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Priscilla – Sofia Coppola (2023)

Based on the memoirs of Priscilla Presley (1945-) and also produced by her, Sofia Coppola told her side of the story of the famous marriage to Elvis. Unfortunately, Coppola did not use ‘her style’ as much as in other films.

Stationed in West Germany, Elvis misses the USA and he meets a girl of 14 who had just moved there with her family. In spite of her age, Elvis takes a liking in Priscilla and the two meet more and more often. Elvis can move back to the States before Priscilla does. Even though he is successfull as a musician and is a rising star on the silver screen, always having countless women swarming around him, Elvis remains in contact with Priscilla. He even has her come over.

Elvis is portrayed as an honorable man who wants to be no more than a friend until Priscilla is of age. When she is, the two get married. Another side of Elvis is clearly shown as well: he knows exactly what he wants and when and Priscilla is to have no opinion of her own. The two get a daughter, but the marriage is not meant to last, as Priscilla also wants a life of her own.

Coppola made a nice biography showing the events from the meeting of the two, until when Priscilla leaves the house. The story is not exactly the same as actual events, which suggests that we are really looking at Priscilla’s side of the story.

The End of the F***ing World (series 2018/9)

James is a weird and silent kid. He likes taxidermy and considers killing a human being. At school he meets the extremely disinterested Alyssa and the two outsiders team up. They decide to run away from it all and end up killing a man. That makes them killers on the run.

The series have a bit of a grim, Fargo style, but in spite of black humour, the series are more of a drama. Two awkward adolescents are condemned to each other, but they are both attracted and distant.

In the first season we follow the traveling teens and their chase. In the second second season the duo has been apart for a while, but their paths cross once more. Then there is another type of chase.

Alyssa is both annoyingly, yet amusingly cold. James is an over-nerd who overthinks everything. We hear the thoughts of both and even though their bad decisions are somewhat relatable, the two surely manages to mess up their lives.

Not bad for a teen series.

The Zone Of Interest – Jonathan Glazer (2023)

We see a family at a riverside. When they leave in two cars, it is clear that this is not your average, German family. In the next scenes, we follow the family in their busy home. Lots of personnel and many children. The family has a nice house and the lady of the house built a little paradise of a garden with a part for the children (with pool), a vegetable garden with greenhouses, places to sit, etc.

The man of the house does not have to travel far for work. Out of the garden and into the gates of the concentration camp Auschwitz that Rudolf Höss helped to build and which he manages. The house and the garden of the Höss family borders immediately to an outer wall of the camp.

Glazer mostly shows the daily life of the Höss family. Raising children, tending the garden, receiving family, but also receiving Rudolf’s colleagues and subordinates for business meetings. In the background you constantly hear the low rumbling of the ovens and every so often a guard shouting to a prisoner, gunfire, etc. The family seems to have grown used to these sounds (and the smell?) and live their quiet lives outside the wall enjoying the sun and the river that flows nearby.

Höss is portrayed as a man good as his job. He makes the institute ever more efficient and even though he makes long hours, he finds time to spend with his children, in the garden or in nature and to read a book. In spite of him doing a great job, Höss is told that he will be transferred. His wife goes far in order to be able to stay in her paradise.

There are a few scenes outside of the Höss house, first at Rudolf’s offices and later at a meeting of camp managers.

It is mostly what you do not see that makes this film a fairly hard watch. Everybody knows what is going on in the camp, but that is good for the country, is it not? The Höss family is just doing their part and we are watching them do just that.

Gandu – Qaushiq Mukherjee (2010)

  • drama

It is not all Bollywood that comes from India. “Gandu” is a very raw rap-punk drama.

The title is a swear word, but used as a reappropriation by the young main character. Apparently living with his mother and her new partner (and off his money) Gandu does nothing with his life but writing rap lyrics and use drugs. His lyrics are about everyday life in an Indian slum with no perspective in life. It are his more adolescent lyrics that make him being picked up as an artist.

