Category Archives: arthouse

The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things * Asia Argento (2004)

“The Heart…” is a heavy drama about a boy Jeremiah, who was born to a 16-something mother and given up for adoption. The film opens when Jeremiah’s biologcal mother Sarah picks up her son from the foster parents. Sarah is about the lowest-of-the-low. However pretty when she wants to, she is an antisocial drinking and dug-using young woman. She convinces Jeremiah that he is better off with her, but the situation does not last too long. Jeremiah is thrown back and forth from his mother and completely opposital foster families. Trying to blend in as well as he can, Jeremiah always lands into the most woefull situations. “The Heart…” is not an overly dramatic tearjerker, it is heavier than that. Not a feel-good movie, but one that you might want to watch some time if you like raw drama.

My Son, My Son, What Have Ye Done * Werner Herzog (2009)

“David Lynch presents”… I do not think I ever saw a film of Herzog and I immediately admit that the name of Lynch was the primary reason to watch this film. I was not disappointed! This film has obvious Lynchian elements, such as minimalistic dialogues, silences, a suppressed kind of dark humour, weird characters and well-used music. Yet, “My Son My Son…” is not a dark film. Actually, it is shot in weird, bright colours (or is that due to our new LED tv?) After a trip to Peru with some hippie friends, Brad returns with God in his head. Dillusionary he takes matters in his own hand drastically and we come into the story when Brad already has a murder on his name and two hostages in his house. The film is basically the police trying to understand the situation and in flashbacks we see the story of Brad who slowly looses his mind. The film has a great, slightly surrealistic atmosphere with strange, but well-working Spanish music (Peruan?), some threatening scenes and some good experimentations. An interesting film!

Kûki Ningyô * Hirokazu Koreeda (2009)

“Air Doll” is “a modern fairy tale for adults” and is about a blow-up sex-doll that has a heart (or a soul according to the box). When her buyer is at home, Nozomi acts like a doll, when he is not, she likes to dress herself up and eventually even leaves the house and get a job. The film does not have a whole lot of credibility. When Hideo has his way with her, Nozomi cracks like plastic, but when she has herself treated in a beauty-salon, nobody notices anything and the other way around, Hideo does not notice that Nozomi looks incredibily real. The story that develops is slightly too sweet. Nozomi meets people and in her innocence thinks to learn about the world. Moving like Pinoccio, but dressed in short skirts, Nozomi steals the hearts of but a few. Koreeda uses the doll with a heart to tell us something about the emptiness of modern life, summerised in a beautiful poem that Nozomi learns from an old man (unfortunately I cannot find the poem). The atmosphere is of the very little surrealistic kind and comes accross well sometimes and less good in other scenes. However the film is not boring, I find the 7.1 on IMdB and all the attention for this film is bit overrating.

Κυνόδοντας * Giorgos Lanthimos (2009)

“Kynodontas” (“Dogtooth”) is a very strange Greek film with absurdistic drama that could have come from Scandinavia. A man tries to prevent his two daughters and son to become infected with the outside world by keeping them separated in his house with large garden far away from the civilised world. He tries to control their entire life by giving them exercises, language lessons (with strange explanations of words), medical education, etc. Naturally the children are not quite ‘normal’ which results in some nicely suppressed humorous scenes, especially when the outside world comes creeping in inspite of the man’s efforts. The film is very slow and raises a lot of questions that are not answered. In fact, the film ends as suddenly as it begins and just when things start to become interesting. If you want a film which gives you a nice, clean story, this one will not be for you. When you want to have a look at a strange psychological experiment, “Kynodontas” could be something.

The Limits Of Control * Jim Jarmusch (2009)

The new Jarmusch is a very slow, minimalistic film in which we follow a pokerface “lone man” who is sent back and forth through Spain receiving all kinds of instructions, the purpose of which eludes the viewer. The “lone man” meets a range of strange people starting (semi-)intellectual monologues about a variety of subjects. These short talks are about the only talking you will hear in this film. The “lone man” seems to have his way to work out the clues he gets, but also here the viewer remains in the dark. You get it, “The Limits Of Control” is not your average film. Much in it does not seem to make any sense and until the end it is completely unclear what the goal of it all is. Jarmusch uses some quite obvious symbolism to give more (non-)clues, perhaps only to further confuse you. All in all an interesting film, with a typical ‘guitarscapes’ soundtrack, but not really a great one.

