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For Lovers of Scandinavian Doom Metal Only.
Usually I make a point of staying until the end of films at the cinema or at a festival...once I stayed until the end of a Bruce LaBruce movie after 2/3 of the audience walked out...but I couldn't make it through this, even though one of the directors was sitting right behind me.
The first 45 minutes has it's moments, though the fly-on-the-wall style isn't conducive to much insight....there really should have been someone with more awareness than a fly to edit it...there are nice scenes among a hippie commune in Finland though.
The last half hour of what I saw was basically concert footage of a doom metal gig...if you're one of the few people who gets this music you might enjoy it, to me; it was like having a migraine.
Really sorry I can't be more positive...any movie that encourages communal living and a more basic lifestyle should be encouraged, but the endless doom metal just ruined it for me.
Wondrous Oblivion (2003)
This is one of the best films about the immigrant experience in the UK that I've seen in a while.
It starts off appearing to be about a very English-looking German Jewish boy who's family are ultra-assimilationist and who wants nothing more than to succeed at the most English of sports, Cricket.
As it unfolds it takes in the experiences of some of the first West Indians to come to England, and are much more talented at cricket but doomed to suffer the depradations of little Englanders by virtue of their high melanin levels.
The complex racial issues that ensue are handled in a way that's sensitive and believable, as long as you can believe that the young jewish boy really is jewish, and not the scion of some old anglo-Norman family. The period detail is pretty spot on as well, though the use of colourised pathe footage slightly jars with the overall aesthetic of the film.
Mercifully, you don't have to be able to understand cricket to get this film, just appreciate how difficult it can be to live in a strange country
The Politics of Fur (2002)
two thirds of a good movie
The first hour of this movie is excellent.
It deals with themes like how sexual orientation affects personality and vice versa in a way that's intelligent and accessible. It's fascinating to watch how the butch/femme roles are played around with in a lesbian relationship between a high powered music agent and a feral rock chick. It's filmed sparsely, almost all the scenes shot in one room, placing a lot of pressure on the actors, who handle it quite well. Towards the end they aren't served very well by a script in which one of them breaks down in a way that's not very believable.
It's a pity, as it was really enthralling up till then.
Fight the Power
Great documentary which may bring people's attention to the latest form of urban guerilla warfare. Imaginative in structure as the people it depicts, a cast of characters as varied and outre as a Pynchon Novel, filled with a passionate contempt for the profligate consumerism of the contemporary west. Worth checking out - just don't buy it on DVD from a megastore.
An amazing film which throws new light on one of the most written about figures in history. Silent for 50 years, Fraulien Junge's story will make the mouth's of even the most ardent Hitler scholar gape in astonishment. I don't want to spoil it too much by giving away any of her revelations, but it does more to humanise one of the great monsters of all time than any number of academic tomes, and an account of the last days in the bunker that will be hard to bear for many, ironic as it comes from such a gentle, urbane woman.
Ah Beng Returns (2001)
When I saw the words "heavily influenced by Jean-Luc Godard" on the opening page for this movie, I said "Snap!" to myself. It's a much better Godard movie than many of the master's own recent efforts, with it's aleatory structure, it's offbeat philosophising, and it's wonderful dance sequences.
it's a beautiful film that won't appeal to those who like films with a beginning, a middle and an end and some of the audience might want to strangle the foley artists, but those of us who love inventive, cutting edge cinema will thank whatever God they believe in for this breath of fresh air from the East
When I saw the opening scenes of this movie I thought it was going to be a classic but as the increasingly preposterous plot unfolded i grew disillusioned. It's admirable in that, like _Alphaville_, _Zardoz_ and _minority report_ it tries to create a vision of the future that doesn't rely on Trickery, but it's view of where the current fascination with extreme sports might take us is seriously ill-judged. The plot is so full of holes that one often gets the impression that it was being made up as it went along.
