REVIEW – Soi Cowboy (2008) and James Wood on the challenge of Generic Innovation

Videovista have my review of Thomas Clay’s second film Soi Cowboy.

I reviewed Clay’s first film The Great Ecstacy of Robert Carmichael (2005) for my old site but while I found the film incoherent at the time, I have since warmed to it significantly as my taste in films has evolved.  In fact, I think it is a bold and distinctive piece of film-making (especially when you bear in mind that the director was in his mid-twenties when he made it).

Soi Cowboy is a much tamer affair.  In fact, it seems to serve primarily as a vehicle for the director to ‘pay his dues’ and prove that he is a ‘good cultural citizen’ who has watched all the greats and assimilated their ideas and techniques.  This strikes me as quite depressing as Robert Carmichael was not the film of a director who needed to prove himself.  It is also sad that art house cinema has reached a point where it can be reduced to a set of techniques and formulae that can be reproduced on demand.  As I suggested in my pieces about La Moustache (2005) and Valhalla Rising (2009), this represents the ossification of an artistic tradition into a genre.

My pieces about Soi Cowboy, Valhalla Rising and La Moustache contain quite a bit of irritation about this process of ossification but then I read something that helped me shed some new light on my own thinking…

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REVIEW – Valhalla Rising (2009)

Videovista have my review of Nicolas Winding Refn’s Valhalla Rising.

Valhalla Rising is a beautifully shot and darkly existentialist riff on Conrad’s Heart of Darkness which, in the grand tradition of Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, The Wrath of God (1972) and Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now (1979), moves the action from colonial Africa to the age of Vikings.

It is a densely symbolic and beautifully shot film and… it bored the shit out of me.  My main problem with the film is similar to the problem exposed by Emmanuel Carrere’s La Moustache (2005) and demonstrated by Thomas Clay’s Soi Cowboy (2008).

I’ll expand my thoughts n the problem in the post linking to the review of Soi Cowboy but the three posts kind of interlink.