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All hats off to Chan-wook Park!
L.A. Zombie (2010)
"All art is at once surface and symbol." Viva LaBruce!
L.A. ZOMBIE is a work of Art. It is a beautiful poetic film. Not fluffy and sappy beautiful, it is poignantly exquisite, but it drives the point home.
Anyone who is an outcast or who has ever experienced being excluded, mocked or laughed at for being gay/bi/lesbian/trans, different from what others perceive as standard looking, or even a bit on the weird side can sympathise with this zombie/homeless character. He might be on too much drugs, insane, a horny-necrophiliac, a hedonist or whatever. However, he transcends all that pain and contemptuous treatment by society through the brutal expression of his sexuality.
In his mind, the creature frees other people from their mediocrity (they are dead inside perhaps, so here might come the resurrection symbolism) by sharing his manhood with them. Always alone, he keeps going and going further... becoming more monstrous-looking and hungry for sex as he witnesses all walks of outlaw and outcast types: the corrupt business guy, the non-white gangsta, the homeless guys, the S&M gang into all types of excesses...
The alternation between what is going inside the zombie's mind and the probable reality shows him as invisible to society, helpless and "ugly". He does his thing and walks away as if it is of no importance, or just a natural need, leaving his lovers dumbfounded.
The opening shot on the beach and final minutes are of immense cinematic beauty. The close-up crying scene is heartbreaking, and the cool photography and use of music/lack of dialogues throughout the glum and gore scenes have us amazed/grossed out/feeling sorry for this miserable freaky character.
LaBruce holds our attention and his political message is still strong, besides the pornographic content (the surface). It is one of the most interesting accomplishments in all-time Queer Cinema. The amateurish actors keep the film realistic and fresh.
There are lots of symbols in L.A. ZOMBIE, but since I am not a film student I leave it to each of you to make an interpretation of them (and I'll avoid being called dumb by some).
If you want some cool gay underground experimentation: go watch it!
If you want a non-conformist message to ponder on: go watch it!
If you like alternative/independent Art: go watch it!
If you like original no-barrels drama/horror: go watch it!
And finally, if you think Cinema is not solely entertainment but a means for revolution, Bruce LaBruce is the right man for starting it!
I'm already waiting for the next piece by this fantastic filmmaker.
My rating: 10/10
Hawaii, Oslo (2004)
Fine film, important message
"Hawaii, Oslo" is great, moving, well-acted and brilliantly directed.
I think it's a film about learning to love and be loved. About choices, about forgetting what one did in the past and moving on. About both accepting one's Reality and sacrificing oneself for the good of others...
The narrative is not linear, but we can understand the story easily. All pieces come together when the credits roll, and although it's a very pungently moving film, there is a sense of Hope throughout the whole thing.
All the stories within the story are finely woven, there are no plot holes. The characters are quite believable and every scene has a purpose.
I'm planning to see it again (saw it at a Nordic Cinema Showing in my city) to try and absorb it better.
Lilja 4-ever (2002)
A tale of deceit (mild spoilers)
One of the aims of Cinema and Art in general is to make us think. Director Lukas Moodysson accomplishes this honourably.
"Lilja 4-ever" blows us away and opens our eyes so we don't forget the problem of child (and teenage) sexual and physical abuse and neglect.
Lilja, an adolescent girl living "somewhere in the former USSR", as we are told earlier in the film, is always let down by those she trusts the most. First, her mother, followed by her aunt, then her best friend. The only person she can count on is Volodya (played by Artyom Bogucharsky, a very talented young actor), a smaller boy who is constantly mistreated by his father, running to her side when things get rough. She becomes smitten with a charming young man who later reveals that he wasn't the gentleman she thought he was. He presents to her the ultimate deceit, which seals her Destiny and ruins what is left of her miserable existence.
The characters in "Lilja 4-ever" are very realistically depicted, you see it like it is, even though there is no explicitness. It's a tense drama which holds our attention all the time. Perhaps some people might say it's a tad slow, which is probably an intentional trick of the director, making us see the stagnation in the main characters' lives.
Actress Oksana Akinshina (Lilja) shall have a brilliant career ahead of her, if there is any justice in this world, for she shines throughout the film. Hers is a convincing, soulful and moving performance.
Thumbs up to Mr. Moodysson, he surely knows what he is doing and he undeniably is one of the best directors/writers of our time. I also recommend "Fucking Amal", which is a lighter film by the same director, but utterly relevant nonetheless.
My rating - 10 out of 10.
Stille Nacht (1995)
A story about Love and Desire
On a Christmas night, Julia, in her Berlin flat, is torn between her boyfriend Christian, who argues with her on the phone from a hotel room in Paris; and Frank, to whom she is terribly attracted but can't relate to intellectually. This love triangle becomes a dangerous game, in which a bunch of conflicting emotions makes Julia reason her relationship with the two men.
