The Man From London (2007)

5 STARS

“A londoni férfi”

General Information:

All information below is taken from the following link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0415127/?ref_=nv_sr_1

15     139 min  -  Crime | Drama | Mystery  -  31 January 2008(Hungary)

Director

Béla Tarr; Ágnes Hranitzky

Writer

Béla Tarr; László Krasznahorkai

Stars

Miroslav Krobot; Tilda Swinton; Ági Szirtes

Plot:

Maloin observes a large quantity of money thrown into the sea and a man being killed. Following this he experiences a profoundly intense existential crisis.

Review:

How can I describe The Man From London? It seems almost impossible. It is an extraordinary film, which is, because it shows us everything, but ultimately tells us nothing. It works as a suspense film without any suspense. A suspense film is a film that shows us all the events of the film – Bela Tarr takes this conceit and twists it to his own style of filmmaking. The film uses its camera as if it were God, purveying the scene: we move from one character to the next, we see their faces, their reactions and hear all lines of dialogue. Yet we know nothing about the characters. We don’t know who they are, we don’t know their motivations. Ultimately, we see all the events of the film, but we know nothing about why they are committed. Thus, the film is the purest form of mystery. However, the characters transcend ‘character’ into being humans. It is as if we are watching them live. Bela Tarr has a way of filming actors which accentuates and naturalises their performances – he draws out the intensities of the character’s inner turmoil as well as making what we are seeing feel totally convincing and completely real.

The film essentially opens with the main character, Maloin (Miroslav Krobot) see a suitcase thrown over the board of the ship, and a man murdered by being pushed into the icy black water. The murderer walks away, and the camera pans round watching him walk off, the seconds pass and we just gaze at Maloin’s unsettled facial expressions. He has just witnessed a life being taken…yet everyday life continues, time refuses to stop and the world is nonplussed and utterly indifferent. Later on, Maloin steals the suitcase. Perhaps this has been the only thrill in his life. Who knows? We don’t even know what he’s thinking, we can only guess by his facial expressions.

In a sense, Maloin is the perfect character for an existential drama such as this. He is a railway signalman. His job simply consists of sitting there for hours on end, occasionally pulling levers and staring out of his window, watching strangers who he’ll only ever see once walk past and get into the train and then leave. He quite literally sees life go by, and nobody recognises his existence. He is a voyeur which nobody sees. Yet he was also the voyeur of a crime. At first the crime almost seems like a normal event to Maloin. He appears to be distressed, but mainly nonchalant to what he has witnessed. Yet the film has progressed, and the strange guilt (for simply seeing an event) stirs up and builds inside of him. He takes it out on the rest of the world. The world that does not care for his sheer existence, not even his wife and daughter.

Have I also emphasised how just incomprehensibly mad the film is. In usual circumstances, how the character’s react to situations and the sheer situations themselves, you’d be sitting up at the screen tutting due to its sheer implausible madness. Not here though. The film takes itself so seriously, and the glacial pacing just makes all the madness seem normal. It’s as if the sheer absurdity of life becomes some kind of theatrical satire, but with the laughs and irony replaced with sheer misery and trudging droll organ-music. The film involves a sequence in a pub involving a strange dance with a snooker ball and a chair. The film aesthetically, looks as if it should be set in the 30s or 40s, but hang on, aren’t those modern day £20 and isn’t the an LCD cash-machine being used? The film involves a sequence where Maloin and his wife have an argument over Maloin buying, out of all the things to buy, a grotesquely ridiculous mink stole. Although, perhaps Tarr has struck on something here: if the madness of the events is supposed to be taken seriously, is Tarr making a comment on how the most disturbing act of everyday existence being the notion that nothing of consequence is ever done, nothing meaningful. I believe the existentialists would have called this an “inauthentic existence”.

On a technical level, the film is perfection. Like most Bela Tarr films, it is shot with exquisite precision. The camera glacially moves smoothly past structures of buildings and around characters, observing everything. The lighting is stark, using sharp contrasts between dark and light creating interesting effects and powerful shadows. And then there’s Tilda Swinton. She gives an excellent performance. She is able to convey intense emotions (such as rage, despair and grief) yet making them feel utterly convincing as opposed to melodramatic. But then again, all of the performances in this film are of the highest standards. The actors for the most part simply stare into the distance. All of the emotions is conveyed in their eyes, and the feelings simply seep through slowly, yet intensely. They don’t act, they are.

Conclusion:

Who knows what the film means? Ultimately it is all down to interpretation. But what can be said is what we are left with is not only technically excellent, but atmospherically genius. Unsettling, challenging and profound, this film will stay with you well after viewing.

Nick Clegg goes to Hollywood: Party Political Broadcasts – FILM REVIEWS

It is a frequent, in fact, expected occurrence now for political parties in the United Kingdom to use the medium of film to pitch why the voters should vote for them. Whether the films are merely sensationalist propaganda, or simply factual, the political parties are using the format of film to transmit their messages, and thus I think it appropriate to review the films that they have made.

I have reviewed these films purely based on the craft of the filmmaking and the way their messages are put across, as opposed to reviewing the films based on whether I agree with the political ideology of the parties. The following reviews steer clear of bias by reviewing not what the video says, but how it is said.

