Monday, 31 January 2011

Kate Winslet and Rachel Griffiths in "Jude" [1996 UK]

Kate Winslet & Rachel Griffiths in Jude

My first British film review here had to be something special. This one is special alright, even if a bit 'obscure'! It boasts some famous names not just from British cinema and television, but also English literature. This is Michael Winterbottom's (of 'Welcome to Sarajevo' and '9 Songs' fame) 1996 film, "Jude", an adaptation of Thomas Hardy's last book, "Jude the Obscure".

I picked up this DVD at the store curious to see how Mr. Winterbottom had interpreted what I consider to be Hardy's finest and deeply affecting work, having read all his published novels. I was pleased to find that a lot of the characterisation and scenery pretty much resembled the way I imagined while reading the book, and the casting of the main characters, spot-on. But it was disappointing to see only part of the story being told here, with some portions given far more screen time than the more important events. Arabella, one of the more intriguing characters in the novel is almost relegated to a side act, as is Aunt Drusilla. Considering the weeks (probably years) I spent wondering the true motives for Arabella's actions, her part of the story has been astonishingly skimmed past. Jude's introspections are what lifts the novel to its loftiness, but instead we are shown these long scenes of him learning Latin. As is a way too 'earthy' Sue Bridehead. But I suppose, this is all subjective - I'm just glad someone even decided to make a film based on the novel universally slated when first published. I must add that the novel is a whole lot more torrid than the film, and considering the times in which it was published, one can understand why it was so badly received.

On the plus side - we have a young Kate Winslet playing Sue Bridehead, and Rachel Griffiths playing Arabella - both show their assets, Kate more so than Rachel, but they're both well worth a look.


Friday, 28 January 2011

Isidora Urrejola in "Drama" [2010 Chile]

Chilean director Matias Lira's debut feature, "Drama" is set in a drama school, where the students are encouraged to adapt the 'Artaud' method of acting by their professor - experiencing life to the full, so that they could free themselves and 'become' the characters they're trying to portray.

Three ambitious students - close friends, Mateo, Maria, and Angel, decide to do exactly that. Mateo and Maria are lovers, while Angel's just discovering his homosexuality. Things however spiral out of control as they take their experiences to new extremes. The film also delves into Mateo's emotional scars from childhood - his actress-mother's infidelity and the father's indifference.

The screenplay and direction is pretty good, and includes some memorable dialogues too - a fine feat considering this is Lira's debut, as is the impressive debut of the lead actress playing Maria, a drama student in real life too, chiquita muy hermosa Isidora Urrejola. Her big sister Fernanda Urrejola plays Mateo's mother. These scenes were cut from the general release DVD - I hope there's a director's cut in the offing - considering some (only some) untidy edits in this release, and the fact that some footage was not at all used, but shown passingly in the DVD extras.

Segement 1:
A compilation of two scenes - the first is after a class in the school toilet (apparently unisex!) as Mateo marks his territory around Maria. The second is of Maria and Mateo spending the night together at his house. Angel drops by in the morning, and when the father enters the room and sees all three in bed together, he remarks, "If you start with a threesome, you'll end up alone, my son..."

Isidora Urrejola in Drama

Segment 2:
Made of three scenes - first is of fellow classmate Soledad trying to impress Mateo after he asks her to be in his forthcoming sketch. Maria isn't impressed - she even warns her he couldn't 'get it up'. Soledad is played by the rather dishy Jocelyn Anfossy. The second scene is Mateo remembering the last time he saw his mother (Fernanda Urrejola) - on the stage before she and her lover/co-star are taken away by the junta. He performs the same play she was enacting - Romeo and Juliet. The last scene is of Maria walking into a place where Mateo and Soledad are having sex. Even after noticing, Mateo orders Soleded not to stop - the purpose - the more Maria is made to feel jealous, the more 'complete' the actor he's become.

Jocelyn Anfossy & Fernanda Urrejola in Drama

Segment 3:
Made up of two scenes - first is when Maria decides to become a prostitute - to evoke similar jealousy from Mateo. She finds Max, a rich punter who proves more than a match for Mateo. When a frustrated Mateo calls Maria a whore, Max gives him a piece of worldly advice, "Women are like guitars - they respond the way they're struck". The second scene is the more dramatic of the two - at Max's party, where she get's gang-banged (implied) while a desperate Mateo tries to stop her. She asks a shocked Mateo, "Well, did I do it right this time..?"

