SITGES PT. III: FROM COLD ROCK TO REMOTE LOCATIONS IN THE BRAIN

Posted in Action!, Romance, Sci-Fi, Thriller with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 17, 2012 by Toi Brownstone

These two stories have nothing in common but just one remark: they are not bad films but I didn’t feel enthusiastic about them either.

I watched The Tall Man on Wednesday morning, after the suffocating and insane Antiviral, I needed something more dynamic , so it was ok. Aurora on the other hand, was the first one of the marathon, right after having a quick lunch while waiting in the queue, and I was lucky not having succumbed to the classic nap, because the dialogues in the original language were too monotonous, the rhythm was super slow, and the atmosphere was perfect for it.

THE TALL MAN, Pascal Laugier (2012)

I have to admit I expected much more from The Tall Man, having in mind its director Pascal Laugier had shocked  the audience in Sitges few years ago with the film Martyrs. This was the first time he directed an English spoken film supported by a remarkable budget.

Right before the screening of the movie, the attendants were given an amazing small book of the film, including the plot, press reviews, the cast and their roles introduced, how the crew was gather, so as the selection of settings. Very interesting and a nice (and expensive) gesture.

Things in the mining town Cold Rock, in Washington State, are rough. Not only unemployment and poverty strike the neighbors, but also the alarming amount of children disappearing in the area, as if abducted. Everybody talks about The Tall Man, it’s become a popular legend which terrorizes Cold Rock.

Julia Denning (Jessica Biel) is a nurse performing as the doctor in town, who happened to be her husband dead some years ago. She remainsthere even though she’s still seen as a stranger by the locals. She lives with her son David (Jakob Davies), and her friend Christine (Eve Harlow), who looks after the kid while she’s working.

One night an intruder breaks into the house to take David with him, but this “Tall Man” doesn’t know what Julia is capable of to recover her beloved kid. When she informs the authorities on the disappearance, some doubts and evidences point her as responsible for the disappearance of the children, thus she will have to carry on with reckless search for David, getting away from the locals at the same time. Eventually the truth will be discovered.

Pascal Laugier has explained that this project was born years ago, and was interrupted when he worked on the shocking Martyrs. This time he wanted to focus on a real subject as the source of horror, again the starting point is the abduction of children, but this time The Tall Man is a dark thriller. The director thought of Jessica Biel remembering her performance in Texas Chainsaw Massacre. She is an angel face but also has a very athletic body being great in action scenes, in which she tried to avoid being stunted, being more realistic.

It’s true that for most of time the audience is finding their own conclusions that are not valid due to the change of the events and perspectives. The most interesting aspect is that we always tend to identify and label the characters, the good guy, the bad guy…and here this labeling is not suitable till the end. Still, many characters are not relevant, if you pay attention you notice things valid for the final conclusions, but there are other aspects which could be omitted without affecting the final result. The initial plot is not bad, but the development is not convincing.

AURORA (VANISHING WAVES), Kristina Buozyte (2012)

Aurora was the opening film to the marathon at Retiro movie theatre. I didn’t have any idea of what it was about, just the mocking remark of a friend of mine saying he had read somewhere it was erotic.

So there I am, front-centered, ready to enjoy the experience of several movies in a row for about 9 hours, and curious about this Aurora. For no reason, the title was making me of Solaris, something very funny because in essence, the two hours of story were too Solaris inspired.

To start with, the main language in the film was Lithuanian (I thought it was Russian, quite similar and monotonous), with very few lines in English, included in the dialogues among scientists.

Lukas (Marius Jampolskis) has volunteered for a series of experiments consisting  of neuron-transfer transmissions in order to get some response from Aurora (Jurga Jutaite), a young beautiful woman, who is into deep coma after a car crash. The transmissions would be as if travelling into another dimension where Lukas and Aurora will star a secret love affair he will not report to his superiors, putting all the experiment into risk, and also the life of the patient. Of course these strengthened ties will bring out other feelings and situations completely unnoticed in the real world, up to a point all this will be negatively affecting both Lukas and Aurora.

The language, the rhythm, the story in a different dimension, the behavior of Aurora, the sound effects, the work with cameras… everything reminded me as an attempt to create a modern Solaris. It’s undeniable that Tarkovsky’s film was the main inspiration.

