- The Lost City of Z.
- A Cure for Wellness.
- La Región Salvaje. (The Untamed)
- Mon Ange. (Angel)
- Lerd. (A Man of Integrity)
- Manchester by the Sea.
- The Eyes of My Mother.
- Krotkaya. (A Gentle Creature)
- Le Fidèle. (Racer and the Jailbird)
(Michaël R. Roskam)
- Happy End.
Would not have been misplaced in my top 10 either:Good Time.
(Benny & Josh Safdie)
Lumière!, l’aventure commence.
Un Beau Soleil Intérieur. (Let the Sun Shine In)
You Were Never Really Here.
On Body and Soul.
Laissez Bronzer les Cadavres. (Let the Corpses Tan)
(Hélène Cattet & Bruno Forzani)
The Greasy Strangler.
Swiss Army Man.
(Dan Kwan & Daniel Scheinert)
The Love Witch.
Stranger in Paradise.
Everybody Wants Some!!!
The Killing of a Sacred Deer.
David Lynch: The Art Life.
(Jon Nguyen, Rick Barnes & Olivia Neergaard-Holm)
Marquis de Wavrin, du manoir à la Jungle. (Marquis de Wavrin, From the Manor to the Jungle)
(Grace Winter & Luc Plantier)
Visages Villages. (Faces Places)
(JR & Agnès Varda)
(Jérôme Le Maire)
Kingsman: The Golden Circle.
Not bad either:Magallanes. (Salvador del Solar)
Cartas da Guerra. (Letters from War) (Ivo Ferreira)
Logan Lucky (Steven Soderbergh)
Message from the King. (Fabrice du Welz)
Even Lovers Get the Blues. (Laurent Micheli)
Powidoki. (Afterimage) (Andrzej Wajda)
El Color del Camaleón. (Anders Lubbert)
Home. (Fien Troch)
Sobytie. (The Event) (Sergei Loznitsa)
120 Battements par minute. (BPM) (Robin Campillo)
Estiu 1993. (Summer of 1993) (Carla Simón)
Thelma. (Joachim Trier)
Dog Eat Dog. (Paul Schrader)
Prevenge. (Alice Lowe)
Moonlight. (Barry Jenkins)
Get Out. (Jordan Peele)
John Wick: Chapter 2. (Chad Stahelski)
I’m Not Your Negro +Le jeune Karl Marx (The Young Karl Marx) (Raoul Peck)
Au-revoir là-haut. (See You Up There) (Albert Dupontel)
Nocturnal Animals (Tom Ford)
Coco. (Lee Unkrich & Adrian Molina)
War Machine. (David Michôd)
La La Land. (Damien Chazelle)
Happiest Day in the Life of Olli Mäki. (Juho Kousmanen)
War for the Planet of the Apes. (3D) (Matt Reeves)
L’ amant Double. (François Ozon)
My First Highway. (Kevin Meul)
78/52. (Alexandre O. Philippe)
Tarde para la ira. (The Fury of a Patient Man) (Raúl Arévalo)
The Nile Hilton Incident. (Tarik Saleh)
Mobile Homes. (Vladimir de Fontenay)
I Don’t Feel at Home in This World Anymore. (Macon Blair)
L’échange des princesses. (Marc Dugain)
Como Nossos Pais. (Just Like Our Parents) (Laís Bodanzky)
Lady Macbeth. (William Oldroyd)
The Party. (Sally Potter)
Noces. (Stephan Streker)
Jalouse. (David & Stéphane Foenkinos)
All the Money in the World. (Ridley Scott)
Neil Stryker and the Tyrant of Time. (Rob Taylor)
The Founder. (John Lee Hancock)
Food Coop. (Thomas Boothe & Maellanne Bonnicel)
Que Dios nos perdone. (May God Save Us) (Rodrigo Sorogoyen)
The Other Side of Hope. (Aki Kaurismäki)
Beyond the Mountains and the Hills. (Eran Kolirin)
Petit Paysan. (Boody Milk) (Hubert Charuel)
Paris Pieds Nus. (Lost in Paris) (Dominique Abel & Fiona Gordon)
El Bar. (The Bar) (Álex de la Iglesia)
Corporate. (Nicolas Silhol)
Paddington 2. (Paul King)
Thor: Ragnarok (3D) (Taika Waititi)
Spielberg. (Susan Lacy)
The Beguiled. (Sofia Coppola)
Blade Runner 2049 (3D) (Denis Villeneuve)
Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi. (3D) (Rian Johnson)
Free Fire. (Ben Wheatley)
Baby Driver. (Edgar Wright)
Wind River. (Taylor Sheridan)
Logan. (James Mangold)
Wonder Woman. (3D) (Patty Jenkins)
Una Mujer Fantástica. (A Fantastic Woman) (Sebastián Lelio)
Tueurs. (Jean-François Hensgens & François Troukens)
Why Him? (John Hamburg)
Je suis resté dans les bois. (Michaël Bier, Erika Sainte & Vincent Solheid)
Loving Vincent. (Dorota Kobiela)
Le Redoutable. (Michel Hazanavicius)
Die göttliche Ordnung. (Petra Volpe)
D’après une histoire vraie. (Based on a True Story) (Roman Polanski)
Split. (M. Night Shyamalan)
Wonderstruck. (Todd Haynes)
The Woman Who Left. (Lav Diaz)
Battle of the Sexes. (Jonathan Dayton & Valerie Faris)
Borg McEnroe. (Janus Metz)
The Wall + American Made. (Doug Liman)
Fai Bei Sogni + Sangue del mio Sangue. (Sweet Dreams + Blood of My Blood) (Marco Bellocchio)
The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected). (Noah Baumbach)