N.B. Some political parties have made more than one video. I have reviewed the videos that I have seen on YouTube and BBC iPlayer, thus if I have missed one it is not to do with any political bias but rather, sheer visceral incompetence. It is also important to note, that my iPlayer seems to show me the broadcasts for the Welsh version of the videos because I go to a Welsh University. I also haven’t written reviews for The Green Party, Sinn Fein or the DUP (or any other party) due to weak streaming online. I will review these broadcasts at a later date. But for now….enjoy:

THE THREE MAIN POLITICAL PARTIES

The Conservative Party (Video #1)

1/5
There is always something strange about seeing David Cameron talk directly to camera, thus talking directly to you (or rather at you). He has a strangely annoying style of speaking. Perhaps it’s the patronising tone created by the fact that he talks…really…slowly…and puts particular emphasis onto random words, just so that your attention is maintained. Considering this, it’s a brave move that the first part of this election broadcast is David Cameron talking. And yes, due to his glacial pacing, the amount of time he speaks for is rather lengthy. There is of course nothing wrong with length. The Labour election broadcast is great and it is indeed the longest (spanning over five minutes). The issue is what is contained within the amount of time you use, and in this video it is David Cameron talking.

Alas, just to emphasise what he was saying, the screen fades to a blue union flag (I think they’re media-nodes understand semiotics), with five small snappy phrases that sum up David Cameron’s arguments concerning how he will change this country:

1) Reducing the deficit
2) Cutting income tax and freezing fuel duty
3) Creating more jobs by backing smaller businesses
4) Capping welfare and reducing immigration
5) Delivering the best schools and skills for young people

I think it’s vital to make the point that this a profoundly dull piece of filmmaking, not least because of Cameron’s sluggishly plummy tones but because there are no images which grab you.  In this sense, it is the poorest piece of filmmaking so far.

Conclusion
Painfully dull. Not cinema, but rather recorded speech.

The Conservative Party (Video #2)

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b041mckz/Party_Election_Broadcasts_for_the_European_Parliament_2014_Conservative_Party_22_04_2014/

1.5/5

What is the overall point of using film as an advertisement? In fact, the better question is: what is the point in advertising? After an advertisement ends, you should be able to recall multiple key pieces of information that were stated. This video fails partially because it feels like an overload of information, and partially because stylistically it has the aesthetics of a lecture slideshow as opposed to a video campaign. Thus, the result is the fact that I cannot quote it at all.

Am I overcritical in believing that if you’re going to make more than one video, both videos should be stylistically different as opposed to the same? Again, very much aware, that there message may not sink in, the election broadcast uses text on screen to aid the visuals, like in the previous video. The text itself is long as opposed to short…thus, it is impossible to quote the text as well.

If however, you are curious about the text, it includes the following:

1) Taking back control of justice and home affairs

2) Keeping control of our borders and cracking down on benefit tourism

3) Getting a better deal for British taxpayers

4) Securing more trade but stopping ‘ever closer union’

5) Giving the British people an in-out referendum in 2017

(Yes, I did have to rewind the video and press pause so I could write these slogans down as it is impossible to remember them).

Even though the video is stylistically better than the previous one, the whole tone of the video feels preachy – it is never a good thing to feel as if you’re being sold something when you’re watching a advertisement. Of course, this is the point of an advertisement – but feeling as if you’re being manipulated isn’t a good thing for political propaganda.

David Cameron also speaks to the camera at the end.

Conclusion:

Stylistically better, but ultimately forgettable. The film goes very hard on the patronising ‘atmosphere’.

The Labour Party

4/5
Perhaps in the medium of film, it’s not what you say, but how you say it; not who you are, but how you come across. In this video, Ed Miliband comes across like a shining vision of hope, a Utopian angel who will bring forth our Nation (or rather, “One Nation”) into a brighter, and better future for all of us. In this sense, this party election broadcast is an excellent piece of filmmaking, because it has the power to draw in not just the politically-minded but the people with not much knowledge when it comes to political-issues. It is important to remember that these videos act not just to sell political-ideas to the public, but to sell a persona, and in this sense, the Labour election broadcast is an excellent video.

The video perhaps mainly focuses on criticising the current state of affairs rather than offering solutions (I am reminded of David Cameron’s phrase “We can’t go on like ths”). When it does offer solutions, the solutions are only said briefly. In a sense, the video isn’t about a normal solution. It’s almost as if it’s suggesting that the solution to the United Kingdom isn’t political-ideas but the figure of Ed Miliband. In this sense, the video is a masterclass of spin.

Furthermore, the power of the image is incorporated to tell a story, a story that will connect wit us instantly: images of Ed Miliband with a glistening glowing light behind him (making him seem angelic), images of a man working in a factory (appealing to the workers which is what the Left is traditionally about), images of people watching Ed Miliband in awe of him as he speaks, clinging on to every single sound that comes forth from his mouth.

Conclusion:
An excellent piece of filmmaking which understands film as a an art/media form which uses images to put forward emotional and intellectual concepts: sells Miliband’s politics as well as his persona.
The Liberal Democrat Party

5/5
This is an astounding piece of political filmmaking because it trashes the notion of politics being boring and makes it feel like a Hollywood disaster-movie. How can I prove this? Okay, well the most effective method I could demonstrate was if I were to ask you to simply close your eyes and only listen to the sounds of the entire video, not the visuals, just the sound. Exactly. The video is vibrant aurally as it is visually.