Isidora Urrejola & others in Drama


Thursday, 27 January 2011

Maren Eggert & Andrea Sawatzki in "Das Experiment" [BR720 2001 Germany]

Oliver Hirschbiegel's 2001 thriller, "Das Experiment" [Eng. Title: The Experiment], is apparently based on something similar that happened in 1971. The film is stylishly made, with snappy editing and great dinematography - it is not a bad film, but it has nothing particularly original or profound to say.

The lead actors, particulalry Moritz Bleibtreu is always enjoyable to watch, and to a large extent the film works because of him. Taxi driver Tarek - well, a journalist-turned taxi driver Tarek decides to enrol in an experiment for some quick cash - spending two weeks in a confined environment. The participants will be split into two groups - one, the captives, and the other, the guards. Tarek finds himself among the captives, and find the dynamics keep changing for the worse every day, and he's being particularly targeted by the guards. His anxious girlfriend Dora tries to get him out, but when the prison guards hijack the whole experiment after imprisoning the scientists themselves, it becomes more difficult. Sweet Maren Eggert plays Dora, and Andrea Sawatzki plays Jutta Grimm, one of the scientists in charge of the 'experiment'. The below scenes were cut from Blu-Ray.

Scene 1:
Some scenes of Dora - brief nudity, but Maren Eggert is very nice..!

Maren Eggert in Das Experiment

Scene 2:
Scientist Jutta is alarmed to find the guards have taken over the whole building and set their own agenda, and she's taken captive too. A guard asks her to strip naked, but is stopped from going all the way by his leader. Later he tries again, by entering Jutta's cell. Veteran actress Andrea Sawatzki is definitely still worth watching.

Andrea Sawatzki in Das Experiment


Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Leonor Watling & Paz Vega in "Hable con Ella" [2002 Spain]

I finally managed to get an Almodovar up here. I had reviewed his 2002 classic "Hable con Ella" [Eng. Title: Talk to Her] years ago, but these scenes are freshly edited and recut from DVD.

For people outside Spanish speaking territories, Pedro Almodóvar would have probably been their first introduction to Spanish language cinema. His early underground films were not only groundbreaking in their subject matter, they were cleverly written and refreshingly executed. He is still the most famous name in Spanish cinema, and rightly so.

While some of his recent films have become less edgy, "Hable con Ella" still retains the raw humanity emanating from his earlier works, and as ever, his women are inherently strong characters. In "Hable con Ella", we see Alicia lying in a state of coma for the best part of the film, but still manages to command our respect, she makes us feel ashamed for looking at her nudity, and Almodóvar skillfully creates this special connection between Alicia and the audience. Similarly we have another strong character in Lydia the matador, who also goes into coma after being gored by a bull in the arena. The story and screenplay is excellently constructed, no wonder it won so many major awards including Oscar, BAFTA, Goya and César. If you haven't yet seen this film, you should. This gem can't be recommended enough!

Compilation 1:
I have combined all the scenes involving Alicia, played by the beautiful and wholesome Leonor Watling. Watching her at the ballet school opposite his flat, male nurse Benigno falls headlong in love, even if he is only too aware he's aiming far too high. He visits her home with an excuse of a session with her Psychologist-father. But after an accident, when Alicia goes into coma in the hospital where he works, Benigno begins a ficticious relationship with her, after her father appoints him exclusively to take care of Alicia. There is only one brief nude scene where she is conscious at all - when she comes out of the shower only to see Benigno had been snooping around her room.

Leonor Watling in Hable con Ella

Compilation 2:
The bulk of this compilation belongs to the lovely Paz Vega, who plays Amparo in an amusing silent film within the film. Some of you may remember seeing this unforgettable scene, perhaps in bits and pieces. I left the entire film intact because it is worth watching for its own sake. Alicia used to enjoy watching silent films - so Benigno narrates to her the film that he had recently seen. Earlier in the compilation, we see Lydia, played by Rosario Flores ceremoniously getting dressed for the bull fight. We also see a scene of a very scared and very nude Ángela. played by Elena Anaya, running away after seeing a snake in her tent.

Paz Vega & Elena Anaya in Hable con Ella


Monday, 24 January 2011

Sandra Majani in "Le Parfum d'Yvonne" [1994 France]

Patrice Leconte is a master in depicting sensuality. He is perfectly capable of extracting the sensual aspect of his characters even without resorting to nudity, like in "Le Mari de la Coiffeuse". His 1994 drama "Le Parfum d'Yvonne" [Eng. Title: The Scent of Yvonne] is by far one of the most romantic films I've seen of late.

