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mystery

Last Night In Soho – Edgar Wright (2021)

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A nice surprise. When I picked the film, I did not release Anya Taylor-Joy was in it, so actually there are two nice surprises. I will come back to the first one.

We follow the young Eloise who lives on the country side with her grandmother. She wants to study fashion design in London and is indeed elected to do so. She first moves into a student apartment building, but cannot get used to student living, so she quietly moves to the attic of an old lady.

There is a strange mixture between Eloise and another girl (who is played by Taylor-Joy). Eloise is a bit shy, but wants to move on in the world, Sandie is more of a vamp who knows what she wants and how to get it. Or so she thinks.

The first nice surprise is that the stories of both young women are surrealistically intermingled. Is Eloise dreaming? Does she imagine herself to be Sandie? Or are we watching two different stories, but mixed together in montage? The result is a nicely vague film in which it is unclear how things are until the end. That end on its turn is fairly weak, but for the larger part, the film is certainly worth a watch.

Valley Of The Gods – Lech Majewski (2019)

A bit of a weird film (can I say “arthouse”?) apparently based on a Navajo story. A beautiful valley is inhabited by ‘Amerindians’. It is their valley of the Gods. Nearby is an encroaching city where industrialists have their eyes on some mineral that can be found in the valley. The main company with interest is headed by the wealthiest man on earth who lives on top of a nearby mountain.

John Ecas is a writer with not too much inspiration. Then the project of a biography of this wealthy man (Wes Tauros, played by John Malkovich) comes up, for which he is going to spend some time in Tauros’ castle.

Tauros is not the dogged materialist that you may expect and Ecas also wants to look at the Navajo’s side of the story. Thus a mix between Navajo mythology and utopian/dystopian future Western culture unfolds both in the story and in the way of filming.

An interesting watch.

Titane – Julia Ducournau (2021)

It had been a while since I saw an ‘unconventional film’. So when I read about “Titane”, I figured I would go and see it.

“Titane” is not as weird as I expected. It is a difficult film to watch though. In the (French?) style of uneasy films such as those of Marina de Van (remember “Dans Ma Peau“?), Rémy Belvaux (“C’est Arrivé Près De Chez Cous” aka “Man Bites Dog”) or some of Fabrice du Welz (“Calvaire“), but mostly of films of Gaspar Noë, Ducournau comes with a heavy story, explicit ‘body horror’ and sex. You get it, not a film for the faint hearted.

We first see Alexia as a cold blooded and bored kid. We soon jump ahead with her being a strip dancer with obvious psychological problems which have turned her into a serial killer. At some point she decides to go into hiding and pretends to be the long lost son of fire brigade commander.

Alexia’s killings are already quite explicit, but the way Ducournau shows what Alexia and others do to their bodies (and those of others), will make many people turn away their eyes frequently.

Then there are some pretty weird elements to the story that not everybody will get their heads around alongside the fact that many things are left unexplained.

So, quite a masochistic kind of film to watch for sure. It is hard to say if it is really good. It sure is not a film to like. When you know your opinion about the directors and titles mentioned above, you will be able to tell of you want to watch “Titane” or not.

Watchmen (series) – Damon Lindelof (2019)

A quite original mini series this is. It is based on a graphic novel of the same name which has been turned into a film by Zack Snyder 10 years earlier.

“Watchmen” plays in an ‘alternative’ past and present. The Ku Klux Klan has mutated into the Seventh Kavalry and they are so powerful and dangerous that the police started wearing masks to prevent their identities becoming known and the Kavelry attacking them in their private lives. These masks became action-hero type clothing giving the series the action-comic feel.

Initially we follow a few of these police officers fighting the bad guys, but as the series continue, the focus shifts to a larger story that becomes increasingly strange. There are ‘off-elements’ such as a guy playing with clones, stories of a “Mr. Manhattan” that for a long time remain but stories.

Towards the end the series become pretty vague, yet interesting. The pre-last episodes brings a lot together. Unfortunately the very last episode is too explanatory and sentimental.

“Watchmen” make a very interesting series which brutally displays the racism of the imaginary and real past and present.

Bottom Of The World – Richard Sears (2017)

We drop in the middle of a roadtrip. The young couple Alex and Scarlett are driving through vast landscapes heading for LA. They stop at some little town to spend the night and from then on things get weird.

Scarlett becomes obsessed with a TV-preacher and later suffers ache which grows the further they get from the town. Then she disappears and Alex sets out to find her.

The film vaguely reminds of “Lost Highway“. It may be not that dark and weird, but story-wise there are similarities. That is about what you need to know. The atmosphere of “Bottom” is mostly drama, with some thriller elements and Alex going mad.

Judging the 5.3 IMdB rating, not everybody likes the film. It may not be a masterpiece, but I found it quite alright.

American Gods – Bryan Fuller & Michael Green (series, season 2) 2019

The first season had its flaws, but I liked it a lot. I looked forward to seeing seaon 2, but it took a long time before I found a reasonably priced DVD box.

The flaws of season one are still there. There are again only 8 episodes and again the story suddenly ends. Indeed, season 3 is already announced.

Perhaps the novelty is gone, but even though season 2 is very similar to season 1, I liked it a lot less. In fact, I do not even know if I want to watch season 3. Perhaps I will wait to see if after 3 comes a 4 and…

Anyway, in season 2 it is obvious who “Mr. Wednesday” is. He is gathering “old Gods” to wage war against the new Gods, particularly “Mr. World” and “Media” (the latter is not played by Gilian Anderson this time). Mr. World is quite annoying. Wednesday is a fun as he was and he is a very ambivalent character just as the God he was styled after.

