Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Void Has Been Entered

As many regular readers know, I am a huge fan of Gaspar Noe.  He is my favorite director period. I Stand Alone and Irreversible were brilliant cinematic pieces that were emotionally brutal and among the best films ever made.  As to be expected, I was looking very forward to Enter the Void.

I bought it as soon as I could, but waited to see it with Girl.  Special movie.  Special company.  It didn't matter that I had a splitting headache (in hindsight, it was a bad idea seeing it in that frame of mind).  I had waited far too many weeks for this.

The film is good.  Visually it is unlike anything ever seen before.  In time, this will become one of those "drug movies" (if it's not already at that place in cinematic cultdom).  It is an ambitious story, too, the likes of which is hard to pull off.  Had any other director attempted it, he or she would've failed.  That said, it is my least favorite of his films.

My first problem is with the length.  At around two hours and twenty minutes, it is way too long.  I know Noe is setting the mood, but there are some scenes that could have been cut in time with zero impact on the film. 

Then there is the fact that this movie did not grab me the way his other films have.  There are great, terrifying, tense scenes, but nothing gave me that kick in the stomach feeling that was standard with I Stand Alone and Irreversible.  Perhaps that is because we never get to really know Oscar.  Shot entirely from Oscar's perspective, the camera is the character, and therefore we don't get any real insight on him.  He reacts to every other character the same way.  It makes it hard to care for him.  Of course, that means most of our emotional currency is put on his sister ... and she is fairly one-dimensional, too.

There are Noe touches throughout the film.  Tunnel shots.  A camera that acts as if it is caught in a breeze.  The touches are purely cinematography related, however.  The story could've been done by anyone.  Not everyone could've pulled it off, though.

It may sound like I am utterly disappointed with the film.  I am not.  It truly is an amazing piece of art the likes of which has never been seen before and most likely will never be seen again.  Just look at these opening credits.  Hell, I've never seen something like this.

Enter The Void is a ground breaking film.  It is an important film.  It's just not Noe's best film.  Had I a chance, I would've watched it again today.  As it stands, I will take it in again soon ... without the headache.  I don't think my opinion will change much, but I know I missed something ... and those visuals were just too damn cool.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Advance Word on the Bonus Disc on the Upcoming Stieg Larsson's Dragon Tattoo Trilogy

2/22/11.  Mark the date on your calendar, smart phone, Mayan stone disc thing -- whatever you got.  That's the day you can get your hands on Stieg Larsson's Dragon Tattoo Trilogy.  If you're waiting for the Hollywood remakes, you're an idiot.  These are the films to see.  My reviews of the films will be on Film Threat (I have my review of The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo there with the rest to follow).  What makes this boxed set so special is the fourth disc.  (And no, this is not the mysterious fourth movie based on the rumored fourth book, but that is talked about on this disc.)

The bonus disc is one of the few that really is a bonus for fans of this trilogy (which at this point is just about everyone and their mothers).  You get a documentary that looks at Larsson's life, death, that fourth manuscript, neo-Nazis and just about everything else you can imagine.  (You'll also be amazed at how much his father and brother look like him.)  Also included are two very fascinating interviews with Noomi Rapace and Michael Nyqvist.  Those three things alone would make the boxed set worth getting, but then there are interviews with other cast and crew and the staging of a fight scene, which makes this thing top out at just over the two hour mark.  Music Box Films has, again, scored a coup with this one.

If you haven't bought the other three films, this is going to be mandatory.  The documentary on Larsson is spectacular and goes in-depth with the people behind Expo and the books.  Of course, some of you may have already purchased the films not knowing this set was coming out.  Those make great gifts, as you simply have to watch this bonus disc.  (My screener copy actually had a glitch which made about ten minutes of the documentary unwatchable, but I still enjoyed it.  Normally that would drive me up a wall, but I actually made my DVD player strain trying to take in every word I could make out.)

Again, don't wait for the (most assuredly watered down) Hollywood remakes.  Go right to the source.  In just a few days you will have an incredibly in-depth look as to why this is literally a global phenomenon.

Blog Photo Updated

If you like it (and I do), give Felix Vasquez, Jr. all the credit.  While you're at it, be sure to visit his site, Cinema Crazed.  You'll be glad you did.  Thank you, Felix.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Woman

The Woman is getting some strong press out of Sundance and causing some equally strong reactions from its audience.  Hype?  Maybe.  Worth checking out?  I will be.  That's not issue, though.  What I do find interesting is that people are saying it degrades women (I haven't seen it, but I have faith in Lucky McKee (who directed) and Jack Ketchum (who wrote the book it is based on) to make sure that it is far beyond a mere piece of degradation.  Yes, the idea of a feral woman held captive by a family with a twisted patriarch who puts her through all kinds of abuse does cause one to take a few steps back, but degradation?  No, I'll leave that to Jersey Shore.

This also leaves an unasked, but equally important question: What's wrong with degradation?  Men have been degraded in film, but we usually look at that as though they had that coming to them.  (Think Hard Candy, which was an excellent movie.  Maybe he had some of that coming, but I urge you to rewatch it.  Did it have to go that far?  Was it warranted?)  Hostel is another one.  Why shouldn't there be some equality?  Playing devil's advocate here is easy: violence happens in real life more to women than men, so it shouldn't be seen on screen.  I don't agree with that, as in art anything goes, but I do think this leads to why we have such a visceral reaction to it on screen.

Violence against men in cinema is often justified, acceptable and sometimes even funny.  When it is done against women, however, we tend to extend our sympathies and get enraged (watch the footage of the man escorted out of a showing of The Woman to see that in full effect).  Because we often see them as victims in real life, we can more easily relate to them as victims on screen.  It makes the story more compelling, and that is something art should strive for.  (By comparison, Haute Tension takes its female lead and makes her a hero that goes through some pretty rough stuff and eventually makes her a nasty villain, but the audience can forgive all that because she is ape shit crazy.  If that had been a male in the lead role, the audience would have wanted him to suffer at the end.)

I'm sure The Woman is not meant to be a study of degradation, but that of power.  Who really has power in a realtionship?  How far can you push things before they push back?  Is violence justified in confronting violence?  Important questions, and from the reviews I've read, this film investigates them.  Yeah, it could have been a male that was captured and abused, but let's face it -- would you want to see that and, more importantly, would this even be an issue?  Hardly.  It wouldn't even be a blip on the radar.

So, who's the real sexist here?