It was a rough film to start the marathon, dense, slow, a bit twisted, but the story was quite interesting. Erotic? Nah, you can see boobs, naked bodies and sensual scenes, but not big deal. There were these moments the actors try to create an ideal and allegoric scene of beauty, but the way they move ends up being quite of funny, lessening the effect. Definitely modest in the impact on the audience.

SITGES PT. II: LET’S HAVE SOME FUN

Posted in Fantasy, Horror, Just Fun, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on October 16, 2012 by Toi Brownstone

The festival schedules a wide-ranging list of movies. This year I haven’t seen many proper horror films, but as I did watch some quite disturbing and suffocating and some quite dense, comedy-horror titles to have an easy break were very welcome.

Thus I watched Grabbers on Wednesday, and the other two, Sightseers and John Dies at the End, which were included in the marathon selection.

GRABBERS, Jon Wright (2012)

The typical cute island off the coast of Ireland, where nothing ever happens, is invaded by outerspace creatures, CthulhuKraken like, which easily adapt thanks to the rainy climate, and look for blood for feeding. By chance, the drunken fisherman, the two police officers in charge, and a the loud-off biologist, discover that these creatures are allergic to a certain percentage of alcohol in human body, and as good Irish, the will arrange everything to defeat them and restore piece.

These typical Brit-Irish comedies related to creatures follow more or less the same pattern, they are low budget, in this case approaching the beautiful nature locations, but with poor treatment to the creatures, ultra computerized. It’s entertaining but not brilliant, however, the way to fight the creatures provide some hilarious moments, and the Irish character and acting is always funny.

SIGHTSEERS, Ben Wheatley (2012)

No doubt this was the coolest surprise in the festival. I loved every second of this super black comedy. In the distance it reminded me of John WatersSerial Mom.

Tina (Alice Lowe) is a woman in her thirties living with her oppressive mother. They were devoted to their dog Poppy, who passed away recently, and they haven’t got over the tragedy. Chris (Steve Oram), Tina’s boyfriend, has planned a getaway route in his caravan, to let her discover his world. The couple seems to be one of these awkward families which we usually see in pictures, shy, fussy and too traditional, however, whenever they feel their holidays are threatened by strangers, the serial killer resting inside of them brings out merciless.

Sightseers is a road trip, a romantic comedy, and an orgy of murder, if you get chance, do not miss it. You won’t get disappointed.

JOHN DIES AT THE END, Don Coscarelli (2012)

When I think of Don Coscarelli, Phantasm saga and Bubba Ho-Tep escort the director , thus if his name is mentioned I always pay attention.

I got the chance to see his last work at the marathon, warned by some that it was a bit nuts. I didn’t feel discourage, to be honest, and instead of heading back home after Maniac, I decided to go for a walk and then watch the fifth story in the evening. I don’t regret having chosen the hardest option, which implied to arrive home super late, but after seeing the result, I must confess inside of me I’m banding my head against the wall. Johnny Dies at the End, based on Dave Won’s novel was everything I couldn’t have thought of, yet, it didn’t catch me.

Dave Won (Chase Williamson) has an appointment with a journalist (Paul Giamatti) in order to tell him the truth of the business he’s handling together with his best mate John Cheese (Rob Mayes) and the story behind their special abilities, which started to be noticed due to a devastating drug labeled as Soya Sauce, which opened the doors to another dimensions, and consequently enhanced their skills to detect evil creatures threatening human kind, forcing these  two college partygoers  to fight to save humanity.

I’m not really sure whether I was too tired and not in the mood, but I was surprised hearing the audience lively laughing. Really, the jokes weren’t so smart. The sequence of events and the flashback technique weren’t clearly exposed, and the result was quite chaos. The start of the story was appealing, but as the story is developing, loses its initial effect and goes flat. Nope, I didn’t buy it!

SITGES PT. I – THE GREATEST DISAPPOINTMENT: THE LORDS OF SALEM, Rob Zombie (2012)

Posted in Horror with tags , , , , , on October 15, 2012 by Toi Brownstone

It’s taken me some time to decide the way to organize posts as already said. I’m finally arranging them based on the impact I received from them, good or bad, and their apparent importance.

Therefore to start my Sitges chronicles I’ve chosen The Lords of Salem for being one of the main titles I was interested in, which ended up being the greatest disappointment.

