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They Lost Their Lives In Backyards
Dogtooth is a film about a family who has never let their children of out of the house.
I say "children" but by the time we see them they are well into their 20's, the eldest perhaps even her early thirties.
So that they do not become confused when reading one of the very limited, and in all probability, heavily redacted books, in their home the parents have taken the time to replace certain unknown words with more tangible ones.
The "sea" they are told is the word for the armchair in the living room, a "zombie" is a small yellow flower, and a "pussy" is a large bright lamp. "For example "If you turn out the 'pu$$y' the room will plunge into darkness", the mother tells her inquisitive daughter.
I am perhaps giving you too much information up front, the film is largely silent in passages, preferring to tell its story visually and subtly.
It's not until a substantial way into the film that are we are told what "Dogtooth" means. What we do see and quite early on is that the father brings a blindfolded woman to his home regularly to have sex with the son, who has become increasingly aggressive toward the fence which separates him from the outside world.
Lacking any understanding about why he hates the fence he can only taunt it and hurl objects at it, while suggesting that he can do a better job of cleaning the carpet than it ever could.
A haze of cognitive dissonance pervades everything.
This is all deeply disturbing, and things only get worse as they continue on. Some of you who have seen the 1968 horror film "Spider Baby" also about three adults living and functioning as children and living out a macabre combination of extreme innocence and violence, may experience a sense of deja vu.
"Dogtooth" like "Spider Baby" is also full of pitch black and bleak comedy, but in Dogtooth the comedy is more brutal, surreal, incisive, and believable.
The three children of "Dogtooth" having grown up with all things equal begin to become aggressive as the new visitor (the woman brought to have sex with the son) becomes something they cannot share, and begins herself to exert her new found celebrity over other members of the house.
We don't get any background as to how this family began or why. We can't understand the parents motives any more than the children could. When silent the family resembles a scene of domestic perfection (the children clad in white), but when the parents speak they sound mysterious and absolute as Gods on a distant mountain.
If you were or have ever met someone who was had a prolonged and sheltered upbringing you might note a familiar childishness in the small gestures of the actors. It's not just that they are pretending to be children, they are intelligent enough to realize something is wrong with the world, but lack any background knowledge that would tell them what it is.
In a scene which recalls Luis Buneul's "The Exterminating Angel" (about a party where the guests find themselves unable to leave for reasons that never get explained) the children watch their father leave for work at the edge of the open gate, peering out, but not daring to cross the threshold, like an invisible forcefield had been thrown up at the edge of the driveway. They are told the only possible way to leave the house is in the car. The floor is hot lava.
"Dogtooth" is a satire, of the perfection of the nuclear family, the idea that children can be raised without being contaminated by the rest of the world, but its execution is so ruthless and comical that its easy to forget that its about anything else than a family living in their own private universe. What does freedom mean when the word for freedom might translate to "wood shed"?
From this train of thought, outside of the obvious hypocrisies of the parents and the deeply uncomfortable sexual episodes (akin to the thematically similar "Splice"), we can see a variety of questions emerge about the role language plays in shaping reality (never have Orwell's notions of a limited language creating limited human beings been better expressed), and the reactionary feelings many people have to modern technology (which revolves for better and worse around communication).
We don't know exactly why the parents have done this terrible thing to their children but we almost understand their need to create their own perfect world, as instinctively as the son understands that the fence is his natural enemy.
Dogtooth is a very cerebral horror film and if you have dark sense of humor, also an exceptional domestic comedy. It's rare that I am shocked in a movie, but there were many moments in "Dogtooth" were my jaw was on the floor, or my hands defensively covering my face to keep the images away.
Everyone may see something different in "Dogtooth" "it's about the homogenizing effects of capitalism", "the horrors of traditional patriarchy", "a critique of modern Greek politics", and they may all be right, when a movie has an ending as devastating and tension filled as the ending here, such considerations take a back seat.
