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Steve Mcqueen has nothing to ashamed of here!
Shame took me by surprise. I thought it would be good, but I didn't expect it to be as good as it was. Steve Mcqueen made a striking directional debut with Hunger, a film which I thought looked great but left a lot to be desired over the screenplay. I of course saw 12 Years a Slave before Shame and was completely bowled over by it. Shame isn't quite the masterpiece which 12 Years a Slave is, but it is nevertheless a brilliant film and is well above average in pretty much every department.
Steve Mcqueen has absolutely nothing to be ashamed of in the directing department. Visually, Shame is flawless right from the opening where we see Michael Fassbender, stark bullock naked and staring into space on his bed. In fact, the wordless opening 10 minutes is one of the best moments in the film. There's a beautifully realised moment where Michael is eyeing up a woman on the tube and it just goes to show how powerful actions can be. During this moment we also get to see how Michael goes through his days using prostitutes, watching porn and masturbating all to a fantastically emotive score. Right from the opening, you know that you're in good hands.
Michael Fassbender gives a fantastic performance as the sex addict. His American accent is extremely off, but thankfully this is brushed off as his character explains how he emigrated to New York. He's very convincing and there are plenty of powerful acting moments. I was also really impressed with Carey Mulligan who normally plays cute mousy types to match her childlike features. Here she plays a loudmouth wannabe singer who's far clingier than her brother. I found the undertones of incest very interesting too. The film hints that they've had quite a horrific past, but we're never let in on it.
There are plenty of uncomfortable moments in Shame. At times it makes you feel intrusive as we explicitly see private moments played out regularly and in long takes. Whilst the film is full of sex, it is never sexy. In fact, I barely had a semi-bone throughout! Instead you feel sorry for the poor man as he never uses sex for pleasure, more like a coping mechanism.
Shame isn't just about sex though, it's full of brilliant drama which makes you feel involved in the character's lives. There are a handful of great scenes. One of the most memorable is a painfully realistic first date which is full of awkward moments. The best part of the film is probably towards the end though, where we get a montage of images (like at the start) whilst the haunting score plays over. It shows Michael Fassbender going out and looking for sex desperately, at a time when his sister needed him the most. The results are suitably tragic.
Shame is phenomenal filmmaking. It's a involving character study which doesn't lecture or patronise its audience. The film is full of haunting and memorable scenes which will be playing in your mind the next day. The acting is brilliant across the board and the screenplay is also suitably ambiguous. It's the directing and visuals which make the biggest impact though. How Steve Mcqueen wasn't Oscar nominated for this film, I don't know. Perhaps it's subject matter is a little too sensitive for the Academy. This is an essential film for those who love the art of filmmaking.
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2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
Last night I saw 2001: A Space Odyssey for the very first time. I don't know what has put me off seeking it out for all these years. Perhaps it's because I'm not a big sci-fi fan, however I am a Stanley Kubrick fan. I particularly adore The Shining and love the way Stanley Kubrick soaks up a hypnotic atmosphere so that the film becomes an experience. After seeing some clips on the strange documentary, Room 237, I thought that the film looked right up my alley! I've also heard nothing but hype for years with people calling it one of the greatest films ever made, so I was extremely excited when I sat down to watch it.
Unfortunately watching it, for me, was a little bit like sex. You want the first time to be the best, but in honesty, the more you do it, the better it gets. I had a banging headache throughout the first half and so really could not appreciate the loud music and atonal sounds because it was just so painful! Halfway through, I had to leave and get myself a Tesco headache pill and towards the end of the film it did go away. I also left to go to the loo about three times, as I had a lot of coffee to drink so that I'd have the stamina to stay up and also to sober myself up.
Why am I telling you this? Well, I don't know. I think to get the full 2001 effect, you need to completely immerse yourself in it, but I struggled to do this. However, that doesn't mean that I didn't appreciate what I saw. In fact, I'm pretty sure that what I saw was an absolute masterpiece. I was completely sucked in, right from the beginning where sinister music played for about five minutes over a blank screen. It's such an unusual way to open, hinting that the film you're about to see isn't your usual rip-roaring science fiction adventure. We then get that glorious famous music with a beautiful image of a sun rising over the Earth. It's an amazing title sequence which made the hairs on my neck stand on end.