It's a pity, because there's some beautiful cinematography and some imaginative use of location, and a genuine interest in the consequences of European integration for Ireland
Mile Zero (2001)
Good potential wasted
This could have been a really great film if it wasn't for some bad acting and some slightly implausible plot twist. it takes on some pertinant issues like child care and tries to assimilate them into a coherent road movie, but somehow the principle characters aren't really believable. there's a good movie to be made about this subject, as things have changed so much since the days of _Alice doesn't live here anymore_ , but this isn't it.
nonetheless, it's a worthy attempt and it's good to see the subject being tackle from a sensitive males' perspective.
Pure Blood (2001)
Weird, obscure film
This is a film that wants to be disturbing but ends up merely being annoying. It's extremely heavy on imagery and pays little attention to narrative logic, acting or cinematography, looking like it was shot on digital by film students with unprofessional actors. It's got points to make about genetics and the logic of imperialism but makes them so relentlessly and in such and opaque way that it's like being stuck in an argument with a drunken political extremist.
Verboden te zuchten (2001)
This is a Quiet, unpretentious film about a young man trying to make sense of the world and cope with life in an unfamiliar environment. it's shot in an understated style, acted beautifully and has an excellent sense of it's mileu. The most memorable character for me is not the main protagonist, but an older, avuncular man who he shares his wisdom with the protagonist, and ultimately with the audience.
Last Orders (2001)
Almost Impossibly tender film
This film is based on a novel by a man named Swift but rather than being a biting satire, it's a film that only a person with a heart of stone could sit through wihtout breaking into tears. While the novel was praised largely for it's experimental style, it's the tenderness and humanity that make this film memorable.
Wonderfully acted by Michael Caine, helen Mirren, Bob Hoskins and others, it tells the tale of a London butcher's journey to his final resting place and a composite picture of his life is gradually drawn by the people who take him there. his story covers 70 years of british history which are lovingly recreated, but it's the personalities that are striking rather than the historical events that shape their lives. The film has moments of almost sublime beauty and pathos. It's a film that reminds us that, no matter how trivial our lives seem, we still have an impact on those around us.
Those of us who lament the decline of British cinema into a quagmire of Gangster flicks and rom-coms will embrace this film like a long-lost relative.
Tragic, Inspirational story
Werner Herzog, the man who's drawn sympathy to any number of deviant characters from german history and legend in his dreamlike movies, doesn't dissapoint with this tale of a Polish-Jewish stronman who becomes part of a freakshow led by the famous illusionist Haunausen, the subject of a more sympathetic portrayal by Istvan Szabo. In this movie Haunessen is a manipulative NAzi Appeaser who takes advantage of the leading character, himself played by a former "world's strongest man" finalist who is wonderfully convincing in the role; but who finally has the tables turned on him.
Being a herzog film, it doesn't shy away from major themes, moral responsiblity, the role of propaganda, and the nature of identity, but what struck me most was the tenderness with which herzog treats his subject and the realism of it's potrayal of 30's Poland and Berlin. A Wonderful, poignant story.
Last Resort (2000)
Don't hit the pornographer
Hot on the heels of news that the british are reputed to be the most rascist nation in the EU comes this elucidation of why that may be the case. A russian woman comes to england to meet her fiance and is only allowed in to the country if she applies for refugee status. told she has to stay in a detention centre for a year and a half and given only food vouchers and terrible accomodation to live on. At this point the movie could turn into a kafkaesque fable but instead is an ultra-naturalistic study of live in british emigration centres.
It's a film that's cautiously optimistic about human nature, as a deus ex machina in the form of sweet, loving Paddy Consadine comes to save her from what he himself describes as a hell hole. This annoyed me a little bit; it seemed to be putting across the message that the english are really tolerant towards foreign immigrants and that it's "The System" that mistreats them. This seems a bit fanciful to me.