L’atelier. (The Workshop) (Laurent Cantet)
Spider-Man: Homecoming (3D) (Jon Watts)
El ciudadano ilustre. (The Distinguished Citizen) (Gastón Duprat & Mariano Cohn)
The Autopsy of Jane Doe. (André Øvredal)
Seven Sisters. (Tommy Wirkola)
Les Gardiennes. (The Guardians) (Xavier Beauvois)
Okja. (Bong Joon-ho)
Laavor et hakir. (The Wedding Plan) (Rama Burshtein)
Mother! (Darren Aronofsky)
Hidden Figures. (Theodore Melfi)
Tschick (Goodbye Berlin) (Fatih Akin)
Bushwick (Cary Murnion & Jonathan Milott)
Alive in France (Abel Ferrara)
Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk. (Ang Lee)
Alien: Covenant. (3D) (Ridley Scott)
Le Sens de la Fête. (C’est la vie!) (Olivier Nakache & Eric Toledano)
La Promesse de l’aube. (Promise at Dawn) (Eric Barbier)
It Comes at Night. (Trey Edward Shults)
Suburbicon (George Clooney)
It: Chapter One. (Andy Muschietti)
Het Tweede Gelaat. (Control) (Jan Verheyen)
T2 Trainspotting (Danny Boyle)
The Big Sick (Michael Showalter)
Silence. (Martin Scorsese)
Detroit. (Kathryn Bigelow)
The Snowman. (Tomas Alfredson)
Song to Song. (Terrence Malick)
Guy Pearce who starred in the Australian western The Proposition seems ever so eager to revisit the genre with his depiction of the Reverend that looks like a devilish, self flagellating evil twin of Abraham Lincoln who keeps re-interpreting the Bible to condone his unforgivable and gravest of sins. “Beware of false prophets, they are wolves in sheep’s clothing”.
The fact that Martin Koolhoven is a cinephile (strangely enough reviewers oftentimes seem to consider this as a negative) didn’t at all prevent him from leaving his own personal, original imprint on the genre. Despite the fact that the film was shot on location in Germany, Spain, Hungary and Spain, Brimstone has an original feel that has no problem in passing for an otherwise nondescript American West.
He certainly did not make a film that aims to please everybody and there’s plenty of stuff in this film to be shocked or offended by for those that wish to be so. The depiction of the religiously inspired suppression and physical violation of women -you’ll have to see the chastity belt-like headlock-set that locks up women’s faces to believe it- may well prove to be too much for some. It is nevertheless refreshing and not without merit -specifically in the present day- to show this kind of depiction in a non-islamic setting.
Narsiesse has a Canadian First Nations background which is being referred to from the get-go via the ‘moving image’ of a running buffalo accompanying the title The Winemaker as well as with a relic/necklace I’m assuming is containing a buffalo tooth and via further artifacts later on.
At some stage a female character is heard via a voice-over stating: “By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes. Open locks, whoever knocks!” Yes we have arrived in Macbeth and hence William Shakespeare country. The boy is played by Narsiesse’s real life son called Laertes, yes the man has a passion for Shakespeare. Narsiesse himself plays Vic, perhaps a reference to The Old Vic in London famous for staging a lot of Shakespeare’s plays?
Some of the symbols and references to Japanese culture that were clearly in there I was less familiar with, perhaps they will be further explained in the future miniseries and or feature version.
Although the film was shot on an I-Phone the result looks great and contains some impressively executed transitions. A shot of the moon reflected in a puddle of water transitions from the circular moon into the circle of the iris of an eye and further into a drop of water dripping from a winemaking machine. It made me think somewhat of the famous series of transitions in Citizen Kane in which every transition focussing on the lit window and in which each transition moves the viewer closer to the bedroom window of the Xanadu palace in which Charles Foster Kane is to utter his puzzling last words: Rosebud. Perhaps the main reason it reminded me of the Citizen Kane opening series of transitions is that it also contains one of a reflection in the water.
