Archives for posts with tag: foreign
Label

Kira Mathis and Mary Krasnoperova sulk in Jaschar Marktanner’s short “LABEL”

Jaschar L Marktanner’s 2014 short “LABEL” features a pair of German women (Kira Mathis and Mary Krasnoperova) giving voice to various seemingly petty grievances over cigarettes and coffee in a café – the caffeine, nicotine, and complaints constituting addictive and what might be considered quintessentially “First World problems”. Cigarettes never last long enough, the coffee cups are too small, and so forth. This man and that man, the women continuously gripe, are bastards and sons of bitches. Nothing, in short, is as they desire it. The viewer is left to speculate: what is the source of this ennui? What, furthermore, informs their apparent loathing of men?

Significantly, the film opens with a quotation from the Austrian author Heimito von Doderer, who for a time espoused National Socialism: “In a good conversation the pauses are as important as the talking itself.” The viewer, then, is invited to find the meaning in what is left unsaid between the two morose conversationalists. Germany, which since 1945 has not been a truly sovereign nation, today more than ever lives under a hostile occupation. The women allude, perhaps unconsciously, to the demographic disaster being perpetrated against their people in their ambiguous talk about “aliens”. A subservient German establishment, publicly represented by Zionist puppets like Chancellor Angela Merkel, has, in its complicity in the implementation of the Coudenhove-Kalergi plan for the dysgenic reconfiguration of Europe, reduced the continent’s once-proud men to powerless and effeminized cuckolds. “Did you just see that wanker?” Krasnoperova asks. “Waitressing is just a job for a true son of a bitch.” “Cigarettes are so crippled,” Mathis observes on the subject of this phallic insufficiency. Germany’s women, moreover, are mere shiksa livestock, a degradation symbolized by Krasnoperova’s nose ring (Jeff Lieberman’s classic short “The Ringer” comes to mind).

Two pictures hung on the wall behind them – a horse and butterfly – are images representative of the natural order, free and beautiful archetypes of masculine and feminine actualization that contrast with the morbid and sterile reality of the generic urban setting. “That’s how them up there want to keep things rolling,” Krasnoperova says with reference to an unnamed and remote elite. “Holding us pawns down.” “Just some real sons of a bitch,” agrees Mathis. “Yeah, and nobody’s doing anything about it,” Krasnoperova continues. “Something must be done about that,” the other declares. “Yeah, but there are only spazzes. What is there left to do?” At this point the two women indict the audience in its complaisance by breaking the fourth wall and glaring directly into the camera.

Label 2

The viewer is implicated.

Once the waiter approaches and asks if everything was alright, however, the women instantly change their tune, feigning smiles and reassuring him that “everything was great.” The pair finds themselves constrained by Europeans’ pathological sense of propriety – the self-destructive determination not to be the cause of offense. “What a freak,” Krasnoperova says of him after he goes away. “Just a typical victim of the society of sons of a bitch,” diagnoses Mathis. Notwithstanding their discontent and the impending death of their civilization, they cannot bring themselves to address problems openly. Like Marktanner himself, they find means of communicating under regimes of censorship. The status quo, however, if continued to fester and to dismantle their civilization, will start to present Europeans with fewer First World problems than quandaries of the Third World variety.

4 out of 5 stars.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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Deathgasm

High school heavy metal outcast Brodie (Milo Cawthorne) has little going for him until he meets fellow metalhead Zakk (James Blake) in a record store. Along with a couple of hopeless nerds, they paint their faces a-la-KISS and form the ominously named band Deathgasm. The group would seem to be doomed to obscurity until Brodie discovers an ancient satanic manuscript and turns it into one of Deathgasm’s songs – the resulting dirge unleashing demonic forces that turn the people of their sleepy New Zealand town into rabid zombies. It then falls to Brodie, love interest Medina (Kimberley Crossman), Zakk, and the rest of the gang to rid the planet of the impending ultra-bogusness.

A New Zealander film, Deathgasm follows in the tradition of Peter Jackson’s early splatterfests Bad Taste (1987) and Dead Alive (1992), and might also appeal to those who fondly remember such metal-themed horror outings of the eighties as Hard Rock Zombies (1985), Trick or Treat (1986), and The Gate (1987). Gorehounds and aficionados of things gross should definitely come away from this feast satisfied, with Deathgasm’s veritable buffet for the depraved boasting mass blood-vomiting, forcible earring removal, dildo violence, blood-shitting, urine-squirting, decapitation, sodomy with a chainsaw, and a demonic zombie’s penis getting weed-whacked off.

4 out of 5 flaming pentagrams. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that this “brutal as fuck” Kiwi film experience is:

Fucking Andrea Dworkin A Wyatt Mann9. Anti-Semitic! During band practice, Zakk wears a t-shirt bearing a caricature of Jewish feminist Andrea Dworkin created by the infamous Nick Bougas, aka A. Wyatt Mann.

