Antichrist – Film Review

By Chrysa Pikramenos

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My sole recognition of Danish director Lars von Trier, was that of his 2000 film Dancer in the Dark, starring Icelandic singer Bjork. I can honestly say it’s difficult to revive an immediate emotion of my own from the film, most likely because I wasn’t all that affected by it. Antichrist on the other hand, a 2009 release, seemed too compelling to dismiss, well that is, at least its preview did. I try to remind myself though as my elementary school teacher once did, to never judge a book by its cover. I’ve learned nonetheless, that that particular principle applies to most things in life, including movies and their trailers.

Antichrist tells a story about a couple, played by Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, who are the only two actors in the film, and are referred to as He and She. They attempt to work through their grief over their dead son, while they stay at their isolated cabin in the woods. Although the main intention of the retreat was to heal psychologically, things within nature and themselves start to change for the worse, bringing them to terrifying circumstances.

I had so many expectations for this film, provoked mainly by the visually seducing trailer, and the eerie storyline that seemed to promise a mentally menacing and horrific experience. I must admit, I was also lured in by the frenzy the film sparked at the most recent Cannes film festival, where some argued against the film for being “misogynistic”, “sexually violent” “pornographic” and “anti-male”, and for those reasons, the film was regarded as “highly controversial”.

Putting aside all the hoopla surrounding the film, as an allegedly “supernatural thriller” with disturbing capabilities, I was hardly disturbed, but rather disappointed from the sluggish tempo of the script. Many of the scenes functioned as teases, alluding to the possibility that some engaging element, inciting curiosity and fear, would eventually appear in either the dialogue or the characters. Instead, only monotonous conversation and unimpressive psychobabble ensued.

The characters were rather flaccid and not captivating enough to crave more of their presence, which had nothing to do with the actors’ capabilities, but instead with the script, which lacked the appropriate rhythm, depth, and direction. Although Charlotte Gainsbourg won the award for best actress, for her role as She, I didn’t come away from the film thinking that it was a stellar performance. While the part did require her to expose herself emotionally, psychologically, and physically, which is what I assume won her the award, she did so on a superficial level, which I attribute to the restraints of the script and directing. Eva Green, which was originally approached for the female lead, did not accept the role, because her agents refused to allow her to, which was a smart move on their part.

Willem Defoe, who stars as He, the husband and psychotherapist, attempts to help his wife who is suffering from her grief. I generally like Defoe as an actor, but I found his presence in this specific role was in one word, blah. It’s hard to criticize an actor in a film that doesn’t really do them any justice, but I just didn’t think he was the perfect fit for the role. I found it humorous though, after reading from an online web source, Trier’s wife was “skeptical about asking a renowned actor like Dafoe to do such an extreme role”. While the director may have intended for the role to carry such potency, it would have been nice if he decided to share this supposed extremity with the viewers.

 I also found it amusing that, “Critics gasped, jeered and hooted — and at least four people fainted — during a preview of the movie”, due to the “explicit violence” as stated in an article found from BREITBART, an online news source. I sometimes wonder if such people were planted in the audience to attract publicity for the director. Seriously, have these people been living in hiding for the past decade where they have not been exposed to any sort of psychological horror and raw nudity in a film that they actually found this film to be so shocking, causing them to physically withdraw and lose consciousness?

I found myself indifferent about the director’s reputation as being politically incorrect, and couldn’t care less on whether he is anti-female or anti-male. While Trier has been questioned by journalists and critics for his beliefs underlying his films, a filmmaker’s personal ideology shouldn’t have any bearing on the film’s artistic influence. I welcome controversy and taboo subjects, but if it’s not coupled with compelling and convincing content, then all the film seems to do is incite unnecessary media attention that only promotes the film and the director as being some sort of an artistic rebel or genius, which I couldn’t find is farther from the truth. Simply put, there wasn’t anything emotionally provoking about this movie, which I surprisingly found because its main objective is to explore through the various stages of mourning and the effects of psychological trauma.

I can appreciate an emotionally dark and pessimistic film, but it seems as if the director attempted to present grief and depression at a level too personal and deep, where it was incapable of penetrating the surface to those outside of it. According to Lars von Trier, the film was shot during a state of his own depression, and writing the script was a part of his own therapeutic treatment. Trier was remarked as saying in an interview, “The script was filmed and finished without much enthusiasm, made as it was using about half of my physical and intellectual capacity.”

Trier’s lack of enthusiasm translated through the screen as lazy directing, and perhaps he should have waited till the end of his treatment before starting production. Trier unveils the fascinating subject of gynocide, the deliberate extermination of women, throughout the movie, as material that the wife studies for her thesis. He integrates the idea that evil is inherent in women, and how it relates to the female lead and the loss of her son. His integration of gynocide is rather illusive and uncreative, and I wish he would have delved into it further. Even the allegedly “shocking” elements, such as the penis ejaculating blood and the clitoridectomy, failed to instigate much terror or excitation, due to its stale context.