At first, the sound reflects the notion of being out of the European Union by playing noises which sound chaotic and destructive…but then as the film comes to a close and we’re shown the positives of being in the European Union, a hopeful, vibrant, positive score echoes. This of course all sounds fairly obvious and simple, but did any other video in this blog post use sound so simply and so effectively as the Liberal Democrats did? No.

It unfolds like an argument. An argument which accentuates its points by twisting and playing at your emotions, because stylistically, it’s perfect. Notice how throughout the video, slogans are used, but in the scene (“3 MILLION JOBS”; “STRONER ECONOMY”; “TRADE PARTNERS”), as in, they are actually props as opposed to text. In this sense, if one were to wish to get in to too much depth analysing the video, it puts forward the notions that these issues aren’t abstract constructs, but instead real issues, which are ingrained into all of our lives, hence they become a physical part of the scene - thus they are props that can be seen, touched and moved as well as discussed.

It also helps that Nick Clegg is a brilliant speaker – something about his eyes that draws you in, something about his physicality, his hand-gestures.

Conclusion:
A brilliant piece of political spin. It rams its pro-EU point straight into your retina via using style to emphasise its substance, to great cinematic effect.
THE FRINGE PARTIES:
The British National Party (BNP)

2/5

Is it a satire? Is it a lampoon? Is it a disturbing vision of the present-day and/or the future? Or is it merely a man talking in front of the camera for a considerably lengthy amount of time with the same video playing on a loop as a backdrop? Or is it actually a film about a dog with an issue with his ever-protruding tongue? It is indeed all of these.

The British National Party is incorporating postmodernism in their films. Hooray. For the film starts off as what appears to be a satirical cartoon, but then suddenly, the cartoon stops. We are told that this is because they have broken various OFCOM rules. Thus the film initially starts off as a critique of censorship culture and how free-speech doesn’t exist due to ideological regulation. It is a shame. I rather liked the dog which Nick Griffin appeared to pat. It even stack its tongue out in a rather cheeky manner. Why there is a dog, it is anyone’s guess. My closest guess is that it is a reference to that dog ingrained in the cultural zeitgeist, Winston. If any case, this reminded me of another BNP election broadcast from long ago where Winston Churchill was repeatedly used as a riff about how “great” Britain, used to be. This previous advertisement for your vote was a strange piece of filmmaking: hazy, pixelated footage with Nick Griffin talking straight-to-camera, it was like the final video somebody makes before a group of virulent zombies blast down a wall and dissects you “I miss you Britain, but if you’re watching this video, it means that I am dead.”

Alas, the budget has grown, and presumably the crew has changed. The film’s quality goes on a downward curve. The cartoon being the high-point, and then we get to a man endlessly talking to the camera. This is an advertisement! Suck me in via images: use the power of the medium to persuade me, not a whining middle-aged man in front of a backdrop (no offense, whoever you are, I’m sure you’re a lovely, kind, charitable human being). Then “Act 3” of the advertisement begins: random snappy thoughts from members of the public (who represent YOU, the voter) stating their thoughts about the BNP and our country at present. The thoughts ranging from bringing back the death penalty, British jobs being for British workers, the islamification of Britain, an anonymous school in Leeds teaching English as a foreign language, and the BNP being the only political party that is defending the young generation today. There is a strange forced feel to these straight-to-camera vox-pops, a bizarre stylisation. This can only be described by observing one of the first vox-pops: the mise-en-scene is of four men, in army uniform facing a war memorial with their backs turned to us…the 2nd man turns around and talk to camera, then he turns back to facevthe war memorial…a pause, then he turns back round again and says another piece to camera!

Conclusion:
The filmmaking suffers from “Lolita syndrome”, due to censorship: it has had to take various cut-backs so we cannot see what the original piece of filmmaking is like, and thus, it’s message and it’s ideas are not as visible. It is certainly better than previous attempts at filmmaking, but cannot be persuasive due to the strangeness of the interviews and the almost rejection of film being an art/media-form designed to manipulate via visuals, not necessarily words.

The United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP)

2.5/5

Unlike my opinion concerning The Conservative Party’s broadcast, I think my opinion has changed here. Yes, film is a predominantly visual artform, but it is key to also remember that if a person can capture your attention with their vibrancy and with their style of speaking, then you should of course focus on that person. I am of course talking about Nigel Farage. He appears in the final moments of the broadcast, and I’d actually wish he was present throughout the whole thing. None of the other characters in this film are quite as engaging as him, they all sound rather bored and tired (and I don’t think this is an intentional metaphor about how they’re feeling about the current political climate).

The film does however, have some visually interesting images, but these are images that don’t necessarily force their points into your eye-sockets. The film has a strange melancholic feel which occasionally slips into banality. Perhaps this isn’t necessarily the film’s fault though, as I have just viewed this after viewing the Liberal Democrat’s broadcast: a sizzling piece of filmmaking which grabs your attention instantaneously. If anything, this, I think, shows who’s won so far in producing the best piece of political propaganda.

The film however ends on the defining statements about how UKIP has represented itself. Nigel Farage appealing to Left-wing ideas (to draw in the working class vote), the notion of a “People’s Army” and causing an “earthquake” amongst the establishment, the political class and the entire political landscape itself.

Conclusion:

I thought what was excellent about UKIP’s media spin was on the concentration on Nigel Farage being the beer-drinking, cigarette-smoking, straight talking underdog of politics who promotes “common sense politics”. Why did this election broadcast not take advantage of its key figure: the leader himself?

