19 posts categorized "Film"

March 28, 2019

THE BRINK

BrinkDocumentarian Alison Klayman (“Ai Weiwei: Never Sorry”) brilliantly contextualizes Steve Bannon’s bizarre racist mission within the many coded ways the right-wing fascist ideologue expresses his murderous subtext to politicians (see Nigel Farage), billionaires (see Blackwater’s Erik Prince and Guo Media’s Miles Kwok), hack journalists, sycophantic fans, television interviewers, and during personal interactions.

It says a lot about a man by those who he admires; in Bannon’s case most such icons (seemingly) have direct links to the Nazi regime. Indeed, Bannon goes out of his way to put a fine point on his love affair with Hitler’s genocide of the Jews.

Bannon

Klayman opens the film with Bannon chugging a Red Bull while going over “spots” (shorthand for Bannon’s ongoing television media propaganda campaign) over the phone with an unnamed associate.

“You talk about culture being upriver in politics; this is the way you make a statement. I’ll see you at five o’clock and I’ll feed you dinner.”

Cut to Bannon bragging about “Torchbearer,” the 2016 “documentary” he directed. Oh yes, Steve Bannon is a director and producer. Check out his IMDB page, it will give you an idea Bannon’s obsessions. Shocker, Bannon executive produced the Sean Penn written/directed “The Indian Runner.” Still, Bannon can’t bring himself to remember his film’s proper title, “The Torchbearer,” or “Torchbearers,” or …

Bannon 2

The subject brings up filming that Bannon did in Auschwitz.

“My shit in Auschwitz rocked.”

This weird, out-of-context statement reflexively begs the question, does Bannon think Hitler also “rocked” Auschwitz? Evidently so. Bannon’s profane scatological reference is the needle that punctures the mind of the listener as Bannon normalizes his audience to his objectively racist beliefs that he carefully masks behind a sleepy-eyed gauze of overt respect and appreciation the Nazi death camps (Auschwitz-Birkenau).

Visually excited, Bannon nods his head with praise.

“We leave for Birkenau. This gets to the punchline of the story. I look around and I turn around in the chair and I go, “Man, I said, this is the most haunting place I think I’ve ever been. It’s something about this. This actually is the feeling I thought I was going to feel in Auschwitz.

And he (the guide) goes, ”Oh everybody says that.” Bannon breaks into a laugh and shakes his head like a puppy.

“And I go, What are you talking about?”

And he goes, “Oh no, no, no.” He goes, “Maybe I didn’t explain it.”

“He said, “Auschwitz was a Polish cavalry college. The Germans just requisitioned it immediately. That was like the beta site (test); this was made from scratch.”

Bannon raises his finger to make the point, “German industrial design. He says, “The whole thing’s perfect.”

“I’m walking around going oh my God. It’s precision engineering to the nth degree. By Mercedes, then Krupp, and Hugo Boss. It is a (sic) institutionalized industrial compound for mass murder.”

“Here it finally hits you that — think about it, good people back in Germany were sitting at their desks drawing, and having arguments, and meetings. This thing was so planned and so engineered — down to perfection; you could see the conference meetings. You could see all the cups of coffee, and all the meetings, and all the argument. There were actually people who sat and thought through this whole thing and totally detached themselves from, you know, the moral horror of it. That’s when you realize, oh my God, humans can actually do this. Humans that are not devils, but humans that are just humans.”

Bannon 1

Bannon’s dog whistle works on a handful of signifiers that he employs 24/7. He thinks he’s doing the "Lord’s work.” He may as well have LOVE and HATE tattooed across the knuckles of his hands. His disarming Virginia accent, folky linguistic style, compulsive physical mannerisms, unshaven ruddy face, unkempt overlong hair, outlier habit of always wearing two button-down shirts (usually under a hunting field jacket), all come into sharp focus under Alison Klayman's close eye.

Bannon

Steve Bannon knowingly embodies the banality of evil. We watch Bannon weaponize words such as “Deplorables,” and “Populism and Economic Nationalism” (i.e. “military and economic patriotism which inclines us to the side of pervasive national defense.” —William Safire).

Thebrink

To view “The Brink” is to get a peek behind office doors at private meetings of right wing radicals from far and wide intent on spreading hate, greed, and brutality through political and corporate means. In order to defeat your enemy, you must know him. Alison Klayman’s brilliant documentary gives you plenty to chew on.

