I’ve found watching Ingmar Bergman films to be a uniquely masochistic experience. They’re not punishing in a conventional sense, never relying on any sort of realistic, special-effects bloodshed, but rather in the emotional carnage that provides the spine and nervous system of his films. This creates an entirely different form of realism, one where emotion is laid bare, interrogated by his claustrophobic settings and intimate, almost uncomfortable close-ups. Characters kick and scream and question their world and we, the audience, are placed in perilous proximity by Bergman and his frequent cinematographer Sven Nykvist. In the end, Roger Ebert was exactly right when referred to Bergman’s dramas as “brooding, lonely, and violent excursions into the human soul.”
It takes a remarkable sort of alchemy to make films that are so emotionally pointed while never sinking into pure exploitation. You quickly get the sense that each is a deep psychological exercise for Bergman. He once said “the people in my films are exactly like myself — creatures of instinct, of rather poor intellectual capacity, who at best only think while talking. Mostly they’re body, with a little hollow for the soul.” It’s all the more impressive that these characters, often deep in their own spiritual crisis, manage to be so universal.
I’m always torn on didacticism as a way to deliver meaning. I grew up reading Church magazines full of stories that are — let’s be honest — never true, but always well intentioned. Realizing the flaws inherent in these stories (asking your friends to swap the R-rated film for something more uplifting never works, for example) didn’t necessarily make me averse to didacticism, only hyper-aware of its usage and and wary of its sloppy overuse. Those magazines are intended for young kids in the Church, and short stories of sharing, caring, and love work best when the moral is clear, even if the content is false.
Didacticism can be an extremely powerful method, and one that works particularly well when the audience agrees with the message. My Straight Son (with an alternative [re: better] title of Blue and Not So Pink) is a recent Venezuelan film written and directed by Miguel Ferrari, an actor-turned-director whose conscience is clearly concerned with the marginalized of the world and whose narrative tendencies quickly become pulpit-pounding rhetoric. I wrinkled my nose a bit when Delirio del Rio (Hilda Abrahamz), a transsexual juggernaut, concludes the film by literally preaching acceptance and love on her new television talk show, but this may have been a way to keep tears from flowing.
For the United States, World War II officially ended on September 2nd, 1945 with the surrender of Japan. But while signatures and treaties sent The Greatest Generation home to the country they’d fought to protect, it didn’t signify the end of their conflict. It ended physical battles but not internal ones. Even though they look perfectly healthy on the outside, soldiers did (and do) come home emotionally and mentally crippled.
Many of Hollywood’s finest (actors, directors, cameramen, you name it) were shipped overseas and those who made it home still had to wrestle with demons. As it turns out, spending your life creating fantasies doesn’t mean you’re any more prepared for the horror of war. How could it? Some of these Hollywood personnel were charged documenting a wartime spectacle that may have reflected a film they once worked on, but in actuality was completely alien.
New York City and the dreamers who flock there have been a staple of film almost since the medium’s advent. King Vidor chronicled the American Dream’s poisonous mystique in his silent masterpiece The Crowd in 1928. Busby Berkeley threw the city’s majesty on screen with his extravagant dance numbers, creating the illusion that something this visually stunning could only happen in a New York City setting.
Now that filmmaking has gone digital, smaller New York stories are growing in popularity, often focusing on adults wrestling with their imminent adulthood. We have Gimme the Loot, Broad City, Tiny Furniture, High Maintenance and Frances Ha just to name a few recent entries. Even this tiny selection shows the variety that fits under this umbrella.
I consider myself a man that has been fairly desensitized by modern cinema and television, according to today’s standards. Sure, I avidly avoid the torture porn fandom of the Hostel, Saw and Human Centipede style films because frankly, I like sleeping at night. However, the typical rated R violence, nudity, and language can roll off my back pretty easily. That being said; Under the Skin is the current placeholder for one of the most upsetting scenes that I have ever seen, and will probably keep my stomach churning for the next 2-4 weeks.
Jonathan Glazer’s, pseudo sci-fi/social commentary movie has been a rather difficult film to track down. Not being completely up-to-date on the releases within the U.S I had to wait until non-cinema options were available to see this picture. However, once I got a hold of Under the Skin I was transfixed from start to finish.
“God, I miss my tights.”
Who remembers when pre-apocalyptic movies were a thing? Those were the good old days.
Joon-Ho Bong’s latest movie Snowpiercer was an overall fantastic action movie set in, yet another, dystopian future wherein the human race has dwindled to the population of one massive train. Watching the movie you can estimate that there are roughly a thousand human beings left in existence and our story focuses on the “tail” section of the train where the poorest of the poor reside in the locomotive version of labor camps. The narrative set forth begins 17 years after the icy apocalypse and portrays the uprising of those in the tail section of the train, with the intent of taking control of the train’s engine, because “whoever controls the engine controls the world.”