The only positive acknowledgement I can lend to Antichrist is in its camerawork due to to cinematographer Anthony Dod Mantle, and editor Anders Refin. Mantle has previously worked on films such as 28 Days Later and Slumdog Millionaire. The cinematic shots and editing beautifully captured the psychologically tormented state of the grieving wife, and if this film were a piece of art hanging in a gallery, I would visit it often.

The slow surreal motions, mirrored from the wife’s afflicted psyche, are perfectly depicted through mesmerizing and haunting images of herself and nature. The opening scene specifically, was eloquently captured in black and white, with hypnotic fluidity in the sexual motions of the couple and the disquieting image of the young boy amongst the soothing particles of snow.

Unfortunately, expectations of a film should be met on a holistic level beyond just the visuals, and there wasn’t anything particularly magnetic about the film as a whole.

While Trier may have pretentiously claimed to be the “best director in the world”, even he must be aware that even some of the self-proclaimed best directors of the world don’t always make some of the best films, and Antichrist by far is no exception to that rule.

Here’s a link to the trailer for Antichrist:

Mid-August Lunch- A Film Review

 

By Chrysa Pikramenos

I just recently attended my first experience at Cinemonde, an invitation only, “private Manhattan series for thought-provoking cinema”, held in the Tribeca Grand Hotel on 2ndAvenue of the Americas.

I thought the night was going to start off on a somewhat awkward note when we discovered, to our dismay, that our names were not on the guest list.  An anxiety-induced scene of getting tossed out of the front door and forever blacklisted was soon cut by the cordial greeting of Jerry Rudes, host of the event, who took our word that we were in fact invited guests and allowed us in.

Rudes is also the founder and director of both the 25-year-old Avignon Film Festival in France, and the 13-year-old Avignon Film Festival in New York.

I thought things couldn’t get any better until I was greeted by my long lost friend, Martini.  Martini sat atop the bar along with some other friends, also by the name of Martini.  Martini and Martinis were all perfectly lined up in formation, ready for the call of duty; It was a beautiful sight that brought tears to my eyes.   In the middle of getting choked up in this happy reunion, I nearly fell to my knees. Waiters began swirling around me with trays of gourmet hors d’oeuvres, each one was either hot, cheesy, crusty, or spicy, but all were calling my name. Eventually I came to and realized there were living and breathing people all around me as well:  Russian actors and writers, purse designers, a Swedish singer, Scottish men in skirts who offered lethal shots of whiskey, an aspiring director seeking an American producer to shoot his screenplay, but of course only in Amsterdam, and a myriad of other cinematic lovers and entrepreneurs.

While there were so many compelling reasons for me to be at Cinemonde that night, including the raffle drawing that held the potential of winning a bottle of Paris Hilton’s Siren perfume (which I ended up winning), the main reason was the screening of an Italian film,Pranzo di Ferragosto, translated as Mid-August Lunch. I was especially excited to see this film because it is Italian actor and screenwriter Gianni Di Gregorio’s directorial debut. Gregorio also wrote the screenplay and stars in the film, as well.

Being a small production based on a simple plot, with vibrant characters, Mid-August Lunchreminds me why I love watching foreign films.

Gregorio plays Gianni, a single man in his mid-sixties living in Rome with his 93-year-old Mamma, Valeria, played by Valeria De Franciscis. The film takes place during the summer holiday of Ferragosto, where almost everyone in Italy celebrates the feast by going on vacation, everyone that is except for Gianni, his mother, and anyone else who has nowhere to go.

Gianni is having trouble keeping up with his bills, so when the building supervisor Luigi, makes a deal with him to help him out financially, he can’t refuse. The only catch is that Gianni must watch over this man’s elderly mother, Marina, so that he can be free to go on vacation. Although resistant to the idea, Gianni eventually agrees, reluctantly, and before you know it, he is suckered into watching this man’s aunt Maria, in addition to the mom, after he squeezes her in last minute. Just when you think that it can’t get any worse, his friend Marcello, the neighborhood doctor, stops by to give Gianni a check-up because he is experiencing chest pains. As he tells him to take it easy, he also throws in his mom Grazia into the mix as well, since he is also going on vacation.

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Poor Gianni! While everyone else is away to frolic, he is left to baby sit these four feisty women, who come with instructions, warnings, disputes, and plenty of idiosyncrasies, and how he handles this whole situation is a comedy in itself.

Gregorio is charming and comes across as warm and gentle soul, who is able to laugh at himself and the card he has been handed. While most people would be pulling their hair out, Gianni escapes this circus within his countless glasses of wine, and only agrees to wait hand and foot on the demanding ladies, only after they bribe him with monetary incentive, which he doesn’t even think twice about accepting.

