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L'armée des ombres (1969)
My first thought after seeing this film was why haven't I seen it before? This is - alongside with Elim Klimov's gruesome 1985 movie "Come And See" - possibly the best WWII movie ever. The explanation seems to be that when it first was released in 1969 it offended the sensibilities of "the ironic generation" who wanted no part of their parents's world - which was dominated by that war. And so it remained for the better part of forty years... until the 2006 restoration and re-release.
Timely indeed; because, make no mistake about it, this is a movie about terrorists. What is a hero? In my subjective view someone who manages to keep his human dignity under almost impossibly severe conditions. This isn't a film about heroism but rather its opposite, the process of becoming inhuman because you don't see what else you can do. What are your options when your country is invaded by a foreign enemy and most of your countrymen - who aren't outright opportunists and collaborators - resign to a fate of daily harassment and police controls? Hope springs eternal, as they say, but for some it is a time to die -- and in so doing making a statement against oppression, but also abandoning their humanity.
There is very little 'action' during the entire two hours that "Army of Shadows" lasts. Instead, we get to witness how a handful of characters march towards their own demise through fatal choices that are being made. It is a tragedy. It doesn't end well. It is neither pretty nor sentimental. Melville's typical bleak colour palette (somebody once said that he had an ambition of "creating black-and-white movies with colour") underscores the grim realism of this movie. This is far, far removed from the gung-ho propaganda heroism of "us versus them" that is so depressingly typical for war films.
War doesn't create heroes, it creates murderers. Indeed, war makes shadows out of men. Even if you survive the hostilities in and of themselves you'll still have to live with what you've done. Other people have to live with what you've become. Interestingly, and perhaps symbolically, the leader of this resistance group is evidently a professor of mathematics and his action man an engineer. But under the circumstances they choose to become terrorists. The ultimate message of this movie is that this can happen to any one of us human beings given the right (or wrong, as it were) situational context.
Magick Lantern Cycle (2009)
10 Short Films Of Tremendous Influence
Kenneth Anger isn't for everyone, this is true. But all real film lovers should thank the British Film Institute for piecing together this compilation of his most important work, let alone the UCLA's Film & Television Archive, as well The Film Foundation, for laying down some much needed restoration work on the original material.
That material defies labelling. Call it surrealism, call it avant-garde. Call it "experimental", call it "underground", call it whatever you like. What cannot be denied is the tremendous behind-the-scenes influence this auteur (in the word's truest sense - he preferred to work alone) has had on several generations of more mainstream oriented actors and directors alike, both in Europe - France in particular - and in The United States.
It's futile to speak in conventional terms, about cinematography and story lines, acting and directing. Kenneth Anger's films are meant to be experienced, not simply watched. Himself a practising occultist and an outspoken fan of Aleister Crowley, the films are more like bizarre shamanic rituals, or perhaps (often quite terrible) dream sequences, than stories that give themselves up for analysis and "understanding".
The Magick Lantern Cycle is strongly recommended for those who enjoy surrealism in movies as well those who simply want to own a piece of film history. Included on the two disc set is a 70 minute sequence where Kenneth Anger talks about his life and experiences; his views on art in general and film in particular. Personally, I am well pleased with this product -- but, as I said initially, it's an acquired taste and not for everyone.
I am fond of Robbie Moffat movies and have by now collected four of them. I will keep on buying them as they turn up (I don't go looking for them - they aren't THAT good). Perhaps it is because I have a background in theatre and thus like weirdness, perhaps I'm just demented, but I really like his films. Noen of it is GREAT. The actors are shite, the plots are shite, the production is shite, and what the characters say and do often makes no sense compared to a real world of "realism". Yet the finished result carries its own "punch" at some undefinable level. I'm pretty certain that these films will be hailed as "classics" in 20-30 years -- similar to how for instance Mario Bava, Lucio Fulci and Tinto Brass are embraced today (but not when their work was new).
Raindogs is a comedy. Noen of it's supposed to reflect reality such as we know it from Hollywood. It's nihilistic and dark at times, ludicrous at others. Needless to say, none of this would have happened in reality -- but then again so wouldn't most of the other crap that's filmed, included - but not limited to - the hip and clever stories of Guy Richie (who is my other favourite British filmmaker).
Hrafninn flýgur (1984)
Not A Viking Movie
This is *not* a viking movie.
Nor is it a movie based in Yojimbo or A Fistful Of Dollars.
This is a movie about Iceland in "Landnam-times".
This is a movie which is based in the Icelandic Sagas - unique pillars in world literature - and if you know them fairly well (which I do), it's easy to see where and why Hrafn Gunnlaugsson has been, um, inspired. The plot line may seen Eastern or Western (or whatever) to somebody whose only point of reference is "other movies" -- but if you know your Sagas there can be no doubt that this is Northern. In fact, it's a MUCH better and more appropriate question whether Akira Kurosawa and Sergio Leone (like William Shakespeare) were readers of the Sagas.
Just like in the Sagas, or the Greek tragedies before them, Hrafninn Flygur is filled with an ominous "mood" of inevitable destiny and downfall. Everything, including the music, is minimalistic and raw. There isn't much of a "story" per se. Nor are there any characters worth remembering. All that remains is the theme itself, the inevitable circle of revenge, and the gods - which in this case means we, the audience - smiling at the pathetic human attempts at "doing the right thing".
For all its low budget and stereotypes, this movie is worth seeing.
A Tale Of Heaven And Hell
This is an awesome movie. In fact brilliant! Technically and artistically. The cinematography is flawless and the acting is superb. (Willem Dafoe, often underestimated and pushed into "B" roles, has finally been casted in a role worth remembering.) I do not, however, think that "the young'uns" should see it. In order to appreciate what this film is all about you need both an open mind and some pedigree from as well film as literature and theatre.
I am absolutely fascinated by the reviews I have read on IMDb. Is there a statistic over how often a film scores both 1 and 10? Clearly, Antichrist has evoked some emotions in people, even if they were negative displays of panicky defence - a phenomenon I'm familiar with from theatre productions - so it definitely deserves to be called "controversial".
In my opinion, Antichrist portrays human nature -- with the visceral power of the greatest authors from history -- and it does so with tenderness and beauty, if not outright love, even when said nature is at its most horrific. We are no worse than animals, but no better either. In fact we ARE animals.
Strongly recommended! But beware: There are scenes in this movie that will upset you - and you should definitely walk away from Antichrist if you think that movies should be "realistic" and exist (mostly) for the purpose of an afternoon of idle entertainment.