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Five Movies, Five Countries 
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
JamesKunz wrote:
I just find non-narrative films to be unfocused and, frankly, boring.


Normally I would agree with you 90% of the time. Maybe I just luck into the unsavory ones, but I mostly find the films in this category to be self-indulgent and rambling. One of the great things about Persona to me is that it's so short and unfuzzy. It aims to create the atmosphere of tension and paranoia between the two women and then using techniques to dissect at their personalities (including merging them). After that dynamic reaches a critical point, the film is over. I may not understand everything, but the atmosphere and experiments the film creates never overstay its uniqueness, unlike most films of this nature.


Sat Feb 15, 2014 12:10 am
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
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I don't MEAN to be reductive, or constrictive, or limited in my critical scope...I just find non-narrative films to be unfocused and, frankly, boring. And why shouldn't films have narratives? It sounds like such a bourgeois, middle-American desire, but I think it's a valid one.


My limit for boredom with an art film is Tarkovsky. I just can't watch his stuff or anything in that range. I do think every movie should have a narrative, but that sometimes the narrative can be of lesser of importance. It should still be there, but I like a story that exists largely as an excuse for the visuals.


Sat Feb 15, 2014 6:53 am
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
MGamesCook wrote:
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I don't MEAN to be reductive, or constrictive, or limited in my critical scope...I just find non-narrative films to be unfocused and, frankly, boring. And why shouldn't films have narratives? It sounds like such a bourgeois, middle-American desire, but I think it's a valid one.


My limit for boredom with an art film is Tarkovsky. I just can't watch his stuff or anything in that range. I do think every movie should have a narrative, but that sometimes the narrative can be of lesser of importance. It should still be there, but I like a story that exists largely as an excuse for the visuals.


Yeah I hate to admit how boring I find Tarkovsky, but it's the truth

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Sat Feb 15, 2014 8:21 am
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
Couldn't find Day for Night for the moment, so my French choice became..

#3

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964, France)

Never thought this would happen: the day I loved another musical more than Singin' in the Rain. Catherine Deneuve is flawless. The explosion of bright colors and operatic score/singing enhance and stand in sharp contrast with the increasingly astute and realistic progression of romance (I almost say "cynical" but it's not quite that). After the film ended, I went back and watched the scene from Guy's military draft to the train station again. All the initially romantic and longing gestures are rendered devastating now by the bittersweet final scene and the film's main song. It reminds me, of all things, a bit of Toy Story 3's ending: you know this is the best possible outcome for all involved, but you still ache for what was there and what they had before.


Sat Feb 15, 2014 12:42 pm
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
peng wrote:
Couldn't find Day for Night for the moment, so my French choice became..

#3

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964, France)

Never thought this would happen: the day I loved another musical more than Singin' in the Rain. Catherine Deneuve is flawless. The explosion of bright colors and operatic score/singing enhance and stand in sharp contrast with the increasingly astute and realistic progression of romance (I almost say "cynical" but it's not quite that). After the film ended, I went back and watched the scene from Guy's military draft to the train station again. All the initially romantic and longing gestures are rendered devastating now by the bittersweet final scene and the film's main song. It reminds me, of all things, a bit of Toy Story 3's ending: you know this is the best possible outcome for all involved, but you still ache for what was there and what they had before.


Great movie. The best part is when Roland flashes back to Demy's earlier film, Lola, confirming Cherbourg as a sequel. It's so funny how much of a loser Roland is. Catherine Deneuve is another Grace Kelly in that her beauty seems to exist completely independent of time.


Sun Feb 16, 2014 12:35 am
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
I did look up the director's works before seeing it, so the mention of "Lola" had me wonder of his movies crossing over for a moment.


Sun Feb 16, 2014 12:49 am
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
Mark III wrote:
#3 Wake In Fright - Australia (Ted Kotcheff, 1971)

Very good obverse to the same year's Walkabout, a sad excoriation of Australia as a country that has adapted to penal limbo and won't evolve. We see only one woman, one aborigine and dozens (and dozens) of drunken white bums who spend their time gambling, hunting and beating one another.

