26 May 2009

Movies - Last Seen

Frygtelig Lykkelig (Terribly Happy), Dennmark (2008)

Nice Danish crime drama that I can describe as a combination of early Coen brothers and The Wicker Man, with small touches of Twin Peaks.
A troubled cop with complicated past assigned by his superiors to be a temporary Marshall in a small and quiet town. He is the only low enforcement there, and suppose to have no trouble during his stay, but right upon his arrival he is forced to be involved in a family dispute, slowly sinking deeper and deeper into town's mysteries and ways of life. Without even noticing it, he finds himself surrounded by lies and involved in a murder.
The film is beautifully shot and skilfully directed, but despite good intentions and overall good performance, the movie is not without flaws. The main flaw is the relative stupidity of the main protagonist, the policeman. At many occasions during the film I rolled my eyes and wondered how did he even became a cop. His naivety is sometimes very annoying and I think he could have been written much better as a character. The story is interesting enough, despite being somewhat cliche and used to dust in other movies, but nice atmosphere and creepy town characters are helping to keep it relatively fresh. The biggest achievement is the ending, which easily ties together all loose ends ad present logical conclusion to the story.


The Limits of Control, Spain/USA/Japan (2009)

Although I do like his movies, I am not really a fan of Jim Jarmusch. His Dead Man is really great film, but except that I refuse to be over excited about anything else he did. So I was not surprised or disappointed at all when I was watching this slow and boring piece of gibberish, which you may call a stream of consciousness or subliminal symbolism, or whatever.

On one hand, the man enters here into completely different territory than all his other stuff. A territory of such personal and private expression of his thoughts through symbols and cinematic language, that you have to admire his ability to present visual ideas and concepts, connected as a single story. Yes, Jim Jarmusch is trying to be new David Lynch and to speak in enigmatic visuals, just like him.
But on the other hand, while David Lynch uses such expression to explore deep and twisted core of human nature, the secret and often forbidden desires, mostly of sexual nature, and also human understanding and comprehension of death, Jarmusch's intentions are less interesting and more political.

His long going tirade against materialism and superficial reality, produced by American corporations, is getting old. We get it Jim, simplicity of life, joy from the little things, the beauty of nature, the beauty of art with real meaning, blah, blah, blah.
It seems that Jarmusch belongs to a different era, he is the last remaining flower child, the last hippy artist. Give this man a Volkswagen van, a colorful clothes, a joint and he is on the roads cross country, seeking meaningful conversations with simple people, wondering about the nature of the world and how small we are compared to the vastness of the universe. He is the last romantic soul, that when asked to summarize the meaning of life he will say "We are just handful of dust in the wind". Yawn.

But I finally have a theory about the origin of his nature - while going against capitalism, consumerism and the culture of mass production, he is not being an anarchist, and not a socialist, he is simply a monarchist. Yes, I think what he prefers is a simple Monarchism and feudal society of middle ages, the times of great Kings and Queens, when you could make a distinction between noble bohemian artist and a village simpleton. He, of course, sees himself as a gentle artist living in the King's court and writing plays for his majesty's pleasure, participating in parties for the elite. This is the perfect world for him. He is an elitist of the worst kind, because it upsets him to see a village simpleton doing "art" for other simpletons, whether it's a singing competition on TV or a movie in which people hit and shoot each other. He sees such low form of art as a personal insult.

So with all that baggage he makes this movie about personal liberation from the materialistic possessions, a liberation of the mind from shallow and superficial nature of our existence. Add to this some old and familiar mumbling about what is real and what is imaginary, whether it's art that imitates reality or vice versa, and how can we finally find peace of mind, and you'll get The Limits Of Control. The movie can be nice spiritual experience for some people, Jarmusch knows what he is doing inside the frame he chose for his film and he is good with the cinematic structure, as always. But not everyone will be able to accept or enter that frame. Seems like Jarmusch did a movie exclusively for his favorite audience - a first year film students.


Taxidermia, Hungary(2006)

As oppose to Jarmusch's somewhat romantic approach to life, when you ask Gyorgy Palfi, the director of Taxidermia, whether he also thinks we are all just dust, he will say "no, no, no". He will say that we are definitely no dust, but bones, and guts, and blood, and skin, and sweat, and sperm, and fat, and vomit, and whatnot.
And this is exactly what is this movie about. In the film he cuts, literary, the human skin and dives in to explore what is inside, what makes us tick, in a series of disturbing and gross images, while everything is wrapped up with Freudian symbolism.
Calling this movie sick and disgusting will not be enough. It is simply shocking and unpleasant beyond many things I've seen. I find it amazing how all these people with grotesque faces and deformed bodies, participating in the movie as actors, agreed to do that. But they did, and watching them all in this beautifully filmed and masterfully directed arthouse piece is absolutely epic. The movie is so intense, sharp and smart, that the first sense of disgust vanishes, and the movie reaches truly poetic levels of expression.
Taxidermia contains many themes, rich sub context and complex psychological layers, it is a must see.


The Burrowers, USA (2008)

Not another silly studio horror. While the story is not going out of the limits of a horror movie conventions and not attempting anything bold, the actual content is really impressive.
In 1879 American settlers are being attacked by, as they believe, hostile Indians, only soon to discover that it's actually something not human.
The movie is written really good. If you ever saw a horror film, with monsters or not, and just rolled your eyes seeing how the people react to the danger, this is the movie for you.
It is most realistic depiction of human reactions and behavior under such conditions, and maybe even beyond that, that I've seen in recent movies. The characters are very real, they talk, they think, they fear, and they behave like normal human beings. I really liked the acting and the way director worked with actors on their facial and body expressions, on how they talk. This is a big plus when you watch any film, you feel that director truly respects your intelligence.
As for the story, it is interesting and suspenseful enough to hold your attention, although it is not really scary. Still, it's a good movie to watch, if you do it for correct reasons. Don't expect gore and decapitated bodies, this movie is about something else. Great ending, very chilling and provocative.


Glen and Randa, USA (1971)

Extremely low budget post apocalyptic movie. Don't pay attention for the low rating on IMDb, this film is really not that bad.
In the unspecified future, Glen and Randa, a young couple travel through the empty and devastated land after some sort of nuclear war, and try to make sense out of their lives. Barely knowing how to read and taking their information about the world only from comic books and old magazines, the future of the mankind represented through them seems bleak and depressing.
The movie is pretty sad one, it shows the extreme decline of civilization into almost stone age, and expresses some grim point of view so usual for the time when this movie was made. The reality of the cold war with nuclear threat produced many similar depressing films, about lack of trust in humanity and fear from technology.
The story is actually very smart, even if it's too slow and not much happens there. This is not for people with short attention span. Great ending here as well.
The movie came out on DVD just recently, look it up if you like that sort of stuff.


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