If you are expecting a straightforward short film you may be dissapointed as the short seems to be conceived more as a teaser for things to come then it is a stand alone short film. I see Narsiesse’s project as if it were a ‘Matroesjka in reverse’. A Matroesjka is perhaps more commonly known as a Russian Doll. You have a big doll containing a smaller doll which in turn contains an even smaller doll and so on. Here instead we start off with the smallest doll, the short film that needs to excite the audience to want to see the next doll(s), the 4-part mini web series and culminating in the biggest doll, the feature, each adding new layers and meaning. It’s working for me so far.
Ben Wheatley is one of the (not just) British directors to keep an eye on. Up to High-Rise (2015) he had completed 4 feature films on micro to low budgets and on each occasion had performed miracles with the limited means at his disposal.
His debut Down Terrace (2009) was a kitchen sink gangsterdrama that was literally made in and around the childhood home of co-writer and star Robin Hill in 8 days. His 2nd film Kill List (2011) starts of as a thriller about some hit men and somewhere midway shifts into an occult horror film, as if Nicolas Roeg’s Performance (1970) fell under the spell of Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man (1973).
Next up was Sightseers (2012), a sort of comical horror version of Mike Leigh’s Nuts in May (1976) written by the co-leads Alice Lowe and Steve Oram which was selected for the ‘Quizaine des Réalisateurs’ in Cannes. They play a couple that go on a caravan road trip leaving a bloody trail along their way. Not unlike High-Rise class differences are at the center of the film. Wheatley has since executive-produced Oram’s feature debut Aaaaaaaah! (2015) -via his production company Rook Films- a film with an even more primitive dissection of what happens when that thin coat of varnish called civilisation is scratched away.
A year later Wheatley made A Field in England (2013), shot on a micro budget in only 12 days. Set in the 17th century during the English Civil War, 3 deserters meet each other and some hallucinogenic mushrooms in (well yes) a field in England. As if Peter Watkin’s
Culloden (1964) and Ken Russel’s Altered States (1980) were put in a blender and the result felt like one of the best cinematic cocktails you ever have the pleasure to put down the hatch.
This film gave Wheatley some cloud to attempt a (financially) more ambitious film project, an adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s (author of Crash, Empire of the Sun which were brought to the big screen by respectively David Cronenberg and Steven Spielberg) 1975 dystopian novel High-Rise.
Dr. Robert Laing (played by rising star Tom Hiddleston in perhaps his best performance to date) has recently moved into a new luxury apartment which is part of 5 High-Rises of which only the first one has has been completed, the remaining four are still under construction. The architect Royal (Jeremy Irons) has come up with a rather unique concept. The five tower blocks are shaped like the five fingers of an open hand, the lake is to become its palm. The upperclass occupy the top floors of the buildings, the lower income families live in the lower ones. Your wealth determines your level (or floor). The occupants have access to a swimming pool, a gym, a supermarket and even a primary school. Besides going to work there is little reason for the residents to leave the building, gradually they become trapped like the bourgeoisie in a Buñuel film.
Initially the occupants are soothed by the fact that “the building is still settling” but when the infractures many failures become more apparent the tensions between the upper and lower floors start to erupt. The opening scenes -a short of flash forward of things to come- of the film however immediately clearly show that the architect’s social experiment is doomed to fail. The film is set in the index finger of the so-called open hand, the writer obviously wanted to point out a few things about (British) society. It woud have been less subtle to have the action take place in the middle finger although towards the end director Ben Wheatley inevitably presents one to Margaret Tatcher.
Besides Hiddleston and Irons you will recognise Sienna Miller as a single mother of a bastard son of one of the upper class men, who has a fling with Dr. Laing, Luke Evans as Richard Wilder, a frustrated lower class man whose married with Helen (played by Elisabeth Moss mostly known for her role as Peggy Olson in the popular HBO series Mad Men) who is about to give birth to yet another addition to their family and Stacy Martin (Lars von Triers’ Nymphomaniac) as a cashier in the supermarket.
All the dialogue in the film in one way or another is indicative of the class difference (“You’ve built all this?” “Dreamt, conceived, I hardly pulled up my sleeves”) and is often hilariously funny in a subtle -or often less subtle- very British sort of way (“You can’t put him over the edge, he still owes me a game of squash”).
