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Le boucher (1970)
The horror of irresolution
is The Butcher a thriller? Yes. Is it a psychological drama? Yes. Is it an idyllic small town romance? Yes. Is it a horror film? Yes. Can all of these descriptions coexist? Yes. The Butcher is indeed all of those things. It's a film that deals with the greatest, most puzzling, and most disturbing mysteries of humanity, but it's also a small, simple film with a style so subtle it sometimes appears to be no style at all. Chabrol's French contemporaries are known for their flair- for their attention-grabbing camera work and editing. Hitchcock was known for his stylish set-pieces. But Chabrol has an amazing knack for convincing us that we're not watching a stylish film. The color scheme, the manipulation of light, and the stifling editing are as meticulous as in a Hitchcock film, or a Truffaut film, but are at the same time nearly invisible. His direction is heavily stylized but appears nearly accidental. Chabrol manages to transform picnics, schoolhouses and cobblestone streets into a landscape that is horrifying for its lack of apparent horror and for its incongruity with the horror being committed. The Butcher is also the story of two people who have adapted, in their own ways, to modern society. An uneducated, old-fashioned male war veteran adapts by becoming a killing machine, and an educated, stylish woman adapts by becoming a cold narcissist. Both were apparently functioning, normal human beings until they meet each other. But, when they meet each other, their neuroses come into the foreground: his animalistic passion and her ultra-civilized coolness nearly destroy each other. Some viewers say that the woman is the monster and some say it is the man. It is the man who commits truly monstrous acts, but it is the woman who, by way of her repressed attraction to such a monstrous man, sets his gears turning. The schoolteacher never could have foreseen the effect she would have on the butcher, but she is still responsible, and that is what is terrifying. The Butcher, however, is not a masterpiece because of its cynicism; it's a masterpiece because it manages to be cynical while having utmost respect for its characters. It's a great film because of the way it explores how hard its characters try and how pathetically they fail. It's a horror film about how impossible it can be for people to change.
Phantom of the Paradise (1974)
maybe the best "bad" movie ever made
Now, there are a lot of "so bad they're good" movies in the world. Most of these are poorly made, but have some scenes that are hysterical and you can watch them again and again. Scenes that you are amazed merely at the fact that they exist. Example: Reefer Madness. But, people will rarely call these movies "good," unless they are joking. The reasons that people like these movies are completely accidental- Reefer Madness wasn't intended to be funny, it was intended to be pretty serious, but it was so poorly made that, when it's not boring as hell, it's hilarious.
To me, watching "Phantom of the Paradise" was like watching a bad movie made up of only the scenes that are so bad they are funny. Nearly every scene is so outrageous that you have to laugh. And, since it's actually a well-made movie, even when it's not being funny and outrageous, it's still entertaining- even if the only thing that's entertaining in the scene is the color of the set, or the music.
One thing that's been said about DePalma is that when you say he goes for style over substance, it's not an insult. This movie is a great example of that. It starts off hitting us over the head with bizarre stylistic flourishes, and it never lets up. The style is all that there is to it- you can't criticize it's "style over substance" because there is no substance to begin with. It never gets realistic, and when it gets more grave in tone, you can't really be disturbed by it, because it's still really outrageous.
So, all in all, I still don't know if I can exactly call it a good movie. It's a completely stupid, silly movie. But it's excellent at being a stupid, silly movie.
well, it does have its moments...
warning: may contain minor spoilers
First off, I'll say I was pleasantly surprised. I only saw this out of curiosity, since I am a fan of the play. I had read other user comments, and so I had pretty low expectations. What surprised me the most was that the acting wasn't bad at all. Ethan Hawke, suprisingly, was a decent Hamlet. That's really what Hamlet's supposed to be like- moody, stuck up, overly thoughtful, in his own little world. I am reminded of a line from Catcher In The Rye, which went something like, "Hamlet's just supposed to be some screwed up guy, but Olivier made him seem like a god damm general." Not that more heroic interpretations of Hamlet are wrong- I just think it's unfair to say that Hawke makes a bad Hamlet just because you may prefer a different interpretation of the character. Maybe Julia Stiles wasn't great, but I think she did the best she could with the minimal amount of screen time they gave to Ophelia. Other than that, Kyle Machlachlan and Diane Venora were very good, as was Bill Murray- I particularly remember his "to thine own self be true speech." Oddly, this movie is one of the few versions of Hamlet that gets it right. For most of the speech, Polonius babbles just because he likes to hear himself talk, and Laertes doesn't pay him much attention because he knows that. When Polonius says "to thine ownself be true" it's not only the last line of the speech, it's the line where Polonius stops babbling and tells Laertes something that's actually meaningful. After all, Polonius is supposed to be a fool. This is the first version I have seen that succesfully captures both Polonius' foolishness and his good intentions. Anyhow, in conclusion, the performances range from good to at least interesting, as goes for the production design and cinematography. Now, with all that going for it, where does this movie go wrong?
