nothings fun anymore

I don't really understand anything

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Quick Film Reviews #29
I haven't done one of these for ages now.

In the Mood for Love
I hadn't noticed before how distinctive the pacing of In the Mood for Love is. The plot is driven by short, sometimes fast-paced sections of dialogue. These are then followed by long shots in which nothing much happens. Those beautifully composed, colour saturated, lingering, often slow-motion shots are what really convey the feelings and atmosphere of the film. Among the closeness and bustle of Hong Kong, the characters always visually remain apart and remain still.
Bechdel test: Pass

The Passion of Joan of Arc
I started watching this just to see what it was like, about the time I should have been going to bed, and ended up watching it all the way through. It's a great piece of early film-making in its acting, characterisation and direction. Most vivid is the amazingly mobile camerawork in the early scenes, roving along the lines of priests and judges (and exposing them one-by-one to our own judgement).
Bechdel test: Fail

Cathy Come Home
Aside from its historical significance, Cathy Come Home has some timeless archetypes and lessons. Standing out is the weakness of the characters who go about doing things they think are wrong as a job, and the vicious consequences of a punitive, moralising, top-down system. (The unintended but inevitable break-up of families reminds me of changes in the drug treatment regime in the 80s that forced patients to pick up medication in the afternoon - making it nearly impossible for them to hold a regular daytime job.)
Bechdel test: Pass

Welcome to the Dollhouse
Although it has the trappings of the familiar 'nerd comedy' genre (Napoleon Dynamite, etc.), Welcome to the Dollhouse is a much more difficult film. To start with, although billed as a comedy, and some people apparently finding it hilarious, it's not very funny. There's no 'coming of age', breakthrough or chink of light here. Instead we get more balanced (and often less sympathetic) characters and the message: school is horrible and things don't get much better until (at least) college. I'm not sure if that makes for a good film, though; it falls uneasily between stylised comedy and stark realism. I've no objection to gloomy films, but something didn't quite click with this one; after about fifteen minutes I found the film quite tedious, and only later did it pick up a bit.
Bechdel test: Pass

At one point in Kes, the main character has a fight with another boy in the school playground, on top of a pile of coal. Which I thought was symbolic of the north, until my mum said that they had a pile of coal in the playground (in north london) when she was at school.
Bechdel test: Fail

Wings of Desire
Maybe it's the quintessential German art-house film, with beautiful shots of angels moving about a Berlin library, musings on the battered history of the city, on the experience of life and opening up to it. If that all sounds very serious, it also has Peter Falk.
Bechdel test: Fail

The Bunny and the Bull
This Warp Productions film completely passed me by until Mark lent it to me. It's got a unique design aesthetic, with backgrounds for many scenes done with cut-outs, and other things like that. It's one of those films that toes a difficult line between comedy, non-realism and emotional progress. I didn't feel it managed it. The funniest part was probably Noel Fielding's turn as a would-be bullfighter, and that exaggerated performance seemed out of place. I'm not sure why, but I couldn't help comparing it (unfavourably) to Submarine. I think it was the main character's lack of self-awareness. In Submarine, though, he's only fifteen, rather than mid-twenties.
Bechdel test: Fail

Probably a realistic portrayal of the Sicilian mafia, but I thought it packed in just too many characters and threads, so that by the time you'd got a handle of who was who and what they were doing it was all over. Makes the Comorrah seem a bit like a low-budget version of the gangs in The Wire.
Bechdel test: Fail

Paths of Glory
Kirk Douglas plays an all American French colonel during WW1 who defends his men against charges of cowardice after a disastrous attack. Not simply an anti-war film, it's just as much a fight against an institution and the cowardly, self-interested, cynical and blinkered people that it attracts and produces.
Bechdel test: Fail

A Mighty Wind
Eugene Levy has the best comedy eyes since Marty Feldman in Young Frankenstein. Manages to take a potentially problematic character and maintain his pathos while making him funny, all through the ability to vary the size of his eyes without altering the expression on the rest of his face.
Bechdel test: Fail (I think)


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