10 posts categorized "Satire"

May 09, 2020

THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE & HER LOVER


CookThiefLoverPeter Greenaway's reputation as Britain's most ferocious intellectual filmmaker reached its apex in 1989 with his sixth feature film. Although everything about this black comedy including its tongue-twisting title challenges audiences, "The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover" remains Greenaway's most successful effort. Methodically constructed in the Jacobean form of Elizabethan revenge tragedies, the movie is an unrestrained attack on Margaret Thatcher's version of Ronald Reagan-style capitalism that infected the globe.

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Greenaway conceived his film as a play, "a performance," with which the audience is meant to engage. His strict adherence to formal laws of theatrical dramaturgy, including proscenium staging, is attenuated by a non-stop assault of physical and verbal violence from the film's loathsome antagonist Albert Spica. In the role of Albert, Michael Gambon embodies his boorish character with a virulent toxicity of epic scale.

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Greenaway lets the audience know what it's in for during a tense opening sequence. Albert dislodges the owner of a haute cuisine restaurant named Le Hollandaise. The restaurant's proprietor "Roy" (note the allusion to a "king") hasn't been keeping up on his protection payments to Albert, a mean-spirited mob boss with a taste for fine dishes he can barely pronounce. Peter Greenaway predicted a future he hoped wouldn't arrive. It did. The vicious way Albert tortures Roy and smears his nude body with feces reflects the same cruel brand of devastating psychological humiliation later committed by guards at Guantánamo prison.

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Against Albert's orders his elegant wife Georgina (Helen Mirren) smokes cigarettes as a singular act of insubordination. Knowing her turn will come, she nevertheless tolerates Albert's brutish behavior toward others. Inside the grand restaurant Albert confers with his "employee," a veteran French chef named Richard (Richard Bohringer), about the menu.

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The dining room's red color scheme is watched over by Dutch painter Frans Hals's "Banquet of the Officers of the St. George Civic Guard Company" —  another thematic poke by the filmmaker. Albert spews his cockney variety of verbal bile at a large rectangular table that allows for Greenaway's formal tableaux compositions to blossom. Challenging thematic ideas come in spades.

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Striking costumes by Jean-Paul Gautier and a haunting musical score by Michael Nyman augment the film's purposefully artificial execution. Georgina strikes up an affair with Michael (Alan Howard), a solitary man who reads as he dines across from Albert's table of savages. Over the course of the next few nights the lovers retreat to the restaurant's bathroom and kitchen to make love between courses. Their trysts represent a desperate escape of independent thinkers from an oppressive outside world that would just as soon eat them alive, or dead.

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"The Cook, The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover" is a masterpiece of British cinema built on several hundred years of literary tradition. The film must be viewed more than once to begin to digest its pungent and subtle layers of rope-thick satire. There are far worse cinematic fates to be had. 

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Five Stars

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

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October 11, 2019

PARASITE — THE CRITERION COLLECTION

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

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 pal! Your generosity keeps the reviews coming!

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ColeSmithey.comCannes film festival favorite Bong Joon-ho (“The Host” and “Mother”) is a gifted Korean satirist with an international sensibility for the many ways that capitalist oppression operates against citizens.

You don’t need to know a thing about the social mores of South Korea to empathize with a lower class family infiltrating a wealthy family’s home in the guise of private tutors, a personal driver, and a maid.

This is a familial interloper movie on a Robert Altman narrative scale.

Parasite

If Americans feign condescension for welfare recipients, that knee-jerk class-aware prejudice is indisputably promoted through our capitalist propaganda that runs the gambit from movies, commercials, podcasts, news broadcasts, and from the oh-so-vocal (if inarticulate) editorial voices played on radio stations and online.

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If there’s one thing the filmmakers here know, it’s that you can never underestimate people in control of their own minds. So it is that our entrepreneurial family of domestic interlopers make do in their ghetto basement hovel by folding pizza boxes to make their daily living. The Kim family fight an ongoing battle with bums who pee in their window sills. Yelling isn’t always the best option.

