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undefinable

Titus * Julie Taymor * 1999

I had never heard of this film before I saw it in the videostore. The back had a promising description. A bizare horror-comedy playing in Roman times with ritual murders. Some of this description is true!

“Titus” is a revision of an early play by William Shakespeare that deals with the Roman conquerer Titus. For this film Taymor has put the Romans in a more modern time. Classical costumes, but driving both horse-and- carriage and motor-cycles. The language seems to be in the original text from the play, old english. The story tells the time when the Romans just reconquered Rome from the Goths and they are in doubt who will be the new Emperor. Titus (Antony Hopkins) is a respected old legionaire who persuades the council to choose the rather effeminate Saturninus (Alan Cumming). After this, things are rapidly going downward for Titus. He looses appearance, his sons, one hand and his daughter is brutely mutilated by the two sons (Alarbus (Raz Degan) and Chiron played by Jonathan Rhys-Meyers who we know of “Ghormenghast”) of the queen of Goths (Jessica Lange) who married Saturninus. Titus appeared to go insane, but not so.

“Titus” isn’t really a horror, nor a thriller, but also not hilariously funny. Of course the setting, stages, stories, etc. are quite humerous and this mostly resulted in a pretty bizare film. It is almost three hours long, but this could have easily been one less in my opinion. Overall I found it unexpectedly strange and quite amusing to watch. Not your everyday movie indeed and also not really for the larger audience. Another weird Shakespeare play put to film, holding the middle between Baz Luhrman’s “Romeo + Juliet” (1996) and Peter Greenaway’s “Prospero’s Books” (1991).

Sånger Från Andra Våningen * Roy Andersson * 2000

songs from the second floor

I had read quite a few things about this film, but it took some effort to see it in our local ‘filmhouse’. Some people compare this film with Monty Python’s Flying Circus, others just find it hilarious. As for myself, well, it is definately a strange film with a strange kind of humour, but Monty Python? nah. By far not as hilarious and dumb and also Andersson doesn’t have the quality level (or not as much my sense of humour).

“Sånger” consists of different strange scenes which either or not have something to do with eachother. Often the only link between two scenes is that the same persons are in it. Overall there is some kind of a story in the film which is actually rather depressing. Indeed there is a lot of humour in a really vague and absurd style which sometimes does bring memories of Monty Python, but all through the film there is not that much to laugh I think. Several scenes are massive with a lot of people and enormously strange and I wonder what some scenes have to do with the rest.

So, if you like absurd humour and you can stand the extremely slow Scandinavian way of filming, try and see “Sånger Från Andra Våningen”. <3>

Salmer Fra Kjøkkenet * Bent Hamer * 2003

kitchen stories

Here we have an absurd Scandinavian film that -as far as I know- has nothing to do with any Dogma95 or similar currents. The story is completely weird. A Swedish kitchen-manufacturer investigates the kitchen-habbits of Swedish housewives, but the story starts when the investigation goes towards single Norwegian men. Observers live in their special mobile homes next to the house of their “subjects”. In the “subjects” kitchen, a high chair is placed to make the observations. The story is set in the 50’ies Scandinavian post-war situation when there were differences and rivalrly between the Scandinavian countries, especially Norway and Sweden. The film begins wonderfully with a great voice-over and strange jazzy music and an outside of the findings of the observations of Swedish housewives, great cars, caravans and interiors. From the moment that “observer” Folke Nilssen arrives in the house of “subject” Isak Bjørvik, the films becomes awfully slow, but with a subtle humour, funny situations and strange dialogues. Pitty enough after the strong start, the film slowly grows towards and rather mediocre and overdramatic ending. Totally original, nonetheless, but definitely not brilliant. <20/3/06><2>

