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Jan Mecir (Devon,UK)

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Alexandra [2007] [DVD]
Alexandra [2007] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Galina Vishnevskaya
Price: £10.71

4 of 11 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Oddly disengaging, 6 Jan. 2012
This review is from: Alexandra [2007] [DVD] (DVD)
Grandma Alexandra (Galina Vishnevskaya) looks very fed up. She's got the whole of Mother Russia on her back - so is needing to walk much Great Suffering out of her tired legs.

She's gone to see Dennis (Dennis?!) her army officer grandson, where he's making war in the Chechen Republic. Whys she there? I mean, how credible is this? Why is she allowed to be there? Why is she allowed to wander around the front line faffing her fingers at the bored border guards? This situation seems like a contrived set-up of Sukurov's to facilely juxtapose women as nurturers against the bad boys (men) of war.

It's soon turned into one of those films where questioning plot plausibility becomes irrelevant - cus there is no plot. Nothing very interesting happens. And nothing very interesting is said. She gets shown around the dusty hot base, the dirty combat vehicles. Now she's examining their shiny equipment. She's brusque, dismissive. Seen it all, done it all. "All" meaning all the suffering already. All the suffering these bored boys are too insensitive - or desensitized - to suffer, with all this impersonalised shooting off of these weapons of destruction they do.

So she's wandering about the camp mumbling and muttering to herself like some grumpy old Mother Archetype. Its "Alexandra Nikolaevna" this and "Alexandra Nikolaevna" that (thought that only happened to characters in Tolstoy novels). Keeps needing to sit down cus tired. More than likely made tired; by the moral torpor shes witnessing - as accentuated by the drained out greeny gray the film is being filtered through.

"What do you actually want? I don't understand you" says Unit Commander. I don't understand her either. And its hard not to feel disengaged by all this gruff antipathy she's wearily trudging around the camp with. They can't help it - the poor lambs; they're just being soldiers. Making war and killing people is what soldiers do. Even if they are only little lads. If you don't like being there - go away!

And she's gone. Leaves as disgruntled/ crotchety/ lonely/ dismayed (take your pick) as she came. Mind you, there's been a big granny love-in at the train departure; reinforcing how instantly, easily, connective womenfolk can be together. Because they - the grannies, (whether Russian or Chechen) represent humankinds best, possibly - only - hope against war (I doubt Sukurov meant anything as trite as that - but its as much thought as i want to give this film for now)
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jul 22, 2014 4:05 PM BST


Christmas In August [DVD]
Christmas In August [DVD]
Dvd ~ Suk-Kyu Han

3 of 8 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Stop laughing all the time, you're dying!, 6 Jan. 2012
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: Christmas In August [DVD] (DVD)
Bespectacled photographer with fatal illness indulges in hapless hopeless non romance with meter maid.

"Why are you smiling at me?" she asks. Yeah, why is he? And flippin laughing all the time. Having this terminal cancer (or whatever it is) is dead funny.

But he doesn't look very ill, seem ill, act ill. The ugly pain of dying from this mystery malady is mostly airbrushed out.

Is his Shy Smiley Man persona a way of keeping people out? Putting an ever so brave and humble front on? Or a genuine expression of joy at the preciousness of life? Or an absurd abreaction to how funny-odd life is? (when death is all there is at the end of it) Or a surreptitious wink of denial, contrived to con the people around him to lighten up, and smile - cus I'm dying man! (but I'm being a brave little boy by not making a great big song and dance about it)

I'd quite like him to stop doing that stupid little laugh. Its not funny. Its ingratiating. This diffident shy charm act is fake mate.

But he still carries on insinuating the phony feel-good happy vibe with clueless girl. Smiley smile, noddy head: "Look I'm nice. I'm gonna die but i can't stop being nice about it. How happy dying makes me feel. I'm making you (meter maid) want to fall in love with me. But I'm not going to tell you. I'll keep me - and the actual Truth - quietly to myself thank you very much. I won't let love in and i won't let love out. I won't share what is really going on with me. By staying passively withheld, and impassively withdrawn, i'll hang onto some kind of sad self-effacing virtue. Which of course will make all of you watching me go "Awww" and want to give me a nice little hug".

Personally, to get more empathetic response from me I'd have needed him to drop the phony nice guy act, stop the twee smile and the ingratiating laugh, stop the wanting me to feel sorry for him (as watcher of film) - and get real. Be in authentic engagement with the people around him (in the film) Tell the girl the truth instead of doing this tepid half baked withheld involvement thing with her.