All of the women, with their own unique personalities, are adorable and subtly hysterical, and I craved watching more of their quirky dispositions.

There’s the one who inappropriately repeats the same thing over and over again, another who sneaks in cheese casserole into bed at night because her restricted diet doesn’t allow her to have any, and another who aggressively hits on Gianni after having one too many drinks.

Gianni’s mother Valeria, is a bright and colorful character and has a childlike presence that tickles the viewer with delight. She speaks with an elegant and devilish sense of humor, as is always instructing her son on what he needs to do. I was surprised to find out that she is new at acting, because she was such a natural, and seemed to have a lot of experience, as an actress.

I loved the shots in the movie, which displayed a great sense of realism, especially in the apartment, which happens to be Gregoria’s actual living quarters in real life. Also, the outdoor scenes when Gianni is roaming the streets of Rome on the back of his buddy Viking’s Vespa, were beautifully captured.

This is the kind of movie that does not adhere to one type of viewer, but can be enjoyed by both young and old, and within any type of culture. It looks at the humorous side of aging, rather than the gloomy, and reminds the viewer that life shouldn’t be taken so seriously.

This was one of my favorite movies I have seen this year. Un bel film! Thanks to Cinemonde for the experience!

Trailer for Mid-August Lunch

Queens of Noise – A Film Review

 
Reminiscing back to the eighties, I can say for myself, that Joan Jett was a familiar name during that time, and a name that for many, sparked a mental image of the iconic female rebel of rock n’ roll. One thing that both Jett and I have in common, is that we were both born on the same month and day of September 22nd, making us both Virgoans on the cusp of Libra. Other than that similarity, I would have to say that I never started an all girl rock band, or had a #1 hit cover, or been the epitome of coolness, at least outside of my own mind.

Although, I didn’t really know that much about The Runaways, the all girl teen-aged rock band, that Jett started in 1975, I knew that they came to fruition somewhere in the 70s, and were one of the predecessors in paving the way for other exceptional females, such as The Go-Gos, The Bangles, Hole, Bikini Kill, L7, and The Donnas. The curiosity to know more about Jett’s history as a musician, and the band’s history as a whole, is what really prompted me to go see the movie.

The Runaways, is based on the book, Neon Angel: A Memoir of the Runaways, which is written by Cherie Currie, and Tony O’Neill. Currie was the lead singer of the The Runaways, and O’Neill, a New York based author and one time musician.

The film is directed by Floria Sigismondi, and produced by Joan Jett, Kenny Laguna, and Brian Young. Sigismondi is known for directing music videos for artists such as Marilyn Manson, David Bowie, Bjork, The Cure, The White Stripes, Interpol, Incubus, Christina Aguilera, Muse, Sigur Ros, and Incubus.

Director, Floria Sigismondi

The opening scene did grab my attention, primarily because it involved bodily fluids. A drop of blood on the street as two teenaged girls dressed in skirts cross to the other side, running to the bathroom, to switch underwear. The menstruating victim turns out to be Cherry Currie, played by Dakota Fanning, and the movie opens, as it focuses on her close relationship with her sister Marie Currie. Marie Currie is played by Riley Keough, daughter of Lisa Mary Presley, and oldest grandchild of Elvis.

The two sisters grow up in California, in a dysfunctional family, with an alcoholic dad, and a self-obsessed mom who impulsively decides to just get up and move to Indonesia with her fiancée. Marie is the more boring and responsible older sister, who works a steady job at a fast food joint, while Cherrie escapes her empty family life by fantasizing about rock n’ roll, specifically David Bowie. We see her idolization of him at her high school talent show, where she lip syncs to “Lady Grinning Soul” with her face dressed in glam rock makeup. Students boo her off the stage, and she walks off while flipping the bird to the audience with both hands.

I was curious to see Dakota Fanning, being that I haven’t really seen her in anything since War of the Worlds, so for me this was going to be my first viewing of her in a more “adult” role, even though she is only 15 in the movie. Great role for Fanning to break out with, as her unspoken announcement to the world that she is no longer a child actress, incase there were those who weren’t aware.

Fanning plays a drug induced Currie, who was also only 15-years old when the band started, and is scantily clad in a corset, fishnets and platform boots. I was particularly impressed by her acting in a specific scene where the group was being filmed in Japan during their performance of “Cherry Bomb”. Crushing uppers beneath her platform boots, right before snorting them off the floor, she lets it all out on the stage, and performs as the 16 year old Currie did, more than 30 years ago.

