REVIEW – King of the Hill (2007)

VideoVista has my review of King of The Hill (El Rey De La Montana).  Not the long-running animated comedy but rather a taught and atmospheric Spanish thriller directed by Gonzalo-Lopez Gallago.

King of the Hill, along with a number of other films I have reviewed in the last year, suggest that Europe is going through something of a genre boom at the moment.  Britain and France are churning out genre films like nobody’s business and places like Spain and Norway are following suit.  Sadly, while a lot of these films are very well directed indeed, not that many of them are well written and King of the Hill is further evidence of that observation’s validity.

Police (1985) – Two Faces, Neither of Them Real

Can art ever articulate the truth?  The films of Maurice Pialat display a grave ambivalence towards that question.  With his first film, L’Enfance Nue (1968) Pialat showed a real animosity towards not only traditional forms of cinematic story-telling, but the very conceit and artificiality of fiction itself.  Pialat is a director who wants to put the real world on the screen without the traditional intermediaries of editorial or narrative.  However, despite this hostility to the artificiality of artistic representation, Pialat never returned to his roots as a documentary film-maker.  Instead, he produced films such as Nous Ne Vieillirons Pas Ensemble (1972) and La Gueule Ouverte (1974).  Films that presented themselves as traditional dramas, but which were in fact elaborately dramatised autobiographical meditations upon his own life.

Police is a film that continues Pialat’s tradition of ontological uncertainty.  It is a work of genre by a film-maker who loathed fiction and a character study by a man who seemed to believe that there was no such thing as the self.  Unsurprisingly, Police is a film that exists under a permanent ontological fog.

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REVIEW – The Ungodly (2007)

Videovista has my review of a somewhat uneven but intriguing serial killer film by Thomas Dunn.

The site also has my rather more negative review of terrible British Horror flick Tormented (2009).  A film that, I suspect, actually improves if you watch the DVD extras first as you get to see how profoundly unlikeable some of the cast members are before they are brutally murdered

that watching the extras first probably improves the viewing experience as you get to see how profoundly unlikeable the young actors are and then you get to see them brutally murderer.

REVIEW – The Second Wind (2007)

Videovista has my review of the rather puzzling remake of Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Deuxieme Souffle (1966).  On paper, this is a bold and interesting production : it has big names, it has striking cinematography and it has a director who is experienced enough to remember the good old days of French crime films.

The result is a film that does not quite work but it is, at least, an ambitious failure (and the story and characters are pretty much idiot-proof anyway).

The September Issue (2009) – The Lair of the Clockwork God

Due to a lack of money, a lack of time, a lack of people to impress and a lack of a body that someone would want to make clothes for, I have little interest in what is fashionable.  I dress in pretty much the same way I did when I was 14 and I think I still have some of the same socks.  As a result, you might expect me to have little interest in R. J. Cutler’s documentary about the construction of the September 2007 issue of Vogue magazine.  Well, you might very well expect that, but you would be utterly wrong.  It is precisely because I have no interest in what is fashionable that I find the world of fashion so profoundly compelling. Films about the fashion industry are explorations of another culture completely different to my own.  A culture with a good deal of impact upon the world that we all inhabit.  Because of its power and the strangeness of its people and institutions, the fashion industry is a fascinating subject for a film.  Regardless of whether it is explored through mockery (as with Robert Altman’s 1994 Pret-a-Porter), hagiography (as with Rodolphe Marconi’s 1997 Lagerfeld Confidential) or thinly veiled contempt (as with David Frankel’s 2006 The Devil Wears Prada).

R.J. Cutler’s The September Issue approaches the subject with a mixture of awe and mockery but, despite some initial setbacks, the film provides some genuine insight into how it is that the world of fashion functions and why it is that it has so much power over our society.

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District 9 (2009) – Stand By For Level 3

Summer 2009 saw the birth of an interesting piece of terminology.  Reflecting the success of titles such as Iron Man (2008), Terminator Salvation (2009) and the Transformers series, “robots hitting each other” has become a short-hand way of referring to the kind of shallow and crassly commercial genre film-making that is currently dominating Hollywood release schedules.  Films not merely unintelligent but actually hostile to thought.  Films designed to eliminate critical distance through the sensorial onslaught of bloated running times packed with explosions, violence and spectacle.  Films that are the cinematic equivalent to the US using loud music to drive Manuel Noriega out of the Vatican embassy during the invasion of Panama.  Given a cultural climate in which Hollywood is essentially using psychological warfare against its own customers, it is only natural that many of us should yearn for something more.  Ever since the first trailers dropped, Neil Blomkamp’s District 9 has presented itself as a summer film with that little something extra : Science fiction that rises above robots hitting each other to become genuinely thought provoking and intelligent.  However, the reality of District 9 is that what ideas it has are used up in the first twenty minutes, after which the film collapses into a mire of clumsy metaphors, poorly written characters and the kind of plot you would find only in the most hollow-skulled of video games.

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Passe Ton Bac D’Abord (1979) – The Ordered Nature of Chaotic Lives

For his fifth feature film, Maurice Pialat returned to northern France to take a second look at the disaffected youth that inspired him to make his first full-length film L’Enfance Nue (1968).  A spiritual successor to that film, Graduate First initially comes across as a work that is almost free form.  A work that takes its pseudo-documentary, cinema verite stylings to their logical conclusion by refusing to place a coherent narrative onto the lives of Pialat’s characters.  However, as with Nous Ne Vieillirons Pas Ensemble (1972), Passe Ton Bac D’Abord is a film that draws upon a deep, narrative structure that suggests that, while the lives of these young people may seem chaotic and random, these are the kinds of lives that people have always lived.

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