Saturday, August 15, 2009


A bumper collection to negotiate this time around.

Orphan (*****)
super high quality popcorn horror that's polarised the critics right down the middle - there's the odd cheeseball moment here and there, and I suspect the producers made a couple of minor interventions, but it'd be churlish to give this anything less than 5 stars for so much it does with such wickedly brilliant glee: in particular, its extremely subversive perspective of children and their relationships with adults; Isabelle Fuhrman is incredible as Esther, so badass a character that you find yourself shamelessly rooting for her from the moment she arrives on the screen right to the very end

Antichrist (**)
Lars Von Trier's homage to Tarkovsky, disappointingly, is a failure; Gainsbourg is hopelessly out of her depth as an actress, where even LVT is incapable of provoking her into anything more than to some amateurishly mechanical histrionics, meanwhile Defoe desperately vogues at the directors in the audience to once again take his arthouse credentials seriously; the film's Stalker/Mirror flourishes come across as third-rate David Lynch, and the arty sound design and fancy visual filters seem forced, thus incongruent; and don't get me started on the cheeseball religious symbology and references in the dialogues; this is the first film in Von Trier's illustrious career that I've reacted disfavourably towards, and I can only think that his otherwise likeable arrogance got the better of him in the belief that he could operate outside his usual domain of cinematic expertise and excellence

Général Idi Amin Dada: Autoportrait (****)
amazing close portrait of Idi Amin, never anything but compellingly alpha (as well as bonkers), he remains the antithesis of the stereotypically stunted dwarven chip-on-the-shoulder tyrant

En Passion (*****)
a classic masterpiece by the genius that is Bergman

From The Life Of The Marionettes (*****)
Bergman mindfucks you again, and you keep coming back for more - some of the dialogues in Marionettes are memorably, and deliciously, depressing

A Bittersweet Life (**)
what starts out full of depth, a superb cast, visual style, and the promise of transcending the staid genre of stupidass gangster movies, ultimately descends into a vacuous farce in the final act, precisely what you hoped it wouldn't be

Tempo Di Viaggio (****)
as a documentary, as enigmatic as Nostalghia itself

Last House On Dead End Street (*****)
a masterpiece of the genre, and one of remarkable originality and artistic expression; it'd be more useful to compare this with Buñuel or Godard than any Wes Craven trash; we can only dream that the original 3 hour Cuckoo Clocks Of Hell (much better title anyway) might one day resurface

Tokyo Sonata (**)
non-Japanese critics are falling over themselves to present this as a poignant drama study into contemporary social alienation in Japan, a country ever exotic in their eyes - in my own opinion, it's a slow plodding heavy-handed soap opera of very little real substance and an extraordinarily contrived third act

Possession (1981) (*)
I really don't understand some of the eulogies bandied about for a feature-length film that plays like an interminable short - Adjani is little better but Sam Neill's relentlessly ham performance, albeit with a crass dialogue, is truly embarrassing in what is a hokey lo-budget horror; I'll stick to Bergman for tortured relationship dramas, thank you very much - the best thing you can say is that Heinrich has great taste in art

The Human Contract (**)
an erotic drama with good intentions, one loosely based on the moral of the Frankenstein tale; sadly, director Pinkett Smith has the real emotional drama and pathos arrive way too late in the proceedings and thus the film fails to make the meaningful impact it could have

The Cranes Are Flying (*****)
simple tale told devastatingly effectively - the cinematography is way ahead of its time (1957), the movie is filled with incredibly memorable and meaningful moments, and there isn't a single character that you don't care about in one way or another; the gorgeous Tatyana Samojlova would have made her great-uncle Stanislavski proud with her deeply affectional performance (should also be said that the Criterion print is, as we'd expect, outstanding)


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