Archive for the Film Category

Inside Job

Posted in Film on 15/07/2010 by ThreeDice

Narrated by Matt Damon, and Directed by Charles Ferguson Inside Job intelligently assesses the causes of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. There are some big names interviewed, and some surprisingly frank and revealing answers.

Insequential’s done a great job on reviewing this one. Agree with the sentiment entirely.

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Teenage Paparazzo

Posted in Celebrities, Film on 12/07/2010 by ThreeDice

The guy who plays Vince in Entourage, Adrian Grenier was pap sprayed by a kid one day. He was so shocked that in order to attempt to understand what motivates a 13 year-old kid to spend all night papping that he decided to turn the cameras and make a doco himself.

In the end he makes the same realisation that all documentary makers do when they choose paparazzi as their subject. And so it becomes a quirky documentary whose pulling feature is the kid, and which doesn’t carry much else.

The redeeming feature though is that he was able to get MIT Professor Henry Jenkins, an academic who I quoted prolifically through my dissertation and whose intellect I hold in high regard.

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Exit Through the Gift Shop

Posted in Art, Film with tags , , , on 12/07/2010 by ThreeDice

In past years I’ve struggled to blog about each and every festival film I’ve seen. This year, I’m going to try.

Known now colloquially as the Banksy Movie, Exit Through the Gift Shop is an insight into the world of street art. It’s incredibly entertaining. So much so, in fact, that speculation online is rife that the whole thing is a hoax. Sideroom.com has a good summary here.

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BWASH

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The Perks of Being Emma Watson

Posted in Film with tags , , on 29/05/2010 by ThreeDice

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Variety has reported that there’s talk of a movie version of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, the unconventional coming-of-age novel by Stephen Chbosky. Chbosky will be directing from his own screenplay. The novel is exceptional, one of those books every teenager ought to read before they turn 18. It’s right up there with Go Ask Alice. Because the link with the novel’s author is so strong, the movie version should be great.

Emma Watson is going to play the lead, and she’s made for it. I bashed her acting for ages saying she would have had more success as a model, but I think she’s really developed into quite a competant and complex actor who will be able to play the role as someone like Miley Cyrus or Lindsey Lohan never could.

Get’s my “highly anticipated” vote.

The Pervert, The Feminist and God. (Part Two: ANTICHRIST)

Posted in Film with tags , on 14/04/2010 by ThreeDice

Antichrist received mixed reviews at Cannes. It’s a truly polarising film. On one hand you have got a clinically troubled auteur writing what I immediately thought was a revenge fantasy on his own therapist. On the other, you have the spectacle of the macabre. Kind of like Psycho  meets  Saw.

I saw this film on the same weekend as I watched Love Exposure which I wrote about on an earlier blog, and both films made me think differently about three themes that they both address: Perversion, the female psyche, and God. Interestingly, a Listener article on the subject reveals that the film was partly inspired by Japanese horror films. So there you go.

The film’s writer and director, Lars Von Trier, is no stranger to the kind of attack this film has received. He has repeatedly been branded a misogynist and his films have always pushed the envelope on what constitutes good taste. He wrote Antichrist partly to help himself deal with his debilitating depression. He wrote ten pages a day just to give himself a reason to get out of bed. Considering this, many of the attacks that claim he is simply out to shock seem ill-considered.

Perversion: 

The unavoidable first topic that will arise when any two people discuss this film is the excruciating violence, sexual explicitness, and degradation. What is it about this film that makes it necessary? Is it necessary at all? Does this alter our perception of the main theme of the film? These and other questions immediately jump to the front of the mind. Having just watched Love Exposure gave me a little bit of perspective on this though. In Love Exposure, perversion is seen to be the ultimate, original sin. If you’ll recall the female character’s thesis on witchcraft in 16th Century for a moment, you’ll remember that her realisation was that if women were only going to end up being tortured and killed anyway, then they might as well commit evil acts so that their own suffering is not without cause. The parallels here with Love Exposure’s Yu, who commits sins simply so that he can have something to confess are uncanny. That both films use perversion as a means to articulate this point are too astonishing to avoid.

