Archive for August, 2011

Skin I Live In, The

August 26th, 2011 - Graham Eley

Pedro Almodóvar’s sinister slice of sc-fi horror announces itself as something of a change of direction and yet it feels immediately familiar, part of the filmmaker’s terrain that we have inhabited many times before.

 

There are endless quotations from film history but they seamlessly melt into his overall design, one that is emphatically his own, in no way pastiche.

 

An obsessive poring over the human body could be a fetish in the absolute Laura Mulvey sense except that it opens into a rich philosophical exploration of how perceptions of our own exterior impact on the inner world that it encloses.

 

This is Almodóvar sidestepping us very easily, reining us back at will, toying with us whilst, like all great artists, leaving a respectful room for personal interpretation.

 

Antonio Banderas joins forces with Almodóvar for the first time since Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! over 20 years ago and plays a plastic surgeon who obsessively grafts a radical new artificial skin on his sensual co-star Elena Anaya.  He is every bit the human creator, a modern day Frankenstein, surgically recreating her but the motive is unclear.  It is a return to Georges Franju’s Eyes Without a Face but with a fierce sexual tension, one that seemingly excites and disgusts the parties at one and the same time.

 

She is an enigma; a prisoner spending much of her time in the solitary confinement of a single room but appearing wholly complicit with the arrangement.  We watch him endlessly watching her on a live video screen as she stares at him and us via hidden cameras.  But nothing is quite as it seems and Almodóvar lays his trap for an extraordinary plot twist and conceit that subverts the Hitchcockian male gaze in a recontextualisation that takes us to the heart of sexual identity.

 

Marisa Paredes returns for her sixth Almodóvar film to play one of his favourite motifs, the long suffering mother.  Devoted to the point of being a martyr, she takes her place in his longstanding celebration of not only mothers, but women, transsexuals and all things feminine.

 

Banderas does a fine job as the lead bringing a Dracula style blend of charm and malevolence to the supremely confident mad surgeon.  Anaya teases us with a controlled mystery as his muse and Paredes typifies everything that we have come to expect from an Almodóvar maternal figure.

 

The miss-en-scene is as clinical in its composition as the surgeon’s implements and José Luis Alcaine photographs it all with his usual panache.

 

Well received at Cannes, Almodóvar moulds his audacious plot into another insightful exploration of gender identification and sexual politics and a full-blown transgressive assault on everything mainstream and patriarchal society in particular.female use of cialis is female cialis realfemale cialis vs female viagra female cialis tadalafildoes female cialis work female cialis testimonialsfemale cialis australia

In a Better World (Hævnen)

August 19th, 2011 - Graham Eley

When can we confront cruelty effectively with non-violent means without turning the other cheek and at what point is violence justified to protect the innocent from brutality?

 

These are moral dilemmas that arise on a daily basis with dictatorships committing human rights abuses as a matter of course in their determination to retain power.  The West varies in its response; paper thin differences often pave the way for political rather than moral responses.

 

The same complexities arise in bullying and domestic abuse cases where the victim requires urgent help and there is limited or no access to the authorities.  Third party intervention may be the only realistic prevention but it can be a legal and ethical tightrope.

 

Susanne Bier neatly tackles the issue at its extremes by looking at two related cases side by side in her latest feature, In A Better World, which became the surprise winner of this year’s Academy Award for best foreign language film.

 

A Swedish doctor runs a clinic in a war torn African country where a powerful tribal lord, ‘The Big Man’ cuts open pregnant women to satisfy bets on the sex of the child.  The victims’ relatives are powerless to act, struggle to express grief beyond their outrage and they are left dumb-founded by a perceived final portrayal when Western medical ethics compel the doctor to treat the Big Man for a seriously infected leg.

 

The doctor travels regularly between the clinic and Denmark where his son is relentlessly subject to racist bullying in a public school.  His teachers ignore it out of convenience but not a new pupil who takes a bicycle pump to the culprit in a psycho attack that almost leaves him blind in one eye.

 

Violence leads to more violence and both father and son face difficult decisions outside their comfort zones.  Acting against their better judgement, they trigger vigilante action; one in a lawless state and the other in a democracy.

 

A new set of questions emerge.  At what point does prevention turn to retribution, is retribution justified in a lawless state that otherwise denies the victims justice and where do we draw the line in those grey areas where democracy fails some of its subjects.  These are questions that remain largely unanswered at a practical level with Bier offering us some very commendable goals of the kind that appealed to the Academy voters but leaving others to grapple with the more thorny complications that arise in cases that are less clear-cut than those on offer here.