One other thing that annoyed was that the only person to be hurt was an internet pornographer who pays the woman the equivalent of a month's wages back home for about an hour's striptease work. Is it really him that deserves to be hurt, and not the government, the immigration authorities, and the editors of rabble-rousing right-wing newspapers?
But this is a warm, generous, beautifully shot, human film that i fear will never be seen by the people who need to see it most.
Why didn't someone think of this before?
Think of the pitch for this movie: it's set in rural Ireland, where the older people nurse ancient grudges and enmities and the young ones want to leave and go somewhere more exciting, encouraged by a long-lost relative that turns up for a funeral.
Then ask: hasn't this been done before? And why aren't there more movies about the place Ireland is becoming and less about the place it used to be?
This film isn't totally uwatchable, but it never achieves the pathos it strives for, just a sort of dull lugubrity. You just want to take it to a psychiatrist and get it prescribed some Prozac. The acting isn't bad, and it makes good use of the scenery. It's sense of period is slightly unsure, though.
I'm tempted to think that, set near the border with Northen Ireland in the mid '60's among people who nurse ancient grudges, it may be strivng for some kind of allegorical significance, though regarding what I can't imagine.
Gaea Girls (2000)
Intimate look at trippy Japanese sub-culture
Just when I thought I'd seen all the weird stuff that japan has to offer, this study of female "wrestling" comes along. It concentrates on a number of trainees who are just breaking into the professional form of the "sport" and their androgynous trainer, who looks like she gets through a whole whale every month or so.
At the start of this movie I was pretty cynical and detatched but it succeeded in drawing me into their demi-monde. There's one particularly moving scene where a trainee faces her coach and is brutally beaten up,which made me recognise how seriously they treat wrestling, no matter how shallow or merely entertaining it may appear from the outside.
Bergman's beautiful melancholy lives
Scripted by Ingmar Bergman and directed by his protege Liv Ullman, this film is much closer in spirit to Bergman realist dramas of the '70's than to his earlier expressionist work. Many of his characteristic themes are here: the responsibility of artists, and the hopelessness at the heart of modern relationships are prominent.
It's a deeply melancholy film, the only piece of comic relief is a scene where one of the protagonists is rehearsing a play which is hopelessly overwrought: if cinema is Bergman's mistress and theatre his wife, in this case, she's a wild, psychotic spouse. The movie as a whole is deeply theatrical, though, saved from being stagey by a few beautifully poetic cinematic touches. The acting is wonderful, bringing to a well-worn tale a deeply moving grandeur.
Cor, get a load of that, guv'nor
As if in response to all those British movies that present Irish people as being melancholy, dreamy alcoholics who sit around singing forlornly and then getting into fights - those of us who aren't terrorists, that is - here's an Irish movie set in Britain that's willing to perpetuate a few stereotypes of it's own.
Set among the slacker milieu of Kentish Town, it concerns a student who's growing old and wondering what he's going to do with his life - Stop me if you've heard this before - and is living with an unemployed guy who challenges him to see who can conquer the most young women - the "peaches" of the title. What's striking about the film is the narrow range of it's characters interests, which seem to extend only to pursuing women, clothes, drinking and avoiding work; like copies of Loaded magazine that had grown legs and started to walk. The one well-developed female character, in contrast, wants a more serious relationship (Bet you didn't see that one coming). If she was in an American movie she'd be telling us what a difficult place she's in right now, but she's too British and reserved for that.
The film has it's redeeming features, it's got moments of humour and uses it's locations well, even if some of them don't seem like that sort of locations unemployed people would live in. I'd like to see it get a wide release in the UK in the hope that less stereotypical Irish characters would populate their movies in future, but I'm not going to hold my breath.
