First, an apology that it’s taking me so long to write blog posts generally, and to get through the Lars von Trier collection in particular. As always, work is keeping me busy, but also it seems that I’ll need to watch each von Trier film at least twice.
This is his second feature, following on from THE ELEMENT OF CRIME. On my first viewing, EPIDEMIC seems like a very different beast altogether, and it didn’t grip me at all. It seemed to have nothing in common with his previous film, which I really enjoyed.
Essentially, we have a film within a film. We join Lars von Trier playing himself, along with script writer Niels Vørsel (also playing himself) after a screenplay for ‘The Cop and the Whore’ is destroyed accidentally. They have to create a new film outline from scratch, which becomes EPIDEMIC. We see snatches of this film-within-the-film through von Trier’s imagination, in which he plays the protagonist doctor himself.
This review will have to begin where all other ELYSIUM reviews have; DISTRICT 9. Please don’t take this as a lack of respect for Neil Blomkamp’s newest film, but a sign of the love everyone has for the first.
DISTRICT 9 was a breath of fresh air. It was new, it was fresh, and it was nasty. For a science fiction fan like myself, it was invigorating to watch. DISTRICT 9 had a sense of realism and world-building like few other films. It made it’s social points without being heavy, fed us a diet of exciting action scenes and introduced us to Sharlto Copley who made an instant impression (1).
All of this is, of course, why ELYSIUM has so much on it’s shoulders. It’s okay, though, because those shoulders are strengthened by a mark-3 exoskeleton.
Making its way to Blu-ray, thanks to Third Window Films, and released today, Love Exposure is a 2008 release directed by Sion Sono and is probably unlike anything you’ve seen before.
The film opens with a scene of a young boy – Yu – and his mother, who is terminally ill and praying. His mother asks only that Yu finds his ‘Maria’, his one true love. Young Yu promises to do this.
Years later, Yu (Takahiro Nishijima) is a normal seventeen year old boy living with his father, who has become a priest. After his father breaks up with another woman and has his heart broken, things begin to go wrong. His father demands that Yu goes to confession on a daily basis, and is not happy until his son confesses to sins. Yu, being a young normal seventeen year old, has little to confess to. For a while he has to ‘squeeze out sins’, but this is not adequate. So, in an attempt to bond with his father, he begins to purposefully sin. Eventually, he perfects the art of ‘peek-a-panty’ photos, which has him branded as a pervert. This proves enough to truly enrage his father.
Throughout this, there is a constant countdown to ‘the miracle’, which happens almost exactly half way through the film. This is the moment that Yu meets his ‘Maria’, Yoko (Hikari Mitsushima). They fall in love instantly. The only problem is that Yu is dressed as a woman called Miss Scorpion at the time, and is completely unrecognisable.
The third strand in the film, and the one that holds most sway over the second half of the film is the story of Koike (Sakura Ando) who has been manipulating events and characters in order to bring the family into her ‘Zero Church’ cult.
Love Exposure is asking questions of love, sex and passion. There is an analysis of faith and sin, religion and identity. There is more than a touch of disillusioned and abandoned youth (which Sono would go on to look at even more in Himuzu). Gender, sexuality, broken families, parenthood also get tackled with. There is a lot going on here.
The film plays across several genres, and goes from comedy to thriller and back again. There are jokes about erections mixed in with much darker scenes. It looks great throughout, with clever lighting and some interesting shots. The soundtrack is fantastic, with use of pop and rock as well as classical pieces. These reflect characters as well as enhancing the mood or drama of scenes.
Love Exposure may not be for everyone, but for such a long film (four hours) it remains quick moving and entertaining, as well as managing to cover so many themes. I admit that at first I was worried some of the visual metaphors were far too obvious, but the film builds themes so quickly that things merge and mix like colour on an artist’s pallet, creating something entirely new. Definitely worth investing some time with.
One hour long ‘making of’ feature
Thirty-minute interview with Sion Sono
Deleted and extended scenes
King of Devil’s Island is essentially a prison movie, starring the wonderful Stellen Skarsgard as the Governor. However, due to some great touches to the script and performances the film manages to rise above so many others in this genre.
The build of tension is superbly done, and it is beautifully shot throughout.
I really, really liked it. I wrote a full review of King of Devil’s Island for Cinetalk.
We played Dinotasia for only a week at the Gate Cinema, and I didn’t get a chance to see it until Thursday, the last day of screening. (Cinemas work on a Fri-Thu week). Hence, I didn’t bother reviewing it at the time. However, it’s such a niche film that I realised I was doing it a disservice by ignoring it!
Dinotasia is a weird film. It was billed as a dino-documentary narrated by Werner Herzog, but it isn’t really. It’s a series of shorts, all starring different dinosaurs going about their daily lives, but vaguely anthropomorphised so that stories can be told. Battling T-Rex’s, who are out for revenge, a sauropod getting high on magic mushrooms, giant deadly frogs… Between each short, Herzog narrates. He doesn’t get a lot of time, so he has managed to squeeze ‘extra Herzog’ into each line he has. It is brilliant.
Although the science behind the film is relatively sound (not just in my opinion, but that of a palaeontologist friend also) this is not a documentary and it isn’t out to teach us anything new. If you’re after depth and learning, then you’re better off visiting the Natural History Museum. It is also not a film for young children, as it’s fairly violent in places, and includes some dino-sex.
Dinotasia is, essentially, a late-night beer film for people like me. I am the niche audience, and I loved it. (The film should have been sold with a great B-Movie poster: SEE Dinosaurs fight, love and Get High! SEE giant deadly frogs! HEAR Werner Herzog!)