The story focuses on John Grant, a teacher currently indebted to the state for $1000 and paying his dues in what he calls "slavery" by teaching a large classroom of students ranging from the very young to one whom appears to be in his twenties. For Christmas holiday, he's to fly to Sydney in order to be with his girlfriend and instead finds himself in the Yabba, the purgatory in which he'll be spending the next six weeks as he loses his money, his ticket out teaching, his hope of seeing his girlfriend, his identity as an educated man.

The poorly-paced beginning (a handful of scenes around a game of coin tossing is unnecessarily repetitious and eventually boring) eventually gives way to a series of tests of John's masculinity and identity as a put-upon intellectual when he falls into a threatening acquaintanceship with Tydon, an alcoholic doctor who sees through Grant's vision of himself. The heart of the movie is this relationship which moves from curiosity, to something like admiration and onward to sexual assault and, inevitably, thoughts of murder.

The film has a significant history as a lost film and, though this can lend some excellence-through-mystique, it is deservedly celebrated. The movie examines masculinity (there's no missing this: there's but one woman in the cast and she's only there to establish Grant's level on the ladder), degrees of civilization but the chief concern is Australia's slow death in a limbo state. The water that runs is only for washing, the only thing that people drink is beer and whiskey: what else is there to do? Very grim film. Recommended viewing.


Very nice again. I've never seen this film so am just downloading it now. It certainly doesn't read like you were blown away by it, but definately worth a look? I hope the Australian accents aren't too ridiculously thick, one of my pet hates of Australian films in general - like everyone grew up on a fucking farm, when 90% of the population live in city's and have only visited the rural area's to see their cousin Eddie.

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Sun Feb 16, 2014 12:51 am
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
Oh, good! Wisey, you should watch it... it's really good, no matter I said about the beginning. Starts slow but eventually moves along at a great clip, heading toward that ending that feels like a bad dream. So frustrating, when Grant gets off that truck... .

The accents are mild though I elected to watch the film with subtitles, anyway. I often do when it's late at night, the movie is older (anything with less-than-perfect audio, really) or in accented English. My hearing isn't great, anyway.

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Sun Feb 16, 2014 1:23 am
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
peng wrote:
Never thought this would happen: the day I loved another musical more than Singin' in the Rain.


Though I don't really want to derail my own thread, I'll be derailing my own thread for a moment to say: I liked Singin' in the Rain just fine until that cool looking but goofy "Broadway Melody" ballet fantasia/ballet/crap. I know I'm not the first to say it and, even though it visually references the very things the movie is celebrating, I could hear the movie screeching to a boring halt as I watched. Musicals are annoying, anyway. Wikipedia directed me toward this essay: http://cinemademerde.com/Essay-Singin_Rain.shtml. Still, unmoved and not so enthusiastic about this movie.

I want to be the kind of person that really wants to see The Umbrellas of Cherbourg but I'm not. I first heard of it because of an episode of Futurama. That should tell you everything you need to know about me, the person behind this post.

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Sun Feb 16, 2014 2:33 am
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
That sequence near the end had a similar effect with me on first watch. But on subsequent viewings, after I am not in need to know of where the main plot will go next, I find it very fun. Or in occasions where I only want the movie's plot, I skip it.

I actually am not much of a musical guy. Cold on Mary Poppins as a kid. Had a better experience with The Sound of Music, but I am not sure if the last act's darkness (to this kid at the time) appealed to me and left me with a better memory of it. I only watch musicals based on recommendations. Singin' in the Rain has that exuberant joy (sustained, without story bogging it down) and some great jokes going for it. I also loved My Fair Lady, because I find the dialogue/lyrics witty and very, very funny. Previous to Cherbourg, those two are the only ones I really liked.

Anyway, The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is a pretty atypical musical, maybe suited for people who normally don't like one (Once also comes to mind if we have a category for that). There isn't a single line of spoken dialogue or breaking into dance the whole film. It's all singing, and of the more operatic kind than the jaunty tune. It's a little disorienting at first, but I think it will eventually decrease the "annoying" for those not into people suddenly breaking into songs and dances after normal dialogue. The singing becomes part of the whole film and will make it seem more natural. And the narrative seems like an ironic jab at the love stories most normal musicals like to tell.


