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Monthly Archives: May 2007

it’s not really that I am complaining about life as such, but how shitty can a cinema programme get? Very shitty, indeed! This may well be the worst choice any cinema has ever had on offer. Will probably check out Chinese porn actors’ problems instead at this place.

This documentary has either been strangely marketed, or I just got it wrong. I had the notion of the Victoria Lake becoming victim of a predator fish in my mind, an imported fish who caused the whole eco-system to collapse, destroy the balance not just of the fish living in the (enormous) lake, but of the whole system in and around the lake, including the people who depend on the lake and its produce. That is all true, and it is part of the film. It is, however merely one part of a story that, at the end of the day, is about the industrialised world taking Africa as slave. This time they don’t even bother to bring them over, but the continent and its people get abused where it is, and only the benefits, namely the money and the grapes, and the Victoria lake fish, ever arrives at European airports on huge Russian transport aircrafts. What’s left behind is a system of poverty, starvation, war, sniffing glue to get through the night, wading up to the ankles in rotten, maggot-laden fish blinding the workers who need to retrieve something edible from the leftovers of the unaffordable precious goods that have long left by air with its ammoniac gases of decay.

The Russian pilots keep trying to ignore what they are doing, the locals keep trying to take whichever role allows them to get their piece of the survival cake, as guard with poisoned arrows, manager of the arms-in-fish-out-deals, whores serving as many of the pilotes as their short lives allow them before they end with a knife in their chest or dying from AIDS. It’s a depressing view of the world that the film presents, but it looks as if it is one that we only too regularly neglect. It is not a rare and exceptional story that is being told, but it is the story that is happening every day. The fact that the filming is done very professionally and in often beautiful and stunning pictures makes it only worse. 

Very interesting, most likely the best film I have seen in a couple of months. And I am coming back to the notion that not knowing anything about a film before watching it, just being led into an adventure by way of recommendation (by the BBC, in that case) allows the most thrilling movie experiences. There is very very slow build-up of the story in “Red Road”. At the beginning, you have the visually skillfully captured life inside a CCTV surveillance center, with focussing and panning, living a bit of voyeurism, and a bit of “Blow Up” and “Rear Window”, but with a central character who is not suspicious of the lower atrractions this kind of technical Orwellian wold has to offer. But still she is behaving strange, and we are allowed to build interpretations around this, her following the doings of a man she knows from earlier and whom she would rather see inside a prison than outside a school yard. There are very few elements where we are led into narrative booby-traps or shoved into one interpretation or the other – we are just being shown people behaving in a certain way, and realise (maybe) that we have our own reading of certain behaviour (trained as we are on thrillers, drama, and the real world). This is the particular charme of “Red Road”: it has this very naturalistic touch about it on a technical level (being another spin-off in style from the Dogma movement), but is cinematic enough not to stress absences (artificial light, musical score, costumes), but give us add-ons: the lack of score, in particular, is an element of thriller, it is an intentional artistic element many other films could actually learn from (my favourite dramatic scene without a musical score may be the final of “Alien”, but anyway…). The direction, lightning, camera, sound and editing together compose a very natrualistic setting that, however, lacks the bluntness of all these depressing UK working class films the last 20 years has brought about. You may critizise that the strategy the lead charcter is following is over the top, but it is not, at the end of the day, because she is – we learn – such a torn character that any desperate moment is equally in line with her personality as any regular working day scene.


All right – it’s early in the run, so be aware of spoilers and keep clear if you want save the skillful twists and unexpected character developments.

The most accurate thing that can be said about Spiderman 3 was said by Ann Hornaday of the Washington Post:
Fans with memories of “Batman Forever,” “X-Men: The Last Stand” and “Blade: Trinity” might also conclude that the number three is to comic-book franchises what 13th floors are to hotels.”

