I feel comforted to submerge myself back into The World of Rohmer. A world of sensitive souls being sensitively souled. A human world. A world where Kants Critique of Pure Reason is plucked off a bookshelf.
And then I invariably get slowly exasperated by how self-absorbed his sensitive souls are becoming. Talking about every minor little thinking. Over-analysisng everything to death. I feel contempt for how self-centred they all appear to be. And then I realise that thoughtfulness and feelingfulness is why I want to watch these films in the first place. So I relax into the small worlds they are inhabiting inside their own souls. I become absorbed within their self-absorption – drop myself back in to who they are, and where they’re at. I even get to enjoy basking in their shadows again. As if a little bit of being French becomes me (!)
I don’t know if I want to summarise the story of this film. Or relive the characters. It was ok to be with them while I was watching them, but now – a week later – I don’t feel that bothered. It’s like dwelling on feelings that have already flown away. Clinging onto filmic characters fictional stories about what may or may have been part of the past that no longer presently apply.
I think that’s the crux of Rohmer films: people clinging, so self-consciously, to what is occurring in their heads. Making stories up about how they are or the others around them are meant to be being. They’re obsessively digging little holes inside their gaping self-consciousness. Like they’re nagging and chasing their worries around in ever inverted circles. In other words, it feels introverted and neurotic. Not that introverted and neurotic is necessarily bad. Or even unentertaining (aka Woody Allen) But too much self-absorption can get to feel like a weary old thing, too self-referential and self-regarding. And nearly all the “sensitive souls” in Rohmers films get to appear too selfish and too solipsistic to be bothered by or bothering with. After an hour and a half you want to call time on the session and go off and do something non-psychological, like prune the roses or knit a sock.
I’ve written this in half an hour, as is. Its not really a review of the film (so don’t read it as such) More of a reflection upon how Rohmer turns me into a little self-absorbed knot of furry feeling (!)
Anyway, this film is probably not worth watching again. But I say that about most Rohmers films. Then I go and watch them again. It’s like I’m craving something that feels like intimacy in his films. But the intimacy gets to feel too much…..too clingy….too sticky…..
Dir: Eric Rohmer, France
Living on your own in a big Mexican city. Working from home as a jobbing journalist. Not going out much. Reading the Art of Loving (Erich Fromm) Spying on (and masturbating to) neighbours from the bedroom window. Eating supper from a tin with the telly on. This is Laura’s lonely life.
Temporary relief comes through perfunctory sex with guys picked up at a bar; they give her a quick fuck then fuck off.
“I have lots of friends here, I’m doing very well, I’m very happy” she lies to her brother.
Along comes Arturo; slapping, spanking, throttling her. Less perfunctory sex. More intense sex. He’s raping her from behind up a wall, hitting her in the face. Then he’s pissing on her.
Is this what she’s wanting? Sado-masochistic intensity simulating emotional intimacy?. They seem loving enough after he’s done all this degrading stuff to her. He’s not fucking off, wants to know more about her. Curiously, she doesn’t want him to know much, content to be lying curled across his lap on the sofa while he’s stroking her hair.
Come the end things drop down even darker. She wants him to be murdering her while fucking her. He’s agreeing to do it. It has to happen tomorrow night on the 29th Feb. Its the date she’s been waiting for (crossing the days off on her calendar) the date of her fathers death.
Very dark disturbing stuff indeed. The more so because she appears to be craving this ultimate release: her own death. She’s gleeful when he’s nodding he’ll do it. So maybe she was planning to kill herself anyway, and Arturo is simply assisting her suicide. Why she wants to die is left ambigious. Implicitly it seems related to her father; we infer his sexual abuse of her may be implicated in this lonely depressed life she’s been living.
This is an intense, claustrophobic film. Virtually everything is filmed from within her flat. There are no camera moves, no close ups, no over the shoulder or reaction shots. We watch so static and still. A sense that we are alone there with her in the flat, witnessing her solitary suffering. Although the sadomasochism is explicit it isn’t pornographic; you aren’t going to be entertained watching this (well, I wasn’t) I was wondering (and wincing) why she was wanting to be humiliated and abused like this. Because she felt she deserves it? Because it replicated Big Daddy abuse? Because she got acceptance and approval for being a willing victim? (like she did curled up on the sofa with Arturo afterwards)
But the 29th passed. And she didn’t die. A new month, a blank page on the calendar. Time to start again. Hopefully, not with loads of red crosses.