Riget (The Kingdom) * Lars von Trier * 1994

A while ago I bought Kingdom II very cheap on video (see review elsewhere) and the search started for Kingdom I on video. It WILL be repressed some time, but it is currently sold out. After several months waiting I decided not to wait for the double-video (in one box) but buy the rather expensive English dvd-version. A BIG DISAPPOINTMENT for lovers of these brilliant series by Lars von Trier! You get two dvd’s. The first has episodes 1 and 2 and the second 3 to 5. The first dvd also has some documentary which doesn’t add much. Of course the series are brilliant and there is nothing wrong with the quality, but the makers of the dvd made a few horrible mistakes! When putting dvd1 in your player you get some kind of intro, nice but not necessary. Then a menu in which you can choose to play “episode one and two”, “episode one”, “episode two”, “episode three to five” or the documentary. Of course I wasn’t planning on chosing the first option, because then I would miss the stories of the director that come after every episode. To my major disapproval the episodes start immediately. Not the intro with the chloride-swamp and the story of the building of the hospital and no silly song! At the end you jump back to the menu in the last second of the episode, so no story by Lars and even no credits! What on earth have the producers of this dvd been thinking? What is the use of being able to watch the episodes joint together? You are not able to chose subtitles or even watch without them. Why the hell did they leave out the intro and the end? WHAT A SHAME!!

To the series then. Of course this is one of the best tv-series ever. A soap-series about a hospital in the vein of ER, but with a sick twist. Strange ghost-stories, insane characters and unexpected twists. I am not going to say more, you will have to watch it and love it (but preferable another version!). <4 for the series>

Prospero’s Books * Peter Greenaway * 1991

For a long time I thought that my all-time favorite film was not available on DVD, while all other Greenaway films are being released on DVD. While discussing something completely different, I noticed that the local library has “Kalverliefde” DVD sets which have winners of the Filmfestival Rotterdam since the beginning. One box contains short films, another five long films on three DVDs with… the 1991 winner “Propero’s Books”!! For those of you who don’t know the film, it is an impressive load of images, music, speech, symbolism and information. The film is based on “The Tempest” by Shakespeare, but only the text of the wizard Prospero seems to be from this play. For the rest this is Greenaway’s most bombastic film with long shots, picture in picture, elements going right through eachother, naked ballet-dancers, odd characters, weird colours and strange stages. Overwhelming, strange and hard to follow, but I totally adore this magnificent ‘art film’ which is unlike anything you ever saw. The “Kalverliefde” boxes are expensive, but I hope a DVD with only this film will be released some time too. For the time being, I am happy with the library copy.

π [Pi] * Darren Aronofsky * 1998

I have seen this film when it still played in the cinemas a couple of years ago. Since it is one of my favourite films and after quite some searching I finally have it on video, I thought it would be a good idea to review it afterall.

“Pi” is about a young man called Maximilian Cohen (Sean Gullette) who has had severe headache attacks since he looked into the sun too long at the age of 6. Whether or not this also played part in him turning out to be a mathematic genius, is an unanswered question. As he calls it himself, Max is a “number theorist” and he was taught by his teacher Sol Robeson (Mark Margolis). Sol had a stroke after working too hard on finding a pattern in the digits of Pi and turned out in a cynical philosopher who Max still turns to once in a while.

Max lives by three assumptions which are restated a few times in the film:
1- Mathematics is the language of nature;
2- Everything around us can be represented and understood through numbers;
3- If you graph the numbers of any system, patterns emerge.
Therefor there are numbers anywhere in nature.

Doesn’t this remind you of Pythagoras? Well, this greek “mathematician and cult-leader” is shortly mentioned.

Max sees evidence for his assumptions in the “cyclic disease epidemics”, “the wax and way of the karibu populations”, “sunspot cycles”, “the rise and fall of the nile”.

This lead Max to believe to be a pattern in the stockmarket, the finding of which is his goal. Therefor he built a gigantic computer in his appartment (which he called “Euclide”). His efforts draw the attention of two kinds of people. First people interested in this very pattern in the stockmarket. Second, a group of Kabbalists (Jewish mystics) searching for the secret name of God.

Sol speaks about a 216 digit number that his computer spat out when it crashed. Lenny Meyers (the Jew that tries to interest Max) says they are looking for a 216 digit number as the pattern in the Torah. Being written in Hebrew, the Torah is both text and numbers, since in Hebrew every letter is also a number.

Max decides to help the Jews, finds the digits again (he had them when his own computer crashed), but doesn’t want to give it away to either of the selfish groups asking for his help.