Sun Feb 16, 2014 5:01 am
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
Stayed up too late, past what would be a rational man's bedtime to watch

#4 - La main du diable - France (Maurice Tourneur, 1943) (English language title: Carnival of Sinners)

It wasn't much good, striking visuals and excellent "carnival of sinners" sequence aside. This is the story of Roland Brissot, mediocre artist of still life portraits of fruit and dogs, and his acquiring a severed left hand that imbues him with artistic genius. The result of this genius is fame, wealth, and the physical affections of a comely lass. The movie begins with a terrified Brissot bursting into a hotel, seeking shelter as well as something else that the audience will learn about some 75 minutes later. The body of the film is his relation of the story of this severed hand and the devil's teasing attempts to get it back from him: does he wish to return to failure or keep the hand, lose his soul to hellfire?

This is an oft-told tale and this particular telling isn't any better or worse than any other. It looks great (Maurice Tourneur, father of Jacques, brings his silent-film bag of tricks to the table and the result is a movie that would play even better without any dialogue; hell, the lead actor so overdoes his expressions it's almost as if he hadn't been told that this was 1943, there would be recorded sound to go along with his mugging) but doesn't do anything other than that. Long parenthical, that last one.

There is a wonderful sequence near the end: Brissot meets the previous owners of the severed hand and the film gives us a damned cool sequence wherein we see how they met their fates. Animation, sharply-cast shadows, superimpositions: it's a great little short that briefly made me forget I was watching a mostly mediocre French horror movie. If you're looking for atmosphere, skip to the 65 minute mark and enjoy. The rest is unspectacular (though again: visually striking) fare. Given the director's extremely lengthy resume, it's possible this was a late-career curiosity or some kind of evolution. Whatever it may be historically, it wasn't all that good when I watched it. Cool looking, though.

Off to other pastures for a bit. Will return in a week or so to knock out that fifth movie and thus actually finish something that I set out to do.

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Sun Feb 16, 2014 5:40 am
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
peng wrote:
That sequence near the end had a similar effect with me on first watch. etc


It wasn't just that it was an interruption to the plot. It wasn't really even that at all. It's that it's just a strange showcase sequence, something that more than a few movies during this period seem to have --if I'm going on memory, notoriously faulty and all that. It stands in sharp contrast to the rest, not particularly significant and seemingly filmed to highlight a dance sequence they had painstakingly choreographed and so, "why not we'll find a way to fit it in, Mr. Kelly!" I'm sure somebody out there is willing to say "hey, idiot, it's just as significant as that "Make 'Em Laugh" song and dance" but that doesn't mean it will ever work for me. I just don't like it, unfortunately. I still like the movie, though: as good a musical as anything else I've seen. Would gladly acquire a severed left hand if it meant I could dance and sing and heavily pet a 20-year-old Debbie Reynolds. Hell, for a couple of severed hands I'd probably grope Debbie Reynolds right now. In fact, don't even bother with the severed appendages: I'll do that for free.

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Sun Feb 16, 2014 5:54 am
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
#5 Kagemusha

When I was a young man I saw Ran in its theatrical run and came away thinking that, although visually captivating, it was extremely boring . I always avoided Kagemusha due to a perception that it was similar to Ran and that perhaps late Kurosawa just wasn't for me. Well, it is long and quite slow in stretches. However, the story gives a very effective visual contrast of knowledge vs instinct. It shows how unreliable each can be and what folly there is trusting either completely or exclusively. How each can lead to indecision on one hand, and rashness on the other.

At another level, it examines the importance of the ability to assess one's self in terms of strengths and weakness, as well as the importance of this ability to assess others in the same way. Both through the foggy lenses of knowledge and instinct tinted by self desire. Very much a thought provoking film. 8/10

Now I shall need to rewatch Ran and see if age will open my eyes to something missed in my youth.


Sun Feb 16, 2014 9:16 am
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
Mark III wrote:
peng wrote:
Never thought this would happen: the day I loved another musical more than Singin' in the Rain.


