Archive for January, 2011

Biutiful

January 28th, 2011 - admin

Buitiful received a cool critical response following its Cannes premiere last May but has subsequently enjoyed a strong award season receiving best foreign language film nominations from the Golden Globes, BAFTA and the Oscars.  Mixed critical responses have persisted following releases in key territories but no clear objections have emerged beyond the somewhat unsatisfactory suggestion that Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu lays on the gloom a bit too thick.  Undeniably, there is no shortage of gloom on offer but responses to it seem to turn, for the most part, on whether we perceive it as a film about death per se or one with a focus upon living albeit, in the case of the film’s central protagonist, the final stages of his life.

 

Uxbal is an old school street hustler getting by on an odd buck earned here and there.  The streets are those of Barcelona; the other side of the same coin as the spectacular architecture and opulence that makes the city one of Spain’s premier tourist attractions.  These streets could form part of any major European city; a run-down milieu of second string drug dealers, other black marketeers and ‘invisible’ people often wandering without an obvious purpose.  This is 21st century Pan Europe; the dark side of globalisation.

 

Uxbal pays off the cops to turn the metaphorical blind eye.  He makes his money from profiteering from illegal immigrants but things are going wrong.  We witness Chinese migrants that he farms out to his exceedingly dodgy brother living in a freezing and cramped subterranean basement.  We witness families rendered homeless after his makeshift African drug dealers face deportation.  These are the consequences of conduct well beyond the pale by anybody’s standards, the consequences of the cynical exploitation of the most desperate parts of society.  Yet, he does not entirely abdicate moral responsibility; he seems to care, he wants to help but his good intentions prove disastrous.

 

There is a quiet scene part way into the film where Uxbal’s young daughter asks for help spelling ‘beautiful’.  His misspelling of it gives the film its title and a moment of genuine warmth that characterises Uxbal’s other life.  This is Uxbal taking responsibility, this is Uxbal as the loving father, this is Uxbal raising his two children on his own in a small apartment.  Life is tough; he has made choices based on limited options, he is using ill-gotten gains to fund his family’s security.  What should we do in these circumstances?  Should we judge him from the comfort of our cinema seats?  Inarritu, for his part, simply presents Uxbal’s life as it exists and invites us to view it accordingly.

 

Personal disaster strikes.  We see Uxbal urinating blood, we see him wearing a large nappy.  He is diagnosed with terminal cancer, he has two months to live.  There is absolutely no self pity here; this a man facing death with dignity, a man organising his life before he goes.

 

Uxbal was born with a psychic gift.  He attends funerals and passes on messages from the deceased.  Perhaps this helps with his own pending death.

 

Crucial familial cycles emerge.  The film starts and finishes with a scene where Uxbal passes on his mother’s ring to his daughter.  In between, Uxbal’s father’s embalmed body is exhumed to make way for a construction site.  He was a mere 20 years old when he died and, in a scene of extraordinary power, Uxbal comes face to face with him for the first time.

 

One of the greatest actors of his generation, Javier Bardem, plays Uxbal in a breathtaking portrayal of multi-layered subtlety.  It is on a par with the other astonishing performance at this year’s Cannes, Lambert Wilson in Of Gods and Men.  As it happens Bardem won best actor at Cannes.  He has received an Oscar nomination and as it happens he will probably lose out to either Colin Firth or Jesse Eisenberg.  Not that anybody could meaningfully argue that any one of these performances is superior to the others.

 

Buitiful marks a much needed change of direction for Inarritu having fully exhausted his trademark multiple narratives tied to one unplanned event (Amores Perros, 21Grams & Babel).  This character driven drama is a mature work of some distinction and, like Kiarostami’s Certified Copy, it warrants a post Cannes critical reappraisal.cialis online nzcialis buy canadaorder amoxil online buy generic amoxil purchase amoxil buy amoxil 500 mg

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Barney’s Version

January 28th, 2011 - admin

An oddball film that could so easily have been as shambolic as its central character, proves to be an insightful and amusing take on eventful moments that shape ordinary lives.

 

We witness a hotchpotch of episodes from the life of Barney, an impulsive and often obnoxious TV producer of a truly appalling camped-up soap opera that apparently has found success in Bulgaria.  Generally out of step with much of his surroundings, Barney is a throw back to the anti-heroes of 1970’s New Hollywood, those edgy misfits who cannot reconcile the demands of a mainstream lifestyle with an inherent free spirit.

