5 posts categorized "Magic Realism"

October 11, 2023

BREAKING THE WAVES — SHOCKTOBER!

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ColeSmithey.comIt's impossible to know when you are watching film like "Breaking the Waves" that you are witnessing the high watermark of a filmmaker's career.

Made shortly after Lars von Trier (he added the "von" himself) co-authored with Thomas Vinterberg the strident "Dogme 95 Manifesto" for low-budget filmmaking, "Breaking the Waves" comes with a clarity of vision and social urgency that is an assault on the senses and the intellect. Von Trier leaves no stone unturned.

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In her breakout performance Emily Watson plays Bess McNeill, a simple-minded Scottish, Calvinist churchgoer who marries Jan Nyman (Stellan Skarsgard), and oil rig worker who suffers a terrible accident that leaves him paralyzed. Bess McNeill's worldview is hampered by the religious indoctrination she has gone through.

Intimate conversations with God, in which Bess takes on both roles, provide insight into her sincere but ill-conceived thought process. Nonetheless, the love that Jan and Bess share is real as her imagination brings her to God. 

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When Jan urges Bess to go out and have sex with other men and report back to him her carnal experiences, she takes Jan's wishes beyond the realm of common sense. In her mind Bess is helping cure Jan from his dire circumstance.

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Cinematographer Robby Muller’s documentary shooting style favors intimate close-ups to reveal characters’ inner emotional lives. Muller captures Scotland’s rugged atmosphere as a supporting character to the Shakespearian tragedy on hand.

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Although fiercely criticized for its shaky handheld camerawork, the technique gives the film an ungrounded sensibility of floating on roiling waves. Naturally, film and television industries coopted von Trier’s technique so much so that it doesn’t stand out at all.

The film's seven-acts are marked by colorful postcard chapter headings accompanied by songs such as Mott The Hopple's "All the Way From Memphis" for Chapter One — Bess Gets Married or Elton John's "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" to announce Chapter Six.

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Lars von Trier makes a clever attack on organized religion that resonates with Bunuel's famous line, "I'm an atheist, thank God." Emily Watson gives an angelic if earth-shattering performance that is transgressive, cathartic, and viscerally painful.

Here is a film that makes you feel like you've read the novel, seen the movie, and lived the life of a protagonist more empathetic than any other. You just might need a stiff drink afterward but you will have witnessed one of the best films of all time. 

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Rated R. 159 mins.

5 StarsColeSmithey.com ColeSmithey.comCozy Cole

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October 10, 2023

TAXIDERMIA — SHOCKTOBER!

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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does. This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

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ColeSmithey.comBased on a screenplay by Zsofia Ruttkay, visionary Hungarian director Gyorgy Palfi has created a grotesque satire that dissects Hungary's nationalist self identity with a pitch-black sense of humor and extended gross-out sequences centered around vomit and sliced flesh.

"Taxidermia" is as thematically challenging as it is visually disturbing — perhaps more so for Western audiences. However there are rich layers of subtext for those with strong enough stomachs to discover them.

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Divided into three sections, the story follows three generations of Hungarian men whose lineage, from low-ranking soldier to speed-eating champion to mad scientist/taxidermist, resonates with a certain Eastern European sensibility of twisted ambition tempered by war and social repression. Vendel (Csaba Czene — an actor with a decidedly pronounced hair-lip) is a young soldier stationed at a remote farm where he answers to his tyrannical superior officer Hadnagy (Istvan Gyuricza), when he isn't peeping on the women whom he ostensibly protects while masturbating with the aid of fire, of all things.

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Vendel impregnates Hadnagy's adulterous wife before meeting a brutal fate that nevertheless allows his male offspring, Kalman Balatonym (Gergo Bischoff), to redefine the sport of speed-eating and win the heart of a woman named Gizi (Adel Stanczel), who shares some of Kalman's prodigious eating skills.

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The couple's adult son Lajos (Marc Bischoff) is a taxidermist who looks after his now-enormous father since Gizi's departure. Like his father, Lajos harbors unconventional dreams of fame and immortality linked to his physical potential.

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The shocking climax may not be "life affirming" in any traditional sense of the concept, but it is the most virtuosic piece of Grand Guignol filmmaking you're likely to witness this year.

Rated R. 92 mins.

4 Stars SHOCKTOBER!!! THE BLOOD OF DRACULACozy Cole

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March 05, 2022

BENEDETTA — CANNES 2021

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Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does. Punk heart still beating.

This ad-free website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Get cool rewards when you click on the button to pledge your support through Patreon.

Thanks a lot acorns!

Your kind generosity keeps the reviews coming!

ColeSmithey.com

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ColeSmithey.comDaring, and bristling with bold artistic license, this social satire burns at the stake.

It's dizzying.

Virginie Efira is electric as Benedetta, a 17th century lesbian nun living in a convent in Renaissance Italy.

Fearless.

Catherine Deneuve's baton has successfully been passed down.

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Based on Judith C. Brown's book "Immodest Acts: The Life of a Lesbian Nun in Renaissance Italy," "Benedetta" juggles religion, politics, and sexual identity like so many electrons in a social atom attempting to split.

Holy fucking hell.

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Paul Verhoeven's cinematic mastery just gets sharper with age.

This is a high-wire act that not many seasoned filmmakers would attempt, lest they fall flat on their blushing faces.

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Long live Paul Verhoeven.

No prisoners taken. Many gifts given.

Not Rated. 131 mins.

5 Stars

Cozy Cole

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