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The Belly Of An Architect * Peter Greenaway * 1987

For a Greenaway film, this one is very ‘normal’. The film has a story which is shown chronologically, there are no stretched scenes with repetative music, no picture-in-picture or strange montage, no explicit nudity or absurd sexual moral (only a wife cheating). Fortunatly it does have a Greenaway atmosphere, but not too much. I think this is a Greenaway for a larger audience.
Stourley Kracklite is an American architect whose lifework is an exibition about an obscure but influential French architect. The final stage of the work is the preparation of the actual exhibition in Rome, but this soon proves to be Kracklite’s end. His wife leaves him, he gets very sick and looses control over the exhibition.
“The belly of an architect” is a nice film which is completely covered by the title. Nice, but for Greenaway standards maybe too normal and average …?

Avalon * Mamoru Oshii * 2001

You know these Japanese are crazy, but this does it! A Japanese film shot in Poland and spoken Polish! I had heard about this film soon when it came to the cinemas and it played in the local film-house (where you go to see the smaller productions) for quite a while. Still it took until I found it cheap on video before I finally saw it.

“With a story like Exitenz or the Matrix” the box says. It is actually quite a lot like Existenz. “Avalon” is a virtual-reality computer war game. The players entirely go up in their game trying to get as good and far as they can. There is a lot of Arthurian mythology in the film, but the game itself is just a shooting war game. Ash (Malgorzata Foremniak) is almost the best player, a good-looking but lonely girl who makes money playing the came and flees from the grim reality of Poland. The players contact eachother to get information to reach a secret level and when Ash reaches it, we no longer know what is reality. The secret game is the real world, or not?

Nice fairly grim atmosphere, nice colour-settings, mediocre story.

Around The World In 80 Days * Frank Coraci * 2004

What do you get when Jackie Chan is involved in a film with an all-English story told ‘in an English manner’? Just try this film if you think you can stand that. The film is of course based on the famous book of Jules Verne, but this book is only the basis of the film. I don’t think Verne has a story of an Asiatic bankrobber who has ‘to kung foo’ his enemies with fast Jackie Chan scenes. Furthermore there is nice Brittish humour and a bit of a Tim Burton sause poored over it. The result is a funny film for the entire family and it surely made my planeflight to bit faster.

Atanarjuat, the fast runner * Zacharias Kunuk * 2001

This film has played in the local filmhouse for a fairly long time, but it had to take until it was shown on TV before I saw it. Atanarjuat is one of these films being a crossbreed between film and documentary about a small group from a culture we know little about. Just think about ‘Once Were Warriors’ about Maori’s, ‘Die Salzmänner Von Tibet’ about Tibetans and films like that. “Atanarjuat” is about an Eskimo/Inuit tribe who live together during the winter, but go separate ways during the summer. They don’t do much more than hunt, but you also get an idea of the social structures. Also the story itself is said to be an Inuit myth about an evil spirit. The film is fairly long (2,5 hours), but enjoyable, informative and funny. I will not say anything about the story. The film is mostly to create an atmosphere anyway, so…

Any Way The Wind Blows * Tom Barman * 2003

I probably heard about this second film of the singer of the Belgian popband dEUS, but for some reason I hadn’t seen it. Shame on me! This film is really wonderfull! There is no story, no plot or anything, just scenes of people who on first sight have nothing incommon, but who all end up at the same party after which everyone goes their own way. “A friday in june” is all you get. Everything happens on one day with no background information, flashbacks and you also don’t know what happens after this day, even though one element could have become a plot or storyline. You only get to see the lifes of individuals living in Antwerpen. Youngsters paste posters of music-events throughout town and get caught by the police, a teacher French has problems with his wife, a girl’s father just died and she seeks comfort with her brother, etc. There is one ‘unreal’ element in the film, which is the “windman”, but I will leave it to you to find out how he got this name. The film has a nice speed, contains all kinds of music and shows the (drug-influenced) life of youngsters in the city of Antwerpen. If you know the city and its inhabitents, the film somehow gives a familiar view of Antwerpen and its atmosphere. A very pleasent watch!

Anna and the King * Andy Tennant * 1999

I remember that when this film played in the cinemas, I was in doubt whether or not to see it. Jody Foster usually is alright, but she didn’t make me watch “Panic Room”. I like historical films, but the critics probably kept me out of the cinema-rooms. Now it was on TV, so…

Not a very original story! An Eastern king wants his son to get a Western education, so Foster leaves her Brittish colony in India with her son for Bangkok to teach the Kings son. Of course things don’t go too easily, especially when political affairs interfere with the relationship. So the result is a historical drama that is certainly not boring, but also not too exciting.

