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We are X -


This is a very satisfying documentary about legendary Japanese rock band X Japan. It succeeds as an exploration of the band's history, how much they impacted popular Japanese music - the Visual Kei movement in particular - their highly devoted and cult-like fans, etc. It is perhaps more interesting as an exploration of death, particularly when it comes to its place in Japanese culture. After all, death is a big influence in the band, especially in drummer and bandleader Yoshiki's case, who provides most of the commentary. I was moved by how the documentary delves into how a death in his family affected him as a child as well as how he nearly plays himself to death at concerts, thus making him a case study on how death gives meaning to life. The movie's treatment of suicide also got to me, something that sadly impacted both the band and its fans. The movie is definitely not all doom and gloom, though: how it portrays the joy and passion the band has for making music and that their fans have for it is infectious. The movie comes close to being a hagiography at times, and even though Yoshiki probably should do most of the talking, I wish I got to know more about the rest of the band. I still think the band's biggest fans and casual ones like myself who recently got into them will get something out of it.




Inland Empire (2006, David Lynch)

Lynch's 3-hour tour de force of mind and time-bending 'dream logic' sorcery is 'Mulholland Drive' on steroids, but not quite as effective imo. There is some semblance of plot in the beginning but as the film progresses it turns into a literal nightmare that never ends ó a non-linear, disorienting and absolutely impenetrable abyss of the subconscious. I'm sure there are lots of interpretations of what's going on there ó my personal takeaway is that this type of cinema is best viewed not to be fully understood and analysed but to be dived into and experienced for what it is ó a cinematic equivalent of a descent into insanity. The film is shot entirely on digital, which gives it a cheap but oddly uncanny look, replete with unsettling angles, lighting and handheld camerawork. Largely driven by Laura Dern's hauntingly distressing performance, almost teetering on the verge of nervous breakdown, Inland Empire rarely relents its grip on the viewer, who is perpetually stuck in a hypnotic twilight zone where the boundaries between dream and reality, time and place, causation and consequence are blurred and warped beyond comprehension.

Inland Empire is a difficult and often brilliant piece of filmmaking but it's also hellishly long (which means it has its ups and downs) and hard to understand, almost to the point of being confusing for confusion's sake. I adore Lynch but in this case I think he failed to properly rein in his sprawling experimentalism and marry it with a more cohesive and effective plot (imo).

I need to watch this again someday ó I feel it has the potential to grow on me.




Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=6678907

Fanny and Alexander - (1982)

I watched the theatrical version of this last night, and really enjoyed it - over the next few days I might give the longer version a try. I almost thought the entire film was going to revolve around one Christmas, for we stay with the wealthy Ekdahls celebrating for quite a while, but I was engrossed in the visual beauty of their home and the joy of their Christmas, with Swedish touches which were unfamiliar to me. The rest of the film focuses on young Alexander and Fanny in this semi-autobiographical film, and it sometimes leans towards mysticism and magic - which I didn't mind. There was one character near the end - Ismael, (played by Stina Ekblad) - who is fascinating. She's almost an Antichrist kind of figure, locked in a room - and she can read minds, become one with people and even summon death. She's not a villain, though I think she certainly could be if let free. I didn't expect that in Fanny and Alexander - a film that feels like a fairy tale, with it's two young characters locked away by a wicked stepfather in a castle-like rectory/church/home. The film's long running time never bothered me - Ingmar Bergman knows how to make any scene compelling and interesting. I remember when this was released, because there was a great deal made out of it - but I would have been too young to really appreciate it at the time.

8/10

Foreign Language Countdown films seen : 81/100
Do give the longer version a try too. Both are masterpieces.
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Donít understand the bad reviews for this movie. Seen far worse. I liked it. Affleck seemed amused by the entire thing & De Armas is lovely.

I mean, how bad can it be? Sam Levinson who created Euphoria on HBO wrote the screenplay.



Amulet (2020)

Thank you, @Takoma11, for recommending.

My immediate reference point for this one was Salvage (2006), a lame-ish effort which however to me seemed an interesting exploration of the concept of
WARNING: spoilers below
hell.
Amulet is immeasurably and unquestionably better. The plot is very much a Greek tragedy retelling, which shows, but in this case it very much works. While thereís lots of Christian symbolism, to me the aesthetic is Greek.

