Wednesday, December 26, 2012

360 Horse Selection

     In this edition of DVD reviews, we will be covering the most over rated film of the year (so far, in my opinion), a great little true indie, and an international ensemble piece.  Let's get hoppin...

  360 - This film was a really mixed bag for me with its hodge podge of story lines and characters.  When pulled off well, ensemble pieces like this can be some of my favorite films.  360 didn't quite get there, but it did have some nice elements.  It's Christmas, so let's start with the nice list.
     I love films with characters from many different nations and cultures in which everyone speak in their own language.  This is the technique applied here with characters speaking in English, German, Arabic, French, Portuguese and Russian.  It's interesting to me to think that viewers from different countries have to read or not at different times when watching the film.  It makes it a different film for different viewers in a very unique way.
     This film is also rife with acting talent including Jude Law, Rachel Weisz, Ben Foster, and a host of international performers.  All of the cast do respectable jobs with the material they are provided, although most of their characters are never really given enough development to allow the actors to shine.  The stand out work among the ensembles is undoubtedly done by Sir Anthony Hopkins, especially in his scenes with Brazilian actress Maria Flor.  They alone seem to really transcend the limitations of their screen time.
     In this film director Fernando Meirelles (City of God, The Constant Gardner) and screenwriter Peter Morgan attempted a quasi-remake of director Arthur Schnitzer's classic film Le Ronde.  I have never seen this movie, but I must wonder if it influenced Robert Altman's film Short Cuts which in turn inspired Paul Thomas Anderson's Magnolia, as the films incorporate similar styles in many ways.  The latter two films brilliantly present an intricate interweaving of an impossible number of whole stories told in glimpses.  360, however, came off more like glimpses of whole stories that never get fleshed out to any sort of satisfying conclusion.  While I found the characters to be intriguing, my interest was never really sated in a way that brought me any sort of satisfaction.  2 1/2 of 5 stars.

  The Turin Horse - This is my first exposure to the work of Bela Tarr, Hungarian director of the Werckmeister Harmonies.  It may actually be my first exposure to Hungarian cinema, and for that I am grateful that I watched The Turin Horse.  Unfortunately, that is pretty much the only positive that I can pull from the experience.  Otherwise it's just a whopping two hours and twenty six minutes of my life that I will never get back.  This film is fairly well reviewed and is actually showing up on a couple of year end top ten lists, but I didn't get it.  No, worse, I think I did get it, and it just wasn't worth the time it took me to do so.
     The film tells the story of a farmer who Friedrich Nietzsche (as the legend goes) once stopped in the process of beating a horse.  Supposedly the famous philosopher returned home that day never to speak again, his voice entering the realm of nothingness that his philosophy espoused.  The Turin Horse picks up after that famous encounter, as the farmer returns to the squalid home that he shares with the aforementioned horse and his daughter.
     The first two hours of the film deal mostly with two things: the fact that the horse won't eat, and the repetitious viewing of the household's daily chores.  By repetitious, I mean by rote, step by step, over and over.  The film is like Groundhog Day without the charm, humor, and myriad cast of quirky characters.  I literally spent six or seven minutes watching a character expressionlessly remove layer after layer of clothing...NOT JUST ONCE!!!
     I'm sure that this is all done to give us a sense of the nothingness of these character's lives and it does a nice job of lowering expectations enough for the last half hour or so of the film to seem like a climax. The conclusion of the picture seems to lend further credence to my assumption that the film is some sort of nihilistic treatise on the emptiness of the world and the human spirit,  The trip, however, is NOWHERE near half the fun and the destination ain't all that great either.  There is some beautifully bleak cinematography at play, but that is the greatest recommendation that I can give to this movie.  2 of 5 stars.

  Natural Selection - This is the premiere feature from writer/director Robbie Pickering.  It was surely made on a shoestring budget and is cast entirely with actors that you know you've seen before but you can't put your finger on exactly where it was.  Sometimes a film doesn't need any glitz or prestige.  Sometimes a tiny little film is just cleverly written, skillfully guided, formidably acted, and artfully woven together in a way that is impossible to deny.  For me, this was just such a movie.
     This is an unusually intelligent comedy about a woman who discovers that everything in her life is not the way she thought and embarks on a journey that challenges everything she thinks she knows and believes.  Actress Rachel Harris (Ed's overbearing girlfriend from The Hangover) takes on this difficult role in a way that makes you totally buy into Linda's season of rebirth.  The character's transition is handled in such a way that it is profound without ever becoming hokey or occurring too easily.  Look for both her and co-star Matt O'Leary (who pulls off an impressive transformation himself) to figure into my Best of 2012 articles.
     This is a unique and engaging film with no faults worthy of harsh criticism.  I recommend it wholeheartedly.  4 1/2 of 5 stars.

No comments:

Post a Comment