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C’est Arrivé Près De Chez Vous * Remy Belvaux / André Bonzel / Benoît Poelvoorde * 1992

I have seen this film a long time ago. I only knew it under the American title. The French title means something like “It has come to you too”, so where does ‘Man Bites Dog’ from? The film is slightly ‘Blair Witchy’. You see the result of a documentary that three young people made about a philosophical and poetic serial killer. They filmed his normal life and his killings. Benoît mostly kills for money (and all of his friends and relatives know that), but also for pleasure. All this is shown quite explicitly. There are funny moments, sometimes the violence is shown a bit in ‘the Tarantino way’ (hard but funny), sometimes more like ‘Funny Games’. Especially this last fact makes this a good film, but not a nice film to watch. Just like with ‘Funny Games’ (of Michael Haneke) this film makes you wonder why you actually watch a violent film like this. Actually it is good when a film does that!

Casshern * Kazuaki Kiriya * 2004

However this film may be ‘the Japanese Sin City’ (it is also a film made of a comic), the approach is quite different. Still, also in “Casshern” there are computer stages, weird colours, etc., but the persons look more human than in “Sin City” and “Casshern” is a lot darker (yes, a lot darker than “Sin City”), but also a lot more ‘bombastic’. I don’t quite follow the logic in the film (do Japanese have another sense of logic?), but the story is something like this: in the future Asia has conquered the European lands and formed a big empire. There is rebellion in one of the European parts of “Eurasia” and an ongoing war. A professor discovers a new gene-technology that should make it easy to ‘repair damaged soldiers’, since he can breed hands and limbs, etc. This experiment runs out of hand and mutants walk out of the laboratory. These mutants call themselves ‘neo-sapiens’ and decide to take revenge on the human race. A massive war with some ‘supernatural’ elements is caused.
The film begins a bit dreamy with bright colours and a strange atmosphere that reminds me a bit of the Japanese film “Dolls” (reviewed elsewhere). The war scenes are very grim and depressive (but not too good) and especially when the war between the mutants and mankind begins, the film gets very dark. The director obviously wants to show the crazyness and futility of war and to show that the battle between ‘good’ and ‘evil’ is not as black-and-white as you may think. As in other Eastern films there are long ‘philosophical’ scenes about why mankind always makes war, etc. The film is sometimes quite realistic, here and there you get 2-dimensional comic scenes, but most of the time there are over-the-top stages with bright colours, comic action and weird characters. The film is overwhelming, but with the grim atmosphere not a pleasant watch. Also with the confusing story (who is who, what is happening?) I definately need to watch this film again, maybe it will make a bit more sense. But “Casshern” (which means ‘guardian angel’ by the way) surely isn’t the average film and also I think it is not (like “Sin City”) for the big audience. Watch it and be surprised by the weirdness of Japanese filmmaking!

Carnivàle (series) season 1 * Daniel Knauf * 2003-

I remember when these series were introduced on the Dutch television. Quite a big anouncement and my interest was raised enough to watch it. I am not good at following series on TV, so somewhere in the second half I missed an episode, later another, then I dropped out. I liked the series. They are not comparable in magnificence to Twin Peaks which name is often mentioned, but it was a nice watch. For years I had the idea to watch them on DVD some time. That apparently took four years!
Carnivàle (as you probably know) is about a travelling circus. The “route” goes through the deserts of central and southern Northern America which immediately sets the atmosphere for the series: barren, desolate and grim. The atmosphere is rather dark for such a big series and the characters are as weird as they are collourfull. A comateus tarrot card reader, a bearded lady, a reptile man, a blind clairvoyant, a tiny director (a great role by Michael Anderson, the dwarf from Twin Peaks’ red room), an invisible “management”. A young man is picked up, Ben Hawkins, a man with a strange gift/curse. He “was not picked up for no reason” and this is what the series are about. A very nice watch for sure if you enjoy the non-average TV entertainment and can stand a grim atmosphere and halucinative scenes. A series for Twin Peaks fans maybe, but believe me, Twin Peaks is 10x better and I can’t wait for the second series to be available. The second series of Carnivàle are already available and the end of the first series prove that this is not a sequel because of a successfull series, but it was always intended to be a multi-series series. I have no idea if there are plans for a third series. I hope not! Canivàle is nice, but a second series will probably already be on the edge of cow-milking. I think I might watch that second series though… sometimes (maybe when I know if there will be more series!). For the time being, if you haven’t seen Carnivàle yet, the 12x 45 to 55 minutes on the couch are worth it.

