Thoughts On: End Of The Week Shorts #56


End Of The Week Shorts #56

Today's shorts: Twister (1996), The Meyerowitz Stories (2017), The Celebration (1998), The Elephant God (1979), Raising Arizona (1987), El Sur (1983), A Dangerous Method (2011), Raw (2016)

I've seen Twister... more times that I can count - but not for a few years. This has always gone over my head as pretty stupid, but sometimes kinda cool and ultimately fun. On today's watch, I suppose I saw less of the stupid, and was impressed by the degree to which the CGI holds up, but also felt that this was a little bit annoying.

'Quick' and 'sharp' dialogue fired between and around characters is something I'm not the biggest fan of if the film comes out after 1955. I'm not entirely sure why, maybe the twang of a Transatlantic, faux-British accent holds everything together in my ear, but, I could feel the characterisation as anything much more than droning and sometimes insipid. With the fun taken out of things, I have to admit I didn't pay much attention at all. Take this for the weak review that it is considering that I didn't properly watch the film, but I have to say this is just less enjoyable than I remember it to be.

Whilst I can't say this is perfect, this truly blew me away. Never before have I come across such an articulate and precise piece of narrative psychology.

A study on the effect that a father can have on his kids, The Meyerowitz Stories deals with a profoundly broken family that, quite impossibly, is keeping things together. Centralising a crumbling father, who looms over the narrative like a dwindling star, every single line and action in this film is about him; about the beings who he, unconsciously, created. I then found the experience of this film to be simultaneously heart-warming and utterly humiliating; the dread of seeing yourself in everyone near-unbearable and the realisations that the characters are like you profoundly cathartic. I think this may be a new personal favourite. I'll have to sort through a lot of confusion before coming to a conclusion though.

Unlike Dogme 2, The Idiots, which is about tragic consistency in a world of rebellion, Dogme 1, The Celebration is about change in a Buñuelian world of absurd and deplorable un-change. Like The Idiots, however, The Celebration has a brilliant story that is depreciated by the incongruous form. In short, the aesthetic and direction say nothing of substance about scenes and story - apart from scenes lit by fire, which, admittedly, work very well.

I understand the Dogme philosophy, but, honestly think that it's masturbatory at its heart. Whilst this got to me on first contact with The Idiots, I just let it go with The Celebration. And, for the story alone, I think it's worthwhile looking past the Dogme facade of this film - which, somewhat ironically, seems to be the best way in which to interact with the movement: pretend it doesn't exist. With that in mind, I highly recommend this.

Crime/suspense movies very rarely do much for me. Even with this, written and directed by Ray, I found myself immersed in a lot of plot that, in the end, just made me numb.

The positives in The Elephant God are bits of characterisation and the strong direction. However, the most value I derived from this was learning of another side of Ray, one that was not just interesting in realism, but mystery and detectives (he wrote the original book that this was based on). Beyond this, The Elephant God is a journey of twists and turns that I couldn't really invest myself in. This wasn't a difficult watch, but it wasn't the most engaging experience. Maybe worth the watch if you like detective films.

Damn brilliant.

Raising Arizona seems to be an experiment of sorts, one that wants to test how ludicrous a film can be, yet still retain heart. Bursting with character and life, it is truly ridiculous that a film with a shot of a dirty-faced 'ghost rider' doing a wheelie on a Harley with a baby in a carrier on the handle bars before hurtling towards Nick Cage, father of the year, can exist within a story that is not only trying to be about family and redemption, but successfully draws all of the emotions out of you that these themes set it up to take. I honestly don't know how to fault this. It is a self-contained film like no other and it just works. I've seen plenty of the Coen Bros' movies, but I have to say that this one surprised me most. If you haven't seen it, you simply have to.

It's hard to imagine many films that are both lit better and use light as vocabulary better than El Sur. The manner in which luminosity emanates through windows and encases subjects is utterly flawless, constantly imbuing scenes with an almost mystical light that comes to represent our main character's shadowed and enigmatic father. And such is the primary focus of this rather confined film. Limited in scope, what El Sur does best is capture the importance of a father to a young daughter. In turn, this narrative challenges her vision of him whilst demonstrating the ways in which she can't be anything but bound to him.

However, whilst there are some strong technical and aesthetic achievements made by this film, it feels more meditative then ruminative, which is to say, it is focused, not on ideas, but on a feeling, and from this comes a peace and harmony, but not much more. And without much meaning and character backing this up, I have to say it doesn't have too much of an impact. Nonetheless, an enthralling watch.

Whilst it is quite dry and a little inhuman, A Dangerous Method is a deeply fascinating film. It exists in, and deals with, in the most basic sense, the unconscious. In such, not only does this show multiple significant, conflicting approaches to the unconsciousness and its almost insurmountable difficulties, but it presents these approaches as limbs of their vocalisers' minds. In turn, the psychoanalysis of Jung (transcendent), Freud (sexual), Spielrein (polar) and Gross (anarchic) reveal each individual's temperaments. The manner in which these different kinds of psychoanalysis interact and conflict reveal, firstly, the capriciousness of temperament, but, secondly, the breadth of the unconscious mind and the nature of the still-unified (in the modern day, somewhat irrelevant) field of psychoanalysis.

Best approached with some knowledge of each figure, this lacks heart, but is nonetheless a worthwhile watch.

A film about two sisters who do not want to become their overbearing and controlling mother and, likewise, do not want to fall for a man as weak as their father. Entering a realm of staggering free-expression and ridiculous social conformity (university), the two become what it is they have repressed so deep inside themselves, feasting upon flesh and lusting after a poor gay guy. 
A basic Freudian drama, Raw offers some pretty gnarly sequences of body horror and some imaginatively surreal imagery. However, whilst its commentary on the nightmare that university and all its liberties provides the young and dumb is there, I don't feel this saying or doing very much of particular note. Keep your head down and study (as much as you can stomach). Don't make your first shot at adulthood a shot in the face.

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Cinderella - Another Cinderella Story

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