Thursday, October 31, 2013

Rituals (aka The Creeper) (1977) Scary Movies 7

Every year a group of doctors get together and go to some out of the place location do fish for a week. This year they go to the wilds of Canada, to a place called by the Indians The Cauldron of the Moon. Cut off from the world, some 250 miles from anywhere the group hike to a campsite. One day while fishing they find that someone has taken all of their boots. Since only one of the men has extra shoes, he's forced to leave to try and get help and boots. That night the men who remain find a deer head just on the outside of their camp. They then decide to go after their friends. However it doesn't take long before they realize that someone is hunting them.

One of a number of Deliverance riffs that popped up in the 1970's  Rituals was kind of legendary growing up because the bad guys took the shoes of their victims. Not many of us saw it, it was on some odd cable station late at night, but I remember it leaving a lasting impression on those who saw it.  Actually I shouldn't have said us, since it was years before I finally saw the film.  when I did it was kind of by accident, and it wasn't until I ran into the shoes that I realized what I was seeing. Back then it didn't quite live up to its reputation, however seeing the film again I was impressed.

A tense trip into the wilderness the film smartly keeps the film focused on the dwindling group of doctors. Things are not amped up to bring scares, rather we've simply been dropped into the woods with them. Events play out in long sequences that kind of equate to real time. We feel their pain, we are always are aware they have no shoes. We, like the men on screen do not have answers which makes things scarier.

More thriller or adventure than gone wrong rather than horror Rituals is one of those nasty little films that gets under your skin and makes it crawl. Re-watching the film at home on my couch in order to write it up for the Scary Movies series I was struck by how glad I was not to be seeing it in a theater where I couldn't look away, I couldn't distract myself. The first 75 minutes or so are really really good. While it's not a perfect film, its too long at 102 minutes and the reasoning behind it isn't perfect which makes some of the end disappointing but, it's still a damn fine film- one that will make you not want to go into the woods.

It's also film that I;m guessing you haven't seen before which makes it the perfect film to see at Scary Movies. Go see it when it plays on Saturday afternoon at Lincoln Center,

Theater of Blood (1973)

It amazes me that people don’t like Vincent Price. I was reading something recently that said that many people think Price and his films are passé.

Passe? Really?

While I freely admit that Price could be hammy, I do think that when Price met the proper role he was amazing. I thing anyone who is claiming that Price is passé has only seen a small portion of his work which crossed all genres. Price was a master craftsman who always gave it his all.

If Vincent Price’s performances were likened to food, then his performance in Theater of Blood would be a huge ham served at Easter dinner. This is Price at his most over the top and in all probability it’s probably Price at his most fun.

The film is essentially a send up of over the top actors and most importantly the pomposity of critics. The film follows Vincent Price’s character, a wildly over the top Shakespearean actor who has been the butt of endless bad reviews from London’s theater critics. After staging his own death Price returns in order to exact revenge on the critics in the manner of the deaths in the plays of Shakespeare. It’s a bloody over the top affair that has the police running in circles and the critics cowering in fear.

Like a film designed by the legendary Grand Gingoul, this is largely an excuse for the cast to cut loose and do something far from serious. The large cast of name actors and actresses which includes, Jack Hawkins, Robert Morley, Coral Browne (the future Mrs Price) Diana Rigg,Harry Andrews and Milo O'Shea normally played films of a much more refined nature. Here, mostly playing the critics who hounded Price to homicide, they could kick back and indulge themselves, making fun of the critics who have haunted their every step.

More thriller than horror film, I’m not sure if the film is ever really scary. Yes, the film has a nice tension generated by the cat and mouse game that Price is playing with the police, but it never scary.

For me the film kind of marks the end of Price’s middle film period. After this film Price kind of stopped being an actor and became a personality. He had gone from being an actor in the first part of his career playing in a wide variety of film roles (Wilson,The Baron of Arizona. and Brigham Young) to an actor who was primarily taking horror and B roles (The Corman Poe films). After Theater of Blood Price was essentially a horror personality. Yes he would do the occasional non-horror role, but after 1973 he was now in the horror triumvirate with Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing. It was after this point that you couldn’t help but see Price and think horror. Price would go on to do other roles, but there was something about the ten years from the first Poe film to this film that forever set Price as a horror actor.

Christ that’s pompous. It’s the sort of highbrow comment that would have had me on the chopping block in Theater of Blood.

Lets end the pomposity and have me say, if you want a bloody good time get your hands on Theater of Blood, some popcorn and a bowl of something and enjoy.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The New York Chinese Film Festival Starts Tuesday

Just a reminder that the New York Chinese Film Festival starts Tuesday. One of the great little known secrets of New York the film festival brings big stars of Chinese cinema to New York to come and showcase their films. This year they are havingVicky Zhao Wei, Miriam Yeung, Wu Xiubo, Wesley Wong and Donnie Yen.. All are appearing with their films.

The festival starts Tuesday with a big to do at Alice Tully Hall and then it moves down to the AMC 25 in Times Square for two days of films, before ending with a big party Thursday night at Capitale.

Yes I know the midweek running is going to make it tough to get there for some of the films, but trust me it’s worth the effort. I’m currently trying to bend my schedule to get there.(Coverage is coming, I’m not sure how much because of the day job)

The schedule is

4TH New York Chinese Film Festival Films:

So Young (Opening Night Presentation at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, 8:00pm) – Directed by Vicky Zhao Wei. So Young is the debut directorial effort of the renowned Chinese actress Vicky Zhao Wei. It is based on the best-selling novel "To Our Youth that is Fading Away" by Xin YiwuIt, adapted by Li Qiang ("The Postmodern Life of My Aunt") and produced by Stanley Kwan. It is a film about the love, joy, and pain of a group of young students in their school days and their harsh confrontation with the realities and a lament on the loss of youth to adulthood. Attending the Festival will be Director Zhao Wei.

Sorry, I Love You (Presented at the AMC Empire 25. Wednesday, November 6 at 11:00am) – Directed by Larry Yang. With only six months to live, Walker decides to leave Vancouver to go back to China, where he was born and adopted and go look for his biological parents and twin sister. With the aid of Encai, a girl he once helped, he tries to find his family but they start falling in love with each other very quickly. With only six months to live, Walker will have to make important decisions to make his loved one’s life complete. Attending the Festival will be Director Larry Yang, Actor Wesley Wong and Producer Hang Hon.

