Tag Archives: 2012

Paradise: Love (2012)

  paradiselove

  Pardon my French, but these old corpulent tourist cunts need a serious kick in the teeth. I haven’t been discomforted by watching a movie like this in along time. And considering the crazy – disturbing crap I watch on a regular basis, that, my friend, is saying something!

Controversial filmmaker Ulrich Seidl’s first installment  in the ‘Paradise’ trilogy takes a probing look into the world of sex tourism. 50  year  old Teresa (Margarete Tiesel ) yearns for love, but what kind of love can be found here  as a aging ‘sugar mama,’ travelling to Kenya to tempt young impoverished men with unspoken promises of material prostitution? She says at one point that she needs a man to see her for who she really is, past the saggy boobs and stretch marks and wrinkles, yet she dehumanizes the black men she shamelessly uses for sex as soulless slabs of ebony flesh.

Early on, she and a friend (Inge Maux) talk crassly and loudly about the black male as pure object in front of a young barkeep, carelessly assuming by default that the man can’t understand a thing they’re saying. In one fell swoop, a sensual, vibrant country which a rich culture and history is reduced to a kitschy tourist trap where unattractive old women go to get fucked and idly take in the scenery. This is reflected in the apparent belief by the tourists that they can learn a few trite words and phrases in Swahili and they’re fully assimilated into Kenyan culture.

The nudity and sexual content here is frank verging in a uncomfortable striptease scene as unnecessarily  pornographic  and the raw nakedness displayed on screen is not always flattering, especially as far as the women are concerned. I have to admit, the extended stripping/boner scene took this movie down a few notches for me, having crossed the line in my eyes and become borderline pornography, but the movie itself is a deliciously ambiguous portrayal of male objectification and casual racism.

The thing about this story is that these women, these fat horny lumps of pitiful desperation, probably don’t see themselves as racist. They think they’re being complimentary, reducing their boy toys to pieces of sex meat. But they’re not. They’re gross and repugnant and they don’t even know it. They’re not being any more complimentary than if an old man looked at a young black woman and called her ‘brown sugar’ and asked her to come into the bathroom for a quickie.

So that’s why I didn’t feel bad for Teresa when she was used by her Kenyan sex partner (Peter Kezungu)  for her hard-earned cash. Any sympathy I had for her initially was snuffed out by the last scene, where the story shoots straight down into a sexual and psychological hell. How desperate and hot to trot can one person be? Pretty desperate, apparently. And who says women can’t be predators? It might be harder to physically overpower a man, but that doesn’t mean you can have psychological power or fiscal power over him. Both kinds of power are bountiful in this disquieting film.

“Paradise: Love” ties into the two later films in the trilogy thematically, and it features Maria Hoffstatter as Teresa’s religious fanatic sister (the lead in the 2nd film) and Melanie Lenz as Teresa’s heavyset, sexually curious daughter (lead in the 3rd, and final film) in  small roles. There’s a lot of static shots, reminiscent of Michael Haneke, moments that seem incredibly quiet in contrast to the extremely emotionally painful things that are going on. There’s  hardly any violence, but there’s a barely contained sense of menace, of something terrible just waiting to happen in this outwardly sunny habitat.

Margarete Teisel is the perfect person to play Teresa, and I mean that in a totally complimentary way  my point is not just that she is dowdy and plump, but also that she conveys insecurity and desperation well, carries it in her shoulders. She’s not too pretty, but also she gives the impression of being ordinary in every way, even desperately so. Not too beautiful, not too smart– just a sad person struggling with her mediocrity, 

Even with minimal on-screen violence, “Paradise: Love” will make you squirm in your seat for it’s unique vision of subjugation and power play. It’s not my favorite film in the trilogy in fact, it’s probably my least liked of the three but it still has it’s ‘hey, this filmmaker is really getting at something here’ moments. And it doesn’t really matter that I saw the trilogy all out of order each film tells it’s own, desperate story, with minimal confusion plotwise. Watch it if you dare- it’s definitely a taboo shattering film.

Paradise Love

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Excision (2012)

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What starts out as an alternately eerie and cartoonish look at teenage Suburban Hell eventually morphs into full-blown body horror in “Excision,” a devilishly entertaining horror movie that nevertheless fails to really utilize it supporting cast. Pauline (AnnaLynne McCord,) a misfit aspiring surgeon with a number of unnerving sexual fantasies, lives with her passive, well-meaning father (Roger Bart,) Her smothering religious-fanatic mother (Traci Lords, yes, THAT Traci Lords,) and her sweet terminally ill sister Grace (Ariel Winter of “Modern Family,”) a Cystic Fibrosis sufferer with a heart of gold.