I think it's a stroke of genius having the first scene, in a film which is largely set in the future, be set at the beginning of time itself. It must have been so jarring for audiences in 1968, of course everyone knows that the film starts with the monkeys now because it's so widely talked about. Speaking of the year in which it came out, I cannot believe that this film was made in the 60's! I saw it in blu-ray and it looked like a film which had came out last week. It's easy to see why it so disliked when it first came out, because it's just so ahead of its time. Although, some of the monkey suits did look a bit naff!
We're then thrown into the year 2001, where (apparently) space travel is an everyday thing and stewardesses wear bright pink clothes complete with a strange bubble hat. To be quite honest with you, the remainder of the film is very difficult to put into words. It's pure art in the form of film. It's a rarity these days, however people like David Lynch and Nicolas Winding Refn are striving to keep it alive. There are long sequences of spaceships flying overhead to classical music and people walking slowly upside down. It all creates a certain feeling and experience which you have to see for yourself.
2001: A Space Odyssey doesn't really have much of a plot. Astronauts find a strange giant tablet on the moon, and then some more astronauts go on a mission which I don't entirely understand the purpose of, with a creepy robot called, HAL, which is of course now an iconic character. It's strange because a lot of the film is incredibly slow and, dare I say it, boring. But there's something about it which keeps you interested and locked to the screen. Scenes which would last five minutes in an ordinary Hollywood film, last up to half an hour here and it does create a unique and immersive experience which stays on your subconscious for a while.
A lot of the film is very haunting. The choral chants whenever the strange black tablet appeared created a wonderful atmosphere of mystery and impending doom. I also found the scene where HAL sings, very creepy. Of course, the most talked about scene is the Lynchian finale where we're plunged into a psychedelic and hypnotic fantasy world. The final scene makes absolutely no sense, but it most definitely haunts you. I couldn't help but have chills all the way up my spine when the music plays and the baby looks right towards you. It's scary and very powerful.
I think subsequent viewings are going to make 2001 a definite favourite of mine. It's unlike anything I've ever seen before. After seeing this now, I find it strange how people are comparing it to Interstellar. Interstellar is a somewhat conventional and fast-paced sci-fi adventure, albeit an absolutely astounding one! Whereas, 2001: A Space Odyssey is a slow art film. They're impossible to compare! Both of them are masterpieces in their own right though. It's a film which will definitely stay with me, and I look forward to plunging myself into its world again.
Exhibit A (2007)
The Seventh Continent in Yorkshire
The found footage genre gets quite a lot of stick. Admittedly it does feel like a new found footage horror film is churned out every week and most of them feel like the same film. Some are quite brilliant though. REC, is probably the finest example the sub-genre has to offer and the criminally under seen Noroi: The Curse is probably the scariest film I have ever sat through. I had never heard of Exhibit A until I stumbled across it on a list which featured the scariest found footage movie moments. Because I'm a twisted individual, the idea of a family crumbling in front of their own camcorder appealed to me and so I sought it out immediately.
I made a point of reading very little about it because it clearly had a shocking ending which I didn't want spoilt. I'd urge everyone else to do the same, however if you do know the ending outcome, don't worry because it's still worth the watch. It's a wonderful idea for a found footage film. There are no Spanish zombies, or Blair witches and there are no Norwegian trolls either. It's all about a regular nuclear family, probably not dissimilar to yours or someone you know and that's where the disturbing horror really lies.
The film has obviously (and probably literally) been made on a shoestring, but it's all the more authentic for it. Exhibit A could've easily turned into an embarrassing PSHCE film if it felt false, but thankfully it doesn't. It helps that the performances are so good, especially by the Dad who doesn't have an easy role to play at all. The Mum sometimes felt a little wooden, but towards the end she crucially pulls out a powerful and authentic performance.
The trouble with most found footage films is that they don't actually feel like they've been found. Diary of the Dead, for example uses multiple cameras and even has music playing over some scenes! Exhibit A is by far the most 'real' found footage film I've seen. They've obviously shot on an actual cheap camcorder and used a lot of improvisation. You buy into the story and actually begin to feel like you know the characters, thus you care about what happens to them.
Exhibit A is about a man slowly cracking under financial pressures. It starts out comically with lots of funny and warm family moments. I also liked how we got to uncover lots of little things about Judith, the daughter who does the majority of the filming. In the end it becomes a film about secrets and how every family has them. There's a great moment mid-way through where the film starts to take an uneasy turn into psychological horror. What begins as the Dad trying to humorously stage a video for You've Been Framed becomes a desperate act of anger, verging on insanity.