The marketing campaign, the artwork of the posters, the trailers and the aesthetics were promising, raising our expectations to unreal levels. When I say this, it’s because I also got quite disappointed with the remake of Halloween. Back in the day I had thought of Zombie, the perfect person to keep all the Carpenter essence, combined with brutal images and providing the splatter and mean taste which could improve something that was achieved 30 years earlier. Of course it was impossible to deliver something better than the original, but adapted to modern times the result could have been much better. But it wasn’t. and I gorgot about it till last Tuesday.

The established actress Dee Wallace, a real cunt, as she defined her role in the film, was there to introduce the film. She was very pleased, and seemed delighted with the final results and we were still optimistic on this regard.

The Lords of Salem tells the story of Heidi Hawthorne (Sherri Moon Zombie), a local radio DJ in Salem, a city in Massachusetts where the witch trials, and their executions, took place 300 years earlier, but apparently average nowadays. After one of the programmes with theBig H Radio Team, an old wooden box with a strange logo engraved, containing a vinyl is waiting for her. It’s a gift of The Lords. When played at home, this eerie and disturbing melody, resembling an invocation causes her to experience a kind of flashback showing her memories of a past trauma and a killing migraine. From this point she will be feeling more and more tired, and her behavior will be so erratic, her colleagues Whitey the hippie( Jeff Daniel Phillips) and Jackson (Ken Foree), another black looking as Shaft, will start thinking she’s on crack again. On the other hand, the song played by The Lords, starts being broadcasted on radio, affecting all the local women. This invoking  anthem will bring the burnt witches of Salem back to life, and Heidi will be chosen as some sort of vehicle due to her ancestors.

I invited a friend to watch the film and there was a comment he made, when the film was still comprehensive and endurable, which was clear enough as to confirm the film was awful. He said something lie “if I had brought my wife here, after this scene, she would have divorced me, sent me to Hell, and her pregnancy would have failed”.

Everything was pathetic: the plot was an attempt to twist an idea we’ve seen many times in movies. The concept of bringing back the dead through human sacrifice. Sherri Moon is gorgeous, I don’t question her beauty and better if I don’t remark the terrible outfits she was showing, but what I reckon is that her acting is poor and bad. It’s confirmed that the director has an obsession for immortalizing her, so she’s his muse, and there’s always space and time for some of meat exhibition. The dialogues are completely terrible.

The film seems to be divided into two different parts. The first one is the understandable, with a normal pattern in the sequence of events, but the second, OMG! The second is just a visual recreation of different concepts. It could be compared to having a trip of LSD. For a while you’re mind is under control and can feel that your brains are being affected, you feel anxious and uneasy, but you still know what’s happening till the moment the drug explodes and from that point your trip is chaos and mayhem and you just can enjoy or deal with the trip, unable to focus, and experiencing weird things which make no sense. Well, the second part of  The Lords of Salem is a bad acid trip, it’s a joke. I could see my friend’s astonished face, guess mine wasn’t any better. We agree on the same: this film is a shit!

Rob Zombie concentrates all his energy in showing his wife, and developing  films which seem full length video clips. His main target is to combine transgression with cult and merge classic and modern horror, rather than focusing on contents and good stories. He’s so egocentric as not to be able to look beyond. The result is well deserved: his horrible mix ends up becoming a tasteless and vulgar cocktail.

The Lords of Salem is an epic fail!

SITGES FILM FESTIVAL 2012

Posted in Directors, Events, Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2012 by Toi Brownstone

I woke up this morning with my body still stiff after my first film marathon at Sitges Film Festival yesterday, trying to put things in order so I can tell you about my experience this year.

First of all I have to admit Sitges is the perfect festival for me. There’s too much trash, as it compiles horror, sci-fi, Asiatic films… this is, mostly those non suitable films for standard festivals, but in essence the concept is as if tailor made.

This year I’m unemployed but unfortunately money matters here, and no press registration was available, thus I planned Tuesday evening to watch Chained and The Lords of Salem, and a morning to enjoy Antiviral and The Tall Man. That morning I added one more title, Grabbers, and in the last minute, I could attend this marathon featuring Aurora, Sightseers, Maniac and Johnny Dies at the End.

I still don’t know how to approach the 9 films I saw, because there were great ones I’d like to talk about individually in order to extend the review in depth, and others which, frankly, don’t deserve more than just a few lines. I think I’ll update these minor titles first, to go on with the good stuff.

