Print Story Smörgåsbord of weekend London Film Festival films.
By Tonatiuh (Tue Oct 21, 2008 at 07:18:04 AM EST) (all tags)
Foolish me, I either watch films or write reviews, so I am forced to make very succinct remarks of the following:

Frost Nixon (political drama) @@@@@
The desert within (religious drama) @@@
Quick Gun Murugan (slapstick Indian comedy) @@@
Lake Tahoe (coming of age drama) @@@
Awaydays (hooligans brotherly love) @
Hunger (Northern Ireland troubles) @@@@@
The silence before Bach (artsy fartsy nonsense) @
The Warlords (Chinese historical drama) @@@@

Frost Nixon (political drama) @@@@@

all the hype has been justified regarding this movie, it is a very incisive study in what it means to be powerful and crooked but without loosing since of the humanity of the fallen crook.

The movie is surprisingly funny, mostly at the expense of Nixon, but the jokes and jibes are not gratuitous, they are all used to good effect to build the main characters, the feat of describing serious characters by means of the funny comments they make is a difficult one, which I think is achieved superbly in this film.

This is a cautionary tale that any would be leader would be well advised to sit and watch carefully. Thoroughly recommended.

The desert within (religious drama) @@@

this is an odd Mexican movie, it deals with the theme of religious zeal, the history develops by following a very religious family whose luck is certainly going south during a time when religious intolerance from the state was prevalent.

Initially the father of the family shows great religious faith, going to great lengths to provide for the religious needs of his family, but things don't turn out for the better and little by little, in a savage manner, his fate is tested, until he becomes a fanatic that will not stop at anything to satisfy god, a zeal that will lead to tragic consequences.

The movie has many interesting points (portrayal of religious life in small Mexican towns, reference to many day to day religious rites and local practices) and is worth watching only for this reason. The story sometimes is not convincing and some situations are not fully satisfying, nevertheless is one more worthwhile effort from my countrymen that deserves to be watched widely.

Quick Gun Murugan (slapstick Indian comedy) @@@

Indian cowboys galore! The Indians in the audience were laughing their socks off, the rest of us were mostly baffled (the best jokes are in Tamil, and perhaps the subtitles did not make them justice). The hero that graciously gives the name to the movie battles the villains that want to get rid of vegetarianism from the face of Earth. Kidnappings, gang killings, reincarnation, dosa and Indian mums figure all prominently in a couple of hours of the silliest of funs.

Lake Tahoe (coming of age drama) @@@

another Mexican movie, by the director of Duck Season, the mood is intimate and follows a couple of days in the life of a troubled young man who is coming to terms with tragedy, then has a car accident that will lead him to find new people that will help him in strange ways to come to terms with the harsh realities of life.

slow going, but much more polished than Duck Season, it should have far more success given its maturity. Why are Mexican making so many good movies?

Awaydays (hooligans brotherly love) @

No, no, no.

Having great rock music, a very accurate representation of the 80s, and not so bad acting can't deterr from the fact that this is a movie that threads dangerously in an apology of the most brutal of hooliganisms.

This is a "Green Street" but in steroids, and with gay love for you to munch over.

In the Q&A session one of the actors talked about how these people found a bond in football, what he failed to realise (and there is my main complaint) is that football does not even figure in the plot, it is completely inicidental, the excuse these toughs use to gather could have been any other, the real objective is to probe themselves to each other by means of abject brutal behaviour.

But of course if you find bonding, self affirmation and escapism in stabbing other people as stupid as you are, then it should be all right then. I think this tepid view of the topic should be dropped frankly.

Hunger (Northern Ireland troubles) @@@@@

the previous comments swiftly brings me here. Gosh, how do you portray war? In this way precisely, in an almost documentarily fashion, where there are no winners or losers. No, were everybody loses even if you think you are winning.

I have read that some people think this is an apology for the IRA, and frankly I can't see how this may be so. Both sides of the dive are presented as the human beings they are, both sides are presented at their best and at their worst if you really pay attention.

The film is horribly graphic, and perhaps some people are getting confused there by thinking that presenting the realities of life in the infamous Maze is somehow lionising the IRA. I personally did not feel that, specially trying was the sequence in which an RUC prison guard is dispatched. Nobody that is serious about this topic can seriously say that such scene portrayed the IRA in a positive light.

Must watch but only if you are not easily shocked. No, let me rephrase that, only if you can stand the shock of real violence portrayed accurately on film.