The idea that Twilight star Kristen Stewart was playing Jett, was one of the reasons why I didn’t want to see this film. I’m not a big fan of Stewart, being that she is not exactly known for her high-energy acting, and sometimes watching her act is as exciting as watching a dog urinate. I must admit though, that I actually think she wasn’t as bad as I thought she would be, compared to her previous roles. Even though critics, and Joan Jett herself, claimed she did such an impressive job, describing her work as “quiet intensity”, I still wasn’t all that moved by her performance.

I was surprised to see that Fanning seemed to steal the show, being that Stewart seemed to be more of the focus in previews. Fanning’s role dealt with the most struggle and inner conflict, and the band’s existence seemed to revolve around her, so for those reasons, she took the lead on this one.

Although, Stewart’s character is significant, because after all Jett is the pivotal reason the band comes together, but she doesn’t seem to say all that much in the film, and her part seemed to be somewhat underwritten. Although, I have read that Jett has been described by some as being quiet, until she performs.

It was impressive to see that both Stewart and Fanning actually sang themselves, in the movie, which helped in adding to the believability of the band.

Something else that helped in strengthening the movie was Michael Shannon, who played eccentric and eyeliner wearing producer Kim Fowley, son of actors Douglas Fowley and Shelby Payne.

Jett convinces Fowley after just meeting him outside a rock club, that he should start an all girl rock band, in which he agrees to, and then introduces her to drummer Sandy West. Jett and West practice in a garage until Fowley realizes that they’re missing something. That something is sex, and so, they go out to the local club searching for an attractive girl to front their band, which is where Currie comes in the picture.

Shannon, who was nominated for an Academy Award for Revolutionary Road (2008), does a great job with his eccentric performance as Fowley, and was casted well in this part. Shannon comes across effectively as blunt and crude, and also brings some humor into the movie, although according to some, Kim Fowley was nothing more than a sexist who made money off of exploiting the vulnerable females, especially Currie.

“He’s a genius,” said Kim Fowley about Shannon in an interview with Chris Estey from KEXP Blog.” “He’s the new Christopher Walken. And I’m privileged that he was able to get enough of me to make it watchable. It transcended the printed page. He’s working with Martin Scorcese on his Broadway project, that’s what he’s doing now. This guy’s like John Garfield or Humphrey Bogart playing you. I mean, wouldn’t you like that?”


Kim Fowley, present day

The Runaways existed from around 1975-1979. Band members included Joan Jett (rhythm guitar and vocals), Cherie Currie (Vocals), Lita Ford(Lead Guitar), Sandy West(Drums), and both Micki Steele and Peggy Foster played bass guitar briefly but were replaced in 1975 by Jackie Fox. In 1977, Vicky Blue replaced Fox on bass, and in 1978 Laura McAllister replaced Blue.

The actual band, The Runaways. From left: Joan Jett, Sandy West, Cherrie Currie, Jackie Fox, and Lita Ford.

Overall, the movie was entertaining, on a superficial level. The Runaway’s unraveling, from the middle to the end of the movie, happens so fast, and without any depth, that it’s hard to understand the dynamics within the band that ends up destroying them. We get the obvious gist that there was a whole lot of sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll involved, but the only person it seems to affect in the most negative sense is Currie, not being able to deal with all the attention and addictions, while Jett just seems to be more concerned with her music.

At the end of the movie, the focus then transfers over to Jett, and the viewer gets a sense of how she goes off on her own to start the beginning of her very own career.

The film on a whole seemed to be more concerned with projecting the bands image, and I can already foresee its marketing tactics succeed as a bunch of teenaged girls will most likely be running around wearing “The Runaway” tee-shirts tucked in their tight leather pants.

“And Jett hastens to explain that ‘The Runaways’ is absolutely not a biopic,” said Gary Graff, writer from Film Journal. “It’s not fact-for-fact. What they did was basically take elements from the Runaways story and created a parallel narrative.”

Not really a movie to take seriously, but a fun flick, to watch. It was interesting to learn about the backgrounds of the singers and how they came together. The Runaways made me want to revert to my younger years, when mortality was overlooked and life seemed everlasting. It also made me want to do a lot of drugs, listen to music, and be really irresponsible. Unfortunately, I had to wake up early the next morning to go to work, so I opted instead to just have a cup of coffee, and went to bed an hour later than usual. What can I say… it’s the rebel in me.

Trailer for The Runaways:

Fish Tank: A Film Review

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I was a bit taken aback to find out that Fish Tank was Katie Jarvis’ first stab at acting, after being spotted by a casting agent for the British film, directed by Andrea Arnold. Apparently, the 18 year old lead actress was discovered while having an argument across platforms with her boyfriend, at a Tilbury train station in England. After watching the film, I was personally amused at the story of her discovery, primarily because a lot of what she does in the movie is argue.

From the movie’s start, Jarvis successfully pulls off the main character Mia, as being an emotionally impenetrable, and angst ridden 15 year old, and has appeal doing it. She is impulsive, witty, and most of all real.

