17 posts categorized "Film"

April 10, 2018

ISLE OF DOGS

SpotsSince peaking with the infectiously goofy “Fantastic Mr. Fox” back in 2009, Wes Anderson has worn out his welcome to all but those in tune with his repetitive and redundant stylistic method of reducing drama to a steady faucet leak of warm but strange-tasting liquid.

Gone is the polish of Anderson’s dry but doting wit that gave “Fantastic Mr. Fox” its juice. I suppose "Moonrise Kingdom" is equal to "Mr. Fox" but "The Grand Budapest Hotel" borders on the unwatchable.   

For “Isle of Dogs,” Anderson adopts a Japanese style and setting that gives his post-apocalyptic story, about an island of abandoned (virus riddled) canines, its transposed (read obfuscated) political and ideological agenda. “Isle of Dogs” is no “Team America when it comes to targeting its satire. For a movie with so many dogs, this movie has no discernible teeth. Everything feels sterile, especially the human aspect of the story.  

Isle-of-dogs

Atari Kobayashi (voiced by Koyu Rankin) is the 12-year-old orphaned ward to Kobayashi, Megasaki City’s corrupt mayor. A viral dog flu causes Kobayashi to banish all dogs to Trash Island, and that plan includes Atari’s own dog “Spots” (voiced by Live Schreiber). Naturally, Atari is a skilled pilot able to crash-land on the squalid isle to track down and rescue his beloved dog.  

Tracy Walker (Greta Gerwig), an American foreign exchange student (read radical leftist) activist, investigates a cure for the rampant dog flu epidemic. Some audiences have accused Anderson of taking low-hanging-fruit by reusing the old “white savior” trope, but the bigger issue is the film’s lack of cinematic zing and emotional connection with its audience. “Isle of Dogs” is a cinematic amuse bouche that is not all that amusing. Dog lovers might go for it, but I liked Anderson’s foxes a whole lot better.

Rated PG-13 101 mins. (C) (Two stars — out of five / no halves)

February 10, 2016

THE DUKE OF BURGUNDY

Duke of BurgundyWriter/director Peter Strickland (“Berberian Sound Studio”) explores the power dynamics involved in a lesbian sadomasochistic relationship. This is an erotic drama for adults. Leave “50 Shades of Grey” to the kiddies.

Sidse Babett Knudsen plays Cynthia, a butterfly expert who resides alone in a lush country mansion somewhere in Europe. Cynthia’s fulltime maid Evelyn (wantonly played by Chiara D’Anna) seems to take payment for her frequently spotty work, in staged punishments that her mistress doles out with stern deportment and appropriately black fetish attire. A purposely-unwashed pair of Cynthia’s soiled panties gives cause for a human-toilet golden shower session behind closed doors that leaves Cynthia hungry for more.

Strickland’s visual touches of stylistic homage to softcore masters such as Jess Franco give the film a sustained sense of erotic and dramatic tension, but he allows the racy narrative to go flat. Evelyn’s outré desire for humiliation drives the relationship. The coquettish submissive seems to gain more pleasure than her older dom from their sessions together. Sad. 

Duke of Burgundy

The film’s hook rests with the couple’s bottom-topping paradigm, which proves to be the key to the women's complex sensual connection. Evelyn leaves specific handwritten instructions for Cynthia to fulfill. The submissive is calling the shots. This self-scripted method for Evelyn to achieve her desired fetishistic scenarios has intrinsic limits. Although it’s clear that Evelyn is working up to serving as a full-duty human-toilet to her more mature mistress, Strickland inexplicably reneges on the dirty motivation. What could have given the film a truly shocking aspect evaporates when romance deposes the fetishistic elements of the women’s unique bond. Rather than a toilet chair, Evelyn has to settle for a trunk where she is imprisoned overnight.  

DUKE BURGUNDY2

“The Duke of Burgundy,” with its perfectly disguised title, could serve as a compass-marker for other (more daring) filmmakers to follow in the footsteps of. Mainstream cinema and pornography continue to overlap.

Neither entirely frustrating nor satisfying, here is an enjoyable erotic film populated with only women. As such, it affords the audience a much-needed break from male influence, albeit from the director himself. It would be interesting to see how a more daring [female] filmmaker would follow the story’s fetishized elements toward their logical trajectories. Perhaps then, Evelyn could achieve the transformation into a human-toilet that she desires. What then?

Duke2

Not Rated. 104 mins. (B-) (Three Stars — out of five / no halves)


COLE SMITHEYA small request: Help keep Cole Smithey writing reviews, creating video essays, and making podcasts. Click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon, and receive special rewards!

PATREON BUTTON

Click Here to Pledge Your Support Through Patreon

January 19, 2014

BAD LIEUTENANT — CLASSIC FILM PICK

Bad-LieutenantAlongside "Reservoir Dogs," Able Ferrara's 1992 tour-de-force crime drama provides an epic showcase for Harvey Keitel's impressive acting abilities. Keitel’s no-holds-barred performance sets the high watermark for how much commitment any actor can ever hope to devote to a role.

Similar in tenor to Scorsese's "Taxi Driver," this tragic story of suicidal redemption follows anti-hero Keitel as a nameless police lieutenant addicted to all forms of vice — which, as an officer of the law, he is supposed to be combating. He spends his days doubling down on bad baseball bets, extorting sex from random women, stealing cash from crime scenes, and numbing himself in the company of prostitutes with copious amounts of cocaine and heroin. Ferrara's brilliant direction captures a raw '80s-era Manhattan in which crime is king on its economically distressed streets.

Episodic in form, the movie lurches from one hazy scene of reckless debauchery to the next, each examining Keitel's inner monologue of social and religious dysfunction. Steeped in old-school Catholicism, the tragically flawed “bad” lieutenant endures something akin to a nervous breakdown inside a church where a Catholic nun has just been raped. Ferrara based the story on an actual Harlem rape that local powers that be tried to keep out of the news.

Badlieutenant-colesmithey

After seeing a vision of Jesus in the church, Keitel’s wayward cop furiously begs for forgiveness of his countless sins. Soaring to a Marlon Brando level of dedication, Keitel's performance is nothing short of earth shattering. Co-written by Paul Calderon and Ferrara-regular Zoë Lund ("Ms. 45"), "Bad Lieutenant" arrives at an inspired dual climax that aspires to — and achieves — a Shakespearian quality of catharsis.

"Bad Lieutenant" is a microcosm of a crisis moment in New York existence and a unique view of masculine self-destructiveness. It marks a high point for Abel Ferrara's career. Despite its dated place in time, the movie resonates with a daring urgency that is as genuine today as when the film was made.

Bad-Lieutenant2

Rated R. 90 mins. (A+) (Five Stars - out of five/no halves)  


COLE SMITHEYA small request: Help keep Cole Smithey writing reviews, creating video essays, and making podcasts. Click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon, and receive special rewards!

PATREON BUTTON

Click Here to Pledge Your Support Through Patreon

Featured Video

SMART NEW MEDIA® Custom Videos

COLE SMITHEY’S MOVIE WEEK

COLE SMITHEY’S CLASSIC CINEMA

Throwback Thursday


Podcast Series