8. Pro-gay. Medina, on hearing her first blast of metal, envisions herself as a warrior goddess with fawning lesbian slaves at her feet.

7. Anti-bully. Medina is turned off by her boyfriend’s bullying of Brodie. The film even treats Brodie’s coldblooded murder of this character as a moment of comedy.

6. Feminist/pro-slut. Boringly, once the supernatural splat hits the fan, Medina (of course) transforms into an ax-wielding, zombie-butchering metal chick. “I was thinking about getting a tattoo,” she says, because “It would drive my dad crazy.” She then displays to Brodie the spot on her chest she would like to disfigure.

5. Pro-drug. Brodie gets high with Zakk, who is also shown drinking and driving with no adverse outcomes. It is noted that Brodie’s mother was institutionalized after going nuts and debasing herself under the influence of meth, but this information is presented with irreverence rather than caution.

4. Anti-family. None of the characters like their parents. Zakk’s father even has to be killed after he turns into a zombie. In addition to its subversive treatment of conventional domesticity, Deathgasm also features a dashboard trinket in the shape of a baby smoking a cigarette – antinatalist imagery celebrating death, corruption, and nihilism.

3. Anti-Christian. “Hell is awesome,” the viewer learns. Brodie’s churchgoing aunt and uncle, described as “balls deep into Jesus”, are revealed to be hypocrites when anal beads and dildos are discovered in their bedroom. “Older Christian people maybe should steer clear,” star Milo Cawthorne says in an interview included on the DVD.

2. Conformist. Getting across the stupidity of “conspiracy theories” and those who espouse alternative interpretations of history and current events, the unsophisticated Zakk attributes his neighbors’ strange behavior to “the Illuminati pourin’ fuckin’ fluoride in the water or something.”

1. Superficially anarchist. Though stupidly consumerist in their obsessions, Zakk and Brodie steal the things they want – even stooping so low as to siphon fuel from an ambulance.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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Two Days One Night

Deux Jours, Une Nuit is a dreary and mundane French “art” film directed by Belgium’s Dardenne brothers. Marion Cotillard, whom American audiences may remember as the femme fatale Miranda in The Dark Knight Rises, stars as Sandra, a working mother whose poor psychological health has kept her at home and away from her job for some time. In her absence, her boss has given her coworkers an offer they find hard to refuse: either take Sandra back at their present wage rate, or agree to terminate her in exchange for a raise for everyone else. Due to irregularities in the circumstances of their initial decision, which has (unsurprisingly) gone against her, the workers are to be given a chance to hold a second vote. Sandra now has one weekend – the two days and one night of the title – to locate and approach each of her coworkers to convince them to take her back and forfeit the promised raise.

Nothing about Sandra, who suffers from depression and spends most of the movie moping, despairing, and gobbling Xanax tablets, is particularly interesting, and one suspects that this is intentional; she stands for the common person who is too often forgotten. Scenes of her intermittently breaking down and being encouraged by her sensitive husband (Fabrizio Rongione) to persevere and not to give up on her peers and their dormant capacity for selflessness are, unfortunately, somewhat repetitive, and not the strongest material to support an entire feature film. What ultimately saves and elevates Two Days, One Night above the level of tedium is the earnestness of the film’s key performances.

[WARNING: POTENTIAL SPOILERS]

3.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Two Days, One Night is:

6. Anti-American. The selfish Julien (Laurent Caron), a collaborationist co-conspirator with the workplace management, wears a “USA” patch on his shirt, perhaps signifying his sympathy with neoliberalism.

5. Anti-marriage. Sandra’s coworker Anne (Christelle Cornil) determines to leave her husband after years of being bullied.

4. Anti-drug. Sandra’s abuse of Xanax is worrying to her husband, whose concerns are shown to be warranted when she attempts suicide with an overdose.

3. Pro-union. The filmmakers, in an interview featured on the Criterion Blu-ray, say that their intent was to illustrate the “savagery” of companies whose workforces are not unionized. “We thought that with a nonunion company, we’d be closer to the raw truth of the social situation people experience today.”

