Weekly movie roundup.
Zur Lage (Ulrich Seidl/Michael Glawogger/Barbara Albert/Michael Sturminger, Austria 2002) B
Omnibus documentary on Austria´s political climate since the conservative government took over. Biggest problem: Nothing in it that you wouldn´t have picked up in moves that were made before
the conservative government took over. Good point for the Austrian-as-compulsive-defeatist, a claim highlighted by Seidl´s jaw-dropping final episode that begs comparison to Thomas Bernhard´s hilarious self-flaggelating monologues: a couple dishes out reactionary hogwash with such glee that you can´t help being mesmerized. Unfortunately this also renders Glawogger´s mediocre and Sturminger´s unwatchable entry moot (probably zur Lage
´s biggest asset is cementing Seidl´s status as Austria´s greatest living dircetor); Albert tries for a dialectic statement (the only one here) and, as usual, is overwhelmed by the multitude, though she manages to capture the audience´s interest as well as the social despair inherent in her subjects lives. Those biased compositions seem to suggest a downward spiral.
Two Hands (Gregor Jordan, Australia 1999) (walked out)
Australian would-be-Tarantino stuff, quickly delving into the idiotic (hero gets in trouble cos he leaves 10.000 $ on the beach as he feels the need for a swim - cue pathetic voicover) to the insulting (child run over played for laughs first, tear-jerking second). Bryan Brown funny as mob chief, Heath "non-entity" Ledger in what´s supposed to be a lead performance.
I Come In Peace (Craig R. Paxley, US 1990) B-
Dolph "Log" Lundgren vs. amphetamine-soaking, dope-killing alien. Good at two o´clock with a joint after two weeks overdose on art films. Honest exploitation.
Kissing Jessica Stein (Charles Herman-Wurmfed, US 2001) B-
Forgettable, but painless lesbian romp, greatly helped by sparkling, if understated cast and occassional witty twists. Director´s TVish compositions and sense of timing not as funny as his name. Better than any Woody Allen since Deconstructing Harry
8 femmes (Francois Ozon, France 2002) C
Deneuve, Ledoyen, Huppert, Darrieux, Ardant, Beart - and all wasted by Ozon camping up an old crime play chestnut with a few forgettable musical numbers and rather broad humour. Might have done for so-lala-entertainment, but everything in this film seems to be in quotes and after a while I found this trifling irony very annoying and pointless. Big step back after Under the Sand
and especially Water Drops on Burning Rocks
, lacking their gravitas while substituting with only the substitute of a comedy. Like a respectable Sitcom
, which means: possibly even worse.
Martha... Martha (Sandrine Veysset, France 2001) B+
Not as gripping on second viewing, but this study of an irritatingly stubborn woman contains momets of utter rawness that would do its probable model, A Woman Under the Influence
proud. Not like Cassavettish hyper-realism at all, though, since Veysset´s cramped, but controlled misè-en-scene and her penchant for dreamy interludes give this her usual, almost nightmarish spin. Amazing uninhibited work in the lead by Valerié Donzelli. Confirms Veysset as most interesting French female director along with Maesson.
Charley Varrick (Don Siegel, US 1973) A / They Live (John Carpenter, US 1988) A-
A dream comes true as the mini-festival in Vienna´s biggest theatre presents two sentimental favourites on the big screen. Both are amzingly clear-sighted on economy/politics and directed with expert precision (Carpenter´s script has a few pacing problems, hence the -) and have ther own, sly humour: understated (Matthau, plotting almost sideways) and frightening (Joe Don Baker´s feminine intonation mixed with sadistic glee) in the Siegel, pathetic anger in the Carpenter which also posesses one of the alltime greatest endings.
Chopper (Andrew Dominik, Australia 2000) B
Actually not as original as it´s made out to be: curiously uninvolving emotionally (a bit like Memento
) and its play with adapting the protagonist´s POV isn´t that fresh, but Eric Bana in the lead conveys madness with such normalcy at points that it´s breathtaking.
La Messa e Finita (Nanni Moretti, Italy 1986) B / Gosford Park (Altman, US 2001) A-
Two rather typical, if fine-tuned works by acknowledged masters. Moretti´s well-observed, tragicomic portrait of a priest (played by the director) in emotional-spiritual crisis has expert timing in the delivery of deadpan jokes, is beautifully structured and yet it doesn´t escape the slight undercurrent of unaffected sentimentality that also bothered me in The Son´s Room
. Amazingly precise portrait of a certain state of anomie in the European left at that time, though. Altman´s is my favourite film of his since Short Cuts
, probably because its surprisingly less cynical in its attitude than his previous films. Definitely looks like its worth repeat viewings, although those might actually turn out that it´s just slight entertainment, blown out of proportion by clever, multi-faceted fragmention.
Better than any film of the week, month, year (even Demonlover
). Pere Ubu´s new record, St. Arkansas
, is a brilliant road-movie as usual, though instead of the usual breezing wide-screen-technicolor-approach this one seems to go for grainy, immediatey b/w-16mm-paranoia, until, miraculously, the ratio spins to scope in the last song, "Dark", possibly the greatest piece of music in the new millennium, certainly the best song about driving ever. "And the radio/AM radio/oh the radio will set you free".