Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Kerry's animal tincture

I have seen lots of films, and I have written about some of them. For some reason I enjoy it, and it makes me feel productive.
I am clearly deluded.

Death Proof:
I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this. After the enjoyable mess of Kill Bill I wasn't expecting a lot from a film that further celebrates the B-pictures that Tarantino clearly genuinely loves, but everything from the sleazy, characters of the first half and it's downgraded, frame- skipping treatment, to the great performances from Russel and the sassy, engaging posse from the second half lends Death Proof a sheen of quality. It revels in its low-rent ancestors but holds together a narrative far more successfully than Kill Bill did, making me wonder what could have been added to the movie post Grindhouse split. All the typical Tarantino tics are there, from the feet to the self-conscious witty dialogue to the visceral action, but there is something more satisfying there this time, perhaps being a benfeit from not having the timeline-jumping tricks of most of Quentin's other pictures.
It's still not as good as he's capable of, but in Death Proof as with Jackie Brown, Tarantino has made a film that shows as much admiration as fanatic adoration for its flea-pit origins.
True, there are a lot of holes to be picked, but this time around they're not so important.

Ploy is very laid-back.
It's evocative of both the odd, slowed-time feeling of waiting with the three main characters all in-between two points, killing time at a hotel, a classic setting for transition, and the dream state that they are all in as they potter about, snatching a few winks of broken sleep.
The dream sequences stand out as more conventional narratives, and all have a stark quality where you often aren't sure of whether the scene is 'really' happening.
Some of the ideas about love and relationships struck a chord with me, and it felt odd that this indie Thai movie should be so astute in its observations, with no cultural difference in these feelings.
It's undoubtedly a slow film, and I know if I'd not slept enough that week I'd have difficuty concentrating, but in the right frame of mind this is a great film.
You probably already know if you enjoy films that are slow and langorious, taking their time to explore ideas and characters, or whether you prefer films that concentrate on the narrative thrust and advancing the plot.
So you probably already know if you'll enjoy Ploy.

Glory to the Filmmaker!:

I've not yet seen 'Takeshis' and know that this draws a lot from it, but for me this reminds me a lot of 'Getting Any?' - essentially a sketch-based comedy movie, with its absurd situations, deadpan characters and broad humour.
Some of 'Glory...' is amusing, particularly the early scenes where we are treated to a series of sketches based on an alternate reality of Kitano's directorial career as he tries to make successful films, trying out different genres and taking the piss out of the road he has taken so far. It does degenerate toward the end as the film concentrates on one scenario and the gags slow down, but it isn't a bad film, even if it is probably Kitano's worst so far.
It's still interesting to get an insight into what he thinks of himself, and have a movie that pretty much explains the reason for its existence.
Looking at the vast range of outlets for creativity that he's been using for decades, it's less surprising that he has decided to direct something way out line with the usual features for which he has become known, and he no doubt knows that a large part of his audience probably would be happy with another Hana-Bi, or even Violent Cop. 'Glory...' feels like he has decided to film his own search for a project, trying to avoid retreading old ground but unsure of where he should go next. It makes for an interesting film, but unfortunately not quite as enjoyable as the narrative films he's made so far.

No Mercy for the Rude:

Like the best in recent Korean cinema, No Mercy for the Rude flits between genres, successfully mixing slapstick humour and taut, serious drama in a film which is more than just a spoof of the 'cool assassin' sub-genre.
It borrows numerous features from other films, the muteness of the protagonist and surrogate family remind me of Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, whilst the sharp contrast between genres that somehow still seem to mesh evokes The Host. The detail of the characters who seem simultaneously exaggerated and authentic, and the settings that are both humdrum and distinct at the same time add up to a finely crafted feature that demonstrates that South Korean cinema is still on a roll, more than ten years on.

Ocean's 13:

Ocean's 13 is weird.
After the exercise in plot periphery that was 12, 13 is all about the heist. From start to finish it is non-stop planning and set-up and damage control, but this time you have something to root for as it's a revenge job.
I'd avoided anything about this before seeing it and so came in fresh, wondering how they could successfully engineer a situation in which all these millionaires would meet up again to risk it all - ah. Nice one.
Very enjoyable, but less depth somehow. Still a lot more impressive than a squillion similar hollywood flicks, and that score is fantastic. Holmes again managing somehow to bring something classy, timeless and inobtrusive yet definitely an essential part.

