Tag Archives: stalker

Caché – Review

27 Oct

Michael Haneke’s Funny Games (I’m partial to the 2007 version) is one of my favorite films of all time, and I’ve been severely slacking at watching some of his other works. I’ve finally gotten around to it with his 2005 critical success Caché. This film was nominated for the Palme d’Or at the 2005 Cannes Film Festival and many critics call it one of the best films of the 2000s. All of those critics kind of have to slow down a little bit there. Caché is a very interesting and complex film when all is said and done, but it’s also extremely pretentious and often feels like a chore to sit through. The real joy of this movie comes through when you begin thinking about it after the credits roll.

Cache_Haneke

Georges (Daniel Auteuil) and Anne (Juiliette Binoche) Laurent are a upper middle class family living a relatively quiet life in Paris. Georges is a talk show host on a public television station, Anne works as a publisher, and they both have a 12 year old son named Pierrot (Lester Makedonsky). That quiet life soon gets uprooted when they begin finding videotapes from an anonymous stalker showing up at their doorstep. Why they are being recorded and who is responsible forces Georges to look back into his past and come to learn that actions he did when he was just a young boy could be the cause of the family’s stalker finally taking his revenge.

Caché is a very smart and well executed thriller that definitely does not fit the Hollywood definition of what a thriller is supposed to be. I highly respect Michael Haneke for stepping outside what is considered to be the genre conventions. Haneke said in an interview that he didn’t want the viewer to figure out what the one possible answer is to the mystery of this movie, he wanted people to accept all of the possible answers. This makes for some ingenious movie making, but to me it didn’t hit the mark well in the entertainment department. In my opinion, there are two kinds of art house movies. There’s a movie like Drive or even Requiem for a Dream. Those movies are “artsy.” Caché falls into the other category that I like to call “artsy fartsy.”

hero_EB20100113REVIEWS08100119986AR

Technically speaking, though, the movie is really cool. The very first shot lasts a few minutes, and just shows the front of the Laurent’s house. It’s a great opening shot and got me in the mood to see how Haneke’s artistic vision would help tell the story, but this trick is used a few times too many. The film is also shot on video, which is actually an appropriate choice since the whole plot revolves around videotapes being delivered to this family. All of the artistic qualities that are in Caché do enhance it and halp it stand apart from more run of the mill thrillers. I’m just saying that for me some of it was a bit too much for me.

I will praise wholeheartedly the performances in this movie. Daniel Auteuil and Juliette Binoche work perfectly together and both of their performances are very natural and feel very real. The same can be said about everyone in the movie, even the younger actor, Lester Makedonsky. Someone who really steals the show every time he’s onscreen is Maurice Bénichou, and while he’s not present very much, every scene he’s in is memorable.

This was a strange review to write because I liked Caché more as I thought about it, but as I was watching it, it felt pretty tiresome. This may be because the real payoff is looking back on the entire thing and putting all of the pieces together instead of just being confused the entire time. There’s that and the fact that Haneke goes a little overboard with long takes of nothing, which he is actually also guilty of in Funny Games, which I love. Caché is a memorable movie that is in the same vein as Hitchcock, but watching it is nowhere near as entertaining as it probably should be.

Advertisements

Opera – Review

6 Feb

I’ve already talked a lot about Dario Argento on this blog. So far I’ve talked about Suspiria, Inferno, and The Mother of Tears. Well, here we are, back with Argento, one of the masters of the horror genre with his 1987 film Opera. When it was first released for U.S. audiences, it was heavily cut, and therefore never complete. Luckily, I’ve seen the uncut version and I have quite a bit to say, both bad and good.

Opera_Dario_Argento

MacBeth has always been a cursed show, but never before seen like this. After the original choice for Lady MacBeth is injured in adar accident, the role then goes to newcomer Betty (Cristina Marsillach). Her first performance is met with a standing ovation, but also attracts the attention of an obsessive and violent stalker. Soon after the performance she is forced to watch the masked man kill one of her friends. In the days to come this happens again and again, giving her all the more reason to find out who the murderer is and stop him before she becomes the victim.

It seems that Argento movies always have their fair share of really great things and really terrible things. This film is case and point to my theory. In that same way, he’s kind of lucky that he’s so good at creating memorable scenes of horror, because there are so many things in this movie that have the potential to drag this movie down. The biggest problem, since it happens throughout the entire movie is the acting. This is a problem throughout Argento’s filmography, and this doesn’t have the worst acting (Suspiria), but it can be pretty laughable when the scene is meant to be dead serious.

