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Double Review: A Short Film About Killing (1988) and A Short Film About Love (1988)

The 2011 Bi-Annual DVD Haul

Foreign Films You Need To See That You Probably Haven’t!

Forgive me making assumptions in the title of this post, but the following”foreign” films (i.e., films that aren’t in English originally) are six that are not very widely seen. I’m not talking about big Kurosawa blockbusters or Bergman, but lesser known ones. But they all MUST be seen, if you can find them.

1: Dekalog (1988) (dir. Krzysztof Kieslowski)

This Polish masterpiece from the brilliant Krzysztof Kieslowski is probably his best film… if you can call it a film. It’s actually a series of ten hour long movies, totalling almost ten hours. They cover a wide range of emotions and scenarios, and together it is basically a representation of many of the dramas of life itself.

2: Night and Fog (1955) (dir. Alan Resnais)

Thirty minutes of starkly horrific, emotionally (and visually) graphic and extremely disturbing video and images of concentration camps, starvation, death and the discarding of millions of bodies and items might not sound appealing, but not only is this a must-see film, it’s an important film. Though you might feel sick or want to look away, it’s the same as ignoring the awful tragedies of our past as it is to miss out on an opportunity to see this film. It can be found on YouTube, in three parts; the first is below:

3: Shoah (1985) (dir. Claude Lanzmann)

The second Holocaust film on this list is my personal favourite. It is also substantially longer than 30 minutes; it’s 9 and a half hours. But believe me, it is worth every single minute. Unlike Night and Fog, it contains not a shred of imagery from the actual Holocaust times, but the pictures we do see are just as haunting, if not more so. We see where these atrocities happened, and as they look today. Seeing the places, a shiver runs down my spine. It’s a golden rule that so few horror movies (not that this is one) actually take heed of: what is implied is much scarier than what is seen. The more attractive part of the film is that it also contains various interviews with people both indirectly and directly involved in the massacre of the Jews, including a particularly memorable interview with a man who cut the hair of Jewish people. The interview starts off easy enough, but he quickly breaks down and is unable to answer. Shoah is a must-see film for anyone interested in this part of history, and it delivers what it promises in a manner I am forever thankful for.

4: The Hour of the Wolf (1968) (dir. Ingmar Bergman)

The closest to a real, terrifying horror film Ingmar Bergman ever directed is one of the surprisingly less-seen ones. The Hour of the Wolf has proved to be incredibly influential on modern horror (most notably Martin Scorsese’s Shutter Island) and remains in itself a constantly intriguing, frightening puzzle. Max von Sydow edges closer to insanity than ever as an imperfect world begins to fracture and sanity splits in half. All those movies about the protagonist with a multiple personality owe a hell of a lot to this one, which really kick-started them all.

5: I Stand Alone (1998) (dir. Gaspar Noé)


Most people, when they think of Gaspar Noé, think of Irreversible or Enter the Void, and so do I, I suppose, but a film of his that is often glossed over or disliked because of its darker themes of suicide and incest is actually very interesting and quite good. It takes a look into the soul, mind, and dying heart of a man, known as The Butcher, angry at the world and attempting to reconnect with his estranged daughter while fighting the demons inside him. Might sound clichéd if Hollywood were doing it, but it’s actually a very bleak, disturbing but affecting feature. The Butcher can be seen at the beginning of Irreversible, speaking a mantra that really stands for the suffocating isolation of his life and a mantra for which Noé has become known: “Time Destroys Everything.”

6: The Seventh Continent (1989), dir. Michael Haneke

Michael Haneke’s first cinematic feature film, and the first instalment in his brilliant Glaciation trilogy, is a must-see for any fan of Haneke. And yet, surprisingly, many of the Haneke fans I know have not seen it! His now immediately noticeable style of direction is present here as he chronicles the disturbing story of an entire family who mysteriously committed suicide. This is way up in my Top 5 from Haneke, and remains, like the more popular Caché and The Piano Teacher, a troubling look at the desperate, hidden truths of unhappy people.

So there you have it. Five great movies to add to your watchlist or queue. And I recommend adding them near the top. If you were disappointed with any of these fine movies, then I would be extremely surprised. They’re not all for everyone, but everyone should see them. If that makes sense.

Anything you’d like to say on the matter? Please, leave a comment below. Thanks.

Very Long Movies I Can Watch Over and Over Again…

Believe me, I LOVE a good historical epic. Love ’em a lot. But most of them are films you can enthusiastically watch once, and never return to again. This is the case with a lot of ’em, and a lot of other assorted ‘long’ movies, but there are a special selection of movies that are AT LEAST 3 hours long that I can watch over and over and over, and possibly never get tired of them. And here they are, in order of how many times I’ve seen them.

