Movies: Monuments Men and Interstellar

Over the rainy weekend we watched two movies: Monuments Men (in Japanese it is called Michelangelo Project!) and Interstellar. Both blockbuster movies from the usual American companies, they are light-years away when it comes to quality. The Monuments Men are boring, without a story, without depth, historically inaccurate, a complete failure. Interstellar, although a long movie, keeps you frozen in the seat while being as scientific as possible and starts your brain working heavily.

monuments-men-interstellar

My personal verdict: 3 rotten eggs (because Rotten Tomatoes are not stinky enough) for the Monuments Men, and 4 stars for Interstellar. Continue reading

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Movie: Werner Herzog – Fata Morgana

Finally I found the time and peace to watch one of the strangest movies that I have ever seen, Werner Herzog’s (Offical Site, Wikipedia) Fata Morgana (Wikipedia, IMDb). Footage prepared for a SF movie that never realized, converted into an impressionistic allegory and movie full of phantasms.
Werner_Herzog-Fata_Morgana

Fata Morgana is a movie that escapes every description. Having read several critics’ voices, as well as Herzog’s comments in the excellent interview/(auto)biography book Werner Herzog – A guide for the perplexed, I was eager to see this old and special movie. Having laid my hand on a collection of Werner Herzog’s old movies recently, I prepared some good Japanese sake, and was ready to enjoy the move.

The initial sequence of airplanes landing on a very hot day, again and again, sets the stage for a series of dream-like sequences in this movie. Divided into three parts, the movie tells its story only by visual impressions and the reading of the Mayan creation myth Popol Vuh, at times intermixed with some Leonard Cohen songs. Part One Creation introduces the desert as the origin of the world, accompanied by the initial creation myth before humans were formed. Part 2 Paradise is when humans enter into the desert. Full of ramshackle houses and rotten buildings, the contrast of the spoken words and imaginary cannot be more stunning. The final part 3 The Golden Age is full of absurdities and strange appearances, not surprisingly also most humans appear here.

Watching this movie is more a visual experience for me than about seeing a story line. While there are many ways to interpret the relation between the Popol Vuh and the movie sequences, for me it is more a visual experiment that tries in some sense to hypnotize the audience.

For those who love strange movies, an absolute must. For all others probably a torture.

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Movie: Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac Vol. I

Art? Pornography? Comedy? Shocker? Hard to say – the first volume of the new Lars von Trier movie Nymphomaniac (IMdB, Wiki) defies any characterization – as usual for von Trier.
Lars von Trier - Nymphomaniac - Volume I

This first part of an originally 5+h long movie starts with the elderly bachelor Seligman finding a beaten up woman, brings her to his appartment, where she starts recounting her story as nymphomani(a)c, while he tries to analyze it from his intellectual point of view.

Full of symbolisms hard to decipher (why are the Fibonacci numbers so present? what with the fly fishing? etc), the story develops over the life period of Joe, the girl, played by Charlotte Gainsbourg) from small age to adult. As with other films of von Trier, like to Europa Trilogy (Element of Crime, Epidemic, and Europa), or the USA: Land of Opportunities (unfinished) trilogy (Dogville, with the wonderful Nicole Kidman, and Manderlay), the movie is highly avant-garde, often held in black-and-white, and long scenes of impressions.

Although so much against the social norms, we cannot reject the feelings of sympathy for Joe, and the disgust for the men around her. Strange and disturbing. A metaphor – or deconstruction – of love as we know it? For me his movies are pieces of art, sometimes a bit deviant art, but worth every pain and every tear and every smile.

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Movie: Young & Beautiful (Jeune & jolie)

Some days ago I found a free evening to watch this movie, Young & Beautiful (IMDB, Wiki). Strange enough, the movie is titled 17歳 in Japan – seems the addiction of some parts of the Japanese society to under-aged women is the driving force here.

young-beautiful

The movie recounts the story of Isabelle, a high school girl with a profitable side job as call girl. One of her regular (mostly odler) clients, Georges, passes away in the act, which creates a bit of discomfort for Isabelle. She is tracked down, handed to police, and has a strict surveillance by her family afterwards, before having a strange encounter at the end.

The movie does not spare with erotic scenes, but never drops into primitive pornography. Depicting a complicated situation without simple answers, the spectator is left to himself to decide on which side his sympathies lie. A great movie without the all-to-often too simple answers.

Marine Vacth acting as Isabelle gives an outstanding performance, managing to combine a distanced attitude towards both the encounters and the money, as well as her (at times) intimate relationship with friends and family. Well worth watching.

