Century 2013: Venus in Fur

Gah. Another DVVD with forced subtitles…

Venus in Fur. Roman Polanski. 2013.

Without Canal+, there would have been no European cinema for the past two decades. That’s my conclusion after watching a lot of films these past couple of years. Canal+ is always, in my mind at least, listed as a co-producer of any European arty movie.

So it here, with this kinda-recent Polanski film.

I haven’t seen a film of his for at least a decade or two. I think the last one I saw was when I watched all of Sigourney Weaver’s films like fifteen years ago. It was the one about torture in… Argentina? It was OK.

This film is about a director (who looks awfully like a young Polanski) (who’s doing an adaptation of Sacher-Masoch’s novel) in an empty theatre with a female actor, and… hijinx? ensue? OK, that’s unfair, but it’s just that Polanski’s name is so… icky?… these days that watching his films without that in mind is a challenge.

It’s funny. Polanski’s making fun of his stand-in. He’s describing a character as “A rich idler of his times, intelligent, well-traveled, cultivated” and the vital, manic pixie nightmare girl actress who’s disrupting his evening responds with “A nerd”.

[time passes]

They way I do these blog posts is usually I’ll watch a few minutes and then I have to make the cocktail and I’ll write something, and then I’ll write something throughout the film whenever I’m bored, but that didn’t happen here because THIS IS BRILLIANT!

There’s so many levels here, where Polanski is referencing his own biography, and the Sacher-Masoch novel, and the play they’re putting on, and the constant critiques of that play, and the hints that there might be something much bigger going on. It’s mind-bogglingly meta, and is the best film I’ve seen in quite a while.

Or perhaps I’m just very drunk.

The only thing that doesn’t work for me is the soundtrack. There’s this constant low-level almost-music going on all the time. This is a very funny film, but the soundtrack is like a non-vocal laugh track, and it’s really annoying.

This blog post is part of the Century series.

Century 2011: Dreams of a Life

Dreams of a Life. Carol Morley. 2011.

Oh, right. This is a documentary by Carol Morley, who did The Alcohol Years, which I saw… a couple of years ago? Hm. I don’t remember what it was about, but I must have liked it if I bought this one? Hm, I think I did?

So it’s about a woman who died and nobody discovered for like three years. In front of her TV which was still on.

Morley’s approach is original. It’s half interviews with people who had known Joyce Carol Vincent before she died (and didn’t think it was odd that they hadn’t heard from her in years), a woman playing her in the stories they tell, and pretty tacky reenactments of the cops examining her bedsit.

OK, from the first few minutes I was all prepared to hate this film, but it’s kinda fascinating. Morley changes the reenactments based on what the friends are saying, and they contradict themselves a lot. It all turns into this fascinating thing where I’m wondering how somebody would piece my life together if I died and nobody noticed for a few years. I know! So narcissistic!

Morley has all of these people saying contradictory things about Joyce, and it’s so fascinating. Very Rashomon. But it’s not perfect. Morley has a tendency to drop a musical “bed” behind the voices to give them greater emotional depth, and it’s cloying and annoying.

I did find the sequence of producers funny:

So much lottery!

It’s got the funniest “behind the scenes” documentary ever. All off the staff is always running off the stage because they’ve just discovered they’re not in Hollywood. Brilliant.

This blog post is part of the Century series.

Century 2010: The Extraordinary Adventures of Adèle Blanc-Sec

Gah! This is one of those blu-rays that has a ‘forced’ subtitle; i.e., it’s part of the video stream instead of being a separate thing. Whyyyy.

Oh, it’s by Digital Factory. I guess that’s more digital.

I was so confused by the subtitles here. Jardin. Jaguar.


I love those ears. So Tardi.

The Extraordinary Adventures of Adele Blanc-Sec. Luc Besson. 2010.

I love Tardi’s comics. He’s a hugely influential person in European arty comics, and Adele is his goofy, commercial series. Still wonderful, of course.

So I never watched this film, because I thought it would totally suck. I mean, it’s Luc Besson. Could he possibly handle the weirdness of Tardi’s way of telling stories?

And the answer is… kinda? I mean, he retains way more of Tardi’s quirks than I would have thought possible. Tardi is pure comics; he’s not one of those people who structures his scenes around how they would look as movie adaptations. But those are the scenes that work, like that random observer guy. Those scenes are awesome, and are a direct steal from the comics.

What doesn’t work as well is when Besson adds love interests and the Indiana Jones scenes.

But it’s amazing how Besson was able to reproduce some characters and pieces exactly as they are in the comics, because Tardi isn’t exactly realist. I found myself going “whooa” and “aaaaah” several times.

But this is, as I assumed, not a good film. I totally understand why Besson turned Adèle into an action hero instead of a very irritable author who spends most of her time at home, but he could have made those adventures, like, better.

So I have no objectivity here. I veer from “why” to “yay” constantly, which makes for a weird experience.

The CGI hasn’t aged well. It’s so weird they didn’t do the pterodactyl with folded wings. It’s always standing there with the wings stretched out uncomfortably.

This blog post is part of the Century series.

Century 2009: Precious

Precious. Lee Daniels. 2009.

Hey, I bought this one twice.

Even if it won a couple of Oscars it’s not that bad! But the American convention of having adult actors playing teenagers is so weird. For the first few minutes I wondered why a woman in her mid-20s was attending junior high, but then (helpfully) she was called into the principal’s office who as-you-know-bob-ed her on her age (which was supposed to be 16) and I went oh.

The performances are fine, but it’s got some structural problems. Is it going to go all Dangerous Minds on us? What’s the timeline here? Has an hour passed or half a year? Why is Precious suddenly so erudite? What’s going on? Why are all these things happening to Precious? Why is the mother suddenly spilling the beans?

I liked the fantasy/reality thing, but I totally thought the last third of the film was entirely fantasy, with other fantasies embedded. Perhaps I was over-thinking it.

It’s a bit much.

This blog post is part of the Century series.

Century 2008: The Smiths: The Queen is Dead

The Smiths: The Queen is Dead. Derek Jarman. 2008.

What’s this then? Oh, it’s an “unauthorised” documentary about The Smiths focusing on The Queen is Dead.

I’ve seen a couple of these before. They’re made on the cheap… But this does actually have The Smith’s songs, so it’s not as no-budget as some of the others.

And, of course, nobody from the band appears (except Craig Gannon), and instead it’s a bunch of journalists, producers and other musicians talking about The Smiths.

The most interesting bits here is where the producer (Stephen Street) talks, I think. And Tony Wilson drops some fact bombs on money matters: If Morrissey hadn’t signed with Rough Trade, the entire 80s indie scene wouldn’t have happened in the UK, because the money just wasn’t there otherwise.

But it’s quite nerdy, and I like that. Especially the guitarist guy who explains what Johnny Marr was doing.

Your mileage may vary. If The Smiths didn’t destroy your teenage years, you may find this painfully boring.

This blog post is part of the Century series.