Dir: Michael Rowe, Mexico (an Australian director)
An old codger who prefers nothing to change, everything to stay the same. “An apple a day keeps the doctor away” he says every morning. In English. Even though he’s German.
A man who wouldn’t want adventures. But he’s getting one anyway. He’s going to have to change. Because he’s dying.
His lovely wife is worrying sick about him. Decides they are going to have that adventure. Off to Berlin. And Japan. She’s not told him he’s dying.
On the train to Berlin she’s producing an apple. “An apple a day keeps the doctor away ” he robotically drones out (time for slap – now!)
Their unsympathetic (grown up) kids in Berlin haven’t wanted them staying. So they escape to the Baltic. The death that is to come is foreshadowed; but not his – hers. Shockingly I suppose. But it feels like a filmic or fictive death, more to do with the story still to be told than anything I would consider to be real-to-life. In other words a plot contrivance.
So we’re stuck with this grumpy old sod for the rest of the film (another 80 minutes to go) His kids don’t want to be stuck with him either.
He’s off to Japan. The land of the transient cherry blossom. And Mount Fuji. Where is wife could have gone to be a butoh dancer (if not stuck with him, being his dutiful hausfrau) He’s making a kind of hommage or atonement for the wishes she never fulfulled. Staying with selfish son Karl in his too small flat in over crowded Tokyo. Karl doesn’t want to be stuck with him either. His vater is soon lost inside the confusing big city chaos.
Lost old Rudi needs to undergo some kind of transformation. For his sake. For his wifes sake. And also for our sake. Because this film is getting to sag in the middle. He needs to be found. And he needs to find his wife, discover where her spirit has gone.
To the rescue comes elfin Butoh dancer Yu. She ungrumps Rudi, lifts his spirit. And she lifts the film. I’m liking her. Much needed to lighten and leaven Rudi’s stodge. She’s helping Rudi find his dead wifes spirit, by recreating her living shadow.
I’ve edited this vid of Yu showing Rudi how to Butoh clipped together with the shadow dance finale he has with his wifes spirit next to Mount Fuj.
It’s a sweet film. At times a bit twee (the whole waiting for shy Mr Mount Fuji). The symbolism feels over-determined. He does dance with wife then drops down dead himself in front of Mount Fuji. How stagey is that?!
But its hearts in the right place.
Dir: Doris Dorrie, Germany
You have to be in the mood for Bela Tarr. A miserable mood is best. You don’t get much to amuse or entertain or enlighten you. And you can’t really watch his films with others, you have to watch them on your own. Share their desolation only with yourself, hide the despair within, keep it private.
But there’s a kind of tough comfort to be had inside his misery making.
Like with other films of his I’ve seen this film shares similar tropes and traits: torrential rain, squelching mud, skulking black dogs, watching and waiting, peering around corners, the camera sliding slowly off out of the mise en scene.
Here are some of the rainiest rain bits from Damnation. Raining
cats dogs and dogs it is.
I’ve got about as much idea of whats going on as that poor dog at the end there. To bark probably makes as much sense as to talk. This human misery is all too meaningless. Barking bonkers. Without redemption.
Even love gets us nowhere. Or sinks us even further into the mire of our misery. We’re doomed to love, and doomed by love.
“It’s finished… It’s all over… Over…. And there won’t be another … It won’t be good…. Ever again….. Never more….. Maybe never more” goes the song.
Our existential misery-guts “Karrer” loves this bar singer. But she’s loathing to love him. Can’t stand what a hopeless loser he is. “You’ve killed the love and decency inside you” she says, “You’ve given up”.
She’s doing alot of pushing him away. Repulsed by him. But he’s claiming her. His passion (his suffering) for her, appears irresistible. She’s relenting, by relieving. Trying to love him together again.
That’s not really sex. It’s like a mother soothing a child, giving solace to his suffering inside her.