Bye Bye Blue Bird * Katrin Ottarsdóttir * 1999

Two girls arrive at the Faröer islands for a holiday of fun. Apparently the big-city-friends have more of these vacations, but this one turns out to have a special meaning. The Faröer islands are quite small and have an own kind of people who are mostly very religious. The landscape is magnificent, the life mostly keeps to elementary things. Rannvá (Hildigunn Eyðfinsdóttir) and Barba (Sigri Mitra Gaïni) are hip and cool and dress exuberantly. They plan to have some fun of the inhabitents, but they are not really impressent by the extravagant-looking girls. After visiting Rannvá’s mother the girls want to move up north for yet an unknown reason. The man Rúni (Johan Dalsgaard) who says to have to do business up north takes the girl for the film-long ride through the beautiful country, which in the end turned out to be a very significant trip for Barba who grew up on the islands.

The extravagant girls are as crazy as they seem and there are hilarious scenes of them ‘dancing’ outside the car or in a local club. Weird conversations and strange camera-work make this film quite humerous. Also grief melancholy and misunderstanding between the girls and their family and between themselves though. Yep, a real Scandinavian film that has it all, very nice I’m only not pleased with the last ten seconds… <3>

The Butcher Boy * Neil Jordan * 1997

When this film was anounced, I really wanted to see it. So when it played in the local filmhouse, I went with my brother. A filmhouse by the way (for those who don’t know) is a pub/restaurant/cinema in one where they usually play alternative/independant/smaller productions. Anyway, the filmhouse here has two rooms for films, a big one (which must have about 250 seats) and a smaller one (about 150). “The Butcher Boy” played in the big room, but only me and my brother were in it! This is really a shame, because the film is magnificent!

The young Francie Brady (Eamon Owens) is a son of an alcoholic “da” and a depressed mother. He is a total pain in the ass together with his best friend Joe Purcell (Alan Boyle). Living halfway in a fantasy-world in which he speaks to himself, Francie projects his frustrations on communists, aliens, but most of all, the family Nugent which he terrorises as amusement. More than once Francie is send to boarding school or jail, but always he finds a way to get out. In a way Francie is intelligent, but he definately misses something in his head. This goes downhill for him when his mother dies and when Joe doesn’t want to know him again. Francie goes to extremes by killing miss Nugent. The film ends with a vision.

“The Butcher Boy” is in basis a drama, but it contains so much grim humour, that it is usually anounced as a comedy. It is a very Irish film playing at the heights of the cold war. It is played brilliantely, the humour and magnificent and the story unbelievable yet credible. A wonderfull and underrated film of the director of “Interview With A Vampire”.

The Bridge of San Luis Rey * Mary McGuckian * 2004

The third time this film was made seems to have been quite a prestige-project. Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel, exquisite stages and costumes.
In 18th century Peru there seems to have been a quite European court. The story is about a bridge that breaks and kills five people. A monk takes years to write a book about these five people, but the book is regarded heretical by the Arch-Bishop. A court is brought together and the monk is handed over to the inquisition and burned at the stake together with his book. The film is filled with the flashbacks of the lives of the victims as told by brother Juniper.
The film is a mediocre costume drama giving a nice view of the Peruan court and a bit about the Spanish, but the story is rather boring and the film isn’t much more interesting.

Breaking The Waves * Lars von Trier * 1996

A cheap DVD was made available just before “Dogville” came into the cinemas. “Breaking The Waves” is also a long film (158 min) and also divided in chapters. Also it is not too cheerfull and a bit too long.

