Reviews

60 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
The Sacrifice (1986)
10/10
A trinity of holy fools
2 April 2014
Warning: Spoilers
Tarkovsky's last film is one of those perfect last film, a last testament. Tarkovsky heard he had cancer when he was editing the film. Still, he had been sick for some time so who knows how fear of death influenced his script and filming or what he knew unconsciously?

It was made in Sweden. Tarkovsky was a refugee, missing his home country, his life there and especially his young son. Tarkovsky borrows many of Bergman's collaborators, including Sven Nykvist on camera and Erland Josephson as Alexander, the protagonist.

Alexander is really Tarkovsky's mouthpiece. He has the same religious and political views and the same taste in art. Sacrifice is in fact not very Swedish at all. It is a Russian film through and through, with very Russian characters speaking Swedish. Tarkovsky even filmed it in Gotland because it looked like Russia.

The whole film is very personal. The little boy is like his own son who he missed terribly. The wife in the film is just like his own wife in Russia and the story about how they found the house is in fact how he found his house in Russia (and the house in the film looks like the that house).

The original idea for the film is found in a script he wrote and called The Witch. In it a man dying of a cancer has sex with a witch and is cured. He leaves all his riches, family and friends and follows the witch into poverty.

While Tarkovsky was filming Nostalghia he got the idea of adding an apocalyptic scene to it, an all out nuclear war. While keeping the witch in the script he added a deal with God also, which has confused many viewers. I personally don't get the confusion. It can be read in at least three ways. One that he is a desperate man who makes deal with anyone willing to make it, to safe mankind and his family. Or that he makes a deal with God to safe mankind and the witch to safe his family. And there does not have to be a crash between the witch and God. Looking at her home we see that she is quite religious. She might be called a witch but she is more of a holy fool. Otto, the post man is another and Alexander turns into the third one in the end of the film, creating a holy trinity of holy fools in the film.

Then there is the whole question of what really happens in the film. Is there a nuclear war, is there any deal with God, does he really go to the witch? What is reality, what is hallucinations and what are dreams? It is hard to say. We get hints, like turning off the music and so on but even they don't work. Tarkovsky deliberately makes it impossible to determine what is real and what is a dream. He said that he wanted it that way. People would have to make up their own mind about those things.

I honestly think Tarkovsky would have been most pleased if we did not make up our mind. If we just lived in the mystery, the uncertainty, the dreamlike state of none logic. These things happen and they don't happen at the same time. We have to believe and not believe. Life is full of those moments. We don't know what would have happened if we acted differently, took a different path in life, even what happens at times in our life. Life is uncertainty and it is very modern to try to kill that. In fact this love of cold rationality is killing the world, creating atom bombs that can wipe out all life on earth.

Tarkovsky's answer to this cold rational anti human spirit of modernity is mysticism, art and faith. This is crystallized brilliantly in the end when Alexander wakes up. It looks like God has answered his prayer or was it the witch? Or was it all a dream? He can't be sure and he can't find out. If God has moved time back to yesterday then no one but he remembers what will happen. The telephone calls hints at that. Alexander has only one possible action in front of him. To keep his promise, no matter if it was a dream or not, if God did something or not. Otherwise God might make all of it happen again and he is for sure not going to get another chance to stop the horror. So without knowing if this was a dream Alexander burns down his house and takes a vow of silence. In the beginning was the world, in the end is the silence. And here we come back to how personal this film was. Tarkovsky had in fact sacrificed his house and his life in the Soviet Unions for his art, and he honestly hoped that art and his sacrifice could change the world.

This uncertainty is also reflected in the last shot of the tree. For a moment the dead tree looks alive. The hope here is in the next generation that waters this tree of life (I call it tree of life because Tarkovsky had previously shown us the tree of life in a painting, obviously to help us make the connection). Tree of life stands for hope eternal. It was one of the two trees in the Garden of Eden Adam and Eve could not eat off. They are kicked out in fear that they will also eat of it (and become like God) and it is only promised to mankind at the end of time. In Christianity Jesus Christ is often seen as the tree of life. So what we get in the end is a hope for mankind in the from of a tree which stands for mysticism, art and faith - a hope kept alive with every new generation.
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Times Square (1980)
7/10
A flawed but good film with a rich soul and a desire for sincerity
20 March 2014
This was a huge favorite of mine as a teenager. I have been looking for a copy of the film for the longest time and finally found one in Germany. It's strange that it's so hard to get a copy of a big cult film like this one.

The film captures well the essence of punk. It is about Nicky and Pamela, two teenage NYC girls. Nicky is from the streets with a dark past and from a broken home. She has serious anger issues but is street smart and has artistic talents. Pamela is from a rich (political) family, with the security that Nicky never had but suffers because her father does not understand her. She is a great poet and full of empathy but has never dared to live her life or take a chance. They meet at a hospital and run away. Together they start a mini punk renaissance in New York CIty.

Into this mix comes a radio host called Johnny LaGuardia (played by Tim Curry) who got a letter from Pamela before she ran away. When he finds out that Pamela is living on the streets he decides to use it to get a small scoop but also to fight against the politics Pamela's father stands for. Johnny LaGuardia wants NYC to stay as it is while Pamela's father wants to clean up the streets. Tim Curry is the weakest link in this film. It's hard to tell if it is because of the script or because he or the director did not understand Johnny LaGuardiahe. Tim Curry plays him as some kind of prophet while everything points to him being a self serving, fame seeking egocentric megalomaniac. Tim Curry is at least never a convincing prophet and we never get the feeling that Tim Curry is playing him sarcastically either.