Skipped Parts (2000)
Enjoyable, but slightly disturbing movie
It's been almost a week since I saw this movie but I can't figure out whether it's view of the world is liberal or reactionary, libertarian or determinist. One of it's central themes is the importance of discussing sexuality with pubescents, one that the movie doesn't shirk from discussing openly itself but doesn't seem to advise others to do. Whether the movie is wilfully ambiguous and trying to start an honest debate on the issues it raises or just confused itself is a moot point. A previous comment indicates that the movie was slated for release in September 2000 but I think it may have been withheld until after the Presidential election in the US, as it's the sort of thing the "moral majority" seize upon as an example of Hollywood filth, though I found it deeply moralistic.
I'm making this seem like a deeply serious movie, but actually it's main thrust is comic. It's got some excellent acting, particularly among the young members of the cast, and JJL is radiant as usual. Check it out, let me know what u think of it's moral stance if u want.
German Fantasy of Fairyland
This is a potentially good movie with some excellent location scenery and some good characterisation that's ruined by it's sentimentality and catholic guilt. It concerns a stranger who arrives in a small town in the West of Ireland and upsets the natural equilibrium of the place by trying to set up a business and renewing an acquaintance with an old flame. As a result terrible things start to happen, though her father-in-law blames the fairies (seriously). The film makes good use of the scenery, to the extent that it seems like the movie's raison d'etre at times, though it looks a bit like a home movie in parts. The acting is good, too, it's just regrettable that it indulges in Irish cliches of the most annoying sort.
About Adam (2000)
The Witches of Dun Laoghaire
In some ways this is an incredibly refreshing film. In it's acceptance that lust and promiscuity are normal facts of life and not something that lead to a lifetime of suffering and possibly eternal damnation, it's almost unique in Irish cinematic history. Seeing a film so free from the historical and religious baggage that shackles most Irish films can also be a bit disconcerting, like seeing one of the nuns that taught you in school wearing a mini-skirt and fishnet tights.
Set far from the traditional Irish mise-en-scene in Dublin's trendy Temple Bar area, it features Stuart Townsend as a benign Irish cousin to Jack Nicholson in _The Witches of Eastwick_, who plays on the desires of three beautiful sisters for his own ends. Far from being a scheming Casanova, he's a likeable character who does nothing more than tell a few tall tales to aid his seductive techniques, and who helps people come to terms with themselves rather than cosign them to a life of guilt by doing so.
This film is like Stembridges earlier film, Guiltrip, turned inside out. It's bright, urban-based, modern, and shows signs that Ireland is finally developing a mature attitude to Sexuality.
I Could Read the Sky (1999)
Got me a movie I want you to know, slicing up pigs heads, I want you to know...
This is a beautifully made and passionately felt movie, but a harrowing one to watch. I couldn't decide whether it was the director's intention to make the viewer suffer as much as I did while watching it in order to make us feel the main protagonists pain, or if he just lacks a sense of dramatic tension, but it's such a beautiful film visually that I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.
It concerns a man who follows the familiar road from rural Ireland to British building sites. Filmed in a mixture of monologue and POV, it conveys a sense of the alienation and deracination which many people in his position would have felt. At first he seems like a simpleton, but the film's attempts to give him a tragic grandeour aren't entirely successful. The symbolism is often apposite; the scenes of animal slaughter at the beginning give him an earthy quality of which he is robbed by the time he reaches the urban wastelands of the English inner cities where he works.
The film's main weakness is that it's protagonist's monotonous delivery becomes grating after a while. I saw a monologue by African dissident George Serembra that was simaler in many ways to this but was carried by his stylistic variety. By the end of this film I was almost begging the lead character to leave me alone.
For all it's faults, this is a much more honest picture of recent Irish history than most of the Paddywhackery that passes for such in US multiplexes.
When the Sky Falls (2000)
Heroism still exists
This is the sort of movie that would be dismissed as being implausible if it was pure fiction, but this tale of modern heroism is only slightly fictionalised. Joan Allen plays a thinly disguised version of Veronica Guerin (pron: GEER-in), an Irish journalist killed by the drug barons she fearlessly challenged.