What I can confirm is that there are several conclusions I reached this time. On one hand, talent and taste for the twisted are hereditary, as Jennifer Lynch and Brandon Cronenberg showed in their visions, and on the other, that great names are not guarantee of nothing anymore, as in the cases of Rob Zombie and Don Coscarelli. And yes, one more remark, there’s still redemption for Alexandre Aja, responsible for the script of the remake of William Lustig’s Maniac, together with his horrorsoulmate Grégory Lavasseur,  one of the best movies I saw last week.

Sitges 2012 has come to an end, but I still have lots of things to tell about, and of course, I’m counting the days already for October 2013.

COSMOPOLIS, David Cronenberg (2012)

Posted in Directors, Sci-Fi, Thriller, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , , , on October 8, 2012 by Toi Brownstone

The reason I probably started Popcorn and Movies almost four years ago was David Cronenberg, one of my favorite directors, if not the first one. I’ve revised my earliest posts and damn! They are short and terrible. I’m glad this is something I think I’ve improved  as I’ve been feeling more comfortable with what I wanted to do here. Regarding Cronenberg, , I’ve discovered that right after my first post introducing myself to the world, I immediately talked about the Canadian director. Mine is irrational passion for his work.

It’s been many years since the Baron of Blood started working into more conventional projects, such as A History of Violence or Eastern Promises, receiving sharp criticism who were charmed by his entrails, frightening tools, and twisted stories, in which you as the viewer had to put your senses to work in order to differ what was reality and what hallucination.

With a Dangerous Method, many fans gave up on him as there was no action, no sci-fi, and the story about the triangle relationship among Carl Jung, Sigmund Freud and Sabina Spielrein was too philosophical and very heavy to stand for many. Since I love subjects related to psychiatry, I enjoyed the film lots, but I knew immediately that fans would despise it.

Cronenberg is presenting  his last work Cosmopolis at Sitges Film Festival these days, before being released at cinemas in a couple of weeks, and I’ve managed to watch it already. After the trailers and despite the presence of Robert Pattinson, I was really excited about the film. I haven’t finished Don DeLillo’s book yet, but as far as I’m concerned, the script is quite loyal to the original story.

Cosmopolis basically tells the story of the decline of a 28-year-old powerful and hugely wealthy Wall Street shark, in just one day.

Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson) has so much money, he can buy everything in life. He’s the atypical man who can hardly understand NO for an answer, so used to have all kind of yes men around. He has barely slept last night and decides he needs a haircut at his favorite barbershop downtown. On an average day such errand would not take much time, but these are restless times, and the city is affected by the presence of the US president, a large funeral, and hordes of anarchists trying to put Capitalism to an end, rioting on the streets. All these events determine the car route to take, which has to be modified at any risk signal Torval (Kevin Durand), his security chief, receives. Thus, most part of the action takes place inside the car, a huge armed  limo equipped high technology, capable of isolating Packer from any outside threat. He receives visits from several counselors and advisers, who consider themselves at a lower lever than their employer, who is defined as a seer. Today Yuen, is behaving beyond his prediction, and the young billionaire is losing large amounts of money at the smallest time measure you might think of, but still he’s calm. Eventually “it will chart”.

He crosses ways with Elise Shifrin (Sarah Gadon), his new wife, a gorgeous poet who barely remembers his physical features and doesn’t feel like having sex with him. Their marriage was actually a transaction, as her family is even wealthier. No matter how much effort Eric puts in having average couple conversations and behaving normal towards her, she’s continuously rejecting and avoiding him. There’s no love nor affection, everything’s a fake. He only seems to be affected by the deprivation of sex, which he quickly eases sexual encounters with a former mistress (Juliette Binoche), who is his art consultant, and a security staff member. It’s remarkable they are both his employees.

Cosmopolis is a series of encounters with different kinds of people, and the cathartic ride of Packer from control and safety to the unknown and dangerous, a ride that he deliberately forced into motion, probably looking for a reason to live and many to keep on doing what he had been doing all these years. As the day advances, not only he’s losing his fortune, but also the unstable situation in the city begins to affect him, and the death threat to his persona is becoming real, so he starts looking forward to facing it the soonest possible.

Again David Cronenberg delivers a work too controversial from the fan point of view. Cosmopolis will never let you indifferent, but there’s one thing for sure: you’ll love it or hate it, but there’s no grey scale you can stick to. My choice is totally predictable: thumbs UP.

