Sonntag, 1. April 2012

A month of movies: March.

If January didn't hold enough George Clooney as George Clooney for you, "The Ides Of March" (trailer) should do the trick. It is amazing how single-sided his œuvre is, and it is even more amazing how much he nevertheless still manages to entertain. In other movies that everyone else has already seen months ago, but yours truly hadn't until now, I present the equally simple (in a different way!) yet equally effective "Midnight In Paris" (trailer), the try-a-little-too-hard "Incendies" (trailer) and the amazing "La Piel Que Habito" (trailer). As far as actually giving you ideas for new films goes, do give the small German production "Kriegerin" (trailer, ignore the awesomely retarded international title) a chance. It is not without flaw, but showcasing some real acting talent in the person of Alina Levshin that with any luck we'll be hearing more from.

The short -
Go and see: La Piel Que Habito (The Skin I Live In) (DVD).
Well worth watching: Midnight In Paris (DVD).
Also deserving a chance: Kriegerin (Combat Girls), Incendies (DVD) & The Ides Of March.

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?
Incendies (DVD release). The film's first scene, where two siblings are presented with their late mother's last wishes, containing a mystery that is theirs to unfold, is intense not only in content but in style: the crisp and heavily amplified sound puts emphasis on everyday actions such as getting out of a coat, breathing or opening a sealed letter, thus loading them with meaning and at once capturing the viewers' attention. Following, a parallel story spanning two generations and two worlds (one in a fictional country of the Middle East, which still is very easy to identify - I do not know whether due to the intention of the filmmaker or not) is skillfully set up. Equally well-crafted, but crafted clearly and thus artificial, is the feeling of tension throughout the whole movie, as if the situation could erupt any second. And, unsurprisingly, it does. The climax, finally, is terribly contrived and its unbelievability weakens everything that was seen before. Greek tragedy cannot literally be applied to today's world, and a strict adherence to its form makes for a rigidity unsuited to seemingly complex films such as this. To make matters worse, instead of just leaving the viewer alone with the revelation, it is subsequently spelled out and explained in detail. 7/10

Kriegerin (Combat Girls). Behold, a German social drama that can. I'm still unsure whether the main character's actions and her change of mind are unbelievable (and this, they are) for being entirely contrived or only for being so far from my frame of reference. For now, I'm leaning towards the former, as one of the supporting roles - the young Afghan refugee - is behaving even odder. Alina Levshin's acting is excellent, and she stands out, but that is all the more remarkable considering the fact that everyone else of the large cast is doing very well already. 7/10

La Piel Que Habito (The Skin I Live In) (DVD release). Much more than revisiting Dr. Frankenstein. In an equally disturbing and fascinating movie, director Pedro Almodóvar once again questions gender and identity and manages to spur his lead Antonio Banderas to a performance not seen from him before. His menacing portrayal of a monomaniac beauty surgeon driven by loss and calculating vengeance evokes a horror which is only heightened by the sterile set design and the stark cinematography. That the comparisons with Hitchcock are justified points to the simple truth that this is Almodóvars best endeavour so far. 9/10

Midnight In Paris (DVD release). I suspect Woody Allen bases all of his characters on people he knows, and in this movie, he does it with people we all know, or think we know. It's the screen realization of a thought experiment most must have had at some point and that, it's got to be said, is much more than only half the film's appeal. Lots of chuckles and geeky smiles will be earned on account of it being so clever and witty, but it solely relies on parading (a lot of) personae of the 1920's behaving in ways we expect them to. In contrast, the only fully fictional character that stays with us throughout the entire length - an unwitting Hollywood hack writer in search of inspiration and in need of guidance, fittingly cast with Owen Wilson - is of fairly flat design. This is not to say "Midnight In Paris" is any way terrible or unloveable. It's just terribly easy to love (and oh dear, I do). 8/10

The Ides Of March. Now, I like George Clooney as much as everyone else, but everything in this movie, including the resolution, is entirely predictable for the sole fact that everything in this movie is made by, includes and is about him. While his political movie-making does not lend itself to surprises, it still is, for the most part, rock-solid. And who else but him could have done as he has in Hollywood throughout what now must be the better part of a decade now? The great cast (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Paul Giamatti standing out) manages to soften the few crafting flaws there are (the characters aren't fully convincing, particularly the young naive - or is it calculating? no one in the production seemed to be sure - intern is off) and is a good enough reason to watch this movie in itself. 7/10

Previous months of movies: January, February (no post).

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