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The family’s son Kim Ki-woo (persuasively played by Woo-sik Choi) learns from his college student pal about a family named Park in need of an English tutor for their teenage daughter Da-Hye (Jung Ziso). Ki-woo’s sister Kim Ki-jung (So-dam Park) employs advanced computer graphic skills to create a fake college diploma to assist in his job quest. Dog eat dog social-climbing strategies take hold. Behavioral skills are honed to a diamond edge as the Kim family work their way into the Park family household one by one.  

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Bong Joon-ho deftly shifts perspectives between the characters, enabling the audience to digest the story’s themes of alienation with different motivations in mind. Some are more noble than others. “Parasite” is an evocative title for an onion-layered filmic essay about our (humanity’s) place in social systems that reward corruption and punish poverty in not so equal measure. Every house holds secrets that can send the whole thing crashing down at any moment. If you come out of this movie thinking that the capitalist system is the invisible parasite of the story, you just might be on to something.   

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"Parasite" is a loving homage to interloper films such as Claude Chabrol's elegant "La Cérémonie" and Fred Schepisi's terrific adaptation of "Six Degrees of Separation." Suspense, danger, and humor are equal parts of the equation. No wonder "Parasite" won the 2019 Palme d'Or at Cannes, the film clearly deserved the honor.

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Rated R. 132 mins.

Five Stars

Cozy Cole

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July 05, 2017

OKJA — CANNES 2017

OkjaBong Joon Ho’s family-friendly political satire could well be the most important film of 2017. Without addressing this film’s canny political statements about corporate-controlled food production, “Okja” was preemptively ostracized at Cannes by Pedro Almodóvar who feigned indignation over “Okja’s” Netflix release because it wasn’t being played on big screens in France.

Almodóvar’s pre-festival comments most certainly queered the film's chances of winning the Palme d’Or, for which it was in competition. The Spanish filmmaker’s public statements during a pre-festival press conference at Cannes were pointedly overstated considering that there is already a French law that prevents VOD releases occurring until three years after a film’s theatrical run. Never mind that Pedro Almodóvar’s career has been on the wane since 2011 when he made “The Skin I Live In.” There were a lot of sour grapes at this year’s festival.

Netflixable? Make “Okja,” and the Fan(boys) Go Wild | Movie Nation

Bong Joon Ho’s mother country of South Korea blocked “Okja’s” release due to Netflix’s simultaneous theatrical and online release, which should be standard operating procedure by now to begin with. However much the cards seem to be stacked against “Okja,” the film is destined to go down in history based on its merits as an international satire with teeth.

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Director Joon-ho co-wrote “Okja” with Jon Ronson (“The Men Who Stare At Goats”) based on Ronson’s original script. While the film is not without its kneejerk clichés, it clocks editorial punches that connect regarding genetically modified food and ways in which corporations, and the corporate media, spin the sins they are guilty of committing. Think Exxon or Monsanto.

Jake Gyllenhaal Photostream | Jake gyllenhaal, Okja movie, Jake g

Tilda Swinton plays dual roles as good/evil siblings Nancy/Lucy Mirando, granddaughters of a corporate raider whose sins they are professedly correcting through ethical means. Sound familiar? Lucy gives a press conference announcing the breeding of a “super pig” which will be used to feed the world 10 years down the line.  

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Jump 10 years. Mija (An Seo-hyun) is a young girl living an idyllic life in the mountains of South Korea with her grandfather and her docile super pig Okja, that she has been given to raise. Naturally, the Mirando Corporation wants their prize pig back. They send in Johnny Wilcox, a goofball television animal expert to take Okja away from Mija. The film goes on a full frontal attack when it employs the Animal Liberation Front (referencing an actual international [leaderless] group committed to “engaging in illegal [nonviolent] direct action in pursuit of animal rights.” Paul Dano plays Jay, the group’s sensitive leader.  

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“Okja” is an effective piece of filmic political satire that can now only be viewed in the context of the pressures mounted against it. As is life, it’s good to know who your enemies are.

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Rated TV-MA. 118 mins.

3 Stars

COLE SMITHEY

Groupthink doesn't live here, critical thought does.

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 pal! Your generosity helps keep the reviews coming!

Cole Smithey on Patreon

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