And I love the way the camera slowly slides away, making their act of love seem incidental, of no great significance, just another small everyday life event. Not to be dwelt on. Its not for us to see or be getting turned on by (and yet I am turned on by it. Its far more erotic than the blatant stupidities of most grunting porn)
As with all Tarr’s films everything in this has happened at a funeral pace. Or happened without much apparent interest in being part of any plot that delivers a story.
None of the characters do small talk. Conversation isn’t conversational. It tends towards abstruse angsty utterance. I’m hearing “hopelessness” a lot and contradictory talk about clinging, not clinging. giving up, not giving up. Karrer doesn’t seem like a normal or ordinary small person. But like an every-person. Like a Hungarian every-person typical of the times. Prone to feeling stagnant dispiriting gloom. Hungary must have been a horribly hopeless place to live in back in its grim communist days (if this film is anything to go by)
So, admittedly, I don’t always understand what I’m meant to be watching or making meaning of in Tarrs films. I don’t comprehend on a conscious level too much; but something seems to seep in subconsciously because his films live in me afterwards.
After all my long watching is long gone I’m still feeling inside them as if in some kind of slowed down depressive dream. Probably why I wouldn’t want to return to them too often. But I’ll keep this film. Just in case I need a dose of damnation again.
Dir: Bela Tarr, Hungary
7/10 (again, rating Tarrs films feels sort of pointless)
“I’m sick of your fucking moods. We could have been clubbin it. What planet are you on?” so says Morverns raver chick girlfriend Lana.
Yes, Morvern Callar has been in a bit of a mood for most of the film. On account of finding boyfriend dead (he killed himself) chopping his body up into chunks in the bath – then burying it/him with a trowel on lonely Scottish moorland.
Understandable really. That she’s gone a bit oddbodball. Off on her planet Morvern.
Working in a supermarket on fruit and veg isn’t really gonna cut it anymore. And you’ve passed your dead fella’s novel off as yours and 2 publishing twats from London are gonna give you £100, 000 for it. Let’s make whoopee. Or something.
Life is unreal (and barely credible) So you gotta scram, get out of that small dreary Scottish town (Oban) – and take off on adventures into somewhere far out. Of course you could end up in a loony bin.
The fruitcake Morvern Callar: just starting out on her long and loopy journey thro mental illness – is a distinct possibility.
She looks like she’s on planet Morvern in that pic. Samantha Morton does lop-sided loopyness pretty good. She keeps you interested in Morvern even tho the girl doesn’t seem that interesting; is that shop assistants vacancy she’s looking at you with? Or petrified grief? Or cunning creature-like deadliness?
You wanna put your arms around her and give her a hug; and you want to give her a good slap too – to snap her out this moral turpitude she’s stuck in, get her to wake up out of the trance of trauma that seems to have stripped out her soul.
Dir: Lynne Ramsay, Scotland
Feels appropriate to watch this chilly film again in bleak midwinter.
Noticing how touchy-feely it is; as in – Morvern’s constantly touching the skins of things to feel how living they are. Or how dead. Doubt Samantha Morton has bettered her performance in this.
Boyfriend left her mixtapes of Aphex Twin, Can, Stereolab, and Boards of Canada to listen to. How oddly appropriate are they? And how peculiar? (the listening to music on cassettes I mean. Seems so other-worldly already)
Digging a hole to bury the chopped up bits of her boyfriend with a garden trowel? (Er, no) And the £100,000 book deal with no rewrite, revisions, publicity or promo? (Er, definitely not)
The boozy druggy club-med holiday is even more depressing than the depressing Scotland they left behind. So hollow to be so selfishly shallow. Yeah, I’m as alienated by it as Morvern seems to be.
“Lost in the middle of nowhere” is where Morvern walks Lana into. To get some real living life in the raw happening. Lana doesn’t like it. But fuck you Lana I’m thinking – you deserve to get left.
I don’t agree with the conclusions I made in my first review now. I’m not sure her soul is stripped out. She’s doing more than ordinary denial here. And is it breakdown or breakthrough she’s going through? Hasn’t this shocking shock catalysed her life, liberating her from humdrum ordinariness into extraordinary possibility? I’m asking these questions because I don’t know. And the film doesn’t tell you either (it shows more than tells) You aren’t inside Morverns psyche; but fumbling and feeling her trembling skin. Touching around but not really alighting upon her enigmatic planet Morvern. Puzzled I still was, but not unsympathetic. I like loners who plough their lonely furrow.
