Reviews written by registered user
|206 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
Before watching this film, "Aleksandr's Price," I was expecting a
typical gay themed film with a lot of exploitative sex and nudity, and
little else. This is nothing of the kind. Instead we have a brilliant
character study, of a Russian immigrant being slowly destroyed by the
harsh NYC hustling scene. Having seen many films on the subject of
prostitution, i cannot remember any other film that so accurately
documents what this lifestyle does to the human soul and sense of
self-worth. Aleksandr is a young, and very naive Russian immigrant, who
finds himself alone in a big, harsh city, after his mother commits
suicide. Aleksandr is an illegal alien, unable to secure a legal means
of income. It doesn't help that he has no friends to guide him or help
him out. Being very good looking, he soon finds himself in a job as a
go-go dancer in an NYC gay bar. When a man takes him home for a night
of sex, Aleksandr is both surprised and disgusted when the man hands
him an envelope with $500 inside, and promptly kicks him out. This is
where the fascinating psychological study comes into play. After being
abandoned by his father, and then told by his mother that he is
worthless garbage who ruined her life, Aleksandr is desperate for
someone..anyone to care about him, or to recognize some worth in him.
Sadly, the kind of love or friendship that he searches for is not to be
found in the world of prostitution. For Aleksandr meets an unending
stream of the most vile, jaded men you can imagine. And with each
humiliation, his sanity slips away, along with his sense of self, until
he no longer believes that he is worthy of anybody or anything. After a
while, he becomes addicted to the sex, and the rejection, until he
comes to the point where he becomes sexually aroused by the abuse, and
by the idea that he somehow deserves this vile treatment.
This pattern is so accurate; prostitution often leads to self loathing, and self annihilation. The tag line for this film is "Love isn't free," but the truth is, money isn't free either. It comes at a very steep price. I was really amazed that this film touched on all these facts, and it did it without being the least bit exploitative; the sex scenes, of which there are many, are filmed in a way in which the viewer doesn't see anything 'sexy.' Rather than showing naked bodies, the camera focuses on facial expressions, and the least erotic elements of sex. It focuses on the pain and sadness of the act, the psychological aspects of sex for cash. I'm not quite sure who the intended audience for this film is; I can't imagine many gay men liking this film, as there is such a lack of eroticism. not to mention the way the gay scene is portrayed here is very negative; every gay character is the most vile, reprehensible pig imaginable. In fact the gay scene is shown as downright evil. I don't know what to make of that. But at last here is a film with gay themes (it is not really a "gay" film, and Aleksandr's own sexual orientation isn't ever clearly defined) that can be watched by straight guys; the kind of sex in this film is not the kind that would make a straight guy uncomfortable to watch. "Aleksandr's Price" is a low budget film that is every bit as good as "Shame," starring Michael Fassbender, another film that deals with similar issues. I recommend this film highly, for viewers that can deal with dark subject matter; and this one is very dark, and totally devoid of humour or hope. But it's the most "real" film I have seen on the subject of prostitution.
I'm surprised that so few people have mentioned the beautiful cinematography of "Flesh for Frankenstein." Director Paul Morrisey went to great extents to model his film after the works of Luchino Visconti and other prolific Italian directors of the time. Of course to appreciate it, you must see it in it's original widescreen picture ratio. Featuring a lush, dreamlike feel that is helped along by a gorgeous and haunting music score, and top notch costumes. The gore, although extreme, possesses a kind of poetry, and i can imagine such sexually eroticized violence must have caused quite a controversy in the UK, at the time of release. Udo Kier is superb in his maniacal portrayal of Dr. Frankenstein, and the changes and additions to the Mary Shelley novel are for once, very smart and a welcome addition to an already great tale. Aside from the 1933 film "Bride of Frankenstein," this is my absolute favorite screen version of the Frankenstein monster. Excellent film!
I have only had the opportunity to see a few Iranian films, but the
ones I have seen all possess this life affirming quality, this positive
outlook on life, no matter what the struggle might be. The laws that
forbid depictions of nudity/graphic sex and violence, force filmmakers
to tell their stories in a different way. "Letters On the Wind" is one
of these films. The simple tale focuses on a group of Iranian soldiers
in training, who know that they will be cut off from all outside life
for the next 2 years. One soldier, Taghi, gets a rare opportunity to
take a short leave to visit the city of Tehran. Taghi is an immensely
likable guy, who spends much of his time tape recording voices, mostly
the pretty voices of girls, on his old tape recorder. When he is alone
he listens to these voices and they make him feel less disconnected to
the outside world. Soon the other guys in his regiment become
fascinated with the tape recorded voices, and they come up with the
idea that Taghi will record their voices..and play them over the phone
for their families when he arrives in the city.