Not every scene works in this film and it does not hold perfectly together but it has a very rich soul and a desire for sincerity which is very contagious. It also captures well the culture of NYC in the late 70s/early 80s and the reason why punk spoke to the youths. And it has one of the best sound track ever (including The Ramones, The Cure, XTC, Lou Reed, Gary Numan, Talking Heads, Garland Jeffreys, Joe Jackson, Suzi Quatro, Roxy Music, Patti Smith and The Pretenders.) and a lot of wonderful poetry, like this one:

"Dear Daddy, I am not kidnapped. I am me-napped, I am soul-napped, I am Nicky-napped, I am happy-napped.

We are having our own renaissance."
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Videodrome (1983)
10/10
Glorious poetic and philosophic meditation on reality and technology
18 March 2014
Warning: Spoilers
A cable programmer is looking for some rough porn for his local TV station. He stumbles upon a torture porn station called Videodrome and becomes hooked on it.

The 80s brought us video cassettes and with it came a chance for teenagers and youths to watch films they had never seen before, films that had age restrictions which prevented them from seeing them at cinema. Sometimes youths could even see films that were banned in their home country. Suddenly the censor board had lost their control and uncensored material flooded the market.

Religious groups and moralists were furious and declared a holy war on what came to be called "Video Nasty", that would destroy the youths and turn them into morally bankrupt monsters. Cronenberg had had his share of this hysteria. His films had been censored, and some of his films were considered down right dangerous.

Cronenberg asked, well, let's say they are right. Let's say technology can change us. How would that look like? Let's make a horror film about that.

Let's remember that this is before Internet so the film focuses on TV broadcasting. Still, there are few films that are as prophetic as this one. The Internet runs through this film, with interactive TV, way before that was possible. And if people watched TV too much back in the 80s it really has not gotten any better today. Now we also have the computer screens to watch and our mobile phone screens. Screens and the virtual world has become more part of our life than ever before.

And if we were "basically getting f... by TV" back in the 80s, as Cronenberg called it, well the F... has not become any more delicate, with the so called Reality TV, which for some is a greater reality than their daily life. Many admit that they realize that it is bad TV, that there is very little of any value there but they just can't stop watching. The some goes for those who watch Videodeome (the torture porn) in this film. We are addicted to trash.

And what happens when you work 7 hours in front of a computer screen. You come home, you check your emails, your Facebook, your mobile phone, your TV... What is reality? Is the screen not more real than the grass in front of your door which you hardly ever see?

And what affect does this have on us, physically? Neuroscientist say that modern technology is changing the way our brains work. Just Google it. Technology is changing us. We have become a hybrid humans, a mixture of technology and physicality. Technology has even taken over evolution. It is no longer the strongest who decides who lives. Technology extends life way before evolution has a chance to do anything about it.

Videodrome came out in 1983, a year before George Orwell's "1984" takes place. I remember well back then that people waited for 1984 with anticipation, wondering how much of the book would turnout to be true. Videodrome is strongly influenced by 1984, and it even got one thing right. Unlike the book were big brother is forced upon us, in reality we celebrate big brother and welcome him. We even pay for having him. The Internet, which is connected to our computers, our mobiles, our TVs, and sometimes even our cars, is the eyes of big brother who can follow us, listen to us and watch us with out even asking for our permission. Big brother is here and has been for a while. He can use information he has on us to silence us and destroy us. And we all love him, because each and every one of us are sure that we are on his good side.

It is interesting that Cronenberg was and is so hated by morality and religious groups. His horror should be their kind of tea. Instead of seeing evil in aliens, zombies or robots, Cronenberg sees horror in our sexual nature, our own flesh. Sounds like Christianity, Islam and in fact most religious and moral groups I know.

Maybe the reason why they don't fall for Cronenberg is that they sense that his horror is also deliciously fascinating, desirable, in fact often irresistible. This is a forbidden fruit you not only want to taste, once you have done so, you want more and more. Just like those who watch Videodrome (the torture porn program) in the film and just can't stop.

And what is the new flesh. Well if Videodrome controls us, takes over our life, then the new flesh is everything videodrome is not. It is freedom from big brother, from thought controls, small mindedness of the society, religious teachings, politics and what ever tries to tell us to look at the world only one way or follow only one road. The new flesh is what has happened with the Internet, information overload where the little man on the street has world knowledge at his fingertips and power to influence the world, even start a revolution.

The film was heavily censored and was a box office bomb, grossing $2,120,439 on a budget of $5.952 million. Critics did not like it either. Time has however been kind to Videodrome. It is a cult classic today, on many of the most respected film lists in the world. It influenced films like The Ring series and The Matrix series and has even such a huge cult status that Universal Pictures is making a remake of it, updated with modern technology, which would, sadly make Videodrome everything it was fighting against. Part of the recycled trash we are feed every day.

I have only one thing to say to that; "Long live the new flesh!"
0 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
The revolution is opium for the people
9 March 2014
Warning: Spoilers
"By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept when we remembered Zion."

So sings a Jew who survived WW2 because priests protected him. This Jew is a student in a Christian cluster in Hungary just after the communist revolution. A group of communist youths have climbed over the fence of the school to start a dialog with the students and try to turn them to communism.

This exorcise goes out of hand. A young revolutionary woman (Teri) suggests that they shave the heads of the priests and burn their books. This is when the Jew step forth and tells them that the priests saved his life and the lives of many other Jews and then he sings Psalm 137, the Psalm of exiles, written in the memory of slave Jews in Babylon. The psalm is very fitting here, not only because it reflects the horrors Jews had to go through in the Holocaust but also because Christians are experiencing the same thing at this moment in the film.