Again there are all kinds of known and unknown Gods and other spiritual beings, many references to known and unknown myths and stories with sometimes great dialogues if you understand the pun. There are also ‘intelligent’ dialogues and monologues and also critique on the modern way of living.

As I said, I liked season 2 less than I did season 1. There are some great scenes, amusing situations and weird characters, but nothing really ‘happens’ and the story about Shadow Moon and his dead wife is not really interesting.

Just alright.

Dark (seasons 1, 2, 3) – Baran bo Odar & Jantje Friese (2017-20)

IMDB.com

I do not have much luck with films on Netflix, especially not “Netflix original” films. This “Netflix original” series are excellent though.

In spite of the English title, “Dark” is spoken in German (you can watch it in English though). The first season starts with the mysterious disappearance of a boy. We learn that 33 years before something quite similar happened.

Initially there are some (torture) horror elements which are quite unnecessary and do not really have a function in the story either. I guess it is to raise an atmosphere in which the ‘bad guy’ can be pinpointed so that the viewer can be put on the wrong foot later on. Especially the first season is moody and fairly dark. The mystery that surrounds the village of Winden with its nuclear power plant slowly becomes clear. From then on, and particularly in the second season, this red thread is constantly twisted and turned.

The characters of the series get new faces often, which in some way makes clear what is going on and makes you ponder the underlying idea of the series. Scenes go from surprising to unlikely, but the atmosphere remains very strong. There is a minimalist soundtrack that consists mostly of just low noises and drones. Here and there is a scene with wonderfully surprising use of music.

The second series mostly stretches what we already know and at the end a new angle to the story is given with a massive cliffhanger. Indeed, in the third season, a whole new perspective to the central theme is given and within this season, new approaches are presented constantly. This gets a bit weary along the way.

The style of the series shifts somewhat as you go along. There is less and less use of music, the atmosphere gets less dark and there is more focus on drama of the tragic romantic type. The series certainly are not feel-good!

Initially the last series seem to be a bit of ‘a third leg’, but elements of the first two seasons only become clear here, so perhaps the whole show is written as one piece. The last two episodes bring you back up to speed about the first seasons (there are so many twists that I forget many details) and ends with a conclusion, so this seems to wrap it up.

So we have a very good, German series, mysterious, dramatic, philosophical, not too long (if this is indeed it). It could well be a modern day classic.

Annihilation – Alex Garland (2018)

IMDb.com

The film being categorised “horror” I thought this would be a spectacle, but “Annihilation” is more like “Arrival“. Something weird, unearthly, happens and men are going to investigate.

Somewhere in the USA a “shimmer” occurs which slowly grows larger. This “shimmer” looks like a rainbow waterfall. People who enter to investigate do not come back, until one soldier does. For a new approach it is thought to send a group of female scientists to see if they can find out the cause of the “shimmer” and perhaps even remove it.

The film has a nice, surrealistic atmosphere. The “shimmer” has some strange elements. Naturally some of these are scary, hence the “horror” tag, but these are bit small elements in the film. Similar to “Arrival”, things slowly become clear and the viewer is taken into the investigation and the past lives of the main characters.

Towards the end you get some nice, psychedelic and vague scenes. The end is a bit weak, but overall the film is quite nice.

Les Revenants (series) – Fabrice Gobert (2012/5)

IMDb.com

These series have been on my watch-list for a while. Not too high though. They seem to have two international titles. My box says “Rebound” and IMDb has the series listed as “The Returned” which the literal translation of the original French title. There are only two seasons which I find a good thing.

In a remote mountain village a tragedy occurs when a bus with school children drives off a mountain road. This is obviously not the first tragedy. The village lays beyond a dam, a brake caused the village to be flooded.

In the beginning of the series, people that have (long) passed start to return to their own houses, apparently without knowing what happened. Since they missed eight to 35 years, things get clear quickly. Of course returning dead can lead to nothing good, so towards the end of the first season, we move towards darker times.

Then in the second series we have made another of the many jumps in time for a variation of the story. Also there are sub-story-lines that are revisited. Some elements are only mentioned very late and referring back to early in the series, which, looking back, I think I did not get all. This does make the story more interesting and calls for a rewatch at some point.

“Les Revenants” make a descent series with a nicely surrealistic atmosphere and a psychological peek into a community in which something out of the ordinary happens. There is also a lot of drama, especially towards the end.

A Field In England – Ben Wheatley (2013)

IMDb.com

This film has probably been on my wishlist since it came out, but was not too easy to find. It was worth the wait though!

In some British war, an unlikely combination of three men drop out of the fighting and try to make their way to an ale-house one of them saw. Two ruffians and a more nerdy type working for a mysterious master. On their way they run into the person the nerd was after, a dark magician (alchemist) who took off with something that belongs to his master. The magician has other plans with the party.

In a particular field, he hopes to find a treasure and he manipulates the three men into finding the spot and digging it up.

The film looks much older than it is, more like a black-and-white 1950’ies film with rough dialogues and weird characters. The film contains highly amusing dialogues with a lot of black humor. As the film continues there are a couple of very vague hallucinatory scenes. There are some other elements which are not clear if they are meant to be real or imagined.

Indeed, a strange, moody and very enjoyable film.