"Dogtooth" takes us into this world of inverted logic, wicked parents, and disastrous siblings rivalries, a place where you might sit on the sea under the gentle light of the pu$$y with a zombie in your hair and reflect on all that you've seen and done and then on the much larger region of all that you don't know, haven't done, and can only vaguely imagine if at all.
Loong Boonmee raleuk chat (2010)
These Hybrid Moments
This years Palme d'Or winner at the Cannes Film Festival, "Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall His Past Lives" is the story of a man who is dying, and as result recalls his past lives and is visited by ghosts and spirits.
There are ape spirit creatures who lives in the forest attracted by his sickness, he remembers being an ox and a princess, we watch a nurse drain some device the ailing Boonme wears fixed to his abdomen.
This was the first film I watched at 2010's AFI Film Festival in Los Angeles, and it was a start that was not followed easily. The film is strange but the words which feel most appropriate to the film are "gentle" and "mysterious".
Boonme's final days are spent with his sister and a nurse and their various supernatural guests. They eat dinner, watch films, look at photo albums, life unfolds but with an awareness of a mysterious shift coming. As death approaches, past lives and those human, animal, or other appear ever-shifting and inter connected, foreign but also familiar, like relatives returned after a long absence."Uncle Boonme" is the final part of a multi-platform project featuring art installations and short films called "The Primitive Installation", about Nabua, Thailand a region heavily occupied by the Thai army from the 60's to the 80's. "Uncle Boonme" believes his karma is the result of the part he played in the violence of the past.Director Apichatpong Weerasethakul ("Joe" for short) has created a landscape of shadowy jungles, intimate bedroom lighting, a haunting, funny, dreamy, and wise, rhythmic lamentation about modern life, it's "primitive" counter points, death, change, spirit-monkeys and all that good stuff.
Uncle Boonme is a fantasy as epic as Souleymane Cisse's "Yeelen", one luminous to look at and visually wander through, with several of "Tropical Malady's"' most hallucinatory moments, appearing strong early in it's opening movements and closing out on notes as elliptical as those of "Syndromes And A Century", and then there's the final scene compressed into a wonderful kind of epilogue involving a monk, that's the most audacious, fascinating, and best of it's sort since Wes Anderson's "Hotel Chevalier"."
Transformations and contrasts between the ancient and the modern flow into one another from electronic bug zappers to sex with talking cat- fish, primordial caves to karaoke bars. Dual and multiple-roles and states within a single whole, are a recurring theme in the film, so multiple meanings and readings being generated is little surprise. But though these thoughts rise up haunting us after viewing, the images of movement through Nabua's phantom jungles and Boonme's warm goodbyes are what we are left feeling and reeling with.
All modern worlds are built on ancient ones, all new things have within them older forms. "Uncle Boonme" is more informed by Buddhist notions of reincarnation, the idiosyncratic personality of it's creator and the psycho-geography of it's location, more than normal concerns about dramatic and character arc. In simpler words...an old man who is dying can recall his past lives.
The film is a matter of perception as complex and post- modernist/globalized as any experimental narrative in avant-garde-dom or as mystical and "primitive" as any ancient Sutra, based on the cultural inclinations and presuppositions you bring to the film. In any event, is to Joe's continued success and cinemas continued fortune that he so playfully and beautifully can challenge and delight these hybrid perceptions of ours as he does.
Enter the Void (2009)
Out Of Your Body And Into The Fire
Enter The Void is the story of Oscar a late teens early twenty something drug dealer living in Tokyo. Oscar lives with his estranged sister Linda, after the two were orphaned by a car crash as children.
The film opens with some brief introductions, including introducing Oscar to his drug of choice DMT (which is described as being similar to the experience of death), of which Oscar has become obsessed since reading the Tibetan Book Of The Dead.
The interest in near death experience as "the ultimate trip" grows like so many of Oscars desires, fears, and fantasies from his parents death, an event which plays out again and again the film; as a traumatic scar that never closes, even in death.
