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Screening Log 2005 - What did you watch this week?
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matt header
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PostPosted: 11.15.2005 2:15 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Straw Dogs



I'll tentatively say Straw Dogs is one of the most intense, disturbing movies I've ever seen, and it practically negates the possibility of anything positive coming out of the experience. I wanted to ask about a specific scene, though, and if you haven't seen the movie I suggest you stop reading.



The scene in question is the rape scene, which unsurprisingly caused the most controversy. It's certainly tough to watch and brilliantly done, especially because Amy not only seems to be half-enjoying this, but Peckinpah also may be suggesting that she is partially to blame for her own rape. Many critics have pointed this out as evidence of Peckinph's misogyny, and if indeed this is what he is trying to say that's the kind of reprehensible reasoning usually promoted by rapists themselves.



Anyway, what about that scene? Not a light topic, I know. Sorry.



I also saw High Tension, entirely in French with subtitles. It's not bad for a while, but its ending is not only sort of predictable and utterly ludicrous, it's borderline homophobic and (to go along with this post's theme) extremely misogynistic.
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 11.15.2005 2:35 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

the night watchman wrote:
...his opinion contrasted with the opinion of Staff Sgt. Sykes. Sykes eloquently expresses the exhilaration and fulfillment the military affords him; and since he is portrayed in a positive light--he is affable (if hard-assed) and charismatic, and the audience is clearly meant to like and respect him--his opinion holds at least an equal amount of weight, as well.


I would argue that the intent is to portray Sykes as completely out of his mind, brainwashed by the institution. What you saw as charisma I saw as self-infatuation, and I think Mendes did too.
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 11.15.2005 2:36 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

matt header wrote:
I also saw High Tension [...] it's borderline homophobic and extremely misogynistic.




That's an interesting take. In what ways is it either?
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 11.15.2005 2:49 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Danny Baldwin wrote:


I was prepared to be refreshed because of just this, but I found the movie's psychological interpretation of war's effect on soldiers to be blatantly one note and absolutely absurd in almost every way. Rather offensive, too--I'd say--considering the fact that Swofford wasn't even exposed to combat.


Part of what I liked about Jarhead is that it largely resists making such broad, generalized statements about war and soldiers. I didn't read the movie as being about the effects of war; rather, it's about the effects of war training on a single man, especially when that man was trained to believe in the nobility of a specific purpose--in this case, killing--but then denied the opportunity to fulfill that purpose. The fact that Swofford never experienced "real" combat is precisely what validates his particular perspective.



Danny Baldwin wrote:
Not to mention, was anyone bothered by the fact that the movie treats the Marines as tactic-less souls randomlywandering through the desert? I get that the focus isn't on the specifics of military procedures, but it hindered my ability to buy anything that it might've had to say (especially the scene in which they decide to make camp in the oil fields).


This sounds like a complaint about the movie's realism, which I might have shared except the subjective, first-person point-of-view renders "reality" moot. In fact, one of the things I most enjoyed about the movie was its willingness to occasionally abandon reality and engage in the surreal--the gas mask football and the raining oil scenes may not have been "realistic," but they were psychologically evocative and therefore appropriate--they rank among my favorite scenes.



Eric
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 11.15.2005 2:53 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Danny Baldwin wrote:
I would argue that the intent is to portray Sykes as completely out of his mind, brainwashed by the institution. What you saw as charisma I saw as self-infatuation, and I think Mendes did too.




In an interview Mendes stated: "["Jarhead"] can be considered an anti-war film, but it depends on the eye of the beholder. I?d like to see it as a great hymn to the resilience and bravery of the marines, in the face of nothingness." [emphasis mine]



This doesn't sound like the words of a guy out to portray the military as brainwashed.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 11.15.2005 2:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Danny Baldwin wrote:


I would argue that the intent is to portray Sykes as completely out of his mind, brainwashed by the institution.


Fascinating how our preconceptions color our interpretations... I definitely side with NW about Sykes, but concede that Jarhead leaves itself wide open to disparate readings.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 11.15.2005 3:02 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

the night watchman wrote:
A Tale of Two Sisters (Ji-woon Kim, 2003) - Flat out one of the best supernatural horror movies I?ve ever seen. I?d rank it up there with Wise?s The Haunting, Kubrick?s The Shining, Kiyoshi Kurosawa?s Kairo*, and, yes, even Dreyer?s Vampyr. Lest you think I dropped a big steaming spoiler with the first sentence, I?ve read reviews (including Eric?s?) that approach Tale as purely psychological.


