Monday, March 3, 2014

Five films you've probably never watched, but you have to

№ 5. 
California Dreamin' by  Cristian Nemescu (2007)

"California Dreamin' (Nesfarsit)" is one of the finest movies Romanian cinema has ever produced. While the unfortunate death of young director Cristian Nemescu left the film unfinished, the movie has been put together according to Mr. Nemescu's plans.The story of Capalnita is a sad one, as it is the story of many parts of Romania, a country in desperate need to be seen and heard. While the movie takes place on a more personal level, the allusion is inescapable, as are quite a few other things about life around here.

The main plot revolves around a NATO transport sent to Kosovo by train, which is stopped in - literally - the middle of nowhere, by a station conductor who claims he wants to see the transit papers for whatever is being transported. As these documents are missing, he decides to pull the train over until the necessary papers come through. The convoy's American forces accept this delay grudgingly, but they quickly join the celebrations held in their honor by a mayor who sees profit opportunities in the unexpected turn of events. Soldiers get together with local girls, love and sex stories unfold, with no actual surprises to the mature mind. In the mix is a young local boy, head over heels in love with the most attractive girl from the village - a common story of shyness and deep affection. As the delays pile on, spirits start rising and the situation gets more and more tense - especially as the American commanding officer, Captain Jones, grows  restless. The outcome of the story is for you to relish or despise, but at two and a half hours, you'll have to be patient.

№ 4. 
Nosferatu, a Symphony of Horror (Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens) (Nosferatu the Vampire) by F. W. Murnau (1922)

F.W. Murnau's Nosferatu has the distinction of being one of the first horror films. Based on Dracula, Murnau's film only changes the names of the characters. The film is quite impressive considering that it was made in 1922. The film has its flaws, but you have to understand that this film was made over 90 years ago, in the early years of cinema. What stands out about this film is that it relies on atmosphere to tell its story. Even if the film is silent, you can clearly make out what's going on. This is one of the defining pictures of the horror genre, and its influence still resonates to this day. Max Schreck is a memorable creature of the night and he displays that in his performance as Count Orlok. For the time period, Nosferatu is a stunning achievement in film, and is one of the best in the vampire genre. Horror fans that haven't seen this film, ought to, it's a milestone in horror cinema, one of the first of many classics to come. Nosferatu is a standout picture that still retains its elements of scary atmosphere to capture your attention and entertain from beginning to end. This movie set the standards for many other films to follow and it's a film that is a necessity to view for genre fans. There are some effective camera tricks to really elevate the film's storyline and since this was a 1922 production, it's a well made picture. Even the most critical viewer of the movie can't deny its impact and influence on the genre. Murnau was a pioneer in horror cinema and Nosferatu is a brilliant and effective picture that has stood the test of time.

№ 3. 
Cannibal Holocaust by Ruggero Deodato (1980)

Cannibal Holocaust is nasty,sometimes VERY hard to watch,arguably sick,horrible,you name it. It's also a near masterpiece by it's director Ruggero Deodato {who never came near the quality of this film again}. It's a horror film in the most literal sense. It's not scary in the slightest,it doesn't attempt to make you jump. Despite it's scenes of horrendous violence,it's not even a simple 'gross out' a la Braindead. What Deadato attempted with this film is to disturb the viewer, provoke a reaction and make him or her THINK. The film has a powerful message about man's cruelty and violence,and Deodato just tackles it totally head on. This,and the fact that it is so well made{lets face it,some of the so-called 'video nasties' seem laughable now}are probably why the film has had so much censor trouble. Even if you hate it,it sticks with you,it's horrifying images staying in the mind for ages.

And they are indeed many. People being ripped open and eaten,including even a penis being partially torn off. A woman having a foetus torn out of her and it buried in mud. Another woman raped with a dildo and than having a mudball with nails on thrust between her legs too. A brief fake documentary showing disturbingly realistic executions. The list goes on. You would be forgiven for thinking that this is just exploitative nastiness. However, {and this is just one of the many things that separates this film from the many other films of the cannibal subgenre],we are being shown this stuff to get us to think,not just about mankind's violence to each other and his ignorance of other races but also about violence in the news {and oddly enough,the glut of 'reality'shows on TV today also make the film pertinent}. And it also toys with our sympathies in a devilishly clever way. Cannibalism seems horrible to most of us, but at the end aren't we almost pleased to see the protagonists eaten by the natives when they have spent the previous half hour mistreating and abusing them?

The film is oddly structured,with the second half being basically the 'film' which the characters in the first half of the film find. The second half has the most power,even if there are shots which couldn't actually have been taken by the filmmakers. Deodato actually shows great skill in many of the gory effects scenes by showing just enough of the effects to be effective but not dwelling on them so the fakery starts to show,and the climatic orgy of cannibalism is all the more shocking because much of it is only partially glimpsed,making more of an impression.

№ 2. 

Rosemary's Baby by Roman Polanski (1968)

A supremely intelligent and convincing adaptation of Ira Levin's Satanist thriller. About a woman who believes herself impregnated by the Devil (in the guise of her husband), its main strength comes from Polanski's refusal to simplify matters: ambiguity is constant, in that we are never sure whether Farrow's paranoia about a witches' coven is grounded in reality or a figment of her frustrated imagination. Sexual politics, urban alienation, and a deeply pessimistic view of human interaction permeate the film, directed with a slow, careful build-up of pace and a precise sense of visual composition. Although it manages to be frightening, there is little gore or explicit violence; instead, what disturbs is the blurring of reality and nightmare, and the way Farrow is slowly transformed from a healthy, happily-married wife to a haunted, desperately confused shadow of her former self. Great performances, too, and a marvellously melancholy score by Krzysztof Komeda.

№ 1. 
The Illusionist by Jos Stelling (1984)

In the Illusionist fiction, reality, dream and illusion effortlessly blend together. Everything happens in the imagination of a figure who looks around the corner of a (theatre) dressing room in the beginning of the film. It is the story of two brothers, one of whom pursues his ambitions, while the other is sent to a mental institution by their parents. Lost childhood, failed ambitions, the threat of brain surgery, an unremitting mother, a suicidal father and a rich grandfather define the course of action. The film has no dialogue. Jos Stelling and Freek de Jonge wrote the scenario with Freek's theatre production 'De Tragiek' as a starting point.
Once again a theatre show was the starting point for a new film. Jos Stelling saw ‘De Komiek’ (the comedian) by Freek de Jonge and wished to distil a film out of it, but De Jonge believed that ‘De Tragiek’ (the tragedy) would be better suited. This time Stelling did continue with another artist, who also got the lead opposite Jim van der Woude, who played his brother. What Stelling had feared would happen during a close collaboration with Herman van Veen, happened now during the shooting. Up to and including the final editing there were continuous clashes in the artistic views of Stelling and the Jonge. Freek de Jonge’s company, Big Boy Productions, co-produced the film, leading him to conclude that not only did he have the lead role, but that he also had just as much say in the final product as Jos Stelling.
As in earlier films, The Illusionist hardly contains a story to speak of. Freek de Jonge plays the son of a miller in the country, who is looking for the magic of the theatre and is stuck with his mentally handicapped brother. This leads to a succession of tragicomic scenes with references to themes like missed ambitions and lost youth, round a family full of peculiar personalities.

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