Thoughts On: End Of The Week Shorts #50

25/03/2018

End Of The Week Shorts #50



Today's shorts: Jailhouse Rock (1957), Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965), Alps (2011), Paris Is Burning (1990), Branded To Kill (1967), The Lobster (2015), The Great White Silence (1924), Martyrs (2014), Anastasia (1997)



I'd never seen an Elvis movie before, so I thought I'd give this a go, and... yeah. An interesting slice of film history. 
Judged as just a film, Jailhouse Rock is a mediocre musical with one stand-out number (that being the iconic sequence of the title). Its sense of morality is quite strange; Elvis is a slight dick, he kills a guy, in prison he becomes an even bigger dick; he gets out, meets a girl and becomes famous, then he becomes a different kind of dick; the girl he has forced himself onto can't get over him, and nor can he get over her, and so he becomes the old dick again - also, a dick he met in jail, but likes, punches him in the throat, welcoming a happy ending. In 1957, the PTA described the film as 'a hackneyed, blown-up tale with cheap human values'. I think I agree. To make an effort to not be such a stiff, this is quite entertaining. If it could make sense of what it wanted to do and say, I'm sure I would have liked it more.



Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is loud, is stupid, is ridiculous, is... what are you to expect from a film with such a mind-numbing title? 
Featuring Tura Satana, a woman who denied Elvis' proposal of marriage; the Japanese-American Steven Segal with massive, in-your-face mammaries that I'm sure Steven Segal looks in the mirror and sees through his delusion and piss-yellow shades, this is a film that is relentlessly committed to the idea that women are deadly, fearsome and great with cars. Men should fear them - try to control them at their peril - and women who don't follow in their footsteps better cower. With no sense, no reason, just a hedonistic desire for action, these women roam around the desert looking for their own deaths. As clunky and dishevelled as you'd expect it to be, Faster Pussycat! is certainly bold and explosive. Of what value it is... I don't know. Just barely watchable.



There's a harmony and a joy that is brought into your own little world when you find a perfect movie. That bubble of harmony rings when you stumble upon a trove of flawless movies. In Lanthimos, I find exactly this. 
Alps is just one of Lanthimos' masterpieces. It is a film focused on self-sacrifice becoming pathologised, on personas entirely shrouding all conceptions of self, on wanting to be loved, on wanting to mean something to someone, on wanting to be needed. With desire becoming obsession, with wanting to please other people taking up every part of your being, what can there be left of you? And without you, hidden behind your own constructs, who is going to hold your structure of being up? 
Beautifully interlinked with Dogtooth and The Lobster, beautifully shot, beautifully written, Alps is pure genius. A personal favourite.



Paris is Burning provides a befuddling venture into the 'Ball scene', showcasing the larger-than-life world of drag shows with hints of ridiculousness, heart, comedy, genuity and flair. 
What Paris is Burning does so well is characterise these drag shows as a crafted microcosm of a wider society; within men find friends, family, notoriety, safety, competition, dreams, jubilation and success. Like the world around the drag show, it is hectic - and you could say it is especially loud to make up for the fact that it is a great deal smaller than the Big Apple it is nested in. Unlike the world around the drag show, this is a place of seeming harmony, opportunity and, to some degree, fairness. Though the values of the hyper-materialistic, celebrity-centric and fame-driven Ball scene are questionable, it is undeniable that it expresses and does much for its small culture. And Paris is Burning is worth watching for this alone



Opaquely mesmerising and opulently debased, Branded to Kill is a pure masterpiece and a product of pure technical genius. 
Starting out as a straight, nihilist yakuza flick, but quickly bumping into a Godardian girl-and-a-gun New Wave action blur, Branded to Kill initially flails at you with its loud style and rule-demolishing editing. Moving past the first 15 minutes, however, Suzuki introduces some stark and wondrous surrealism that goes onto to flirt and dance with Bretchian New Wave-isms. The end product is almost indescribable; a meaningless journey through romance, lust, fear and murder. If I was to attempt to make some sense out of this narrative it seems that this is about the spectacle of violence as a supplement for success in life. And thus this is a commentary on crime films and a poke at the audience, one that revels in Bond tropes, but exists in the subconscious. I cannot recommend this more. A must see.



I cannot exaggerate when I say that this is a perfect movie and, in my opinion, one of the great masterpieces of the 21st century. So impossibly human, tragic and romantic, The Lobster builds to one definitive question: Can the blind lead the blind? 
Do we know ourselves? Do we know our partners? Do we know what it is we're supposed to do together? A beautifully intricate dance toward and away from solipsistic hopelessness, The Lobster manifests one of the most profound and expressive sci-fi worlds ever put to screen before populating it with the most round and complete characters; their subjective being stuttering through the dead-pan script, revealed by slow motion and momentary pauses, accentuated with the clinical aesthetic and soundtrack, and emphasised by the ingenious dark comedy. Movies simply don't get much better than this.



An astounding piece of work; footage from the very first expedition to the south pole to have had a movie camera accompany it. For the first time, orca, seals and Adélie penguin are captured by the moving image in their natural habitat. And, most impressive, we are shown the towering icebergs and endless ice sheets which these explorers struggled against. 
Assembled from footage that would have been over a decade old by 1924, The Great White Silence complies a narrative around the British expedition lead by Captain Scott. Whilst, looking back almost 100 years later, the humour and pro-Empire sentiments shaping this narrative are questionable, as is the validity of the 'truth' captured, it is the small human moments of preparation and the opened-eyed gazes at an alien landscape that make this so astounding. Highly recommended.



I saw this in St. Paul's Cathedral, and though you probably shouldn't call this a movie, it is a fascinating piece of work.  
This is constructed around four screens. Each depicts some kind of elemental torture; a man buried by dirt, a hanging woman swaying in the wind, a seated man surrounded by fire, a man hung upside down and showered in water. Each shot plays out in slow-motion in an attempt to capture momentary expression like a paining may, and there seems to be a link to the idea of pain and suffering as a route to the transcendent embedded into each screen. What is most fascinating about the work is that it is a permanent installation in St. Paul's, situated in the same realm as famous sculptures, architecture and painting. This says much by itself.



I always thought to myself that Anastasia is one of the few Disney films that I have never cared for. It was only today, however, that I figured out that this isn't actually a Disney film, rather, it is simply directed by two former Disney directors. Alas, whilst Anastasia was on today I didn't really sit down and concentrate on why I never cared for it, or on the potential of this actually being a good film, I just let it play in the background. 
From what little I gathered from this film, I have to say that it appears very clunky and narratively weak. The voice performances and dialogue are all so-so. And the animation is quite ugly; the character design lacks personality and the movement is uncannily fluid, not at all dynamic in a natural, aesthetically harmonised manner. In the end, this only seems to be an attempt at making a 90s Disney film that simply lacks the quality at almost every single level of production.





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Eraserhead - Cinema As Association

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