2. Ostensibly anti-capitalistic, with workers pitted against each other by capital.

1. Dysgenic, pro-immigration, and crypto-corporate. Two Days, One Night is fundamentally disingenuous and misleading in framing the plight of the western worker as an individual rather than a national-racial dilemma. People are, of course, individuals on one level of their experience; but the inundation of European and European-descended peoples with Third World undesirables is precisely what has suppressed the typical worker’s wages and standard of living. In the end, when the tables are turned, and Sandra has the option of taking her job back on the stipulation that Alphonse (Serge Koto), an African, will be terminated, viewers are expected to be inspired that Sandra, playing the good goy, makes the wrong decision and sacrifices her own livelihood to save the congoid. Two Days, One Night goes out of its way to depict non-white immigrants as gentle, helpful souls and credits to their new communities, and even includes an African doctor (Tom Adjibi) who saves Sandra’s life after her overdose. To this extent, then, the film promotes a de facto corporate-state agenda.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

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Till Death Do We Scare

Till Death Do We Scare (1982) ****

Poor Irene (Olivia Cheng) – every man she marries dies as soon as they tie the knot! Fortunately (?), her three dead husbands, who loiter around the house as ghosts, want Irene to be happy, so they determine to locate another, hopefully more durable husband for her and pick incompetent radio horror show host Alan (Alan Tam). What follows is essentially a series of slapstick shenanigans as the ghosts, invisible to Irene and Alan, pull various stunts to bring the couple together. Complicating matters are the machinations of evil spirits who would prefer to see Alan dead. 

Till Death Do We Scare is typical fare for the Chinese ghost comedy genre, but with the odd, added attraction of stretchy Beetlejuice-style special effects by none other than Tom Savini. The best comic set piece in the movie is probably the haunted chair that refuses to let fat guy Eric Tsang sit in it; but other highlights include a deflatable ghost face, an animated pig’s head on buffet table, a decomposing princess with amorous intentions, and an unfortunate sucker who rolls down a hill and gets flattened by a steamroller. Till Death Do We Scare has the madcap energy viewers have come to expect of the Hong Kong film industry in the eighties, and should please devotees of the Chinese horror comedy.

4 out of 5 stars.

Breakfast

Vampire’s Breakfast (1987) ***1/2

Fat Piao (Kent Cheng) is a portly Hong Kong photojournalist investigating a series of what appear to be vampire murders, but police refuse to believe his stories, and only a sleazy thief (Keith Kwan) is willing to help him. Vampire’s Breakfast, like The Haunted Cop Shop (1987), is not a typical indigenous Chinese hopping vampire movie, but a horror hybrid featuring a rotten-looking blond Caucasian bloodsucker (Simon Willson) with the usual western susceptibilities to crucifixes and wooden stakes – or, as the subtitles would have it, a “mahogany nail”. Pretty, pouty Emily Chu, whom action enthusiasts may remember from John Woo’s classic A Better Tomorrow (1986), adds a deal of grace as Piao’s love interest, Angie, while Parkman Wong contributes irksome antagonism as skeptical Inspector Chen.

The movie drags a bit in the middle, but does feature a handful of suspenseful sequences, generally drenched in creepy blue moonlight and city shadows. A clandestine visit to a morgue makes for one of the more memorable scenes, while a spurting decapitation at the end should please gorehounds. One does wish, however, that the nastiness of one early scene in a strip club had been sustained throughout the film. Veteran viewers of Hong Kong horror will probably enjoy Vampire’s Breakfast, but prissier audiences accustomed to Criterion disc production standards are hereby warned that the subtitles on the Fortune Star DVD release are more than usually sloppy, resulting in lines of dialogue like, “Tow big eyes were ataring at me”.

3.5 out of 5 stars.

Vampire’s Breakfast trailer

Writhing Tongue

Writhing Tongue (1980) ***

Not the exercise in horror or sexual perversion that its arresting title might suggest, Writhing Tongue is actually just an offbeat medical melodrama. Masako (Mayuko Wakamori), a pretty little Japanese girl, pricks her finger while playing one day and soon develops an awkward walk and refuses to eat or open her mouth. Doctors diagnose the girl with tetanus, and her extended hospitalization places a strain on her parents’ marriage and even their sanity, their anxiety intensifying when first the father (Tsunehiko Watase) and then the mother (Yukiyo Toake) begin to suspect that they, too, might have contracted the illness.

Writhing Tongue will be a challenge to viewers accustomed to breakneck pacing, with most of the film consisting of scenes of the harried and increasingly haggard parents watching their daughter suffer in her hospital bed. Here and there an odd touch enlivens the proceedings, such as when the despairing father apostrophizes the ancient bacteria occupying his child’s body; but Writhing Tongue, for the most part, is a slow, lugubrious affair, and likely to be disturbing to any parents of small children. This critic’s chief complaint: at no point in the film is there anything even remotely resembling the “writhing tongue” promised in the title!

3 out of 5 stars.