Notable is the use of the famous ABBA song S.O.S. featuring during a fancy dress party (evoking Greenaway’s The Draughtman’s Contract & Kubrick’s Barry Lyndon?) being held in the penthouse -composer Clint Mansell (Requiem for a Dream) had it arranged for strings for the occasion- and later on in a brilliant cover version by Portishead.
Among the films many highlights there’s sequence of a man jumping of the building to his death landing on the bonnet (or hood if you perfer) of a car, a scene that would make Richard Donner -who specialises in these type of ‘drop shots’- jealous.
Visually the film peaks with a brilliantly stunning shot that shares us a point of view as seen through a kaleidoscope. I’ve prepared the below montage of potential reference points culminating in the said kaleidoscope shot.
The clip starts of with some shots from Martin Scorsese’s Kundun (1998) in which a young Dalai Lama is peaking through a big looking glass to his subordinates below. When Scorsese cuts to the POV the sequence has some typical Scorsese/Thelma Schoonmaker dissolving along the axis type of editing. There’s a similar shot from Scorsese’s The Age of Innocence (1993) where a character played by Richard E. Grant is looking through some theater binoculars down at the conductor of an orchestra over to a charater arriving in an opposite opera box. Here also Scorsese tries to visually convey the speed of the eye movement by skipping frames combined by dissolves along the axis.
There’s not really a direct connection with Wheatley’s kaleidoscope shot. So why include them any way? Well Scorsese was so impressed by A Field in England that he offered to produce Wheatley’s next film, and so he did. As High-Rise was already under way this would become the upcoming Free Fire.
Thematically you could say there is a bond between Kundun, The Age of Innocence and High-Rise as they are Scorsese’s most class conscious films. Kundun is a film about a society that at a certain stage gives its absolute power in the hands of a child and The Age of Innocence portays New York’s high society in the late 19th century and its strict social rules and customs which ruin the love affair between the two main characters. Scorsese even called this his most (emotionally) violent film.
The next 2 clips do have a direct link with High-Rise in my opinion. There’s a clip from Brian De Palma’s Carrie (1976) featuring the “they’re all gonna laugh at you” kaleidoscope shot from that film’s celebrated prom sequence. And finally a shot from John Boorman’s Zardoz ( 1973) showing a fractured mirror shot including Sean Connery. Wheatley has expressed his admiration for Boorman’s Zardoz on many occasions including the 16 minute plus appreciation to be found on Arrow Film’s UK Blu Ray release + in his video clip for the band Editors ‘Formaldehyde’ which has references to both Sergio Corbucci’s Django (1966) as well as Zardoz. Even the picture on Wheatley’s Twitter profile (@) features the giant stone head from this film.
The kaleidoscope shot is perhaps also linked with one of the many hilarious lines from the film. At a certain stage when the servants are no longer preparing the meals for their masters one of the rich men is wondering who cooked the food they’re eating to which one of the characters replies it’s now op to their wifes: “the women are rotating”. There’s a chance the montage I’ve prepared can’t be played in the UK (as per a message I’ve received from Youtube) so just in case I’ve uploaded it via WordPressvideo as well.
I was lucky enough to see the film in march of this year at the Offscreen film festival in Brussels in attendance of Ben Wheatley where it had the honour of closing the festival and I’ve since see it again when it was released in Belgium in June. The film even played better the second time round. When you watch the film for the first time there’s a chance you may need some time to adjust to the films chaotic opening, it’s definitely a busy film but Wheatley and Jump have certainly found the right tone for putting J.G Ballard’s novel to the screen. It’s nice to see that despite the bigger budget he did not have his vision muddled with. Can’t wait to see Free Fire.
At the end of the title sequence just when the name of director Paul Verhoeven appears on screen we hear some objects smashing on the floor while a violent struggle is taking place. As these sounds continue the frame turns black and remains that way for a short period of time. The actual first image of the film is that of a cat who’s a bemused onlooker while the lady of the house Michèle Leblanc (Isabelle Huppert) is being raped.
How this mature woman will cope with the aftermath of being sexually assaulted is basic-ally the main subject of this film. Its originality lays in the fact that the brutal rape seem-ingly hasn’t effected her too much. She certainly manifests a rather cavelier way of dea-ling with this event which one would expect to be rather traumatising. She doesn’t call the police but on the contrary cleans up the rape crime scene and takes a bath to clean herself while having a glass of red wine. When her son comes home and notices a bruise on her face she quickly comes up with the simple excuse that she fell off her bike.
It’s obvious that Verhoeven is not interested in depicting a typical main character from a straightforward rape victim/revenge film, ranging from Nuts (1987) (you know, that film in which Barbara Streisand is being raped by Leslie Nielsen a.k.a. inspector Drebin from Naked Gun) and The Accused (1988) on the one hand to Abel Ferrara’s MS. 45 (1981) and The Brave One (2007) on the other, to name but a few. Instead Michèle Leblanc is yet another strong female character in a long line of strong women in his films, manipulation is often their game and sex one of the tools for survival, we’ll find out in due course what she’s up to.
