Recently Watched Films 2015

Not the stuff on your shower tiles.

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Dan Warburton
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

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Cathérine Breillat, A ma soeur!, 2000

Plenty of polemic on this one, and, for once, the IMDb Readers' Comments column makes for an interesting read. Without doubt the worst thing about this film is is English title – “Fat Girl” – and the idiot who came up with that (what the fuck was wrong with “For My Sister!”?) deserves to meet the same end as.. ooops, haha, can't talk about that. But that's just about all that's worth talking about, so, spoilers ahoy. The sudden eruption of brutality in the final ten minutes of the movie reminded me of that in Dumont's Twentynine Palms (I doubt he was influenced by Breillat, but who knows) – it comes as a surprise but it's not altogether unprepared, here by the nail-biting motorway drive before the family meets its sticky end in a motorway lay-by. But if the only purpose of the affair was for Anaïs to lose her virginity, she could just as well have been jumped by some perv in the service station toilets – do we really need to see her sister smashed in the head with a tire iron and her mum strangled? More worthy of discussion, perhaps, is the earlier extended scene when the older (and slimmer) sister gets smoothtalked (by an Italian, haha) into having her own cherry popped. Fernando's glib platitudes are all the more disturbing thanks to the bald and unforgiving cinematography – Breillat obviously picked up some tips when she served time served with Pialat on Police. Even so, all things considered, rather underwhelmed.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

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"The original title of my film was always Fat Girl, but since I am French and not at all bilingual, it was for reasons more mysterious than an anglicism. Of course, the little girl was fat, but the title also expressed an autism, a wall between her and the world that the foreign language reinforced. And she was not designated by her name but by her representation, “fat” and “girl.” It was something completely different from the French of “grosse fille”; it was musical sounding, like a jazz tune.

Of course, it is easy to name someone imaginary in this way, but as for the little girl who was going to play the role, Anaïs Reboux, it was hard to tell her that, according to the title itself, she had to be fat and that that was part of the reason she had been cast. So I shot the film under two working titles, Two Girls and Two Sisters, because the other sister, Roxane Mesquida, whose character I was not fond of while working on the screenplay, was gaining in importance. Clearly, it was also a story about sisters, a story about “a soul with two bodies.” But I always wanted to come back to the first title. In my head, it had never changed.

However, one probably knows one’s film only once it is shown to an audience. We did a preview screening with a survey. The French public was very opposed to a titre anglais, curiously suggesting The Sisters without knowing it was like one of the working titles. Influenced by that, I chose À ma soeur! (To My Sister!), with an exclamation point, which makes it a bit of a toast/battle cry to the virginity of each girl (or rather to the loss thereof).

I liked this title too. But the exclamation point is often left out, and it’s a very French title, one that is completely untranslatable. Now I think that the first title was simpler, more basic, more real. I regret having changed it. But then, since the film was prebought under the title Fat Girl, this became the title in foreign release. I am pleased about that. In the end, I think I prefer it. In any case, it is the original title."
-Catherine Breillat
"to be precise in any art is to limit its possibilities." - Josef von Sternberg

Dan Warburton
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

Post by Dan Warburton »

Well, there you go. It's nice to know I can still make a bloody fool of myself. Used to do it in pubs, now I do it online :) I still think it sucks, though bludgeoning Ms Breillat with a tire iron might be a little extreme.
Last edited by Dan Warburton on Wed Apr 15, 2015 5:12 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

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Jean-Claude Brisseau, La vie comme ça, 1978

I'll have to check, but I think the high rise project in Bagnolet where Brisseau shot this, his debut feature, is the same one where Bruno Dumont filmed Hajewijch. It hasn't changed much, but I wonder if as many folks jump to their deaths there as they did back in 1978. Behind the savage black humour, which in its absurdity owes as much to films like Faraldo's Themroc as it does to the satirical sting of Godard, there's some serious social commentary here, with great performances from a cast including several Rohmer regulars. Shot in grainy 16mm, and, as the director says, it wouldn't be anywhere near as good in HD.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

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Bernardo Bertolucci, 1900, 1976

