Andrew Haigh’s Weekend (2011) can be summarized in one word: remarkable. It is a film that deals with homosexual topics, but doesn’t make the characters’ sexual orientation the primary focus of the film. The film opens with Russell (Tom Cullen), a burly gay man who, after leaving his friend’s party, decides to go to Propaganda, a local gay club. There he spots an attractive man named Glen (Chris New), whose evasive glare looks for someone to go home with that night.
Following on the heels of his unprecedented success with the previous year’s Unforgiven was never to be an easy task for Eastwood. With A Perfect World, he leaned more toward the behind-camera side of filmmaking — a choice validated mid-production by his being awarded a pair of Oscars for direction and production — only taking a supporting role at the express behest of star Kevin Costner.
What if you were a powerful person? What if you had the strength to show people exactly how you feel, to push back when they push? Most of us might find this question liberating, but as we learn from Brian De Palma’s Carrie, pain and horror is cumulative and the more we receive, the more we can dish out. Bottled up within all of us is the desire to lash out and destroy that which seeks to destroy us. Acting upon this desire can result in a gymnasium engulfed in flames, parental figures crucified by kitchen utensils and of course, buckets of blood.
Saigon Electric’s unabashed definition of itself as a youth dance film à la the Step Up franchise is initially off-putting. But what saves it from being consigned to pejorative straight-to-video damnation is its colorful visual form, its understanding of the city’s crucial role in “interrogating themes of place, memory and identity” (T.C. Chang, “Place, memory and identity: Imagining ‘New Asia,’” 2005), its referential significance to Vietnam’s currently and rapidly unfolding modernization, and with it the rumblings of an energetic national film industry.
Meek’s Cutoff is a good film with gorgeous visuals, wonderful to look at and intriguing to experience. But that is the key problem – it is, very strictly, an experience moreso than a film. And it is at times a thoroughly evocative and engrossing experience, one that is clearly in-tune with the elements of cinema but with a narrative structure that doesn’t allow for those elements to coalesce into “cinema” itself.
We continue our exploration of the works of Nagisha Oshima with his surreal and humanistic Three Resurrected Drunkards (Sinner in Paradise). This 1968 film comes at the tail end of Oshima’s jaded search for personal identity in a senseless world and finds him in a place of humanism. This humanism replaces some of the disillusioned nihilism that was characteristic of his early 60’s work. The Three Drunkards, as played by the Japanese pop group The Folk Crusaders, would be the younger brothers of characters in earlier films like A Cruel Story of Youth. The impact of World War II and the harsh realities of life during the rebuilding would be dulled by time and steadily increasing affluence. There are some lessons that shouldn’t be so easily forgotten, and Oshima uses the influence of pop stars to try and wake up the apathetic youth and remind them of their obligations as citizens of humanity.
Tropical Malady is the crossroads of Apichatpong’s filmography, the well from which everything after it sprung and the bay into which everything before it disembarked. We have oral storytelling like in Mysterious Object, we have the introduction of Uncle Boonmee, we have a bipartite structure that contains two completely different but subterraneously linked tales like in Syndromes and a Century, we have endless traveling scenes through interminable natural landscapes like in Blissfully Yours, and we have myth and folk tales like in most of the aforementioned.
I have a very strained relationship with the works of Sam Peckinpah. On the one hand, the man was a pure cinematic master, capable of capturing extraordinarily beautiful images and tackling challenging themes of masculinity and inhumanity. On the other hand, dude was a drunken brute whose masterful images sometimes celebrated brutality to an uncomfortable degree and who frequently struggled with those challenging themes to the point that he seemed to land on the wrong side of humanity. There are great Peckinpah films and just plain morbidly shocking Peckinpah films, but none seems to exemplify his inner turmoil, both as a filmmaker and as a person, more than his most infuriating work, Straw Dogs.
Is it too cute to say that the title 50/50 accurately reflects the film’s ratio of good and bad? That’s not quite true, actually – this is a good film with more than its share of truly great moments. But it is, in essence, a fifty-fifty split, consisting of equal parts emotionally honest reality and brash, rude comedy that are at war for a full 100 minutes, a war that never allows the film to be as great as it could be.
It was in his twenty-second year of film direction that Clint Eastwood finally fully realized the incredible potential he had for decades demonstrated in his work both before and behind the camera. A filmmaker famed for taking the western and repeatedly reviving it with the cinematic mainstream, Eastwood took to the genre a fourth and final time with Unforgiven. The film earned four Oscars including Best Picture and Best Director, was nominated for five more including Best Actor for Eastwood, and is regularly cited as one of the greatest westerns of all time.