Bess is a girl that is “not right in her head” who grew up in an extremely religious community in Scotland. She marries a ‘man of the world’ from an oil rig who gets paralysed after an accident. Bess’ faith in God (who she speaks with) and Jan (her husband) is tested.

Good acting, original story, but a bit too long.

Brabant 900 * 2006

1106 to 2006, 900 years of Brabant. That is to say, 900 years ago the duchy of Brabant was ‘founded’. Meanwhile a lot has happened as regular visitor of these pages may know. What used to be the duchy of Brabant, is now divided over Belgium and the Netherlands. I like the idea of the ‘greater Brabant’ and somehow feel more connected to the Belgian Brabantians than to the Dutch living ‘above the great rivers’. The Dutch provincial broadcasting company has made two series about the history of greater Brabant and the first is available on DVD. 10 Episodes of 25 minutes about “Bourgondian Brabant”, “Romish Brabant”, the farmer culture, nature, the language, etc. Not too much about the Belgian part of Brabant though and also the historian who speaks in the episodes is often over-critical towards concepts that we Brabanders are proud of. But, the series do give a nice idea of the history, there are nice old films, photos, etc. to be seen and heard and of course there is always something nice to learn.

Bowling For Columbine * Michael Moore * 2002

I had wanted this documentary since it came out (that long ago?), but apparently not enough to see it before it came on TV… Of course you all know about this documentary. Moore wanted to make a critical documentary showing why the USA have such a high number of killings caused by weapons. He hung the documentary on the Columbine Highschool shootout where the killers played a few rounds of bowling before their gruesome act. Also the killing of a six-year-old girl by a boy of the same age is dealt with at length. Moore wondered why in the USA so many people get killed while other countries such as the UK or Germany have an equally violent past (which is one argument in the USA) and a country like Canada which has just as many guns in comparison to the number of inhabitents (which is a big point for the anti-guns campaign). Moore’s conclusion is that it is the government and the media who (try to) keep people scared. Indeed, the one-sidedness of American news is horrid, but Moore goes a bit in the same direction. Whereas in the USA most media are very right/conservative, Moore tends to be a little bit too leftish in his vision and he shows this a bit too clearly at times. Still I think this documentary surely had to make American citizens think about things and maybe things may change a bit some times. As for us Europeans, we get an idea of the States that we already had, but too far driven through and not completely accurate in my opinion. This documentary is -I think- meant for the American market.
Filmographically then: a nice documentary with some rather sick / over the top films, some humour (like from South Park) and a few things that you even wouldn’t see or hear on the news here. Good to see some time, but I think when somebody made something similar about our own countries, it would possibly be (almost) just as shocking. Another point is that Moore, almost by himself, brought back the genre of documentaries back to the cinemas, which is something to respect as well.

Bound * Andy and Larry Wachowski * 1996

Shame on me! I hadn’t heard of this movie I believe until recently. It is made by the brother Wachowski who later made the brilliant sci-fi film The Matrix. Bound is very much different from that film though.

Bound is an intelligent thriller with a very good story. Often it is compared to Seven, The Usual Suspects, etc., but I don’t agree with people who say that. Where the other films make you wonder “whodunnit” until the end, in Bound this is obvious from the first second. Also Bound is just a story in one line with here and there a flashback, but nothing going back and forth to make you confused.
The story is about the beautiful ex-convict Corki (Gina Gershon) who is seduced by the also beautiful maffia wife Violet (Jennifer Tilly). Violet has grown tired from the violent maffia life and wants to get away. She seduces the just-out-of-jail Corky who got some plumbers-work in the appartment next door. The plan is to get the 2 million dollar that Violets husband Ceasar (Joe Pantoliano) has to give to the big boss Gino Marzzone (Richard Sarafian) and put the blame on someone else, being Marzzones son Johnnie (Christopher Maloni). Of course the plan doesn’t work out the way the women wanted, which makes the story turn and twist in unexpected directions.

All in all quite a nice film, but I don’t think it’s all that special.