Monday, 29 November 2010

No Rush: Moving Pictures #1


I recently watched a few movies and this is what I think about them.


Srpski film (A Serbian Film)

Let's get this one out of my system quick. I was mostly disappointed with it. After reading a lot of reviews that essentially condemned it as the sickest filth ever captured on film, I was expecting a Sorokin-like script brought to life by Takashi Miike. Media, I am disappoint. Again.

This isn't that much more shocking than your average American, so-called "torture porn", realised by a team of foreign filmmakers. Though director Srdjan Spasojevic and writer Aleksandar Radivojevic have gone on record stating the movie was meant as an allegory on how the Serbian state fucks with its citizens, I don't exactly buy it. The first half is promising enough, but it all goes to shit-town as soon as the screen is lowered and that scene happens. You know, the first of two that everyone talks about.

Spasojevic's and Radivojevic's point, if there really was any, could've been made so much better had they deeply incorporated it into the script, but as it stands it feels too tacked on and artificial. Of course, that may very well be entirely my fault. I am not Serbian, I cannot judge them on the validity of their claims. Still, the overall handling of the subject matter felt very poor and reflected badly on the film as a whole.

The ending was also too much of a cop out, but then again it wasn't really. I'm torn and frankly, this is probably the only aspect of the whole film that moved me. Was there ever any other logical conclusion to this? I guess not. It wouldn't have worked any other way, especially not after that other scene. Which was followed up by such a hilariously misplaced chain of events that its impact was rendered null on me, by the way.

Overall, Srpski film looks and feels like a carefully crafted controversy-piece, designed to put Spasojevic's and Radivojevic's names on the map. It might have succeeded in this point at least and it'll be interesting to see what its creators choose to follow it up with.

Verdict: Very uneven film, doesn't live up to its reputation, you're not missing much.


Enter the Void

Talking about cerebral, this film is a goddamn masterpiece. It's the fourth work of art by Gaspar Noé that I've seen, after Seul contre tous, Irréversible and the video to Placebo's Protège-Moi. And it's probably one of the best films I've seen this year, maybe ever.

I was not aware of Enter the Void's considerable length until after it started, so it was really surprising to experience the first 30 minutes, essentially the setup, in all this detail. A lesser filmmaker might've shortened this part down to five minutes, but in doing so would've greatly diminished its impact. Apparently this movie was on Noé's mind for 15 years, and it's kind of reflected in its ripeness and pace. Enter the Void unfolds at a very comfortable pace, to put it nicely.

Knowing nothing about the movie but its director and a short, meaningless imdb-style synopsis I was really thankful to experience it unspoilt. This is one of those movies that only correctly work when you're not aware of its entire plot already. Much like Requiem for a Dream, which coincidentally also has the ability to fuck your mind in a really weird way for days after watching it.

While Enter the Void touches on a range of subjects like drugs, spirituality, family and responsibility, it never judges on any of these. There's not much that I want to say about it, other than go see it. Did I just put down 55 of my precious EURO to import the French Ultimate Edition that will be released in two days? Looks like it.

What I really want to mention is the cast. Specifically, Paz de la Huerta. To say that she delivered an outstanding performance is grossly underselling it. She's uncompromising, talented, beautiful and also on Boardwalk Empire. She's also naked in both Boardwalke Empire and Enter the Void. Just puttin' that out there.

Verdict: If you like the magic of cinema and have an open mind, you'll probably be as blown away by Gaspar Noé's latest work as I am.


Easy A

What? You didn't think I'd stick to "sophisticated" films only, did you? Well now you know.

Once in a while there seems to appear a good comedy / romance flick. Like, an actually good comedic movie that doesn't downplay its artistic value for cheap laughs and unrealistic portrays of love and/or stars the dumbness incarnate, Katherine Heigl. This would be one of those times, and I was eager to find out whether Easy A would place itself among recent successes like Juno and The Girl Next Door. Why am I mentioning those two specifically? Well, on the surface Easy A looks like a perfect cross between the two.

Relative newcomers, writer Bert V. Royal and director Will Gluck managed to get this much talent and money for their production, and they show that they're able to utilise it. The jokes are funny, the conversations are intelligent and at no point is the viewer expected to switch his brain off and just laugh at the funny faces. I like that.

Of course, it's still a highly unrealistic idealisation of a not entirely age appropriate scenario - I was left wondering more than once how main character and maybe-heroine Olive could get away with her outfits, her attitude and parts of her "reputation", but I can forgive those flaws in what's an overall fairly competent take on the whole high school-as-microcosmos genre. And Stanley Tucci, as the father, is hilarious.

Parts of this film really restored my faith in humanity. It's finally gotten through to most people that being gay is normal enough to warrant an unbiased representation in a movie aimed at a mainstream audience. The scene in which Brandon describes high-school as hell was pretty touching. While he acknowledges that it gets better, there is still no way for him to cope with the current situation. The film strikes a serious note there. Think about it.

Verdict: Easy A is a nice feel-good movie without greater aspirations. And that's exactly what I need sometimes. A funny, imaginative and surprisingly intelligent teenage romantic comedy. I'm all for it.

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