If i think about it - its the actors performance as much as his character i couldn't buy into. Too smoothly pathetic. Pathos superficially acted out but not internalised or deeply enriched from within. The bland smiley facade was all Suk-kyu Han's.

Overall, Christmas in August is disingenuously sly. The suffering is synthetic, not sympathetic. The sweetly winsome little soundtrack strokes you to be sad every 5 minutes; pouring sugary sad sentiment into the gaps were engaged characterisation should be, enlightening script - and genuinely involving, involved emotion.

A manipulative little sham this film.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 26, 2015 8:41 PM GMT


Couscous [2007] [DVD]
Couscous [2007] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Habib Fares
Offered by GX-ENTERTAINMENT UK
Price: £9.49

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Its overcooked, 6 Jan. 2012
This review is from: Couscous [2007] [DVD] (DVD)
Known in French as "The Secret of the Grain" (Better title than Couscous)

About half an hour in i was saying to myself: This is why i watch foreign films; they drop me into ordinary small bits of life all over the world. How people genuinely live, how they actually (have to) work, all those real to life messy relationships. And here we have all this close-up claustrophobic intimacy, the mix and mess of family and friends, of a close-knit community of people living around one another, eating together, making music, dancing, arguing, bantering, laughing. I was enjoying it.

I was still enjoying it an hour in. Especially as Hafsia Herzi (as Rym) was coming more into the story; what a lively, feisty, firecracker she is. And old Slimane was reminding me of my quiet old granddad (with his budgie in the cage by the open window facing out to the harbour) I liked being in this salty Mediterranean "reality".

But the second half of the film slowly slid my interest away. I'm becoming aware of how overly extended scenes are getting (do we have to see every pot being carried out of that car?) Dialogues are running repetitively into one another, with much shouting and wailing. Crude melodrama is starting to become the predominant driver of the narrative.

Disappointingly, the film has felt like it's lost its way - and I've lost sympathy with both the characters and the plot they're in. The boat restaurant scenes at the end - Ryms belly dancing for example - and sad Slimane running around and around in hopeless circles after the jeering kids on his stolen bike - have become far too farcical.

Its a real let down when a film, especially a long film like this, fails to deliver what it was promising. All that couscous, just slopped wastefully out onto the floor.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 2, 2014 6:04 PM GMT


Delta [DVD]
Delta [DVD]
Dvd ~ Orsi Toth
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £7.60

0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Specious, 6 Jan. 2012
This review is from: Delta [DVD] (DVD)
I didn't feel especially inclined to watch this film again, but i've relented.

The cinematography is lovely to look at, but feels more artful than heartfelt.

Slow tracking shots move across misty vista of Danube delta wetlands. Slow zooms into composed close-ups.

The locals look on stranger (brother) from coarse muted faces with simmers of resentment.

The sisters tortoise creeps out. She didn't eat for a year once. Her long lost beardy half brother talks in no's and yeses. They aren't saying much to one another - just withdrawn smiles and shy silences.

The camera slows pans on timber brother wants to buy to build his boat house and its elongated jetty; she helps hold the hammer and nails; all the building is done in a mood of subdued passivity, it's so effortless it hardly seems credible.

I won't bother spinning this review out for too much longer.

Here's my conclusion already: there's some self-consciously painty pic bits in Delta but the sis and bro are so psychologically obscure and emotionally withdrawn i felt disengaged from any real involvement with them. Shallow silhouettes the pair of them.

I wouldn't pay more than a couple of quid for it.


Rosetta/La Promesse [DVD] [2000]
Rosetta/La Promesse [DVD] [2000]
Dvd ~ Jérémie Renier

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Rosetta grinds you down, 6 Jan. 2012
First time i saw this i was a bit underwhelmed. Then i was wowed by The Son and gave Rosetta another go. Better on 2nd watch cus I'm appreciating better the Dardennes deliberate effectless style but still nothing really grabbed me about it.

So this is my 3rd and last go at this film. How I'm watching now has to stand as my final evaluation

Émilie Dequenne won Best Actress at Cannes in 1999. She does a lot of tussling, stomping around, barging about - in perpetual motion - which the hand held camera captures to giddily exhaustive effect.

There's an earnest humourlessnes about her. Mind you, shes got nothing much to smile or sing or dance about. Can't dance, won't dance, don't dance. That dance scene with putative boyfriend is painfully awkward to watch.

Rosetta continues her chasing about. It's like following a feral animal, or a stray dog, having to be on the run the whole time, searching for some secure place to finally be. But not finding anywhere, not getting safe.