Opera

The “joy” that is found in Opera are the fantastic murder sequences. These scenes are some of the best that you will ever see in horror along with Psycho and the original Saw. I find it remarkable how the needles that are taped under Betty’s eyes aren’t recognized as a major symbol in the horror genre. The film also shows that Argento will not hold back in his violence. The first killing that is shown is memorable, unexpected, and wonderfully gory. It was so good that I had to rewind the scene a couple of times just to prolong my giddy laughter. The scene that really stands above the rest in the movie features a bullet being shown shooting through a peep hole and into the victims head, all of it in slow motion for maximum appreciation. And what would these murder scenes be if they weren’t accompanied by some unexpected 80s metal music? There are some against this choice of soundtrack, but I think it’s a great contrast from the opera music heard throughout.

The set design also looks fantastic, especially the opera house, where a lot of the action takes place. The hall and the backstage design is both beautiful and spot on. Even Betty’s apartment has this old Italian style that you can’t really find in America. I wouldn’t be able to fully take all of these sights in if it weren’t for Argento’s stalking camera work. The camera seems to have a life of its own as it chases, stalks, and even flies throughout the opera house and the various apartments.

Opera-scene-horror-movies-23662012-640-336

The problem that almost ruins the entire movie is its godforsaken ending. I can honestly say that this is one of, if not, the worst ending I have ever seen. Never has an ending felt like it was literally thumb tacked on by a kindergartner. The conflict is over way too fast and the whole scenario is way too absurd, bordering on deus ex machina. It’s a joke.

Opera is a very good horror movie, even though it has all of the makings to be dreadful. There’s bad acting throughout and an ending that will leave even the most casual cinephiles annoyed. Still, the murder scenes, set design, camera work, and idea are all great and work well together. This isn’t going to change anyone’s minds about Argento nor will it be appropriate for anyone with a weak stomach, but it’s a fun watch for horror fans, especially those already accustomed to Argento’s style.

Stalker – Review

29 Jun

When people think about classic science fiction film from the seventies and eighties, their answers are usually something like Blade RunnerAlien, or Star Wars. But what is that little gem silently sitting behind all of these loud, special effects laden sci fis? That, my friends, is Stalker, a highly philosophical, slow moving, and strangely peaceful science fiction film that forces major viewer introspection.

In the not too distant future, an area in Soviet Russia called the Zone is blocked off by police and military after people have been mysteriously disappearing after entering. The origins of the Zone are unknown with possible solutions being a meteorite or invisible aliens. There is a room in the Zone that if you enter it, your inner most wish will be granted. Now, a person who can successfully navigate the Zone, a Stalker (Alexander Kaidanovsky), must take a Professor (Nikolai Grinko) and a Writer (Anatoly Solonitsyn) to the room, but he soon learns that these two aren’t his run of the mill customers.

The philosophies of Stalker are both personal and mysterious. By the end of the movie, Tarkovsky has not given his audience a clear answer with an ending that might be one of the most baffling of all time. I sat for a long time thinking about what all of this could mean and what Tarkovsky was trying to say. There’s religious symbolism, governmental criticism, and interpersonal relationship theories that all clash into some sort of amorphous conclusion.

That being said, this is a very difficult movie. This is a film that you and your friends can talk about for hours after seeing it and still begin to realize more and more of what it was about. Is the story meant to be taken literally or figuratively. The characters and dialogue are some of the deepest that I’ve ever seen and I could easily relate to them, but at the same time, I had trouble understanding them. That begs the question: If I can relate to these characters on a personal level, but can’t understand them, what does that say about me? Like I said before, the viewer is forced to examine themselves after watching Stalker, but they may not like what they find.

I’ve already mentioned the pacing, but I think that it is one of the most key aspects to this movie’s success. To some, Stalker will be way too slow and will bore them easily. Others will find it to be a very relaxing pace and perfectly appropriate for this kind of movie. What’s the rush? The main plot is an attempt to traverse a barren, foreign landscape. Why not take the time to appreciate it. Underneath the surface is the philosophy, which, like the landscape, must be appreciated slowly and deliberately.

The scenery of the Zone is almost like another character. Each scene has a completely different feeling, but always lingers a sense of uneasiness. Andrei Tarkovsky does a great job making the normal feel supernatural. There are no fancy tricks or effects here. The most fancy effect in the whole movie is the transitioning between sepia and color. Everything else was simply crafted through technique, mood, and set design. This just goes to show that not every sic fi movie has to have the budget of Transformers to look cool. In fact, I’d make the argument that Stalker is exponentially cooler than ANYTHING Michael Bay has ever released…ever.

I can easily put Stalker on my list of favorite movies (which will be coming eventually). The pacing and philosophy are matched perfectly with the scenery and the characters. Not only that, but the story was absolutely captivating. Be warned before going into this movie: it is incredibly slow. That being said, the pacing should not stop you from losing yourself in the Zone.