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chaos-rampant

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1424 reviews in total 
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Tectonic divides, 31 July 2014
7/10

Arid land, poverty, suffering, this is the visit here. The story is about a poor family who eke a miserable life in a homestead in the Brazilian wilderness, but this isn't about a story, it's going through the motions of life, embodying, suffering the hardship.

I like here how it conveys the meaninglesssness, the limits of a world that goes on forever but offers so little to do. Drag your feet under the sun from here to there, pick up firewood, stir a thankless meal, herd bony cattle for the town rancher; a leather bed is their dream, denied until the end.

I'll have you imagine the film like sheets with patterns of life stitched on them that someone hung out in the sun and forgot, the sun has bleached the patterns, the wind and dust have battered them to a lean rough texture, the film is this aimless rippling.

So overall there's a godforsaken purity here that feels stumbled on to. This poses a dilemma. I can't watch something like this as aesthetic token, it wholly defeats the purpose. The question for me is how far or close is real life? Of course every shot has been staged, I'm talking about the registered perception; how much truth has seeped in with the dust?

With Bela Tarr, see, we know, reality is the canvas of place and history on which we draw cosmogonic abstractions with time as the brush. With Rossellini, it's the stage on which a play is enacted, often about the pursuit of a real fulfillment, the wandering to find a real self. Herzog is about this dissonance between staged and real, with jumps of madness that blur.

Here it has all been so effectively bleached of difference. So I'm swept. But to a world I can only parch in. It works, in the end I can't wait to leave the place just like the characters who drag their feet away from there. As they do, the question on the children's parched lips is when will they finally become 'real people'? Meaning, in the context of this, that real life is a life of possibility, that lets you envision and create, look beyond suffering.

2 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
80s atmospherics, 30 July 2014
7/10

The first half here is film noir about karmic return, noir has formally disappeared but persists in thriller films like this - some cruel joke contrived by the night, the ringing of a clock that startles a man who shoots down a burglar, that sends hallucinative echoes through the night. In noir, desire creates the perturbations and appearances, here it's desire by the man to know the real story, to keep watching beyond the point where the case seems neatly solved.

The deception here, the hidden appearances, are a series of revelations about cops possibly in control and manipulating a crime story that may happen to obscure a worse crime story within. I like how the discovery is made through stolen videotapes and viewers who persist in watching beyond first appearances (they initially appear to be merely porn).

Overall I like this for a combination of reasons. The shift in the second half to an 80s revenge film, the shift is not very convincing, the two halves not well integrated, but the craft is simple and stresses atmospherics of place, it's in the vein of Carpenter and Hill. The rousing synth score gives electric pulse. And the whole snooping around a suburbia to uncover dark secrets evokes Chandler and paperback noir bringing us full circle.

1 out of 2 people found the following review useful:
Swerve, 25 July 2014
5/10

The story here is nothing, basically an excuse to go through different races akin to the game (the final race is 'played' by our lead while his friends 'watch'), the drama is lame. But, because the shortcomings are so obvious and the ambition in storytelling matters so low, it's easy to look past them. If you don't like Fast and Furious type stuff, you will only waste your time here.

This is all about action driving. I'm one of those who like Fast and Furious, this is a bit of a surprise for me because I'm not a gearhead or too much of an action movie fan, the babes and hiphop culture are indifferent to me. Some people will come to these for the exotic cars, I don't particularly care. I won't go out of my way to say any of this is superficial, I just don't have any traction.

No, what I like is what the cars are only a tool for, motion, dynamic flow and swerve, the rapid change of scenery, the thrusting in and out of views, the turbulence. It's something I can relax into, it's actually better if the story is disposable. And the subjective eye in motion is the true face of cinema, encapsulating all its potential. It's what one of the founding fathers of modern film in the silent era, Epstein, would call 'photogenie'.

This may have little of that car chase purity of Vanishing Point or The Driver, where it was all about tires screeching on macadam, scattering the night as you thrust through it. Bullit is quoted early on, it has the crosscountry race against police, but we see a product and not a stance. It may have less impressive stunts and mechanics of motion than FF. But darn it, it still has that motion, fastness and changing of views that I like. I've seen worse.

