Wednesday, January 30, 2013

La Règle du jeu (The Rules of the Game)

This article is part of a year-long feature - watching and blogging about twenty acclaimed, cult, challenging and rare films over the course of 2013. The full list of films can be found here. Number two: Jean Renoir's belatedly beloved pre-war satire La Règle du jeu.

Perhaps we take it for granted, but we're living in such a wonderful time to be a film fan. Sure, there are countless lost films from great masters, and we probably won't ever get to see the full version of von Stroheim's Greed (another film on my list for 2013 - fingers crossed the full version shows up in an asylum closet before December ends). But we also have such easy access to so many of the best films ever made, as well as the gift of all those wondrous contemporary films still showing up in theatres on a near weekly basis.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Zero Dark Thirty

Nothing Else Matters

(Although everyone knows the ending to this particular tale, this post is spoiler heavy)

Within reason - reason being a month or two - I'm pretty forgiving of delayed international release dates given the practical and commercial complications of theatrical film distribution. But it's been a long month since the discourse concerning Zero Dark Thirty kicked off in earnest following its limited Stateside release. Kathryn Bieglow's feature length retelling of the hunt of Osama Bin Laden was immediately greeted by rapturous critical praise, but it wasn't long before the film started being accused of questionable ethics and a pro-torture viewpoint. This very vocal discourse has seen passionate arguments from both sides, and many cinematic conspiracy theorists went so far as to suggest the film's controversial reception ultimately denied Bieglow a 'best director' Oscar nomination (not that the Academy Awards mean anything anymore, but still). It was fascinating to see a mainstream film receive such a divisive reception, but of course it all couldn't really resonate in any meaningful way until I got the opportunity to see the damn film for myself. Cursed staggered releases!

Friday, January 25, 2013

The Sessions

Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex

Films that tackle sexual matters in a frank yet appropriate manner are thin on the ground, but even thinner on the ground in ol' conservative Hollywood. While films containing scenes of extreme violence are given the thumbs up, the MPAA and such organisations ensure films that tackle a morally repugnant topic such as sex are consistently marginalised. It's a relief, then, to see a highish-profile production such as The Sessions approach the subject with genuine maturity and grace.

Friday, January 18, 2013

The Foreign Duck, The Native Duck and God in a Coin Locker

Gaijin Mystery

Rashomon's spirit of structural playfulness is alive and well in director Yoshihiro Nakamura's (known for his quirky musical apocalypse comedy Fish Story) eccentric genre-buster The Foreign Duck, The Native Duck and God in a Coin Locker. The enigmatic title doesn't exactly roll off the tongue, but is actually quite an apt one for a film that takes its time revealing the true meaning of initially oblique phrases, incidences and even characters.

Sunday, January 13, 2013


The Pursuit of Justice

Is it possible that a film's reception is more fascinating than the film itself? Dredd makes a compelling argument for that. Having missed it in the cinema - because fuck 3D - I've witnessed several months of curious reactions to this second attempt at a cinematic adaptation of the beloved comic book hero Judge Dredd. Critics were divided - some received it enthusiastically, others with vitriol, and many somewhere in the middle. But on forums and blogs it was received with almost universal glee - pleasing fans of both action cinema and 2000AD. There even appears to be a casual but passionate grassroots campaign to bulk buy the home releases to try and prompt a sequel following the moderately-budgeted film's box-office failure. The film had attracted a minor cult before it even left theatres. Whatever I think about the film, the commitment of its fanbase is to be admired.

Thursday, January 10, 2013


This article is part of a year-long feature - watching and blogging about twenty acclaimed, cult, challenging and rare films over the course of 2013. The full list of films can be found here. First up: diving straight into the deep end Béla Tarr's seven-hour opus Sátántangó.

No benefit beating around the bush - Sátántangó's most immediately noteworthy trait is its sheer length. Along with Shoah (also on my 2013 list), it is undoubtedly amongst the most acclaimed of all the 'long films'. Where many of the particularly lengthy features in existence are experimental, novelty or indeed 'made originally for television' titles, Sátántangó is a fully-formed, functional feature that just happens to be 419 minutes long (allowing for PAL DVD speed-up - international viewers have another half hour to contend with). It's also recommended to be tackled in one viewing, albeit with Tarr (apparently reluctantly) making the bladder-friendly concession of two intervals. The mere act of sitting down to watch Sátántangó requires considerable forward planning - the best part of a waking day needs to be cleared, preferably ensuring a bare minimum of distractions during that time so you can embrace its oppressive, unique atmosphere to its fullest. No doubt a cinema viewing would be the ideal way to experience it (especially since the Artificial Eye DVD anyway is showing its age through non-anamorphic widescreen).

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

Life of Pi

Lost at Sea

"I'll tell you a story that will make you believe in God" boldly claims the protagonist of Life of Pi early on. Well, Ang Lee's adaptation of Yann Martel's novel doesn't fulfill that promise of revelation, not by a long shot. I entered a cynical atheist, I emerged a cynical atheist. Still, there were some pretty images between the aforementioned entrance and exit, and some neat stuff with a tiger in a lifeboat.