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Last Movie You Watched 
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
I saw Despicable Me 2 on the weekend. I liked it. It was definitely entertaining in the moment, and a fun distraction after a long week. But man, than thing moves along like a freight train. Fuck spending any time developing anything, let’s just keep pushing on and just have things resolved in the most convenient way possible without any real build-up. There’s so much charm in the animation and the voice acting, but the story is super paint by numbers to the point where I was constantly thinking they were going to pull a fast one on me. But it never happened.
[Reveal] Spoiler:
I also found it kind of annoying that they went down the damsel in distress route too. I thought Lucy was going to play a big part in the final confrontation, but she basically get's captured without putting up a fight, which is weird.

I think the film is still worth watching because the slapstick stuff and the big setpieces are really fun to watch, but it's holding up a story that's both forgettable and rushed.


Mon Jun 24, 2013 2:32 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
The Running Man may be the finest motion picture in the history of the art. If the aliens who eventually discover the charred remains of human civilization discover a hidden stockpile of our movies and have a way to play them, this will be the one that tells them everything they need to know about us.

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Mon Jun 24, 2013 2:54 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
House of 1000 Corpses

I was sick, the family was out, it was showing on IFC, and I was in the mood for something different. If it weren't for the excesses of Mr. Zombie I actually think this would have been a pretty good horror movie. I kept thinking that if the basic story was placed into a more campy and less graphic setting with Vincent Price in the Sid Haig role I would have enjoyed it quite a bit. This is not a knock against Haig - his performance in the opening scenes is what drew me into the movie. As it was, some parts of it worked fairly well and I think Zombie actually gets some pretty good performances from his actors based upon this viewing and the Halloween redo. Zombie's style is just too graphic for me to really appreciate though and I'm fairly certain I won't give any more of his work a look or listen. Although the style is not for me, I actually have some appreciation for the abilities of the director, actors, and crew of this production. 4 /10.


Mon Jun 24, 2013 9:07 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Ken wrote:
The Running Man may be the finest motion picture in the history of the art. If the aliens who eventually discover the charred remains of human civilization discover a hidden stockpile of our movies and have a way to play them, this will be the one that tells them everything they need to know about us.


Have you ever read the book? It's quite good

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Mon Jun 24, 2013 5:18 pm
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
'Cloud Atlas' (The Wachowski Siblings/Tykwer, 2012)
I've been a fan of Tykwer's since Perfume back in '06 but Lana and Andy Wachowski have been a continuing disappointment since their rise to popularity with The Matrix, as such I finally picked up Cloud Atlas from Redbox with a slight bit of trepidation and to my great fortune I found it an immensely pleasant surprise and one of the highlights of last year's movie picks. It's alternately grand, delightful and poignant, deftly weaving between its six seemingly disparate but interconnecting story lines with an ease and grace rarely afforded to recent cinema. It has hovered in my mind for days since watching it, how many films do that anymore?

'Behind the Candelabra' (Soderbergh, 2013)
Speaking of gracefully made films. Soderbergh has always been hit or miss but certain prices are paid in the pursuit of experimenting with your medium, in return however we are now given Behind the Candelabra and it seems Soderbergh has finally found that sweet spot between observing a moment and telling a story; if this indeed remains his swansong from the big screen, what a way to go out. Douglas and Damon lend a gentle touch and great depth to their portrayals of Liberace and his lover Scott Thorson respectively, and Soderbergh delicately but ever sharply mines the pair's tumultuous relationship to evaluate the loneliness stemming from celebrity and business pursuits working against individual needs and desires. It's touching and heartfelt, and avoids all the typical biopic pitfalls in favor of a more nuanced and thoroughly involving approach. Certainly one of this year's highlights as well.