After a six minute trip full of spiraling layers of shapes, patterns, and what look like deep sea fish in a fluorescent microscope, Oscar is abruptly shot to death in the bathroom of a bar called "The Void", whereupon his soul leaves his body floating sideways into the night sky, through walls, and even into other people's bodies.
The film is divided into four parts, the first Oscar's death told in 1st person pov, the second Oscar's life leading up to his death where we observe the back of Oscar's head within the frame, the third the lives of those affected by Oscar's death shown through over the shoulder ariel shots of Oscar's soul as it flys over the city, and the final a trip through the "Hotel Love" a partially imaginary place where all the film's characters have sex with each other in the various red tinted rooms while their genitals are surrounded by phosphorescent hallows of undulating color.
"Enter The Void" is a character study but one of a character who is at a point in his existence when "personality" simply is no longer an issue.
The second portion of the film showcases some of Gaspar Noe's talent as editor as it's essentially a sustained stream of conscious montage (like something you would find a New Wave film from Alain Resnais) creating a network of desires from Oscar's mother's death to his guilt over abandoning his sister, to an affair with an older women (which directly causes his eventual death), from the earliest notions of Freudian pleasure suckling at his mother's breast to his later day oral obsessive drug habit (smoking, pills, etc), his destruction is built into his desires and back again, many times over.
Noe goes through pains, some would say to the point of destroying the film with repetition to stress these points, as George Bataille transformed eggs and urine from emblems of his own traumatic childhood into obsessive erotic rituals for his character's to live out in his own French transgressive classic "Story Of The Eye", so does Noe reveal his wounded characters with reoccurring images of a car crashed and lips reaching for an exposed breast (If your recalling Cronenberg's "Crash" your not mistaken).
Some have accused the film and Noe of being obsessed with the ugly side of life; abortion, murder, drug use etc. And this would almost pass did the film not end in literal rebirth (certainly the most optimistic end of any Noe film so far). Likewise the film has been called "nihilistic", ignoring that the existence of the soul and reincarnation are tangible aspects of the plot, or that said "rebirth" taking place in the "love" hotel, where sex makes everyone glow like angels.
I suspect the mistaken attribution of nihilism to the film stems from this lack of any non-Earthbound transcendence. The same lust that lead Oscar to his death, lead his soul into a new body, and the Karmic keeps on-a-spinning with no end in sight.
Oscar spends most of the third acts trying to avoid floating into sources of light, which the camera is pulled into the way light is sucked into a black hole, the image warping and bulging at the seams as it descends.
There was a time when leading critics like Andrew Sarris considered Kubrick's "2001" little more than trumped up hippie freak out cinema.
Ask yourself if it's vague ideas about human transformation and evolution wrapped in the Star-child; a fetus in the empty womb of space or it's ten minute psychedelic worm hole, are any more ridiculous than glowing sex angels and a water wall of ejaculate.
ETV is the kind of film you cannot be impartial to, it makes demands and challenges on the viewer. For anyone to not be impressed with its cinematography, editing, sound, and special effects they would either have to be disingenuous or incredibly narrow in their tastes. The psychological underpinnings of Oscar's motivations are repeated so many times, I'm almost lost for words when I read critics describe the film as incomprehensible.
By comparison to his previous films which featured 10 minute anal rape scenes, some unmanifested Oedipal desires in EVT are like a breath of fresh air in the sweatiest dankest leather gimp outfit.
EVT is less a surrealist film as it is neo-realism taken to its logical extreme where the interior geography of the subject is as meticulously recorded as his external environment.
"Enter The Void" may wear the temporal skin of a drug film, but beneath the veneer of fear and loathing, is a soul searing with inventive cinematic flair and a desire to push towards the limits of an art form, eroding boundaries between mental states as it straddles genre lines between psychedelic ghost story and perverse love story like "Wings Of Desire" hovering on the painted clouds of Stan Brakhage.
The void is full of wonders.