A daring, intense, erotic film, claustrophobic-like at times, masterfully directed by Dani Levy and featuring a wonderful performance by Maria Schrader.
My rating- 10 out of 10
Better than "Boys don't cry" (mild spoilers)
Latin-American (in this case, Brazilian) productions are usually underestimated compared to American productions. That's one of the reasons I highly recommend "Vera" if you liked films such as "Boys don't cry" and "Salmonberries" (which were made years later than this one).
Ana Beatriz Nogueira, who plays the title role, won the Berlin Festival's Silver Bear for her powerful performance in this sensitive, moving film.
Vera is a girl who lived in sort of a correctional facility for young people, until she meets a benevolent, educated man, who helps her (even allowing her to spend some time at his home), and gets a job in an office.
She sees herself and dresses as a man (crossdressing), in a typical sexual crisis-type behaviour, and falls in love with a woman, even passing for a guy to her girlfriend's family.
But her repression and traumas don't let her act openly and liberated in their intimacy, which leads to a conflict, as we see in "Boys don't cry".
However, unlike "Boys.." there's no sexual assault or murder in this one, which doesn't compromise its depth and Sergio Toledo's careful direction and proper screenplay. And it succeeds in focusing on Vera's personality and feelings, instead of her sexual life, which "Boys...", as good as it is, did.
It's definitely one of my all-time favourites and shouldn't be viewed only by those who are into gay/lesbian/transgender films, but by all those open-minded people who appreciate a good drama.
Watch out for the great Brazilian actor Raul Cortez in a small but important role.
Watch the film, read the novel
I first watched Engraçadinha when I was an ignorant teenager. Even then, I liked what I saw. A few years later, I've come to understand it better and appreciate the tragicomic Beauty of this film.
Lucélia Santos (a popular actress in Brazil, who acts in the Theater, starred in successful films and worldwide famous soap operas in the eighties and also directs) plays the seductive, lolita-type girl, who becomes the object of desire of her cousin Sílvio. They become lovers.
Letícia, who secretly lusts after her is engaged to Sílvio, and Engraçadinha gets herself into trouble when she tells him she is pregnant with his child and her father reveals the dirty secret he's been hiding all those years.
Great performances by Lucélia, Luiz Fernando Guimarães, José Lewgoy, Nina de Pádua and Daniel Dantas, in this effective silver screen adaptation of Nelson Rodrigues' masterpiece "Asfalto selvagem - Engraçadinha: seus amores e pecados".
The film leaves out quite a lot of the second part of the book, however, it succeeds in catching the spirit of the novel, which is a psychological drama. Read the book if you can get a hold of it, and you won't regret it.
The Divorce of Lady X (1938)
Don't miss this gem!
English Shakesperean actor (Sir) Laurence Olivier wasn't very fond of making films, however, his silver screen performances were so impeccable and professional, you can swear he was born to do it.
THE DIVORCE OF LADY X is a delightful light comedy, elegantly conducted, though notably dated.
Due to a heavy fog, some people who are taking part in a Ball at a hotel are prevented from travelling and advised to spend the night there.
Logan, an irritable, handsome lawyer refuses to share his room with a couple of women, but is persuaded to let Leslie (played by beautiful Merle Oberon), a perky, charming lady, sleep at his room, after she daringly imposes herself on him.
Their first acquaintance is a bit turbulent, but they soon hit it off, although he thinks she is married, which results in a couple of embarrassing, deliciously funny situations.
Watch out for Ralph Richardson playing a small role.
Olivier and Oberon had an incredible chemistry on screen.
WUTHERING HEIGHTS is another marvellous film they did together.
If old-fashioned romantic comedies catch your fancy, don't miss this wonderful film.
My rating: 10 out of 10
Drive In Massacre (1976)
Stay away from this awful film
Take my advice. Even as a B movie/low budget film enthusiast, I endured 72 minutes of this plodding, unimaginative, poorly-acted and badly-directed so-called horror feature. The plot is ridiculous, the photography laughable, you can barely see what's going on in the hellish drive-in (the shots were so dark). Regarding dialogues, who wrote them should be banned from the Industry. They're terrible!
The only thing worth mentioning is the (bald?- I can't remember) drive-in manager, totally over-acting, but quite scary. There was a sort of satanic look about him which gave me the creeps.
Thank God I didn't have to pay to see such a mediocre flick!
Don't waste your time, go watch a Coffin Joe film, and see how a low-budget horror film can be creative and skilfully done.
My rating: 1 out of 10