Reviews written by registered user
|10 reviews in total|
Austrian director Michael Haneke came up with the idea of making this film
after his trilogy about alienation (Der Siebente Kontinent, Benny's Video
and 71 Fragmente...). It is a self-reflexive film about violence in the
media, and it clearly points to its own factitiousness on several occations,
which makes it really difficult to accept that people do not like the film,
or that they were frightened by it. This is not a frightening film, but it
is frightening that people are frightened by it. You must be stupid to be
scared during "Funny Games", I believe people are more likely to be repulsed
than scared. Repulsed by themselves because they are to blame for the
violence in this film. Haneke pulls out a number of Bertolt Brecht- inspired
asides to the camera that makes this film a reflexive masterpiece, a film
that offers its viewers a clear argumentation of why film violence is not
consumable, why it never can or should be entertaining to watch violence.
"Funny Games" is almost anti-film, it is obviously not a classic film, and
it is closer to the work of Jean-Luc Godard than any violence-obsessed
Hollywood director. "Funny Games'" false mask is removed several times when
the sadistic, violent young man Paul (or Beavis or even Jerry) stops the
film time and steps into a conversation with the audience. "Is it enough?
Really? Don't you want a plausible development?" he says coolly and
disturbingly to the audience, who by now should know this is an experiment
and not a thriller.
The violence in this film, in contrast to American genre films such as thrillers, action films and horror films, is invisible. The consequences of the violence, though, are visible and feels painstakingly real. This is not an exciting film either, because Haneke either leaves out or totally turns around all the "rules" of a horror film. The message in this film is what I believe viewers who do not like it reacts strongly to. The film clearly is an attempt to make the audience expose themselves and their wish to see people killed on film. Its meaning is that the audience understands their role as the initiators of the killings and violence, and that they never want to see violence on film again. The violence in the media gives us a wrong impression of what violence is, because violence is real and it should not feel good to see fictional violence. It should hurt, and because it's your fault that it happens, it should hurt to watch it, too. The French director Gaspar Noé seems to have understood this when making "Irréversible", which is the best film about violence since "Funny Games". With this film, Michael Haneke wanted his audience to never indulge in visual, violent pleasures again. Unfortunately, it left many people so cold they never want to see a film by Haneke again. That is a shame: He is a director with a conscience.
The master of surrealistic cinema, Luis Buñuel, changed his approach to the
bourgeoisie after "Tristana", and his last three films are all comic and
prevail through a mixture of pure surrealism, extreme irony and the one
consistent theme of Buñuel's auteurship- hatred of the ruling classes.
"Le Fantôme de la Liberté" is perhaps Buñuel's least accessible work since his first two films, "Un Chien Andalou" and "L' Age d' Or". It is a thematic continuation of "Le Charme Discret de la Bourgeoisie", where the seven protagonists just couldn't finish, or even start, a meal. This is a strong metaphor for Buñuel's view that the bourgeoisie is a dying class, and that not even a violent revolution is needed to remove the bourgeoisie from power and wealth. They are perfectly capable of doing so themselves, through their indulgence in pathetic etiquette and decaying sense of morality. "Le Fantôme" is not funnier than "Le Charme", but it is harder to understand, and this is exactly what Buñuel and Carrière wanted after the success of "Le Charme" at the previous Academy Awards.
In "Le Fantôme", not even the characters are consistent throughout the film. This film is like a relay, where one member of the ruling class passes the stick to the next, and never comes back to the vision of the audience. They just leave, like Buñuel wanted them to, perhaps, but in this film is an important factor because it confirms Buñuel's non-human view of the people of this class. His was a collective hatred, and this film reflects his collective view of the bourgeoisie. The film contains absurd, surreal incidents, like priests playing cards while smoking and drinking, parents reacting to postcards of famous buildings given their daughter by a stranger as they were obscene and a writer killing tens of people from his sniping-position at the roof of a building. The writer is found not guilty, and the continuing mix-up of characters, two actors competing for one role makes for a very confusing narrative. Or maybe the "story" is just a mockery of traditional storytelling in film. Resnais and Robbe-Grillet made "Last Year in Marienbad" just to prove that telling stories is a bourgeois thing and not necessary for modernist or revolutionary cinema.