Shutter Island (2010)
From the first image in this film doesn't it look like Leonardo Dicaprio is already regretting his decision to be in this movie, is Teddy regretting going to the island. The answer doesn't much matter, because none of the answers waiting at the end of "Shutter Island" matter. Answers to plot points are just the carrot leading our hero from one way too symbolic hallucination and dream sequence after another.
"Shutter Island" is "Jacob's Ladder" with some "Manchurian Candidate" thrown in there, under a general Hitchcock umbrella. "Session Nine" as a made for t.v. melodrama. It was okay, like "The Departed" which preceded it, this will be remembered as one of Scorcese's best, but it was entertaining.
"Don't Look Now" and the other two I mentioned are better a this type of mind-f7.k pulp, and "Bringing Out The Dead", and "The Last Temptation Of Christ", have better Scorcese hallucination sequences too. The performances were all done though. I especially liked Elias Koteas' brief one eyed arsonists, especially after last year's body-artist serial killer in "I Come With The Rain", he's making racket out of the soft spoken maniac, the way Anthony Hopkins used to (or still kinda does considering "The Woflman").
Predictable for the most part, but the extended dream sequences were better than most and narrowly (but just barely at times) avoided some "Number 23"-esque embarrassments. I wish the average mainstream film would be at least this caliber, but because the average is so low, something like "Shutter Island" ends up looking allot better than it really is by comparison.
It's all an illluuuuussssiiioon! I enjoyed it for what it was, but I doubt this will be anyone's favorite movie.
Other Fish In The Sea
I couldn't imagine a more beatific opening 15 minutes for a live action adaption of "The Little Mermaid". All my hopes for a eastern European fantasia (this film was made as a collaboration between Bulgaria and USSR) came true, in bright multicolored fire-works, dreamy mermaids(whose costumes are a bit dated, but still oddly effective), lovely period costumes, and wondrous underwater photography(the merman with the violin will stay with my years).
Unfortunately things dry begin to dry up once our daughter of sea, reaches dry land to get her man. The story is simple enough; girl rescues drowned sailor and falls in love with him, to become human she sells her most prized possession first her flowing green hair, and eventually her voice to an old witch.The prince has mistaken another princess as his savior, but is unmistakably drawn to our heroin.
She has a sidekick in a village fool, whose simple stupid-heartedness is ultimately what saves her, sort of. In any event it ain't the prince, and it's nice to see the ugly buffoon, usually the minor comic relief, take a place of mythological importance. Still without animated talking fish pals backing her up, she can only take this so far.
The elegance of the waves gives way to the tediousness of courtly life, where contests and intrigues play themselves out, to their inevitable end. Which in keeping with the early accounts and legends, sees our girl facing a tragic end. My favorite version is where she turns into sea foam when she dies, and serves as an explanation for why the sea is so frothy. It sounds about right to me anyway.
It's over all a beautiful Soviet fairy tale, which should delight fans of fables, Han's Christian Anderson (one of my mother's favorite films was the 1952 Hans Christian Anderson, musical way, way, loosely inspired by his life), and fan's of Disney's "The Little Mermaid.
The Rendezvous Is At Midnight
The screenplay for "Invasion" was written by literary giant Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Boi Cesares (whose short story "Blow-Up", had been made into a film by Michelangelo Antonioni 3 years earlier). Invasion takes place in Buenos Aires, where a clandestine group of friends, businessmen, and enthusiastic youth have joined forces to fight off on invasion of their city by unknown forces; men in tan suits.
Like Jim Jarmusch's "The Limit's Of Control", the film gives us only what precious little information we need to move onto the next scene, like an agent on a mission who can't afford to know too much, so that if captured can't be forced to talk. "Go here", "take him", "good luck", "the rendezvous is at midnight on the docks", or "noon at the cafe", are about as declarative as many of the conversations get, usually issued by an old man at headquarters.
Unlike Jarmusch's cool, collected, calm fest, these guys get down to multiple scenes of shoot-outs, scuffles, and interrogation and torture. Why they are fighting, and who the enemy is, is left unanswered, as is why they don't seek help from the "authorities" or even the common man on the street. The city is being taken over slowly, "the trucks are coming in", is a phrase we keep hearing again and again. Imagine the Matrix, without the kung-fu/sci-fi stuff, where there is an eternal cat and mouse game between the Agents and those resisting the agents.
