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Death by a Thousand Inadequacies.
I wanted to like this, but P. U.
A disastrous film does not automatically follow from a theme and major story arc that date to the dawn of science-fiction. Populating it with characters that are as one-dimensional as those of the worst Mission Impossible or Die Hard films is still survivable, although Cryptozoo has even less complexity of plot. Burden it even more, with a deadpan presentation, though, and the film's fate is set: to the slaughterhouse it goes.
You have to feel something for or against the characters, and plot alone is not enough. It's animation, so empathy and antipathy must arise in response to the voices and the faces. In Cryptozoo, these were both horribly done. Through almost the entire film, regardless of how critical the situation, we hear smooth, mellow stylings that would be fantastic in a Perry Como singalong. Imagine badly dubbed films of the 60s and 70s, but with the performers mellowed out on strong anesthetics. The cast here, though, are speaking their native tongue, so they have no excuse.
And the animation fails when it matters most. Yes, the backgrounds are well done, surreal but accessible, keeping your attention and furthering the story. But the faces -- human or cryptid -- might as well be carved in stone. The Minions emote a thousand times more with their yellow bullet heads than these characters do. In Showgirls, only the lead actress regularly presented facial expressions that were disconcertingly at odds with events. From every character in Cryptozoo, "you look nice today" and "please, please don't kill me" are visually indistinguishable.
No story could overcome these failings. What a shame.
Pour toi je ferai bataille (2010)
Warning: The Program You Are About to Watch Contains... Nothing.
The plot description for this short films says " Ana, alienated and struggling to find herself, enlists in the reserves to be part of a disciplined group while searching the uncertainty of her own being." If only the film actually showed that, it might be worth seeing.
But it doesn't. Nothing shows Ana as alienated or struggling to find herself, only that she hasn't followed safe sex advice. She enlists in the Reserves not to be part of a disciplined group, but because it was a childhood goal and joining the Reserves will allow her to stay close to home. And there is neither action, nor dialog, nor even monologue to show a search for her self-identity. All we see is her and her fellow enlistees putting up with fairly mild random crap from superior officers and surviving, and she does it without much apparent effort or turmoil.
The story has no plot arc. That's not uncommon in a vignette. But most vignettes will at least show some form of conflict, even if it doesn't get resolved. This film doesn't. There is not even any apparent character growth: the beginning shows nothing significant about her, and by the end it's not obvious that anything has changed. This film is pointless.
Fucking with Nobody (2020)
A Jumbled Mess
This is not merely a "non-linear narrative". There are three layers: at the core, a fake Instagram love story; then the film about making that story; and these are wrapped in scenes about the making of this film, Eff-ing with Nobody. It's often unclear which of these three layers we're seeing at any given moment, and the jumps happen seemingly at random. Add to this a couple of what are later revealed to be fantasy scenes, and you end up with a jumbled mess.
Which is unfortunate, because the core story and how people reacted to it was interesting, at first. The acting was very good. The production was okay, and I wasn't bothered by the relatively few cellphone video scenes, which were of good quality. Some of the plot details were intriguing.
The film is not really a comedy, although we chuckled a few times. And it's certainly not a tragedy, just an interesting little tale that could have been written and produced to be accessible. But it wasn't.
Excellent Short Fantasy
Julia Ducournau's "Junior" is an attention-grabbing allegory for transitioning out of the ugly-duckling phase of puberty, with an uncommon approach and more texture than the average short film. Garance Marillier's performance was very good, far beyond what I expected from a debut of someone that age. The rest of the cast was credible, as well.
A heavier or darker presentation of this story would have required a feature film, to deal with real-world implications and clarify a couple of events. I might have preferred a slightly extended ending. But for a light-hearted allegory, perfect closure isn't required, so this film works well.
Marillier and Ducournau's collaboration five years later in Raw (Grave) shows exactly the level of performances that Junior hints is to come, with tremendous growth in the skills of both actress and director.
"Junior" is well worth watching... and fun!