Many great films have centered around or featured infamous rape scenes, such as Peckinpah’s Straw Dogs (1971), Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in America (1984), De Palma’s Casulaties of War (1989), Gaspard Noé’s Irreversible (2002) and most of the body of work of Verhoeven for that matter, but none where you as an audience member left the movie theater thinking: now that was fun! I’m obviously not referring to the rape scenes.
If you are familiar with Paul Verhoeven’s oeuvre you’ll notice many similarities or nods to his previous work and you’ll discover that this time round he’s leaning towards a more subtle/restraint approach, at least for a Verhoeven film that is. A few examples: Just compare the ‘castration’ scissors scene from De Vierde Man (The Fourth Man, 1983)with the ‘stigmata’ scissors scene in Elle. Or ‘study’ the amount of ‘bodily fluids’ on display on the bed sheets in Verhoeven’s Basic Instinct (1992) in the “He got off before he got offed” scene versus the perpetrator ‘leaving a message’ in this film.
The way the documentary TV footage is used revealing ‘her troubled past’ -which upto that point was only hinted at during conversations with her mother and sudden violent reactions from people who seem to recognise her for some reason- reminded me somewhat of the projected home movies of several fatal outings in The Fourth Man. Both sequences leave room to suggest the female lead characters may have been a in one way or another a participant in the horrific events that took place. Not unlike Catherine Tramell or Hazel Dobkins (played by Dorothy Malone) in Basic Instinct, a character which Sharon Stone, in the part that made her famous, keeps in touch with as a sort of ‘murderess technical advisor’ for her crime novels.
What remained is an ongoing fascination with the historical figure of Jesus. He’s become a fervent participant and respected member of the Jesus Seminar and also wrote a book on the subject called Jesus of Nazareth. He has been trying to make a movie about the life of Christ for ages, but considering his basic premise is that Jesus was not the result of an immaculate conception (as is the popular ‘belief’) but instead that of (Holy) Mary being raped by a Roman soldier, you can understand why he’s been having difficulty getting this project greenlit anywhere, let alone in Hollywood. This however would be a Biblical film I might actually be looking forward to seeing. Furthermore, in Elle there’s a strong suggestion that Michèle’s son is not the biological father of his girlsfriend’s child, making him kind of a Joseph-like figure.
Check out the below homage Erik Van Looy paid to the ‘Michael Kovacs murder scene’ from Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate (1980) in his film The Memory of a Killer (original title De Zaak Alzheimer, alternate international title The Alzheimer Case, 2003). Van Looy referred to it during his audio commentary (dutch audio only) which is available on the Benelux DVD edition from Bridge Entertainment.
Cimino’s scene is also an interesting example of a star entrance for the character Nathan D. Champion played by Christopher Walken.
In addition Van Looy also worked with Cimino’s fetish actor Mickey Rourke in his film Shades (1999). His brief appearance in Heaven’s Gate marked Rourke’s first collaboration with Cimino, he would later play the lead in the excellent Year of the Dragon (1985) and Desperate Hours (1990), his poor remake of William Wyler’s The Desperate Hours (1955) starring Humphrey Bogart.
In this second post (Post 1: A slice of Buñuel). linked to Jaco Van Dormael’s Le Tout Nouveau Testament (The Brand New Testament) I’ll be focussing on his particular fascination with the mirror image and similar usage by other famous directors. Before checking out the clip at the end called MIRROR IMAGE you can read the below text explaining what’s so special about these particular movie extracts.
The clip starts of with a small segment of the celebrated opening point of view shot from Rouben Mamoulian’s Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1931). We see the main charachter following his butler who will get his coat, hat and cane as Dr. Jekyll is leaving his mansion to give a lecture and happens to pass a mirror. As the camera approaches the mirror and films straight into it we see the reflection of Dr. Jeckyll as portrayed by Fredric March in his oscar winning performance. What we get to see is actually impossible as we should be seeing the reflection of the camera + crew into the mirror instead.
The way this effect what created is by building a duplicate symmetrical (mirroring) set. The actor Frederic March therefore was situated behind the wall of the dupe set and therefore had to act in perfect unison and had to appear at the exact same moment the camera moved in front of the mirror which is actually just a hole in the wall through which we see the mirror replication of the same set. When the actor who’s playing the butler opens the door of the cloakroom and enters it to get the coat, hat and cane he joins Fredric March on he other side of the set and hands it over to March and then while March is putting them on he quickly needs to move back to the other side of the set to open the front door.