God:


Very easily then we can relate this back to religion. Despite the film’s title, religion isn’t really the primary focus of the day here. But there are pointers which cannot be avoided. A man and a woman in a garden called Eden. The woman becomes evil etc. these pointers are here I would argue as a result of the author’s inability to use religion as a means to conquer his own battle with depression and mental illness. I would contest that Von Trier has (and stop me if I sound like Jaques Lacan) committed his demons to paper in a sort of very public self-exorcism. This is probably another reason why the film needed to be so guesome.

Females:

The film begins with a classic male dominated storyline. The ‘all knowing’ male tries to ‘cure’ his suffering woman who cannot handle her grief. The female though ends up wielding huge amount of suffering over the man. In horror films, classically speaking, it is the woman who squeals in terror, but throughout the film the woman violently asserts her dominance over the man. Just like the female characters in Love Exposure dominate the men. For about the last 15 minutes I have been trying to finish this paragraph in a way that both continues this train of thinking cohesively and also explain the ending where the man leaves the garden, crowded by souls having strangled the woman. And I have just now decided that even in death the woman has exerted her power over the man. She has warranted her inevitable death. She believed that as a woman, she must be killed, but she had to invoke the killing.

In this film then, I believe Von Trier has written himself as the female lead. Something to think about.

The Pervert, the Feminist and God. (Part One: LOVE EXPOSURE)

Posted in Film with tags on 12/04/2010 by ThreeDice

Warning: Contains Love Exposure plot spoilers

This weekend I went an saw two films that both got me thinking about three themes: Perversity, the feminine psyche, and God. I haven’t done a well thought out film analysis on here and in fact haven’t done any proper cinematic analysis in over a year, so forgive me if I’m a bit rusty in my rhetoric. The films I saw were Sion Sono’s Love Exposure and Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist. I’ll first address Love Exposure in this blog, before addressing Antichrist in another.

Here goes:

Once we’d all gone into the cinema and settled in for Love Exposure, the projectionist walked in and said: “Right, hands up who didn’t realise this film was four hours long”. One of the things that drew me to this film in the first place was its longer-than-usual running time. I’ve been drawn to these longer films in the past and have been absolutely satisfied by their complexity and their ability to hold audiences’ attentions. Standard feature length films are designed to allow exhibitors to show the most profitable number of sessions in a day. TV has shortened our attention spans into episodic segments too, and the internet has provided us with so much content that if you’re not brief, most users will click away in an attempt to find précis pieces. So it was refreshing to sit captivated in a cinema for hours attempting to pick through the complexities of Love Exposure.

To summarise the plot is about as complex as trying to unpack its themes. Essentially, there are five key characters, each of whom are (to borrow from the vernacular) quite seriously fucked up. The following character descriptions come from an article on The Auteurs:

Tetsu (Atsuro Watabe) turns to the priesthood after the death of his saintly wife, but when he falls for an emotionally unstable convert named Saori (Makiko Watanabe), he begins to transfer his own guilt toward his teenage son Yu (Takahiro Nishijima) through a sadistic confessional ritual. As Tetsu becomes increasingly irritated with his otherwise good-natured son’s venial sins, Yu graduates to more asocial behaviour, leading him to a Zen master who teaches the fine art and skill of upskirt panty photography. Despite proving to be a quickly-learned expert, Yu meets his greatest adversary Koike (Sakura Ando), an auspicious cocaine pusher as well as the founding member of a cultish deviation of Christianity called The Zero Church. Finally, there’s Saori’s step-daughter Yoko (Hikari Mitsushima), a gorgeous, combative young woman whose searing hatred of the opposite sex gives way only to Kurt Cobain, and later Jesus Christ, after Saori shows her the similarities between the two men. Everything culminates at the first hour mark, dubbed "The Miracle."

With that in mind, I’ll move to thematics.

