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One of the most overrated films ever! The most un-dreamlike film about dreams I've ever seen!
What do David Lynch, Luis Bunuel and Wes Craven have in common? They have all created far superior films about dreams on a fraction of Christopher Nolan's budget. For a film about dreams everything looks so dull and drained of color. Inception never feels surreal like a dream. It feels like ridiculous PG-13 action sequences strung together by character's explaining it's all a dream within a dream etc. When watching this film, I thought of far superior films about dreams and alternate realities, Bunuel and Dali's "Un Chien Andalou" (1929), "The Blood of a Poet" (1930), "The Wizard of Oz" (1939), Hitchcock's "Spellbound" (1946), "Meshes of the Afternoon" (1947), Dr. Sues' "5,000 Fingers of Dr. T" (1953), "Le Jetee" (1962), Fellini's "8 1/2" (1963), "Kingdom of Crooked Mirrors" (1963) Fellini's, "Juliet of the Spirits" (1966), "Who Wants to Kill Jesse" (1966), "Valerie and her Week of Wonders" (1970), "Viva La Muerte" (1970), "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" (1972), Tarkovsky's "Solaris" (1972), "The Hourglass Sanitorium" (1973), "Eraserhead" (1977) "Altered States" (1980), "Time Bandits" (1981), Pink Floyd's "The Wall" (1982), "Forbidden Zone" (1982) "Videodrome" (1983), "A Nightmare on Elmstreet" (1984), "Dreamscape"(1984), "Brazil" (1985), "Paperhouse" (1988), The B-movie "Beyond Dreams Door" (1989), "Santa Sangre" (1989), "Jacob's Ladder" (1990), "Kurosawa's Dreams" (1990) "Total Recall" (1990), "Naked Lunch" (1991), "Arizona Dream" (1993), John Carpenter's "In the Mouth of Madness" (1995), "12 Monkeys" (1995),"City of Lost Children" (1995), "Lost Highway" (1997), "Dark City" (1998), "The Matrix" (1999), "eXistenZ" (1999), "Being John Malkovich" (1999), "The Cell" (2000), "Waking Life" (2001), "Donnie Darko" (2001), "Muholland Drive" (2001), "Demon Lover" (2002), "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" (2004), "Strange Circus" (2005), "The Fall" (2006), "The Science of Sleep" (2006), "Pan's Labrynth" (2006), "Paprika" (2006) and the list goes on and on and on. 100's of French and Asian films; hell, even the "Nightmare on Elmstreet" sequels.
In "Inception" Leonardo Dicaprio plays Dom Cobb, a dream thief who can enter people's dreams and steal top secret information. Like his character in "Shutter Island" (which had better dream sequences) Leo is obsessed with his dead wife and longs to go home to see his kids. He's given a mission by a corporate boss to enter a rival's dream and implant false information. By completing this mission, he'll be able to go home to his kids. Dom hires an architect played by Ellen Page to create false dream worlds. Then there's his agents, who are one dimensional rip offs of characters from "The Matrix" (A far more entertaining film) For a film about dreams, you'd expect a little Fruedian sex or nudity. Oh no we don't want are dreams to go beyond a mass-marketed PG-13 rating. Or how about at least abstract surrealism or stream of consciousness dialog? Instead we have all the character's taking time out to explain everything to Hans Zimmer's overblown music. In the words of Ariadne "Wait, Who's subconscious are we going through exactly?". That's odd, a shootout on skis, "James Bond" style and Look I'm floating like in "The Matrix" (Lets not get to bizarre or fun) Maybe, I'm being critical, because I'm by no means a fan of Christopher Nolan. "Momento" and "The Dark Night" were good films, but should never be mentioned in the same breath as HItchcock or Kubrick. People really anger me comparing Inception to "Blade Runner", or "2001, A Space Odyssey". Even "Avatar" had more heart and soul than "Inception". In "Avatar", I actually cared about the characters and felt like I was in a different world. In this film how am I supposed to care for rich corporate suits who want to steal secrets. How about having an Exxon executive jumping in the dreams of a BP executive? If it's all a dream within a dream within a dream of one dimensional Hollywood characters, why should the audience care? And why take 150 mins. to tell a story, when it could of been done in less than 2 hrs.?
