The engineering of consent for an autocratic regime amid the apparently chaotic cohort is an intriguing subject visited and revisited by the artists and story-tellers all throughout the twentieth century. Is there a servile aspect in our character ready to obey a sinister idea and a vain promise? Is there a masochistic side we share that is ever-so glutton for punishment? The wave touches all of these and more.
Rainer, a high school teacher is assigned to teach a class about autocracy. He agreed with sincere discontent as he feels the subject to be away from him as much as it can. Still he makes a sincere effort to make his students, a bunch of unruly teenagers apparently miles away from believing anything, let alone authoritarianism, to understand the core concept through a week-long social experiment: forming a group called The Wave. With his charisma and openness, Rainer brings the idea of autocracy into light, using the classical tools that any tyrannical leader uses: asking to be better than a fictitious other (here the anarchism class taught by a fellow teacher), urging to stand together and invoke awe into the heart of others through that unity, feel to be a part of a whole larger than one individual, find a common purpose and work for it. In some strange away, the youngsters of a very affluent society, apparently dissociated from any ideological tenets, feel drawn to the entire fiasco, as in someway they are ravenous for finding a meaning of their otiose existence. The events of the film gradually descends into much more baleful affair, leaving us with awe and disdain, vainglory and disgrace.
The most important feature of The wave is its narrative of an anarchist harbouring a side famished for power that he himself was unaware of. It is what makes the film from a mere insight into the human psyche to a soul-searching mirror for all of us.
Ramin Bahrani tells us the story of an America that is excluded and marginalised, an America that lives on the fringes of well-being barely surviving with its handful of resources, an America that does not ridicule the American dream but rather mournfully observes the affluence that pushed it away. Chop shop is the story of that Americatn underbelly, seedy, sordid and gritty.
The twelve year old Alejandro works at the repair shop of New York. Occasionally he has to work as a street hawker or in a ‘chop shop’ (Chop shop is a workshop where a vehicle, often stolen, is dismantled and sold in parts). His sister Izzy works on as a food supplier from a van while at night secretly sells her body in order to earn enough money to rid themselves off the poverty by trying to realize their mutual dream: to own a food supply van.
Eventually, through their hardship they manage to gather enough bucks tho buy a dilapidated van from Ale’s friend Carlos’ uncle only to be informed later that the van is not fit for the purpose and would cost too much to fix. Enraged, he attacks Carlos in public, only to understand the futility of the whole scheme: their endeavours and their dreams, their struggles and their vain attempt of escaping, all are meant to feed another chop shop where every part of their soul is to be broken, shattered, dismantled and sold cheaply as a part of an exorbitant dream.
The way Bahrani approaches the nude and rude realism frame by frame is immensely laudable. One cannot help but observe the effects of the neorealist movement of Iranian masters in the work of this promising film-maker who is, certainly, going to provide many more gems in days to come.
The best way to capture a Graham Green novel on the silver screen is perhaps to remain true to the writer. Phillip Noyce does exactly that to produce this excellent political thriller that Hollywood has produced in last decade.
Michael Caine plays the British war correspondent Thomas Fowler placed in Saigon in French ruled Indo-china. The battle for independence against the French colonialism is tearing the nation apart while the colonialists and the Communist regime from the southern part of the country is battling it out in the hinterlands of the unfortunate country. Fowler, the reluctant observer and commentator, meets an idealist American health worker Alden Pyle (Brendan Fraser) who befriends him and seems to be holding the naive idea that instead of colonial power or communist regime Vietnam needs a third force to rule itself. While Fowler grows fond of Pyle, a rift appears in between their relation when Pyle falls for Fowler’s lover. Knowing that Fowler is married and his obstinate wife is not willing to grant a divorce, his lover realises that there’s no future with him and she leaves with Pyle. While this affects Fowler personally and professionally, he tries to cope by immersing himself into his work which leads him to see clearly through the murky water of politics, the bigger forces playing under the hood of small crooks and the true face of the familiar ones around him. The story is not only how the things are ugly and gruesome underneath, but also how the macabre world compels one to take side. The film perfectly depicts what Green novel intended: the end of nook for a dispassionate observer in the modern world where everyone must take a position.
