Reviews written by registered user
|134 reviews in total|
There have been many films of the play "Salome", but none of them are anything like Carmelo Bene's version. The film is so bright, colorful and strange; it will make your head spin. The intro of the film contains a cartoon camel jumping through a loop, women getting spanked with feather paddles, a man slicing a watermelon with a machete and a women with beaded jewelry emerging from the water. Unfortunately, the only copy I could find didn't have subtitles. I really didn't need to understand the dialog to enjoy the strange and weird images. It's as if someone filmed Fellini Satyricon on a fixed budget, cut it into pieces, rearranged it and laced it with LSD style editing. That's why it is so darn entertaining. I first learned about Italian director Carmelo Bene from the book "Film as a Subversive Art" by Amos Vogel. This book changed the way I view films. I go out of my way to find surreal films like "Salome". It is strange, experimental and quite an experience. Don't watch this film on drugs, because the film is a drug in itself. A startling head trip of a film.
Jan Svankmajer is an amazing director, often combining stop motion with real life actors. His films create a unique atmosphere, as we are drawn into his world. The story of "Alice and Wonderland" has been done to death, but no one has quite made it as interesting as Jan Svankmajer. "Alice" is very creepy with its child actress constantly pursued by a chattering rabbit, who keeps loosing his straw. There is also skeleton creatures that drive a carriage. When Alice becomes tiny, she turns into a frightening doll. Most memorable are the caterpillars made of socks. They squirm in and out of holes in the floor. In order to sleep, they have to sew there button eyes shut. Although "Alice" doesn't contain anything violent or offensive, it's very unsettling. Watch it, and you'll discover the strange world of Jan Svankmajer.
"The Begotten is not for everyone. It is shot in grainy black & white and extremely slow at times. Some scenes tend to drag. It's not nearly as good as "Eraserhead" and "Tetsuo: the Iron Man". But as a whole the film is unique and visionary, because there's nothing like it. The film looks as if it was dug up from another time or planet. There's not much plot, but plenty of disturbing and surreal images. An abstract god like creature disembowels himself and gives birth to another god. Nomads torture a guy in extended sequences. The film seems to be a reenactment of biblical stories. I'm not one to call a film pretentious, but "Begotten" seems to have little meaning. I think critics were a little overboard calling it one of the best films of 1991. Anyways, If you get bored, turn down the volume and put some of your favorite music on. Whether it's NIN or Pink Floyd, any favorite music combined with the film's imagery; will make for an interesting and visual experience. Don't say I didn't warn you though.
Derek Jarmon films are always interesting. People seem to love his work or despise it. "The Garden" takes the persecution that Christ faced and puts it in modern times, or an unknown time for that matter. We have two homosexual martyrs who are persecuted like Christ, by the church. Tilda Swinton plays a modern day Mary who's chased around by ruthless Paparazzis. The film contains many strange visual delights. There is not a whole lot of dialog except for poetic narration. Like Jodorowsky's "the Holy Mountain", it's chock full of bizarre religious images. The set pieces and Costumes are extremely avant-garde and colorful. If you enjoy films that are a trip for the mind, you'll enjoy "the Garden". I felt that Derek Jarmon was inventive with his camera tricks and imagery. If you like bizarre art-house films with hallucinatory imagery, you must see this film.
Fernando Arrabal is an author of books and plays. He was part of the panic movement of theater, which also included Alejandro Jodorowsky and Roland Topor. In fact, in the beginning of "Viva La Muerte" we see some morbidly surreal drawings by Topor. The film is semi-autobiographical and takes place during the Franco era in Spain during World War II. Fando witnesses his father seized by soldiers. Fando thinks that his father is dead. Later he finds out his father is still alive and that his mother turned him in to authorities for suspicion of communist activities. The film shows how war affects children. Fando has many grotesque, sadistic, surreal daydreams about his father being tortured by the fascist army. The daydream sequences are done in bright neon filters, with strange music and sound effects, even a children's song. The film makes a strong anti-war statement, and is filled with satirical and blasphemous imagery. Some of the images are extreme, including a real cow slaughter and Fando's mom torturing his dad. She even takes a dump on his head. The extended torture sequences may remind some of what the U.S has been doing to Iraqi prisoners. Although the film is brutal at times, it still is beautiful in its subversive poetry. "Viva la Muerte" is a masterpiece of surrealism and makes an important statement about the evils of war.
F.A. Brabec did an amazing job of directing "Kytice" (wildflowers), which is based on the book "the Seven Ballads". I'm not familiar with the novel, but I must say that the seven Czech fairy tales within the film are extremely nightmarish. These are not fairy tales to read to children before bedtime. One tale concerns an underwater spirit, who takes women captive as wives, if they happen to fall in the water. Another has a girl praying for her boyfriend to return from the dead. He returns in soldier uniform and gives her the power to fly every time she denounces her religious faith. The stories teach bizarre moral lessons, and people end up paying for their bad choices. The cinematography is gorgeous, and should be studied by film students everywhere. The movie is dark, but very moving and filled with colorful life. Jakubisko's art direction is amazing. (he helped produce the film along with his wife) The soundtrack is haunting and will stay with you long after the film is over. In fact I ended up buying the soundtrack, and it is excellent. "Kytice" reminds me of Kurasawa's "Dreams", "Big Fish" and "Valerie and her Week of Wonders" all rolled into one bizarre dream. The Czech Republic is a country thats film industry remains undiscovered by western audiences. I have yet to watch a Czech film that I didn't like. For more dark unsettling Czech folk lore also view Jakubisko's "An Ambiguous Report about the end of the World".