This film is actually based on a painting by Francisco José de Goya called "El Tres de Mayo" (The three in Mayo), and "Le Fantôme" starts with a short episode of how Buñuel depicts the incidents during the Napoleon Wars. But it's the theme of Goya's painting that Buñuel is concerned with, and this film is more than a mockery of the bourgeoisie, it is also an attack on communist doctrine which all over the world only seems to take from the people what is was supposed to give to the people: Freedom, and also an attack on leftist defeatism. The glorification of the defeat is perhaps the modern Left's biggest problem, which only leads to a move away from power. "Down with freedom!", Buñuel's revolutionaries shout- and the firing squads start firing at the dying revolutionaries.
This film is the last in Michael Haneke's trilogy about alienation called "Vergletscherung die Gefühle", and it ends in a violent climax which is a result of the previous fragments that Haneke presents to us. In this film Haneke developed a style that is very reminiscient of his 2000 film "Code Inconnu". It features rather short episodes, and within each episode there is scarcely editing or camera movement. Each episode is divided by a second's black screen, and Haneke often interrupts and ends the episode in the middle of a person's sentence. This is a very economical style of filmmaking, and it certainly demands a lot of the viewers, because you only get the information you really need to connect this episode thematically to the others. Because this is a thematic film, and it is a brilliant, stylish, ice-cold half-misanthropic study of people's lack of ability to perform tender acts with each other. I have never seen people make love in a film by Haneke, except for the masochistic and sad attempts in "La Pianiste". Rather, Haneke shows his characters in situations where they are tired, fed up, irritated or full of hate; quite ordinary human emotions. You cannot blame Haneke for not being a positive director, for he is the only filmmaker working today who can portray and observe his characters so coldly and so unpassionately. And his project seems to be to expose our lack of love and passion for each other, but most of all our lack of ability to tell it as it is. Speak to each other and solve everything, seems to be Haneke's advice, without him really giving it. I never seem to like Haneke's characters, and that is a good thing really. Like fellow German-speaking directors Herzog and Fassbinder, Haneke seems a bit misanthropic in his characteristics. Too many directors try too hard to give characters sympathetic traits, and you just lose interest in the story. "71 Fragmente einer Chronologie des Zufalls" is quite an achievement in filmmaking, and it is a film that will stick with me forever. I will never forget because I never knew why (the incident at the end). That is how I will remember this film, and how many times in real life is "why" the only question never answered?
Few film directors have worked with the sheer power and subversiveness that
Spanish-born Luis Buñuel have. "Viridiana" is one of the best examples of
the exiled Spaniard's feelings towards religious faith and its virtues- or
his strong denial of religion as a virtue.
Buñuel started out as a Surrealist, and although he left the Surrealist Circle of Paris lead by André Breton, he always kept elements of Surrealism in his work, to the bitter end. So too in "Viridiana", where dreams play a small, but important part of the narrative, dreams being the Surrealists' main theme as a way of discovering repressed sexuality and aggression. Viridiana is a young nun who is, on the grounds of showing human compassion, talked into visiting her uncle Don Jaime, who is ill. Don Jaime, played by Buñuel regular Fernando Rey, is caring, but perverse. He falls in love with his niece, and does everything with the help of his maid, to keep Viridiana from parting to the convent, including lying to her and seducing her while she is trainquilized.
I am not going to give away all the events of the film, but the corruption of humanity and Christianity are soon evident, as Viridiana tries to help poor beggars and give them a worthy life. Her attempts at Christian charity are only met with self-pity and egocentricity, as the beggars go on a rampage reminiscient of the last supper of Jesus christ and his disciples. Violence, murder, gluttony and rape are all included to make a clear picture of the way the beggars have lost their human virtues to the hardship of poverty. We see the events through Viridiana's eyes, and everything she goes through suggests a broken belief in the goodness of both human beings and the faith she kept for so long.
A masterpiece in revolutionary cinema, this film won the Palm d' Or at Cannes in 1961, and the Spanish Board of Film were all fired afterwards, as Franco's regime could not quite swallow that "Viridiana" was the official Spanish contribution to the Festival.
The Italian master Luchino Visconti's 1960 (melo)drama "Rocco e i Suoi
Fratelli" is the best film I've seen in a long, long time, and it deserves
to be up there among European cinema's finest achievements, along with
Visconti's other masterpiece, "Il Gattopardo" (1963).