The use of the Psalm becomes even more interesting when leaders of the communist party turn against Laci and expel her and then asks her if she has any new songs and she starts singing Psalm 137. She has now taken the role of the oppressed.

The Confrontation is Miklós Jancsó's first film in color. It is a musical, set in the 40s but reflects the student revolutions of the 60s. The use of Psalm 137 in the film captures the heart of the story. People confront each other and turn on each other, believing they are getting anywhere but are in fact just playing cowboys and Indians while others (the Police) have the real power. Turning people against each other, changing oppressors and victims regularly keeps people busy. The revolution is opium for the people, just as religion.

Powerful film!
3 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Így jöttem (1965)
8/10
A beautiful cry for peace, love and understanding
9 March 2014
My Way Home deals with very much the same themes as The Red and the White and The Round UP except here we have hope and an example of a way out.

All of the films deal with the randomness of violence. War does not pick out people because they deserve to live or die. And authority is not tempered with justice. It is arbitrary. Even your own country men are a danger in this world.

The landscape, bare plains in all directions, as far as the eye can see captures the hopelessness of trying to escape. There is nowhere to hide. You are like a leaf caught in a wind that blows you one way or another. The point is made with a beautiful homage to North by Northwest (1959) when a plain chases the boys in the naked landscape, while they try to catch up with a naked woman, who is probably running away from rapists. It is telling that we never find out where she came from or what became of her. She is like one of those leaves being blown around by the winds of war.

So all these films capture the evil of war, and how inhuman and cold it is (no wonder Kubrick loved Miklós Jancsó). This film however does show us how the world could be. A friendship of a Hungarian and Russian boy is formed when the Russian boy saves the Hungarian one from a minefield. They take care of each other (even though they don't speak each other language) and form a friendship and love that is stronger than anything he receives from his own country men.

And let's us not forget that this film was made during the Cold War, when nations refused to see each other as human and threatened each other with weapons of mass destruction. Into that world comes this beautiful cry for peace, love and understanding.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
More, but nothing new, about misuse of power
9 March 2014
The story takes place just after WW1. A right wing government has taken over after a short lived communist government. A young left wing leader is hiding at a farm where women behave like victims (which they are) but at the same time they are plotting against the arrogant and stupid men in power. Men who are proud of the fact that they would kill their own father if they were ordered to do so. In this right wing culture the capacity to obey is a bigger virtue than the capacity to love.

Miklós Jancsó is dealing with the same themes in this film as in The Red and the White (1967) and The Round-Up (1966). It is shot in the same style and is just as pessimistic. Silence and Cry is however far from as hard hitting as the other two. It is only 73 minutes long but I got restless while watching it. I felt Miklós Jancsó was just repeating himself here with nothing new or clever to say about misuse of power. It is only at the end of the film that something of interest starts to happen.

It is a little strange that this does not work as well as the other ones since this has more of a plot. Maybe the problem is that the plot is revealed too late. For most of the time we don't know what is happening and we don't get these wonderful atmosphere scenes as in The Round-Up and The Red and the White. We know there is a story here but we are never really a part of it (or at least I was not).
2 out of 3 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Jews in Budapest
9 March 2014
Jews and Jewish themes are one of the most overlooked themes in Miklós Jancsó's body of work. He was not a Jew himself but was fascinated by their culture and struggle. He even made this three part documentary about their culture in three different places in Hungary (he had actually planed to make 5 films but for a reason unknown to me, ended with only three). The first one, this one here, is about Jews in Budapest, the 2nd one is about Jews in Máramaros and the third one about Jews in Hegyalja.

This and the 2nd one are almost without a dialog. All of the documentaries are rather aimless and Jancsó has too much respect for his subject to dare do something interesting or show us anything out of the ordinary. It feels like a polite confirmation video of family and friends. Not among Miklós Jancsó's best.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Jews in Máramaros
9 March 2014
Jews and Jewish themes are one of the most overlooked themes in Miklós Jancsó's body of work. He was not a Jew himself but was fascinated by their culture and struggle. He even made this three part documentary about their culture in three different places in Hungary (he had actually planed to make 5 films but for a reason unknown to me, ended with only three). The first one is about Jews in Budapest, the 2nd one, this one here, is about Jews in Máramaros and the third one about Jews in Hegyalja.

The first film and this one are almost without a dialog. All of the documentaries are rather aimless and Jancsó has too much respect for his subject to dare do something interesting or show us anything out of the ordinary. It feels like a polite confirmation video of family and friends. Not among Miklós Jancsó's best.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
6/10
Jews in Hegyalja
9 March 2014
Jews and Jewish themes are one of the most overlooked themes in Miklós Jancsó's body of work. He was not a Jew himself but was fascinated by their culture and struggle. He even made this three part documentary about their culture in three different places in Hungary (he had actually planed to make 5 films but for a reason unknown to me, ended with only three). The first one is about Jews in Budapest, the 2nd one is about Jews in Máramaros and the third one, this one here, about Jews in Hegyalja.

The first two films are almost without a dialog, but this one has a lot of, and long interviews. All of the documentaries are rather aimless and Jancsó has too much respect for his subject to dare do something interesting or show us anything out of the ordinary. Not among Miklós Jancsó's best.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
A Trojan horse of a musical, with hidden critical social commentary
7 March 2014
Here is something you have never seen before. A war musical with dancing naked women, armed men, choreographed walking, communist folk songs and poetic settings.