As famous fuckups go, I'd say this one is even more spectacular than Heaven's Gate, not because it went out of control and cost a fortune and failed to recover its investment at the box office (in fact it grossed £18m), but because it manages to combine a spectacular all-star cast – in addition to De Niro and Depardieu, there's Burt Lancaster, Sterling Hayden, Alida Valli, Donald Sutherland, Laura Betti, Dominique Sanda, Stefania Sandrelli – with terrific photography and end up with almost nothing worth keeping at all. The Bertoluccis take most of the blame for producing an appalling screenplay (which, ironically, the actors deliver superbly well), and Bernardo in particular for some of the most bizarre and flabby editing I've ever seen. What should be a dramatic set-piece like Sutherland's false accusation of Depardieu as the murderer of the little boy totally falls apart, as Gérard (presumably as instructed to do so by the director) says nothing at all and the camera pans wanly off to the middle distance where De Niro's doing the same. Nothing. Numerous totally incoherent plot points abound, and derail what little rhythm there is to start with – Christ, couldn't somebody have tied BB down like Alex in Clockwork Orange and force him to watch Godfathers 1 & 2, Senso, Rocco and all the other Italian epics he's trying in vain to emulate? It's utterly embarrassing, and it took an act of supreme courage on our part (not to mention excessive caffeine stimulation) to struggle through to the end.
edit: had to change the image so i don't get fired reading IHM at work - m
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De Niro: Just as well Mark removed that shot.. I wasn't all that happy about showing my willy anyway
Depardieu: I've been waving my willy around in movies for years, and look what it did to me
De Niro: Exactly.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

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François Truffaut, L'argent de poche, 1976

A real delight – but let's say you'd better like kids, or you won't enjoy it much. Except maybe the bit where one of them falls out of an upper storey window :lol:
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

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Marco Ferreri, Diario di un vizio (“Diary of a Maniac”), 1993

Being Ferreri, you can bet your grande bouffe that we're talking about a sex maniac. The one user review at IMDb isn't all that enthusiastic, but I enjoyed Jerry Calà's performance very much, hawking his cheap watered-down detergent around Rome in large shopping bags and flogging his hooker-with-heart-of-gold girlfriend's necklace to make ends meet, while meticulously documenting his sex life and his health problems (from indigestion to penis size) in the abovementioned diary. Not as vicious as earlier Ferreris, but a lot of fun.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

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Philippe Grandrieux, La vie nouvelle, 2002

Awesome – don't worry too much about plot (though the basic story line is of two guys in an unnamed Eastern European country complete with awful high rise projects, skinheads and vicious dogs who want to buy women.. for once all the filmcrit stuff you read about commodification and bodies as raw merchandise makes sense): you didn't let it worry you with Inland Empire or Zerkalo, so don't let it worry you here. But it is a worrying film, with Grandrieux's magnificent, murky, fuzzy images, accompanied by chilling Industrial music courtesy of Grenoble's Etant Donnés, kicking hard. I look forward to the day I can see this on a big screen witha decent sound system. Great stuff.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

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John Sayles, City of Hope, 1991

A very fine piece of work, surprised it isn't better known. Like Charles Burnett's The Glass Shield. Sayles, who plays mean mechanic Carl in the movie, has often had to write screenplays for others to make ends meet, so he knows just how to weave several complex storylines together and bring them all to a convincing conclusion - the only comparable achievement I can think of is Short Cuts. No frills cinema, no big names (though I've long been a fan of Tony “Honeymoon Killers” Lo Bianco) – imagine how it might have gone awry if Pacino had played Nick, for example – no flashy Goodfellas-like camera moves, but the shots are beautifully conceived and the editing expertly paced.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

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Viðar Vikingsson, Tilbury, 1987

Nothing to do with our beloved pianist, alas, but a scary tale about an evil little dwarf in Icelandic folklore who steals milk and vomits it into butter (I'm not making this up). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tilberi Set in 1940 when the Brits were stationed in Iceland (shame he had to resort to clichés like a lorryload of swaddies whistling "It's a Long Way to Tipperary", but never mind), it's a weird but effective little horror movie. No roasted sheep heads, but plenty of chocolate – and woe betide you if you eat any :twisted:
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

Post by Lao Tsu Ben »

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Il Giovedi, Dino Risi, 1963

How is it that this film has been so forgotten? It belongs up there with any minor, unassuming masterpieces you can think of. A father reunites for a day with his 8-year-old son whom he hasn't seen for five years. So the story is pretty simple and not precisely surprising but there's such an amount of tact in the direction, as the many and elusive subjective shots (whether they concern the father or the child) throughout the film are proof of, that you can't fault the film for that. Tremendous performance by Walter Chiari, whose character is not spared by the ruthless cruelty so typical of italian comedy but who is offered, among other things, a memorable last shot.

