Posts tagged film review
Posts tagged film review
DIRECTED BY LEOS CARAX
HOLY MOTORS is a series of vignettes that add up to something. It begins with a man waking up in a room that leads into a cinema where infants are crawling the aisles and animals walk about. It ends with talking cars. This somehow works. The movie I just saw is pretty close to be 99% inaccessible to the general public. For the other 1%, you are still going to have splinter groups on this film of not its quality or caliber of acting, it is clearly good in both aspects, but what the hell does it mean? Is it about the death of film that go to digital? Is it about playing multiple roles? Is Leos Carax, who has had his issues with funding movies, just dropping every half-baked idea into one movie so he can feel better about himself that it is all out there without ever funding a movie ever again? Is Carax pulling our leg or is it really about the state of the multiple identities people take while on the internet? Can it be a little bit of all of those things? I am one part completely invested in finding out and debating the meaning of the film but also am just grateful I was taken for a ride in this film. This is one of the best and most audacious films of 2012 and in many, many years.
Explaining the movie as a series of vignettes may be underselling the film as there appears to be a consistent thread in that this actor played by Denis Lavant takes a limo ride to a certain appointment today to ‘act out’. These roles stretch from the bizarre such as reviving a ‘tramp-like’ character that Lavant already played in a Carax section of the film Tokyo! who wreaks havoc on a photo shoot in a cemetery and a man in a motion-capture suit engaging in simulated sex for what appears to be a video game to the completely banal such as a dying man and a gypsy beggar woman on the streets. We, the audience, are given very little background as to why Lavant’s M. Oscar has to be doing this on a daily basis, how much of this is based in reality or in theatricality, and who is actually in on these appointments. Even tender scenes such as a father and daughter having an argument or M. Oscar apparently rekindling with an old flame in a musical(!) section (with Kylie Minogue in a Jean Seberg wig), Carax does not show all of his cards, leaving some doubt over how ‘real’ that was.
What keeps the film from getting completely pretentious (it is not for everyone and it definitely challenged my threshold) is Denis Lavant’s chameleon performance in so many of these roles. It should be the very performance that has Oscar calling but he will sadly be ignored in most of the State-side awards. Nothing seems too out there and ridiculous for Lavant to do, Carax knows the actor well enough to know this, which speaks to also how much you buy the performance. M. Oscar’s whole life seems to be in that limousine that is also a dressing room and refuge (there is more shit going on in that limo than the limo in Cosmopolis) with his only ‘true’ conversations happening with his driver Celine (played by Edith Scob, from EYES WITHOUT A FACE— that comes up, by the way). This job with its daily appointments has M. Oscar looking tired and drawn out but still moving from appointment to appointment, some of which go long, some of which speed up, and some that are switched or cancelled or are reappearances. Although the reason for these appointments are hazing, one conversation does give details but even that seems light, that it is treated as something banal while delivering some ridiculous goods in acting with an anarchic touch that oscillates between comic, tragic, and just plain weird. As much as people like to think this is Carax playing a swan song to the actual use of film dying with clips of the earliest silent era popping up intermittently (though the fact HOLY MOTORS was shot in digital seems lost of a few people on jump on this theory), I also think it is about the roles people play on a daily basis. That for actors it is no longer the cinema where you find them but on the streets, sometimes with cameras capturing them, sometimes not, maybe even some times for the vanity of it all. Lavant and Carax are a team that really tests how far you can go in the surreal state of the life of acting and perhaps cinema itself.
The film is beautiful looking and the lead performance is something to both study and just sit back in awe of, but let me be clear, this film is not for everyone. There are musical numbers, an erect penis, Eva Mendes in a burqa, talking cars, co-habitating with chimps, and motion capture lizard creature sex. I was personally not familiar with Carax’s work but this definitely had me seeking out his stuff (coming up on some hard luck, unfortunately). This movie is weird but it is a film where you can absolutely say you did not foresee what happens next and even certain vignettes lull you do want to see how the next appointment happen because you do get attached to what Lavant and Carax are bringing you the viewer. This film was a weird, wild ride that could leave some viewers at odds with what the hell is happening but believe, just sit back and embrace the weird.