We mostly follow Gandu as he steals money from his parents and hangs out with a friend. Cut between these scenes are videoclips of Gandu punk-type rap music. Towards the end he is also able to perform on a stage, making followers and finally losing his virginity in an explicit sex scene.

As I said, a raw film with videoclip-type montage, going from black and white to colour and with explicit lyrics and scenes. A coming raw coming of age from the country of sweet Bollywood.

Minore – Konstantinos Koutsoliotas (2023)

We follow the simple life in a rural part of Athens where a small community goes to a bar to sing Greek folksongs every night. There is one foreigner there looking for his biological father.

It takes quite a while before the film turns into the horror that usually describes it. There are strange sounds to be heard, people walk like zombies into the sea, but nobody is really alarmed until some sort of flying octopuses start to appear from the fog and eat people. When the group of familiars realise what is going on, they set up a plan to fight the monsters.

“Minore” is an alright film. It is a little weird, but nothing that you have never seen before. The typical Greek elements are nice, the horror towards the end is somewhat amusing.

Blonde – Andrew Dominik (2022)

  • drama

This film has on my watch list for a while, but it is long and I heard it is quite depressive. It is indeed almost three hours long and damn depressive…

The film is based on the “biographical fiction novel” of Joyce Carol Oats about Norma Jeane Mortenson, better known as the alter ego that was created for her: Marilyn Monroe. Quickly scanning the Monroe biography on Wikipedia, it is clear that the book, and thus the film, are not to be regarded as a factual biography of Monroe. For example, a big theme in the film is that Monroe never met her father, while in reality she was abducted by him.

We mostly follow Norma Jeane. Norma had a troubled youth with a troubled mother which brought her to a foster home (in reality 12!). Growing up, Norma Jeane tried to make it into the modeling and film business. Her career skyrocketed when (according to the film) her alter ego Marilyn Monroe sex symbol was invented for her. Norma Jeane saw herself separate from Marilyn Monroe.

External pressure leading her to all kinds of bad situations. The separation between Norma Jeane and Marilyn first gets dissociative identity disorder elements and later also paranoia.

Everybody only hears about the glamour around Monroe, the beautiful and sensual woman that everybody loves, but in “Blonde” we mostly see a troubled woman that never grew up, who everybody seems to take advantage of and who slowly looses her mind. The film gets darker and more surreal as Norma Jeane slips away from reality further and further leading towards the inevitable and heart breaking end.

Certainly not a glamour feel good movie and I am not sure how far the gloom and doom really formed part of Monroe’s life. Did Dominik want to present a ‘smack in the face reality’ or did he enhance the darkness for other reasons? Some points may be given for the film and montage itself by the way, with black and white and colour and beautiful camera work.

“Blonde” is a good film, but a hard watch.

The Big Short – Adam McKay (2015)

  • drama

Just as in “The Laundromat” some big actors joined forces to criticize the Western financial system.

In the early 2000’ies former doctor Michael Burry (Christian Bale) finds a flaw in the American banking system. He expects the mortgage system to collapse and thinks of a way to turn that into a profit for the organisation that he now works for.

His idea is picked up by Jared Vennett (Ryan Goslin) who goes to the criticaster of the financial system Mark Baum to also turn the predicted event into profit. Two young dare-investors accidentally see the documents of Burry and they pick up the same plan consulting Ben Rickert (Brad Pitt).

The problem that Burry found was that the portfolios of mortgages of banks are no longer filled with (very secure) mortgages, but less secure investments are sneaked in which on their turn are put in another package, etc. etc. These packages are rated, but due to competition, ratings are always good and they say nothing about the security of an investment.

First individually, later conjoined, the different troupes start to make sense of the complex schemes that financial businesses use to sell their products and make the most profit. These complexities are explained in strange interludes. Basically “The Big Short” is more of a movie than a documentary about the gigantic financial crisis of two decades ago, that some saw coming.