We then cut to a door being opened by a killer in a short portion of ‘the movie within the movie’ opening scene of Brian De Palma’s Blow Out (1981). It’s also a point of view shot, we see the killer enter a shower room of a female dormitory and approach a mirror in which the killer sees his own reflection, he turns away and approaches his female victim currently taking a shower. In this shot an actual mirror was used and the actor and steadicam operator -which happened to be Garrett Brown the inventor of the steadicam- had to be placed strategically and had to choreograph their simultanious movements to create the illusion of the point of view shot looking into the mirror without the camera being visible.
Next up are the first and last shot of Francis Ford Coppola’s Peggy Sue Got Married (1986). In the opening shot we see a televison commercial staring Nicholas Cage. The camera pans back and we see his daughter (Helen Hunt) watching her father on TV and mentions this to her mother (Kathleen Turner) who as the camera keeps pulling back we can see is doing her make-up sitting in front of a mirror. The camera keeps pulling back and we see the back of Kathleen Turner and her image reflected in the mirror. As this was one continuous take again we’ve been looking at an impossible shot as the camera had to move through the mirror which is physically impossible. To achieve this -as with the Mamoulian film- a double adjoining set was created, this time a body double had to mimic the actress Kathleen Turner’s movements with her back facing the camera. All the bottles and objects standing in front of the mirror had to be put at both sides of the set. When you look closely you’ll notice the movements of Kathleen Turner and her body double are not perfectly synchronised but when you do not realise hwo the shot was done the illusion will probably work perfectly.
The 2nd shot from Peggy Sue… is very similar to the first shot (again a camera going through a mirror, this time in a hospital bedroom) but with the added difficulty there are now 3 actors and 3 body doubles that need to act in perfect synchronicity while they have their backs to each other (whereas in the first shot Kathleen Turner and the body double were facing each other).
In case you haven’t seen the original Twin Peaks series yet it’s best not to look at and read this part of the clip/text as it has a bit of a spoiler since it’s the ending of the final episode (at least for now) directed by David Lynch. We see special agent Dale Cooper (Kyle MacLachlan) looking at himself in a mirror and immediately afterwards smashing his head into it. We notice through the shattered reflection of the mirror that the mirror image reflected is not that of Cooper but that of Killer Bob (Frank Silva). MacLachlan and Silva move in unison at either side of the duplicate adjoining set with a haunting devilish smile and laughter.
In La Haine (1995) director Mathieu Kassovitz has Vincent Cassel deliver the french version of the famous you’re talking to me speech from Taxi Driver (1976) in front of a mirror. (A bit of trivia: in Taxi Driver this speech was filmed in a mirror and we actually only get to see the filmes reflection in the mirror). Same trick here, the camera is placed behind a body double who stands in front of the mirror, he moves down to drink water from the faucet after having brushed his teeth. The camera moves in while off camera the body double moves out of the shot and when Cassel at the other side of the set looks up straight into the camera we have the impossible illusion of a point of view (we become Vincent Cassel) shot looking straight into a mirror.
Jaco Van Dormael used a similar mirror shot for the first time in Mr. Nobody (2009) and had his particual take on it, at the same time perfectly assimilated with the thematics of his film and as a cinematic injoke. Jared Letho plays a charachter that since a childhood trauma can no longer take any decisions and therefore in his mind is living out endless variations of his potential other lifes. At at certain stage in the film he wakes up in the bed of one family and walks into the bathroom and wants to turn on the light but it happens to be at the other side of the room (he belived to be in a mirror version of his bathroom). He walks towards the mirror looks into it and afterwards walks into the reflection he sees and ends up in that mirror image which happens to be another one of his alternate families. The shot was achieved with a combination of a duplicated adjoining set in combination with visual effects.
In Evil Dead II: Dead by Dawn (1987) there’s a funny (and scary) scene were Bruce Campbell looks into a mirror after some horrible typical Evil Dead stuff has taking place and wants to reassure himself everything is ok when suddenly his mirror image grabs him and advises him of the contrary. Again this was achieved practically by director Sam Raimi by using a duplicate set with the principal actor at one side and a body double at the other.
In Le Tout Nouveau Testament (2015) Jaco Van Dormael pulls a similar trick. The shot starts with a real mirror in a bathroom filmed from the right. A body double moves in front of the camera at which point there’s a subliminal cut to the same set this time with a duplicate set behind the mirror. The body double approaches the mirror and we see François Damiens appear in the mirror image and they embrace each other through the dupe sets.
To end of there’s a brief funny clip from Marc Foster’s Stranger Than Fiction (2006) which has a bit of an impossible mirror shot as well.