"Greatly Exceeds Expectations"
This was really enjoyable. So many movies that revolve around a kid are either simple, or absurd, or both. Felicita is just the opposite, full of deception and the unexpected, while staying very realistic. And although there is enough drama to keep you anxious to see what happens next, the humor sprinkled throughout keeps the viewing fun.
I've only seen about 150 French movies and TV series, and this writer/director and the lead actors were unknown to me. Director Bruno Merle's plot quickly pulls you into the lives of characters that you will care about, seamlessly merges multiple story arcs, and propels you through some twists and turns that will amaze. I was particularly surprised, especially in this genre of Euro-family comedy, by the excellent pacing. An unconventional use of sound struck me as just right for it's intended effect.
Rio Parmai and Camille Rutherford, as parents Tim and Chloe, presented multi-layered characterizations that worked incredibly well. And after watching them, you'll have a real appreciation for acting as the art of lying. Ten-year-old daughter Tommy is portrayed by the director's daughter Rita Merle, who does an acceptable job, although the film does not demand dynamic emoting from her.
And almost everyone will appreciate the tongue-in-cheek ending.
Well worth seeing!
Las lindas (2016)
Not a Must See, but a Should See.
Las Lindas, The Pretty Ones, has some excellent content, but the structure and videography make it difficult to watch and absorb.
Interviewing several friends, and adding her own commentary, Melissa shows us that a group of girls, of a common culture and similar ages, can have widely different experiences as they traverse puberty and the subsequent teen years. All of the self-doubt and insecurity, some self-sown but much of it fostered by peers, takes a toll that can affect young women for years to come. And we see examples of how the larger society shapes their expectations of themselves and of each other. Questions are addressed of what they thought it meant to be pretty, to be feminine, and how they should or could interact with the opposite sex at various ages. What's wrong with body hair, they wonder, and why are they expected to conform to certain styles of hair length and clothing? Each girl/woman's experience is different.
Young people of either sex could benefit from hearing these stories; it would foster insight and empathy. But to be more accessible, the film would benefit from massive re-editing. The conversational style gets real responses, but lacks direction and coherency. A couple of times, the conversations were muffled, and the start is slow. And the large amount of hand-held camera work is just plain unpleasant. It doesn't so much add "immediacy" as it annoys, as do the many times when images are out of focus until corrected.
So it's an 8 for content, and a 4 for format. I hope we'll see an improved version one day. But even as is, it's still worth watching.
Miss Conception (2008)
Blame the Writers!
It's a dud. It shouldn't have been, because the basic elements were in place for a decent romcom.
I watched this because I know Heather Graham and Tom Ellis can act, sometimes well and sometimes brilliantly. And although the premise, needing to have a child either now or never, isn't original, it's serviceable in the right hands, as "Not Suitable For Work" showed with Ryan Kwanten as the lead. All the technical elements are fine.
But the screenplay is horrible. Events aren't just predictable, every single step of the way is consistently telegraphed, so loudly you can't possibly miss it. And the plot depends on two stratagems that just drive me up the wall. One is a failure to communicate, facilitated by awkwardly contrived situations. And not just once, but repeatedly, and not just between the two main characters. Just get the darn words out! And Georgina, Graham's character, continually displays incompetence at a level that seems almost terminal. Georgina shouldn't be trusted to cross a street safely, let alone run a construction company. Unbelievable.
The writers failed. And somewhere up the chain of responsibility, so did others -- directors, producers, editors. Pass on this one.
A Difficult Tale Told with Deft Touch
This is an intriguing view into the mind of a child dealing with the real-world problem of a mother's rapid descent into mental illness. Though the story is occasionally heart-rending, director Noémie Lvovsky uses nine-year-old Matilde's mix of imagination and make-believe to keep as light a tone as practical while not avoiding the difficulties of the situation. It's set in a different time and social milieu than Rebecca Miller's "Angela", and issues of abuse and religious indoctrination don't drag the tale into a deep pit of despair. Still, Mathilde's situation -- often fending for herself -- will keep you watching in a constant state of anxiety.
All the technical elements are fine. As for the acting, Lvovky's performance as Mathilde's mother will have you genuinely concerned that she's in the darkest stages of depression. Rodriguez is also very believable. And the scenarios in which Mathilde finds herself, and the actions she takes, stay close enough to our preconceptions of what a child her age might do that we believe it's real.
