Recent films … Feb 2011

Films I’ve watched over the last couple of weeks:

Faust (Jan Svankmajer, 1994) Czech puppet chaos based on Faust legend.  I preferred it on second viewing, enjoyable as a piece of  Svankmajer’s work – unsettling puppetry/animation that’s very grimy in tone.  It would have held my attention more had it been more succint, perhaps a long short rather than a feature.

Also watched a bunch of Svankmajer, Quay Brothers and Borowczyk shorts, too numerous to list.

Juno (Jason Reitman, 2007) Rewatch. US indie about pregnant teenager played by Ellen Page.  Written by my doppelganger Diablo Cody!  I actually enjoyed this less than the first time, came across on second viewing as hipster dialogue and style over substance.  Other films of a similar tone like Ghost World and American Splendor have more depth I think.

Tony Manero (Pablo Larrian, 2008) South American film about a man obsessed with John Travolta’s character in Saturday Fever – to the point where he’s in denial about any reality which gets in his way of acting out his fantasy of living the character, and turns him into a serial killer.  Unusual film, more of a character study of a seemingly cold, detatched man, clearly repressing a lot of anger and tension.  On paper, this should be mildly comic – his obsession with getting the white disco suit just right, bartering for glass bricks to make a ‘light up’ disco floor.  Ultimately he wants to keep his fantasy to himself perhaps – interesting and unsettling.

Breaking Bad – TV.  Watched the first 6 episodes of this and it’s bloody marvellous.  Moving, funny, upsetting – a chemistry teacher finds out he has terminal cancer, decides to start cooking crack cocaine.  Bryan Cranston gets an opportunity to shine as the excellent actor he is – (of course we already knew he was great from Malcolm in the Middle and a whole heap of film cameos).

Tout Va Bien (Godard, 1972) Film from the post-’68 politicised bit of Godard’s career.  Interesting and engaging ideas, experimental methods etc., but comes across a bit like middle-class apologist guilt, rather self-indulgent perhaps.  If you want to show ‘the people’ and the truth about ‘the workers’ etc. – why not go and make a documentary instead?

Part Time Work of a Domestic Slave (Alexander Kluge, 1973) Kluge’s radical cinema approach following a female abortionist who’s married with children to support, and becomes involved in union politics and more.  Similar Brechtian approach to the above.  Wasn’t sure if I liked this or not, but the more I think about it, the more it’s growing on me.  Less affected and more effective than Tout va Bien, I think. Looking forward to seeing this again tomorrow at work.

Inception (Christopher Nolan, 2010) re-watch Enjoyable big budget psyche/chase romp through layers of dreams.  Not as good on TV as on the big screen!  Also nowhere near as complicated as people like to make out – it’s extremely simple to follow, made even clearer by the set design of each ‘layer’ of dream being distinct.  The anti-gravity bits still look fabulous, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Tom Hardy are still the best things about this film.  For what it’s worth, I think Nolan makes decent big-budget films that are certainly above average, but I don’t think he’s the genius people laud him as.

True Grit (Coen Bros. 2010)  Remake of the 1969 John Wayne film (which I am intending to watch in the next week or so) for the first time).  Well made as you’d expect from the Coens, but I do find these days that their films have somewhat of a big Hollywood glossy slickness to them detracting a bit from their earlier gritty and/or kookiness that used to define them and was waht I loved about their films (Blood Simple, Fargo, Raising Arizona, The Hudsucker Proxy…..  etc. etc.).  I enjoyed the film, but I didn’t get swept up too much or think it was good enough to be great. This same slickness plus decent performances from star turns will guarantee box office and worldwide approval no doubt, but for me, they’re missing the edge they used to flaunt more overtly.

Films pending:  Video Nasties documentary & more (thanks Martin!), Gainsbourg rewatch, mini Tati-fest, more Breaking Bad… and the rest of the DVD pile next to the TV!


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