Monday, 11 June 2012

Oslo, August 31st - Woody Allen on speed

Joachim Trier's Oslo, August 31st is like a Woody Allen film on speed. 

Trier presents a sentimental portrait of Oslo and at the same time he builds an emotional story-line about a man who travels back to that city to confront his past. The story of Oslo... in a way resembles Allen's Manhattan, as the city of Oslo becomes a character of its own in Trier's film, just like the island of Manhattan did in Woody Allen's picture. But there is more to it. The city itself would not mean much without Trier's on-screen ego - Anders, who carries an enormous baggage of moral anxieties connected to the city and the people who live in it.

The opening sequence where Anders is trying to commit suicide in the lake sets the tone for the entire film. Every step of his journey to reconnect with his past will bring him down more and more to the bottom, just like the stones he puts into his pockets when entering the lake try to pull him under. Anders is a recovering drug addict whose rehab facility allowed him to travel to the city for the first time in months in order to undergo a job interview which might help him turn his life around. He stops by his friends' house and talks about the past and presence, and the things that may still come. Later that day he walks around the city, observes the people passing by, thinking about their lives and their disappointments. He confronts old habits and relationships past, but by doing so he exposes himself to unwanted vulnerabilities that once pushed him onto a path of lies and deception. 

The film is perfectly paced and done with such emotional maturity that Anders' journey inwards becomes our own self-examination. The director masterfully transforms his main character from a helpless being, to a thoughtful intellectual who then ends as a thief and a junkie. The mood changes as morning turns into afternoon; people start rushing home as Anders wanders around the city of Oslo and thinks about what brought him to the state he is in on that late summer day of August 30th. 

The word "poetic" wouldn't give this film justice. Oslo, August 31st is so much more than the beautiful lyricism of image combined with a captivating story. Like Woody Allen's Manhattan, this film captures the time it was made in and turns the voice of our generation into something timeless.

Oslo, August 31st will be released on DVD on June 13th. 

Saturday, 9 June 2012

The Queen of Versailles - trailer available!

Although the UK release date is yet to be named, Magnolia Pictures has just released the first trailer for this award winning documentary The Queen of Versailles.

The Queen of Versailles follows a story of the Siegels - one of the richest families in America whose social status is just about to be boosted by building the biggest single-family house in modern history. Their financial success however gets disrupted during the 2008 economic crisis and we see David Siegel and his wife Jackie having to cut back on their portion of the American dream and redefine what it means to live within your means.

Even though the first impulse tells us to despise the Siegels for the billions they own, their influence in politics, and their detachment from reality that exists outside of their mansion's walls, the story is told with heart and feeling; one can't help but sympathise with these individuals who struggle through their lives, trying to pursue happiness like everyone else.

Thursday, 7 June 2012

Prometheus or how Damon Lindelof should be banned from fu****g with sci-fi classics

- It lasts less than two hours
- The special effects are pretty neat, especially the sequence in which the alien spaceship falls from the sky
- Michael Fassbender makes for an awesome droid. His motives aren't always clear (whose side was he really on? Weyland's? The Space Jockeys'? His own?), but that just makes him more unpredictable and intetesting
- Charlize Theron as the mission's commander delivers similarly to Fassbender; if it only wasn't for her lame death... Why run along the trajectory of a giant wheel-like space ship that is coming right at you? Why not just run to the side?
- And last but no least, it has some ummm... nicely spaced credits at the end?

- It got made
- Lindelof was allowed to write the script and ruin the franchise the same way he ruined Lost; starts off as in interesting concept, the film asks some very daunting questions about human existence and the origins of life. But the moment Lindelof starts cutting cornes the whole thing falls apart and it becomes a pro-Christian ideological black hole that sucks the intelligence out of its audience
- Elizabeth Shaw's actions are never motivated by reason, but by blind faith. She states very clearly in the beginning that the mission she initiated should become a success because "she believes so." Her faith is mocked by several characters, expecially by David, who represets the scientific thought and genius, but "lacks the soul." and it is Elizabeth's possesion of soul that saves her in the end. Her devotion to her belief as represented by her attachment to a crucifix she carries on her neck is a virtue which cannot be defeated by the fallibility of scientific endeavours.
- No continuity between Prometheus and Alien. Not only the alien creatures look different than in the original film, the Space Jockey whom we see in Alien, was supposed to have died inside his spaceship, and not inside Prometheus. I know, probably a small detail, but part of the enjoyment I hoped to get out of this film was finding out how Scott was going to piece it all together. Epic fail.
- The dialogue is unnatural, often feels forced and/ or unnecessary; there is almost no character development, especially with the minor characters. Why do we care to see Weyland alive? Why is it important that he is Meredith's father? How come the captain of the ship agreed almost without any hesitation to embark on a suicide mission? Why did the head of the Space Jockey fall off? How did it come back to life? Why did they open the hatch without investigating what might be waiting outside? Why did that dead scientist guy turn into a zombie? Look, I get Scott is hoping to make a sequel, but this film must contain enough information to make it worthwile as a stand alone piece. Again, who allowed Lindelof write this stuff? Did anybody read this thing before it went into production?

Overall I give this film 2 out of 5. I will avoid it's planned sequel if it ever gets made.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Cannes wrap-up

It looks like I have still lots to learn about the whole blogging thing. I need to be way more disciplined about posting about every single film I watch, all up to date, updated right after watching. For now I am on a lookout for a proper blogging app for android - the one I used in Cannes did not upload the pictures properly, which was a shame. 

But that is not what this post is supposed to be about. I just wanted to list the titles of films that I watched in Cannes. And here it is. To rate each one of them I used a scale from 1 to 5, 1 being an absolute piece of shit, 5 being a masterpiece.

Beasts of the Southern Wild dir. Benh Zeitlin  2
Laurence Anyways dir. Xavier Dolan  3
Lawless dir. John Hillcoat  4
God's Horses dir. Nabil Ayouch  4
Love dir. Michael Haneke  5
Children of Sarajevo dir. Aida Begic  4
Like Someone In Love dir. Abbas Kiarostami  5
Killing Them Softly dir. Andrew Dominik  4
In Another Country dir. Hong Sangsoo  2
Le Grand Soir dir. Benoit Delepine, Gustave Kervern  2
La Playa DC dir. Juan Andres Arango  3
For Love's Sake dir. Takeshi Miike  3
Aqui y Alla dir. Antonio Mendez Esparza  3