Thursday, November 28, 2013

A Moveable Fest, Week 14: Night of the Hunter, Upstream Color, Bottle Rocket

Would you trust that face? (Hint: no)
Week 14: Tim's Choice

Night of the Hunter

A fake, murderous preacher Rev. Powell learns that an imprisoned father has the money from his robbery hidden somewhere near his home - we quickly learn it's in the thief's 4-year-old daughter's doll. After Powell woos the townsfolk and, tragically, the children's mother, the kids have to take off downriver, where they join the legions of children orphaned/abandoned by the Depression as they beg at doorways. Eventually they find a place in Rachel Cooper's home for abandoned children, and in her their sole protector. But preacher-man ain't giving up easy. This starkly vivid film, the only one directed by Charles Laughton, is still generally frightening and affecting - while I was wary in advance of being manipulated by sentimentality, the children and their sole, elderly protector are genuinely moving:

Rachel: "It's a hard world for little things" (I burst into tears).
Rachel: "You know, when you're little, you have more endurance than God is ever to grant you again. Children are man at his strongest." (*sobs harder*).

There was a fair bit of cheering going on at the end of this film.

Upstream Color

After watching Primer, and then this, it's safe to say that Carruth don't make no films for no idiots. So: a drug dealer feeds wormy things to a woman named Kris, she signs all her possessions over to him, then a mysterious mastermind extracts the worms and feeds them to pigs, and he makes weird music, and Kris only remembers this when she meets a guy called Jeff, and eventually the life-cycle of the organism and the pair's involvement come kind-of full circle. I think. Don't quote me. If you can, turn off the front of your brain and let the movie synthesize an experience for you. You'll get enough narrative cohesiveness to make it satisfying, but really it's just best to treat this film as a high quality immersion experience. I enjoyed this more than Primer, I think, because there's less high-speed science-mumble and more concentration on images. Looking forward to his next venture.

Bottle Rocket

Anthony, Dignan and Bob (the first two played by Luke and Owen Wilson - comparing noses is part of the fun) are learning to be crooks. They rob a bookstore (the staff are pretty chilled and don't really mind), then they hang out in motels and don't do a lot, until they get involved with a real criminal and are suddenly in over their heads. There's a lot to love in this film - it doesn't push too hard with what it has to work with, it's enjoyably meandering, and there's plenty of Wes Anderson happy moments:

Bob:"Why is there tape on your nose?"
Dignan: "EXACTLY."

And I kept forgetting Applejack's name and calling him Bananatango. I knew it had a fruit in it.Bad with names.




A Moveable Fest, Week 13: Celine et Julie Vont en Bateau, White Material, Skylab

Probably time to leave?
I've gotten a bit behind, haven't I? Let's have some world famous four-sentence reviews to catch up...

Week 13: My Choice

White Material

Isabelle Huppert stubbornly continues to run her family's coffee plant in an unnamed part of Africa, despite impending war, rebel violence, and repeated warnings to leave. This is fast becoming one of my favourite films, though it's taken repeated viewings to work out the sequence of events. Incredibly threatening, atmospheric and mesmerising, with a brilliant soundtrack. The scenes involving child rebel militia, and their treatment, are especially chilling.

Celine et Julie Vont en Bateau

I get off easy here, thanks to Tim's post (and my less than informative introductory paragraph). But this remains my both my favourite film of all time, and probably the film I've watched the most times in my life (though it could be equal first with The Castle for number of viewings, actually). For my favourite film to be over 3 hrs long, there must be something that draws me back to it for re-watchings. And not just the Petite French Boob.

Skylab

Topping off an accidental week of all-French films is Julie Delpy's delightful 70s sort-of-bio-pic. 11-year-old Albertine (sort-of-child-Julie-Delpy) and her massive, eccentric extended family gather for a day-long lunch in the French countryside. The children eye each other off and attempt small forays into adulthood, while the adults themselves drink, eat, argue and gesture (ie. they do what most characters in Julie Delpy films do). It's highly likeable, nothing terribly bad happens, and there's a nice mix of nostalgia, awkwardness and warmth.


Thursday, November 21, 2013

Celine and Julie Go Boating - Jacques Rivette

Today's favourites post (it's been a while between drinks, hasn't it?) is a guest post by the lovely Tim Sterne, who is reviewing my favourite film for me!

From the favourer (me!): I first taped Celine & Julie Go Boating off SBS when I was about 15, hoping to practice my French listening skills on it, and then discovered no one says anything for about the first 20 minutes. But it just happened to become my favourite film (terribly wanky isn't it, to have you favourite film be an obscure 1970s French affair that goes for over 3 hours). I still watch it about once a year - I love the playfulness, the absurdity, the mystery, and the prominent use of cats.

Writing about someone else's favourite film - especially when you are close to the person, and have heard her speak about the film many times - is, at least initially, an exercise in confronting your own expectations. If Anna's favourite film was, say, Pretty Woman, I would have a fair idea of what I was getting into, even though I have never seen it. I might have made it to the wizened age of thirty-five without being exposed to the presumably hilarious and romantic adventures of Julia Roberts' hooker-with-a-heart-of-gold and Richard Gere's whatever-he-is-in-the-movie, but a lifetime of exposure to Hollywood cinema - indeed half a lifetime of exposure to ads for Pretty Woman itself (watch out for her fingers with that jewellery case, you clod!) - has reduced the likelihood of Pretty Woman offering me much to chew on. Thankfully, Anna being Anna, her nominated film is something rather more obscure, less immediately graspable, and infinitely more interesting. You will know this by the way my thoughts on it resemble a second-year English Lit essay.

I knew virtually nothing about Jacques Rivette’s Celine and Julie Go Boating, but that didn't stop me having preconceptions. For starters, I assumed there would be a boat. Perhaps not a real boat, but at least a metaphorical boat. A gravy boat, at minimum. I expected the eponymous characters to be willowy, lithe young things, alternately serious and whimsical; perhaps they might offer a brief glimpse of petite French boob. (This is a hangover from my teenage years, when the possibility of a glimpse of petite French boob was, as far as I was concerned, French cinema's raison d'etre.) I expected a loose narrative structure, and perhaps some vague, abstract musing on philosophical matters in amongst the (possibly forced) whimsy. Frankly, I expected to be bored a lot of the time. Celine and Julie Go Boating clocks in at an eyeball-withering 192 minutes. That's not where I prefer the 9 to be in my movie run-times. (I should be thankful, however: the full version of Rivette's previous film, Out 1: Noli me tangere goes for a staggering 750 minutes.)