 

Farewell to the Ark

Farewell to the Ark (1984) ****

Very loosely inspired by the magical realist vision of Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novel One Hundred Years of Solitude, this oddball allegorical film is a difficult one to synopsize. Set in a rustic Japanese village where “time doesn’t flow”, Farewell to the Ark follows incestuous cousins Su-e (Mayumi Ogawa), condemned to an indestructible chastity belt by her father, and Sutekichi (Tsutomu Yamazaki), a 35-year-old virgin who longs desperately to penetrate her. Sutekichi’s maddening sexual frustration finally boils over when he hears himself publicly mocked by the randy Daisaki (Yoshio Harada), causing Sutekichi to murder him. After that, he and Su-e flee the village and live as husband and wife in an idyllic forest.

Separated from their community, however, Sutekichi, like some character out of a Paul Bowles story, begins to lose touch with the world around him and feels compelled to create little signs, labeling everything “shoes”, “my house” and so forth; he even hangs a sign on himself that says “Me”. A lot of other bizarre things happen in Farewell to the Ark, as well. A little boy falls into a pit, only to emerge a moment later as a fully formed adult; two youths pursue a woodland nymph whose admirers, if they see her naked, are doomed to die a horrible death; and masked dancers put on a torchlit rite that has to be seen to be believed. Seldom dull, Farewell to the Ark does, however, run somewhat overlong at 127 minutes. Still, it has much to recommend it to seekers after the strange, the obscure, and the thought-provoking.

4 out of 5 stars.

Writhing Tongue trailer

 

Gloria poster

Full disclosure. Your humble reviewer, stopping on a whim at his neighborhood Redbox machine to see what was newly available, quickly picked Gloria for no other reason than the disclaimer that it contained graphic nudity. Not realizing that this would be a serious foreign film requiring him to read subtitles, he ate his movie vegetables, as it were, by accident.

Set in Santiago, Chile, Gloria is the story of a lonely divorcee (Paulina Garcia), a professional woman and recent grandmother, who finds herself torn between dignity and sexual fulfillment. Somewhat nerdy but still shapely and graceful in her maturity, Gloria thinks she may have met the answer to her quiet yearnings in paintball park proprietor Rodolfo (Sergio Hernandez), a man who gives increasing evidence of neurosis.

Gloria very much belongs to lead Paulina Garcia, a fascinating actress whose versatile face and nuanced expressions command the viewer’s undivided attention. Even had the script by director Sebastian Lelio and Gonzalo Maza not been so finely worked and surprising, the film would be worth seeing if only for the presence of Paulina Garcia. Eccentric, disturbing, and warmly human, Gloria gets this critic’s high recommendation.

5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Gloria is:

10. New Age. Gloria takes a yoga lesson.

9. Marginally pro-miscegenation. Gloria’s daughter Ana (Fabiola Zamora) is involved with a Swede (Eyal Meyer), which is arguably a mild instance of interracial relationship. However, Chileans, particularly those living in Santiago, are of predominantly European descent, and resemble Spaniards in their attractiveness.

8. Anti-Christian. Gloria tries to hide her condescension as her maid (Luz Jimenez) talks about the Genesis flood and tells a story about cats issuing from a lion.

7. Racist! Gloria and Rodolfo, practicing at a firing range, shoot at a target representing a “black figure”.

6. Drug-ambivalent. Marijuana plays a role in Gloria’s new assertiveness. Her tobacco habit takes on varying shades of character depending upon the emotional context – sultry and sophisticated smoking after sex, or an anxious person’s prop in her moments of doubt. One smoker is reminded not to light up in the presence of a pregnant woman. Humiliation, despair, and overindulgence in drink drive Gloria into the arms of a random slob for a degrading one-night stand.

5. Anti-marriage. The protagonist’s ex-husband (Alejandro Goic) is an undependable drunkard. Rodolfo, like Gloria, is relieved to “finally” be divorced. Ana, a happy tramp with a pierced nose, is unashamedly pregnant with her Swedish lover’s bastard.

4. Anti-family/antinatalist. “Don’t be born, man! Don’t be born!” despairs one of Gloria’s neighbors. Rodolfo’s wife and daughters are selfish, needy, ungrateful nuisances. Gloria’s family, too, is broken.

3. Misandrist. A vengeful Gloria appropriates her insensitive lover’s phallus by attacking him with one of his own paintball guns. The men in her life are all immature. “Grow a pair,” she tells Rodolfo.

2. Anti-capitalistic. Old Chilean radicals look to loud young rabble to effect progressive change. Gloria’s idea of excitement would be to skip work and travel to Cuba. The film also presents an unflattering portrait of an entrepreneur in Rodolfo. (see also no. 1).

1. Anti-Semitic! “What Chile used to be now seems like a ghost, as if that Chile were dead, and what was built afterwards is a kind of replica of something that’s being devised in some other part of the world, where the driving force is greed.” “There aren’t any leaders anymore [. . .] if it’s about politicians who are up there, and they’re the ones governing, the ones that were chosen.”

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