It's a very slow film to get going, with a lot of unnecessary scenes which slow the film down, however this does add to the authenticity of it all. It's the final half hour where things take a disturbing turn and it becomes gripping to watch. The final five minutes are an incredibly harrowing watch. It has imagery that will sear its way into your brain and stay there for a long time.
Exhibit A is a great no budget horror film. It basically tells the same disturbing tale as Michael Haneke's striking debut, The Seventh Continent. Whilst, Exhibit A isn't as mind-numbingly depressing as The Seventh Continent, it is almost as effect. The acting is great and features some very powerful scenes which will stay with you. It may be a little slow to begin, but it's well worth sticking with as you feel immersed in the life of this family. It's a remarkable little film which deserves way more attention than it has received.
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Festen is a film I've been looking forward to for quite a while. I'm a big fan of Lars Von Trier's films (apart from The Idiots) and I understand that he was part of the whole Dogme 95 wave of filmmaking which saw Danes making films on hand-held cameras, using no props and no false lighting. Festen is the first official film to adhere to all these rules, although director Thomas Vinterberg did later admit to covering a window in one scene. Naughty, naughty! You'd think that it would be pretty difficult to make a good film in these conditions (have you seen The Idiots? It's dreadful!) but Festen somehow pulls it off. It's not just a good film, it's a great film.
I was immediately engaged from the start with the strange camera angles and movements instantly grabbing my attention. In fact, it's this strange visual style which makes the film so involving and gripping. At times it feels like we're watching a fly-on-the-wall documentary, or perhaps some found footage from one of the guests. It also helps that the performances feel so real. You completely buy into the whole situation, no matter how darkly farcical it becomes.
Festen features an array of characters who stick in your head after the film has finished. My favourite was probably Michael who had me laughing out loud on several occasions. He's an utterly over-the-top vile loon! Of course, the more you see of him, the more you start to dislike him and wonder how on earth he ever got married and managed to have two kids in the process! The film really gets going when one of the sons gets up to do a speech. Awkward doesn't even begin to describe it.
The less you know about Festen the better! I avoided reviews because I didn't want any of the various shocks or twists revealed to me. That way you can become one of the guests who look in horror as the family's dysfunctions are revealed over the course of the night. I think a lot of credit has to go to Thomas' screenplay. It's a wonderful script which makes full use of its one-location idea and reveals its drama through character interactions which don't feel contrived in any way.
I understand that Festen has been turned into a play and I can see why. There's so much bubbling under the surface and it often explodes beautifully in front of us. I love the way the characters slowly develop as the film goes on, as we get to learn new things about them. It makes the film so much richer and deeper. I also loved the ambiguity of it all. It's never made clear, until the end, whether what's being said is true or not.
Towards the end of the film, Festen reveals itself as something much more than a dark comedy. It becomes a very sad and moving tale about childhood atrocities and losing someone you love. There's a haunting dream sequence at the end of the film which I found beautifully done and quite emotional. Festen is a great film, full of great performances and excellent filmmaking. Thomas Vinterberg isn't afraid to shock the audience, but unlike Lars in The Idiots, the controversial material is all relevant to the story and not used merely to make the audience react.
Best sci-fi ever?
children I shall be talking about Interstellar. But before I do, I think I better give you a little context, just to show how high my expectations were for this film. I love Christopher Nolan. I am a Nolanite, or Nolanoid, or whatever people who like Christopher Nolan are called. I've pretty much loved every film he's ever done. It confuses me when people slag him off because he's clearly the best writer/director to be working on mainstream blockbuster films since Steven Spielberg, only I think that his films are much better than Steven's.
His films are only so thrilling because of the intimacy he creates between the audience and the characters. As soon as I heard Christopher Nolan's next film was a sci-fi film called, Interstellar, I was excited. I was so excited that I only treated myself to one viewing of the teaser trailer and first trailer. It was enough, I was sold and I didn't want to see any other trailer, because I wanted to know and see as little as possible.
I decided that Interstellar needed to be seen in IMAX, so I booked my ticket to see Interstellar on the biggest screen in the UK. Even though the film had garnered some mixed reviews (I was hoping for full-on rave ones, like when The Dark Knight and Inception came out) I still put my trust into Christopher to deliver me something extraordinary. I don't know if it's the gigantic screen talking, but Interstellar absolutely delivered.