Dario Argento is like the Alfred Hitchcock of Italy. "Suspiria" takes its viewers on a gorgeous, psychedelic, supernatural scare-coaster. Sometimes gory, sometimes nightmarish and very unpredictable. Beautiful Jessica Harper stars as Suzie Banyon, an American dancer who goes to a prestigious dancing school in Germany. People are getting murdered in strange ways. Little does Suzie know the academies horrifying secret. "Suspiria" is one of the most creepy horror films of the 70's. It's magical yet bloody, it's beautiful yet horrifying. It's definitely one of my favorite horror films. Watch it, but make sure you have friends with you. Be prepared to be scared.
"Visual Training" is a short 1969 experimental film from the Netherlands. The film looks so ahead of its time, with its goth makeup and gritty look. I wonder if Marylin Manson or the band the Misfits have ever seen Visual Training? A man and two topless ladies sit at a table and eat. They grotesquely smear food on one another. The one girl is blindfolded and covered with baking powder by the guy. The screen sometimes turns black, as the camera cuts fast between shots. When the camera zooms in on the actor's face, it looks as if he's staring right at the viewer. The one girl's nude body is used as a canvas for body food art. Frans Zwartjes has a created a rare short film that's unique for viewers. It's like a mild version of the "Vienna Aktionists" for the surreal at heart.
It's hard to describe "Terror Firmer". Think "Living in Oblivian" with Lucio Fulci style violence, filmed by the "Vienna Aktionists" on the set of "Sweet Movie" directed by Groucho Marx and John Waters. Those unfamiliar with the 60's shock artists the Vienna Aktionists; will be surprised at their similarities to troma. The Vienna Aktionists were a group of anarchist stage performers from the 60's, who would put on live surreal sex shows. They would take food, urine, feces, vomit and semen and create shocking works of art. When I think of Troma, I'm reminded of the Vienna Aktionists. Troma's films are so sick and gross, that they teeter on artistic brilliance. O.K, so "Terror Firmer" defies description. Troma is a company dedicated to gore hound freaks and fans of guilty pleasure b-movies. I am one of those fans. Terror Firmer can definitely be considered a surrealist film. It lacks a traditional narrative, it has grotesque imagery and mocks many institutional standards. It's also one giant middle finger to Hollywood. The plot concerns a psychotic, hermaphrodite serial killer; who is killing people off in the most morbid ways imaginable, on the set of a troma movie. Lloyd Kaufman plays Larry Benjamin, a blind movie director who continues filming even though his cast keeps getting murdered. He wants to get his bizarre artistic vision out there. It seems like "Terror Firmer" tries to outdo "Pink Flamingos", "Cannibal Holocaust" and "Salo" in shock. The first five minutes of the film contain a leg decapitation, an abortion, death by corn flakes and a suicidal shot in the head. This film is almost guaranteed to even make the most jaded viewer cringe. Your either laughing or disgusted with shock. There is ridiculous amounts of sex, full frontal nudity and of course "big breasts". Almost every imaginable bodily function or fluid is present, including crap eating. Also the films obsession with pickles is quite disturbing. After viewing this film, you'll never think of pickles the same way again (guarenteed). As repulsive as the subject matter is, the film is pretty damn funny. Just be prepared to squirm too. I appreciate Troma, because after watching "Terror Firmer"; I searched for other bizarre films. I also became interested in surrealism. So if it wasn't for Lloyd Kaufman, I may of never appreciated Bunuel, Godard, Greenaway, David Lynch, Fellini, Jodorowsky, John Waters, Salvador Dali, Jan Svankmajer, Tekeshi Miike, Dusan Makavejev or David Cronenburg. I love Troma, even if their films are sometimes a bit much. They opened up my mind and imagination to new ideas. I know one thing Otto Muehl and Dali would be proud. Now let's go make some art!
I must say I was deeply impressed with this film. It has one of the best concepts of a parallel world; and since reality TV has taken over America, the concept makes me laugh even more. Czech director Jan Sverak is best known for his critically acclaimed films "Koyla" and "Dark Blue World". For some reason this film never got a U.S release. Too bad, because this is one of the most original and creative sci-fi films I've ever seen. The plot concerns Olda, played by Petr Forman (son of director Milos Forman). Olda gets interviewed on live T.V for an opinion poll, now that his image is recorded another person who is him in a parallel T.V world needs energy to live. Every time Olda watches T.V, he looses energy. The T.V starts to mysteriously drain peoples energy till they die. When Olda doesn't watch T.V he gains telepathic type energy. To survive, he even has to take a universal remote everywhere he goes to turn off public televisions. Or else he'll die. The movie is also a comedy and a good way to get people to read more. Ironically actor Petr Forman has a twin brother in real life. Not to worry, his twin brother is not from a parallel world. The Czech Republic has some of the most original and unique films, but for some odd reason U.S distributors don't seem to pay attention. This movie had a small budget of a about 2 million, yet you would never know it. Forget about Hollywood CGI and give Akumulator 1 a try.
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