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documentary

When You’re Strange * Tom DiCillo (2009)

Weird, I expected that when there was finally a film about The Doors, it would be relatively big news. Fact is that a month ago it played in only two cities and now only in a handfull. Fortunately my hometown is one of them. DiCillo gathered an impressive amount of original footage from which he compiled a biography of The Doors. Narrated by Johhny Depp and with almost 100% original film images, the story of The Doors is told with highs and lows and put in the perspective of the period in which they lived. Songs get an extra dimension when you know how and why they came about. The Doors were only in existence for 54 months and just as in these months, most attention of “When You’re Strange” goes to singer Jim Morrison. The film is a very nice overview with a lot of music and nice-to-know facts, capturing the atmosphere around the band.

Er Shi Si Cheng Ji * Zhang Ke Jia (2008)

“24 City” is a highly acclaimed Chinese documentary/film about a wargear factory that has to make room for luxery appartements. Interviewing employers and family, a picture is drawn of a gigantic factory that first moved from one far end of China to another, going downwards when less wars resulted in a drop of demand for products and in the end the factory has to go because the city it helped to grow still needs to become bigger. The interviews are alternated with beautiful images of workers. “24 City” gives a nice insight in a part of Chinese history, but to me it is too much of a documentary.

De Fem Benspænd * Jørgen Leth + Lars von Trier (2003)

The Five ObstructionsIf you are looking for some experimental filmmaking, this might be something for you. In 1967 Jørgen Leth made the experimental film “Det Perfekte Menneske” (“The Perfect Human”). Leth was the teacher of Lars von Trier and however they came to this experiment (a bet or something, this does not become clear), Von Trier has Leth remake his film, but with “Five Obstructions”. Obviously Von Trier tries to see if he can get Leth to leave his usual system of making films. There are some pretty bizare demands and Leth does his utmost to make a short film with them to the liking of Von Trier. What you get in this film is discussions between Von Trier and Leth, making offs, the films themselves and of course the original film. I did not like the talks between Von Trier en Leth much, but the films that Leth came with are mostly quite nice to watch. In style they varry from cut-up images to animation.

The Secret * Drew Heriot * 2006

The SecretIn our famous five minutes to chose three films, we picked out “The Secret” which seemed like ehm, I don’t know what actually; if it seemed like a Da Vinci Code like film, I think I wouldn’t have picked it out, but it was about a secret that was known way back in the past a to a few in the present. The “film” appears to be some kind of documentary about the “law of attraction” which says that everything that happens to you, you attracted to you yourself. The rich are rich by choice, the poor are poor by choice. A completely over the top New Age documentary with scientists and gurus telling you that you lead your own life and that you can have the car you want and be successfull only by having good thoughts and positive feelings. After 20 minutes of listening to all this, we pulled out the DVD and put on something descent: The Prisoner. I have no clue why a DVD such as this one should be in a videostore.
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Destricted * various directors * 2006

“Destricted” consists of seven short films that supposedly hold the middle between arthouse and pornography. This description may be applied to two or three of the films, but not to the rest. I had noticed the film at the rental, but put it back every time until the last. The box has some nice images, the idea could interesting, something different from those boring ‘right-on’ films, but would it really work? Well, there is a film about a man with a machine fetish, which is interesting from a cinematographic viewpoint. Also there is very fast compilation of images accompanied with fast drumming music. A weird pulsating film with very busy filming and montage that shows a man’s weird sexual preference and now and then a very nice girl. All alright, but nothing too interesting. Worse than that are downright pornos or a simple film of a man masturbating in the desert. Actually there is only one film that I found interesting both as a film and for the content. It is called “Balkan Erotic Epic” (by Marina Abramovic) which is presented as some sort of documentary about some very strange Baltic erotic folklore habbits (no idea if they are factual). The film has very bright colours, nice settings and a lot of humour. Another documentary contains interviews with young men who grew up with pornography (because their parents posess films or because they started watching the films with friends at an early age) and in the end, one is picked out to choose an actress to do something with which he wanted to try. Perhaps this one is interesting for sociologists and it shows a few things around the whole subject, but like almost any other of the films, it is just of a minor level and not too good a watch. Not knowing what to expect, the project still disappointed me. I don’t know for what audience the film is, since some films are too explicit for an arthouse audience and most others are not straight forward’ enough for people who enjoy the other genre. I will leave it to you if you are interested enough to go and see it. With seven very different films, there could also for you be one that is enjoyable.
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An Inconvenient Thruth * Davis Guggenheim * 2006