 

Paul Giamatti plays Barney with consummate ease; his screen persona is well suited to this overweight and heavy drinking ice hockey addict from the Montreal Jewish community.  Barney’s first two marriages are unmitigated disasters, the second of which effectively ends on its wedding night when Barney claps eyes on Miriam who became wife No 3.  Miriam, refined and attractive, is very much Barney’s binary opposite and they form an unlikely couple to say the least.  Barney is boxing above his weight here but it is a measure of Giamatti’s enduring appeal that it does not appear implausible.  We identify Barney with endearing qualities that Giamatti subtly allows to feed through his screen persona, carried over from previous performances, and allows Barney to emerge as the vulnerable but loveable jerk.  Giamatti deservedly bagged a Golden Globe for best performance in a comic role but missed out in the recent Academy Award nominations.

 

Needless to say, it all goes horribly wrong for Barney.  Possessive and jealous; he throws away his marriage on a one night stand with a small time actress floozy.  We watch with anguish as Barney storms into his doctor’s surgery demanding a test for every STD under the sun.  The tests were negative but Barney had already pressed the self-destruct button; there was no turning back, there were no second chances.

 

A strange mystery hangs over proceedings.  Barney had a drunken altercation with a close friend during earlier times whilst brandishing a gun that is a serious contender for the strangest wedding present in recent film history.  His friend was never seen again and an ex-cop, convinced of foul play, was obsessed with proving Barney’s guilt even to the point of publishing a book on the subject.  We discover the truth late into the film but, by this time, Barney is suffering from Alzheimers and unable to comprehend its significance.  Without schmaltz, the final scenes are affecting as the former Barney, flawed but very much alive, gradually disappears into an empty shell.

 

There is a memorable comic turn from Dustin Hoffman as Barney’s eccentric but wise father who is the wedding present guilty party.  Minnie Driver is a riot playing Barney’s over the top socialite second wife and Rosalind Pike is a revelation with a mature and balanced performance par excellence as Miriam.  Richard L Lewis’s direction is assured and Michael Konyves provides a witty and intelligent screenplay adapted from Mordecai Richler’s successful novel of the same name.

 

It is to be hoped that all the publicity surrounding the recent releases in contention for prestigious Academy Awards does not swamp this perceptive and engaging contribution to thoughtful filmmaking.  There is much to enjoy here for those prepared to give it a chance.price of cialis in usabuy cialis 40 mg onlinecytotec for sale cytotec que es cytotec 200mg cialis sublingual sale cialis sublingual order online cost cialis sublingual cheap cialis sublingual

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NEDS

January 21st, 2011 - admin

There is a thin line between autobiographical films and those that the filmmakers’ personal experiences merely inspire.  Peter Mullan’s latest film, NEDS, contains many obvious similarities with his own well documented childhood but he refuses to classify it as autobiographical.  There is a huge element of playing the definitions game here but, either way, Mullan’s first film for eight years not only feels very real, it has something urgent to say today notwithstanding its 1970’s setting.

 

The film’s title is an acronym of non-educated delinquents.  It aptly describes most of the youths in this film but not its central protagonist, the Mullan-type character, John McGill.  Clever and committed, McGill has a university place in his sights, a means of escape from the mega rough and tough Glasgow council estates.  McGill would normally be a soft target for the local bully ready to dish out a good hiding to any school swot who crossed his path but not so here where McGill’s hotheaded brother, Benny, rules the roost, a head delinquent whose expulsion from school he wears as a badge of honour.

 

McGill’s rapid descent from his lofty intellectual position must touch a nerve with anybody who has been on the receiving end of a different kind of kicking, the metaphorical Doc Martin boot of class snobbery.  A close friendship with a middle class boy from another part of town comes to an abrupt and shocking end on the command of a truly, but horribly familiar, odious mother who bans him from future contact.  The perceptive McGill has a precise understanding of the mother’s false assumptions and selfish protectionism and takes it very, very badly.  Suddenly, Benny becomes McGill’s new role model as he rejects those who rejected him but he is far more angry than Benny and far more reckless.  Even McGill’s fellow gang members, seasoned hard knocks of the first order, urge restraint but he is on a mission of destruction of a very self-destructive kind.  We understand but feel the waste acutely.