Iím not naturally a reviewer, and describing the plot always feels a bit artificial to me. This one in particular can be construed as a revenge tale or a redemption tale, depending on oneís own sensibilities. I suppose the most neutral way to describe it would be to say it explores a mode of revenge where
WARNING: spoilers below
a rapist is forced to experience the consequences of rape/menís violent treatment of women
.

Iíve seen Amulet described as a ďfemale gazeĒ film, which I guess it is. I do take issue with the central premise, which is
WARNING: spoilers below
that thereís a peculiar kind of revenge/atonement to be found in making a man experience the way women experience the world, details aside, especially when it comes to the physicality of the female body. I think itís such a mammoth task to try to, first of all, lay out what that experience of being a woman really entails, how and why it hurts, and how a man could go about attempting to wrap his head around stepping into those shoes, that if it isnít impossible, it should warrant a 5-hour + Dogme 95 treatment with no supernatural/genre distractions
. Alas, I just donít think thatís possible, it doesnít work for me in terms of human psychology, and to that end, itís impossible to communicate via the filmic or any other medium.

The execution is great. For the visuals alone, Iíll almost definitely rewatch it very soon. And while Iím repeating myself, I suppose Iím not at peace with the philosophy behind the film: it may be seen as as simple as that
WARNING: spoilers below
being a woman/ giving birth is literally torture - and to me, yes, it may feel like it, but being able to bring life into the world is also a gift women have, not to mention that itís, well, a somewhat reductive view of the kind of pain women can experience (although I also think itís somewhat apt and hence very effective), as well as there being no reference to women having a much higher pain threshold (I guess I would have wanted this kind of film to delve much more deeply into the biology of the experience?). That aside, we donít really know that the victim of rape Miriam necessarily became pregnant, let alone than she didnít perform an abortion on herself/get one elsewhere, so it seems like a leap of faith to show giving birth as the ultimate outcome of sex/form of torture for the rapist. Wasnít the actual rape bad enough? This one trips me up.


Anyway, that sums up where Iím conflicted. The pure horror/gore aspect is simply fantastic, far outstripping any shock factor ďtorture pornĒ flick, while visually the film is gorgeous, and Iíll definitely rewatch it for that alone as soon as possible and hopefully come out of it with a clearer take.



It's been ages since my last update on this thread. I haven't watched that many movies lately, and half of them have been covered in the current HoF anyway but here are the missing pieces.

Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (1966)

It's bad enough to be moderately amusing. I doubt anyone on the set had illusions about making a good movie. Dracula's hypnotic gaze is truly something...


--
The Cursed (2021)

A pretty standard horror film with a werewolf and a gypsy curse and awful CGI. It's trying hard, but it has very little to offer in the end.

--
Alligator (1980)

It's campy and silly, but even after several viewings, I find myself entertained. Some nice small talk between the lovers, too.

--
The Hatred (2018)

My first Adams family film, so I didn't know what to expect. It's rough around the edges, but there's some talent involved. It enforces the artsy parts a bit too much, and the acting isn't good. Still, probably a lot better than your average family movie collaboration.

--
Luz: The Flower of Evil (2019)

Ever wondered what The VVitch remake made by Obayashi and Malick would look like? Me neither, but that's the first thing that came to mind from this little Spanish film. It's not the folk horror I was promised, but an artsy dive into a small religious community. A review said the budget was only $20k and if that's true then hats off to these people - the film looks absolutely awesome. @MovieGal , have you seen this? Could be something you'd like.

--
X (2022)

Ti West continues to make his wannabe 70s movies. Like his earlier films, it's solid but somehow lacking. I think his scripts aren't as sharp as his directing. Again. looks good and has a really solid cast and some sudden, brutal violence.
__________________



It's been ages since my last update on this thread. I haven't watched that many movies lately, and half of them have been covered in the current HoF anyway but here are the missing pieces.

Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (1966)

It's bad enough to be moderately amusing. I doubt anyone on the set had illusions about making a good movie. Dracula's hypnotic gaze is truly something...


--
The Cursed (2021)

A pretty standard horror film with a werewolf and a gypsy curse and awful CGI. It's trying hard, but it has very little to offer in the end.