Finding Mr. Right (Presented at the AMC Empire 25, Wednesday, November 6 at 2:00pm) – Directed by Xue Xiaolu (“Ocean Heaven”). City girl Jiajia is traveling to Seattle to give birth to the son who's going to help her win over her rich, married boyfriend. Armed with his unlimited credit card and the singular goal of bringing a little U.S. citizen back to Beijing, Jiajia knows how to play this game of modern love. But when Jiajia arrives in Seattle, nothing goes right: she's stuck sharing a small house with two other pregnant ladies, she has trouble reaching her boyfriend on the phone, and eventually, even the credit card stops working. To top that off, the only person willing to spend time with her is her driver Frank. Frank is the opposite of everything she ever wanted in a man... or could he be exactly the kind of guy she really needs. Attending the Festival will be Actor Wu Xiubo.

Love Undercover (Presented at the AMC Empire 25, Wednesday, November 6 at 4:30pm) – Directed by Joe Ma. Fong (Miriam Yeung), fresh out of the Police Training School is only allowed to work on some trivial missions in the police station after graduation. Fortunately, she is soon assigned to work undercover as a waitress. She needs to get close enough to a gangster's son so that she can plant a microphone at a table where the gangsters make their deals. Complications arise when she finds herself falling for him. Attending the Festival will be Actress Miriam Yeung.

Love in the Buff (Presented at the AMC Empire 25, Wednesday, November 6 at 7:30pm) – Directed by Pang Ho-Cheung. In this sequel to the hit movie Love in a Puff, former lovers Jimmy and Cherie start a new life in Beijing after they ended their relationship. Despite meeting someone else, they can’t seem to forget each other and are torn between fidelity towards their new partners and following their hearts. Attending the Festival will be Actress Miriam Yeung

IP Man (Presented at the AMC Empire 25, Thursday, November 7 at 11:00am) – Directed by Wilson Yip. This is the story of IP Man, a legendary Wing Chun Kung Fu master set in Foshan, China in the 1930s. IP Man becomes a hero and creates a craze for Wing Chun. During the Japanese invasion, General Miura, a fanatical practitioner in martial arts, demands that IP Man teach Wing Chun martial arts to the Japanese Army, but IP Man refuses and takes up Miura’s challenge. A fierce fight is going to start…. Attending the Festival will be Actor Donnie Yen.

Special ID (Presented at the AMC Empire 25, Thursday, November 7 at 2:00pm) – Directed by Clarence Fok Yiu-leung. A cop and his team of comrades go undercover in one of China's most ruthless underworld organizations to stop a gang leader, only to put themselves in great danger after being exposed one by one. Attending the Festival will be Actor Donnie Yen.

NYCFF Films and Schedule:

November 5, Opening Night, Alice Tully Hall

8:00pm – So Young

November 6, AMC Empire 25

11:00am – Sorry, I Love You

2:00pm – Finding Mr. Right

4:30pm – Love Undercover

7:30pm – Love in the Buff

November 7, AMC Empire 25

11:00am – IP Man

2:00pm – Special ID

November 7, Capitale

4:00-9:00pm, Closing Night and Awards

For further information and tickets to all the above films (including Opening Night) please visit the Chinese American Arts Council site at or the New York Chinese Film Festival site at

Briefly : Let's Scare Jessica to Death (1971) Scary Movies 7

not Jessica and not dead

Jessica, her husband and a friend move to a small town. When they arrive at the house they find a squater living there. They invite her to stay. During the first night together they hold an impromtu seance calling on the spirits of anyone who died in the house.  After that strange events begin happening and Jessica begins to see bodies. Is Jessica going insane once more?

What was once probably a scary little film, now is a quaint little curio with a great name. While the film has some great moments and a nice sense of is she crazy or not, the film suffers from Zohra Lampert's performance as Jessica. A collection of ticks and weird turns that are suppose to show her as a woman on the edge, the result is to make her kind of unlikable.

The other problem is that what is going on, kind of doesn't make a whole hell of a lot of sense. Sure you could argue that the film is from the point of view of a crazy woman, but at the same time there is more going on and it never quite comes together (a curse that many early 1970's horror films suffer from).

This isn't to say that the film doesn't have some chills, it does, but the things that work seem to have been brought in from another movie. If only I had come in about half way in I would have loved this film.

The film screens Saturday at Lincoln Center.

Side Effects (2013) (revised)

Steven Soderbergh has always been and up and down director. He either makes great films or films that make you wonder what in the hell he was thinking. After two head scratchers (HAYWIRE and MAGIC MIKE) he returns to form with the thriller SIDE EFFECTS.

The plot of the film has Mara Rooney welcoming home her husband, played by Channing Tatum after four years away in prison for insider trading. Kicking up a huge load of unsettled issues, which in this case means mood swings and attempting suicide. Put on a new drug by psychiatrist Jude Law things kind of go along okay. However things go from bad to worse as the hubby is found dead and it looks like Rooney did it while on the new drug.

The less said the better since where the film goes after that makes the majority of the film. I will say that this is really Jude Laws film.

I will also say that this is a low key thriller where the tension comes from the characters interactions and not action or thriller like set pieces- people don't get stalked. This doesn't mean there isn't tension, there, a great deal of it, since without the trappings of s typical suspense film we no longer are in  cliche territory with every twist a genuine surprise.

While on some levels the film is a too talky (I would have loved a chase but where would it go?) the film still really knocked my socks off. It went off in unexpected directions and refused to anything except follow it's own path  which revealed wonderful new twists with each scene.

Definitely recommended for anyone wanting an very good and unconventional thriller.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Curtains (1983) Scary Movies 7

I miss the days when you had to go to the movies to see the latest slasher flick. I miss the days when a new horror movie would open and everyone would pile in the car and go to the local single screen or twin cinema and see the latest horror movie. I miss the days before home video really took off- when you had to go see a movie because you had no idea when you’d get to see it again.

Back in 1983, not long after I got my driver’s license I went to, I believe, the Plainview Twin theater and saw Curtains. The place was packed with horror nuts like myself. It was back in the halcyon days just before videotape I would hit every horror movie on the night it opened sometimes they would be packed, sometimes empty. Sometimes they were good sometimes they were bad. Very often you’d see the same faces at each new movie because everyone wanted to be the first to see the latest lest someone tell you what happened. The screening I saw of Curtains was packed.

Curtains is the story of a great movie director (John Vernon) that his favorite actress (Samantha Eggars)she needs to research her next role and has her locked up in an asylum- for research. Of course he intends never to let her out.. Meanwhile he invites 6 actresses over to a creepy mansion to compete for the lead role. As the auditions proceed, Eggars escapes and someone starts killing off the actresses.

This sort of film has been done to death of late, it’s easy and cheap to do and you can cheat. As a rule I don’t like this sort of a film since they are now so by the numbers that its extremely rare that they generate any suspense. They are so bad that I very often won’t even go back and watch films in the sub-genre I like because I ‘m so fed up with where it’s gone. Curtains, on the other hand I actually like. I like it so much that I recently bought a 15 film set of horror films of the sort you see in the supermarkets just to get the film.

