…and the quest to see everything

Posts tagged “May December relationships

Tamara Drewe


Loosely based on Thomas Hardy’s “Far from the Madding Crowd,” ‘Tamara Drewe’ isn’t that visually interesting. The blue-tinted flashbacks compared to present day warm hues, the non-split screen between characters. Those two things don’t seem groundbreaking at all. The film’s first thirty-five minutes merely introduces the characters. The titular character (Gemma Arterton), a swan of a journalist back in town with a new nose job. She also owns a house that is originally owned by the working class Andy (Luke Evans). Two teenagers, Jody (Jessica Barden) and the other one, read gossip magazines. A mix of novelists, Glen (Bill Camp) and Nicholas (Roger Allam) stay at a country house and rock stars like Ben (Dominic Cooper) and muscular help. Like the source material, Tamara scandalously has relationships between two men who are wrong for her while the right, gruff one, in the case Andy, is waiting to become the third.

ph. OutNow

Before we get to that inevitable end, there are a lot of subplots and minor characters colouring the film. Jody spies on Tamara and disapproves of the latter’s relationship with Ben, hilariously saying ‘She can’t love him. I’ve loved him since March.’ That’s when the film really begins. The film’s style of comedy isn’t selling Britishness and is more universal. We have campy adolescent humour. We have Nicholas, an otherwise successful crime novelist and his physical output on the frustration of his old life and a new life he can’t have. Glen also has a few quips delivered so subtly that it took me fourteen hours to realize that they were poop jokes.

I do feel ambivalent about the film’s understanding of love –  I hinted about this already in the first paragraph. On one perspective, love is a step higher than friendship. One’s words of approval sparks the other’s love even if this other person isn’t filmed to have that eureka ‘I love her’ moment. Tamara trusts Andy on what to do with ‘her’ house. Nicholas’ wife Beth (Tamsin Grieg) tells the dejected Glen that if he writes the way he talks about Thomas Hardy, it makes the man more interesting. Another thing about those encounters is that the women ave the upper hand without purposely asserting it, and their words are given more attention to than the men’s reactions. On the other hand, the film lets the characters end up with their true loves and wants the audience to believe this should work because they have been badly matched with others.

Nonetheless, the films’ funny and engaging, moreso than the ‘epic’ Julie Christie film in the 60’s. Although Alan Bates‘ character seems more like a realistic cute-enough working class man than Andy, who looks like less embarrassing version of Fabio. I take the lot of good with the bad.


Carlos


The film begins in 1973, with a car explosion killing Mohammed Boudia. Then they show the man who’s going to avenge that death, a fashionably dressed man named Ilich Ramirez Sanchez (Edgar Ramirez). We see him going to Beirut to meet Wadie Haddad, trying to prove himself to Haddad by telling the latter his guerrilla history. Despite his youth and inexperience, Haddad includes him in the PLFP. An important theme of the film will be Ilich, now calling himself Carlos, constantly trying to prove himself to Haddad and win his approval despite his shortcomings.

We see Carlos, going to and from his contacts in Paris and London, the camera fading in and out and beginning a scene with captions of the place and time elapsed, marking how disjointed this short version of the film can be. He’s assigned and taking on missions by himself, accomplishing them with quick athleticism. We get to see Carlos get weaker and fatter as the film progresses. The film wanes as it goes on yet Ramirez’ performance gets stronger and he portrays Carlos’ later days. The shorter film focuses on Carlos’ nasrcissism and interiority, yet I would rather have seen him pull off more terrorist plots than to see another full frontal shot.


Ali – Fear Eats the Soul


ph. Criterion

‘I pass by here every evening and hear the foreign music.’ These words are from an old, unassuming Emmi (Brigitte Mira) tells a hostile, word-down Brigitte Bardot copycat of a barmaid inthe first scene of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Ali – Fear Eats the Soul. These first words set the film portraying Berlin as a city at odds with each other. Berlin has traces of multiculturalism, a pan-Islamic enclave in the city attracting Emmi, a Polish man’s widow. Emmi, a cleaning lady, dances with Ali, a 35ish Moroccan man who’s just as lonely in a big city as he is.

