Reviews written by registered user
|8 reviews in total|
This film is not the great piece of cinema many critics/ viewers seem
to think it is or want it to be. It has the occasional effective
moment/ sequence, and the use of sub-bass was quite original and
evocative in the sound mix. However, it's essentially trying to be an
art-house film with enough mainstream/generic or light-hearted moments
to appeal to your average non-art-house-watching,
can't-handle-it-too-grim-or-arty cinema goer. Therefore, it's hugely
flawed. It's not really that dark, for instance, despite a bit of dark
posturing, and the more likable/ morally "okay" characters win out in
the film's irritatingly moral conclusion. The bonding between the
bingo-playing old bat and the cowboy sidekick was almost sickening, and
was completely unnecessary if the film wanted to maintain a vaguely
black/amoral tone (which it did initially appear to be striving for). I
personally find the Coen brother's work to combine humour and a an
enjoyably surreal darkness far more effectively, and to maintain a more
amoral tone. It does not bare comparison to Fellini at all, for one
thing there's none of that crazy visual bravura in the mis-en-scene
here, and most of time and there's a deeply middle-brow quality to
narrative proceedings. Unlike the great Italian films of 60s/ 70s
(Visconti, Antonioni etc) the film is quite uninterestingly shot most
of the time, with an overuse of extreme close-ups and close-ups, and
with a very standard sense of pace in the editing. To be honest, even
Dario Argento is far more visually exciting.
The inclusion of the thriller plot towards the end of film simply does not work that well, and feels contrived and somewhat unengaging: the film suddenly decides it no longer wishes to be a slightly arty character-study of a despicable old money lender and tries to be David Mamet to get the audience "on the edge of their seats" - it had the opposite effect for me ultimately. The supporting characters are rubbish - the cowboy friend is like something out of a bad "quirky" short film and the super model girl has no *beep* personality at all... The old woman who's addicted to bingo? God, it's almost Father Ted territory and without the madcap humour or silliness to make such stereotypes genuinely funny.
Some of the music was quite well-used however, and it is still better than another moving/ funny film about the Holocaust or films about small boys and their relationships with wise old men who work in cinemas.
It's remarkable that this film is not more popular. It successfully strips away the veneer of "civilisation" (false morality, good manners etc) and shows people as selfish, brutal animals, and depicts modern, asymmetrical warfare as a terrible nightmare where a group of brutish white thugs rape and murder a terrified, technologically backward society (nearly all of whom are defenceless/ poorly armed women and children) before finally being made to suffer a grim but deserved humiliation for their actions. Oh, actually, what am I saying? It'll be a bloody surprise if it ever comes out in North America properly, given the hypocritical, righteous atmosphere of self-delusion that currently permeates this society, a society underpinned by exactly the kind of abuse and violence that this film describes.
It's just so typical of dumb asses on the IMDb to overrate this tired, badly written piece of nonsense. The overuse of bad explanatory speeches/ dialogue combined with its simplistic didacticism really grated - the film offered a cheesy crash course in political subversion/ rebellion for cretins. The love story was irrelevant, sentimental and completely uniteresting because the charcterisation was so lame - princess amrilla's character was nothing more subtle than the pretty scared girlie who grows a political conscience and a bit of courage. The direction and editing were hackneyed, dull and predictable. The photography was stunningly flat and badly framed, just boring -take the shot of the English people watching telly - it was like a particularly tedious Kodak moment from a family album.
This film is perhaps one of the most disconcerting and original film to
discuss the potential for dislocation and horror that lies in all
male-female sexual relationships. In the manner of one of the best
modernist road movies (Two Lane Black Top), it strips all the
unnecessary and hackneyed elements of narrative (e.g. standard horror
or romance "tropes" often employed in the couple road movie) and both
transcends the level of most other films, and simultaneously creates a
far more convincing and natural reality through its controlled pacing,
lack of narrative contrivance, its central performances and its
perfectly composed photography.
As usual, Dumont's psycho-philosophical concerns are the ultimate "point" of the film, and it is essential that these are at least partially understood in order to appreciate the film. Some of these, once again, are notions (I believe) about the essentially selfish, violent "animal" nature of the way most humans think, particularly men, and the way this explains the insatiable human appetite to murder and screw. The final link that is made between horrific random brutality and the central man's sexuality is thereby horribly significant, and in no way simply an attempt to shock an audience simply for the sake of shocking an audience. A shock is of course intended, but to make an interesting point that challenges a complacently liberal optimist view of human nature/behaviour. It also provides a perfectly significant and unpleasant climax to Dumont's uneasy journey into the amorality and horror of male-female relations and human behaviour.
It's disheartening and yet inevitable that this film is not generally recognised as a brilliant piece of work. Whereas Bresson is now recognised as a master, Dumont is a new master and many of the comments here reflect the fact that his work has been predictably misunderstood. Many people display an obvious and almost deliberate confusion at his method and his choices, not being prepared to do any work to engage with the film or to accept that these are indeed artistically valid choices/ a method. Instead of seeing the its originality as refreshing, they are simply irritated by any the fact that it doesn't play the expected "game" to make it another easily-consumed-and-forgot piece of cinema, or a superficial piece of shock/extreme cinema like Noe's overpraised homage to 70s exploitation cinema with added French pretentiousness. Blinkered by their limitations, they can only judge it as a failure because it fails to fulfill their expectations and does not conform to what what they "know" or imagine to be good in film - a fulsome if rather predictable narrative packed with event, lots of theatrical, snappy dialogue (e.g. Noe's ludicrous racist dialogue that strikes me completely over-the-top and or his character's stale cod-philos. speeches) that is actually horribly predictable and rather dull, "good" acting (i.e. emotional, though unrealistic performances which encourage either empathy or hatred for the character, acted with theatrical charisma or self-conscious villainy, such as Noe's rapist). But then, as Dumont realises, most people are not capable of using cinema for doing anything more than indulging their appetite for sex, food and violence... and this is is what most cinema provides a simulated escape into, without the risk of getting caught.
