Archive for October, 2009

PECKER, John Waters 1998

Posted in Directors, Just Fun with tags , , , on October 26, 2009 by Toi Brownstone

Pecker     

I felt like watching Pecker not only because I enjoy John Waters’ absurd movies but also because I’m developinga serious crash on photography lately, so everything related to cameras results very attractive to me.

It is true you have to be in the right mood for watching any of his movies, although I’ve been able to enjoy both Pink Flamingos all the same as Serial Mom. Pecker belongs addresses more to the second style, with more budget, very well known actors and not so absurd and disgusting  as the first part of his movies.

Pecker (Edward Furlong), is a teenager whose love for the life he’s got in Baltimore is reflected in his amateurish pictures. He always carries his old second hand camera everywhere trying to catch the essence of his social surroundings, he enjoys taking pictures of her girlfriend Shelley (Christina Ricci) working in the Laundromat, his mother selling cheap clothes to homeless, his little sister’s sugar habit, or his best mate stealing at the supermarket. Everything has a photographic aspect for Pecker, capable to find beauty in common things.

little chrissy

He schedules an exhibition of his pics at the fast food restaurant he works at, and surprisingly a New York art dealer Rorey Wheeler (Lili Taylor) fascinated by the power of the images, buys a picture of female pubic hair and approaches Pecker for representing him in New York, assuring a wonderful and successful future as an artist.

Thus, Pecker and the closest characters in his pictures go to New York for a proper exhibition, delighting all the posh and snob critics, who fall in love with his dysfunctional  family and environment.

So much publicity and media cover he receives, becoming the new sensation, when Pecker comes back home in Baltimore things aren’t the same any longer. First, people don’t want to appear in his pictures for free, also his girlfriend is jealous of his manager, his friend Matt is no longer the best thief in town, Little Chrissy is forced to take Ritalin to control sugar habit and hyperactivity, and he receives constant pressure for taking more pictures. He’s even forced to substitute his old camera for a expensive reflex, and he realizes all the magic is gone and images are shit, although Rorey insists that his work has evolved.

What Pecker desires most is to recover his life, his identity and his pictures, so he’ll have to make a huge effort to work things out.

Pecker is a simple tale of a town boy, surrounded by things nobody could even consider decent, but through his camera lens, and the way Waters describe them, seem beautiful. But how can a girl hooked on sugar be beautiful? What about a lesbian stripper club? Pecker’s mother managing a fashion shop for homeless? Shelley’s obsession for the Laundromat? Memama and her Virgin Mary? What the fuck? This is the bucolic portrait of Waters’ reality, everybody seems happy in their lives and roles, however, from an objective point of view it is too sad.

Why does Pecker succeed in NYC? Just because all those people couldn’t even figure out those things could happen, so detached from their reality they find the boy’s pictures irresistible, and he becomes the door to Baltimore reality, as if in NYC misery and filth had no place.

pecker1

From a practical aspect, I was astonished by the way Pecker was taking pictures of people without their consent. As far as I know, whenever you expose any picture of anybody you must ask for permission, otherwise you’re dealing with illegal taken images, and this is what happens once he’s back from the big city. Nobody wants him to take pictures of them, of their miseries, and threaten the guy with suing. Preserving anonymity has become a kind of obsession lately, you cannot take pictures of kids without people being suspicious, sometimes you can’t portrait buildings either for copyrights…I must admit I felt jealous of the kid taking pictures of absolutely everything and everyone he felt like, allowing him to be spontaneous, without having to be careful not to offend anyone.

I’ve always had fun with the characters in Waters’ films. They are all so so overly dramatic, the way they speak and act…I don’t know how to explain it. Let’s take  Memama as an example of a Waters character. To start with, the name is weird, she’s Pecker’s grandmother and apparently is a normal religious old lady, but just for the fact that she sells the best beef sandwiches in town in a small stand in front of the house, and how customers when she’s not attending them are so desperate as to say “What will I do without your sandwich?” is exaggerated, don’t you think? But the best, the best is her talking Virgin Mary, which doesn’t speak at all,  but is believed by the old woman to be a miracle.

Full of Grace!

Full of Grace!

Although this is a mainstream film, there are many resemblances to the old movies,  I see a  subtle tribute to Pink Flamingos thanks to the characters and situations. In some of his films, Waters’ characters are outstanding in society, for several reasons, Pecker for his pictures, Divine for being an outlaw, and eventually world turns against them, so they have to manage to recover their previous position.

It’s remarkable the constant presence of some actresses throughout John Waters’ film career, Mink Stole or Patricia Hearst are always involved in his enterprises, sure there’s a bizarre story behind this loyalty.

