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Englisch What teenage American girls really dream about… Park attacks American cinema with its own weapons. In the frame for a family melodrama, whose ideology (family above all, children as a chance to make things right) is cruelly mocked, he has set a formalistically polished, thoroughly deviant film that defies categorisation in any particular genre. Beginning with the flashforward that opens the film (and indicates the dominant narrative perspective that goes beneath the surface), we are confused and led in wrong directions by various narrative devices. We learn important information sooner or later than the characters, genre conventions are used in unexpected contexts, and an equal sign could be drawn between the villains and the protagonists. With the frequent use of continuity of the shots, seemingly random details (the sole of a foot, a spider) gradually fit into the well-thought-out structure and become important motifs serving both the obvious thematic levels of the story and those that lie beneath the surface. At the same time, the occasionally disgusting details (the bursting of a blister) indicate how India perceives reality, which is probably most clearly demonstrated by her art-class painting of the inside of a vase (instead of painting the vase itself or the flowers placed in the vase). ___ Park is well aware of how certain types of scenes are constructed in Hollywood, which is why he ironically places those formulas in the foreground (the rhythmisation of a scene using a metronome, which is present in the diegetic space of the film) or circumvents them (disregard for the axis rule in the three-part dialogue scenes, the discontinuous sequencing of shots throughout the film). Through an ironic lens, we can also see the main protagonist, who has similarly morbid interests as many of her peers, but in her case it’s not mere posturing. ___ In the mould of Shadow of a Doubt, the whole film is structured as a suspenseful – albeit very ambiguous in terms of moral categories – duel between a pair of adversaries who complement and destroy each other and whose forces are only seemingly unequal. The narrative is largely organised by means of parallelism, which is behind some of the film’s most impressive scenes (e.g. the orgasmic piano duet), motivates the changes in perspective within a single long shot (either by changing the direction of movement or through more conventional refocusing) and makes us aware of moments that are important to the plot (most of the essential revelations occur on the stairs, which are “ruled” by Charlie at the beginning and by India at the end). The peak moments of the film are the two precisely built-up and rather shocking cut scenes, of which the first places sex and death on the same level and the second uniquely compresses three time planes into one. ___ From a psychoanalytical perspective, Stoker is an extremely dense film, though it occasionally resorts to naïve literalism and works with some symbols far more conspicuously than, for example, Hitchcock, who had to be more restrained in this respect due to censorship (he could perhaps have only gotten away with Charlie’s assessment of the wine accompanied by meaningful glances at India). In the shots shared with India and Charlie, the mother is a superfluous and disruptive element, which partially corresponds to the meaning of the role played by Nicole Kidman, who – despite her stardom – is more or less an extra in the film (which is to say that her performance is a violation of expectations associated with the star system) and becomes interesting only during a symptomatic reading (a reprise of the “primal scene”, which awakens India’s sexuality). ___ In the context of American production, Stoker is a refreshingly cynical film whose cohesiveness at the level of both the lower and higher narrative units is a joy to analyse again and again (because you certainly won’t exhaust all of its possibilities in one or two viewings), though you will occasionally have to turn a blind eye to the naïveté of its screenplay. 90%

Die Faust im Nacken

MattyDie Faust im Nacken(1954) 

Englisch Kazan’s variation on a neorealist theme, straddling the line between realism and idealism (the unabashedly melodramatic climax) is not an iconic 1950s film only because of its socio-critical story (for whose appreciation it is good to know the infamous role played by Schulberg and Kazan in McCarthy’s anti-communist campaign). On the Waterfront most intensely recalls the time of its making through the acting performances. You don’t have to leaf through thick books on the history of cinema in order to understand the term “method acting”. It suffices to watch Brando at work in one textbook scene after another. Brando is focused, but at ease, with bullish tenacity and feminine sensitivity at the same time. That sensitivity makes Terry a remarkably ambivalent character. On the one hand, it weakens him; on the other hand, it makes him a moral authority in the eyes of men who are outwardly stronger but inwardly weaker. These two components of the protagonist’s personality never cancel each other out. Thanks to Brando, they are rather in perfect harmony. Such identification of an actor with his character has rarely been seen since. 85%



