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Nymphomamiac Vol 1 and Vol 2

Nymphomaniac Vol 1 film posterNymphomaniac Vol 2 film posterSynopsis

Lars von Trier’s film stars Charlotte Gainsborough as Joe.  She is found all beaten up by Seligman (Stellan Skarsgaard ). He gives her shelter and she tells him about her life through eight titled parts.  Between the parts we return to his room where Skarsgaard finds analogies from nature, history and philosophy, to understand her supposedly bad behaviour.  Joe at different ages goes on sexual adventures.  We see her attempting family life but failing in that.  Jamie Bell plays K, whose sadism interacts with Joe’s masochism.  Una Thurman plays an outraged cheated wife upholding bourgeois morality.  Joe gets into a lesbian relationship and is cheated on and abandoned. Is Seligman a good man?

Review

This few hours of film is Lars von Trier’s delighting in thumbing his nose at the contemporary reassertion of puritanical taboos.  His entire point is to offend.  There is a nicely ironic contrast between Seligman’s austere study, (all dirty wallpaper and Catholic icons) almost like a monk’s cell and the erotic electricity that comes from Joe’s narration.  Jamie Bell has until now usually played wholesome characters so I’ll never look at him in the same way again.  He flogs a submissive Joe but we realize that his brutality is always on Joe’s terms, she is the real controller.  The worse his sadism, the more she controls it.

Van Trier looks frankly at the nature of nymphomania and simply sees its expression as a force of nature, he doesn’t set out deliberately to shock.  In meeting Joe’s needs, people will be abandoned or abused and Joe refuses to be hypercritical about this.  Indeed, she sees herself as martyred to her physical needs because they can ostracize her, banishing her from the decencies of acceptable behaviour.  She doesn’t flinch from its consequences.  All this gives Von Trier the opportunity to take some cynical aphoristic swipes against our socially sanctioned illusions.  At one point Seligman uses the metaphor of fishing as an analogy with the hunt for sexual satisfaction.  Von Trier’s storybook method with bookish illustrations reminds me at times of Greenway’s films, the same clinical poetic detachment.  This is worthy of the 18th century satirist Jonathan Swift of “Modest Proposal”, the straight faced scholarly dissection of behaviour outside of “morality”.

Joe loves her father (Christian Slater) a great deal and she attends his death from cancer.  Her father shows her different trees and what we’re to  make of this lesson in schmaltzy botany I’m not quite sure.  It’s as if von Trier sometimes has to soften the impact of his controversial views with nature mysticism and then relate this to sexual behaviour.  Most of the men in the film are so easy to manipulate sexually that they appear to be ugly and gullible, downright clownish.  Joe has no choice but laser like honesty, like a force of nature.  Trier’s vision is a world of absurdist hypocrisy and self deceit.  Nymphomania probably comes closest in film to Nietzsche’s insight of “will to power” insofar as it’s on these psychosexual forces that we can only thrive.  Disturbing for those with hang ups, quite a trip for the open minded.

 

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Posted by on July 20, 2014 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

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Filth

Filth film posterSynopsis

About a corrupt policeman Bruce Robertson (James McAvoy).   He plots and schemes to get ahead in the police force.  He despises his colleagues and his boss (John Sessions) and his arch rival (Imogen Poots). He drinks hard, takes drugs and is into sexual abuse.  His wife and child leave him.  He goes to brothels in Henbury with Eddie Marson whom he corrupts.  He uses his membership of the freemasonry to get ahead. He descends into hell even further.  Will he be rescued by love…?

Review

Insofar as it’s drugs in Scotland it seems a partial throwback to Trainspotting, which itself owed a lot visually to William Burrough’s Naked Lunch.  Robertson’s drug visions get creepier as he descends into a deep pit of solipsistic mayhem fuelled by alcoholic guilt and self loathing.  He feels responsible for the death of his brother from a heap of coal. He seeks release in facile self-serving put downs of his colleagues.  In one hilarious scene he imagines his colleagues in degrading scenarios, their faces in close up going from portraits by Lucian Freud to Francis Bacon.  As you’d expect amidst the relentless scatalogical grind there is a lot of repetition which gets wearisome.  McAvoy gurns his face and manically laughs in a repeat of his performance in Trance. After a while you feel you’ve been sharing the drink and drugs with McAvoy.  The screen jumps about like a Danny Boyle on amphetamines.  We’ve seen so many cynical cop movies that a policeman wallowing in a moral sewer is hardly remarkable.  Filth attempts to make some poignant contrasts between Robertson’s psychic disintegration and the beauty of a snow swept Scottish town ornamented with innocent Christmas songs.  If Sunshine on Leith is the lyrical possibility of Edinburgh then Filth is like a pilot for the ultimate bad cop.  His nihilism is mildly funny but only in an obvious way as he snivels his way to hope of redemption from the usual grounded good woman as Madonna.  Jim Broadbent usually plays Jim Broadbent, and here he does a sort of bad Woody Allen turn as an Australian psychiatrist.  Eddie Marson is the classic wimpy husband abused by his bored wife, the characters and the story are punchy but after a while you feel you’ve been flattened.

 
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Posted by on October 28, 2013 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

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The Adventures of Tintin: The Secret of the Unicorn

Tintin posterSynopsis

About Tintin’s search for treasure.  The clue to this treasure is a map found in a bottle.  The pursuit of the treasure leads to a ship voyage where Tintin meets Captain Haddock.  They escape from the ship and fly to Morocco and track down the clues to the treasure there.