The film is unlikely to be seen a great deal in cinemas, but if a screening does come up I recommend the film. Go in ready to laugh, and you’ll have a great time.
I was lucky enough to be invited to see an early screening of new British Indie LIFE JUST IS, a fresh take on the lives of urban 20-somethings, from writer/director Alex Barrett
We follow a group of friends for a week. We see relationships begin, break up and develop. However, these aren’t standard ‘movie’ relationships, and they don’t necessarily go the way the characters would like. One of them, Pete is going through a tough existential crisis, while Tom and Claire are struggling with the simpler problem of mutual attraction.
It took me a while to get into the film, but much like real friendship, I think that is because I had to get to know the characters. Once I did, I was thoroughly engrossed. I was worried that the episodic nature of the film – each day has its own title card – might break up the flow, but it works really well and actually keeps the film moving, where perhaps it could have stalled on certain events.
The film manages to be both very large in scope, discussing religion and the existence of God, and also extremely intimate. The conversations are very realistic in the way they are written and are performed naturally by the cast, which really brings the characters to life. Of course, in an ensemble piece like this, some of the characters will end up a little neglected – but wanting to know more about them just proves that what we see is interesting and well thought-out.
Ultimately, once the film had finished, I find myself wishing I could see the next day in the lives of these characters. Watch it, and you’ll feel like you’ve made some new friends.
Now, the story behind the film is pretty amazing. Back in 1985, Kim Jong-Il had South Korean Director Shin San-ok make a monster movie. Of Course, San-ok had been kidnapped by North Korea, and was being held against his wishes. Special effects are from Godzilla studios Toho.
The film follows the story of a village which is being, essentially, pillaged by the King. The villagers revolt, and several are taken prisoner. One, the blacksmith, creates a small doll out of rice and food. When touched by human blood, the doll comes to life, and begins to eat metal.
As the villagers continue to fight against the evil regime, the monster grows in size, before becoming large enough to take on entire armies.
Some of the torture scenes are surprisingly shocking – particular an old woman getting her legs beaten by a plank of wood. Some of them are fairly silly (such as an executioner giving a full-on movie ‘evil laugh’). However, it isn’t the people that are the stars of this film, it’s Pulgasari himself.
In his first scenes, he’s tiny. You will want one as a pet. Once he’s big, though, the effects are standard 80′s Godzilla stuff. It’s bonkers, and I loved it. It’s really the sound effects that lift this film, though. They are very cartoonish in places, with hilarious consequences.
Without getting into the politics of the film, it is very entertaining in a ‘so-bad-it’s-good’ kind of way, and is different enough from other Toho monster films to be fresh.
The first film of 2012
A silent film about the death of silent film. Rave reviews, great anticipation and awards buzz that would be deafening, except, of course, it’s all silent.
Can a film eighty years out of time really be as good as everyone is saying?
The film starts in the 1920’s, and George Valentin (jean Dujardin) is a Hollwood star at the height of his fame. Following a chance encounter with Peppy Miller (Bérénice Bejo), a young actress, Valentin steps in to give her career a boost, and the sparks between them fly.
The trouble begins when cinema takes that giant leap into the unknown – sound.
As with so many of the great silent stars, George Valentin doesn’t make the transition, and his life begins to fall apart. At the same time, Peppy Miller become the new biggest name in town.
The story is simple and won’t tax you at all. The real joy of The Artist is the clever way that homage is made to silent classics, but in a very fresh, very modern way. There are moments of absolute brilliance. What’s more, the comedy is spot-on.
Watch it, ideally in a cinema that’s been running since the 1920′s, because the year has started with one of the very best films!
I had to go and see this one. One scene was shot in my beautiful cinema – the Gate at Notting Hill. Of course, the film doesn’t fit our standard audience profile, so I caught it instead at my local indie, the Genesis. (Their screen 1 is massive!).
The story of a young boy, Hugo, who lives in a train station in Paris. He is very good at fixing things, and is currently trying to fix an automaton. His attempts to get it working again lead him on an adventure. This much I knew before the film, and it sounds like standard ‘Family Christmas Film’ stuff. HUGO is so much more than that, though. Whoever arranged the advertising has really sold the film short, HUGO has heart and soul and character and, frankly, I loved it.
The story at it’s basic level is a heartwarming one, where several lost characters manage to find themselves and their purpose through the course of the film. Hugo is, of course, the catalyst for all of this. The meat of the story is the exploration of relationships and loss, (The loss of parents in particular). It’s not all emotional wash, though, I felt some real compassion for the characters.
The most surprising thing for me, however, was the simple and undying love for the magic of cinema. I don’t want to give away an major plot points, but early silent cinema plays a massive part in HUGO. It really feels like Scorsese has put his love of film out there for us to see.
The thing is, I do love cinema. And, I would expect, so does anyone reading this review. I work in a cinema. In fact, I’m in a cinema pretty much every day of the year for one reason or another – and I forget just how magical they are. This film reminded me, and for that, I am thankful.
Asa Butterfield is great as Hugo, and Chloe Moretz shines again as Isabelle. A little older than she was in KICK ASS, and I can see her becoming a huge star.
I saw the 3D version, and I liked it. Of course, the 3D scenes are a little more ‘CGI’ than the rest, but Scorsese manages to find the perfect balance. He doesn’t overuse the 3D, but manages to harness is to create a greater atmosphere.
I would also like to praise the score – it’s great! Howard Shore has done well.
I think this has just replaced the awesome RANGO as my family film of the year. Go and see it in a cinema.
(If you’re wondering about the Gate… It’s the scene where the kids sneak into a cinema. That’s our auditorium.)