To be honest it’s not a great film. Actually its just a good film, but there is something about the performances that make it stand up after 30 years. To be honest until recently I hadn’t seen it in probably a decade, but the film has always been in my mind. It’s always distinguished itself as being better than the rest. Yea its little more than your typical mad killer in a house film, but somehow it works, somehow it remains in your mind when others go away. It’s a film that I would always pull out when I would talk about mad killer movies that are good, or horror films that no one talks about…

…which makes me wonder why did it take Scary Movies for me to finally write it up? I don’t know. My guess is simply the crush of films. Whatever the reason isn’t important, what is important is that I’m telling you about it early enough that you can go out and see the film when it runs this Friday at Lincoln Center.


An American looking for a lost love in Japan ends up on an island full of whores. Unable to find his love he spends the night with a woman who begins to tell him of her life, and of his lost love.

(I'm going to leave it at that since the way the story is told and its structure as a series of retold tales, or as a retold tale, will probably be spoiled if I went into any further detail of the plot. Certainly the shock value of some of the images will be lost if you knew what was happening.)

It's clear why Showtime balked at showing this film when it first aired the Masters of Horror series. It is disturbing and horrifying in ways that most American films dare not be. It is a slowly building tale that begins with words and then slowly builds with inference and implication before becoming more and more graphic. It pushes buttons that for many people should not be pushed or even gotten near. The horror and terror we felt is almost divorced from the plot, arising out of director Takashi Miike's decision to show us what would, in most films, never be shown. They are for the most part a horror of a bleak life choice on the edge of hell. As a tale of visceral horror its an incredible achievement.

The problem for me is that the film is very uneven. Once the stories begin to be told and retold and we get a sense of what exactly happened and is going on (more or less) the film begins to fragment and its internal logic begins to falter, the plotting doesn't have a great deal to show past a certain point so that the end seems to almost be an after thought, the denouncement is nothing special. And there is a nagging suspicion that with out the visuals there isn't much to the story.

Still I liked this a great deal, but I didn't love it. It is not for all people and anyone with a weak constitution need not bother viewing it. For fans of Takashi Miike its must see viewing. For everyone else its a personal choice.

Monday, October 28, 2013

Cemetery Man (aka Dellamorte Dellamore) (1994) Scary Movies 7

Strange horror comedy based on a novel by the author of the Dylan Dog comic book, Tiziano Sclavi is a mixed bag. Nominally the story of Francesco Dellamorte a man who is the cemetery care taker in a small Italian village the film spins off into some truly weird directions, chief among them is that seven days after burial the dead rise up and have to be killed. Things get weirder from there.

Until I saw the film to write it up for the Scary Movie 7 series I had managed never to see this film. I am a fan of the Dylan Dog comic and a fan of star Rupert Everett, so seeing the film should have been a no brainer. Unfortunately reaction to the film was really mixed, actually mixed to negative so it never was priority to see it.

Now having seen it I'm very mixed as well.

Yes the cast is good and all the bits work, hell there is a wonderful sense of unease to it all,  but at the same time this film is just weird, I mean really weird. The hows and whys of what is going on, hell even some of the things that go on, are so off the deep end that you kind of have to just go with things. I mean what is the deal with the ending? I don't know. I suspect that the story makes some sort of sense as a novel but as a film it's simply one of those Italian horror films that is full of doom and gloom and feeling but not meaning.

The film plays Thursday at Lincoln Center.  If you like Italian strange give it a shot.

Evidence (2011)

Recommended to me by Bob McLain, this found footage film seems to be completely off the radar. I could not find a copy of it anywhere until I found it on Vimeo (the link has long since been taken down).  The film was described to be as being just okay to start been then getting weirder and more disturbing as it goes on until it goes balls to the wall in the final half (the film only runs about 75 minutes)...having seen it I can say that the description is dead on.

The plot of the film has four friends going camping. The first night out they hear weird noises around them which they take to be coyotes. Well that's what they try to convince themselves it is  The next night weird more noises are heard and strange things begin happening.  It isn't long before they are under siege and trying to stay alive.

To be quite honest the film doesn't make a great deal of sense, but then again if you were trapped in the situation I doubt things would make sense to you either. I'm at a loss to explain much of it and while the gaps in logic really bothered me to start (I mean why are they filming some of this and why doesn't the battery die) there is this point where logic and reason go out the window and you stop wanting to turn the film off because it's not particularly special and it becomes you want to turn the film off because its just f-ed up.  I don't like how this film made me feel- I mean that in a good way.

Is this a good film? If you look at logically, probably not. I mean the story isn't anything special, the found footage/POV doesn't always make sense however on the other hand the film just turns so bat shit crazy in the second half that you really have to go with it. There is a visceralness to much of what happens that reaches out and pulls you along. As I said I wanted to look away but couldn't.

Worth a look if you can track it down.

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Why aren't more people talking about older (horror) movies?

My house-really

Off and on over the next few months I’m going to take a look at the state of film fandom. This examination is based on the realization that many people today simply aren’t watching old movies. With so many channels on TV full of reality TV shows and series reruns, and an endless supply of new low budget films people are turning away from the old stuff. I’m going to look at what this may mean to the future of film both as something we create and as something we watch. And part of that is going to be a look at the state of horror.

This desire to explore the topic comes from a couple of places. The first was a comment I ran across that said that Vincent Price was passe. It wasn't so much that the person didn't like Price, it was that the person doing the writing felt that Price's work, and the old school horror films, were no longer relevant and really didn't matter. In reading the post on some horror message board it became clear that the person writing it had no clue about the history of film, or of horror films specifically. Whomever was doing the writing only really knew the films of the past 20 years or so. I dismissed the comment and then continued looking for whatever it was I was looking for and kind of forgot about it.

And then a week or so later I finally saw The Lords of Salem and I decided to read up on the film and it's reaction, and I instantly ran into many people who hated the film because the film wasn't like other modern horror films with blood and gore and a shock a minute. It was clear that many people are only watching one type of horror film, the modern day gore fests.

Shocked and bewildered I thought back on the Price comment and I realized that people really don't know their film history, or even films past the last 20 years. While I completely understand why it is, I still don't like it.This is why over the next few months I'm going to try and pull together a couple of essays that will examine various topics with the hope that more than just throwing good old film titles at people we can change the unadventurous enough that they will go back and look at old films.(I'm also hoping to pull a couple of weeks together where I highlight the work of various actors and actresses who are known for one thing but have done sterling work in other genres- say Christopher Lee, who has made more non-genre films than genre films)

Consider what follows the opening salvo in this examination of  new brains not noticing old film. This was cut from the review I ran earlier today of The Lords of Salem. That original piece ran twice as long as that review and this piece combined. I hacked away at it, kept what I think is some good stuff, and added a little more sweetening.