The ending, necessitated by lead actress Luce Rodriguez's health concerns, is somewhat abrupt, but handled well. And it leaves us with hope. Here is a film well worth watching.
Night Has Settled (2014)
This Film Depicts Every Kid in New York as a Raging Ay-Hole.
Okay, only almost every one. A worthwhile story about dealing with loss lies hidden deep inside the movie. But the characters, and especially Oliver, are so thoroughly and consistently repugnant that I just couldn't feel much empathy. They're not quite the sociopaths depicted in Larry Clark's "Kids", but they're veering that way.
Also, the writers/director give us neither background nor current events to explain why Oliver's filial affection became focused on housekeeper Aida rather than his mother. And there's no explanation of why his sister wants so desperately to leave to live with dad rather than with mom. The mom seems like a loving, caring person. Her open and frank communication with 13-year-old Oliver about sexual matters may strike some viewers as off-putting, but I thought it healthy, and so apparently did they. So what is their problem with her? Not explaining this made the entire story somewhat unbelievable, or at least baffling.
The story had huge potential, but failed. What a waste of good film.
Fando y Lis (1968)
"Authorities suspect drugs were involved."
Anyone watching this early work, Fando and Lis, would be forgiven for not believing that Alejandro Jodorowsky eventually learned to produce films that aren't complete dreck. Only a glimmer of a thesis near the end of the film and abundant absurd imagery keep this from being totally incoherent and meaningless.
The crux of the problem is that to critique or satirize grand concepts of economics, government, or as in this case, religion, visual symbolism is a pathetic substitute for narrative and exposition. It usually fails; it fails here. We see Fando acting horribly, but it's impossible to trace those actions to any particular cause. Instead, we get the same lack of conviction generated by Pasolini's "Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom" - "here are some bad people, look how horrible they are." True, but neither Salo nor Fando makes a coherent argument to that effect. It's just the visual equivalent of name calling, however well deserved those names may be.
The characters are annoying, the interesting scenes are separated by long periods of tedium, and the symbolism is mostly meaningless. And for my personal taste, it's made worse by using a usually boring plot structure, the road trip. Naturally, the characters encounter a seemingly never-ending series of artificial and irrelevant obstacles. Only the weirdness keeps you awake.
Jodorowsky is no Arrabal. But for works of his that are considerably more worthwhile and also accessible, try "El Topo" or "Santa Sangre", or better yet, the more recent "Dance of Reality." Like "The Holy Mountain", "Fando and Lis" isn't worth the climb.
Chompy & the Girls (2021)
This is what a light-hearted independent film should be...
... with an interesting opening, a threat that remains ominous well into the story, a not very predictable plot, likeable characters, and believable acting.
A woman meets her father for the first time and they see a man open his mouth fantastically wide and swallow a young girl whole. Then the man comes for them. As more is revealed, the horror story gradually evolves into science fiction. Several twists and turns keep the plot fresh.
As much as I occasionally enjoy the action-adventure antics of Bruce Willis, Tom Cruise, and the various Peter Parkers, Chompy & The Girls follows a different paradigm that many writers and directors would do well to consider: believable characters whose actions unfailingly remain within the realm of real people's capabilities. Keeping us riveted to the screen while adhering to that paradigm is a mark of excellence. Well done!
I found no fault with the limited special effects. They were more than sufficient to establish a tone of dread and to keep events believable, without becoming the reason for the film's being. This kept the human element dominant.
The chemistry between the lead characters was appropriate: sometimes awkward or stiff, not initially warm, occasionally taking two steps forward and then one back. That's exactly as it should be: the daughter and father didn't know each other and meet under awkward social circumstances; they have significantly different styles; and they're thrown into dangerous circumstances that force them to rely on each other with no time to bond or develop mutual trust. Both the script and the acting kept me wholly immersed in the film, never doubting the reality of the characters or their actions.
Best of all, this was fun to watch!
