Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Celluloid #75

In Theaters

the White Ribbon (2009) Haneke - A beautiful and stark black and white film about a small village in pre-WW1 Germany. A series of strange events occur, usually violent and retaliatory in nature, but inflicted for unknown reasons. The kids are creepy, but the adults aren't much better in their treatment of other townspeople. Haneke still tackles human nature and its relationship with evil, but he seems more restrained than ever before. Maybe I've become too desensitized from watching the rest of his filmography, but the shocking scenes seemed milder, and Haneke cuts away from scenes that we would have been forced to endure in the past. 4/5

In Home

By Brakhage (1959-2000) Brakhage - This volume of short films encompasses the output of experimental filmmaker Stan Brakhage. Many are bursts of color and shapes coming at you at a frenetic pace, and I'm not sure what to say about them, but they are beautiful in small doses. While none of the films are particularly narrative, some are slightly less abstract (a film about drunk teenagers, another about sex, etc.) The two most graphic are definitely the film The Act of Seeing with One’s Own Eyes, comprised entirely of footage from actual human autopsies, and the film Window Water Baby Moving featuring scenes of a very pregnant woman in the bathtub followed by scenes of the actual birth. His entire interpretation of the life cycle is really great, and it will be a long time before those two films dim in my memory. 4/5

Desperado (1995) Rodriguez - The sorta sequel to El Mariachi, but with a higher budget, polished look, and exchange of Antonio Banderas for Carlos Gallardo as the protagonist. This time around our mariachi is out for revenge of his lover's death. He teams up with Carolina (Salma Hayek's breakthrough role) to stack up a pretty high kill-count. The story gets a bit messy and lives in the grey area of morality, but I think that only adds to the enjoyment and entertainment value of this film. 4/5

the Devil Came on Horseback (2007) Sundberg - Documentary about the tragic and frustrating situation in Darfur. We follow Brian Steidle, a retired Marine, who has an assignment to "monitor the ceasefire" in the region and ends up photographing a genocide. The documentary is hard to watch because it shows how the American public and government never react much or do anything about the situation, despite compelling visual evidence. 3.5/5

El Mariachi (1992) Rodriguez - This was the week of Robert Rodriguez films. I started taking my Latino film class again, and he's our first director. This was his low budget debut, and for the most part it looks fine, but the sound is way off. A loner mariachi arrives in a strange town and becomes the victim of mistaken identity. Another man, dressed in black, who also carries a guitar case, has killed a bunch of men in revenge for not getting paid. The gringo is the villain for, even if the action gets a bit cheesy at times. 4/5

Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) Leone - A gritty and pretty spaghetti western, complete with Morricone soundtrack. A woman has recently married and has travelled via train to join her new family. Upon arrival, she discovers that her new husband and his children have all been massacred. Instead of turning right back around to New Orleans, she stays put and gets embroiled in the affairs of the town, and in the middle of an ongoing feud between two aging gunslingers. 4/5

Sin City (2005) Rodriguez - Very dark, stylized action film told in episodes. In one, Marv is out to avenge a prostitute's death...mainly by inflicting damage to genitals. Another centers around a young girl, saved by a cop who goes to jail for eight years. In another, a crew of prostitutes have to defend their corner of the city from crooked cops and sleazes. Totally a guy's film, pairing scantily-clad young ladies with grizzled old dudes. (Clive Owen provides the only attractive male presence). While Rodriguez seems to always put a lot of feminine flesh on screen, it doesn't really bother me on a feminist level because the female characters seem to have just as much depth (or lack there of) as the guys, and they kick a lot of ass...which is really the main point of this whole movie...3.5/5

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