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Mon Jun 24, 2013 8:10 pm
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Gangster Squad

Looked and sounded very reminiscent of The Untouchables from the trailer and it is very reminiscent of the 1987 De Palma classic. Just change the setting from 1930s Chicago to 1940s LA and the villian from Al Capone to Mickey Cohen/

Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling are good in their roles. But Sean Penn often seems to be trying to out De Niro De Niro. Reuben Fleischer directs decently. But he lacks De Palma's sense of style and the writing is not on the same level as David Mamet's.

Not too bad. But you won't miss much if you skip Gangster Squad and re-watch The Untouchables.

**1/2

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Mon Jun 24, 2013 9:07 pm
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Berberian Sound Studio - It feels like I’m long overdue on seeing this one. British film critic Mark Kermode called it his favorite film of 2012, but it’s only just been given a release over here in the U.S., and a fairly paltry one at that. At least the wait was worth it. Toby Jones plays Gilderoy, a mild-mannered sound technician who finds himself working in an Italian studio on a Giallo horror film. Accustomed to more innocuous fare, Gilderoy doesn’t approve of the new material he is working on, resulting in some clashes of attitudes between himself and other members of the production crew (including the pretentious director who keeps insisting his work is art, in an attempt to excuse his own misogyny). As the post-production takes longer and longer to complete, and Gilderoy spends more and more time with the material, his psyche starts to fracture. The film is in part about the sense of personal worth someone can feel when involved with a project of questionable purpose. It’s also about the potential damaging effects of spending prolonged time with dark material; it isn’t much of a surprise when Gilderoy eventually starts having trouble distinguishing reality from fantasy, to the point where it appears his consciousness has somehow melded together with the film.

None of this material would be particularly memorable if Berberian Sound Studio was content to just ape past influences, generating meaning only through its associations with other works. What elevates the film above simple homage is director Peter Strickland’s unwillingness to fall back on the more predictable tropes of the films he references. He never shows onscreen any images from the incomplete Giallo film, instead placing all the emphasis on the sound design (one of the real pleasures of the film is watching the operations of the studio, and how non-violent objects are manipulated to create sounds of horrible violence). Unlike so many Giallo films, there is no overt violence, making it’s consistently-unsettling atmosphere all the more impressive. The soundtrack, from British experimental pop band Broadcast, is a key contributor as well, recreating many of the sounds from influential Giallo films while also working well as its own standalone piece. Overall, it’s an approach that bears more resemblance to the films of Polanski and Cronenberg than to Argento and Fulci and Bava, and it’s this approach that gives Berberian Sound Studio more staying power than what you’re likely to find in more commercial horror films. 9/10.

The Thick-Walled Room - This is the first film on Criterion’s Eclipse collection Masaki Kobayashi Against The System, a four film set that chronicles the early works of one of Japan’s most masterful filmmakers. Made in 1953 but delayed until 1956 because of studio Shochiku’s concerns over its more-challenging content, The Thick-Walled Room is really the first time Kobayashi was given the opportunity to tackle serious social issues on film (it’s also notable for featuring one of the earliest screen appearances from legendary Japanese actor Tatsuya Nakadai, who would go on to star in Kobayashi’s most famous works). The film focuses on a group of Japanese war criminals, imprisoned by American occupants after the war. None of the prisoners’ crimes are particularly egregious. In fact, most of them were executed under orders from their commanders, and the only reason they are currently imprisoned is due to the political environment that surrounds them. While they wait in prison, however, they all suffer from the memories of their crimes, with some unable to bear the weight of their actions.

With the exception of Kwaidan, a collection of intentionally-theatrical ghost stories, the other Kobayashi films I have seen have operated within the realms of reality. The Thick-Walled Room sees Kobayashi blurring the lines a little bit, incorporating scenes that make use of dream imagery to great effect. One scene in particular, where a character is assaulted by holes blasting through the prison walls, works as an inventive visual representation of the traumas soldiers could go through after their experiences in wartime. Perhaps because of its lack of a central figure through most of its running length, the film doesn’t have either the focus or the power of something like Harakiri or Samurai Rebellion. Still, historically it has significance as being, according to the Criterion box set, “among the first Japanese films to deal directly with the scars of World War II,” and it works as a first glimpse at the kind of challenging, socially-aware cinema that Kobayashi would master later on in his career. 6/10.