Black Swan * Darren Aronofsky (2010)

Aronofsky again made a very different film than he did before. This time we follow the beautiful but undesirable ballet dancer Nina (Natalie Portman). Nina is too much focussed on perfection and ‘doing well’, pushed in that direction by her overly protective mother. When the top cheographer Tomas (Vincent Cassel!!) choses her for both major parts in his new Swanlake, Nina has to develop passion to get that part right. Tomas tries the hard way, but Nina is also helped by Lily. That is to say, in the highly competative world of ballet Lily’s intentions are not clear. Because of all the pressure Nina starts to loose her mind giving Aronofsky the room for some gruely scenes. Yes this is the entire story in a nutshell, but when you followed the director, you will know that the atmosphere of the film is the reason to watch it. Regarding that atmosphere I must conclude that “Black Swan” is the least of Aronofsky’s films. There were hardly any gooseflesh scenes. The film is again great, but did not give me the feeling of any of Aronofsky’s other films. Perhaps that is why this film seems to have given the director a new audience. We saw the film in a room full of elderly people, who may see the winks to his earlier films.

Unmade Beds * Alexis Dos Santos (2009)

A while ago I saw Dos Santo’s earlier film “Glue“, but I did not realise that when I rented “Unmade Beds”. This new film is alike in a few ways. It is again a ‘coming of age’ film about youths in the margin of society. In “Unmade Beds” we follow Axl, a youngster from Spain who travels to London to find his father. Somehow he comes to live in a squat from where another inhabitant, Vera, forms the second story in the film. The squat where Axl lives not only makes housing for varying people, but also a hip club with concerts and parties. “Unmade Beds” shows the not-so-careless lives of squatters, especially now when they make “the rules” risky. Dos Santos made another quite typical, but nice, arthouse film.

Frygtelig Lykkelig * Henrik Ruben Genz (2008)

“Terribly Happy” is a Danish film about a policeman who is transferred from Copenhagen to a small villiage in the very south of Jutland where they deal with things their own way. Soon Robert is lured into the swamp of the village’s community, being sucked in, never being able to get out. “Frygtelig Lykkelig” is dark in tone and only slowly it becomes clear what exactly is going on, a ‘big event’ acting as lightening rod, but there is more to the situation. To make things worse, Robert’s past is dragged into the situation. “Frygtelig Lykkelig” is a very Danish film with claustrophobic wide-views, a pressing community with strange habbits and the film of course contains grim humour. A good film with a nicely developing story and a minimalistic setting.

Dead Man * Jim Jarmusch (1995)

I actually went out to rent Jarmusch’ most recent film “The Limits Of Control”, but came back with this oldie that gets a 7.7 at IMdB. Indeed, “Dead Man” is a very good film. It is moody, minimalistic, nicely strange and with a lot of symbolism. The black-and-white filming and the Western-time setting look wonderfull and the acting is good. Inspite of all that, I liked the film a little less than that I found it interesting from a filmographic point of view. I cannot really say why though. Still, it is one of the better films that I saw recently. We follow a man called William Blake (Johnny Depp) who travels to the other end of the USA for a job, but ends up being a fugitive running into an (Amer)Indian who confuses him for the poet/painter with the same name that he admires. Nobody accompanies Blake on his journey.

Aaltra * Gustave de Kervern & Benoît Delépine (2004)

Aaltra is a minimalistic, absurdistic black, Wallonian (the French-speaking part of Belgium) comedy that reminds of the cold, Scandinavian style of comedy. Two fighting neighbours end up in wheelchairs and a roadmovie unfolds in which the two sworn enemies are after the same goal. Try to imagine two hitchhiking men in wheelchairs who hate eachother and you get an idea. Of course the two run into absurdistic situations, told with almost no talking and with black humour. A very funny film indeed.