Then there’s the Berlin and Germany that works against this multiculturalism, that coincides with its reputation. The Hitler references aren’t here for nothing. As Emmi and Ali’s romance blossom, gossipy neighbors, coworkers, family members and others around them talk about the couple negatively. These characters also don’t shy away from using their races and non-Germanness against them. The other cleaning ladies talk about other women who have been in relationships like hers, giving the audience an impression that this is more prevalent and apparently, looked down upon. Emmi’s daughter Krista (Irm Hermann) calls her a pig, a slur she also fittingly calls her own lazy husband, Eugen (Fassbinder). It’s also jarring to watch these people call a 60-year-old woman a whore. The racist characters can also be harsher version of the audience, making the latter wonder about their own reactions and possible objections to the couple being together. Yes, they marry for the wrong reasons and their relationship is based on completing each other instead of complementing each other, but I can only imagine other couples getting married the same way or worse.

Fassbinder visual style has been described as opulent, reflecting the multicultural subject matter of this film as well as the colour choices seen in his ouevre. The camera angles in this film also interest me. Emmi and Ali’s first dance looks like it’s shot from the back of a chair. The gossipy neighbour’s head maliciously popping out of her window. Sometimes scenes between the couple are shot while slightly obscured by a corner of a hallway, or from far away. Or stairway railings between Emmi or Ali or Emmi’s eldest son and the camera. Sometimes the main characters are seen through mirrors instead of directly by the camera. It’s as if, like the neighbor, we’re watching this story unfold, peeping at the characters intimate revelations.

There’s also this ‘Twilight Zone’ effect when the other characters decide, with a few words, to accept this unlikely couple. I also felt said effect when no one apologizes for their past actions except for Emmi’s eldest. Perhaps I’m overreading, but the change is all the more jarring since it seems like these other characters will do the same routine to another couple. Nonetheless, the pain they have caused, as well as other emotions within the couple, help cause a strain in the relationship. Ali realizes that this marriage didn’t make him less lonely nor objectified, Emmi slightly adapts the racist attitudes of her peers and treats her trophy husband as a body instead of a living soul. They work through their problems, Ali remembering his devotion for her, she realizes she hasn’t been a saint all the time. They go through more hurdles, reminding them that the happiness, although impossible through separation, is still difficult to achieve in a loving partnership.


TIFF: Passion Play


Ex-famous trumpeter Nate Poole’s (Mickey Rourke) the kind of guy who keeps his money with a clip, has a toothpick hanging from his mouth, and deals with an urban underbelly. His tanned-leather stripper blonde friend explains a part of the synopsis. He is almost killed by one of Happy’s (Bill Murray) hitman (Chuck Liddell) for having sex with the latter’s wife, he gets rescued by ninjas, walks into a traveling circus and meets a Bird Woman named Lily (Megan Fox) who rescues him.

There’s something weird continuity-wise that happens in this film. At night, Nate goes into an interior space to have a quick talk with a villain, both defending their stake on Lily. Glass gets broken, Nate escapes, it’s daytime when he comes out.

ph. TIFF

This movie also probably took me off the Megan Fox team, or her agent. She’s decent in comedy, a genre where she never gets cast. She’s decent here too, playing someone who thinks not getting fat or growing a beard are flaws. She moves her mouth too much I felt relieved that I wasn’t the only person who noticed it. Rourke infamously said in an interview that she can do so much more acting-wise than he’s seen with his former co-stars. Let me just say she’s not the greatest crier he’s ever worked with. Like the movie, the more it progresses, the more she and it fall apart.

In conclusion, needs more of Happy’s over the top line deliveries. I give this a 1/5.


TIFF: Peep World


The narrator (Lewis Black) talks about a large family sitting on a table to celebrate their paterfamilias’ (Ron Rifkin) seventieth birthday, describing every one of the father’s children as a series of mistakes. The civility and silence break when the unemployed singer/actress/dancer Cheri (Sarah Silverman) bellows at her younger, successful brother Nathan for writing a novel, also named Peep World, too accurate for her taste. This is best scene of the film, although the scene isn’t finished.

ph. TIFF

The body of the film is a flashback eighteen hours before this dinner, unsurprisingly revealing this fictional book’s secrets and more. Jack (Michael C. Hall) has a wife (Judy Greer) who faintly swears at him during her sleep, Joel’s (Rainn Wilson)’s big SUV breaks down in the middle of nowhere, Peep World the film is filming in front of Cheri’s home and Nathan is very condescending to his PR agent (Kate Mara). Every sibling has a sexual Achilles’ heel, all used for effective comic relief.

