6 ReviewsOrdered By: Date
Dym (2007)
Beyond the curtain of reality
12 November 2010
Where to begin with director Grzegorz Cisiecki's debut film Dym, a puzzling tapestry of surrealistic images hung upon the backbone of a story of a man lost within a dangerous hedonistic realm of what might be his own senses. Much like the works of David Lynch, of which Cisiecki's is clearly inspired, fantasy blends with reality to create an enigma of a film that must be felt to be fully unravelled, and whose emotions seem fully displayed, yet just out of reach, like clamours and ruckus from behind a stage curtain. The film succeeds not only in presenting stunning imagery, but also in the way it has been edited; the film zips back and forth between dream and waking life with a deft ability and allows for a natural flow of events that can be interpreted in whatever way the viewer chooses to see them. As a fan of the open ended and the abstract, I was pleasantly surprised to be challenged by the work here. I couldn't really quite say what the story of Dym was, perhaps a man trying to recall what happened to him the night previous, with only a tape recorder of ambient sound to remind him. The story cuts in and out of both his present day at the breakfast table, and his night of debauchery and pain at what seemed a lavish and macabre masquerade party styled not unlike Kubrick's Eyes Wide Shut. Whatever the truth may be, one will have a good time trying to suss it out; the high quality of production allows for repeat viewings making it a delight to return to. My only qualm would be that certain scenes take to heavily from films I have already seen, imitation may be the biggest form of flattery, but for a film, we are always looking for fresh experiences. Still a few borrowed scenes aside, Dym is a wonderful debut from what seems a promising director, and I for one look forward to his next outing!
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5 October 2010
By far my favourite film I've seen so far this year, A Screaming Man is an extremely captivating and thought provoking film that doesn't have to try too hard to get its ideas across. I think it says a lot without having to say so much, and in that simplicity, the viewer can find a whole world of complexities lying under the characters and their tale. I don't know why but this film just really spoke to me on a lot of levels, as a employee, as a son, and as a man. I'm really glad to have decided to check it out as I had originally thought this film would be unrealisable to me and possibly boring, but it's quite the opposite, It's a film I'm going to be thinking about for quite some time and engaged me thoughtfully the entire way through.

Meet Adam, he's is fifty-five years old and has spent thirty of those as the pool manager at the nearby hotel in an unknown village in the country of Chad. Adam is content with his life as it keeps him considerably happy and even allows for his son to have a job as his assistant. But all of that changes when the hotel changes hands to new owners, unfortunately they do not see the worth in this long time employee and former swimming champion. Complacency gets the best of Adam when he is informed he no longer the pool assistant, and instead manning the front gate of the hotel. This shift to a job he does not like is further impacted by jealousy as he watches his son take over the position he never wished to give up. What is more is that Adam's village is become a more hostile place by the day, as warring rebels seem to draw closer to home. It is here that Adam makes a regretful choice with the leader of the resistance movement, leading to the heartbreak for himself and his family. Can Adam learn to accept his fate and make better the things he did to try and divert it, or will he be lost in the growing turmoil of war and suffering that will leave him A Screaming Man?

