Selective Viewing

An exploration of film, video and other media by Kate Blair

Tag: film review

Dog Movies For Adults

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Dogs have appeared on the silver screen since the dawning days of cinema, when their tails wagged silently but joyfully in front of audiences, making viewers laugh, cry, and clap with delight. Dogs are our closest animal companions, and many hours of footage have been devoted to them – on smartphones, movie cameras and everything in between. Nearly as long as humans have walked upright, dogs have padded alongside, too often paying a steep price for this proximity through abuse and neglect. These animals arouse our empathy, but they are subjected to our exploitative nature all the same, a reminder that humans are just animals, fighting to live, sometimes at any cost. Dogs are fodder for rich, emotional stories, but these tend to be aimed at children rather than adults. However, there is the rare film that examines the relationships between dogs and people with an eye to more universal themes. The results range from heartfelt to horrific but are always provocative.

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Review – Kumiko the Treasure Hunter (dir. David Zellner, 2014)

kumiko treasure hunter says goodbye to bunzo

In Kumiko the Treasure Hunter (a Zellner Bros. production), a girl goes in search of a better life. Her pilgrimage takes her to from Tokyo to Fargo, North Dakota—hardly the type of place one would expect to be transformative. However, in the world of movies, the city of Fargo holds a special place. American movie buffs know this Midwestern snowscape as the setting for the darkly comedic 1994 Coen Brothers film, Fargo. It’s this movie that sets Zellner’s movie and Kumiko’s story in motion. Kumiko takes it for granted that one of the standout sequences in Fargo is real, or at least, a facsimile of a real event—the moment when Steve Buschemi’s character buries a suitcase filled with cash in a corner of North Dakota that is both desolate and unremarkable at the same time. Kumiko witnesses this action on a battered VHS tape, as a bloodied Buschemi is rippled by static. She becomes dead set on recovering the suitcase. Perhaps her confusion results from the way Fargo purposely conflates reality and fiction, or the manner in which she discovers the VHS itself, secreted away in a cave by the shore. In the end, it’s the voyage itself, not the reason, that matters.  Read the rest of this entry »

Sex, love, and violence: the allure of the vampire film

OLLA

The vampire genre is one of the classic strands of horror, reaching from the silent era to the present. These movies cover a wide spectrum of styles, from comedy-camp to blood-soaked gorefest. While almost all horror genres have gotten the arthouse treatment at some point, vampire films seem to lend themselves particularly well to stylized direction. Vampires films are the dreams of humanity, directly transcribed to the screen.

Vampires are in the middle of a pop-culture heyday, with the Twilight series recently in theaters and HBO’s TrueBlood, which just finished its 7-season run. Everyone likes a vampire flick. Vampires are sexy. They live forever without aging, as many people wish they could. Their human source of sustenance makes their morality indeterminate. Subsisting solely on blood makes them gaunt, like heroine-addicted rock stars. All the variables in vampire lore make these not-quite-human but not-entirely-inhuman creatures a perfect metaphor for many different themes. These five vampire movies make the most of what the genre has to offer and really give viewers something to chew over, so to speak.  Read the rest of this entry »

Review – Abuse of Weakness (Dir. Catherine Breillat, 2014)

Catherine Breillat’s newest film, Abuse of Weakness (2014), is pleasantly bizarre, and you never quite know what’s going to happen next. However, if you’re familiar with Breillat’s repertoire, you suspect the worst. This is all especially fascinating given the narrative is based on Breillat’s true life experience. Truth truly is stranger than fiction.

Kool Shen and Isabelle Huppert in Abuse of Weakness

The story is as follows: Filmmaker Maude (Isabelle Huppert) undergoes a stroke that effects the left half of her body. Afterwards, she sets out to resume her life.  Read the rest of this entry »

Review – Le Beau Serge (dir. Claude Chabrol, 1958)

le-beau-sergeOf the Cahiers du Cinema cohort, Chabrol was the first to make a film, which he wrote, shot and produced himself. The result is the startling complex Le Beau Serge, which inaugurated the French New Wave in 1958. In this first attempt, Chabrol introduces many of the themes he will continue to grapple with for the next 50 years or so. While the film has its share of awkward moments, it’s also filled with the kind of visual subtleties and intricate relationships that Chabrol would go on to refine throughout his prolific career.

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Review – Gravity (dir. Alfonso Cuarón, 2013)

Gravity Cuaron

How budget and CGI allowed Alfonso Cuarón to reinvent the filmgoing experience.

With Gravity, Alfonso Cuarón finds a perfect setting in which to utilize his love of sweeping camera movements and long takes. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban (2004), with it’s otherworldly rules, gave Cuarón a chance to stretch his wings a bit. When Harry hops on his broomstick and hurdles into the air, you can tell the director is enjoying the freedom of green screen and budgeting that allow him to lift off the ground. In Children of Men (2006), Cuarón once again favored camera fluidity, emphasizing the vast amounts of rubbled space in a childless future. The technique also creates a feeling of continuous action, providing an alternative to the rapid editing techniques over-used in action films. Here, harnessing a jaw-dropping environment unlike any other, he lets his instincts run wild. Read the rest of this entry »