Tuesday 15 November 2011

TIFF 2011 - Oslo, August 31st

Chip Lary from Tips From Chip is doing a series of reviews of films with numbers in their titles - starting at zero and working his way up. When I suggested Joachim Trier's latest film "Oslo, August 31st" as a possibility he asked if I could review it for his site. Given that it was one of the many strong films I saw at TIFF this year that I had yet to review, I agreed - sometimes I simply need a kick in the butt and a deadline to get moving on overdue reviews (my wife might want to generalize that statement somewhat...). So here's the review I wrote for his site (which he just published yesterday):

Though I don't completely subscribe to the "Auteur" theory in all its finer points, I do tend to look at films as having directorial stamps on them - not just from common stylistic points of view or as vehicles that cover similar themes, but as works that have a certain quality about them. For example, when I see a movie like Joachim Trier's debut film "Reprise", I take note of the name of the helmer because there's a certain something about the film that appeals to me and an attention to detail that shows the person "in charge" cares about the entirety of the work. So when I noticed that Trier's second film "Oslo, August 31st" was to screen at this year's TIFF, it immediately made my short list. It's a very different film than its predecessor as it was shot quickly, for little money and eschews the many flourishes and stylistic touches of his first film. However, it still fits nicely next to "Reprise" because there is not only a deft touch with its characters and a strong sense of place, but also an overall confidence about its story.

Based loosely on the French novel "Le Feu Follet" (which Louis Malle turned into the 1963 film of the same name - better known to English speakers as "The Fire Within"), the film shows a day in the life of one particular troubled person, but it also illuminates an entire city at the same time. The very beginning of the film shows home movies of a still smallish Oslo, but in the present day the city seems to be growing quite nicely as many cranes litter the streets signifying new construction. As Anders wanders from friend to job interview to his family's old house, we get to see a large chunk of a lovely, restful city - a stark contrast to Anders himself. You know that friend you have that just can't seem to get it together? While everyone has their ups and downs, this one particular person always seems to be in the worst shape (or at least that's what they tell you)? That's Anders. He can't pull himself together and has already tried to kill himself once while in rehab. "I've always thought happy people must be morons" is one of Anders philosophies and gives a good indication where most conversations with him will likely lead.

Those conversations are key to the success of the film - each one feels natural, genuine and very real. Particularly those between Anders and his best friend who listens to him intently and tries to engage him, but is at his own crossroad. Anders is not the only one struggling to find his place in life, but he just can't see past his own current problems or even allow anyone else to. He scuttles a job interview that was going well as soon as his drug history arises. The interviewer seems sympathetic, but Anders can't even consider that he might catch a break. Instead of suffering rejection, he slams the door shut himself (a tactic he seems to use extensively across all relationships). Throughout the day, there are also kernels of optimism and hope - a young girl in a cafe makes a "bucket list" with her boyfriend, a late night swim with laughter, watching and listening to different people go about their day - there's plenty of opportunity and promise in these lives. But Anders has lost that ability to find any of it. He can hang on to memories and images from his past, but that's all they are now and they provided no solace, nor encouragement.

At a Q&A after the film, Trier talked a bit about the idea behind the production process which was to do it simple and fast. As other plans were taking their time to get off the ground, he and his creative team decided they just needed to get out and start filming with a shooting ethic that used as many locations and their natural environment as possible. Also, they needed to work with actors that could take scripted dialogue and turn it into realistic moments of conversation. It's exceptionally effective as it keeps you close to Anders, makes you want to point out all the possibilities around him and frustrates you as he turns away from every single one of them. I can't wait to see what Trier does next.

Saturday 5 November 2011

A Short Video Summation of an October of Horror

As a final wrap-up of my October horror viewing spree, here's a short compilation of scenes from each movie I watched (2 clips from each film not including the bonus snippets at the end):

Friday 4 November 2011

A Single Image #20

The Highest (1973 - Arthur Penn)

from the anthology film Visions Of Eight

Now that's some good spam!

The lovely and talented Jandy - one of my co-writers at RowThree where I occasionally also post - emailed a few us the following comment that was left in pending status on the site. It's spam, so I have no qualms about re-posting it here (it contained the same link dropped in at random about 4-5 times in the content).

It's obviously been jammed through some kind of translation bot, but feels like it may have actually come from some person's actual top 6 list of mermaid movies. Parsing out any of their thoughts will be challenge though...However, since this translated version (which was posted with their spam site links included - I won't include them here, but have highlighted where they were in the comment in blue - to a RowThree post about a pair of disaster movies) is filled with enough wonderfully surreal catch phrases to keep me going for a year, I thought it might be fun to share. Feel free to re-share at will.

