Thursday, 14 October 2010

My personal film round-up

While I'm very much busy these days juggling my Minor Project and Dissertation, amongst other things, I've still found the time squeeze in some essential film watching. Rather than do separate posts for each film, here's a quick round-up of the films I've culturally engaged with in the past couple weeks or so.

Angst (1983, Dir. Gerald Kargl)

Very very dark Austrian film about a serial killer who feels more comfortable in prison so decides to commit a murder in order to get back into prison. The film has no spoken dialogue and is entirely narrated by the main character portrayed by Erwin Leder who gives a ridiculously intense performance. I'm always impressed by actors who must have push themselves to the limit psychologically when doing roles like this. It has a mad, schizophrenic and neurotic camera style that along with the extreme subject matter and gruesome content make it an extremely difficult watch. However it is a brilliant brilliant film, and is almost defiantly a big influence on Michael Haneke's Funny Games and the films of Gaspar Noe.

The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters (2007, Dir. Seth Gordon)

This is a rather sweet, slight bizarre and light-hearted documentary on the intense world of professional video-game playing. This would be the film that Werner Herzog would make if he did a documentary of videogames. I very much love this film, the subject matter and the cast of characters are wonderfully eccentric. It's hardly a masterpiece in objective documentary making and It has been criticized for being little biased towards Steve Wiebe and portraying videogame legend Billy Mitchel is a bad light but apparently he's actually much worse in real life. His friends contest that actually he's a really a great guy, which is slightly hard to believe.

Cruising (1980, Dir. William Friedkin)

This film directed by William Friedkin of The Exorcist fame and is about an undercover cop (Al Pacino) who delves into the seedy world of American underground gay S&M leather bars to track down a serial killer. I believe many have criticized this film for being homophobic. While I would disagree with that I sentiment I would say that it's hardly a ringing endorsement and is highly exaggerated in it's portrayal of America's gay community. It's a good film but hardly a brilliant film, I would say that it captures the dark, gritty, leather visual style very well, but as police thriller it's mostly mundane stuff. However I do like the ambiguous ending very much.

American Movie (1999, Dir. Chris Smith)

I've recommended this film a lot of recently and rewatch justifies my enthusiasm for it! It's a documentary about Mark Borchardt who is obsessed with making Horror films, it details the making of his dream picture 'Northwestern' which he describes as the great American movie and the ultimate downfalls and hardships of trying to make it as an independent filmmaker. I do think the documentary makers are mocking Mark Borchardt but to me I think it's a great lesson for a lot of reasons, mostly in determination and perseverance. Even though the film Borchardt made was perhaps hardly brilliant he ultimately fulfills his ambitions, even if it takes him years to do so. At the end of the day, who can begrudge him that.

Mark Borchardt: "Coven," man, we gotta get this sucker done, though. Seriously. Last night, man, I was so drunk, I was calling Morocco, man. Calling, trying to get to the Hotel Hilton at Tangiers in Casablanca, man. That's, I mean, that's, that's pathetic, man! Is that what you wanna do with your life? Suck down peppermint schnapps and try to call Morocco at two in the morning? That's senseless! But that's what happens, man.

Mark Borchardt: I was called to the bathroom at the cemetery to take care of something. I walked in the bathroom, and in the middle toilet right there... somebody didn't shit in the toilet, somebody shat on the toilet. They shat on the wall, they shat on the floor. I had to clean it up, man, but before that, for about 10 to 15 seconds man, I just stared at somebody's shit, man. To be totally honest with you, man, it was a really, really profound moment. Cuz I was thinkin', "I'm 30 years old, and in about 10 seconds I gotta start cleaning up somebody's shit, man."

Caravaggio (1986, Dir. Derek Jarman)

This is a fictionalized retelling of the life of great Baroque painter Caravaggio directed by British filmmaker, artist and gardener Derek Jarman. This is a very interesting and to use a naff term, arty film. I love the theatricality of it all and the way that it very much feels like a stage play. The film is about 16th century Italians yet all the actors have very strong English accents giving it an oddly contemporary feel. The film makes extensive use of Tableau Vivant and strangely mixes of different time periods to create a beautiful, challenging and wonderfully avant-garde film.

Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933, Dir. Michael Curtiz)

This film only entered my life a couple days ago when it appeared on a recent BBC documentary about 1930's Horror films. From the small clip that I saw it looked absolutely brilliant and having now seen it I can attest to the greatness of this forgotten classic. For a 1930's film the film is extremely dark, and it's no surprise to me that it was though lost for many years and fell into obscurity while camptastic classics such as Bride of Frankenstein and an assortment of Bela Lugosi and Boris Karloff 'masterpieces' remain the films most remembered from the era (Strangely at the premier of the film, Bela Lugosi arrived with a man dressed in Gorilla costume. Don't ask!) The story is slightly hard to follow but it involves a wax-maker who steals bodies to make models out of them. The film was made in two-tone Technicolor giving it a rather lovely and unique bluey-yellow, highly contrasted look throughout. Early on in the film their is a fire sequence and the colour of the film changes changes to an extreme orange and as the wax models begin to melt it feels like the film is melting with it. The films visual style is wonderful, mixing Gothic and German expressionist style of design and as stated before the film's use of texture and shadow aided by the colour scheme is marvelous. One thing I disliked immensely was the utter screwball ending, along with the slightly irritating journalist character. These are my only real complaints however. The rest of the time, Mystery of the Wax Museum is a dark and sinister piece of brilliance and is slightly tragic that it remains so obscure.

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