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Borgman * Alex van Warmerdam (2013)

The latest film of the Dutch filmmaker Alex van Warmerdam opened last year’s Cannes filmfestival which gave it a lot of positive attention. People compared the film to the works of Lynch and Haneke, but “Borgman” does not have the darkness of Lynch or the gruesomeness of Haneke. Like the only other film of Warmerdam that I reviewed so far (click on his name above), I would rather make comparisons with Scandinavian productions. Looking back perhaps not so much “Mifunes Sidste Sang” or “Festen”, but rather “Adams Æbler” or “Salmer Fra Kjøkkenet“.
“Borgman” opens with a great and weird, but completely unexplained scene. The unexplained weirdness keeps returning in the film. Many events, and actually the overall story, are pretty absurd but you will never know what the things that happen, happen. I will not tell you about this story. As with “Kitchen Stories“, the film is probably more enjoyable when you do not know what to expect.
Plus elements of the film are some great absurdistic findings. Minor parts, the (partly) ‘Dutch style’ unconvincing acting. Fortunately this does not go for all actors and the main character is great. A weird film, but apparently not when you know Warmerdam’s other films, not magnificent, but one you might want to see some time.

Beyond The Black Rainbow * Panos Cosmatos (2010)

Somewhere between David Lynch, early David Cronenberg, 80’ies scifi and “The Cube” comes this o far the only film of Cosmatos. I heard about it a while ago but it took some time before I had the chance to see it. Some people complain about the lack of story, but the way I see it, the film is about doctor Barry Nyle who has an elaborate psychological hospital in which one patient has his special interest: Elena. There is something about Elena and Nyle found a way to control her. Not entirely though…
The first three quarters are brilliant. The film is very minimalistic and is more like a visual soundscape with a great soundtrack than a film. Weird colourly overflowing scenes, almost no dialogue, just an overlighted videoclip. Not for the average filmwatcher for sure. In the last quarter the level drops somewhat as new elements are brought into the film, but overall “Beyond The Black Rainbow” is a very interesting psychedelic experience.

Begotten * E. Elias Merhige (1990)

So you thought “Eraserhead” is weird? Try “Begotten”! Usually telling the story of a film makes a massive “spoiler”, but in this case it actually helps to know what you are looking at. “Begotten” seems to tell a story of creation. In the first scene you see a man cutting himself up: God. As he dies, a young woman appears who is mother earth. Mother earth impregnates herself with God’s semen. I do not recall seeing her having a child, but the character we follow mostly is the ‘son of earth’. ‘Son of earth’ is in a very bad state from the start, but when he is discovered by a group of faceless nomads his fate is even worse. The nomads kill ‘son of earth’, have a ball with mother earth, bury them (or just ‘son of earth’?) and flowers start to bloom on the surface of the earth.
Right, having given you the story, let me tell you a bit about the film. It looks like footage of a century old, granular, in extremely high-contrast black and white. Most of the time I had a hard time trying to find out what I was looking at. Perhaps it is for the better that the film is not in high definition, since the film is extremely gory. Blood, guts, smashed-in heads, rapings; creation certainly was not a lovely event in the eyes of Merhige.
So you get it, a difficult film for a select audience. Personally I thought it was interesting in a way, but it is for the better that it only lasts for 78 minutes. Also I was glad that I looked up the story while watching, otherwise it would just have been a sequence of shocking scenes.

Antiviral * Brandon Cronenberg (2012)

Hell yeah! I needed a film like this. Nice camera work and a critical, extremely weird Cronenberg-like story. I will tell you what: this is a Cronenberg! Brandon is a son of David and it looks like he is inspired by the older films of his old man. The way I see it he succeeded gloriously, inspite of the 5.5 on IMdB. “Antiviral” brings flashbacks of films like “Videodrome”, “The Fly” and even “Naked Lunch” while it is pretty much in a different style. The story is, like Cronenberg sr. older films, so extravagant that I will have to watch the film again (and preferably with subtitles) to know what this is all about. Let me give it a try.
The celebrity craze went to such extremes in some unknown future that a facility called Lucas Clinic offers the possibility to fans to be infected with the same virus as the celebrities they adore. One of the employers, Syd March, also enters the black marked where meat seems to be cloned from these same celebrities so that people can eat the meat of their loved ones. Syd also seems to have plans for himself which of course goes bad and he gets crushed between the big money market parties living off celebrities’ cells. This is perhaps a bit too much about the story, but these are but some elements of a crazy story that slowly unfolds during the film.
The camera work is great. The hospital scenes are white and overlighted, giving some heavenly gleam. Outsides scenes are underlighted as if the outside world is unenlightened. There are only a hanfull of characters and everything is nicely minimalistic. There are a couple of great over the top scenes with experimenting doctors. Great, weird, Cronenberg. A wonderfull ode to his old man, but in his own style, and I hope that jr. will continue in this style. I watched this like I did when I first saw the sr’s classics. Perhaps “Antiviral” will be one of such classics.