 

McGill’s father, played by Mullan himself, has no redeeming features.  Almost permanently drunk and riddled with self contempt, he vents his pent-up hatred terrorising his accepting wife.  There is something frighteningly realistic in Mullan’s intense and controlled psycho abuse that left its mark on this reviewer long after the film’s close.  It left its mark on McGill also who took a frying pan to his father’s head in an act of extreme violence that was no less controlled in its systematic execution.

 

Equally callous and shocking is the brutal punishment that McGill’s teachers mete out as a matter of course for minor misdemeanours.  These are teachers going through the motions; sadistic motions of the kind that the old school regard as character building, the kind that British realist cinema has recreated so effectively over the last 50 years.  Power, control and pride are the bywords here.

 

There is a remarkable Bunuellian scene during the final stages of the film where the glue sniffing McGill hallucinates that he is in a violent encounter with Jesus, no less, who miraculously descends from a Parish Church crucifix.  This is the pivotal moment of the film where McGill, in the most extraordinary manner, symbolically rejects God’s existence, rejects the Catholicism of his upbringing and, in so doing, rejects the safety net for his precarious existence.  But far from signalling the final destination of McGill’s metaphorical journey to Hell, he takes responsibility for himself, he re-establishes ties with society and opens the possibility for hope.  It is much to Mullan’s credit that he dares to introduce such a surrealist moment into a slice of a hard core gritty realism and not only pulls it off with some aplomb but breathes new life into a genre that, in the wrong hands, is susceptible to unjustified predictability.

 

NEDS has much to say about knife culture and societal entrapment of the kind that remains depressingly relevant.  It did not receive a single nomination at this year’s BAFTA’s, which says far more about these increasingly annoying and commercially aware awards than it does about the film.  Mullan’s confirms himself as a filmmaker of some distinction, the whole cast is faultless but especial mention goes to Conor McCaron who delivers a performance of remarkable range encapsulating McGill’s intellect and menace in equal measure.  Be in no doubt, that this a genuine achievement that will endure notwithstanding the BAFTA’s own form of metaphorical thuggery.where to buy cialis in torontobuy cialis canada pharmacybuy amoxicillin amoxicillin online buy amoxicillin uk amoxil generic

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Black Swan

January 21st, 2011 - admin

Darren Aronofsky’s previous film, the Wrestler, was a telling exploration of compulsive ambition and the risk of irrevocable personal damage.  His follow up, Black Swan, goes one stage further with a melodrama of self-destruction on the grandest scale in a return to the classic ballet terrain of Powell & Pressburger’s Red Shoes but turbo charged with characteristic Aronofsky excess.  Predictions of Academy Award nominations have abounded ever since its Venice premiere and it received recognition in the best film and direction categories this week.  But it is Natalie Portman as best actress who offers most hope of an Oscar where she is likely to go head to head with Annette Bening.

 

Portman plays Nina, an emerging ballerina at the Lincoln Centre, New York.  The company’s tyrannical director, Thomas, has ditched his ageing star and needs a replacement for a new production of Swan Lake.  The virginal Nina, with her flawless technique and total dedication, would be perfect for the White Swan but could she embrace the carefree abandon of the character’s evil alter ego, the counterpart that gives the film its title?  Thomas takes a chance on Nina but she must yield to her own Black Swan, a release of her dark side, a conquering of her sexual fears, a living for the moment totally contrary to her natural instincts.

 

Nina shares a claustrophobic apartment with her controlling mother, an apartment that is part child’s nursery and part prison cell.  There are echoes of Dogtooth in Nina’s pink bedroom littered with dolls and cuddly toys; a controlled environment for infantilism.  This is a mother forced to quit her own career as a ballerina upon becoming pregnant, a mother now reliving her youth through her daughter.  Barbara Hersey is totally convincing portraying her possessive maternal desperation and she was unlucky not to receive an Academy nomination for best supporting actress.

