Monday, June 30, 2014

478. Gaav

The Cow
Directed by Dariush Mehrjui

This is a love story between a man and his cow.  That's right.  Does the very idea of that exhaust you?  I guess it is worth it because this film inspired more cinema from the Middle East.  So let's take a trip to Pretentiousland for the sake of the future.

Hassan loves his cow.  He leaves his village for a short time and unfortunately, the cow dies while he is gone.  The villagers tell Hassan that the cow ran away because they knew things would get weird if he knew the truth.  Things get weird anyway and Hassan starts pretending to be a cow.  All right then.

I don't have much to say about this film, so I will keep it short.  It was clearly trying to make me feel something that I just wasn't feeling.  Don't get me wrong, I understand the importance of the cow: it was his companion, the only one in the village, his pride and joy, etc.  But there are so many movies about the loss of someone really special in your life (whether it is a child or a sibling) that this film just felt like an emotional step down.  I might be the only one that felt that way, so you may want to give this film a shot.

That is my scattered review on The Cow.  I was never into pet films, so I advise skipping this one.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

A disclaimer was tacked on by the film's financial backers saying that the story took place long before the current regime in Iran.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

477. Viy

Directed by Kostantin Yershov and Georgi Kropachyov

I really did try to watch this earlier.  I asked my sister to watch it with me but somehow, when she found out that it was a Russian 1967 folktale, the viewing of the film kept getting rescheduled.  Finally, I settled down to watch it yesterday.  While I would have liked to have proved my sister wrong by being blown away by this film, I am afraid that wasn't the case.

Three monks are on their way home when they got lost.  It is hard to sympathize with these characters since they torture goats and attack women beforehand.  In any case, they stumble upon a house owned by a sexually aggressive old lady.  She rides one of the men to...wait, for clarity's sake she climbs on top of him...ugh.

Anyway, she magically transforms into a beautiful young woman and one of the monks is forced to stay with her corpse for three nights to read her last rites.  Shit gets weird.

The special effects in this film were impressive for the time, but still pretty laughable.  I felt like the middle of the movie was building up to an ending that really didn't deliver.  No spoilers here but Jabba the Hut makes an appearance.

So a good movie to watch if you want to see the development of special effects but otherwise, quite forgettable.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Based on a Ukranian folk tale.

Friday, June 20, 2014

476. Ostře sledované vlaky

Ostre sledovane vlaky
Closely Watched Trains
Directed by Jiri Menzel

Today when I went to tick this one off my List, I was surprised to see I already had.  When did this happen?  I watched the entire film yesterday without having a single instance of deja vu.  I think I need to start doing memory exercises.

Milos is on his way to his first day of work as a station guard.  He briefly tells us about the history of his family (which includes a particularly unfortunate hypnotist).  He decided to become a station guard because he really just wanted to do nothing with his life but sit and watch other people work.  He has a crush on a pretty train conductor, but has performing.  Does this sound like a Judd Apatow movie to you?  It did to me...well, at least until the Nazis showed up.

I knew going in that a comedy from 1967 Czechoslovakia wouldn't exactly have me doubled over laughing.  I was right on that score; I hardly even cracked a smile.  So on that level the filmed failed for me, although I realize that that is not really the filmmakers' fault.

However, if I view this film as a drama, I enjoyed it quite a bit.  The cinematography is absolutely beautiful and it managed to show the war in a way that didn't make caricatures out of anyone.  Milos was a fun character to watch, even though his actions seemed a bit contrived at times.

I will enjoy the memory of this film until it goes away, which will apparently only be a few weeks.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Won the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar.

We got a horror film coming up next.  Yay!

Monday, June 16, 2014

475. Terra em Transe

Terra em Transe
Earth Entranced or Entranced Earth
Directed by Glauber Rocha

I am not going to lie to you guys, this one was a bore.  I tried to pay attention and enjoy myself since this is one of the few Brazilian films on The List.  Unfortunately, I kept tuning in and out and have subsequently put off writing this review, since I have no idea how to write a plot summary.

Ugh, how do I even bullshit this?  Someone didn't want a war but another guy thought it was for the greater good, I guess?  If anyone wants to do a better job than I did here, feel free to enlighten everyone (including me) in the comments section.

What can I say about a movie that left absolutely no impression on me?  I wish that it had, since I always like experiencing cinema from across the world (*winks to camera*).  Just dull and confusing; I would advise my readers to take a pass on this one.

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

Initially forbidden to be shown in Brazil.

