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If hell has a video store, Parasite would be there for sure
Every now and then a buddy of mine and myself sit down with your usual set of junk food and watch a new piece of art from our favourite genre: mutant animal movies. Ahhh, mutant animals (read: bad cgi) hunting down a team of experts (some airheads) through a deserted, dark building (cheap studio sets)! You don't have much expectations with a premise like this. Normally, you'll get some splatter effects, gratuitous nudity and it really doesn't matter if you leave the TV for a minute to make room for more Pepsi. Mutant animal movies are stupid and fun to watch.
Parasite is not.
The film is about a deserted (of course) oil rig, that is supposed to be cleaned before sinking via a newly developed, uh... fog or something. Things go wrong, because the experts are a bunch of idiots. They simply IGNORE an official letter from their boss they find, where the exact mixing proportions for the cleaning substance are noted, next to a big, fat, biohazard sign. They find the letter, they read it, and then put it away. Now, this IS stupid, and it has just begun. That biohazard stuff infects a worm or snake or whatever (couldn't tell due to bad cgi), which of course gets quiet big and start killing people, not only the team but also a bunch of environment protecting terrorists, who have no function in the story other than being snake/worm food.
So far, so good (and I really don't care that it's cheap and stupid), but this movie is just lame. After the first five minutes of shaky DV camcorder footage, nothing, absolutely nothing happens for at least half an hour (and not much more afterward). It's all dialog that won't add to the story or the atmosphere or the characters or whatever. For a low budget film like Parasite, this is fatal, because without an evolving story that drags your attention (or at least some funny lines/gratuitous nudity/blood), the film gives you time to recognize its countless other flaws.
Either the director had some ingenious plan that didn't work out in the editing room, or he just didn't care. They use close ups nearly all the time, leaving you confused of where everybody is and what the heck they're doing there. Almost as to compensate this, there are some exterior shots (cgi) edited into the movie every now and then, without system, obviously just to remember us of the fact that this takes place on an oil rig (frankly, you couldn't tell from the sets, which look much like my grandma's cellar).
As I mentioned before, I really don't care if a monster movie's premise is stupid or if there are no production values but I'm getting really annoyed if it isn't even mildly entertaining. For something entertaining you have to have a solid screenplay and/or a talented director, and Parasite loses at both tables. The film is full of scenes you might have seen in similar movies (so at least it fulfills some genre standards), but here those scenes are indiscriminately thrown into a mixer. The outcome is chaotic. Nothing you'll ever see has a dramatic function, no actions our "heroes" take make any sense at all, because there is no story. The whole film is nothing but a plot hole bigger than my butt.
Put all those flaws together and you get 96 minutes of confusing nonsense that is practically unwatchable. We were neither drunk nor stoned nor tired and, as far as I can tell, we are not stupid, but from some point at about the middle of the film we simply did not understand what was going on anymore.
Worst Creature Feature in years. (2/10, just for the fact that it had a mutant worm. Or snake.)
Die Reise ins Glück (2004)
A Journey on LSD
Much talk was in German media on the release of "Die Reise ins Glück" (better known to international audiences as "Journey into Bliss"). Unluckiely this did not show in terms of admissions, which is a really sad thing, as director/writer/producer/etc. Wenzel Storch invested pretty much everything he had into this production. He is probably ruined for life, which would mean that this will be his last movie ever.
In the nineties, Wenzel Storch was THE most celebrated star of German underground cinema who had then just released "Sommer der Liebe", which became the highest grossing movie shot on Super 8 ever (well, at least in Germany). Then it got rather quiet around him. From time to time there were news popping up that he was working on something new, but years went by without anything released. Wenzel and his friends went out of money again and again, the rumor even was they called it quits and canceled the whole project, until they somehow completed it in spring '04, after 12 (!) years in the making. I was lucky enough to attend the world premiere here in Bochum at the German Psychotronic Film Festival in June 2004.
To make it short, "Die Reise ins Glück" is a film you either love or hate, with very few shades possible between those extremes. I consider it one of the most beautiful things I've ever witnessed and have seen it four times by now, but I know that there are people who would walk out of it or even yell vicious curses against the screen (I'm not joking here!).
This is due to Wenzel Storch's quiet unusual style of movie-making. If you are familiar with his other films, then you'll know that most of his material feels like it was written on LSD (in fact, it was. Repeat: I'm not joking!). From his three movies, this one is by far the most accessible for a mainstream audience. If your favourite is one of the current box office top 5, you should however handle this piece of information with care...
The story: Captain Gustav traveled the seven seas for years, but now he, his crew (consisting of some frogs, an owl, a rabbit, a bear and several other animals) and of course his living snail-ship want to retire. They stop at a beautiful island only to find out that it is inhibited by Knuffi, an old enemy of the captain. In Gustav's absence, Knuffi went for a career as an evil King and now does what all really evil kings do: he kidnaps the captain's children. Gustav has to go on a final mission to free his kids and stop the mad dictator.
