Archive for the ‘2006’ category

Taxidermia (Gyorgy Palfi, 2006)


Move over Gasper Noe, hello Gyorgy Palfi.  I don’t remember reacting so viscerally to a film since Requiem for a Dream.  I read somewhere that the film was a metaphor for post-war Hungary.  I won’t even try to figure that one out.  The three part film covers three generations of Hungarian male protagonists: 1) a hair-lipped military orderly from WWII times that has a sexual fetish for eating fire and masturbating in the most unique ways, 2) his son a champion speed eater, the competitions of which are the cornerstone of the film and 3) a desperately lonely taxidermist that is also the caregiver of his now comically obese champion speed eating father.  I watched the entire film with my mouth agape not quite believing what I was seeing.  Among other things:  1) watch large speed eaters compete then group vomit in very prolonged scenes, 2) watch a drop of sweat from an obese woman’s hairy armpit drip onto her husband’s face while he licks it up and 3) watch the first time in film that a rooster pecks a cock (not another bird mind you).  All this being said there are amazing visual sequences throughout and extraordinary things that happen under the most astonishing cinematography – mostly extremely grotesque.  Furthermore, the romance between the speed eater and his wife is surprisingly sweet and funny.  But unless you have sat through, liked and/or tolerated extreme films like Gasper Noe’s Irreversible, Takashi Miike’s Audition or more recently Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist, DO NOT watch this film.  It is extremely disturbing and the 3rd and final act is indescribably repulsive.  But given its stunning originality and its ability to pull off the darkest of comedy I otherwise recommend the film.

**** / *****

Black Book (Paul Verhoeven, 2006)



On the heels of Starship Troopers I ventured through this and it took me three nights to do so because of various distractions.  My feelings are that this is certainly Verhoeven’s premier film, his 6th feature after RoboCop (filmed in my home town of Dallas).  It is interesting to see (and perhaps poll?) directors’ finest efforts six to seven films in.  Watch the “making of.”  Verhoeven has an irresistable love of the medium and the energy of a first time director.

The female leads in the film are outstanding.  Carice van Houten and Halina Reign brilliantly capture the desperate attempt to stay alive using sexuality and male manipulation.  In this sense, Verhoeven gives Camille Paglia a run for her money and solidifies himself as a Dutch feminist.

The production value of the second act is weak and is the only hint at the relatively small budget that Verhoeven had on the picture – it does play like a weak Sunday night television thriller at times.

This stands among the best of Holocaust films.  It is on par with and better than Schindler’s List.  Its a thiller that stands above all Verhoeven’s previous work.  I think it’s the film that he was meant to make.  Again, watch the “making of.”  His lead stars agree with me.

**** / *****

The Bridge (Eric Steel, 2006)



A little bit of gonzo doc!

From IMDb:

“The documentary caused significant controversy when Eric Steel revealed that he had tricked the Golden Gate Bridge committee into allowing him to film the bridge for months and had captured 23 suicides which took place during the filming phase of the project.  In his permit application to the Golden Gate National Recreation Area Steel said he intended “to capture the powerful, spectacular intersection of monument and nature that takes place every day at the Golden Gate Bridge.”
 Steel interviewed relatives of the suicide victims, not informing them that he had footage of their loved ones’ deaths. Later, he claimed that “the family members now, at this point, have seen the film, [and are] glad that they participated in it.”
 The filmmakers captured 23 of the 24 known Golden Gate suicides in 2004.”

The film opens with a beautiful montage toggling between tourists and would be victims competing for space on the Golden Gate Bridge.  There is early emotion and eerie juxtaposition of witness testimony and bucolic nature scenes in San Francisco.  The eyewitness accounts are very effective early on and the family member accounts so creepy, sad and very difficult to watch.  Heartbreaking to hear these folks describe, in detail, the nature of the victims’ behavior up until death.  

However; the stories, given the nature of the affliction these poor people suffer, turns out completely unsurprising and this is the biggest fault of the film – the filmmakers forgot the distinction between making a film about suicide and making a film about a bridge where people commit the act.  And in between dramatic bits we get rather stock footage of the bridge at its eerie best – fog, wind, rain, whatnot.  And the sound editing, well….(technically the film is a disappointment).

15 minutes in the filmmakers build the blocking of shots to allow the viewer to slowly adjust to the projective of the bridge in all its massiveness.  But I wanted to see more history of the bridge – the history of what had taken place.  30 minutes in I am ready for a new story.  The prophetic observations of the victim when he visited the bridge for the 1st time fell flat.  In the last 1/3 of the film it’s still engrossing particularly the details of victims’, friends’ and families’ plight (other than two interviews with friends who acted oddly complicit).  The woman preparing for another chance to illegally give a friend prescription medication and trying to talk him out of doing himself in is genuinely unhinged.

** 1/2 / *****