Aristocrat turned communist, Visconti draws a beautiful, but horrible picture of Milan in the 1960s, when the "immigration" from the South was at its peek, and the social problems in Northern Italy exploded. The differences between north and south in Italy are enormous, and were perhaps even greater back when Visconti and his scriptwriting crew decided to make a contemporary film about a family moving northwards. Visconti wanted to make a film about a mother and her five sons, like the five fingers on her hand, like the mother herself exclaimes at the end of the film. This is not an agitational film, though, just a superbly acted study of a society in disorder and a portrait of a family trying to make ends meet in a harsh world they do not know. Like another Italian director, Pier Paolo Pasolini, noted, the South of Italy stayed an undeveloped land even after the North became industrialized, and that didn't happen before after WWII. This is the grim truth, and the person who thought this film was depressing should just stay on his or her pills and turn his or her eyes towards the real world, because the world IS a depressing place. You just cannot blame directors with a social conscience for trying to tell a story which lies close to their hearts, then you should stay away from film criticism and criticize the world instead. I am so tired of that.
Renato Salvatori makes a performance of a lifetime as the troubled brother Simone, while Alain Delon stays calm and controlled as Rocco, the protagonist, if there is one. Boxing is used as a metaphor for the anger the young men feel, but when Simone fails, Rocco succeeds by fueling his fighting with the contempt for his brother's actions. The two brothers are torn between the beautiful prostitute Nadia, whom they both love passionately, but she only loves Rocco- and that almost breaks the family. The other brothers are more supporting characters, and even though the film is long it should have been even longer- the second youngest brother, Ciro, is an interesting and morally strong character that I would have loved to see developed further. The pride, ignorance, hatred, loyalty and love of these people are held together by a perfect script by Visconti and his four collaborators, and cinema's finest cinematographer, Guiseppe Rotunno, moves his camera magnificently through the streets, houses, and locales of a growing, but morally decaying Milan.
This is cinematic perfection.
"Tystnaden", "The Silence", is perhaps Bergman's most disturbing film
without the shocking images of, say "Cries and Whispers" and "Fanny and
Alexander". It is more the atmosphere and what is not said that makes this
film so uncomfortable to watch, but that is one of the things I love about
the cinema- to be shocked, moved and disturbed by the images. I can
understand why some people, my mother for example, do not like Bergman,
I believe he is a great artist and one of the true canonic directors we
have, along with the likes of Dreyer, Mizoguchi, Fellini, Tarkovsky and
Kubrick (just to mention a few!).
Bergman's women shine in this film, too, although they must have been exhausted afterwards. Ingrid Thulin and Gunnel Lindblom star as the two sisters, whose apparent incestuous relationship has destroyed them both, Esther (Thulin) physically (she is dying) and Anna (Lindblom) mentally. They arrive, with Anna's son Johan, in a foreign city at war, which creates an uncozy atmosphere around Sven Nykvist's exterior shots. The tanks roll down the city streets, becoming a metaphor of the war of emotions between Anna and Esther. Thulin makes a very physically demanding performance, like Harriet Andersson in "Cries and Whispers" she is dying (of cancer?), and her pain is showing. Anna clearly wants to hurt her sister, who is the oldest and smartest of them, by saying cruel things and playing with Esther's apparent sexual love for her.
Sigmund Freud would have loved this film, and Anna seems to want to break free from her sister by having casual sex with a man she meets at a bar. She then tells her sister about it, and Esther's reactions to this is extremely ambiguous, like most of the film is. Anna's wish to become free of her sister is deeply rooted in childhood experiences, and it leads Anna to say things like "I wish she was dead" to the man who does not understand a word she is saying. All these things make "Tystnaden" the disturbing film it is. The only release is when Johan explores the corridors of the hotel alone, meeting a bunch of short men who perform at a circus-like variete Anna visits to escape from the sight of Esther. But Johan meets a kind (or is he a paedophiliac?) old man who works at the hotel, and it is he who has to care for Esther as she draws her last breaths, Anna tearing Johan away from her sister's arm in a very cruel manner. The long periods of silence in the film perhaps makes the title, or perhaps it means that the silence about the sisters' past is never broken to us, the spectators. A lot is left up to us to interpret, typically of Bergman's cinema.
All in all, a very ambivalent, Freudian and disturbing film from one of the masters of the cinema.
Second-time Icelandic director Baltasar Kormákur presents "The Sea", a
that, if you have a positive view of people, will make you think a second
time about human qualities.