Taking a note of the adaptation of the novel in silver screen in 1958 and in 2002, one can see the evolution of Hollywood. The first installment of 1958 was a thinning of political undertones of the novel, rendering it a rather trite patriotic war drama. On the contrary, Noyce’s adaptation was as sinister and as breathtaking as Green’s novel truly is.
The rejection of narrative does not always take the director into the realm of avant-garde film making. Dousing the world in gray scale does not always generate the charm of neo-noir. Retelling a classic story such as Ulysses does not necessarily take the viewers to a journey of Homeric proportion. Fortunately, Keyhole reaches all three criteria thus making itself one of the must watch films of this century.
Canadian director Guy Maddin lets us accompany the journey of Ulysses Pick, an American gangster of thirties, coming back to his home. The house is haunted, some members residing inside its various rooms locked and unlocked sequentially, declared as ghosts. Some of them are indistinguishable from the mortals while the others seem to be enmeshed in the repetition of a single task. Ulysses looks back, rather impassively, upon his deceased children or his forgotten ancestors as if not to be distracted from his journey towards nowhere.
If the question what it all means or what this particular sequence signifies is something that haunts you while watching a film, Keyhole would be a very difficult watch for you. Most of the scenes are very open-ended with rather minimal indication on the part of the director to aid the audience to interpret the vista. Rather Maddin concentrated upon creating a vista that is full of disturbing elements, with occasional dark humour and substantial allusion to the Homeric epic tale.
Guy Maddin should be highly lauded for his venture into this work, reminding a viewer of classics like Satyricon or Libertarias. It is highly recommended to anyone for whom cinema transpires something more than story-telling or visual appeals.
The informers is a period drama, or at least it’s fashioned as one, that is supposed to be a film on pointlessness of the hedonism and moral bankruptcy of the opulent America. Instead it ended up being the epitome of absurdity as it was intended to expose. And all it’s left with is the nudity of Amber Heard, a lots of major loop-holes in the screenplay and obviously the cynical tinge of the Bret Easton Ellis novel on which the film is based.
Had I read the novel by Ellis I would have been able to compare how colossal the waste was, since I can certainly conjecture that the novel would had have much more depth and finesse. But rather I would try not to waste any more words on a film that took Winona Ryder, Mickey Rourke, Kim Basinger and Billy Bob Thronton, anyone of whom can single-handedly render a film epic and did absolutely nothing with them. That, ladies and gentlemen, demands applaud.
If novelty and shock-value is set as a bench mark for the greatness of a film, Excision is definitely a great one, but unfortunately a film is expected to be much more than that.
The film Excision cannot decide if it is going to be a dark comedy or a horror films and in that indecisiveness lies the strength or weakness of the film. I am never really much of a fan of a typical ‘genre’ movie Hollywood often regurgitates as a factory product and hence, for me Excision is definitely worth watching, but I must admit that the film may not suit everyone’s stomach.
The Director evidently stole a page from the books of Passolini when he described the vivid horrid erotic dreams of a sociopathic teen-ager girl who is the central character of the film. Her position as a social pariah and her venture to reject the world back at her own expense is something touches many hearts. Had the character been penned more sympathetically, it would have been a better watch for the most, but the script-writer was hell-bent to create characters that are very hard to like or love. Whatever emotional attachments one may feel with the central character is shattered in the final bizarre scene which somehow reminded me of the novel (and the film) “We need to talk about Kevin”.
There are some brilliant sequences in the film: apart from the disturbing sexual dreams and practices shown, the candid confessions made by the girl, the stubborn stupidity of her mother, the emasculated father, the orthodox society around everything created a world of its own. But then again the film is not an attack on conservative America, at least not intentionally, though a few scenes, such as the dim-witted reverend’s psychoanalysis, the mother describing Afro-Americans as generally a straying populace, the school-principal worshipping George Bush and Ronald Regan, may make one wonder if the psychosexual disturbance and angst described in the protagonist is but the reaction to that orthodoxy and zealotry.
The film’s resolution to be a difficult watch and to remain unlikable is something not often seen. Perhaps that’s why it would remain a very distinct work amid the generic products of horror.