Mia comes home to an Essex council estate, where one would imagine guests of an unruly talk show would reside, where laundry commonly hangs to dry throughout the front walkway of the public housing complex, and reggae music blasts from inside. She lives with her unfit and self-absorbed mum, Joanne, who prefers partying over nurturing, and apparently lacks the maternal gene to express any affection for Mia and her incessantly cussing younger sister Tyler, whose casual dialogue is intermittently interjected with the word “cunt”.

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This movie is believable because its plot intentionally disregards the common application of romantic optimism that says there is something more to life than this. Instead, the viewer gets the unspoken sense of realism from the characters that this is their life, and there lies the possibility that it may not change. While this may sound dreary, it is still rather terribly charming and simultaneously funny, and you can’t help but want to see more of the characters, and how they try to limit their interactions with each other in the slums that they call home.

At first, it seems that Mia doesn’t necessarily strive to become something better, because of the pessimistic hole that she exists in, and she lives her life as somewhat of a loner, isolating herself from the other girls, while solitarily consuming beer. It seems as if she has nothing of interest in her life until her passion of hip hop dancing is unveiled, where she secretly practices where no one can see her, exposing her insecurities and fears.

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It’s not until she meets her mother’s new boyfriend, Connor, that Mia’s character starts to change from being shut off to the world, to more open to new possibilities. We see her daring and flirtatious side slowly unravel, as she becomes smitten with him, but soon enough, one realizes that her connection with him is more than just a crush, but rather an acknowledgement of her existence, as his encouragement gives her a newly found sense of self-worth.

Connor’s approval diminishes Mia’s adolescent insecurities, and builds up her curiosity and confidence in a world that never seemed even slightly promising, enough so that she takes her shaky dreams, and attempts to turn them into reality. The viewer is not aware until the end, of his intentions, but the relationship forming between the two is intriguing, keeping the viewer in anticipation of where it is going.

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Jarvis is a natural, with an engaging aptitude, and if this is her first attempt at acting, I anticipate seeing some of her future roles, that is, if there are any. From Independent Films, Scottish director Andrea Arnold was quoted as saying, “She has got an agent and she’s been up for a couple of things which she’s got but hasn’t taken. I don’t know if she wants to continue. I think she does but she has just had a baby.” It was also noted that Jarvis was absent from the 2009 red carpet premier of the Grand Theatre Lumiere at the 62 annual Cannes Film Festival, due to her recovery from pregnancy.

The rest of the actors did an impressive job as well, and I found the casting in general for this film is deserving of some positive recognition.

Connor is played by Michael Fassbender, who also starred in Quentin Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds, as Lt. Archie Hicox, and Steve Mcqueen‘s Hunger, as IRA leader Bobby Sands. Connor can be perceived as a laid-back regular Joe, who smiles often and seems to generally just want to have a good time. At the same instance, his positive attitude and eagerness in joining this family, causes one to question his motives, turning his role into a more significant one, more than one might expect. Fassbender is effective at subtly provoking such suspicion, while concurrently, not being too obvious about it.

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Kierston Wareing was nominated for 2010 British Actress of the Year Award for London Critics Circle Film Awards, for her role as Joanne, Mia’s party girl mother. Joanne is one of the main reasons why we can empathize with Mia, and this compassion is owed to Wareing’s abilities to make the viewers hate her for not being selfless enough to love her daughter more. Her lack of motherly inclination is more than credible and can be sensed from her overall aura projected from the way that she glares to her biting tone and physical mannerisms.

Mia’s sister, Tyler, is played by Rebecca Griffiths, who made her film debut in Fish Tank. Griffiths exudes fire and energy as a sharp eleven year old who can be perceived as verbally blunt and offensive. Griffith portrays the in your face role of the bratty little sister quite naturally and laughable, without making it seem too contrived or annoying.

Overall, the feel of Fish Tank, which made it appealing, was in its sense of emotion, humor, and authenticity, found not only within its characters, but in many of its details, ranging from the set design and wardrobe, to the cheesy hip hop dancing and rap music. A movie worth watching, Fish Tank reminds one of the youthful vulnerability of feeling alone and insecure, and of the familiar glimpse of hope that one catches when another sees something inside of them that they are too afraid to show to the world.

Trailer for Fish Tank:

October Country: A Film Review

Last week I decided to see October Country, a documentary film which was playing at the IFC. The film, set in the economically depressed upstate New York area of Mohawk Valley, follows the emotionally dysfunctional Mosher family from one Halloween to the next. Eighty minutes and $12 later, I kind of wished I made another movie choice, mainly because I went in with the expectation of witnessing an open sore of reality, but instead came out thinking most of the characters and events were hidden underneath a layer of artistic bandages.