 

Thick scratch marks on Nina’s back are evidence that she is prone to self-mutilation; a reaction to the extraordinary physical and psychological rigours of endless practice of the kind that Frederick Wiseman laid bare in last year’s acclaimed fly on the wall documentary La Danse: The Paris Opera Ballet.  Nina adds a newly liberated life style to the cocktail in opposition to her ingrained sexual repression and things go from bad to worse.  Teaming up with Lily, a promiscuous newcomer recently arrived from the West Coast, Nina and the audience alike find it increasing difficult to distinguish reality from fantasy.  Self-mutilation turns to obsession and obsession turns to drug induced paranoia and Aronofsky turns up the heat with progressively extravagant and surreal imagery.  In Nina’s deranged state, Lily becomes a threat, a challenger for her role.  We see Lily making explicit sexual advances to Thomas but intentional ambiguity leaves it unclear whether it is a figment of Nina’s imagination.  Not to be outdone, Nina plays sexual cat and mouse games with Thomas and the more daring she becomes, the more convincing her portrayal.  Back stage is reflecting the ballet and the ballet is reflecting real life as the two sides of human nature, the White and Black Swans, initially divided in the characters of Nina and Lily come together in Nina’s new stage and real life persona and when they merge completely, the ballet’s death scene awaits.

 

In case we failed to notice the parallels between the film’s characters and those in the ballet, the final credits make it explicit.  But not until Aronofsky’s final scene explodes in an unrestrained spectacle of a kind that in a different context would be overindulgence bordering on overkill but here it feels absolutely spot on.buy cialis in mexicocialis cost per pill 2016viagra sublingualviagra sublingual absorptionviagra sublingual 100mgviagra sublingual tablet

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GasLand

January 17th, 2011 - admin

As you would expect for a State that promotes itself as the leader of the civilised world, there is no shortage of regulation enshrined within the US statute books controlling the quality of drinking water.

 

Broadly speaking, The Safe Drinking Water Act requires the Environmental Protection Agency to set and enforce standards for the health and safety of those exposed to it.  So far, so good.

 

And then an opportunity arose to exploit a valuable natural resource on a grand scale or, at least, there would have been if the regulatory system had not fustrated it.  Known as ‘fracking’ to insiders, new engineering plant thrusts huge quantities of chemical solutions underground so as to crack the bedrock and release previously inaccessible gas.  Halliburton invented the process when a certain Dick Cheney was its CEO.

 

Guess what?  Mr Cheney changed hats, flexed his Vice President political muscle and drove through legislation for the exclusion of fracking from the Safe Drinking Water Act and beyond the reach of the Environmental Protection Agency.  Problem solved.

 

When Josh Fox opened his post one day to discover a $100,000 offer to take a lease of his land for fracking he decided to investigate with his camera at hand. Checking out over half of the states, he uncovered a rural America of contaminated water, illnesses and deformed and dead animals that objective research linked to the new process.  Most unexpected of all, was the sight of various homeowners waving a lighted match over a running tap, only for the gas in the water to burst into flames.

 

Experts representing the fracking companies swore blind that the process was harmless but refused to drink the tap water that Fox had collected.  Fox looked on at a congressional hearing with a finely honed air of contempt as experts tied themselves in knots with farcical claims that beggared belief.  But nothing was going to shake their absolute confidence that fracking would continue.

 

Strong is the nostalgic yearning that Fox creates for a lost era.  Effective is his use of banjo playing bluegrass, itself a form of traditional country music uncontaminated by the ruthless commercialism of the Nashville machine.  Affecting is the sense that his own land is the final frontier of unsoiled rural America.  And striking is the cinematography that captures the beauty and destruction of a land at the crossroads, majestic views turning toxic.buy cialis tabletsbuy generic cialis online canadacost of domperidoneshipping cialis sublingual comprar cialis sublingual price cialis sublingual without prescription cialis sublingual

 

Deserved is Sundance Film Festival’s award of the special jury prize.

 

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Blue Valentine

January 14th, 2011 - admin

Many top-notch films emerged at Sundance 2010 as the US’ leading film festival achieved a new maturity with work likely to withstand the test of time rather than the more familiar would-be cross over fare typical of many of the recent editions.  There was a unique insider’s view in Winter’s Bone of the kind of secret community hinted at in Deliverance, a perceptive reflection on the impact of mainstream values on alternative families in the The Kids Are All Right and perhaps the audience’s most genuine confrontation yet in Restrepo with the reality of the War on Terror on the front line.  Derek Cianfrance’s mature indie offering, Blue Valentine, was amongst the many other films to impress and it now arrives in the UK.