The film is based on peasant uprisings in Hungary that occurred between 1980 and 1910. The style is like something from a poetic theater. People hardly talk and everything is very staged. You might even say fake. Well, I suspect the message of the film is in the style. It is fake because communism and its origin was fake. It was an Utopia based on a lie. Miklós Jancsó was a socialist but not a communist (most people confuse the two) and he was critical of the direction his country was taking (as can be seen in other films by him). Here he gets the communist government to finance a film that looks like a glorious praise of the origin of the party while the style is telling us that this is all a staged lie. Don't believe it, any more than you believe that all these scenes are a realistic account of what happened.

The music is brilliant. Folk songs, many probably used in the peasant uprisings. I also liked the staging and the poetic imagery, like how a stigmata wound in the hand turned into a red flower, which looks like a French Revolution rosette cockade pin. And how many will die only because of one shot fired. And the use of doves, as symbols of peace and harmony, was beautiful. And the naked women? I guess they represent the innocence and the beauty of the peasant, who in their ignorance believed in the promised land.

You might not enjoy this film if you watch it as a straight communist propaganda. Watch it as a clever Trojan horse, pretending to be one thing while smuggling critical social commentary and you might get much more out of it. I for one liked this film for its bravery, its message, poetic beauty and for being like no other musical out there.
5 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
10/10
One of the best documentaries I have seen
11 February 2014
One of the best films I saw at an international film festival in Iceland was the documentary She's a Boy I Knew.

There Gwen Haworth starts filming process sex reassignment surgery, from the moment she first had the idea. She has a girlfriend who is trying to accept the idea that her boyfriend is changing into a girl and wondering how she feels about it. Gwen Haworth however loves her girlfriend and wants the relationship to continue. We also get to see how her family reacts to these changes and not least how she is dealing with them. The hormonal treatments is making a mess out of her and she finds it hard to find the women she wants to be. We are witnessing a birth of an inner person and it's all filmed while it is happening.

I met Gwen Haworth at the festival. Sincere, funny stunningly beautiful and smart as a whip. This is one of the best documentaries I have seen and is a must see for anyone interested in the subject.
1 out of 1 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
A magnificent film which takes its subject matter very seriously
30 January 2014
Warning: Spoilers
This review is for both parts.

One gets the feeling that Trier is out to make the definitive sex drama, and maybe even his own magnum opus. In it he touches on almost every form of sexual desires and deviations, and does so in an honest and explicit way. A lot of these themes are investigated in the light of religion and psychology with refreshing and provocative ideas thrown into the mix. This is a huge film. Not only because it is long but also because it tackles a huge subject and takes its time to investigate each one of them.

I saw the 4 hour short version of the films (it is actually two films, each with end credits and separate names) and even though 4 hours is more than enough time for most films it never felt too long. If anything I felt that the 2nd film could have used more time to develop relationships. It felt a little rushed. So I'm quite sure that the film needs the extra 1 and 1/2 hour we get with the directors cut. The films open with a text saying that this is a "censored" and shortened version of Trier's film, made with his consent but not with his involvement. I believe Trier has not even seen these versions. You can tell that they have been censored. Even though you see genitals in close up they usually cut to faces during intercourse. There are some explicit oral sex scenes (for both men and women) and men are shown getting aroused. So the film does push the envelope but not as much as some had expected. It has been hard getting the film shown in some countries so maybe censoring was the right move. Otherwise it might have gone straight to DVD and Blu Ray.

So is it porn? It has scenes that could have been lifted from a porn film but the focus is never on sexual scenes to get the audience aroused, but rather on the story, so I don't agree with those who call this film porn. The sex scenes serve the story perfectly unlike in porn films where the story serves the sex scenes.

There are a lot of references to Antichrist here. It has the two main actors in the film. Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) believes she is evil and refers to many religious ideas and imagery to support it (the dangerous evil woman) and there is even a scene from Antichrist with the same music. These films are also an homage to Tarkovsky (like Antichrist was). The first film opens with a borrowed shot from Solaris (maybe because this is going to be the same kind of inner journey). The 2nd part opens with a levitation scene, not unlike the one we see in The Mirror and one of the chapters in the film is even called The Mirror.

I loved the use of music in the film. We get everything from heavy metal to Talking Heads to Bach, with often detailed information about these music masterpieces. It kind of reminded me of the way Lynch uses music in Lost Highway. One can even say that the opening is a homage to that film (where the camera goes into darkness and comes out again).

It goes without saying that the main theme of the film is sex but it is far from being the only theme. There is a lot of religious and psychological themes throughout the film, and the film takes its time to explain art, fly fishing and what not.

I know I have not said anything about the story. I think it is best to go in not knowing. Let's just say that this is an odyssey of a Nympomaniac and she goes to a lot of places on her journey from a 7 year old to a grown up woman (there are 3 actresses that play her throughout these stages of her life).

As always in a Trier film, the film is extremely well acted. It is often self conscious, both in its style and acting. Trier even writes on the film, both numbers and words, and one of the characters in the film explains historical facts to Charlotte Gainsbourg but Trier never hides the fact that these explanations are really there for the audience and maybe even more so for himself as a narrative way into the story.