Naturally, the film fulfilled many of my expectations - there is a boat, there are petite French boobs - but otherwise differed from the potential-film my brain had conjured. I was not bored. Celine and Julie were willowy, lithe young things, alternately serious and whimsical, but they were also far more interesting than that. As for their adventures... Well, let's discuss this further, shall we?

The film begins with an homage to Alice in Wonderland, a work that provides many of the film's motifs. Celine, wrapped in multiple scarves, hurries through a Paris park: she is, apparently, late for a very important date, and manages to drop various items every few paces. Julie, who is sitting in the park reading a book on magic, gives chase, picking up Celine's discarded items. They traipse around for some time, Celine running and hiding from Julie but always allowing herself to be seen, often to almost get caught, in order to renew the game. Through a series of encounters, the two women are drawn together and Celine ends up moving into Julie's impressive, bohemian apartment. Julie is a librarian, and seemingly the more conventional of the two, albeit with a romantic imagination. Celine is a stage magician; she is theatrical, flamboyant, almost aggressively strange.

The meat, or let's say nougat, of the film comes when Julie, through circumstances I have forgotten, encounters a quaint old house with ivy-covered walls. Julie manages to enter the house, and something happens that leaves her tired and stiff, hobbling down the road. Glimpses of a second narrative begin to interrupt - a stagey, old-fashioned tale about a love triangle, a sick child, an overbearing nurse, and a terrible murder. Is this story taking place within the strange house? Celine and Julie both begin making visits, emerging with a lolly in their mouths that, when sucked, allows access to this narrative, which apparently somehow exists within the house, recurring again and again, like a play or a movie. (The house narrative is based on a Henry James story called "The Other House".)

When Celine or Julie enter the house, they take on the role of the nurse. As they visit more frequently, the narrative begins to straighten out, but there are still lacunae. Who is responsible for the young girl's murder? By casting a spell, Celine and Julie contrive to enter the house at the same time, taking turns in the role of nurse. They discover the identity of the murderer, and prevent the crime by taking the girl with them when they leave the house. Celine and Julie wake up in their apartment, and the girl is with them. The three go boating - at last! - and see the other members of the mysterious household drift past, as lifeless and static as shop dummies.

Celine and Julie Go Boating offers numerous tantalising interpretations, while resisting being engulfed by or explained away by any of them. The connection to Alice in Wonderland has produced some creative theories, especially regarding the presence of so many cats throughout the film. Are they avatars of the Cheshire Cat? The transformative lolly, and the use of potions, echoes the items Alice must consume in order to access Wonderland. Like Alice, Celine and Julie enter a world that is absurd, but it is the inverse of Lewis's schema. The house turns out to have its own logic, its own rigid structure, in contrast to the chaotic and random "real" life Celine and Julie live elsewhere.

Celine and Julie's relationship is never fully explained - they are drawn together irrationally - whereas the characters inside the house are "rounded", as they would be in a traditional narrative. We come to understand something of their background, and their complicated interlocking relationships. Celine and Julie's infiltration of the house could be seen as "reality", or at least absurdity and randomness,  encroaching upon the rigidity of traditional storytelling. Their rescue of the child is a subversion of its inherent cruelty, its callous teleology.

While inhabiting the role of the nurse, Celine and Julie break the house rules. They abandon the "script" and begin ad-libbing and mucking around. This affects the other characters in the house narrative: they turn a sinister metallic grey, as if they have had their sole layer of paint - a patina of humanity? - scraped off, revealing the brainless mannequins underneath. There is an obvious, and deliberate, analogy here with the creation of art, especially collaborative art like cinema. A filmmaker can seek to have rigid control over his or her material - Kubrick is the obvious example - or the film can be allowed to develop through collaboration. Actresses Juliet Berto and Dominique Labourier were heavily involved in creating Celine and Julie, and according to interviews had an active role on set. (Another example would be Richard Linklater's Before _____ films, which are an increasingly collaborative project with stars Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke. Linklater is the nominal director, but the trilogy is the product of a filmmaking triumvirate.)

I enjoyed the way the film treats Celine and Julie as somehow interchangeable even as they are strikingly individual characters. The two craziest scenes involve impersonation. In the first such scene, Celine poses as Julie to meet the latter's childhood sweetheart, Guilou. Julie supposedly grew up with this boy, shared adolescent fumbling with him, and he has returned to claim her hand. As a story, it is like something out of a novel from the distant past - the same kind of rigid narrative the women later uncover in the mysterious house. Julie is a modern woman: she has a job, an apartment. She doesn't need a dashing young doofus from her past to whisk her away. Guilou is gallant and formal, and Celine-as-Julie mercilessly parodies his stylised, old-fashioned manner, rejects his proposal, and finishes by telling him to "go jerk off behind a bush".

The second impersonation scene sees Julie performing a travesty of Celine's magic show for some seedy booking agents. Celine's actual magic act is weird enough - a simple set of tricks that are clearly of secondary importance to Celine's long, exposed legs - but Julie-as-Celine provides a genuinely over-the-top spectacle. The impassive faces of the booking agents underline the scene's hilarity. Both impersonation scenes involve Celine and Julie saving the other from a terrible fate: marriage to a pompous git, and being booked on a dubious-sounding tour through the Middle East. This solidifies their friendship, even though neither realises what the other has done. It also reduces their world to one another, which is interesting. They are intended as a kind of binary, but not in an obvious way. They are more complementary than oppositional. (Even the fact that Julie is a redhead rather than a blonde - the more predictable contrast with brunette Celine - undermines traditional narrative expectations.)

Celine and Julie Go Boating is the kind of film you could discuss for hours. (I have barely mentioned the apparently "real" but never systematised magic that plays such a vital role, and there are countless other elements.) It's a generous film that rewards attention and analysis, but it cannot be reduced to a thematic skeleton. It is also a film that demands a second, third, fourth viewing. The running time makes this prohibitive, but life is hopefully long enough to fit in a few viewings of this singular film.




Monday, November 4, 2013

A Moveable Fest, Week 12: Shutter, Ghostwatch, In the Mouth of Madness

Moral: don't run over people, and if you do, don't run away.
Week 12: Tim's Choice

Shutter

I don't think I've watched a Thai horror film before, but this one was certainly a good starter. When a young couple run down a woman in their car and the boyfriend is all "Yeah nah let's just keep driving" (I don't know how to translate that into Thai), it's all a bit I Know What You Did Last Summer. Then they're haunted, of course, but it's more interesting than that, and the boyfriend has a not-very-nice history with his clingy ghostie. I was really impressed with the backstory on this one: it's done its homework and has really crafted a proper story (which is a lot more than you can say for IKWYDLS). This film loves to combine sudden appearances with sudden noises and will make you jump ALL THE WAY THROUGH, so if you're a wee bit quivery with your drink at the best of times, as I am, maybe put the glass down between sips unless you want to end up wasting wine.