Fausto 5.0 * Àlex Ollé (2001)

A medical doctor travels to some unknown city for a convention about terminal medicines. On arrival he meets a man who claims to be a patient from whom the doctor removed his entire stomach eight years ago. Theoretically the patient should have been long dead, but since he is not, he is eternally greatfull and wants to fullfill the doctor’s every wish. The doctor’s name is Faustos, so I guess you can guess the rest of the story. The box suggests an over the top cultfilm with splatter and sex. There are indeed some weird scenes and also some sex, but overall the film is not particularly weird of shocking. Not boring either, but mind that it is mostly quite a normal film with some not-too-normal elements.

El Topo * Alejandro Jodorowsky (1970)

Yes, it took me a while to see this third Jodorowsky that my usual DVD rental has. No time for a film, did not feel like it or it was replaced and lost, but I finally did see it. “El Topo” is a Western, but not a straight-forward one. Jodorowsky again uses amateuristic splatter for violence and other elements which seem only to be there to shock. Also again is a spiritual undertone. El Topo (the main character, played by Jodorowsky himself) is a cowboy in black who seeks revenge for his murdered village. He has to find six foes that appear to be spiritual masters that (the evil?) mole (“topo”) fights and tries to overcome. On the other hand, El Topo has (again) Christ-like elements, so perhaps the situation is the other way around (the spiritual masters are heresies). It is not unlikely that the director created this ambiguity on purpose. Like the other two films of Jodorowsky that I saw “El Topo” is interesting in some elements, dated in others, sometimes a little annoying. The films may not be masterpieces in my eyes, but I do suggest you watch them at some point since they are classics in the history of film.

Holy Motors * Leos Carax (2012)

  • mystery

The story of this film is so weird that I had to see it. Fortunately I live in one of the few cities where it plays. The film is even weirder than what I read about it. Carax had some ideas a decade or so ago, but did not get the finance he needed because his films did not sell that well. Now Carax put all those ideas in one ‘film’. We follow monsieur Oscar who crosses Paris in his limousine driving from assignment to assignment. In each one of those he dresses up as someone else and he appears to play some major role in people’s lives. But M. Oscar does not really appear human, also there are more of his kind. Besides, there are scenes way too weird to even be anything. There is no continuing story, some parts seem to explain something, but “Holy Motors” is mostly a collection of strange ideas. Mostly interesting, but the last parts are not very strong. Strange, even when you are used to films of David Lynch and similar. When you like strange, you might want to watch “Holy Motors” some time.

Renegade * Jan Kounen (2004)

Wat a great film! Vincent Cassel is Mike is Mike Blueberry (who gave the name of this film to the European market) a trouble-kid who is sent to an uncle in Western-America. He ends up among the Indians, but later becomes sheriff of a small town. An old enemy comes to his town and he, like everybody else, is looking for the gold in the mountains in the Indian lands. Kounen presents a lot of Indian rituals and drug-influenced visions that remind of the early scenes of “Enter The Void”. The film goes from classic Western to more adventure-like filming, to surrealistic and completely visionary scenes. The result is very impressive and reminds a bit of the also great “White Lightnin’“.

The Short Films Of David Lynch (2008)

I do not know why it took so long before I set out to see this collection of short films. I knew some of them and I am not sure how. Perhaps from extras on other DVDs or perhaps just because of Youtube, but this DVD contains Lynch’s debut films “Six Men Getting Sick” (1 minute, 1967 animation), “The Alphabet” (16 minute, 1968 funny animation with real film cut in). Then you get “The Grandmother” (34 minutes, 1970, a dark and weird film reminding of “Eraserhead”), “The Amputee” (5 and 4 minutes, 1973, a test with two different cameras with ‘The Log Lady’ as the amputee, created after a year of shooting “Eraserhead”)), “The Cowboy And The Frenchmen” (26 minutes, 1988 a not-so-interesting view of Lynch on the French, he made this one on request) and “Lumiere” (55 seconds, 1995 created with a rebuild traditional camera, could be a trailer of a great new film). This disc has also been released in the Lime Green Box which also contains some films that I already have, but also “Dumbland” (also available separately) and the film that I wanted to see most: “Industrial Symphony no. 1” (1990). An amusing set of Lynch weirdness, but the full-length films are better.

22 Mei * Koen Mortier (2010)

22 Mei (’22th of May’) opens with a scene reminding of Mortier’s “Ex-Drummer“. We follow the morning ritual of the rather cheap-looking Sam. With a cigaret in his mouth he brushes his teeth, makes his lunch and leaves for work. Sam proves to have the dull job of security guard at a small mall. While standing in front of the shopping center a massive explosion blows Sam to the ground. In a reflex Sam starts to drag people out of the collapsing mall, but soon he is overtaken by emotions and he runs away. After this the film gets stranger and stranger. The story of the explosion is told from various standpoints, victims, perpetrator, Sam. Pretty soon nothing is known to be true or imagined. “22 Mei” has a good atmosphere. It is quite a heavy drama with descent experimentations. An interesting film.