La tercera ley de Newton (2017)
Birds of Two Different Plumages
This is an extremely well acted and very believable - in other words, excruciating - depiction of a few days in the lives of two young teens who are longtime friends. An outgoing girl is determined to explore, and the quiet, introverted guy is determined to ignore, whether their friendship should lead to dating.
Wow. This was beautiful, and painful, and brings back (to this quiet introvert) such horrible memories. Well done! Writer/director Jorge Barrio has created a fully-fleshed tale with a minimal cast of only four main characters. The cinematography is fine and the settings are sufficient. The story - more than a vignette, less than a grand drama - accomplishes everything it must without veering into incredulity, and does so through characters who are relatable and likable rather than outliers.
It's well worth watching.
Étrange dit l'ange (2017)
The Emperor's New Clothes, in film.
There's no "there" there. This film has absolutely no viewpoint, makes no conclusion, and leaves the viewer wondering what if anything is happening with the main character, a seven-year-old girl.
She's vacationing with family near a flooded river that is reportedly contaminated. She offers to be the aunt's daughter, offers to be - in the innocent way of a child - her father's lover, plays with her sister, and takes off down the river.
We see fireworks, the grandmother's partially completed mastectomy, the aunt skinny-dipping. The scenery and camera work are pretty good throughout.
The advertising blurb for the film asks, what is the girl's place in this world? We'll never have a clue: if the writer/director was trying to say something, he failed miserably.
Haunting vignette teaches odd lesson.
A coastal Icelandic nine-year-old girl, who stole something not important enough to identify, is shipped off to inland cattle farmer relatives to learn... something. Perhaps her parents assume hard work and country living will teach better behavior and morals. Or maybe they just want to place her where temptation is limited and where bad role models are lacking. In such a place, the resulting story would be pleasant and boring. This wasn't that place.
The film's production is excellent. The acting is fine, demanding just enough from the young lead actress to demonstrate that her brooding, outwardly silent nature was a directoral choice, not a child's limitation. And although not terribly complex, the plots are intriguing enough, and at times uncomfortable enough, to keep your attention. The cultural disconnect between a city-reared child and a family that raises its animals for food elevates the tension.
Unfortunately, the motivation for some characters' actions was unclear. So was the symbolic link between real world events and a pair of independent but congruent fictional tales, one narrated by the girl and one written by the farmhand.
Vignettes such as The Swan often have less than satisfying closure, and this film was true to type. On the other hand, when this finished I wasn't shrugging with disinterest. Instead, the climax and denouement left me extremely discombobulated: the child's lesson learned is apparently not one of how the world should be, but to accept the worst aspects of how it is. Wow.
It's slightly frustrating, but worth watching.
Lane 1974 (2017)
A powerful, nuanced performance.
What an excellent, sometimes heart-rending film. It's not a "coming of age" story of the stereotyped first sex or first violence type, rather, the 13-year-old protagonist learns how unfair and unhelpful adults can be, and finally works up enough courage to try to improve her situation on her own.
Lane 1974 reminds each of us who care about others that no matter how crappy our own childhood was, it could have been just as crappy in a totally different fashion. It's set only a few years after my own era, but the 1970s California hippie, doper, back-to-nature culture is complete foreign to me, other than in film. And yet it was so well acted, both by Lane and her mother - who prefers to be called "Hallelujah" - and so well written and directed, that I believed every minute of it.
Watching it hurts, of course. Seeing a child go hungry makes me appreciate even that nasty powdered milk from the welfare department. It hurts just enough: I'm amazed at the delicate editorial touch that kept the film real without descending into constant, unrelenting pathos.
The film ends abruptly, but at exactly the right time. Not all is well, but there is hope. Kudos to everyone involved.
Her Composition (2015)
Intriguing concept, powerfully acted, with some flaws.
This was interesting and artful. I'm glad I watched it, but it could have been better in several ways.
Composer Malorie, struggling with writer's block and financial difficulties, prostitutes herself to several men and a woman. More than just paying the bills, these experiences raise her awareness of the colors, sounds, textures, and people of New York City, unblocking the creative process and allowing her to find her own musical voice.