If there is something I’ve found disturbing in DeLillo’s book is precisely the coldness of Eric Packer. He’s a control freak and a visionary, and his counselors, real statistics and financial nerdy experts, are way behind him. Every time he asks a question they avoid answering to safe themselves from humiliation for not delivering a smart enough answer. Of the acquaintances he meets throughout the day, nobody stands at his same level, but his barber, Anthony, probably because he’s the only attachment to his past, and consequently to his father. “Destroy the past, make the future”.

His relationship with women is also peculiar. Recently married to Elise, they have nothing in common, and since the very beginning such marriage is doomed to fail. It’s another deal, another transaction, too aseptic, with a complete lack of confidence and affinity. He forces himself to act like an average husband to get what he really looks for in a woman, sex, and she’s constantly rejecting him, as she doesn’t depend on him but on her family, and is free to do so, as she’s not of his property. Eric hardly accepts this, and keeps on pushing, while in the meantime submit his female employees to his will. For instance, Jane Melman (Emily Hampshire), his chief of finance, is summoned to the limo on her day off while training, and she has to discuss yuen issues while he’s having his daily prostate exam, something which brings out a highly sexual tense situation. The only woman who perhaps receives all his attention and we could say respect, is Vija Kinski (Samantha Morton), his chief of theory, during the anarchist riots started by the rat men yelling the spector of capitalism” happening outside the car. No doubt their conversation, her analysis of what going on with capitalism, remarking that the future is inconsistent and something might happen that very same day, is the key of the whole story, the confirmation of Packer’s world collapsing.

In order not to spoil the film, I cannot extend much talking about another essential character, Benno Levin (Paul Giamatti), a loser who used to be enthusiastic about currency analysis. He aims to see Packer suffering for certain reasons, however, he’s at lower level, he cannot compete in dialectics, and no matter how hard he tries, he’s uncapable of impressing his former boss, it is the other way round.

Packer’s personality and behavior can be easily compared to American Psycho’s Patrick Bateman, leaving aside all the serial killing. They are both neat, powerful, cold, detached from reality and current society. While Bateman is unable to fit in because of his mental issues and his thirst of blood, Packer is unable to establish boundaries to real world due to his power. When he’s offered a piece of art by Rothko, he doesn’t show any passionate interest, he only wants to purchase a whole chapel to be rebuilt in his apartment just for his own pleasure, regardless the public interest. Everything has a price, and he will yield to his will only if outbid. The billionaire’s actual status would be reduced to his own sentence: “show me something I don’t know”. His wife Elise at some point realizes his main occupation is knowing things. The more you know the more you control, right?

The limo and the city are also relevant in the film. I’d say the limo is an extension of Packer himself, and all the damages it suffers during the riots are a reflection of his own decline. Inside the car remains intact, alien to what’s happening on the streets, protecting and isolating Packer from reality. The car works as an office, a private surgery room, a bachelor pad, a therapy room…and a toilet. The movement is almost unnoticeable, the city is burning while he inside is cold and silent.

Manhattan has been always a traffic mess, however the visit of the president, and the mourning and  funeral of Packer’s favorite rap artist Brutha Fez, seed chaos, which turns into complete mayhem with the riots. The unpredictability, combined with the man’s stubbornness, results fatal for someone who has everything under control to the detail.

I’ve been reading all kind of comments and reviews already, and seems that there’s not a firm and common verdict, which I particularly enjoy. There are aspects very criticized, I personally feel enthusiastic about. The cold tone of dialogues, the succession of visits and characters creating this one to one scenes, the rhythm of the story as a long ride, and the claustrophobic setting of the car…

My taste for this journeys to the lowest level of the human being is known. I also think of Shame here. Characters living a perfect and under control lives till there’s some twisting point which drives them to free falling into fatal decadence.

The story of Packer is the tale of a guy who never paid attention to improbability, the tale of a non so far away inconsistent future, and he fall of the values society was stuck to.

Can’t think of anyone better than Cronenberg to depict the above mentioned. The presence of Peter Suschitzky responsible for cinematography, is essential to deliver such an impressive visual film, beautiful in technique and outstanding in aesthetics, the participation of Howard Shore once again with the soundtrack, is subtle yet fully intense. The director’s special taste to adapt DeLillo’s work in a magnificent way, managing to develop his personal insane atmosphere is out of question. You watch Cosmopolis and even though Cronenberg has diverted from earlier works, or it should be about time to change the term to EVOLVED, you clearly notice his trademark. It’s difficult to recreate a complex story with your personal features remaining almost intact.

