arthouse

Bipolar – Queena Li (2021)

I usually list films by their original title. IMDb.com does too, but in this case they have not listed it at all. The original title is ‘只是一次偶然的旅行’ (‘Zhǐshì yīcì ǒurán de lǚxíng’) which means ‘Just an accidental trip’. Indeed, a way different title from the international title. The original title does give a good summery of the film.

Kun is a young, Chinese woman who goes on a pilgrimage to Tibet. On her way, she ‘meets’ a holy lobster in a tank in a hotel. She decides to take the lobster back to the sea. Rather than driving towards the coast, she drives into the Himalayas.

The film is shot in black and white with every now and then a scene with very bright (hallucinatory) colors. Most scenes are a bit weird, but the film is not as weird or hilarious as some describe it. I would say it is a somewhat quirky arthouse roadmovie.

Gisaengchung – Bong Joon Ho (2019)

In “Parasite” the son of a poor family is hired to teach the daughter of a very rich family. Soon he manages to reel in his sister, then his father and even his mother.

It takes takes quite some manipulating to get all that done, but the family sees an opportunity. The fact that they are all very articulate helps and the family is very easy to manipulate too.

Things go well until their predecessors have a few surprises in stock and things run very much out of hand.

“Parasite” is an amusing film with black humour and a weird story.

Martha Marcy May Marlene – Sean Durkin (2011)

In this fairly typical arthouse film we mostly follow Martha who has been in some sort of commune from which she escaped and fled to her sister.

The film tells but parts of the story. We do not know how Martha came to join the cult. Nor do we find out what exactly caused the trauma she has. The film jumps back and forth between the present and events in the two years that Martha lived on the farm. What is well done is that the past and present start to run through each other. And then the film just stops.

The film is alright, but it should have been less ‘artsy’ and just tell the story it wanted to tell.

Youth * Paolo Sorrentino (2015)

Like with the last reviewed title of Sorrentino, this latest film is a pompous and pretentious drama. “Youth” is very much in this Sorrentino style and as with “La Grande Bellezza” it is well-done, but not entirely my type of film.

We mostly follow two old men who celebrate their holidays in a luxery resort in Switzerland as they have done for decades. Fred Ballinger (Michael Caine) is a retired orchestra director and Mick Boyle (Harvey Keitel) an aged, but still active film director. The two talk about getting old, the pains that come with that phase of live and of course they look back at their lives. This is done with amusing dialoges and in the settings of the extreme luxery of their Swiss hotel. There are other guests as well of course. Ballinger’s daughter is also his manager, even though he thinks his carreer is done with. Boyle is still working on a film which he supposes to be his last one.

Sorrentino again uses long shots, lengthy dialogues, nudity and portrays the enstrangement and solitude of some of the characters in a melancholic and yet lightly humorous fashion. This makes “Youth” comparable to his previous title, but also for example a film like “American Beauty”.

Birdman * Alejandro González Iñárritu (2014)

A fine film indeed! I expected a bit of a weird drama and “Birdman” indeed is a bit of a weird drama, but not as weird as the poster and trailer suggest or perhaps just differently and more subtlely.

Riggan is an actor who made fame with the pompous Hollywood comic-scifi franchise Birdman. We find him later in life running a theatre in the hip theatre scene of New York trying to perform the play of his life. Things do not entirely go as planned especially not when Mike comes aboard.

Birdman appears to not only be Riggan’s old movie-character and Riggan also is not an ordinary man thus the film has nicely surreal elements from the beginning. The film is shot with flying cameras and threatre-like drama so both in form and content “Birdman” is certainly a film to see.

The Grand Budapest Hotel * Wes Anderson (2014)

This highly acclaimed film was not too high on my wishlist, but my girlfriend already saw it and thought that I should too. It is a nice film indeed.

“The Grand Budapest Hotel” has a bit of the atmosphere of “Amélie“; slightly absurdistically surrealistic, both romantic and somewhat tragic and with colourfull stages and weird characters and situations.