Right, so: Michael Parkinson is hosting a hokey show (I know, really?) where a team of "experts" investigate a so-called haunted house. Lister and the chick from Blue Peter are hosting, there's a not-very-convincing ghostie expert on set, and someone might be faking things from within the house. But, you know what? Things seem to start to happen, and then escalate, and because of the cringe-worthy, "buck up old chap" method that starts the film, what happens in the end is actually scary - even if you've seen it before. The backstory is expanded on in a really convincing fashion, and the use/dodgy use of surveillance footage works even better than in Speed. The knowledge that people were genuinely frightened and tried to call in to the jammed switchboard during the show's first (and only) first airing in Britain somehow makes this funny little piece of history more effective. It's a bit like watching a special Halloween episode of Spicks n Specks, and then the set goes grey, Adam Hills looks directly at a guest and whispers "Come to daddy". *BLACKOUT*

In the Mouth of Madness

A dear favourite from my VHS sleep-over days as a teenager, ITMOM (best acronym, thanks Tim) is a bit like what you'd imagine what would happen if you decided to write Stephen King's biography as a horror story. Anyway: there's a really famous horror writer, and he appears to be sending people mad with his books. Mad, I say! *AXE CHOP* So, when said famous horror writer Sutter Kane (hello SK initials) disappears when his new book is due, Sam Neill (sporting an accent that tries to be American and then periodically forgets) is hired to, well, go find him. He hooks up with Kane's aggressive assistant Linda, and they encounter creepy children, deserted towns, creepy children, and bad acting. Look: really, really bad acting, which is usually the last thing I notice/resent about a film. But seriously: BAD ACTING. There's at lot of fun at the start that sustains the film for maybe half its length, but it does start to drag, and the whole madness-within-madness setup only works if at least one of the madnesses is vaguely convincing.


A Moveable Fest, Week 11: The Amityville Horror, Hell House, Spirits of the Dead, [REC], Lake Mungo

Abortion Girl: the most coveted role in Hell House
Week 11: My Choice (we got a bit carried away and ended up watching 5 films again this week)

The Amityville Horror

A clueless family move into a house where a mass murder occurred, and weird stuff starts to happen. I remembered this film as actually being quite scary, but not very far in this time I was exclaiming to Tim: "This is So. Fucking. Tedious." It's not scary, it's boring, it's bad, and it's TWO HOURS LONG. The only explanation I can have for its popularity at the time is (cue italics) 70s zeitgeist. Really, don't bother. If you just look at a picture of the creepy house, that's at least as much as you'll get out of the film. As Roger Ebert said: "The horror in this movie, alas, isn't a bad guy at all. Doesn't have a shape or a face or a personality. Is a presence that causes the worst sorts of things to happen. Who upsets the dog and causes doors to bang open and make the house too cold all the time, and in short, makes things just like Chicago."

Hell House

Suitable, I thought, for Halloween-month is this documentary following the yearly creation of 'Hell House', a Texan pentecostal church's "modern" take on a house of horrors: but in this case the 'horrors' include what afterlife fate befalls you if you have an abortion/are gay/take-drugs-and-get-raped (the rape is your fault because drugs)/read Harry Potter/play Magic: The Gathering, etc. I watched this on SBS (I think) quite a few years ago, and was drawn in initially by the participants' commitment to the production, juxtaposed with the fundamentalist glee with which they approach their parts: who will be 'abortion girl' this year?  It's a full scale production, but despite the overacting, jump-scares (that genuinely frighten some of the hell house visitors), and the dreadful Satan ("YOU KILLED YOUR BABY, JAN!"), for me the scariest bit is at the end of the horror show, where the kids are chatted to in an overlit ordinary room by an imposing "friendly" bloke, and offered the chance to redeem themselves by going into a private room to pray with members of the church. Or they can choose to leave immediately, and, you know, forsake their souls. The backstage focus on one particular family centres the film: a dad single-parenting a bunch of children, several with special needs, whose wife left him under mumblemumble circumstances and took the kids for a bit mumblemumble but now he has won them back. The portrayal of this family sits uncomfortably alongside the work that they do: judgments can be easily made.

Spirits of the Dead

An old favourite of mine from my taping-things-off-the-telly-when-Warrnambool-first-got-SBS days: three Edgar Allen Poe stories re-imagined by Roger Vadim, Louis Malle and Frederico Fellini. The Vadim one, otherwise known as "the one with Jane Fonda in lots of racy outfits", is the one that everyone hates, but really, there's a lot of Jane Fonda on a horse and Peter Fonda AS the horse, and the costumes are brilliant, so what's not to like? Malle's take on 'William Wilson' is really promising (the threat of live human medical dissections scared the crap out of me, despite knowing there couldn't be too much gore at this rating), but the ending just makes you go: 'Oh. Well. That's a bit shit, isn't it.' Fellini's version of Poe's 'Never bet the devil your head', however, is totally brilliant: nightmarish, gibbering, oddly coloured, drunkenly beardy, and the only film of the three to totally nail the ending.

[REC]

A Spanish reporter is following a fire-crew on their calls, hoping for a little excitement but not really expecting anything. They're called to an apartment block where it seems an elderly woman has locked herself inside her house and isn't responding, so the fire crew break in. THEN HORROR AND BITING. When they escape the staggery bloodthirsty geriatric, they discover the whole apartment building has been sealed off from the outside by authorities. So that's not good. [REC] takes the found footage idea and really works it well: the POV isn't so jerky as to cause much sea-sickness, there's a lot of great use made out of different lighting and camera scenarios, and I basically CLUTCHED at Tim's arm from the first bite to the last. It's a really decent modern horror film, and those can be hard to come by.

Lake Mungo

A recommendation from our friend @ernmalleyscat, this film proved to be an excellent Australian sleeper. A family is devastated when their daughter Alice drowns in a dam on holiday with her family. Even after Alice's body is found and laid to rest, she seems to pop up in photos and footage taken by the family: until her brother is discovered faking the ghostly appearances. Or...is he? This is an underrated emotional sort-of-ghost story that presents itself again through found footage: news reports, Australian Story-style grief-porn, interviews, photographs, and bad-quality phone footage. It's both touching, frightening, and deeply sad: less a horror movie than a meditation on fear, grief, and the ways we try to capture what we can't let go of.

