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mystery

Nuit Noire * Olivier Smolders * 2005

I have a friend who should actually have a filmreviews site. He always has the weirdest films, most unknown titles and the rest a year earlier than most people. This time he brought me a Belgian film which premiered in France in 2005 and in most other countries in 2006. “Nuit Noire” (“dark night”) is a strange film of a director probably from French-speaking Belgium (the film is in French). At first sight it seems that the film goes back and forth the ‘real world’ and the mind of a man who thinks his sister died at a young age, but soon it becomes clear that the ‘real world’ isn’t quite normal either. The film is pretty dark and plays at night(s) and is very minimalistic in dialogue and sound. This creates a nice, pressing atmosphere which slowly works towards more a kind of mystery so it is not that strange to take David Lynch as comparison. The story (if there is any) gets more and more confusing and weird. Between the dark shots of the film, crystal clear close-ups of insects are put which are either symbolic or just have to add to the strange atmosphere. “Nuit Noire” turned out very well and I can recommend it to people who like dark thriller/horror movies and who do not need a straight and understandable story.
-4-

INLAND EMPIRE * David Lynch * 2007

Watching a David Lynch film is like listening to a power-electronics album. It is not for most people, because most people will be looking for melodies, lyrics and a feel-good atmosphere, rather than oppressive darkness, chaos and violence. The same goes for a film such as INLAND EMPIRE. Film critics have been looking for logic, a story, a nice atmosphere and a happy end, but they have found none of that and therefor slay this film to the ground. What INLAND EMPIRE brings you is a very ‘industrial’ opening, weird characters, strange filming, absurd dialogues, scenes that (apparently) have nothing to do with eachother, a story that is ‘incorrect’ and confusing (actually there seems to be a multitude of ‘stories’) and most of all: extremely dark scenes, eruptions of violence and disturbing images. Indeed, Lynch-fans can be reassured, INLAND EMPIRE is in the style of Lost Highway and Mullholland Drive. In a way, it continues the ‘path’ where the other two point to.Where Lost Highway had two stories (and ‘unconnected scenes’) and Mullholland Drive several, INLAND EMPIRE seems just a collection of short films rather than a film. It has elements of the sitcom “Rabbits” (that I haven’t seen), hallucinative scenes, typical ‘Lynchial’ close-ups with industrial background music, different stories that somehow seem to form a red line, but maybe that is not the case at all. You guessed it: I am not going to tell you a story, I will not going to analyze the different elements. The biggest mistake you can make with a film such as this, is to approach it rationally. Somehow everything has its place. Like the electronic noise terror of a power electronics release, the artist has carefully put it together, undoubtely with an idea, but if the artist leaves out an ‘explanation’, all you can do is undergo it and enjoy the atmosphere. Somehow I like one power-electronics release, but another not. In film there isn’t such a variety, there is Lynch and a few other ‘weird directors’ that don’t care about how things are supposed to be. I happen to like Lynch. His films are impressive and because they cannot be understood, I can watch them over and over again, like I can listen to music over and over again. Maybe a final note for Lynch-likers like myself: Lost Highway is magnificent, Mullholland Drive is very good, INLAND EMPIRE is good, but it seems like Lynch is trying to be weirder and weirder which makes it more and more difficult to ‘get into’. Of course I have only seen INLAND EMPIRE once now, but at the moment it seems that with Lost Highway Lynch has reached his peak for me and now it is slowly (and I say “slowly”) going down. No worries, because INLAND EMPIRE still is a film that you have to see if you can stand a film like this and I adivise you to see it on the big screen, even when it only plays in a few cinemas. A last thing about the camera work, as you know Lynch shot the film with digital handycames (that he partially handled himself!), this is sometimes irritating (shaky images, not too good quality), sometimes fitting. Concider it as a typical David Lynch experiment and don’t worry about it.

Twin Peaks second series 1990/1 – David Lynch (2007)

It is a magnificent day for a Dutch Lynch-freak. Today “Inland Empire” premieres (in only five cities!) and we are going to see it coming sunday. Also, after almost five years of waiting, the often anounced boxset with the remaining Twin Peaks episodes is available!! The ‘first series’ was 7 episodes (you had to buy the pilot separately if you got the American version like me, I believe the European version has 8 episodes) and now we are finally up for the remaining 22. The series proved successfull enough to allow Lynch to make more episodes, yet it never came to a third series. The box of the second series is nothing compared to that of the first. There is no tranparant plastic case this time, just a cardboard box holding two ‘digipacks’ with two halves of the second series (which are released separately in Germany I heard). The artwork seems to have been tried to give a ‘modern look’. Why does the dwarve have white eyes on the box and what about this strange frontcover?
You can imagine that I haven’t yet watched the 22 remaining episodes, I just got the box! I have seen Twin Peaks a couple of times and I am not going to say anything except that this is the best that ever appeared on TV. If you don’t know Twin Peaks, you will have to start with the first series anyway (read my review of many years ago) and the rest will be excited by the news that the remaining episodes are truely finally available on DVD.

