Review of a truly remarkable film, In Pursuit of Silence is over on Flickering Myth and below…
How noisy is the world these days? And how often do we really get the chance to experience silence – or at the very least, a quiet absence of loud? Not very often this impressive and exquisitely created film would suggest.
Patrick Shen’s superbly produced documentary takes the audience on an exploration of the ins and outs of modern sound levels, with a suggestion that the current trends of metropolitan soundscapes are damaging in a variety of different ways. Bringing out a number of personal stories, alongside professional scientific research, the film is a powerful encapsulation of a new-world dilemma.
Shot in a number of different locations around the globe – from the streets of the loudest city in the world, Mumbai during the festival season, to a lonely tree in Iowa, the film is much more than a traditional science and nature documentary. It takes in a whole range of subjects, with the visual language playing an integral part. In fact, the dialogue is kept to a minimum and there is no traditional narration, instead offering the insight of experts and intellectuals who have looked into sound-pollution and its impact. Each part of the film features beautifully realized representations of the natural world and our place in it, and this alongside philosophical and psychological analysis establishes exactly why this is such an important study.
John Cage’s work 4’33 could be said to be the film’s theme song, and the creator of that silent masterpiece provides thought provoking detailing of what led him to come up with the piece’s complete silence (or near silence, depending on where it is being performed). The composition is mentioned throughout the film, and how its reputation has shifted through the ages since its creation could be said to highlight our changing attitudes towards silence. Nowadays it seems to be a rare resource, and its stock could be said to to be on the rise…
The scale of the value of silence and just how striking it can be is brought out in scene after scene. A particularly striking one is recorded during a Remembrance Day two minutes silence in the Lloyds of London Building. The trading room floor falls fantastically quiet and then just as suddenly reverts to the high-octane clamour of the financial world.
Another memorable part of the film is provided by Greg Hindy, a man searching for calm and well being through a self-imposed vow of silence. He embarked on a walking quest from New Hampshire to Los Angeles and shares his thoughts with the filmmakers throughout the film. The effective display of simply holding up his notebook detailing his thoughts to the screen allows us into a private world, full of sights and intensity without the need for dialogue. He sums up the process beautifully in the following lines: “Sometimes to really see things the way that they truly are, you have to take a step back, and then another step, and then a few more.”
A meditative study, both intriguing and frightening – as quiet contemplation becomes more of a rarity – In Pursuit of Silence raises awareness in hauntingly beautiful fashion. Strongly recommended.
Train to Busan is over at Flickering Myth and below…
Long distance train journeys are pretty frustrating at the best of times. Crap wi-fi coverage, uncomfortable seats if you can find one, undrinkable coffee; the list goes on and on. Let’s face it, adding a horde of marauding zombies could almost be seen as something of a relief from the unremitting tedium of staying awake for the last stretch…
Thankfully, Sang-ho Yeon’s Train to Busan shares none of the failings of regular cross country rail services. Serving up a classic horror concoction of non-stop action alongside socio-political allegory, the film manages to inject some fresh new life into a horror sub-genre that has recently become over-exposed and under-developed. This is a film that builds on its straightforward concept to incorporate smart humour, jump scares and apocalyptic horror. Unlike say, 2013’s Korean sci-fi train epic Snowpiercer, it is all done without any pretension to art-house sensibilities and keeps a clear head for the serious business of zombie mayhem. However, far from being just another throwaway infected flick, the film gradually draws its audience in to feeling genuine sympathy for (most) of the passengers on board and succeeds in crafting a high-octane adventure with something to say beyond the screaming.
Morbidly funny to begin with and gradually becoming more profound as it moves on, the film focuses on the passengers of the high-speed bullet train from Seoul to Busan as they attempt to stay alive. Among those on the train are the recently divorced Seok-woo (Yoo Gong) and his daughter Soo-an (Soo-an Kim) who are desperate to reach Busan to see her mother. These two are joined by a small group of uninfected including the impressive Ma Dong-seok as a likable but quick-tempered man devoted to protecting his pregnant wife.
As the struggle for survival goes on, this group, also including a pair of young lovers and two elderly sisters, becomes split from another collection of characters who are also battling the infected in a different part of the train. This other group counts a ruthless unscrupulous businessman at its head, and the fight for moral judgments and doing what’s right on a human level is at the film’s heart.