Portions of this movie are so beautifully filmed that we can easily believe that these other sensations can remove her mental block. A difficulty arises for the next step, though: it's quite likely impossible to show on objective film how subjective experiences are synthesized into a creation, and in Her Composition, this process just doesn't get us there. Like Malorie's professor, I wanted to see intermediate progress that was, if not wholly rational, at least more substantive. When insight occurs such that 95 percent of the work gets done in 5 percent of the time, it's hard to believe. Maybe that's how creativity operates, I don't know, but I felt left out of the experience at this point.
Other parts of the movie are not so beautifully filmed, with excess use of too-close closeups, out-of-focus views, and random subject matter. These strongly detracted, particularly in the early minutes before we'd had a chance to develop some empathy for the main character. And, at least as packaged for streaming on VUDU, the dialog was occasionally drowned out by background. Initially, Malorie's voice was so wispy it seemed forced, but this improved later in the film (I doubt this was scripted.)
On the plus side, the acting was excellent all around. Also, Her Composition is one of those uncommon films where copious nudity and sexual activity make sense in terms of plot and theme. Watching this, my sense of immersion in the action was never interrupted by phony attempts at modesty. And in terms of what was asked of the cast, there was greater gender parity than is typical.
Some clarity of the plot set-up would have helped. Malorie gets her list of high-rolling johns (and a jane) from an NGO that is setting up a sting to assist the FBI. It wasn't clear what crime other than prostitution was going on, why an NGO was involved, nor why only the clients were targeted and not the women, and especially, why it was a federal matter rather than local. I was left guessing, which was unnecessary as about three more lines of dialog might have explained it all. Perhaps, with New Jersey and Connecticut close, the johns were the ones running the show, and operating across state lines? Trafficking minors or the unwilling seems an unlikely explanation in the world of high-price ($1,500/hr) call girls. This uncertainty was distracting.
Overall, though, this was 90 minutes that will keep your attention and engage your senses.
Gud taler ud (2017)
Vignette of a Dislikeable Man
Despite references to the family patriarch as "God", this isn't a fantasy story. Word of God is set very much in the real world. It's a vignette rather than a plot-driven story, a tale of a cranky man and how his wife and three sons deal with him while trying to maintain their dignity and sanity.
The youngest son narrates the tale. He, his brothers, and his mother are all sympathetic characters, relatively normal people, though each has their own beliefs, quirks, and problems. The failure of my-way-or-the-highway Dad to show respect or even empathy for those who disagree drives the story. He could have been portrayed as an easy person to hate, but even with his limitations, it's obvious he is still trying to do good. To that extent, this film succeeds.
Vignettes are usually less than totally satisfying, lacking resolutions commensurate with their conflicts. But this story, despite its interesting situation and fine production, feels emptier than most, because the resolution is largely driven not by action but by happenstance. Since Word of God is an autobiographical piece, I can't argue with what it shows, but the result seems to lack impact or message.
NB: Who in their right mind makes onion soup without removing the skins?
Reality informs fantasy. And vice-versa.
Maniac is a sadly sweet tale, the story of a psychiatric patient and those who try to help him recover from a state of chronic delusion. Despite his condition, Espen interacts with the real world in a way that is mostly functional, causing the occasional faux-pas or impropriety but without horrible outcomes. This isn't "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest", and it's set in modern times, so the care he receives is gentle, not horrifying electroshock or lobotomy. Modeled as a comedy, this film is unlikely to strongly disturb most viewers.
The real world of the hospital is dull but not grim. In Espen's world, by contrast, he is a soldier, a spy, a lover, a man of international commerce and intrigue; life for him is far more entertaining and satisfying. What makes Maniac fascinating is not simply the numerous fantasy vignettes, but the bi-directional disparity between subjectivity and objectivity. We see how reality informs Espen's fantasy, of course, but equally instructive is how the hospital staff perceive the real-world expression of his internality: these loving, caring, competent folks have no clue what is actually going on inside his head. Watching their attempts to help, you'll be both amused and saddened.
I wasn't thrilled with the ending, but it works, and it's probably realistic. Maniac is an excellent mini-series, well worth your time.