First of all, I have to agree with what one reviewer said about how this movie is done in by its setting in a specific time. If it was set in a modernized fantasy world that just resembles the 21st century, it would work. Its setting in 2000 does it in in lots of ways. In Shakespeare's play, Hamlet was, of course, a prince of a country. That is an important place in the world no matter how you look at it. In this film, he is merely the son of a CEO. There's a big difference between a country and a corporation- especially when we don't know why this corporation is so significant. So, what was once a story about the most powerful and famous people in a country is now reduced to a story about just another family of super-rich people. I'm not saying that's the primary factor that kills the movie- it just takes a lot of the weight away from the original story. Second, although everyone does the best they can, it's impossible not to laugh, or at least be distracted by the anachronisms that result from preserving Shakespeare's original language in a specifically 21st century setting. For instance, it's really hard not to be distracted by the frequent referrals to Hamlet and Claudius as "prince" and "king." The movie seems to have self-destructive impulses. Just when we might have gotten used to the Shakespearean dialogue, we hear the voice of the moviefone man, or a man on TV, or we see Times Square just as it would look if it had been seen by our own eyes, and we are reminded of how anachronistic the characters are in their own movie. About 20 minutes into the movie, it occurred to me that a much better movie could have been made if they had just done away with the Shakespearean dialogue, as in "O." Or, if they had kept the dialogue but set it in a fantasy world, like "Titus," as I and a previous reviewer mentioned earlier. I wanted this movie to turn into either "O" or "Titus," but instead, it turned out to be a very awkward imbalance of the two. The creators didn't put enough effort into creating an internally consistent setting. By transporting Hamlet into the "real" world of today, the filmmakers ended up creating a less convincing setting than any artificial world would have been. In conclusion, revamping Hamlet was a concept with a lot of positive potential, and this movie didn't live up to that potential. Interesting? Yes. Good? At times. Bizarre to the point where you want to laugh at it? I'm afraid so. Bad? No, I wouldn't go as far as to call it a bad movie. The most unfortunate thing about this Hamlet is that a great "modern Hamlet" movie would be very possible- but since this version is pretty well-known, it's probably never going to get made.
The Good Girl (2002)
did it go over my head? (spoilers contained)
If you want to know how I felt after I watched "The Good Girl," think of someone who you don't care about, and then imagine having them stay at your house. I felt so disconnected from Justine that I was convinced the movie must have gone over my head. Maybe we really weren't supposed to care about Justine, because it certainly was not an involving, moving character study. Maybe it was meant as a satire? Well, if it was, it didn't work in that way either. If you still want to see this movie, stop reading NOW. I could see how maybe Justine was supposed to stand for the apathy and stupidity of society, or something like that. Maybe we were supposed to laugh at how much of a b**ch she is. And maybe after Justine ruins Holden's life(which wasn't much of a life anyway), and then tries to pretend he didn't exist, it's supposed to shock us and make us think about the cruel apathy of humanity, or something like that. If it was supposed to do that, it just didn't work. Miguel Arteta and Mike White (or is it just the director's fault?- I don't care to study the film hard enough to decide) just sweep us up into their characters' apathetic depression. Possibly, if Spike Jonze, or Alexander Payne, or perhaps Mike Nichols were involved with this film, they could have given it a sense of ironic detachment, and it might have worked as a very bleak comedy. But no, this film is not detached enough from its characters for us to laugh at them, and we don't care about them enough to laugh with them, either. It was interesting to see Jennifer Aniston be someone not like Rachel at all, but that didn't cut it for me. If you want to see a good, funny movie about a character with a dull life, and a star in an uncharacteristic role, see About Schmidt.