The camera is almost like another body. An extension of her body. The handheld camera has become her body.

Here comes a touching moment - her Self Prayer: "Your name is Rosetta, my name is Rosetta, You found a job/I found a job, You've got a friend/I've got a friend, You have a normal life/I have a normal life, You won't fall in the rut/I won't fall in the rut". This splitting of herself into 2 emphasizes how through disassociation she might be able to bear her life better.

It does help to be acquainted with the Dardenne method. Then you drop the need to feel entertained by the film or pleased intellectually by aesthetics or arty cinematography; rather the engagement gets to feel more visceral, an experience of being with what you see as if it were something equivalent to actual life - the life you live, the living - moving, struggling, coping, surviving - you share with Rosetta.

Yes, it's finally got to me this film. I've succumbed to its relentless necessity.


Departures [DVD] [2008]
Departures [DVD] [2008]
Dvd ~ Masahiro Motoki
Price: £5.99

4 of 41 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Couldn't buy into it, 6 Jan. 2012
This review is from: Departures [DVD] [2008] (DVD)
Comedy drama. From Japan. Haven't seen one of them before.

Its got the sweeping Hollywood Big Strings treatment. Not surprised it got the Oscar for Best Foreign Language film of 2009.

Had a feeling by 15 minutes in - and later confirmed - I wouldn't be liking this.

"Departures", not of the living but of those departed. Those dead dirty people who need tarting up for "Encoffinment". It's unemployed cellists new job. But seemingly work to be ashamed of (in Japan). "You're not clean!" screams wife.

The comedy in this is of the comic whimsy variety, but comes across as broadly, and archly, disingenuous. Aki Kaurismaki would be giving this material a far more illogical - and authentic - oddball spin (i kept thinking)

Not too far in I've had to begin fast forward through all the manipulative pathos being larded on. All the slushy slosh overstuffed with artificial emotion. And that bleeding cello bleeding into the grief and loss so predictably phonily sad.

Should have followed that gut feeling i had after 15 mins - and made my own swift departure from this film.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 12, 2013 5:58 PM GMT


Innocence [2005] [DVD]
Innocence [2005] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Marion Cotillard

0 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Estranging rather than enchanting, 6 Jan. 2012
This review is from: Innocence [2005] [DVD] (DVD)
Half an hour and not into this film. Whats it meant to be about? Haven't got the foggiest.

Little girls running around dressed in white with pigtails in some obscure secretive forest school. Being trained to be ballet dancers. Or groomed to be pleasing little objects of aesthetic pleasure (i won't go as far as "sex objects" cus i don't want to buy into a paedo subtext)

They prance and dance about with skipping ropes and hoops, swinging on swings, twirling ribbons, doing cartwheels, performing a pantomime of Edenic innocence. No males around. Even seeing a deer up ahead on the path is a cause for some mild alarm.

An hour in and still another hour to go. I might give up on this in a minute.

I'm not sufficiently involved to make all the metaphorical interpretations and symbolic inferences necessary to engage.

A lot of fast forwarding was happening in that last hour.

In the 18 minute interview extra the director is more revealing than the whole 2 hours of the film. In it she says she wanted to create something appealing and interesting. Failed there. She wanted "To make it charming enough, to transform the scenery into a character" I didn't see that either.

The school and its setting was paradoxically, a paradise, and a prison. I got that.

The girls were manipulated "As though i was playing with dolls in a puppet theatre" Yes, they did appear puppet-like. Vacant. Nothing much in the way of personality or individuated character. Like obedient clones. Good little girls trying to please, trying to get chosen. Maybe that was the coded message of the story: little girls are always subjugated to, and conditioned by, the attention and approval of the subordinating males they are going to have to please in later life.

It was hard for me to relate to or identify - as a male - with this "girlish world". The disengagement i felt was because I'm not girlish enough was it? Not only.

She talks a lot about the formal making of the film, keeping it tightly framed, fixed, "like pinning butterflies in a box". Which very much describes how oddly lifeless i found the film to be. That's what disengaged me the most. I didn't feel beguiled within a dreamworld of innocence and charm - but lost, and confused - inside a flattened feeling, not of enchantment, but estrangement.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 25, 2013 7:41 PM GMT


Unrelated [2007] [DVD]
Unrelated [2007] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Michael Hadley
Price: £5.92

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Its awkwardly authentic, 6 Jan. 2012
This review is from: Unrelated [2007] [DVD] (DVD)
Not the most imaginative title for a film. But it does describe what goes on.