The Animatrix * various * 2003

I have had this DVD in my hands several times and I was not the only one doubting whether or not to see this film. I can tell you: I don’t regret I did!

Already a nice surprise was that before I started to watch the films, I quickly jumped through the extras menu and heard that it were the brothers Wachowski themselves who had these films made. No cheap spinoff without consulting the creators of The Matrix trilogy. The brothers Wachowski wanted an animated version of their stories and asked nine prominent Japanese “anime” artists to make a short film. The brothers wrote the stories and came with suggestions, but still left the artists very free to fill in the rest. The result is nine animation films of about 10 minutes each, in different styles and treating different aspects of the world of The Matrix. The first film is an extraordinary realistic part much like the first film. The rest is quite typical Japanese “anime” with a lot of Buddhistic and “Matrixal” symbology. You will get the story of the time before the first film and different aspects of the concept of The Matrix. The extra information is very nice. Also you will get insight into the “Enter The Matrix” computer game, but that is not really my cup of tea.

So, if you like The Matrix, just have a look at this. The atmosphere of the animations is very close to that of the first film and they are done by the best artists and this definately shows. Also if you (like me) normally do not watch “anime”, this “Animatrix” is still a pleasure to watch.

Anazahevun * Jôji Iida * 2000

Of course it is not all horror that comes from Japan. There are also dramas such as “Dolls” (reviewed elsewhere), there is a lot of action and here we have a police / crime / thriller. The film starts as a supernatural thriller with a story much like a Hollywood film that I can’t come up with the title of, but I would have spoiled the surprise if I did anyway, so… Anyway, after a few murders with humorous scenes the film becomes a police investigation film with some thriller/suspense elements. The victims are shown quite explicitly, but it doesn’t become horror anyway. This film is more American/modern than other Japanese films that I reviewed, it is just a nice ‘occult thriller’ which shows that Japanese handle things just a little bit different than we are used to, but not that different in this case.

Amores Perros * Alejandro González Iñárritu * 2000

A long and rather complex Mexican drama. “Amores Perros” tells different stories, but has one central point: a terrible car-accident with which every person in the film has something to do in one way or another. Two and a half hours is not too long, but it could have been less. A nice film with different sides of Mexican life.

American History X * Tony Kaye * 1998

I had wanted to see this film for some time, but it took a while because it didn’t really have much ‘priority’. Eventually I did see it.

As most of you probably know, this film is about a family with a skinhead oldest son (Derek) with heavy influence on his younger brother (Danny). Derek Vinyard (Edward Norton) is a very intelligent boy who developes very rascistic ideas under influence of his father who is a a firefighter. When his father got shot during work, Derek flips out and becomes a skinhead. Under presure of a man named Alexander Cameron (Stacy Keach) Derek starts a skinhead gang as he as charismatic intelligencer gets a group of “frustrated and impressionable kids” together. The group developes a liking for nazi symbology and the rooms of the kids and the tattoos they get are in that very vein.
Somewhere in the film, the younger brother Danny (Edward Furlong) tells his older brother something after there was a big fight on the table with the new friend of the mother. Derek shoots and kills the black man who either shot his father (or Derek accuses him of that) or who tried to shoot Derek himself, I didn’t really get that. Anyway, Derek is immediately arrested and has to spend three years in jail where he undergoes a 180 degree change.
The film is told in flashbacks from the time on that Danny wrote an essay about “Mein Kampf” on the day that Derek is released from jail. The flashbacks are in black and white, the ‘normal’ scenes in colour. Danny gets a choice from the charismatic, black principal (Sweeny (Avery Brooks)) of his school: either getting kicked off school or write an essay about how his brother ended up in jail. What Danny didn’t know was that Sweeny and Derek had met several times in jail and that Derek had turned around in ideology.
What Derek didn’t know was that he reached some kind of cult-status while being in jail for what he has done. Getting out he tries to ‘save’ his brother, himself and his family.

The film depicts things totally black and white. In the suburbs where the Vinyards live are black gangs and white gangs, the white gangs seem to be all skinheads. Also in jail the white men are full of tattoos of swasticas and without hair. On the other hand, the film does show quite well how youngsters get these ideas, they are “frustrated and impressionable” and they need only one person with a quick tongue to tell them what to think and to do.
The film is too moralising and there is a way too thick sauce of over-emotional finger-pointing over it. What is rather ‘unamerican’ is that there is no happy end and the end is even open.

All in all a not too great film, but rather amusing.