Wednesday, July 24, 2013

King of the Travellers (Mark O'Connor, 2013)

Shit. Just shit. 

King of the Travellers is cinematic excrement – it’s best we get that statement out there right off the bat lest there be any confusion. This is not entirely surprising, given director Mark O’Connor’s previous film Between the Canals was every bit as objectionable. We should, within reason, never write off a director based on their first feature – we’d have missed many great masters if we did. Canals could well have been an aberration: its narrative clumsiness and directorial deficiencies at least partially attributable to major financial limitations and simple inexperience. King of the Travellers, being a sophomoric effort with altogether better resources, does not deserve such kind excuses, and merrily proves Canals inadequacy.

Monday, July 22, 2013

The Garden of Words (Makoto Shinkai, 2013)

In the garden of Eden, baby

Say what you will about Makoto Shinkai, but the man is efficient. It doesn't seem too long ago at all that I was sitting here pondering the wunderkind's Ghibli cover-version Children Who Chase Voices from Deep Below. Given the intensive labour involved in a lavish and predominantly hand-drawn anime production, one would expect a slightly slower turnaround - especially from a director who does a lion's share of the work himself (although his production team has modestly expanded since his early solo productions). That said, with a running time of only forty-five minutes, that's effectively the work cut in half, so it's no surprise we didn't have too wait too long for Shinkai's latest (he even stuffed a short film in between the two as well).

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Pacific Rim (Guillermo del Toro, 2013)

Neon Genesis Godzilla Independence Day

There's a moment as Pacific Rim enters its third act where Commander Stacker Pentecost (Idris Elba) confesses the secret hinted at throughout the film. As a result of his piloting of nuclear-powered Jaeger (aka giant robot), he has suffered radiation poisoning that is slowly eating away at him. Basically, he's close to death, although a couple of nosebleeds are the only indication of this. To save mankind (specifically Tokyo) he had to sacrifice himself. It marks the only moment of Pacific Rim where it takes on any degree of contemporary relevance - some hints of allegorical depth as it teases delivering a world inspired by the 2011 Japanese tsunami and subsequent (and ongoing) battle by brave workers to control the damaged Fukushima nuclear plant. If the original Godzilla (1954) was a post-Hiroshima/Nagasaki monster movie, is Pacific Rim the post-Fukushima one? The genre attempt at Land of Hope?

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Tabu: A Tale of the South Seas (F.W. Murnau, 1931)

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. Chapter eleven: traveling to Bora Bora and confronting a Tabu.

F.W. Murnau is perhaps the director responsible for making me take silent cinema seriously. I had seen a handful of 'classics' prior to sitting down and watching Sunrise: A Tale of Two Humans on a whim, but that was the film that truly illuminated the intoxicating depths to be found in early cinema. Far from being a chore or relics to be watched because we're supposed to, Sunrise proved to me how they can be giddily entertaining, ambitious, grand and offer completely unique aesthetic identities. The silent masters were perhaps more capable visual storytellers than 99% of living filmmakers, and time has diminished none of their achievements - in fact, the subsequent almost-century have only affirmed their successes with comparatively 'limited' technology. And F.W. Murnau - along with your Eisensteins, Langs, Dreyers - was one of the true pioneers.