Hot summer holidays in Tuscan villas. When the Sienna Palio is on. I've known one of them. Lazing about with strangers. Wondering what, or if, you've got anything in common.

I wouldn't have wanted to have been holidaying with this lot though. With this well to do poncey lot. Even the pompous prig George is calling Oakley his "supercilious prat of a son" (Oakley, i ask you!) The dope smoking teenagers are spoilt public school types. Whooping and whaling it up. Pinching traffic cones. Wrecking the neighbours car. I wanted to give that Oakley a slap around his conceited curly big head.

I didn't feel much sympathy for Anna either. I've known women like her: self-absorbed middle-class 40's something women who self-pity about not having kids, and are neurotically going through a self-induced mid life crisis about everything (failing relationship, career choice etc) but also about nothing at all really: you're no longer young; you can no longer have it all - flipping get over yourself! That's what i would have wanted to say to this Anna. If I'd been there. But I wasn't. Small mercies!

Yes, this film actually makes you feel relieved not to have been there in sun-drenched Tuscany; such summer holidays seem like excessively empty exercises in vapid self-indulgence. Especially given todays impoverished (and imperiled) economic climate

Anna's late confessional scene with friend Verena in hotel is overwrought and self-consciously neurotic - but that could have been the over-reacting of the actress - not able to suggest more sympathetic qualities (maybe that's why this was her first film - her acting isn't up to much)

"I tried for not an obvious kind of beauty ala Merchant Ivory heritage Tuscany" says Joanna Hogg in the Interview extra. Yes, i could see that. Mind you, sometimes the camerawork could have done with being of a better quality: night scenes were chronically under lit; dialogues were indistinct, sometimes inaudible. But Hogg says they had a cheap camera to work with. Explains, but doesn't excuse why you can't hear half of whats being said.

Says she was aiming at a truth - true for her - that expresses what she hears and sees is true-to-life of the life and particular milieu around her. I got that. And i think she achieved it. Despite my reservations i think this film did capture quite authentically something awkward and actual, something painfully real. About how social and self exclusion often feed off and into one another.


The Man Who Loved Women [DVD]
The Man Who Loved Women [DVD]
Dvd ~ Charles Denner

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Oozes with charm, 4 Jan. 2012
I saw this film at Birmingham Arts Centre when i was 19 or 20 and don't remember much about it, other than feeling envious about all these lovely French women he was loving. And how they all seemed to fall easily into his lap, loving him up too. Why can't i have his irresistible seductive charm (i was probably wondered at the time)

Watching now i can see its still a charming and sweet film. Charles Denner is sweet and charming, almost like a little boy lost (well, he was neglected if not abandoned by his slutty mother) He seems so innocent in his pursuit, so earnest about his captures.

The jammy b. The man loved by women more like. Cus they all say Yes.

"Its hard to refuse you anything. You have a special way of asking. Its as if your life depended on it" says one smitten women. And its true - he does. He's not just putting it on to get them in the sack. Well, he is. But at the time he must believe it. The woman in front - before his captivating gaze - is captivated, is the be all and the end all. Of this moment, of this very moment of capture, of conquest - she is It.

He captures these women like a painter or a poet would: with devotion to the visual image, with utter fidelity to the language of love: "the way she moved...she undulated like seaweed"; he distinguishes "between the tall stems and the pretty blossoms"

He's leched or loved after (take your pick) just about every woman he comes a across. What he seems to like is not women, the whole woman - just their legs with stockings on and stilettos. Or perhaps a specific aspect or attribute. Cus every woman has some particular thing about them that can be loved. Some bit, some part, some posture or pose. You divide that bit off - and discard the rest.

"You think you enjoy love, but its just the concept you love" says Geneviève (Brigitte Fossey) Yes. he's in thrall to the idealisation of women. That's why he has to keep chasing after the next one. Cus the actual is never as ideal as the perfected fantasy.

"I was worried. You haven't caressed my legs for a week" says Delphine (Nelly Borgeaud) That made me laugh. Out loud. I'm sure there are some (French) women who just crave their long legs (preferably stockinged) being caressed.

There's a warmth about this film. It's not oily. He's not a misogynist wolf. The smarmy juice of seductive insincerity is not present (the way i imagine it would be in the American remake starring that smarm-master, Mr Insincerity himself - Burt Reynolds). Charles Denner means it. He loves women. He does. Loves them to death.

I'll probably watch it again (and revise this review too) sometime soon. It's a film to go back to. On lonely loveless Sundays.


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