moviereview

Surprise Me!

I’m in love with stories that surprise me. Whether it’s a short story, a newspaper column, anecdote or a movie, doesn’t matter as long as there’s a plot turn that makes me question my own reality. It’s also irrelevant if the surprise is positive or negative, subtle or loud, realistic or pure science fiction – just hit me with it, expand my mind just  bit beyond the borders of a mold it is currently in.

Watching a predictable drama or Jennifer Aniston romantic comedy can be both fun and cathartic every once in a while, but when it comes to movies, the unusual genre hybrids are what keeps this love going strong.

I’ve already heard impressions about Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos’ unusual ways of coming up with stories before I watched one of his films and naturally developed my share of expectations. I knew I would encounter something atypical and was very much looking forward to that.

The first one I watched was The Lobster, a 2015 dystopian drama probably taking somewhere in the near future. I already wrote a piece about that one so I don’t want to repeat myself, I just wanted to stress out how it exceeded my expectations. I was baffled, impressed and entertained in a unique way. It met all my ‘surprise me’ wishes and put Lanthimos on the list of foreign directors I keep yapping about to my friends, pulling their arm and saying: But trust me, it’s unlike anything you’ve ever seen before! TRUST MEEE, go watch it! Read the reviews,  here’s the trailer link, did you watch it? Did you like it? Did you? Isn’t it funny when you realize why the film is named Lobster, is it? Can you imagine this happening to us one day?

And so on.

At the moment I’m impatiently awaiting The Killing of a Sacred Deer, the latest Lanthimos’ work so today I decided the time has come to go back in time and watch 2009 critically acclaimed film Dogtooth. Of course I didn’t expect it to have anything to do with The Lobster, but the cold, sterile atmosphere crept on me right from the beginning and that’s when I was able to recognize a similarity. The feeling of alienation and characters pronouncing the dialogue like reading school textbook lines in a bad play while  turning absurd statements into logical conclusions are shared in both movies.

That is where the comparison ends and the weirdest plot I have ever seen begins (and I’ve seen Martyrs, thank you for asking).

Three teenagers live with their controlling parents, completely separated from the real world. By that I don’t mean they go straight back home from school to do their homework, they never leave home and are literally unaware of other people or anything that’s going on in the world (assuming that it really is our world), the only one who leaves the property is the father who works in some kind of factory. The children (two sisters and a brother) are told they can leave home on the day their ‘dogtooth’ falls out.

They are coming up with endurance games to keep themselves busy, have gathering ‘parties’ by watching old family videotapes that they already know by heart or listening to their grandpa singing. A little spoiler alert – the man they think is their grandpa is actually Frank Sinatra singing Fly Me To The Moon. Those poor kids.

At times it felt like a much more censored and brutal version of  The Truman Show, but the rest of the story is far more original in making levels of absurd hitting the ceiling. I caught myself often getting annoyed by the characters – their way of talking, reacting to pain, following their animal instincts, general lack of empathy or any kind of usual reaction. But then again, there’s no place for normality in a story like this one so who can blame them? Their family dinner time taken out of the context sounds like a bad improvised sketch performed by not too intelligent amateur actors.

Oh and please remember that the cats are the most dangerous animals you can ever encounter and that zombies are small yellow flowers.

Confusion, sex, violence, incest, more violence, confusion and the open ending is how I would put it shortly. At the end of the day,  I’m glad I watched it but the feeling of having a 90 minute physical fight with this film is something I wouldn’t like to go through again.  I think I can finally say I watched something that was just too much for me to absorb or break down to pieces and analyze. But it sure did surprise me, disturbed me, but made me laugh at the most unusual moments, and like I said at the beginning, that’s the most important part.

 

Advertisements

Godard: ‘I get high staring at posters in the streets. I get high on people.’

Note: Godard who has just finished shooting his lates film One Plus One, agreed to meet Hermine Demoriane for this interview but would not consent to it being recorded. “What you don’t remember, make up”, he said. Excerpts from the interview follow.

We have a lot of professional filmmakers who would be better off doing something else.

 

HD: You have said everybody should make movies.

JLG: No. I did not say that,  I said more people should. There are not enough films. Look, there is no black cinema at all. Stokely Charmichael should make a film. But he can’t. Even if Mao sent him the money he would not find a distributor. There aren’t any films from the workers, either. I’d like to hand over my unit, lock, stock and barrel and let some of them get on with it. We need films FROM people, not FOR them. In the meantime, we have a lot of professional filmmakers who would be better off doing something else.

HD: What do you think of Claude Givaudan’s experiment?

JLG: Very good. You should be able to go into a shop and buy the latest Godard, take it home and project it with no more fuss than reading a paperback. In two years time we may be putting cassettes of our own films into TV sets.

source (1)

HD: You have said England was an American colony. Does this apply to its films?