Wow, I did not expect this movie to be this way. I actually thought this film would be slightly jarring given the title, but no real screaming or profuse anger exists here; the screaming is done within the mind. And what a mind to try and unravel, Adam is easily one of the years best characters and performances. It's certainly a quiet performance, but it says so much without having to, I really enjoyed that about the character, he wasn't entrenched in some well said dramatic dialogue, instead it's felt and experienced along with the character. Youssouf Djaoro is ridiculously on point with the role, capturing all the confliction and anger of Adam in a single glance, I really felt for and rallied behind this person from the start; easily the best performance I've seen this year, just so perfectly done. The story itself is surprising and the emotions presented within feel really honest. The film also allows for brilliant moments of humour and introspection to go along with its more serious events, and the world around Adam is smartly realized. The pacing of the film is really solid, and the direction is flat out brilliant, the story wouldn't of worked without director Mahamat-Saleh Haroun eye for nuance and simplistic effectiveness. I found parts of the film quite intense though there is little action in the film, the title of the film is apt in that way, no one screams, but the strength of the story doesn't require them too, it is written all over their faces with brilliant ability. I only really take issue with the ambiguous ending which left me confused at the films final events, I suppose it's open to interpretation this way, but I think it wasn't really necessary; perhaps the director felt without it the film would seem cliché, but I found everything up to that point brutally original and eye opening. Overall I just really loved the story, and a better film could not be made from it, this is a very close call with cinematic perfection in my eyes and one that will most likely to remain at the top of my list come years end, quite happy to have been afforded the opportunity to travel the dusty roads and narrow alleys with this character. If I can track down a copy to buy, I most certainly will by it without hesitation.

So I truly do recommend this film as a great example of effective filmmaking. I didn't know what I was going to get with this one, but the results we're overwhelming in a good way. If you get a chance to see this film, do not pass it up, as far as dramatic films go for the year, this is among the best you'll find. Unfortunate that it's joint sponsorship will make it ineligible for consideration in the AMPAS foreign film category, perhaps a group such as the Hollywood foreign press (Golden Globes) who define the category as foreign Language will show it some love. Either way, A Screaming Man is an extremely well played meditation on what it is like to have your world flipped upside down in a heartbeat, and how one makes amends with the unpredictability of life. Highly Recommended.
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Blood runs Cold
4 October 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Cold Fish was a film I was really itching to see, not necessarily because of its story but because of its genre: Asian Extreme. After spending the last couple months dredging through the likes of Burst City, Death Powder and 964 Pinocchio, I was really eager to see how this type of storytelling has progressed. Also as I'm am taking part in my cities international film festival, I wanted something a little dangerous in amongst the documentaries and dramas, just to spice it up a bit. Needless to say I got what I wanted and perhaps a bit more than I cared to witness. Though I am a film viewer who can appreciate gore and guts and depravity, this film still managed to test my boundaries of personal taste, and I came out of it with mixed emotions, some stuff I truly liked, while others, pushed the line I've drawn for myself as to what I can handle in a film. I'm thankful to find a film that challenges me thusly, but now it's over I can say this, too far! Cold Fish is about a recently remarried father named Shamoto who enters into business with an exuberant and strange tropical fish salesman named Murata. It isn't long before business turns sour as we find out this salesman has a penchant for killing those that defy him, and enlists our protagonist as an accomplice through fear and shock. As Murata begins offing more and more people, Shamoto finds himself getting pulled deeper and deeper into the crimes, trapped by this crazed killers with his career and families lives at stake should he show signs of betrayal. Can Shamoto find a sensible way out of this predicament, or will end up a stone cold killer like the man who claims to have found his apprentice. To watch you'll have to dive into the bloody water of Cold Fish and see what bites.

OK whoa! Hey! Whoa! This movie was wild and raw and crazy. There is a lot of depravity and violence throughout the film, much of it pushing the boundaries of tastefulness to the point that several audience members left half way through, several other during the final act. It's not a easy film to stomach as almost immediately we're treated to a lengthy sudo-rape scene that is all together unsettling, strange and sinister. From here things just get more insane as we're high jacked and handcuffed to the loud and brash personality of Murata. This is a great performance, and a performance that could only work in this type of film and culture. Murata is wacky, over the top, and down right evil at times, but it's so perfect, the film needed a vivid and crazy character to give it a necessary black comedy element and it got that and much more. In a perfect world, this guy would be nominated for a best supporting actor award, sadly performances like this get lost in translation, even still Murata commands and controls the film throughout; it's also helpful that our lead actor isn't fleshed out or acted nearly as well. Our protagonist is missing a major component of admission of his feelings on his situation to himself or someone he trusts. It's hard to tell what goes on in the mind of Shamoto, which makes all his actions quite puzzling, Shamotot is too quiet for too long to find any reasoning in his actions. The other female counterparts are badly written, I tried to chalk it up to a culture of docile women, but that doesn't cover how objectified and stupid all of the female characters are portrayed; they live for, and are abused (brutally) by the men they claim to love. Not a single redeeming quality exists on any of these characters, and even our hero is reluctant to be one, which becomes even more apparent in the final gruesome act.