In some ways the film's greatest asset is it's honesty: it's as uninhibited about tackling the issues involved as Guerin herself was: it doesn't pull any punches in criticising the irish government and police force's timid efforts to deal with the heroin epidemic in Dublin. It doesn't flinch from the fact that Guerin used some wildly unorthodox methods to tackle the drug barons. Also, like John Boorman's far more stylish _The General_, it shows that the Irish police aren't above colluding with terrorists in the drugs war.
In other ways, the film presents often gratingly hackneyed images and some wildly implausible scenes. The Drug baron's hoods are clearly based on the bad guys in Donald Duck cartoons, drinking champagne in Jacuzzis, while the newspaper office is apparenly modelled on _His Girl Friday_. Also, kids are seen shooting up Smack in Dublin streets IN BROAD DAYLIGHT, and no character bats an eyelid. The problem of using sexy Hollywood actresses to repressent real people rears it's finely embrocated head, particularly when Joan Allen is sexually approaced by several hoodlums. The movie also makes the world of Irish journalism and law enforcement seem more misogynistic than they really are.
These are minor quibbles, though. This, for all its flaws and low budget is a truly inspiring film, a film that shows that heroism is still possible and a welcome antidote to the "ironic" designer nihilism of much contemporary US and British crime cinema.
Writer's lives are always a difficult subject for the screen, and even with the wealth of biographical and autobiographical material about James Joyce, he remains no exception. This movie, concentrating on the early part of his relationship with the humorously-monikered Nora barnacle makes a reasonable enough attempt to bring cinematic life to this complex and enigmatic figure.
Ewan McGregor, in the role of Joyce is sometimes a bit too young and sexy to convey his subjects brooding, promethean intensity, but he's certainly more convincing than Bosco Hogan in Joseph Strick's Portrait of an artist. The real star of the film is Susan Lynch, whose earthy sexuality convinces us that she could develop into the Molly Bloom of Ulysses. There's also good support from the actor playing Joyce's more level-headed brother and soi-disant "keeper", Stanislaus.
The movie is often affected by the exaggerated Irishness that seems to blight every movie set in the island, but it doesn't get in the way of the film's verisimilitude too much, with one exception. When Joyce's brother takes his book to an Irish publisher, he is told that "there's something dirty going on" in "The Dead" and this is presented as a uniquely Irish reaction, though in reality Joyce had the same reaction everywhere.
The film is also punctuated by subtle allusions to Joyces work that literati will enjoy picking up, but won't alienate those poor hordes of non-Joyceans too much. At the risk of sounding like a swotty pedant, there's a lot of profane language in the movie, which Joyce maintained he never used in speech, though it serves, if anything to increase the characters' believability.
Beautiful People (1999)
Welcome to the sceptered isle; meet the forces of conservatism
This is a film that a lot of people need to go and see, who might be reluctant to label anyone else a force of conservatism after doing so. At first it seems like yet another British State-of-the-nation movie with ostensibly unconnected scenes depicting British people of different classes and ethnicities. Then an unpredictable, slighlty implausible event occurs about half way through which throws all these scenes into a sharper focus. It's noble but forlorn aim is to show the people of Britain how trivial the country's problems are compared to some places in the world, and it does by depicting the plight of Bosnian refugees arriving in a working-class area of North London in 1994. Though the scenes set in Bosnia are reasonably realistic given the movies budget, and thus pretty harrowing, the most shocking thing about this film for me was the condescension demontrated by members of the English aristocracy toward the refugees. It made me want to burn every copy of the in a mass immolation in Kensington Gardens.
Skin Gang (1999)
This is a gratuitiously shocking movie that around one-third of the audience left in disgust but which I watched until the end in the hope of finding some point which I could share with the good people of cyberspace. The best I cand do is suggest that it's trying to say that the most virulently homophbic people are latent homosexuals themselves, which isn't an original idea. In any case, the way this point is made is so shocking that it won't reach a wide audience. It's redeemed by some dark humour, but even this is of a kind that mainstream audiences will be repelled by.