Summer is in full swing and so is my rendezvous with films. July so far has been an interesting experience, especially with the array of films I’ve been watching – both with the highs and lows. This list might appear to be overwhelmingly full of depressing or twisted films, but what’s a little summer without a bit of chill?
At the end of the entry I’ll sum it up by including:
Rating | Year of Release | Original Language | Director | Run time | IMDB Link
Without further ado and before I devolve into my habitual digressions, here are my July impressions so far of the films I’ve seen.
This film is the object of my latest adoration. An extremely evocative and personal film that relies in its ambiguity but simultaneously conveys an intangible feeling of understanding and empathy. At hand it’s about a woman living in Warsaw and her doppelganger living Paris who have a strange but strong connection to one another. Both women share the same name and something far more substantial that while watching, I couldn’t help but question the feeling that eerily resonated with me. There are some interesting nuances wrapped up in sublime imagery and seamed in through the direction and cinematography. Fair warning: Be prepared to have a hopeless crush on Irene Jacob (who plays Veronique/Weronika) afterwards.
4.5/5 | 1991| Polish/French | Krzsyztof Kielowski | 98 mins| IMDB link
Japanese films never fail to surprise me with their apt of handling dark matter and reconstructing it into something viable, through film. Confession is a psychological trip, told from multiple perspectives that deals with a teacher who is on the prowl to destroy the people who were responsible for her young daughter’s death. And here’s the kicker: they are her students. As the film progresses, I was completely enraptured with the set-up and subsequently, the execution. This revenge film is unlike any other. Similar to a kaleidoscope it reflects the colors of each perspective but comes together to reveal something grander and entirely riveting. This film aces the psychological tier and outshines the thriller genre with its flawless narrative(s) and cohesive plot-twists.
4.5/5 | 2010 | Japanese | Tetsuya Nakashima | 106 mins| IMDB link
This South Korean thriller is brutal. It’s brutal because of what it says and it’s brutal because of how it says it. This film centers around revenge and explores almost all facets of it. It isn’t a linear film that just shows hunter vs hunted dynamic that ends in a bloody battle of redemption, but a psychological trip in every sense of the word that systematically destroys the psyche of both the hunter and the hunted. What I found most admirable about it was its ability to reveal the consequence of revenge and the toll that one pays for embarking on such a blood-stained trail. Most films of similar nature will focus on the act of revenge itself, but this one focuses also on the consequences of said act and all those who can be affected by it along with the impact it holds. This is a gory, bloody, graphic film that has its cringe worthy moments but does not lose itself within the blood and gore, but rather intertwines it in a tight narrative that will fulfill any and all expectation.
4.5/5 | 2010 | Korean | Jee-woon Kim | 141 mins| IMDB link
Ah, yes, for a second I had a hard time coming to terms with the fact that this was the same Nick Cage that blessed me with A-class performances in films like Wicker Man and Trespass but once I did, my respect and admiration shot through the roof for the guy. Leaving Las Vegas is a tragedy. It’s so sad that after it, I didn’t know if I should follow suit and consume copious amounts of alcohol like our main star or just sit there in my endless daze wondering what void I just stepped into; but it’s warranted not that sap-ridden shtick for a pull of the viewer’s pathos. It deals with the mental and psychological breakdown of a man who lost everything and his journey to and stay in Las Vegas. He plans to kill himself by drinking by the end of his stay. Somewhere along, he finds solace in a prostitute, who like him is broken and seeking something to fill the gaping void that consumes her. Both of them act fantastically and convey their state of mind with absolute power and I couldn’t help but feel shaken up by the end. It was the almost-perfect tragedy.
4/5 | 2010 | English | Mike Figgis | 111 mins | IMDB link
Lilja 4-ever follows a young girl living in Estonia who is abandoned by her mother, subjugated to poverty, and deceived by all around her – and how she rolls through these nightmares, as her “self” is slowly eroded by the waves of reality. And what a horrible reality it is for Lilja. This is probably one of the saddest, inverted coming-of-age-esque films I’ve seen as of recently. Even though it covers Lilja at the age of sixteen, the events she endures destroys all of the innocence and humanity she has and forces her to see a world that no sixteen year old should ever have to see or endure. Yet, this film is extremely visceral. It doesn’t have anything to preach, just show something unimaginable but real. This film does a masterful job of depicting Lilja’s world and keeps the viewer in the front seat with its grey tones, first-person shots, and heavy doses of melancholia. Lilja 4-ever is realism at its best.