Okay, you probably see where this is going: "Reise" is basically a fairytale on psychedelic drugs with an anarchic and very anti-fascist attitude that clearly reveals the director's punk background. But after all, the story is not that important. This is a movie that is neither character nor plot driven, it is the atmosphere which keeps one totally stunned.
Everything in this movie was hand made, from the strategically placed, cute stop-motion sequences to the superb art direction. Open up your eyes wide! In a righteous world, the sets, costumes and props would make this movie a certain nominee for an academy award. Storch delivers a bizarre, postmodern mix of a dream-like fairground and glittering Christmas elements, much too reflexive to be kitsch every set has it's very own colour scheme and predominant material. It is incredibly beautiful to look at, from Gustav's snail-ship to Knuffi's golden palace, and you will find something new every time you watch it.
This fits with the brilliant dialog, something you'll never quiet get if you are not a native speaker. Just like Storch found much of the material for the sets in torn down factories or on disposal sites, big parts of the dialog consist of old-fashioned teenager slang from the seventies and eighties, which is somehow still in our collective mind, just waiting for Storch to pull it out and make use of it.
Although the movie's overall tone is very sweet and uplifting, Storch does not spare out the dark side of fairy tales. There are some pretty hefty splatter scenes and make-up effects, which made me shake my head on the bigotry of the German film censorship board who have cut almost every horror movie known to mankind, but gave this one a "not under 12" rating, meaning every 6 year old with a parent can watch it. And this is definitely not the only border the film crosses. Wenzel Storch (who, by the way, turned out to be an extremely nice, sympathetic guy when I talked to him) gives you smoking kids, gallons of vomit and sperm, kids being peed onto, horny grandmas, a literal brain wash and other quite somatic moments, so be warned if you don't dig stuff like this. But if you are willing to confront yourself with something really unique, go for it! No matter if you love or hate it, it is an experience like nothing else. "Die Reise ins Glück" is a trip beyond the rational, a bizarre, postmodern mish-mash of "Alice in Wonderland" and the comic book classic "Little Nemo", a phantasmagoria which seems to come directly from another world sweet, surreal and completely psychedelic.
Der Clown (2005)
Send in the clowns
"Der Clown" is the movie version of the German TV series by the same name, running quite successful from 1996 to 2001. The series was about some guy who is officially dead but in truth is sitting in his hideout, waiting for the bad guys to move. Whenever something is seriously wrong, he'll put on a clown mask and go rampage, vigilante style. So far, so good, on to the Big Screen...
A merry bunch of bad guys with hockey masks wants to steal the German gold reserves. The guy who once was the Clown has retired after his girlfriend was killed in action, but now it's time for him to take his costume out of the vault, put on the smelly rubber mask again and kick some bad butt.
Boy, this has gone wrong. Big time trash bonanza! First of all, it was not shot on 35 mm, it does not even look like 16 mm, I have a certain feeling that they did it on video. Bad video, that is, with the predominant colours being red (explosions, the actors' faces) and grey (everything else). It looks terrible, but on the other hand, that fits quite well with about all other aspects of this production. The movie desperately tries in every scene to imitate big loud Hollywood action flicks (which is absolutely okay), but obviously the makers neither have the talent nor have they understood anything (not okay). Every five minutes there is a big, red (you know, video) explosion or something, our heroes escape one way or the other, with always the same pathetic piece of score. I would accept that those scenes do not have any kind of emotional impact, but the movie does not even work as an entertaining no-brainer, never! And whose fault is this? Yes. Send in the director, writer, editor and all the other clowns responsible for this catastrophe! May they lower their red video faces in shame!
The screenplay was obviously written by a chimp that was tied to a typewriter. It reveals a total lack of sense for pace, logic, characters, dialog, you name it. There is absolutely no storytelling. You could zap into this crap every time, stay with it for five minutes and change the channel again, without the feeling that you're missing something before or after what you just watched, it has made-for-TV written all over (Afterwards I even had problems to summarize the story at all...). This terrible excuse for a script is turned into an uninspired, uninterrupted inferno of hectic, shaky shots. Honestly, I saw home movies that had more virtuosity than this. Heck, not even the action sequences look good! The most annoying thing however is the extensive, completely unmotivated use of time warps and split screen effects throughout the whole movie (I don't mean two or three times, it is in almost EVERY scene). And for those who are still with us: The sound mixing is the worst I was forced to listen to in years. Bad, bad, bad!
But I wouldn't say that it is not entertaining. "Der Clown" features tons of incredible, unintentionally funny moments, e.g. a stunt, where at least a dozen burning police cars fly through the cloud of an explosion (red, of course) on a highway. Yes, this is a cool stunt. No, it is by no means a tragic, emotional scene which would maybe, and only maybe, justify the use of slow motion and pathetic syntheziser strings for two long minutes. It however gets really, really tasteless when the main character has a flashback of how his girlfriend died. This is edited like a music video, with the lethal bullet entering the girl's body within the rhythm of the music. My god, what were they thinking??
If you're into trash and maybe even survived last year's moron fiesta "Daniel Der Zauberer", this is definitely a must see. If not, be warned. You'll probably feel the urge to go rampage afterwards, vigilante style.