The final act of this film had my heart racing with a hand covering my mouth to stifle the shock of one of the bloodiest and goriest endings to a film I have seen in a film. That said, I loved the direction it took towards the end, switching over to a gory thriller that had me wincing from its scenes. Still there are certain things I feel inclined to draw a line at. As far as cinematic depictions of rape go, I can tell myself it's just a film, but even still, Cold Fish subjects the viewer to a brutal rape scenes that go on to long and to far into perverse and wrongful territories that it became hard to take, or even justify as valid entertainment. I'm not saying don't do it, but I am saying don't glorify it, and I felt that may have happened here. Story and ensemble aside, the film has some pretty sophisticated direction, a perfectly used score and great editing, the film transitions from creepy to criminal and feels so right in doing so, a film that builds to a cataclysmic event seamlessly. I like the film overall, but take issue with some of the content (or at least the duration of it) that takes place within.

So while I can sit back and say, wow, that was a film that pushed and tested my as a viewer, I think other just might not want to bother, while others may run for the bathroom. The film is for hardcore horror fans and fans of extreme cinema. People who prefer their plots on the tamer side, please steer clear, this is the bloodiest, goriest film I've seen this year, or maybe even in the past few years. All I know is that by the end of it, I was shocked and in awe of what I had witnessed. Truly an offensive and macabre piece of work, crafted with skill yet lacking in sensibility. See it if you like your blood by the gallon.
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Biutiful (2010)
Biutiful (2010)
4 October 2010
Biutiful is a rather complex and interesting film, one that I have to admit is still sinking in as I'm still piecing together the dots of a rather sprawling storyline. Biutiful is a film that exists within the margins of society, it's everywhere we don't want to live, it's everyone we don't want to meet; it's all the struggles we'd rather not face and then some. As a result, the film is loud, violent, crazy, shameful, desperate, dirty and all other manner of words that describe the run down storefronts and apartments of the worst lived areas. Intelligently and bravely the films central idea is lost in the crowd, as obscured as the desires of its inhabitants, it's a confusing and chaotic place to be, but it works here where it wouldn't elsewhere. I would really like to watch this one again in hopes of better connecting the dots of a life lived on the fringe of society, entrenched in wrong doing, but not without its struggle with sensible moral. I think the idea behind Biutiful is that life, no matter how destitute and forgotten can be beautiful, it all depends on how you except and claim it.

Biutiful is the story of Uxbal, a shady man who's life is filled with turmoil, from admissions of an uncared for terminal illness, to unstable lovers, to unruly children, to spirits of which he can commune, to the lives of the underpaid migrant workers that he pimps out to whoever will employ them. It's easy for Uxbal to look back on his forty year existence and measure it in disappointments. But Uxbal is also a sensitive and caring man, who is able to make these admissions and in doing so take the steps to make his life it's own unique form of biutiful, but with a city more a crumbling metropolis and people who bar his progress with any step, can Uxbal truly bring some semblance of beauty to his life before it is painfully cut short, or will the darkness and depravity of the world around him swallow him and his desires whole, the answer is well worth discovering.