In the coming weeks I’ll be writing several posts on Jaco Van Dormael’s excellent religious satire ‘Le Tout Nouveau Testament’ (a.k.a. The Brand New Testament) focusing on links and references to other movies the director has put in his film. In this first post I’ll be focusing on the influence of Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali. Buñuels films are filled with images critizing organised religion and the almost inherent hypocrisy that Buñuels seems to detect among the clergy.
To give but a few examples, in La Voie Lactée (The Milky Way, 1969) one of the pilgrims dreams of assassinating the pope. At the end of Simón del desierto (Simon of the Desert, 1965) a saint who stayed and prayed on a pilar in the middle of a desert for 6 years, 6 weeks and 6 days (yes indeed) gives up and ends up partying in a jazz club. In Viridiana (1961) a nun unsuccesfully tries to help the poor which leads to a famous scene parodying Leonardo Da Vinci’s ‘the last supper’. Van Dormael does the same in Le Tout Nouveau Testament. (See pictures below)
Furthermore there’s the casting of Catherine Deneuve who in Le Tout Nouveau Testament picks up a young male prostitute kind of mirroring her role in Buñuel’s most succesful film Belle de Jour (1967). Deneuve off course also played the title character in another Buñuel film: Tristana (1970).
In the below clip I’ve prepared called Sea Breeze you can see Van Dormael also pays homage to some cinematic tricks Buñuel used in his first two and most (in)famous films: Un Chien Andalou (1929) and L’Age d’ôr (1930). Both films are filled with dream or better nightmarish images that are still as powerfull now as they were at the time of their initial release (and for once that’s not an exaggeration).
There’s a particularly clever cinematic idea Buñuel used in Un Chien Andalou that perfectly visualises the dreamlike state the movie keeps up for its entire running time of about 15 minutes. Towards the end of the film a woman and a man are having a fight and she leaves the room and sticks out her tongue at him. In the next room (or hallway) in the distance she sees another man she knows standing on a beach, which makes no logical sense since she’s still in the interior of a house. To smooth out the transistion form the interior to the beach exterior you’ll notice Buñuel introduced wind in the exterior part of the scene which blows in her hair and moves her scarf.
In L’Age d’ôr made a year later Buñuel used the same trick again. A women is sitting on a chair in front of a mirror and her mind wonders of. We hear sounds of the wind (to know why there’s also sounds of cowbells and a barking dog you’ll have to see the film) and we see her hair move, as do the flowers next do the mirror which again makes no sense as the scene is set in an interior. On top of this the mirror is suddenly showing a cloudfilled sky.
Next up there’s also a clip from Barton Fink (1991) in which a writer with writer’s block starts to fantasize about a woman in a picture sitting on a beack overlooking the ocean. The writer ends up in the painting meeting the woman of his fantasies. The Coen Brothers only used sounds to make the transistion from an interior set to an exterior beach location.
In the part of The Brand New Testament dealing with the sexually-frustrated third apostle there’s a scene in which Van Dormael adopts the same techniques used by the masters that have proceeded him. As an inside joke the scene is followed by a scene in a hairdresser saloon where the boys hair is blown dry with the use of a hair dryer. In my opinion this scene is also refering to Patrice Leconte’s Le Mari de la Coiffeusse (The Hairdresser’s Husband, 1990), no footage of that film is used in this clip.
To end the comparison clip there’s a short scene from Jean-Paul Rappeneau’s Belles Familles (2015) which showcases a subtle use of the same technique. A young woman is sitting in a car and is looking out the window and sees a beach and some kids running or riding a bike. The scene in the car is shot in a studio in front of blue screen with the exteriors added digitally later on in post. The wind going through her hair creates the illusion (movie magic) she’s really sitting in a car that’s riding on a road near a beach.
The next post will feature a similar comparison clip called Mirror Image.
The film follows the attempts of Adam Cramer (excellently portrayed by William Shatner, indeed the future Captain Kirk of the Star Trek Enterprise, in what must be his first lead role in a motion picture) to incite the white townspeople to racial violence against the black population. He basically wants to make the segregated American white schools white again.
The film was shot -not without risk- on location in o.a. southeast Missouri using the local population as extra’s which lends an incredible sense of realism to the film. The film received a limited released and was the first movie Corman had ever been involved in that lost money. Later the same year a big studio picture To Kill a Mockingbird which also touched upon similar civil rights issues -be it less direct than The Intruder- was released to great succes. The reputation of The Intruder has been growing in recent years and has led to several re-issues and DVD releases which has now, over 40 years later, resulted in the film turning in a profit.
Corman stated: “I really believed in it and was disappointed in its commercial reception. But it changed the way I made films. I felt the reason it had failed commercially was that it was too much of a message from me and not entertaining enough. From then on, I made films primarily for the audience’s entertainment. Any personal statement or scene that was important to me would be a beneath-the-surface subtext.”