 

Ryan Gosling and Michelle Williams co-star as Dean & Cindy in a marriage gone wrong saga where we see the beginning and end of the relationship in parallel.  On a first date of sorts, Dean woos Cindy with a quick turn on his ukulele and some stylised ‘goofy’ singing that is surprisingly effective.  He sings the standard You Always Hurt The One You Love and the romantic setting, not dissimilar to that in John Carney’s Once, distracts us from the lyrics.  As the final credits roll, we hear the same scene again without the visuals, at which point the lyrics take on a new significance entirely appropriate to the damage that the characters have subsequently inflicted on each other but the earlier romantic connotations of the motif remain.  The contrast of the two meanings neatly reflects those at play in the parallel editing throughout the film and adds to the audience’s strong sense of poignant loss at the close.

 

In between, there is a forensic examination of the marital breakdown at extremely close quarters.  Everything is horribly muddled from the start; Cindy discovers that she is pregnant with her ex’s child.  She plans an abortion but withdraws at the eleventh hour.  Inadequate means, limited support and no prospect of a reunion with the abhorrent father, everything looks rather bleak and, then, Dean, one of life’s dreamy romantics, waves his magic wand and offers marriage.  Dean remains static, he is happy with Cindy and her daughter, he is content with his lot.  Cindy moves on; she matures, she is ambitious but Dean’s altruistic sacrifice hangs over her every move.  A crevasse emerges, frustrations kick in and things come to a head when, in an extraordinary misjudgement, Dean persuades Cindy to get away from things at a seedy sex themed motel from hell.  We now move onto an altogether different plane; the air is thick with suspended violence, the air is thick with Cindy’s loathing and the air is thick with Dean’s desperation.  This is John Cassavetes’ territory at its most acidic, at its most cynical.  The stage is set for the parties to cross the line from whence there is no return and they do.

 

With Dean and Cindy dominating almost every scene, the success of the film rests, to a large extent, on the persuasive qualities of the two leads.  They do not disappoint; delivering improvised performances that engage with the audience every step of the way.  Michelle Williams received a deserved Academy Award nomination for her portrayal where she competes in one of the most competitive categories of this years’ awards season, which Natalie Portman has so far dominated with BAFTA and Golden Globe success.cialis online with prescriptionprice of cialis at costcofcialis sublingual buy online no prescription cialis sublingual cialis soft tabs sublingual cialis sublingual brasil

 

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King’s Speech, The

January 7th, 2011 - admin

Tom Hooper not only specialises in biopics but in unlikely double acts; firstly Longford and Myra Hindley in the TV movie that first brought him to prominence,  then Cloughie and Peter Taylor in last year’s indie hit Damned United and now George V1, known as Bertie within royal circles, and his speech therapist Lionel Lougue played out behind close doors as the full glare of the media spotlight shown on the most famous double act of all, Edward V111 and the notorious socialite, Wallis Simpson.

 

An intimate portrayal of one man’s private but very real struggle with a debilitating speech impediment, an extreme stammer, that renders public speaking all but impossible.  We first encounter Bertie as the Duke of York addressing a packed Wembley Stadium at the Empire exhibition where we share the crowd’s excruciating embarrassment at the truly agonising lengthy pauses and half words that composed even the most simple sentence.  Something had to be done but all forms of therapy failed – including the ancient and humiliating marbles in the mouth trick –  until his wife, Elizabeth, the future darling of the press and public alike, the Queen Mother, stumbled across Lougue, an unconventional Aussie failed actor with his own crosses to bear.  Hooper, whose own mother was from Down Under and married to an Englishman, knows a thing a two about the Australian independent spirit.  And true to form, Louque, not short on attitude, insists on first name terms – “my castle, my rules” – much to the discomfort of the uptight, very uptight regal subject for whom protocol is a matter of duty rather than self-importance.  The combat begins, a battle of wits and sharp intellect – a kind of Pygmalion with roles reversed as commoner confronts the absurdities of class privilege.  It shifts  between humour and pathos in equal measure with proceedings halted from time to time by Bertie’s ferocious bad temper.  The exchanges superficially bring to mind Mrs Brown and the mind play duel between Judi Dench and Billy Connolly but, in truth, Logue is more Clough’s Taylor helping a “great” man find greatness.

 

This was a new age; the advent of radio where public figures were to be heard as well as seen.  George V was consummately at ease delivering the Christmas address to the nation and, totally without compassion or understanding, he urges his son to confront the microphone.  Both men instinctively understood its importance; the relationship between royalty and its public would change for ever and, as we all know too well, one that the media would mediate, sometimes with devastating consequences.  All the more pain then for Bertie.  All the more necessary to yield to Logue’s demands.