This was the best experience I've ever had at the cinema. The huge screen and ear-popping sound made the experience incredibly intense and by the end of it, I felt like I had been for a little trip out in space. I'm not sure if this will translate quite so well on your TV screen at home, however the film is unmissable whatever you choose to see it on. Whilst a lot of the film does rely on extraordinary visuals and heart-stopping set-pieces, at its heart it's an intimate family drama which suggests that your children are your one and only important universe.
I was absolutely sucked into the film from the moment it started. The stuff before Matthew goes into space is probably some of the best stuff in the film. We learn so much about Coop and he becomes a worthy character to invest three hours into (three hours which fly by, I might add). There's a strong focus on the relationship between Coop and his daughter, and it's this relationship which drives the film right up to, and including, its jaw-dropping conclusion. The first hour is also quite funny too, which was a nice surprise as Nolan doesn't normally dabble in too much humour.
There's a really emotional scene where Coop wants to say goodbye to his daughter, who he doesn't know when he's going to see again, before his space travels. It's beautifully acted by both Matthew McConaughey and Mackenzie Foy and is at the powerful centre of the whole film. After this the film adopts an entirely new setting. Literally. We're blasted off into space and the fun really begins. The less you know about the space scenes, the better, as it's a lot of fun to try and work out just where the film is going! Suffice to say that Interstellar is jam-packed with eye-popping visuals and intense thrills which dwarf last year's Gravity into a speck of space dust by comparison.
With The Dark Knight Rises, Christopher proved that he could direct on a big scale and Interstellar is his biggest yet. He has an ambition which most directors lack and instead of kicking him down for it, we should be nurturing it! Interstellar presents us with new and exciting ideas which colossally blow other mainstream films out of the water. The action is also elevated to unreachable new heights thanks to Hans Zimmer's astonishing score. It's a haunting piece of music that will be ringing in your head for hours after the film has finished. He's left the big drums and strings behind and re-invented himself with a bizarre church organ which perfectly matches the dark atmosphere of the film.
A lot of people have expressed a strong disliking to the final 40 minutes of Interstellar. I can see why as up until then the film is more or less possible to understand. It's complex, but it's still easy enough to follow. However, Christopher completely rips up the rule book and Interstellar goes seriously barmy in the last 40 minutes. Personally, I loved the third act and it just goes to show the sheer creativity and ambition which Christopher Nolan has going inside his head. I found it all very interesting both on a visual and intellectual level. I don't understand it all, but I have my theories and I'm sure that there will be a mountain of theories cropping up on the interweb.
Interstellar is a truly remarkable experience. It boasts awesome ideas and visuals, but it never forgets its heart. I'm a tough cookie to make cry, but I'm not going to lie (ooh poetry!) there were three occasions when I had tears filling up in my eyes. There are some astonishingly powerful and moving scenes in there which reminds me why I go to the cinema. I don't just want crazy visuals and excitement, I want to be moved and I want to be invested in characters so that I care what happens to them at the end. Interstellar more than achieves that.
I'll need to give it another watch to work out where I'd put it on Christopher Nolan's mesmerising filmography, but he hasn't let me down. I hope that Interstellar is seen as a sci-fi classic in years to come because it really does deserve that accolade.
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One of the wackiest films you'll ever see
I've seen some bizarre films in my time, but the Japanese meta-comedy, R100 has to be one of the most bizarre. It opens with a young lady kicking the hell out of a man for no apparent reason in a restaurant. She leaves, but for some reason he goes after her and she turns around to beat him up some more and throws him down stairs. She then removes her clothes to reveal a highly skimpy leather fetish outfit underneath whilst the man looks up and his face disturbingly distorts into a manic grin with some atrocious Moviemaker ripple effects. That's when you realise that this film is going to be weird. However, it only gets weirder!
In a plot similar to David Fincher's The Game, R100 centres on the idea of a family man joining a club which promises euphoric pleasure by hiring attractive young women to beat the crap out of you at any random moment. The catch is that membership lasts a year and you can't cancel. You also can't touch or hurt any of the girls. That's the intriguing premise of this delightfully wacky film. Anyone expecting a clear narrative can leave now. The less you know the better, I knew virtually nothing about this film and came out feeling highly amused and bemused in equal measure.
