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’.

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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.

Rashomon (1950)

3.5 STARS

General Information:

Information below is taken from the following link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0056193/

15     88 min                          –  Crime  | Drama                 –              25 August 1950(Japan)

Director

Akira Kurosawa

Writer

Akira Kurosawa; Shinobu Hashimoto; Ryûnosuke Akutagawa

Stars

Toshirô MifuneMachiko KyôMasayuki Mori

Plot:

Following the murder of a man, multiple people retell their version of the events.

Review:

Rashomon (1950)

Rashomon (1950)

It’s interesting how some films are so concerned with their narratives, that in a sense, they’re almost about the notion of a narrative itself. Such is the case with Akira Kurosawa’s Rashomon: an interesting film, which is also visually gorgeous as well. The film retells the same timeframe but from multiple perspectives.

The film is interesting at first, because its ideas are very much enhanced by its style. The style is strange – you could go as far as to say: ‘quirky’ – maybe even – ‘eccentric’. The music is at once light, and then occasionally over-dramatic (the almost apocalyptic thudding of drums), the dialogue – at times – feels forced and stilted, and then there’s the acting style, which reminds me of silent-film acting, due to its eccentricities and exaggeration.

Exaggerated acting style of Rashomon

Exaggerated acting style of Rashomon

All of these aspects made me rather warm to the film, but not to its characters. I think this is the point. The style engaged me with the narrative events, but rejected me from forming an intimate bond with the people involved in the events – I think this is Akira Kurosawa’s way of making us become detectives. By pulling us in yet distancing us from any bias towards the characters, we’re made to contemplate what the real truth actually is: do any of the retellings match up? Or is this impossible because they’re all lying? Are they even lying? Or are there some sections which involve lie and then involve truth? What is truth? Can it even be measured? Or is it all so abstract, that it is ultimately, meaningless?

At once we have a rather intriguing critique of truth and perception, and how humans can ultimately never be trusted due to their bias towards the subjective as opposed to the objective.

Yet, in my own personal opinion – the effect of this film wore off at the end of the second third of the film. As the film progresses, I became quickly used to its methods and ideas: the notion of retelling a story, and jumping back between the character’s telling their version of events, into their subconscious minds (the filmed events designed by Akira Kurosawa to show their subjective perspectives of the events in an ironically, objective way: by using wide-shots quite frequently as opposed to Point of View Shots). Once I got ‘used’ to the film, the thought-provoking aspects dimmed away, and I began to contemplate how ludicrous it all was.

Now, I agree with the notion that different people have different perceptions of events, but Rashomon takes this notion to the extreme. For example: two of the characters in each story engage in sexual activities – in one story, they make love, in the other, it is rape – bearing in mind: same characters, same timeframe. This is – in my mind – one of the least  ludicrous differences between the stories.

Making love or rape?

Making love or rape?

Then we come to the dialogue. At first, it’s rather charming and amusing. But, at points it does feel like Akira Kurosawa is forcing the themes of perception, truth, reality, memory and the human condition into our eye-sockets. Take for example, when we cut back to the sequence when we have a ‘Commoner’, a ‘Priest’ and a ‘Woodcutter’ – again – retelling and discussing the retellings of the characters involved in the main event. (The fact that it’s a retelling of a retelling surely emphasises the accentuation of the themes by Kurosawa). Here is some of their dialogue:

Priest: If men don’t trust each other, this earth might as well be hell.
Commoner: Right. The world’s a kind of hell.
Priest: No! I don’t want to believe that!
Commoner: No one will hear you, no matter how loud you shout. Just think. Which one of these stories do you believe?
Woodcutter: None makes any sense.
Commoner: Don’t worry about it. It isn’t as if men were reasonable.

Writers often ensure that their characters discuss themes of humanity by saying “men” or “mankind”, in an attempt to emphasise a philosophical point. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But more to the point – the worst part is when the Commoner says: “Which one of these stories do you believe?”, it’s as if Kurosawa himself has leaped out of the screen, pointed to all of us, and then rubbed his beard in such a manner as if to say: what do YOU think?

Am I being too harsh? Perhaps. But then again, isn’t all criticism about perception?

Verdict:

Some interesting ideas to start off with – but plays off of them repeatedly, so that I ultimately felt like the element of surprise in the movie diminished. A great shame.