 

In a truly momentous opening up after much resistance to Logue’s own brand of Freudian psychoanalysis a dark picture of Bertie’s childhood emerges.  George V, very much the tyrannical father, left Bertie in the care of a seemingly mega cruel  psycho nanny and to the mercy of his mocking brother, the loathsome David who would shortly become Edward V111.  We see David in action as an adult impersonating Bertie’s stammer as an expression of anger, an act that is beneath contempt, an act that, if true, renders him unworthy of any further public attention.

 

Bertie’s revelations mark a significant breakthrough.  As previous reservations fall away, there is an extraordinary release of years and years of pent-up frustration.  We witness Bertie gyrating on Logue’s floor with a spirited Elizabeth in all sorts of borderline improper positions and responding to Logue’s command to shout out almost every expletive under the sun.  And guess what?  The stutter starts to dissipate.

 

Bertie was a man of many fears but his greatest fear of all was being King.  When, much to his horror, David abdicated to marry the previously divorced Wallis, it was his time of reckoning, the time to overcome his fears.  “The Nation believes that when I speak, I speak for them, and I cannot speak”  he had once told Logue.  Now indispensable, and ironically Bertie’s counterpart to David’s Wallis, Logue accompanies Bertie to Westminster Abbey for the Coronation much to the consternation of the prickly Archbishop of Canterbury.  In an irresistibly playful piece of casting, the most famous screen stutterer of them all, Derek Jacobi, plays the Archbishop with the long shadow of I Claudius in tow.  But the big one, Bertie’s true test was still to come;  his famous speech to the Nation at the outset of WW2.  It had to be pitch perfect; a solemn but inspiring rallying call at one and the same time befitting of a Nation embarking upon war.  Hooper ratchets up the tension intercutting between Elizabeth anxiously hanging on to every word and Logue, quite literally, conducting Bertie as he gets into his stride.  And then, the rest, as they say, is history.

 

There is more to these idiosyncratic double acts, of course, then a mere rendering of the slices of history, little nuggets of the past.  These are moments that in some way played a part in shaping the future, the Nation as we now know it.  The Royal family is an anachronism; an out of touch institution that has outlived its useful purpose and perpetuates class privileges in ways that are wholly inappropriate for the 21st century.  And yet, there remains an extraordinary affection for it against the odds; an affection that has its origins in the genuine attachment and endearment that George V1 inspired as a wartime King.  Hooper’s film is no way a justification and nor should it be.  It is simply an honest account of the bravery of one man that overcame a huge hurdle to make a difference out of a sense of duty.

 

The film has been hot on the Oscar tip lists from the moment that it appeared at festival stage last Autumn.  English treasure, as some now classify him, Colin Firth, delivers a nuanced rendering par excellence of the lead perfectly balancing vulnerability and pride hot on the heels of an equally perceptive performance in the Single Man.  It seems likely that Firth will go head to head for the Academy Award with Jesse Eisenberg for his portrayal of Mark Zuckerman in Social Network.  Two very different but outstanding performances and the false notion that there could possibly be criteria for determining that one is in some way superior to the other reveals the Oscars to be the complete farce that we know them to be.  There is also much speculation that Geoffrey Rush is in line for best supporting actor as Logue for his measured display of knowing worldliness borderline arrogance.  Helen Bonham Carter is suitably tender and amiable as Elizabeth and Guy Pearce puts in an impressive turn of false charm as the repugnant David.

 

David Seidler’s impressive and witty screenplay combines comedy and tragedy to good effect although it does from time to time conveniently sidestep the rather thorny issue of appeasement.  It is very easy to overlook that this was a comparatively low budget independent film such is the high quality of the design and production.  And credit also for the avoidance of a Hollywood style invasive soundtrack, which would have surely distracted from Firth’s subtle voice manipulation so crucial to the success of the film.

 

So, what next?  It is beyond doubt that Hollywood will be knocking on Tom Hooper’s door but he has to date displayed an independent spirit lying at the heart of his oeuvre.  We should not make too many assumptions and it will be most interesting to see how this one plays out.cialis for sale in canadacialis cost without insurancefluoxetine social anxietypurchase cialis sublingual delivery cialis sublingual cialis sublingual order online cialis sublingual

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Amer

January 7th, 2011 - admin

When Italian giallo horror was enjoying its heyday during the mid seventies, Screen famously published Laura Mulvey’s seminal article Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.  Although Mulvey had Hitchcock, Sternberg and the US studios firmly in her sights, the text would have been equally valuable for unlocking the many ideological mechanisms at work in the giallo genre.  All the more intriguing then that Helene Cattet and Bruno Forzani’s impressive feature debut returns to the retro terrain of the giallo with a visual deconstruction of the mechanisms that Mulvey exposed.