They say the film cost about 350 to 400 million dollars, and it is obligatory to mention that none of it was spent on story development, scriptwriting and dialogues. That script clearly came out of a chewing gum machine, and hopefully he who inserted the quarter had found the coin before, so he did not get upset about what he was delivered. Ah, never mind, you are rightfully inclined to say, let’s have a rollercoaster ride along with Spidey through the New York skyscrapers, above and about, save the world and get the girl, hooooray!
None of this. There is a fair amount of swinging (about the same as in any average Tarzan movie, minus the pretty jungle girls) and some skyscrapers, indeed (some of which are not up to the impact of various objects and persons). But. Pffffff…
Spiderman 3 is first and foremost surprisingly boring, due to ill timing, bad story, no drama. The film is just ill-constructed and has loads of flaws and gaps and structural stupidity:
Ah – why was it necessary to introduce the Sandman as somebody somehow responsible for the death of Parker’s uncle? Are we not able to recognize a villain when we see one, and is a sandstorm tumbling police cars about and robbing sacks of other people’s money not easily enough recognizable to be somebody Spiderman would feel obliged to fight?
Why does that stupid black jelly stay around in Parker’s room (hidden under the bed? In the toothbrush jar?) for days before crawling up on him? Does it not have a vicious urge to find a new host, suck all the good vibes and brains out of the host and leave it dying painfully in the ditch – as they do, these parasites. No urgent matters, and it is actually a very controlled
and taste-driven thing, exterminating itself when the score by Christopher Young got so annoying that no beast with any feeling of pride could not fall to shreds.
Harold is still the much more handsome guy who appears to have intelligence and sentiment in just the right dose to get the female lead rightly laid (he is actually even better looking than before). And oh my goodness, this Parker person is supposed to be the good guy – this is all the more irritating., as parker has a double chin, for Christ’s sake. And so has this Dunst woman! What have they been doing since part 2, munching marshmallows?
I think the film basically is about convenience: the convenience to get as many villains and monsters into a film as necessary. Necessary means that if you do not want to bother about the script, there is still at any given moment a high chance that there is a bad guy around to start a fight and spend some millions on cgi. Very convenient to wash one of them away, only to be remindend one hour later (subjective screen time) by some camera assistant: “ey, we still got this sand thing in the water, wanna use it again? We can revive it easily. Just needs a hairdryer and a kid’s medallion.”). Oh and the convenience to have a multi-functional guy around who at any moment can be used as the best friend or the archenemy, the heavily-armed supersurfer or the smiling love interest. Who can be killed and reanimated – just like your superhero’s personal Ken doll, at your disposal.
I do not want to sound too negative about the film, but it is stunningly bad as a narrative. It does not even look anywhere near the money it cost, and the only redeemable feature may well be Thomas Haden Church, who is almost as good in his role as Ron Pearlman would have been.
Guys, there is a reason why there are no 13th floors in many hotels. It’s not that it’s bad luck to stay there – it’s because people expect some scary stuff, and all they get is a 13th floor…

There was a lot of talk about the film, especially after the American remake made it widely known in the Western world. It is one of these psychological horror films where the actual presence of a physical danger (like a woman crawling out of a tv set, to name but an arbitrary example) is only the tip of an iceberg. It is the atmosphere, the general mood of peril that makes the film work, the feeling that something is decidedly wrong in this world, is not playing to the rules we know. And for a non-Japanese audience, the sometimes odd detachment and distance between characters that shows frequently in Japanese pictures adds to the atmosphere of helplessness. That said, there is not much more to be added. The plot is spectacularly thin and not too original, the actors play well, but have not too much to do. A very static feeling is present, a notion of paralysis, which only breaks up a little bit when – during the final scenes  – some standard horror film resolution for the trouble is being found. That means a bit of digging in the mudd, and a bit of crawling out of tv sets, and while all this is done with a good hand for atmosphere, at the end of the day there is not much to be remembered. Apart, of course, from a set of hands without nails coming closer, and closer, and closer… My DVD box includes two more of the franchise, so stay tuned for more unhealthy videos.

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