24 Feb 2020

Promare (Hiroyuki Imaishi, 2019)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

Appearing like a Masaaki Yuasa's anime on LSD and/or heavy steroids, Promare is a trope-fueled sci-fi/fantasy action flick light on plot and characterization (though it addresses some burning issues), but excessively heavy on mind-blowing hyper-style which often acts as a substitute for substance. A spiritual successor to Imaishi's insanely brilliant directorial debut Dead Leaves (2004), it is a nonstop barrage of adrenalized motion, phosphorescent lights and psychedelic color combinations unconstrained by the angular linework. Frame after frame of intoxicating, highly concentrated visual delights, this unruly mecha-feature comes packed with an upbeat rock soundtrack and super-dedicated voice acting from the entire Japanese cast, enhancing the feeling that verges on spontaneous combustion.

20 Feb 2020

The Damned (Joseph Losey, 1962)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼


With unapologetic gusto, Oliver Reed portrays King - the dandy, charismatic leader of the Teddy Boys biker gang who employs his younger sister Joan (the ethereal, velvet-voiced Shirley Anne Field) as a bait to lure the unsuspecting tourists of Weymouth, England, into a beat & rob trap. His latest victim is a middle-aged American fella, Simon (Macdonald Carey, excellent), who falls for Joan's charms (who wouldn't?) in the same way the viewer becomes infatuated with the beautiful cinematography and 'sort of unfinished' fossil-like sculptures seen during the opening sequence. As the story untangles, the trio finds themselves trapped in a secret government facility where they meet a group of nine eleven-year-olds with ice-cold skin...

And let's stop at this point, because revealing more of The Damned goings-on would ruin the mystery which surrounds both its characters and slightly bizarre, Twilight Zone-ish narrative playing on the 60s fear of nuclear war, and exploring the theme of human condition. Although it does take awhile to get to the main course, the film is continually involving, and not to mention generating the strong sense of wonder that seems to have faded or entirely disappeared from many of the modern cinematic offerings. Even the tiny pieces that don't quite fit in at first glance do have their purpose in the grand scheme of things - one such 'piece' is an eccentric artist named after the Norse goddess of love Freya and wonderfully portrayed by magnetic Viveca Lindfors who delivers some of the most memorable lines. Speaking of actors, the ensemble cast functions like a well-oiled machine or rather, a well-balanced organism, with no one stealing the spotlight, and all of the children being amazing in their roles!

On the surface, The Damned is a sci-fi B-movie, but once you start digging into it, you may be surprised by how insightful (and dark) it can be. Refusing to have all of the questions answered, it lightly carries the atmosphere of impending doom reflected in Freya's brooding, roughly chiseled statues and amped up by James Bernard's 'nervous' string score typical of the period. The enjoyment of watching it rests on its stark black and white visuals - Losey and his DoP Arthur Grant compose each scene with meticulous care, making the most of breathtaking shooting locations and less impressive, yet handsomely designed studio sets. Oh, and let's not forget the groovy Black Leather Rock theme song which is given ominous tones via Teddy Boys' whistling...

19 Feb 2020

7+7 preporuka za FEST 2020

Pod sloganom Skupljači emocija, od 28. februara do 8. marta biće održan 48. FEST iz čije šarolike ponude bih najpre izdvojio Svetionik Roberta Egersa, jednog od najtalentovanijih reditelja svoje generacije. Ovaj neobičan amalgam psihološke drame, apsurdne komedije i gotskog horora klaustrofobične atmosfere valjalo bi doživeti na što većem platnu, budući da je jedan od njegovih glavnih aduta izvrsna ekspresionistička fotografija.

Ako ste raspoloženi za snažan nalet anarhične energije, ne smete propustiti Istinitu priču o Kelijevoj bandi - visceralni, odlično režirani pank-vestern koji legendarnog australijskog odmetnika Neda Kelija (bravurozna izvedba Džordža Mekeja) predstavlja kao problematičnu rok zvezdu (OVDE možete pročitati moju mini-recenziju). 

Treće mesto na listi preporuka pripada "reklamnom eksperimentu" Neverovatna devojka Luke Gvadanjina kome je romantična drama Zovi me tvojim imenom donela svetsku slavu, da bi publiku i kritiku podelio rimejkom kultne Suspirije. Precizno vodeći sjajan glumački ansambl na čelu sa Džulijen Mur i Kajlom Meklahlanom (u čak tri uloge!), istaknuti italijanski reditelj uspešno postiže kompromis između visoke mode i klasičnog filma.

Ne bi trebalo propustiti ni krimi-komediju Prva ljubav Takašija Mikea koji se nakon nekoliko osrednjih adaptacija mangi vraća u formu, odnosno u svet jakuza gde se najbolje snalazi. Jednostavna priča o bokseru i prostitutki koji bivaju "uhvaćeni u mrežu šverca droge tokom jedne noći u Tokiju" ne nudi ništa revolucionarno, ali joj bizaran humor (šifra: belo rublje) i pojedini detalji (šifra: plišani pas) daju poseban šmek.