DIRECTED BY STEVE MCQUEEN
*NOTE: THIS IS JUST AS MUCH A CRITICAL INTIMATION AS A REVIEW. SPOILERS ABOUND*
Is this film straight-forward as I think or as abstract as every differing opinion on what they saw on screen thinks? Or is either of us just plain wrong? It was obviously that this film would cause a stir but probably not in the way I have expected. Steve McQueen’s SHAME has been accused of being the conservative, puritanical, homophobic, and predictable (in some cases inhibiting these features for some reviewers all at the same time). I personally think this is a film where the ‘shame’ is not at all of what is ‘plaguing’ the main character Brandon Sullivan but the ‘shame’ lies in the root of what sprung into that ‘plague’.
It is inferred and said in the film that something happened to both Brandon and his sister Sissy, that they came from a bad place. Nothing else is really said but understood by both of the characters and the home they came from and any other family unit is not mentioned at all in the film. Did they come from a broken home? Was their upbringing sexually charged? Whatever it is Sissy unexpectedly re-entering Brandon’s life brings back memories he had wished to forget but nonetheless lives with day-to-day. Their brother and sister relationship does not at all seem to be normal. There is something off. They try to maintain some closeness by sitting close and watching TV but it all dissolves into both of them having absolutely knife-cutting back and forth dialogues of insults. They are both too comfortable being completely naked in the presence of the other including Brandon attacking Sissy for interrupting his masturbation session in the shower. There is also a bedroom scene that shows a relationship stunted in adolescence than two adults. Credit to Michael Fassbender and Carrie Mulligan (each snubbed by the Academy for acting nominations) for making every conversation among these two characters be so bare-bones real and palpable. Brandon and Sissy each share a certain fake quality to them and each know it, frequently using it against each other, which makes the reason they need each other also necessary. But neither are really capable of acting rational, instead going to extremes to act out their needs and traumas.
Sissy entering Brandon’s life serves as a reminder. She is flesh and blood but also somebody who is supposed to mean a lot to him. He tries to act like he cares but really a lot of his whole life is a front for his real life of hooking up for anonymous sex and encounters both physical and web-based.
Honestly, Brandon does a pretty good job managing it until she comes around. It is not that she completely abhors his behavior, she is equally promiscuous and frankly is more concerned about the lack of real intimacy in his life. Her having pleasure makes him realize he cannot really find pleasure, even when having sex with somebody he knows and likes personally. It almost becomes a job that Brandon decides to have a ‘lost weekend’ seeking all kinds of ways to have sex. Brandon addiction is power which is why after getting beat up he goes to the closest gay club where he can exert power with no apologies about (I do not find the shot homophobic but I find the inference that he can within 30 seconds get a guy to go down on him to definitely feed on a lot of people’s prejudices to be a good criticism). He maintains control of his addictions but something about Sissy coming back into his life shakes his entire foundation.
There is trauma that is the foundation for his addiction that likely happened in childhood but nobody has the slightest idea about it. Brandon is in a male fantasy on his terms. Women want him and men want to be him but Sissy knows too much about him to not find his life a bit sad. Sissy tries to have a fun, intimate sex life that Brandon does not really understand and pushes her aside. I am behind the incest accusation. Sissy is almost too cloying (this is sometimes the mark of people abused who despite their traumas continue to submit to their abusers) around Brandon and there is a hint of guilt and dread in Brandon’s conscious avoidance of her outcries and feelings that go beyond usual brother-sister drama. She actively tries to get his attention, impress him, and get close to him. When she screws his boss, it was almost a cry for attention. Her post-coital bedside snuggle attempt with Brandon triggers triggers him to act his most volatile. She wanted him, not the lame, taken, no-game to speak of boss.