--
Alligator (1980)

It's campy and silly, but even after several viewings, I find myself entertained. Some nice small talk between the lovers, too.

--
The Hatred (2018)

My first Adams family film, so I didn't know what to expect. It's rough around the edges, but there's some talent involved. It enforces the artsy parts a bit too much, and the acting isn't good. Still, probably a lot better than your average family movie collaboration.

--
Luz: The Flower of Evil (2019)

Ever wondered what The VVitch remake made by Obayashi and Malick would look like? Me neither, but that's the first thing that came to mind from this little Spanish film. It's not the folk horror I was promised, but an artsy dive into a small religious community. A review said the budget was only $20k and if that's true then hats off to these people - the film looks absolutely awesome. @MovieGal , have you seen this? Could be something you'd like.

--
X (2022)

Ti West continues to make his wannabe 70s movies. Like his earlier films, it's solid but somehow lacking. I think his scripts aren't as sharp as his directing. Again. looks good and has a really solid cast and some sudden, brutal violence.
I have not but I trust your recommendations so I will give it a try.

Have you seen Apostle? I love that freaking movie. Off the wall cult movie and Dan Stevens is always a plus for a woman to look at.



I have not but I trust your recommendations so I will give it a try.

Have you seen Apostle? I love that freaking movie. Off the wall cult movie and Dan Stevens is always a plus for a woman to look at.
The Netflix film? Yeah, it's definitely one of their better original movies. Maybe a tad too long like Evans' films usually are, but for the most part, I liked it.



Amulet (2020)

Iíve seen Amulet described as a ďfemale gazeĒ film, which I guess it is. I do take issue with the central premise, which is
WARNING: spoilers below
that thereís a peculiar kind of revenge/atonement to be found in making a man experience the way women experience the world, details aside, especially when it comes to the physicality of the female body. I think itís such a mammoth task to try to, first of all, lay out what that experience of being a woman really entails, how and why it hurts, and how a man could go about attempting to wrap his head around stepping into those shoes, that if it isnít impossible, it should warrant a 5-hour + Dogme 95 treatment with no supernatural/genre distractions
. Alas, I just donít think thatís possible, it doesnít work for me in terms of human psychology, and to that end, itís impossible to communicate via the filmic or any other medium.
I didn't read it as being that linear. My interpretation of the conclusion was that
WARNING: spoilers below
Hey, someone has to house this evil and control it. And so often it is women who experience forced impregnation. So why not make it a dude who was willing to put a woman in that position? (Because whether his rape victim did get pregnant or not, he still put her in a situation where she could be facing an unwanted pregnancy).

I think that the redemption (albeit against his will) of the main character is not that he's experiencing a "female" experience, it's that he is taking the place of a woman who would normally be forced into that role.

To me it is a nice inversion of all the movies where a woman is kidnapped/manipulated/assaulted into bearing satanic/demonic children. I see it not just as a punitive act, but also one that spares another person the kind of pain he has already caused in the past.



I didn't read it as being that linear. [/spoilers]
I see what you mean. And I do agree that itís a very good move to argue, well, if someone has to do it, why should it be a woman? In any case, I massively enjoyed it as a piece of art and I almost think once I stop overanalysing it and just come to think about it, that leaves me with a near-perfect impression.



I see what you mean. And I do agree that itís a very good move to argue, well, if someone has to do it, why should it be a woman? In any case, I massively enjoyed it as a piece of art and I almost think once I stop overanalysing it and just come to think about it, that leaves me with a near-perfect impression.
I'm so glad you liked it! I thought that the look of it and the tone were just really interesting. Especially a certain image toward the end.

I also think that the film made really good use of Alec Secareanu, who I think is incredibly naturally charismatic, and that allows you to retain
WARNING: spoilers below
sympathy for him even as we begin to learn the details of his past.





Phantom Thread, 2017

Reynolds (Daniel Day-Lewis) is an exacting fashion designer, the head of his own prestige line of gowns. He meets and falls in love with Alma (Vicky Krieps), a much younger waitress who has what he considers a "perfect" body. Slowly eroding under the critical, dominance Reynolds displays toward her, Alma must look for a way to love him on her own terms, which also involves figuring out how to have power in their relationship.