Ukradeni život u kojem se gusto prepliću veličanstvena pastoralna lepota austrijskih Alpa, antifašistički sentiment i metafizička meditacija sasvim sigurno će obradovati ljubitelje Terensa Malika i njegove "poezije u visokoj travi", a manje strpljivi gledaoci će možda želeti da svoje vreme posvete nešto drugačijem i smelijem (a znatno kraćem) preispitivanju vere u sumorno uslikanoj poljskoj drami Telo Hristovo koja bi za talentovanog Bartoša Bieleniju mogla da bude odskočna daska za nastavak karijere.

Kao sedmi među proverenim naslovima spomenuo bih još i Splav meduze Karpa Aćimovića-Godine iz programa FEST Klasik.

A što se neodgledanih filmova tiče, najprimamljivije mi deluje sedmorka koju čine Obojena pticaO beskonačnosti, LožaBela kao snegGrehVivarium Radioaktivno...

The Lighthouse / True History of the Kelly Gang / The Staggering Girl

17 Feb 2020

In Search of Tanatos (Nikola Gocić, 2020)


My second solo animated project or rather, 'motion picture book' is online! If you can spare six and a half minutes of your time, please check it out!

Our apples were not picked in the Garden of Eden.
They arrived from Nowhere and shortly after, they returned to the very same Void...

concept, art, direction: Nikola Gocić
music: Microgravity in Macrosapience by Mother Beth VS Blondie (Predrag Karanjac), from 2013 album Nihil ex Nihilo

11 Feb 2020

Contract (Vladimir Tarasov, 1985)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

Lately, I've been keen on exploring Soviet-era animation which is how I've come upon Tarasov's 10-minute sci-fi short Contract. Based on the story Company Store (1958) by Robert Silverberg, this delightfully odd piece of the 80s psychedelia focuses on an unnamed colonist (voiced by Aleksandr Kaydanovskiy of the Stalker fame!) whom we meet zapping giant monsters with his laser gun on an uninhibited planet. It turns out the creatures (and the suddenly appeared protective field) are but a sneaky ploy of a trading robot, QBF-41, so our hero tries to chase him away... but all in vain, because the little guy (whose body is shaped like a vintage cash register, btw) is pretty persistent on selling goods. However, QBF-41 is the least of our hero's problems...

A witty stab at capitalism, Contract (originally, Контракт) is packed with a healthy dose of wonderful visuals, considering its limited time frame. Similar to one of Tarasov's earlier offerings, Mirror of Time (Зеркало времени, 1976), the design of human characters is pseudo-realistic, with its high contrast shading and bold color palette of matted reds and oranges getting all the images easily burned into one's mind. What makes them even more impressive are the light touches of surrealism, especially during the epilogue which is aurally laced with the recording of I Can't Give You Anything but Love, Baby performed by Ella Fitzgerald in 'Louis Armstrong impersonation' key.

9 Feb 2020

The Dream of Reborn Venus

Inspired by Hokusai's The Dream of the Fisherman's Wife and Botticelli's The Birth of Venus, this piece is a part of my upcoming 'motion picture book' In Search of Tanatos...

True History of the Kelly Gang (Justin Kurzel, 2019)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼

Denying its title in the opening epigraph, True History of the Kelly Gang walks (or rather, carves) the thin line between admiration and condemnation of the notorious bushranger Ned Kelly (a tremendously intense portrayal by George MacKay), and plays out like a snarling, biting, unruly poetic and increasingly delirious punk western that bursts with anarchic energy, hypnotizes with its brutal viscerality, and features some of the most awe-inspiring, borderline surreal shots of the bleakly beautiful 'Outback', a compelling cast of grimy characters brought to life by virtue of expressive acting, and a healthy dose of f*ckingly good flickering which turns the final confrontation of Ned vs. the coppers into the nightmarish climax. Kurzel directs with an assured hand, often drawing bold moves in favor of the film's quirkiness (queerness?), and makes a troubled rock star out of his anti-hero, adding a welcome twist of modernity to the 19th century legend.

6 Feb 2020

Nevrland (Gregor Schmidinger, 2019)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼

"I say unto you: one must still have chaos in oneself to be able to give birth to a dancing star.
I say unto you: you still have chaos in yourselves."
Friedrich Nietzsche


It is not by mere chance that Gregor Schmidinger opens his promising feature debut with the above-cited words of the great philosopher, because the main protagonist of his (coming-of-age-and-out) story does have a lot of chaos in himself. And it is probably not by chance he names him Jakob, considering that one of many influences felt or recognized in Nevrland (no, it's not a typo!) is Adrian Lyne's cult horror Jacob's Ladder.

