Discussion in 'Mayberry Lounge' started by Bullitt68, Dec 21, 2017.
Yep I definitely agree.
You do get the "ancient ones" of course which I think is actually one of the more effective lovecraftian scenes but I'd agree it does seem to be floundering around a bit before that point and might have been better served by staying a little more grounded.
The look of the film feels rather divided as well for me, I mean post Cundy/Big Budget Carpenter never quite had the same visual flair for me but there was still a certain grungy atmospheric look to his work were as here it seems a mix of that and mid 90's slickness. That "businessmen in offices and hotels with low contrast lighting" look that became too common, I wonder whether the "favourite colour was blue" scene was actually Carpenter taking the piss out of the trend in such films to give them a cool/blue tint.
Lesson From a Dead Language (1979)
You know you've come across an obscure film when there is only one single review on Letterboxd (and another solitary review on Mubi).
Set during the last months of the First World War, the film concerns a young officer of the Austro-Hungarian Army, Alfred Kiekeritz, who has been discharged from active military service due to his advanced consumption. He has been stationed in Turka to wait out the end of the war. This is a remote outpost in the Eastern part of Galicia, modern day Ukraine. In this town, very little happens apart from the odd supply train passing through, en route to some other destination. There are still a few duties which need attended to - mainly the guarding of Russian prisoners - but other than that there is nothing terribly important to occupy our protagonist. This is a thoroughly provincial setting. At one point a travelling circus rolls through but is attacked for it's 'degeneracy'. Kiekeritz is staying in a Jewish hotel in the town, where he must contend with bedbugs in addition to his tuberculosis and the oppressive, crushing boredom. Surely not the ideal setting to wait out your final days.
At this remote outpost on the edge of the Empire, Kiekeritz begins to suffer from hallucinations and delusions. He has feverish dreams recalling the glorious battles and military excitement of his past, along with other strange visions. As he nears death our young officer seemingly searches for some kind of meaning in his existence. An intellectual and an aesthete, he also begins to collect religious art - Christian icons and a small statue of Artemis. At one point he is invited to attend a seance, which delivers a chilling prediction…
It's a slow moving film, but manages to hold your attention throughout. Partly due to the excellent performance from the main character. Overall an interesting, subtle film which looks at death and life from a philosophical perspective. Takes a fairly nihilistic tone, but this is all grounded in the setting of the First World War.
The Stone Cross (1968)
This is a film of rugged poetry. Here we have an old Ukrainian peasant, Ivan, toiling in vain on his remote, mountainous farm struggling internally with his decision to emigrate to Canada in search of a better life. His land is barren and rests on a steep hill. This is a hard existence, and yet it is home. Leaving promises a better form of life, but it means leaving behind his friends and family, his homeland, it's soil and traditions and perhaps more than anything, his memories...
I found that the general theme invited some comparison with one of my favourite films The Emigrants (1971), but this is very different tonally. In one brilliant scene early on our peasant protagonist literally curses the camera as it looks down on him from above, with the camera - and thus the viewer - standing in for God himself. At night, after working his rocky fields, Ivan does not go to seek solace in his loving wife but instead sits around drinking strong spirits (horilka) with his buddies.
It is a stark, somewhat austere drama but one which ultimately possesses a strong humanistic element, grounded in it's cultural setting. A wonderfully lyrical depiction of this local culture and way of life thus frames a tale of psychological turmoil. Turmoil which is connected to the pain of leaving. This is driven home through the beautiful black-and-white cinematography. Of course, religion is another crucial aspect to the film, as it is for these peasant people, and this particularly comes to the fore in the films wonderful finale. A great film.
Beauty and the Beast (1978)
Well this is a bit different from the Disney film...
Much darker and psychologically intense than the children's version of the tale. The basics of the story are of course this same, so it does still play out like a fairytale. However, in this version the beast isn't simply frightening to look at, he must constantly repress his bestial urges to kill the woman he is falling in love with. In this respect the beast was portrayed almost like a schizophrenic, constantly at war with the voice in his head lusting for violence. Interestingly the beast is a bird-like monster, unlike other versions.
Tonally the film is very much grounded in the trappings of gothic horror, including a rather spooky soundtrack. The cinematography and visuals serve to enhance this dark gothic feeling as well. All in all does well to create a very foreboding atmosphere and breathe some new life into a story that is incredibly well known. Really interesting take on the story.
Wonderfully stylish horror from Dario Argento. This one is all about the aesthetic, generally light on real scares (though a few grim practical effects) but just a strange, unsettling tone throughout. Definitely a really interesting film, the brazen artificiality of everything - in terms of the set design and colour palette, even the performances - drew me back to Expressionism as a style of horror.