What does a healthy partnership look like when one partner insists on dominance and the other has no real interest in submission? At first blush, Phantom Thread seems as if it will be a film about a woman being slowly destroyed by the open contempt of a romantic partner who seems to see her more as an object than a person. Perhaps, it seems, everything will end with an act of revenge.

Day-Lewis is, of course, entirely convincing as the eagle-eyed, mercurial Reynolds. He is supported incredibly by Lesley Manville as Reynolds' equally demanding sister, Cyril. (A great sequence involves Reynolds insisting on taking Alma's measurements, interrupted by the arrival of Cyril . . . who then sniffs Alma like she's auditioning for a role in a sequel to Perfume.) But Krieps as Alma is the engine that drives the movie and lends its at once outlandish and human arc a core of credulity.

From the beginning, Alma insists that she wants to love Reynolds in her own way. She is rebuffed by Cyril, and also by Reynolds. In a standout sequence, she surprises him by sending everyone home and serving him a homemade fancy dinner. Petulantly oversalting his food, he notes that she hasn't served the asparagus the way he likes it and he's being such a gentleman by lowering himself to eat it the way she's prepared it. Obviously he is not about to change his ways, so how can Alma find her own peace inside their relationship?

I'm going to stay vague, because two different reviews basically gave away a plot point I wish I hadn't known about before watching the film. But the way that the movie navigates the dynamics between Reynolds and Alma, their own personalities, their independence, but also their co-dependence is really interesting.

The look of the film is really stunning. It won an Oscar for costume design, and it's well deserved. There's a precision and crispness to the look of it all that perfectly mirrors the way that Reynolds approaches everything in his life.

I was surprised as I watched that, despite being very interested in what was happening and taken by the performances, I wasn't that invested in the outcome. It's strange, because I think that we do get a really neat glimpse of how two people evolve into a complex give-and-take of power, but something held me at the surface.

Strong performances and really compelling storytelling. It didn't quite get to me deeply, but a captivating story nonetheless.






Terrified, 2017

In a Buenos Aires neighborhood, strange things are happening. A man's wife dies under mysterious circumstances, while a dead neighbor boy doesn't seem to want to stay dead. Paranormal researchers Albreck (Elvira Onetto), Jano (Norberto Gonzalo), and Rosentock (George Lewis) converge on the neighborhood, accompanied by the reluctant Funes (Maximiliano Ghione), a police officer who knows the mother of the dead child. But it seems that whatever is happening has set off a chain of events.

This one gets an A for creepy visuals, but only a C for story.

It's an easy recommend when it comes to the actual scary stuff on screen. There are jump scares, there are slow burns, there are in-your-face monsters and figured hovering almost out of the frame. Everything that is meant to be creepy . . . is more than creepy.

But somehow the story itself doesn't totally gel. The sequence of events more or less makes sense, but it feels as if you are being led from one scene to the next as set pieces, not plot advancements. I don't mind the idea of elements of a movie staying ambiguous, but in this case I found myself annoyed by the lack of clarity or closure.

Coming in at a quick 87 minutes, this is definitely something to check out if you're into horror.






Phantom Thread, 2017

I felt similarly about it, since it was a bit too "low-key" in general to be a truly gripping Drama, and as far as the PTA/DDL collabs go, I'd definitely go with There Will Be Blood. Still a pretty good movie despite that, though!



I felt similarly about it, since it was a bit too "low-key" in general to be a truly gripping Drama, and as far as the PTA/DDL collabs go, I'd definitely go with There Will Be Blood. Still a pretty good movie despite that, though!
It was fascinating to observe, but I never felt like I was inside the film. Still, a great performance from Krieps!





The Woman, 2011

A woman living wild in the mountains (Pollyanna McIntosh) is captured and held captive by "family man" Chris (Sean Bridgers), who claims that he wants to "civilize" her. As Chris forces his wife, Belle (Angela Bettis), daughter Peg (Lauren Ashley Carter), and blooming sociopath son Brian (Zach Rand) to help out in his little project, simmering family tensions come bubbling to the surface.

I have avoided this film for many years, mainly because of the attachment of Jack Ketchum's name. I've seen (I think) two movies based on Ketchum novels, and they've always really put me off with their almost fetishistic focus on women being abused for extended stretches of runtime. For me, it crossed a line between commenting on violence toward women and relishing in it.