The seductive dynamics of truth, 23 July 2014
9/10

New Wave was not about adherence to life, that was the Italian school prior. It was about the radical ruptures in the narrative we considered life, about the breaks to and from cinematic illusion, it was about disillusionment. It's why the other school has faded, it is a relic now, because our taste of reality is dynamic and changes, while New Wave is still vibrant.

This deserves to be discussed among the preeminent New Wave films, it sparkles and cuts through like the best of them.

Brazilian viewers at the time would know that a scandal was brewing around it, it would be the first film to show nudity, there was a trial and a new rating introduced just for it, they would be eager for it; I imagine it as something of a Last Tango for the time. They would then, many of them young and the same age as the characters, turn up for something quite different.

The pre-credit sequence is a tease about the anticipation, a girl is picked up by a guy we later recognize as one of the two leads, taken to his apartment. Then in place of the rolling around under bedsheets, a shot of a mannequin doll, this is what woman is in this world, image, followed by a clock being turned forward, the lie, the illusion, the tinkering with mechanics of narrative, and we skip to post-coitus. The girl is kicked out because it's (supposedly) late, the man laughs behind venetian blinds.

This sets the stage for the story, the same ploy repeated twice. Two playboys one of whom carries a camera have arranged to take a beautiful girl out for a ride on the sand dunes outside Rio. They are mischievous, carefree, cocky, they drive a cool convertible and pop pills; they could be out of Godard. There is a leisurely air of summer, of hanging out in the sun waiting to do stuff. There is we know a seduction planned involving nude pictures for money, a scheme is underway.

This scheme is a cinematic one, a long long anguished flow of the girl, the boys have absconded with her clothes, the girl is chasing after the car in the scorching heat, our eye then circles around her for endless minutes as she writhes nude in the sand and pictures are being taken. Here is your nudity, here what you came to ogle; all through this the girl just so happens to strike sexual poses as if to tease, dare you to find it erotic while her face is a mask of loss and anguish. Magnificent!

Here is disillusionment, the illusion and the break from illusion, one of the most potent examples.

The ploy is repeated once more in the end, again on sand dunes during the night. The girl has hopped back on the car, angry, wounded, but strikes a deal to swap her nudes for another's, repeating the staged seduction; this lovely Latin sensibility I already cherish in Brazilian films, not bogged down and wallowing in hurt and selfpity, it fixes nothing.

And then a second shift as marvelous as the first, ambiguously inversing, now the filmmakers pulling the strings are tangled up in the illusion they create, real feelings pour through, the seduction creates its own reality. One of them has fallen in love, pleads, the other is swept in the passion of the moment. A sex scene takes place but is it staged, real?

Oh the real life we find underneath, as with Shadows and other films from the time can now be seen to be a little staged, the mannerisms and pauses are sometimes theatric, during the night scene a floodlight creates a circular stage of light, those were their means. Anyway they weren't making films for an audience fifty years into the future but right then and there, it must have felt wholly fresh.

See this, all about the dynamic interplay from eye to seduction. Then watch the Italian Swept Away with these dynamics in mind, also about the seductive dynamics of truth.

Emptiness of desire, 22 July 2014
7/10

This is a film about a boorish and colorless man, his memoir. It starts with the end, a breakup that he walks away from, the bulk of the film is for us to see what kind of life is broken up, what dissolves, what is carried on.

It is from that time after Antonioni had taken Europe by storm, it uses all the visual arsenal. The camera is vibrant, it captures motion, change, perspective, dilation - a lovely scene takes place during New Years, the night erupts in bright lights as confetti rains from above. It misses the fundamental essence of Antonioni however, that narrative place is so parted to reveal currents of soul.

Along the way we have precious insights into Brazilian life of course. I've been lately on cinematic vacation in Brazil, watching films from there. Most take place in fanciful Rio, this is an exception; industrial Sao Paolo with no oceanfront to send the eye off in relief. It gives a sense of place, time, people, you should see it just to parse these.

