5 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
Magnolia (1999)
Evocative vibes...intangible emotions
12 April 2002
'Magnolia' is, if nothing else, a genuine artistic statement. One that can only be described by evoking it's own name. Although one could consider the film reminiscent, or even derivative of Robert Altman's own unique filmmaking style, we could simply consider this happenstance or even an intended homage and skip right past that particular pointing finger. The ambiance evoked within the film is fascinating and steeped with an intangible & shadowy essence that pushes the tide of the films events along quite nicely. What I found most fascinating about the film is the way in which the character sketches played themselves out. The characters that the film revolved about seemed to exist as stylistic archetypes rather than 'real' people which one would or even should identify with or connect to on an emotional level. I honestly, did not truly 'care' about anyone in this movie. Yet this somehow, in the hands of the filmmaker and his appointed acting crew, worked in it's favor, perhaps because the presentation of the characters simply avoided the melodrama and emotion that would simply side-step the deeper, less tangible & ambiguous soul-searching the denizens of the film are intended to display. The much maligned (and oft-loved) 'amphibian storm' that ties the film together seems to affirm the symbolic bent of the film. Overall, I found it to be a very effective film that stuck with me for quite awhile for reasons I am still unable to pinpoint. There are several lucid moments & scenes in the film that convey much more than the 'here and now' of the image flitting across the eyeballs, acting like little incorporeal time-bombs that hatch in the mind days later. The 'meaning' of it all is still rather cryptic and diffuse. Is the film a shallow and exploitative noir-opera? Is it a film that attempts to splay open the dark side of the American society? Is it a portrait of humanity's endless soul-searching? Is it...? Overall, I feel a film like 'Ice Storm' was able to more explicitly capture the essence that P.T. Anderson was chasing. But in the process, the strange ether-zone he ultimately channeled his cinematic vision into is oddly compelling and highly effective.
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Stalker (1979)
Poetry...? Alchemy...? Or something else?
13 January 2001
This film seems to occupy a realm of perception akin to that of the prismatic reflection of light cast across your kitchen counter as the sun plays through it; or that of the whispering angular shadow of a swaying tree outside your window, beamed onto your ceiling & slowly drifting across the room with the track of the sun. Both are singular phenomena and abstractions of light which one can embrace and perhaps even acheive some level of revelation through if the mind is allowed to 'lose the moment' as it were and embrace the uncommon beauty and inexplicable strangeness that such a simple event can generate. Just as easily, one can simply cast it aside; leave it unnoticed and nothing more than a wisp of light at the peripheral edge of vision. Stalker is, as well, one of these "abstractions of light", a flickering presence on the screen open to interpretation. One that may be fully absorbed and taken to heart as an illumination of the soul or brushed aside as nothing more than a faceless and futile attempt at 'nothingness'. Perhaps one may find their focus drifting in such a way that only a few fragments may be fully digested, comprehended and sifted through the back door of the intellect; vague impressions of no particular form or figure. Perhaps one could watch (and re-watch) this film and adopt all of the above viewpoints. Stalker is "that kind" of a film and one which is bound to polarize viewers. Unquestionably slow and brooding, yet uncommonly strange and beautiful by turns. It's meaning is shrouded and the ultimate resolution is tied up in metaphysical abstractions whose meanings are not entirely clear. One of the most impressive aspects of the film (and much of Tarkovsky's work) is it's ability to render the simplest images in a manner that transforms them into poetic distillations of a very high order. Tarkovsky is truly a visual alchemist of the highest order, as this film will certainly attest. Watch this film, take it for what it is, and leave with whatever impression and/or opinions you see fit. You may find yourself thoroughly bored or completely enthralled, but there is one thing that is certain. Whether you know it or not, a transformation of some order will have taken place. As the alchemists of yore would tell you, though the transformation of lead to gold may seem an utterly futile, unrewarding and ultimately impossible task, it is the transformation of the self during this process that really counts.
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Mo (1983)
Surreal craziness of the highest order...
29 July 2000
As if Jodorowsky met Coffin Joe in Hong Kong and decided to collaborate on a supernatural martial-arts action film. Filled to the brim with visual overload, mystical drama, Buddhist symoblism and dark supernatural atmosphere, this film follows the life of a boxer embroiled in a vengeful feud sparked by the brutal, nearly fatal beating of his brother in a sparring match. He is overwhelmed one night by a vision, an omen as it were, which ultimately leads him towards the realization of his own destiny that takes him along a path of spirituality and a quest for the power and inner peace that may free his lineage from an ages old curse. This scenario is used as a launching point for what is surely one of the most bizarre, chaotic & excessive Hong Kong flicks ever made. Most of the movies effects are obviously low budget but the rather excellent filmwork and audaciously gonzo, over-the-top nature of the imagery far than makes up for any budgetary restrictions. The indelibly weird vibe that permeates the film is, in fact, partially due to it's low-fidelity nature. Those familiar with the "Chinese Ghost Story" and similar fare will be familiar with the themes conjured up by these supernatural Hong Kong action flicks and may know what to expect. But those who are not should get ready for a pretty wild trip down a road full of wild twists of logic that lead through glowing supernatural vistas, magical terrorist attacks, flying eyeball creatures, and wild clashes with demonic entities and manifestations of all sorts. A crazy little nugget of a film that could even be an accidental masterpiece. At the very least, a unique cinematic experience that's probably like nothing else you've ever seen. Virtually impossible to track down and not, as far as I know, offically available. In spite of this, fans of offbeat & mondo cinema should do whatever they can to track this gem down.
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U Turn (1997)
Modern noir with a dark twist...
25 July 2000
Brilliant & hallucinatory cinematography, impeccable use of music, and a handful of dark, edgy character sketches all work together very nicely to make this bleak, dark-humoured desert noir an overlooked highlight of Oliver Stone's career. The highly evocative atmosphere plays out against the Arizona desert in a way that (in addition to foreshadowing some of the work done in Terry Gilliam's own twisted little masterpiece 'Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas') seems to mirror, in a more subtle and tasteful manner, much of Stone's work in 'Natural Born Killers'. However, rather than hitting us over the head with whatever socially charged 'message' he may have been attempting to convey in that film, here he is simply content to let it build up a thick and steamy ambience that moves our hapless comrades on towards their own impending personal apocalypse. Nick Nolte, Sean Penn, and Jennifer Lopez all turn in great performances and Billy Bob Thornton's eccentric character sketch elevates what may be defined as a bit part to a far more relevant status. Modern noir with a few dark twists and a taste all it's own that's well worth digging into...for those who have a taste for this kind of thing, if you know what I mean.
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Sonny Boy (1989)
...the impossible movie?
3 July 2000
While watching this with a friend (in a general state of disbelief due to the surreal audacity of the flick), they looked over at me to exclaim that I had found "the impossible movie". This comment bluntly yet accurately summarizes in many ways what it is about this movie that cannot really be put into words. Any attempt to describe this movie would simply do it an injustice. The combination of elements; cinematography, music, actors, scenarios, etc. is nearly brilliant and the dark humored tone that dominates this film is disturbing, illuminating and hilarious all at once. Watching this film is definitely a love-it or hate-it proposition, but for those who appreciate the surreal, offbeat and macabre elements of cinema, this film is a motherlode. Just keep in mind that Psychotronic Film Guide ranks this as one of the top ten films of the '80's and the gentleman responsible for the screenplay (Graeme Whifler) created most of the early films and videos for that infamous band of San Francisco musical luminaries, The Residents. If these two facts mean anything to you, then I need to say no more...
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