Erasing the specific nature of the enemy could have a very practical explanation like fear of censorship if they give Them or Us an official title. It could also be Borges and Cesares, after living their multiple disappointing rebellions, revolutions, and coup de tats, were weary of easy or convenient dichotomies. Or perhaps like GK Chesterton said of the Iliad, "Life is a battle", and the war will continue on regardless of which particular players strut the stage in fatigues.
Like the Trojan Army (Borges was a huge fan of the Iliad, and Adventure stories), our heroes are doomed to fail, which only gives their cause and epic and glamorous sheen; the final scene depicts a batch of new recruits standing in line to get guns and begin the cycle anew. It's like an abstract mob-film, where cool and charismatic men, light each other on fire, and insist they will die before they talk. There is a documentary like realness that add a tension and weight to the secret wars, which never seems to spill out into the light of day and attention of the general public.
Much screen time is spent just looking at blackness with only lit faces or ghostly eyes, showing the hero's as much in the dark as we the audience. But heroes they are, self sacrificing, dedicated comrades and friends, that we longer really see in modern action heroes, and their play-by their own rules, "did you have to break so much furniture McGarnical?", escapades. Like real covert ops, they are precise, they are also so casual, and at times defeated looking, you might imagine they do this every weekend; one man wants to know how long the mission will take, because has to be home early to meet his wife.
Though well lit and composed with crisp black and white austerity, there is one "magical realist/fantastique' flourish, when the team leader of the heroes, finds himself in an empty building were dozens and dozens and impossible dozens of men in tan suits, emerge seemingly from nowhere and surround him. He is tortured in a football stadium, where I am told, real dissidents and "traitors" were actually tortured and killed. It' doesn't quite live up the hype of the literary giants behind it, but that's a tall order to fill.
It's an interesting and reserved action film, with some great suspense and encouraging of the same kind of existential reflection that films like "Blow Up" and "Limits Of Control" demand. An obscure, but enjoyable French New Wave inspired, curious allegory from Argentina, about life's struggles which are always in secret, and always endless.
Er shi si cheng ji (2008)
Living For The City
Zhang Ke Jai has(at least to me) grown substantially since "The World", able to leave some of the melodrama behind and let his characters and the landscapes speak for themselves. "24 City" is a beautiful film, both relevant and moving in the ways "Up In The Air" wishes it were.
A factory in Chengdu, China that has been in operation for generations is being closed down to make room for a upscale high rise apartment building called "24 City" ironically named after a poem about harmony. We follow a series of interviews with former factory workers about their lives in and around the factory.Some of the interviews could have been shortened or illustrated visually instead of having us just watching talking heads speaking over silence, but that is my personal preference.
It could be argued, by not re-creating their lives Jai gives his subjects a sense of dignity, and creates an intimacy between them and the viewer that would be otherwise lost. For the most part I would agree, though in honesty, I did get anxious more than a few times during some of these discussions. Jai's subjects at first seemed to be almost rambling inconsequentially, but as the film goes on, their statements become enmeshed in each other and the film as a whole, and intricately articulate how the factory for generations was their entire world, romantically, socially, philosophically, and culturally.
Some of the workers had their first fights there, their first loves, some moved their whole families on the promise of work, while others left their families behind, and suddenly this community which has sustained them all this time has disappeared, moved by forces beyond their control. Part of the film is documentary, but some of the interviews are "fictional" and feature actors.
I had trouble telling the difference between those who were actors and who were actual workers, but the mixture between the authentic and the dramatic only serves to highlight the contrast between the promise of worker's solidarity and justice and the realities of changing economic priorities. Jai's "The World" offered us the best metaphor for the globalized melancholic that I've yet to see, that of an amusement park masquerading as the greatest architectural achievements of humanity, while those who toil in it are increasingly alienated from any sense of "authentic" culture, themselves, and each other. That film itself, however was not as compelling as it's ideas.
