Almost like the inbred offspring of Hooper’s The Texas Chain Saw Massacre and Laugier’s Martyrs infused with the coldness of any Michael Haneke, and desensitised through the visual deterioration of monochrome image. Nicholas Pesce’s The Eyes of My Mother holds these lofty influences upon its shoulders very clearly, but strikes the perfect balance between admiring its ancestors and creating a work which still manages to stand away individually as a truly miraculous work of genre. Most of what unfolds throughout Pesce’s brooding mood-piece proceeds without any explicit detail or reasoning, but we’re still welcomed into this macabre world through his many ideas of vulnerability and isolation. Everything here persists with the idea of punishment as a form of revenge or retaliation, but Pesce never relies too heavily on it to generate the film’s horrific power – that is registered through his expert use of the camera and those eerie takes whereby we fall victim to the film’s suffocating atmosphere. This is where I connect it Haneke’s work, notably through Cache or Code Unknown, but like I say, I still find The Eyes of My Mother to be a transformative monster of monochrome cinema which delivered precisely what I wanted.
Portrait of a Female Drunkard in some ways aptly describes Ottinger’s film as it assesses the demise of an unnamed, unspoken woman on a mission to drink herself to death, but in others it takes away and prevents us from expecting the unsettling surrealism that much of the film utilises throughout. Yet, such is the way Ottinger plays with her unsettling vision that much of what we see will not fully strike the viewer until long after viewing as she drifts in and out astutely of investigating the admittedly narrow structure of someone trying, as we might assume, to drink away significant pain whilst constructing many cinematic ironies throughout.
One scene in which our titular figure is seen binging on cognac at a startling pace as a group of unrelated ladies – who appear throughout – discuss the statistics surrounding alcoholism particular resonates with me. It, alongside the final sequence which displays our figure done and ultimately ignored by those around her, exhibits astutely what Ottinger’s film very clearly represents. Even more so, the effect on the viewer is driven by a strange poignancy.
This woman’s problem may have been clear, but her inevitable solution was even clearly. Ottinger succeeds because of that: she’s made a film worthy of pure existentialism, but also one with a strong importance due to how it manifests statements of irony and then drops them like a bomb straight onto the viewer’s lap. What a strange, unsettling, beautiful work.
From the misogynistic rape of Irreversible to the drug-induced psycho nightmares of Enter the Void, there’s no denying that the weight of Gaspar Noe’s work is identified with explicitness. None of it purely exists to drive these messages of distress and hate – in the case of I Stand Alone notably – down the throat of the viewer, but more as a way of explaining the negativity within our world without ever covering it up.
It’s this thinking that will help you to defend Noe’s latest journey Love – if you need to – but really away from the aesthetic elements and how the director guides the viewer down darkened hallways of the characters both physically and mentally, much of what is contained with Love exists in a different universe to one illustrated in Irreversible or Enter the Void. It’s here instead that Noe chooses to switch to analysing the more sensual and sexually driven attributes, which are explored extensively to near definition, of his figures.
More importantly, much of Love’s success is based around the director’s constant swooning and adoration for the impact of memory and its influence on love. He uses the nostalgic emotion of his male figure to discover this sensuality between himself and his love, frequently manifesting sequences which although appear realistic, there’s always this sense of perfection coming from how Noe uses the dream-like state of opium to heighten the passion and and raw provocative nature of everything.
Even more so, Noe uses the veneer of the 3D technology to accomplish this, but rarely uses it in the conventional way. Instead Noe chooses to use it as more of a way to reign the viewer in, drawing them into the drama by making certain images – notably the final shower sequence – a literal glass window we could be watching live. It’s that voyeuristic quality which makes Love the experience it is: making the viewer feel like a forbidden onlooker and a participant in the drama at the same time. The 3D here is essential.
Greeted by an establishing shot so stunning, White God immediately built an atmosphere within me as we see our young protagonist Lili crossing an isolated bridge, soon followed by a pack of seemingly vicious escaped dogs. Mundruczo captures the moment immediately, leaving the viewer immediately fascinated by what events occurred for Hungary to feel this cold and broken. He pulls the time back and the chaos begins.
