It’s been a while since I really wrote film reviews! After that giant slew of movies that I watched at the end of 2014, I was completely burnt out. But I did manage to catch some very interesting films in the meantime which I will briefly mention here. But don’t worry. I’m back in the swing of things… more to come… hopefully a review of Neil Blomkamp’s latest Chappie as well as that new Spongebob movie will be out as well.
Symbiopsychotaxiplasm (William Greaves, 1968) – A seminal “meta” picture of American cinema. Essentially, a movie about the filming of a movie about the filming of several audition takes in a park for a movie called “Over the Cliff”. The most important “cinematic” aspect of the film is probably the use of three simultaneous camera crews; one which films Greaves directing some novice actors for a scene between a distraught married couple, another which is the crew filming themselves talking about the confusion and direction of Greaves, and a third of just random people walking around in Central Park, NYC. Also, R.I.P William Greaves who passed away just last year… found out during the Oscar “In Memoriam” tribute.
The film is aimed as a look at the culture of sexuality in the late 60’s and approaches it with a lot of discomfort… the blatant homophobia of average American society during the time is on full displayIt transcends this simple examination of sexual preference and destruction of marriage however, and becomes an examination of the cinematic form itself. Handheld cameras and zoom ins and outs, along with the crew’s commentary or distrust in Greaves approach to film creates a dense background which adds to the dichotomy of how directors, actors, and ‘behind-the-scenes’ film artists collaborate, argue, exchange ideas and insults. The movie therefore, you could say, sexually dissects the artform of cinema… as the husband and wife in the park bicker over homosexuality and death of their conventional marriage, the crew and the director bicker over the death of the conventional narrative. Suffice to say, this is a very strangely intriguing and realistic film… a John Cassavetes turned upside down.
Goke, The Body Snatcher from Hell (Hajime Sato, 1968) – Here’s a pretty strange and cheesy movie. Like many of Japan’s ‘disaster films’, filled with charismatic characters, overreactions, soap-opera style camera work and some hilarious special effects, Hajime Sato’s Goke is a camp ride. Its’ not a movie you should or would enjoy if you took it seriously. But it is also not a total mindless mess like a Michael Bay film. It’s the kind of genuine pulp film enthused by Sato’s obvious love for monsters, mystery, and mayhem. A plane of important government officials gets hijacked by a mysterious force that drags it into an uncharted land possessed by aliens and demons. Like an amusement park ride, its only appropriate to let Goke wash over you, thrill you, entertain you, and possibly enlighten you about its eclectic filmmaker’s personal interests. If anything Goke serves as an example of a movie that can be both easy-going, entertaining, and at the same time, worth noting in film discussion as a piece of genre cinema.
Kingsman: The Secret Service (Matthew Vaughn, 2015) – The first film I watched this calendar year. It’s interesting that I watched this film right after Sato’s Goke, Body Snatcher from Hell because this is another cinematic piece which revels in the ridiculousness of its own premise and influences. Matthew Vaugh is never shy about his gusto and panache, his ever-willing tenacity to pay homage as a pupil of Tarantino and Guy Ritchie but add in a little bit of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck as well. Kingsman is silly, in many parts stupid, and in its ending a bit eye-rolling, but it is also never trying to be anything more than just a fun time at the movies. In this sense, you can respect Vaughn’s film without really liking it. I would really like him to make anime or something for Pixar because much of his pulp-impulses come off as too cartoonish, and when you’re using live action and real actors, there needs to be a center of gravity in what your characters are trying to aim at. Tarantino may be outlandish in his handling of violence and dialogue, but his characters are still human. Guy Ritchie’s world is still a real world (its seedy London), but throughout Kingsman, Matthew Vaugh exists in this strange void between Looney Tunes and James Bond that you can’t really enjoy much of either. Its an interesting take… can’t say it succeeded though.