Though I don't really want to derail my own thread, I'll be derailing my own thread for a moment to say: I liked Singin' in the Rain just fine until that cool looking but goofy "Broadway Melody" ballet fantasia/ballet/crap. I know I'm not the first to say it and, even though it visually references the very things the movie is celebrating, I could hear the movie screeching to a boring halt as I watched. Musicals are annoying, anyway. Wikipedia directed me toward this essay: http://cinemademerde.com/Essay-Singin_Rain.shtml. Still, unmoved and not so enthusiastic about this movie.

.


I am SO with you. I hate that sequence for the same reasons you describe. An American in Paris has the same damn problems too

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Sun Feb 16, 2014 9:55 am
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
Mark III wrote:
Oh, good! Wisey, you should watch it... it's really good, no matter I said about the beginning. Starts slow but eventually moves along at a great clip, heading toward that ending that feels like a bad dream. So frustrating, when Grant gets off that truck... .

The accents are mild though I elected to watch the film with subtitles, anyway. I often do when it's late at night, the movie is older (anything with less-than-perfect audio, really) or in accented English. My hearing isn't great, anyway.


Jesus Major, for that recommendation I demand you watch 21 Grams on replay for the next 24 hours.

This is possibly the worst film I've ever seen? I can't remember being so outright disgusted in anything for a long time. If this film has some sort of cult following for it's mystique, that says something about the fucked up cult who view it as entertainment on any level.

The first 55 boring as batshit fucking minutes, follows an “English” teacher who wants to get out of outback Australia by playing a two up game where he loses his money. It then shows every stereotypical “outback despicable aussie” come into his nightmare, which is essentially just an hour long sickening ride into scene after scene showing animal cruelty.

The film is well shot, there’s no question about that. If you want to watch a kangaroo being shot to death or even tortured, this is the movie for you.

I read an article about fifteen years ago on Quentin Tarantino and his love for Australian junk films. If this happened to be one of the films he was referring too, it makes me sick how fucked up the Australian culture can be looked upon.
Bad Taste is an excellent example of a b grade film done well, with tongue in cheek. I wouldn't know how to categorise this abortion, it doesn’t deserve to be graded.

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Mon Feb 17, 2014 10:18 am
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
wisey wrote:
[Wake In Fright] was [awful]!


I work alongside two Japanese people who came over about two years ago. They're great people and we eventually hit it off on topics other than work. Inevitably, pop culture and movies come up and on that topic Japanese movies and pop culture comes up. We talked about what was popular and I mentioned the work of this guy Shion Sono, who made stuff like Suicide Club and Cold Fish and so on. One had heard of Suicide Club but hadn't seen it, saying "I think he's maybe more an underground artist." I went on to ask about Takashi Miike and they both knew of his stuff but, again, "sort of on the outside". It was then explained to me, slow learner that I am, that guys like Takashi Miike and Shion Sono make movies that are weird for Japan but pass as cool and "Japanese" to people in America. I'm told that they're not a good representation of what's going on in their art world. When I asked what was a good representation, I was answered with a few names and a few DVDs of television shows and movies that were pretty much what I should have expected them to be: completely normal human dramas. There was Nobody Knows (the only one I'd heard of and one of the only ones I haven't watched) and Koizora, one called Waters, something called Water Boys (both a television series and a movie, dealing with a swim team trying to compete in synchronized swimming) a great television show called Kekkon Dekinai Otoko and other stuff that didn't have concentrated weirdness and violence.

Stuff like Black Butler (feature length live-action coming soon) and Death Note were popular. A lot of the stuff is based on manga, naturally. The point is: I watched this stuff and eventually didn't think "hey, where's the severed hands and feet?" That is, I didn't know a damned thing about what Japanese people liked and took the stuff we imported as evidence of their collective taste. Ironically, I'd hate to think we're being represented entirely by stuff like Transformers while other perfectly good American snapshots are kept away. But of course that's what happens. I mean, it's really obvious. But I was unable to make the connection because I'm apparently very gently xenophobic. Something like that, anyway.