Pauline is a total outcast at school, partially because she is gawky and homely, and due in a large part to the fact that she is aggressively off-putting and creepy, intentionally vomiting on others and dissecting dead animals. She’s not understood, but the brilliance of geniuses rarely is in their own time. Is Pauline a genius? Not really, but you’d rather she attempt surgery on you than, say, Martin of “The Human Centipede II (Full Sequence.)”

“Excision” is a little bit Lucky McKee’s “May,” a little bit Brian De Palma’s “Carrie,” a little bit Tom Six’s “…Pede” movies but enough originality to stand on it’s own merit. It has a lot of famous faces and cult actors, including ‘king of filth’ John Waters as a priest (!), Malcolm McDowell as a teacher unsympathetic to Pauline’s deranged antics, and Marlee Matlin as a member of school staff. The movie works because it is over-the-top but remains just believable enough to suspend disbelief. The characters tend to be a little one-dimensional but still find ways to surprise you.

The gore element is mostly thrown at you at the end but also is utilized through Pauline’s bloody fetishistic dreams, which awaken forbidden desires within her. “Excision” is a bit of slow burner which becomes increasingly better after you get accustomed to the tone, which is relentlessly odd but consistent. There’s a gallows humor that made me chuckle throughout. The acting is competent (even from former porn star Traci Lords!) and each player portrays their characters well.

I was wary about watching this because so much indie horror is total shite (“Escape From Tomorrow,” particularly, was a recent disappointment) but I found myself pleasantly surprised at this quirky little horror picture, which refused to take itself too seriously while not stooping to gory slapstick or ridiculousness. I found myself having mixed feelings about the character of Pauline. She’s a total deviant and oddball, but sometimes she does something, or says something in one of her confessions to God that makes you like her- just a little bit, and just for a little while. For those with strong stomachs and open minds, I recommend “Excision” as a surprisingly good horror debut.

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Django Unchained (2012)

“Django Unchained” is a blood-soaked, blackly funny, slavery-era extravaganza of a film, compliments of Quentin Tarantino. It is a movie populated with great actors delivering great dialogue, with some great gore and not one but two epic shoot-outs at the end to top it off.

Django (Jamie Fox) is a slave who was separated from his wife, Broomhilda Von Shaft (Kerry Washington) as punishment when the two tried to run away together from their plantation. Forced to walk shackled to a horse, under harsh winter conditions, Django is surprised to encounter eccentric “dentist” Dr. King Schultz (Christoph Waltz), who turns out to be a skilled bounty hunter.

King Schultz acquires Django under strange and bloody circumstances, and offers him a proposition: Django will earn his freedom if he helps King to identify three slavers who are wanted dead or alive. Thus begins a blood, unusual adventure as the two seek out outlaws and ultimately attempt to save Django’s wife from Calvin Candie (Leonardo DiCaprio), a sadistic and insane slaveowner.

Christoph Waltz, who proved his acting chops playing opportunistic SS officer Col. Hans Landa in Tarantino’s 2009 film “Inglourious Basterds,” shines here as charismatic and mysterious King Schultz, who seems to have his own strange code of ethics.

Jamie Foxx is good and Kerry Washington excels playing a fairly uninteresting character, but the biggest surprise is DiCaprio. Nothing of 90’s heartthrob Leo is present as slimy, venomously evil Candie, like “What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?” It’s a total transformation.

Some people might be disgusted by the sixth character: Stephen, a manipulative and subservient slave (Samuel L. Jackson), but I thought it was brave of Tarantino to introduce a black villain into a slavery-era film and show the shades of gray in race relations of that time.

There were certain parts of the movie I felt were a little excessive, for instance the KKK scene, which I felt dragged a little. The blood, too, could be a little excessive, but Tarantino without blood? Where would we be? Simply put, this will be a delight for fans of Quentin Tarantino, but people looking for a gentler, kinder, more sensitive movie will best look elsewhere.

Tarantino delivers as he always does: clever dialogue, creative shots, and gallons of blood. On a side note, although no movie could accurately portray the horrors of slavery, this film gets pretty far out of people’s comfort zone, which is more responsible for the controversy than any alleged racism. If you like Tarantino, you will like this strong entry into his cinematic universe.

