12 May 2009

Movies - Last Seen

MirrorMask, UK/USA (2005)

Very nice coming of age tale about teenage girl, that one day discovers herself inside surreal and fantastical world. Thinking that her weird adventure is just a dream, soon she realizes that it's not quite so. From here she starts her journey for self realization, a symbolical and abstract quest from adolescence to maturity through many obstacles and threats.

Written by acclaimed writer Neil Gaiman, that specializes on that sort of narratives, MirrorMask is very imaginative and interesting movie. Gaiman is known for his complex psychological approach to the mind of a teenager, always trying to be intellectual and deep in his stories, and present people as complicated beings, not as bunch of walking stereotypes, something that is so usual for typical American teenage movies.
While MirrorMask is trying to reach the level of Alice in Wonderland and Labyrinth, thematically and intellectually, and often succeeds in doing so, the actual production value of the film is not on the same standards. The heavy usage of computer effects maybe creates rich and colorful reality with great imagination, but it also looks cheap and not satisfying. The movie could have been hundred times better as animation with the same ideas, but when you try to make such movie with live actors, the effort in creating sets, costumes and special effects should be way bigger than that. As result you always need to forgive the movie for its weak visual effort, not the imagination itself but the realization of that imagination into life.
Bottom line, the movie is good because of the story, acting and visual ideas, but weak on producing these ideas as believable enough. But since we are talking about fantasy world it's all forgivable. And I have to mention great acting of Stephanie Leonidas, who plays the girl. She got her role perfectly, with very likable and unique presence. Not a masterpiece, but very pleasant and smart movie.


The Memory of a Killer, Belgium/Netherlands (2003)

Nice idea that starts good but somewhere on the way looses its power. An old mercenary assassin, suffering from the beginning stages of Alzheimer, a quite nasty disease, is hired for a job in his home town that he didn't visit for a long time. His targets are connected to a child prostitution case, investigated by a local police detectives.
So far it sounds perfect. Complex plot, stylish cinematography, believable characters with depth and real motives and intentions. Even thrilling story with gun action and macabre humor.
But then the first impression just fades away, and the movie doesn't have anything else to continue with. The film looses its initial focus and becomes simple and cliche cat/mouse thriller that prefers to deal with such heavy issues as moral corruption, instead of just being fun. The eventual collision between the assassin and the police detectives becomes the center of the film that continues to roll on that till the very end, mostly just trying to find an exit point for complicated plot.
The film is involving and entertaining with many good moments. Overall recommended as fine example of European crime thriller that was done very well on many levels. The overdose of righteousness coming from that film is not very crucial and the result is interesting enough.


The Asphyx, UK (1973)

This not very known classic horror can be viewed as good example of traditional tragedy. All the elements are here - a rich and important English aristocrat experiences a reversal of fortune from good to bad, caused by his own actions, originated in his whim and self over-evaluation. Two members of his family, his young fiancée and his only son, die in unfortunate accident, that he was partially responsible for. Later, as following result of this cruel turn of events, comes painful recognition of inevitable fate, the eventual destiny of all humans - death, and with that revelation he also reveals his hubris. Hubris that pushes him to desperate attempt to deny the fate and the power of gods, and to find a way to conquer death itself. And so, the cruel irony of life strikes again. This tragic downfall, originated in his pride and stubbornness, leads to one disaster after another, and despite his success of achieving immortality, he is doomed to be forever miserable, to live forever in great remorse. Like blind Oedipus destined to walk with his shame, so is he lives in infinite agony, unable to end it.

All this tragic content, of course, is very interesting and cathartic, but the delivery of that content is ultimately ridiculous and absolutely laughable. This is of course the result of an old age, the film is simply outdated and doesn't stand the test of time. Not scary, laughable and silly movie, that could be defined as "so bad it's funny", unless it was dealing with such serious content. The old school cinematography is quite good, though. The faded film with bleak color pallet gives nice visual sensation, but that is all this movie can really offer.


Flower and Snake, Japan (2004)

I don't think this movie could have been made anywhere else, such product can be created only in Japanese cinema.
A frigid woman, that cannot get pleasure from sex, undergoing sick and twisted process of humiliating "re-education", involving extreme bondage, gang rapes, different styles of fetish abuses and any kind of sexual treatment known for mankind.
The process lasts for as much as it should, and as result she suppose to find her real nature that will make her constantly receive sexual pleasure from absolutely everything.
This film reminded me French horror Martyrs, because it also involves a brutal torture process with clear final purpose.
But watching Martyrs was very shocking and stressing experience, the torture and its purpose were metaphysical and transcendental, almost in philosophical sense.
The watching experience of Flower and Snake, on the contrary, is almost funny.
I mean, how can you not smile when a small man in ballerina dress is holding giant vibrator and torturing young and pretty woman, tied with ropes, by giving her orgasms. And she is hanging there, convulsing and moaning from extreme pleasure, on her way to forget all sexual boundaries and just devote herself to ongoing and never stopping sexual ecstasy.
Feminism aside, that was hilarious scene. There is no gore, no violence, just perversive sexual abuse, and the only pain it can cause to the victim is the pain of sexual pleasure.
Despite pornographic content the movie is not a porn, it can be called soft-core or erotic, there are no explicit images.
Fans of Japanese sleaze will enjoy, others will be shocked by the sexual anarchism of it. Close minded people with no sense of humor are strongly advised to skip it.


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