October Country reminded me of a dressed up reality show. The editing and cinematic shots softened potentially repellent characters, typically found on unruly talk shows, for the purpose of invoking compassion and empathy.

Responsible for creating this mood are two directors, Donal Mosher and Michael Palmieri.Mosher has prior experience as a photographer and is also related to the Mosher family. Palmieri has experience in directing stop-motion art films, shorts, and music videos of artists such as Beck and Foo Fighters.

Kevin Lee, a reporter from The Auteurs, addresses the cinematic approach of the documentary’s deliverance, in an interview with the two filmmakers, entitled, “Aesthetic Voodoo: An Interview with the Filmmakers of Voodoo Country”. Lee states, “And maybe that speaks to why some critics take issue even with your film, because they consider overt stylization to be antithetical to any true depiction of reality.”

I must agree with the “some critics” that Lee mentions. There were many times I questioned if I was viewing a documentary or an art film. It seemed that the directors felt they needed to add their own external elements to accentuate their production in order to more befittingly fit their artistic vision.

After the movie was over I couldn’t stop thinking about one particular scene in which the grandfather, a post-traumatically stressed war veteran, talks about his experience as a young soldier returning home. Emotionally scarred from witnessing so many die, he becomes closed off from his family, internalizing his dark feelings and thoughts.

As he is verbally reliving this to the camera, old black and white war footage of soldiers fighting is playing in the background. This detail lent an obvious sense of orchestration to the film. I found it to be too perfectly timed, and too much of a coincidence that this man happened to be watching a war story while being interviewed about his personal war experience.

Palmieri said, “It depends on how you as a viewer are approaching a piece of work.” “If you’re going there and you’re looking for a “document,” you’re not prepared for the experience of what we’re doing, which is what we call creative non-fiction. You’re adhering to the facts of the matter, but you’re also commenting in as lyrical a fashion as you can, how the voice of the filmmakers comes into the project.”

Although I don’t question the integrity of the film as a whole, I do question possible restraints of specific parts of the film. I wonder if certain actions and emotions of the family members might have been cut by the directors. Perhaps those moments might have changed their vision or the mood of the film they desired, or possibly interfered with how the directors preferred to portray the family.

“And we are interested in countering those stereotypes with as real as possible, or as lyrically real, images of people that are typically portrayed as hysterical morons on television,” said Palmieri.

While their method may be successful in countering those stereotypes, it can be argued that it is not the most authentic way of filming a documentary. It seems that Palmieri’s definition of “lyrically real”, insinuates to some degree, that by using their artistic and poetic interpretation they are representing this family the way that they would like to, as opposed to how they may be in their most natural state.

Also, they touched upon some interesting subjects, but only skimmed the surface of each one. By focusing on the more superficial presentation of the issues at hand, rather than digging deeper into them, or at least one of them, undermines the overall seriousness of the film. I actually felt the tone of the movie leaned more on the lighthearted and humorous side, which didn’t quite coincide with the content. With issues at hand such as domestic and sexual abuse, I got the feeling that either the family wasn’t being completely real with how they felt, or the filmmakers didn’t do a good job in being more aggressive and asking the right questions. Perhaps even the family and/or filmmakers opted to not expose that emotional side, because of either artistic limitations that they set for themselves, or theymight have just wanted to avoid further exploitation.

If I am about to see what is referred to as a “documentary”, I want to experience something that penetrates beneath the surface of someone’s existence. I want to find a deeper understanding of something that I can’t relate to, and why their circumstances are the way they are. Otherwise, I might as well just look at some photographs, and let my imagination take me on what would probably be a better film.

The duo did create nice still shots and were successful in creating moments of aesthetic refinement, but both seemed to be more concerned with the imagery rather than the pulp of the movie. As a documentary on all levels, the film is not one that provides viewers with a deeply provoking experience; it does, however, incite productive discussion.

*On a side note, I found it unusual that almost all of the Mosher family’s first names begin with the letter D, although it wasn’t something that was brought up in the movie. Well, there is Don the grandfather, Dottie the grandmother, Debbie the aunt, Donna the daughter, Donal the grandson who is the director and not shown in the movie, Daneal the granddaughter, and Desi the granddaughter. What’s up with that? The only ones whose names don’t begin with a D are Ruby, which is Daneal’s baby, and Chris, which is the foster kid who was already named prior to entering the family.

Trailer for October Country:

The Human Centipede- A Film Review

When I had initially read the disturbing description for director and writer Tom Six’s TheHuman Centipede as, “a nutshell, it’s about a mad doctor who sews the mouths of living humans to the asses of others, in hopes of creating and sustaining a centipede-like monstrosity”, my first thoughts were, I have to see this. When I was done watching it at the IFC theater in NY City, my second thoughts quickly reverted to,  “Oh… I really wish I never saw that.”