 

And that’s my thoughts on how the Parties put themselves across…what I actually think of each Party’s intentions and ideological views…well, that’s another blog post entirely.

Irreversible (2002)

5 STARS

“Irréversible”

General Information:

All information below is taken from the following link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0290673/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1

18        97 min                          -  Crime  | Drama  | Mystery                 -              31 January 2003(UK)

Director

Gaspar Noé

Writer

Gaspar Noé

Stars

Monica BellucciVincent CasselAlbert Dupontel

Plot:

Irreversible (2002)

Irreversible (2002)

Events of one night unfold in reverse-chronological order, opening with events after a tragic rape, and then progressing backwards and backwards before the brutal act occurred.

Review:

I felt physically sick whilst watching Irreversible. But I mean this as the highest compliment possible. It is my belief that if you dislike this film because it is sick then you are entirely missing the point. Rape and violence on screen should hurt the viewer, if not, the filmmaker is in a somewhat ‘dodgy’ moral-position.  I confess, I felt a vile churning feeling in my stomach throughout and at some points, I closed my eyes; furthermore, I felt that horrific feeling of actually wanting to be physically sick, but being unable to. This is the most extreme reaction I’ve ever had to a film.

The ‘unwatchability-factor’ of the film is highly connected to its blunt, if not obvious message: rape and violence are barbaric acts and fate is inescapable.

The film is infamous for an 8-minute rape scene, where the camera stays icily still and forces the viewer to watch. It is often the case that rape or violence is portrayed in film via cheap gimmicks, no doubt used due to the ludicrousness of censorship-culture: the camera turns away and you hear a scream. Well, I’m sorry, but in real life, that’s not what happens when someone is brutally assaulted. The victim experiences the entire barbaric act, and it is morally-right that the act isn’t cheapened or made to be less horrific. Gaspar Noe understands this and thus makes the viewer witness the entire thing, thereby showing what rape really is. This pleases me because there seems to be a lot of ‘rape culture’ infesting its way through our world: people discussing the act as if it’s a joke or a game. Show such people Irreversible, they won’t be laughing anymore. I don’t wish to degrade the act of rape to something less barbaric or fun, but the only way I can describe the scene simply is that it is “the cinematic equivalent of being sexually assaulted”. That is genuinely how I felt. It is one of the most brutal and powerful scenes I have frankly, ever seen in any film. The scene almost (heavy stress on almost)  makes the viewer feel like the victim, Alex (Monica Bellucci), that they see on screen, as the scene is: unforgiving, uncompromising, brutal, and it feels longer than it actually is, and you will (horrifically) always remember it.

It is of course a shame that this is all the film is famous for. The film isn’t strictly about rape, or even violence for that matter. (This is 8 minutes in  a film that lasts for 97 minutes.) The film is about the inevitability of fate. The narrative of the film goes backwards. Thus, the point being, that we ironically know what is going to happen to Alex before she does. As the film draws to a close, it ends on her beginning the day, we now know everything that will happen to her, whilst she is blissfully unaware. The infamous 8-minute scene plays halfway through the film. Following this are thirty minutes of laughter, contentedness (and perhaps even, tranquility). It is endless shots of Alex, her boyfriend and her friends smiling, drinking and having fun. Personally, I found these scenes more disturbing than the rape itself – what is more disturbing: the concept of rape, or not knowing in the future that you will be sexually-assaulted, and that it is an inevitable event in your life’s own timeline? Those brutal 8-minutes or more will always happen to Alex and she will never be able to escape them, they are a fixed point in time. Thus, the film transcends cheap exploitation into a film about predetermination and a very bleak form of existentialism. Think of it as a very brutal Art-film.

When everything was happy...

When everything was happy…

Stylistically, the film is fantastic. Gaspar Noe is the most inventive director around when it comes to sound-design and cinematography. His camera spins and glides in a dizzying fashion through each scene, quite literally spinning endlessly around characters. You feel physically repulsed by the cinematography as the constant spinning builds up a sense of giddying, dizzying, vomit-inducing dread. The sound design is a consistent drone which adds to the visuals, but furthermore, it contains a specific-note which when played constantly apparently taps into a part of your psyche which produces that feeling of being physically sick. The film understands that depth and style must be combined together to make a truth. The concept of fate is thus interlinked with the feeling of sickness and revulsion, to make the audience contemplate the negative concepts and ideas that eschew from fate and predetermination.

This is a provocative film which is at once very intense psychologically and very intense intellectually due to the philosophical notions that it puts forwards. It deserves to be commended in the highest regards.

The spinning, lurching camera-movements in Irreversible

The spinning, lurching camera-movements in Irreversible

Atmospheric visual-flair of Irreversible

Atmospheric visual-flair of Irreversible

Conclusion:

Perhaps one of the most disturbing films I’ve ever seen. But also one of the most profound. Indeed, the depth adds to the disturb as it makes the terrifying sequences and concepts of the film stay with you. Irreversible is truly cinematic. Indeed, this is the kind of film which going to the cinema is all about.

Damnation (1988)

5 STARS

“Kárhozat”

General Information:

All information below is taken from the following link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0095475/

15                       120 min  -  Crime | Drama | Romance  -  30 March 2001(UK)

Director

Béla Tarr

Writer

László Krasznahorkai; Béla Tarr

Stars

Gábor Balogh; János Balogh; Péter Breznyik Berg

Plot:

A man with no reason to live spends his days falling in love with a singer and doing absolutely nothing.