Not Rated. 91 mins. Five Stars

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This 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 pal!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

September 04, 2017

TROPHY

COLESMITHEY.COMRegardless of any preconceived ideas viewers will inevitably bring to this insightful look at the trophy hunting industry, you will come away from this well researched film with a more informed understanding of wild animal conservation.

The film opens with creationist hunter Philip Glass indoctrinating his young son in the act of killing deer with a high powered rifle from the safety of a stilted hunting shelter. After the deed is done, the gloating father rushes to take a photo of his son holding the horns of his prey. This necro-fetishism for posing with dead animals repeats over the course of the movie as the audience gets a glimpse into the warped minds of [ostensibly] wealthy [exclusively] white people fixated on filling their homes with taxidermy-preserved renditions of the animals they have killed with roughly the same amount of skill it takes to floss your teeth.

Trophy' Review: Shocking Sundance Doc Takes Aim at Big-Game Hunting |  IndieWire

South African animal conservationist John Hume looms large in the film.

Trophy

With a goal of breeding 200 rhinos a year, Hume has invested $50 million of his now-depleted resort fortune to create the world’s biggest rhino breeding farm, with a heard of more than 1,600 rhinos. Hume and his staff regularly remove the horns from their rhinos, a roughly 20-minute process that involves tranquilizing the animal before painlessly cutting the horn with an electric saw. The reasons for removing the horns, which grow back every two years, is twofold. Doing so, removes the threat of poachers killing the animals, and enables Hume to legally sell the highly prized horns to sustain his farm. Nonetheless, poaching of rhinos continues to occur at an alarming rate throughout South Africa where the world’s rhino population primarily exists. The threat of death from disease remains a significant issue for Hume.

Trophy' Review | Hollywood Reporter

Ecologist and author Craig Packer discusses the “shooters,” whose desire to kill without any reality of sport has increased the number of wild animals in Africa exponentially. The film addresses the backlash from the 2015 murder of “Cecil the Lion” by Minnesota dentist Walter palmer. The event set off a public outcry against trophy hunting-supported animal conservation that threatens to all but end the financing that makes it possible for hunting outfitters such as Christo Gomes to provide sanctuary safaris for endangered lions, tigers, giraffes, egoli gnus, and other species.   

Could this new documentary film be the next 'Blackfish'? | From the  Grapevine

Naturally, mankind’s constant encroachment on wildlife regions due to human overpopulation presents an ever-increasing threat to animals of all species. What isn’t addressed in the film is why the rich faux hunters wouldn’t be willing to help finance wild animal preserves without the killing aspect of the equation. Taxidermy animals could be shipped to sponsors for their trophy rooms upon their natural death.    

Co-directed by Christina Clusiau and Shaul Schwarz, “Trophy” is an important documentary toward opening up informed discussion about saving our wild animals amid encroaching cataclysmic crises of climate change and population explosion. It’s not a comfortable film, but you will come away much better informed for having watched it.

Colesmithey.com

Not Rated. 108 mins. 

4 Stars

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This 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 pal!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

May 20, 2017

SUPPORT INDEPENDENT FILM CRITICISM

Cole Smithey on Patreon

This website is dedicated to Agnès Varda and to Luis Buñuel.

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

Comeandsee

Stalingrad-born Elem Klimov's "Come and See" is an undiluted expression of cinematic poetry in the service of an unspeakably turbulent, fact-based, anti-war narrative about the 628 Belarusian villages burnt to the ground along with their inhabitants by the Nazis during World War II. The film is a disorienting vision of a genocide hell on Earth that would pale Hieronymus Bosch's most gruesome compositions.

Klimov derives the film's haunting title from the New Testament's Book of Revelations, The Gospel of St. John the Divine, "And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, come and see."

Comeandsee

An electricity-buzzing stench of death and social decay hangs over the picture's constant volley between neo-realistic, formal, and documentary cinematic styles that Klimov uses to convert as wide a range of specific wartime experience as possible. The narrative explodes in all directions at once. The leftist filmmaker takes the viewer on a quicksilver descent into an existential madness of war through the eyes of his 14-year-old peasant protagonist Florya. 13-year-old (non-professional) actor Alexei Kravchenko's selfless performance as the film's subjective guide encompasses a lifetime of suffering over a period of a few brutal days of the Nazi invasion. His gut-wrenching portrayal is the traumatized soul of the movie.