Not everything in R100 does work. I found it a tad too sentimental at times with the relationship between the dad and son being rubbed in our faces. The whole wife in a coma thing was also over-played to get a heart-warming reaction from the audience. A lot of things in the first hour also start to feel a little repetitive with the same jokes being played again and again. However, things take an interesting turn when events turn darker by involving the innocent family. I also really liked the postmodern aspect by showing that this is just a film directed by a 100 year-old man who says that no one will understand the film unless they're 100, hence the film's title!
Things turn seriously koo-koo in the last 30 minutes and the film completely rips up the film school rulebook in an infectiously anarchic manner. All kinds of loopy ideas are thrown at the screen and we're left with a big puddle-like mess on the floor, however it's a mess that's hard to shake out your head. I'm not going to forget the dominatrix army marching to Beethoven for quite a while! It's surreal to say the least and lacks any kind of explanation, although I'm pretty sure that there is some kind of hidden political message in there somewhere. Trying to find it is high-on impossible though!
R100 won't be everyone's cup of tea. The best thing to do is to leave your brain outside the door and just go along for the big barmy ride! It turns out to be quite an ambitious little number, however not all of its ideas are effective or explored enough. One thing's for sure though, you won't forget it in a hurry! I for one would much rather see a film I'm going to remember the next day than some throwaway action film that will be forgotten in minutes. I admired R100 quite a bit.
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The sickest film ever?
In 1973 most audiences were fainting and having heart attacks over shockers such as, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and The Exorcist. Little did they know that two years later a little Italian film would pop out of the waters and stun the world to silence. Being the twisted chap that I am, I had of course heard a lot about Salo. If you look at anyone's list of disturbing films, then you're likely to see Salo right at the top. A film so shocking that upon its release, director Pier Paolo Pasolini was murdered in very mysterious circumstances. Having read a lot about it, I put off seeing Salo. Who wants to see about the rape and torture of teenagers? Well, I suppose that curiosity got the better of me.
Salo isn't just about the mental and physical torture of young innocents, it just appears that way. The film is quite obviously one big political statement as four bored old fascists decide to use a bunch of young men and women for their own needs. These needs consist of the most depraved sexual acts you could think of. Salo's full to the brim with rape and sexual humiliation. By the end of it, rape feels like a natural occurrence, although it's still no easier to watch.
Some call it a masterpiece because of its political message; however I fail to see why. Whilst the film is very well made, with excellent directing and acting, there's no plot. I see the narrative of a film as being quite an important aspect. Salo is quite literally two hours of despicable depravity. There's nothing more to it than watching four old perverts perv over teenagers and finally kill them in the most horrific ways possible.
Contrary to popular belief, Salo is not gory. There are two moments of extreme gore at the end, but other than that the violence remains purely sexual. What makes the film so difficult to watch is that it's all real! It's like watching some sort of soft child porn film. The actors are clearly under eighteen, yet are completely naked in nearly all scenes and fondled by old men and women. It's extremely uncomfortable to watch. The constant explicit tales, which the old women tell, of paedophilia are also very disturbing to hear. Especially, as it's used as an opportunity to molest the children.
The film reaches its most disturbing peak during the chapter aptly named, "Circle of s**t". Parts in this chapter actually almost made me gag and is the hardest chapter to watch for me. Watching people being force fed poo is not my idea of entertainment. The fact that all the old fascists contently eat the poo makes the scene all the more disturbing. It has to be the most disturbing scene I've ever watched. I've seen poo being eaten before (not in real life, but in the Thai thriller, 13: Game of Death) but not in this much grotesque detail.
Who would've thought that the most disturbing film ever made would come out in 1975? If this film was made now, then there's no way that it would ever see the light of day, and I'm surprised it has been widely distributed now. Perhaps, Lars von Trier should do a remake? Or maybe we shouldn't give him ideas! Salo is by far the most disturbing film I've ever seen and I have zero intention in seeing it again. I'm bemused by the amount of critical praise this film receives. Even with the political message and excellent directing, you're still left with an overlong and perverted mess of a film with extremely little plot.
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SHOCK! HORROR! A genuinely terrible David Lynch film?
David Lynch is my favourite director. I've seen and loved all of his films (apart from Lost Highway, which I've yet to see) and even some of his short films. However, Dune is always one I've kind of avoided thanks to its famously troubled production history. Even David Lynch himself is ashamed of it! It wasn't until I realised that I had two films of his left to see, and Dune was one of them. Did I really want Dune to be the last David Lynch film I see? No. So I bought it and went in with an open mind and even a tinge of excitement. After all, it's a David Lynch film! And there's many people who actually praise the film. Unfortunately, I'm not one of them.
