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Allerzielen * various directors * 2005

“Allerzielen” is a compilation of 16 short films that were made after (and because of) the murder of Theo van Gogh (23/7/1957-2/11/2004). Mostly young and new directors made a variety of short films. They are either about the killing, the reactions to it or more artistic films such as dance-films. The films go from hilaric to serious and artsy. Some are very clear, other say more about yourself. Some show something which would haven’t been shown before the killing like a Dutch mother talking to her daughter while a Maroccan (I think) woman is talking to her daughter, or a hilaric film about a Turkish man and his Maroccan neighbour accross the street. Some films are very critcial and clear, other vague and suggestive. Funny is that this film had its premiere in 12 cinema’s and on tv on the same night. A week later it was only shown in 2 cinema’s and now only in one. I suppose it will be on DVD soon. “Allerzielen” is both interesting from ‘filmographic’ point of view, but also of course in the course of events. Personally I found it a bit too long/strange/experimental to view all at once.

Alice In Wonderland * Nick Willing * 1999

I remember that as a child I saw some Alice In Wonderland animation a few times. My girlfriend bought this cheap DVD also expecting this animation, but it turned out to be a ‘real’ film. Not really my genre, childrens/family films, but actually this version of the famous tale is very entertaining. An impressive cast with Woopy Goldberg (magnificent as the smiling Cheshire Cat), Ben Kingsley (Major Caterpillar), Christopher Lloyd (Carpenter), Peter Ustinov (Walrus) and Miranda Richardson with a briliant part as Queen of Hearts which is like her part as the queen in Blackadder but even more over the top. I don’t suppose I have to say anything about the story, so I will just say that this film version has a nice absurd atmosphere, great stages, costumes and computer animations and great acting. So if you (or your children) want to see an Alice In Wonderland, I would say that this is a good option.

À la folie… pas du tout * Laetitia Colombani * 2002

This is the second film of the French director of 1976. “Selling point” is the main part played by Audrey Tautou who we all loved playing Amélie Poulin. This film is said to be a “romantic thriller”. Well, it sure isn’t a comedy like Amélie, but a thriller? Oh well, maybe a bit. Angelique is in love with a cardiologist and fantasises a relationship with him. She does her best to win his heart, but this isn’t easy. In the first half of the film you get Angeliques story, in the second half the same story is told, but this time from the eyes of the cardiologist and you get a completely different story. Very enjoyable.

Une Affaire De Goût * Bernard Rapp * 2000

I haven’t seen any of the other films of Rapp, but I had wanted to see this one for a while. A very original story. The young man Nicholas is hired the rich Frédéric Delamont as ‘pre-taster’. Delamont doesn’t have to turn over every bill of E 1000,- so he wants someone to find out if he will like a certain meal. In practise he wants Nicholas to try everything he wants to undertake first, like a skiing piste. Nicholas even becomes Delamont’s replacement for experiences, such as a jump with a parashute. Nicholas gets addicted to the rich life of Delamont and Delamont to experiences and conversations he never had. Delamont pushes the borders of their relationship, but it becomes clear that both will have a hard time when they get separated. An enjoyable drama to see when it is on TV some time, but not good enough to buy or rent.

“A matter of taste” is the American title by the way, but in French there is a nice word-game as you can see.

Adaptation * Spike Jonze * 2002

A film from almost exactly the same crew as “Being John Malkovich” (BJM), which says a lot, doesn’t it? But, if you haven’t seen BJM, I suggest you see it before you do this one. There is one big difference between the two films. Whereas you best know as little as possible about BJM before you see it, with “Adaptation” it is very helpfull to have some background information. The ingenious script for BJM film has been written by Charlie Kaufman. He wasn’t the first choice for, but for this very reason he was asked for a strange Holywood project. There happened to be a book about orchids written by Susan Orlean. However it isn’t exactly an easy popularly-written book, it was a bestseller in the USA and as it goes with bestsellers, the rights to make a film of it were bought by some bobo. Several scenerists have clutched their brains over the question how to make a film about orchids that people would go and see. Nobody succeeded, so Charlie Kaufman got the job. He pondered and thought but couldn’t come up with anything, so in the end he decided to write a script about him trying to write a script for a movey. Instead of looking in Malkovich’s head you get a peek into Kaufman’s own head. The film is partly ‘biographical’/true, partly not. Nicholas Cage for example plays both Charlie Kaufman and his twin brother Donald, but Kaufman doesn’t have a brother in reality. Susan Orlean is played by Meryl Streep who falls in love with the orchid-hunter John Laroche (Chris Cooper), but if I understand correctly, this is added to make the story a bit more interesting. Just as the thrillerish end by the way. Further you can see some of the filming of BJM in the film with Malkovich and some of the actors (including Spike Jonze himself). The title of the film refers to the evolution-theory of Charles Darwin (plants adapt to their new environment in this case) and the adaptation of the book that had to be filmed.
And the result? Well, “Adaptation” is a nice film, but definately no “Being John Malkovich”.
At the same time in the cinemas is another story of Charlie Kaufman being “Confessions Of A Dangerous Mind” (first film directed by George Clooney!) which I hope to see some time soon too. <3>

Abre Los Ojos * Alejandro Amenábar (1997)

I saw this wonderfull film in the cinema when it still played and later I also saw the American version (“Vanilla Sky”) in the cinema. “Open Your Eyes” by Amenábar (“Tesis”, “The Others”, etc.) was one of the earlier films with the ‘what is true, what is dream’ theme and is here centered around a cryonics project. It is well-done, fairly surprising if you haven’t seen (or heard about) it and especially Penélope Cruz is a feast for the eyes.

The 51st State * Ronny Yu * 2001

Well another action/crime/comedy in the vein of “Snatch”, “Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels”, “Traffic” or “Pulp Fiction”. This time by a Tai director who previously made Tai karate action films.