Yogen * Norio Tsuruta * 2004

premonition

Another Japanese horror/thriller. The director of “Kakashi” and “Ringu 0” does not bring much news. There is no curse in “Yogen”, but people get premonitions in various ways, premonitions of things to come shortly, of course the premonitions are about people dying. The persons getting the premonitions get some kind of decease. “Yogen” has the typical Jap horror atmosphere, nice and gloomy, but here without extremely dark scenes or frights. To make the film more interesting (?) the end become all blurry with shifting viewpoints and storylines every three seconds. This does have some kind of function, but I don’t think it is too well done. Oh well, “Yogen” is a nice film, but like “Kakashi”, just nice, nothing special.

Widmo * Banjong Pisanthanakun & Parkpoom Wongpoom * 2004

shutter

There was a time that I watched a lot of Asian horror. Since they are often alike, I don’t see much nowadays. Fortunately MTV continue their “Asia Mania” friday nights, so once in a while I can watch a film that I haven’t seen yet afterall. The Thai film “Widmo” (“Shutter”) is a variation on a theme, such as most other of such films. Two youngsters think that they are haunted by the spirit of a girl that they drove over from which accident they fled. “Widmo” has the typical dense atmosphere which is well done, also the creapy women are present, the droning sounds, evil spirits and the dark filming. “Widmo” is very enjoyable, but like said on IMDb: “great – but no revolution”.

Videodrome * David Cronenberg (1983)

It has been many, many years since I saw this film, too many. For some reason a magnificent classic like this isn’t shown on TV very often either. Maybe because of the fact that my girlfriend recently bought “Naked Lunch”, another classic from the same director, but also because of the many references to this film (samples, titles, etc.) by the French noise-act Propergol I really wanted to see “Videodrome” again. And thus happened!
“Horror” is the genre of “Videodrome”, but not the gory splatter kind of horror (however in a few scenes Cronenberg thought he had to live upto expectations), but a magnificent dense atmosphere does the trick. The story is great too. TV is getting too much influence on the minds of men and “The television screen is the retina of the mind’s eye. Therefore, the television screen is part of the physical structure of the brain. Therefore, whatever appears in the television screen emerges as raw experience for those who watch it. Therefore, television is reality, and reality is less than television.” A provocative idea, but not entirely grapped from the air. How many people will confuse the lifes of soapstars (and the way they look) with real life or think that ‘real live soaps’ are real? “Videodrome” goes even further. Signals have been put under the images to influence the viewers (this actually happened in the 1950’ies), but in this case, the signals are put under extreme sexually violent images because these images open the human receptors so the signals ‘get in easier’. I suppose that is not how far contemporary experimentation has gone, “but I still think it’s hard to imagine a more thoughtful or accomplished series of investigations into the dark side of the modern day.” (quote).
A film with a great atmosphere, a philosophy (“and that’s what makes it dangerous” Masha says about Videodrome in the film), a few flaws and poor scenes, but heh, this is a classic that you have to watch (again) if you asked me. -13/5/06-

Vanilla Sky * Cameron Crowe * 2001

There is a strange story to this film. In 1997 there was the film “Abre Los Ojos” (“open your eyes”) of Alejandro Amenábar (best known for “Tesis”, the inspiration for “8MM”). Tom Cruise liked it so much that he wanted it in the USA, but since the film is in Spanish, he decided that an English version should be made. Since Amenábar had moved to Hollywood to make his first big film, he didn’t have time for “Vanilla Sky”. Cruise, however, decided to give Amenábar an extra chance by producing “The Others” (with Nicole Kidman who just broke with Cruise). Also Cruise produced “Vanilla Sky” and hired Cameron Crow (“Almost Famous”, “Jerry McGuire”) to make it.

“Vanilla Sky” is almost identical to “Abre Los Ojos” and Cruise is said to have said that he sees “Vanilla Sky” more as a ‘cover’ of “Abre…” than a remake. Of course there are different actors, different locations, etc. but mostly the rest is the same. There are some differences though, but I will leave it upto you to detect them.