As this is only the fourth film I see from Iceland, my view of Icelandic cinema has not changed- it's very good, actually. Kormákur continues where he left off with "101 Reykjavik", and plunges into Ólafur Haukur Símonarsons play with fierce misanthropy. There are two characters with a few positive traits (Morten and the French woman, forgot her name), but these two are outsiders and only supporting characters. I hated each and every member of this family, but that didn't stop me from enjoying the film, which is a peek into the most base instincts of human behaviour: adultery, greed, racism, incest, apathy and hate. "The Sea" is a bit over the top at times, but it is never ruined by digressions or by lack of reality with which it treats its characters.
The Icelandic people seem to be treated by their directors (again I'm generalizing a bit since Fridrik Thor Fridriksson and Kormákur are the only directors I know) as a very tough, ruggish people who don't let mistreatment ruin their joy of life. Early in the film, the youngest son of Thordur (the patriarch and owner of the fishing industry), tells his French girlfriend that when his sister was raped as a young girl, their father reacted more aggressively towards her because she became upset, than with the rapist who ruined his only (or is it?..) daughter's life. "An idiot raped by an idiot", their father claimed. This statement is very characteristic of the film. The plot is constructed around Thordur, now an ageing man who wants to gather all his children and their families to tell them something important: They are greedy and they'll get nothing from him. His children with their partners, his wife and his mother are then gathered at his house, and we get to know them bit by bit, until we learn how they became this family and then your sympathy will just decline. The opening hour is extremely funny, which is one of this film's best assets. But it's funny in a cruel way, and the cruelty is just escalating throughout the motion picture, until there is nothing but cruelty left at the end. Thordur's mother, Kata, is portrayed as very funny, but totally ignorant of the world and she is not nice to the people around her. Thordur's three legitimate children were born by a dying mother, and throughout her illness Thordur kept his wife's sister (Kristin) as his mistress, in their house. The children's mother's sister (Kristin) is presently Thordur's wife, and she also has a grown up daughter (Maria), who is in love with Thordur's youngest son (I've forgot a lot of names, even if I saw the film yesterday! sorry), even though they grew up as brother and sister. This theme of incest is perhaps the most sickening theme in the film, but it's nice compared with the greed of Thordur's children and Thordur's inhuman, megalomaniac behaviour towards his kids.
This is a film which is at times hard to watch because of the uncomfortable human relationships. But the actors, the direction and the cinematography is impeccable; brilliant. Jean-Louis Vialard has captured Iceland's wild but beautiful nature magnificently: especially when Thordur's daughter Ragnheidur, her Norwegian husband (Morten) and her son drive through the mountains to get home to her father- the photography struck me as superb. The sense of a decaying village is perfectly portrayed by Kormákur. The themes of this film is reminiscient of a master like Rainer Werner Fassbinder, and it struck me as just as misanthropic as Ulrich Seidls brilliant "Dog Days".
The French, realistically-shot 1999 film "Rien à Faire" was broadcast on
Norwegian television some weeks ago, and being a huge fan of French cinema
watched the film starring Valeria Bruni Tedeschi and Patrick Dell' Isola.
The leads performed very well, especially Tedeschi as the subdued,
Marie-Do. In fact, the film ultimately comes down to the acting, because
director Vernoux to some degree fails to keep up interest throughout the
(appr.) ninety minutes.
As a study of distinction in French society, though, this film has some relevance to the sociology of Pierre Bourdieu. In the beginning of the film, Marie-Do and her family's tastes in food and wine are compared with those of Pierre (Dell' Isola), as the two meet randomly in a Supermarket. Pierre is the middle-class handsome man who meet a working-class woman without confidence. After a while, though, we learn that Marie-Do and Pierre share a common fate: They are both unemployed. They start hanging out during their empty days (a good English title!), and the viewers just wonder when the anticipated affair will set off. Although they are very different, they find things to talk about and develop a good friendship, before they begin having sex and it all falls apart. Marie is given much attention by Pierre, and as her husband is more concerned with union work and "the revolution" than with even seeing her for who she is, it it not so strange that she wants to have an affair. She is sadly ignored in her family life, and the affair only supplies her with more sympathy. For Pierre, though, the sympathy decreases as we learn he has been married before, and was unfaithful with his previous wife as well.