As far as a story goes, that is it. Iranian films usually carry a moral or message, and this one deals with people working together, and helping each other through a common struggle. Taghi does as he is asked, and hearing the happy, grateful voices of his friend's families as they hear the voices of the soldiers, brings Taghi a feeling of joy. This film features a wonderful and rare view of Iran and the city of Tehran, and it's people. The film stock used gives it the vintage look of something older than 2002. It has the feel of a grainy documentary. I wish more Iranian films would be released in the West, as they are so good, and so different from films of other parts of the World. After being inundated with violent and sexual imagery, it is a kind of return to innocence to see a film from Iran. I highly recommend "Letters On the Wind" to all who appreciate World cinema..this one is very unique.
"Hard Romantiker" plays a bit like a Yakuza film for the teen set. The "gangsters" are young and arrogant, and they all aspire to be professional criminals. The film revolves around 'Gu,' the blond "James Dean-like" young thug, who has no fear, and is not shy about cracking someones head open with any blunt object at hand. This is a high octane film with wall to wall style, and featuring some nasty violence, a lot of it directed at young women; Western audiences not used to seeing men casually beat women's faces in, might be a little uncomfortable, but for those of us used to CAT 111 Hong Kong cinema, this won't be new territory. I saw "Hard Romantik" as a kind of 'primer' for harder, more adult gangster films like "Ichi the Killer." But this is a solid, highly entertaining delinquent/gangster movie in it's own right, and I am surprised that it is not more well-known.
Seeing all the negative comments about "A Thousand Clouds of Peace,"
makes me think that in order to appreciate a film like this, one has to
specifically appreciate this kind of filmmaking. For this is a true,
independent art-house film in the classic sense. It is a film that
conveys feeling, mood, and story, not with words, but with images. and
that is what film is supposed to do.
Unashamedly romantic, the film follows the character Gerardo in his search for a person who has offered promises of true love to him. When this guy fails to meet Gerardo on the bridge as promised, he begins to wander the city alone, looking for someone that he never manages to find. Instead, he encounters various strangers who have all experienced a similar disappointment in their own lives. This is a tale filled with broken people who are forever looking for love, happiness, or some human connection. The glorious black and white photography adds to the haunting and lonely atmosphere, while giving the movie a truly beautiful look. The performances are all fine, and utterly believable, especially the acting of Juan Carlos Ortuno, in the main role of Gerardo. His expressive eyes radiate a kind of genuine sadness and loneliness seldom seen even in actors with years of acting experience; and this guy is only 17 years old. If you have a good memory, "A Thousand Clouds of Peace" just might make you recall what it felt like at that age, to be in love, and feeling everything so intensely. This is truly a treat for film lovers; but don't expect a linear story with a lot of talking and exposition...film isn't about that. it's about images, and this one is filled with many that are dazzling, and unforgettable. On a side note, it is very rare to find a gay-themed film that has any artistic value, so this movie is truly a discovery. For those who prefer Hollywood mainstream productions however, you might want to skip this one altogether..
Without extensive knowledge of the politics behind this film, "Children of USSR" is a very enjoyable coming of age drama with just enough comic elements to make it a fun movie to watch. Slava comes from Russia, to live in Southern Isreal, a small desert town with little to do. He is faced with the usual prejudice from Isreali youths who dislike the Russian immigrants living there. Slava manages to find other outsiders like himself and they arrange a football team in order for something to occupy their time. The film follows the lives of Slava and Mucha and Svetlana, the girlfriend of Slava, as well as their immediate families. What makes the film enjoyable is the fact that the characters are all likable, and they are easy to relate to. It's also nice to see them grow and become adults as the story progresses. This film follows a familiar formula, but it really works here. It never takes itself too seriously, even though it cannot be classified as a comedy. Fascinating for audiences from other parts of the World who want a glimpse into other cultures. I had to write a review of "Yeldey CCCP" when I noticed the terrible, low rating some people gave. This is absolutely not a "2 star" film in any way! My only disappointment was that, although football is a main theme, very little actual football is shown on screen. But actor Daniel Bruck is so charismatic as Slava, that it wasn't noticeable.
Whether viewed as a serious art-house film, or sensationalist
exploitation, it cannot be denied that "Der Lebensborn" is a gorgeously
wrought film. A young Czech girl is discovered by Heinrich Himmler's
SS, in a remote Slovakian village. Taken by the girl's flawless "Aryan
beauty," she is quickly removed from her home and placed in a
"Lebensborn" facility, to breed superior Aryan babies for the Fuhrer.
Yes, the plot sounds like a sleazy exploitation film, and although it
does have some of that feel, such as gratuitous nude shower scenes,
this is an authentic part of Nazi history. These breeding camps did
exist, though many people are unaware of this.
While at the camp, we see the young woman have her skull measured and X Rayed, to determine her exact Aryan lineage. She, along with other women (mostly blond, all beautiful) from Germany and Norway, are matched up with high-born German men; SS troops from the best families, preferably who also show great heroism on the battlefield.