Life isn't more drab there, it is compromised, unjust, occasionally just petty. It is drab for the protagonist who colors everything else though, a thankless man, always dissatisfied and tossed about by some desire. He's not without conscience, which prevents him from not minding the compromise, but not mindful either, not settled in his view.

It ends in a poignant way that reveals the emptiness of this man. Disgusted, he abandons everything including son and wife, but life takes that turn of dumb chance that brings you back to what you wanted to avoid. What was he trying to run from? It's all inside him, carried wherenever he goes. Did he ever once cultivate his intentions, his mindfulness for his own self or the women he bedded? Was he ever grateful, appreciative?

It's a well made film but I don't see the modern tragedy, only the waste.

Barravento (1962)
Seas without god in the flow, 22 July 2014
6/10

Okay this is from the time that New Wave was sweeping European festival screens, the time Marxism was sweeping Latin American politics. The French at the time were looking into the intricacies of self, the notations that modern self splinters into, this works on another plane.

It is primarily centered on ritual, it offers a ritualized take of the struggles of life.

There is first the fishing, the joy of collective work. The place is a small fishing community off the coast of Bahia, untouched by modernity, nothing but ocean and palm trees, a place where slaves were unloaded time ago and generations later all that has really changed is they are loaned a ramshackle fishing net by a merchant to go out and fish and only keep some of the fish for themselves.

They have kept the dances, one of them is of course samba, something that must have evolved from slave songs, it bears the call and response format, it sublimates hardship. Samba: gathered in a circle in the open air, old and young take turns entering the circle and doing a small dance, nothing elaborate, sloppy even, purely the joy of airing the body, letting the toil pour itself out from the hips and limbs.

They have kept the magical belief from Africa, santeria, again the dance, the chanted call and response but now a sea goddess may be listening and has to be appeased. There is here a muddled sense that enters the picture, the samba was simple and exhilarating, it meant itself, here we stretch to understand that the natives understand deeper forces to be moving their world.

A narrative is shaped behind and links the rituals, more complicated than at first sight.

A radical who has been to the city and back urges them to throw the bonds of oppression and rebel but he's not the statuesque hero of Soviet films, he's a seething scoundrel who plots murder. He berates their voodoo but only after he has tried it himself and the spell failed. Religion is seen as superstition, a meandering cycle to appease the sea instead of facing the real cause of suffering.

A sense of powerful metaphysics hovers but it only clouds the narrative, the notion is that there are no gods that move here and only the movements of ignorant mind groping with the horizon. Where we try to read metaphor into these flows and sea there's nothing, there is only their belief, their woe and confusion that creates these flows, there's no meaning outside what they are. This is no Stromboli; no Tempestaire; but cinematic space equally reveals inmost self.

Why have this agitated man mouth off the cause and not a more noble representative? Why tangle us and confuse instead of clearly present conflict? Perhaps it's a way of saying that if you hope to awaken people, you'll have to be tangled up in their world, that doing this falls on people as confused and unenlightened; these are the difficulties of sense.

See this as a film about ignorance, ignorance as the loss of self into ritualized perceptions, into emotional turbulence we create, filmed out of sympathy for the oppressed from inside their elliptical world so that we lose the superficial certainty of the cause and message. It works, we leave it muddle-minded.

This filmmaker, Rocha, his political leanings are unmistakable, but he's not complacent like Godard, he does not take easy shots. Even in this early film, he mulls over the difficulties, he leaves unreflective room; the radicalist's plot works but it's at the back of conniving and death. It pays off with more intimate, more personal value in his Terra em Transe.

Ethnography around a ball, 18 July 2014
7/10

Something thrilled me about the way I came to this little film. I saw it with memories of the Brazilian WC still fresh, the final was a few nights ago. I was planning a cinematic sojourn to Brazil to coincide with the games, in the end I thought best to leave it for after, soak up one experience before traveling back to the other. I will follow this through a series of viewings.

So, a contrast here amazed me. In the recent WC, the games dazzled, the faces, the festivity, the slow-motion of football heroics. It was a good cup. Outside another Brazil simmered and cried out, poor and downtrodden. And then through this film, the link is the same, football, fame, passion, I land in a different time and place.

