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Geoul Sokeuro * Seong-Ho Kim * 2003

into the mirror

This is a Korean film so of course it is compared to Asian horror clasics like “Ringu”, “Ju-On” and of course “Janghwa, Hongryeon”. This is not just! “Geoul Sokeuro” is not a ‘pure horror’ film like the others. In basis “Geoul” is a crime/police film, but the subject is ‘supernatural’. The film starts nice Asian dark and horrorish, but most of the film is more like a police-film, but in this case looking for an inhuman murderer. The film is nice and at least a variety to the popular theme, so that is a good thing. The story is not too original, but typical for an Eastern film, it is superstitious/mythological.

Gemini * Shinya Tsukamoto * 1999

Yep, another Japanese film. No horror/thriller this time though. Well, no “Ringu” anyway.

Both the story of and the film “Gemini” (not in the internet movie database ?!?) itself are pretty strange. You get to see the life of a Japanese married couple that gets into a mess. I am afraid that anything I say will give away the content the story and we don’t want that. So I will only mention that “Gemini” is a drama with a few thriller-elements and a couple of extremely dark scenes that we love the Japanese films for. The film is shot nice and vague and has a lot of flashbacks. The story is about a ‘German style doctor’ and his wife, is told nicely and unravels as the film goes. A very good Japanese film and also a very nice insight in the daily life Japan.

The Gathering * Brian Gilbert * 2002

The idea behind this film is alright, a little far fetched maybe, but the biggest problem is that it is made too big for the film. In Glastonbury (UK) an ancient church is discovered by accident. The church (inside the Tor?) is supposed to be a first century church founded by Josef of Arimathea. Arimathea witnesses the crucifixion of Jesus and immediately travelled to the UK to found a way too big church for a small town where nobody practised the Christian faith yet. Another rather incredible element is that a group of people who witnessed the crucifixion where punished for being watchers and they were doomed to be witness to the tragedies of history, such as the first atom bomb, the assasination of JFK, etc. Alright, nice theories.
Near Glastonbury lays the small city of Ashby Wake. One of the people investigating the church of Glastonbury bought a building that used to be a forster-home where the children were abused. One of these children grew up and wants to kill everyone involved and the son of the investigator. This seems but a small thing to happen, but the ‘watchers’ are present which makes me wonder: how can a group of calamity-tourists be present with every murder, tragic event or disaster? Like I said in the beginning, the idea was too big for the outcome.
I know I gave away almost all of the film, but there aren’t too many surprises in it anyway. Two major discoveries I will leave to you. The film is not a boring watch, but the story should better have been overthought better.

Gadjo Dilo * Tony Gatlif * 1997

I had seen this film before, but I didn’t review it for some reason. I have known about it since it came out, but didn’t go to see it when it played in the cinemas. For on tv it is nice enough to watch though.

“Gadjo Dilo” means “the crazy stranger” and this seems to be the American title for the film too. It is a Romanian film playing in Romania. Stéphane is a french young man whose father had travelled all across the globe looking for authentic folkloristic music which he recorded. In the days before he died he played nothing but one gypsy-song that he loved. Stéphane is destined to find the singer of that song, so we find him travelling in Romania without a clue where to look. He ends up in a gypsy community and the film is almost entirely about the differences between the cultures. Stéphane only speaks French, the gypsies (except one young woman) only Romani. You get a very good idea of the gypsy life, their overemotionality (actually they overdo everything), etc. A nice film with funny moments first at an easy pace, at the end a lot of music and dancing.

Fucking Åmål * Lucas Moodysson * 1998

Ever since this film came out I wanted to see it, but this took so long that I finally saw it from TV. Fucking Åmål shows the lives of teenagers of the small Swedisch town Åmål. Agnes (Rebecka Liljeberg) moved there one and a half year ago and has problems making friends and her fancying girls instead of boys making her extra insecure. She leads a withdraws life with her music an her diary.
Elin (Alexandra Dahlström) on the other hand is a popular girl at school, because she is quite beautiful and everybody wants to be her friend. Her best friend -though- is her older sister Jessica (Erica Carlson). Elin is also not too happy with her life. Åmål is the most boring place and so retarted that by the time something is hip and cool there, there is already something new in the rest of the world. She fears a future in Åmål that is as boring as her life so far. When Agnes and Elin more or less as a joke meet at Agnes’ birthday and the two sisters find out about Agnes’ homosexuality, the sisters bet that Elin doesn’t dare to kiss her which she does, leaving Agnes in even greater distress and she even becomes the laugh of the school when everybody gets to know of her sexuallity. Elin on the other hand initually think being a lesbian is quite cool and since she wants to be different from the rest, she first makes jokes about becoming lesbian herself, but finding out that this would cost her the life with lots of friends and attention that she got used to, she represses the idea by starting to date a boy that has a crush on her. In the end she dumps Johan (Mathias Rust) in favour of Agnes.

