8 Femmes * François Ozon * 2002

I have been told several times to see this film, but it took a long time before I did. Not really my kind of film though, comedy. Furthermore, it is half a musical! Eight women are in one house and the only man is dead. Then you get a whole film in which the women try to find out who of them could have done it. A few nice jokes, funny characters, but overall not too great.

4 Inyong Shiktak * Lee Soo-Youn * 2003

This debut of the Korean director is anounced as a horror. Actually it is more a mysterious drama in the Asian horror style, but then without much (any?) horror elements. The story is hard to recapitulate. There is something about a man who is in the metro with two girls who are later found dead, but the same man runs into a woman who has witnessed a baby being killed and his suppressed past. Actually it isn’t too much of a story, at least, not with a ‘Western logic’. The atmosphere of the film is alright, but overall this is just another Asian ‘horror’.

11:11 * Michael Bafaro * 2004

This was a bad weekend in filmchoice. “11:11” Is a supernatural thriller. Sara can see dead people. When she was seven her parents were killed and ever since her mother has acted as overprotective guardian angel. Mix this with some apocalyptic and prophetic elements and a highschool for paranormal activity and you get a boring film mixing old horror with “Se7en”-like thriller elements and being a bit too much like “I am Dina”.

1000 Rosen * Theu Boermans * 1994

This was the 1994 winner of the Rotterdam Filmfestival and in the “Kalverliefde” box (see “Propero’s Books”). Boermans was born in the Netherlands Antilles and there they speak Dutch. The title isn’t Dutch though, nor is the language spoken in the film. This language is a strange mix between Geman, Dutch and something that sounds Scandinavian. “1000 Rosen” (“1000 Roses”) is regarded a Dutch film though (the Antilles are part of the Dutch kingdom). The story is about a small town which is all about a wire-factory. Then the Americans come in and for a moment there is hope for a growing economy. Instead, the town is bought up and plundered. In a way the film is about the small girl on the cover, but also about a woman Gina who sticks her head above ground level in order to profit from the American investations. The film is just as well about the village as a whole that is burned to the ground by capitalism. A very society-critical film with a weird ‘vegetation symbolism’ which makes “1000 Rosen” surely a filmhouse-film for a selected audience. A sligthly depressive atmosphere but beautiful (too perfect in the eyes of some critics) images, weird characters. A very original film with a somewhat familiar story.

300 * Zack Snyder * 2006

Another graphic novel of Frank Miller put to film, but however this brings too easy comparisons with “Sin City”, don’t let yourself be fooled by that. “300” Is not a visual comic, but a film with actors and indeed most of the scenes come out of a computer, but they do (fortunately) look nothing like “Sin City”. “300” Has risen some discussions. Is it just a spectacular semi-historical action film like “Gladiator”? Is it a glorification of violence? Is it the glorification of the ancient warrior ethos? There are even people seeing political layers, where a Western elite fights an invading power. For some reason Iran has chosen to identify itself with a gayish Xerxes that organises orgies and who in fact ‘represents’ the pre-Islamitic religion of Persia, but apparently, when things can be turned to their use, they will complain. In any case, “300” indeed is a glorification of the ancient warrior ethos in my opinion. The king Leonidas is shown in a boyhood and the violent initiation into the world of the soldier is shown (not completely unlike the ancient reality I might add). The Spartans are shown as the elite warrior troop from Greece and only 300 raise against the millions (a minor exaggeration) of Persians that come to invade Greece. The Persians have all kinds of monsters to reach their goal, but the supreme technique of the Spartans make that they withstand almost any attack. The fighthing scenes are shown in a Matrix-like fashion with irritating fast-slow-fast-slow shifts, but spectacular (and bloody) computer graphics and the Spartan übermenschen are shown in all their glory. Politically incorrect? Perhaps. Most people will watch “300” as a spectacular fighting film, some may look for more behind it or connect the film to current tendencies, it is just what you make of it. I don’t know if the makers had a message and actually I don’t care. “300” Is an alright film that is well put together, but in the end, it is just another action film with an original twist. <15/4/07><3>