The film is essentially a nostalgic voyage by Victor as he gazes at a fire in the middle of the night - only towards the end of the film do we get to see what he was gazing at. He reminisces his first encounter with Yvonne - a young starlet staying at the same resort as he by the shores of Lake Geneva. He fondly remembers their blossoming romance during that summer of 1958, when they decide to get married. The colours and sounds from these flashbacks are vivid but soothing, much like a fond memory, but we are aware in the back of our minds that this is all too good to last.

M. Leconte has skillfully captured the essence of nostalgia and made a memorable film indeed. Though this may not be his best work, it is nevertheless of a very high standard, both in terms of production values and interpretation. All the main actors give a fine performance, including the great Jean-Pierre Marielle who plays a gay 'Doctor'. Beautiful Dutch actress Sandra Majani plays Yvonne. It's a shame this is her only feature film to date. A special mention should also be made for the awesome soundtrack by Pascal Estève, especially his choice of mambo songs by Celia Cruz - the sumptuous selection is perfect for the film, considering the events shown happen around the late 1950's.

The scenes below were cut from a DVD, my Christmas present, and the transfer is very good. Highly Recommended Viewing!

Segment 1:
I've combined three different scenes to make this segment. First is a romantic moment while Yvonne and Victor are watching a game of tennis. The second is at a party where barmaid Laurence Lerel gives a brief downblouse while serving them - Yvonne and Victor joke about it later, and then a striptease by a drunken party guest, played by Brigitte Petit. The third scene is simply beautiful. Yvonne and Victor take the ferry to cross the lake. Yvonne tells Victor she will give him a present if he answers a question, which he does. On the deck of the ferry, Yvonne reminds him of the present she promised, removes her white panties and hands it over to him saying, "...something to remember me by if I fall overboard." When they reach the other side, Victor graciously says, "Now that I have you safe and sound, I don't need these anymore", and drops the panty into the water. This scene is so tastefully done.

Sandra Majani in Le parfume d'Yvonne

Scene 2:
Victor and Yvonne then decide to spend the rest of the afternoon at a hotel nearby. Afternoon becomes night.

Sandra Majani in Le Parfum d'Yvonne

Segment 3:
This is another beautiful scene when Victor reads a book about Queen Elizabeth I to Yvonne as he massages her. Also inserted a short sexy scene where one of Celia Cruz's mambo songs is featured.

Sandra Majani in Le Parfum d'Yvonne

Segment 4:
Yvonne is invited to a party in honour of a contest she won. Victor watches as the patron gets too friendly with Yvonne while dancing, to which she doesn't seem to object that much. Their mutual friend Rene advices him not to take notice. Later when Victor asks her why she didn't stop the other man when he was fondling her bum, Yvonne replies that she was simply being nice to him. In the second part they visit Yvonne's family home and she takes him to the room where she grew up in. She says no boy had ever been there before, and invites Victor to make love to her. "For the last time," he says, "...until we're on the boat to America!”

Sandra Majani in Le Parfum d'Yvonne


Friday, 21 January 2011

Elia Galera in "La Mujer Más Fea del Mundo" [1999 Spain]

Elia Galera in La Mujer Más Fea del Mundo

Miguel Bardem's 1999 tongue-in-cheek comedy "La Mujer Más Fea del Mundo" [Eng. Title: The Ugliest Woman in the World] may not be the best sci-fi film to come out of Spain, but it has a very original storyline.

Young Lola is considered ugly by everyone and is constantly taunted by children. Even her parents dump her in a convent, and she grows up under the care of a nun. An eighteen year old Lola finally meets a scientist/professor who's working on a beauty potion. He agrees to use her as a guinea pig, and his experiments turn out to be successful. But all the taunting in the early years has damaged Lola's soul, which couldn't be healed. She is now a psychopathic super-model - her victims invariably female models.

It isn't a bad film at all, its best technical aspect must however be its editing - smooth and exceptionally well done. Coincidentally, the story is set in 2011.

There is very little nudity, but what little there is, is definitely worth waiting for. Elia Galera who plays Lola gives us a well lit view of her simply stunning rack. Surely they MUST be among the most beautiful breasts in the world. And I can't believe she hasn't showed them more often. What a pity..!


Thursday, 20 January 2011

Laetitia Casta and others in "Gitano" [2000 Spain]

I've never seen any of Manuel Palacios' films until now - and if the rest of his films are around the same standard of his 2000 film "Gitano" [Eng. Title: Gypsy], I'd be glad I didn't. This is an appalling film - with some amateurish direction, screenplay, acting and the rest. Apart from some decent soundtracks, this film has nothing much to crow about.

