Tag Archives: Belgian

Movie Review: Wedding Trough (1974)

theweddingtrough

Rating: D-/ Why the hell is this categorized as a ‘romance’ on Imdb?!!

To say that Wedding Trough, also aptly known as The Pig Fucking Movie, is not for everyone would be the understatement of the millennium. This dialogue-free, Belgian art-house film tells the charming story of a man (Dominique Garny) who appears to be somewhat lacking in mental faculties who rapes and miraculously (!) impregnates his pet pig. That’s pretty much the extent of the plot, excluding a couple of grisly spoilers, should you be brave (or crazy) enough to look up the entirety of this film online. Continue reading Movie Review: Wedding Trough (1974)

Advertisements

Two Days, One Night (2014)

two-days-one-night-poster

You know how some movies feel so real it’s like you’re watching a documentary? Well, this is one of those films. It’s not for everybody, because it’s sllooww, and by slow I mean straight-up kitchen sink realism with virtually no frills. But what I really like about Two Days, One Night is how close it hit to home for me. I grew up with a sporadically depressed mother with very low self-esteem and I started suffering from severe Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder when I was five, and was put on medication for clinical depression in my early teens.

This movie understands the effects of depression on people suffering from the illness as well as their loved ones. Marion Cotillard plays Sandra, an often infuriating but utterly plausible character. Sandra has just been fired from her job at the factory and prepares to sink back into the abyss of depression, taking long afternoon naps and gobbling Xanax like a hardcore druggie.

Sandra is depressed because without her job to sustain her, she will have have nothing to distract her from hopeless sadness and she will be on the dole, but mostly because the majority of her co-workers voted against her in favor of a substantial raise. Shortly after her lay-off, it comes to light that the foreman at the factory, Jean-Marc (Oliver Gourmet,) most likely intimidated the other workers into screwing Sandra over. Now, she has two days to convince the employees to give up their raise so she can return to her job at the company.

Sandra has a devoted husband (Fabrizio Rongione) and two beautiful kids (Pili Groine and Simon Caudry, ) but she is deeply unhappy and endlessly self-defeating. She also undermines her husband’s support at every turn. Even  more concerning than her depression and suicidality is her casual abuse of prescription medication. Both her misuse of drugs and her unhappiness is the proverbial elephant in the room. We can tell immediately something is not right in this household, her husband Manu comes home from work and runs upstairs when she doesn’t immediately respond to his shouted greetings as if her half-expects to find her hanging from the ceiling.

Two-Days-One-Night

Marion Cotillard owns this role. She superbly portrays the exhaustion and resignation of being clinically depressed, when everything, well… sucks, and nothing is good enough or fulfilling enough to make you laugh or even smile. The plot of this film is absurdly simple. but Cotillard and every other performance across the board makes it feel incredibly real. Sandra will piss you the fuck off half the time (even, or maybe even especially, if you see some of yourself in her) but you can feel her anguish like a flame burning the back of your hand.

Withholding spoilers, I was really surprised and pleased at how this movie ended. It’s not a conclusion you see coming but when the credits roll you realize it was the perfect way to wrap up the film. Thinking back on the plight of Sandra’s co-workers, I honestly don’t know what I would do if someone gave me that ultimatum on whether to keep a kind but slightly ineffectual co-worker on the team or earn a substantial raise. I would like to think I would pull through for Sandra, but then again who knows?

It wasn’t like these people were living in exorbitant wealth. They had kids to put through college, rooms to paint and renovate, bills to pay and food to put on the table. It’s hard to judge them, but at the same time, it’s hard not to, especially when you see how vulnerable Sandra is and how much she needs to keep her job. That’s the great thing about this movie; it doesn’t judge. The majority of these people aren’t sneering, bullying fat cats sitting on top of a massive fortune; they’re struggling to get by and support their blue collar families. In fact, they’re hardly mean at all, with the the marked exception of an older co-worker’s teenaged son, who’s a piece of work, and Jean-Marc, who’s just a total dick. But that’s realistic too. Not every one can be convivial and nice, just like not everybody is the equivalent of the high school bully who pantses you during gym.

Although this movie doesn’t have a whole lot of rewatch value in my opinion, it’s definitely worth watching once if you like kitchen sink realism and nuanced drama. Some people might be frustrated with the lack of empowerment of Cotillard’s character, but not every woman can be a superheroine. Sometimes, it’s enough just to survive. Again, Two Days, One Night is not a movie for everyone, but Cotillard’s performance is a genuine revelation, and even significant among the barrage of great performances we’ve seen lately, and are likely to see again.

two-days-one-night-2014-004-marion-cotillard-alone-walking-street-night

North Sea, Texas (2011)

Back in the 50’s and 60’s, any movie that dealt with gay themes was radical and ahead of its time. A GLBT film didn’t have to be insightful or even particularly good — the filmmaker was risking his credibility and his career just putting himself (or herself) out there.