JLG: There are no English films. There are American films set in London.

HD: What do you think of American cinema, then?

JLG: The most conservative in the world. It works on worn-out formulas totally irrelevant today. Its only aim is to lift people out of their environment for a moment and persuade them the world is a beautiful place so they keep quiet and allow the system which begats such films to continue.

HD: You didn’t even like Bonnie and Clyde?

JLG: Average. Very average.

HD: And the cinema in France?

JLG: Very conservative, too.

ryNQ0CP.gif

HD: What do you reckon is the way to break the monopoly of the big companies?

JLG: Either drop a bomb or them or buy them.

HD: You have just made a film for French TV. Would you like to do more?

JLG: I see no difference between cinema and TV films. I would like to make more, yes, but I doubt if they’d get shown. TV is governmental, and not only in France. Governments are always clever enough to take it over. Consequently TV would be the same in Cuba as it is in Greece. I think opposition parties should have an equal influence.

HD: Do you believe that hippies could be a force to purge Capitalism, as the Red Guards purged Soviet Communism?

JLG: The hippies will do nothing until they are politised.

HD: They need a Mao?

JLG: Not necessarily. Only to get educated politically.

HD: The demonstration at the first night of the Green Berets proves that something is burning.

JLG: Yes, that was excellent. I wish someone had told me, I would have gone.

HD: Do you think the uprising could come from England eventually?

JLG: Yes, it is good here because there are plenty of people with money and open minds. But alas, they don’t use their minds, and they are usually corrupted by money. People could do things but won’t. Look at the Beatles for instance. And Peter Brook. He should have put his Marat/Sade outside Buckingham Palace.

HD: Are you aware to have prophested Sorbonne in La Chinoise?

tumblr_nsfeuiQ4gQ1qzxeqqo1_540.gif

JLG: No. Prophesy is a mild form of fascism.

HD: What about your next film?

JLG: It is going to be produced and shot in America. That’s all I know about it. Except the title. I’ve got that. An American Movie.

HD: Have you ever taken acid?

JLG: No. Not interested. I get high staring at posters in the streets. I get high on people.

HD: Exactly what my mother says. Thank you.

 

*Interview with Jean-Luc Godard by Hermine Demoriane, published in IT (International Times) no. 39, 6-19 September 1968

Honoring Bram Stoker’s Dracula with a Vampire Movie Chronology

As soon as it seems we have seen it all when it comes to vampire thematic, a new movie or series comes out proving that, just like its characters, the genre is immortal.  To honor Bram Stoker, an author best known for his gothic horror novel Dracula which actually paved a way for vampires entering the popular culture, I created this historic overview of the most interesting. Each one features pale, more or less attractive blood sucking mythological creatures who keep inspiring filmmakers and attracting the audience’s attention.

Stoker died on the 20th of April 1912, but his legacy lives on, although some of the vampires we have gotten used to today are nowhere near the original book version of count Dracula who is described as a thin, old, white-haired predator with sharp teeth and pointy ears.

book-cover-for-bram-stokers-dracula-by-laura-birdsall

Book cover by Laura Birdsall

Nosferatu (1922)

First we go way back in time to Germany and F.W. Morneau’s adaptation of Stoker’s novel. The character’s names and some facts and locations have been altered because the film studio didn’t manage to obtain the rights for the use of original Dracula content. After finding out about the movie, Stoker’s widow filed a lawsuit against the creators of Nosferatu and demanded that all of the copies need to be destroyed. Luckily, some of them were copied, saved and managed to survive. Even after all those years, Count Orlok  (Max Schreck) remains one of the most chilling characters on-screen, he is so convincing that many viewers at the time thought he could be a vampire in real life as well. An absolute must see for true horror movie lovers, especially if you can get your hands on the restored Blu – ray edition.

dracula-intro-nosferatu

 

Dracula (1931)

This is an official version, the one that had no lawsuit and copyright issues. More importantly, it features the legendary actor Bela Lugosi as Count Dracula, the role that marked his career forever. Also, Lugosi’s thick Eastern European accent influenced the future portrayals of the character in the same manner, turning it into one of the most recognizable Dracula’s features, even though the novel description clearly states his English was flawless. Lugosi’s deep voice, clean-shaven face with not much make up and simple elegant clothes have become a mandatory part of the iconic Dracula portrayal that would be copied and used as a reference for many generations to come. Apparently, at first he wasn’t Universal’s first casting choice, could you imagine that?