Friday, November 1, 2013

A couple of publications

At the moment I have poems in::

Antipodes


and

Otoliths (which is an online journal, so you can pop over and have a read if you feel like it.)

And happy halloween!




Friday, October 25, 2013

A Moveable Fest, Week 10: Army of Darkness, Asylum, The Blair Witch Project

Week 10: Tim's Choice

Army of Darkness

Ash is in 1300 AD now (at the end of Evil Dead 2 he is transported there, which is handy as he doesn't have any disembodied heads trying to nom him). He has to find the Necronomicon, which is presumably a book about a recipe convention for disembodied-head chefs. Basically, this movie is vaguely entertaining if you remind yourself it's not a good horror movie, or a horror movie, or a good movie. There's a WTF value that sustains it for a bit, and towards the end some fun and recognisably stylish stop-motion skeletons, but if you've only got a few minutes you'd be better off watching this. The creepiest thing about watching this movie was that at almost exactly the same start day and time, I saw that Karen and her husband started watching the same film.

Asylum

A young psychiatrist chap applies for a job at an asylum, but his job interview probably hasn't been approved by HR: if he can pick the inmate who used to run the asylum (before he went bonkers), then he gets the job. The film then follows the episodic stories of of several inmates, which are neat little set pieces (including an hilarious severed head that breathes through its brown waxed paper wrapping), before it goes COMPLETELY NUTS and we have tiny jerky automaton replicas stalking people very very slowly with scalpels. Ok, it's not scary, but it's pretty hilarious, which is a lot better than boring.

The Blair Witch Project

TBWP (to those in the know) is presented as a found-footage film, where a bunch of college students go on a camping trip to make a documentary about the notorious Blair Witch that supposedly haunts the area of Black Hills, Maryland. The Blair Witch isn't very fond of college students, and there's a lot of shouting and beanies and snotty crying. Flippancy aside, I love this movie. The mostly improvised acting works extremely well: the relations between the characters slide from being politely overenthusiastic to annoying the crap out of each other in a very convincing fashion. They're extremely human, and combined with a wise decision to never show 'he who walks behind the rows' (thanks for that, Children of Corn sequels), this stands up as a very effective horror movie. Really, if you walked out of a tent and found little cairns of rocks, and stick-men hanging from the trees around you: you'd proverbial your pants.




Friday, October 18, 2013

A Moveable Fest, Week 9: Suicide Club, The Loved Ones, Who Can Kill A Child?

Week 9: My Choice

Suicide Club

There's a 'fad' for mass suicides spreading through Japan, and no one knows why but there's a weird website that keeps totalling up the numbers of the dead (and the totals increase just before the suicides happen). This movie has one of the best starts to a horror flick that I've seen in a while - 54 cute Japanese schoolgirls linking hands at a train station and chanting "One - two - three!" as they jump under the speeding train. There's some neat (if rather black) satire in presenting the cheerful suicides as the new trend that all the kids are getting into, equating their deaths with poppish fannism (further emphasised by the fact that everyone is easily distracted from the growing death toll as soon as tweeny J-pop band Dessert comes on tv.)
The movie loses track of itself after a while (what the hell is the bowling alley bit about?) and doesn't really resolve satisfactorily - it's heavy on style and WTF, but very enjoyable nonetheless. A slick, weird Rocky Horror Horror Show.

The Loved Ones

Brent turns down Lola's invitation to the school dance, so she and her dad kidnap him and strap him to a chair, then torture him as they host their own "school dance" in their rural-Australian-drab lounge room. The Loved Ones is for the most part a torture movie, but like the first Saw film and unlike the dreadful Hostel, it's not completely mindless. The characters do have genuine motivations, there's a back story, and the performances are good: Lola especially is an enjoyably high-pitched psycho who actually has a personality (often in slasher flicks the antagonist is inhuman and blank-faced: think of Jason's hockey mask, Michael Myer's rubber one, and Leatherface's...leather face). There's quite a few deliberate nods to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre which made me smile, and the climax winds up with genuine tension. I think it's actually quite hard to make a watchable slasher film, and The Loved Ones definitely lives up to its reputation. Probably the best Australian horror movie since Wolf Creek (although it certainly doesn't take itself as seriously as that film). 98% of rotten tomatoes can't be wrong!

Who Can Kill A Child?

A young English couple go to stay on a remote Spanish island and discover the children have killed all the adults, which is a bit of a bummer for said young English couple. The start of this movie is actually quite hard-going: extended real historical footage of atrocities perpetrated against children through wars and famines. This gives a little idea of the metaphor or 'spirit' behind the supernatural murderousness of the children in the following film, but most of it is left ominously vague (as, as Tim said, in The Birds). The children are excellently creepy, and the violence eventually (and really, unavoidably) inflicted on them is still quite shocking.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

A Moveable Fest, Week 8: Kill List, Evil Dead 2, The Innkeepers

Tunnels: always a good idea.
Week 8: Tim's Choice

If September is universally known as the month of my birthday (shut up, it totally is), then October is the month of Halloween (and Tim's birthday). Also known as the month where Tim and I have an excuse to exclusively watch horror flicks. We like horror flicks - do you? We don't know many other people who do (though I think each of our favourite horror themes differ). I like horror movies as I find them completely involving (I'll often watch horror movies when I can't concentrate on anything else). I watched them at sleepovers with my friends as a teenager, I watch them on my own, but I especially love watching them as part of a full audience where you all gasp/laugh/scream/groan together - it's a huge joy. I like being pretend-scared while actually being safe, and I never have nightmares about them. I like best movies that involve traps, cults, serial killers or evil children. I'm not quite so drawn to supernatural/monster films. I like the ones that make me laugh as well as jump. I'm interested in the fact that the movies I think will be the most scary are usually the ones that are scary in my mind, but in reality are lame/boring (eg. Human Centipede - the scariest thing is the arse-to-mouth munty diagram). I also like the Saw movies, though I won't inflict them on Tim. Nor Human Centipede. Any sequence.

Kill List

Soldiers-turned-hitmen Jay and Gal take a job, but things go skewed when Jay overdoes things unnecessarily, and his victims weirdly start thanking him just before they die.This is the earlier film by the guy who made Sightseers (so crunchy violence expected), and it is equally excellent in terms of suburban white noise; conversations and visual tone that are by turns mundane and menacing; plus WHOA violent. I accidentally spoiled myself for this film while looking up the director, but really the 1+1=dead isn't really important. We understand what we see, but the weight of the implied further story hangs heavy and unknown at the end. Who will play the king?