A writer goes to the gone-glory Grand Budapest Hotel where he meets the owner. This owner tells him the story of how he came to possess the hotel. A weird story about the “legendary concierge” Gustave H. unfolds. This extremely distiguished gentleman seems to be the main reason for the rich and famous to come to the hotel. When a customer of his dies and leaves Gustave a priceless painting, the family of the deceased opens all cabinets to prevent the concierge from obtaining the most valuable item of the legacy. Gustave and his favourite bellboy try to clear Gustave’s name.

The film contains a range of famous actors in unlikely roles which certainly adds to the amusement of the film. For the rest, it is a film for people like light, but ‘high brow’ comedy and the slightly surrealistic films like those of Jeanne-Pierre Jeunet or Paul Thomas Andersson.

The Tree Of Life * Terrence Malick (2011)

“The Tree Of Life” is what you can call a “difficult film”. It is extremely “artsy fartsy” and thus probably not for everyone. The film opens with some pretty heavy scenes about a family that lost their oldest son. The family is very religious and some three quarters of an hour follow in which the parents wonder how God could have done such a thing. Malick comes with very long earth and space documentary scenes, the purpose of which is not entirely clear to me. Does Malick try to set the death of the boy against the grandeur and magnitude of Creation? After much amazing imaginary, the film turns back to being a film and we learn about the history of the family. Malick keeps using a minimalistic approach with long stretched scenes and little dialogue.
I guess “The Tree Of Life” is a ‘love it or hate it’. I find the approach daring, perhaps overdone, but why should every film be the same? Interesting for sure. Not much of a ‘feeling good’ film, but what the heck?

La Piel Que Habito * Pedro Almodóvar (2011)

Presented as a thriller comes the latest Almodóvar which seems to get most attention because Antonio Banderas plays the mayor part. Banderas is Robert Ledgard, a leading plastic surgeon with operation rooms inside his house. In his private place Ledgard does experiments many of his colleagues disapprove of. Things get even more weird in the actual story which is actually but a variant of one of the oldest horror stories. The film jumps back and forth in time to present the unlikely story. I cannot say that “The Skin I Live In” is a very original or even a good film. In a way it is a horror story in an arthouse cloth and it is not like the acting is bad or the film boring, but it is but an arthouse film.

Cosmopolis * David Cronenberg (2012)

The new Cronenberg is not your average film. Not very typical for Cronenberg either! Even though it is a strange book turned into film, it is nothing like “Naked Lunch” or similar films. “Cosmopolis” is a slightly surrealistic ride of the young yup Eric Packer. This absurdly rich 28 year old made his fortune with speculating the market (I think). In the entire film we follow him crossing Manhatten in his stretched limo. The film is very minimalistic in story and acting, sometimes becoming annoying. The opening scene sets the tone. Eric tells his head of security that he wants a haircut way across Manhattan even if that means crossing through a city that welcomes the president, is filled with anti-capitalist protestors and with a thread on Eric’s life. During the ride Eric welcomes several employees in his limo with whom he has lengthy philosophical discussions about capitalism and modern life. A few times he gets out and the intellectual but hollow discussions continue. Imagine a very slow pace (the traffic is jammed, the film has an according pace) and a few weird habbits of the extremely wealthy and you might have a faint idea of what this film is like. “Cosmopolis” is certainly a film that I have to see again at some point. As of now, I am tossed between finding it annoying (but that is probably on purpose) and finding it inventive. When it was finished, I did not have a bad feeling about it. Now, some time later, I mostly remember what I did not like, rather than what I did. I guess the overall atmosphere and the uniqueness of the film makes my opinion positive. Nope, not an easy film.

Small Town Murder Songs * Ed Gass-Donnelly (2010)

What a great film. The title refers to three main elements of the film. In a small town, a murder is committed. The small town is a very religious, remote community and the film is layered with Biblical quotes and religious singing. Often the music replaces the sound of the film which is very well done. It certainly gives the film a great and slightly surrealistic atmosphere. What adds to this is the very slow pace of the film. Long shots before something happens, not too much dialogue. The story is mainly about Walter, a local police officer with a past that keeps catching up with him, in particular during the investigation of his first murder case. This does not really make the film a thriller, it is more a drama with thriller elements. I love a film in which music is used in such a way that it intensifies the film and “Small Town Murder Songs” is definately one of them.