Wasn't mine, since I never reviewed it. (Here's the link to Michael's A- review.) But I did rave about it somewhere in this screening log, and do view it as largely psychological. Here's what I wrote then (I know I've been re-pasting a lot lately, but I'm really, really lazy):



One of the things I liked best about A Tale of Two Sisters is the way Kim uses the idyllic lakefront country as counterpoint to the mental torment occurring within the characters. Likewise, the spare, elegant style is punctuated with surreal images that conflate memory, nightmare, and fantasy. But this not a typical evil-stepmom horror show: Once we realize that we're actually watching two distinct sets of delusions unfolding, the story becomes a credible, compelling psychological portrait of grief. It starts slowly, but as the pieces come together, the movie gains resonance and stature. Also, I was most impressed by how the revelation that Su-Yeon is dead is not the deepest revelation to come?there?s much more here than just an Asian reworking of The Sixth Sense. This is certainly one of the best Asian horror movies I?ve seen.
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 11.15.2005 3:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

That's the comment I was referring to. The question mark was meant to show uncertainty about your take on the movie's degree of reality versus fantasy.
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Monkeypox
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PostPosted: 11.15.2005 4:05 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

beltmann wrote:


Part of what I liked about Jarhead is that it largely resists making such broad, generalized statements about war and soldiers. I didn't read the movie as being about the effects of war; rather, it's about the effects of war training on a single man, especially when that man was trained to believe in the nobility of a specific purpose--in this case, killing--but then denied the opportunity to fulfill that purpose. The fact that Swofford never experienced "real" combat is precisely what validates his particular perspective.




My thoughts exactly. We learn this in poetry, to live in the details and avoid the abstractions. Part of why I actually considered Jarhead superior to Mendes' earlier films and one of the best "war films" in a long long time.
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matt header
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PostPosted: 11.15.2005 4:10 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

SPOILERS HEREIN!



In my opinion, the ending to High Tension posits sexual deviancy as a stand-in for violent psychosis. A lot of slasher movies present sexual immorality as the lead-in for victimization - the slutty girl is always one of the first to be killed - but Alexandre Aja's film presents it as leading to a murderous rampage. We could say that the killer's madness is just another case of unrequited love and sexual frustration amplified to its violent extreme, regardless of sexual orientation, but there are lots of shady images thrown in: we're meant to cringe, for example, at Marie and Alex's kiss drenched in blood, immediately after which Alex impales Marie. Her motive, certainly, is that Marie killed her whole family, but Marie's motive is that she can't have the heterosexual Alex (who is also a slut, by Marie's estimation - there's the doomed slut complex again), and Aja's motivation for everything seems to be that for a woman to want something socially "unstraight" is tantamount to demented (blood)lust. (Maybe Aja wants to punish Alex for not giving in to Marie's barely-veiled sexual desire, which prevents the audience from experiencing any girl-on-girl action.) Add to all of this the fact that Marie's homosexual desires are personified by Philippe Nahon, who has played practically every demented creep in French cinema of the last several years (and is a Gaspar Noe regular), and we have a film that, if not incriminating, is certainly shady in its moral judgments.



Even if none of this is true, the ending is still pretty stupid.
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Danny Baldwin
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PostPosted: 11.15.2005 4:41 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

the night watchman wrote:
In an interview Mendes stated: "["Jarhead"] can be considered an anti-war film, but it depends on the eye of the beholder. I?d like to see it as a great hymn to the resilience and bravery of the marines, in the face of nothingness.".


As far as the individual soldiers are concerned--his Swoffords, etc--this may be true. I saw Sykes as more of a symbol of the figurehead of the institution, which, as the movie would like to make us think, has turned the troops into "killing machines", who, in their spare time, want to do nothing but party and exchange crude jokes. He does this perhaps less knowingly than the Forrest Whittaker character, but he's still up there. The "I love this job," mindset is a mere part of this.



beltmann wrote:
In fact, one of the things I most enjoyed about the movie was its willingness to occasionally abandon reality and engage in the surreal--the gas mask football and the raining oil scenes may not have been "realistic," but they were psychologically evocative and therefore appropriate--they rank among my favorite scenes.