This is the type of film that cannot end well for both, and that is great, because it would never have worked out in real life, either. So I do not find the depressing theme disturbing, in fact it is the best part of the film, along with the acting. But it is at times unfocused and I feel it also is at times a bit misanthropic. But that might be my viewpoint, and not others'.
Iranian director Jafar Panahi's Golden Lion winner of 2000, "Dayereh", is
critical and extremely powerful film about women who suffer from the
injustices of the laws of the Islamic Republic.
As an atheist I support no religions, and I do not think one is better or more respectful to human lives than any other. "Dayereh" is a film that is concerned with religion only as far as it is a film that takes place in Iran, a country where Islamic Law dominates or even rules over the secular law. I am not an expert on Iranian law, but I do hold "Dayereh" to be the TRUTH, not a propaganda fiction of no concern to reality. Therefore, I admire Iranian directors who constantly produce magnificent films although they have to battle against censorship and the strict rule of the Ayatollah. This perhaps forces filmmakers to adapt a more poetic film semiotics, perhaps only suggesting cruelty and injustice, not showing it directly like Western directors are allowed to do.
Like Mohsen Makhmalbaf and Abbas Kiarostami before him, Jafar Panahi has succeeded in producing a small, but superb film. Kambuzia Partovi's script is great, linking the misfortune and fates of several young Iranian women together into a whole narrative. All four or five women (one is not as thoroughly described) have committed unlawful acts, but their crimes are not explicitly stated in the dialogue of the film. However, we understand that their crimes would not be considered near a crime in most other countries, because it is related to sex and female independence, not to real criminality. Bahram Badakshani's camera is always close to the women, and their acting is nothing less than brilliant. The tracking movement of the camera and the shots composed by a hand-held camera result in many long takes, where the actresses get to show their skill wihtout editing. This is also a marvellous success for the director Panahi.
This film also contains a subtle symbolic factor, namely the wish for several of the women to smoke a cigarette. Different interruptions and laws concerning females and cigarettes prevent the women to smoke until one of the last scenes, when a women is arrested for travelling alone in a car with a man to whom she is not married (prostitution?). When a male prisoner is lighting up his cigarette, the woman does the same, and this time no one stops her. The smoking of the cigarette is not a symbol of freedom, because all the young women end up back in prison, but the cigarette does create a symbol of escape, although it is an escape from society, and not from the persecution of women who act like human beings (in Iran, read men). The smoking becomes Virginia Woolf's room of their own, the escape from a society that does not want them to be free.
Spike Lee's most recent joint has a deeper personal and existential feel
it than most of his socially critical dramas about African-Americans. Lee
has up till now been at his best when he is concerned with America's
prejudices and social injustices, especially in "Malcolm X" and "Get on
Bus", but in "25th Hour" Lee portrays a White Anglo-Saxon American's last
night outside the walls of the penitentiary. This is a post-September 11th
film, meaning that it is concerned with the state of New York City after
attacks, and Ground Zero and bin Laden are commented on, although the
thoughts are most likely that of the character Monty, and not Lee's own
opinions. The whole film has a melancholy and sad feeling to it. This is
course mirrored by the leading role, Monty, played by Edward Norton, who
wants to get a few things straight before leaving the world of the free
behind to serve seven years in Otisville Prison (for selling drugs).
Norton's performance is as always brilliant, and here he is very well
supported by Philip Seymour Hoffman and Barry Pepper, as Monty's two best
friends, Jake and Frank. Monty's relationship with his girlfriend and his
father are also important factors in the film, and he even has to end his
criminal career by confronting Mafia leader Uncle Nikolai.
Monty's doubts and fears come clearly to the surface in Norton's controlled performance. He has to confront and be confronted, but his remorse is at times overwhelmingly great, making it difficult for him to say the right things to the people he cares about. Lee also brilliantly defines the law-abiding Jake and Frank, by giving Monty's two childhood pals a few scenes alone before the big night out. Jake and Frank also have their problems, and this helps build the sad feeling to the film.
Questions are raised about loyalty, betrayal and relationships, and Lee gives the themes equal importance throughout the film. All in all this is a more mature effort from Lee, but that does not mean that I disagree with his more agitational movies. Except from Denzel Washington in "Malcolm X", Lee has in my opinion never worked with better actors than those in "25th Hour". The result is at times disturbing and sad, but the power of the film is undoubtable.