Evil Dead 2

I've just remembered I used to refer to this film as "Devilled Egg 2". I can't for the life of me remember why, because I hadn't even seen it. Which is appropriate really - you don't need to ask what this film does, and if you do, read what it says on the box. It's funny, fast-paced scary, plus lots of body-clenching anticipation. Which body you choose to clench is up to you.

The Innkeepers

Curious whippersnappers Claire and Luke trade front-desk shifts at soon-to-be-closed Yankee Pedlar Inn, and there's probably a ghost. They're trying to get footage of her (ghost) before they're kicked off the site, but - you know ghosts, they're not always going to behave in the way you'd like. This movie is great, because for a long time you feel like you're watching Hotel Babylon without the sex and without the nostalgic presence of Dexter Fletcher (for Press Gang fans). Sorry, I've gone off track. The pace is fairly slow - it's charmingly scary, but still scary. Sometimes these sorts of films can be quite memorable, just because you can feel the everyday nature of events just before things get scary. The boring yellow lighting of your workplace, the crumpled sheets in your bed. You've got a crappy tedious job, you yawn, you turn around -

Thursday, October 3, 2013

A Moveable Fest, Week 7: The Sound of My Voice, The Giants, La Haine

Being in a cult means using a lot of Napisan.
Week 7: My Choice

The Sound of My Voice

Two journalists go undercover to make a documentary on a cult headed by Maggie (Brit Marling, who could well be my new Julie Delpy in terms of writer/actor awesomeness), who claims to be from the future. I loved the latest Batman-and-Brit film The East, so was looking forward to this one because cults! And while the film certainly is intriguing and Marling's performance suitably intense, it ends up being frustratingly fizzly overall. Many factors aren't fleshed out enough to really make the intended ambiguity "work" (especially the journalists' reasons for investigating the cult in the first place, and the connection between Maggie and the girl she claims is her mother). It's unusual for me to say this, but it needed to be longer! Still, Brit Marling: one to watch.


The Giants

Three kids, for all intents and purposes abandoned by their mother, hook up with drug dealers to raise some cash. This is totally going to go well. I was obviously drawn to this one because abandoned children in the countryside, and there's quite a lot of Huck Finn goodness into the deal. While it's not going to set your world on fire, The Giants is enjoyable in a leisurely kind of way, and the boys are very realistically drawn in their naive posturing and domestic incompetence. While the ending is oddly unresolved in narrative terms, it does make a conclusive emotional point.


La Haine (Hate)

Three rough-cut  dudes (Jewish Vinz, African Hubert and Arabic Said) spend their dead-end days wandering around aimlessly in a low-rent Parisian suburb (a friendship interestingly based on class rather than race). In the aftermath of a riot between other disaffected youths and police, they learn that one of their friends has been put in hospital by the event, and Vinz vows to get revenge on the cops if he eventually dies. I chose this to watch as I saw someone on Facebook talking about how the film introduced them to French rap music (which I am very fond of), and there is indeed some excellent toons in La Haine. Also an unexpected extended dance sequence! Excellent. While it wears its anti-violence/racism message on its very 1990s sleeve, the characters are sympathetic and individual enough to make La Haine much more than a cliched "a Jew, an Arab and a black guy walk into a bar/riot" kind of tale.




Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Moveable Fest, Week 6: Thunderbolt & Lightfoot, A Fistful of Dollars, Primer, Blood Simple, Turn Me On Dammit

I did this at my home town a fair bit too.
Week 6 : Tim's Choice
(We went a bit overboard this week and ended up watching 5 films. What else are you supposed to do while waiting for the next Breaking Bad?)

Thunderbolt & Lightfoot

Clint Eastwood's getting the band back together (for a repeat robbery, given they can't find the cash from the original heist), and Jeff Daniels is the nicest sidekick on earth. "I don't wish to be forward, but we'd like to exchange cars with you. So the faster you get out, the better it'll be for your ass." Car chases, robberies, and really floral pants! While we were watching this I drank many G&Ts and consequently fell asleep around half an hour before the end. Tim can fill you in.

A Fistful Of Dollars

A Poncho With No Name rides into town and plays two warring families off against each other to make some cashola. Dusty, violent, and squinty, with an approved level of whistling. Samurai stories seem to translate really well into Westerns for some reason - perhaps the notion of the anonymous wandering stranger looking for a bit of action suits its widescreen landscape. "My mistake. Four coffins."

Primer

Dudes build a time machine, then things get complicated. I watched Primer a while ago after it was screened at MIFF one year, but found it completely incomprehensible. On re-watch, I discovered this was because the copy I was watching had such bad sound that I had assumed the characters were meant to be mumbling their way through the entire film. The scene where they're having a conversation next to a noisy fountain? My entire copy sounded like that. So I was pleasantly surprised to be able to piece together most of Primer together this time around, even though my appreciation of the last ten minutes or so is mainly limited to "that man needed to go to that place because of time". As Tim said to me, it's bizarre to read reviews that insist you have to be a scientist to make any sense of this movie. How on earth will they deal with Orlando?

Blood Simple

Marty thinks Abby is cheating on him (he's right), and hires a private detective to spy on and kill her and her lover. In traditional Cohen fashion, then things go a bit crazy: add many double/triple crosses and stir until the plot thickens. Despite being a Cohen fan I'd managed to miss out on this one. Neo-noirish (though Abby is more femme inconsciente than femme fatale) and blackly humorous, with some excellently squirmy gory scenes. Gets my vote for "best method of extricating trapped hand" on film.

Turn Me On, Dammit

Alma know what she wants, the trouble lies in the practicality of getting it. Frequent calls to the sex line aren't cutting it, but when her school crush Artur awkardly pokes her leg with his penis outside the school dance (and then denies it), the whole school and her friends turn on the now-nicknamed "Dick Alma". Awkward, sweet and funny - this film reminded me of the tone of Lukas Moodysson's lovely Show Me Love (and not just because both sets of teenagers hate their small home town). When I see YA films like this, and others in MIFF's Next Gen program each year, it annoys me that these films never see release in Australia. When there are such good YA films being made across the globe, why are we doomed only to the kind of romance that comes with Transformers or Twilight? Alma would flip them the bird.