It’s taken me many years to understand and feel comfortable with David Cronenberg’s works at first glance, and because I don’t trust myself when dealing with him, I reckon more screenings are necessary in order to hog as many details as possible and be able to announce a final verdict. All I can say 24 hours after my first approach is that once again, Cosmopolis is not an easy film, and lots of people will end up disappointed. I wouldn’t pay too much attention to reviews and critics and would recommend you to enjoy/suffer the experience yourself, trying to isolate yourself in the Packer way form comments and anything which might influence you.

If I get the chance to see the Canadian director in Sitges tomorrow, I will only say to him BRAVO!

Ah! Before I forget… Seems that Pattinson can act.

 

ANGEL HEART, Alan Parker (1987)

Posted in Film Noir, Horror, Thriller with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , on September 24, 2012 by Toi Brownstone

It’s been too long since my last update. What can I say? I’ve been watching movies all the time but wasn’t too inspired, perhaps because my behavior is usually more erratic in Summer. We’ll see what happens this new season.

Few days ago I saw a couple of amazing tattoos related to Alan Parker’s film Angel Heart, and immediately I felt the urge to watch it again, as it had been years since the last viewing.

Memories came to mind. On one hand Robert De Niro and his terrible nails, peeling and eating a poach egg, that sight used to make me feel really uneasy. On the other hand all the scandal related to Lisa Bonet, who used to play the role of Denise Huxtable, one of the daughters of Bill Cosby, in his show. Due to a couple of very intense scenes, to label them in some way, the powerful and and fatherly man, threw stones against her, because she didn’t fit in the projection of the good side of black people he aimed to spread through his series. She wasn’t the good daughter anymore, she was hot, sexy, and played with black magic. Definitely she was the black sheep escaped from the cattle and on the road to sin.

Alan Parker, the English director, had been able to deliver a controversial film such as Midnight Express, and then work on music oriented stories such as Fame or a project of the classic Pink Floyd’s The Wall. His versatility pushed him to adapt the novel Falling Angel, by William Hjortsberg, writing and directing what was to become this mixture of a detective film-noir with a touch of horror: Angel Heart.

The cast of characters was impressive: Robert De Niro, Charlotte Rampling, Lisa Bonet and Mickey Rourke at the peak of his career, as Harry Angel.

The starting point is New York City in the mid 1950’s. Harry Angel (Mickey Rourke) is one of these not so lucky private detectives, who usually receive non relevant assignments related to infidelity in marriages, insurance cheats and so on. His presence is requested by a new client, in a church in Harlem. Louis Cyphre (Robert De Niro),  is an elegant and proud gentleman, yet mysterious, who asks him to find Johnny Favorite, a famous crooner who vanished after being wounded in WWII, suffering brain damage which drifted away from his contractual  obligations with the gentleman, who thinks he’s still in debt and wants to sort this unfinished business with him. First step is to visit the mental hospital where Favorite, or better said Johnny Liebling, was checked-in for a while. While having a look at the records, he notices that the date of transferring appearing was manipulated later, and goes straight to the doctor who handled the case, named Fowler, a current morphine addict. Right after the man confesses he got paid by a wealthy man to alter he records, he shoots himself, putting  Angel at risk of being charged of murder. Scared, the detective tries to quit but Mr. Cyphre offers him a large sum of money to go on with the case, and Angel, a poor rat seduced by the  offer accepts. It is his lover, an attractive journalist who’d provide information about Favorite’s background, highlighting the name of a black woman he used to be in love with, Evangeline Proudfoot, and a fortune teller who used to live in Coney Island, named Madame Zora (Charlotte Rampling). These two women will make him drive to New Orleans searching for the singer, but the truth waiting for him, will be too hard and overwhelming.

I remember long time ago someone asked in a forum about films closely related to cities. You know, Taxi Driver would be Manhattan, 28 Days Later an apocalyptical London, and Bullit would mean Frisco. I’ve never been to New Orleans, but always have related Angel Heart to Nola. It’s been always said that city is bewitched, due to the tradition of voodoo and black magic rituals which took place during the times of slavery. This Creole city, hosting a multilingual and cross-cultural mixture, has always kept a magical mysterious halo around, allowing uncommon debauchery and frivolity.