It follows a superstar of his time in a country obsessed with this thing, he was long before my time but the name was passed on, Garrincha. There is the requisite footage both in the field and out, a few words to the camera about how it feels to be an idol (it's a drag, he says), but that's not the point.

It's not greatly in depth, l suppose that it was a popular film meant to be seen countrywide for the man and his skill after all. There's a run-through the '62 WC win, still fresh then. The skill is there after all these years, a naive skill underpinned by the desire to move, to dance around a ball, to feign and thrust. He would be quickly hacked down by defenders these days.

No, if you see this, it will be as an ethnographic study of place and people. More interesting this to me, that through this man, in the background all around him, we can discern and follow the passions and joys of the people, that Brazilian life is revealed in this way.

In weekdays the superstar relaxes in his small hometown outside Rio, this brings us a step closer, sometimes with a game of football in the local makeshift field, a patch of sunbaked dirt really, which everyone including kids plays together barefoot under the sun. Imagine Messi now risking his multimillion legs in this way.

He had famously crooked legs, a team physician had him wear appendages of some sort - but when back home, he would take these off and go visit his witch doctor for a cure, an old woman. This superstition is later shown to be rampant among players and press, indicative of a broader worldview.

More cool facts are upturned. In his hometown, the local mill owns every house and lets it to the people who most of them work there. A visit to Garrincha's home, gifted to him by the government, gives a picture of what being affluent in Brazil meant at the time; a TV set in the livingroom, and his daughters in polkadot Western dresses dance to the latest Nat King Cole hit on the gramophone. Politicians will come to that home near elections to solicit his name.

And of course the violence in the field, the game as war. There's something about football which cannot be explained any other way, other sports have a faster pace and are at least as athletic. It is more than about release, it is release in the scope that football affords. Brazil is the ideal place to make this clear. A football stadium is comparatively huge, even more so in Brazil, the field is a battlefield, the very structure erected around a ball being kicked invokes the narrative and reaction.

Wonderful Latin sensibility, 18 July 2014
8/10

This is pretty exciting stuff. Historically important perhaps, but I'll let the scholar take that up and dust it.

I'm interested in how the cinematic eye is tethered to a world, how space reveals soul, what we call soul. This is Brazilian, it aims to capture ordinary life, ordinary people going about their unvarnished routine around Rio, the routine unmediated by the camera and presented to us 'as it is'.

The ripples of the Italian realist school can be felt, and as with those films the artifice now of course shows. I can tell that it's acted and scripted, that it all ebbs towards story and climax. That most characters are stereotype insertions: the favela orphan, the Copacabana playboy, the lecherous politician that everyone fawns over for a favor.

But through the artifice a fundamental perception shows, it is a wonderful tapestry of life that it weaves. The characters for one must be rooted in real life, they are ways to approach ranges of life. The story is so we can have dilemmas that plagued Brazilians then: marriage, money, status, well-being. This is one reason to see this, as a snapshot of a society.

A more exciting reason to visit however is how the film takes us through that perception of what must have been ordinary problems that either troubled or amused Brazilians.

The film is threaded around and follows many characters over a single day in Rio with the temperature bringing passions to a boil. It quickly jumps from one life to the one next to it, never bogged down. It moves and dances about without undue suffering. Even when the subject is dire poverty, it keeps a generous spirit that recognizes it can wander from it without forgetting. There are difficulties galore, but somehow it works out, the football underdog scores for his team in the last minute; this can be seen as movie artifice but it springs naturally.

Watch this if you can find it, watch it like you would Altman. It will take you through the Copacabana on a scorching morning, take you on a cable car to the statue of Christ, the Maracana in the middle of a packed derby, a favela where there's sickness and poverty. But it will quickly urge you on, life is dance, it is moving on through the day.

It ends with two rivals for the affections of a girl meeting at night in the middle of a samba rehearsal for the next Carnival, it turns out they know each other and embrace, laughing it off. Samba music sweeps us up into the night where a lone mother watches.

Noah (2014)
7 out of 15 people found the following review useful:
The journey to form, 16 July 2014
5/10

For a filmmaker, to make something that works means to create a world and to have it revealed to a viewer, bring it somehow close to us.