Tuesday, September 17, 2013

A Moveable Fest, Week 5: Before Sunset, Waco: Rules of Engagement, The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill


I pretend this is my apartment, though in reality I couldn't stand the clutter.
Week 5: My Choice

Before Sunset

One of my all time favourite films and definitely my favourite of the three "Before _____" movies. Nine years after their magical night in Vienna, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy meet up again in Paris. They are both older, married, more wearied and cynical - but the spark is still there, and Hawke is due at the airport in a few hours.I just love this film, seeing their initial dismissal of that night together nine years ago break down into their acknowledgement of how life-changing it was for both of them. It's bitter-sweet - all the time they've missed together based on an immature trust in fate - and when Hawke starts telling Delpy about his dreams I basically lose my shit and cry for the rest of the movie. I won't spoiler, but Before Sunset also has my favourite last two lines in a movie: best understatement ever.


Waco: Rules of Engagement

Hey, so you thought cults were crazy? Check out the US government! This detailed documentary explores the attempted raid and following 51 day siege that ended with the Waco Davidian compound erupting into a fireball that killed 76 people (including over 20 children). There's a lot of congressional hearings, examination of infra-red footage taken while the FBI pumped massive amounts of tear gas into the building with army tanks, and footage both from inside and outside the compound during the siege. Regardless of what weapons the nutty Christian sect was stockpiling, the ATF 'publicity' raid was a disaster, and the FBI methods of psychological and physical intimidation are shocking to watch. "It was known that the Davidians did not have children's gas masks. It was hoped that the 'maternal instinct' would lead mothers to bring their children out." Now, where have we heard that sort of bullshit before?


The Wild Parrots of Telegraph Hill

Mark Bittner is a homeless musician who takes up residence in a little cottage on Telegraph Hill, San Fran (thanks to some benevolent rich folks who own the apartment above), and befriends a flock of parrots that live in the area. Bittner slowly becomes part of their bird family - knowing each bird by name, and caring for the sick ones in his cottage (which has an open cage door policy). A delightful, closely examined little film about the small things that can bring meaning and motivation to a life. I had read about this doco a long time ago and somehow never got around to seeing it. And as the review promised, the very final seconds of the film have an entirely perfect twist that made me erupt into joyous sobs and flailing, and made Tim say "Can you please stop whacking me?"

Friday, September 13, 2013

The 5:2 Fast Diet: a disordered eating revolution


Every man and his intermittently fasting dog is doing the 5:2 diet at the moment.  While periodic fasting is hardly a new method of dieting, this particular form caught the public imagination in late 2012 after the airing of a BBC documentary “Eat, Fast and Live Longer”. Hosted by medical journalist Michael Mosley, and followed up by his best-selling book, the show convincingly demonstrated the many benefits of eating normally for 5 days a week and severely restricting calories for the other 2: not just weight loss, but increased longevity, reduction in susceptibility to forms of dementia such as Alzheimer’s, decreased insulin sensitivity, lowered cholesterol, the list goes on. And weight loss. Did I mention weight loss? Because let’s be honest, that’s the main attraction. The book’s a bestseller, and every second person is talking about their 5:2 journey, from Kate Langbroek to Kate Middleton’s uncle. Even Benedict Cumerbatch is on board. The appeal is pretty undeniable. You eat what you usually do for 5 days of the week, and for the other 2 you restrict your calorie intake to 500 (for women) or 600 (for men). And you lose weight. These ‘fast’ days are non-consecutive, so you can always have that biscuit tomorrow. For those who struggle to maintain a consistent healthy eating and exercise regime (ie. most people), the 5:2 diet is quite the dream discovery. After all, anyone can manage to diet 2 days a week, right? You’ll have to ditch alcohol on those days too (unless you choose to use up your 500 calories on a couple of glasses of wine), so there’s the added virtue in that. Of course, the weight loss depends on you not eating the entire fridge on your ‘non-fast’ days,  but most testimonies in the 5:2 book say the need to overcompensate fades quickly, once your body realises you’re not going to be surviving on 500 calories every day.

Looked at in this way, the 5:2 diet seems like a sustainable “way of life”. But filtered through an eating disordered perspective, it suddenly seems much more unhealthy. There has been very little medical research done on the long-term effects of the 5:2 diet, and rigorous valid studies are as yet absent. The claim that only restricting caloric intake for 24 hours at a time does not suppress metabolism is unsupported. But even if we just consider the wealth of anecdotal evidence flooding the internet, a trend of thoughts and behaviours emerges. While dieters report additional perks such as clear-headedness, increased energy and better digestion (along with easy weight loss), many like Lucy Cavendish also report dizziness, obsessive thoughts about food, irritability, tiredness, headaches, and on their ‘non-fast’ days, eating everything in sight. They advise drinking lots of water when you’re hungry, and loading up boring meals with low-calorie, high-flavour condiments such as salsa and mustard. To anyone familiar with restrictive or binge/purge eating disorders, this sounds like a roll call of warning signs. In 1944, the Minnesota Starvation Experiment took 36 men and reduced their caloric intake from 3200 to 1560 per day (more than 2.5 times what the 5:2 diet allows on fast days – but this was every day) over a period of 6 months. The men quickly developed symptoms similar to those displayed by those with eating disorders: an obsessive preoccupation with food, irritability, difficulty concentrating/sleeping, and demonstrated binge eating on re-feeding. Sound familiar?

While the 5:2 diet is touted as a sustainable health miracle, if I turned up to a therapist  and described this as my personal eating regimen, and my accompanying thoughts/feelings – but left out the 5:2 brand name - I'd most likely be told that my eating was disordered, and probably offered psychological and practical strategies to try to help correct this. This is not to say that the 5:2 diet will cause someone to develop an eating disorder (though, as the book mentions all too briefly, the diet should be avoided by those with these illnesses). But the diet does normalise thoughts, feelings and behaviours that mimic those of eating disorders. In a society already so consumed by food and weight concerns, we are edging ever closer to explicitly encouraging pathology, clothed in seductive marketing and masquerading under the name of health.

Monday, September 9, 2013

A Moveable Fest, Week 4: Boxcar Bertha, Killing Zoe, The Warriors

Can you dig it?
Week 4: Tim's Choice

Boxcar Bertha

"America in the 30's was a Free Country. Bertha was jes' a little bit free'er than most." When Bertha's dad's plane goes KA-BOOM and takes him out with it, she hooks up with a union organizer and they have sex and rob a lot of trains and hold up fancy parties for the attendees' jewels. "Not my tiara!" Martin Scorsese's second feature film is likeable enough, though not particularly Scorsese-ey. Barbara Hershey does her best Sissy Spacek impression (but with 35% more teeth). Watch out for UNEXPECTED REALLY VIOLENT BIT!


