Sunday, June 15, 2008

9 Songs (2004)

Note: This review was originally posted on Bridge To Better Days. I am reposting it here for archival purposes. It has been backdated to the date of its original posting.

I like the idea of this film. It's a story about the progression of a relationship (focusing on sexual encounters) interspersed with 9 live rock(ish) performances the way they would look if you were standing in the audience with a video camera. The problem is that the music is very uninteresting to me, and the girl was kind of a bitch.

The reason people are talking about this film is because the sex is not only explicit, but unsimulated - indeed, you see enough that they couldn't possibly be faking it. Some people argue that that fact alone makes it a porno, and other people argue the film's integrity for taking such an approach while still maintaining some sense of a coherent, artistic story.

The bottom line is, I think this film has some good ideas, but it's far (far far far) from the visionary masterpiece that some people are claiming it to be. I like how real it is - not just the sex but the interactions between the two characters and the concert scenes. But it's the content that leaves something to be desired.

Plenty of nudity for those who are looking - including things you'd normally only expect to see in a porno. But then again, there's plenty of sex, and most if not all of the nudity is sex-related. The couple actually get into some kinky stuff, including a little S&M, but it's not always terribly exciting. One thing I did like is how after they had sex one of the times, the girl stayed naked and walked around a bit. It's always bugged me when after a sex scene the girl gets dressed real quick, even while holding the covers over her body... You're naked, enjoy it, stay that way for awhile! Get up, walk around, quit being such a prude! Although, in those cases, I'll bet the only reason they get dressed so fast is because it's a movie and they can't afford to push the censors by having the characters walking around naked after the sex is done...

The Dreamers (2003)

Note: This review was originally posted on Bridge To Better Days. I am reposting it here for archival purposes. It has been backdated to the date of its original posting.

Awesome film that doesn't demean its brilliance just because of the sexual nature of its plot. This is basically a story about the 60's, except it's not California - it's Paris, France, and it occurs during the 1968 riots in Paris. You can look it up if you want more historical context, but I didn't know what the riots were about, and it didn't much matter, because the brunt of the story focuses on three characters who are pretty much oblivious to what's going on out in the streets outside their house, until the point at which they can no longer ignore it.

But the spirit of the sixties is here in full swing. Peace, protest, and free love are all in there. And the absolutely amazing soundtrack centers on some scorching sections from Jimi Hendrix and Big Brother & The Holding Company (with Janis Joplin, of course), with even a Doors tune thrown in. There's even a pivotal scene where one character sings a line from Hey Joe, as the song plays on the record player.

But what's the story about? Well, it's a personal story about three young college-age people. An American student/cinema buff meets up with a pair of French twins (brother/sister) who share a lot of the same interests. They get real close real fast, and when the parents leave on a trip, the three of them live it out in the apartment, loose and free. There's some tension, because the twins are "joined at the hip", as they say (no, not literally), and the American student understands that they need to grow up and mature and the only way to do that is to split them apart, so they can learn to have some individuality or something. It's complicated. But that's where the drama comes in.

Great movie. There's even a scene where the two guys argue about whether Clapton or Hendrix is better. There's also a lot of talk about classic cinema, as the characters are all cinema buffs, and the director himself (Bernardo Bertolucci) is a cinema buff who was there in Paris during the riots depicted in this film, and a part of the real cinema scene that the characters in the film are a part of.

I love it because this film is high quality and sexually liberated. There's a great scene where the guy and girl have sex on the kitchen floor, for the first time, and the other guy (the brother) is making eggs on the stove, casually. It's all very real. The characters spend a good amount of time all or partly naked, too, and sometimes it's sexual, and sometimes it's not - which is what real life should be like.

I recommend this movie highly, if any of what I discussed here interests you.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

The Strangers (2008)

Note: This review was originally posted on Bridge To Better Days. I am reposting it here for archival purposes. It has been backdated to the date of its original posting.

I went to see The Strangers last night at the cinema. To put it quite simply, it's that new horror movie starring Liv Tyler. Since I'm a huge horror fan, and I kind of have a crush on Liv Tyler, I couldn't pass it up. It was opening day, but even so, I was surprised at how many people showed up for the Friday night last showing (11pm - tame). I'm used to seeing movies where not more than a handful of people show up. Then again, the second-run theatre that I liked to go to shut down, unfortunately. But at this show, shortly into the movie, there wasn't an empty seat within my view!

Lots of young types, most likely high school students, out for a weekend thrill. I was impressed to see a group of older guys among the crowd though. Older as in father types, the rebel kind you might see at a rock concert. Anyhow, it was crowded, and I prefer more room to breathe, but it wasn't too bad.

The movie itself was very good. Not one of the best horror movies I've ever seen, but in this day of dime-a-dozen scare flicks, I'd say it was among the better ones. There was a good bit of emotional tension between the two leads even before The Strangers showed up to wreak havoc. In fact, the movie dealt with a situation I haven't really seen a lot, especially not in horror films - a marriage proposal gone sour. Watching the previews, I thought the lead couple was gonna be all lovey-dovey, but there was this depressing air that hung over them instead. Kind of an appropriate lead-in to the horror that followed. Sort of like, "this is the worst night of my life" even before they discover that they're being hunted by homicidal psychopaths - like some kind of pathetic fallacy where god sends angels of death (in a purely symbolic sense) to truly make this night the absolute worst possible it could ever be. I thought it was a refreshing angle.

The movie does a really good job of slowly building up the tension, and a lot of that seems to have to do with the killers' strategy of slowly building up the tension in their victims, starting by sending a girl to knock on the door, pretending like she had the wrong house - but with the added creepiness of the porch light not working; followed by subsequent pounding on the door, and then sneaking into the house unnoticed to do small things like get rid of phones and stuff, a face in the window here or there, breaking open the front door but not coming in, just a gradual increase in intimidation to completely freak out the innocent victims. And they wait until dawn breaks to do their worst in the clear light of day.

I thought the killers were portrayed very well. They weren't really explained or over-analyzed, which is something that I think some (especially modern) horror movies make the mistake of doing (Black Christmas remake, I'm looking at you). Michael Myers (the character, not the actor) in Halloween wasn't scary because he had this abusive history or whatever, he was scary because he was the freaking bogeyman, and he killed dispassionately just for the sake of killing. Anyway, I liked how you never got to see the killers' faces. They wore masks throughout the night, but one detail that I really liked was how they took their masks off just before their final act of violence - but we still didn't get to see their faces, though it wasn't done in an overly obvious fashion. It's like, you barely get to see a face here or there, but you never got a straight look. Just something about that added an extra dimension of creepiness. The fact that they wanted to reveal their faces to their victims at the very end, but that we still end up leaving the theatre without seeing them.

And then that near-final scene, with the two bike-boys. Gives just the slightest bit of humanity to the killers, while at the same time, it sort of accentuates how brutally inhumane they are. Excellent.