I’ll upgrade to a 7 on this watch.
A tractor pulls a trailer with a stuffed whale down a darkened street. It comes and goes. Nothing much to look at apart from coming and going. For 3 long minutes.
There’s coming around corners. There’s walking about. There’s a lot of long minutes.
There’s a general air of doomy gloomy misery.
Film opens with a neat demo of a solar eclipse involving trampy alkies in a bar (I now know how the sun, earth, and moon interact with one another) from the naive looking young cosmologist (in pic above) He calls everyone he meets uncle or auntie.
I liked a scene of a girl slow kissing her bloke; tenderly looking her eyes into his mouth.
The whale is plonked down in the town square where silent men stand solitary around.
The silent men become a menacing mob marching on the hospital; kick and punch patients out of beds (staged violence; the kicking and punching is amateurishly acted, or maybe just badly directed)
More walking. Into and out of.
Then there’s running along rail tracks to escape town by naive cosmologist. A helicopter circles threateningly overhead like a buzzy insect. Waiting to take him away.
The film makes about as much sense as this review I’m writing. Significance could no doubt be extracted from it’s doleful depths.
I was thinking of buying this on Dvd. I’d have wasted £17.
Dir:Bela Tarr, Hungary
Watching this again as having a Bela Tarr fest in the last week.
Was it any different from the first watch? Kind of. Watching a lot of Bela Tarr drops you gradually, slowly, into a different way of watching. I get used to long takes and slow shots, don’t expect to be going anywhere quickly. So I’m tuning in to this way of seeing (which is equivalent to a kind of listening)
The opening minutes of this film are actually quite beguiling. Here is 5 minutes
I’m liking that gentle delicate piano from Mihaly Vig too.
I still haven’t understood much of what is going on. But somehow it hasn’t mattered so much that I understand anyway. Not on a rational or intellectual level anyway. My appreciation feels more like the attention you give when listening to music or looking at abstract art; you sense that something is feeding you but you don’t know why exactly. This film feeds my melancholy a whole depthful of unfathomable sadnesses.
So, rating? I don’t know. I don’t care. Anything between 4.5 and 8 depending on mood I’m in.
It’s midwinter: dark, dreary depressing. It’s been raining and raining since the beginning of December. So watching this 7 hours plus Hungarian gloom-fest suits the dark doomy mood perfectly.
I’d seen Satantango once before back in 2008 but never got around to writing a review for some reason. Not that I’m going to write a reasoned review of it now either. I don’t like it very much. It’s so slow and miserable. The first scene in the film is a 10 minute single take of lowing cows trudging out of a barn and squelching through mud into the desolate outbuildings of some kind of collective farm-cum village. Oh yes, and its raining. You get to see a lot of rain in the next 7 hours. I felt soaked through, drenched – in the dark dirty misery of it all. In an acutely personal way it felt perversely exhilarating to see such misery. As if it justifies, or even validates, the very human suffering I feel so very much a belonging to. So this film belongs to me in some way. I have to claim it, even though I don’t really want to possess it or identify with it too readily.
Watching a film like this is a deep dark immersion process. It grinds you down into its muddy heart. It captures your consciousness (including the sub and un levels) and mesmerizes it into a sub-state of stasis. The way you watch films has to change. It’s not only the what of watching but the how of watching that gets challenged by something as long and slow and hypnotic as this.
But I probably won’t watch it again. Not all 7 hours. Instead I’ve cut up and edited a few bits to post to this blog. My editing cuts scenes into thinner smaller slices. For example that opening 10 minute long take of the cows I’ve cut down to about 30 seconds. Bela Tarr would be rolling his eyes if he knew what violation of his real-time takes I’m perpetrating. He’d say I’m missing the point completely – and he’d probably be right. But I don’t care. Because this is my way of claiming my rightful ownership of his misery-mania-melancholy.
This first vid is a selective highlights (or lowlights) run-through. I’m not attempting to summarise the film, or elucidate the plot. This is more about giving a sense of the texture of the narrative, a listening in to the atmosphere that surrounds and subsumes this film like an apocalyptic cloud.