a great movie, for a select audience
First off, for the record, I was born in the '80s, and I could connect with this movie, so there is no reason to dismiss it as being necessarily "too sixties" for modern times. I think Blowup is a classic, and I will never forget it, though I understand why many people hate it. To an extent, I agree with everyone who calls the movie pointless and poorly structured. The movie is that way because life is that way. People complain that they can't figure out what's going on in this movie, but that's basically because nothing is going on. To sum up the movie very simply, it's about how Thomas wanders around, at a slow and unsteady pace, occasionally gets caught up in something significant, and then he goes back to wandering around. He wanders in style though- he wanders through sex, drugs, rock n' roll, bright colors and interesting camera angles. Which goes to say that if you are bored by Herbie Hancock, The Yardbirds, or sixties fashion, you will be bored by this movie. None of the characters are very significant besides Thomas, and he's not even a very strong character. He remains a detached observer throughout most of the movie. Whenever he interacts with another character, or becomes set on any sort of goal, the goal or the character soon disappears from his life, without any sort of resolution. A few examples:
-Vanessa Redgrave shows up and has an interesting conversation with him, but when he tries to contact her again, he can't.
-At the Yardbirds concert, Jeff Beck(or is it Jimmy Page?) throws his guitar into the audience, and Thomas fights to get it, but when he leaves the building, he doesn't have anything to do with it, so he drops it.
-Of course, what turns people off the most about this movie is its central conflict- Thomas thinks he sees a body, and is going to get involved in a murder mystery, but the body disappears, so nothing can be resolved.
I enjoyed this movie because it had images and sound which I will always remember, and will definitely hold up to repeated viewings. I think that I felt a connection with Thomas because he shows a part of our personalities that we usually choose to ignore. I don't think that Thomas could ever be a role model, though, because there is hardly anything about his personality that is even dramatic enough to copy. He doesn't show a good side of humanity that anyone should aspire to, or a dark side of humanity that anyone should be wary of, just a really bored and detached side, that might as well be miming through the tennis game of life.
Three Kings (1999)
one of the greatest war movies
I think of this movie as such a classic that sometimes I forget it was only made 3 years ago. I blame its relative obscurity on a combination of American Beauty and mis-representation, and even with that accounted for, I still don't understand why this movie is as unrecognized as it is. This movie has loads of great scenes, images, characters, and lines that have never left me- Ice Cube listening to easy listening music on the way to a battle, the gangrene shots, the Iraqi attack on the village, Mark Whalberg's interrogation, with the Iraqi describing his family being bombed, and pouring oil on Mark Whalberg's face, shooting clay pigeons while listening to the Beach Boys, the news reporter encountering the huge oil spill. This is one of the most intensely and realistically violent movies I have seen. Like Bonnie and Clyde, and some scenes in Saving Private Ryan, it doesn't dumb the violence down, or overdo it, and for that reason it is all the more disturbing. We see a character, they get shot, the camera watches them die without flinching. Its style and substance alone are masterful, but on top of that, Three Kings is also a look at a part of history which is ignored by many. Vietnam is recognized by many people to be an unnecessary and immoral war, while many people who lived through the Gulf War and its consequences (my generation) have no opinion of it. My only problem with the movie is that the happy ending seems to leave the rest of the movie behind it. It seems as if David O. Russell was afraid that the rest of his movie was too disturbing and uncompromising, and then he compromised by ending it on a totally happy note, complete with a U2 song. It would have been just slightly greater if it had ended with them still in the Middle East. But it is still one of the greatest and most important movies of recent times- it is especially relevant now, as our commander in chief may send our forces back to Iraq to finish what Three Kings suggests shouldn't have even been started.
funny but overrated, and maybe outdated
I had heard for a lot of time that M*A*S*H* was a great timeless masterpiece. I saw it, and I enjoyed, but it is certainly not on that high of a level. It is certainly a comedy masterpiece, with hilarious and very memorable characters.(No booze! I want sex!) Perhaps the most notable quality of MASH, in terms of its construction, is its lack of construction. When Altman made this movie, he took the basic plot elements of the script, and let the actors improvise all they wanted, and then cut and pasted it into a movie. It begins with Hawkeye and Duke being drafted, and ends when they are suddenly relieved. It also doesn't have as much to do with war as many people say it does. The war is all implied, and a lot of the great scenes(ie Painless' "suicide" and the Hot Lips-PA scene) don't directly have anything to do with war. If I had been alive during the Nixon era, always being told to shut up and stand in my place and not criticize the war, a movie about horny war surgeons who have no respect for authority would have had more significance. I might have bought it and worshipped it. But in the days of South Park, and a dirty offensive comedy coming out every other week, MASH doesn't seem as profound. It didn't seem to be a masterpiece to me, just a hilarious, well-acted, haphazard piece of film.