Dan Warburton
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

Post by Dan Warburton »

Lao Tsu Ben wrote:How is it that this film has been so forgotten? It belongs up there with any minor, unassuming masterpieces you can think of.
That's good enough for me - it's on its way as I speak. Thanks Ben for the heads up. Meanwhile -

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Ulrich Seidl, Hundstage (“Dog Days”), 2001

The review in Slant where I swiped the above screenshot is unremittingly damning, recommending Fassbinder, Herzog and Korine instead - though urging folks to watch Ali Fear Eats The Soul instead of Dog Days is rather like telling someone to read The Sound and the Fury instead of American Psycho. On a Richter scale of “disturbing” I'd place julien donkey boy and Trash Humpers at the same high level as two Seidl films I've seen so far, but whatever. Yes, Dog Days is bleak indeed, and its depiction of cruelty, particularly to women, is certainly unpleasant – but there's a vein of black humour (I mean jet black) that makes Seidl morbidly fascinating. I won't lie and say I didn't enjoy the experience – which is not often the case with Seidl's fellow countryman Mr Haneke, who, not content with showing you shit likes to rub your bloody nose in it. Whatever you make of it, I think it's fair to say that suburban Lower Austria is a world to avoid at all costs :o
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

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Roy Andersson, Du levande (“You The Living”), 2007

Couldn't resist a return visit – the scene where the house starts moving and becomes a train is pure magic. So many fabulous little touches, and so beautifully shot. Delight.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

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Fred Kelemen, Krisana ("Fallen"), 2005

Kelemen's something of a cause célèbre it seems for his reluctance to release his films on DVD (maybe that's changed since last time I looked though) – and for being Bela Tarr's DP on his last two films. Susan Sontag also raved about his work, which probably helps. I've only seen this one so far – it's still a Featured Torrent at KG so anyone can grab it – so probably not in a position to judge. Behind the Tarry exterior – long takes, plenty of black, minimal dialogue – it's a rather conventional tale of the innocent bystander who ends up playing detective and makes things worse for all concerned. What I liked most in fact was the sound design – the omnipresent frogs and crickets by the river bank, the neighbour practising his scales and arpeggios, and numerous snatches of songs overheard in the dreary bars and offices (it was filmed in Latvian capital Riga, btw). Well made, and enjoyable – insofar as films like this are things to enjoy – but it didn't blow me away as much as I expected
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

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Alain Cavalier, La chamade, 1968

Ah, Belle de Jour, I can hear you say. Well, not far off – but I wonder if Catherine Deneuve isn't actually more impressive in this little tale (written by Francoise Sagan, so it's dated a bit, as you can imagine) than she was in the Bunuel. I certainly can't think of any other French actress who could have brought it off as well, with the possible exception of her sister.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

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Anthony Asquith, Underground, 1928

Cracking footage shot in the London Underground, not to mention on the top of double decker buses and a great showdown on the roof of a power station. And certainly worth the price of admission for the drop-dead gorgeous Elissa Landi as Nell.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

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Wag the Dog (Levinson, 1997). Of course it was precient--coming just six months before the Lewinsky/"is" biz, but it also has what I think is Woody Harrelson's best performance. Completely insane. Hoffman is good, though he's doing an over-the-top stereotype ("You're worried about THIS? This is NOTHING!") and DeNiro and Heche are both terrible, but the slam on the U.S. version of "democracy" is spot on--as it is in "Veep."
"Freedom of thought and speech without available means of gaining information and methods of sound analysis, are empty. Protection and security are meaningless until there is something positive worth protecting." E.W. Hall

Dan Warburton
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

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François Ozon, 8 femmes, 2002

The opening shot with its dangling jewels followed by the young deer outside the window are both clear nods to Sirk, but there are as many references to French classics too, including Jacques Demy (the eight set-piece songs, one for each of the women), Alain Resnais (the hyper-stylized theatricality of it all) and also Julien Duvivier's huis clos Marie Octobre, which also starred Danielle Darrieux. If you like French actresses and silly whodunnits, you'll have a ball.
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