Englisch 2001: A Space Odyssey, which this film reminded me of several times during the screening, confronted man with the great unknown. In Gravity, like in the most classic folk tales (which are usually dominated by a man, not a woman), man is confronted mainly with himself and his (limited) possibilities. This is not the only indication of the film’s classic nature. Another wager on certainty is the three-act narrative structure (three sanctuaries provided by three space stations, each of which representing a different religion) with precisely doled out story complications and exemplary use of deadlines, which contribute to the impression that the things we see are happening in real time and thus nothing is decided and certain in advance. As others have previously described in detail, Gravity is gripping not in spite of but thanks to the use of classic Hollywood narrative formulas. The intensity of the experience is aided by limiting the narrative to what Dr. Stone sees, hears, knows and experiences, as she becomes our avatar for roughly eighty minutes. Perhaps during the most intense moments, we don’t so much fear for her life, but for the perspective that we might lose if we lose her. If there is no Dr. Stone, there will be no way for us to see. What happens in the global context is irrelevant. The film does not disrupt our emotional connection to the central character by dealing with any conflicts other than her internal conflict. Bad things simply happened (her daughter’s death, the debris impact) and now it is up to her to deal with them. In any case, the powerfulness of the Rd. protagonist’s rebirth (including the foetal position and the cutting of the umbilical cord) is due not only to the highly cohesive screenplay and the detailed technical rendering, but also to Sandra Bullock’s performance. Her “howling” at the Moon will remain in my memory as one of the most moving film moments of 2013 and, also thanks to Bullock, the purgative final shot, when the ordinary definitively becomes extraordinary, was also a powerful experience for me that goes beyond film (and beyond sensory perception). In my eyes, that moment, despite its content, elevated Gravity from the level of technical wonder and unique crisis simulator (not only in space) to an encounter with something otherworldly that cannot be described with words or conveyed in images. If we leave aside the theatrical reversals, we could even call it Art. 95%

Industrial Light & Magic: Creating the Impossible

MattyIndustrial Light & Magic: Creating the Impossible(2010) 

Englisch Creating the Impossible looks like a patchwork of talking heads from the making-of documentaries about individual films (priority was given to those made by the uncritically admired Lucas, Spielberg and their friends). The only common denominator is the (self-)laudatory tone and the unwillingness to see the extensive use of CGI in a broader context. Though the documentary offers only a few lighter moments, such as Robin Williams’s story about running away from a non-existent rhinoceros, it maintains a treacherously brisk pace throughout (thus creating the impression that we have been told much more than we actually have) thanks to the music and the modest use of film clips. Instead of this, I recommend watching The Pixar Story, which is partially about the same thing and doesn’t seem so synthetic.

Lone Survivor

MattyLone Survivor(2013) 

Englisch Following Gravity and All Is Lost (and, to some extent, Captain Phillips), Lone Survivor is another high-contact fight for survival, placing vicarious experience over a complicated plot. Instead of examining the film’s content, it suffices to read the title. With the exception of the introductory panoramas of the picturesque Afghan landscape (which can be understood as part of an effort to not demonise the whole country, but only the Taliban…though the film was shot in New Mexico), Berg relies predominantly on point-of-view shots and close-ups. The camera’s close proximity to the characters occasionally results in a lack of clarity, though it also adds an unpleasant veracity. The impression of rawness is aided by the film’s R rating, thanks to which we can “enjoy” every shot-off finger and every bone-breaking impact on a rock. The film’s long, superbly intensified action core with minimum pathos is unfortunately put in a context that is not very sophisticated. After a broad introduction, the members of the team blend together, the Taliban are evil because they cut off heads, and any indication of the current American military’s inadequacies is quickly suppressed (the unpleasant hazing of a new recruit rapidly transmutes into an inspiring rhyme). In contrast to what we have witnessed (a fatally botched mission) and what in places had a refreshing tinge of ambivalence (the argument about what to do with a captured enemy combatant), the film ends with the cheap pre-credits glorification of the soldiers involved. – SPOILER: With most of them, it’s impossible to avoid the not-insignificant feeling that we are supposed to consider them heroes simply because they didn’t die. END SPOILER – After All is Lost, where I was bothered by the lack of value added, I wouldn’t have expected that I would write this, but this time I would have preferred a pure survival flick without any information aimed at bringing depth to the story. 65%

