Körkarlen (Victor Sjöström, 1921)

English: The Phantom Carriage


Jun-Dai and Lucía at home on 26 August 2013.

A good movie to watch on New Year’s Eve. Fairly slow, overly moralistic, with fairly cliched and caricaturised characters. Nevertheless, the film has real moments, and the emotional impact of the film is not significantly lessened by this shallowness of the characters. When Georges finds David Holm, David’s terror is palpable. When David is reintroduced to his wife, his speechlessness brings the film to a crashing halt.

It’s pretty hard to imagine how difficult the double exposures throughout the film must have been to shoot. I remember doing a few in college, and it was just enough to give me a taste of how tremendously difficult it must have been to line up David’s body in both exposures.

The axe-through-door scene’s resemblance to The Shining is quite overstated, I think. The scene does a good job of instilling fear and horror, but the real horror is knowing that Anna won’t escape, and will continue be trapped by this madman who has torn his way back into her life. Visually, the resemblance is slight, though they share the feature of a man chopping his way through a door with an axe.

You could be forgiven if, 10 minutes into the film, you thought it was going to be a film about Edit and her attempts to save David Holm, but in the end the film is very much a ghost-of-christmas-past story of David Holm’s life and his wrongdoings. Easy to see where Bergman would draw inspiration for Wild Strawberries. A good alternate title for this film: It’s a Terrible Life.

憎いあンちくしょう (蔵原惟繕, 1962)

English title: I Hate but Love (Koreyoshi Kurahara, 1962)


Jun-Dai and Lucía at home on 25 August 2013.

I look forward to seeing more of Kurahara’s films. I Hate But Love is a maddeningly frenetic roller coaster: part Douglas Sirk, part Rebel without a Cause, part His Girl Friday. The dialogue is fast, the editing is fast, and emotions go up and down at such a speed the film feels like it’s going to explode. Characters seldom walk, and the camera struggles to keep up with them.

Equilibrium (Kurt Wimmer, 2002)


Jun-Dai and Lucía at home on 24 August 2013.

I have no idea how this got into our queue. The film basically feels like an Ayn Rand novel filmed on the sets of Metropolis with action stylings cheaply ripped off of The Matrix. It’s kind of what you’d expect to find if you were channel surfing on cable at two in the morning. It makes pretty much no sense, the only thing worse than the dialogue is the acting, and any attempts to draw emotional responses fall totally flat, which makes me glad that the filmmakers didn’t try any harder than they did. The tropes are so ridiculously played out that it almost felt like comedy. Almost.

Having said all that, it’s pretty much exactly the sort of movie we were in the mood for at two in the morning on a Saturday night.

Le Gamin au vélo (Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, 2011)

The Kid with a Bike


Lucía and Jun-Dai at home on 17 August 2013.

Haven’t seen a good, recent movie in a while. The Kid with a Bike starts out with very little context. We do get some questions answered, but most of the context remains missing. We can only guess at characters’ motives from how they behave in the film, as very little backstory is given. When we finally meet Cyril’s father, we learn that he does not want to see his son, but that seems clear from very early on in the film. Despite meeting him twice, we never really learn why he doesn’t want to see his son and we never learn what happened to Cyril’s mother or what Cyril’s life was like before going to the foster care center (though one bit of backstory is that Cyril’s father lied to him and told him that he’d only be there for a month). We also have no idea why Samantha takes to Cyril (though she literally falls for him in the estate clinic), but Cyril makes it fairly clear that her love for him must be unconditional.

This film taught me that Wallonians are fairly easy to knock unconscious.

Elysium (Neill Blomkamp, 2013)


Lucía, Jun-Dai, and Ben at the Sundance Kabuki at 21:45 on 10 August.