Head - Bob Rafelson’s directorial debut also holds the distinction of being the first and only feature film starring the Monkees, as well as the first film from the short-lived but influential BBS production company. A key moment early on sets up the film’s underlying philosophy, in the form of a parody version of the classic Monkees theme song that slyly mock their own manufactured image. The script, by Rafelson and Jack Nicholson, tries to move the members of the band through a series of unrelated sketches, from western homages, Lawrence of Arabia-style desert adventure, wartime action, Roger Corman-inspired horror, and a bunch of other material that frankly defies categorization. Occasionally though the Monkees will escape out into the studio backlot, their attempt to break free from the constraints that both industries and audiences have placed upon them. To make a comparison to another popular musical group who found their way into films, Head finds the Monkees completely bypassing the cinema verite style of the Beatles’ and Richard Lester’s A Hard Day’s Night, jumping right in to the scattershot psychedelia of Help!, Magical Mystery Tour, and Yellow Submarine.

Actually, compared to those Beatles films, Head is really an altogether different kind of animal, a statement on how dissatisfied the members of the Monkees were with how they were perceived during their heyday by just about everyone. Even amid all the goofiness, the message still comes across clearly and effectively, and only occasionally does the film sink down into simple pretentiousness, as when a concert performance is intercut with footage of Vietnam atrocities. It can be very easy for a film this wacky and unwilling to sit still to wear out its welcome quickly and just become exhausting, and to a certain extent that is the case here. But to be honest, I kinda liked Head. I liked its free-wheeling spirit, its gleeful eagerness to confound expectations and break apart established images. For a film that burns down so many bridges, somehow it still manages to be strangely charming. 7/10.

Man Of Steel - After the commercial failure of Superman Returns in 2006, there had to be concerns as to what it would take for Superman to return again to the big screen. While the film had its problems, I’m starting to think maybe it was more a victim of bad timing than anything else. Now, in a blockbuster world where superhero films are the hottest commodity around, the revival of Superman feels like a surer bet, hence this new production from “visionary” director Zack Snyder. Unlike Bryan Singer’s continuation approach in the 2006 film, Snyder mainly repackages elements from Superman and Superman II, only with a more concentrated effort to provide a darker, serious spin to Kal-El’s origins. In the right hands, this approach could have yielded something interesting. But despite the pedigrees of some of the names involved with this production, it misses the mark. For all its serious posturing and attempts at gritty realism, the film in certain places is remarkably silly, and this creates a disconnect from which it never really recovers. It’s tough to take things seriously when you have Michael Shannon taking scenery-chewing to embarrassing new levels, Amy Adams showing up wherever the hell she wants for the conveniences of the script, and an extended sensory overload of an action climax that somehow makes the destruction of a city feel completely inconsequential (My favorite moment: Superman and Lois Lane sharing their first kiss and exchanging some playful banter in front of the post-apocalyptic wasteland that is Metropolis).

There’s something joyless about Man Of Steel, which is a strange thing to say in relation to a Superman film. The steadfast virtuousness and heroism previously associated with the character has turned into constant brooding and moral ambiguity (It’s perhaps appropriate then that the heroic strains of the classic John Williams theme are completely absent, but Hans Zimmer’s score doesn’t deliver anything close to the same level). As Superman, Henry Cavill does what he can, but he’s frequently let down by a blunt script that has almost nothing in the way of subtlety and direction that emphasizes busyness over any sense of visual coherency. I haven’t been much of a fan of Zack Snyder in the past, but at least before he could be counted on to deliver purely on the visual level. Compared to his other films, Snyder’s work here is drab and lifeless, relying too much on muted colors, an abundance of computer-generated visuals, and overly-restless camerawork. It’s a disappointing film, especially because I went into it hoping for something different than all the other cookie-cutter superhero films we’ve been bombarded by in the last several years. Instead, it ended up being something of a culmination of everything I’ve come to dislike about the modern blockbuster. Whether or not summer spectacles continue in this vein remains to be seen, but I probably won’t be witnessing it firsthand. 4/10.