SPOILERS! Regarding the end of the film. Some might take it as a silly, almost Twilight Zone way of ending the film. I think it fits well with the previous Freud themes discussed. Freud said that suppressing sexual desires (the ID) was unhealthy, and would lead to psychological problems in the end. So the end could be tied into that. But it could also be seen as a confirmation of what Charlotte Gainsbourg's character said all along. She was evil (ala Antichrist), but the man did not takes her warnings seriously and payed the price for that. Maybe I'm just trying to explain away the strangeness of the ending, because it does feel strange. END OF SPOILERS.

I think this is a magnificent film which takes its subject matter very seriously. It is among Trier's best films and it might even be his magnum opus in the uncut version. It is beautiful to look at and definitely a film you want to see at the cinema, even in its shorter version.
54 out of 118 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
A magnificent film which takes its subject matter very seriously
30 January 2014
Warning: Spoilers
This review is for both parts.

One gets the feeling that Trier is out to make the definitive sex drama, and maybe even his own magnum opus. In it he touches on almost every form of sexual desires and deviations, and does so in an honest and explicit way. A lot of these themes are investigated in the light of religion and psychology with refreshing and provocative ideas thrown into the mix. This is a huge film. Not only because it is long but also because it tackles a huge subject and takes its time to investigate each one of them.

I saw the 4 hour short version of the films (it is actually two films, each with end credits and separate names) and even though 4 hours is more than enough time for most films it never felt too long. If anything I felt that the 2nd film could have used more time to develop relationships. It felt a little rushed. So I'm quite sure that the film needs the extra 1 and 1/2 hour we get with the directors cut. The films open with a text saying that this is a "censored" and shortened version of Trier's film, made with his consent but not with his involvement. I believe Trier has not even seen these versions. You can tell that they have been censored. Even though you see genitals in close up they usually cut to faces during intercourse. There are some explicit oral sex scenes (for both men and women) and men are shown getting aroused. So the film does push the envelope but not as much as some had expected. It has been hard getting the film shown in some countries so maybe censoring was the right move. Otherwise it might have gone straight to DVD and Blu Ray.

So is it porn? It has scenes that could have been lifted from a porn film but the focus is never on sexual scenes to get the audience aroused, but rather on the story, so I don't agree with those who call this film porn. The sex scenes serve the story perfectly unlike in porn films where the story serves the sex scenes.

There are a lot of references to Antichrist here. It has the two main actors in the film. Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg) believes she is evil and refers to many religious ideas and imagery to support it (the dangerous evil woman) and there is even a scene from Antichrist with the same music. These films are also an homage to Tarkovsky (like Antichrist was). The first film opens with a borrowed shot from Solaris (maybe because this is going to be the same kind of inner journey). The 2nd part opens with a levitation scene, not unlike the one we see in The Mirror and one of the chapters in the film is even called The Mirror.

I loved the use of music in the film. We get everything from heavy metal to Talking Heads to Bach, with often detailed information about these music masterpieces. It kind of reminded me of the way Lynch uses music in Lost Highway. One can even say that the opening is a homage to that film (where the camera goes into darkness and comes out again).

It goes without saying that the main theme of the film is sex but it is far from being the only theme. There is a lot of religious and psychological themes throughout the film, and the film takes its time to explain art, fly fishing and what not.

I know I have not said anything about the story. I think it is best to go in not knowing. Let's just say that this is an odyssey of a Nympomaniac and she goes to a lot of places on her journey from a 7 year old to a grown up woman (there are 3 actresses that play her throughout these stages of her life).

As always in a Trier film, the film is extremely well acted. It is often self conscious, both in its style and acting. Trier even writes on the film, both numbers and words, and one of the characters in the film explains historical facts to Charlotte Gainsbourg but Trier never hides the fact that these explanations are really there for the audience and maybe even more so for himself as a narrative way into the story.

SPOILERS! Regarding the end of the film. Some might take it as a silly, almost Twilight Zone way of ending the film. I think it fits well with the previous Freud themes discussed. Freud said that suppressing sexual desires (the ID) was unhealthy, and would lead to psychological problems in the end. So the end could be tied into that. But it could also be seen as a confirmation of what Charlotte Gainsbourg's character said all along. She was evil (ala Antichrist), but the man did not takes her warnings seriously and payed the price for that. Maybe I'm just trying to explain away the strangeness of the ending, because it does feel strange. END OF SPOILERS.

I think this is a magnificent film which takes its subject matter very seriously. It is among Trier's best films and it might even be his magnum opus in the uncut version. It is beautiful to look at and definitely a film you want to see at the cinema, even in its shorter version.
26 out of 61 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
A profound film about life, creation and art
30 January 2014
Warning: Spoilers
This is a profound film about life, creation and art and IMO one of the best from 2013. It is also one of the most original and the bravest film to come out in a long time. I love this film. Please watch it!

First of all, there is a message in the fact that it was filmed on an old 70s Sony AVC-3260 analog video camera. If the goal was to get a perfect visual picture then this was not the camera to use. We can assume that the goal is not perfection but rather imperfection. Why?

Lynch does not want to work with film anymore (or perfect digital video cameras) because he likes the imperfection. He once said he wanted to get back to the 1930s films, where "some of the information is lost and it made me feel like there was more room to dream."

Jean Renoir also once said: "I believe that perfection handicaps cinema."

This is something Hollywood does not get. It has all this technology. Perfection in fact. They can create anything with it but it leaves no space for the human soul. No space to dream, whether it be creatively or visually. It has become so perfect that it is sterile. Why is that? Well the answer is too much control. The studios have too much control. There are too many people creating the film so there is no space to improvise and let the human soul take over.