 

The children’s backstories provide a separate sub-text.  We see the effect of divorce and parental death and the consequences of inadvertent neglect.  There is nothing particularly new but it is engaging enough aided by Anders Thomas Jensen’s convincing screenplay and strong performances from an exemplary cast.buy dapoxetine priligy europebuy online dapoxetine in usaviagra dapoxetine onlinebuy motilium tabletsdomperidone buy us order domperidone from canadaorder domperidone from canada where to buy motilium in the usbuy domperidone online australia buy domperidone from canada

Guard, The

August 19th, 2011 - Graham Eley

John Michael McDonagh’s Edinburgh Film Festival opener is a witty Irish crime comedy with no shortage of smart observations on Americanisation, genre conventions and the enduring resilience of Irish culture.

 

Brendan Gleeson is on top form as the charismatic rogue cop who combines Irish charm and a streetwise knowingness to stay ahead of the game with consummate ease.  A cop turned bad who will make good in a crisis, it is a caricature of the kind of anti- hero who breaks the rules for his own gain but knows where to draw the line and how to look after his mother.

 

Don Cheadle plays an African-American FBI agent who arrives on Ireland’s west coast to break an international drugs ring and completes the buddy cop twosome as the proverbial fish out of water.  Hackneyed, a walking cliché, he is every bit the honest Hollywood cop as bemused by the locals as they are with him.

 

And Mark Strong is a callous South London style drugs thug bizarrely discussing Nietzsche, Bertrand Russell and all things philosophical with a sociopath and a local crime kingpin.  There is something very theatrical about these exchanges quite different from those that the Coen Bros & Quentin Tarantino have employed in similar circumstances.

 

McDonagh artfully amalgamates these disparate elements into a deconstruction of local resistance to globalisation, the transmission of American ideology under the radar & racist stereotyping.  When Gleeson’s cop taunts his colleague with the inflammatory jibe  “I thought only black lads were drug dealers” and playfully blames his misconception on Irish culture, we know, of course, that this kind of racism has its roots in Western filmic and other media representations largely imported from overseas.

 

There will be inevitable comparisons with the popular, In Bruges, another crime comedy made by the filmmaker’s brother, Martin and also staring Gleeson.  Both had fabulous screenplays and terrific performances but for me In Bruges fell away when it switched from being dialogue based to something more cinematic in the final third.  There are no such problems with The Guard, which concludes with a wonderful Mel Brooks style parody of the conventional stand off.purchase dapoxetinebuy levitra with dapoxetinegeneric cialis dapoxetinebuy motilium tabletsdomperidone buy us order domperidone from canadaorder domperidone from canada where to buy motilium in the usbuy domperidone online australia buy domperidone from canada

 

A hugely enjoyable second feature from McDonagh who delivers a lesson in the art of subversion with the filmmaker being as mischievous as his lead character.

Project Nim

August 12th, 2011 - Graham Eley

James Marsh follows his Academy Award success, Man on Wire with another compelling documentary that started life as an in-depth exploration of a 1970’s experiment into inter-species communication but became a deeply disturbing account of human frailties and the misuse of science in the name of arrogance and self promotion.

 

The principal culprit is one Professor Herb Terrace, a so-called expert in behavioural psychology at Columbia University who challenged the prevailing view of leading linguist Noam Chomsky that only humans were capable of forming multiple signs into a communication structure.  Architect of a reckless plan, seemingly conceived on a whim, he arranged for a two-week old chimpanzee to learn sign language whilst growing up as part of a human family.  We need look no further than the contemptuous name that Terrace adopted for his subject, Nim Chimpsky, for an early indication that the project’s objectives did not extend much beyond his academic and personal ambition.

 

Also culpable but more misguided than ruthless were the surrogate mothers/carers who adopted Nim at various stages during the project.  With Terrace increasingly conspicuous by his absence, they lost sense of reality, were hopelessly out of their depth and totally seduced by their new companion.  Viewed in retrospect, scenes of inter species breast feeding & a pot smoking chimp beggar belief but perhaps these activities made more sense in the early seventies during the final throes of the hippy revolution.

 

The sign language is mighty impressive and fascinating but Nim’s understanding never extends beyond advanced triggers for certain types of behaviour that he nevertheless exploits to the full.  Power relations change dramatically and predictably with the team finding it impossible to tame Nim’s inner chimp and innate aggression.  When he reaches adulthood and is five times stronger than an average man, the team finds itself in a similar territory as Werner Hertzog’s Grizzly Man with deluded assessments of Nim’s increasingly dangerous shifts of mood and behaviour.  The situation could not continue but there was a real dilemma here with Nim caught between two alien worlds as a semi-domesticated chimp compatible with neither.  In an appalling neglect of his moral and intellectual responsibility, Terrace made the brutal horror decision of returning Nim to his own kind in captivity without preparation.  It ushered in the next phase of Nim’s life; one of unspeakable psychological torture.