It's about a turf war between rival gypsy families, with several thin mini-plots within. Andrés returns after serving time for a crime he didn't commit. His 'family' egg him to avenge their honour. But the peace-loving Andrés is reluctant and wants to sort things out through talks. To complicate things, his wife Lucia has left him to live with a music producer and drug dealer. This is a very silly film, and I'm not going to bother with the rest of the details. Rest assured the only reason this film would even vaguely be remembered for is its assorted eye candy. The scenes below were cut from my DVD.

Compilation 1:

Cristina Peña & Marta Belaustegui in Gitano

Made of two scenes. The first part is of a lonely Andrés getting some much needed company in the form of a prostitute, played by Cristina Peña. The second part has less nudity but is probably the more interesting of the two. Lola, his brother's wife (and his wife's sister), confesses she was in love with him even before her sister Lucia. One evening Andrés gets beaten up by the police for paying a visit to Madrid, and Lola tends to his wounds. Pretty Marta Belaustegui plays the Lola character.

Compilation 2:

Laetitia Casta in Gitano

In the first part, Andrés' wife Lucia turns up at his house unexpected. He asks her to leave, but her charms prove irresistible. In the second part Lucia kills her drug dealing music producer-lover and asks Andrés to join her so that they could live a happy life together. When he calls her a whore and tries to leave, she shoots him too. After catching up with Lucia, he pins her to the ground at which point Lucia provocatively opens her dress and asks, "come on, don't you like this pussy any more?" French belle Laetitia Casta gives a terrible performance as the indifferent slut Lucia. She can't act, bless, but certainly more than make up for it through her physical assets.


Monday, 17 January 2011

Carice van Houten in "Zwartboek" BR720 [Netherlands, Germany 2006]


The 2006 World War II drama "Zwartboek" [Eng. Title: Black Book] is the most recently completed film by Paul Verhoeven. It's also his first European film in a while after a long stint in Hollywood.

The film is set in occupied Netherlands, when wealthy Jews are promised safe passage out of the country only to be double-crossed and handed over to Nazis for slaughter. A young Jewish woman Ellis de Vries, played by true classical beauty Carice van Houten, escapes one such assault and volunteers to join the local Resistance. She's assigned the dangerous task of infiltrating the Nazi headquarters and win the trust of the Commander Ludwig Muntze. She changes her name to 'Rachel Stein' and takes up the job of Ludwig's secretary, and soon enough manages to seduce him. She passes on secret intelligence of forthcoming operations to the Resistance, but soon realises someone from within the resistance is passing information about the intelligence leak back to the Nazis. She finds herself trapped, on the one hand by the Resistance who believe her reports are unreliable, perhaps even accusing her for joining the Nazis, and on the other hand the Nazi command, who are beginning to close-in on her. Things are complicated further when the relationship between 'Rachel' and Ludwig develops into something more than simply sexual.

Both in terms of creative input and technical aspects, this is a very well made film and personally, I'm glad Mr. Verhoeven started making films in Europe again. Recommended viewing!

The scenes below were cut from Blu-ray.

Scene 1:
Preparing for her new 'Aryan' identity, 'Rachel' makes sure even her nether regions look the part - and she also gladly obliges her Resistance colleague before embarking on her assignment.

Carice van Houten in Zwartboek

Scene 2:
At her new job, 'Rachel' makes good use of an invitation from her boss to look at his 'stamp collection' at his quarters. After discovering 'Rachel' isn't a true blonde, Ludwig inspects her face and asks why her features look Jewish. In reply 'Rachel' asks rhetorically whether her breasts, or for that matter her vagina looks Jewish too. It's hard to tell, if you ask me..!

Carice van Houten in Zwartboek

Scene 3:
Rachel makes acquaintance with Ronnie - a 'secretary' to Ludwig's colleague, who enters the bathroom to take a leak. A playful Ronnie opens Rachel's shirt and asks his opinion on her breasts. When he tries to grope her, she reminds him that it is the commander's property.

Carice van Houten in Zwartboek

Scene 4:
Ludwig begins to suspect that someone is passing on information to the Resistance, and corners Rachel one evening, but we soon realise he's also in love with her.

Carice van Houten in Zwartboek

Scene 5:
Ronnie becomes Rachel's trusting friend. In this scene, she pretends to be drunk and allows the guards to grope her, so that Rachel could sneak out to release some Resistance members. Ronnie is played by Halina Reijn.

Halina Reijn in Zwartboek

Scene 6:
The Allies liberate Netherlands, and 'Rachel' - Ellis is now accused of having slept with the enemy. She's held along with other Nazi prisoners and humiliated publicly, until one of her past colleagues in the Resistance recognises and rescues her.