The Best of Youth (2003)

This high-spirited, epic Italian drama is a literal lifetime spread out through six hours of pure bliss. Please do not be turned off by the runtime; this is a brilliant, insanely watchable and gripping family drama; to quote Roger Ebert: “The film is six hours long but it is also six hours deep.” An unforgettable film I will never regret watching. View Count: 1, but I plan to buy it soon and then watch it over and over.

Dekalog (1988)

I know it’s going too far to call this “the best movie of all time.” That’s an impossible statement to make, so I’m not going to venture to make it, but Krzysztof Kieslowski’s 10-hour Dekalog (conveniently sliced into ten equal pieces) is pretty damn close. It deals with pretty much all the themes, emotions and basic crises of the human condition, and it does so beautifully. A masterful, must-see epic, if ever there was one. Read my review. View Count: 1 (Be fair! I only saw it for the first time a month ago!)

Shoah (1985)

Though there is dispute whether this is a documentary or a film, Claude Lanzmann’s Shoah is the most powerful, full, emotionally visceral film about the Holocaust ever made. At a whopping nine hours, some will undoubtedly be bored, but Lanzmann’s movie is, for me, anything but boring. He provides interviews with those both directly and indirectly involved in the mass murder of the Jews, and provides haunting looks at some of the places these atrocities occured. Chilling; epic; a masterpiece. View Count: 2.

Fanny and Alexander (1983)

Ingmar Bergman’s magnificent 3-hour (or 5-hour, depending on which version you’re watching) masterwork is a brilliant, beautiful, astounding work of art. Sven Nykvist’s cinematography makes every image look like a fantastic, colourful painting, beautifully directed by an amazing Bergman at the height (and end) of his theatrical career. Jeez, I’m running out of adjectives. View Count: 2

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Of all the brilliant epics David Lean directed, the only one that really hooked me and made me fall in love with it was Lawrence of Arabia. Crossing the 3 and a half hour mark, it may be long, but it sure is beautiful. The stunning images of the Sahara Desert combined with the sheer will of Peter O’Toole’s T.E. Lawrence combine to make a fantastic, riveting movie. View Count: 2.

Dogville (2003)

Lars von Trier has made many films that have very divided opinion, and the one with the most divided is probably Dogville. It seems half the audience hate this fantastic 3-hour drama about social mistreatment, cruelty, and the ultimate price of letting everything go. If you’ve seen it, then make sure you visit this page and leave a comment rating it out of 10 by June 24, 2011. Anyway, it’s a fantastic (but debatable) movie that I absolutely love. View Count: 3.

Barry Lyndon (1975)

Stanley Kubrick’s longest film is actually 3 hours long, and often forgotten about when Kubrick’s name and filmography is mentioned. However, it is one of his best films, a fantastic epic about the lifetime of a young man (Ryan O’Neal) who ascends to royalty in the 19th century by fighting and cheating his way to the top. Beautifully lit, this scenically marvellous and emotionally riveting (particularly within the gripping last hour) film is sadly underrated. View Count: 4.

The Godfather, Parts I and II (1972, 1974)

Both of these films, which together total over six hours, are absolutely enthralling, brilliant masterpieces from Francis Ford Coppola that revolutionized and revitalized a mafia/crime drama genre, undoubtedly inspiring such classic directors as Martin Scorsese and Brian DePalma. Not to mention I can watch them over and over and over without ever getting tired. View Count: 6.

Inland Empire (2006)

I seem to be the only person who loves this movie enough to say it is perfect. David Lynch’s 3-hour masterpiece is a very inaccessible but still hugely enthralling delve into the unusual, darker side of humanity. A seemingly senseless, plotless series of scenes, Inland Empire actually has a bustling, multi-layered plot which is extremely difficult to decode, probably the reason I’ve watched it so many times. It’s really a film that needs to be seen to be believed, and I don’t like to throw that phrase around. View Count: 8.

Magnolia (1999)

If you read my blog you probably know this is my favourite movie of all time, and that is fair enough reason to watch it 19 times. That’s right, NINETEEN! I’ve watched this 187 minute labyrinth of emotions almost twenty times in its entirety, and I never, never, NEVER get tired of it. I’ve written a very long essay on it (which I plan to post to the site soon enough, pending further editing), and forced friends to watch it more times than they care for. Even if you don’t love this movie, as I’m certainly not expecting you to, you have to admit it has serious emotional power, and it is a testament to the brutal, strong ability of Paul Thomas Anderson, a man who was BORN to be behind the camera. Affects me in the same manner each and every time, and was arguably the film that fuelled my love for cinema. View Count: 19.

