Confessions (Kokuhaku) – A Review

April 30, 2011

This is a movie of startling cruelty. It’s about the jackal-instinct in humanity. There isn’t anyone in Confessions you can like. Revenge mutilates everything in the film. The lust for vengeance is like a howling wound. No amount of blood is as shocking as the feelings on display. Either you’re meant to respond with shock, or else, you’re about to have your darkest suspicions about people confirmed. The Japanese school kids depicted here are the descendants of Kenzaburō Ōe’s vision of youth (from his novel, Nip the Buds, Shoot the Kids – Japan’s answer to Lord of the Flies): they are monsters without conscience. The worst in them is unrelenting. Most have eyes like shards of black ice. Their spite is a voracious wave.

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Fast & Furious 5 – A Review

April 25, 2011

Aye caramba! This movie is a gay bar on wheels. (And I mean that as a compliment). Not since the days of Rock Hudson has a mainstream movie so obviously starred a gay lead. I know Vin Diesel isn’t out of the closet yet, but on the evidence of Fast Five, he’s banging at the door. The movie is a testosterone-fuelled rebuke to the narrow-mindedness of Proposition 8, an adrenalized yawp in favour of gay rights. In the “gay bar” analogy, Paul Walker plays the straight but clueless bartender; The Rock plays a beefcake, and the women are all played by boys. Mainstream movie decorum foists a girlfriend on Vin, but it’s clear from the look in his eye: he wants The Rock. Even the cars seem eager for them to kiss.

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Christian Marclay’s The Clock

April 21, 2011

The Clock
a film by Christian Marclay
at the White Cube, London, October 15–November 13, 2010; the Paula Cooper Gallery, New York City, January 21–February 19, 2011; the Hayward Gallery, London, February 16–April 17, 2011; the Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow, May 27–August 21, 2011; and the Plymouth Art Centre, September 17–December 4

It’s two in the afternoon. No one is groaning; no one turns over in bed or hits an alarm clock—it’s much too late for that. Love set you going like a fat gold watch.… But by two o’clock the morning song is just a memory. We are no longer speculating as to what set us going, we just know we are going. We are less sentimental in the afternoon. We watch the minute hand go round: 2:01 becoming 2:02 becoming 2:03. It’s relentless, when you think about it. Mostly we don’t think about it. We’re very busy, what with everything that’s going on. The foreign schoolchildren have already left for the day, a burly gentleman is having his tea in a glass, Billy Liar is being asked “What time d’yer call this?” (seventeen minutes past two), and Charlotte Rampling is all by herself eating chocolate éclairs and smoking, in a garden somewhere, in France, probably.

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Werner Herzog, The Adventurous Spirit

April 18, 2011

Few film directors seem as directly present in their work as Werner Herzog. Not only does he have an instantly recognisable aesthetic, but unlike most European auteurs of his generation, he has become a familiar face in front of the camera. We are so accustomed to seeing him – playing football with Peruvian indians, arguing with Klaus Kinski, eating his own shoe at Chez Panisse – that we might mistake him for just another “personality”, one of the celebrities who parade past at various scales, from cellphone to Times Square, on our screens. Directors are required to be showmen, particularly directors of documentaries, who always have to hustle to finance and screen their work. But Herzog’s presence, his insistence on being in the middle of things, is something more like an artistic strategy – which is to say it’s the very opposite of a strategy, unless it’s possible to be both strategic and uncalculated, canny and impulsive at the same time.

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Catch 22 – A Review

April 10, 2011

This book is a lament for the world we live in. It knows there is no victory over death. The best you can hope for, in Joseph Heller’s view, is to persevere. He is not a cynical writer, as some may claim, because a cynic doesn’t have sympathy with anyone else. Heller is more the way I picture God: he’s smitten with the human race. All the poor luckless bastards of the world are Heller’s people: the inefficient and the inopportune; the people whose minds have cracked; whose spines have dissolved; those who can scarce face the thought of living… They are the heroes of Catch 22. Here is an epic for the bungled and the botched. There are no great deeds, and no innocents are saved. The hero wins because he refuses to die.

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Sucker Punch – A Review

April 3, 2011

This is what Showgirls would look like if it was directed by an Xbox. It isn’t even campy entertainment. It’s a blitzkrieg of machine-tooled images, devoid of feelings, characters and plot. If people thought movies were in trouble in the 80s (when everything looked like a beer commercial), this is the New Nadir: crap without joy. The whole movie feels like someone’s thumbing your eyeballs. It’s raucous, but without excitement. Even the titillating parts won’t make you sweat. As a trailer, it looked fast and fun and out-of-control. As a movie, it plays like the longest two hours of your life. This is Eat Pray Love, for boys. It should be called Punch Kick Prostitute Yourself. Like Elizabeth Gilbert’s book, it’s not for right-thinking adults.

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