Killing Zoe

Zed rocks up in Paris, generously fucks Julie Delpy (what was she thinking), and then he and his mates do an awful lot of drugs after they decide to rob a bank the next day. Miraculously chipper the next morning, they show up at the bank: but OMG Julie Delpy works there! Evidently fucking people like Zed doesn't bring in the big bucks.
Zed: "So Eric tells me you like Viking films. Viking movies."
Oliver: "Yeah...I guess."
Zed: "I love that stuff! Those helmets with the fucking horns on!"
Pretty much the highlight there, of a boring, relentlessly misogynistic, grubby little drug-fucked shoot-out plus tits.


The Warriors

When a "no weapons" truce is broken at a mass gang meeting, The Warriors are framed for killing the leader of the most powerful gang in NYC. They gotta get home, running the gauntlet of a spectacular array of costumed rival gangs who are out for their blood. I'd never heard of this film, and was completely surprised by it - there's a lot more West Side Story than The Outsiders going on here. (Yes, I know, my references are odd. My film education has been...uneven.) The gaudy gang outfits are brilliant (my favourites include the French mimes and the goth base-ball players), and the fight scenes often suggest conceptual dance over realistic violence. It's a bizarre and stylized film, and the rotoscoped segues between scenes heighten the strangeness beautifully. If you'll excuse me, I'm off to dig out my pink roller-skates.


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

A Moveable Fest, Week 3: Mama, The Angel's Share, Before Sunrise

90s fashion choices ftw
Week 3: My Choice

Mama

There are abandoned feral children and a creepy maternal thingy they call Mama is looking after them! Somebody should probably warn their new adoptive parents that Mama doesn't share well. This movie isn't particularly terrifying as far as these things go (and they can go quite a long way), but has a surprisingly sad and unpredictable ending, and features lots of excellent atmospheric scuttling. Perfectly enjoyable in a Nell-meets-Mrs-Voorhees kind of way.


The Angel's Share

Glaswegian Robbie is on community service and turns out to be a whisky savant. Sounds like a perfectly standard Ken Loach plot, non? Well, non, obviously. I found this film to be really strangely paced until I worked out I was just waiting for the Horrible Loach Twist Of Despair. But no! It's consistently upbeat and for once I didn't want a whisky just to recover from a Loach encounter. (I do generally really like his films, by the way. But oh, Kes.)


Before Sunrise

Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy take a chance on their bond-at-first-sight, and wander around Vienna together being terribly charmingly earnest and awkward and 90s. While its successor (the older and wiser Before Sunset) is so far my favourite of these films (I've yet to see the third installment), I genuinely adore Before Sunrise in all its naive and bumbly glory. I love it in the same dorky-teen, passionate way that I love Dead Poet's Society. And Julie Delpy is definitely my idol (yes, even when she's sporting the unfortunate 90s outfit of tiny-tshirt-under-shoe-string-strap-dress-with-flannel-shirt-tied-around-waist).






Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Moveable Fest, Week 2: In the Loop, The Seventh Seal, Targets

The Seventh Tim
Week 2: Tim's Choice

In the Loop 

Tim: "See! You can watch comedies!" I don't watch very many, it's true, it goes against my love of UNRELENTING CRUSHING DESPAIR. I do, however, love swearing a lot, and shouty angry people, and James Gandolfini being threatening with his nose-breath. So this was always going to be a winner. Now I am allowed to graduate to comedy tv series. Fuckity bye!

The Seventh Seal

I vaguely assumed this was going to be a Very Worthy Film Requiring Effort, but there turned out to be a much less meditating on grand scenery and lengthy silences than expected. Instead, there was lots of laughing and plague! Conversation between me and Tim prior to watching:
Me: "I'm imagining The Seventh Seal is a charming film about a boy and his series of semi-aquatic marine mammal pets."
Tim: "Sammy the Seventh Seal."
Me: "And Alex."
Tim: "He's the sixth seal."
Me: "And the fifth seal is the guy who sang Kiss from a Rose."
        "The fourth is Roof Seal. Roof Roof!"
        "This is getting sealier and sealier!"
        "The third seal is a Window Seal. (I'm getting desperate)"
Tim: "The first and second are stray otters with identity issues."
Me: "Pull the otter one!"
        "I'll stop now."
Tim has to put up with a lot.

Targets

I'd never heard of this film, but I like a good bit of shooting from the rooftops. As Tim found out, this film was bizarrely conceived based on Roger Corman's prerequisites of: "You've got 2 days of Boris Karloff, and you have to use 20 minutes of my old film somewhere in there." Oddly enough, it works, and a massacre with no real motive behind it (apart from a bit of "I'm having strange thoughts") is much better than knowing too much about the murderer's mummy issues. I also learned that if there's a sniper at the drive-in, DON'T OPEN THE CAR DOOR BECAUSE IT TURNS ON THE LIGHT.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

A Moveable Fest, Week 1: The Gleaners & I, The Grapes of Wrath, News From the Good Lord

Tim and I saw many films at the Melbourne Film Festival this year, and as you probably know it's unwise to just stop that shit cold turkey, or you'll start having creepy narrative dreams about women who get emailed photographs of increasing numbers of anonymous kidnap victims every day and then THE DOOR OPENS BEHIND HER. Or maybe that's just me.

Because we wanted to keep watching MOAR FILMS, Tim had the idea that we take it in turns programming ourselves a mini-festival of 3 movies each week. (For us to watch at home. We're not made of money and babysitters, you know.)

While Tim is doing a much better job of blogging about the films we watch over at shootthedvdplayer.tumblr.com, I just want to keep a record of what we see (with an additional highly flippant sentence or two).

Week 1 (my choice)

The Gleaners & I

I'm fascinated by the lengths that people go to to live 'more cheaply', whether it be for financial or ethical reasons. Also Agnes Varda is such a self-involved film-maker, which makes this doco So French It Can't Breathe. Not sure about the guy who dumpster dives for raw fish. But heart-shaped spuds are nice.

The Grapes of Wrath

Poverty (especially in the US) is high on my list of "things I'm a bit more interested in than I should be". You thought the grinding poverty of Oklahoma was hard? Come to the grinding poverty of California! We hope you like no potatoes. I've been meaning to read the book for ages, and am re-enthused to get onto that now. This film features some excellent chin-gurning and cardboard backdrops.

The News from the Good Lord

This is an old favourite of mine that I taped off SBS in the 90s and kept because I enjoyed all the absurd existential humour, and the idea that it's "authors all the way down". Unfortunately it's not available on dvd to buy from anywhere, and the subtitles on the copy Tim found had apparently been run through a paper shredder and re-assembled at random, which rather detracted from the original dialogue that I loved. It did make for some neat phrases though: "I'm a specialist in God but I don't know about fucking and stuff."