On one note, the special effects were impressive and the film did have great acting. I think this film could of been good if it was more colorful and dreamlike and maybe 45 mins. shorter. "Inception" fell cold and flat of having a heart and soul. Why do films now look gray, poo brown or washed out in color? Movies used to be so much brighter. Compare this film to "Suspiria" (1977), "What Dreams may Come" and "Edward Scissorhands" and you'll see what I mean. Spending $200 million dollars on a film that could of fed a 3rd world country for 10 years, is more of a nightmare than a dream. All that money spent and it still looks visually boring, artless and dull. As a person who practically makes minimum wage and lives off Ramen noodles, I watch sci-fi and fantasy films for an escape. Why would I care about a rich corporate rival who has a bad relationship with his father? Boo-hoo! In the end I felt like I was viewing the unimaginative dreams of Wall Street brokers. This is a film made by a room fool of people, rather than an artist with a vision. A mass marketed product like fast food, masquerading itself as nutrition. For this film to be in IMDb's top 5 is a joke; this is mediocre at best. People are saying that this is better than "The Wizard of Oz", "Pulp Fiction", "Blue Velvet" or Citizen Kane". I must be dreaming, no I kicked myself and this is for real.
One of the funniest films I've ever seen.
"Skritek" is hilarious. One viewer described it as being like a Czech "Married with Children". I was reminded of "Mr. Bean" and "Benny Hill" and maybe "Delicatessen". Characters talk in grunts and some Czech, but it's a film that has very little dialog and mostly surreal visual gags. It translates into all languages and can be enjoyed by anyone. The directors other film I saw "Cesta Z Mesta"(Out of the City) was good, but didn't translate well outside of Eastern Europe territories. "Shritek" is different. The film follows the daily routine of a dysfunctional family. Dad's a butcher having an affair, mom's an unhappy grocery store clerk (although she tries to smile), the son's a pothead skateboarder in trouble with the law, and the sister is busy trying to contact her Elf friend. That's right throw in a Fellini like Elf who tries to help the family. The film is shown in a very fast speed too, which makes it all the more silly and cartoonish. But be warned, some of the images of dad's job at the slaughter house are very grotesque. I could only find this film on DVD on Czech websites, luckily Demonoid had it. It's a shame such a hilarious, bizarre comedy has never got a DVD distributor in the US. This film would Definitely have a huge cult following if more people new about it. If you enjoyed "Delicatessen", "Tuvalu", "Benny Hill" or Jos Stelling's "De Illusionist" (1984), you'll dig this film. It's a must see for fans of bizarre and absurd comedy.
A Fun and Bizarre Slapstick Fantasy!
"Tuvalu" is a fantasy/ comedy that pays homage to everything from early German expressionism to Buster Keaton, David Lynch, Fellini and Jeanet and Cairo. In fact, in many ways it's similar to the films "Delicatessen" and "City of Lost Children". In "Tuvalu" a mother and son own a public pool in a creaky old building. Customers pay in buttons to use the pool. Yeah, buttons. An evil contractor, who looks like Jack Nance from "Eraserhead", longs to tear the place down and build a casino. The son falls for a beautiful girl only to have the contractor steal her away from him. He fights to keep the place open and win the heart of the girl. That's the basic plot, although it almost defies description. Even though it's a German film, there is hardly any dialog. The characters communicate by saying each other's names, or using crazy facial expressions, grunts or simple words like "yeah" or "no" which translate into every language. Filmed in sepia tones, It also reminded me of Canadian director Guy Maddin. "Tuvalu" is visually stunning, comical and highly surreal. It is also very cute with its romantic charm.
Subconscious Cruelty (2000)
As Beautiful as it is Repulsive!