Anyway, Pecker is just a movie for entertaining, you could analyze it from other perspectives or study it deeper and you would find constant features in John Waters’ films, his very own obsessions, you don’t have to be an Einstein to notice, what is not subject to disagreement is that Waters portraits his own world once again, a retro looking Baltimore full of freaks, and the New York artistic high society, even more excessive and poisoned. I did like it, and had a good time, enough for me.

John Waters

Posted in Directors on October 25, 2009 by Toi Brownstone

john-waters

Welcome to the ideal world of John Waters, a director whose vision of life is totally different from the rest of mortals.

Waters’ works you either like them or despise and hate the most. He’s specialist in combining the bizarre and the disgusting,  with the beauty and the bucolic, in creating stories with no sense, and his  taste for absurd but charismatic characters make him a unique creator. In my opinion, Waters is the king of B series, however was able to trespass the limits and focus towards the mainstream, always keeping  his trademark.

Long gone the days when Divine was proclaiming herself the filthiest  woman in the world and eating dog shit in Pink Flamingo’s, yet you still can see mayhem and incredible freak dialogues and arguments in latest movies such as Cecil B. Demented, or Pecker.

Anyway, he’s been named the King of Trash, the King of Puke…it’s necessary you watch his most outstanding movies so you can understand…but no doubt, he deserved those titles. Nevertheless It’s true he’s softened in his tone, and his latest films are more accessible to general audience.

DEAD RINGERS, David Cronenberg 1988

Posted in Directors, Drama, Sci-Fi with tags , , , , on October 20, 2009 by Toi Brownstone

dead-ringers

Every six months or so, there’s a season of Cronenberg films at home, we could be said die hard fans although it’s true we have our preferences.

As I explain whenever I talk about Cronenberg, sometimes it’s hard to understand his stories at the first time, thus I strongly recommend to watch each film a least twice, not immediately one after the other but taking some time between each session, then I think you can really enjoy them and understand details and shades of meaning.

Dead Ringers is one of my personal favorite, I find the story of the twin brothers amazing, and the decadent rhythm used for the development of the story is simply perfect.

Elliot and Beverly (Jeremy Irons) are identical twin brothers whose interest for female inner body is beyond pure sex since their early childhood. In fact, so focused they devote themselves to research and investigation of female reproductive system, inventing a device with which still at college, they are awarded.

Thus the Mantle twins become established gynecologists, combining research and practice.

Elly and Bev are physically identical, actually Elly is few millimeters taller, however the difference in personalities and atittudes is huge. Elly is the public relations, the spokesman in events, he’s very outgoing and has a taste for women. Bev is just the opposite, he’s a nerd, the brain of the two brothers, he’s shy and quiet, and tastes the remaining of his brother’s sexual conquests. They complement each other perfectly, and are very close.

Nevertheless the suddenly interference of the actress Claire Niveau (Geneviève Bujold) changes everything.The actress, who is currently working in Vancouver, asks for an appointment at Mantle’s in order to get pregnant with their modern and innovative techniques. When examining her, Bev discovers she’s trifurcate, a very weird mutation, and quickly informs his brother about the case.

Menage-a-trois

Menage-a-trois

At this point a bizarre game starts, for Elly, pretending to be Bev, takes Claire for dinner and seduces her, forcing his brother to keep on playing. However Bev falls in love with the actress.

Trouble will follow, as she’ll ask for drug prescriptions and Bev, the weakest, will develop a serious and self-destructive drug habit as his relationship with Claire becomes more serious, and his relationship with his brother almost reduced to non-existent.

When the actress has to leave Vancouver for work, Bev will cling to his brother seeking for help and relief against loneliness, strengthening bonds to an unhealthy point with bizarre consequences.

I’ve always found relationship among twins very appealing and interesting. It is fascinating how close they are to each other, and despite the few physical and unnoticeable differences the way their personalities complement so much is a mystery to me.

Many studies have been unable to determine telepathic like senses, and among many, Josef Mengele, the Angel of Death, was obsessed about twins.

I really like the way Cronenberg, taking the story from the novel Twins, tells the story about the Mantle’s, and just with one actor covering the role of the brothers, something we had seen before, of course, but carefully not to seem that obvious nor shitty as in The Parent Trap, with Hayley Mills.

 The brotherly relationship is very dark and sinister, featuring sex, obsession, drugs, gynecology, and bizarre medical devices. They are meant to share everything, from passion for work to women, and this is the cause for their lives falling apart, they are not able to have their private experiences or relationships without excluding the other.

They relate themselves to the very first Siamese twins, Eng and Chang Baker, and their tragic end, one from a brain clot and the other just from fear three hours later.