I saw the Lords of Salem on import DVD. The film premiered at Toronto last year and was knocking around the world before it was dumped unceremoniously into American theaters in mid-April. It then staggered around for a bit before disappearing. I was kind of at a loss to explain it since Zombie's earlier films were big to dos, and from my limited perspective Zombie's film kind of came and went (granted I was too busy with Tribeca to notice). Looking at IMDB I saw the film is only being rated at around 5.5, were these people seeing the same film I was? Apparently.

I could be wrong but it appears that neither whoever released Lords to US theaters nor the audiences who have seen it know what to make of the film. Zombie’s shift away from splatter and into the realm of “artsy fartsy’ Euro horror disappointed them. It looks like either they were disappointed that Zombie didn’t repeat himself or they couldn't or wouldn't go with him into a purely visceral place. I find this odd since the last half hour of Zombie’s House of 1000 Corpses goes into the same territory, just with more blood.

What I think the real problem at work here is that even with the relative ease that we can get films from around the world, most film fans are not going back and looking at older films. I’m sure many horror fans know the name of Dario Argento, but how many of them have seen any of his films, or more than some of the recent films he turned out? How many have actually watched the work of other Italian and European directors who have worked during Argento's 45+ year career? I don’t think many. I also don’t think, despite the growing proliferation of subtitle readers, that most people really are watching foreign films, horror included, accept occasionally. I suspect that the rise of Spanish horror films in the US is geared in large part not to their quality (which is considerable) rather because there is a large audience of Spanish speaking people in the US who want to see a film in their native tongue (That however is a topic for another time)

Anyway, the point I’m trying to make is that the cool US reaction to the film is due, and this is just my wild speculation,  to the film not being what audiences expected after Zombie’s previous films as well it not being something that they are familiar with because they don’t know their film history. Both of these points are a shame since The Lords of Salem is actually one of the better horror films of the last couple of years… or more specifically this year.

2013 has so far been a very good year for horror. What is making the year so impressive to me is that it’s a a year where the cream of the crop is subverting the status quo. So far this year we’ve had Neil Jordan rethinking the vampire genre with Byzantium, Richard Raaphorst overcoming the limitations of the found footage genre to make one of the best monster films in Frankenstein’s Army, and now Rob Zombie going off into a completely different and unexpected direction with The Lords of Salem. What makes the films so special is that their directors do know their film history and know how to subvert all of the conventions of the genre. Most impressive of all is we have James Wan, the man who made the blood and guts first Saw film make throw back to horror before the gore films with The Conjuring. That The Conjuring has been a huge hit speaks volumes about whether blood really is required to have a hit.

While the success of The Conjuring is satisfying it also has come across as a bit troubling. Its troubling because in it's wake I've been party to a conversation where some film-goers I know were discussing the film as if it was a trick and how despite it being a good film they hope any sequel is a bit more bloody like the best horror films. I reminded them that this was a throw back to older films. Their attitude was that they didn't like older films because they weren't bloody, weren't always in color and the effects were poor.

Yes, I know there is no accounting for taste but it simply reveals that many people don't like older films...I mean outside of Turner Classic Films and a few other specialty stations most channels don't run old films. Films past say the last 20 years are pretty much gone from most TV stations. Its a sad state of affairs that is stunting our cultural heritage.

While we at Unseen have tried to highlight the good from literally every decade of film history, reviews are just not doing it. We have to do more, so, as I said about we'll be turning out some longer pieces which I hope will drive the more reluctant of you to see more films from times gone by. I know I'm probably just preaching to the converted but to those of you who read Unseen and don't watch older films, you really don't know what you're missing...however in a short time you will....

Since Halloween is Thursday we’ll be running horror movie reviews all week. The original plan was just to have the regular daily movie being a horror film, but with Lincoln Center’s Scary Movies starting Thursday as well I’ve got extra reviews looking at some of the older films that are playing the festival. With a bunch of us heading to Lincoln Center to catch some of the films expect to see more reviews during the course of the series.

Being made speechless by Comrade Kim Goes Flying (2012) New York Asian Film Festival 2013

Okay- your guess is as good as mine.

There are a couple of ways of seeing this film.Either this is a knowing send up of North Korean romcoms or this is a throwback to the rom-coms of the 1950's ala Rock Hudson but filtered through North Korea or this is a train wreck that you just stare at in complete and utter disbelief.

I know I could ask which it is but then it would push the film one way or another and I'm not sure I want to do that just yet. Seriously  if you just take the film head on it's either brilliant or unbelievably awful... or perhaps its both. (Actually in reading on the film it seems there was a battle between the European producers and the Korean writers as to which way to go, the Koreans wanted a rah rah propaganda film and the producers wanted a light comedy)

The plot of the film follows Kim, a young lady in a coal mining town who loves acrobatics and trapeze in particular. When her mine exceeds production she gets it a promotion and she uses it to go to Pyongyang where she can work as a construction crew. She can also use it to go to the circus and meet her idol. Through circumstance she finds herself crossing paths with the hunky head of a trapeze troupe and the two begin orbiting each other romantically, even though they hate each other.

Done in an arch and knowing style that really seems to harken back to bad 1950's TV comedies or what we might have thought a Soviet romantic comedy might have been in the 50's the film comes across as very odd. The actor seem game but they seem oddly out of  sorts with this thing called comedy. Worse,despite the efforts of the producers the film seems to have a strong rah rah comrade line in it. Everything is for the good of the people or if not there is an over done sense of community. The film seems to be trying to be more than a comedy at time and it gets tiring after a while. Honestly I wanted to just jump to the end and see how it all came out.

On the other hand the film has this weird vibe that kind of over comes the flaws and draws you in and forces to watch it. The film screams camp, which I think is why the film has been a hit at many film festivals. I can pick it apart but at the same time it does kind of work

For me seeing the film is  a surreal experience especially in light of just seeing CAMP 14 TOTAL CONTROL ZONE at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival. Having the darkness and the repression of that film hanging around in my head made for a truly whacked viewing of COMRADE KIM. I can't imagine shiny happy coal miners in the world of CAMP 14 certainly not ones that are a step away from I Love Lucy in bright Technicolor colors and always on the verge of songs.

I have no idea what to think.

On the other hand (thats a third hand, but that's okay its that kind of a film) the weird WTF quality of it all makes for a unique viewing experience which means that the guys at NYAFF have done their job in programming it.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Second Thoughts on GREAT WAR (2013) NYAFF 2013

And now my more carefully considered explanation of what I think about Great War which I reviewed back in July

I feel kind of bad, for dismissing Great War when I reviewed it way back when but even in the cold light of day I’m of the opinion that if you’re not a fan of Grasshopper or Softhard you’re not likely to fall in love with the film. In order to really clarify what’s wrong with the film I’d like to point out a couple of things.

