Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Helter Skelter (dir. Mika Ninagawa, 2012)

Fashion Frenzy

'Style over substance' is one of those infernally troublesome critical mainstays, and one alas we are forced to address early in any discussion of Helter Skelter. Here we have a film with style to spare - a film set in a world of surface-level beauty that is presented in shades of explosive red. But it's also incredibly tedious - two hours of cloyingly obvious commentary presented through regrettably extended scenes. The maddening thing is that in many ways it achieves exactly what it sets out to do.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Intolerance (D. W. Griffith, 1916)

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 (and links to other completed posts) can be found here. Eight: an epic jaunt through the ages in Intolerance.

D. W. Griffith's reputation precedes him. Few revolutionary individuals in cinema history have received such varying levels of criticism. On one hand, he was perhaps cinema's first auteur, instrumental to its development as an artform. On the other, Birth of the Nation has forever tainted his name, many labeling him as a filthy racist and a bit of an embarrassment. Given the infamy that surrounds him, plus his penchant for deeply indulgent running times, I've always been a little reluctant to approach his work. But this challenge is all about confronting those second-hand prejudices and making up my own mind, so today I sat down to tackle Intolerance.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

John Dies at the End (dir. Don Coscarelli, 2012)

...and you won't care why

It's hard to articulate exactly why I got the unshakeable impression John Dies at the End tries too hard. Indeed, 'trying hard' is such an absolutely admirable trait, so when is the line crossed? Well, somewhere along the line it became clear to me that Don Coscarelli's film was so desperate to please, so self-consciously wacky, so determined to emerge from post-production to instant 'cult approval', that it all got lost in its own smug sense of anything-goes insanity.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Upstream Colour (Shane Carruth, 2013)

Puzzle box

Upstream Colour is an exhilarating puzzle-box of a film, presenting a dreamy, affecting experience entirely through the language of cinema. When you watch it first time, some details will almost without doubt remain tantalising elusive and vague. But that initial mysteriousness also effectively supplements the film's generous thematic and emotional core. When you sit down to tease out the lingering questions & ambiguities, rather than fall apart you suddenly realise just how deep the film's reservoirs of intrigue, intelligence and formal inventiveness actually are.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick, 1975)

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 (and links to other completed posts) can be found here. Seven: Kubrick's historical opus Barry Lyndon.

Have you ever had an overwhelming reaction to a 'great' film? One where you get completely caught up in the narrative and emotions of the work in question? Where you are drawn into an almost trance like state, and find it a tad difficult to shake off even when the lights have gone up? A film so absolutely immersive you are left in no doubt of its powerful impact on you? I have no doubt Barry Lyndon is a 'great' film, but unusually I didn't have the above reaction to it.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Evangelion 3.33 - You Can (Not) Redo (Hideaki Anno, 2012)

Third (Impact) Lucky?

If there's one word to surmise the exceedingly strange third entry in the Rebuild of Evangelion series it's 'melancholy'. For a franchise that often counteracted its dark, apocalyptic tidings (both personal & literal) with bursts of lighthearted humour and fan service, You Can (Not) Redo massively shifts the tone established in its two predecessors, bringing things much more in line with the divisive final chapters of the original TV series and films. This is Shinji Ikari's film, who awakens almost a decade and a half after 'melding' with an Evangelion unit during the last film's beautifully grand conclusion. Hideaki Anno (here supported by three other co-directors) has always found inspiration for the series through his own battles with depression, and here Shinji experiences the new world in a state of constant confusion, alienation and - yes - crippling melancholy.

Friday, May 3, 2013

Playtime (dir. Jacques Tati, 1967)

The fruits of labour

Jacques Tati, the legendary French comedian and filmmaker, belongs in an elite group only really occupied by a handful of personalities from cinema's vast, diverse history. He is a definitively cinematic comedian, much like Charlie Chaplin or, to use the most appropriate comparison, Buster Keaton. Tati is not only a brilliant slapstick funnyman - even the basic mannerisms of his most famous creation Moinseur Hulot are inspired - he is a brilliant filmmaker. His sense of mise-en-scene, his ability to perfectly soundtrack a scene, his (extremely costly) eye for insanely elaborate sets and choreography - put simply, no other medium other than film could possibly have granted Tati the ability to realise his triumphant vision. He dabbled in circus and other outlets, but cinema was his home.