Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Calm Before the MIAF Storm

I have seen a lot of movies lately so here are some reviews.


Stupid, forgettable and mostly irrelevant name aside, this little US feature is such a sweet treat it instantly found a way into my crabby heart. It reminded me of a sub-genre of film I'd all but forgotten about but once had had a special fondness for: the mid-90s New York indie dramedy. Not the self-consciously auteur-style American indie flicks of the early 90s by folks such as Jim Jarmusch and Hal Hartley and the like, but the ones by directors who you probably never heard about, and who made films that generally went straight to video here. They often featured actors like Parker Posey or Steve Buscemi.

Delirious does in fact feature Buscemi in one of the best roles of his career, as an angry papparazzi photographer who holds his celebrity targets in contempt while simultaneously wishing for their acceptance. It's a fantastic character, full of depth and fully realised. And it's directed by Tom DiCillo, who did archetypal 90s NY indie flicks such as Living in Oblivion.

The story follows a young, pretty homeless kid who makes his way into Buscemi's life as his wide-eyed assistant, and a hot pop songstress who gets between them. It's not really about fame, per se; it's more about the growing friendship between two down-and-outers with very different visions of humanity, and the trials that friendship has to face. It's wonderfully funny throughout, in a quiet way (though I laughed out loud a handful of times), but the undercurrent of bittersweet melancholy that runs thoughout the film will probably linger with me more than the comic stuff.

It's a very minor but very enjoyable film. Tell me what you think. Oh and Parker Posey doesn't appear, but the role she would have played is filled out by Gina Gershon, who has the credentials to make this a proper certified 90s New York Indie Flick herself. Just one that came a decade and a half late.


I like zombie movies. I liked the first Resident Evil (a bit). I didn't like it enough to see its sequel. But I had tickets to see the threequel, so see it I did.

The thing about zombie movies is that they're pretty hard to mess up. Dump a garbage can full of slops on a bunch of non-speaking extras, tell 'em to shamble about moaning, and have a group of interesting and ethnically various characters run around trying not to have a chunk bitten out of them - that's all you need for some good ol' fashioned fun, like mamma used to make.

And on top of that, zombies are the perfect symbol for the modern horror filmmaker with pretensions - you can use them to symbolise anything. The detrimental, deadening effects of consumer society (Day of the Dead), the essential brutality of mankind when freed from social strictures (28 Days Later), the post-capitalist return of a repressed underclass (Land of the Dead).

Or, in the case of Resident Evil: Extinction, you can use zombies to symbolise exactly nothing but an army's worth of fugly dudes with gloop for faces ready to get mashed up by Milla Jovovich. I know that sounds okay for a film's premise really, but I left the film with the expression you normally reserve for leaving an elevator after somebody has dropped their guts and hasn't owned up to it.

It's hard to really remember much of the film, it was so thin. The whole world is taken over by zombies, a motley gang of survivors drive through the wastelands trying to survive, and the audience is waiting for Tina Turner and some kind of Thunderdome to pop up.

I do feel a certain kinship with the crew behind the film, though. I spent most of the movie with no idea what was going to happen next, or how what just happened related to anything that happened before, and I think that's exactly how the people who made the film were feeling during filming. There's a devil-may-care attitude to narrative structure, dramatic pacing and simple logic that I can't help but tip my non-existent hat to.

A good example is the way this is one of those films where the heroine seem to acquire and lose super powers whenever randomly, so at one moment she's telekinetically wiping out hordes of monsters with flames controlled by her mind alone, and the next all of her friends are getting massacred while she is stuck high-kicking and machete-chopping an army of zombies. Huh? Use your brain, Milla!

And yet.



I caught a preview of this new Cronenberg number early in the week and spent much of it clutching my neck. Throat-cuttings, clearly, are very in-season.

Eastern Promises is the Godfather of Russian Mafia films, but with less epic familial saga-ness and more bad hairstyles on Viggo Mortensen. It does have my fave Aussie actress (tm) Naomi Watts though, who does a decent job here.

Naomi is a London nurse who delivers the baby of a 14-year-old Russian sex slave who dies in the maternity ward. Things go downhill from there.

Cronenberg seems to have pulled back from the amazing body-horror of his early career, which was even still evident in more recent films like eXistenZ (or whatever it was called) and that History of Violence thing. Here, there are a few remnants of existential ickiness rough-housed into a Robert Ludlum drama, but the performances, the cold precision of the cinematography and the harrowing interest elicited by the subject matter make this a film worthy of a look-see. Just make it a light lunch beforehand.

WAAAAAIT A MINUTE. This isn't a film blog! It's an arts blog! And the Melbourne International Arts Festival opened last night!

So let's get to it!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I didn't like Eastern Promises or Delerious. I desperately wanted to as well as I'm a huge 90s film fan (particularly Harltey and Living in Oblivion as well, the less brag-worthy whit stillman) and Cronenberg being one of my favourite directors. I found them both hugely dissapointing. I'm not sure if I'm seeing too many films or films are just getting worse, or everyone I know is just getting worst taste. Then again you did like The Jammed.