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Mon Jun 24, 2013 11:19 pm
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Blonde Almond wrote:
Man Of Steel - After the commercial failure of Superman Returns in 2006, there had to be concerns as to what it would take for Superman to return again to the big screen. While the film had its problems, I’m starting to think maybe it was more a victim of bad timing than anything else. Now, in a blockbuster world where superhero films are the hottest commodity around, the revival of Superman feels like a surer bet, hence this new production from “visionary” director Zack Snyder. Unlike Bryan Singer’s continuation approach in the 2006 film, Snyder mainly repackages elements from Superman and Superman II, only with a more concentrated effort to provide a darker, serious spin to Kal-El’s origins. In the right hands, this approach could have yielded something interesting. But despite the pedigrees of some of the names involved with this production, it misses the mark. For all its serious posturing and attempts at gritty realism, the film in certain places is remarkably silly, and this creates a disconnect from which it never really recovers. It’s tough to take things seriously when you have Michael Shannon taking scenery-chewing to embarrassing new levels, Amy Adams showing up wherever the hell she wants for the conveniences of the script, and an extended sensory overload of an action climax that somehow makes the destruction of a city feel completely inconsequential (My favorite moment: Superman and Lois Lane sharing their first kiss and exchanging some playful banter in front of the post-apocalyptic wasteland that is Metropolis).

There’s something joyless about Man Of Steel, which is a strange thing to say in relation to a Superman film. The steadfast virtuousness and heroism previously associated with the character has turned into constant brooding and moral ambiguity (It’s perhaps appropriate then that the heroic strains of the classic John Williams theme are completely absent, but Hans Zimmer’s score doesn’t deliver anything close to the same level). As Superman, Henry Cavill does what he can, but he’s frequently let down by a blunt script that has almost nothing in the way of subtlety and direction that emphasizes busyness over any sense of visual coherency. I haven’t been much of a fan of Zack Snyder in the past, but at least before he could be counted on to deliver purely on the visual level. Compared to his other films, Snyder’s work here is drab and lifeless, relying too much on muted colors, an abundance of computer-generated visuals, and overly-restless camerawork. It’s a disappointing film, especially because I went into it hoping for something different than all the other cookie-cutter superhero films we’ve been bombarded by in the last several years. Instead, it ended up being something of a culmination of everything I’ve come to dislike about the modern blockbuster. Whether or not summer spectacles continue in this vein remains to be seen, but I probably won’t be witnessing it firsthand. 4/10.

The more I read of people's thoughts on this film, the more clear it becomes to me how far up his own ass Snyder's head was planted when he made this film. Superman as a comic wasn't about being "dark" and "brooding". His appeal to the public was precisely the fact that he is so upright and virtuous- and more realistically, he HAD to be that way in order to make it possible for the mere mortals of Earth to accept him as a hero. In this film, he destroys Metropolis after having been hyped up by his father as a messiah figure- how much further from the original concept can you get? Fuck you, Zack Snyder.

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Tue Jun 25, 2013 12:43 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
"Nanook proudly displays his young 'huskies' the finest dog flesh in all the country round."

Yes, I thought the worst, but all it means is Nanook breeds fine sled dogs, not lunch. I hope. Especially since one of Nanook's babies is also referred to as a 'husky.'

I like that when Nanook builds his igloo, he also built a little igloo for the husky puppies to keep them warm and safe (mostly from the big dogs).

Nanook of the North is a famous enough film that it's almost pointless to summarize. It's odd that I'd never watched it before. It's got great scenes, like a walrus hunt, a seal hunt, the igloo building, just pulling the sleds through the jumbled up snowscape where the sea ice meets the shore. As in the later Man of Aran, Flaherty created a fictional family to give structure to the film and insisted on recreating a culture that was decades in the past. (By 1922, Inuit were using rifles and their boats were starting to get motors.) However, when they're hunting walruses, Nanook is fishing or building an igloo, that's real.