Struggling with uncontrollable anxiety attacks and repressed (homo)sexuality, not to mention a huge birthmark on his chest, this 17-yo boy is prone to escaping into the imaginary forest of lush vegetation or spending nights in the virtual world of gay porn. A chat room encounter with a 26-yo artist, Kristjan, sends him down the rabbit hole (or rather, into the labyrinth) of self discovery and healing, as the film that initially appears to be narrative gradually transforms into a nightmarish mood piece.


In turns darkly poetic, candidly sensual, brutally naturalistic and just outright creepy, yet consistent in its exploration of various themes, ranging from modern masculinity to familial pressure to mental health, Schmidinger's psychological drama plunges the viewer directly into the void of (young) human mind, and increasingly blurs the boundaries between fantasy and reality. From the very opening scene, it lures us in with its beautiful imagery which comes off as quite eclectic - Jakob's escapist wanderings mesmerize with their refreshing greens and blues, his everyday is draped in sickly drab tones which become warmer towards the end, whereby the underground club flickers with hellish reds à la Gaspar Noé. And one of the most impressive shots arrives halfway through the film - the birdview of the ornate B&W marble floor of Vienna's Kunsthistorisches Museum which portends our hero's 'fall' and reflects the complexity of his inner workings.

While he demonstrates versatility in his visual style, the author elicits wonderful performance from Simon Frühwirth who portrays Jakob with heart-aching vulnerability, seething energy and micro expressions, as well as from Paul Forman whose Kristjan is an enigmatic figure, simultaneously seductive and subtly menacing. Both of them bring palpable chemistry to the screen, whereas the contrasting personalities of their characters establish tension which corresponds with the stark disparities of Jakob's larger-than-life longings and unenviable situation.

A perfectly trippy companion piece to Till Kleinert's Der Samurai, Nevrland is a damn fine borderline horror flick which the fans of David Lynch may find thrilling...

3 Feb 2020

Kindle - a time capsule for my death told in three parts


Behind the long title KINDLE - a time capsule for my death told in three parts hides a 7-minute collage film which marks a new milestone in the successful collaboration between NYC-based artist Martin Del Carpio and I. In the past couple of years, I have designed numerous posters and covers for Martin's shorts (including his latest and most accomplished live-action offering, Auricular Confession) and music singles (such as the one for Si La Muerte), respectively, so I was delighted (and at once, a bit scared) when he asked me to create the visuals for Kindle, immediately after I released my debut animation, Untold. We're both pretty happy with the results of this small experiment, and I hope the viewers will feel our mutual satisfaction. Speaking of the viewers, their discretion is strongly advised, because the second chapter contains some nudity and references to sexual activity.

You can listen to the soundtrack from Martin Del Carpio's official Bandcamp page, HERE.

1 Feb 2020

Cinematic Favorites 01/20

“Cinema is cinema. Church is church. Told the father. Did you ever see God in the house of the Devil?”
(João Viana, Our Madness, 2018)

The Cinematic Favorites series which started around this time last year continues, and the first edition of 2020 encompasses six oldies, six features released between 2000 and 2020, as well as six shorts - all first-time watches - which left the strongest impression on me. Its mid-section comes off as the most eclectic one, given that it includes, respectively, a formally challenging period drama composed of stunning tableaux vivants not unlike the masterpieces of Dutch masters + a brutal, deeply absorbing historical epic holding the power of an ancient myth + a satirical Russian thriller boasting cartoonish violence and great humor + a visually delightful anime which sees Masaaki Yuasa at his most mawkish and restrained + an exotic mood piece of dreamlike qualities co-produced by France, Portugal, Mozambique, Guinea-Bissau & Qatar (sic!) + a teen rom-com which totally caught me by surprise with its unaffected performances, hints of magic realism, and tongue-in-cheek self-awareness.

OLDIES


1. The Lodger (Alfred Hitchcock, 1927)
2. The Empty Canvas (Damiano Damiani, 1963)
3. History of Cinema in Popielawy (Jan Jakub Kolski, 1998)
4. Caravaggio (Derek Jarman, 1986)
5. Tristana (Luis Buñuel, 1970)
6. Short Night of Glass Dolls (Aldo Lado, 1971) 

2000-2020


1. The Portuguese Woman (Rita Azevedeo Gomes, 2018)
2. Apocalypto (Mel Gibson, 2006)
3. Why Don't You Just Die! (Kirill Sokolov, 2018)
4. Ride Your Wave (Masaaki Yuasa, 2019)
5. Our Madness (João Viana, 2018)
6. Tamara (Alexandre Castagnetti, 2016)

SHORTS


1. What Did Jack Do? (David Lynch, 2017)
2. Sweep Away Hungry Ghosts (Zhang & Knight, 2020) 
3. M.C. Echer: Adventures in Perception (Han Van Gelder, 1972) 
4. The Clapping Tree (Jutta Pryor, 2020)
5. My Juke-Box (Florentine Grelier, 2019)
6. Nagi 2 (Takatoshi Arai, 2020)