Mittwoch, 31. August 2011

A month of movies: August.

It's been one of those months that more than make up for previous ones. With trust in the film industry restored, I welcome a brilliant Iranian production into the club of 10/10s: "Nader & Simin, A Separation" (trailer). "Confessions" (trailer) being an equally demanding movie (yet in a very different way), this month's excellent performance is completed by recent DVD releases "Carlos" and "Never Let Me Go" (which I both liked more than most), as well as "Entre Les Murs", which I've been meaning to see for quite a while now. With all these, it's easy to dismiss Joaquin Phoenix' could-almost-have-passed-off-as-a-Jackass-episode "I'm Still Here" (trailer).

The short -
Go and see: Jodaeiye Nader Az Simin & Entre Les Murs (DVD).
Well worth watching: Kokuhaku, Carlos (DVD) & Never Let Me Go (DVD).
Also deserving a chance: Waste Land.
Average: Die Vaterlosen.
Forget about: I'm Still Here & Goethe! (DVD).

The long -
The rules: Only movies seen at cinemas during the month referred to in the post title and recent DVD releases (which will be noted as such) are eligible. This excludes films seen on video or television. Also excluded are movies from festivals, which may or may not get treated in separate posts. Premieres and previews, however, are fine. The reviews are listed in alphabetical order. Finally, ratings are given on IMDB's 1-10 scale. These rules, likely to be broken at the discretion of yours truly, solely exist because no rules are fun, and we cannot have that here, now can we?

Carlos (Carlos The Jackal) (DVD release). I saw the cinematic version that spans a little less than three hours. The full mini-series runs 330 minutes. To that I can attribute the one major complaint I have with the film: At times, the plot forwards too jumpily, skipping whole years in which the political framework in which Carlos acted changed completely, turning the following scenes a game of catch-up. Besides that, we are presented an excellent (fictionalized) character and history study, that succeeds at deconstructing the myth around one of the most prolific names in terror. 8/10

Die Vaterlosen (The Fatherless). Well-told flashbacks in colours reminiscent of old photographs and overusing an ever-present blur explain why family members coming together to mourn their former head didn't have much to do with each other for years. Perhaps this could have worked out were any of the characters shown likeable for longer than a few minutes at a time, but this way, one only wants them to go back to what have become their lives without family. Everyone's better off that way. 6/10

Entre Les Murs (The Class) (DVD release). A very strong movie about the realities of teaching and learning in a French school. "Realities" seems the right choice of words here, because if it wasn't for the way the shots were set up, this could pass as a documentary. It continues to surprise by not following well-tread paths, creating what could be interpreted as a new genre of "docu-drama" - very different from the banal account of "real life" that is served under the same name on television. 9/10

Goethe! (Young Goethe In Love) (DVD release). Will somebody save me from German historic productions? 4/10

I'm Still Here. It's not funny, which turns the joke on Joaquin Phoenix himself. The only semi-amusing bits are the reactions of others who fail to see through the charade. Why they don't is beyond me: His acting can easily be described as "over the top", which is all the more obvious as his co-conspirators manage to be both subtle and believable. Perhaps more of that could have saved this admittedly ambitious enterprise. 4/10

Jodaeiye Nader Az Simin (Nader & Simin, A Separation). This movie is speaking on a multitude of layers, resulting in a complex, yet not perplexing piece of cinematic art, so excellently brought from script into film that it's a pleasure to be able to enjoy it. Themes covered include social classes, religion, women's position in society, law and security, but instead of overwhelming the viewer with input, it does so with the depiction of a emotionally loaded situation. Because all of this seems, and probably is, very real, it's reminiscent of a documentary. The people are real, their lives are real, and the situation is for the viewer to resolve - or not, as sometimes there aren't solutions and judgement isn't easily placed. One of the best movies of the year so far. 10/10

Kokuhaku (Confessions). Disturbing and stylish. School violence has been dealt with before extensively, but here the tables are turned when the teacher hits back in a vicious match of psychological warfare. The brilliant soundtrack carries the sinister mood, the sharply contrasting colours and the sound effects continue to assault the viewer's fading sense of safety in a cinema seat. Make no mistake: There is none, the plot turning and twisting sharply guarantees that, leaving the viewer shell-shocked and bruised. Expect a mediocre Hollywood remake soon. 8/10

Never Let Me Go (DVD release). Very beautifully shot. First off: I haven't read the novel yet, which is likely to have an influence on my opinion of this (what I believe to be a) very good movie. It feels as if the director is skipping over quite a few details, leaving the viewer to fill the inbetweens, and given the inspired performances especially by Carey Mulligan and Andrew Garfield, this works out remarkably well. I enjoyed being handed non-sequiturs instead of endless exposition for once. On the other hand, there are some aspects that don't seem to connect (well and at all) this way, and Keira Knightley's character as well as acting certainly isn't helping in that regard. 8/10

Waste Land. This is one of the two documentaries dealing with modern art I have recently seen, "Exit Through The Gift Shop" being the other. Even though both are depicting outsiders (or used-to-be-outsiders) to the art world, they're very different from each other, both in style and content. During most of its run, "Waste Land" is a lot more about the people and their lives than their art or the art they're contributing to. It is also very positive - perhaps too much, missing some grit. 7/10

Previous months of movies: January, February, March, April, May, June, July.

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