The film is shot in black and white and with magnificent progressive camera-work. The soundtrack has great drum and bass sounds by quite well-known artists (Aphex Twin for example). There are wonderful vague scenes in which Max has visions during his attacks and with only a handful of actors or places where the shooting took place, Aronofsky made a brilliant debut. Definitely a

Naked Lunch * David Cronenberg (1991)

About a year ago I was visiting friends in Canada. In the nights we watched a few Kenneth Anger films and this one (among others). Me and my girlfriend were still suffering from a serious jetlag even though we had been in America for a week, so consequentally we fell asleep during every film even if we found it enjoyable. “Naked Lunch” we watched in two parts, one at night and one in the morning. Now a year later we got a our own copy in order to watch it without jetlag.
I am not too fond of David Cronenberg, but I really need to get his other masterpiece “Videodrome” on DVD some time too. Like that film, “Naked Lunch” has the weirdest atmosphere. Peter Wellers marvelously plays Bill Lee, a bug exterminator who gets addicted to the usuage of the powder as drugs. Then Lee pops in and out of a strange world with the weirdest hallucinations. With his poker-face and too low voice, Wellers tells what he experiences when running into taling typewriters and intergalactic secret agents. The film shows the imaginary world of Bill Lee, sometimes mingled with ‘the real world’. Strange creatures, superb dialogues and the oddest atmosphere makes this film a must-see for anyone who likes strange films with curious atmospheres. -14/11/05-

Naboer * Pål Sletaune * 2005

next door

“Naboer” (“neighbour”, but the English title is “Next Door”) is a strange Norwegian horror in which a young man gets manic over the leaving of his girlfriend. Or did she leave because of his mania? Naboer is a claustrophic and slightly Videodrome-like sex-and-violence film with here and there a Japanese atmosphere. The result is not groundbreaking, but alright with some good scenes and a nice atmosphere. -20/12/06-

Mulholland Dr. * David Lynch * 2001

Is has been a long wait since Lynch’s last ‘Lynch film’ “Lost Highway” (1997) which is one of my all-time favourites. Two years ago there was Lynch’s one ‘normal’ film called “The Straigth Story” and then it was as usual quiet for a few years around mister Lynch on the film field. He probably worked on other projects on the field of sculpting, painting, music or something else.

“Mulholland Dr.” had it’s official Dutch premiere at the filmfestival of Rotterdam two weeks ago, and it has played in two cinemas before the ‘public premiere’ the day before yesterday. Also the German version has been playing in Germany for about a month now, which is pretty strange. Rather sad is that this film was supposed to be another TV series, but the producers thought that it was better to cut it to a film, which eventually came to last 2,5 hours. The open end can suggest that Lynch wants to keep the possibility for a series open…

Anyway, in more than one aspect, “Mulholland Dr.” is like “Lost Highway”, especially in the beginning. The way of acting, two of the same kinds of policemen. Furtheron there is another ‘mystery man’, changing characters/ personalities and the not knowing whether what you see is ‘real’, dreams, visions, flashbacks or whatever.
Where “Lost Highway” had mainly two different stories that can be either told after eachother or synchronous, “Mulholland Dr.” has more different stories that are either or not told throughout the whole film, either or not have something to do with eachother or again, either or not to have happened after eachother or at the same time.

The film starts with a scene in which Camilla Rhodes/Rita (Laura Harring) sits in the back of a limo (that seems to have a special significance in the film) and when the driver stops to have her shot, the limo is ran into by a racing car full of teenagers. Camilla staggers out of the limo and towards the lights of the city, where she eventually ends up in the empty appartment that will be inhabited by the beautiful, but dumb Betty Elms (Naomi Watts).
In the beginning there isn’t anything really ‘wrong’. Stories about two guys telling eachother about the accident, one killing the other in a brilliant and violent scene. The two women meeting in the appartment, becoming friends and trying to find out who Rita really is and eventually falling in love with eachother. Then there is a story about the young and hot director Adam Kesher (Justin Theroux) who sees his latest project falling into the hands of a rich Italian and loosing his sayso about the main character in his own movie. Angry as he gets he drives home where he finds his wife in bed with the pool-cleaner (another great scene) and flees to a cheap motel downtown. A guy with a disturbing nightmare. Etcetera.
After this things get more confusing. Rita is also a body that the two women find, but this body is also Betty who seems to have gone mad when Rita dumped her in favour of the film-director. The transition to this part of the film comes in typical and extremely dark and impressive Lynch scenes with disturbing events, vague camera-work, dark sounds and strange images.

These lines can only tell a glimpse of what is really there. I have seen “Mulholland Dr.” once now and I think that just as with “Lost Highway” it will take a view or four before some things will be clear and links seen. Also just as “Lost Highway” there is no easy ‘solution’ for the impossibilities in the stories and again the film is not made to be understood or correct.
I wonder -therefor- why “Lost Highway” was slain by the press and called “an ununderstandable monstrosity” while “Mulholland Dr.” gets only raving reviews.