Now, however, things have changed, with entire gay film companies making movies available at the click of a button. Directors of these movies must not merely be willing to make movies — they must be the best they can be, and no less. Movies about the gay experience are in high demand, and makers and distributors of these films don’t need to be afraid anymore.

There have been some extraordinary films made about gay issues the last few years- “Weekend,” “Tomboy,” “Pariah,” and “Gun Hill Road,” to name of few … and  Belgian filmmaker Bavo Defurne’s “North Sea Texas” has garnered some acclaim. Unfortunately, “North Sea Texas” is a disappointment, marred by uninteresting characters and a rushed pace.

Pim (Jelle Florizoone), a pixyish, and disturbingly, often meagerly clothed teenage boy, is first seen played by Ben Van den Heuvel as a child, putting on a sash and a tiara for his own enjoyment. The son of a irresponsible mother (Eva van der Gucht) and a father who has long been out of the picture, Pim longs to escape is dull life. Mom is a frequent visitor of the Texas tavern, where she and her boyfriend get liquored up.

As a fifteen-year-old, Pim hates his mother’s loutish boyfriend but loves Gino (Mathias Vergels), his boy neighbor and best friend. Unfortunately, Gino’s sister Sabrina (Nina Marie Kortekaas) is in love with Pim, and can’t understand why Pim shows more interest in her motorcycle-riding brother.

When Gino breaks Pim’s heart and leaves, a love triangle develops between Pim, his mom, and handsome Gypsy Zoltan (Thomas Coumans). But Pim’s trials are not over, and his painful experiences lead to a eventual reconciliation.

I never really cared about Pim or any of the other characters — I guess that was one of the main problems with this film. Pim was nothing special — just your average soft, sensitive gay boy with a affinity for walking around unclothed. His apparent youth made his sexualization at the hands of the filmmaker seem somewhat skeevy.

Gino was a unsatisfying romantic interest who was willing to betray Pim just to go “Yeah, I’m straight” to the rest of the world. I didn’t like him either. Sabrina was okay, but she was a bit of a whiny busybody brat. I mean, who just goes into a person’s and starts browsing through papers?

The only things I liked about “North Sea Texas” were the decision to cast a fat person as Pim’s mother, Pim’s performance, and the scene at the end where Pim and Sabrina come to a silent truce. Otherwise, the movie was startlingly mediocre, and I hope you’ll take a pass on this one in order to watch a more worthy likewise-themed movie.

Ben X (2007)

Ben X, Belgian director Nic Balthazar’s film debut, is an ambitious drama exploring the autistic mind and how far harassment can go before the victim loses control.

At the beginning, we are introduced to Ben (superbly played by Greg Timmermans), a teenage boy with Asperger’s Syndrome who lives with his well-meaning mother and younger brother. Ben spends all his free time playing Archlord, a fantasy role-playing game where he becomes Ben X and plays alongside Scarlitte, a teenage girl who is impressed by his gaming skills. The game gives him a sense of purpose in a world that becomes increasingly out of control.

Ben’s life at school, quite simply, is hell. He is relentlessly tormented by two repugnant teenage boys. His teachers try to help him but are ineffectual. The situation worsens when an embarrassing prank perpetrated on him is videotaped and posted all over the internet.

Feeling that he has no where to turn, he hides what happened from his family and teachers and becomes increasingly disturbed and suicidal. Finally, close to breaking point, Ben decides to meet with Scarlitte, who is interested in visiting him in real life. Together with Scarlitte, his divorced father, and his desperate mother, he comes up with a bizarre plan to get back at his tormenters.

I waited a long time for this movie, and as it generally is in this case, was disappointed. Which isn’t to say thatBen X is a bad film. On the contrary, it has many good qualities. The main thing that struck me was that this is one of the first times a character on the autistic spectrum takes center stage and is treated as a person, not a plot device. Often, the character with autism is used to evoke feelings from the other people in the movie or to teach them what is really important in life.

This film, without avoiding the family’s perception of the situation, concentrates on Ben and his reactions to what’s happening around him. Secondly, the acting in Ben X is top-notch, especially from Greg Timmermans and Marijke Pinoy, as Ben’s mother. Greg Timmermans has excellent facial expressions and mannerisms, and in his and the directors hands, the main character becomes a real person.

Many scenes and situations in Ben X, however, are very melodramatic and over-the-top, but the ending is its greatest weakness. Alternately bizarre and unrealistic, it detracts from an otherwise good movie. The director seems to think that neatly tying things up is more important than realism, and it shows.

The film builds up a great deal of suspense and a foreboding that something terrible will happen, but seems to wimp out toward the end. I don’t enjoy depressing endings, but I felt that the conclusion wasn’t believable at all. I am bound to cut this film some slack, because there are so few movies about high-functioning autism and because I waited a long time to watch it. Although I think it was ultimately disappointing, it also did many things right and tried to do what most directors haven’t done effectively before.