Carice van Houten in Zwartboek


Sunday, 16 January 2011

Isabella Ferrari in "Caos Calmo" [2008 Italy]

Isabella Ferrari in Caos Calmo

Antonello Grimaldi has tried to make a serious film dealing with family loss in this 2008 drama, "Caos Calmo" [Eng. Title: Quiet Chaos].

Pietro, a successful executive returns from a day out at beach with his brother to find his wife had just died after taking a fall. The rest of the film is about Pietro reconciling with the past and finding a new direction in his life. He refuses to go back to work where an important merger is happening and spends all his day at the park outside his daughter Claudia's school. He meets some interesting characters while waiting to pick up Claudia, and during the course of the film, a kind of distant bond develops between him and these characters. His friends, colleagues and relatives allow Pietro to keep to this routine, in the belief that he is still mourning his wife's death.

The very little background we're given about his life was that he probably wasn't 'in love' with his wife when she died, and had had fleeting affairs with his insecure sister-in-law Marta in the past (played by the ever-so-delectable Valeria Golino). But we find it hard to relate to Pietro, who after all seems to have no financial worries despite not turning up for work, always drives a gleaming Beemer, and lives in a world far detached from the 'real' one. He is not particularly considerate, and is in a way merely ticking some boxes from a checklist, a la Earl Hickey - his list of emotional shortcomings.

A lot of effort has been invested in production values, but the film comes across as a hybrid between a TV drama and a typical Hollywood film. The film doesn't feel 'Italian' at all, not even 'European'.

And now to the infamous sex scene, which was branded 'obscene' by the Vatican. Pietro invites over a married Eleonora to his holiday home and has wild sex. Even though it isn't explicit, it is pretty clear they are actually fondling one another - I haven't seen a major actress getting groped on film the way Isabella Ferrari does in a long time. And it goes on for nearly four minutes, and yes, there is something vulgar about it.

First of all, this scene is completely at odds with the rest of the film. We don't expect Pietro to behave that way - not once does he even express an inclination for sex. But it is entirely justified in the context of his state of mind - this is not about his sexual desire or prowess, but a manner of exorcising his ghosts. Pietro rescues hitherto stranger Eleonora at the beach at around the moment his wife was falling to her own death. He himself could have drowned during the rescue, and no one even bothers to thank him afterwards. More importantly, the out-of-the-blue sexual encounter is more of a fantasy than reality because it ends abruptly, we never get to see Eleonora again, and whatever dialogue they've had since the rescue doesn't logically extend to the sexual act. You will also see that during the rescue, Pietro even readjusts Eleonora's bikini top when one of tits start hanging out.


Friday, 14 January 2011

Ana de la Reguera in "Hidalgo - La Historia Jamás Contada" [2010 Mexico]


Ana de la Reguera in 'Hidalgo - La historia jamás contada'

Antonio Serrano's 2010 biopic of Mexican priest-turned-revolutionary Miguel Hildalgo is more about his personal life than his conquests, and therefore aptly named, "Hidalgo - La Historia Jamás Contada" [Eng. Title: Hidalgo - The Untold Story].

While the film is fairly well made, it is nothing special, unlike the very very special - muy linda, muy hermosa Ana de la Reguera. She plays Josefa, the daughter of a wealthy man who falls in love with her dad's childhood friend, Miguel Hidalgo. The film delves into the various factors that influenced Hidalgo's beliefs and actions - recounted by Hidalgo himself from a prison cell as he awaits execution.

There's just one nude scene in the film, but I inserted from my DVD another brief scene displaying the gorgeous Srta. Reguera's tantalising cleavage as she arrives with her father to meet Hidalgo for the first time.


Thursday, 13 January 2011

Ottavia Piccolo in “Bubù” [1971 Italy]


Ottavia Piccolo in "Bubù"

I haven't yet fully discovered the filmography of the late Italian director Mouro Bolognini, but from what I've seen so far, it appears his earlier works were far superior to those done in his later years. His 1971 beauty "Bubù" certainly falls under the former, and films like La Venexiana, the latter.

"Bubù" - a period piece, is a magical film with sumptuous cinematography and art direction reminiscent of a late renaissance painting, supported by gorgeous costumes, excellent soundtrack, well written script, and a casting that couldn't possibly be bettered. On their part, the actors give a solid performance to make this a fine and memorable film.

