Friday, July 30, 2010

Bela Tarr's Satantango

What do you after a grueling week of graduate school? Begin watching a seven hour film, of course. Ever since I saw this still from "Satantango" I have wanted to see it. It came out recently on Facets DVD. So far, I would have to compare it to the works of Carl Dreyer - long takes, slow pacing - powerful images. I plan on taking my time with this, so there will be more commentary to come.

The eight minute take on the opening shot - of a herd of cattle, on a muddy, rainy farm crowded with decaying buildings, is well worth getting Disc 1 of 3, at least. We'll see about the rest.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Perverting the Landscape in The Lovely Bones

Peter Jackson's "The Lovely Bones" is a powerful film, though not an easy one to watch. I have not read the novel it is based on, so have no comparison in that regard. The focus for me was the revulsion I felt at seeing the murderer stalking and trapping children. I don't  think the film went over the line in its depictions - it simply worked, because dread and disgust are the only emotions we should feel when we understand a grown man is trying to trap a fourteen year old girl.

What truly pushed it over the edge for me was the killer's perversion of the landscape and nature to assist him in his evil deeds. He digs a pit in a field that becomes a trap, and later weaves branches in an attempt to create another trap. The resonance of using the natural world for unnatural deeds really twisted me inside as I watched. As well, he lurks in cornfields and behind trees, as if he was part of the natural world, using it as his shield.

It perverts the landscape because there is nothing natural about him. Pure evil. I don't often have problems watching films, but this man, made me nauseous. When juxtaposed with the other characters, it was easy to remain nauseous.

In the end, the natural world makes sure it does not allow the killer to use it for cover. Though a random accident, I felt it was a just end.

I understood this film to get some poor reviews, but I'm not sure why. The acting - Saorise Ronan and Stanley Tucci - but also the rest of the cast, including Mark Wahlberg, a favorite of mine - was excellent, and the film was suspenseful. The revulsion I felt was necessary to the situation. Perhaps Ronan's "heaven" was controversial, or seemed strange, but it worked for me because her character deserved at least that much wonder and satisfaction.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Ondine - Something Wonderful, or Something Terrible

Ondine is an Irish film drenched in magical realism. For magical realism to work - for me - the realism must be subtle and not overpower the magic.

Something Wonderful: the magic here is truly wonderful. Colin Farrell plays an Irish fisherman, a "landsman", who, in the very first scene pulls his net out of the water and finds there is a woman in it. Having no exposition beforehand works - it is a powerful scene  that we know is not supposed to happen, so we can get thrown right into the action and still feel comfortable.

Something Terrible: Though I have always felt good about understanding a thick Irish brogue, combined with cinematic sound which I have lots of complaints about any way, it was pretty hard to understand much of the dialogue.

Something Wonderful: to the films credit, the performances and cinematography are so perfect, it was surprisingly easy to not care about missed dialogue. Will need to catch the DVD and watch it with subtitles.

Something Wonderful: the woman pulled out of the sea may or may not be a Selkie, a folk being who is a seal in the water. The performance by Alison Barry playing Farrell's young daughter drives the mystery of whether the woman is a Selkie or not. Barry wants to believe, and the interaction between all three of these main characters is truly wonderful.

Something Terrible: In the very end of the film, the realism overpowers the magic. In a film like this, you should be left wondering about what is real - is she a Selkie? Does it matter? But the wondrous possible Selkie should never turn out to be a Romanian drug mule. That kind of spoils things.

Add it up and we have three Wonderful's to two Terrible's. The Wonderful's win and the movie is hauntingly beautiful. The accents can be looked over because the acting, plot and visuals are really stunning. Farrell really is amazing here, as are the rest of the cast. You might want to stop watching, though, once the Ondine appears to have gone away.