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Movie: Almanya – Welcome to Germany

The (not so new – 2011) movie “Almanya – Welcome to Germany” (IMdB, 日本のサイト) took me by surprise. A comedy that ingeniously plays with common cliches about Turkish immigrants in German, but never drops into the abyss of so many movies not capable of sustaining it with good content. The movie follows three generations of Turkish immigrants, from the first arrival to the honoration with the chancellor.

Almanya

The film premiered at the 61st Berlin International Film Festival in the section competition and won the Deutscher Filmpreis 2011 in the categories Best Script and Best Film.

Wir riefen Arbeitskräfte, es kamen Menschen.Max Frisch quoted in the movie

Although it plays in Germany, I was reminded of many stories of friends from my school times in Austria, where, especially in Vienna, immigration was as common as in Germany. A heart-warming and at the same time clairvoyant portrait of the problems immigrants face in their new country, surrounded by different culture and different expectations. Something I realized again when moving to Japan.

Very enjoyable.

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Mona Lisa (Neil Jordan, 1986)

Sometimes there are movies that leave you thinking about different interpretations over and over again. Yesterday evening, we watched one of them, Neil Jordan‘s Mona Lisa from 1986.

jordan-mona-lisa

Described as classy kitsch by the New York Times, it features a surprisingly strong cast: Bob Hoskins as George, the tough but basically goodhearted British mob flunky, Cathy Tyson as Simone, the high class call girl with some queer corners, Robbie Coltrane as Thomas, George’s pal and endless story teller, and the great Michael Caine as Mortwell, the cooly vicious chief of a gang of London pimps and blackmailers.

Continue reading

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Movie: Now You See Me

Yesterday evening we watched a movie rented over at GEO, which to my surprise was quite funny. It is “Now You See Me” (offical website, Wikipedia, IMdB).

Now_You_See_Me

Turning around four gifted magicians that pull of a coup planned by a fifth (anonymous magician) robbing a bank, stealing a safe filled with money from a safe manufacturer, and bringing a guy into prison.

Cut in a very dynamic way, with lots of rolling cameras and flashy cuts, the movie’s plot is involved and leaves you wondering about who is who. The crew seemingly consists of famous people (but I only knew Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine), acting is slick and fashionable, someone quoted it as “Ocean’s Eleven” for the current generation.

I actually enjoyed the movie as a relaxed Sunday evening program, accompanied by some good sake and tsumami. Not that it is intellectually stimulating, but sometimes also my brains enjoys a break.

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Fritz Lang’s Metropolis – フリッツ・ラングのメトロポリス

metropolisFinally, the new version of Metropolis has arrived. It contains the material found in 2008 in Argentina, extending the previously known footage.

The movie is one of my favorites, from 1927 by Fritz Lang, is counted as the first full feature science fiction movie. It tells the story of overcoming the separation between ruling class and workers class, when the daughter of the mayor and one worker fall in love.

The powerful body and face language of the actors provides an impressive example of what silent movies can convey without words. Its value and power can be seen from the long history of remakes and retakes, as well as from the fact that it was the first movie inscribed into the Memory of the World Register.

metropolice-screenshotThe version I bought comes from a Japanese company, adding Japanese subtitles, a Japanese booklet, and Japanese packaging. Fortunately the movie was left intact. One funny thing with it is that the DVD producers thought about being intelligent and change the title of the DVD name from “Metropolis” to “Metropolice”, whatever that might be. See the title bar of the screenshot on the left.

So, the evening is planned …

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宮崎駿:風立ちぬ

kazetachinu結局宮崎駿の新しい映画「風立ちぬ」を見に行った。これまで見た映画「風の谷のナウシカ」、「もののけ姫」、「崖の上のポニョ」は全て面白くて、ストーリーボードは多層で、子供も大人も楽しめたから、新しい映画もそのとおりになると期待していた。

元々「風立ちぬ」は堀辰雄が書いた小説で、その後漫画もと二回映画になった。映画は主人公「堀越二郎」の話を伝える。子供の時から飛行機が好き、東京大学で航空学を卒業して、三菱内燃機製造に務めて、「零戦」という有名な戦闘機を設計した。映画はだいたいこのストーリーと恋人との話する。

映画のアニメーションがさすが完璧で音楽も似合って、時間を面白くに過ごしたが、今回の映画は深さが欠けていると思う。ストーリーが角がなくて直接に進んで、最初から最後までに驚いたことがなかった。先に述べた映画と比べたら、多層性と驚きがあまりなかったから、ちょっと残念な感じで期待に達していない。そう言っても、他の宮崎じゃない映画と比べたら、面白くて、見る価値がある。

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