The story is about a young laundress, Berta who falls madly in love with a baker - Bubù, who in turn quits his job and ends up living off his lover. Her meagre income couldn't obviously meet his gambling and other needs, so he forces Berta into prostitution - he becoming her pimp. Meanwhile Piero, a student living nearby who too loves Berta, tries to redeem her. But she supresses her feelings for him, only visiting, unannounced, whenever she needed something. The film takes a darker turn when Berta becomes a carrier for syphilis and passes it on to Bubù, who soon starts showing his true colours. But Berta finds it hard to raise herself out of the gutter, even with a helping hand from Piero, for he too proves his fallibility. I'm not generally a great fan of melodrama, but this one is a beautiful and poignant exception. Le ragazza molto bellissima Ottavia Piccolo plays Berta.

My compilation includes several scenes - beginning with the laundry where an innocent Berta first works, then her early forays into the industry she's forced into, followed by a melancholic scene where she breaks Piero's heart by pointing out what her priorities are. Towards the end, I've inserted a scene when Berta had to stay at her sister's house for a while, with no choice but to share the bed with her sister and her husband.


Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Ana Torrent and Emma Suárez in "Vacas" [1992 Spain]

Emma Suarez and Ana Torrent in "Vacas"

For a debut feature, Julio Medem's "Vacas" [Eng. Title: Cows] is extraordinarily mature in craftmanship and execution. It's as if he had already set the template for his style of filmmaking - imprints of which can be found in all his films since then. Even though I had seen his second film "La Ardilla Roja" earlier, it was "Vacas" that made me a true fan of the maestro, and through the years he's never failed to impress. This still remains one of my all-time favourite Medem films along with "Los Amantes del Circulo Polar" - it is European cinema at it's best. I'm not surprised he won the Goya for the best new director the following year.

The story spans three generations of two feuding families - neighbours - in the Basque country. But I'm at a loss as to where to begin writing about this masterpiece - Sr. Medem has crammed in so many themes and references, some of which still debated to this day in film forums, that it would require a wholly different topic to extol its virtues. And yes, there are some minor imperfections here and there, but this only adds to the film's charm. All I can say is - don't miss this film if you get a chance.

I've combined several scenes in this compilation from my DVD which I found relevant to this blog. The first part is when Catalina, played by Ana Torrent, loses her virginity to her neighbour under dramatic circumstances - they had loved each other from a distance until then. The second part is when Catalina sneaks out in the night to rendezvous with her lover who is now married to someone else - their son notices but pretends to be asleep - but when she returns, she sees her possessive brother waiting for her. There is then a brief exposure from Elisabeth Ruiz as she feeds her baby while being watched by people around, and finally Cristina, played by a cute Emma Suárez is being photographed by her half brother - she was twenty eight when she did this film but barely looks older than fifteen.


Monday, 10 January 2011

Rita Russek & Christine Buchegger in "Aus dem Leben der Marionetten" [1980 Germany, Sweden]

The great Swedish filmmaker Ingmar Bergman made his 1980 gem, "Aus dem Leben der Marionetten" [Eng. Title: From the Life of the Marionettes] while living in Germany.

It is among his lesser known films, and also the most underrated. Perhaps because it is a departure of sorts from the customary delicateness with which he treats his subject. Here not only is he brazen, particulary screenplay-wise where the lading characters trade off verbal blows against each other, he even opens the film with a violent murder and rape. But that is all that is different - his amazing cinematic eye - the visuals, the cinematography, the sound, and not least the direction is as intact as ever. Even though most of the film is shot in black and white - only the prologue and epilogue are shot in colour, it is exquisite, timeless, and worthy of a reappraisal. If you love cinema and haven't watched it yet, you should!

Peter is a succesful businessman living with his beautiful fashion-designer wife Katarina, lovely house et al. They are childless, and fully focused on their respective careers. They are also in love, but their marriage is strained, and both have had fleeting affairs in the past. At the start of the film, we are shown Peter murdering a prostitute and analy raping her body. The rest of the film is a non-linear narrative, piecing-together the reasons for what he did using flashbacks and flashforwards. We study each of the main characters along the way - Peter, Katarina, Peter's mother, their psychologist, and a gay fashion designer who works with Katarina. The film tries to fathom the social, emotional and psychological reasons that contributed to his insanity that culminated in the murder. Beautiful Christine Buchegger plays Katarina, Peter's wife. The scenes were cut straight from my DVD, and the quality is very good.

Scene 1:
The film starts with Peter chasing and murdering the prostitute Ka, played by a young Rita Russek.

Scene 2:
This beautiful scene is a dream narrated by Peter to his psychologist. In the dream, he is with Katarina, and suddenly realises he couldn't make love even if he wanted to, and is mocked by Katarina.