“Satantango in 5 minutes”. As if you could. As if I dare. Sorry Bela. I know I shouldn’t have. See that as my attempt at a Satantango trailer. It might have helped draw people into your world, your vision. Or conversely I may have saved some people 7 hours of feeling too uselessly miserable; they can go do something more profitable with their life’s now – like prune the roses. Or drive their cars.
At least they don’t have to walk everywhere. In the rain and the wind and wind and rain. Unless they’re poor – in which case trudging through mud and sludge becomes what your poor impoverished downtrodden life has to be doing. There is much walking in Satantango. Walking that seems to have purpose but no direction. Walking for the sake of walking. So as to get something done that your body can do, irrespective of whether there’s anywhere desirable for your body to go.
Don’t forget that all the walking you’ve just seen there is my shortened edit of; the walking in the film itself goes on and on and on – to the extent that you actually feel like you are walking with these people, tramping and trudging those long long tracks for bloody muddy miles; just to keep going, and going, and be gone.
The little girl with the dead cat is pivotal to the whole film. I’ve put together this vid; it doesn’t tell her story exactly, as much as show its tragic trajectory. She elicits your heartfelt compassion. Well, she did mine. And that’s despite what she does to her beloved cat. By the way, if you don’t want to be seeing cruelty to cats don’t watch this vid (Bela Tarr claims the cat was his – and it didn’t die, but its still disturbing to witness what the little girl does with/to the frightened thing)
In her fight with the cat she’s saying: “I can do anything I want to you. I am stronger than you are” – and goading it to fight back. But it can’t. Because its as helpless as she is. What is passed onto us is what we perpetrate onto others – seems to be the universal maxim being shown here; therefore, if we are loved we love; but when we are neglected, abused, hurt, that’s the unlove we inflict on those weaker and beneath us. Thus this scared little cat gets what the scared little girl got.
Have you ever seen anything more pitiful than her small sad face at the window looking in at all those dancing drunks? They couldn’t care less about her. Seem selfishly oblivious to her plighted existence. She’s abandoned, neglected; forlorn, fated. Therefore takes her fate (and that of the poor cats) into her own hands. Determines the only blessed release she knows how.
This last vid shows the dancing drunks from the inside as it were. From their perspective is just boozy oblivion. From our perspective it looks like farcical absurdity. And from the girls perspective outside the window it looks, well, it looks like nobody loves or cares for her.
So how I’m seeing this scene depends on where I’m seeing it from. Yes, it is absurdly comic. Especially with a few vodkas inside you. But there’s a part of me (the sad little lonely girl part) that wants to go in there and smash their silly heads in. Only I can’t, like she can’t. Because we’re both impotent, helpless; so all we can do is to be watching, at the window, from outside, looking forlornly in on all this stupor of stupid drunken dancery.
You’ll have noticed there’s no dialogue in these vids. Not that there’s no dialogue in the film, but I couldn’t edit the subtitles. And to be honest I wasn’t paying that much attention to the characters when they did speak. It was like they were making noises equivalent to the sounds animals make: cows moo and cats cry – and humans speak bullshit. There was some occasional heavyweight bullshit being spouted to float abstract air onto the muddy gravitas below. Maybe some of this vaguely polemicised stuff makes more sense to Hungarians.
I must admit after the girl/cat narrative and dancing drunks scene I ran out of steam for the final 3 hours of the film (I was hitting fast forward quite a bit) Possibly became there was a lot of this draggy polemic going on. And also because I’d lost my sympathetic interest with the loss of the girl. None of those self-centred boozers elicited the same sympathy that she had. There was part of me wanted the sorry comeuppance they were haplessly fleeing towards.
And the fat abandoned doctor watching at his window just got very tiring to behold. I went into total fatigue witnessing his fatigued witnessing. Just drink yourself to death pal. And die.
Yes, I wanted the film to end come the end. And I won’t watch it ever again. Not the 7 hour version of it anyway. My little cuts of clips will have to do.
Dir: Bela Tarr, Hungary
How do you rate a film like this? By what criteria?
From a like point of view it gets a 3
But sometimes what you like is not always right or necessarily relevant.