It is really the young father’s internal quest to protect his daughter while struggling with his own problems that brings the film onto another level of enjoyment. A raw emotional underbelly becomes ever more exposed, until the audience experiences a heartfelt message to trust and love. It’s a difficult pitch to get right and one that could have stumbled if dealt with in a more po-faced manner, but happily Sang-ho Yeon gets it just right. Mixing up impressions from movies as diverse as The Raid, 28 Days Later and Night of the Living Dead, this is a beautifully crafted mix of horror and sociological morality play. All in all though, it is pure entertainment with a side-order of allegory. Go for the scares and stay for the ideas.
My review of Tales of Poe, an enjoyable anthology film taking three Poe works as inspiration, is over at Flickering Myth and below…
Anthology films are well loved among horror aficionados, with the technique of bringing short stories out in segmented films stretching back to the very start of cinema. Edgar Allen Poe readers have been well served in the past, with 1962’s Tales of Terror striking that vital spot somewhere between black comedy and horror wonderfully well.
This film from Mastronardi and Kelly also manages to pull off the difficult trick of providing out and out bloody horror alongside a thoughtful and wryly humorous take on three of the master storyteller’s works.
Opening the show is an exquisitely grim retelling of possibly Poe’s best known story The Tell Tale Heart. The fantastically stylized piece focuses on just how far guilt – and a beating heart – can lead to trouble, and in this case, being put away in an institution. It’s a well crafted production, with the variation in tone between dreamlike intonations of threat and disturbance and full on screamadelic blood rush. It goes for the jugular right from the offing, but also contains a wistful sense of desolation and lost love, making it the perfect start to an eye-opening updating of Poe.
Next up is The Cask of Amontillado. This is concerned with that most human of frailties, greed and lust. The exotic locations and fine displays of wealth go some way to showing off just what is at stake, and that plus fine performances allow us entrance into a very dark world indeed. Unlike the protagonist though, we can get out! Another enjoyable chapter, with horror and humour mixing together well like a fine and bloody wine.
Closing the film is the most surprising element of all. Poe’s long poem Dreams is captured here in a superbly realized psychedelic display of light and shade. The writer’s essentially romantic soul is allowed the freedom to roam, and the non-narrative structure of the short film suits a platform that amounts to an elegant and memorable tribute to him and his work.
Surprising in its artistry and intensity, Tales of Poe serves up an intoxicating feast of nightmares…
Review of indie psychological horror Dark Exorcism is over at Flickering Myth and below…
The subject of demonic possession has been a huge deal in the horror genre for ages, with 1973’s The Exorcist often cited as the scariest thing since sliced bread (or was that sliced head?, anyway pretty scary) and a stream of new pretenders constantly waiting in line. It is however, a difficult topic to do justice to. On one hand you have The Shining or Burnt Offerings showing the true psychological horror of possession. On the other you might have REC3 or worse, something like The Devil Inside or the worst excesses of the Paranormal Activity franchise.
In any case, Dark Exorcism – formerly titled In The Dark – is an intriguing addition to the possession style of movie and another impressive notch on filmmaker David Spaltro’s catalogue. The filmmaker specialises in thoughtful and emotional indie dramas (Around, Things I Don’t Understand) and bring this cerebral quality to the possessed horror movie sub-genre. With an impressive lightness of touch, the film stands well above most of the indie horrors making their way around the festival circuit and beyond. There is a neat theatrical edge to the production, allowing the cast to bring out the complexities of the script without relying on stock jumps and scares. More than anything else, this is about the personalities on show, and how each one copes with the ramifications of a potentially unexplainable situation. In effect, it’s not a standard low budget horror.
The strength of the largely female cast is shown in a three part psychological battle. Firstly there is the clash of ideas between the purely rational grad student Veronica (Lynn Justinger) and the experienced paranormal expert Lois Kearne (Fiona Horrigan). These two represent the opposite sides of the argument for and against the paranormal and for any evidence of ‘possession’. As the film progresses, another strong performance is sourced in Grace Folsom’s Bethany. Bethany is distinctly unwell, but exactly how unwell only becomes apparent after a few meetings. All three of the actors display a confidence in the work, and provide the depth to keep an audience second guessing.
The film keeps special effects to a minimum, thus making sure the audience concentrate purely on the performances and the dialogue. This works up to a point, although a little more mystery in regards the eventual outcome would have been welcome. All in all though, a well written and produced psychological possession movie.