In the film, New Orleans atmosphere is suffocating, heat followed by torrential rain, thus the unstable weather condition enhances this feeling of tension and uneasiness. Its role reminds me of Apocalypse Now. The more Angel digs into the mystery finding all the clues which will eventually lead him to the truth, the more unbearable the atmospheric conditions are, and the harder is to distinguish what is hallucination from reality.

Symbolism is the key of the story. To start with, think of the name of Louis Cyphre, mispronounced by Angel all the time, and you’ll get a clue. It’s totally ironic.

Chickens’ presence is constant and reminded all the time, and the detective suffers from an unexplainable phobia, justified when you discover what’s going on. Chicken legs, voodoo rituals conducted by Epiphany Proudfoot (Lisa Bonet), covering herself in chicken blood after cutting one’s neck, the poached eggs I was telling you about Cyphre peels and eats…

There are visual elements which make you wonder what happens: the slow  screeching fans, Angel in an elevator going downwards, the black faceless nun, the marine kissing the nurse in Time Square on New Year’s Eve, the red room with a fan and the agonizing screams of a man… and the piano sounds whenever someone is about to die. I particularly love that moment Angel gets into Madame Krusemark’s wealthy house and finds her dead, and there’s this kind on the street dancing claque very intensely, till the detective discovers all the horrible mess, and the sequence ends when the kid stops making noise. Brilliant!

The treatment of blood is worth mentioning. In general terms, thefilm is quite dark and contrast of colours quite poor and neuter, however, when there are scenes involving blood, this balance is saturated and red color is extremely intense. Not only that, but the blood is widely splattered, and it’s thick and heavy. There’s a moment when Angel stands with the razor, after fighting with the local musician Toots Sweet, covered in lots of blood. He’s just been cut in the hand, when defending himself, however he’s soaked in blood, super exaggerated.

I had never paid the attention deserved to Rourke’s interpretative style till yesterday, and I must admit I was surprised in a very positive way. He has to play a detective who is a complete loser, but has to look tough, like in film noir main titles. He’s far away from master Bogey, who represented the iconic detective, tough, elegant, attractive, and silent type. Angel is a loser, messy and dirty, he sweats and probably smells, and he’s injured, punched, bitten, and he’s afraid. The deeper he’s into the mud of the case, the darker he becomes. His desperation in the last scenes is unforgettable, the way he cries and yells, how he looks at his own reflection trying to put himself together and failing, he’s awesome.

Of course DeNiro is something different, all the details about him, the nails resembling claws, the stick, the way he eats, his hairdo, the majestic way of sitting on a chair and Cyphre positioned at some kind of raised dais at an upper level than Angel as to show some kind of superiority, everything is there to fit a purpose.

Angel Heart is definitely a film which is perfect to review from time to time, because it’s so full of subtle references and details created to add meaning to the story, with every viewing you discover something new.

Harry Angel was doomed to a spiral of murder and insanity for succumbing to the temptation of money. Greed is one of the most profitable sins in terms of film stories. When the main character accepts a deal or a sum of money, is also opening the doors to the Devil, and even though Catholic religion has been always trying to convince us that the goodness and faith defeated the evil, the presence of the devil is always around, threatening, and waiting for the right moment to recover its power regardless, thus in case of business, the evil powers always take what is of their own, with interests.

ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND, Michel Gondry (2004)

Posted in Drama, Romance, Sci-Fi with tags , , , , , , , on May 15, 2012 by Toi Brownstone

Mood affects activies beyond our understanding. Not only that, but also the atmosphere, the companion, the weather…many external factors influence on the impact we receive when listening to a record, observing a painting or watching a movie.

I had seen this film 3-4 years ago, and didn’t understand why such cult around it. I thought it to be boring, abstract, and not very clear, you can add that I’m not a big fan of Jim Carrey, then the final verdict was thumbs down.

The fact that one of my best friends digs a lot, and considering he’s quite rough and extreme in his judgments, black or white and not much of grey in between, made me go for a second chance. This time Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind made a great impression.

Having the story still very fresh, I don’t really know how to label this film. Many references  come to my head. On one hand, all the memory erasing procedure brings me to Total Recall, and all the love and lack of love story makes me think of Blue Valentine.

Among other qualities and features, chaos and impulsiveness reign in Clementine’s life (Kate Winslet). Sick of her relationship with Joel(Jim Carrey), contracts the services of Lacuna, experts in memory erasure, and undergoes this deleting and resetting procedure. Her decision is irreversible and unilateral, and Joel, after trying to contact her to see why she’s acting so erratic, eventually finds out what she’s done.