Sister (2012)

Set primarily in Swiss ski resort and nominated for a foreign language Oscar, “Sister” is an emotional and mature work that is engaging from start to finish. All the actors are effective, but fifteen-year-old Kacey Mottet Klein steals the show as Simon, a youthful twelve-year-old dealing with responsibilities and problems way beyond his age level. Simon lives in a low-rent apartment with his immature older sister Louise (Léa Seydoux of “Blue is the Warmest Color.”You might remember her as one of the LaPadite sisters at the beginning of “Inglourious Basterds.)

While Simon makes money stealing equipment and luggage from a nearby ski resort and selling the philfered items, Louise shirks any kind of responsibility, mooching off the spoils of her brother’s thievery and having sex with different guys. Although Simon takes from tourists with a cold and calculated  efficiency, you can’t help but feel for the little guy as he does what he has to to survive.

There is definitely a weird incestuous subtext between Simon and Louise. You don’t feel that they are aware of this  or that they would even act on it, but their relationship is marked by an odd co-dependence and half-formed, burgeoning sexual interest on Simon’s part, and maybe even on Louise’s too. There’s a very strange scene partway through (which I love and I think speaks volumes about this pair of outcasts) where Simon pays the angry Louise over a hundred dollars to sleep next to her.

He craves human contact, but Louise is selfish and exploits his vulnerability in a weird way, and is only able to offer comfort in the most basic manner. The cinematography is great and in it’s own way, powerful, while the ending leaves you to draw your own conclusion. Scotsman Martin Compston (who caught my attention playing a sympathetic criminal in Ken Loach’s social realism drama “Sweet Sixteen) has a role as a employee at the resort who gets in on Simon’s thieving.

“Sister” is special in that it is pensive and character-based without being ever boring and it evokes deep emotions, yet is subjective and stays away from gooey sentimentality or blatant attempts at audience manipulation. There are no ‘villains,’ just despair and dead ends. Kacey Mottet Klein is just perfect as a kid who has many foils and has run into trouble trying to live a halfway normal life.

Don’t let the incestuous vibe I get from this picture deter you from watching a great foreign film. This is not a movie about pedophilia. It is a movie about secrets, responsibility, and what it means to be an adult. Léa Seydoux is practically his equal as a character you probably should hate, but you end up feeling kind of sorry for.

“Sister” proves that ‘art film’ doesn’t have to mean being bored out of your mind. If you don’t mind subtitles, you’ll surely find value in this fascinating film about a troubled girl and a little boy who is forced to take up responsibility for the two of them. I liked this almost but not quite as much as “The Intouchables,” the French submission for best foreign film of 2012. While “The Intouchables” is heartwarming and funny “Sister” is quieter, sadder, and maybe a little truer. Do. Not. Miss.

V/H/S (2012)

Nothing to see here, ladies and gents. “V/H/S” is a appallingly bad and nauseatingly shot fright flick, marred by misogynist overtones and 0% (and I do mean %0) character development. The film is geared toward predominately male teenagers with short attention spans, sporting sickeningly schizoid cinematography and and gratuitous boobie shots (most of which are in sexually violent or exploitative context.)

In the core storyline, A group of miscreants break into a house after being hired to steal one videotape. We have no sympathy for these people- between their abusive treatment of women and their grating stupidity, we’re actually rooting against them. When they break in, they find a stack of V/H/S home movies… and a corpse. Unfazed by the body of an old man resting in an armchair, they begin to view the videotapes. Each one is a supposedly real horror short.

The first short in the anthology is by far the worst. A trio of horny and misogynistic friends set out to video tape one of the men’s sexual experience. The situation soon becomes rapey, as one girl is passed out drunk and another is an apparently addled femme fatale who is not what she seems. The acting in this short is pretty poor and the dialogue is worse.

Is it really necessary to drop the F bomb in every sentence? I mean, I love my expletives as much anybody else, but throwing it around willy-nilly makes you sound like a 13-year-old trying to be ‘edgy.’ The boys are disgusting pieces of work, but watching their well-deserved demise, satisfying as it might be, is not enough to save this terrible short.

The majority of these shorts are wretchedly bad to pretty mediocre, with the exception of one. Here’s a wonder- Ti West, who made one of the worst shorts in the similarly themed horror anthology “The ABC’s of Death”, also directs the segment that saves this movie from being a total disaster. “Second Honeymoon,” starring Joe Swanberg and Sopie Takal, is a surprising and competently acted short that kept me guessing throughout.

The short with the aliens had potential, but just left too many unanswered questions for my liking. The others were utter crap. The shaky cam gave me a headache and a stomachache. The dialogue was a string of childish obscenities. There was no depth to the characters. I have not seen a movie in a long time with a cast of characters I liked less. This movie is so, so bad. Avoid it like the plague.
Rating-
3.5/10