There is a scene in the film where a man drinks 3 scotch. Two has no affect and 4 is too much. 3 is perfect, because it allows him to keep his senses but at the same time loosen up and think out side the box. It is this balance that the film preaches. This is why we have the hippies at the same hotel with the nerds. Two extremes. One group that is in to too much control and another that is maybe in to too little control.

MILD SPOILERS Stuck between these two is a computer that has just come to life but instead of getting a chance to explore the creative side it is forced to talk to other computers, something it hates doing. And everyone is so focused on logic that they can't see that there is something much greater happening here. They miss the chance of real creativity. Sounds like Hollywood to me :) But it goes farther than that. There is a life lesson here. We often miss the chance of real creativity, real experience, because we are too rational and don't take chances.

HUGE SPOILERS FROM HERE ON!!! The end can be read in many ways. One way is that the computer commits suicide because it knows that its king and queen (which it has been trying to kill in every chess game it played) will never recognise its value or allow it to grow. It will only be allowed to be a computer.

Peter on the other hand learns from his mistakes. He wanted to try the threesome but chickened out but he does end with the prostitute so he is taking a chance on life. Stepping out of his comfort zone. Man and machine are coming together and will maybe become one. At least the head of the prostitute suggests so.
4 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Huang tu di (1984)
10/10
This is one of those rare films that just speaks the language of my soul.
13 January 2014
Warning: Spoilers
This is a rather sad and melancholic Chinese musical sett in late 30s. A young communist soldier is sent to farmers near Yan'An (which is considered the origin of the cultural revolution) to collect folk songs for the party. The idea is to find happy songs they can use in their war and revolution. The problem is that the farmers only know suffering so all their songs are sad. But even if he does not bring anything back to the army he does leave behind new ideas of equality of the sexes and the right to choose your own spouse. These revolutionary ideas give hope to a young woman called Cuiqiao. The question is, is hope of any use to the oppressed?

The music is heavenly and the cinematography and the editing is very poetic. This is like a musical version of a Japanese film called The Naked Island (Kaneto Shindô: 1960). Quiet, meditative and full of compassion.

One could argue that the film is some what pro communist party but I do think the intention was to make it look like it was while at the same time delivering a very harsh criticism. SPOILERS! The film ends with a song about how communism is going to save the people but the fact is that the farmers are not much better off today and even less so back in the 80s when this film was made. Then consider the fact that something between 18 million to 45 million died in the Great Leap Forward, many of them farmers, and the last shot of the barren landscape while we listen to the promise of communism gets a new meaning. Cuiqiao's death is also quite fitting in the light of what would follow. END OF SPOILERS!

This film needs to get a proper DVD or preferably BLU RAY publication. It is one of the best and most beautiful film I have ever seen. As a musical it is simply revolutionary. The music does not only serve the story well, it elevates it, gives it a soul. And it is quite surprising how well it serves the dramatic theme of the film. Gone is the happy go lucky atmosphere of the classical Hollywood and Bollywood musicals and in stead we have a musical steeped in realism and poetic drama. You could say that this is a musical for people who hate musicals. In fact, I'm sure many who watched this did not even realize they were watching a musical.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
The meaning of a teddy bear
22 November 2013
Once in a while you stumble upon a film that exceeds all your expectations. A documentary about a collection of photographs of teddy bears does not sound like an interesting subject. At least I did not expect much.

Varda walked into an exhibition of photos of teddy bears, Ydessa Hendeles' Teddy Bear Project. Ydessa has collected photos of people with their Teddy Bears and what we discover when looking at those photos is often the dark nature of humanity. Yes teddy bears are cute and innocent but they can stand for so much more than that. Take the photos of people with guns aimed at teddy bears, or nudes with teddy bears. The innocence is not always so obvious and often it becomes a ironic comment, to underline the absence of innocence.

The walls are full of pictures of people with their teddy bears in black frames, almost like a collection of caskets, an overwhelming funeral procession. Then we walk into a room with empty walls and a statue of Hitler kneeling in the middle in a prayer, innocent looking, like a small school boy. No teddy bear here. This image is so interesting in the context of the photos we saw in the other two rooms before it. It pushes us to look at the photos anew in different light.

Varda takes us on this fascinating journey through this exhibition but she also interviews people at the exhibition and asks them how it affected them. We also get to know the ultra strange and mysterious Ydessa Hendeles who lives alone in a adventurous house full of beautiful art and strange things.

Brilliant film from master Varda.
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
The lore and past life of Young Girls of Rochefort
22 November 2013
It was 25 years since Jacques Demy made Young Girls of Rochefort in (yes you guessed it correctly) Rochefort, a small harbor town which has little to boast off other than this famous and wonderful French musical was made there.

So Varda is invited to the celebration of the big day (well 3 months) in the life of the inhabitants who have seen the film countless time and regard it as one of the high points in their history. Streets are named in honor of this film, the town is painted in the colors of the film and people dress up like the characters of the film.

Varda interviews people who took part in making the film, people who stood at the sidelines and watched (and felt like this was a huge and wonderful party) and the shop keepers who had never made as much money.

We often forget how much a film can mean to the local people where it is filmed, especially if it is filmed in a small unknown place. The film is magical but its life does not stop there. It casts its spell over a town which thrives on those memories of Catherine Deneuve and Gene Kelly danced on their streets and become a part of its lore, an extension of its life. It is this past life Varda captures so well in this documentary.
4 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Documenteur (1981)
10/10
Poetic, ambivalent, melancholic and meditative masterpiece!
12 November 2013
This has to be one of the most underrated film in the history of cinema and for sure among the best films to come out of the 80s.