Religion:

As you’re watching the film, you find yourself reflecting on religion a lot; especially Catholicism and Evangelicalism. Whatever your personal views on religion, it’s my belief that through Love Exposure, the film makers were presenting a strong case against the absurdity and hypocrisy of organised religion. For example, the father, a Catholic priest, is having an illicit affair with one of his flock. A lover who later goes on to explain to her daughter that she doesn’t masturbate as that’s against her religion. There’s also the issue of committing sins for no other reason than to seek redemption. Yu’s father can not believe that his son has committed no sins and so tells him his sin is that he does not know that he has sinned. This drives Yu to upskirt photography. The ultimate, Original Sin. This discussion off sinning purely to have something to confess has long been the subject of rigorous theological debate.

Then there’s the Zero Church, a cult which is designed to siphon money from it’s members and whose leader is a drug pusher who manipulates Yu and his family for pleasure. The argument here is one of absurdity. The church is displayed to us as being an essentially evil organisation who kill and torture without blinking and who take advantage of those at the lowest ebb of life. The most jaw-grinding part is that this organisation seems strangely familiar, and I don’t think there’s a free country in the world who does not have one such organisation doing the very same thing in broad daylight.

Perversity:

Yu’s decision to embark on a career of upskirt photography is seen by his father as the ultimate perversion. This strikes me as weird. In a film that addresses so many perverse things; rape, incest, molestation, cults, school violence, transvestitism, castration to name but a few. And it isn’t just Yu’s father that finds it offensive, Koike and Yoko, who have both been involved in some of the above also find the peek-a-panty pictures unforgivable. The biggest irony though, is that Yu gets absolutely no sexual pleasure out of taking the pictures, or out of looking at them. He is holding out for his Maria.

Women

The final, but by no means the least significant theme I want to address is how emasculated the male figures are and how dominant the female characters are despite their inward fear of the male. It is the male, or more specifically the father figures in Love Exposure that are the reason why some of these characters are as fucked as they are. In the priest’s case, it’s his battle with the holy father, with Yu it’s his priest father, with Yoko it’s her rapist father and so on and so on. Yet, although the men are the root of pain, they are weak compared with the female characters, and it’s significant to observe that the only time when Yu has any power or influence over Yoko, it’s when he is dressed in drag as Miss Scorpion. It may be a stretch, but I’d would also be prepared to say that the victims of the upskirt peek-a-photos also wield power, as without them there would be no ‘Original Sin’ for Yu to commit.

In case you’re interested in seeing the film, it will probably be available soon in NZ on DVD. In the mean time you can get it on Amazon here. Or watch the trailer below.

Moon (2009)

Posted in Film on 25/03/2010 by ThreeDice

Tonight I got around to watching Duncan Jones’ Moon which was talked up heaps at last year’s IFF but that I never got around to seeing at a screening. I’ll have to admit, after watching it I wanted to watch Alien, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Solaris (the original version, not the Clooney version) all over again just to scramble together some kind of meaning.

Then I came across a message board that discussed themes of religion in the film. It didn’t go into much depth apart from referring to the names of the harvesters (Matthew, Mark, Luke and John), and saying that Sam was Jesus. (Interestingly, I noticed that the harvester which played up all the time was Luke, who’s name had been crossed out in jest and replaced with the name Judas).

Anyway all this got me to thinking about religious themes in this film. After searching about on the web a bit, I was unable to find a credible single account of the religious component, but here’s what I did come up with.

1) I like the idea that the clones’ “life” experiences draw parallels with religious indoctrination. When each new clone is born, they are taught about the good things they can look forward to back on earth if they behave themselves, are good, and work hard. Remind you of any particular philosophies? Also, when the clones have completed their contract, they get into a (coffin-shaped?) box and turn into ash(es to ashes, dust to dust). They never get to go to earth, and all the stories they hear about earth are fictional. In this sense I guess the film sort of denounces religion as a fantasy designed to maintain order and control.

2) When the fit-and-healthy Sam goes back to earth, he is persecuted and forced to testify. (Jesus much?) Plus did you get a load of the beard at the beginning?

3) The contract is up after three years. Three years of desolate isolation behind on a rock. After that they “return” to earth. It’s Easter soon. I’ll leave you to figure that one out for yourself.

There are a few more subtle little things, about GERTY and self sacrifice/compassion etc. but these are less plausible links and I’d need to read a bit more before I’d be comfortable supporting them.

Keen to hear what people think on this one.