The Prestige * Christopher Nolan * 2006

“From the creators of Memento”. I have to admit, I fell for the tagline. “The Prestige” doesn’t have much in common with the masterpiece of six years ago though. “The Prestige” is about two students of an illusionist who become bitter rivals trying to ruin each others careers. When one invents a top trick, the other wants to learn the secret. In the proces the story moves a bit towards the Serbian scientist of electricity, Nikola Tesla (David Bowie). The film is rather standard, it plays in the present and is shown in flash-backs. The story doesn’t really raise questions, but towards the end a puzzle is given when is it solved (!). “The Prestige” has a nice atmosphere of 19th century London though, great stages and good acting (I especially liked Christian Bale as one of the illusionists). Considering all, “The Prestige” is really just another Hollywood production, nothing special.

Chopper * Andrew Dominik * 2001

Maybe you know the story behind this film, but it is a strange one! Mark “Chopper” Read is an Australian criminal who supposedly killed 19 people, but was never convicted for any of these murders. Still he spent most of his adult life in prison for violence, possession of arms, etc. In jail he wrote 9 books with his ‘memoirs’ which were instant bestsellers and Chopper became some sort of culthero with fanclubs and everything. This film is so to say a compilation of the 9 books with the Australian stand-up comedian Eric Bana as Chopper.
The first thing that you will hear about this film is mostly that it is extremely violent, but still funny. Personally I found the film indeed rather funny, but it is not as violent as some people want you to believe. Also the ‘ear-scene’ isn’t like the one from “True Romance” in my opinion. Actually I find “Chopper” not more violent than other crime-comedies that you can see today.
Anyway, Chopper is a strange and charismatic person who seems not too intelligent but he is definately not stupid either. All through the film he betrays friends for money, drugs or just because they did something to him. The film is strangely cut. On one hand it seems as if the film is told by Chopper to two police officers in a bar, but it can also be told by Chopper to two guards in his prison while they are watching a documentary with an interview about him. The scenes are all through eachother and it is hard to tell what happened first and what happened later. Also it is unclear what is presented as a fact and what is fiction. Indeed a style of filming that we became familiar with, especially in the genre.
Overall I found “Chopper” pretty amusing.

Triumph des Willens * Leni Riefenstahl * 1934

How often do you get the chance to see movies of Leni Riefenstahl on a big screen? Not that often that I know of. The filmmuseum Antwerpen (Belgium) does show four of them though. 21-10-01 “Das Blaue Licht”, 25/10/01 “Triumph des Willens”, 29/10/01 “Tiefland” and on 30/10/01 both parts of “Olympia”. Because Antwerpen isn’t that close to where I live (about 85km) and the movies are mostly shown on week-days, I decided to just go to the most interesting / controversial one.

A real Belgian organisation! There were 100 seats in the room (I heard), but about 120 people inside and about 20 were sent away. Most of them already had a ticket! Anyway, no protestors outside (besides one against the pregnancy-pill) and nothing special in the audience. Just mostly people in their 50’ies probably wondering what the controverse around this movie is all about. Also a few younger people, but I believe most of them were movie or art students.

An introduction was done by a man named Arjen Mulder. In Germany the film is still forbidden to be played without an introduction. This doesn’t go for Belgium, but “probably for certainty” Mulder said. Mulder gave a good biography of Riefenstahl, but he seemed rather sceptical about her person and movies (but also defending her). He mentioned quite a few times how boring “Triumph” actually is and how Riefenstahl swung between brilliancy and sillyness. Funny were his stories of the first times that he tried to see Riefenstahl movies.

