This is a test – but for whom?

Cristian Mungiu’s Bacalaureat (2016) (or Graduation, as it is called in English-speaking countries) is firmly rooted in realism, but manages to turn some of its characters paranoid. Somewhere around the movie’s middle mark, I turned slightly paranoid, too. It’s entirely possible that this paranoia might be intentional, and that it might refer to the fact that this is a Romanian production, with its subtle hints to the Ceausescu regime which had the whole country in its grip until 1989, but it doesn’t have to be. We could also just witness a system that works with favoritism and secret handshakes, but the thing is: the favoritism in the movie, while not legitimate, does not increase the elite’s power, but helps single individuals overcome their problems. It’s a film about morals without wagging its finger at you. Continue reading

Here comes the Train again

Why does Mark Renton return to Edinburgh 20 years later? I don’t know which reasons Irvine Welsh’s novels give, but Danny Boyle’s T2 Trainspotting lets us take our pick. I like that ambiguity – it keeps you guessing about the characters and about the story. Renton says he is here because his wife is going to divorce him. Could be, but we never see her. There is also the money he wants to give back to Sick Boy out of guilt. Sick Boy, still very blond, now runs his dead auntie’s run-down Leith pub and calls himself Simon. I have another theory: Renton simply remembers the best of times and the worst of times he had with Simon, Spud, Diane and maybe even Begbie, as depicted in the original Trainspotting (1996). Everything else since then wasn’t half as intense as those times 20 years ago, even if it almost killed him. Continue reading

One more last stand

logan14Old man Logan is weary and drunk and asleep in his car. He runs a one-car limousine service in New Mexico near the border, and some thugs are trying to steal his tyres. He gets out and shields his car with his body, using his precious faculties of self-healing for something as trivial as a limo. His suit is rumpled and dirty. He is one of the last mutants, and he lives in an abandoned factory in the desert and cares for a demented Professor Xavier who hides in a collapsed water tower nearby. Professor X is on heavy medication that makes him go woozy, but if he doesn’t take his pills, his brain, a weapon of mass destruction, will hurtle out of control eventually, and everyone around him gets paralyzed and can’t breathe. The professor is 90 years old. Logan is something like 220 years old. His wounds don’t heal as fast as they used to, and his scars don’t heal at all anymore. One of his blades doesn’t come out all the way, and he actually has to pull it out to the hilt with his other hand so that he can’t help but to cut himself in the process. Can you believe that? He suspects that the adamantium is slowly poisoning his body. Time is not on their side. Continue reading

The Sound of Silence

silence4Silence is almost not a Scorsese movie. His camera watches from the middle distance; it doesn’t cut away, but keeps watching, standing still, but far from unmoved. There are no extra-long scenes, no musical cues, no freeze frames, no siren call for a life of crime. Every movement has its reason. This is a mostly quiet film. Nature sounds can be heard – the waves, the wind, footsteps, fire burning. There is some voiceover narration, and there are dialogues, all of them necessary, but silence is the point. The louder the movie gets, the more disquieting things are going on. Silence is not entertaining in any superficial way, but it’s definitely intriguing. Continue reading

Every dog has its movie

whitegod3White God is a good movie, but it’s unnerving to get glimpses of an even better movie in there. All the ingredients for a better story are there, but somehow it gets lost on the way, and then still finds some sort of ending all the same, like a dog on its long way home. This might explain why there was once so much talk about it, and then it never even made it to the cinemas, at least not near here. And please note: dogs will seriously be harmed in this movie. Humans, too. Continue reading

Personal Ghostbusting

personalshopper5Since I give every movie one chance, sometimes two, let’s call this one an experiment, because me watching Personal Shopper could go either way – I might like it, or I might not. Personal Shopper seems to lend itself particularly well to this experiment because it got booed first and later received rave reviews in Cannes – not a lot of middle ground. I admit I found Clouds of Sils Maria sometimes quite intriguing, sometimes weird and incoherent, and sometimes it dragged along for me. On the whole, Sils Maria was probably not as smart as it thought it was. So here we have the same director, Olivier Assayas, and one of its two stars, Kristen Stewart, in the main role. I know some people have huge problems with her, but I am not one of them. I liked her in The Yellow Handkerchief as well as in Welcome to the Rileys. Continue reading

The old woman and the Sea

aquarius1There is an apartment house on the beachfront of Recife, Brazil. It’s from a time when houses still had names, and this one is called the Aquarius. Throughout the years, towering hotels have been built around it; tenants move out until there is only Clara left. Developers turn up, friendly but smarmy, but Clara does not want to sell. For Clara, home is a place. That is why the movie is called by the name of the house, Aquarius. It’s impossible to separate the woman and the house, but the developers don’t realize that yet. We all have something outside ourselves that defines us. With Clara, it’s the place she lives in. In Clara’s living room, there is a wooden chest of drawers on which Auntie Lucia, a family legend, once made love to her lover and future husband. That is not a source of ridicule, but a way to fondly remember the past. Continue reading