Criticism

This is Spielberg’s version of Herge’s Tintin.  This style of animation, like that of Polar Express is neither real nor caricature fantasy, so it falls between the two.  The characters look like they’ve got stockings pulled over their faces.  The whole look of the film is Spielberg. The chase scene in Morocco is reminiscent of Indiana Jones.  It’s set at an electric pace, no time for a pause which might make you think of the creepiness of those faces.  Purists hate this of course, but I found it entertaining.  I suppose we are all purists about something (I hated the way the BBC rejected the Gothic appearance of Gormangast).  I suppose other purists’ anger is always baffling or amusing,  What’s the fuss about Tintin?  As far as I’m concerned he is a funny little racist (check out Tintin in the Congo), with a funny hairdo, golfing trousers, an irritating dog, and no girlfriends.  The culture of comics and comic books leave me cold.  To me, all the Tintin comics might be well drawn and exciting for kids but why such reverence for this kind of art?  You’d think Spielberg had desecrated the Sistine Chapel!  In the comics the individual scenes provide a backdrop in which things happen suddenly in different pictures, perhaps this was revolutionary at first, so I suspect that Tintin purists feel that cinema betrays this, but it’s understood that cinematic art works differently.  Spielberg seems to do his best to hold true to the spirit of the originals.  Of course the world of Spielberg and the 1930s world of Herge are very different but so what?  Herge himself had nothing against Tintin in cinema in the mid twentieth century.  Was Herge’s world superior?  In any case, each reader of Tintin took what they wanted from it, so Spielberg has the right to his personal vision.   Admittedly, the film works too much within present day orthodoxies but the characters seem pretty faithful to the comics.  Haddock is comically irascible in the film as in the comic, and you want the drunken clown to come out right.  Tintin is a reliable hero even if he does look like an escapee from a freak show.  We get the opera singer Castefiore and that mutt Smutty.

As a purist I eventually accepted that the directors vision of Gormengast was his own even if I didn’t like it, so why can’t Tintin purists join in the fun?

 

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Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre posterSynopsis

From the Charlotte Bronte novel about a girl who survives a vicious aunt and a bulling school master to become governess in Rochester’s big country house.  Rochester wants to marry her but she finds out at the alter that Rochester already has a wife who is mentally ill.  Jane leaves Rochester and is saved from a stormy moor by Rivers and his sisters.  Jane teaches children and Rivers wants to marry her.  She returns to Rochester’s house to find it mostly burnt down.  She meets up again with Rochester…

Criticism

This story has been subjected to quite a few film and TV treatments.  We’ve gone from black and white Hollywood films which seem to be written by Daphne du Maurier to low key estuary accented  TV performances.  In spite of the over-familiarity of Jane Eyre, this film draws us in because of the erotic charge between Anna Wasikowska as Jane and Michael Fassbender as Rochester.  Critics have complained that this film is too restrained, but I find it much more powerful than if they’d simply torn each other’s clothes off!  The austerely washed out colours enable you to focus on the dialogue and how much depended on the correctly chosen word and the correct expression.  Cleverness in dialogue was often a fight for survival in ways that maybe are more difficult for us to appreciate now.  For me, this comes out clearly in the film.  The second meeting between Rochester and Jane shows us the wearily familiar advantages of the privileged, how they feel they can exploit the candour seemingly wrongfooted, by giving such defensiveness even more reason to be defensive.  Rochester thinks he never gives anything away but of course we look for signs of the facial hard work that only fitfully camouflages vulnerability.  Jane must be required to impress.  She will have none of being patronized in that facile way, and the actor Mia Wasikovska does this very well.  Her supposedly plain face shows a shrewd and alert intelligence and we all know that Wasikovska herself with her model looks will undoubtledly be advertizing posh perfume.

When Jane is rescued by the Rivers’ household, even if you don’t know the story you know for sure that Rivers’ seemingly saintly constraint is only a front for sexually predatory self regard.  I winced at each scene he was with Jane because although I didn’t previously know anything about this character, I knew he would destroy the delicate membrane of disinterested friendship.  His Christian piety is merely a sanctimonious mask for his vanity as he asks Jane to become his wife and share a missionary’s life with him.  Jamie Bell does a good job of showing his self deceptive rectitude in all its life hating resentment.

Judi Dench plays a character that has become a fixture of costume dramas, the dependable elderly domestic boss with a northern accent that spits trivially status-panicky suspicions borne out of resentful self repression, which will soften under the kindness of the hero/heroine.  Sally Hawkins plays the vicious aunt who goes through a death bed conversion to goodness which is for me somewhat bland, as it takes place in a wealthy room, no blood-spitting consumptive death for her.  Like most 19th century costume dramas I’ve seen, this film avoids the horrors of 19th century disease and ill health (no bad teeth!).  All the actors look ready for the next Jane Austen drama.

With the faded colours comes a lack of spectacle.  Rochester’s guests we tolerate as silly impostors, their snobbery is so facile they seem like a vulgar painting Jane and Rochester want to get rid of.  Fukanaga, the director, could not give this such a radical treatment as Andrea Arnold has done with Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, but the challenge is all the greater to make this much told story watchable.  This film manages to do that.

 
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Posted by on September 20, 2011 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

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