I like Man of Aran better, but Nanook holds up very well. (7.5 of 10, with an extra half-point added for historical importance.)

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Tue Jun 25, 2013 1:39 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
I would rank Nanook higher in historical importance, except it was not the first film to use its narrative structure. That honor goes to In the Land of the Head Hunters (title bowdlerized to In the Land of the War Canoes), which came out in 1914 and is largely forgotten except by the Library of Congress. It used a fictional framing story to reproduce authentic Native American techniques. Sound familiar? Nanook is unquestionably the better film, but is not as innovative as a lot of people think.

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Tue Jun 25, 2013 3:04 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Blonde Almond wrote:
Compared to his other films, Snyder’s work here is drab and lifeless, relying too much on muted colors,


Anyone else wish Spielberg and Kaminski had never muted the colors on Saving Private Ryan? It worked brilliantly there, but now everyone does it to make their films *serious*

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Tue Jun 25, 2013 3:21 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Either that or they mute everything but the blues and oranges... which had a purpose in O Brother, Where Art Thou and has not since.

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Tue Jun 25, 2013 4:31 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
JamesKunz wrote:
Blonde Almond wrote:
Compared to his other films, Snyder’s work here is drab and lifeless, relying too much on muted colors,


Anyone else wish Spielberg and Kaminski had never muted the colors on Saving Private Ryan? It worked brilliantly there, but now everyone does it to make their films *serious*

Personally I dug the muted look for MOS, though I can see why others found it off-putting.


Tue Jun 25, 2013 4:36 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
MoS succeeded in looking like a number of films all at once

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Tue Jun 25, 2013 4:41 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Ken wrote:
Either that or they mute everything but the blues and oranges... which had a purpose in O Brother, Where Art Thou and has not since.


Cracked had a good article on that

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Tue Jun 25, 2013 6:22 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Quote:
makes the destruction of a city feel completely inconsequential


Surely not, compared to the chuck-e-cheeses version in Buffy the box office slayer.

The muted colors of Steel bothered me the first time, but I think it takes a couple viewings for Snyder's compositions to really sink in. It doesn't really make sense that people are complaining about realism all of a sudden, given the extremely positive attitude towards it the past couple years. It's pretty easy to invoke a sense of realism with a hero who doesn't have superpowers. Bond has been doing it with moderate consistency for 50 years. Creating a sense of realism with Superman...now that's a challenge. The brilliance of Man of Steel is that it sacrifices absolutely none of the cartooniness one would expect from Superman action, while still pulling off a sense of downbeat realism.

I wish critics would remember the specific challenge of adapting a fantasy comic created 90 years ago. Superman was designed for 1926, not 2013. Thinking about that, I think what Snyder achieved is pretty damn impressive.

The reaction to this movie is really puzzling to me. What more do you want? Don't you want to see Superman adapted into a modern action setting? Come on, wasn't the fight with Zod freakin awesome? Are the poor special effects of the original Donner movies such an untouchable pedestal? Is Goldfinger such an untouchable pedestral? NO!!! At the end of the day, they were still just regular movies with their own set of significant flaws. Steel may have flaws too, but it can be enjoyed warts and all.

As for joylessness...well, it's certainly pretty joyless for the characters. Doesn't mean it's joyless for the viewer. I don't think the characters in Psycho and The Birds were having too good a time. Still damn fun movies. Can any movie be fun anymore without the characters "bringing a party to you"? Yeesh.


Tue Jun 25, 2013 9:04 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Superman as we know him was developed in the hard times of the mid-1930s for an audience who felt put under the thumb by the powers that be--people who didn't have muscle of their own, who didn't have a powerful person in their lives who wasn't just out for his own interests.