A Story of the Forest: Mavka (1980)
A beautiful, ethereal adaption of a play written in 1912, itself based on Ukrainian folklore. It's the typical kind of tragedy you would expect from a folk tale or from mythology. The basic plot is that Mavka - a forest nymph who dwells in the woods - falls in love with a simple country boy called Lukash after hearing him playing the pipes. The two are happy for a time. However Lukash's mother forces him to marry Kilin, an older woman, instead of Mavka. The Spirit of the Forest curses Lukash as a consequence of this infidelity, turning him into a wolf...
Stylistically the film is extremely dreamlike, pure poetry. Although a tragedy, it's very beautiful visually, filled with shots of dense forest, colourful flowers and dappled sunlight. It possesses a kind of a restrained intensity throughout. Behind this tragic romance there are several themes and conflicts which are brought out, some which remain relevant today. That of female independence vs repression as represented by the character of Mavka for instance. However, the main thing that came across to me was that of environmentalism and a concern for nature. This certainly is contained with the folkloric origins of the story - that of a world of forest spirits, the supernatural, dwelling just on the edge of human life. These spirits are not inherently evil or malicious, but extremely temperamental and easy to offend if one damages the forest or oversteps their bounds. The forest thus acts as a kind of numinous space, which frames this tragic love story.
In terms of the visual approach, the editing and the narrative flow I immediately was struck by a degree of similarity to Sergei Parajanov's masterpiece, Shadow's of Forgotten Ancestors (1965). I wasn't aware until I looked up this director afterwards, but he was actually the cinematographer on that film! So the similarities are clearly unsurprising. This doesn't reach the levels of Parajanov, though I have since read some of his earlier works might do. It can be a tad vague at points, though I suspect some of that could simply be to do with a lack of immersion in the folklore which it draws from. In any case the film contains it's own potency and is extremely beautiful, though tragic.
To me it almost ends up feeling like a music video to the Goblin soundtrack which was actually composed before the film was shot with Argento heavily involved. It seems much more concerned with building up an unsettling atmosphere than it does individual shocks and as you say playing on tropes in a way that verges on parody.
Has a few particularly ecstatic moments and the ending is quite strong, but I didn't love this as I was hoping I would. The story sets an intriguing premise - in feudal Japan two women, mother and daughter-in-law, survive in a war-torn wilderness by murdering samurai and bartering their possessions for food. They soon learn that their son/husband has been killed in battle. However, the man who delivers this news takes a liking to the younger woman, thus introducing an erotic charge to the relationship between the two which threatens to destroy their partnership. Yet, despite being able to appreciate a lot of the components, I just didn't quite connect with it.
It is a film about the horrors of war, or rather the damaging effects of war. We never see any battles, only the human aftermath. Much is implied rather than shown. Along with the erotic components - which are sweaty, almost violent themselves - it is a film fundamentally about human beings with only the slightest hint of the supernatural towards the end. It is more psychological. Yet overall I felt very disconnected from the film, apart from a few great scenes here and there. It is a very narrow, taut drama but for me almost minimalist to a fault.
I do have to say that visually it is quite spectacular though. This story is framed by the long susuki grass fields where it takes place. The grass is so all-encompassing it almost overpowers everything else, threatening to swallow the characters entirely. There are some outstanding shots of this unique setting. It's a really fascinating aesthetic.
Far from a bad film of course, but perhaps my expectations were too high going in.
Watch the new one too! Its very good, and very different
Have heard some say it's brilliant, my mate told me to watch it too, but others - @europe1 chief among them - say it is complete shite.
Its a polarizing movie for sure.
Schalcken the Painter (1979)
Another high-point of the BBC ghost stories. This one is an adaption of a story written by Sheridan Le Fanu in 1839 (Le Fanu may be familiar to those who have seen the Dreyer classic Vampyr (1932), also based on a story of his). This one weaves Le Fanu's dark gothic tale with elements of docu-drama detailing the work of the real Schalcken, culminating in a chilling conclusion. With it's blurring of documentary and fiction I found that it seemed to follow in the lineage of Peter Watkins (most obvious his Edvard Munch from 1974). Though I understand that the director had produced similar works for other artists dating back to the 60s. The use of natural candlelight also brought Kubrick's Barry Lyndon (1975) to mind.
The story follows a young seventeenth century Flemish painter Godfried Schalcken, who forsakes love for ambition, but discovers that there is still a terrible price to pay for his choice.
It is an intriguing tale which brilliantly brings the sights and sounds of the Dutch Golden Age to life, and which explores the inherent horror of unfettered greed and ambition, particularly when they suppress true love and emotion. This also feeds through into some of the erotic undertones present in the film - brothels and nude models mostly - which might also be read through a feminist lens. All in all it is an interesting film which creates a wonderfully gothic atmosphere with a pervasive sense of dread, transcending it's documentary trappings in the process.
