As always there are some awful things happening in the world around us, but since I can’t/won’t do anything about it I just watched some films, one of which was Gone Girl starring Ben Batman and Rosamund Pike, which is all about violence and sex and people disappearing, so please read my review (‘If you can find it!’, he said under his breath, while steadily reaching into his internally customised corduroy trouser pockets). The review is here though. On with the write ups.
Festen/ The Celebration (1998) – 4/5
Director: Thomas Vinterberg
Cast: Ulrich Thomsen, Henning Moritzen, Thomas Bo Larsen, Paprika Steen
Biting drama from the Dane that made Oscar nominated film The Hunt (starring Mads Mikkelson) about a dysfunctional family whose historical problems – abuse, violence, drugs, incest, bribery, suicide – come to the fore during a heady 60th birthday celebration. The demimonde gathered at the stately home are all equally despicable in their own ways, not only because of their proudly worn racism and unearned privilege but because of their apparent total lack of empathy when Christian (Ulrich Thomson) decides to let out a few nasty secrets about his father the birthday boy. Vinterberg’s camerawork is incisive, manic, ingenious, while the ensemble cast of characters are simply sublime in their depiction of debauched bourgeois traditionalists. Festen is satirical realism to the umpteenth degree, standing tall to the big issues and slapping them right in their faces.
Nanook of the North (1922) – 4/5
Director: Robert Flaherty
Cast: Allakariallak Nanook, Nyla, Allee
Internationally recognised as the first feature length documentary film, Nanook of the North is an astounding work of pioneer filmmaking from explorer/prospector Robert Flaherty. Were it not for Flaherty’s obsession with the Inuit way of life and his insatiable boozing and smoking appetites (his first film about Eskimos went up in flames when he drunkenly dropped a cigarette while developing film reels) he would have possibly never embarked on a second picture, during the making of which he progressed filmic grammar in ways as had never been seen before. He practically invented the panoramic shot, and was the first documenter to collaborate with his subjects during shooting, listening to their input when planning scenes depicting their way of life so as to ensure they were as dramatic yet as truthful as possible.
‘The mercury sits near bottom and stays there days, and days… and days’ i.e It’s very cold. Through his use of old school, romantic subtitiling between sequences (another technique which the film popularised), Flaherty comes across as having a fairly typical colonialist mentality. His language in describing his friends and film protagonists is condescending but not to a demeaning level; it as much to do with the parlance of the times and the original motives of the film (to capture a society in time before ‘the white man’ wiped it out) than any personal prejudices of delusions of superiority. Robert Flaherty respects his films hero, ‘the great hunter’ Nanook, and is similarly in awe of his resilient family and the feats they perform to survive the unforgiving Arctic year after year. Indeed, the film has some impressive moments of brutal gallantry, top of the list being the risky harpooning of a walrus amongst a herd in order to feed the starving wives and children back at camp. Maybe in 1922 audiences of the civilised lands judged what they viewed on screen to be an infantile, savage people beneath themselves, but on the other hand most people couldn’t build an igloo, skin a polar bear or catch fish with a twig, so who the f*** are they?
Zombeavers (2014) – 3/5
Director: Jordan Rubin
Cast: Awhole Bunch, Of Americans, Youll Neverhave, Heardof Orwill, Ever Seeagain
From the pair of loggerheads that brought you Piranaconda and, um , yeah… comes this terrifying tail of undead beaver mayhem set in the area in which beavers reside. Foreboding, saliva-spewing yokels, gribbly monsters, topless girls and clueless boyfriends comprise the dramatis personae of this standard B-Movie setup. There are of course sorotity tits, shocking prosthetics, blood splashes galore and, most importantly and/or predictably, a whole roster of sexualised play -on-words beaver jokes. Writing this review was no walk in the bark, the film left me with an awful lot to chew over, but overall it’s a pretty consistently funny creature feature with just the right level of self-aware in joke mockery to keep it afloat. Let’s face it, Zombeavers is about an idiosyncratic outbreak of resurrecting, fleshdevouring rabies beavers who can turn humans into wood chomping demons – it could have been a ‘dam’ sight worse, so I’m thankful that shiver me timbers, lodge a complaint stream of consciousness, branch out, other nomenclatures which are sometimes said and have a word in them relating to the animal species known as the beaver.
The Bridge (2006) -3/5
Director: Eric Steel
Cast: Eric Geleynse, Chris Brown, Susanna Ginwalla
Harrowing documentary film shot across 12 months which mixes interviews of bereaved relatives, heroic onlookers and formerly suicidal persons with genuine footage of people contemplating or actually jumping to their deaths from the Golden Gate bridge in San Francisco. Apparently more people have taken their own lives at this location than anywhere else in the world, and while that it somewhat hard to fathom, it is undeniable that the iconic architectural feat has a certain draw to it, and allure which is unlike any other place on earth. Watching the distant splash of unseen fallers in the bay below is genuinely chilling; they all make the same sound, they disappear and are gone forever; meanwhile, up above, car traffic and joggers plough on by across the fog-encrircleded structure as if nothing at all has happened. Which in a way, for them, it hasn’t.
Most moving in The Bridge are the clips featuring a twenty four-year old survivor of the Golden Gate drop. The young man is a manic depressive but evidently of great intelligence and capable of rapid fire rational, scientific thought, which is part of the reason that, after deciding he didn’t want to die after leaping the railing, he was able to get into the right position in mid-air so as to not shatter upon impact. Another excellent clip interchanges an interview with a keen photographer, stills of the man’s photographs from the day he saved a suicidal woman, and the footage captured by documentary maker Eric Steel’s camera of said man yanking the lady back over to safety. The Bridge garnered a lot of criticism for its morbid, backseat approach to social observation, but it is definitely a fascinating and worthwhile project.