CINELATION | Movie Reviews by Christopher Beaubien
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Unique Trailers: TAXIDERMIA (2006)

by Christopher Beaubien • September 03, 2008 • Start the Discussion!

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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.

Taxidermia was Hungary’s official entry for the Academy Awards’ Best Foreign Film. I wonder how long before its judges walked out of the screening room to get a bucket. Roger Ebert, after watching it at the Cannes Film Festival wrote, “I am sure Taxidermia is an important film and certainly a brave one, but I doubt if I know anyone who would thank me for recommending it”. European art critic Boyd van Hoeij called it the best film of 2006.

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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 film Birth 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.

Unique Trailers: NASHVILLE (1975)

by Christopher Beaubien • May 21, 2008 • Start the Discussion!

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Some great movies can’t be made into good trailers: Just look at the atrocious jobs done unto Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm or Martin McDonagh’s In Bruges (watch the movie first, and then ridicule the trailer — the DVD doesn’t support the trailer either.). And sometimes there is an exception to this rule: Robert Altman’s Nashville (1975).

“The damndest thing you ever saw”.

The fast-paced introductions to the two dozen characters who appear in the movie is so involving and kinetic that your head is spinning with names and connections by the end of the trailer. The actual movie amazingly accomplishes the realization of these twenty-four characters as unforgettable and compelling individuals. Most movies get hung up on a quartet.

I saw this film again last week at a revival in an upscale cinema house (VIFC) in Vancouver. It was introduced by W.P. Kinsella, the Canadian novelist of Shoeless Joe, which was adapted into Phil Alden Robinson’s Field of Dreams (1989). Kinsella revealed his love for Coen Bros. Movies so I made a point to quiz him on Barton Fink (1990) after the screening.

nashville5Watching Nashville, bursting with irony and exuberance, in its 35mm glory was a great experience as much as doing the same with Hitchcock’s Rear Window (1954) and Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). I got chills again watching the main title sequence that features a panoramic J. William Myers Jr. painting of all the characters (featured above). Even while listening to the slow, shivery rendition of the schmaltzy folk song “We Must Be Doing Something Right To Last 200 Years” sung by a leery Henry Gibson (Magnolia, 1999). I’ve been punch-drunk in love with the film having seen it a half-dozen times. If I had attempted to single out every performer and storyline here, I’d be at the IMDB all night.

The director of Scarface (1932) and His Girl Friday (1940), Howard Hawks, once answered the question “what makes a good movie?”: Three great scenes. No bad scenes.” It’s true of Nashville, which has much more than three. Had I to choose three, I would single out a moment very late in the film where three great scenes came together in a row.

nashville1The scene is set in a tavern one night where Tom Frank, a handsome and monstrously hedonistic country singer, played by Keith Carradine (HBO’s Dexter, 2007), very gently sings, “I’m Easy” (the only won Academy Award out of five including Best Picture). Lily Tomblin (Flirting with Disaster, 1996) plays Linnea, a dissatisfied housewife and loving mother who sits in the shadows way back looking transfixed as though Tom were a siren. She thinks he’s singing to her (he is!). So does every woman in the audience who has already slept with him including Shelley Duvall, Cristina Raines, and the beautiful Geraldine Chaplin (“I’m Opal! I’m from the BBC!”). It’s such a bewitchingly vulnerable moment coated in hot tar.

“I’m Easy”

Cut to the second scene in another tavern populated by men who’ve turned up for a political fund raiser — Vote for Hal Philip Walker. Gwen Welles plays Sueleen Gay (“Let me be the… ONE!”), a waitress who dreams of becoming a major singer whose hired as the night’s entertainment. A pity she’s tone-deaf. Sueleen naively uses her sex appeal on stage, oblivious to her lack of talent, and the boorish crowd boos her performance and demands nudity. The political backhanders (Ned Beatty, Deliverance, 1972 and Michael Murphy, Tanner 88′, 1988) bribe Sueleen who is on the verge of tears that she’ll perform with superstar Barbara Jean (Ronee Blakley, A Nightmare On Elm Street, 1984) if she shows skin. What follows is one of the most searingly sad stripteases right down to the taking the socks out of her bra.

nashville2The third scene takes place in Tom’s motel room where he’s in bed with Linnea. Having had sex, she teaches him some sign language (her adorable children are deaf) and he is so engaged with her, surprising considering how he callously treats other women who fawn over him. Linnea figures its time to go (unheard by Linnea, another song “For the Sake of the Children, We Must Say Goodbye” from before could have played over it — thankfully it didn’t). Heartbroken by her leaving, Tom cruelly calls up another girlfriend by phone while Linnea gets dressed. Linnea is not affected and she kisses Tom goodbye. Having failed to hurt her, Tom hangs up the phone. Pauline Kael noted in her review that “he’ll remember her forever.”

Nashville is a masterpiece, a staple to 1970s cinema and one of the quintessential films about America. Technically, it’s also a musical. The Nashville Music Industry were appalled that the movie didn’t use any existing music of their sour grapes. The actors wrote and sung their own songs. Even those who might have gone on to become country singers were denied by the heads of Nashville because their resentment was so great.

Before the showing of the feature I attended, the audience was posed this question: Which one out of the twenty-four characters does not show up at the concert near the end of the film. The answer to who it is: kcalb nerak. Listen much earlier in the film for why this is case by Haven Hamilton to Barnett (Allen Garfield, The Majestic, 2001).

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