 

 

The Return of the Vampire (1943)

The 1931 horror classic has turned Bela Lugosi into a star, but it was also the one he couldn’t escape from as he continued to get typecast for the rest of his career. This was supposed to be a Dracula sequel, but due to possible copyright problems and lawsuit threats, the names were changed even though everything else remained familiar. As a  cool fun fact it should be noted that this is the first movie ever that features both vampires and werewolves in it.

return-of-the-vampire-1943-lobby-card-2

 

Lust of the Vampire (1957)

The plot of this Italian horror movie (I Vampiri is the original title) takes a different turn as it doesn’t revolve around the classic vampire monster antagonist. Instead, there is a mad scientist who kills young women and draws blood which his lover uses in order to stay alive and maintain a youthful appearance. This the debut film for Italian master of horror Mario Bava who didn’t get credited as a director because he continued the work startted by Ricardo Fredda who left before it was finished. Here you’ll get to appreciate Bava’s talent in creating amazing visual effects, knowing how to properly use lightning and creating a chilling atmosphere.

Vampiri-i-1956-gianna-maria-canale-on-staircase

 

Dracula: Prince of Darkness (1966)

It would be impossible to go through this list without mentioning the Hammer Horror Film series who’s first three sequels were all directed by Terrence Fisher. Also, this series brought the iconic role to Christopher Lee,the second most famous Dracula of the 20th century‘. For the first time he appeared as the mysterious Count in 1958 adaptation of Stoker’s novel, for some reason skipped the following Brides of Dracula, and then came back for the Prince of Darkness.  This part of the franchise is particularly interesting because Dracula doesn’t really speak, he only hisses, and the reason? Christopher Lee claimed he refused to talk in the movie because the lines sucked, while the screenwriter Jimmy Sangster said it was his idea, that he didn’t even write any lines for Dracula because vampires don’t chat. Even if the lines were THAT bad, that didn’t stop the legendary actor from taking the Count Dracula role in 8 more movies.

 

 

The Vampire Lovers (1970)

The 70’s era delivered some classic adaptations, but also a whole range of really weird vampire inspired movies like Love at First Bite and Dracula Sucks, taking the genre to a whole new level.  To completely step away from the original Dracula plot, I chose another title from the Hammer Film Company – The Vampire Lovers. This one is inspired by the story that was written earlier than Stoker’s novel, it deals with not only vampires, but includes eroticism as well. It means there’s nudity and lesbian sex scenes, while vampires are no longer ugly, but sexy and seductive. Placed in the 19th century Austria, the plot centres around beautiful female vampire who is constantly looking for new victims. Even though the movie can’t be declared a masterpiece, it has gathered a cult following among horror fans.

tumblr_onnp9udjwb1v85sfao2_1280

 

The Lost Boys (1987)

There’s horror, there’s comedy and there’s some romance and awesome soundtrack in this Joel Schumacher‘s movie, and it all works pretty well together.  Three teenagers and their mom move to a small town in California where they hear rumors about vampires and mysterious deaths that could be connected to them. At first they think those are just funny stories, but after one of the brothers starts behaving suspiciously, it’s time to get serious. I love the make up and special effects, the bloody and gore scenes look convincing, especially when you consider it’s an 80’s movie. A great cast and an entertaining, modern approach towards the ‘vampire’ subject makes this one definitely worth watching.

 

 

From Dusk Till Dawn (1996)

The 90’s offer another gothic, back to roots view of the genre in Coppola’s 1992 Dracula or luxurious blockbuster Interview with the Vampire, but my favorite work from the decade lies on the other end of the spectrum. I am not a George Clooney fan, but nevertheless, Seth Gecko remains one of my favorite movie characters ever. Over the top, violent, rude, not afraid to be trashy, those are the characteristics of many Robert Rodriguez’s movies. Two brothers who have just robbed a bank and are on their way to Mexico. A father and his two kids are going on a holiday in their RV until the Gecko’s take them hostage and they manage to pass the border all together. When they make a stop in a bar, after sunset they realize they will have to fight for their lives… What I love about From Dusk Till Dawn are the creative dialogues, humor and ridiculous gore moments. And of course, that Selma Hayek scene.

giphy1

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

Probably the one that stands out the most from the list, and it’s no wonder since it’s Jim Jarmusch‘s take on vampirism and the meaning of life. In its specific way, it is a great contribution to the genre. Even vampires struggle with existential crisis, get depressed and worry about the future of our society. This is not really a horror, but not really a typical romantic film or drama, neither sex or violence are at its core, the most important place is reserved for cultural references that could be found everywhere. The pace is slow, but amazing cast, soundtrack, atmosphere and dialogue keep the viewer focused throughout every minute. Movie lovers and pop culture enthusiasts will know how to appreciate it. If I had to choose living as a movie character for the rest of my life, that would be Eve (Tilda Swinton) from Only Lovers Left Alive.

onlylovers

 

Originally published on Creators.co