Not quite the film that I thought that I was going to watch.

Sense8 (series) – Wachowski (2015-8)

I ran into this Wachowski series on Netflix. It does not have the pomp of some of their creations and (perhaps) not even the complex story.

Well, there is an ‘attempt’ at a complex story. The title refers to a different kind of human being. Besides the “homo sapiens” there is also the “homo sensibilus”. The series do not explain how these “sensates” are born to ‘normal’ humans. We follow eight such sensates. It seems that they all have the same age and that they discover their abilities only later in life. We have the Korean daughter of a wealthy business family. A German criminal. An Indian beauty about to marry rich. There is an LA cop, a Mexican actor, a Nigerian buss driver, a woman who used to be a man and an Icelandic DJ.

The sensates can be in each others presence whereever they are. Also they can take over each other’s bodies. Along the way our eight sensates learn that they are a “cluster”, that there are other clusters and that there are also people hunting them. The last element brings thriller elements to the series.

The series show the characters with both the personal and the joint problems. Nomi has frictions with her parents who do not accept her transition. Lito is a popular actor, but he fears the end of his career when his fans learn that he is gay. Sun takes the fall to save her brother’s career in the family business. Wolfgang tries to do his own thing, but the criminal underground of Berlin tries to draw him in further. Kala has a loving future husband but second thoughts about the marriage. LA cop Will has frictions with his father. DJ Riley tries to balance between succes and personal life. Capheus (played by another actor in the second series) unintentionally becomes the hero of his slum.
In times of crisis, another member of the group, or all of them, team up to solve a problem of one of them. This often brings unnecessary extra drama or another tension. This typical ‘enhanced drama’ that is present in many American films and series, also crept into the work of the Wachowski’s. Sometimes these elements even overshadow the development of the story.

Overall, “Sense8” is alright. Especially in the first season (which is directed by both Wachowskis) there is quite some stress on ‘minority issues’ (trans, gay). Later (only Lilly Wachowski, but also guest directors) the ‘larger story’ gets the upper hand, making more of a thriller. There is the earlier mentioned drama, but the creators also wanted to add a layer of sensuousness, both are overdone and superfluous in my opinion. The story develops alright, but it seems that some turns had to be made to allow for future episodes or seasons. The two-and-a-half-hour final episode seems to have been made to wrap things up (quite thinly) when there no more would be a new season.

Not bad, but not the Wachowski’s best work either.

Leave The World Behind – Sam Esmail (2023)

The hard working Amanda (Julia Roberts) spontaneously books a house for the weekend, leaving immediately. The house is not too far from the city of New York where the family lives and it proves to be a villa with a swimming pool.

Settling in, the first evening the doorbell rings and two people are outside claiming to be the owners of the house and asking if they can come in. The film grows into a psychological drama. Are these two really the owners of the house? The house is so big and they are black. Also, the man seems to know something about the fact that the internet is down.

The psychological drama becomes a thriller when it starts to dawn on the people in the house that there is something going on in the world outside. TV only broadcasts emergency messages. Animals act strangely, there are awful sounds, planes crash. Is the world falling apart while two families who did not yet know each other are stuck in the villa?

“Leave The World Behind” is descent thriller with a Stephen King type story. The alienation and rising panic of the people involved is well portrayed and people’s weaknesses are enlarged.

Then the film suddenly stops as if it is only half of a story.

Kærlighed For Voksne – Barbara Topsøe-Rothenborg (2022)

Presented as a “Danish pulp thriller”. The title translates to “Love For Adults”, but the international title is “Loving Adults”. In any case, the title is ironic.

Christian and Leonora have had a few tough years with a sick son. Just when things are getting better, Christian falls in love with a co-worker. Leonora starts to realize this and proves to be a manipulative woman. Christian comes with one bad excuse after another bad plan so things get from bad to worse.

I suppose “Kærlighed For Voksne” is supposed to be a crime comedy. I find it quite unconvincing.