Miserable and devastated, he can’t cope with the situation, thus submitting to the memory erasure seems the only logic solution to overcome his pain. He bursts into Lacuna office demanding a quick and urgent action, as they are already involved in his misery.  Dr. Mierzwiak (Tom Wilkinson) promises the effective remedy for his suffering, assisted by Stan (Mark Ruffalo), who will conduct all the procedure while Joel is sleeping, together with Patrick (Elijah Wood).

In order to erase any memories, which include the tiniest details, Joes is required to collect any single item which reminds him of Clementine, thus, thanks to a mapping procedure collecting all the bran movements or reactions towards these objects, Stan will be able to reach any corner in his brain which might contain Clem in it. Mapping aside, as standard, an extended interview with impressions, explanations related to the erasing process and the reasons is tape recorded, to be included in the personal file of each client.

It’s the perfect job, with no claiming afterwards, as patients never remember their visit to Lacuna, and they’re responsible for notifying acquaintances of this procedure, so there won’t be any future side effects.

Joel is ready. he buys new pajamas, follows the instructions advised by Dr. Mierzwiak and quickly passes out. It’s time Stan and Patrick take care of business, but distractions related to women will prevent them from performing professionally. On one hand, Patrick had a crush on Clementine and thanks to his knowledge of her situation and things she confessed during her interview, he’s managed to become her boyfriend. But she, for no apparent reason feels awkward and estranged, and needs him to be by her side. On the other, Stan and the gorgeous nurse at  Lacuna, Mary (Kirsten Dunst) are secretly dating, and she stops by to make some companion and have some fun.

The sedatives are not working as they should and within his dream Joel notices something weird is going on. At the same time he’s recalling all those good and bad moments with Clementine and eventually he realizes he doesn’t want to lose those great past times they lived. That’s not the solution for easing the pain. So his dream and his conscious part will turn into a huge struggle against memory loss, trying to hide what le loves most, Clementine, in hidden corners of his mind memories, not related to her.

Things are happening at the same time both inside Joel’s mind, and in the real world. Events and feelings which prove that mind erasing is not the magical solution for certain problems, and all the characters involved, eventually suffer the consequences.

When I started watching the film this last time, and the concept of memory erasing was introduced, I thought that was something that would have perfectly worked for me, and even nowadays, when I can say I’ve overcome my sentimental wreckage but still scars aren’t totally healed, I thought of it as perfectly valid.

Considering an inner mechanism has blocked most of my memories of a 10-year relationship naturally, and I’m talking serious, I found it workable. Truth is that in a relationship you share  experiences such as travelling, shows and many other events I love, and partial erasure is not conceived.

Memory erasure would work  if you never had contact with the source of those memories again, but, and this is the reason why all this procedure fails, memories are highly influenced by feelings, and your sensitivity remains intact. Therefore, Clementine feels weird because she doesn’t know she still misses Joel, and after Lacuna’s intervention, when they meet on the train the attraction is instant. Relationships among human beings are said to be pure chemistry combination of hormones, right?

No, deleting memories is not fair, otherwise people making mistakes or choosing wrong, or hurting people, would be abusing of this method, that would become kind of artificial reset. Whatever causes you pain or sadness must be faced and overcome from within yourself. What would you do if one morning you received a letter confirming your best friend has erased you from his memories and consequently from his life without your consent and acceptance? You wouldn’t react positive, that’s for sure.

The dynamism of the film, the mayhem and unsteadiness of the camera, and the different levels of narration, past-present-future, past within past, and these time combinations, can contribute to a sense of chaos if you’re in the right mood, you won’t definitely enjoy. I remember the first time I saw the film, Clem’s hair color changing, cars crashing on the asphalt, things vanishing… Christopher Nolan’s Inception  was the opposite, with the adding and the creation of a fake world, but carefully explained and detailed, highlighting those changes of stages, however, in Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind, that separation is subtly marked by lights, settings and attitudes.

The story of Joel and Clementine is as standard as many others. A couple which reaches that point in which monotony and routines reign. Clem as an unstable woman can’t endure that situation any longer and carries out her personal choice without considering Joel’s feelings nor even hers. Too sad and ridiculous, the miracle, the easy way out,  eventually fails.

Progress and the power of our minds sometimes do not work fine mixed, luckily for us!