The story is about a David Aames (names from “Vanilla Sky”, they are different) who has experienced nothing but luck in his life. He got the 51% of the stocks of his fathers publishing houses when his father died and David is massively popular under women, personell and associated companies. He does live ‘the easy way’ too much which brings him trouble sometimes, but there is actually no way how anybody could do him any harm.
David has a ‘fucking mate’ in the beautiful Cameron Diaz, but falls in love with Sofia (Penélope Cruz plays the same part in both films!!), when his best friend Brian brings her to his birthday party. David spends the night with Sofia and when he wants to go home, he is waited for by Julie (Diaz) who asks him for a ride. Julie drives the car off a bridge. She gets killed, David is extremely deformed when he comes out of his coma.

After this there is the stuggle of getting Sofia back, keeping his job, remaining friends with Brian and learning to live with his deformity. Eventually David does win the heart of Sofia back, keeps his job, but looses Brian, it seems…

The film is ‘told’ in a ‘reality’, a ‘real reality’, dreams and flashbacks and gets more and more confusing towards the end. I didn’t like the “Existenz”/”Matrix” type idea too much, but there is a massive atmosphere, great filming, good acting and fortunately Cruz is just as beautiful as in the original (I had fears about this, since among some films she did between “Abre…” and “Vanilla Sky” were a few in which she didn’t look that great) and this is definately the driving-factor of the film.

What is quite remarkable is that “Vanilla Sky” is just as good, if not better than “Abre Los Ojos” and left me with the same feeling. As mentioned, some elements are different, there is more explaining in the American version (of course, the mass audience doesn’t want to think) and the end of “Abre…” is more beautiful, but the filming, locations and atmosphere are in both films great. Also “Vanilla Sky” remained a strange and not everyday film and is actually still not for the big audience in my opinion, but it seems to do well.

And something that you may have heard, Cruise and Cruz fell in love during (or just before?) the shooting of this film. Some critics say that this doesn’t show at all, some say it does. I agree with the second group.

My advise: get “Abre Los Ojos” from the videostore and enjoy it (or even better, try and see it on the big screen) and go to see “Vanilla Sky” a week later. Prove that even a remake can be good and this is really an exception I think.

Utopía * María Ripoll * 2003

And another Spanish film, but this one is spoken in Spanish too. Here we have a ‘supernatural thriller’, but not with the ‘mystique’ as in the Hollywood films in this vein, there ar no questions that you have to answer yourself or wait for the end of the film. “Utopía” is a group of clairvoyants trying to help people with their gift. In the case where the film is about, they try to save a young woman who is held hostage by some kind of drugs-group / sect. The film has nice cutting, camera stands and effects to add to the idea of the visions and is rather grim at times. In general it is mainly a police-thriller, especially towards the end. Not bad at all.

Twin Peaks – Fire Walk With Me * David Lynch * 1992

This film is actually a weak afterbirth of the popular Twin Peaks series. Having left the viewers with many unanswered questions after the series, Lynch returned with “the chilling truth behind Laura’s final days”. Indeed you get to see who killed her, but real answers aren’t here either. Fortunately! Watching this film I actually have to conclude that it may well be almost as good as the series themselves. It is much darker, far much stranger and Lynch really seemed to have wanted to give everyone who wanted simple answers a punch in the face. Not the answers people were waiting for for sure! A lovely film that you really shouldn’t watch before you saw the series.

Of course I saw this one many years ago, but recently I bought the UK DVD. No extras whatsoever, but who gives a damn.

Twin Peaks – the first season special edition DVD * David Lynch * 1990/2002

Without a doubt “Twin Peaks” is the best thing that ever happened in television-history. Reshown on several TV-stations several times, but now we have been ‘Peaksless’ for far too many years. Long ago the complete series have been made available on video. You can either look for the tapes, but I believe they are still obtainable when you know your sources. Too long after the introduction of the DVD “Twin Peaks” is available again. First in America of course, a few weeks ago Europe followed.

The editions are very different though. The European version is twice as expensive as the American version. One reason for this may be that the European version includes the pilot and the American doesn’t (…). Hoping that the American version would instead include the first episode (there is actually a pilot AND a first episode), I got the American version with the idea that I would get the pilot later. However the count starts at episode 1, this is not the first episode! Laura has already been found, Dale Cooper is already in Twin Peaks and you are already supposed to know the characters. That is really too bad, because I would have loved to get both the pilot and the first episode…

Anyway, the first series are episodes 1 to 7. Two episodes per disc plus extras on the fourth disc. Also there are some extras on the discs with the episodes, like introductions by the log-lady.

I am not going to tell you about the series. I AM going to tell you about the “special edition DVD” though. It comes in a cardboard box that you can unfold until you can place/take four discs and a small booklet. The artwork is beautiful. The box comes in a plastic slip with the picture of Laura Palmer and when you take the box out, you get the ‘wrapped in plastic’ look of her. 7 Times 45 minutes. Hell, I will have re-viewed them in a week and then I will have to wait for the second series which aren’t available yet… A Peaks-freaks must-buy!