I’m particularly impressed by the treatment of the drug addiction suffered by Bev. Initially is Claire the one taking drugs, in fact Elly is the one prescribing her the uppers and downers, however, Bev, in a moment of disappointment, starts taking them, and get hooked up on them. It is funny how easy is to get hooked on something, it’s not necessary to be illegal to be fucked up, and they’re not necessarily bad for human health as cocaine or heroine. Prescribed drugs, whose main function is to improve or ease the pain, are really dangerous, not easy affordable for common people, apparently. But if you really think about it, it’s not so uncommon you to be prescribed something in case of signs of anxiety or insomnia, in my case, one I was in distress I was given something that contained diazepam. Here in Spain at the minimum sign of depression you’re prescribed Tranquimazin, and seems that many people are hooked up on that shit. Regarding doctors, those nice people in charge of our health, the history of drug abuse is extensive but hidden to public society, they’re human, and although medicines are under surveillance some cannot resist the temptation. And this happens to weak Bev, he cannot accomplish working routines without drugs, however, at a certain point he freaks out when he attempts to put his bizarre surgical stainless steel devices into practice.

deadringers tools

Cronenberg again succeeds in recreating a tough story, adding his personal touch, creating a suffocating atmosphere, and focusing on dependence in its full meaning. Nedless to say, Irons is also outstanding, a bit exploited by the director, playing the two principal roles, should had been challenging.

What a tandem!

What a tandem!

INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, Quentin Tarantino 2009

Posted in Action!, Directors, Just Fun with tags , , , , , on October 11, 2009 by Toi Brownstone

inglorious-basterds

After months of promo, trailers and delays  for release date,  we finally got Inglorious Basterds in our cinemas, and after watching it two times I reckon the reward for the wait was worth it.

After so many negative critics received for Death Proof, and clues given as Inglorious Basterds action was set during II WW during Nazi occupation, everybody thought we were about to watch Kelly’s Heroes revisited from a more bloody and violent perspective. Nevertheless the result has been totally different, being again criticized by fans, critics and detractors for not being violent and bloody enough, this is, for not being a Tarantino movie.

Well, such  expectations of recovering Tarantino essence from the first movies are a bit of nonsense. He’s evolved as everybody does, focusing more in situations created by dialogues rather than blood baths or crazy dynamic stories such as in Pulp Fiction.

In Nazi occupied France two different stories with Jews in common happen in Paris at the same time.

First story tells about how  the young Shosanna Dreyfuss (Mélanie Laurent) escapes from the Jew Hunter, SS Colonel  Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz), after her family is massacred when trying to hide from Nazis in a neighbor farm owned by Monsieur Pierre LaPadite (Denis Menochet).

Best interrogation ever

Best interrogation ever

Four years after, in Paris and with the  false identity of Emmanuelle Mimieux, Shosanna, who owns a modest cinema, is being courted  insistently by a young German soldier, Fredrik Zoller (Daniel Brühl), who has developed such a crush on her up to a point, he convinces Joseph Goebbels to celebrate premiere of the movie A Nation’s Pride in which, not only he’s the principal star but also narrates his brave experience in war against 300 allies soldiers  for which  he’s become national hero. Thus, Shosanna, realizing that the cinema will be plenty of SS outstanding personalities decides to plan a strategy to avenge her family.

This guy is a pain in the ass!

This guy is a pain in the ass!

Second story is about the Inglorious Basterds, a special command formed by Jew American soldiers and led by Lieutenant Aldo the Apache Raine (Brad Pitt), whose main target is simple, to kill Nazis and cut as many Nazi scalps as possible, at least one hundred.

 As the word of the premiere of A Nation’s Pride reaches the Allies,  considering  the possibility of attempting against the most relevant and powerful figures of the III Reich, British Lieutenant Archie Hicox (Michael Fassbender) with the support if the Basterds is sent to Paris to join a German double agent Bridget Von Hammersmark (Diane Kruger), who se condition of  established  and popular actress provides direct access to the premiere, to carry out the dangerous mission which could become  the master strike to end war once and for all.

Both stories converge at the cinema premiere  with shocking results.

For several reasons the movie has received many negative comments…again. On one hand by the extensive scenes with endless dialogues in German or French, the lack of blood and action on the other, and the impossible end that laughs at the II WW history.

No doubt Tarantino loves focusing on dialogues, and he’s an specialist in extending them beyond the limit to conclude them with a sudden effect strike, but this is nothing new at all, since his earliest works he blindly relies on rich dialogues, containing a full dose of psychology in every word,  enabling audience to portrait the characters and build their opinions around them. And also he’s a master on deciding when to finish them with a sudden blow to shock you.

Reckoning the dialogue as the director’s trademark since the very beginning, it is true that since Kill Bill vol. II, Tarantino is highlighting dialogues more than ever.