 

Three different actresses play the film’s central protagonist, Ana, at three formative stages of her sexual maturity.  We witness Ana as a young girl drawn to her grandfather’s decaying corpse laid out in a room off bounds.  She is petrified of the sinister family maid Graziella, who, veiled and dressed in black, peers through the keyhole of Ana’s bedroom as she undresses at night.  Extreme close ups of the voyeuristic camera magnify the voyeuristic terrorising eye on the screen and Ana, herself, turns voyeur as she watches intensely after catching her parents having sex.  The soundtrack intensifies all noises – doors, water, footsteps – as we move into a subjective territory shifting between quasi-reality and fantasy/dreams.  Images overladen with coded symbolism – birds’ wings hinting at witchcraft and Graziella pouncing like a vampire bat full of sadistic intent – override the plot.  All is fear and curiosity here, the fear and curiosity of a new awakening visualised as a macabre psychodrama.

 

The darkness and shadows of the family mansion abruptly end as we move to the second act/vignette and a beautiful seascape bathed in sunlight.  Ana, now a young women, and her mother are walking to the local village and the scopophilic camera returns with an outrageous and prolonged objectification of the female form.  This is the ultimate fetish that Mulvey describes, the direct “rapport with the audience” without the powerful guiding look of a male protagonist, the fetish of Sternberg’s objectification of Marlene Dietrich.  It coincides with a crucial moment; the moment that Father Time does his worst and daughter takes over from mother as the attraction for the wandering male eye.  Jealousy kicks in and culminates with a violent slap across the face when Ana engages with some young hip bikers.

 

Ana returns to the mansion for the final segment as an adult.  False signifiers side step the audience and challenge the emphatic male gaze.  A taxi driver with leather gloves and a menacing glare appears every bit the giallo psychopath but, in a reversal of our expectations, he becomes the bloody victim of a wild Ana once again haunted by her childhood delusions.  She stands over his body wearing the symbolic leather gloves as a manifestation of the mega dangerous super(wo)man, the ultimate Mulvey threat of castration, which in the male order, must be exterminated.  We are now in Hitchcock territory, the territory of Norman Bates and a mysterious malevolent figure arrives to take care of things.

 

Polished use of colour filters, carefully composed extreme close-ups, a thumping soundtrack of original giallo material and a few Bunuellian insects for good measure create an aestheticised violence that wilfully treads the line between justifiable art house embellishment and gratuitous exploitation.  In short, it is a daring but knowing piece of off-beat/surreal horror playing with genre and its conventions and making a fair few sly observations along the way.generic cialis cheapest pricecialis order online canadaprice of viagrageneric viagra canadaviagra buy onlineviagra generic name

 

Amer has enjoyed an extended run at the ICA and deserves wider distribution.

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Abel

January 7th, 2011 - admin

Diego Luna, best known for his acting roles in Y Tu Mama Tambien and Milk, made his filmmaking debut with the boxing documentary Chavez.  His follow up feature, Abel, marks a further broadening of his career with an ambitious return to the psychological terrain of Luis Bunuel’s Mexican period that lies in the borderlands between surreal absurdity and keenly observed social realism.

 

Traumatised by his father’s desertion, Abel has spent the last two years in a provincial hospital without speaking.  There is a dispute; his doctor recommends a transfer to a specialist psychiatric hospital but Abel’s determined mother has other ideas.  They reach a one sided compromise with the nine year old returning home on condition that he behaves with a degree of normality.  It sounds ominous and proves to be so but in ways that we could not easily imagine.

 

We witness Abel roaming the run-down family home at night without supervision.  He watches television until daybreak with a noticeable intensity, an intensity that seems to extend beyond a normal viewing experience.  The doctor recommends a marginal increase in tablets to help him sleep; this is medical care by convenience bordering on total abdication of responsibility.  There seems no likelihood of change and then, suddenly, out of the blue, Abel speaks.  And once he speaks, he speaks and speaks and speaks.  Great news, a breakthrough, you may think but there is a complication; Abel assumes the persona of the head of the household, the man of the house, the father of his two siblings and husband to his mother.