First the film opens with a black screen and statements about all sorts of things. Who is making the statements and what are they connected to? We don’t know. Many of the statements are political so unless we know the political situation in Hong Kong the statements fall flat. This carries over to several of the sequences which relate to the politics of Hong Kong. There is a discussion with one of the fans that provide a hook for the film, and she talks about the politics of the Pro-Beijing number. Since I, as a Westerner am not familiar with the situation the resonance falls flat. Actually much of the politics falls down since I really didn’t know what the discussion means.

The film’s next problem is that the film is jumbled. It jumps from thing to thing to thing with no sense of building a whole. They are rehearsing, in a studio, we see bits of a number, bits of the rehearsal, an interview, more of a music number, sequences with the fans, back to the interviews with the bands more rehearsal back to the fans , the groups going on stage, rehearsal, costume change fans, interviews…and on and on… you’re never in one place long enough so that if you’re an outsider looking in anything will really make sense.

The foremost problem the film has is that it only has two or three more or less complete musical numbers. We get the one that plays post credits, we get the “pro” Beijing song and I think one other. Otherwise we only get snippets, most fleeting of the songs. What’s so damaging about this is that when we actually see the numbers we get a sense of what a great show it was. When we actually see the show and hear the music the film soars. Seeing the actual numbers I was rather giddy. This was way cool. There simply isn’t enough of it.

To a lesser degree the film falters in that it makes no effort to differentiate the two groups. Almost all of the music we see seems to involve everyone on stage at the same time or each of the performers standing solo. This is fine, except that the groups blur together. Other than Softhard having a political/ joking style at times they all seem semi interchangeable.

The film does work when we see the musical numbers, when we hear the fans talk and when we get to see the various members of the band really be themselves, but on the other hand there isn’t enough of that and what there is is rather poorly organized. I kind of almost wish I had the time to go in and reassemble the film into the masterpiece it should have been.

Friday, October 25, 2013

The Other Side of the Mountain (2012) KAFFNY 2013

A collaboration between North Korea and America has resulted in a throwback romance of the sort they don't make any more. Seriously this film feels as if it belongs to the 1950's or 60's rather than 2012.  It's also an intriguing look at the Korean War from the Northern perspective.

Memory tale story follows tells the story of Il Gyu Ri, a South Korean citizen who had been pulled off the streets by the government and forcible conscripted into the army. This was in the days just before the war and the Southern government wanted to be sure it had a proper army. During a battle in North Korea he is separated from his unit and sees the atrocities that had been committed.  He walks away from the army, eventually being taken in by a nurse and her father after he is injured. The pair falls in love, but he is forced to go south, promising to return soon. Circumstance keeps them apart as he is thrown in prison and is forced to move to Denmark. If he can ever manage to get back to the love of his life or will it to be too late?

As I said at the top this is a complete change of mind set film seeming to come from another time all together,its very much a film that you will have to meet head on and take on it's own terms. If you can manage to meet it half way I think you'll have a good time, I know I did.

The film is very much an old school romance of the story of separated lovers. Actually a majority of the film is the romance with the last say 35 minutes being the pair trying to get back together. This is the sort of thing that old Hollywood would have done (I kept casting it and recasting it with stars of the 1950's). It very much reminded me of some Japanese film from the 1950's that I had seen many many years ago that had the same sort of lost lovers in  a similar Technicolor world.

There are some things that clearly were forced upon the production, the propaganda and the out of place musical numbers being chief among them. Yes there are a couple of songs in the film, including a final one with everyone standing on a hill singing about the day the countries will be unified. The propaganda is rampant with the South Korean army being portrayed in a bad light (the evil men who grabbed our hero) and the South Korea in general having the run down look we in the West assume is the North.

I liked the film a great deal.

I have to thank the programmers at The Korean American Film Festival New York for putting this film forward. I say this because this is a film that I never would have seen had it not been for the festival.

Definitely recommended when the film plays tomorrow night to close out the festival.

Details and tickets can be found here.

Evidence of Revision (2006)

Daunting and exhilerating ten and a half hour look at the JFK, RFK and MLK assassinations with side trips into organized crime, mind crontrol and Jonestown

Stitched together from other sources, both news reports, documentaries, interview pieces and other sources. Evidence of Revision is frequently one hell of a killer historical document, never mind the subject matter.

The thesis of the film is that the John and Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King Assassinations were all conspiracies, perpetrated by people connected to the government (LBJ, CIA) and covered up in part thanks to J Edgar Hoover. I don’t know if the film ever proves who actually was behind the killings* however thanks to the use of simple news footage they make it clear that something more than the story reported in the history books was afoot.

I’m not going to wade into a discussion of the conspiracy that the film sets out. This is not laziness on my part nor is it any sort of commentary about the validity or lack thereof, its simply that the entirety of the series is ten hours long and that any detailed discussion of the material would take up the better part of a large book. It would also require sitting down and spending several weeks going backward and forward through the series, which as of this writing is time I don’t have. Pieces in part one ties into part six. It’s a stunning achievement and if you can get through some odd technical hiccups due to the variety of sources the film provides real food for thought.

While I’m not going to discuss the conspiracy, I will discuss the most extraordinary assemblage of either the JFK and RFK assassinations and their aftermaths you have ever seen. What Terrance Raymond has done is truly brilliant and amazing. Weaving together all surviving footage into a chronological narrative the film puts you there in the moment in a way that I’ve never experienced. Events, where possible transpire in real time. If there are multiple camera angles, as there are with Oswald’s shooting and Sirhan Sirhan’s arrest, you see the events in split screen or in multiple images. You couldn’t have seen events this well even if you were there in the moment. If it were a film it would get an Oscar, or if it was a network TV show it would get an Emmy.

Even if you don’t want to go down the rabbit hole of conspiracy Evidence of Revision should be seen for parts One and 4 which detail the life, deaths and aftermath of the Kennedy brothers.

Yes its that good.

The series can be found on You Tube and other websites and is highly recommended for the history, if not the speculation.

Article on Terrance Raymond

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Dancing in Jaffa (2013)

Pierre Dulaine (pictured right, with children from the movie) is about as unlikely a facilitator to Mideast peace as you've ever seen: a silver-haired, impeccably besuited man, son of a Palestinian mother and an Irish faith. He's an international award-winning ballroom dancing champion and dancing teacher, famed for introducing ballroom dancing lessons to New York City's public schools (a fictionalized version of Dulaine was played by Antonio Banderas in the movie Take the Lead). He was born in 1944 in Jaffa, the oldest section of Tel Aviv, Israel, and left the city in 1948 with his family. He hasn't been back until the events of this documentary, where he undergoes perhaps his most challenging task: attempting to bring the Palestinian-Israeli and Jewish children of Jaffa together through the art of ballroom dancing.