"Subconscious Cruelty" has to be one of the most disturbing films I've ever seen. "Salo" and "Cannibal Holocaust" didn't bother me that much, but there's a strange psychological element to "Subconscious Cruelty". This film invades your subconscious mind with shocking taboos, surrealist visuals and one of the most unsettling film scores and sound designs. Repulsive at times; yes, but its visual flair can be compared to Avant Gard directors such as Alejandro Jodorowsky, Dario Argento, Dusan Makavejev and David Lynch. Take the most extreme elements of those 4 directors and throw in the graphic violence of a film by Luico Fulci, and you might be able to guess what you're in for.
The film is divided into 4 parts. The first part "the Ovarian Eye" is real short. A narrator tells us about the the parts of the brain and its functions. Then a nude woman gets her stomach cut open and an eyeball is pulled out. The second part "Human Larvae" is kind of like the film "Eraserhead" but with incest. It deals with a man's sexual obsession with his pregnant sister. Where's Frued when you need him? The third part is my absolute favorite. It reminds me of "Begotten" and Jame's Broughton's 1972 short film "Dreamwood". In this segment people have sex with the earth. Men hump bloody holes in the ground, girls masturbate with tree branches. The branches bleed when broken. Watch in horror as a man gives fellatio to a knife sticking out of a woman's vagina. These people really know how to get in touch with nature.
The last part of the film is the most disturbing and at times it borders on hardcore pornography. This part of the film made me think of Jodorowsky's "the Holy Mountain", "Sweet Movie" and "Cannibal Holocaust". I've never been more disturbed in my life by what I witnessed. A business man gets his privates pulled apart by fishhooks. Yuck and Ouch! Two women urinate on a Christ figure and proceed to cannibalistically eat him like communion bread and sodomize him with a tree branch. Poor guy. The last part was so extreme that if I ever watch the film again, I'll have close my eyes or slightly fast forward. Karim Hussien and Mitch Davis are obviously very talented, To think they did this project in there early 20's. Hussein went on to direct the Tarkovsky influenced "Ascension" (2002) which is a much better film and he co-write the screenplay for Nacho Cerda's after dark horror masterpiece "the Abandoned". "Subconscious Cruelty" is a fascinating and unsettling journey; with images that come from the unthinkable realm of everyday human minds. Well, sort of.
L'année dernière à Marienbad (1961)
One of the most complex films ever made!
In an old hotel a woman who goes by the name of (A) meets a stranger who goes by the name of (X). He insists that they met there last year, she insists that they never met at all. The woman is married or dating a man who goes by the name (M). Did she have an affair with a guy she doesn't remember? "Last Year at Marienbad" is a film so confusing and surreal it makes "Muholland Drive" and "Persona" feel like "Sesame Street". I tracked down a region 2 DVD because I heard the film was a favorite of Peter Greenaway. Alain Resnais' direction is superb and the black and white cinematography by Sacha Vierny is breathtaking. So what does it all mean? Who the hell knows? Seriously, I've never seen such a film as gorgeous and beautiful. I couldn't figure out what was going on, but who cares it's fun just to look at. Sometimes you just got to sit back and enjoy a film for what it is. When I tried to figure out the story my head was spinning in circles. It almost reminded me of how I felt in high school when I was stuck on a math problem. I got to a point where I was like "Ok. I'm just going to watch the film for the cool cinematography and gorgeous visuals." It's enjoyable this way, like staring at a painting in a museum. Maybe the whole film is all about Deja Vu feelings you get? In my life I've met people for the first time, but swear to god I met them in dreams months before. Not a film for everyone, but a must see for fans of bizarre French new wave.
Inland Empire (2006)
A Huge Disappointment.