“The 51st State” is about the American chemist and drug producer Elmo McElroy (Samuel L. Jackson) who made the perfect new drug and he wants to sell his formula for a high price to be able to get out of the business. In the USA he literally blows the deal with the corrupt police agent The Lizard (Meat Loaf) and he seeks his salvation in Liverpool, England. There McElroy is picked up by the supercool Felix DeSouza (Robert Carlyle) and his driver. Being chased by DeSouzas ex-girlfriend Dakota (Emily Mortimer) also this deal gets blown and McElroy has to go find a new buyer together with DeSouza.

The film starts with a totally hip combination of fast images and heavy music. There are also more ‘tranquil’ parts in the film and all through there is a cynical kind of humour combining both British (anti-American) and American (anti-British) jokes. A lot of ‘bad language’ is used to make things totally hilarious. Some pretty good jokes, unexpected changes in the story (not too unexpected though) and quite a lot of action make this film pretty nice. Here and there a bit unbelievable and overall not brilliant, but good entertainment.

24 Hour Party People * Michael Winterbottom * 2002

I had wanted to see this film for a long time, but when I read in the anouncement of the TV-broadcasting that the Sex Pistols are part of the story, I wondered why I never watched this film before. Not that I am a big Sex Pistol fan, but I like films about the 70’s (music) scene, such as “Boogie Nights” or “Almost Famous”. “24 Hour Party People” is even more ‘educational’ than I expected. After the first concert of the Sex Pistols Tony Wilson decided that he wanted to form a plane for independant music. First he gets a show about punk music on a regional TV channel, later he opens the club “The Factory” to organise shows and after that he founds “Factory Records”. There isn’t too much punk in this film, because soon Wilson discovers the genre ‘postpunk’ (later ‘(new) wave’ or ‘gothic’). Quite a large part of the film is dedicated to Joy Division, the controversy about their name and the suicide of the lead singer. In their early days, there wasn’t much of ‘a gothic look’, but later there was. Obviously the genre developed into a scene. After the suicide of Ian Curtis, the band continues under the name New Order.
Wilson doesn’t just sign wave bands though, because he also discovers the Happy Mondays and some avantgardistic bands that I don’t even know. The greatest thing to see is what happens around the person a Wilson, a music lover not interested in genres. He releases punk, wave, indie/avantgarde, funk and eventually he opens a club where ‘the rave scene’ was born, the earliest signs of life of house music, where the attention didn’t go to the creators of the music, but to the medium, the DJ. Touched upon are the problems with drugs, gangs and the like.

I don’t know how historical the story is, but I read somewhere on the internet that the story is very one-sided and focussed too much on the person of Wilson. I suppose that is true, but still the film gives a wonderfull view on the happenings of the Manchester scene of that time.Personally I was delighted to see how different kinds of music and scenes run through and follow up eachother.

Also the film itself is very well done. Most of the time you get the idea that you are ‘part of’ the time the film is about, but the main character frequently makes it clear that the film was shot recently, by saying what will happen in the film, who plays what character, giving comments on what happens, etc. The humour is British and extremely dry, I like that! The film is educational in a way, enjoyable and a great watch. Now I need to see “Velvet Goldmine” (1998) some time soon too!

24 (series 3) * Robert Cochran & Joel Sunrow * 2004

The problem with series that run well is that they keep coming up with sequals, so here we have “day 3” of the 24 series. Of course again 18 hours of tv spread over 24 episodes in total dealing with one day this time from 1 to 1 pm. Also the rest is mostly the same.

For a large part you will know the characters from the previous series. We have of course Jack Bauer and his daughter Kim, president palmer, the people at CTU, etc. This time Bauer tries to stop a virus falling into the wrong hands. Especially the first half of the series are (I think) stuffed with ilogical, inconsistent and especially incredible parts in the story. Of course the threat is personal to Bauer again, he doesn’t play by the book, but it all is a bit too much. Not that it all isn’t entertaining though, but halfway I was of the opinion that this was again downhill from the original idea. Yet, just as before, there is a high speed in the series, the tension is high and you keep wondering what the picture is. Halfway things get better. Still ilogical, inconsistent and incredible elements (in particular to the ‘real time’ concept), but the ‘atmosphere’ of the series becomes superb. However I really didn’t watch the hole series in one sit (usually 3 episodes on one night), I really ‘came into’ the series and its characters. There is one episode in which the general audience gets suicide pills and Jack Bauer had to execute a colleague. Pretty heavy stuff. Other scenes are really high tension. Both things I hadn’t experienced in the previous series, however I can imagine that this isn’t the same for anyone.

In any case. When you have the DVD box and can decide for yourself when to watch it (and not have to be in front of the tv at a specific time for 24 times), these series are good entertainment. I still think series one is the best, of course mostly because of the entirely new concept, series two is good and series three is good too, but just regarding acting and atmosphere, the second half of these series three are by far the best.

So, this may promise to series four that are already on tv in the USA……..

24 (series 2) * Robert Cochran & Joel Sunrow * 2002

Another review that required 18 hours of watching. The second series of 24 are again good, but not quite as surprising as the first series. Better this time is that the speed of the events is much higher, but this kind of let to the fact that the logic and fitting-the-concept had to be kept in a little lower degree. This time a nuclear bomb is going to be set off by terrorists in LA and of course Jack Bauer is the one to prevent this. Like I said, the logic and credibility are not always guarenteed and in particular the story of daughter Kim is roundout irritating this time. Still the series are interesting enough to keep the attention for 18 hours. Some unexpected changes and the tenstion is well-done.

Series 3 are already playing in the USA, but it will take some time before I will see them on DVD I guess.