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

474. Hori, ma panenko

Hori, ma panenko
The Firemen's Ball
Directed by Milos Forman

So here is yet another Czech film. I am not quite sure why Czech movies don't seem to exist in The Book outside of 1967, but that is a question for another time.  Amazingly, this time we are dealing with a Czech comedy.  I am saying this is amazing since all of the recent foreign movies have ranged from confusingly dry to downright depressing.  Let's see if this one can actually make me laugh.

I had tried to watch this film before but had a hard time finding it anywhere.  Now there seems to be an abundance of copies online, just none with English subtitles.  I was forced to download a transcript of the English subtitles and read along as the film progressed.  As you can imagine, this is not the ideal way to view a movie, particularly a comedy.  So although I did not crack a smile once throughout the duration of this film, I won't fault the movie for that and will blame the lack of humor on my horrible process of watching it. That's fair, right?

Anyway, this film takes place during the annual Firemen's Ball.  The laughs (I am guessing here) come from the fact that everything goes wrong during the event.  Most notably, people keep stealing raffle items and the beauty pageant is a complete disaster (honestly, sometimes I feel like watching the films in the 1001 Book is an exercise in restraint for feminists).

I can see why this film is significant since there are quite a few slams to communism that ultimately resulted in the movie being banned in Czechoslovakia.  Still, it was kind of a miss for me; I found it neither funny nor entertaining.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

The cast was made up mostly of unprofessional actors.

Banned in 1968.

One of Roger Ebert's Great Movies.

Monday, June 9, 2014

473. The Jungle Book

The Jungle Book
Directed by Wolfgang Reitherman

I grew up watching Disney films so I had, of course, seen this movie before.  However, this was never one of our favorites growing up (probably because it didn't have a princess) so I decided to check it out again.  I actually invited my sister to watch it with me too but she was not even a little interested.  I can't say I blame her; compared to what Disney would come out with in the future, this movie pales in comparison.

Bagheera the panther stumbles across a "man cub" abandoned in the woods.  He gives the baby to a family of wolves to raise. When it is discovered that Shere Khan, a tiger who hates men, is coming back to their part of the jungle, Bagheera tries to take the boy to a man village to be with his own kind. They meet a fair share of interesting characters along the way, my favorites being Kaa, a python who wants to eat the child, and Baloo, a bear with the best intentions.

So I know it is unfair to compare this film to other Disney movies that came out in the nineties, since animation progressed so much.  But I actually thought the animation was beautiful, while the storyline was just...meh.  Sometimes it felt like a series of vignettes about the jungle rather than a coherent storyline.  It is also suffered from Annoying Kid Syndrome when I start to root for the villain a bit since the kid is so obnoxious.

Don't get me wrong; overall, I liked it.  It was a lot sadder than I remember; I would be lying if I said I didn't well up a bit at the end.  You probably will cry too, unless you are made of stone.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Why are all evil animals in Disney British?  Ray, can you answer that?

Walt Disney died during the production of this film.  It is likely that if this movie had failed, the animation division of Disney would have been shut down.

The Vultures were based on The Beatles.

Best song in the film:

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

472. Marketa Lazarová

Marketa Lazarova
Directed by Frantisek Vlacil

First of all, I want to attach a big "fuck you"to the filmmakers on every subsequent criticism or compliment that I make about this movie.  Any director who thinks it is a good idea to have a plot where a woman is raped (which I already have to cover my eyes for) and then have the woman FALL IN LOVE with the rapist is just wrong and stupid.  There are, of course, women who are in relationships with their rapists, but that is not what this was at all.  Am I the only one upset by this?  Okay, remember my addendum to every thing I say and let's move on.

Sometime in the Middle Ages, shit goes down.  Honestly, it was a very confusing plot and the sometimes incoherent subtitles didn't exactly clear anything up for me (at one point somebody declares "IQW!" in surprise).  However, thanks to my undivided focus and the Wikipedia page, I was able to understand what was going on.  A woman named Alexandra has sex with her brother who, unfortunately, is bit in the arm by a snake during um...the act (damn, should I have attached a NSFW label to this post?).  Anyway, she then falls in love with someone else so a freaky love triangle forms.  Meanwhile, Marketa...well, see the first paragraph about why I am so upset with her storyline.

This film is nearly three hours long but, fortunately, the plot rarely drags (not that I liked what I seeing at all).  The film is also completely beautiful; pictured above is one of my favorite shots.  Of course, the screen is mostly white which can be a bit overwhelming when you stare at it for three hours.  I am assured that I will get my vision back to normal by next Tuesday.

Overall, a kind of upsetting movie but certainly not the worst we have seen.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Voted the all time best Czech movie.  IQW!