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Only God Forgives

Only God Forgives film posterSynopsis

Set in Thailand in the present day.  Ryan Gosling is Julian, a macho man involved in kick boxing and in drugs.  His brother Billy (Tom Burke) is killed by a sadistic cop Chang (Vithaya Pansringarm).  Julian’s mother Crystal (Kristin Scott Thomas) arrives from America, wanting revenge for her son’s death.  Chang ritually kills a gangster and combats Julian.  Chang intends to kill Crystal…

Review

This film appears to have a few defenders and a lot of detractors, and I’m happy to join the latter.  It’s supposed to be stylish and atmospheric (the colour red recurs like in Kubrick films).  It’s set in an almost deserted Bangkok and I wonder what the backpacking tourists there will make of it.  It makes The Beach (also partly set in Bangkok) look like Disney.  The characters, except for the acerbic Crystal are charmless and almost catatonically mute.  Crystal is cemented in scary make up, she looks like a Kabuki monster.  Her speech is measured and as deadly in its sarcastic vitriol as Chang’s execution blades.  She is a mobster bitch and she knows poisonous details about Julian whom she ridicules before his girlfriend at dinner, the relationship between these is like a slow motion nightmare set to a sadistic agenda.  Crystal is the only reason for watching this trash and she is under used in it.  Gosling, for me, is too suspiciously good at being inarticulate and expression challenged.  This film must be his easiest pay packet to date.  Chang himself is a taciturn thug who sings Karaoke, like a sinister joke performer in Britain’s Got Talent.  I could only laugh.  He is an automatic device lacking any imagination. the barely non existent script might have been written by a ten year old sociopath.  As you unwrap its would be enigmatic scenes you find there’s just a booby prize in the centre, a joke played on the audience.  One critic has praised its supposed artistic value as a stick to beat the presumed herd mentality of the Cannes Film Festival, as if one’s very loathing of it is an index of its artistic significance.  Well I’m very sorry, I didn’t enjoy watching this turd being unwrapped over very slow minutes.  Only God Forgives, indeed, because few of us will.  How apt a title.

 
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Posted by on September 18, 2013 in At the cinema, Film Reviews

 

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In the House

In the House film posterSynopsis

Directed by François Ozon.  About a school teacher, Germain (Fabrice Luchini) who teaches literature in a provincial French town.  He is married to Jeanne (Kristin Scott Thomas) who’s in charge of an art gallery.  They have no children.  Germain has an imaginative pupil Claude (Ernst Umhauer) who writes well on “what I did last week”.  The other pupils are hopelessly inept at writing.   Claude has a friend Rapha whose parents are affluent, they are Rapha and Esther.  Germain nurtures Claude’s talent and asks him to write about the lives of Rapha’s parents.  Is Germain encouraging voyeurism in Claude?  At the end Germain and Claude are building fictions from what they see in windows…

Review

This is a film about writing and film.  The school is Lycee Gustave Flaubert which refers us to the highly meticulous and perfectionist writer.  This film tells us of the danger of manipulating reality in the name of art, of the danger of making fluid boundaries between fantasy wish and realisation of such fantasy.  We get Purple Rose of Cairo-like situations where an actor playing Humphrey Bogart dispenses worldly wisdom to Woody Allen, only he can see Bogart.   In the House works as a satire on our expectations from film, Claude dreams of making love to Esther and we will him to go and do it.  As viewers we are complicit in the proceedings though we don’t get as stern a lecture as Haneke is prepared to give us in his films.  It’s about the writer/artist as observer and the boundary between artistic perception and voyeuristic manipulation.  Claude shows a gift for observation, writing about the “singular smell of a middle class woman”.  Rapha’s parents are cheerfully philistine and unacquainted with the rigours and perils of artistic aspiration.  Rapha’s home is in stark contrast to Claude’s broken home, Claude is the resentful outsider.  Germain eventually realizes he is playing a dangerous game by mentoring the unflinching gaze of an emerging talent.  Manipulation comes with consequences and Germain learns this to his cost.  His fostering of Claude has repercussions on his own relationship with his partner Jeanne.  He gets jealous and violent.  This reminds me of the novel The Act of Love by Howard Jacobson in which a husband arranges a relationship between his wife and another man and then tortures himself with jealousy over it.  The answer to this and Germain is “serves you right”.

At the end of the film Germain and Claude are observing lives going on behind the windows of houses.  This is an obvious reference to Hitchcock’s Rear Window and of course the camera”s balefully swivelling eye in Psycho. The house of the title could be a metaphorical house of art in which we are invited to watch the libidinous imagination play havoc with bourgeoise domesticity.  We last saw Fabrice Luchini play the pompous bourgeoise husband in Potiche, and in House he is similarly as comical as he gets out of his depth.  Absorbing.

 
 

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