The silence before Bach (artsy fartsy nonsense) @

No plot. Piano plays itself, blind man tunes piano, a bit of Bach music, almost non existing  plot involving  Bach lookalike, Spanish trucker, a kapellmeister. Naked babe. End.

Verdict: avoid and buy a good CD with Bach's music.

The Warlords (chinese historical drama) @@@@

Watch. Very good.

Bye! (rushing to next movie)

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Smörgåsbord of weekend London Film Festival films. | 2 comments (2 topical, 0 hidden)
Hunger by Alan Crowe (2.00 / 0) #1 Tue Oct 21, 2008 at 11:14:27 AM EST
I saw a trailer for Hunger on Sunday, preceding Burn After Reading. I'm curious about the hunger strikes, but I got the impression from the trailer that the film, Hunger, would do nothing to satisfy my curiosity.

I see myself as a "fringe" personality, susceptible to the lure of cults. This manifests in various ways. Some are positive. I'm a smug Lisp Weenie. I enjoyed my time as an undergraduate, studying mathematics at Trinity College, Cambridge, and the cloistered cultish atmosphere was part of the pleasure. Some are weird such as my membership of the Society for Barefoot Living and being a Furry. My involvement with a small Buddhist cult, the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order, is clearly religious.

I was puzzled by the popular response to 9/11 because people saw the hijackers as inhuman. Getting caught up in a cult, losing the plot, and doing something very wicked, struck me as a very human thing to do, something that I consciously work at avoiding. There were training camps in Afghanistan with 1000 members, as large as Trinity College. You start at the back of the crowd, idolizing the small, hard core up on the stage. You gain status by denouncing America, learning to fire an AK47, learning to fire an RPG-7, going off to fight but not seeing action, going off to fight and seeing action, going of to fight and discharging your weapon, albeit from a ineffective range. At each stage you gain status and move towards centre stage. At each stage more of the crowd is behind you. Little by little you become more invested, the glue that sticks you to the conveyor belt becomes more set, doubts about the path you are traveling less thinkable.

I see a psychological unity between Al Queada, the harmless cults I'm part of, and cults such as Heaven's Gate, the Solar Temple, and Jim Jones' People's Temple. Commitment buys status. Outsiders and losers can be somebody. Yeah! I don't doubt that being an IRA man shares in that psychological unity.

So I would be very interested in watching a film about Bobby Sands saw through the cloak of being a "Freedom Fighter" and looked at the psychological processes. How do you fight off awareness? Are friends who might say "its not worth it" silenced by social pressures? Are they dropped, and if so how is the pain of losing friends blunted so that it does not serve as a warning? Does deeper involvement with the cause mean that they are left behind at an early stage?

There is a rival narrative, that believes in causes and the brave men who fight on one side or the other. Watching a film derived from that perspective would run directly counter to my goal, which is to strengthen my ability to see through the illusions of cults and causes.

What line does Hunger take?

Film ambigous,stays with freedom fighter narrative by Tonatiuh (4.00 / 1) #2 Tue Oct 21, 2008 at 02:54:10 PM EST
The psychological meat of the movie is the central dialogue between Bobby Sands and a Catholic priest friend of  his, during a visit of the priest Sands announces his intention to start a hunger strike, with the full purpose to see it all through to the ultimate consequences.

Bobby Sands is portrayed as somebody that clearly believed on the fairness of his cause, I seem to remember that at some point the "freedom fighter" phrase is used, so to me there is no question that the director wants Bobby Sands to act and believe that he is a freedom fighter that needs no ulterior motives to sacrifice himself to a cause that he sees as just, his portrayal on the film clearly uses the traditional narrative in which everybody takes sides they consider just.

This is not to say that Bobby Sands is presented as an unthinking person just following orders, the movie insinuates the IRA's leadership was not necessarily very supportive of the hunger strike, which could have stolen  their thunder. During the dialogue with the priest Sands  questions the IRA  leadership's course of action as well as the different ways to look at Catholicism, keeping in mind he is just going to start a hunger strike that will eventually lead to his demise, a capital sin of his faith.

Sands' priest tries to dissuade him from this course of action using several weighty reasons, so the implication is that there was not a clear cut opinion about the matter,  Sands' position is made more ambivalent by this context.

The movie is really complex, the violent context is portrayed superbly, it is  surprising how little dialogue there is, except for the long one between Sands and his priest, for long stretches it feels like an old silent movie,  I think that the traditional narrative of people understanding their historical roles as  fighters for a good cause is used at all times.

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Smörgåsbord of weekend London Film Festival films. | 2 comments (2 topical, 0 hidden)