Christine Buchegger in Aus dem Leben der Marionetten

Scene 3:
This happens just before the murder. The scene is over ten minutes long. The first two minutes is of Peter visiting the place where prostitute Ka also works. While he waits for her, we are shown a well-lit peep show of one of Ka's colleagues - unfortunately the actress name is uncredited. Peter is allowed to stay with Ka for the night after they close. After getting to know her a little, he hesitates to do what he came there to do, and wants to leave, only to realise they have been locked inside by the guard, for insurance reasons, until the following morning.

Rita Russek in Aus dem Leben der Marionetten


Sunday, 9 January 2011

Cristina Umaña in "Malamor" [2003 Colombia]

Colombian director Jorge Echeverri's 2003 drama, "Malamor" [Eng. Title: Bad Love] is one intensely freaky film. We use the expression "madly in love" casually these days - but this film literally depicts such a scenario.

Impressionable teenager Lisa disrupts her studies and life as she falls in love with her mother's lover. Coming from a broken home with an indifferent father and indulgent mother, Lisa sees a soulmate in her mother's lover - who happpens to be a hard drug addict. This inevitably leads her into experimenting with drugs, and after an overdose ends up at the very hospital where her dad works. Her mother's lover refuses Lisa's advances for the sake of propriety, but harbours similar feelings towards her. Things get more complicated when she had to run away from home - after shooting her father. The cute Cirstina Umaña gives a fine performance as the hopelessly infatuated Lisa. Even though the film is decently cinematographed, the quality of the DVD transfer isn't the best, but I improved it as much as I could while compiling these scenes.

Cristina Umaña in Malamor

Scene Guide:

Scene 1: Exchanging messages the old fashioned way - Lisa shows she has a sense of humour when we know she named her pigeon 'Cellular' - who needs texting anyway..!

Scene 2: Lisa increasingly retreats into her own world, talking to inanimate objects, and of course, her 'Cellular'...

Scene 3: Having run away from home, she now lives like a nomadic hunter in the wild.

Scene 4: Lisa entices her mother's lover to join her in the woods - and she lays out an elaborate welcoming ceremony, but is disappointed after learning he merely came to persuade her to return.

Scene 5: Lisa refuses to accompany her mother's lover back home. After seeing him off by the highway, she takes out her frustrations on a stranger by inviting him for sex, and then scaring the hell out of him.


Saturday, 8 January 2011

Paz de la Huerta and others in "Enter the Void" BR720 [2009, France, Germany, Italy]

Argentinian-born French director Gaspar Noé has made it his trademark to repulse his audience using both sound and light. His violent edits and special effects are meant to disorientate, and his camera angles and persistent flashing lights are not for the epileptic. The low frequency noise and reverberating sound effects are designed to make us feel uneasy. His films depict the more undesirable aspects of human character, and demands us to face up to it, or leave the theatre.

Naturally they are not easy to watch, as every aspect of the filmmaking is geared towards making the audience uncomfortable. Even technically, his colour palette is extremely saturated with low contrast, the strong flashing lights from multiple angles make his characters look inhuman, and most of his scenes are either shot indoors, or in the dark. As far as I can remember, the only normal daylight shot among all his films should be from his debut feature, "Seul Contre Tous", when towards the end, the butcher opens his window and gazes outside. Perhaps I'm wrong, and the only reason I remember it could be because of the powerful scene before, but I'm sure there can't be many.

His most recent film, "Enter the Void" is shot in English and depicts a young American living the 'darker' life of Tokyo. The film isn't about life in Tokyo itself, it is merely used as a metaphor, on people, places, dreams - far apart. But M. Noé takes full advantage of the location and it's culture to propel his story. Starting with the awesome titles - we can see Noé has a keen eye for typography and a great sense of humour by the manner in which it is applied. And finally the screenplay allows the director to deploy his full repertoire of tricks and effects in a totally uninhibited fashion. There's plenty of flashing lights and psychedelic effects that will physically strain your eyes - I did my best to remove intermittent blank frames and quivering bright lights, but some had to be left behind, so download at your own discretion.

The camera is from the viewpoint of the male lead character - a stoned drug pushing junkie - who gets killed within the first few minutes of the film. The camera even 'bats' eyelids for us as he goes about his task, which while hilarious at the beginning, gets a bit annoying after some time. The bulk of the very long film (nearly 3 hrs) happens after his death, as 'he', or his persona relives moments from the past and gazes in a detached manner at the present. He follows his friends, watches his own cremation, and more importantly follows his sister throughout the film. Through him we watch her bereave, have sex, and come to terms with their collective tragic past. Paz de la Huerta plays the sister's role of Linda.