David Lynch is one of my favorite directors. I've enjoyed every film he has ever done. "Eraserhead", "Blue Velvet" and "Lost Highway" remain 3 of my favorite works of Lynch. After the excitement of "Muholland Drive", I was anxiously awaiting for "Inland Empire". I must say I felt let down. "Inland Empire" is the story of Nicki Grace (Or at least one character of many stories) played by Laura Dern. Nicki is an actress who just got a role in a big Hollywood production. Little to her knowledge does she realize the film is a remake and the 2 lead actors from the original film were killed due to a Polish Gypsy curse put on the production. The first hour of "Inland Empire" had me glued to the screen. It started out beautifully, but the last 2 were a complete disaster. It had such a great cast, but I felt Juia Ormond, William H. Macy and Jeromy Irons weren't in it enough. So many amazing actors that weren't used to their full potential. There roles felt too brief. I admit, Grace Zebriskie was hilarious as the crazy Polish neighbor. Too bad we didn't see more of her. I enjoyed Laura Dern's outstanding performance and I liked the sitcom with the Rabbit head people. But beyond that, there wasn't much else. Interesting note, the Rabbit sequence was taken from one of Mr. Lynch's short films from his website called "Rabbits". I love surrealist cinema, but similar themes have been done before and much better in films like Luis Bunuel's flawless dark comedy, "The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie" (1972) and Shuji Terayama's forgotten masterpiece "Pastoral: To Die in the Country" (1974). More recently films like Andrzej Zulawski's "La Fidelite" (2000), and Sion Sono's disturbing "Strange Circus" (2005) remain unseen. Speaking of Polish films, Wojciech Has' multi-layered "The Hourglass Sanitorium" (1973) is an emotional puzzle worth figuring out. I feel these above films mentioned give more food for thought. Digital video usually looks pretty good, but "Inland Empire" is way to dark, sloppy and shaky. It looks like a bad experimental college film. Then again I think he was going for a raw look. I'd recommend the strange and somewhat similar low budget gems "Mad Cowgirl" (2006) or "The Three Trials" (2006) as great examples of what can be done with digital video. I love experimental films, but they either work or they don't. For example Oliver Stone's "Natural Born Killers" (1994) shows that a mainstream director can put together a visually stunning experimental work. The last 2 hours of "Inland Empire" feels like poorly shot random scenes thrown together with no coherent meaning. At least 3 short films were put into "Inland Empire" and it doesn't work. The rest of the movie was made up of things David Lynch wrote quickly before shooting. The outdoor barbecue scene and the prostitutes doing the locomotion were painful to watch. I still think Lynch had good intentions of trying something different, but fell short. If you want to see bizarre surrealist films that are not only visually stunning but with deep religious, philosophical and political meaning; check out the films of Alejendro Jodorowsky. Anchor Bay recently released Jodorowsky's films "El Topo" (1970) and "The Holy Mountain" (1973) in a box-set. I love you David, but please let this be a one time thing. Then again, my opinion could always change in the future?
Macunaima is simply one of the strangest and most comical Brazilian films ever made!
Macunaima is Monty Python meets Jodorowsky and Robert Downey Sr. in a pool of piranhas. A full-grown black man, a " Brazillian hero", is birthed from a white woman in drag in the middle of the jungle. He discovers a magical water fountain that turns him white. He moves to the city, falls in love with a bomb bearing urban radical activist who wears a magic stone necklace that brings good luck. The magic necklace is stolen by a by an evil corporate cannibalistic millionaire. This causes a bomb to kill his wife and son (done in such a cartoonish way that it is all the more ridiculous). At this, Macunaima is plagued with bad luck through many of his misadventures and wants to get back the necklace from the evil corporate honcho. Part social satire, part serious political commentary set in a folklore steeped surreal Brazil. Based on the 1928 novel by Mario De Andrade that is considered on of the founding texts of Brazilian modernism; and the film itself is widely considered one of the most important films of the Brazilian Cinema Novo. But if you forget all the academics, it's a wild, weird, colorful, magical, surreal wonder-work with endless memorable moments, such as: a defecating goose, a pool of piranhas in which people swing above on a trapeze until they fall in, a water nymph and much more!! Who can forget such brilliant one liners such as "God gives nuts to those with no teeth". This film is a must see! One of the funniest films of any country! An underrated gem!
Bijitâ Q (2001)
Tasteless, yet Thought Provoking Satire
"Visitor Q" is quite a sick, yet funny film. Takashi Miike seems to have taken inspiration from Pasolini's 1968 film "Teorama". Both films deal with a business man and a mysterious visitor who leads to a family's disintegration or awakening. Except, "Visitor Q" is more similar in shock to John Water's "Pink Flamingos", Francois Ozon's "Sitcom" and "Man Bites Dog", or maybe "Visitor Q" is an ode to both Pasoloini's "Teorama" and "Salo". In the film "Visitor Q", a businessman tries to film a documentary on modern Japan. He later decides to film his family's life. He screws his daughter who's a runaway prostitute, then later gets beat over the head with a rock by a mysterious stranger. He invites the stranger home to live with his dysfunctional family. His son is constantly bullied and instead of talking about his problems he beats his mother to a pulp. So, the mom kind of represents the treatment of women in modern day Japan. And also there's sort of a cycle of violence; the bullies beat the son, so the son beats his mom. The main character's poor wife is a junkie/prostitute who is sad, abused and lonely. Her husband won't give her attention, so she proceeds to have sex with the stranger. This causes her to get so excited that she squirts breast milk everywhere, almost nonstop. The main character kills a hooker and has sex with the dead body all the while filming it, because he's an angry premature ejeculater. Strangely enough, the visitor brings the family together as they kill the school bullies, dispose of the hooker's body and share breast milk together. I personally could of dealt without all the real non simulated breast milk squirting, but it seems that Miike is using it as a surreal metaphor. The breast milk seems to represent the communication and love that the family lacks. A film like "Pink Flamingos" only exists to shock viewers, while "Visitor Q" as disgusting as it is; is a social satire on modern Japan. It takes on taboo subject matter and bourgeoisie family values. The film is so exaggerated that I couldn't get offended. I also felt sadness for the mom in "Visitor Q". Her depression not only made me laugh, but almost cry. "Visitor Q" is a Johnathan Swift style satire. It's shocking and sick, but also entertaining and smart.
Nostra signora dei turchi (1968)
Interesting Avant Garde Experiment from Bene.
"Our Lady of the Turks" is a film that is hard to categorize. Then again Carmelo Bene's films are hard to define. Often beautiful, sometimes boring, somewhat ego-centric and sometimes bitingly humorous. The film starts off as a sort of mocumentary about Ontranto, Italy. This is where the Turks tried to invade 100 years before; killing the Saracens. Then we are treated to Bene in front of the camera in a series of bizarre, surreal images and comical mishaps. Bene's character is taunted by the Madonna. Wherever he goes this beautiful virgin Mary is sure to follow, making his life a real headache. She is symbolic of man's desire and dreams. This is a film where visuals overpower story or lack there of. At first I didn't know how to feel about the film. But to be honest, it was quite a journey with it's bizarre experimental style. Somewhat frustrating but altogether breathtaking. There's simply nothing like it. If you enjoy Fellini or even experimental films by Stan Brakhage; you may find this film interesting. Not that I didn't enjoy the film, but I felt it was 20 minutes too long. My opinion might change after a second or third viewing.
Meshes of the Afternoon (1946)
Way ahead of its time!
Maya Deren's "Meshes of the Afternoon" is an amazing 15 minute journey into the subconscious. It's like "Un Chien Andalou" seen through the eyes of a woman. In the film it's hard to tell when Maya's character is awake or dreaming. This film is chock full of bizarre and creepy surrealist images. The protagonist drops her key and it bounces like a ball. A knife moves from a loaf of bread, then the key turns into a knife. She carries a flower with her, which she holds upside down. She sees death, who where's a black hood and has a mirror for a face. She see's herself dreaming. In her dream she seems to foresee her own death. Deren seems to have a subconscious fear of knives, or being killed by a knife. This is one crazy little short film that almost puts you in a hypnotic trance with it's creepy Avant-Gard sounds and images. It's very poetic and disturbing, as nothing is what it seems. This is a must see for fans of David Lynch and Bunuel.