Monday, August 12, 2013

Four-Sentence MIFF Reviews #12-14: The Final Cut, Capturing Dad, The Selfish Giant

The Final Cut: Ladies and Gentlemen (Gyorgy Palfi)

 Restricted by the financial crisis in the film industry in Hungary, Palfi spend 3 years labouriously cutting together more than 450 films (from Star Wars to Run Lola Run) into a familiar cinematic love story.
Initially jarred (and trying to identify every film), my brain sortof relaxed and followed the narrative.
A funny and clever demonstration of the tropes of film narrative, their familiarity, and the universal pleasure that "classic" stories provide.
But I still haven't forgiven him for Hukkle.


Capturing Dad (Ryoto Nakano)

Sisters Hazuki and Koharu are sent by their bitter mother to visit their dying father and take a photo of his expression so she can "laugh in his face".
But dad dies while the girls are en route, and instead they front up to an awkward funeral and family they never knew.
At times poignant and touching, this film also has a very odd sense of humour that didn't quite fit, turning it into a bit of a farce.
Unless your idea of a good family joke is daughters grabbing at their mother's boobs in order to quell her grief.


The Selfish Giant (Clio Barnard)

Arbor is a Very Bad Influence on his best friend Swifty.
When the two boys are expelled from school, they start scrapping for a metal dealer around their bleak Bradford housing estate, attempting more and more dangerous thefts to make some cash.
Reminds me of a Ken Loach film, starting off with already downtrodden people and then stamping on them further.
A heartbreaking look at two boys with no chance and no place in the world.






Sunday, August 4, 2013

Four-Sentence MIFF Reviews #9-11: Oh Boy, A Werewolf Boy, Bekas

Oh Boy (Jan-Ole Gerster)

Law-school dropout Niko wanders around black-and-white Berlin, having brief encounters with strangers that range from humorous to violent.
Very much smacks of a 90s student film trying to be Woody Allen, with occasional interruptions from Judd Apatow and Kevin Smith.
Not much character development, not much plot, not much of interest.
Presumably named because when it ends you say "Oh boy, I'm glad that's over."




A Werewolf Boy (Jo Sung-Hee)

When teenage Suni and her family move to an isolated country house, they discover an adolescent boy living wild nearby, take him in and care for him.
But when the local sleazeball threatens Suni, the boy's protective instincts towards her manifest as a supernatural transformation.
A South Korean teenage werewolf romance that produced suitably adolescent reactions in me (especially to the bad guy: "Oh I hate him!!")
A bit long, but nicely non-Twilighty.



Bekas (Karzan Kader)

Two Kurdish orphans decide to travel to America and fly back with Superman so they can bring their parents back to life - they have a world map, and decide that America should only be a day or two's walk from Iraq.
A truly delightful and colourful film that highlights the boys' continued resilience and imagination in the face of overwhelming obstacles.
I was so attached to these boys that when the film suddenly descended into an incredibly tense life-or-death situation, I nearly took Tim's arm off (sorry Tim).
Also featured: a donkey named Michael Jackson with a BMW insignia on his bridle.



Friday, August 2, 2013

Four-Sentence MIFF Reviews #7-8: Le Jolie Mai, Mistaken For Strangers

Le Jolie Mai (Chris Marker)

In 1962 Chris Marker interviewed ordinary Parisians on how they felt about their lives, politics, happiness, and the answer to "What are you going to do with that tube?"
A fascinating and often very funny insight into a huge variety of lives (and the wry, pointed attitude of the director himself) that sustains interest for all of its nearly-2.5-hours.
Marred by a curiously jarring, artsy fartsy English voiceover that could well double as pseudo-philosophical satire.
Possibly the best film you will ever see involving a Parisian cat modelling a series of handmade hats.



Mistaken For Strangers (Tom Berninger)

The National go on tour and take frontman Matt's doofus brother Tom along with them to help out as a roadie.
As Tom films his experiences with the band, it becomes obvious that this is really a film about the relationship between the two brothers: their frustrations, competition, and genuinely touching love for each other.
Tom is as close as I've seen to a real life Jack Black, by turns hilariously incompetent, eccentric, and exuberant.
As an interviewer his skills remain suspect: "When you guys go on stage, do you like, take your wallets with you?....That's really weird."

Four-Sentence MIFF Reviews #5-6: Ginger & Rosa, Alone

Ginger & Rosa (Sally Potter)

Born in adjacent beds, raised in adjacent houses, teenagers Ginger and Rosa have always done everything together.
But when Rosa falls for someone very close to Ginger, the girls' friendship is on rocky (and melodramatic) ground.
A decent first half with some excellently accurate characterisation of adolescent passion/angst/bad rhyming poetry.
Second half descends into hysteria and predictability, saved only by Ginger's lovely bumbly gay godfathers and their smart-mouthed friend Bella.


Alone (Wang Bing)

Three sisters aged 4, 6 and 10 live alone in a remote Chinese country village, with occasional food from their aunt next door and their father who visits from the city every few months.
A fascinating, if context-free, look at a lifestyle where basic day-to-day survival is hard, dirty, and relentlessly exhausting, and the brunt of it is borne by a 10 year old girl.
The documentary-makers follow the girls and their family in almost complete silence, only rarely conversing with their subjects:
"Where is your mother?"
"She left."
"Where did she go?"
"We don't know."*





*Yes, I'm counting a quoted conversation as one sentence here. No rules, man.

Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Four-Sentence MIFF Reviews #3-4: The East, These Birds Walk

The East (Zal Batmanglij)

A corporate spy for a private company is sent to infiltrate an anarcho-eco-terrorist group (that's a lot of hyphens, and a lot more beards), and finds her professional detachment threatened as she becomes closer to the individual members.
I have to say OH MY GOD this film was relevant to my interests in all the right "anarchist jams with weirdy sexy-cult overtones" ways (a specific interest, it's true).
Gripping, and balanced in its portrayal of the evils of both corporate and terrorist actions.
I still don't like Ellen Page.

These Birds Walk (Bassam Tariq, Omar Mullick)

A documentary tracing the experiences of several runaway children cared for by the Edhi Foundation (Pakistan's largest welfare operation, which seems to be basically run and funded by one old dude).
An Edhi ambulance driver drops the children home to their mostly indifferent families: one boy's uncle laments the return of a live troublesome boy, instead of his corpse.
Amazingly vivid and heartbreaking, an unsentimental view of a complex country.
"It's easier to drop off dead bodies than return these children to their families."