Elem Klimov and Larisa Shepitko

Born into a communist family on July 9, 1933, Elem Klimov's parents constructed his first name as an acronym of Engels, Lenin, and Marx. In his 70 years, Elem Klimov made only five films: "Welcome, or No Trespassing" (1964), "The Adventures of a Dentist" (1965), "Agony" (1975) and "Farewell" (1981). The death of his much beloved filmmaker wife Larisa Shepitko in a car accident in 1979, eventually robbed Klimov of his artistic desire. Made in 1985, "Come and See" was Klimov's astounding final picture that would establish him as a filmic storyteller of untold narrative depth and intuitive sensitivity. The brave performances Klimov inspired in his actors in "Come and See" are in a class beyond any other.

Nazi

For the film, Klimov fashioned a detailed visual vernacular of dialectic cinematic form. His unique, rigorous narrative format compresses the overwhelming heartbreak of Hitler's War as an earth-shattering visceral experience. We feel the war's many jolts, shocks, and horrors with a force that pries into our bones. By the film's end, we witness a young boy's spirit so terribly ravaged by the horrors of war that he resembles an old man nearing the end of his life.

Elemklimov

When Klimov sat down to write the script with his collaborator Ales Adamovich, the ardently intellectual filmmaker crafted an acutely personal story about a peasant boy who goes to fight against Nazi troops occupying his native Belarus in 1943, after joining up with a ragtag army of partisan soldiers taking shelter in the middle of a wooded area.

Elemklimov

Objectively, "Come and See" is Elem Klimov's brave attempt to cinematically compartmentalize and contextualize his own wartime experiences as a nine-year-old boy escaping the battle of Stalingrad in the company of his mother and baby brother by raft across the burning Volga river while the city collapsed to the ground behind them. 

Klimov said of the indelible event, in relation to "Come and See," "Had I included everything I knew, and shown the whole truth, even I could not have watched it."

Elemklimov

Klimov establishes the narrative's peculiar social parameters with an old man holding a horsewhip while calling for two boys guilty of incessantly "digging."

"Playing a game? Digging? Well, go on digging you little bastards," the old man shouts at the boys. Dig they do.

From the distance we witness what seems to be a short, stout military officer carrying a stick and frothing at the mouth with recriminations for the little old man that he approaches with measured steps. We realize that the apparent military officer is, in fact, one of the little boys — speaking in a raspy fake adult voice, playing his imaginary role as a menacing armed forces commander.

Screen Shot 2020-12-19 at 8.41.50 PM

Exasperated, the old man who fathered at least one of the "bastards," gets on his horse and cart, telling his defiant son that if he won't listen to his father then he'll "listen to the cane." Klimov uses the vision of a young boy appearing as an old man to bookend the story as a manifestation of the war's aging effect on its survivors. No one will go unscathed. The once fresh-faced Florya will switch places with his young friend, whose fate falls to Nazi soldiers. Florya's young comrade deliberately chooses to comport himself as a veteran soldier. 

Elemklimov

Florya's smaller companion walks along the beach to find Florya laughing manically at nothing in particular while crouched down in the bushes. We are introduced to Florya as a child not in control of his behavior. There is already some madness present in his manic laughter. Florya is subordinate to his peer, who orders Florya to get back to work "digging." We, the audience, know already that everything is not right with the boys and their surroundings.

Klimov employs a powerful metaphor of the boys attempting to gain escape from the outside world by digging deeper into the earth. The oddly naturalistic scene exerts a primal human motivation at odds with the noisy warplanes that pass overhead.

Comeandsee

Buried in the sand up to his shoulders, Florya struggles with both arms to pull something from under the sand — it appears as if an unseen monster is swallowing up the innocent boy, attempting to drag him to the depths of hell. After much struggle, Florya excitedly extracts a prized rifle that he believes will give him entree into joining a partisan troop of soldiers so that he can help battle Hitler's rampaging armies.     