Life can transcend like. Like can seem to little to embrace Life. And this Satantango was certainly Life. In all its “bleak beauty” (or ugly rawness, or sorry silly sadness…or chose any neat little epithet you want)
So, I could give it a 10. Yes, as it’s dreadful January I’ll give it a 10
This is a very well directed film; Haneke won loads of awards for it all over the place. Emmanuelle Riva and Jean-Luis Trintignant in the 2 lead roles are “superbe”. But I’m only going to watch it this once. I don’t want to go through that kind of suffering again (until I have to go through that kind of suffering – for real)
I read somewhere that Haneke wants his films to hurt, to hurt you awake. To stop you believing that what you are watching is entertainment, a mindless diversion, a harmless distraction. All of the films of his I’ve seen are gruesomely or grotesquely shocking. And this film shocks also. But its the shock that you know is already there as the silent killer inside you, hiding away, but imperceptibly growing nearer. We all want to blank it out for as long as possible. So the painful reminder this film gives feels all too chastening, because it is all too true.
I believed in it completely. What makes it even more believable is the authentic “loving” between Riva and Trintignat. The stoic dignity that has to exist in order to bear all of this too much suffering that is happening. I loved their performances even though i was hating what I had to see them perform.
The film made me question what is it is I watch films for. I like to think I watch for more mindful motivations than being entertained or distracted. But now I’m not so sure. I’m still trying to find some kind of escape; into favourite feelings, into heartfelt characters, into believable situations, into real-to-life dilemmas. And this film had all of that (and some) And yet it didn’t feel like an escape away, but a moving towards an all too real reality, in an all too true future. So seems I don’t want to see too much truth after all. Not of the terrible and terrifying kind that this film is. Which is why I can’t bear to watch it again.
Dir: Michael Haneke, France
I’ve dashed this review off in about 20 minutes, so as to quickly escape the bleak misery that watching, and thinking, about this film brings on. (I’m not coming back and doing any revisions to it either)
I’m glad i won’t have to watch this again.
Isobel Huppert is a professor, a piano teacher of Schumann and Schubert. A most odd Madam. Controlling cold fish. And as it turns out disturbingly disturbed. A combination of perversion, aversion, and self loathing is driving the heartless heart of her. She craves release. Through sex. Sex as the vehicle for various humiliations and degradations. A parade of perversities such as:
- Watching porn in cubicles and smelling the freshly tossed off spunk tissues of male porn purveyors.
- Genital mutilation.
- Urinating while spying on a couple shagging in a car.
- Wanting to be smacked about.
- A desire to be raped.
Do we find out why this prim and proper professor is acting like this? Do we fuck. This is a Michael Haneke film. You should know by now he doesn’t give pat psychological moralities or simplistic cause-and-effect motivations for all the terrible things his characters do.
We’ll just have to infer. Or make motivations up. If we could care less. Which I couldn’t. So I won’t.
Like all Haneke films I’ve seen you’re left at the end feeling a hollowed out emptiness.
And haunted by Isobel Huppert, with her face as tightly strung as a violinists arse (odd metaphor i know, but can’t be arsed to come up with anything better, I’ve had enough of thinking about this film already)
Dir: Michael Haneke, Austria
I watched this film a while ago and only now get around to reviewing it. What I’m remembering
The blind contentment of Tom (Jim Broadbent) and Gerri (Ruth Sheen). How their happy togetheryness looks all too self-satisfied and smug when seen from the lonely outsider position.
Gerri’s terrible dumping of her pretend friend Mary, her wafer-thin professional counsellor care; as soon as Mary (Lesley Manville) becomes a threat/embarrassment to status quo of Gerri’s family she gets coldly cast out into the wilderness.
The excruciating “funny” scenes between monosyllabic Ronnie (David Bradley) “No… no…. yeah…. yeah…” and needy Mary. The need for affection so desperate in her she’s clinging even to him.
The final scene around the talky dinner table as the camera slowly pans around to quietly rest on poor Marys sad sorry face: all shut in and voided out, no voice from which to authentically speak, no validity from which to belong. Social exclusion almost too painful to watch (since this is a situation I’ve experienced all too often myself)
So this is yet another Mike Leigh film that make you wince and feel too sad for people.
Or too depressed.
Don’t watch this if you are. You might end up…..
It’s probably why I didn’t feel inclined to watch this again. Lat year was depressing enough.
Dir: Mike Leigh, UK