So I just can't say a whole lot with one viewing, but there are some things that stand out immediately. The film is several things, sad, funny, scary, creepy, intense, and as obvious as it seems, beautiful. Definitely some of the nicest camera work this year, yes it's sometimes shaky but you must consider the imagery it captures; some scenes are purely blissful for a film fan to witness. The editing is so great here that even though you know where the film is going its still exciting to get there. Javier Bardem gives a brilliant performance here, and it will take awhile for the viewer to except that Uxbal is an undesirable, but once you allow yourself to slip into his shoes, you begin to really get a sense of the man and his life. The seediness of the streets, and the strife and struggle of the humans in them are written all over this man, and Bardem really gives himself over to this character, warts and all, and gives us a brilliantly flawed person worthy of our attention. The rest of the cast is also well played, their stories contain their own levels of thoughtfulness and intrigue that both separates and connects to and from our protagonist intelligently. The script feels very human, there are no major verses of dialogue, people talk, feel and behave very naturally in this film, despite all coming from abnormal situations. Virtually no exposition on why this film exists, its meaning is wonderfully felt but not fully explained. The direction is so subtly smart that I was surprised to miss some of the most inventive and thought provoking foreshadowing I've seen in a film. Really just an all out creative and arresting affair, I'm trying hard not to use the word beautiful, but its fits every gritty frame of this film. The cinematography is awesome, really blown away thinking back to the brilliance of some of these shots, great work with the actors and the environments. My only complaint is that sound editing got a little to jarring, I get it's supposed to be an ugly film, but high pitched beeps and boops are annoying anyway you cut it (the 2001 monolith can suck it, thanks Kubrick), it drives home the madness of the setting, but I actually covered my ears at one point to muffle the noise. Other than that, the film is wildly challenging and rewarding for the viewer, I am blown away by the artistry here, it took this film to great heights, it made ugly pretty, which is no easy feat. If you don't like your films themes to be cut and dried, you're going to want to check out, pick apart and decipher the themes and mysteries of Biutiful, as it is more than deserving of such treatment.

So yes I liked this film quite a bit, but will hasten to rave until I've fully understood the motive of it. Thematically it's no straightforward story, there's something deep underneath all the grime, and I'm glad I dirtied my hands on it, and can't wait to do so again. A film for those who love long walks on the wild side and never choose the easy way out; a real decent thinking persons movie. A film in a class of it's own that breaks conventions in the best ways possible, and definitely among the years best films that I've seen thus far. Recommended.
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After.Life (2009)
You're a corpse. Your opinion doesn't count anymore.
25 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
I was all ready to write this Christina Ricci horror flick off as some form of low budget sixth sense film, but towards the end what it couldn't achieve in suspense or shock it achieved in mystery and left a film that is open for debate on the case of Miss Anna Taylor, killed in a car accident, or was she? Anna wakes up on the slab and is greeted by the local Mortician Elliot who claims he can see the dead, although Anna seems to be talking. Several clues conflict both sides of their argument throughout the film, from foggy windows and feeling pain, to walking corpses and creepy kids; whether or not Anna is among the living or in the after life is the great debate left breathing among some very clichéd scares. Their were epic drops of water from the tap, followed by epic eye opening sequences, followed by obvious jump scares. It didn't innovate as a horror film; and doesn't really use it to it's best potential for the story. The make-up was pretty cool though, both for the decaying corpses but although the visual look, stark white with blood red and onyx black, the look was striking and kept the film vivid though it's merely decent portions. The final act of this film is it's best part where we are given a sneaky resolution to the clues against a possibly delusional mortician, or a possibly delusional fiancé, the end of this film is well handled and left me wondering about it into the credits. Had the film relied a lot less on obvious horror elements and went for something more realistic to make the film chilling, I would've been way more eager to recommend this film, unfortunately you have to slog though familiar scare tactics to get to a rather brilliant ending. That said if you scare easy you just might like this film. Proceed with caution.
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Welcome to the Land of the Blind
22 July 2010
Warning: Spoilers
Two Thousand Ten at a glance is beginning to feel a lot more like two thousand ten at a blindfolded nod to the firing squad. I want to believe there are good films out there; I just haven't seen them yet. To contend with this notion, and to pass the time, I have to tell you that Valhalla Rising is at least interesting and unique, although won't be everyone's cup of tea as noted by it's lower than deserved score on this website. It appeals avidly to the tester one laced "300" set, but then treats them to a gritty high concept art film, well you can see this film would seem "gay" to some. Anyways Valhalla rose to the occasion but still left this viewer yearning for some bit of exodus.