It is safe to say, Brandon does not share the same feelings as Sissy. She became disposable like any of the prostitutes he had or the anonymous women he met over the internet. He does however feel her burden of presence, which is the ‘shame’. He had to have started with her. She was the closest to him. He ruined her. He might not have been the first there to ruin her but he had to be a contributor. But he, himself, might have also been ruined yet he also was the inheritor of that power. And he is still has to be the only lifeline to Sissy that makes her all the more damaged. This becomes very nature versus nurture question. Sissy assures Brandon it is nurture from a bad place but Brandon does feel like it is becoming a nature for him as a terrible person. He cannot get close to people with sex because he knows exactly the effect it had on people closest to him. The real tragedy is that Sissy coming back into his life does not make Brandon, based on her own agency, rage or anger, face it but rather her tragic lionizing of him does the trick.
The incest may not have reached any physical contact on-screen but emotionally it is so overwrought. There are no boundaries between these two. They continue to have sex lives but Brandon’s damage is the power burden he exhibits while Sissy continues a path of finding pleasure that pretty much is undercut by her once source of pleasure shutting her out. Everything may seem conservative in SHAME because the ‘shame’ is one of the more far-reaching taboos. Nothing in Brandon’s ‘lost weekend’ can ever really seem as extreme or depth-sinking as his past. His addiction is a burden, a job, a necessity.
I could just be giving this film too much credit. For such a film with great leading performances, nobody in the supporting cast is memorable or worth noting. The choices of setting for certain scenes leaves something a bit desired. The ending that McQueen may have thought is open-ended could easily be seen as a moral lesson for Fassbender’s ‘naughty boy’. The ‘lost weekend’ scenes are jarringly beautiful. Which begs the question, is Brandon finally getting his pleasure or are we, the audience, just too mesmerized by the beautiful people on screen? The dramatic cues of one character’s fate also felt too close to the edge of melodrama. McQueen is probably grateful the positive and negative response to his film is as diverse but this Rorschach blot of a film may need something a little more. Is the ‘shame’ sex addiction itself or something that if we are to be grounded in reality lies an unspeakable situation (Because who really cries out accusations of incest or sexual abuse so simply?)?
For its faults, SHAME remains a film I cannot get out of my head that is elevated by the performances of Fassbender and Mulligan (whom with this performance sold me on her playing Daisy Buchanan in the upcoming adaptation of The Great Gatsby) who are every bit as good, haunting, and emotionally-naked as any nominated performance of 2011. It is not the most well-written script and not the most craftily direct film but the performances make the movie stay with you rather than go in the one-hundred different bad directions it could have gone as a morality play of something the public snickers at just by the term ‘sex addict’. And for that I am grateful for its existence and being one of the most hotly debated films of 2011 into 2012.
DIRECTED BY PADDY CONSIDINE
Some movies are too often afraid to have their audience dislike their protagonist. Often directors shuffle around their deeply flawed characters or often have not got a clue over how their character plays to the audience. In TYRANNOSAUR, Paddy Considine in his directorial debut, just steamrolls through the whole problem by really testing the audience by having his main character, Joseph (Peter Mullan), kick his dog to death. What can redeem this man? Initially you expect the cliched nice Christian woman Hannah (Olivia Colman) help transform Joseph into in a not so public nuisance, but no, she actually has her own skeletons in her closet that become further exposed in large part due to her sadistic husband James (a truly frightening Eddie Marsan) embarrassing her routinely, pushing her to alcoholism in the process.
Joseph and Hannah found each other to help themselves though it is never easy as James grows more and more jealous that you are fearful that after seeing what he is capable of with no provocation at all earlier, what will he try to do to these two. Joseph and Hannah are yin and yang and the movie does not show them click immediately and even when they do become ‘friends’ they are still a combustible pair out of opposites. We see three very flawed characters who retreat often to what puts them in their tough place.
This is a tough, harrowing film that if you cannot get past the opening scene, follow your instincts and stop. But the performances by Colman (who in an ideal world get Oscar buzz) and Mullan, two great character actors, give the film its punch and bite than some miserable patronizing of working-class England. Considine’s debut is not really showy or bare-boned, it fits perfectly in the middle that is a good compliment to the films of Ken Loach, Shane Meadows and Peter Mullan’s directorial work.