Thursday, May 06, 2010

London movies

I always watch movies while on vacation if I'm able, it is vacation after all and I like movies, hence CineRobot. Here's some short reviews of films I saw in theatres on my recent trip to London: Dogtooth, Lourdes, Beeswax and The Disappearance of Alice Creed.

Dogtooth is an unsettling but captivating Greek film from director Giorgos Lanthinos about a middle class family. This isn't a normal group as the husband and wife have decided to shelter their three adult kids from the outside world. The kids have absolutely no clue about anything except their stunted relationships with Mom, Dad and each other within the confines of the house/yard. They think airplanes flying overhead are toys, cats are vicious killers and all sorts of weirdness. This film has an unrestrained power to it and isn't afraid to take major risks. I love that. Dogtooth is dark, hypnotic and very hard to forget after you've watched it. Recommended for the brave.

I saw a lot of serious films while on my trip and next up was Lourdes from Austrian director Jessica Hausner. The film is set in Lourdes, France, where pilgrims and religious folk gather to pray for a miracle healing of various ailments, from cancer to being paralyzed. Lourdes is slow, quiet and an interesting look into the desperate side of Catholic faith. Sylvie Testud gives a great performance as a sweet woman bound to a wheelchair. I liked that the Lourdes doesn't really just hand you its story up on a platter, there's multiple interpretations here if you want there to be. Isn't that just like religion or a miracle? Those things aren't that clear cut and neither is the movie.

Beeswax is the latest micro-budget film from Andrew Bujalski. These sorts of movies have been dubbed "mumblecore"--truly an awful, preposterous tag that I would want to shed as quickly as possible if I were one of the filmmakers lumped into that world. These films have no budgets, unknown actors and a raw, D.I.Y. aesthetic. I enjoyed a couple of Bujalski's previous films, Funny Ha Ha and Mutual Appreciation,  but I didn't care for Beeswax at all. I mostly found the characters ingratiating and scenes/dialogue incredibly forced and frustrating. Full of bad acting from half the cast, Beeswax was a tad too contrived for me.

The last film I saw in London was the nasty little kidnapping thriller The Disappearance of Alice Creed. I wasn't expecting much with it but there was nothing else to watch (don't get me started on the bizarre choices London programmers make regarding start times and when they decide to show the films) to match my short window before I had to catch a train at Waterloo Station. This only has three characters but it is a fast-paced, twist filled, tightly constructed little film. Eddie Marsan is awesome as one of the crooks and Gemma Arterton is sexy as hell (although she's the kidnapping victim and spends a lot of time tied down on a bed). The Disappearance of Alice Creed is a very pleasant surprise and a solid piece of genre filmmaking from director J. Blakeson (use your full first name and it will be easier to be taken seriously in the future).

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