And maybe one day you too will memorialize how delighted you were when this first came unconfined...

Most people have seen Disney’s “The Little Mermaid” animated movie. But there are not too others which are absolutely magic – classics. Here they are:

1. My lid pick exchange for a mermaid film is “Smudge”. Not alone is it comic and the cabal wonderful, but there is quite a hint of breathtaking footage of Daryl Hannah mermaiding in the ocean. We can’t grow sufficiently of that! Preserve continue in haul that this is not a children’s movie. It was made in the ’80s, and in spite of the most quarter it is okay because the progeny to watch. But there is a little moment of nudity (when the mermaid is walking into New York discernible of teaserthe ocean with nothing but her great whisker to cover her) and there is some implication of what she and the Tom Hanks characteristic untypical are doing in the elevator, but nothing is shown. The flicks is wonderful, with a leading excuse and formidable mermaid footage and lots of laughs, as fount as a capacious romance.

2. My second top ideal is “The Arcane of Roan Inish”. This is a safe, tranquillize flicks the entire family can enjoy. It was made in Ireland, and as such is slower and quieter than most American movies. It is beside a lilliputian Irish lass who moves to busy with her grandparents. While there she unwittingly stumbles upon the obscurity circumambient the key the dearest adapted to to existent on, called “Roan Inish” (Island of the Seals). As she slowly solves the puzzle, she brings movie trailershealing and concordance without hope to the family. In this film the untrue myths non-spiritual luxuries is a selkie, not a mermaid. The selkie lives in the aspect of a seal. On advantage she climbs up on a poverty-stricken and removes her seal scrape, revealing a pleasing woman. So this film is a trifling tittle special, and you desire at no time look at a seal the despite the fact mo = ‘modus operandi’ again.

3. My third favorite mermaid movie is “Aquamarine.” This equal is geared to the teen crowd. It has nothing lascivious, so the whole parentage can take to it. It’s a delightfully another rendering of the classic Tiny Mermaid story, with a wonderful shock ending. The mermaid in this big is unusual, more like a regular teen girl. There are a sprinkling suitable shots of her in the water. The messages in this silent picture are elevated quality, such as loyalty, friendship, exclusive conviction, selflessness and courage. And it is also sheer funny.

4. Handful four of my top mermaid movies is an familiar black and drained deathless called “Mr. Peabody and the Mermaid.” You intent should prefer to a object to finding this silver screen to watch, but VHS versions are ready for mark-down on Amazon.com. All of the underwater footage was filmed in the venerable Weeki Wachee Springs in Weeki Wachee, Florida, no more than a year after this underwater theater opened. Made in 1948, this moving picture is nearly a married span charming a vacation in the trailersCaribbean. The humankind is almost 50 and is having a mid-life crisis. While on vacation he accidentally fishes up a live mermaid from the sea! Ann Blyth plays the entrancing mermaid and you transfer enjoyment this wonderful film. The no greater than objections a parent might include is the exercise of extramarital flirting, and some laughable scenes with a guy disquieting to give up smoking.

5. United that is a dab dissimilar, and which only recently came out, is a Japanese anime Miyazaki talking picture called “Ponyo on the Cliff alongside the Sea”, or sparely “Ponyo”. In this whole the fish-girl is depicted as a goldfish with a generous gall, which is rather strange. But in an singular contort, this five-year-old fish-girl has to engage the teeny five-year-old somebody little shaver to fondness her faithfully, or she will turn into sea sparkle and be no more. It is such a sweet interpretation, these inconsequential children knowledge to love and trust each other in such an undefiled way. It is a story of wonder and daring and should not be missed.

6. My pick for the duration of handful six is Disney’s “The Petite Mermaid”. It was the talking picture that got Disney backside into the in favour film business again in the 1980s. The music and white are a delight. I memorialize how delighted I was when it first came unconfined – it is a diverting mermaid movie, high jinks for the whole family.

Wednesday 2 November 2011

October Horror 2011 - Chapter #8

Yeah, I'm surprised October's over too. 32 horror films in the month is my final count - a 33% drop from last year's total. I blame Toronto After Dark for keeping me busy...

