Mittwoch, 2. Mai 2012

A month of movies: April.

Do yourself a favour and see "Carnage" (trailer) if you want to laugh and cringe and sit still in horror, "Work Hard - Play Hard" (trailer) if you work in a shared office environment, "Drive" (trailer) if you care for style, "Barbara" (trailer) if you'd like to see the other side, "Le Havre" (trailer) if the idea of Kaurismäki in France excites you and "Le Gamin Au Vélo" (trailer) for a revisit to a movie classic. Do yourself the favour and see "The Tree Of Life" (trailer), if you have the patience to sit through thirty minutes of confusion coming in the form of directorial hubris to enjoy two hours of directorial brilliance. Do yourself a favour and watch films, for they can be fucking good.

Oh, and don't bother with "Intouchables" (trailer).

The short -
Go and see: Carnage.
Well worth watching: Barbara, Le Havre (DVD), The Tree Of Life (DVD), Drive, Le Gamin Au Vélo (The Kid With A Bike) & Work Hard - Play Hard.
If you need to reassure yourself in your middle class: Intouchables (The Intouchables).

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?
Barbara. Christian Petzold is one of my favourite directors from Germany, and one of his main strengths is his excellent eye (and ear!, e.g. an unseen dog barking when a car pulls into a drive-way) for detail. In this movie, he convincingly paints the picture of an 80's smalltown in the GDR and of the eponymous character, an able doctor prepared to leave the country and harassed by the state police. In Petzold's films, things aren't as obvious as they seem though: She slowly realizes that her place isn't necessarily on the other side of the Wall after being given the sense of not being needed there, and we are shown a glimpse into the private life of the Stasi officer tasked with her surveillance, turning him into much more than an empty plot shell. There's one thing wrong with this movie though, and it's the male lead who's downright annoying in his incredible perfection. How all characters in this film manage to have multiple aspects to them but him remains stupefying. 8/10

Carnage. A delight. This adaptation of a play (which I haven't seen) is interesting exactly because none of the overacting and exaggeration needed on stage is toned down for the movie. This seems to suit the actors fine, who apparently enjoy to really let loose - and watching especially Kate Winslet and Jodie Foster do just that is pure entertainment. After everything, Polanski rewards with an outro of sheer inconceivable drama to anyone who likes hamsters. 9/10

Drive. Everything has been said already about "Drive", but just let me stress how excited the camera work made me: When it literally takes a drive through the supermarket, following Carey Mulligan around shopping, we're taken shotgun and in a scene normally without tension, all the pressure and direction set up by the action scenes and the driving music (I admit to maybe overdoing the theme) before, is kept up. It doesn't matter that characters don't matter, we're preoccupied with the visuals and the style - although, and this is the problem, at one point the film gets sidetracked by itself. After the initial change in tone more violence becomes just that: more violence, with little artistic value. 8/10 

Intouchables (The Intouchables). I cannot see the appeal: A sickeningly sentimental strip dealing in stereotypes left and right, for the middle-class to feel good and laugh about. 5/10

Le Gamin Au Vélo (The Kid With A Bike). "Les Quatre Cents Coups", fifty years on. Referencing Truffaut's classic both in theme and technique (the heavy reliance on long tracking shots - of a boy on bicycle wheels instead of a boy running - and the close proximity the camera keeps to the main character almost exactly mimic his example), the homage is of very close resemblance, thus accentuating the social changes and progress that occurred in the decades between the two movies. Cyril, a young energetic boy from a youth home, sets out to seek his father, who rejects him, and through the length of the movie we witness his attempts to come to terms with the new situation, which includes falling in with the wrong crowd. Unlike Antoine Doinel, he's offered a straw of care and understanding to break out from the path of (not so petty) crime he's steered himself on, eventually grasps it and thus escapes in a different way than his predecessor. Like the original, the film manages to avoid painting in a moral heavy hand and thus keeps a spirit of lightheartedness and energy, which helps in genuinely connecting with the boy. 8/10

Le Havre (DVD release). Aki Kaurismäki's cinematic answer to Europe's immigration policy is a fairy-tale world very much unlike our own, inhabited by the childlike and innocent. The main character (who first appeared in "La Vie De Bohème", which I have not yet seen) exudes history, his face and his mannerisms (and that of his wife) suggest he has seen so much in life. He and his peers in a rundown quarter of Le Havre live in poverty but do not hesitate when a young boy on the run from immigration authorities needs their help. It's an alternate reality where for everyone (but the evil snitch of a neighbour, played by Jean-Pierre Léaud in a cameo) no other option is even conceivable. The film's comedy relies on deadpan acting in scenes often devoid of any dialogue and produces genuine smiles rather than outbursts of laughter. 8/10 

The Tree Of Life (DVD release). Belief promising redemption and destructive nature are pitted against each other in Terence Malick's Palme D'Or-winning work of art. That it is without question, but all the same a double-sided affair. One, a brilliant study of a childhood in the America of old under an overambitious, violent and embittered father; two, a recondite attempt to put the same into a wider (best it's to come out and say "epic") perspective within two fragmentary bookends that don't nearly connect as well as Malick would like it to have. In the elegiac overture and final suite we are shown the beauty of Genesis, followed by the force of destruction that is embodied within it (as we all have learned already in Star Trek II), dinosaurs and Sean Penn who later admitted to never himself knowing what he was actually doing there (and, according to him, neither did the director). And while there's no need for this quarter of the movie, there is every need to watch the rest, for that in itself belongs to some of the best I have ever seen. What remains clouded in the framing episodes becomes brilliantly clear within the main narrative, the lighting and camera never cease to amaze and the acting of the children is not only without flaw, but positively awe-inspiring. 8/10 

Work Hard - Play Hard. A look into the (overly) bright and (overly) positive world of office space, 21st century. The language is as bleak and technical and sometimes as hostile as the modern working environment. Empty phrases and hollow buzzwords abound, as do absurd motivational speeches (and worse, games). The mantra of "improvement" is repeated ad nauseam and here revealed to in this context be a tautology: Everyone needs to get better by, essentially, perpetually trying to get better. A documentary pointed to the brink of exaggeration, perhaps, but no less true. 8/10
Previous months of movies: January, February (no post), March.

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