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Yann Demange, '71, 2013

The original dreadful Divis Flats in Belfast are now, thankfully, long gone, so London-based French director Demange had to shoot most of this nailbiting thriller in Blackburn, from the looks of it. It's the same story as Carol Reed's excellent Odd Man Out, except this time it's a British soldier who's been split off from his unit and ends up being hunted not only by the IRA but also the army counterterrorist units who suspect he's seen too much in the back rooms of the Shankill Road pub. It might help to have some prior knowledge of The Troubles – if you can't remember the difference between the Official and the Provisional IRA you should probably do a bit of background reading, and remember, as I once saw written in the Cambridge University student pub guide warning people to watch they say over Guinness in the Cow and Calf, “Fenians are not people who live near Ely” :D
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Hayao Yamaneko
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Re: Recently Watched Films 2015

Post by Hayao Yamaneko »

Dan Warburton wrote:Image

Fred Kelemen, Krisana ("Fallen"), 2005

Kelemen's something of a cause célèbre it seems for his reluctance to release his films on DVD (maybe that's changed since last time I looked though) – and for being Bela Tarr's DP on his last two films. Susan Sontag also raved about his work, which probably helps. I've only seen this one so far – it's still a Featured Torrent at KG so anyone can grab it – so probably not in a position to judge. Behind the Tarry exterior – long takes, plenty of black, minimal dialogue – it's a rather conventional tale of the innocent bystander who ends up playing detective and makes things worse for all concerned. What I liked most in fact was the sound design – the omnipresent frogs and crickets by the river bank, the neighbour practising his scales and arpeggios, and numerous snatches of songs overheard in the dreary bars and offices (it was filmed in Latvian capital Riga, btw). Well made, and enjoyable – insofar as films like this are things to enjoy – but it didn't blow me away as much as I expected
I'm a sucker for slow moving misery in any form so I grabbed this and watched last night.
Very mixed reviews on this and I find things to agree with on both sides, though ultimately I did actually enjoy it (I think you are supposed to).

Let's get the worst out of the way up front. There's no getting away from the fact that chunks of this feel like nothing more than student Tarr pastiche. The scenery is straight out of Damnation, the camera moves ape Werkmeister, but it's very clear that Kelemen doesn't have Kraznahorkai writing his scripts.
The pivotal opening scene, on the bridge, is handled with textbook Tarrian significant blankness but lacking Tarr's materialism and objectivism can't resist playing its narrative hand too strongly. Maybe the scene just comes too soon, but sitting where it does it feels unearned and badly integrated so that questions of plausibility creep into consciousness displacing the potential uncanniness of the event (however implausible a moment in Tarr, that plausibility never seems an issue for me - it never raises itself as a question).

All of the film's failures are of this kind - coming where Kelemen lacks Tarr's nerve (and trust in his audience), where he doesn't allow the film to be carried by the objects in frame, and instead forces the plot along with exposition. So, later there's something that feels like an unintentional parody of Hollywoodian narrative economy with the lead flicking through a remarkably pared down and too-perfectly expository sequence of found photos that conveniently establish a backstory without requiring any inference from the audience whatsoever. Worse, before that there's a truly awful scene in the back of a police car, badly written and with appalling mugging from the detective. When that character turns narrator/sage and begins offering exactly the kind of half baked existential musings you expect when someone says "austere Latvian meditation on suicide", it threatens to destroy the film completely. It's not quite an eastern european, arthouse remake of The Room, but for 2 or 3 minutes it takes a big enthusiastic lunge in that direction.

Luckily what's good here is fairly remarkable. All of the above is in the first third, and once the film finds its feet things quickly begins to cohere. There's no doubt that it's slight and conventional in its narrative - this is (again as with Tarr) a simple narrative short which has allowed itself to stretch out. But it soon becomes a slight, but solid Simenon-like study; cruel, driven and surprising. In particular there's one excruciating scene in a bar that I think will resonate for anyone (ie. all of us who drink) who has ever let drink lead them into an under-inhibited, cruel and dishonest personal dissection.

And Dan mentioned the sound design, which is utterly fantastic and unlike anything else I've heard on film. The blank, slow-moving scenes are counterpointed by a dense, over-amped and ever-present collage of location recording, low-level machine noise, and very occasionally a gently swelling distorted tone or two. A touchpoint might be early Lynch, but here the soundscape is poised such that it's hard to know what's coming from the mics on location and what's been added/manipulated. Combined with the disconnect from the action it gives events a fantastic sense of simultaneously numbed and over-sensitised, autistic claustrophobia. I want to go on about specific scenes, but I think better to let people be surprised by them.

Don't let the undeniably bad bits put you off.
Last edited by Hayao Yamaneko on Wed Apr 22, 2015 1:08 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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