My one opinion for the time being? A bit too much like what Lynch already did. There is a bit too much “Lost Highway” and even Twin Peaks with Michael J. Andersson as a strange character in a room with curtains against the walls (he was the dwarve in Twin Peaks’ Red Room). Still, “Mulholland Dr.” is visually impressive and with a magnificent dark atmosphere like only David Lynch can make it. Just go and see it a couple of times.

– – – – – – –

So yesterday I went back to the cinema to see it again. Amazing, “Mulholland Drive” has been shown for a month and still it is sold out almost every single time!

Did I see anything new watching it for the second time? Only small things it seems. Some people come back on a few moments in the film which made me feel like the story of Rita ending up in Betty’s appartment is part of the ‘real story’, also that Betty falls in love with Rita/Camilla, and Rita with Adam the director. Betty can’t cope with that and goes crazy. A large part of the film seems to be Betty’s visions/nightmare in which characters play that she saw in her ‘real life’ at one point or another. The scene in which Rita and Adam say there are getting married would then be a ‘real scene’, the one in which the two women find the body a ‘dreamt scene’. But of course things are not so easy with Lynch.

Rita/Camilla appears to be an actress who would play the main character in Adam Kesher’s latest film. Somehow some rich Italian brothers take over the finances and therefor sayso about the film and they try to kill Rita (opening scene) and replace here by Betty who at one point also seems to be Camilla Rhodes (the scene in which Betty accidentally ends up on the set of Kesher). I don’t know the relation between the Castigliane brothers and Kesher and/or Betty, but there are on Kesher’s party while first they had the biggest fight. The limo still seems to be of special significance, but I don’t know what. It is the limo in which Rita/Camilla has her accident, but also the limo of the Castigliane brothers (this could be, since they probably wanted Rita dead) and the limo that picks up the hysterically laughing old people.

Betty ‘becomes’ Diane Selwyn in the end, who is the dead body and apparently a friend of Rita/Camilla and it is also Diane who goes nuts after being put aside by Rita, so is the Betty story a dream or the Diane story?

Also it is strange that the Cowboy says to Adam that if he does right (by choosing Camilla Rhodes as lead actress which is Betty on the photo) he would see him only once, and if he does wrong, he would see him twice. The Cowboy appears in the film twice more, but Adam did choose Camilla. One time the Cowboy turns up in Betty’s appartment (who just turned into Diane) and there is no Adam present. Hmmm.

Stylistically then. I remember being highly impressed by certain scenes the first time I saw the film, yesterday I was looking forward to the “theatre of illusions”-scene, but I don’t know what I was so impressed by the first time! It is only at a few moments that things get rather dark. Maybe I was watching details too much?

Still too many questions. What is the meaning of the scene of the hitman shooting a friend for a blackbook with numbers? Who is the Twin Peaks dwarf exactly? He seems to be a powerfull being having control over the filmindustry and it seems that he wanted Rita dead and Betty as main character, but what are all these other people have to do with him? He probably represents a dreamstate again, like in Twin Peaks.
The hitman is later hired by Betty to kill Rita, but the blue key telling that things have been taken care off, appears in the film earlier.
And what are that blue box and the monster?

It almost seems like Lynch wanted to keep leads open for in case it is allowed to make the series of Mulholland Drive like he wanted. I sure hope so!

Lost Highway * David Lynch (1997)

Damn! Did i forget to review the best film ever? Damn! I saw it 4 times in the cinema when it played here in 1997, later I bought the video and a while ago the DVD. “Lost Highway” is completely Lynch. Dark (VERY dark I may say), strange, symbolic and ununderstandable. There are two stories that either follow eachother up or run (partly) synchronical. Especially one person being in both stories raises and answers questions. There is a story of a saxophoneplayer who meets a strange oriental person and who may or may not have killed his own wife. Also there is a story about a young car-service man who is very popular with the women, but ran into the wrong person, being the girlfriend of an extremely rich, influential and most of all insane criminal.

Anyway, the little you know about this film when you haven’t seen it, the better. As more of Lynches works “Lost Highway” is more of an atmosphere picture than a film that you can watch and enjoy. Most people don’t like it, others love it.