Me avoiding Rimbaud82's trolling attempts like a champ
To prove that I'm superior to Rimbaud82 in every way possible -- I'll now beat him at his own game.
A Man of Integrity is a banned Iranian film that was smuggled out of the country. As you no doubt have noticed, I have already won 50 arthouse points (20 for Iran. 30 for a banned film). The film primarily deals with petty-scale corruption in Persian society, centring on a man who stalwartly cannot allow himself to engage in malversation (see, malversation, that's a pretty complex word. Another reason why you should follow europe1 posts instead of that Wind Shakes the Barely guy. Can you ever remember HIM using a word like malversation? I think it's pretty clear that I am the bigger-brain guy!)
Anyway, it's an interesting movie in that way that it has very pronounced strengths yet also some niggling weakness. In form and picture, the movie is very beautiful, always framed and shoot in pulchritudinous ways. It also accomplishes what a moralistic movie should accomplish, that is to say, raise a moralistic ire, want to make you see the world improved. The acting is also very good. I know so because I have a degree in evaluating acting in Iranian.
Moreover, the main acting-guy has these really bulging eyes that are quite striking. They pop from his nogging almost like a depressurized fish. Funnily enough, his wife possesses the same bug-eyed look. So it's good that they have this super-subtle backstory about them bounding over their bulging eyes in there. Quite romantic.
On the bad side, there are some instances that I would find... melodramatic in there. (That is to say, situations happen to the protagonist instead of being the result of how he interacts with the world.) For example, at times the protagonists and his waifu runs into non-muslim and their woes -- and while there is no doubt that Iran is shitty towards those that don't subscribe to their favourite Middle Eastern deity, these moments also very much feel like podium-preaching from the director's part rather than being integrated with the character study going on.
Also, more pronouncedly, the ending... is strange. Almost like they were missing a reel or something. Suddenly things start coming without explanation. Considering the movie was smuggled out of Shah-town, this may very well be the case. But if it isn't -- then it's another example of a Director really needing to stretch the story-logic so to fit his designated theme into the narrative.
Also, there is a really weird segment about halfway through about some guy babbling about how Suspiria is like one of the best horror movies ever and sheer sensory experiences in film and is somehow even better than Argento's other masterpiece Profondo Rosso but I'm sure that has nothing to do with me authoring this post.
Also... shit what else have I watched.
Sam Fullers Pickup on South Street was really good. One of those stories that focused on more sleazy, low-run, criminal protagonists that maintained their gritty edge but actually managed to make them likeable and seem heroic.
Clint Eastwoods Richard Jewell was another display of Eastwood able to make dramatic, well-acted and moralistic movies about sticking to principles and standards and such. Simple stuff but well-executed.
Cleopatra... easily the worst of the Cecil B Demille epics I've seen. Some semi-snappy dialogue but... the characterizations and storytelling and acting just isn't there. Perhaps the most grievous error is not being able to turn Cleopatra into some snappy comeback-girl with femme fatale streaks despite trying to do so. One of those pictures where Demille's instincts to focus on "love, lust and romantics" as the driving-force for political/historical events really misfired.
1917 really botched a lot of potentials. It focused way to much on making some moments just feel "magical." Like when the protagonists float through a river and then crawls out exhausted only to stumble on his comrades during Holy Mass. It aims for real-life poetics and the transcendental -- yet only manages paper-mache in how transparent and artificial it all seems. There is also the issue of Germans being presented as cartoonishly evil (burning pilot is dragged out of his soon-to-be-exploded vessel and the only thing he can think about is knifing brits to death). Which is really really unfortunate since the scenes that 1917 nails it nails brilliantly (like the dying buddy and it's aftermath.)
Sister of Gion by Kenji Mizoguchi (ie: dude who makes movies about prostitutes) is one of those movies that really stumble in the end. It does achieve some really good dramatics in exploring the lives of exploited women. However... I get the impression that the ending is there to underscore how perilous these women's lives are. That the proverbial rug can just be pulled out from underneath their feet no matter how good or bad they act. However, the actual impact of it all feels more like there is a missing reel somewhere instead of the movie pinpointing how exposed they are.
I wasn't trolling I just remember you berating @chickenluver for reccomending it last year. Honestly your post seems a little mean-spirited for no reason.
The film sounds very interesting. Don't think I have ever seen any Iranian films.
We could balance the thread by discussing the complex metaphysics of Stephan Seagal hitting someone with a snooker ball in a sock.
Will leave that one to @Bullitt68, he probably still hasn't forgiven me for not watching Out For Justice.
I love Pickup on South Street.
I like how it really focuses on the criminals.