Review:

Behold the sheer eviscerating misery that is Bela Tarr. Just look into those eyes...

Behold the sheer eviscerating misery that is Bela Tarr. Just look into those eyes…

There are some films which drain your emotions so much that by the end you quite literally have no energy. These kinds of films are my favourite films as they are the most intense of cinematic experiences and will always stay with me.

By the end of Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible, I felt brain-shatteringly disturbed. By the end of Stanley Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, I felt intense awe at the universe. By the end of Bela Tarr’s Damnation, I felt assaulted, insulted and depressed. This is not hyperbole. I’ve never actually felt insulted by a film before, but then again there’s a first time for everything. It’s as if the entire film is sticking two fingers directly up at the audience whilst repeatedly drolling in pure deadpan monotone: “I don’t care if you like this”. The film is pure sadist – it depresses you for your own “entertainment”. Yay. The film quite literally takes all of the dopamine you have in your brain, ties it up, beats it to the ground and then has the cheek to steal all of the wallets for later. It is an affront to sheer social acceptance, but Christ I think it’s genius.

In essence, Damnation is one great big existential crisis. In fact never has the clichéd phrase “To be or not to be” perhaps meant so much; even though it is never mentioned, you wonder why none of the characters in this film never bother with suicide. Again, this is not hyperbole.

I haven’t actually described the plot as of such, but this would be meaningless. This is Bela Tarr. A director who has stated his dislike for narrative filmmaking and instead focuses on mood and character’s inner turmoil. Think of the film as a series of meaningless events which continuously go on and on and on…and on….a bit like life in that respect, one unconnected second after the next, and yes this is presumably the message of the film. The film’s point is that it doesn’t have one.

In fact, it is even pointless to name ‘the events’ in the film, as they’re so mundane, I’m not going to even bother stating them. What I will say however is that Bela Tarr should deserve a trophy for directing the most depressing sex scene I have ever seen.

See that face she's pulling? It doesn't change, it is deadpan throughout. There is hardly any movement. There is no heavy breathing.  There are no moans. Barely any movement. Behold, the worst erotic scene in cinema history.

See that face she’s pulling? It doesn’t change, it is deadpan throughout. There is hardly any movement. There is no heavy breathing. There are no moans. Barely any movement. Behold, the worst erotic scene in cinema history.

They look so miserable about copulating, that they might as well decapitate their own toes and prod each other in the stomachs repeatedly. In fact, I bet if they did that, they might even smile. This image I have conjured sounds macabre and barbaric, but you haven’t had to sit through a two-hour film where the climactic scene involves the main character barking at a dog for five minutes (because, yes that’s right, his life has become so meaningless and pointless that he doesn’t even communicate with his own species).

Woof. Bark. Growl.

Woof. Bark. Growl.

I am reminded of Bela Tarr’s final film, The Turin Horse. The two main characters in The Turin Horse repeat the same daily tasks over and over again: eating potatoes and fetching water from the well. The difference between The Turin Horse and this film is that in this film, the actions performed by the characters are not repeated again and again, instead it is just endless mundanities. In other words, The Turin Horse is high on non-naturalistic metaphor to express the pointlessness of existence (or to be more precise, the repetitiveness of day-to-day living), whereas this film mainly uses realism (to the point of tedious brilliance) to express it’s ideas. I use the phrase “tedious brilliance”. How can I explain this? There are numerous points where you expect the film to end, but it doesn’t, instead it goes on and on and on. Usually this would be a negative thing. So why a positive? The only way I can explain this is by comparing it to stand-up comedy. A stand-up comedian will say a joke, and then later on in the act, they’ll repeat it to good effect. They’ll then call-back the joke again later on to even more great effect. However, the next time they call-back the joke, it feels tired and ridiculous. You don’t expect them to call-back the joke again. Accept they do, and because of this, the routine feels so ridiculous that it becomes funnier. Damnation drags on for so long, that it borders on parody. The longer it goes on for, the more strangely entertaining it gets. This is difficult to explain. But if a film involves a sex-scene where the characters look like they’re inmates at Abu Ghraib, and consists of a character barking at a dog, you have to somehow understand that this film is strangely self-aware to the point of narcissism.

What else happens? Well, the main character falls in love with a bar singer. The only thing keeping him alive is the possibility of love. The main character stares out of a window observing the rain, and observing people walk past and dogs trot along. Also, just to point out on a stylistic of the film, Bela Tarr goes to extraordinary lengths to emphasise the mundanity of every day existence.

Gazing through the window

Gazing through the window

Not only will he use exceptionally long takes (we’re talking more than five minutes) to show the scene unfold and drag on in real time; but the takes will be longer than necessary. A scene will usually end with the characters walking out of shot, but we won’t cut to the next shot/scene. That’s right. The camera will simply linger on the location for ten seconds, whilst we see the wind push leaves away, or random pedestrians across the street. Life continues when the characters walk out of shot. The universe surrounding them is one hat keeps on perpetuating. As the other pedestrians walk into shot, you have to contemplate the notion that each of their day-to-day routines is presumably the exact same as the main characters in this film. (No, that is not an excuse for a sequel). All the while (like all of Tarr’s other films), it is shot in expressionistic high-contrast black-and-white – just to make every simpering frame more bleak. Think of it as 24 frames per second of sheer self-loathing.

