Donnerstag, 26. September 2013


French-Canadian director Denis Villeneuve's "Prisoners" is an almost in every way commendable dramatic thriller: plot-driven, performance-heavy, solid old-fashioned storytelling of which there should only be more. But...but... it's just so maddeningly, distractingly imperfect on so many levels! The script is plagued by plausibility issues as people keep looking the wrong places and asking the bad questions. Jake Gyllenhaal's detective character is especially messily written, sabotaging the emotional involvement of the audience and the necessary balance in a narrative about choices. In retrospect the film is also faultily structured. Clocking in at 158 min, way too much time is spent on red herrings and blunt morality tests. There are weak links in the overall impressive cast (hello, Terrence Howard), but Hugh Jackman brings great volatility and vulnerability to the central figure and Viola Davis, in her sadly limited role, is divine.

This movie is not nearly as strong as Villeneuve's last feature "Incendies" (my Top 10 of 2011), but when it works, it's quite the adrenaline ride. The last hour, with its goosebumps-worthy big reveal, is intense as hell.

Sonntag, 8. September 2013

Short takes

Much like good movies, bad movies also cross national boundaries and transcend cultural differences, as I was so forcefully reminded by recent viewing experiences.

The American indie "Adore" by French director Anne Fontaine, about two life-long girlfriends who fall for each other's sons, is so clunkily written and ineptly directed it elicits bonafide cringes and unintentional laughs at virtually every turn of events. Despite its source material by esteemed author Doris Lessing and a Sundance premiere earlier this year, a sordid and thoroughly absurd affair.

Premiering in competition (!) at Cannes last year, writer/director Sang-soo Im's erotic thriller "돈의 맛 (The Taste of Money)", supposedly about the moral decadence, familial and political powerplay of the über-rich in South Korea, crashes very soon on its own sleek, polished production design thanks to a half-baked, wildly unfocused plot, the equally erratic, borderline schizophrenic tone and some truly awful acting.

Without a bow at any film festival and displaying no aspiration for critical appreciation whatsoever, German director/writer/actor Til Schweiger's comedy "Kokowääh 2" reaches nonetheless a new low in the star's ever stinkier filmography. Incoherent, tasteless, deadly unfunny in just about every respect, this movie is so soul-crushingly bad the only thing more embarrassing/depressing than watching the tired Til Schweiger-shtick is knowing the German audience was taken hostage yet again, making it the local box-office champ of the year so far.

Dienstag, 3. September 2013

L'inconnu du lac (Stranger by the Lake)

With just "L'inconnu du lac (Stranger by the Lake)" and "La vie d'Adèle (Blue Is the Warmest Color)", this year's French cinema has covered graphic, unsimulated sex scenes featuring all gender combinations- something for everybody!

Other than the shared easy carnality, though, Alain Guiraudie's lakeside thriller pales in comparison to the Palme d'Or winner as its underwritten script, lackluster pacing and mostly wooden performances fail to provide it with any sustained tension or noteworthy thrill. There's a nice twist in the final act I didn't see coming and the last shot of the movie, dark, blank, pregnant with a sense of deplorable desperation, is super smart, but pour moi it's too little too late.