Documenteur starts where Agnès Varda's Mur Murs ends, but they have very little in common and do not need to be seen together.

Mur Murs is all about the external life of people. What we put on the outside of your walls. Documenteur is about our internal life, what we hide.

The title may suggest that it is a documentary but it is not. It is filmed in a documentary style, very much like Abbas Kiarostami did in his Koker trilogy. It is also inspired by her own life and Agnès Varda even uses her own son and her own editor (Sabine Mamou) to play the roles of Varda's assistance (but in reality both are a stand in for Agnès Varda and her own son). In one scene Sabine Mamou reads the narration for Mur Murs and when it is played back, we hear the voice of Varda. Sabine Mamou asks if this is really her voice and is told that we usually don't recognize our own voice. Agnès Varda was making a film about her own life but did not realize before much later that she had made a self biographic film. She did not recognize her own voice. Art imitates life.

This is a hauntingly beautiful film. Poetic, ambivalent, melancholic and meditative. It takes place in LA and a lot of the shots are at the shore. The west was a symbol of hope. But what happens when you can't go any farther west? When you are at the shore and you have lost hope, you are full of desires you can't fulfill, your life is fleeting way and you feel like you are drifting farther and farther from where you want to be.

There is almost no story here. The film focuses on emotions, a state of mind. If you like atmospheric and poetic films then this masterpiece is your cup of tea. Watch it and spread the good news. This film needs to be seen!
5 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
A strange Felliniesque documentary about Jane Birkin
3 November 2013
Here is a strange Felliniesque documentary about Jane Birkin. Varda takes Birkin apart, gets her to confess and open up, makes up some facts, puts her in roles she does not like (she does not want to play Jane, the wife of Tarzan) and offers her to pick roles she would love (Joan of Arc, Mowgli) and a chance to play against actors who she admires. It is a wild avant garde ride, full of humor, beautiful visuals and quirky moments. Not all of the scenes are as interesting and it does sometimes feel like it is not going anywhere but it is a ride well worth taking and it does show well what a daring and challenging artist Varda has always been.
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
The Visitors (1972)
9/10
Very underrated film about the bankruptcy of masculinity
16 May 2013
Warning: Spoilers
There are some mild spoilers here.

I really liked this film. It has a lot in common with Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs, which came out a year before. I have no idea if it is accidental or not. No one seams to talk about the similarities. Both films are about the moral bankruptcy of masculinity. Both film feature a sexually confused woman and a battle between a soft man and super masculine men.

The idea for the film supposedly came from the same story that Brian De Palma's Casualties of War was based on. This is a fictional version of what could have happened after everything in the story Casualties of War is based on. Two of the men who raped the girl in Vietnam come home to the person (Bill Schmidt) who reported them to have their revenge.

I loved the character battle in this film. Bill's father in law is a writer of western books. This is important because he stands for the old west, the old time, the culture of violence, where you took what you wanted, no matter if it was yours or not. He hates Bill because he thinks he is too soft, not enough of a man and definitely not worthy of his daughter. He even wonders if his grandchild is his grandchild since it has a blood of a sissy in its veins. He however falls in love with the guys who come for a visit to take revenge, the Vietnam war criminals! And when he hears about what Bill Schmidt had done to them (reporting how they raped and killed an innocent girl) he replies: Why did you not kill him? So no sympathy there.

Bill Schmidt's wife Martha Wayne is rather confused. She is daddy's little girl but still not blindly so. She is kind of torn between two world-views and can't make up her mind.

And now let the battle begin... :)

And jumping forward in time. I wonder if this film influenced Funny Games (1997). Two visitors with bad intentions come for a visit and a power play between them all. Sounds like Funny Games to me :)

I have no idea why this film is so underrated. I was on the edge of my seat while watching it. Maybe my expectations were just so low that it caught me off guard?
3 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
7/10
This experimental and expressionistic chamber drama is well worth your time
24 April 2013
This film was a complete failure, and disowned by Dreyer, who later refused to acknowledge its existence. It rarely appears in Dreyer filmographies or retrospectives, and is not typically discussed by critics. For the longest time almost no one had seen it. The only copy was in the Swedish Film Institute archives. It has been published on VHS and DVD. It is still little known and only has 115 votes here on IMDb, the lowest of all his feature films.

The film was made in Sweden (and in Swedish) between Day of Wrath and Ordet. It is based on a play by W.O. Somin and was meant as an experiment. Dreyer wanted to make the pure and ultimate chamber drama, where everything would take place in one room. A young researcher (Arne Lundell) is accused of plagiarizing the work of an older rival (Professor Sander). He comes home to his wife Marianne and wants to give up. No one believes in his innocence. Then they hear that Professor Sander has been killed and everything points to Arne Lundell being the killer.

We only see Arne and Marianne in the film, except for one flashback where we see the shadow of Sander. This is also the only time the camera leaves the apartment of Arne and Marianne. Dreyer breaks most rules in this film. In his camera placements, Dreyer pays no heed to eye lines and plot axes, and consequently some of the film's cuts appear to break the classical conventions of dialog editing. This makes the film quite expressionistic. The expressionism is taken to an extrema in the flashback when we only see the deformed shadow of Sander, like something out of Nosferatu (1922) by Murnau.

Dreyer did not get the actors he wanted and said that the ones he got had all the wrong qualities. Arne was supposed to have been delicate and naive, Marianne hot-blooded and erotically experienced. Instead, he was forced to use two actors with the exact opposite qualities.