Scene 1:
The camera pans through buildings and rooms as a 'freshly dead' Oscar enters the strip club where Linda works and watches as his sister performs, and later has sex with her Japanese lover - she has yet to be informed of her brother's death. I'm not too sure what Paz handles briefly (top row, last but second in my graphic) is the real thing or a Tinto-style appendage.

Scene 2:
Oscar reminisces the life he lived, as a child with his mother, played by the exquisite Janice Béliveau-Sicotte, and later his first sexual experience with the mother of his friend, played by Sara Stockbridge - he remembers how he couldn't take his mind off images of his mother even while having sex.

Scene 3:
Memories of his sister come flooding - Oscar later watches over Linda as she discovers her pregnancy, followed by a scene of her having an abortion. The film is ambiguous about the level of their intimacy.

Paz de la Huerta in Enter the Void

Scene 4:
Linda is having a lesbian encounter with one of her friends who Oscar had once dated - their male friend simply watches, followed by some more memories of his mother, and finally an intimate look at happenings in a 'Love Hotel'. The scene contains some explicit foootage.

Scene 5:
There's only brief nudity here and it is a continuation of the scene above, but very interesting nevertheless..! Oscar watches his sister Linda making love to his best friend, and goes on a mystical journey of sorts. Oscar the spirit, can now physically 'see' orgasm, or so M. Noé would have us believe..!

Paz de la Huerta in Enter the Void


Friday, 7 January 2011

Gaspar Noé's short, "Sodomites" [1998 France]

Just for a laugh, here's another face of respected director Gaspar Noé - he made this experimental piece of adult film "Sodomites" featuring a beastly looking Marc Barrow sodomising fellow pornstar Coralie, who in this film seems to bear a striking resemblance to Monica Bellucci (ah..! if only!).

It is actually quite funny, even if it's nothing but arty porn. This even reminds me of one of Gaspar Noé's own quotes from his IMDB bio:
"There is no line between art and pornography. You can make art of anything. You can make an experimental movie with that candle or with this tape recorder. You can make a piece of art with a cat drinking milk. You can make a piece of art with people having sex. There is no line. Anything that is shot or reproduced in an unusual way is considered artistic or experimental." (IMDB)

The quality of this video is not great but should be tolerated for it's rarity - I can't see M. Noé doing something as naughty as this anytime soon - I cut this years ago and don't know the original source. If I ever get hold of a proper version, this post will no doubt be updated.


Saturday, 1 January 2011

Analía Couceyro in "La Rabia" [2008 Argentina]

Albertina Carri's latest full length feature "La Rabia" [Eng. Title: Anger] is set in a small farming community somewhere among the vastness of the Pampas. The story centres around feuding neighbours - one's a widowed father living with his son, and one's a couple with their mute eight year old daughter. But unbeknown to the husband, Ale, the wife, is having an affair with the neighbour. The daughter has seen them in the act, even if Ale is completely oblivious that anyone could notice her. The daughter shows her disapproval by taking off her clothing - she does it everytime she gets angry.

It is a difficult film to watch, with prolonged takes - whether it is the butchering of an animal, the couple having rough sex, or the stillness of the landscape. However, it is beautifully filmed, and ably directed with very clear conviction by Sra. Carri. Scenes that would otherwise be far more graphic is covered with some surreal animation. The theme that runs throughout is the emptiness in the soul, as in the landscape. Analía Couceyro plays the wife's role pretty well, with some rather bold scene appearances.

I had reviewed this film elsewhere, but the scenes below are freshly cut and enhanced, even if the DVD quality wasn't particularly great. I improved it as much as I could.

Scene 1:
The scene starts off with the two lovers fooling around, as normal couples do, until the man hears a noise and pulls out his gun - only to realise it is Ale's daughter by the window. But when asked by Ale who it was, he answers, "nothing - just chasing away some dogs". The sex session they have afterwards is very physical - as if they were enacting some scene from a porn movie. The hubby notices and enquires about marks on Ale's neck when she gets home - her attitude is one of indifference bordering on nonchalance.

Analia Couceyro in La Rabia

Scene 2:
There is only brief nudity in this scene compilation, but what little there is, is explicit. We are shown the two sides of Ale - one as a nymphomaniac who doesn't give a damn about anything else, and the other as a caring mum. Towards the end of the scene, the children wander inside the house while the couple are still having sex, but the man simply covers Ale's face with her panty and continues what he was doing with even greater vigour.

Analía Couceyro in "La Rabia"