At first Gretka views the events unfolding before her with a detached air, but she soon begins to resent, and eventually despise the Nazi regime for what they are doing. And when she meets Leo, an attractive man of Jewish descent, acting as a slave to the SS, she decides to rebel in a way that is shocking and fascinating. "Lebensborn" deals with a subject matter that is so sordid and interesting that it would still be hard to not watch this, even if it was done poorly. Luckily this is an extremely competent production, featuring gorgeous cinematography, fine performances, and a lush, epic score. And although i feel guilty saying it, this film is strangely erotic. We even have the lesbian Commandant walking around in knee high black leather boots, issuing orders like a General on the front lines. It's hard to believe that this Czech production was made for television, as it is so polished, and is easily good enough to be a theatrical production. It is also fairly racy and explicit for a television movie. If you can find this obscure title, I recommend it highly. It is a must-see for WW2 enthusiasts..
For a film about Zombie Nazi soldiers who rise from the sea to murder a
group of shipwrecked tourists, you would expect blood and guts. Well
"Shock Waves" is relatively bloodless. and yet, it is an extremely good
horror film! Heavy on the tension and atmosphere, this is a film, much
like John Carpenter's "Halloween," that relies on mood and setting to
captivate it's audience. the fact that this movie was made with a
larger budget, and big name actors, helps "Shock Waves" to avoid being
categorized as cheap exploitation. The cast is great, but of course the
dead Nazis are the centerpiece of the production. The images of these
blond SS soldiers walking out of the water are haunting and almost
beautiful to behold. The fact that they don't have any reason to kill
the hapless tourists makes them seem a bit more soulless than if they
were killing them for "food." They don't eat their victims; they just
kill them and leave them where they lie.
Featuring a wonderful, creepy electronic score and imaginative camera-work throughout, this is a must-see for fans of the genre. Of course those looking for a bloodbath will be disappointed. but those looking for some good, old fashioned horror should be pleasantly surprised with this gem. Recommended.
This obscure film from Yugoslavia would probably be even more obscure
if it didn't star the then-unknown actor Brad Pitt. And undeservedly
neglected, as "Dark side of the Sun" is quite a beautiful, and utterly
surreal piece of filmmaking. The young Rick suffers from a rare skin
disease; if he is exposed to sunlight, or any bright light, his skin
will quickly deteriorate and he will die in just a matter of days or
weeks. because of this, Rick must wear a bizarre, S&M style leather
body suit, and matching black leather mask, all the time! Nobody can
see his face, and he rides a motorcycle, so as not to appear too
strange in his leather suit. A chance encounter with a beautiful
American girl, (Rick is also American, but lives in Yugoslavia) forces
Rick to re-evaluate his own existence. He decides that a week living
life as a normal kid is worth a lifetime of living separated from the
This film has a lot going for it, such as the beautiful Yugoslavian scenery and glimpse into their culture. Filmed just before war broke out in this land, the film provides an opportunity to see how wonderful and peaceful Yugoslavia was before the late 1980's. The story is unabashedly romantic, and tragic, and possesses a rare innocent quality to it. The director wisely decides to score the film with beautiful classical music, which adds much intensity to the already emotional tale. Filmed mostly in a gorgeous mansion by the sea, "Dark side of the Sun" has a distinctly "foreign film" style to it, which i wasn't expecting. American films from this period usually have a very dated look to them, but this movie has aged well. I believe director Bozidar Nikolic cast a physically beautiful actor in the main role intentionally, making the fact that he must live wearing a mask that much more tragic and sad. "Dark side of the Sun" possesses a surreal quality. It plays out much like a Greek tragedy, or some bizarre fairy tale, and it's conclusion is not exactly a happy one, but considering it's a story of a young person living out their dream, you don't feel depressed at the films end. Although it is difficult to see Rick's physical beauty destroyed. Not surprisingly this movie did not score too high here; it is strange and not for all tastes. Recommended though, for fans of foreign film, or just bizarre and unique cinema.
I recently had the good luck to find a copy of "Wildwechsel" and found it to be among the best work of Rainer Werner Fassbinder. It's an extremely rare film. The title roughly translates into "Jailbait," and it is a seemingly simple story about young love, between a 19 year old boy and a strange, mature beyond her years, girl of 14. What young girl wouldn't be smitten by the older, handsome, motorcycle riding Franz? Hanni's parents are horrified by the relationship and try to separate the pair, but have little success. The first portion of "Jailbait" plays out like a very sweet after school special kind of thing, (only with some graphic nudity) but when the second act unfolds, things take an extremely dark and disturbing turn, in true Fassbinder style. And Fassbinder truly is a master of dark drama and controversy. And many familiar faces appear, such as Hanna Schygulla, Kurt Raab, and El Hedi ben Salem. Harry Baer is wonderful as the young rebel, and Eva Mattes can play sweet innocent as well as she can pull off cold, clinical, and psychotic. As far as family dramas go, it doesn't get better than this bittersweet tale. Absolutely worth tracking down for fans of the late, great Rainer Werner Fassbinder.
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