Rabbit Fever (2006)
Cute concept, with more than a few chuckles.
This mockumentary of turmoil caused by the "world's best" vibrator, the Rabbit, had us laughing out loud a few times. We chuckled more, and we were usually grinning at the overall story.
As the narrator follows the stories of a half-dozen women, their partners, friends, and families, we see a wide variety of perspectives toward sex toys presented as "serious" drama, only occasionally veering into more obvious satire. Some lives are improved, some complicated, and some frazzled by the women's attempts to fight their addiction to the multi-pronged device.
It's a fun film. And it has a coherent narrative. It could have felt fragmented due to the number of stories being followed, but a fair amount of synergy ties it all together.
If you watch it, don't miss the final scene at the end of the credits!
EarthZoo Sign: "Please Don't Spotlight the Introvert!"
We laughed, we cried, and wow, we cringed a lot at the uncomfortable social situations that introvert Toon was continually dragged through by folks who feel impelled to "help" him. Whether this excellent series was intended to satirize Dutch culture I don't know, but it seems to play and apply just as well to the instant celebrity absurdity here in the U.S., and probably anywhere.
In the first season, Toon's fame is inadvertent, as a video of his (unsolicited) birthday party goes viral. In season two, skill and effort as an on-the-couch gamer keep him in the public eye. Throughout it all, he makes some effort to avoid the spotlight, but he lacks the social skill and gusto to interrupt a whirlwind that wouldn't stop even if he tried. He ends up taking, as (relationship: it's complicated) Nina points out, "the path of least resistance." And so he's carried along on a painful journey, winning our empathy even as we wince at his inability to grab folks by the scruff of the neck and scream, "F Off!"
Some have complained that the character Toon doesn't show much development. They're missing the point of the whole darn show: he's mostly content with who he is and how he lives, and he shouldn't have to "progress" for the satisfaction of the majority who think everyone should fit the same mold! He does eventually develop some agency to keep true to himself, but Toon will always be Toon. And the world is better, that he can be.
Well worth watching!
El árbol de la sangre (2018)
Intriguing but Annoying
This is very well acted, filmed, and produced, but disruptively structured, with a plot weakness and too much left unsaid. And call me a naïve idealist, but I was unhappy that the ending leaves Justice imperfectly satisfied. Or rather, that the main characters seem to have no problem with the final status quo.
And so, "The Tree of Blood" is difficult to rate. I wanted to know, what was the big secret of Rebeca's and Marc's relationship? Getting there was an interesting pain in the rear. Interesting, because a great deal is going on; the film is full of intrigue, action, love, lust, and betrayal; the main characters win our sympathy. A pain because of shifts back and forth in time, the necessarily large number of inter-related characters to track, and the short shrift given to a few details.
The setting shifts repeatedly between past and present, and in several scenes, characters of the present are shown standing in the action of the past, watching but not interacting. This disrupts the flow, yes, but not horribly so. Where the structure fails is that it falsely implies that Rebeca's and Marc's storytelling - the wrapper around the events of the past - are a fact-finding mission. You realize in the end that she had all the facts before they began, and only one key event was unknown to him.
The presence of Russian and Ukrainian mafias in Basque Country, and especially why they should happen to conflict with the other characters, was unclear. Perhaps - although I doubt it - events such as these are so taken for granted in Spain that they literally need no introduction. The rest of us could have used some clarity.
As symbology, the tree itself fell flat.
Julio Medem also directed "Sex and Lucia", which had a somewhat less convoluted plot structure and which worked much better in the end. And his "Room in Rome" was almost purely linear, but still spellbinding. "The Tree of Blood" just doesn't quite measure up to those works.
Cold War (2017)
Interesting but erratic.
Like philosophies, relationships are most meaningfully tested at the extremes. When newly cohabiting Jon and Maggie catch truly miserable cases of the flu, their love is tested so thoroughly it nearly kills them.
The beginning is so very realistic that it feels slow. You keep hoping that the potential for either comedy or drama will be realized. And about half-way in, it is. Détente ends and the cold war begins; at this point the film becomes worth watching. It's not a spoiler to say that the war heats up later.