Ocean's 12:

It's a bit strange how Soderbergh managed to slip this through Hollywood, even with the name stars and the success of the first. Here it's not about the heist at all, it's all about the characters, about quirks, thier interaction. It's a film about moments, and it's really verging on the sublime. I can see why this has had such mixed reviews - from the perspective of the 'more of the same' sequel, this is rubbish, and more like a compilation of deleted scenes, the great little moments that the director loves but had to cut for time and pacing.
Someone else gave it half a star with this little number: "It's like some sort of hellish indie movie the rest of the time"
That's exactly what it is, with some little heist moments tacked on.
Your opinion is really going to revolve around what you expect before you see it.

Time of the Wolf:

There is no redemption and there are no heroes.

Haneke seems to really hate people. It's hard to imagine actually enjoying his films, as good as they are, and time and again it feels like an endurance test that you are compelled to take.
For me, he's always seemed like the classy older brother to Gaspar Noe, less bravado and far more chilling.
The end of the world is nasty and grubby, nothing is explained but it's horribly believable. It makes every other post-apocalyptic film seem like the work of adolescents, but it's hard to recommend a vision so bleak.
Not the best of Haneke's films, but it certainly fits in with the tone that has cut through the Piano Teacher, Funny Games and Hidden like a dull razor.

Conversations With Other Women:

For a film which concentrates largely on just two actors, it's important to get good performances. Luckily, Bonham-Carter and Eckhart are effortless in this tale of lost love. It treats the subjects of infidelity and the motivations behind the actions - the doomed attempt to rekindle the flame, the mixed yearnings - with reverance and skill. There are no easy answers or happy endings, but maybe there don't need to be. Afterwards it's the people I remember and not how it was shot, so the style is perhaps a way to distinguish it from the feeling of a play where this story would easily be at home?

I also saw The Marine recently, a cliched action vehicle for a WWE man whose name I forget. It is stunningly bland, with little to distinguish it from a bajillion other knucklehead fighty/shooty B-pics of the type that usually go straight-to-retail/rental hell. It's only Robert Patrick's turn as the slightly surreal bad guy that gives this a flicker of substance. It is also quite amusing to watch the star fly into the air in front of explosions in the same way, three times in a row.
Alongside the likes of Crank, this fares little better than that advert where the kid is hit by a car before he becomes a film star.

And for my return to DVD reviews, I have covered the Optimum release of Election 2, which isn't a sequel to Reese Witherspoon's excellent high-school film.
Link to the right!


  1. I enjoyed Death Proof too, but its his worst film. Worse than Kill Bill Part 1, even. The "self conscious witty dialogue" isn't witty or self conscious - its self-indulgent and pretty boring.
    The only thing that makes it watchable is his evident love of the medium - you can feel his excitement in certain scenes, and thats endearing. If you love movies - like you do - then you cant help but respond to that, I think. But hes disappeared up himself, QT, and I doubt he'll ever be seen again.

    Oddly enough, Oceans 12 is sort of similar - Soderbergh is indulging himself too, but hes cleverer than QT, and less of a savant, with a better commercial sense. So he indulges himself with Clooney and Pitt and Damon rather than a load of babes nobody has ever heard of, thereby guaranteeing himself a certain level of success. And his self-indulgence is somehow more brazen - the whole Julia Roberts impersonates Julia Roberts idea is so awful and ballsy, yet it just about works. Plus he lets Vincent Cassell off the leash and asks him to do a breakdance/gymnastic routine combo to "The a la Menthe". All of the Oceans films are just about fun, for me. They're full of little pleasures - Holmes, the photography, Movie Stars at their Starriest, beautiful locations, predictable, satisfying dramatic beats, self parody. Done right, that recipe can't really fail. And Soderbergh does it right.

  2. In Death Proof I didn't mean it was a good thing that the 'tino tics were present and correct, rather I meant that it was enjoyable despite them. I didn't get it across properly, maybe I should have said 'self-consciously witty', or just 'self-conscious'. It's kind of shoe-horned in, all the extended monologues about real and imagined low-rent culture were quite corny the first time around, and well over ten years later they're hoary.

    I doubt he'll ever climb out of the little room of mirrors he's made for himself, but better this than, I dunno, Saw 5?

    I see what you mean, it works a little by accident rather than design - his enthusiasm is what holds it together.