The film fails in this, the creation of world.. They wanted it to be modern, vibrant. But merely swapped one set of stale visual norms, the Biblical epic, for another, 'dark' fantasy. It has no awe, nothing, it is all airbrushed. It doesn't take place in a tangible Mesopotamia, they couldn't bother with a single real animal; but we get a protracted battle sequence between bad men and stone giants. It feels choppy and panders.

But let's see something else, about what's revealed and how tethered.

These are abstract notions that trouble us in both life and cinema, good, evil, mercy, redemption, the difficulty and reward is being able to imagine them, having in mind the form they can take in the world, the form is not always apparent in real life, it's why we seek the reflection that will reveal what's standing right behind us; this mirror has to be imagined.

The world here as mentioned is pretty childish, so whatever form the notions take they have to be encased in it.. I won't say it was unavoidable; I imagine how Pasolini would soar in the depiction, it would be primeval, sacred in a way that jolts, see his Medea; see Trier's Medea.

Anyway the story is about one of these abstracts, mercy. This means that first we have to have the sin shoot through us, this is here 'the wickedness of man', inwardly uproot and toss us in waves before we can land on the other end cleansed. At first distant, a father is killed but we flash forward. A sprawling urban civilization is rumored that fouls the earth. They appear at Noah's camp. Noah goes to theirs, more iniquity. All the while cranking it closer and closer to us.

And then through the deluge and the wickedness is not washed away as hoped. Still more cranking, pulling. A mad Noah, and as counterpoint the evil chieftain. It is, Noah reasons, the same wickedness they all carry that has to be swept. The twist? He's no longer the benevolent patriarch from the book, he's the cursed man of Greek plays, maddened by the gods.

Not exceptional, risky I guess only for a certain audience. But it sets up a powerful moment.

You'll know what it is when you see it. I think it all builds up to it, all the cranking and pulling taut is to have this moment. It is so disarmingly simple yet hits deeply, this one bit maybe a few seconds long; Crowe's presence helps, the innocence of newborns, but also the way it comes down to two simple movements; the raising of hand, the ratcheting of still more tension, the coiling that ends humanity, followed by lowering the head, the release, the breath that lets it all out. It sent an invisible knife through this viewer.

This is the form mercy takes, it is in this way that it registers, that we recall it as we leave. But it is encased by all the other stuff, it has no room to resonate and ripple.

Another powerful moment encapsulates just this encasing in form, this is the journeye of the Fallen Angels through space as spectres of pure light, crushing down on earth and being instantly encrusted in molten rock, disfigured in this way.

Aronofksy may have simple ideas and a trivial philosophy, but he's nothing if not effective in his choreography, Black Swan showed both facets, this to a smaller degree.

Proximities of evil: getting too close, 16 July 2014
4/10

The first film came out with Hostel and was lumped together with those films, it had the torture and some of the slasher tropes like cars that won't start, sure. But it was actually from the line of Texas Chainsaw and Halloween (the originals), about a choreography between where the knife is and where the eye. It had a certain elevating purity.

This is all gone here. The same filmmaker returns, the same actor, but the thing is off.

It is a bit like what Texas Chainsaw 2 was to the first years later, a return but lacks the spirit and replaces it with a funhouse show around our knowledge of what chilled the first time around. In true franchise fashion, the villain is the whole attraction, the spotlight's on him, starting with a first scene where he is menaced by idiot cops so that we'll gleefully chuckle at what's coming to them.

The killer, the victim, tethered one to the other so that as the latter runs from him through the outback, drags him along and us through a series of encounters, this is the whole. Some of these mildly work, others are just silly; running over kangaroos with a truck, the bit at the homestead. The idea, I suppose, was to have fun with this loon as he reaches for his prey. In the end, we sit with him for a game of singing and losing fingers, spotlight's on him, his tics and grimaces.

The upside, the only one, is that they didn't give him a backstory, they resisted explaining where he comes from. But this looks like a product at this point and there's all the time for that in the next. It doesn't matter, we still have the first and now on to something else.


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