What are some awfully long movies you love to watch? What about ones you think are too long? Not long enough? Seen any of the movies above and have something you’d like to say? Leave a comment below. Thanks for reading.

Dekalog: Ten Hours of Amazing, Pure Cinema

Recently, I’ve become a huge fan of the films of Krzysztof Kieslowski. I watched The Double Life of Veronique and the Three Colours trilogy, but there was one vital piece of the puzzle missing: Dekalog. It is perhaps his most acclaimed work, and more effort probably went into this than any other of his brilliant movies.

It is a series of ten films, each just short of an hour long, totalling up to about 9 1/2 hours in full duration. Each “episode” deals with one of the famous Ten Commandments of the Bible, but Kielowski goes about presenting his vision of these commandments in modern life in a strikingly un-religious manner. Religion is not a key part of any of the films, particularly, and the challenges and problems the characters face are all realistic scenarios that some of us might face.

In the first episode, a father and son contemplate the importance and reliance of technology as a new age dawns. In #2, an adulterous woman turns her reliance to a doubtful doctor who must make a difficult choices. In #3, a man spends the night on a hunt for a missing husband with his ex-lover. In #4, a teenage girl discovers a letter from her deceased mother bringing into question the true place of her father in her life. In #5, perhaps the best and most striking instalment, a man commits a vicious, violent, unmotivated murder and a young, rookie lawyer comes to his aid. #6 tells of a nervous young man who spies on a woman across the way with his telescope, analysing her highly sexual but chillingly lonesome lifestyle. In #7, a young woman’s daughter struggles to accept her as her mother after being raised to believe she’s actually her sister. #8 deals with a woman who struggled through World War II and revisits the woman who accidentally changed her life during that hard time. In #9, an impotent man tests his wife to see if she would really cheat on him, when he himself has spent his life fooling around, and in #10, two brothers come into ownership of their late father’s stamp collection, worth tens of millions.

The plots are all interesting ones. Some might not seem original to the observing reader, but Kieslowski takes them to amazing places, making them some of the most original, touching and stunning works of art ever made. Though when he made this, Kieslowski had never made a popular or successful film, we can see this is a man dedicated to cinema, who has a vision of art that is completely unique to his movies. We can see from Dekalog, perhaps more so than from any of his other films, that Kieslowski knows what he’s doing and manages to compel the audience and throw them into some amazing stories, with new twists around each corner. Take for example, Dekalog 5. A strange, sick man wanders around town before, out of nowhere and without reason, he strangles a taxi driver to death. The murder is visceral and difficult to watch. He is sentenced to death, and many of us think, rightfully so. But here’s where Kieslowski’s sly attitude comes creeping in. Throughout the second half, we begin to know the man and learn more about his life, to the point that when the hour comes for him to be hanged, we are screaming in objection. Kieslowski manages to completely change the audience’s attitude to the character, within a manner of minutes. This is skill.

Kieslowski also uses a different cinematographer for each film (save for one man, whom he uses twice), to give each instalment its own unique feel. Perhaps the films are meant to be thought of as one, but it seems easier to classify it that way. His characters are real, feel real, and have moments of humanity so lifelike that it’s almost enough to make you cry. Some of them are intensely saddening (#1, #5, #7, notably), and others noticeably light (#3, #9), as Kieslowski touches every end of the emotional spectrum and in between. Watching Dekalog is like watching one single person’s life, as all the days and hours and events flicker away and we are left with the happenings of a day in our mind, until another day starts and we have new things to think about. We meet a variety of people in here, and the film covers ten simple plots made incredibly personal. Kieslowski really hits the bat close to home, and the moment we finish one episode we have a hundred things to think about. How has this affected me? What is Kieslowski trying to say? We can only see in the perfectly framed shots of life in action, as people are affected in shocking, personal ways and we watch vividly, unable to intervene.

Dekalog is cinema. Plain and simple. No, better yet… Dekalog is life. Dekalog covers everything: love, loss, hatred, happiness, confusion, loneliness and comfort; the hundreds of emotions we all feel every day are squeezed down into a surprisingly quick ten hours of amazing, pure cinema.

Watch Dekalog. You might learn something about the Ten Commandments, you might learn something about cinema, you might learn something about emotion. Who knows? You might even learn something about yourself.

If you’ve seen the movie/s, leave a comment letting me know what you thought of them and my review. If you haven’t seen it/them… what are you waiting for? Go! Go now!

Thanks for reading.