Both the premise of the film and the special effects are quite remarkable. The visual spectacle of a giant wheel in space spinning fast enough to hold in atmosphere without sealing it in is a pretty good selling point for the film. Unfortunately, like so many other science fiction films these days, the pattern is the same: begin with awe and end with mindless action. The quality of the film drops off dramatically as it progresses, and while the story and acting weren’t great to begin with, it becomes so ridiculous and meaningless that by the end of the film it’s pretty much impossible to feel any emotional reaction to anything that’s going on. It’s a shame, because the setting of the film is so imaginative and well-visualised—I felt sort of ripped off when I realised that it was all just a hook to get me into the film. Oblivion, Man of Steel, and After Earth all followed this same pattern (Prometheus followed a different pattern. It was still a mix of half trashy action movie and half high-brow thought-provoking entertainment, but instead of going from one end to the other, it just went back and forth throughout).

Is it so inconceivable that someone could make a good science fiction film spectacle that ends as well as it begins and doesn’t seem stupider the more you think about it? I suppose Inception and The Matrix are sort of halfway there, even if they’re not quite on the level of Alien, Blade Runner, and Brazil.

In-between films

Some films I’ve watched recently:

Olympus Has Fallen
Jun-Dai and Lucía on a plane over the Atlantic Ocean.
A terrible movie in kind of an awesome way. Perfect for watching on a plane.

You Were Like A Wild Chrysanthemum (Keisuke Kinoshita, 1955)
Jun-Dai, Lucía, and Ben on Hulu+.
Most of the story is reminiscences within a larger frame story, and the reminiscences were all windowboxed with white borders, which was kind of annoying. The story is a bit simplistic and a bit mawkish, but the setting and scenery (lots of on-location shooting) were interesting enough to keep my attention. The film is very much dripping with nostalgia, one feels a yearning for a simpler time. At the same time it is very critical of old-fashioned values and prejudgements and the tragedy they can bring about.

World War Z
Jun-Dai, Lucía, and Ben at the Sundance Kabuki.
Fun at first, but gets pretty stupid fairly quickly. Actually, it started out stupid, but at least it was fun.

After Earth (M. Night Shyamalan, 2013)


Jun-Dai and Lucía at the Vue Cinemas Islington at 22:40 on 8 June 2013.

After Earth is a very simple movie. The plot is incredibly simple and straightforward, but it’s paced well enough that I never really got bored. That said, After Earth is also a mind-numbingly stupid film, and while the futuristic designs seemed like a lot of attention went into it (buildings, space ship, etc.) and some of the special effects were nicely done (demonstrations of technology, plants closing their leaves at dusk), much of it was not (CGI creatures were mostly terrible). The way the frost descended reminded me of the children outrunning the frost of death in The Day After Tomorrow, and the way in which plants seemed to close up for the day just as Jaden arrived onscreen made the film seem like a video game of some sort.

Most objectionable, however, was the sort of obvious association of ugly with bad. The way the CGI cats seemed so grotesque (it’s hard to make large cats look ugly, but they did a good job) and the way the bad guy ursa (bear?) looked a bit like the Rancor from The Return of the Jedi (and endless similar-looking monsters in movies since then). Meanwhile, the seemingly neutral monkeys were sort of neutral-looking, and the dashing giant roc of course turns out to be a good-hearted saviour.

Chico y Rita (Fernando Trueba, Javier Mariscal, and Tono Errando, 2010)


Jun-Dai and Lucía at home on 26 May 2013.

For the life of me I cannot remember why this film was in my queue. In any case, we watched it. The animation style was not appealing and the story wasn’t great, but it was engaging enough that we made it through to the end. The music was nice, even if it felt a bit anachronistic at times (Rita’s opening performance of Besame Mucho seemed like the sort of slow, minimalistic rendition you’d get in the last couple of decades). The film certainly romanticises pre-Castro Cuba in contrast to its rather stark depiction of modern Cuba (and mixed view of pre-Civil Rights USA).

There was a pretty stunning range of countries in the closing credits—making this film must have involved a lot of odd-hours conference calls.