Predictable, ridiculous, and uncomfortable, this movie was everything I didn’t think it was going to be.

I must say, I felt let down. How could a movie about mouths getting sewn to asses go wrong? I walked into the theater almost positive this was going to be it; the movie that I could finally walk away from bubbling over with enthusiasm, making others envious at my awe of how spectacular it was to witness the first human centipede…ever. Not.

First off, you have two stereotypical American girls, Jenny (Ashlynn Yennie) and Lindsay (Ashley C. Williams), who are traveling throughout Europe, but they just happen to not know how to follow directions or change a flat. You would think that they may possibly be more on the adventurous side, being that they are traveling alone throughout an entire continent. Instead, they happen to be complete inept airheads, who would typically be found gyrating with muscle heads in some Long Island club to the sounds of “Don’t cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me”?

So of course, they get a flat tire, in what seems to be in the middle of nowhere, while it is raining, in the dead of the night, and end up walking aimlessly through woods. With no houses in sight, they finally end up at the front door of the one house that they happen to stumble upon, which just so happens to be residence of a mad surgeon, Dr. Heiter (Dieter Laser).

In all honesty, I was able to look past the idiot girls and the predictability, cause heck, every horror movie, is known for its contradicting characters and predictable story line, so I still didn’t totally give up on the movie at this point. There was still hope, and my attention was still there, and I actually was finding all of this quite humorous and entertaining.

Then, to make matters worse, the doctor is the creepiest looking dude in existence. He offers the girls water, and but of course they accept, and who would of thought, but oh no, there’s GHB dissolved in it, the date rape drug!

So after Dr. Lunatic is successful at drugging the girls, he transports them to a bed, where they are consequently tied up, while connected to an IV.

Long story, short, Dr. Heiter is looking for three blood matches, so that he could connect the three together successfully. Previous to the girls, he had captured a chubby truck driver, who he found on the side of the road as he was performing “number two”, shooting him with a tranquilizer-filled dart gun, at his most vulnerable state of outdoor excretion. Fortunately for him, he is not a match with the two girls, and so the good doctor must go out and find the right third, who turns out to be Japanese character, Katsuro (Akihiro Kitamura).

Katsuro, Jenny, and Lindsay awake from their sedation, in Dr. Heiter’s cellar, alongside each other, in separate hospital beds. Dr. Heiter is not only kind enough to introduce himself and his background as a surgeon, specializing in separating Siamese twins, but he also takes the time out of his busy schedule, to present them with a visual presentation of how he is going to perform the mouth to ass surgery, on none other than, the three of them. He also elaborates on the digestion process, and how all three will be connected by one connective system of digestion, where the food will be eaten by the first, then passed through the anus, into the mouth of the second, upon which the same is repeated through the third, and finally, excreted. Understandably, they all freak out upon hearing this, especially Katsuro who rages in Japanese, screaming at how he is going to kick the doctor’s ass, but obviously unable to, due to the hand restraints.

We see Dr. Heiter performing parts of the surgery, but not all that much of it, and it may have been more visually appealing if they showed more of the actual cutting.

During the surgery, I kept thinking that if it were me that were one of the parts of the centipede, I would definitely prefer to be the first part, therefore my mouth would not have to be on anyone’s ass, and of course I would not have to ingest anyone’s feces.

Luckily for Katsuro, he gets to be the lead, and also have a girls mouth on his ass, so I don’t know why he keeps bitching throughout the movie. Not so lucky for the second segment, which is Lindsay, who literally has to take his shit. While Jenny’s mouth is connected to Lindsay’s rear, she is fortunate enough to escape the second passing, because there seems to be a god after all; Lindsay just happens to be constipated!

I had a problem with the way the centipede looked in its entirety. The connection between the mouths and asses were actually covered by bandages, so it didn’t really seem all that real. I also had an issue with the constant crying and moaning of the centipede. Not only did it feel like a strange porno, but it was annoying and distracting, and while I can handle any amount of gore, I think that too much of an unpleasant sound can become psychologically irritating.

Also, I didn’t really like the doctor’s relationship between him and the centipede, and how abusive and domineering he was toward it. Call me strange, but perhaps, if he was loving towards his Frankensteinian monstrosity, in a creepy sort of way, it would have been easier to watch.

At a Northern American premiere of The Human Centipede, when Tom Six was asked what his inspiration for the film was, he said, “It’s a really simple idea.” “I always made the joke to friends… if somebody was nasty or annoying…I said…to stitch his mouth to the ass of a fat truck driver…that’s horrible. That is really horrible and I thought that’s a great idea for a horror film,” he said.

Six explained to the audience that he actually went to a surgeon in Rome, who was also a movie lover and read the script. The surgeon ended up giving Six a detailed version of how such an operation would be performed, and also claimed that the procedure in the movie is  100% medically accurate and that if it were to be done in reality, the centipede could actually live a “really long time”.

