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Continental Film Night


PETER WIX:


ANTICHRIST - LARS VON TRIER 2009

Let's stop complaining about Von Trier's reputation as a provocateur and thank our dwindling stars that we have a few filmmakers worthy of replacing the Bergmans and the Tarkovskys. This amazingly photographed and emotionally demanding film was dedicated to the latter, director of Stalker and Solaris. Its style is not the monumentally still beauty and petrifying discourse of Tarkovsky's films, but this is hard, poetic exposition on the human condition, the difference between the sexes, and what befalls the mind in situations of grief. The outset is similar to Nic Roeg's Don't Look Now, the loss of a child through what the parents are liable to consider their own negligence. In particular, through his effective actors, here, Von Trier shows us to what level of disturbance a mother can fall as her guilt bashes her senseless (and back to nature's amoral clutches) between the crimes of negligence and her equating these with filicide.  The mother's partner and self-appointed psychotherapist, Scorsese's sorely tempted Christ, Willem Dafoe, reminds us of the title of the film and its greater purpose. To judge by his suffering and the great surge of humanity towards him in the exalting final scene, here we have the culprit himself, the living evidence of the flawed Christian exploration of the universe and its cruel drift through centuries of abuse and murder of womankind. It’s an immense film and difficult to grade alongside other movies. Art. 


GRIZZLY MAN - Werner Herzog 

I kept chuckling here, and uncomfortably so since this is a disturbing and tragic tale. Maybe it's because the mighty Herzog offers us madness and tortured souls within a context of absurd details, like the box in which the pieces of bear-obsessed documentary film maker, Timothy Treadwell, were returned after he was eaten by a Grizzly. Some of the people in this film seem too weird to be true; it’s like Herzog has got them not just to tell their story but to act it. Even though Treadwell's neurosis and distressing estrangement is hard to watch, there's something unique to this director that is always worth experiencing. 8/10


THE COUNTESS - JULIE DELPY 2009

How a potentially entertaining, bloodthirsty, historical tale like this could end up so banal is something we should ask its director and star, Julie Delpy. A good film is the sum of its parts; here, the acting, dialogue, photography, and the storytelling are artless, witless, and lifeless. It feels like no one wanted to do good work on the film. Or perhaps they weren't allowed to. Don't waste your time. 0/10 


TO CATCH A THIEF - ALFRED HITCHCOCK 1955

The Hitchcock movie I had never caught, and what a delicious, airy surprise. Atypical for Alf, this one, since he releases all the tension and goes on a style spree with what was the nearest thing to a comedy in his impressive ouevre complete. No indulgence spared, and all in a Technicolor that makes you want postcards of every scene. Hitch builds-in some familiar themes and, in the closing scenes upon the rooftops, he seems to be both feeling for Vertigo and wanting to revisit that Dalí dream sequence from Spellbound. The Riviera views are succulent.  Cary Grant is slick and suave as a jewel thief, and young Grace Kelly most swanlike. A lighthearted 8/10


THE JERK - CARL REINER 1979

Comedians have to be ahead of their time when they break. So, Steve Martin was very 80s in the 70s, right? Although The Man with Two Brains, Trains, Planes... and others still ring a little bit universal today, this seems dated, overworked, and daft 5/10

  

THE WEDDING BANQUET - ANG LEE 1993

Another film that is dating fast; it seemed modern and refreshing in 1993 but the 1980s film language is rather glaring and the softly-softly treatment of the gay theme seems out of place today (especially after Lee's later Brokeback Mountain). The film does get better as it goes on thanks to Sihung Lung's sterling portrayal of the military father whose wishes for a traditional wedding and family set-up are undone by his son's homosexuality. Now, however, we know that Ang Lee is quite an old-fashioned family man, and that makes some of us feel a little defrauded by his work. The wrapping is nice. 6/10

 

THE MAN BETWEEN - CAROL REED 1953

Berlin might have proved just as intriguing a war-torn city as The Third Man's Vienna, but Carol Reed was not able to recreate the magic of his 1949 masterpiece in this slightly later spy thriller. Of course, having neither Orson Welles nor Anton Karas's zither music was a drawback. There's a nice scene when Claire Bloom lets her hair down to seduce the complex German spy character played by James Mason. But despite a lively screenplay, Mason needed to be both romantically attractive and psychologically tragic, which proves just too much for him. He was always so good at the latter.  6/10


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