I may be a little biased because I'm not into this space opera kind of stuff. I watched the first two Stars Wars films recently and was bored by them both. So maybe I'm not the Dune target audience. I tried really hard at the beginning to understand what's going on, but I quickly realised that it was useless, so I just let the whole thing wash over me. I'm still not really sure what it's about. The son of some sort of planet queen going on an adventure to ride a giant sandworm and defeat the evil floating fat man? The screenplay is chock full of gobbledegook which only Trekkies would fully understand. However, I realise that this isn't David's fault. I'm sure his original three and half hour epic would've been much easier to follow.
A lot of people say that the special effects are really good. I'd say that 30% of them are good. I actually said "oh dear" out loud when Kyle McLachlan and Patrick Stewart had that block fight at the beginning. Most of the effects are hideous and the sets are too. They were obviously very expensive, but the sets look very cardboard in a Batman & Robin kind of way. The only thing more cardboard than the sets was the characterisations. I must admit that the giant worms were done very well, and all of the scenes with them were fairly entertaining. Everything else felt rather limp.
I could deal with the wooden acting, as it made the ordeal easier to sit through. What I couldn't deal with was the general dullness of it all. Dune bored me and I couldn't wait until it was all over. I didn't care about any of the cardboard characters. Even the usually likable Kyle is flat and rigid, and his love interest was sort of thrown into the mix for the sake of it! The only character I was interested in was the floating fat man, and that was mainly for the comic relief he brought, intentional or not. The directing was also rather plain and conventional. Even the dream sequences (David's speciality) were poorly done.
There's one moment in Dune which ironically sums up everything about its tormented production. It's the moment where David Lynch has a cameo as a spice harvester who gets eaten by a giant sandworm. David's there trying his absolute hardest to harvest the best of the material, but the overwhelming production team destroy everything's he's worked towards and eat David in the process. Dune is the reason why every (good) director should have final cut and control on his/her film. I'm sure if David had complete control, then he would've given us a strange epic to cherish for years to come. However, he didn't and so the film has been viscously butchered and has little redeeming value. Oh well, I suppose every good director has to have at least one bad film in his/her filmography? Please read more strange and dazzling reviews at: www.asdaman.wordpress.com
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil (2010)
If you go down to the woods today be sure for a big surprise!
If truth be told, I didn't think that I was going to like Tucker & Dale Vs Evil. I remember seeing the trailer and thinking that it looked like a dumb and forced horror comedy in the vein of Scary Movie. However, I had heard a lot of positive reviews so I thought that I'd give it a go. The opening was a little lame and then we get introduced to some truly horrendous characters who are obviously played for laughs. I was beginning to lose faith, right up until Tucker and Dale were introduced.
For some reason I thought that the film was about two dumb redneck psychopaths killing some teens. However, what makes the film so clever, unique and funny is that it's not about that at all. Instead it's about two lovable rednecks who get themselves into a lot of farcical situations by mistake. You could hardly call it a slasher film. It's more like a horror romcom with a feel good ending to die for.
I laughed throughout Tucker and Dale. It reminded me of Hatchet, only this is far better and funnier, and I really like Hatchet for the record! I watched this on my own and found myself laughing out loud and quite hard too! It reminded me of Miranda sometimes in how everything builds from one misunderstanding to another. The plot is really stupid, but the film knows that and it plays with it in a very clever way offering plenty of sly nods to horror fans who are all too familiar with these types of plots.
What makes the film though is it's brilliant characters. You can't help but fall in love with Dale who's so kind and self-depreciating. He's completely different to Tucker who's louder and more amoral, but this makes their relationship that much sweeter. I also loved Allison, the slasher character who normally stays as the drop-dead-gorgeous girl at the back and gets killed quite early on, who turns out to be a sweet and very likable main girl. The rest of the college kids are disposable but purposefully so, apart from the hugely dislikeable psychopath, Chad.
Most of all though Tucker and Dale is just bloody good fun to watch. It's a great film to watch with some friends round. It doesn't take itself seriously, but it does take itself seriously enough to give us an endlessly witty and intelligent screenplay, lovable characters and just an all-round good quality film. Some scenes are also really heartfelt which I wasn't expecting. I also loved the infectiously feel good ending which left me grinning ear to ear. This film was such a wonderful surprise to me. I was really expecting to dislike it, but now it's probably one of my favourite horror-comedies. Give it a chance. Only the most stone-hearted person with no sense of humour could hate this.