On the other hand, I've quite enjoyed everything I've seen from Lucky McKee, the director, with May and his Masters of Horror episode Sick Girl being two highlights for me. Even his divisive Tales of Halloween short "Ding Dong" made me laugh with its off-kilter approach.

Having now watched the movie, yeah, my initial instinct to stay away was probably the correct one.

There are concepts here that could have been interesting with a better execution. What Chris does to the Woman is an amplified version of what he is already doing to his own family: physical and verbal abuse, humiliation, controlling behavior, sexual abuse. There are also ideas here about how abuse is modeled for children and even implicitly condoned ("Boys will be boys"). All through the film we see an exploration of how people who are victims (like Belle and Peg) can become complicit in victimizing others, hardship driving a wedge between the women instead of making them allies.

So the ideas aren't terrible, but oof, the execution! To begin with, the tone is all over the place. The violence (including rape, torture, domestic abuse) is pretty intense for a dark comedy. And yet this is clearly aiming to be a dark comedy, with scenes like the Woman biting off Chris's finger and then derisively spitting out his wedding ring.

And going back to my reservations about Ketchum, that unfortunate male gaze element shows up here to a ridiculous degree. There's a big difference between the characters objectifying the Woman and the camera/audience objectifying her, and yet the film frequently slips into the latter dynamic. The absolute height of absurdity in all of this is an unnecessary full frontal shot of the nude Woman . . . where we discover that despite apparently never having brushed her teeth, the Woman has somehow procured herself a razor and a bikini wax. The film is happy to cover her in filth, blood, and dirt, but a hairy leg? That's a bridge too far!

McIntosh gives a fantastic performance as the feral Woman, and Bettis is equally good as the abused wife who is being edged toward her breaking point. I lay the issues with the character of Chris at the writers' feet, as he's such a caricature that I'm not sure any performance would have saved it.

But the film's pace is really off-beat, and not in a good way. We get extended stretches of a subplot where Peg is sad at school and her absurdly young teacher (Carlee Baker) is worried about her. (But not worried enough to follow any protocols that would actually help Peg!). There are these sequences that drag, but then they are punctuated by scenes of violence/torture that drag in their own way.

Even for a fan of McKee or the actors involved, I wouldn't recommend this one.




It was fascinating to observe, but I never felt like I was inside the film. Still, a great performance from Krieps!
Yup. Anyway, just out of curiosity, did you like TWBB any better?



I forgot the opening line.

By The poster art can or could be obtained from StudioCanal., Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=55384680

You Were Never Really Here - (2017)

A last minute selection for last night's viewing, and it surprised me as to how good it was. I'd never heard of this until recently, it just snuck in between Irrational Man and Don't Worry, He Won't Get Far on Foot as far as Joaquin Phoenix's career goes, and a look at his filmography shows very few "did it for the money" bad movies. I might have to count myself as a fan, for I've seen most of them. In this, he plays the "brutal" Joe, who has far too many demons lurking in both his subconscious and conscious mind - from a violent childhood to awful wartime experiences. He's now a mercenary for hire, and is tasked with finding a politician's young daughter - but there's back-room betrayal and shenanigans in the workings going on, and this will affect Joe's beloved mother. He doesn't need anything more to send him off the deep end, he's already there when the film starts. I thought the editing really stood out in a good way - and added to the performances made something of a great character study about someone who sees a very distant light while enveloped by a darkness so black it's difficult to comprehend.

8/10


By Dendy Cinemas, Fair use, https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?curid=66338723

Penguin Bloom - (2020)

Here's an Australian true story I already knew much about - and a film that kind of fails to get across what it's trying to. The Australian magpie is a particularly intelligent bird that usually has a violent hatred towards Australian humans - and we're all scared of 'em. But one particular magpie was adopted by the Bloom family not long after surfer Sam Bloom became paralyzed from the waist down, becoming a family friend to the extent that it lifted her out of her almost suicidal depression. You have to imagine a bird behaving something like the family dog - and doing things that make you wonder just how smart these things are. In the movie however, it just looks like some random bird, and aside from the love the Blooms have for it you don't really get a feel for just how intimate the relationship really was. Blandly structured, and following familiar clichťs, it might still resonate with kids as a family movie - even though it doesn't feel like one.

5.5/10
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