Cold War is well acted, and you develop an empathy with both Jon and Maggie. The film has quite a few funny moments, both ha-ha funny and ironic. The down-side: the overall feel of the film is one of strict realism, but some of the events are too far-fetched, and the two secondary characters are just a little too odd. These incongruities of style repeatedly disrupted my immersion in the story, reminding me that I was watching from outside.
I liked it enough that it wasn't a complete waste of time, but there are plenty of better films you can watch.
Mildly Interesting, Limited Production Values
I'm glad I didn't watch this 2009 Slow TV production first. If I had, I might never have tried the much superior "The Telemark Canal" (2012). A fixed camera view out the front of the train is what you get. That's all you get, for 7 hours and 15 minutes. There's no narration, no history, no identification of places or facilities other than names of stations and tunnels. There are no views out the side windows, which would have added variety and better looks at the scenery, though much would have been obscured by flanking tree rows or stone slopes.
Within those limitations, it's an okay production. The scenery is mostly rural or suburban. If you like looking at architecture, topography, and foliage (and I do) this show provides a lot of very brief views of those things. It's interesting to see the onset of snow cover as you traverse the center of the country, and the reversion to fall color as you get closer to Oslo. With the speed of the train and the camera resolution, the little wildlife seen is unidentifiable, and you may be left guessing "cow or horse?" as fields roll by.
It's filmed 100% in real-time. That includes passage through dozens of tunnels, some several miles long, during which time you see essentially nothing. They could have turned the train's lights on for this televised trip, but no, they didn't until nearly dusk, so any detail inside remains a mystery. You only learn what this train might look like by the few passing in the other direction on sidetracks. About half-way through, the camera tilts slightly and stays that way: not much, just enough to throw the horizon off perceptibly if you're paying attention.
We watched it to the end, just to see what's there, in many sessions of 5 to 50 minutes each. This train moves a lot faster than the riverboat in "The Telemark Canal", but the televised production,"Train Ride Bergen to Oslo," moves a lot slower!
Beating Hearts (2010)
Shocking and Disgusting. Well Made. Lacks Clarity.
In a scant ten minutes, director Matthew Garrett has packed enough realism to horrify almost any viewer. The action is explicit, violent, and bloody. The perpetrators are not whom you might expect.
All technical elements are excellent. And the resolution is believable.
But I'm so irked I could scream at the story's lack of clarity in several regards! A younger character's motivation is only very mildly hinted at. Is it driven by an existing and very disgusting relationship, or is this just wishful thinking by the character? To what extent do religious teachings - suggested by the line "I'll see you soon" - play a role in the motivation? Was an older character's penultimate decision planned all along, or did it arise from fear, or a change of heart? And what will happen with the smallest character?
Each viewer will have to answer those questions for him or herself. To me, that does not represent the best writing and directing. A comment to directors everywhere: Clarity and closure are not crimes, nor do they diminish the quality of your art.
The Grass Is Always Greener
"Horseface" is a bizarre short flick, just as depressing and depraved and amusing as the tangentially themed, feature-length "Men & Chicken," which came along a few years later. But "Horseface" is much more pungent because events are not presented as discovered history: they're happening now.
The squalor of the rural farmstead stuns the viewer immediately, raising one's emotional shields, making bearable the subsequent tale of two women reacting differently to a man's attention. You gradually learn what's going on, and you cringe. Outstanding acting and cinematography combine with spot-on costuming and make-up to create a world that completely suspends disbelief.
Unfortunately, part of the story is not as clear as it should be in such a short production: why an off-screen act of apparent violence occurs, whether it's routine, and whether it merely addresses setting and mood or drives some unrequited plot line must be guessed at, and that's distracting. Then the long term consequences of the overall situation are revealed in a genre-switching scene that gets short shrift. A sad final scene ties things together, but (at least as viewed online) the dialog is not recorded clearly. Maybe that's just as well.
I was left wanting a more explicit rationalization of events. That aside, "Horseface" presents the viewer an imaginative take on a train-wreck of human relations. It's worth watching.