In many ways "24 City" and so I am told Jai's similar, "Still Life" continue this series on the changing face of China, and the "real" people caught up in this global gentrification. What made me look at "24 City" as something other than just a clever polemic was a baffling scene of a girl skating to a soft, bubbly, trance like electronic song. The girl skates in circles, and the music plays and we just observe her, and the song continues, as the camera floats off looking across the city and the mammoth building rising up into the skyline. I don't know what if any purpose this scene had to the rest of the film, but it was lovely. Equally startling were the huge crowds of workers, by the hundreds in the film's first scenes, that are as overwhelming as the CG throngs of countless soldiers and orcs from "The Lord Of The Rings" epic battle-scapes. In those moments Zhang makes his cinematic eye, rival and better his(at least for me)binding interest in social realism.
Realism especially of the socially progressive variety is not my cup of tea (to put a borderline pathological aversion mildly), but "24 City" made, if not a believer, than a fascinated viewer out of me. If globalization has to be "hot button" of contemporary art, if there must be sad-sack post-modernist which stylistically bite the hands that feed them, if the classical Marxist themes of alienation, class, and gentrification must persist on into the next decade, we could all do worse than to see them filtered through Zhang's warm humanism (another term I would usually avoid).
It's not a thrill a minute, and there is no George Clooney smirking to enjoy, but "24 City" is rewarding, intimate, and oddly sensual, which few politicized movies, and even fewer documentaries, seem capable of doing these days. This is the first Jai I enjoyed, and makes me interested to visit the rest of the oeuvre.
Up In Smoke
The only similarity this bears to Thomas De Quincy's "Confessions Of An English Opium Eater" is that both characters have the name Thomas De Quincy. The novel is an autobiography of the effects on opium on one man's life, while the film is a Vincent Price lead "Lady From Shanghai" like twisting film noir.
Price's De Quincy is a sailor, whose voice over is a Raymond Chandler meets De Quincy poetry, come to San Francisco after a long stay in "the orient", where he involves himself in the dubious world of human trafficking, particularly brides in China Town during the 1800's Tong Gang Wars. The film opens with a brutal scene involving screaming women thrown in a net like freshly caught tuna, and then a violent battle between two gangs on the beach as they try to deliver the kidnapped women to their fate.
Albert Zugsmith produced classics like "The Incredible Shrinking Man", "Written On The Wind", and "Touch Of Evil", along with directing many exploitation flicks, which this film veers into from time to time. The film is more in the Siejun Suzuki brand of wildly inventive, free wheeling pulpy expressionism, than Ed Wood kitschy ineptness. Despite the title the only scene involving opium is when Price takes some in order to get close to the women trafficking ring, and has a particularly impressive Lynchian circa Elephant-Man era hallucination scene (which is worth price of admission alone).
However the best scene comes when Price wakes up surrounded by guards and has to make a slow motion (cus he's high on opium) dash out of the den, and to the rooftops of china town. The scene is also completely silent, and truly marvelous in it's execution. I know slow motion action sequences where Greogiran chanting plays over sweat glistened A-listers shooting each other in mid air are common place now, but in Zugsmith's hands your reminded of excting an action sequence can be when it's done right. The plot is not particularly strong.
Why De Quincy is saving the girl, or what he is doing in China town at all, has many twists and turns, and leaves some gaps to be filled? But the direction, the suspense, and especially Price's performance make lines that would sound preposterous and almost Terrance Malick like in their stream of consciousness like "You wear as many masks as their are stars reflected in a gutter", sound as if he says them everyday. Such are the gifts of Price.
I was very pleased with this movie, that can be found easily on Youtube, though you might want to get a good copy to take in the fullness of Zugsmith's frames.There is a dreaminess and nightmarishness to all of the scenes, like opium was poured over a script to a lesser film, and this movie stumbled out of a smoke ridden room, rambling of dancing girls emerging from cages, crashes through windows, being swept to sea from sewer drains, and teetering on the edge of rooftops with vertigo at a snails pace, and feeling "the abbacus of fate has your number". Good times.