This straightforward but colorful film contrasts Dulaine's return to his hometown with the journey of discovery (of self and their natural neighbors) by the children. Substitute any other social, racial, or faith-related dispute around the world for the rift between Jews and Palestinians: Dulaine's task to bring together the children of these natural religious and political enemies only highlights the universal nature of kids: children are children all over the world, and these kids are delightful, funny, and real, especially stand-out Noor, with a mixed religious heritage and explosive anger issues. Dulaine is funny, lively and energetic on the screen, but the real stars are the kids, who vibrantly sum the ground-level view of Jaffa kids.

Against the background of the modern day Jewish/Palestinian struggle, their frustration and disappointments are immediate, without filter, as they slowly, and sometimes reluctantly, learn to "dance with the enemy." Their concerns range from those natural to their age: they can't adequately articulate their reluctance to dance, to deal not only with the rift between political/religious factions but with the more natural, and much older gap, between young boys and girls. At their lessons the children eye each other suspiciously and warily, and go to enormous lengths to avoid touching each other. They're are also very aware of the cultural differences: "If my dad sees me with an Arab he'll kill me," one girl comments.

It's not surprising that the personalities of the kids take over the movie, especially during a section when Dulaine is away from Jaffa. Youth takes center stage in a effervescent montage of practice for their dance recital, and they speak on camera, first shyly but then honestly and openly, of their understanding that neither side (nor sex) is going away. "You don't have to marry everyone you dance with!" Dulaine teaches them, and with discipline and humor as the seed of working together for the next generation as slowly the kids begin to lean to trust, the basis not only of adult life but also of ballroom dancing itself.

A simple, ground-roots production (partially funded through Kickstarter), Dancing in Jaffa has no real surprise or hidden agendas, no real twists, turns or shocks, but succeeds on the basis of its street-view lens on Jaffa and its population, the effervescent, sometimes impatient intensity of Pierre Dulaine, and fantastic work both on and off the dance floor by the kids. Dancing in Jaffa is pretty much what it says on the box, but that label in itself is extraordinary: teaching the kids of a tension-wracked city to trust one another.

Dancing in Jaffa is spotlighted at the Gold Coast International Film Festival with a Long Island premiere and a Q&A with Pierre Dulaine on Saturday, October 27; and at the Heartland Film Festival in Indianapolis through Saturday, October 26.

Gravity (2013) Front runner for the most over hyped film of the year. (spoilers)

I saw Gravity Tuesday Night in 3D, but not Imax 3D. My reaction is it's a very good B movie over inflated by A level special effects. Its the sort of film you need to see big because it's going to look rather poor small where the weak script will be revealed for what it is, warmed over leftovers several years out of date.

For those who don't know the  plot of the film has a group of astronauts repairing the Hubble. They get word that the Russians have destroyed one of their flooky satellites with a missile, this then creates a cloud of debris which is now orbiting the earth destroying everything it comes in contact with and causing the cloud to increase in size. The cloud destroys the shuttle and strands George Clooney and Sandra Bullock in space with no obvious way home.

A technical tour de force  the film looks good, not great, in 3D. The film has images that will make you ooo and ahh. The images are really cool and I'm glad that I saw them big. The chance to see them big is the reason to see this in the theater. The Size of the image is important since you'll get a sense of scale and because there are times when Clooney and Bullock are just specks in the vastness of space- on a small screen they will be completely lost.

On the other hand I'm completely amazed that anyone is rambling on about how the film was shot. The simple answer is it was all done with computers, even the showoffy  opening single take was 90%  done with computers. This is yet another one of those movies where so much is animated that if they wanted to they could have it up as an animated film. Yes it's photo realistic but none of it is real- and it feels fake even if it is way cool.

I could accept the over kill effects if there was something other than the weak script that is here.  Frankly the script is close to terrible.  Constructed like a video game with levels and power up at each point. We have the set up and the shuttle wrecked, then it's a matter of Clooney and Bullock getting together to survive through a series goals (space stations/ships). The twists can be seen a mile away (need I tell you not everyone goes home?) and the religious and mystical are laughable- how Bullock finds out how to get to a certain place had me screaming in the empty theater and throwing my popcorn box- so much for scientific reality.One up for the hand of god And don't get me started on the pretensions of the final images. I was expecting dinosaurs or apes to show up.

Honestly the logic and reason in this film is so laughable (I don't care if NASA was involved)  that I regret even suggesting there was anything wrong with ALL IS LOST. Seriously everything in that film is grounded, this isn't. That film has can do Robert Redford, this has whiney Sandra Bullock. I'm amazed that  Bullock talks so much when she she keeps saying that she likes the silences- Give me Redford and his silences.

As the only other people in the theater said to me, its good but if the effects weren't as good as they are this would be a shitty movie.(I like Hubert's idea of a SYFY remake called Space Tornado)

(And what ever you do don't get me started on Flixist giving the film 100 out of 100 and calling the film a game changer- the film is NOT a game changer. Avatar, which I hate, was a game changer. That film brought back 3D and altered how films are made, this is an over-hyped over rated cheese ball about pretty effects.)

My advice if if can't see this on the big screen and in 3D is see ALL IS LOST or better yet rent the heartbreaking EUROPA REPORT instead.

Fallen Idol:the Yuri Gagarin Conspiracy

Convincing documentary posits that Gagarin was not the first man into space and he was in fact the second, a replacement for Vladimir Ilyushinwho had flown four days earlier but met with technical problems that had him crashing in China. The film also reveals the true story of what happened to Gagarin after he landed and was thrust into the spotlight.

Well presented tale, and one that I can't find any holes in, is really the story of the Soviet Union and it's need to present a picture perfect portrait of its achievements. Its a sad tale of heroes lost (the real first man in space has gotten no credit), of lives thrown away (a friend of Gargarin went up in spaceship he knew was doomed because his superiors insisted they knew best) and murder (Gagarin may have been murdered.) It's a story of hubris and group think and a prime example of how things went so wrong in one of the world's great super powers.

For me, a life long space nut this film is like manna from heaven. Here was a look into what was going on in the other side of the space race. Growing up, and even today there have been stories about what was really going on in USSR, though little was ever documented until now. There was the story about the rocket accident that killed hundreds when a rocket on the launch pad dropped its fuel on the crowd gathered below (it incinerating them all instantly), or the story of a secret military space shot gone wrong where the cosmonaut ended up trapped in orbit unable to ever come home. I had always hear stories, now here was some real proof to back up some of them.