After watching Six’s appearance at the premier, I came away with the impression that he has a good sense of humor and does not seem to take himself, or the idea too seriously. His lighthearted approach towards the film adds a different perspective towards it, and while I do think that the concept of the movie is fascinating, its execution was not, so much so.

 Trailer for The Human Centipede:
 

STORM – A Film Review

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I spent part of this past Sunday afternoon, watching Storm, an English-language film, by German director and writer, Hans-Christian Schmid.

Storm, a political thriller with emotional depth, is influenced by former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic. Karadzic is currently on trial for war crimes committed against Bosnian Muslims and Bosnian Croats, during the Siege of Sarajevo, which took place from 1992-1995.

Karadzic is accused of being involved in horrific acts of ethnic cleansing, rape, executions, and starvation. The siege has been known as “the worst in Europe since the end of World War II”. Karadzic is fictionally represented by Goran Duric, who is played by Drazen Kuhn.

The movie opens briefly, with Goran spending time with his wife and two daughters, and then we don’t really see much of him, except for his silent presence in the back of the courtroom.

Storm is intelligently written and directed, and extremely well acted, with a dramatic plot, but not overly dramatically done. If you’re expecting to see horrific images and action packed excitement, interchanged with intense courtroom drama, then you will be disappointed.

Instead, the film’s main focus is on justice, particularly one prosecutor’s fight for it, and the victims she represents. Storm exposes the potential ugliness and cruelty of individual people, and how political and legal systems as a whole, can be just as guilty.

The pain and conflict inherent in the film, is subtly delivered, and it is such simple authenticity that I could connect with. The movie’s apprehensive tone, found within all aspects of the film, particularly the use of sound, makes you think that something explosive is about to happen, literally speaking. The absence of shootings and chases, and any other such productional flare, is what makes it remarkably bare and honest. The tension lies mainly within the characters and the relationships between them, and not always knowing who is on whose side. The story adheres to the ethical ranges of the human spirit, encompassing all that is good and evil, without being too sappy.

I really admired all the actors in this film, particularly Kerry Fox, a New Zealand actress who I’ve never seen before, but most definitely want to see more of her after watching this. Fox portrayed a seasoned prosecutor Hannah Maynard, and the film introduces her character as she is being passed up for a promotion, which her colleague, Keith Haywood (Stephen Dillane), gets instead.

Hannah embodies passion and justice, but ironically enough, within a system that does not place fulfilling such values, as its top priority. Her plight is in contrast with the legal system that she works for, at the International Criminal Tribunal in The Hague,which seems to overlook the victims she represents.

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While Hannah’s emotions are seemingly cohesive, housed within a professional exterior, we see her vulnerability become more apparent, as the case intensifies. She has come to the realization that she must choose between doing the right thing, humanistically speaking, as opposed to just playing the political game, in order to avoid jeopardizing her professional standing.

This particular case grabs a greater hold of her as compared to the others, while reinvigorating her altruistic ideals. This is assumed after a key witness who, with great conviction, pleads with her to seek retribution, and then commits suicide, shortly after his testimony has been disproved in court. From then on, she is relentless in her pursuit for the truth, and won’t be dissuaded, even after threats are placed against her.

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Romanian actress, Anamaria Marinca, from Romanian film, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, plays Mira Arendt, who is the deceased witness’ sister. Mira initially does not admit to any involvement in the war crimes, after being interrogated, but Hannah accidentally finds out that she may know more than she leads on to, and the case takes a pivotal turn.

Marinca effectively plays a tortured soul, who hides within her demons, because she lives in fear of the past and the future. She resists testifying in court, for fear of her family’s safety, due to threats from Serbian nationalists.

Marinca exudes herself as a dispassionate character, while simultaneously seeming to be hiding turbulent waves of emotions, beneath the surface. Her silence and resistance compels the viewer to discover the past from which she hides, and once it is revealed, one can’t help but sympathize with her dilemma.

Storm not only informs the viewer of the political impetus behind the movie, but it incites the philosophical question, of what is the “right” or ethical thing to do in such a situation?

As she argues for her witness’ right to be heard, her cynical boss says to her, “it’s not meant to be fuckin therapy” in reference to the court system. The statement is poignant and serves as a wake up call for Hannah, which forces her to see the clear difference between her and them.

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Storm is a great movie that propels viewers to think about the significant questions it raises, inspiring one to contemplate the injustices that do exist within past and present societies. It is about truth, justice, and the passion and strength found within the human spirit. The ending is bittersweet, leaving us with the reality of the victim’s situation, but simultaneously giving hope that one person’s rebellious act for the sake of justice, may possibly change something after all.

Trailer for Storm: