August 12, 2007

Glenn's MIFF Experience

Initial comments on all films including The Untouchable, Still Life, Bella, Ils, Syndromes and a Century, The Boss of It All, A Walk Into the Sea, Savage Grace, The Man From London, Control and so-brief-they-barely-exist comments on David Lynch's Inland Empire with more words to come when I feel like it/get the time.

A work in progress. Will be updated with my thoughts and opinions once I've seen each movie. As you can tell I had to change something from the original bookings. I forgot I was going away to the Grampions for a weekend so I had to dump Syndromes and a Century and the Aussie doco Night. I instead picked up a different session of Syndromes as well as another doco I wanted to see and completely forgot about (so it was quite fortuitous actually) called A Walk Into the Sea: Danny Williams and the Warhol Factory about, as you can probably guess, the Warhol Factory. It features what is said to be the first ever recorded performance by The Velvet Underground (probably my favourite band ever - edit: which turned out to be a lie!) so that should be tops! It all starts tomorrow with screenings of The Untouchable and a film I've wanted to see for a long time, Still Life. Can't wait!

The Untouchable (screening 27/07):
This was really terrible. I contemplated walking out so I could say "I had my first walk out ever!" (if you exlude me walking out of The Patriot to get a drink and just not returning for 20 minutes) but then I was all "Wait, I don't have anywhere to go until the next movie", and then I frowned and decided to stick it out through the entire labourious 85 minutes of this awful French flim-flam shlack. D

Still Life (screening 27/07):
And then there was this, which was like some beautiful filmic poem. At first I wasn't feeling it at all - too mannered, and the performances were awkward - but then something just clicked, especially towards the second act which was an elegaic beauty of sorts. The cinematography was superb and the music! And, yeah, it was very good, indeed - much better than that ridiculous French crap, that's for sure. B+.

The Witnesses (screening 28/07):
I liked it, even if it was a bit long and the final act wasn't anywhere as interesting as the first two. More later, perhaps. B-

Control (screening 11/08):
Thoroughly interesting biopic of Joy Division singer Ian Curtis. It was nice to see a music biopic that wasn't on a person everyone considers a legend and who lead the typical rock star life (which movies like Ray, Walk the Line and La Vie en Rose have all followed to a tee to varying degrees of failure). In fact, for the most part Curtis' life seems relatively quaint compared to the overly-hystrionic lives of Edith Piaf and co. The downfall of Curtis was depression and not drug addiction, like it so routinely is with these biopic subjects. It was also nice to see a biopic on a musician that I knew I liked, yet knew nothing about. It was great to hear the first strums of a guitar and wonder "Is it 'Transmission'? 'Love Will Tear Us Apart'? 'She's Out of Control'?" Speaking of which, the performance sequences are all done nicely, and they look great in the clean black and white. Performances are good, especially Samantha Morton as Curtis' wife. It's essentially just another Samantha Morton performance, but just another Samantha Morton performance is always welcomed. B

Bella (screening 05/08):
Bella really does owe a lot to Before Sunset, doesn't it? But then again, so does Once and I don't hear anyone complaining about that movie. Hmm. Anyway. I really enjoyed this movie. Sometimes it's nice to just sit down in a darkened theatre for an hour and a half and be in the company of people who are interesting and a worth spending time with but who aren't depressed or on drugs or who have no reason to live. You know what I mean? I really liked the texture and vibrancy of the opening sequences. I really liked the connection between the two leads (Eduardo Verástegui and Tammy Blanchard). I really liked how the story developed. I really liked how the ending was completely unexpected. I just really liked Bella. Although it slightly terrified me how scarily similar Blanchard looks like Hilary Swank! B+

Ils (screening 05/08):
Eep! This movie was quite scary. It was only 70 minutes long, but then if they had filled out the running time it would just be "character development" and who wants that? We don't know anything about the two lead characters (played by Olivia Bonamy and Michaël Cohen) other than she's a teacher and he's a writer. I guess that I still felt for these people as they're brutally terrorised despite not knowing anything about them should count for something. I think the reason I was so scared was because it was based in reality. I don't tend to find vampires and werewolves and the like very scary at all. But something like The Blair Witch Project? ABSOLUTELY FRIGHTENING! Anyway, it also helps that two days before viewing this film I had a very similar experience (just, ya know, without the possible outcome of death - I'll explain later! It's terrifying). Oh, yeah, the movie. Umm. It's scary. Oh, and the sound design was amazing (I know!). B

INLAND EMPIRE (screening 07/08):
Flimflamshmozzleboogiewoogieamazingpurplemonkeydishwasher. A-... I think.

Syndromes and a Century (screening 08/08):
I don't think I "got" this movie. Actually. No. Scrap that. I don't think I didn't "get" it, I know I didn't "get" it. And not in the way that I didn't "get" Inland Empire, which despite not making sense was at least still fascinating and amazing to watch. Apichatpong Weerasethakul's Syndromes of a Century however I just didn't "get" and didn't really enjoy, either. I was into it for a while, but then... I dunno. Just nothing. I didn't "get" why the story started all over again. I didn't "get" what these people were talking about beyond the rudimentary. I didn't "get" what all the symbology was about. I dunno. It was weird and I nearly fell asleep (fourth film in 24 hours!) The cinematography and music was nice. C+

The Boss of it All (screening 10/08):
Lars Von Trier's attempt at a comedy is surprisingly good. It is essentially an episode of The Office set in Denmark and expanded to 100 minutes, but that can still be entertaining! I enjoyed seeing Von Trier regular Jens Albinus (Idioterne) as well as Mia Lhyne and Iben Hjejle. And while she didn't really do much I loved Louise Mieritz's character who works in the copy room but is afraid of the photocopier. Funny stuff. And, naturally, Von Trier inserts his own wicked sense of humour into the side proceedings. Overall it was an enjoyable time, which was only sullied by the unfortunate subtitles. This is a very white movie - there are white walls, while skies, white floors, white everything and they use... white subtitles. It made it very hard to read sometimes (it also didn't help that I had a big head in the way to the left of the screen and I had to keep moving my head around to see what they were saying!) B

A Walk Into the Sea: Danny Williams and the Warhol Factory (screening 10/08):
Damn! This could have been so much better. Alas, as it is, it gets by due to the strength of it's topic. This documentary by the niece of oft-forgotten Warhol Factory regular Danny Williams who mysterious disappeared without a trace. It features some amazing never-before-seen footage of the Factory taken by Williams as well as film clips. It even includes a rare short directed by Williams entitled The Factory, which uses Williams' trademark strobing and hectic editing (one talking head says that Williams would have been "happier than a shit eating pig" with todays use of rapid-fire editing).

Unfortunately director Esther Robinson chooses to film the movie in a very bizarre manner. Closeups are routinely out of focus, simple moments - for example, the viewing of a newspaper clipping - are used for more focus pulling and shaky camera movements (so much so that we can't even see what we're meant to be looking at). At one point the camera even veers away from a person talking and focuses on the wall for several seconds. It's as if director of photography Adam Cohen wasn't even there. And in all the old footage taken from Warhol's famous Factory, we never know who is who because they aren't labelled. That Brigid Berlin sure is a character though, isn't she? C+

Savage Grace (screening 12/08):
Hahah! This movie is utterly bonkers. It's not getting anywhere near the Oscars though, which is a shame for Julianne Moore because it's wonderfully entertaining here as an incestuous mother. The film does have major flaws though, particularly when it comes to said incest storyline. There are hints throughout that lead to how it comes about, but the sexuality of all of it's characters is incredibly confused so when it comes around the the scenes in question it hasn't really been explained as to why it's happening. Everybody in this movie must be bisexual, that's my theory. B-

The Man From London (screening 12/08):
Oh dear, this was painful. Firstly though, the cinematography in Bela Tarr's film noir of sorts is amazing, as is the sound design, which is all crashing waves and haunting sound effects. The music score sounds like some long lost collaboration between Angelo Badalamenti and David Lynch, which is a good thing.


There's not necessarily always a "but" as they say, but there most definitely is in the case of The Man From London. This film is painful. It really is. It is in swift need of an editor (it's only 2 hours and 10 minutes, but it feels like 20) to cut down all the extraneous scenes. Actually, if they did that there'd be no movie because it has no plot. There is a vague form of a plot, but it's a subplot - and barely - and the rest of the movie is just filled with characters, quite literally, staring and stuff. Occasionally they walk somewhere. Sometimes they move from left to right, but that's about it. There's next to no dialogue in the entire first 30 minutes. There are scenes that last five minutes of characters walking somewhere and we don't even get to see where they're going! We just see them walking and that's it. No point whatsoever. Frustrating! And Tilda Swinton is incredibly bizarre. It's like she's in one of those poorly dubbed Asian kung-fu movies. Her lips are moving but it appears that she's been dubbed (the dialogue isn't in English), which makes me wonder why they cast Swinton in the first place if she can't speak the language. And furthermore, if she can speak the language why not let the dialogue soundtrack reflect that? And why were all the actors delayed? I swear there was a chasm of empty space between each line of dialogue. Ugh. This movie was terrible. D+ (for the photography and music).


rural juror said...

ok, so...the poster for 'The Witnesses' is a big rip off the poster for 'Closer'. That's all I'm saying.

Kamikaze Camel said...

Well, the poster for Closer was surely a ripoff of something else too, right? Something that bland couldn't have been original ;)

rural juror said...

True 'nuff

J.D. said...

Wouldn't the final irony be that you'll be seeing IE a week before the majority of Americans who want to when it's released on DVD the nest Tuesday?

Barry said...

Can't wait for your reviews or postings on Bella, Inland Empire and Savage Grace.

Paxton Hernandez said...

Really good choices!

Boyd said...


Glenn's seeing The Witnesses (who cares about the poster??).

Let me know what you think...
I, for one, can't wait to see it again (the French DVD is coming out in September!!)

Douglas Racso said...

Ive seen ils its not good ehehhe

J.D. said...


I don't know what to say to that.

Maybe "You may need to seek out the assistance of a psychiatrist and all those colorful pills."

Paul Martin said...

The Man From London: yes, I also noted the resemblance to the music compositions of Angelo Badalamenti, particularly in Twin Peaks. Thanks for reminding me, as I made a mental note at the time to mention it when I do my write up.

J.D. said...

Just to explain it, what is Savage Grace even about, and what's with the incest? (.....)

Kamikaze Camel said...

It's about a family who moved around a lot throughout Europe between the '30s and '70s and over this time the mother and the son form a, well, delicate bond in several scenes. There's not that much of a storyline other than the sexual adventures of this weird malfunctioning family.