This film also has sincere moments, like the falling out when Jack’s wife finds out he frequents an adult theatre, a scene both well-shot and well blocked. The film eventually heads to the restaurant where cruelty, revelations of decades of hurt feelings and comic reliefs are the main dishes. The cast elevates this funny film, also including Taraji P. Henson who delivers the film’s  best line and Geoffrey Arend, the luckiest man on earth. This is lowbrow entertainment at its classiest and best. Rating – 3/5.


Salo, or 120 Days of…


ph. Criterion

Saw this at the TIFF Cinematheque as part of their Pasolini retrospective. Apparently I would have stayed longer in the theatre for 25 more minutes if the Cinematheque had the premiere version. It’s either in Criterion, on the internets, or is lost ‘forever.’

The movie isn’t porn. It isn’t titillating, unless having a two second glimpse of 16-year old flaccid penis gets you off, which is, good for you I guess. Four men, the Duke, the Bishop, the Magistrate and the President sign a book of rules, shepherd eighteen adolescent boys and girls into a mansion and degrade them sexually. There isn’t the contact nor intimacy nor should I say, intensity of ‘normal’ sexual activities. The adolescents are ‘taught’ sexual acts and are told that that’s their purpose. They have to please these four men and their pleasure isn’t a reward. And they eat shit and they get sliced in the forehead. If you were expecting something else, sigh on you.

It’s funny how I can’t show any nudity or sexual acts to a 20 year old in the screen caps – I won’t anyway – but it would probably have been OK to show the same 20 year old with a gun on his head. Or his tongue cut off.

This movie is Pasolini’s critique of fascism in Italy, but I’ll get back to more on that. While the men are examining one of the potential girls, the Magistrate asks her if he will prefer them to the nuns in the convent, the gamine answers that she doesn’t know that yet. This might look like overreading, but a madam transfers the innocent child from one oppressive system to another, a typical problem in ‘modern’ Europe when religious absolute monarchies are overthrown by totalitarian regimes like that in Italy. Depending on your judgment of the girl’s fortune, she wasn’t chosen because of a missing tooth. The nuns already turned her into damaged goods.

Again, critique of Fascist Italy, and conspiracy theories suggest the Neo-Fascist P2 killed Pasolini. That was repeated by my friend’s friend outside the theatre at the end of the film, who likened the mansion in Salo to the 9 billion secret prisons being built in Canada at this moment – his opinion, not mine. The fact that Fascism ruled in more than one country in Europe, and that threat constantly pops up made the film more resonant to me. And that I couldn’t like the inane blindness and heteronormative stance of Amarcord, a movie made near the same time about the same earlier period, after watching Salo. Although it’s not a great one or a favourite, it’s essential.

However, Michael Haneke names this one of his ten favourite films. Obviously.


Hausu


ph. Toho/Criterion/Eureka

Other critics have written about the curiously interesting film making techniques that Nobuhiko Obayashi has used in his feature debut, Hausu, which makes me question my sobriety until this moment as I’m writing this post. But I’ll talk about how marriage-obsessed this movie is. A female gym teacher’s having an arranged marriage, and audience members can deduce that the marriage had to be arranged because she didn’t have the volition to look for a man herself. A high school student, Gorgeous – seriously that’s the character’s name – is angry because Daddy’s getting remarried. Gorgeous and her friends are staying with her aunt for the summer. On the way, a poster tells then “Stay at the countryside. Get married.” The aunt’s lover died in the war but stubbornly waits for him forever, and eats young women so that she CAN wait forever.

Hausu is a part of the Japanese horror/Noh/kabuki tradition like its more coherent predecessor, Ugetsu Monogatari, since both have haunted houses with ghostly female hosts trapping new guests, national metaphor, yadda. Hausu is also a part of horror tradition in general because it kills of the useless ones. Who will survive? How many? Will it be Gorgeous, the young woman who might inherit her aunt’s house? Fantasy, the observant one, doting and waiting for her male teacher? Prof, the one who reads while cats with laser eyes – Andy Samberg oughta be sued – is attacking her and her friends? Kung Fu, her name being self-explanatory, although she presents herself as another obvious enemy against the house?  Melody, who shares the aunt’s interest in the piano? Sweet, the one who cleans the house? Or Mac, the one who gives the aunt a watermelon? You have two more days, today till Thursday. Go see it!

I do like these girls, walking through the countryside like that. Girls today would be too conscious that they might be watching their pedicures while treading on their impractical Louboutin heels. Or maybe that’s just me being sexist.

I wasn’t scared in a way that I wasn’t jolted by the movie, but it’s creepy and that’s good enough for horror. Enjoy this movie.