Comeandsee6

A German recon warplane flies overhead to the sound of German radio-broadcast propaganda. Klimov will reuse the same archive footage of the bomber plane many times over during the course of the film as a repeating motif of deadly menace from above. The authentic historical reference contributes to an unrelenting rhythm of sudden violence and brutal spatial dilemmas that come at asymmetrical angles throughout the film. We are submersed helplessly into Florya's dark journey with an all-consuming involuntary commitment.

Aleksey Kravchenko

The endemic breakdown of family and society is confirmed in the next scene where Florya's frantic mother pleas directly to Klimov's empathetic camera for her son to take the axe that she places in his hands. She begs her son to kill her and her twin daughters rather than abandon the family to certain death at the hands of the enemy. Better to die at the hands of a family member than to suffer torture and death from the Nazis. Florya's peasant mother is disconsolate as she beats him with a bundle of rope, refusing to allow him to leave. But Florya is immune to his mother's panic. He winks at his little sisters while he holds the axe, playing a secret game with them. He still has a fleeting sense of humor that he will soon lose forever. Klimov returns again and again to these formal fourth-wall breaking compositions that incite the viewer to question our own emotional and intellectual connection to the horrible struggle of empathetic characters we relate to more as family members than as mere victims of war.

Two protestant soldiers peer in through the family's window before entering the home to take Florya to join a nearby regiment of soldiers. It is the last time that we will feel any sense of home or normal life in the film. The soldiers' politeness turns abruptly to that of menacing authority figures taking Florya with them as a willing prisoner.

Comeandsee2

In the military camp, Florya meets a lovely but deranged teenaged girl named Glasha (disconcertingly played by Olga Mironova). It would be the only film role that Mironova would ever play. The wild-eyed stare of her steel-gray eyes makes Glasha as much of a potential monster as that of a would-be love interest for Florya to gravitate toward. Her sensuality and charisma is undeniable. That Glasha, dressed in a pretty green party dress, is carrying on an affair with the troop's boorish military chief only momentarily distracts from the extent of her mental instability. Inasmuch as we subjectively bestow sanity to the Partisan group's leader, Glasha is already a casualty of war. There is a contagious insanity in the air that infiltrates every character that Klimov introduces. Even nature seems to be in revolt.

Comeandsee11

The film's first act closes with a group photograph of the ragtag troop that provides a formal tableau of thick narrative subtext — witness a wounded soldier bandaged like a mummy and a black female cow with "Eat me before the Germans do," written in white on its side. Desperation is the coin of the day.

Upon their departure, the ragtag troop abandons the young boy that the military chief has quietly deemed unsuitable for the demands of battle. Florya's inconsolable anguish at being deserted by his surrogate family boils to a breaking point when he accidentally steps on a nest of eggs, killing the tiny birds in a glimpse of nature made horribly grotesque by his unavoidable human brutality. It's this violent and immediate style of detailed poetic storytelling that grips you and drags at your senses with an inescapable urgency of survival. Klimov's precise use of graphic symbolism will steadily increase to a fever pitch in the film's stunning postmodern climax where a backward moving collage collapses Hitler's Pandora's box of death and the war that determines Florya's survival.

Comeandsee9

The soldiers also abandon Glasha, whose sole purpose was sex. The two adolescent refugees cry into each other's eyes in a heartbreaking expression of raw emotion that Klimov captures with extended fourth-wall-breaking close-ups that intuitively editorialize on their fragile mental states. Florya recognizes Glasha's strange psychosis, but is unable to evade her spell. The pity that the soldiers take on the pair, by leaving them behind, backfires when a rash of falling German artillery shells permanently robs Florya of his hearing. The bombings are especially shocking for their violent realism that arrives suddenly with large swaths of forest ripped apart by earthquaking explosions accompanied by a high-pitched ringing that destroys Florya's hearing with tinnitus and wrecks his conscious mind.  

Comeandsee7

Klimov utilizes Florya's sensory deprivation with a twisted soundscape that indoctrinates us into Florya's pain and panic via a claustrophobic sonic space that increases our sense of being badly wounded. The next morning, Florya and Glasha frolic in the rain in a brief reverie where they momentarily forget the impending danger that awaits them. Under the muted sounds of sped up radio music, Glasha does an impromptu Charleston-styled flapper dance atop Florya's rain-soaked suitcase.