Even at the age of 90 Corman is still producing movies at a steady rate, his most recent production Death Race 2050, a sequel to Corman’s producuction of Paul Bartel’s cult classic Death Race 2000 (1975), is currently in post production. I’m sure it’ll be entertaining and will undoubtedly have a subtextual social commentary.
Two bandits are going about their business of killing and robbing some travelers a bit too close to a sacred burial ground belonging to an extremely aggressive group of Native Americans with, let’s say, cannibalistic tendencies. The surviving outlaw flees to a small town called Bright Hope. The local sheriff (Kurt Russell) shoots the bandit in the leg -which appears to be his regular MO- and has the local doctor Samatha (a role for Lili Simmons of Banshee fame) fetched to attend to his wound. She’s married to Arthur O’Dwyer (Patrick Wilson) who’s injured, recovering from a broken leg. In the morning the sheriff is notified that a black stable boy has been found dead, severely mutilated. When they check the jail they find an arrow, Samatha, the bandit and a young deputy are missing from the jail.
A four man posse -consisting of Sheriff Hunt, his back-up deputy Chicory (Richard Jenkins) with potential signs of early alzheimer’s, Brooder (Matthew Fox) a notorious ‘indian killer’ and womanizer (who at one stage had an eye on the town’s doctor) with some vanity issues and the injured husband Arthur- is formed to get them back out of the hands of the tribe of cannibalistic cave dwellers or troglodytes, a word which is the basis for one of the countless comedic scenes in the film. The cannibals bare somewhat of a resemblance to the Predator creature in the 1986 Schwarzenegger vehicule (and many of its sequels).
This typical and fairly simple premise and character set-up could have resulted in a straightforward, lean and mean western. Writer director (and musician) S. Craig Zahler had other plans, he’s opted for a slow paced rhythm, with a lot of riding and campfire scenes leaving plenty of opportunity for character moments and loads of comic relief, many scenes playing out in long takes with little camera movement. The character of Chicory played by Richard Jenkins is clearly an homage to similar comic relief roles by character actors such as Will Rogers in many a John Ford film or of Walter Brennan in countless Howard Hawks films. Where the humor in the films of Ford and Hawks now often feels dated as it’s too much ‘broad comedy’ (at least for my taste) the dialogues by Zahler constantly strike the right chords even though a lot of the time it has an oldfashioned feel to it. Not that the other actors are less than great but Jenkins really has the star part and steals many a scene.
Zahler’s reputation and script was able to attract a lot of star quality for his low-budget debut, all willing to work for scale. The film was shot on a shoestring budget of 1,8 million dollars on pre-existing sets on the Paramount Ranch for 21 days. After the shoot Kurt Russell almost went straight to The Hateful Eight set, he clearly kept the same hairstyle and beard.
The film also has a lot of interesting actors (rnaging from cult actors to former glories) in minor parts . There’s Zahn McClarnon (of Fargo Season 2 fame, reteaming with Patrick Wilson) -who in an original take on the typical Native American scout role- informs the posse where they can find the tribe but wisely declines to go along.
David Arquette (deputy Dewey in the Scream films) and Sid Haig (o.a. Jack Hill regular including the Pam Grier vehicules o.a. Coffy, Foxy Brown, played a cameo as the judge in Tarantino’s Jackie Brown, and more recently Rob Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses and The Devil’s Rejects) as the bandits.
Woody Allen and Coen brothers fans may well recognise Fred Melamed as the saloon owner Clarence (Sy Abelman in A Serious Man, and one of the abductors/writers in Hail, Caesar!).
Michael Paré as as Mr. Wallington in the saloon scene who almost became an A-lister in the mid eighties via Eddie and the Cruisers, and Walter Hill’s Streets of Fire, and has since 2000 acted in almost every Uwe Boll film. And Sean Young (Blade Runner, No Way Out) as the mayor’s wife.
For some Zahler may at times be lingering too much. But then we would have missed such wonderful scenes such as the one with the (tiny) mayor who for whatever reasons is being completely ignored by Sheriff Hunt or the one showing the nightly encounter and treatment of a couple of Mexicans (“Mr Brooder just educated two Mexicans on the meaning of Manifest Destiny.”) For others the extremely horrific outbursts of violence in the final act might be too much to take. This blending of western, horror and comedy that lasts for almost 2 hours and fifteen minutes some may find to be a bit indulgent, I liked it a lot and it was one of the many highlights at this years Offscreen festival.
If you have a dark sense of humor you’ll definitely have to check out the below clip: Cabin Fever and Bone Tomahawk: Windpipes and black humor.