isolation

Girlfriends (Claudia Weill, 1978)





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Frownland (Ronald Bronstein, 2007)

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No matter what their flaws, the main characters in mainstream movies are almost always appealing in some way. If they are nebbishes, their klutziness is endearing. (Look at the work of Woody Allen.) If they are lonely, their alienation is grand and alluring. (Look at the work of Orson Welles.) If they are evil, their villainy is sexy and rakish. (Look at the work of Christopher Walken.) Ronald Bronstein strips away the Hollywood idealizations and asks us to spend time with genuinely unromantic characters leading genuinely unromantic lives. He creates characters we don’t want to see ourselves as, characters we refuse to identify with. There is much lip service paid to the importance of depictions of “otherness” in film; Frownland reveals that the concept of otherness as redemptive and transformative is a romantic myth. He gives us otherness we want to cross the street to avoid; otherness without sentimentality. Or is he just giving us ourselves with our self–deluded idealizations removed? – Ray Carney

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There’s a certain type of person out there…one that we’re all familiar with…who provokes a kind of instant instinctive repulsion in nearly everyone they cross paths with. You run into these ‘off’ people now and again and it’s the social equivalent of pushing two magnets towards one another. By way of example, it’s the kind of person who might stop you on the street and ask you for directions and before you know it you’re claiming that you don’t know the way…even though you do….just to end the exchange as quickly as possible. In life, it’s just so easy to dismiss people like this. They don’t occupy enough real estate in your brain to force you to confront and reasonably gauge whether this instinctive aversion is justified. You simply go about your business and push them out of your mind as quickly as they entered into it. I guess i figured a movie theatre, where people are willing to be held captive for a few hours, is a good environment to make audiences spend time with someone like this, chew em over, swallow em, regurgitate em, chew some more, etc…and hopefully arrive at a more layered response. – Ronald Bronstein

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Fractionally better than spending the evening watching crappy French tele in a Nantes hotel-room… Yes – last night, I had the choice of “Frownland” at Nantes’ Katorza art cinema or an evening of the direness that is currently being dished up for the TV-audience of France… I think “Frownland” was just worth leaving the hotel for. But, really, it is a car-crash of a film… Every character repelled and bored me, nothing happened, there was far too much snot, it looked so dated [despite apparently only having been made last year], etc., etc… I think the acting was OK – as far as it went – and I’m more than happy to turn a blind eye to a slightly grainy picture and an obviously low budget if the film-maker has got something genuinely interesting to say. [In fact, I’d encourage such film-makers, as we really do need an alternative to Hollywood.] But, a film needs to engage me much better than “Frownland” managed to. – badgerking10, imdb comment

At 106 minutes, it is at least 95 minutes too long. You get to watch the main character’s failed and drawn out attempts to communicate, in extended real time. The same grimaces, hand over mouth motions, kinetic and frantically repeated words and syllables over and over and over again – WE GET THE POINT.
One site actually compares this work to early Mike Leigh. What drugs would you have to be on to make that statement? – NJtoTX, imdb comment

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Onibaba (Kaneto Shindô, 1964)

鬼婆
Demon Woman
Devil Woman
JP, 103 min

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from now-defunct reel.com:

Feudal era-set Japanese horror tale based on a Buddhist parable.  A woman and her widowed daughter-in-law kill to survive — attacking and killing passing samurai, stripping them of their valuable armor and possessions, and disposing of the bodies in a deep pit. Their lives are disrupted by the return from war of neighbor Hachi, who lusts after the daughter…

With its mix of harsh poetic realism and mounting supernatural terror, this entertains foreign film buffs, adventurous fantasy/horror fans.

update 10 sept. 09: took more caps; couldn’t wait for the dvd to come…

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God Plays Sax, the Devil Violin (A. Gulea, 2004)

Dumnezeu la saxofon, dracu la vioara
RO, 43 min

Instinctive energy and the economy of shifts are guiding the mechanics of life in a psychiatric clinic. The director illustrates this life by an example of one Romanian asylum, where patients themselves created rules of life in a close society.

Almost three hundred inhabitants, out of whom some live in rooms with twelve roommates, are friends, become intimate, marry and break up. Coffee and cigarettes are the basic currency units. Lively business and sexual affection are interrupted by the time for medications, food and sleep.

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the Enigma of Kaspar Hauser (W. Herzog, 1974)

Jeder für sich und Gott gegen alle
Every man for himself and God against them all
DE (w.), 110 min

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the first of herzog’s two films starring the very intriguing bruno s.
based on the true and mysterious story of kaspar hauser,
the 19th-century german near-feral manchild,
depicted above.

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A young man suddenly appeared in the street in Nuremberg in 1828, barely able to speak or walk, and bearing a strange note. The “foundling” (Findling) later explained that he had been held captive in a dungeon of some sort for his entire life and had only just been released, for reasons unknown…

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Ghosts… of the Civil Dead (John Hillcoat, 1988)

AU, 93 min

insidious repression
rage
breaking point

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Central Industrial Prison is set in the middle of the desert. It’s the future of maximum-security containment and it’s been “locked down” after an explosion of violence. A Committee’s been appointed to report on the events that led to the violence but their findings are in stark contrast to the reality we see with our own eyes.. “Ghosts.. of the Civil Dead” is a powerful drama on modern methods of social control.

Ghosts… Of The Civil Dead is set entirely within the confines of a modern Maximum Security prison – a “New Generation” Prison painted in playschool yellows, bathroom violets and resembling your modern Shopping Mall. Central Industrial Prison is located in the middle of the desert. It has been “locked down” – the confinement of all inmates to their cells, 23 hours a day, indefintely – following an outbreak of violence, and a Committee has been appointed to report..

Ultimately, Ghosts… Of The Civil Dead….

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