“Do not go gentle into that good night”. Dylan Thomas’ oversaturated verse is an obvious epigraph for A Night in Old Mexico, a movie for which obvious aspects will do when awkward oddities will not. It’s a tonally troubled film, one where wild misfires might easily…
The title of the Argentinian-Spanish co-production (including the Almodóvar brothers) “Relatos Salvajes” that translates to Wild Tales could not be more appropriate and fitting since the feature competing for the Palme d’Or is as wild as it can get. Written and directed by Damián Szifrón, Wild Tales consists of six self-contained stories connected through the common…
Hitler’s fiery tub thumping spittle flecked rants are one thing but it’s often the routine performance of horrific acts that shock the most. The methodical experimentation that Josef Mengele carried out at Auschwitz is truly repulsive. Unlike some of his contemporaries who escaped their crimes only to be caught later, Mengele…
Before gifting us the cinema of blood spurting phalluses (and talking foxes!) in 2009, before he ended the world in 2011, and before he, in graphic yet clinical fashion, challenged the sexual mores of society and the filmic facsimiles thereof this past year, Lars von Trier made Breaking the Waves, a work that’s as much a remonstration as is its younger brethren. Despite the late public courts decreeing him more a provocateur than auteur – even a hybrid moniker like “provocauteur” feels like a concession of his talents – the confrontational tenor that pervades his films is one that’s distinctly personal, an extension of his own musings on social and artistic orders, his own phobias and anxieties, and his own feelings on what constitutes beauty and amity; his characters often reflect this, bearing the weight of the director’s cognitive crosses as they march themselves perforce toward martyrdom. What’s of important note, however, is that while von Trier readily projects his own traits and concerns unto a protagonist, he’s able to refrain from painting himself a sacrificial lamb – he never truly characterizes by way of surrogacy. Thus, his films take the form of largely candid but wholly exotic outlets, works that are imbued with a certain intimacy even when at their most oblique or didactic; to find appeal in von Trier’s cinema is to realize that his essayist intellectualism and his coarse humanity are complimentary tendencies of the same persona.
Zip & Zap and the Marble Gang is an adventurous romp through the labyrinthine passageways of an old castle that has been turned into some sort of Ayn Rand’ian boot camp for mischievous youths, telling us a story from the perspective of the precocious duo, Zip and Zap, and offering a commentary on the shifting modes of thought on child discipline. The harsh disciplinary tactics of the reactionary parents of yesterday have been outmoded through the reevaluation of priorities and objectives by a new generation that lives in a globalized world and has instant access to information. Wikipedia likely has volumes on unsuccessful parenting tactics that overemphasize discipline to foolishly attempt to impose lockstep idealogical conformity. Unfortunately for our titular duo, the “Hope Reeducation Center” hasn’t received the memo and the sacred right of childhood summer fun isn’t going to be easy with the facility’s harsh discipline and cruel administrators.
It is relatively rare for a film not of the horror genre to create an atmosphere so unsettling and uncomfortable as to remain with you long after viewing. Sexy Beast, the first feature from advertising and music video maestro Jonathan Glazer, is for the most part an excellent character drama based around a bank job, but at times it is as intense a viewing experience as you will have from any film.
If I discovered there was another one of me on this planet, I would be thrown into an existential crisis. We are raised in our society as “individuals” with the belief that we may live under a broader, overarching system but, as its citizens, we are individuals with personal skills and contributions that award us the potential to benefit it. Someone tells you to behave a way incongruous to your character, and your first response is “I would, but that’s not me”, isn’t it? If I had a double, then to what extent would I be special or relevant in this world? Would we cancel each other out? Maybe it’s best to never know.
Imagine the last twenty minutes of The Man Who Knew Too Much, but instead of just Hitchcock behind the camera you also had the likes of Martin Scorsese, Brian De Palma, Roman Polanski and Steven Spielberg joining him. This is the closest I can come to describing the cinematic ecstasy that is Eugenio Mira’s Grand Piano. On the surface, Grand Piano is an awesome idea executed to near perfection, but moments into the opening of this movie it becomes clear that this is an exquisitely crafted love letter to moviemaking and the minds behind our favorite movies. If you love movies even in the slightest, Grand Piano is required viewing.
Similar in approach to Peter Snowdon’s The Uprising (2013), Demonstration is a film helmed by one person but consists of footage shot by others and spliced together in a specific way. This time, the person helming the project is Russian filmmaker Victor Kossakovsky, while the footage he used for the film was shot by thirty-two students from the Master’s program in Creative Documentary at the IDEC-Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona, Spain. Also similar in subject to The Uprising, Demonstration is about mass protests; in this case, those that took place in Barcelona on 29th March and 14th November 2012, in response to the Catalan government’s austerity measures. The 29th March protests, in particular, marked the biggest one staged by the population. Protests reached such a peak energy that the government mobilised riot police. Most of the film consists of footage of the March protests, although like The Uprising, Kossakovsky presents the footage with little technical information and concentrates instead on the images’ visceral impact. But unlike The Uprising and its intense, dramatic premise of an ‘imagined revolution,’ Demonstration, for all of its political valences, has a less urgent tone. Indicative of its more aloof, though no less interesting, quality is that Kossakovsky presents the footage as a ‘film ballet.’