Taxi Driver (1976)
sad, tragic, and moving (especially for guys)
This movie, like many of its critics say, is a complete downer with almost nothing positive to show about life. It just goes to show how a neurotic loser of a man can violently try to do something with his life, and fail at it. But anyone who's ever felt anxious, lonely and stressed out at any time can likely identify with him. He's a common person's anxieties, only exaggerated to the extreme, I guess. I was scared of Travis, only when he tries to save Iris from her pimp, when he wishes that the rain could wash away all the "scum of the earth", and when, in the last scene, he sees his reflection in the mirror and quickly hits the mirror away, I couldn't help but feel for him. A lot of this movie's greatness comes from Bernard Herrmann's memorable music. Without it, the whole movie might have just been grim, but with the music, it's sad in an almost Romantic way. In the end, I'd have to say it's a great movie, not because it puts you in any kind of positive mood, it's great because being in the world of Travis is an intense experience like almost no other movie is.
Musíme si pomáhat (2000)
the most underrated movie of the year!
'Life Is Beautiful' is often called a great 'holocaust comedy', but it pales in comparison to this. Life Is Beautiful awkwardly shifts between scenes that are supposed to be funny, and scenes that are supposed to be meaningful or sad or intense, as if Benigni was making a joke, then apologizing for it, then apologizing for being too serious, and making a joke again, and so on. This movie plays it straight pretty much, and everything just works. Particularly the scene with the hands in the bed, and the scene where Josef is taught how to make Nazi-like facial expressions are hilarious. The characterizations are very well done, particularly Horst, the horny scumbag of a Nazi who you get to like in the end. The movie is sometimes surreal. In many scenes the images are very jumpy and distorted, but that shows us what the characters are going through, effectively. The ending is maybe one of the greatest movie endings of all time. It's very surreal, and you can interpret it in many ways. Its abstraction is what helps to make it powerful. When many people create art that has to do with the holocaust, they often go out of their way just to show us that they are making a statement about how horrible the holocaust is, as if theyre afraid that we won't think that otherwise. Even the classic Schindler's List does that, I think. But this movie is a different kind of holocaust movie. It doesn't try hard to show us that the holocaust was bad, but it doesn't neglect how serious the holocaust was, either. The only complains I have about this movie is that it is often slow, and a little confusing at the beginning. It's not a completely perfect movie, but it's definitely a masterpiece of holocaust movies. All the schools that show kids Life Is Beautiful should definitely switch to this.
i have issues with this movie (SPOILERS)
What a mess. I loved this movie at times, and because of that, I also came to hate it in the end. Imagine if Kubrick's 2001 had been re-edited by George Lucas and you'll get an idea of what a messy director Nicolas Roeg is. I first heard of this movie when I saw it under Roger Ebert's great movies list. I started watching this, and for a good part of it, I thought I was watching a masterpiece. In the way that it perfectly mixed images and music, and made interesting use of camera angles, and didn't follow an obvious plot, reminded me of 2001, and I thought maybe it would be just as good. Roeg's cinematography of the sand and the sun, as well as John Barry's great music definitely deserve to be noted. Many scenes in it are beautiful and interesting. In particular, the opening scenes of Adelaide, with the dijeridoo music, the swim scene, the sunset, and the very sad tragic mating dance scene. I was a little confused by the way the father shot at the kids, and the kids dont say anything, but that was sort of settled when they talk about it later, so that was OK. But then the movie sort of begins to commit cinematic suicide. In the second half of the movie, the flow is definitely interrupted by scenes that have nothing to do with the characters we've been following. Like when suddenly, the aboriginie sees one white person, then there are a bunch of white people who are forcing aboriginies to work for them. And the montage of animals getting shot. But that was only a little distracting, it wasn't so bad, it just seemed to be trying a little too hard to communicate the message that Australians are hurting the environment and the Aboriginies. I already got to like the environment and Aboriginies just from watching them in the movie. Those obvious scenes sort of killed the point that was already made quite well, and more subtlely. But anyway, those aren't the worst issues. Here's what kills the film. In the end, we see the girl in her apartment, and after a whole film of being dressed messily, she is now in lots of makeup, looking very civilized. Her boyfriend comes in and starts saying something about his monetary situation. The girl is gazing off. She flashes back to the swim in the desert. The John Barry music starts. Not a bad ending, I thought; I was about to forgive the film. But then, out of nowhere, comes a narrator, who we have never heard before, reading a poem!!! That was the last straw. The movie just overdid it. It has good ideas in it, but then it tries to make them too clear and obvious, and in the process, makes them seem almost stupid. THE NARRATOR APPEARS OUT OF NOWHERE AND READS A POEM!!!! I just can't get over that.