4/5 | 2010 | Russian | Lukas Moodyson | 109 mins | IMDB link
I’m not entirely sure how this one flew under my radar for so long, but I was finally able to witness Theron’s career-defining masterpiece, right here. Monster is a biographical account of Aileen Wuornos – a notorious prostitute who was known for killing many of her clients. Shrouded forever in infamy, this character’s story is only known from the horrid acts she committed but what Monster presents is a wholesome and dare I say, sympathetic account of Aileen. This is partly because of how magnificent Theron acted and delivered her role, to full precision. Monster is great not because of its wholesome or “there’s a two side to every story” approach but because of how well it was able to gauge the performances of both Theron and the intentionally-badly-acted Ricci. I was left with an empty heart after witnessing the full account of Aileen Wuornos and a part of me fretted for her, because of Theron’s visceral acting, and overall stellar writing. This is a movie I’d recommend to everyone, if only to just witness one of the best female performances ever.
4/5 | 2003 | English | Patty Jenkins | 109 mins | IMDB link
Next on my hopeless Kar-Wai binge was the first installment of his trilogy, Days of Being Wild. To me, this was the weakest of the three, but nonetheless, a worthy treat. Instilling his usual fervor, Kar-Wai tackles usual themes of forlorn romances, heartbreaks, identity, other forms of crises of the heart and soul while packaging all of these and more, in a nice narrative starring a handsome guy who doesn’t know the meaning of commitment, two women who try to teach him otherwise, and a police officer who wants to be a sailor. It is beautifully shot as to be expected and does well in conveying the internal plight of each character and their situation. One issue that I had with this film was the disjointed nature of the narratives. This is something Kar-Wai eventually fixes and perfects but in this film serves as a weakness as the transitions are sketchy and abrupt, rather than being fluid. Yet, it retains the charm of Kar-Wai to the tee and brings a worthwhile experience that could leave one feeling a little lost, aching, and in a daze.
3.5/5 | 1990 | Chinese | Kar Wai Wong | 94 mins | IMDB link
This is your typical “white-people-meet-up-post-graduation-to-ruminate-over-life” film, but with solid acting. There is nothing that stands out here. It’s a very simple movie and perhaps that’s what keeps it engaging. Following the suicide of one of their former friend and classmate, a group of well-off friends reunite and in the process end up revealing a lot of inner demons, problems, and issues. There is slight sensitivity here that the film carries on with a traceable finesse and fitting comedy. I was impressed at how gracefully the narrative progressed as each character’s mask broke and the resolutions (or lack of) that followed. I watched this on a whim and was pleasantly surprised but it’s better to not go in with extreme expectations as the film is humble in its aspiration and executes just that – nothing more, nothing less.
3/5 | 1983 | English | Directed by: Lawrence Kasdan | 105 mins | IMDB link
We Dont Live here Anymore is centered around two dysfunctional couples who try to satisfy their unhappiness by succumbing to their lust and perpetually cheating on their spouses. It is a film that tries to achieve the complex nature of that *unstable* relationship, but ultimately fails. The characters feel more like vessels rather than people; full of angst, hatred, and misunderstanding for one another and themselves and it is never made properly clear why and how this break point occurs. We are just shown these people thrown into a cauldron, bequeathed by the early summer’s lust like two teenagers, and trying to stupidly rationalize their actions throughout. There was no attachment to the roles, no persuasion in the acting with the slight exception to Laura Dern’s character, and absolutely no empathy. I felt as if I was watching a bad Lifetime movie with nothing more to say than “wow, we fucked other people because why the hell not” without any proper implications except a lot of yelling and pretense. At least it didn’t get preachy. That would have really pushed this film down the shithole.
2.5/5 | 2004 | English | Directed by: John Curran | 101 mins | IMDB link
The film was a mess. To me, it felt directionless and at points, pointless. The characters were empty, the writing was bad, and the overall plot was non-existent. I couldn’t figure out what it was doing or trying to be: an action flick? a slice of life romance? a self-explorative journey? It tried to mix and blend everything haphazardly and in the process, imploded. Regardless of what it was under its sheath, superficially, it markets itself a gangster-style film which it also fails at. It almost laughable because of how cheap and ridiculous the ploys get. The pretense of gangster warfare is a mask for juvenile delinquent -esque behavior between two groups of kids and a few old men chasing each other with baseball bats. Honestly, this could have been a cool film, but it kept increasing its ambition without having a solid foundation and thus ended falling face-flat. I’d skip this one.
1.5/5 | 2006 | Korean | Directed by: Ha Yoo| 141 mins | IMDB link