Films I Saw This Week 04/05/2015
You may have noticed that over the last year, I’ve posted less and less frequently on this blog. The simple reason is that college, work, and other projects have taken up a huge amount of my time, to the point where I struggle to find the time to write the reviews and articles I used to.
However, I’ve found a solution which will allow me to post regular content and still be able to continue with my work away from the blog. Every Monday, I will post short reviews of various films I’ve watched over the previous week; condensed versions of my usual reviews. There will be no theme to link the films I review; this will be just some of the random films I’ve seen in the last seven days.
Without further ado, here is the first edition of the Films I Saw This Week:
A film so grim I can’t imagine anybody else I know liking it, Tony Kaye’s Detachment is an astonishingly bleak affair in which substitute teacher Adrien Brody (so fragile he might break) works at a depressing inner city school, ‘rescues’ a teenage prostitute, tentatively romances a fellow teacher, and visits his dying Grandfather. The plot synopsis alone will tell you if this film is for you. Tony Kaye makes some very odd directorial choices, with artsy chalkboard animations and weird cameos (Bryan Cranston, Christina Hendricks, James Caan, and Lucy Liu have about ten minutes screentime between then), yet Detachment works. It’s overwhelmingly dark and borderline unwatchable at times, but it has a real power and anger that makes it a hugely rewarding watch. Easy to dislike, but get on board with Detachment and you might just find it a greatly moving, disturbing look at the pain and suffering of ordinary folk.
Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me (2014)
As a huge fan of Big Star, I had high hopes for Oliva Mori and Drew DeNicola’s documentary about the most underrated band of the seventies. Sadly, Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me is a rather dull affair. The band’s story is tragic; they were unappreciated, barely sold any records, and eventually fell apart. This should have made for some moving, or at least interesting, footage, but the documentary revolves instead around endless interviews with critics and celebrity fans with little to say. The final section of the film does achieve some pathos and the soundtrack is obviously wonderful (even though the directors refuse to play more than a minute of each song), but Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me is a mostly wasted opportunity.
Romper Stomper (1993)
Geoffrey Wright’s controversial skinhead flick is mostly remembered for being the breakout performance of Russell Crowe, but it has more than that to offer. Admittedly, Crowe is outstanding as the astonishingly hateful Hando, blazing onscreen in a way he’s never managed to since. The rest of the cast don’t have as much to do and tend to blend into one, but director Wright negates this with several terrific set pieces, including a breathtakingly long and brutal race war. The film occasionally reaches the heights of similar youth-gone-wild films La Haine and A Clockwork Orange; its faults lie in both its occasional hero-worshipping of its neo-Nazi protagonists, and an anticlimactic ending. A terrific debut from Wright, if not quite good enough to reach classic status.
Produced and co-directed by James Franco along with Christina Voros, this bizarre documentary focuses on kink.com, the largest fetish porn site in the world. At 80 minutes, it’s almost never boring and there are plenty of amusingly banal conversations about the placement of glory holes and the best way to fake a punch, but Kink could use more insightful interviews and less endless shots of porn shoots. Entertaining, but slighter than it could have been.
After seeing the outstanding I Killed My Mother, I’ve made it my personal goal to see everything Xavier Dolan has directed so far in his short career. Sadly, I got off to a poor start with Heartbeats. A painfully dull love letter to pretentious hipsters everywhere, Heartbeats vaguely tells the story of an unrequited love triangle between a young gay man (played by Dolan in an irritating performance), his flatmate (Monia Chokri), and the comically pretty Nicolas (Niels Schneider, more irritating than Dolan). Filmed in endless slow motion and bright neon colours, Heartbeats features good cinematography but otherwise offers nothing of any interest; I pray that this is the only misfire of wunderkind Dolan’s career.
The Punk Singer (2014)
I confess: I knew absolutely nothing about Riot Grrrl icon Kathleen Hanna before I saw Sini Anderson’s documentary/love letter about the singer. Mixing interviews with Hannah, her bandmates, and celebrity fans, with an impressive range of archive footage, The Punk Singer really gets across just how important Hanna was to punk music and female punk fans everywhere. More impressive than the music (which is excellent; I now consider myself a Bikini Kill fan) is the bold creative vision of Hanna; her feminist manifesto and all-out live performances are stirring to watch and provide the best moments of the film. The documentary is far too one sided and clearly made by a superfan, but there are moments in The Punk Singer where the adoration feels deserved.
Stalag 17 (1953)
Billy Wilder is a deserving inclusion in any ‘Great American Directors’ list, with a filmography as consistently perfect as just about any other director. Some Like It Hot, The Apartment, and Sunset Blvd. are the most commonly referenced films in his arsenal; Stalag 17 might just be his most underrated. A POW comedy drama which perfectly toes the line between humour and tragedy, Stalag 17 features an enjoyably moody leading performance from Oscar winner William Holden, a surprisingly gripping ‘whodunit’-mystery, and, as expected from Wilder, a lot of big laughs. It’s a testament to the quality of Billy Wilder that a film as perfect as Stalag 17 is one of his more forgotten films.
By Harry Ford
- Posted in: Films I Saw This Week ♦ Reviews
- Tagged: 1953, 1993, 2011, 2012, 2014, a clockwork orange, adrien brody, billy wilder, bryan cranston, christina hendricks, classic, detachment, foreign language, heartbeats, i killed my mother, james caan, james franco, la haine, lgbt, lucy liu, nothing can hurt me, oscars, romper stomper, russel crowe, some like it hot, stalag 17, the apartment, the punk singer, tony kaye, violent, william holden, xavier dolan