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Archive for the ‘Foreign’ Category

The Idiots Screenshot

My first reaction upon watching this was this realization that I had never really associated von Trier with having a sense of humor! I mean, this film is just laughoutloud funny in parts. That starting sequence in the restaurant is a great opening to the film. Initially, I had no idea what to make of it. I wasn’t quite sure what was going on and the sense of surprise once they get out of the restaurant was just so charming and disarming that I was quite ready to go along with whatever craziness the film was upto. And craziness doesn’t even really begin to describe what happens next.

I think what really gets me about the film is that most of the time I wasn’t at all sure how I’m supposed to be feeling. There were so many moments that are so ridiculously hilarious (Waterloo! and the ad agency scene for instance) but then these scenes are also funny at someone’s expense which made a little it uncomfortable. Secondly, even through these funny parts, there is something so provocative about what these people are doing that one can’t laugh without wondering if the joke’s really on us after all. In a way, I think the joke’s on everyone in this film. The film simultaneously seems to skewer the establishment that the Idiots in the film are trying to rebel against as well as the Idiots themselves.

I felt this duality (or multiplicity even) of tone through most of the film. The orgy scene for instance, feels disturbing, funny, banal even in some ways but then we suddenly move upstairs and see Jeppe with that girl and that entire sequence is so innocent and sweet and stands in such contrast to everything else that’s going on around the house.

The best part of the film for me started off with Karen’s speech when the family is about to break up. The whole idea of a ‘found’ family breaking up in that way and the realization that an ideology that seems so simple and seductive (to the members at least) cannot really survive was just so affecting. And then we have all of these scenes in Karen’s house and those came as a complete shock to me. The film just gained so much poignancy and weight in those final few minutes. The way the camera closes in on Karen’s face and we see her lips trembling, unable to bear to sit there even a moment longer – all just totally devastating. I was also left wondering just how much of the film was scripted vs. just happened to take place around the camera. For instance, all the stuff in Karen’s house?

Ultimately, the film managed to make me laugh, cringe, shed a tear and just feel completely uncomfortable and hypocritical and yet be engaging throughout. Pretty darn amazing!

Pan-Card: B+

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Il Divo (2008)

Il Divo Screenshot

I think the only thing we liked about this one is how stylish the movie is. The canted camera angles and the steadicam shots through these huge cavernous corridors of the mansion are all really magnificently shot. Everything feels larger-than-life and the film almost feels like an Italian goth horror movie set to pop music and electronica. But despite all these wonderful stylistic devices, the film ultimately feels empty and vacuous.

Pan read a comment earlier somewhere that part of the reason the audience is unable to keep track of the various characters is because the film is designed to mirror the confusion and frustration that the Italian law-enforcement agencies felt while sorting through this complicated case. It’s not that we aren’t comfortable not knowing who these characters are and what their role in the entire conspiracy is. We are fine with ambiguity usually don’t need a movie to tie up every thread ever so neatly.

But what left us so dissatisfied is that ultimately we felt like we got nothing from the film apart from a.) that Andreotti was really witty (We concede that the film has tons of brilliant lines) and b.) gosh, so much corruption in the Italian government. What we didn’t see was why this is worse than the corruption in any other country. The magnitude of the horror is conveyed not through the film as a whole but through this one scene where Guilio Andreotti talks about the number of people whose deaths he is responsible for.

So apart from knowing that Andreotti and co. were directly linked with the mafia and that everyone was willing to betray everyone else (heh, doesn’t sound too different from any other political thriller really), we didn’t get anything. The portrait of Andreotti felt like nothing but exaggerated affectation to us.

And the point of several scenes was entirely lost on us too. For instance, what is the relevance of the scene with the woman who comes to see him?. There is some verbal exposition on how to read Andreotti’s body language but why was she even there? Was that scene only to point out these mannerisms to us?

Ultimately, we weren’t sure exactly what to take away from the film. It wasn’t a scathing indictment of a man who is purportedly responsible for the death of hundreds of people. It didn’t really serve as an interesting character study either. A lot of scenes that seem to be shot as if they’re important didn’t really tie up into a whole that made sense to us.

Apart from the soundtrack and the visual flair, we really didn’t get much out of this one.

Pan-Card: C-             Scorn-Card: D 

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Bright Future Screenshot


The Scorn Watch

Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa is known for his horror films but this was unlike any horror film I’d seen. In the interests of full disclosure I should mention that I’ve seen very few horror films and it’s a genre I actively dislike! This one did have moments that were creepy/eerie, though not in the traditional horror genre sense.

The film begins innocuously enough, depicting the everyday life and friendship of Mamoru (Tadanobu Asano) and Yuji (Joe Ogadiri). They seem to spend all their time together with Mamoru almost uncannily simpatico with the restless Yuji. Mamoru is a genial, calm, Yoda-like presence keeping in check the shiftless, seemingly out-of-control Yuji. Their moments of camaraderie seem only to be interrupted by the presence of their intrusive boss who pops up uninvited at odd times and is clearly an unwelcome and annoying presence for both friends. All of this is captured with the languor, ease, and attention to detail that seems a natural skill for so many reputed Japanese directors. Also introduced as an important character in the story, is a poisonous, colorful red jellyfish which is Mamoru’s pet. We learn of the signs that Mamoru develops for Yuji which suggest “Wait” and “Go” ; both commands he uses frequently to keep the tantrums of Yuji in check.

With the basic elements in place, the preternatural calm is broken with a swift series of events – the murder of the boss, Mamoru’s confession and his imprisonment. The rest of the story is about how Mamoru’s father and Yuji cope in his absence. The narrative is interesting, if impenetrable. I don’t understand what the motivation of the two principal characters is. Why do they feel so disenfranchised and how does lashing out at society in a creepy manner provide an outlet? The film ends following down a Tokyo street a group of young guys that Yuji hangs out with during a brief misadventure. To the very end I failed to understand what their role is, why that misadventure is important or what the significance of the last shot is. Perhaps, it’s symbolic of life’s larger malaise or perhaps the clues are all there but are much too subtle for me to interpret! Yugi starts off the movie saying he can often see what lies ahead and that many of his dreams are of a bright future. What those dreams are and why so often his dreams are plunged in darkness is something I couldn’t decode. At any rate as the film ended I was left puzzled about what it was trying to depict and not at all sure what to make of the experience.

The film relies on some nifty camera work – shaking, fuzzy, using the darkness at times – to convey the sense of eeriness that pervades this film. Although I struggled to understand what the film was trying to convey, it kept me engaged. I persevered in trying to understand the protagonists, even though I didn’t particularly feel for them.

Scorn-Card: B 

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