It's not the lack of realism that I am quibbling with, but rather the function of surrealism in the movie. To me, the only thing that Mendes has to say in these scenes is "Oh! Look at how we're treating our Marines!", which is downright exploitive.



Would you classify the shot-down-at-training-camp and Vietnam-veteran-on-the-bus sequences as the same, Beltmann?
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the night watchman
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PostPosted: 11.15.2005 5:34 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

SPOILERS HEREIN!



matt header wrote:
In my opinion, the ending to High Tension posits sexual deviancy as a stand-in for violent psychosis. A lot of slasher movies present sexual immorality as the lead-in for victimization - the slutty girl is always one of the first to be killed - but Alexandre Aja's film presents it as leading to a murderous rampage. Aja's motivation for everything seems to be that for a woman to want something socially "unstraight" is tantamount to demented (blood)lust. Add to all of this the fact that Marie's homosexual desires are personified by Philippe Nahon, who has played practically every demented creep in French cinema of the last several years (and is a Gaspar Noe regular), and we have a film that, if not incriminating, is certainly shady in its moral judgments.




Well.... I think if High Tension took itself more seriously you might have a point. But, personally, it seems to me that Aja and his co-scripter decided on a lesbian killer and her Philippe Nahon alter-ego (very funny observation, by the way) purely to service the plot twist (and to turn the typical slasher movie on its head). And, anyway, it could be argued that Marie envisioning herself as a lumbering, sweaty, disgusting male when catering to her violent urges smacks more of misandry than homophobia or misogyny.
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matt header
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PostPosted: 11.15.2005 8:29 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Yeah, Aja's probably not trying to "say" anything. But it's still troublesome to me that he subverts the slasher film by relying on homosexuality as a motivation for dementia.



I can see the argument about Nahon representing a form of misandry, but for me it instead suggests the way Aja views lesbianism: as a distorted hatred that turns all men into lumbering, leering animals.
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beltmann
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PostPosted: 11.15.2005 8:45 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

matt header wrote:
Yeah, Aja's probably not trying to "say" anything. But it's still troublesome to me that he subverts the slasher film by relying on homosexuality as a motivation for dementia.


I'm normally primed for these kinds of interpretations, but isn't it possible for the killer's homosexuality to exist as a neutral trait? Why should we assume that the killer's homosexuality is what motivates her dementia? I tend to agree with NW when he says her orientation most likely serves the twist more than it serves any discernible gender agenda.
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Jim Harper
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PostPosted: 11.15.2005 8:48 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

06/11/05 - 12/11/05

Vampire Hunter D (dir. Toyoo Ashida, 1985)*

Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines (dir. Jonathan Mostow, 2003)

The Survivor (dir. David Hemmings, 1981)

The Dancer Upstairs (dir. John Malkovich, 2002)*

She-Creature (dir. Sebastian Gutierrez, 2001)

Doomwatch (dir. Peter Sasdy, 1972)

The Wishing Stairs (dir. Jae-yeon Yun, 2003)*

The Mysterious Magician (dir. Alfred Vohrer, 1965)*

Shutter (dir. Pisanthanakun/Wongpoom, 2004)*

Abnormal Beauty (dir. Oxide Pang Chun, 2004)*

Tombs of the Blind Dead (dir. Amando de Ossorio, 1971)*

Night of the Seagulls (dir. Amando de Ossorio, 1975)*

Return of the Blind Dead (dir. Amando de Ossorio, 1973)



The best of this week's viewings are Wishing Stairs and The Dancer Upstairs. Wishing Stairs I think is a fine addition to the series, even if it isn't quite as good as Whispering Corridors and well below Memento Mori. It's still far better than most South Korean horror films released these days.



The Dancer Upstairs is just great. Malkovich's direction is fluid and confident, while Javier Bardem delivers another fine performance. One of the best political thrillers I've seen in a long time.



Abnormal Beauty was just too damn bleak for me. It's a relentlessly grim vision that allows little sunlight in, if only for contrast. The results is definitely a weakened impact. Shutter was better, but ultimately too derivative and predictable to be entirely satisfying.



And you can't go wrong with the Blind Dead series. Top-notch Eurohorror.
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