I always thought that Fucking Åmål was a feel-good kind of light comedy, but I actually found it quite heavy. Two girls in difficult periods of their lives brings ideas of films like Heavenly Creatures or The Virgin Suicides. Another thing is that when things finally get better for the two girls after they came together, the film suddenly stops, not showing what ‘the world’ thinks of the two lesbian teenagers or how the relationship developes. Quite strange actually. The film is also really short, a little under 1,5 hour.

Overall I found Fucking Åmål nice, but not too great definately in comparison with Heavenly Creatures and The Virgin Suicides. <3>

From Hell * Albert and Allen Huges * 2001

Well, I read and heard a few things about this film which made me curious enough to go see it. It is said that this film is very scary and mostly because of the impressive sound and not as much because of the images and horror-shock-effects. Two conclusions to start with for those who would want to see this film because of similar stories: 1- the film is not the least bit scary; 2- I don’t know what all this talking about the sound is, but I didn’t experience anything different from any other film.

Let me dig out the conclusions a bit deeper. “From Hell” is said to be a horror film just like for example “Bram Stoker’s Dracula”, “Interview With A Vampire” or “Sleepy Hollow”. We all know that these films are much different from a “Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, more refined, better worked out, no splatter-horror. Also none of the mentioned films is frightening (personally I usually say that the first scary film still has to be made). “From Hell” is in the vain of the first three. The story plays in the darker times of our history and is more ‘thrillerish’ than horror. Also “From Hell” isn’t much more explicit or anything than the other three films.
The sound then. What you usually hear is that you don’t see Jack the Ripper cutting up an “unfortunate woman” but hearing it is what makes it scary. Besides some slashing and gargling (what you hear in any horror) there isn’t much more to the sound than some dark deep tones that we all know of David Lynch for example, nothing more, really. Besides, “From Hell” is pretty gory at times, with extreme closeups of cut-up bodies and blood all over the place. Quite contrary to the usual reviews, not?

In short the story, because there are two major minor points in it. Frederick George Abberline (Johhny Depp) is a police-officer who under influence of Laudanum (a poison known to alchemists) has visions about cases he is working on. Recently a group of five “unfortunate women” (“there are no whores in England, but oh so many unfortunate women”) are terrorrised by a serial killer who kills them one by one and brutely/ritually cuts up the bodies and leaves them at a place where they are easily found. Of course Abberline falls in love with one of the women, being the beautiful Mary Kelly (Heather Graham) while trying to crack the case with his unusual capacities. Funnily enough there is no happy end for the two.
Then to the bad points in the story. Somewhere halfway you see the Ripper close his small case with equipment and you clearly see the square and compass that form the most well-known symbol of the Freemasons. This made me fear the worst and my fears came more than true. Around the end you see several rituals of the ‘evil’ Masons and Jack the Ripper turns out to be a Mason doing his Mason duty and cutting up the bodies in a Masons ritual way.
And if this is not enough, Jack the Ripper is exposed, while the real example of modern serial killers was never found!!

So, is “From Hell” a bad film? Not at all! It is not quite what you hear and the story is quite horrible, but the acting is good, the stages and locations are wonderfull and there are some brilliant dark scenes when Abberline has his visions. ‘Filmographically’ it is really well-done and entertaining and definately worth to see.

Four Rooms * Allison Anders + Alexandre Rockwell + Robert Rodriguez + Quentin Tarantino * 1995

So why hadn’t I seen this film before? For years I have known that Quentin Tarantino was involved in this film, but I guess I never found it in a videoshop and it had to take until MTV broadcasted it before I finally saw it. A shame, because this wonderfull film is truely entertaining.

“Four Rooms” refers to four hotelrooms in which four different stories, written and directed by four different directors, take part. The film brings great grim comedy that we are nowadays familiar with, but in 1995 it may have been even more funny than nine years later. There is a bellhop (Tim Roth) who has to run an entire hotel alone on oldyears evening. In the first room a group of witches (including Madonna) stay, trying to turn their leader back from stone to a human being. Only… there is one “missing ingredient” for their soup.
Next Ted the Bellhop runs into the wrong room and gets involved in some SM kind of roleplay.
The third room is a great part in which Ted has to babysit the two children of a maffia-man. Of course things don’t entirely go the way he wants to.
The last part is written and directed by Tarantino and he also plays the main role. Tarantino really does his thing with totally useless dialogues, a strange kind of humour and of course violence.