Fun fact: several Takashi Miike movies were popular so the line between "outsider" and "accepted by popular approval" is clearly thin. Maybe he's like Japan's Steven Soderbergh.

What I'm trying to say, Wisey, is that I really wouldn't know what was Australian about Wake In Fright but completely trust your very negative reaction to the movie. As I respect you, I have to consider that my take on the movie is informed in part by a distance between myself and the material. If I were closer I may have hated it even if the first part hadn't been slow. But I believe that distance is a good thing: I saw a pissed-off movie about hopeless people, not taking the stereotypes as condemnation (or, as I watched, stereotypes) but as means to a series of ends.

Though maybe we just fundamentally disagree about the movie. Maybe when people in, say, Senegal watch Deliverance they think "People in America are either backwoods rapists/murderers or victims". On the flip side, when I watched a Japanese show called Hana Yori Dango, I was amused/horrified by their version of Americans: cursing, violent and rape-hungry black people. So who's to say what's fair and accurate, really. Wake In Fright was eventually harrowing to me, always bad for you. We can talk this over further after we watch a few Takashi Miike movies. I hear he's HUGE in Japan.

-
EDIT: sort of a lousy post what with my point not being clear and all the stumbling with words. Normally I'd delete this one and/or apologize, just move on but I'll leave it as a sad reminder and warning to my future self.

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Tue Feb 18, 2014 1:38 am
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
Half (probably better than half) the reason movies like Transformers get made is because they aren't really culture-specific. They make big money in foreign markets, whereas stuff that's more distinctively American runs into culture gap issues. I'm sure more Japanese people have seen Transformers than just about any movie you can name that's actually good, but it's because Transformers doesn't represent our cultural quirks... or anybody's, really.

It is unsurprising to me that Japan's popular culture is mostly as bland and pandering as anybody else's. Movie buffs tend to comr across movie buff movies, no matter their point of origin.

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A Man Escaped

Robert Bresson has his interesting obsessions, one of which is characters' handwriting (usually coinciding with first person narration) and another is the details of processes by which tools are made in tasks are done. A Man Escaped, ostensibely about a prison break, is actually about those things--revealing character not by throwing obstacles at them, but by showing them doing things in a far more meticulous and hypnotic way than most movies would dare.

Most fascinating is the one intrusion of a chance complication that Bresson allows for his character :a crucial moment of decision that occurs late in the film, disrupts the rhythm, and in a very real way determines whether or not this man deserves to escape. The film is a fascinating mechanism and rumination salvation; I'd be willing to bet that it was a point of reference for a certain other prison break film that regularly rises to the top of movie polls.

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Tue Feb 18, 2014 3:50 am
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
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the reason movies like Transformers get made is because they aren't really culture-specific. They make big money in foreign markets, whereas stuff that's more distinctively American runs into culture gap issues. I'm sure more Japanese people have seen Transformers than just about any movie you can name that's actually good, but it's because Transformers doesn't represent our cultural quirks... or anybody's, really.


Spot on, I actually agree completely. I only wonder how that's a bad thing.


Tue Feb 18, 2014 7:36 am
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
Perhaps because to deny culture is seen as, broadly-speaking, low brow.

(to play Devil's advocate)

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Tue Feb 18, 2014 8:28 am
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Post Re: Five Movies, Five Countries
peng wrote:
JamesKunz wrote:
I just find non-narrative films to be unfocused and, frankly, boring.


Normally I would agree with you 90% of the time. Maybe I just luck into the unsavory ones, but I mostly find the films in this category to be self-indulgent and rambling. One of the great things about Persona to me is that it's so short and unfuzzy. It aims to create the atmosphere of tension and paranoia between the two women and then using techniques to dissect at their personalities (including merging them). After that dynamic reaches a critical point, the film is over. I may not understand everything, but the atmosphere and experiments the film creates never overstay its uniqueness, unlike most films of this nature.


Blood of a Poet was also pretty engrossing for me when I watched it. It's just under an hour, so it doesn't come across as indulgent or feel that long. I don't know if I would call it "great" but it held my attention for the entire time I was watching it.
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