Sequences are filled with a general uneasiness, rather than the calmness scenes portraying an inseperable bond between Lili and her dog Hagen might suggest. It’s chilling in some respects, mostly through the way Mundruczo creates the mood with sharp cuts, and frequently with the moderation of sweeping long takes to help identify this mood.
Hagen is soon thrown away by Lili’s father in a fit of rage. This is where the narrative changes and Hagen becomes the force driving it. He’s lost and quickly captured by several information, one of whom he is sold to and is pulled into the dog fighting ring. Sequences here, unlike earlier, feel brutal. There’s an insatiable rage boiling within each shot, channeling an intensity different to anything I’ve seen before.
White God studies this anger, identifying it through the obvious denotations of violence but equally through the connotative embodiment surrounding a political statement on animal rights. I won’t go in to it’s true meaning, but the real intelligence of its identity is clear to see if you look past the occasionally ridiculous nature of a film concerning an animal uprising and focus on the raw passion present within Mundruczo’s work.
I went into this hoping to be enthralled and Mundruczo didn’t let me down. I couldn’t tear my eyes from the screen. The final shot is a thing of beauty.
Much has been said regarding Whiplash in regards to its critical acclaim, but truth be told it all flew over my head and I don’t even recall watching a trailer or generating any sustainable anticipation to see it upon release. Apart from the music element, I knew exactly zero of what Whiplash was about. In truth, that’s probably benefited me in the long run as this is a worthy example of virtuoso filmmaking whereby the drive to succeed runs deep throughout.
My lack of prior enthusiasm made me worry initially as several of the film’s earlier moments didn’t hit home for me, but soon enough Whiplash’s identity becomes apparent. Most of it works because of the dynamic script whereby Chazelle depicts this battle to succeed with extensive focus on the aggression inside its two central focuses, constantly portraying them with an intensity more shattering than anything I saw last year.
Exemplary in how it explores the dynamic here, it’s important to recognise the excellent work of the young Miles Teller competing with his aggressive tutor played by a never better J.K. Simmons. Whiplash achieves a lot because of the power of its character development and how the script morphs obsession with their personality, but it’s only as stellar as it due to their work. The film’s precise, remarkable finale seals it perfectly. This is gonna sweep.
Rarely in the modern age of cinema do you get the chance to witness uniquely in a film that when you do the experience tends to be appreciated and never understated. This is the case for Birdman, the first release from Mexican director Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu in four years. Not only does it innovation set the stage for what is an unrivalled experience, but it’s the enthusiasm Inarritu generates in Birdman that sets it apart from much of last year’s releases.
Birdman’s presentation here, more than anything in the whole movie, portrays this ambitious enthusiasm as Inarritu’s work is illustrated through the use of the one-take technique. That’s all it is really and there’s a lot of fun to be hard trying to work out when the cuts take place, but apart from that and the potential symbolism of there being no escape for the viewer from this world the structure holds no overwhelming purpose in forwarding the narrative.
The narrative itself has measurable purpose, though, and Inarritu’s dialogue is consistently productive in driving home themes such as the protagonist’s relevance in a world devoid of stability, and Michael Keaton in this role is astounding. He gives everything to the character, displaying the physical pain whilst also helping to establish a psychological negativity within that cements Birdman as the work it is. Edward Norton and Emma Stone also assist with great work to complete Inarritu’s film as one of the most absorbing, ingenious and frequently enchanting films in many years.
This is uncompromising, chilling, and downright stunning in the way it depicts a narrative structured on violence and what we perceive as a lack of identity to drive it. In truth, Skonieczny’s film is a mysterious art film portraying a man on a mission to search out two people, whom as he calls them mother and father, and kill them. It’s blunt initially in how the violence, if a little slight and knowing when you get a gist of what the picture is about, but there’s a fascination to the approach of Hardkor Disko. Nothing is truly given away here, simply Skonieczny is observing one man’s objective and we see it through the eyes of its deranged figure, portrayed by a penetrating Marcin Kowalczyk who exemplifies the unsettling atmosphere running through Hardkor Disko. It’s a little surprising that this enigma hasn’t generated any considerable buzz outside its Poland homeland as it’s truly one of the most effective releases I’ve seen this year. An unsettling, fascinating, precise work of cinema, Skonieczny is someone to keep a eye on in the future.