Should you have missed this film until now too, do your best to see it afterall.

Following * Christopher Nolan * 1998

It has been a while since I saw this one, but recently it was shown on TV and why not write a review about this wonderfull film? “Following” is made my Christopher Nolan who also made the brilliant “Memento”. It made earlier and this is quite clear, since it is a bit more primitive and not as brilliant.

Anyway, “Following” is still a wonderfull film. It is about a guy (Jeremy Theobald) who starts to follow people out of boredom and to form characters for his writings. When he started to follow Cobb (Alex Haw) this last immediately saw him through and starts a conversation. Cobb turns out to be a burglar, mostly for fun. Going through people’s personal things and trying to make them feel uncomfortable. The two men are going to brake into places together, but “the young man” falls back into his old habbit of following people and eventually he gets involved with a woman who’s house they broke in.
That is as much of the story that I will tell, otherwise there is no use in seeing it anymore. Just as with “Memento” it is best to not know much about the story when you see it.

The film is shot in black and white and totally cut-up and the scenes reassembled all the way through eachother. Therefor you will have different scenes from every possible time in the story, slowly being able to understand/see what the story really it. Of course this is done a lot nowadays, but in 1998 it was still quite original. The way of filming, acting, stages, etc. are all quite minimal which adds to the atmosphere of the film.

“Following” sure isn’t a “Memento” yet, but a good step on the way.

Film 1 (Piranha Blues) * Willem Wallyn * 1999

A Belgian film in Dutch language (or Flemish if you like) that plays with on the background one of Belgians biggest political scandals of recent times, the Augusta-affair, a massive corruption scandal with military helicopters. The trial was in late 1998.

The father of the succesfull lawyer Willem Wallyn (Peter van den Begin) is one of the accused. The TV- journalist Johannes van Buren (Herbert Flack) wants to make a juice story and choses Wallyn as his victim to exploit. Just before the the first coverage in the main-newsbulletin, Wallyn and Van Buren run into eachother and get an argument. Shortly after Wallyn saw the news in his office with his colleagues, he picks up the plan to take the power of media and turn it around. With two friends he kidnaps Van Buren and starts to dig out his life in search for scandals. The rest of the film is mostly filled with discussions of the journalist who both wants to be a correct person/journalist, but also wants attention and fame and on the other side the succesfull lawyer who sees his name already affected by the trial against his father, but even further by Van Buren’s coverage. Wallyn more or less justifies his actions by the unjust against his father.

Indeed the director of this film is one of the main characters in the story. There are several people playing themselves in it as well. Seemingly Wallyn wants to show the power of the media with this film. The title “Film 1” refers to the fact that there are always two sides of the story, in this case, the side of Van Buren and the side of Wallyn. Nobody is interested in the first version, the not-juicy and not-all-giving version, but this is the version that we get here, the version of the journalist Van Buren. The irony in Wallyn’s approach is obvious, since he doesn’t give his own version of a story that is not told to be true or made up.
Stylistically this film is particularly special. It opens with a cut-up monologue of Willem Wallyn to the viewer and then a long opening with pictures of helicopters and fighters made by the Augusta company I asume. The soundtrack is totally incorporated in the film and pictures change with the music which is really well done. Especially in the beginning there is quite a lot of what they call “hip-hop assembly”, rapidly changing images with a heavy score. Some funny camera-effects and the suggestion that half the film is shot during the film with a handycam adds to the effect. The second half of the film is more focussed on ‘oral violence’ so to say.

A very nice debut for sure. I don’t know how you should get to see this film though, I personally saw it on the Belgian public television.

La Fille Sur Le Pont * Patrice Leconte * 1999

I remember that this film played in the local filmhouse, but I didn’t get to see it. Even when it was available for rent I didn’t see it and now it was already on television. A very nice drama like the French seem to be so able to make. Adele (Vanessa Paradis) is ‘the girl on the bridge’ from the title. However she is beautiful, Adele had nothing but bad luck. She comes to the point that she serieusly wants to end her life by jumping off a bridge. She is ‘found’ by the knifethrower (in a circus) Gabor (Daniel Auteuil, who we know from ‘Le Huitième Jour’) who often finds his targets on bridges and towers. He ‘teaches’ Adele luck, both in life and in the casino and the two have a prosporous time, first artistically and then in the casino. Because Adele is very labile she is drawn to every man that pays her attention and she and Gabor get separated a few times. Obviously separately they have nothing but bad luck, which draws them back together.
Nice film, not too dramatic, not to light, nicely shot in black and white with nice settings and a minimal story.