Here the whole second man in space story is carefully laid out and revealed via news reports from the Soviet Union which shifted hour by hour, offcial histories that were changed and now that the Iron Curtain has fallen eye witness accounts. The sad thing is that the heroics of Gagarins' flight and later life actually is a tissue behind which greater heroics are hidden. The real heroes are not the ones front and center, but the ones that were hidden behind Gagarin. Its great that the real heroes at last can be named.

This is a great story that needs to be seen.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Steve has a few comments on Tim's Vermeer(2013) New York FiIm Festival

Yes I know Chocko took a run by Tim’s Vermeer already but I just wanted to chime in with a couple of quick comments.

As you know Tim’s Vermeer is Teller’s film about his friend Tim’s efforts to make a Vermeer by a method he said Vermeer could have used. It’s a very good film that may shake up the art world.

While I like the film I think it either should have been shorter or just a tad longer. The argument for it being shorter is that Tim effectively proves it could have been done out of the box so that at a certain point the whole exercise is a bit over kill- even to the point where Tim says that were they not making a movie he would have hung it up (though the bit on what was discovered by painting the harpsichord would have been lost.)

For me the film leaves several questions unanswered- chief among them is how many hours a day did Tim paint? That may sound like a stupid question but lighting- the same lighting is important to painters, especially to someone like Vermeer. Change the light and you change the shade of the color ever so slightly. (Monet when he was painting some of his landscapes shifted canvases as the light changed). Another is if Tim is not a painter and never painted before this how did he learn about color and how to alter a paints shade (I have a long list of questions that I started to keep when I saw it but I think those are the biggies)

I should say that I wish they had shown the elephant that Tim started to paint when he was getting loopy on the heater fumes.

Don’t get me wrong this is a good film, actually it’s a very good film, but it’s not great film. I think the problems for me come from Teller and Penn being too close to the film to completely realize that they didn’t explain everything. (And for the record I still have not watched the press conference which Chocko posted, simply because I wanted to take the film on its own terms.

Highly recommended, more so if the DVD comes stocked with additional footage.

Tupac Assassination : Conspiracy or Revenge The Director's Cut & Reckoning Special Edition

R J Bond's‘s two film look into the death of rapper Tupac Shakur is largely a very good investigation into what happened that night in Las Vegas. It’s good enough that it made me, someone who really didn’t care one way or another, interested enough to start digging around the internet to find out what else I could learn.

The premise of the films is that Suge Knight head of Death Row Records had Tupac killed because he was going to leave the label and start his own company. Knight, a man who wants everything to only go his way, is on record as having used violent means in order to maintain control of his empire. He was not to be questioned and would take great pains to make sure that you didn’t get a fair accounting or what you were owed ( for example after Death Row went bankrupt and was sold it was discovered that dozens if not more of the master tape recordings had been secreted away and hidden where creditors could never find them-only to turn up in odd places like storage lockers rented under assumed names) .

Taking the point of view that the shooting was an assassination and not a random act or retaliation for a non-existent East Coast West Coast war, the film lays out what happened and why. Small details like the bodyguards being told not to carry guns that night, the fact they were not given radios and the fact that the head of security had connections to the police investigating the murder are all examined. It’s a point of view that the director manages to pass on to his audience.

Or at least he manages to do so during the first of the two films called Conspiracy or Revenge. This 89 minute opus manages to say what has to say and then get off. It’s a breezy fast pace look at what happened that pretty much covers everything. Its so complete that when the film was done I couldn’t believe that there was a second film.

Hyped up because the first film was so good I popped the second film into the DVD player as soon as I was done. In it’s current state Reckoning is a disappointing film. Covering some of the same ground as the first film this second film adds depth to what was going on between Tupac and Death row and it makes it clearer why he was shot. Sadly the film also has much too much footage of Tupac behind the scenes at video shoots and rehearsals, it also talks about what Tupac was trying to do on a personal level to improve the lives of some people. What purpose the material serves beyond filler is lost to me. Yes, its great to see and hear about what a great guy Tupac was but it doesn’t really say a whole hell of a lot about the matter of his murder. There is probably an hour of relevant material out of two hours and had it been released at that length, or better yet folded into the first documentary you’d have a truly powerful document. As it is the second film is just okay while the first one is Oh Wow.

Definitely worth seeing, especially if you're a fan of true crime, I would say that the best thing to do is see the first and skip the second, but they are out from Mill Creek for a round five bucks together so its worth picking them both up and trying them.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

KAFFNY 2013: SEEKING HAVEN reveals an impossible escape

Seeking Haven tells of a family’s desperate pursuit of freedom against impossible odds. It first details Youngsoon Kim and her sister’s escape across international borders from North Korea into China. While Youngsoon kept on the move and achieved more lasting asylum in South Korea, her sister was returned to North Korea, a political prisoner, leaving Kim to devote most of her waking life to bringing her, as well as her father, back out from North Korea.

The documentary’s matter of fact narration and no frills production may cause one to underestimate the intensity of drama unfolding before us.  And while the placid mountainous scenery along the Chinese-North Korean border, a breathtaking and rarely viewed locale, has an air of serenity, the exasperation of  Youngsoon‘s struggle gradually sets in and takes hold.    

An overview of the escape process detailed here involves a dizzying number of border crossings and network of individuals, either working out of compassion or for personal profit, ranging from trusted allies of the North Korean military to South Korean religious leaders and government operatives.

The brief production, just under an hour in length, is a mix of compelling personal drama and an uncovering of little known facts. While it remains unclear what the exact impetus is for Youngsoon and her sister’s initial escape efforts, conditions of fear and squalor among a significant part of North Korea’s population is hinted at. Intricacies of prohibited border crossings and prison extractions are revealed, as well as the policies regarding those labeled political prisoners in North Korea.

Meanwhile, Youngsoon is a portrait of incredible dedication.  Her mind turns constantly to seeking out information on her family’s wellbeing, and then to the task of getting them across the North Korean border. Yet every move is filled with uncertainty. As she makes arrangements with individuals, known as ‘brokers,’ hired to investigate prisoners’ whereabouts and facilitate their escape, and makes occasional contact with members of her family, one wonders how reliable any of the information she obtains actually is.   

Herein lies an irony that is overwhelmingly painful. On one hand, Youngsoon is an extremely fortunate individual who has escaped persecution to start her life again. We are given glimpses of the resilient and energetic young woman as she engages various pursuits with a passion, never wasting a moment of her freedom. Yet the peaceful environment around her cannot quell the turmoil within as she struggles to help her family, always wondering what fate has befallen them and whether or not she will ever succeed in helping them escape.  

What feelings truly lie behind the smile of someone like Youngsoon, whose every day is filled with unease, is Seeking Haven’s most haunting mystery, making it as fine an example of human drama as any.