He had also decided to cut out the flashback scene and replace it with dialog. The producer put the scene back in and added a melodramatic score without Dreyers consent. Dreyer subsequently disowned the film and it was never shown outside Sweden.

While this is not a masterpiece it is far from bad. We can see Dreyer work out some of the technique (camera movements) he would use in Ordet, it has some quite nice scenes and it is suspenseful. I did guess the plot but the film still managed to surprise me in the end. It is also beautifully filmed, with a soft dreamy aura, obtained by pulling a lady stockings over the lens. This film is well worth your time!
6 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
8/10
Great film about a generation gap in Albania
29 March 2013
An Albanian family is torn apart by a murder, resulting in a blood feud. This is a very good film about a generation gap in Albania. The grownups live in the old world, according to the old laws of the land (well the laws of North Albania, since blood feuds are mostly found there). The younger generation does not see any point to the tradition and unlike the grown ups sees other ways of solving problems.

If you watch this because you want to see a film about blood feud you will be disappointed. Watch this as a film about generation gaps. Keep in mind while watching this that there where only a handful of cars in the country when the father of this boy grew up. And the boy has a mobile, computer and the whole world at his finger tips. Albania took a 100 year jump into modern time in just 10 years. The difference between the generations is therefore greater than in most other countries in the world.

I have lived in Albania and I'm married to a woman from Albania so this film really spoke to me. It is surprisingly well directed. It is hard to believe that the director does not speak a word in Albanian and managed to get such natural acting out of the cast and have such good insight into Albanian culture.

The film is very well filmed. The camera is primarily there to tell a story and support that story, not to make postcard pictures to admire. And it does that very well.

The style of the film reminded me of the films by the Dardenne brothers. Very realistic, low scale and natural. I do think it helps watching this film from that point of view. This is a character driven film, not plot driven.

Another surprisingly good film from the director of Maria Full of Grace (2004).
8 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
9/10
Why this film is great...
23 December 2012
Warning: Spoilers
There are some mild spoilers here. Read at your own risk!

Anyone expecting to see something shocking from this pre-code film - The Bitter Tea of General Yen - is going to be disappointed. Miscegenation is not an issue today so most people will miss out on the big scandal! However it was a big thing back in the 30s and after the code came into full force a romantic relationship between an American and a Chinese man was unthinkable in a Hollywood film.

This film is rather a mixed bag when it comes to racism. It starts out rather judgmental about the Chinese people but slowly our heroine starts to realize that there is more than one kind of logic. One of the best examples is when general Yen kills the prisoners because he has no food to feed them. Surely it is better to kill them than let them starve? And later Yen says something to Megan the audience is most likely to agree with: "You are afraid of death as you're afraid of life!" We know he is right and by that time we want Megan to understand that she might have been wrong all the time. We've fallen for Yen, as hard as Megan has.

That is the genius of Frank Capra and the writers of this film. They make us fall for a man who is a mass murderer and a kidnapper. Megan and the viewers are all suffering from a Stockholm syndrome..., or did we just let our guard - and our prejudice down? If the latter is what happened to you while watching this film then you know why this is a great and one of Capra's best. I wonder why it is not better know...
4 out of 4 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Level Five (1997)
9/10
Another masterpiece from Chris Marker!
16 December 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Here is another film from Chris Marker about memory, this time the memory of a nation (Japan), the computer age (the Internet, called OWL in the film - Optional World Link) and relationships. It is about how humankind does not deal honestly with the past, which in turn forces us to be haunted by it forever. The only way out is honesty, confession and forgiving oneself, something Japanese have not been able to do.

The heart of the film is the battle of Okinawa where the inhabitants committed mass suicide. Parents would kill their children, then the husbands their wives and then finally themselves, all out of "love". There is an interview with a man who killed his brothers and sisters and his mother. This story (which is true) is so shocking, horrifying and heart wrecking that one wonders why it is not as well known as the concentration camps in Europe.

This is a very poetic film. I often wanted to stop the film just to write down the beautiful and thought provoking monologues. Another masterpiece from Chris Marker!
7 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
Cosmopolis (2012)
9/10
The salvation of capitalism is a wasteland. A study of a capitalistic apocalypse!
17 November 2012
Warning: Spoilers
Cronenberg is back! I thought A Dangerous Method was a let down and Eastern Promises was fine but nothing great. Finally Cronenberg is back to complex exciting ideas, visual splendor and his body/flesh emphasized films. This is an apocalyptic film, capitalistic apocalypse brought about because capitalism does not understand the law of nature, or rather that there is NO LAW to nature. Capitalism is a self destructive system, an Icarus which will be brought back to earth, crashing.

This is a dialog heavy film (but still always very visual) and a probably not an easy watch for most. I was however captivated. I loved the dialog, the ideas and the style.

SPOILERS: I liked how Cronenberg shows visually the fall of Eric Packer. He starts out with a tie, jacket, perfect hair, perfect health, very clean, a state of the art limousine and professional body guards. He loses all of this and it is his own doing. The violent nature of Capitalism does that, if it is not controlled, if someone is not balancing it, containing the beast. And where better to set such a story than in New York, the capital of finance, of capitalism.

STILL SPOILERS: And the end? Well, capitalism has no answer, it can not save you, give your life meaning. If you expect that (as the killer did) then you are going to be very disappointed and lost. Look at Eric Packer. His life had no meaning. He could buy anything but it gave him nothing and the only thing he could come up with was either buy more (in hope that that would do the trick) or just give up, die. The salvation of capitalism is a wasteland.
4 out of 8 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Permalink
An error has occured. Please try again.

Recently Viewed