Sigur Rós: Heima (2007)
From the director of "Lilo and Stitch" comes one of the most beautiful music documentaries? I Watched it completely on accident and was totally entranced. Each of the dozen or so performances are done in rural areas, caves, rundown barns, abandoned buildings, coffee shops, a protest at the building of a damn, and only at the end on an actual stage.Sigur Ros had just released their fourth album and finished a world tour when they decided to play a series of free shows across Iceland, largely unannounced until the day of the show.
In the performance at the damn the band decided to play acoustic (since using a generator would be kinda hypocritical while protesting an electric damn) and the wind picks up at the beginning hissing against the cameras without PA to drown out the white noise. But as the song progresses the wind stops and the sounds soar. Spontaneous moments like this or when a dog wanders up walking between the performers, give each song and venue an unpredictable truly "live" feeling. A performance in an abandoned building with only the lead singer on guitar and four of the band's string players seem to echo in the dilapidated building.
The name of the film translates to "At Home", and this is very much a poem to the bands native country and the beauty of it's landscapes both natural and urban. The settings are often of faded places being consumed by nature and time, in a minimalist nature porn that would Andy Goldsworthy proud. Although in the case of the damn, the area of the performance is latter submerged under water, as the urban "blight" consumes the landscape. This visual motif runs through the film, but the performances are far from somber, as the audiences attracted to the shows are a both young and old, music fan and curious onlooker, and whole families. The distance created by the obscure imagery is closed in the same moments by the warm focus placed on the regular people attending the shows. The band also performs with a Icelandic poet, and again with a man who creates a kind of marimba music out of different kind of stones using volcanic rocks, flaky stones form cliff slides, and river rocks to produce different tones.
An Icelandic choir chants beneath a green hill, and we can hear the connection between these chants and the bands general sound (similarities even the band didn't seem to be aware of until filming). Though they have a lead vocalist and voice is very important to their music...how do I say this without it sounding like a gimmick, oh well...the band have no lyrics as such, and sing in a made up glossia language, making melodic sounds that suit the music. As wiki explains it, "Vonlenska is a non-literal language, without fixed syntax, and differs from constructed languages that can be used for communication. It focuses entirely on the sounds of language; lacking grammar, meaning, and even distinct words. Instead, it consists of emotive syllables and phonemes; in effect, Vonlenska uses the melodic and rhythmic elements of singing without the conceptual content of language. In this way, it is similar to the use of scat singing in vocal jazz.
The band's website describes it as "a form of gibberish vocals that fits to the music". Most of the syllable strings sung by Jnr Birgisson are repeated many times throughout each song, and in the case of ( ), throughout the whole album." You can pretend it's just a foreign language if that makes you feel better though. Because there are no words, their music has a blankness and openness to it that gives the listener the ability to project their own thoughts and emotions, without disconnecting from the most immediate instrument that so much instrumental "post rock" can miss; the human voice. Their music is melancholy, grand, triumphant, and intimate at different times, but I wont waste too many words trying to describe it. Words like ambient, glacial, falsetto are used allot in such descriptions, and would be appropriate.
The band is interviewed in between songs, and they are humble and unpretentious. Certain sounds are beautiful and just feel "right", no more, no less. They like playing for people who wouldn't normally see them, and are genuinely pleased that each town greets the shows so warmly. The phrase "this is nice" is used several times by several different members, but you know what? It is nice.
The combinations of sounds, places, and people create a rhythm that "just feels right". Home is where the...etc. I just watched this and while it was still fresh I wanted to recommend it to just about everyone. I'm not a big fan of documentaries about bands in general, so this was a very pleasant surprise. Like listening to the band's recorded music (which I am biased about since I am a fan of the band who are largely responsible for my love of "The Life Aquatic" and apologist view of "Vanilla Sky") this left me with warm fuzzy feelings.