An Inconvenient ThruthI probably would not have seen this documentary yet, should my girlfriend not have received it as a december surprise of her employer. I suppose you all know about this Al Gore film which tells about global warming, so let me stick to my conclusions. “An Inconvenient Thruth” is a report of one of the many lectures that Gore gave on the subject. Most of the time you see Gore talking, while I expected to be flooded with footage of disasters. Of course these are there, but Gore decided to get his message across another way. The fact that the film is mostly a lecture on DVD makes it rather dull. Put between, are quite superfluous scenes with personal pieces of Al Gore which are even more boring. The strength of the documentary is not as much the way it is put together, but Gore’s story. He gives a staggering amount of information, comparisons, investigations, facts and numbers; much of it I had seen in one form or another, some I had not. Gore picks in to the easy responds of sceptics and brings an “inconveniently” strong story. Also he shows some sollutions and tells us that they are not only within the possibilities of today, but also within current interest (being: economic growth). This perhaps is all nothing new for us ‘common men’ (who also get a few tips), but fortunately this film gets so much attention that finally the subject gets put on ‘big’ agendas. Whether you agree with Gore’s theories or not (but see the film before you pass your judgement), he sure can be praised for that.
-2.5-

Death Of A President * Gabriel Range * 2006

In this fake documentary a report is given of the assassination president George W. Bush on October 19 2007. The film is made with real images (there are no actors who play Bush or Cheney) and played interviews and footage. The big issues of Al Quada, human rights, immigration, disgruntled veterans, the hatred towards Bush and his policies, militant anarchist groups, etc. aren’t shunned which supposedly makes this film “the most controversial film of the year”. Well, if the incident would have been real, this would have been a CNN (or so) documentary, but now it is all about what could be. I haven’t decided if the subject should be regarded as being political or if this fake documentary is able of making its point, but if an American documentary about a subject like this would have turned out like “Death Of A President” I would have found it to be surprisingly balanced. As project the film is well done, because the whole film I have been trying to find out if Bush was Bush or an actor and now that I know that there was no actor (judging IMDb.com), I must say that things are put together very well. Not really a film, not really a documentary, but maybe it is some kind of documentary about how things are in the USA right now and how they could become if a thing like this happened.
-3-

Pretpark Nederland / A Funfair Behind The Dikes * Michiel van Erp * 2006

A documentary about what Dutchmen do in their free time. A women’s days out, Gay Pride Amsterdam, shopping, Prinsegracht concert, Elf Fantasy Fair, Efteling amusement park, etc. The film is presented as a hilarious and charming look on the Dutch, but besides a few ‘typicallities’ and amusing moments, I find this documentary not very groundbreaking or even very typical. What adds to this, is that the documentary is often ‘behind the scenes’. You don’t get to see people visiting the Efteling, but the creation of a new attraction; not much people going to a mall with thousands of others on holidays, but a man trying to promote his small town and its middle class. Amusing, but the idea could have been worked out better in my opinion. The documentary has English subtitles, so also non-Dutch-speaking viewers can laugh about us. I don’t know if there is another version than region 2 though.

Powaqqatsi * Godrey Reggio * 1988

Second part in the Qatsi trilogy of which the third part “Naqoyqatsi” now plays in the Dutch cinemas. This time it is “life in transformation” and five years after the first part Reggio serves us with cultural images. Working people, people in the far east, temples, etc. A bit more of the same, but still different. Less tranquil music, but also less images of nature and I actually like the first half of “Koyaanisqatsi” best these images. Again a nice film, but one you should watch and read a book at the same time.

The third part is about ‘life in war’ by the way.

Koyaanisqatsi * Godfrey Reggio * 1983

“Koyaanisqatsi” has recently been released as 2DVD with the second part of the trilogy “Powaqqatsi”. It has been a long time since I saw this ‘film’. As you probably know it is not really a film, but more like a compilation of images going together with music by Philip Glass. “Koyaanisqatsi” is Hopi for “life out of balance” and the film shows how crazy our society is. It begins with beautiful images of nature and explosions either slowed-down or speeded up. Lateron you get industrial images and to the end people and a city. Almost all images are slowed down or speeded up, giving this documentary a very nice atmosphere. Not that I can watch this for the full 1,5 hours, but this is the kind of film you can watch and read a book at the same time.