There was something on the floor as I walked back home after my shopping excursion in town. I had been to Marks and Sparks to buy some new comfortable socks and pants, as I was running pretty low. I had also bought a nice bagel from a cafe and felt the edge of my despondency gradually diminishing. There was something on the floor as I strode with purpose, thinking of opportunities current and others due to present themselves. There was something on the floor as I huddled under a pub front awning to escape the steady flow of drizzle. There was something on the floor; it was a bit of bread that looked like a hand. There was something on the floor. There was something on the floor there was something coming out of the floor it was a hand coming out of the floor it was a hand that look like bread it was a hand that looked like bread that looked like bread like bread hand bread hand bread bread bread
I held onto it.
From pupils being dilated
To culture being diluted
The underground’s running all night
But there’s not a party in sight
The clubs and venues closing
To make way for global cloning
The ambience gets peaceful
If you can afford it
It all gets a bit more ‘nice’
And wildly overpriced
Time to make an impact
A declaration of intent
Music and clubbing is part of the Fabric
Of what makes a city a city
Keep it alive
My review of The Killings of Tony Blair is over at Flickering Myth and below…
For many people outside of the political classes George Galloway has been something of a perplexing figure. Someone with the ability to lucidly draw attention to the many problems of world politics – he defended himself memorably in front of the US senate – he is someone with a gift for soundbites and pithy responses.
However, the decision to front this feature documentary himself is a big mistake. Despite having the ability and the credentials to bring necessary discussion post-Chilcot on Blair’s career, Galloway is also someone with the potential to draw attention away from the facts. Many who remember his ill-judged reality TV appearance see him as a fame-hungry provocateur, not really an attribute needed for a serious investigations of Blair’s money making activities and alleged war crimes.
The documentary would therefore have been far more hard-hitting without Galloway at its centre. Maybe it would have been better if he had just acted as the narrator? But no, he’s there every five minutes, usually at the centre of talks with a long list of political and cultural figures. Showing off his resplendent overcoat for all to approve of, or door stepping political figures in roving reporter mode.
Galloway is without doubt a smart and critical thinker, but making yourself the focus when the point is an analysis of someone else’s decisions makes the final product lost and confused.
This is not the only problem. Hurried looking satirical animation just looks amateurish and the variety of talking heads popping up just stretches out the running time. All in all then, not the best stick to beat old Tony with. I’m sure the facts speak louder than George on this occasion…
The Killings of Tony Blair is available on DVD and digital HD now.
- thousands of conversations
all happening at once
more and more people
all doing their stuff
the latest point needs to be heard
and the talking explosion is more than one word
- sounds on phones, on trains and on cars
in offices, hospitals, clubs and in bars
the sounds are getting louder just as I’m getting older
and silence is as precious as it’s rare
and we might want to care
or develop better ear plugs
My review of the stoned campsite thriller Dark Cove is over at Flickering Myth now and below.
Dark Cove is a Canadian indie thriller aiming for scares, intense frights and human tragedy. Hammering home the point that camping is never really a good idea, especially if you don’t know the terrain, the low-budget flick delivers less than it promises – which to be fair, wasn’t a lot to begin with.
Five friends from the city go off to the beach on the ‘wild side’ of Vancouver Island with the express aim of getting high and chilling out. With the beers, weed and magic mushrooms all packed up, off they set for a holiday of adventure. They then proceed to pontificate on a number of instantly forgettable subjects for more than half the movie. The scenery however is beautiful and this is the main thing that provides some kind of respite from the sparsity of ideas on show.
It is really in the scripting, pacing and acting that the flick comes a cropper. I’m all for slow build-ups when necessary, but here it takes over 45 mins for anything to actually happen. Prior to that it’s all unnatural sounding dialogue interspersed with gurning juvenalia and crude attempts at humour. This plus a painful soundtrack of ‘let’s get stoned’ bro-anthems detracts from any possibility of caring too much about what might happen.
Things only start to pick up after the introduction of three hippy, surfer types, two Australians and one Brit (cue bizarre accent) into the area. The Canadians, high on ‘shrooms, join the visitors for a bit of a sing along around the camp fire. That night, things take a grim turn as one of the visitors is a rapist who promptly gets beaten to death. The friends must then attempt to hide the body from the attentions of the other two travellers from overseas. When one of them finds out the film’s best part takes place. ‘Best’ as in hilariously atrocious, that is.