech republic to get away from their respective husbands. They live in fear of being caught by both the British government (for working) and much more so by their husbands.
Tasha and Kelly meet at school and eventually Tasha develops a relationship with Helen who likes her and is appalled by the way her refugee friends are treated in Britain (both on the streets and by her own husband). Quite a depressing situation already, but that’s only before some evil looking guys from Eastern Europe come to make sure ‘their’ women return.
The film tells the same story three times, each focusing on a different person (Helen, her husband, and Tasha) to let you see more of what’s going on every time. In some ways what’s revealed later on makes things worse and in other ways it - luckily - makes them better.
Continental (a film without guns) is a recent Québecois film on various aspects of loneliness. In the opening scene a man wakes up in a bus in the middle of nowhere and gets off. The bus leaves and the man vanishes into the forest. He’s gone. Later, we meet his wife who tries to deal with the loss but can’t really handle the uncertainty and despairs about the police not wanting to help her. It’s unclear whether it would be worse if he had died or if he had run away.
Other people in the film are an insurance salesman who is happy to get the job but has to stay in a hotel away from his family to do it; his noisily fucking neighbours and the charming lonely night shift concièrge at the hotel get to play a role as well. As does the old and broke second hand shop owner who can’t afford the dental treatment he needs.
While these stories touch in a few and superficial ways by their protagonists meeting in the film, they do remain distant. Yet the common theme and drama of loneliness and despair may join them.
I had read the cartoon Kondom des Grauens (Killer Condom) ages ago and only now saw it’s been turned into a film in 1996. To be honest the story is patently absurd: Mad scientist develops a creature that looks like a condom but has teeth and will aim to bite in just the right moment. He’s taken hostage and the condoms are ‘deployed’ around New York’s gay scene, brothels and so on.
Gay cop Luigi Mackeroni investigates the case and eventually solves it - finding out that the onslaught is run by our christian nutter overlords to ‘clean’ the world. A little ode to tolerance and open-mindedness later everybody lives happily ever after.
Amazingly they managed to turn this into a rather entertaining film whose characters are pretty much spot-on and funny (as films with corpses are wont to have, there’s a hilarious coroner who dissects one of the killer condoms). It just seems odd to have all those obviously German actors in New York.
Pixar’s new Wall·E was the big hype in over in the U.S. this summer and it surely sounded like a sweet film in a cool setup with half of it going by without dialogue and cute little robot. When the film finally made it over here, I agreed that it was quite sweet, but I wasn’t too impressed by it.
Technically nice animations perhaps (but really?). Yet the story, while funny, seemed a little ridiculous to me with the humans first falling from grace but then coming back to save the planet. A bit too much kitsch for my taste. I guess I prefer the real HAL 9000.
Strangely I hadn’t seen Jim Jarmusch’s Mystery Train before. But that was corrected now and it’s a cool film repeating the same story over and over again, as experienced by different people in different locations. There’s alcohol, there’s a shooting, there are two incredibly cool doormen, a similarly cool Japanese couple and it all takes place under the surveillance of The King.
While films with different episodes and points of view like this one have become more common, many lack the fun and freshness of this one. Very enjoyable.
The Magic Christian is a 1969 comedy starring an extremely wide range of people from Ringo Starr to Roman Polanski to Peter Sellers to John Cleese. In it we see rich industrialist Sir Guy Grand adopt up a boy - henceforth Youngman Grand - from a park and introduce him to being rich and the wonderfully corrupting power of money. It is amusingly demonstrated how enough money doesn’t only turn black into white, no parking zones into parking zones, Dutch painters into French ones and smelly shit into must-have bath; it goes further because it shows that people sincerely enjoy exchanging their convictions for a bunch of cash.
Hat tip to Richard for pointing me to the film.
While probably not being the most excessively subtle of their films, the Coen Brother’s Burn after Reading is a splendidly funny affair. Humanity’s finest from intelligence services to gyms congregate to fire and cheat one another. As a result we see a bit of bloodshed, a shitload of confusion and once in a while have the opportunity to sympathise with a cynical intelligence service administrator indulging in the irony of all this.
After the film I thought I understood why the girls consider Brad Pitt to be ‘sweet’. His role in the film as a dumb but enthusiastic fitness instructor who’ll happily cheer along with his iPod and nibble on a fruit juice seemed just that. I was very soon told that this is not sweet. Ah, well it least it was quite funny…
Gypo, your number 37, is one that caught m eye. A really good movie that is worth seeing.
Based on a simple premiss but the movie is so compelling