Reviews

4 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
8/10
Outstanding in its very ordinariness
28 August 2012
In many ways one might think this an ordinary film. There are no special effects, no beautiful stars, no special flourishes. But every shot is perfect. Every frame is necessary. Every nuance is in place. And Bruno Ganz is absolutely superb at every moment.

I first saw this film by chance in the early eighties and have searched and searched ever since -- for 25 years -- in order to see it again. Now it's 2012 and I almost expected to be disappointed. But I am just as impressed as ever, with the superb script and under-stated direction. "Knife In The Head" will hold you in its grip until the very last frame, and only gets better in the last few minutes.

It seems odd to say, because in many ways this film seems so darned ordinary, like so many others. But, but, there is some difference. Rather than ordinary, I think it might be one of the best films ever made.
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Transfer (I) (2010)
7/10
A worthy effort spoiled by cold resolution
25 August 2012
Transfer (2010, Germany) is destined to be one of those obscurities that shows up in the discount DVD pile... assuming they have DVDs in the future. The premise is simple: a rich old German couple have their minds transferred into gorgeous young black bodies so they can continue their life and love. The wrinkle is that the original occupants are not purged, but awaken each night for four hours to live their own lives in the midst of their German host lives. Is this a prison or an opportunity?

Excellent acting (and cool futuristic architecture - go Berlin!) is what carries this film. We truly believe the older couple are deeply in love, can understand their decisions, and their misgivings. As we get to know the couple from Africa (Sarah from Ethiopia, Apolain from Mali) we understand their motivations and frustrations. The clever aspect is having four characters play out their drama in only two bodies.

Unfortunately the film is too slow for the content. There are too many scenes that do little to advance the narrative. The resolution seems obvious and rather perfunctory. And it has a cold brutality that doesn't fit with the warm vibes the four principal actors have conjured. (Though Jeanette Hain is icy blue and otherworldly.)

I found the soundtrack rather repetitive and sometimes inappropriate. I kept getting the feeling Transfer was trying too hard to be Gattaca (right down to the unnecessary music recital scene). There are also problems with the ADR that makes me wonder if dialogue wasn't changed in post.

Though Transfer is an intelligent film in a world of rubbish SF, it could have been so much more. I will generously give it a 7, since such efforts should be encouraged.
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3/10
Painfully Bad
30 March 2011
This is painful for me to write since I am sure it will be misinterpreted. But I feel it is important to add an antidote to the many positive reviews here. First, be it known that I am a big fan of Wenders, which is the entire reason why I should seek out The State of Things and purchase it on DVD.

It was an enormous disappointment. First, the acting is a disgrace, almost from start to finish, across almost the entire cast. (I except the children.) Not just bad in the sense that I wished they could do better, but bad in the sense of obvious errors even an amateur should not make (mugging for the camera, flat tone, banal delivery, etc.). This is odd for a Wenders film, so it is not surprising to learn he borrowed the cast from another production.

Second, the music is annoyingly underdeveloped and cheesy in pseudo-porno mode. Third, Wenders lays on the "meaning" so thick and heavy that it takes no great intelligence to get the point... when there is one. And finally the plot is full of pointless moments, scenes extended long past their best before date and inanities.

As a fan of Wenders, none of this surprises me! That is because my love for his film-making is predicated on his ability to take risks, real risks, risks that can lead to a complete failure... and they regularly do! This also allows him to make utterly divine films like Wings of Desire and Paris, Texas. The End of Violence and Until The End of The world, flawed though they are, remain among my favourite celluloid experiences. Others still manage to be far more interesting than this effort (Lisbon Story, Alice in the Cities, The American Friend, even Land of Plenty and Faraway, So Close). Once you've seen all those other films you might want to grab this one, but only for one reason...

...the cinematography! Henri Alekan's work is, as always, truly divine. And completely wasted on this film, which I can only begrudgingly give three stars: two for his work and one for the finale, which contains 30 seconds of REAL film-making.
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Poetic and Personal Triumph
29 July 2004
I was not expecting much from '16 Years of Alcohol'. Perhaps an overly sentimental look back at Scottish urban life, perhaps a neo-realist bleakness. But when it started with hypnotically beautiful images of Edinburgh and a voice-over in that recognisable cadence, with repeating cycles of words drawing out every ounce of meaning from clichés like "hope"... well, I knew that I was firmly in Richard Jobson territory, and that maybe he has always been a film-maker at heart. He skirts cliché while playing with it, trying to show the violence endemic in that society and making many references to other films ('Clockwork Orange', westerns, 'Trainspotting', Martin Scorsese, etc.). It is larger than life and demonstrates how the mythic archetypes shape the characters rather too small for the roles they want to adopt.

Kevin McKidd is brilliant as "Frankie", a character the amalgam of Jobson and his brother; I kept forgetting he was not in fact Jobson. The women are incredibly beautiful and yet have a depth of character not commonly seen in films that make women into such visual feasts. They are saviour archetypes but again somehow avoid cliché. How is Jobson doing this? There is some subtle artistry at work here. The cinematography is gorgeous and I was glad for the snippet of Skids on the soundtrack, though 'Love is the Drug' gets the best treatment in a scene that is both scary and hilarious.

The film is dedicated to Jobson's brother, who did not escape the life of alcohol and violence and was murdered a couple of years ago. In the post-film talk at the Dublin Film Festival, Jobson revealed he had in fact run with the most notoriously violent of Edinburgh's youth gangs, until Skids took him away from that. This is quite obviously a very personal film and yet a highly aestheticised interpretation as well.

I did not want the film to end, and would gladly have sat through it a second time immediately. Maybe it's just where I'm at in my life right now. Maybe it's because I have spent so many hours over the years infiltrated by Jobson's aesthetic. Maybe it's just a damned good film.

'16 Years of Alcohol' won Richard Jobson the award for Directorial Debut at the British Independent Film Awards. It has received glowing reviews from Time Out, The Guardian, and Sight and Sound. It has played at festivals the world over. Forget the dismal comments of those too cynical to enjoy real film-making. See this poetic triumph for yourself.
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