The 90's modern attempts at Woodstock ended in orgies of over-priced water and sexual assaults, so it's nice to see a band somewhere in the world could create free music in intimate venues, that people could appreciate and get behind. Almost everyone appreciated it anyway.
One of the bands grandmothers attended a show, but said it was too loud, and when she found out it was on TV, decided to go home and watch it there.When the concert strobey light and video effects came on in the final climatic moments, she thought her TV was messed up and turned it off. You can't please everyone.
Kantoku · Banzai! (2007)
My first experience with Taksehi Kitano (aka Beat Takeshi) as director as well as lead actor, and I say file away under first class WTF right next to Funky Forest and Night Dreams (review forthcomming).My first experience with Kitano was the disquiet ting almost sympathetic teacher in "Battle Royale", but I knew right away he was an actor worth looking into, and I'm usually not very interested specific in actors. The beginning when Kitano and his matching dummy (who trade places throughout the film, whenever Kitano feels pressured or uncomfortable) think of new films to make Kitano a success.
They try gangster movies, because they are what Kitano is best at, but he has done too many of them and wants to get away from being typecast. Then they try a "traditionally Japanese Ozu like film- the kind Wim Wenders would like", but it too falls through "who wants to waste a half hour on drinking liquor and tea?" Stories about the "common folk" aren't common anymore, and the black and white is now just alienating. They go through a few romances first where a woman is devoted to a man who is usually an artist or in some way disabled and these are called romantic comedies. Then they decide this is sexist so they try films where a man is devoted to a woman, and they call these tragedies. Martial arts period films and horror films get their turns as well, since both do well in foreign markets and might even get remade, but horror gives way to comedy, and neither make nearly enough at the box office.
All of these failures are visually punctuated by the suicide/murders of the Kitano shaped doll.Then providence strikes and Kitano knows what to do, he will make a big budget CGI sci-fi spectacle about meteors racing to earth, only the meteors will have faces and are supposed to become major characters in the film. After that reason abandons ship altogether and the last 45 minutes to an hour are the worlds longest Monty Python sketch involving Kitano as the assistant to a mad scientist/industrialist, and a mother and daughter trying to make cash the easy way, by putting roaches in their food at restaurants, getting hit by cars, and finally marrying Kitano. Trips to France, pro-wrestlers, villagers hopping like bunnies, robots, and generally inexplicable events follow one after the other until the credits.
In Godard like fashion even the characters seem out of place in this slapdash world, asking about why certain earlier strange things happened, at which point Kitano transforms into the wooden doll version of himself (if only we could all do this to get out of tough questions.)I laughed a few times, mostly out of surprise, but sometimes out of exhaustion. There's an early scene where Kitano tries to make a drama about the 50's, but fails once he realizes Japan in the 50's was the wrong place at the right time.
The nostalgic and innocent decade of American pop, was there a time of "discrimination, poverty, and domestic abuse". It was also when Kitano grew up, moments which begin with promise of sentiment or catharsis segue into reminders of social horror at every turn.I don't think he necessarily intended this scene to be the "heart" of the film, and not just another spoof scenario, but it goes longer than most of the others, and after seeing it, and the conceptual loops, dead ends, and false starts. The film maker goes through for sake of "glory" it's easy to understand how it might be tempting to just turn into a block of wood, and let your Id make the decisions (the caricature is at least indestructible).
Easier but not necessarily always entertaining to watch. Kitano did in fairness get his start as a stand-up comedian in the Manzai style (think fast past Abbot and Costello back and forth banter, which in Japan goes back to the 700's.), and many sequences like the martial arts instructor and his master, or the exploits of the strange stuffed animal ladies do take on the format of a Manzai routine. With a little cultural perspective the madness does have a method.Though considering the great ode to artistic impotence "8 1/2" has now become a star studded Hollywood musical in "Nine", it's easy to understand Kitano's frustrations with the cinematic redundancy and the bastardized genre permutations that they spawn.