Werckmeister harmóniák (2000)
More Bela boredom
I wasn't Bela Tarr's biggest fan after viewing The Turin Horse. A film which gathered rave reviews from the art-house crowd, about two of the most boring characters in the universe going about their boring daily business for a very boring week indeed. It made my life look like a thrill a minute! Although The Turin Horse was beautifully shot and magnificently directed, it had absolutely nothing in the way of characters or plot, which in my opinion are two of the most important things to engage an audience. However, I was willing to give Bela another chance. Werckmeister Harmonies was gaining some unbelievable reviews. People were saying that it changed their lives, it moved them to tears and that it was one of the most perfect films they'd ever seen. I put away my Turin Horse prejudices and was actually really looking forward to seeing it! Unfortunately, what I got was more of the same thing.
Read any rave review for Werckmeister Harmonies and you won't see anyone commenting on the narrative or plot, they'll instead be commenting on the imagery and score, both of which are admittedly fabulous. I was drawn in from the opening 15 minutes which showed off some incredible camera-work with a 10 minute cut-free sequence explaining the universe with various German drunks. It must've been painstakingly rehearsed and taken an unholy amount of takes with the camera and actors moving around with great precision. I couldn't help but really appreciate this stark opening. And then we had the near-perfect shot of Janos walking down the dark street with a beautifully haunting score playing over it. I was swept in, buckled in and ready for the ride!
However, just like The Turin Horse things quickly began to get tedious. The main problem is the characters. They're not exactly infused with life are they? The only thing interesting about the protagonist is his amusing name, Janos. None of the characters have any personality and they don't develop which makes it very difficult to engage with the story. I think it must be a Hungarian thing though, because every Hungarian film I've seen has featured stupidly boring characters. Hungary definitely isn't a place I'd want to visit or make a film about.
The other big problem with Werckmeister is that it's quite simply, very boring. I love a long take as much as the next fat person but most of these long takes feel long for the sake of it. I don't need to see people walking for 5 minutes. You may say that it creates atmosphere and if you'd be right, but I'm not particularly keen on an atmosphere of boredom. Werckmeister Harmonies has barely enough plot to fill an 80 minute film, yet Bela decides to stretch it out to two and a half hours. Thank god he was never approached to adapt The Lord of the Rings!
Much of the narrative is meandering around very dull characters. At one point Janos' aunty comes with her knickers in a twist about her ex-husband. The whole sequence is very dull and uninteresting, yet it takes up about 40 minutes of the film and adds nothing. At lot of people point towards a political allegory, which personally doesn't interest me at all, however Bela has even said in interviews that he had no political allegory in mind and was just shooting a story about a man meeting a whale. There could've been an interesting story if the most interesting characters weren't skimmed over. The Prince for example seemed like a fascinating fellow, but only his shadow is shown once! Obviously Bela didn't want to give his viewers a heart attack with too much excitement.
Werckmeister Harmonies isn't all bad though. Just like The Turin Horse it is beautifully made, with some shots being nothing short of stunning. I must admit that the hospital sequence was also brilliant, even if the reasons behind the characters doing it are a little bemusing. The two scores that feature in the film are also incredible and actually quite moving. I'm not one of these people who cry at Mozart or anything, but I did find the music in this very powerful and it elevated some scenes (especially the hospital scene) wonderfully. For some strange reason I was almost moved to tears at the final scene! Now, I don't know if that was because I was so happy that my ordeal was over, or if the music was so haunting.
I don't judge anyone for liking this film. It is undeniably beautiful to look at and directed with mesmerising precision and sometimes this is enough for people! Some of my favourite films put atmosphere first and characters/plot second such as: Eraserhead and more recently, Under the Skin. However, these films are interesting enough to engage me. Nothing about Werckmeister Harmonies interested me so I was never engaged or felt involved with what I was watching. I watched it in complete darkness and on a proper screen too to try and soak up the atmosphere, but I just couldn't feel it. Werckmeister Harmonies disappointed me massively and I've decided to give up on Bela Tarr. I almost fall asleep just thinking about his seven hour magnum-opus, Satantango! Read more strange reviews at: www.asdaman.wordpress.com