Monthly Archives: March, 2015

Wild Tales (2014) Out Now in cinemas

My review of Wild Tales is over at Flickering Myth now. Go see, it’s bloody good!

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Multi-story features can hold many a delight for all kinds of audiences. One draw back they often face is a kind of stark hit and miss ratio. See the V/H/S horror anthology films for proof of this. A combination of the good, the bad and the indifferent, these type of films can sometimes resemble something like a party punch of enticing yet ultimately sickening flavours.

Which is a long way of describing exactly what Wild Tales isn’t. What it is a beautiful collection of extremely funny, intelligent and fantastically realised short films all inspired by the act of revenge.

The fundamental problem most anthology films face is that by their nature they are comprised of different sections all created by different filmmakers. This can lead to elements that don’t fit very well together or a kind of space filler attitude with the weaker segments badly undermining the stronger parts.

Wild Tales differs in this respect. All six films are the work of one vision, that of the Argentinian writer and director Damián Szifron. With a sharp eye for detail and a head for the more twisted forms of comedy, this 2 hour collection of  short films offers a hugely entertaining trip to the basest forms of human behaviour.

The film takes us to this edge immediately. The pre-credits film brings to life the on-flight results of a tortured obsessive named Pasternak. When everyone on the plane realises that are in some way connected to this complex individual, sparks literally fly.

Next up comes The Rats. Following a waitress as she recognises a local corrupt moneylender who has ruined her family, she is persuaded to poison his food by her matronly boss. Soon after his son joins him and things get even more complicated…

The Strongest is a kind of road-rage Duel type story with a yuppie enraging an older less well off driver with extremely violent consequences.

Little Bomb follows a demolitions expert (Ricardo Darín) and his Falling Down type exploits in the city. Basically he can’t get his truck back after its towed away and will do anything to get it back. You know, like blow things up and stuff.

The Proposal features the son of a rich man trying to get out of a fatal car accident incurred when he was driving late at night. The father thinks he has found a way around the ‘problem’, but tragedy strikes when the family caretaker who is willing to do time for money comes face to face with the pregnant victims husband (and his hammer)…

The final tale Until Death do Us Part is probably the strongest of all. It looks at a newly wed (the hilarious Erica Rivas) wife who discovers her cheating husband’s lies and infidelities at the wedding reception. This brings a bloody and funny chapter in this excellent series of shorts.

Produced by Pedro Almodóvar who certainly knows his way around a black comedy when he sees it, Wild Tales is a tremendously entertaining anthology and a must-see for anyone drawn to explorations of the darker side of human nature.

Amour Fou (2014)

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My review of Jessica Hausner’s Amour Fou is over at Flickering Myth.

Also below:

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Berlin, the Romantic Era. Young poet Heinrich wishes to conquer the inevitability of death through love.  After initially being refused to form a suicide pact with his cousin, he meets the young and impressionable romantic Henriette, the wife of a business acquaintance…

The delicately balanced Amour Fou treads a fine line between soul-baring emotional drama and delightfully slick deadpan black comedy. Developing its characters’ whims and motivations at a languid pace, this alternative take on a rom-com allows for a depth of artistry in backgrounds, details and composition.

Focusing on young poet Heinrich’s (Christian Friedel) wish to instil a sense of meaning in his privileged and comfortable life through love and ultimately death, the central premise of the film does not sound like much of an easy ride. However, the beautifully shot and drawn scenes provide plenty of compelling and amusing portraits of early 19th Century Berlin life.

Based on the true story of the poet Heinrich von Kleist, who in 1811 found a drastic way of simultaneously entering the history books and gaining some romantic meaning to life, Jessica Hausner’s (Lourdes) film is a sharp look at obsession. It is pretty hard to feel too much sympathy for Heinrich; he can only tempt himself to go through with his plans when a ‘love’ takes the bullet first. Still, he certainly had ambition…

Friedel’s portrayal brings out these ambiguities extremely well, but when the film shifts its pitch slightly to concentrate on the young wife and mother Henriette (Birte Schnoenik) it finds even more of a disturbing edge. Previously happy with her work and family, when a terminal illness casts a pall over her, Kleist’s morbid wooing begins to hold an attraction for her.

It is this dual pull of death and the possibility of a different sort of love that is at the heart of the film, and it is one that is explored with a poetic lightness of touch.  ‘Crazy love’ indeed.

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Dying of the Light (2014) Out Now

My review of the recently disowned Dying of the Light is over at Flickering Myth and appears below…

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Nicolas Cage. Nicolas Cage screaming. Nicolas Cage screaming LOUDLY. AGAIN.

Given what has been made of the latest Cage-rage low budget effort in many quarters you could be forgiven for thinking this’ll be on a par with that The Wicker Man remake for overall- albeit hilarious- lameness.

In truth, it’s not quite as bad as all that. It’s just a bit weird really, with Schrader and the cast recently disowning the finished product and claiming something of a studio takeover from the creatives in control. They wore T-shirts. They were disgruntled! Surely something must have gone wrong in what could have been a classic?

Well, rather than awful, Dying of the Light is more a bit odd rather than anything else. The central story of a terrorist torturer Banir (Karim) and his victim (Cage) both succumbing to illness and varying levels of decrepitude is not in itself a bad idea.  Varying levels of political conspiracy and obsessive personal ties could have been woven in together in a striking way. Could have.

Instead of that, we’re left with a movie with a few decent ideas but a whole that is roughly carved together and appears to be something of a showcase for the contrasting roles of writer and director. The writer of Raging Bull and Taxi Driver takes on both jobs on this picture, and it seems as though the whole process was somewhat troubled to say the least. There are jumps and cuts which are fumbled and a whole darker story of state sponsored terrorism that gets lost in the mix.

The easy thing to presume would be to suppose that Schrader is not a director, but that would be far too simplistic. This is someone who directed the classic American Gigolo back in 1980 for one thing, and is more than capable of rendering a story complete up on the screen.

However, this follow up to the Lindsay Lohan starring The Canyons is certainly no recovery to a recently stumbling career.

Anton Yelchin is admirably creepy as an ambitious and seemingly psychopathic agent, but the true horror is how his behaviour is left unstudied and uncommented upon. Almost as though a huge chunk of action had been lifted out of the film, his disturbed internal workings are left for the audience to ruminate upon, unaided by the film itself.

By that point even the most dye-hard in the wool Cage fans could well be flagging. Cage himself can still bring out the fireworks but it all seems a little try-hard and wholly at odds with the mournful tone created by the rest of the performers. In effect then, an ill-fitting curiosity.