The character was created as an expression of the frustration that those people felt, and as an expression of their resilience. The biggest mistake people make is assuming that he's somehow out of date, when it's his combination of universal struggles and everyman qualities that made him appealing in the first place.

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Tue Jun 25, 2013 9:23 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Have you ever watched a fair amount of Buffy? Because if not please don't make it as a sweeping dismissive comparison point without the context, even though I know you used it to meant The Avengers. (although I'd give you the weak first season)

Again, you're assuming a lot of things for others (again and again; seriously are you a psychic), but I's rather not go into that for the umteenth time. So I would just say that I don't mind Snyder's style and ok with him staying for the next one; his action scenes are executed pretty grand, albeit with little-to-none character identification and as a result get uninvolving in the end for me, although that's more fault with Goyer. He's the one that has to go. Snyder is not a director that can elevate a weak script (War of the World comes to mind; that film rightly got derided for the story, but for me Spielberg's execution is so supreme and entertaining that I would still watch it from time to time), but when he got the right scripts his movies are great blockbuster stuff.

Also, I notice that the more his settings of movies are relatively contained, especially in climax, the more I enjoy Snyder's movies (Dawn of the Dead; Legend of the Guardians; 300).


Tue Jun 25, 2013 10:18 am
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Monsters University (2013)
Monsters University works on just about every level (pre-quel, stand-alone...whatever). Taking the characters of Mike and Sully to an earlier point in their lives, as they are learning the "scare tactics" at college they hope to use in their professional careers, allows the story to return to elements that made the first movie a success (the tenuous connection between the "monster world" and the "real world") as well explore new territory. The setting at college enables the filmmakers to add homages to previous school movies from Animal House, to Revenge of the Nerds to Harry Potter. Enjoyable stuff. 3.5 / 4.0


Tue Jun 25, 2013 12:09 pm
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Post Re: Last Movie You Watched
Blonde Almond wrote:
Berberian Sound Studio - It feels like I’m long overdue on seeing this one. British film critic Mark Kermode called it his favorite film of 2012, but it’s only just been given a release over here in the U.S., and a fairly paltry one at that. At least the wait was worth it. Toby Jones plays Gilderoy, a mild-mannered sound technician who finds himself working in an Italian studio on a Giallo horror film. Accustomed to more innocuous fare, Gilderoy doesn’t approve of the new material he is working on, resulting in some clashes of attitudes between himself and other members of the production crew (including the pretentious director who keeps insisting his work is art, in an attempt to excuse his own misogyny). As the post-production takes longer and longer to complete, and Gilderoy spends more and more time with the material, his psyche starts to fracture. The film is in part about the sense of personal worth someone can feel when involved with a project of questionable purpose. It’s also about the potential damaging effects of spending prolonged time with dark material; it isn’t much of a surprise when Gilderoy eventually starts having trouble distinguishing reality from fantasy, to the point where it appears his consciousness has somehow melded together with the film.

None of this material would be particularly memorable if Berberian Sound Studio was content to just ape past influences, generating meaning only through its associations with other works. What elevates the film above simple homage is director Peter Strickland’s unwillingness to fall back on the more predictable tropes of the films he references. He never shows onscreen any images from the incomplete Giallo film, instead placing all the emphasis on the sound design (one of the real pleasures of the film is watching the operations of the studio, and how non-violent objects are manipulated to create sounds of horrible violence). Unlike so many Giallo films, there is no overt violence, making it’s consistently-unsettling atmosphere all the more impressive. The soundtrack, from British experimental pop band Broadcast, is a key contributor as well, recreating many of the sounds from influential Giallo films while also working well as its own standalone piece. Overall, it’s an approach that bears more resemblance to the films of Polanski and Cronenberg than to Argento and Fulci and Bava, and it’s this approach that gives Berberian Sound Studio more staying power than what you’re likely to find in more commercial horror films. 9/10.

With Ebert gone, Kermode has quickly become my favorite critic, but didn't he say that A Royal Affair was his favorite movie of 2012?


Tue Jun 25, 2013 2:17 pm
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