Meet One-Eye, who is One-Eye? What is One-Eye; I could only relay what I saw. One-Eye was a prisoner, a mute, a cunning and brutal warrior, a father figure, a curse, a god, a saviour, a martyr. One-eye was as epic as his name entails, and literally for unknown reasons he is missing an eye. It is not long before One-eye escapes his captors, freeing a young boy in the process who acts as One-Eye's translator. They wander the barrens of 1000 AD side of Norwegian cliff, miles from nowhere and no map. They come across crusaders of god, they peacefully go with them to find Jerusalem, and they only find fog, endless stretching fog. Day and night become indeterminable, food becomes scarce and Nomad begins to turn on Nomad, especially the one who doesn't talk. When they find land it is unlike anything they had expected, is it heaven? Is it hell? is it One-Eye? and what will become of them? What will become of One-Eye and the boy? Will they escape this strange land, or will it be the grave for them all in a film so archaic it had to be called Valhalla Rising.

This is a better than average movie in the grand scheme of things. It was quite boring and overdrawn in parts, and garish and plain low budget in others. But arguably this is actually a challenging concept. You have a protagonist who is mute, who looks like a corpse on half of his face, set in bleak 1000 AD Netherlands, with the majority of the rest of the people dumber than a sack of hammers. On top of this there is a penchant to make the film arty, and so the dialogue is sparse, the soundtrack is heavy metal, the brooding atmosphere and bleak tone is very much at the forefront so that the film is more experience than story. I think as a creative piece of work, I like a lot of Valhalla Rising, but as a piece of entertainment, quite slow and boring. For instance there was no need for these people to spend half an hour trapped in thick fog, which by the way never truly ever leaves, you can never see further than a few yards behind the character; and that setting is really fantastic but intensely overused to the point it's a major part of the story. Same with the heavy metal scoring, which completely suits this visceral and brutal experience, but then has music video like sequences. In this film, everything is both great and a little too much at the same time, which limits it's potential. At times it feels uninspired, bored, and poor quality, at other times it's stunning, smart, and effective as this dark moody legend. Overkill is perhaps a good word, this movie could of toned down the things it had going for itself, there could've been even a sliver of character set-up or even insightful development, things just sort of befall our band of merry crusaders, and at the center is a bad ass named one-eye. And for the record, One-Eye is bad ass, a great acting job, the whole concept of him being mute works so well as to make One-Eye into more than a man but possible god in these paranoid times. One-Eye is a morally and visually ugly character, but a well thought out and acted character that it's almost enough to carry the film. The acting is actually pretty great and the look of the film is among the best I've seen all year. But the story within the film is this hardcore, minimalistic, bleak, visceral poem; which I think is why the general audience has not embraced this film even though on the surface it would seem all they desire, it's more cinema than an action film.

So while I liked the movie, I was giving a lot of credit to the style of the film over the substance. It's a Viking road movie, before there were roads. It's twisted, it's dark, it's full of idiots and heretics, and men of god and godly men, all trying to live in a kill or be killed world of plundering and pillaging that is enveloped by an endless fog and while that sounds fun, it's also extremely strenuous to witness. Does it pay off in the end, only if you like what you see, because that's about what you'll get the whole way through? But it's short means even though it feels long it just feels the length of any other mediocre movie that went on too long. There's a lot of creativity and style going on here but I can easily see many people not feeling engaged enough by the characters to follow the film down its murky misty blood stained path. Though for the artsy fartsy witty gritty type, it's a movie you just might end up enjoying Proceed with Caution.
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