 

Marsh pieces it all together with his trademark use of interviews, photographs and archive footage intelligently mixed with reconstructions that do more than complete the picture but provide a telling narrative drive that intensifies our emotional involvement.  Not noticeably judgemental, Marsh is content to allow the evidence to speak for itself and for the interviewees to shoot themselves in the foot with obliging frequency.

 

Particularly repulsive is the sight of Terrace with a TV crew at hand milking the i’ll-fated project for all its worth.

 

Devastatingly true is the retrospective assessment of the sign teacher when she confesses to the project’s huge disservice to Nim and his soul.

 

And compelling is the case for strict controls on animal experiments of their different kinds, which remains equally relevant today.dapoxetine buy online canadadapoxetine salegeneric viagra dapoxetinebuy motilium tabletsdomperidone buy us order domperidone from canadaorder domperidone from canada where to buy motilium in the usbuy domperidone online australia buy domperidone from canada

Interrupters, The

August 12th, 2011 - Graham Eley

The slightest altercation seemingly carries a death penalty amongst the gangland law of Chicago’s south side to the point that it is now murder for murder’s sake.  It is a tragedy for the 21st century that young black men are still killing each other ‘Boyz N The Hood’ style as a response to the appalling enclosed ghetto conditions within some American cities.  Politicians are apparently more than content to turn a convenient blind eye as long as the violence does not spread to the majority of the electorate upon which their power rests.  And with the police trapped in the middle, powerless to act other than to manage an almost unmanageable situation, this has turned into a vicious cycle of violence without any prospect of resolution.

 

One initiative looking to make a difference is an extraordinary self-help group that gives the film its title.  Reformed ex-gang members once destined to be another statistic in the death toll or for a life behind bars, now intercede in dangerous street disputes usually at the point where violence is about to erupt.  Steve James provides a compelling insight into their redemption and the vulnerabilities that lies behind the violence that they confront in following the group’s activities at close quarters during a 12 month period.

 

When a serious fight breaks out between rival gangs with killing on their mind, a diminutive figure with a headdress fearlessly transforms herself into a human wall dividing the wearing factions and restoring calm against the odds.  This is Ameena Matthews, the daughter of the notorious Chicago gangster, Jeff Fort, and a worthy subject for a documentary in her own right.  Once the real deal, a major player on the Chicago street gangs, nobody doubts her toughness even those unfamiliar with her backstory.  She understands their frustration, anger and motivation and knows what is like to be shot, to fear for her life and will stand toe to toe with the most hardened ringleaders and make them listen.  But even more engaging is her relationship with a young teenager seemingly incapable of complying with her bail conditions.  Terribly sad is the realisation that notwithstanding all of Matthews’ best efforts, this is a young girl desperate for human contact who has simply lost her faith and trust in humanity with little hope of regaining it.

 

Eddie Bocanegra remains the most troubled of the group.  An unassuming artist with a gift for teaching and understanding children, it seems almost inconceivable to us now as we watch him quietly going about his business that he once shot another street gangster at point blank range during a mindless feud.  Now reformed but totally tortured by his past, his every movement is weighed down by a heavy remorse that seems destined to remain forever.  He is desperate to meet his victim’s family but knows that it cannot happen.

 

There are no such concerns for Cobe Williams who escaped the street culture before it reached disaster point and positively embraces his new role with a celebratory enthusiasm that is infectious.  With a street cunning and a high level of emotional intelligence, Williams bides his time, picks his moments very carefully and makes an impact and changes lives.  A hugely impressive character but we sense that there are many other Williams’ out there destined to slip between the net.

 

Tio Hardiman, whose every word and gesture carries with it a knowing street cred punch, runs the unit and becomes our unofficial narrator.  Particularly affecting is the sight of Hardiman breaking down when one of his colleagues is shot during an encounter; a reminder of the dangers that they all face.

 

James divides the film into seasons finishing appropriately enough with Spring.  But this is very much a case of a little hope is better than no hope and although every bit helps, this is a situation crying out for a major political initiative.priligy dapoxetine buy onlinebuy dapoxetine swedenbuy priligy dapoxetine ukyasmin 0.03mg/3mg yasmin side effectsyasmin birth control generic nameyasmin genericosimon price comparison buy yasmin onlineyasmin buy