 

Standing upright and with a commanding walk that would not be out of place in a military march, Abel takes charge.  The family walk on egg shells for any challenge to Abel’s authority would seemingly trigger a trauma attack.  He instructs his older sister to re-write her homework, subjects her boyfriend to a relationship breaking third degree and sits at the head of the table barking his breakfast requirements.  And just when it seemed that things could not get any worse, Abel’s errant father, recklessly immature and mega macho, returns without warning and drags the family into an Oedipal nightmare.

 

Luna directs with a lightness of touch that neatly balances the comedy and unease running throughout much of the film.  Particularly well handled is a scene where, much to our horror, Abel climbs onto his mother in the middle of the night stroking her hair only for him to dismount almost immediately and produce two mock cigarettes in a innocent recreation of a hammy love scene from one of his late night TV shows.  A scene that could have been deeply disturbing evolves into something gently amusing and tender that softens the harsher realities elsewhere.

 

Christopher Ruiz Esparza is a genuine find and discreetly allows us to glimpse something of the real child lying behind Abel’s most extreme role play/deluded behaviour.  Jose Maria Yazpic is impressive playing Abel’s father regressing in the opposite direction with no shortage of childish behaviour of his own.  And Karina Gidi is always convincing as the misguided but very devoted mother.

 

An assured debut that has much to say about the destructive nature of conventional masculinity and the patriarchal family structure.
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One hundred twenty-seven (127) Hours

January 7th, 2011 - admin

If you were trapped in a deep crevice and you could not escape without amputating your forearm with a blunt penknife, would you do it?  This is the question that remains with us throughout Danny Boyle’s extraordinary portrayal of an extraordinary true story.

 

Without telling anybody where he was going, Aron Ralston set off one day for a spot of what the experts call canyoneering; mountaineering or rock climbing to you and me.  On an adrenaline charged thrill-a-second rush across the Utah canyons recklessly climbing at helter skelter speeds, vaulting over ravines and leaping from enormous heights into subterranean water pools, this is the all-purpose outdoor sportsman extraordinaire without a care in the world, enjoying life to the full.  And suddenly, it all changes, stillness replaces the frenzied and manic hyper speeds and Ralston finds himself in a dark fissure with a dirty big rock trapping his arm.

 

Ralston tugs at his arm, pushes the rock, scrapes it, shouts out, waits and records his thoughts into a camcorder.  He monitors his food supply, he uses urine for liquid, he watches birds pass at the same time each day, he waits for the warmth and light when the sun falls at a certain angle and he gradually slips into a new rhythm, a rhythm closer to nature, a rhythm closer to death.  The choice is stark; life or arm.

 

There are flashbacks to his previous life, to his family, to his first girlfriend.  Time for contemplation.  Time for regrets.  Images of two sexy girls that he encountered en route haunt him.  They had invited him to a party; he could have been there now.  He apologises to his mother on the camcorder for being inattentive with the entries sounding more and more like a final testament.  But he does have the one gruesome escape route.  We know the outcome, of course, but it does not prevent the tension mounting as we approach that tendon ripping moment.

 

And so, we are carried along for the ride in what really is a quite remarkable achievement.  Only one actor on screen for most of the film and yet it is thoroughly engaging.  The one actor is James Franco who delivers a tour de force in a unforgettable portrayal of human endurance, fortitude and a sheer will to live in the face of the most appalling adversity.

 

Boyle employs a stunning assortment of filmic tricks; split screens, breathtaking cinematography, inventive staging, natural sounds and a great score.  Never inappropriate, always synthesised and a dazzling opening sequence that is worth the price of a ticket alone.  Oscar winning Simon Beaufoy returns from Slumdog with a measured and philosophical screenplay.  And there is a more resourceful use of the real Aron Ralston at the end as an alternative to the usual photographs and historical footage.

 

In perhaps the most strangest of all our reactions, the film leaves us wanting more; Ralston’s actual footage shot in the camcorder.  At the time of writing, it remained under wraps.  An extra on the DVD perhaps?  Don’t hold your breath.cialis for cheapcialis online us pharmacydomperidone purchascialis sublingual cialis sublingualecialis sublingual 20mg generic cialis sublingual

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