SEEKING HAVEN is being screened at the opening night of the 7th annual Korean American Film Festival of New York on October 24, 8 PM, at Village East Cinema.  Visit the KAFFNY website for details.

Mondocurry on twitter = @mondocurry

A sexless review of Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013) New York Film Festival 2013

It was the talk of Cannes winning all sorts of awards and it was the talk of the New York Film Festival as many in the press were looking to see if the film was going to live up to the hype. I had intended to see the film in some form at the NYFF but despite having tickets I missed both public screening and the press screening. I ended up seeing the film at the final New York Press screening last Thursday night and my reaction was very different than I expected.

The first thing that kind of shocked me was that I couldn’t understand why anyone wasn’t really talking about the film as a film There is all this whole hype concerning the film and what happens in a tiny portion of the film with the result that any discussion of what happens in the film is lost. Everything in every other review is filtered through a few moments that could, ultimately be removed or if not removed greatly reduced from the mere ten minutes of screen time. Reducing the film down to ten minutes is wrong since there is so much more going on- actually there is three hours more going on that never gets a fair shake or the criticism that it deserves.

Nominally based on Julie Maroh's autobiographical graphic novel of the same name, Blue is in fact more director Abdellatif Kechiche‘s own ideas for a film. What he did was to take the graphic novel, appropriate the title, some bits and then toss a large portion of it (including the lyricism), out the window. The film is also allegedly a set up for more films with the lead character, Adele and her life.

The story begins with 15 year old Adele going to school. We watch as she goes to class, talks with friends and takes an interest in boys. We also see as she passes a young woman with blue hair walking arm and arm with another girl. Her head literally turns as she passes. This is Emma whole will become Adele’s great love.

When her experience with her boyfriend goes bust and a kiss from a female classmate rattles her cage she becomes a bit confused as to which way is up. Through circumstance she ends up in lesbian bar where she at last meets Emma, an older art student, and the course of her life for the next ten plus years is set.

Long rambling film while far from bad, is a complete head scratcher as far as I’m concerned. What is the point of all of this and where is the drama? The film feels like the overstuffed first part of a longer work (something suggested by the French subtitle-Adele: Chapters 1 & 2).

Dramatically the film suffers from weak writing. First are the scenes in the Adele’s high school lit class where they are talking about the themes and the ideas that will come into play during the rest of the film. The opening scene with the discussion of first love and how love brings you something was the sort of obvious foreshadowing that one would expect from a first time unaccomplished writer/director. Is this really the work of a man who made the confrontational Black Venus three years earlier? One would think not, especially after we get several other lit class scenes that spell out what the current section of the film is about. How is that he can trust his audience so little as to spell out what its all about. I don’t know.

The other problem is the film is very close to dramatically inert. I know I’m going to take flack for this but hear me out.

What I mean by inert is that if we look at the film in three acts we find that the first act where Adele goes through life until she meets Emma is kind of a foregone conclusion. We know that the pair will meet and hook up, that’s the story. If they don’t then the remaining two hours will have nothing happen in them. Nothing much happens that is unexpected or interesting, we are simply waiting, as Adele is waiting for Emma to show up.  All the tension in this part of the film is reduced to when will they get together, there is never a question of if. It’s all spelled out. Even the question of does Adele like girls or boys is muted since there is no drama or cost to the choice because there is no choice. Within the frame work of the film , other than a fight where her friends want to know if Emma is Adele’s girlfriend, there is no conflict or stigma or anything about being gay. Within this world it just something you are (which is how it should be in the real world). The disagreement is more the sort of thing of kids teasing that so and so likes so and so.

The second act where Adele and Emma are together is skittles and beer and all is right with the world. Nothing is wrong, everything is right and everything is happy. It’s so undramatic, that you end up watching it wondering when the conflict is, it’s just two people in love. And it goes on and on and on. It’s not bad, it’s just nothing much happens.

The third act, covering ten to fifteen years into the relationship is for me a poser. Conflict arises. Why I’m not sure. There is a party for Emma where Adele cooks. At the party Adele suddenly is an outsider and all of the camera work makes that clear though I'm not sure why. What confuses me is that she is an outsider even though she clearly knows most of the people there. I know it’s a question of Emma’s star being on the rise and Adele being happy as a teacher/hausfrau, but at the same time the turn of events seems sudden. There has to be more going on, but we don’t see the roots of it. It also weirdly reveals Adele to be rather a dull little person, devoid of her heart’s desire she does nothing but pine. It’s as if director Kechiche had to manufacture a split to justify going on for another hour (plus set up additional films.)

This raises the elephant in the room, why is this film three hours? I have no idea. Is it because being three hours gives the film the illusion of weight? Or perhaps it's because he shot so much footage he had to justify it in some way. Personally I think you could trim an hour out of it and not lose anything.

I know part of my problem with the film is how it’s shot. A good 90 to 95% of the film is close ups of medium shots where we see Adele from the waist up. She fills the screen, she is the world of the film and there is nothing outside of the film except her. While this no doubt is meant to make this truly a character study, sometime it’s too much of a good thing. Little is explained. We frequently don’t have a sense of where we are or who we are with- watch how some of the two shots are framed people are not looking at each other- in particular watch the scenes with Emma and Adele on the bench by the canal.. Everything seems in a way to be slightly off.

Actually much of the camera work seems to be off. There is a sameness to the shots. It’s the same way to the bus, the same way walking down the streets, the bedroom scenes all look as if they were shot at the same time by a director of photography with zero imagination. There are no establishing shots or very few. We have no sense of place, we just have the characters who could be anywhere in time and space. There is also a problem in that when we do get something like an establishing shot, say in the protest scenes, the close up character shots don’t match up with the larger shot- a huge tightly packed crowd in one shot thins out in the next. That’s the most glaring example but it happens again and again and again in party scenes, dinner scenes and even the late in the game café scene where I was forced into biting my tongue as the two women almost jump each other (it’s a silly over done scene where no one reacts to the nonsense of Adele and Emma).

I would really like to question the sound mix in the film but I’m not sure if it’s the mix or if it was the projection which was so over miced or amped up that had the much talked about sex scenes sounding like a Benny Hill routine.

While not a bad film, it’s a film that kind of left me pondering what earlier audiences and critics have seen in the film. Divorce the film from the sensation and the film lays there like a piece of raw meat. Even the performances by Léa Seydoux and Adèle Exarchopoulos seem not to be all that remarkable when you realize that Adele simply stares or cries and Emma is self-absorbed. The awards seem to be for daring to get naked and wriggle around with each other rather than actually creating fully formed characters.

Again, it’s not bad, rather, it’s just sort of…there.

One of the most over rated and over hyped films of the year.

It opens in theaters in the US Friday