The film spirals on like this for two whole hours.But the interesting thing is that it is strangely never boring. Bela Tarr is such a skilled filmmaker that he can make a film actually about every day mundanities and characters bored with their very existence seem strangely engaging. But not engaging in the sense that your eyes are bulging wide waiting for what will happen next. But more of a paradoxed form of engaging…the scenes are so dull, and filled with so much melancholy and dreariness and sheer depression, that they become engaging due to how ridiculously pointless and bleak they are. Hence why the film is a sadomasochistic experience. It insults you for merely wanting to watch it’s self-aware pointless narrative. Whether this is a positive or a negative thing I am unsure. But what I am certainly sure of is that Bela Tarr desperately needs to see a therapist. As do I after seeing this.

Conclusion:

Almost as depressing as The Turin Horse, but less metaphysical and focused more on realism. The film makes the everyday become a philosophical focus point, and makes your own damned existence seem so pointless that you might as well not bother. To be or not to be indeed. Go on Hamlet, shoot yourself. But before you do that, watch some rain dripping down a window for entertainment and bark at a dog because you’ve lost all sense of social convention and sanity.

Baise-Moi (2000)

0.5 STARS

“Rape Me”

General Information:

All information below is taken from the following link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0249380/

18       77 min                          -  Crime  | Drama  | Thriller                 -              3 May 2002(UK)

Director

CoralieVirginie Despentes

Writer

CoralieVirginie Despentes

Stars

Raffaëla AndersonKaren LancaumeCéline Beugnot

Plot:

Baise-Moi (2000)

Baise-Moi (2000)

A rape victim and a prostitute ‘rebel against society’ by going on a pointless rampage of violence and sex.

Review:

Baise-Moi really is just a pointless waste of images and any decent human being’s attention. It’s a film which wants to be shocking and outrageous but never actually is. After viewing it, I IMDBd it – only to discover that this movie actually has ‘fans’. I place the word: fans, in-between apostrophes there because I believe these are the sort of people who are tricking themselves into believing that the film actually has some depth, simply by over-intellectualising all of the events that they see – the sort of person that believes that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is a Marxist critique on Nazi Germany (i.e. the chainsaw-wielding ‘Leatherface’ being Hitler himself, and all of his cannibal family being members of the SS, and no doubt intentionally searching for a shot where the coincidental placings of decaying flesh and/or bones forms the shape of swastika).

And anyone who claims that this film is remotely ‘feminist’ is directly insulting Emily Davison.

The film’s setting is in the seedy underbelly of France. A place where drugs, sex, violence and rape are in every corner. Imagine Hobo With a Shotgun without the winking-at-the-camera self-awareness or the irony. The film unfolds in a very serious way, as if it has something interesting to say, and that all of the comic moments are actually satire – this can only be proven by its rather confrontational title when translated into English (‘Rape Me’). It’s like a Gaspar Noe film, without any of the style, visual flair or depth.

The film pretty much opens with a rape scene. The scene itself is rather effective. It’s shot with a manic hand-held camera – which captures the chaotic and brutal nature of the event itself without being so shaky that you can’t see what’s going on. There’s a horrific moment where one of the characters lies on the floor, defenseless, pretty much waiting to be raped, whilst she hears the sounds of desperation and agony from her friend who is being raped. It’s a powerful moment, and perhaps the best sequence in the film, because it injects an emotional reaction from the viewer during a scene of violence. I’ve awarded the half-star purely for this scene. I think the fact that I responded to this scene is pure luck on the filmmakers’ part: a cinematic fluke, if you will. When the scene ended, I didn’t feel that sense of ‘relief’ which you usually feel after a tense scene in a film. In fact, I wasn’t left shaken. The rape scene itself reminded me heavily of one of those comedians who just tell cheap cliché jokes which aim to offend, and where all the punch-lines are pretty much similar. You  briefly chuckle; the laugh is never remembered, and the gag never quoted.

How to recover from a harrowing experience such as brutal gang-rape - courtesy of Baise-Moi.

How to recover from a harrowing experience such as brutal gang-rape – courtesy of Baise-Moi.

Following this, the two girls then go on a hedonistic rampage. The film then nudges towards us endless sex scenes and murder scenes. I use the word ‘nudges’ there because the film has literally no conviction with its content and subject matter at all. For violence or sex to be shocking or to stimulate any emotional response from the viewer, it has to be violently thrown towards our eyeballs with some form of visual flair or cinematic style. I am reminded of Kevin Smith’s directional style in Clerks. He presses the ‘record button’ and simply lets the actors ‘get on with it’. The same here. The record button is pressed and we are shown a recording of some sex and violence. Sex and violence on its own isn’t particularly shocking, it’s the ideas that lay behind them. I think the ‘point’ of the film is that the two girls go on this rampage for no reason whatsoever. The killings are random. If this is the case, then the notion of murders occurring without any motif is an unnerving one – but the film never takes advantage, thinking that by simply showing us bullets causing blood-wounds and penises going inside vaginas is simply enough. “A true thought, badly expressed, is a lie.”

The film is part of a new movement in cinema known as ‘New French Extremity’. One of the key auteurs, as I’ve already mentioned, in this movement, is Gaspar Noe - a man who in Enter the Void showed us a sex scene from inside of the vagina itself. No, I’m not joking. Now, you may find this disgusting or shocking or blunt or whatever – but this is exactly the point. This movement is a call-back to the 70s exploitation flicks and ‘video-nasties’. People would queue up to see these films which shocked, aroused and perversely entertained. These films were exhilarating and thrilling. The problem with Baise-Moi is that it is anything but. (And this isn’t necessarily because it doesn’t present us with a rather ‘original’ love-making scene).