In my opinion there are three scenes in particular deserving being praised: the very first one with Hans Landa enquiring Monsieur LaPadite about the missing Jew family Dreyfuss , changing from  French to English; second with Landa asking Emmanuelle Mimieux about the cinema features for security reasons at a restaurant, having a strudel; and the last one at the subterranean tavern with German soldiers, von Hammersmark, few Basterds and the SS  official…really cool. The three scenes are long, and based on dialogues, prevailing German and French over English, something that much audience accustomed to English or overdubbed films have failed to taste.

Guess who you are

Guess who you are

The cast of characters is very impressive however don’t think Brad Pitt should be placed as the main character, no doubt his name is very attractive to audience, but Cristoph Waltz playing the role of Hans Landa being the link between the two stories, cannot be considered less than impressive.

Regarding the end of the movie, well, from the very beginning everybody knows that is fiction taking historic events and places as settings, thus, why not playing a bit with the Nazis’ fates even though we know  what really happened?  To tell the truth for me it’s more interesting  what happens to Landa, rather than to people at the cinema.

Does  Tarantino deserve to be criticized for distorting  history for his own  convenience? Maybe, but I don’t think he’s been the first and surely won’t be the last one in handling history for their own purposes, but when dealing with Hitler and III Reich, seems that nobody is allowed to joke about it.

eXistenZ, David Cronenberg 1999

Posted in Directors, Sci-Fi, Thriller with tags , , , , on October 10, 2009 by Toi Brownstone

existenz

It’s funny reading my past review on Crash, Cronenberg’s work before eXistenZ, to realize how the director moves from one register to a completely different one without effort, being the first weird, slow and suffocating, to a super dynamic and interesting  movie which fits into sci-fi genre perfect such as eXistenZ.

To be honest with many   Cronenberg’s films it takes me two times to really enjoy the product I’m watching, maybe I’m a bit short minded and I need an extra effort to get fiction-reality duality so often present and  relevant in his works. This happened again with eXistenZ, first time I felt completely indifferent and cold, however the more I watch it the more appealing and cool I find it.

Probably at the time it was released the concept of virtual reality was very hot, the possibility of enjoying a game as if it was for real was too shocking and sounded sci-fi to everybody. As time goes by, virtual reality is becoming more evident and is constantly evolving to reach the final goal, the perfect game in which the player feels as part of the game, as sourrounded  by the scenario with real characters and situations so greatly recreated as to feel you’re living that experience for real.

Stop wandering about virtual reality and let’s concentrate on the movie.

Antenna Research is about to release the  latest creation by the queen of virtual reality games, designer Allegra Geller (Jennifer Jason Leigh). As a presentation, a select group of people are invited to have a session with the shy designer who will guide the chosen ones into the amazing world of eXistenZ.

Unfortunately during the session a young boy attempts against her life using a weird pistol made of bones which shots human teeth, hurting her in the shoulder. In the middle of chaos she’s able to run away with a young marketing trainee, Ted Pikul (Jude Law), and together hide in a motel room trying to recover from shock, analyze situation and decide what to do.

Are you friendly?

Are you friendly?

Allegra carries her freak pod with eXistenZ only version of the program and needs to check out whether the program has been damaged by playing eXistenZ with somebody friendly, however Pikul, has an aversion to being penetrated by a pod plug into his body and has no bio port installed at the back of his body, thus in order to help Allegra he accepts to look for a gas station boy (Willem Defoe) to insert it illegally.

Things won’t be easy for them to find out whether the program is ok for Allegra’s head has a prize  and many people are interested in getting the reward.

Obviously with the development of the movie you find out why everybody is trying to kill her, the explanation for the organic gun and you will understand so tiny details once you know how it ends. That’s why it is so cool to watch this movie several times, you keep on noticing and sensing details that for the very first time may you  think irrelevant or weird, but have sense once you see it complete.

eXistenZ  is an attempt to recreate a virtual videogame, in fact the scenes in which Pikul and Allegra are playing in the game are really cool, the way  after each scene the setting changes radically, even the behavior of the two players is exaggerated, the way they stand, how they are dressed…these are so bizarre and weird scenes so Cronenberg stamped!

existenz01

It’s curious and I  hadn’t thought about it till last view, how the places they go to are just called what they are, the motel, the gas station, the Chinese restaurant…the way games were designed time ago, no brands nor names appeared at all, maybe nowadays this has changed for marketing strategies and sponsorship are beyond TV and press ads. Also names for main characters are very exotic, compared to daily life names such as Peter, Joe or Linda. These are a couple of examples of typical devices or features for videogames, also applied to the film.

Reminding of Videodrome,  Cronenberg exploits fiction-reality duality to its most, and he does it  brilliantly, not only allowing the audience to discover that the main plot was part of a game, but also ending the film with a conclusion that leaves the audience doubting if the “real” characters are still living in the reality of another game or the actual reality….Terrific!!