Ostensibly this film appears to be a buddy movie from the 1980s, but it
is actually something much more interesting. Employing standard
Hollywood clinches with its thriller/ investigation narrative and many
of of its "stock" characters and situations, the little guys - Heard
and Bridges - take on Mr Fat Cat Capitalist who rules the peacetime
world like an untouchable and corrupt monarch. The film, though
well-executed and enjoyable, at first seems no more than a
well-scripted, well-acted (Heard is particularly good as the
embittered, crippled Vietnam Veteran) genre piece. However, what
emerges by the end is something far more exciting and radical - an
indictment of US politics and power relations, and a genuinely bleak
reflection on the impossibility and rarity of real justice both at the
micro and macro levels.
Vietnam and its true significance is used to great effect in the film, as is the interplay between the two buddies. Whilst Bridges won't accept that he has witnessed the ultimate, bleak truth of US power relations until the film's abrupt, punchy end, Heard knows the truth intuitively and automatically because he understands and hates the world from the the start. He has given up on notions such as forgiveness and even the need for legal process, and seeks only revenge on the rich and the powerful. He understands, correctly, that is the only way a kind of momentary justice is possible, since everything else is either controlled by the elites or made to protect them. Without wishing to spoil the film's brilliant final moments, it is here that the whodunnit story is stripped away and the guilt they have been seeking to prove, as Richard Bone realises, becomes entirely political or metaphysical, and the the crime itself becomes irrelevant.
This is total hogwash. It's an unfortunate testament to how stupid people can be that this is not voted any lower than it is... But I guess very people actually saw it. The stuff about Russia is trite and badly done, and the fake singer-songwriter music is amusingly bad and mawkish. The whole story feels as though it were written by a 16 year old who knows very little about Russia or what goes on between men and women. It tries to cover up it lack of intelligence, authenticity and realism with a kind very-below par Lynchian surrealism that is frankly cringeworthy. The main romantic lead is so annoying and anaemic he could be studying in art in Brighton, and the only slightly good bit is the sub-porn Vodka advert club bit with loads of scantily models and lechy old men. Unfortunately this is a fantasy dream section and the audience is forced to return to the drearily silly reality of the film all too soon.
An early work by Bresson, I was lucky enough to see a restored version of the film at Cannes Film Festival this year. It is a fine film, though unfortunately is not so fresh in memory. It is a different sort of film from his later work, lacking both its intense bleakness and its incredible originality. It is nonetheless a very powerful and pure work, which explore the Christian themes of self-sacrifice and redemption with a kind of intense, candid, clear-sighted conviction that one would expect from Bresson. Its story about two women who choose to join a convent, and the different reasons for doing so (one being essentially self-less and the other a selfish who is "on the run")is far more compelling than it might sound. As usual there is a brilliant precision in its film language and narrative, and it conveys its social ambiance and characters (the various nuns mostly) using Bresson's typically stripped-down, modest style which mangages to be engagingly dramatic. For an atheist I also found myself completely engaged by the film's concerns because of the honest, complex and sparing way in which Bresson explored them. He was certainly a very different sort of Christian to most of the ones who come knocking at my door...
It's a shame that more people who like this movie have not yet
commented on it. If you do google the film, however, you will find some
more intelligent responses to the film, even ones which are critical of
the film's ending. It's clearly a love it or hate film, but I find the
lack of any intellectual engagement with film's themes demonstrated in
these comments a bit disheartening. If the IMDb is a democracy, people
should still think before they write something. One comment in
particular seems like it might have been written by a person who may
not have even seen the film. I did like and have seen it, so I'll offer
my two dimes worth.
I think it is an unusually unfettered and savage critique about the hypocritical way we represent and deal with casual brutality in our society, and the kind of selfish values which are currently in operation. The small coastal town in which the film is a microcosm used to explore and exemplify broader trends in Britain and the West generally. For example, this film talks about the simplistic and dishonest way in which the British tend to view both contemporary and past military conflicts. Through scenes with a well-intentioned, lefty media studies teacher and then later through the juxtaposition of WWII newsreel footage with a savage ultra-violence, we are asked to question the standard version of the Second World War as a glorious fight between good and evil. Through similar juxtapositions of political speech-making and ultra-violence we are also asked to question the official line on the Iraq conflict. In it is totality, (e.g. through its music - Elgar-Birtwhistle - or its downward spiral narrative) the film systematically asks us to question all manner of lazy assumptions about Britannia and the British, and what both supposedly stand for. In a wider sense, I feel it effectively questions our assumptions about civilized people and nations being essentially good.
I also think the film-making is generally excellent, particularly for a first film. The boys in it are very convincing, and the film is a good watch even if a person misses some of its thematic concerns. Only one of two of the side characters are a bit less convincing, it does have a lengthy build-up. It's very, very different from mot British cinema of today which is generally sentimental, conservative and gratingly populist or else falls into the no-longer radical or interesting category of politically correct realism. This is a film which dares to be different, and challenges its audience with its stylish long takes and its uneasy combination of terrible violence and savage satire. If you're not squeamish or intellectually lazy, it's also very compelling. It never falls into the art-house ponderous-dull trap. Its says interesting things about morality and politics without being didactic or using self-consciously high-brow dialogue.