Seedy, psychedelic head-trip. Gaspar Noe's 'Enter the Void'.

Seedy, psychedelic head-trip. Gaspar Noe’s ‘Enter the Void’.

But this isn’t the case with the film – it’s all images and nothing else. Thus due to this, the film is beyond bland.

I think my reaction to the film was quite simply this:

Oh look, there’s a woman sucking a man’s penis. Oh look, he’s sucking her vagina. Oh look, they’ve gone into a bar and massacred everyone there. Oh look, they’re consuming drugs. Oh look, his penis is going inside of her. Oh look, he’s just orgasmed. Oh look, she’s just orgasmed. Oh look, they’re all dead. Oh look, he’s screaming in agony. Oh look, there’s more dead people. Oh look, she’s screaming in agony. Oh look, she just said a naughty word. Oh look, an orgy. Oh look, he just said a naughty word. Oh look, another orgy. Oh look, another penis going inside a vagina. Oh look…

To which my reaction to all of this was quite simply: “So what?”

Verdict:

Not shocking. Not exciting. Not entertaining. Not thrilling. Not horrifying. A trashy piece of nonsense which takes away any emotional reaction to the scenes that it’s in. So bland and dull that the names of the characters escape me, and I couldn’t even remember which one was ‘the rape-victim’ and which one was ‘the prostitute’.

The Ipcress File (1965)

3 STARS

General Information:

Information below is taken from the following link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0059319/

PG    109 min                          -  Drama  | Thriller                 -              March 1965(UK)

Director

Sidney J. Furie

Writer

W.H. Canaway; James Doran

Stars

Michael CaineNigel GreenGuy Doleman

Plot:

Scientists working for the government mysteriously quit their jobs, and some even more mysteriously, disappear. Harry Palmer (Michael Caine) investigates.

Review:

The Ipcress File (1965)

The Ipcress File (1965)

The film opens like a scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes. Two, perfectly innocent men step aboard a train. One of them leaves as he remembers that the other forgot a possession of his that was left in the car. When returning, his friend mysteriously vanishes. So begins this strange and oddly unnerving little thriller.

However, unlike a Hitchcock, where we know more information than the characters, here, neither us nor the characters know much at all. When the ‘villain’ (if you can call it that) is revealed, it never really comes as a surprise – not because we already guessed – far from it – but because the film is so subtly crafted and plotted that it is hinted at that what we are seeing is a mere simplification. Villains don’t exist in the world which The Ipcress File inhabits – instead we have eluvious men in trenchcoats who use eye-contact and meetings in bandstands to communicate; quiet forty-somethings who manipulate and deceit with a smile and backstab with a quintessential stiff-upper-lip attitude. It’s all rather British and sarcastic.

The film unfolds glacially as we observe Michael Caine’s concise performance as Harry Palmer, a well-humored individual that won’t be smiling when the film reaches its inevitable climax.

The plot’s subtleties draw you in. We discover the number plate of one of the main lead’s car and where that car usually parks. Palmer then follows this lead to the library. He asks the lead questions to which there is a humorous exchange about having to be quiet when in such a public place as a Library. The lead gives palmer a leaflet – an invitation to a bandstand, where is all is revealed. It’s only around fifty minutes in when we discover why the movie is called The Ipcress File – and its important to note, that these events that I have just mentioned don’t flow like an ordinary thriller would. In an ordinary thriller, each segment of information would follow another in a smooth quickly-paced manner – due to the fact that in each and every scene, something else is uncovered.  The Ipcress File doesn’t work like this, there are ten minute sequences in between each moment where information is retrieved.

What happens within these ten minute sequences? Nothing really. So why does the film work? Well, because it unfolds like a normal investigation would: long periods of silence followed by brief bursts of clues and knowledge. If anything, this makes the film more thrilling as it is ambiguous.

Rather than there being so much information that the mystery is impossible to decode, The Ipcress file, instead, gives us merely nothing.

What’s also interesting about the film is the way it made me feel. The film withheld a chlaustophobic hold on me, and I’m still intrigued to how it did this. I got a sense – to use that tireless cliché – that ‘something wasn’t quite right’. This is rather strange. None of the characters ever seem to communicate this notion, and there are no real overt cinematic signals which would suggest that the film was driving towards something deeply sinister.

On a blunt level, I associate this feeling of chlaustrophobic unnerve with that of the horror genre – because it is a ‘negative feeling’ as opposed to a positive one. It is important to remember that horror cinema is more about style than it is about content. Thus, if I look at the film on this level, my feelings acquire a sharper clarity. The film uses obscure, jaunty, bizarre camera angles. This may not seem like much – but this motif is consistent throughout the film – and thus, it felt like it was ‘digging away’ at me.

Perhaps the only fault of the film is shown by it’s merit. I found it strangely unnerving. However, the final act, not so, even though it really should’ve been. I think this is because the final act relies more on content than it does on style – but, I might be wrong.

Every now and then comes a film which challenges me to understand my own emotions. Perhaps the majority of the interest in this film comes from the fact that I should detest it and find it utterly dull, but instead, I feel the exact opposite.

Verdict:

A strange and interesting film which works on a very psychological level. Meticulously slow in its pacing, yet never bland. However, the final Act isn’t as effective emotionally as the initial two.

Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

1 STAR

General Information:

Information below is taken from the following link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1399103/

12A    154 min  -  Action | Adventure | Sci-Fi  -  29 June 2011 (UK)

Director

Michael Bay

Writer

Ehren Kruger

Stars

Shia LaBeouf; Rosie Huntington-Whiteley; Tyrese Gibson

Plot:

Lying on the moon is an alien secret which could affect the lives of everyone on Planet Earth.

Review:

The third installment in the Transformers franchise...Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

The third installment in the Transformers franchise…Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011)

Unintentionally, and rather bizarrely, before watching Transformers: Dark of the Moon, I listened to the Pink Floyd album: The Dark Side of the Moon. I was a virgin to the classic Pink Floyd album and a virgin to the ‘classic’ piece of filmmaking made by Michael Bay. In an odd way, Transformers: Dark of the Moon is very much a classic, oft derided by critics and scorned at by movie-goers. I feel safe to categories it as part of a Great Tradition of cinema, amongst the pantheon of other ‘bad movies’: Manos: The Hands of Fate, Sex and the City 2, Sex Lives of the Potato Men, Troll 2The Room, Plan 9 From Outer Space…..

Going back to the Pink Floyd album. It is an odd – dare I say it, ‘spiritual’ – album. I went through every emotion possible: calmness, fear, disturb, joy, wonder, awe, even boredom. I think it’s a masterpiece. Each chord, every precise sound thumped at my emotional core.

Pink Floyd's album, 'The Dark Side of the Moon'

Pink Floyd’s album, ‘The Dark Side of the Moon’

Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon is a different matter all together. It is a void of nothingness, an emotional vaccuum. Whilst writing this review, I thought of describing it as ‘a pointless waste of images’ – this seemed almost unfair; I’m not even angry at the film. Catapulting shards of abuse at it just seems like picking on an easy target.

I wasn’t entertained, I wasn’t happy, I wasn’t surprised. I think the worst criticism I can apply to it was that I was never actually bored.

I forget the exact intricacies of the plot, but I don’t feel that actually matters. It is very much a hedonistic movie – less concerned with events, and more concerned with ‘the moment’ and the spectacle in each individual package of screen-time.

I think it’s important to state that I actually like the original Transformers movie, and it’s sequel, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. Of course, they are both rubbish (and similar to this film, I forget what the actually plot is), but the key thing about them is that they feel very self-aware. In that sense, they come across more like parodies than cliche-ridden explosion-porn.

Due to this, I think it’s fair to criticise this movie against the previous Transformers movies. Unintentionally, I am again, slotting this film into another Great Tradition of cinema: the rubbish sequel.

The great thing about the first Transformers movie was that it was short in terms of screen-time. This meant that the action sequences and the exposition sequences were much much tinier, and thus the film felt easier to ‘digest’. Dark of the Moon however isn’t so. It’s the sort of film you’d review with your legs – and by this, I mean that it’s one of those films which is so long that every now and then you’ll cross your legs with discomfort. Your head might go with it, but your bum certainly gives up.

I’m one of the few people that actually found the first two Transformers movies funny -even the casual racism and misogyny. It was kind of endearing in a way: a bit like watching Basil Fawlty saying “don’t mention the war” – yet without the sophistication, timing, wit or delivery…but still bizarrely humorous. Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen involves a sequence where Sam Witwicky passionately kisses an ‘attractive female’, only to discover that it’s a robot hell-bent on destroying him. This sequence has that ‘terrible movie charm’ about it. I imagine it’s difficult to understand this low form of humour whilst processing these sentences – but movies are supposed to be watched, not read.

Now, I don’t care about the endless bashing, or the ludicrous sequence where the top of a building falls over, or the fact that John Malkovich looks like a complete prick. Surprisingly, I don’t care about the cheap over-used joke about gay men having sex in toilets. Nor the fact that the first time we see Rosie Huntingdon-Whitely’s character, it is a shot leering  at the curves of her bottom – and that throughout the movie, as Mark Kermode excellently puts it, she is just a “walking bottom” as opposed to a character, or a “walking bottom” with developed character-traits.

I care more about the fact that the movie isn’t any fun. It’s not enjoyable, it’s not entertaining, it’s not even boring, it’s just…nothing. It doesn’t matter what Michael Bay throws at you: it doesn’t matter if it’s loud, if it’s screaming with spectacle, if it’s a quiet moment of the film with well-composed lighting, nor does it matter if it’s CGI-Ridden or littered with explosions. Behind each frame, behind every pixel, behind every atom of this film is nothing. Nothing. There is no heart. There is no self-aware parody of itself. There is no emotion. Bay doesn’t care about the events, the characters or indeed the audience. Indeed, some of the images are quite nice to look at – but that’s all they are: nice. It doesn’t matter how much spectacle, or the extent of the colour palette used in lighting in a scene. If behind the visuals, there is no intention – whether it be intellectually or emotionally, it means ultimately nothing, and thus, forgettable. When the director feels nothing, neith does its audience.

Reviewing this film is difficult because I was so indifferent to it (as it no doubt was to me), that I struggled to find examples or moments, or sections of dialogue to mention in order to critique it. It’s a movie that’s not just forgettable, but just doesn’t care.

Why? Because it doesn’t have a soul.

Verdict:

No fun. No soul. No emotion. I doubt Michael Bay actually cares about his audience judging from this.