But on to the film itself. As you probably heard most images are pretty well-known because they have been used countless times in documentaries about the nazis and kindred subjects. Also sound-samples are often familiar if you listen to the same music as I do.
Of course the film is a documentary about the 6th nazi-party congress in Nürnberg in 1934. Hitler asked Riefenstahl to make it because he liked her “Das Blaue Licht”. Earlier the 5th party-congress (?) was filmed, but this was pretty much of a failure and Riefenstahl denies she ever made “Der Sieg des Glaubens”. Obviously the nazis learned from this film how they should portray themselves like they want to be and “Triumph” is already a lot better, not with soldiers trying to get a glimpse of Hitler and being pushed back in line, but just remaining their positions like they should.
“Triumph” mostly consists of images of parades and speeches which indeed becomes a bit boring after a while. Further there are some strange scenes in which soldiers are shouting or singing repeating eachother.

Often you hear that “Triumph” (or Riefenstahl’s films in general) are really well assembled (cut), but that didn’t really show to me. Often the sound doesn’t fit with the images (bad synchronising) and especially the applause after a speech is too obviously added afterwards, because 50.000 people don’t start and stop shouting and cheering the very same second. Also it is striking that almost nobody looks directly in or at the camera, not even when it is almost inside their noses.
Further is it very clear that Riefenstahl got all freedom to make what she (and Hitler) wanted, being able to shoot parades from different viewpoints (often very well done) either or not at the same time, she could walk upto Hitler and the audience during the speeches (or did she shoot the audience at another time?). I found the many close-ups of ‘general’ people pretty irritating, but I suppose that is just Riefenstahl’s style.

It is true what Mulder said, probably nobody will watch the movie and think “hé, I want that too”. It simply looks silly how all these people are walking in figures, shouting the same things and look extraordinary happy putting wood in an oven. These are the “esthetically pleasing” images that Riefenstahl was looking for, but they do not function too well for propaganda. The images are not “hypnotic”, the speeches no longer agitating and we in the 21st century and simply too different from 67 years ago to be affected by “Triumph” in a negative sense.

But afterall I am glad that I at least saw the thing, because most people’s opinions are formed without having seen the actual project. Actually I think they should show “Triumph” on tv in full-length a couple of times, then everybody will be able to see that it is just a documentary of many decades ago about an upcoming frenzy with devastating results by which people will be just a little influenced than by a documentary about nowadays terrorism.

It is nice to see how they made a documentary back then and funny to see how the nazis wanted themselves to be seen by the outside, but probably as most people who saw “Triumph des Willens”, I do not regard it as dangerous, actually quite the contrary.

And to close off a tip for everyone who did see it. Go to the “internet movie database”, because you will be able to find out who all these nameless persons in the movie are as they are listed in the “actors” list with descriptions.

Code Inconnu * Michael Haneke * 2000

I think most of you already know Michael Haneke for his ‘controversial’ movie “Funny Games”. It was said that this new movie has the same idea and effect, but I don’t agree with that.
“Code Inconnu” is a strange movie with different stories either or not touching eachother in the course of the film. The scenes usually end very abruptly which starts to irritate after a while. From some characters you will be able to find out what the story is, of others you get not enough information.
“Code Inconnu” is quite a ‘heavy’ movie, pretty depressive, especially in some of the stories. You will see a woman being kicked out of France after being picked up by the police over an event she could do nothing about, a boy fleeing his father and going to his sister in Paris, the sister who has a strange husband who is a soldier in the near-East, and more.
The film as a whole also ends very abruptly, so do not go and see it if you prefer understandable stories and stories with a clear beginning and end.
Overall I don’t even know if I liked it or not…

Bridget Jones’s Diary * Sharon Maguire * 2001

As we all know books, tv-series and movies about single women in their 30’ies are very popular nowadays. Once in a while I can enjoy an episode of “Sex and the City” and I may have watched this movie when it came on tv, but now I already saw in when I flew to the USA a few weeks back.
Not really a ‘plane movie’, because you actually have to listen carefully to what Bridget is telling which is pretty hard with the roar of plane-engines, passing flight-attendants and fellow-passangers.
All in all I found the movie pretty amusing, but I guess I will have to see it again once it is shown on tv.