by Christopher Beaubien • September 17, 2008 • 4 Comments
A few months shy of a year, right after winning Academy Awards for best written, produced and directed film of 2007, Joel and Ethan Coen breathlessly churn out something completely different. Such confident, heady, speedy workmanship that is Burn After Reading makes me wonder if the Coens realize No Country For Old Men – a film full of Chigurh – actually won the Best Picture. For a comedy about government intelligence, it is curiously, though appropriately ominous. This coming from the Coen Brothers, I am not surprised. I am overjoyed.
Burn After Reading is not as broad and eccentric as Raising Arizona (1987) and O Brother, Where Art Thou (2000). Don’t get me wrong, it’s still eccentric. The comedy is more subdued like Barton Fink (1991) where the stuck up title character (John Tuturro) proclaims himself a writer of the common man (“The life of the mind. There’s no road map for that territory”.) while ignoring a bumbling insurance salesman (John Goodman) who often says “I could tell you some stories”.
The new Nanette Burstein documentary American Teen observes and even tampers with a senior class’ transcendence through a high school (“Total caste system”) in Warsaw, Indiana, a small American town that’s labeled “Red State all the way”. To set the stage, the filmmakers all but steal the compact and diverse grouping of stereotypes from the influential John Hughes cult film The Breakfast Club (1985). We are introduced to five main players attending Warsaw Community High School: Colin Clemens (The Jock), Megan Krizmanich (The Princess), Jake Tusing (The Geek), Mitch Reinholt (The Heartthrob in place of The Criminal), and Hannah Bailey (The Recluse — that’s the trailer’s version — The Rebel). Any moment in American Teen would have been appropriate to play ‘Don’t You (Forget About Me)’ by Simple Minds.
This film is really about the fear that stems in adolescence and stirs into oncoming adulthood. The fear of being defined by your vices and insecurities brought up by those vicious, maddening years of being a teenager. The fear of realizing your idealistic youth spent in middling, regretful pastimes that are glibly called ‘the best years of your life’. It is dominated by the fear that things will not get better while the present is eaten up by internal bitterness. High school can really suck. Thankfully the clouds clear and the sun comes out on graduation day.
Once Upon A Time, Six-year-old Alexandria (Catinca Untaru), one of the injured patients in a Los Angeles hospital circa 1920, wanders the limey and creamy walls looking for something to help pass the time. She has a doughy and lovable face that is genuine, animated, and suggests a definite sharpness of thought. She comes across Roy Walker (Lee Pace), an American stuntman working in the Hollywood “flickers”, who is now being treated for his paralyzed legs from an occupational hazard. He is welcoming and befriends the little Romanian girl. Her presence distracts him from an inky cloud of depression.
Their bond grows when he tells her an epic story that is silly yet strong, perplexing yet straight-forward, fantastical yet damned. Her own imagination manifests, reinterprets, and even edits his words into a hodgepodge of visually radical planes, structures, and characters. A whole new universe takes us away from the confines of the hospital and into a land of eye candy.
The Fall is not the best film of the year, but it is one of the most special. While watching it, I realized that I have never seen this movie before. What I mean is that most of the movies I’ve seen are a variation on other films I have seen. Out of the cookie-cutter machine a la Edward Scissorhands, a strange butterfly-shaped cookie has escaped the line: The Fall is a genuine original. What a fresh breeze it is to have a filmmaker throw out that unwritten book that rules out exploration and approaches deemed too strange and melodramatic for mainstream expectations. Here is a work by an artist who exercises his liberties selfishly in the best sense of the word, but not without purpose.
by Christopher Beaubien • September 05, 2008 • 2 Comments
Bias Alert: This news comes just I have recently finished Michael Moore’s Election Guide 2008, thus having read every published word he has ever written including those from the obscureAdventures in a TV Nation.
That waskly old Liberal Michael Moore is rocking the vote (and the boat) with his new film Slackers Uprising. Much like in The Big One (1997) which chronicled Moore’s book tour for Downsize This!, this documentary follows Moore across the country’s universities and colleges. With young adults in attendance months before the Presidential Election of 2004, Moore beseeched the Slackers of America to find their shorts, scarf down their Fruit Loops sans milk and VOTE! The race was between Bush and Kerry and arguably over half the country felt the stakes were near-apocalyptic over four more years of the Sitting Duck in Office.
Two years ago, Hungarian filmmaker György Pálfi made a darkly comic familial splatter film based on the short stories of absurdist writer Lajos Parti Nagy. A vomtorium that dissects the inner workings, obsessions, and gluttonous fetishes of the Kálmán’s past three generations. A timeline laced and dripped into the warm, spent human ooze from Dante’s Circles of Hell. This film Taxidermia (2006) sounds like John “Se7en” Doe’s cup of tea.
The three generations syndrome by German novelist Thomas Mann follows the scheme that the grandfather starts the family on its course, then his son, the father, raises the family to the pinnacle of success so that the last generation’s son would waste it and start anew.
Dutch, once upon a time English, filmmaker Peter Greenaway applied this three generation scheme to filmmaking and concluded that the bold grandfather of the cinema was Sergei Eisenstein, the revolutionary Russian Soviet director who fashioned the immutable and much imitated Battleship Potemkin (1925)*. The renegade father of the cinema was Orson Welles who perfected the medium with the towering Citizen Kane (1939). Then the mutinousson of the cinema being Jean-Luc Godard broke and rearranged cinematic conventions by way of the French New Wave Breathless (1960).
TAXIDERMIA (2006) Trailer
Fair Warning: This One Gets Pretty Freaky
I really dig that smash cut with the crying rooster.
TAXIDERMIA (2006) International Trailer
A round of applause for the sickly fascinating website with the droning music and the decadently gruesome images. When you get to the spinning pin wheel, click on the same image twice to navigate to a new link in the site. Montreal-based Brazilian musician/DJ Amon Tobin scores the film and it sounds subterranean.
I have not seen this film just yet, not for a lack of stomach mind you. I’d have gladly bought a DVD released by Tartan outside of North America had I not found out about the Hungarian produced two-disc special edition. It is packaged like a slab of meat wrapped in cellophane — “Cause you can look right through me. Walk right by me” (couldn’t help myself!) — sold in supermarket.
Disc One features the film in an anamorphic widescreen transfer with Dolby 2.0, Dolby 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. Optional English subtitles are included. Supposedly there is a DVD version that includes a director’s commentary but is not included here.
Disc Two has a 42 minute production, 30 minutes of deleted scenes, with optional director’s commentary, 8-minute visual design and concept gallery, 3 minute stills gallery, Hungarian and International trailers, two music videos by the band Hollywoodoo, Taltosember vs Ikarus —a 20 minute short film by György Pálfi, storyboards, and an interactive game.
Unfortunately, the Hungarian retailers are keeping this DVD edition a secret from the rest of the world. Anyone who knows how I can get a copy of this special edition would be greatly appreciated.
*I originally wrote “…the bold grandfather of the cinema was D.W. Griffithswho made the first narrative-sophisticated feature filmBirth of a Nation(1915) – a pity it is irredeemably racist.” Whether Eisenstein or Griffiths is the real grandfather of cinema has the makings of a blood-on-the-walls debate between cinites.