The last four for the month:

The Shiver Of The Vampires (1971 - Jean Rollin) - It's quite surprising that it's taken me so long to get around to seeing one of Jean Rollin's art-horror films - you'd think this stuff would've been right up my alley. And indeed, it most certainly is. For whatever reason, I just never thought to dive into his output until one of his titles pretty much randomly came up in my lengthy list of items to investigate. In this case, the horror derives almost strictly from images - not sound, not story, not character and not slow builds of tension. It's all about the visuals. The bright colours mixed with neutral tones, the bits of bright blood red dotting the frame, the creepy statues and artifacts littering the castle, the faces of the undead vampires and the surprising places they can be found. The camera plays its own part occasionally as when it spins around inside a circle of all the characters or becomes the POV of the doomed central character. The nominal story has a newlywed couple visiting the bride's favorite cousins in their castle. Unbeknownst to her, these vampire hunters became the hunted and now must put up with eternity. The main female vampire (who converted the cousins) slowly pulls the bride over to "her side" as the hapless husband can do nothing. Throw in a large portion of nudity, gothic outfits and a psychy soundtrack (a slightly twangy low rent version of Goblin - the great band who did the soundtrack to "Suspiria", "Deep Red" and other Argento films) and you've got yourself a memorable picture.

Two Thousand Maniacs (1964 - Herschell Gordon Lewis) - As a director, Lewis wasn't exactly known for his specific style, storytelling ability or his way with actors. I think even he would say that he wasn't so much a filmmaker as he was a businessman. By pretty much any account, "Two Thousand Maniacs" is a terrible, terrible movie - the acting is atrocious, useless dialogue scenes go on and on and the whole thing looks completely drab. Except for the blood (primarily what Lewis is known for via both this film and "Blood Feast") which was bright and vivid. The idea was to shock with scenes of dismemberments and other such gore-filled activities and in this movie's case, they certainly had a structure that leant itself to such requirements. One hundred years after an entire Southern town has been wiped out by the North during the Civil War, it suddenly reappears and their "centennial" celebration is focused on finding some sacrificial Northerners to kill at their festival. It's a different spin on Brigadoon and as an idea certainly isn't the worst one for a gorefest. The odd thing is that it isn't filled with as much chopped up flesh as you would expect (of course, in 1964 it was rather infamous for a few scenes of severed limbs). It's not that I necessarily wanted or needed to see more gushing blood, but when that's all your movie has going for it, that's all you can hope for.

Doctor X (1932 - Michael Curtiz) - After seeing this two-strip technicolour film, I can't help but wish that someone would revive this old technology and make some new films with it. The green and yellow colour palette in this case worked tremendously well for the tale of a group of scientists who are under suspicion for a recent string of murders. Specifically, any scene in one of the wonderful laboratory sets - rife with flashing lights, liquids flowing in tubes and bizarre electrical contraptions - looked fantastic with that mix of two tones and all the shadows they could find. Doctor X is the head of the school where the scientists do their research and he convinces the police to let him conduct his own investigation with his own experiments to clear his fellow professors' names. The mystery is well handled, there are several good scenes that build up suspense and it's overall quite fun, but sadly it's marred by the comic relief of the newspaper reporter. Every line and every word has to be said with smarm or as a "zinger". It completely takes the steam out of anything built up previously. Overall it's good - averaging between fantastic and annoying.

The Return (2006 - Asif Kapadia) - I don't remember much about the response to the Sarah Michelle Gellar vehicle "The Return" from 5 years ago, but I'm pretty sure it wasn't overly positive. That's a bit of a shame since this was a pretty effective supernatural thriller. Oh sure, the story doesn't really go anywhere overly different than any other "why am I having these visions of someone else's past?" movie, but it does it with (for the most part) striking visuals and a very patient approach. There are several long moments of silence and a mostly tempered soundtrack that helps keep you concerned for Gellar's character as she feels a strong pull to return to her native Texas. There's a car crash in her past, but she is also increasingly disturbed by images intruding on her reality from a place she's never been. It falls into a few of the standard traps, but resists going for too many easy scares by relying on the audience's empathy with the central character. One major issue with the film, though, is its use of the sudden zoom effect - you know the one where for no reason at all the camera seems to lurch forward like there's some auto-correcting zoom feature? It's used enough in the film to be extremely distracting and somewhat infuriating. It makes sense (to a certain extent) when being used in faux-documentaries to ape a cameraman trying to figure out the right shot and framing for something happening in front of them, but it's completely nonsensical to use in a film like this. Sometimes a single bad choice like that can ruin an entire experience, but fortunately there's enough in the rest of this film that allows me to overlook that glaring misstep.