Comeandsee

There's a dreamlike quality to the couple's short-lived musical respite before an outlandish pelican-type bird conveys an unnerving omen of unexplained incidents to follow. Wild animal life will play an important part of the image system filigree that Klimov uses to regularly connect the story to its ecological foundation in the rugged landscape of war-torn Belarus. 

Florya and troops

Klimov is commanding in his willingness to create abstract visual motifs, as when Florya returns to his mother's house with Glasha as his partner. He peers at his reflection down in a well while looking for his family. We view Florya through the back end of an organic cinematic telescope through which he sees himself. His sense of personal recognition is all but lost. Florya doesn't see the mangled bloody bodies of his family and neighbors piled high against the backside of what was once his family's home. Glasha looks back and views the carnage as they walk away from the area but refrains from alerting Florya to the horror behind them for fear of his potential reaction.

Comeandsee10

Florya runs into a thick muddy swamp that he is compelled to cross, believing that his family is hiding on a small island that he must trudge through quicksand-like mud to get to. Glasha follows Florya into the mud. She holds onto the back of his coat as the young couple painfully make their way through the thick brown sludge. Klimov layers on subdued layers of musical textures and ambient sound to weave a theme of self-flagellation as assisted by Belarusia's uncontrolled topography that threatens to swallow up our protagonist and his mentally devastated female companion.

Comeandsee3

Glasha betrays Florya the first chance she gets when a Belarusian peasant helps her escape the mud. The traumatized Glasha loudly explains that Florya's family was killed, and that now he is deaf and out of his mind. Through his muted hearing, Florya hears Glasha's cruel words. He reacts with a pained cry that fully expresses a depth of agony that imprints the film with an indelible image of victimization. Moments later, Florya will be led by peasants to the badly burned body of his friend's father, who speaks his last words about how he begged the Germans that set him on fire to kill him. A crowd of desperate peasants chant under Klimov's soundscape of blowing wind. Florya sees a trench coat-dressed effigy of Hitler with a human skull head that the peasants put clay on to make more lifelike. A group cut off Florya's hair before burying it as part of a cleansing ritual that reinvents the traumatized Florya as a walking ghost. 

Comeandsee8

In the film's unpredictable third act Florya becomes a roaming independent soldier with a knack for barely escaping Nazi attacks. Florya's participation in expediting the extermination of a cornered group of Nazis by handing a gasoline filled can to a Nazi collaborator, is as suggestive an act as it is a literal one, for the Belarusian peasants will open fire on the Nazis before the fuel is ignited. Florya gains an historic perspective of Hitler that knows only annihilation. His hatred and fury seeks to eradicate the world of Adolph Hitler and his armies with severe prejudice. With his brain and body irreversibly changed, Florya has become the only thing that he will ever be capable of being for the rest of his life, a horribly disfigured soldier. 

Come_and_see

"Come and See" won the Moscow Film Festival's Grand Prize in 1985. Afterward, Elem Klimov was elected as first secretary of the Soviet Filmmakers' Union. During his two years on the post, Klimov oversaw the release of more than a hundred previously banned Soviet films. Elem Klimov went on to struggle with the idea of creating a film version of Bulgakov's "The Master and Margarita," and with making a film adaptation of Dostoevsky's "The Devils." However, in 2000, he gave up filmmaking because he felt that he had done "everything that was possible." The visionary Soviet filmmaker died on October 26, 2003 of cerebral hypoxia.

Elemklimov

Elem Klimov left behind a war film that accomplishes everything possible in cinema, and in so doing reinvents it. It eclipses every other war film by such a wide margin that there is no reason or impetus to watch any other. Come and see.

I first saw "Come and See" at the 1998 San Francisco Film Festival on advice from a pal who informed me that it was Sean Penn's favorite film. I can certainly see why Sean Penn feels the way he does about this brilliant movie.

Comeandsee4

Criterion's stunning 2K digital restoration on Blu-ray gives "Come and See" the beauty that this remarkable 142 minute film deserves. The disc includes interviews and documentary films that shed further light on "Come and See." It is truly a must-own Blu-ray for cinephiles and movie lovers alike.

5 Stars

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

This 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.

Cole Smithey on Patreon

Featured Video

SMART NEW MEDIA® Custom Videos

COLE SMITHEY’S MOVIE WEEK

COLE SMITHEY’S CLASSIC CINEMA

Throwback Thursday


Podcast Series