Tag Archives: avant garde

mother! – Review

11 Oct

When I was first getting heavily into film, one of my main inspirations was Darren Aronofsky. He went places with his movies that I never thought were possible. Requiem for a Dream has had an impact on me that not a lot of films have and that impact kept going when I saw his films PiThe FountainThe Wrestler, and Black Swan. I thought this guy could do no wrong. Then came Noah and I saw that maybe he isn’t perfect. Noah was a huge disappointment for me and I always thought it was a strange project for Aronofsky to take. When I saw his next film, mother!, was going to be a strange psychological horror trip down the rabbit how, I felt like it was a return to form and I was super excited. Well, I’ve seen the movie and I still can’t get a grip on what I saw. This is going to be a rough review to write because I still have no idea how I really feel. One moment I hate it, and the next I find something to truly respect. Call for help.

A woman known only as Mother (Jennifer Lawrence) lives in a secluded, dilapidated house with her husband who is only credited as Him (Javier Bardem). Him is a poet who is struggling with severe writer’s block while Mother works day in and day out trying to fix the house, which is actually Him’s old house which was destroyed in a fire. One day Man (Ed Harris) shows up at Him and Mother’s door, and Him allows Man to stay the night. The actions of Man upsets Mother and things only get worse when Man’s wife, Woman (Michelle Pfeiffer), shows up and Him also allows Woman to stay. As Mother is quietly tormented by both Man and Woman, more and more people begin inviting themselves into Mother’s house and invading her life to the point where her very existence is threatened by the endless mob of people.

This movie really is something else. mother! is one of the most polarizing movies of the year, and not just with me, but also with critics and audiences. The structure of the movie, itself, even feels like polar opposites of one another. The first hour of this film is outstanding. I was sucked into it and I was ready to defend this film against anything negative one said. The dynamic between Mother and Him was intense. The abuse that Mother was receiving was quiet and nonviolent but abuse all the same. That’s when I thought, “Oh, this movie’s about toxic relationships where the pain is never from anything physical.” I thought that was a really interesting thematic journey to be on and an idea that isn’t explored all that much. Lawrence, Bardem, Harris, and especially Pfeiffer were all at the top of their games in this half of the movie. When more people began entering the home, I also thought it was a wild idea to think of and then actually execute and execute well onscreen. So far, mother! was gutsy, well paced, original, and had a clever artistic balance. Then the movie slowed down, and that was fine. A slow down was necessary. But then, we get into the second half of the film, more specifically the third act…

It is at this point that both Darren Aronofsky and mother! goes off the rails. Without spoiling anything, more people show up to the house and the great idea Aronofsky had is spoiled by doing way too much with it. Not only that, but he shamelessly bashes the viewer over the head with his religious symbolism that completely destroyed what my theory of the movie was about. It’s a relentless mish mash of violence and allegories and pretension. I get it Darren. We all get it. Settle down. It’s also at this time where both Man and Woman are nowhere in sight, and they were only one of the most interesting part of the movie. The tracking camera work that worked so well in the first half just becomes nauseating as things start getting crazier and crazier. I wasn’t really affected by what I was looking at. I wasn’t feeling angry anymore or upset for Mother. I wasn’t even laughing at the insanity. I was just getting so confused and annoyed at how far things were going that I was getting bored. It was a very strange feeling.

So let’s weigh the good with the bad. The good is the first half of the movie that is filled with excellent performances, an idea I found very unique, and camera work that was very sure of itself. Like I said, I was sucked in for a while. The bad is pretty much everything else. The actual point of the entire movie is pretentious and completely destroyed what I thought about the film. The themes themselves are pretentious, but the obvious way Aronofsky uses them is just annoying. The idea that was great in the first half also goes way too far and is also ruined in the second half. It seems like it may be balanced, but when I  say I hated the second half I mean that I HATED it. I really can’t talk too much about what I didn’t like in the second half because it would spoil the film.

mother! is an anomaly of a movie. There are times where I admire it and there are times that it just bothers me. At this very point in time, I can still say I’m torn, but the film did anger me more than I wanted it to. I like when a movie can be angering for the emotional response that it needs. Detroit was angering, but that was the response that Bigelow wanted. mother! was angering just because of how annoying and pretentious the film got and how Aronofsky went way too far with his idea. I don’t know how I’m going to feel about this movie down the line or after repeat viewings, but this is how I feel right now.

Final Grade: C-

The Holy Mountain – Review

13 Jun

After seeing Alejandro Jodorowsky’s El Topo, I knew that my next review would have to be The Holy Mountain. These two films can be considered cousins, as in they are both alike but also very different. Take the Zen and religion from El Topo and add a deeper layer of spirituality, condemnation of society, and, in my opinion, an infinitely more complicated storyline. This would make The Holy Mountain.

A Man (Horacio Salinas) wakes up after an unknown amount of time with flies covering his face. He soon meets up with a armless, legless man whom he soon befriends. After witnessing a hook drop out of a tower with gold in exchange for food, he climbs on and rides it back up. While in the tower he meets the Alchemist (Alejandro Jodorowsky). The Alchemist gathers seven other people who represent the planets and, also, his silent assistant and promises them immortality if they climb the holy mountain on Lotus Island and defeat the gods who are stationed there. Only after much spiritual training will they be able to undertake this task and achieve eternal life.

This film was an absolute marvel and made me think about who i am as a person. This pondering was done on a strange level that I never really explored before. I thought about what made up my being and what I truly believe in. The scary part was that I’m not 100% sure I know who I truly am. This and a message of reality vs fiction were huge messages amongst many in The Holy Mountain. Jodorowsky implores the viewer to go out and explore the world, and in so doing find yourself.

Those with a weak stomach may want to stay away from this film because the shock value has been turned up since El Topo. There are scenes in this movie that would make Takashi Miike cringe. I know I did. These scenes aren’t in the movie to simply shock an offend, though. If you see something that is trying to get your attention in this film, take note, because that means Jodorowsky is trying to say something important.

It’s fair to say that many people may be offended by the use of religious imagery. This is, indeed, a very controversial film and was called the “scandal of the Cannes Film Festival.”  Instead of condemning the use of these religious symbols, icons, and practices, open your mind a little more than usual and try to see past them. In other words, try to understand what their uses truly mean both in real life and in The Holy Mountain. What is Jodorowsky  trying to do with them? Getting offended by this movie would take away from the experience of it all, and even though it is a huge statement by Jodorowsky, it is just a movie and one man’s opinion. Get over it.

But, what did I think of the movie? It was like nothing I’ve ever seen before, and may never see again. Films aren’t made like this anymore, and that’s very unfortunate. Besides a few Indie gems and the occasional foreign film, audiences around the world are catered to just so the studio can make money. The Holy Mountain has messages on religion, war, big business, sex and its fetishes, spirituality, life, and death. Think about the blockbusters coming out this summer. Will they have even half of those messages, or just rehashed ones thrown in to give the movie some “depth?”

Bottom line, The Holy Mountain may be one of the finest films that I have ever seen. I truly loved everything about it, and I will love it more every time I watch it since it demands multiple viewings to be fully understood. Take a glimpse through the looking glass, ride the snake, or tune in, whichever one you want to use. Find this movie somewhere and watch it. Chances are, it will give you new insight on the world and yourself.