The Wolf of Wall Street

MattyThe Wolf of Wall Street(2013) 

Englisch Leonardo DiCaprio transforms into Matthew McConaughey in this biopic, which chokes on itself. For as long and as fast as The Wolf of Wall Street talks, it ultimately says surprisingly little. Like The Great Gatsby, another attempt to explore the self-destructive potential of capitalism from last year, Wolf also entertained me more with its form than with its content. ___ Scorsese has dealt with the central theme of male frustration arising from the inability to reach the top and stay there several times (most evocatively in Raging Bull). What makes this film different is mainly its tone, degree of excess and greater emphasis on the ritual dimension of boorish behaviour. Sex, drugs and drinking have gained a common denominator in the form of dollar bills, for which anything and anyone can be bought. The film doesn’t condemn money – and there is the question of whether anyone should take it seriously in such a case today. On the contrary, it genuinely acknowledges that money can buy loads of pleasure. The ambiguous final scene with Agent Denham (is he smiling?), who together with Belfort’s first wife is the only one who acts with any sense of morals, leaves it up to us to judge whether he is happy or regretful that he didn’t take Belfort’s offer. (Denham comes across as a being from a different, human world also thanks to Kyle Chandler’s acting). Scorsese puts us in a similar “decide for yourself” position multiple times, e.g. during Belfort’s slow crawl to the Lamborghini. The scene isn’t made humorous with music or with a well-timed cut. It is rather several static shots without musical accompaniment. We are not encouraged to laugh at the protagonist; that’s only somehow expected of us. ___ At the same time, a second viewing of the etude with the Lamborghini, unforgettable thanks particularly to DiCaprio’s physical performance, which is reminiscent of Jerry Lewis and other masters of physical comedy, reinforced my suspicion that Scorsese did not have an entirely clear concept of how to shoot the individual parts of the film and then put them together. With the exception of the aforementioned scene, it more or less applies that the less cool the film is, the more seriously we should take it. The rapid dolly shots, the overhead shots, the slowed or quickened movement, the loud music (the choice of which is governed by whether we are watching the bacchanalia or, for example, another stock-market success) – these are all indicators that Belfort has the narrative fully under his control. From the prologue (white Ferrari, not red), however, Belfort shows himself to be an unreliable narrator who doesn’t tell the truth, or at least not the whole truth. Other characters and the film’s narrative itself have to repeatedly set the record straight and tell us what really happened (the S&M evening, the rampage on the airplane, the return from the Country Club). The scenes without music and Belfort’s boastful commentary, handled using the standard shot-countershot technique, are often more critical of the “hero’s” actions and give the impression that we are receiving facts in a purer form, unfiltered by Belfort’s view. But in “his” scenes, Belfort occasionally commits an offense that an impartial (and absent) film narrator avoids – he puts himself down (eleven-second coitus, self-ironic quoting of Browning’s Freaks). Is that supposed to be a surprising violation of the rules (such as the later conferment of the voice-over to other narrators, namely Saurel and Aunt Emma), or is it proof that the film does not respect any rules in its extravagant indiscipline? ___ Of course, the composition of the plot from various mad incidents is not as random as it may seem. The narrative moves ever forward thanks to the rhythmically well-thought-out introduction of new characters and revealing of new information, and thanks to the intensification of the motifs pointing out the striking contrast (played superbly by DiCaprio) between the Jordan who has ambition and a knit sweater and the Jordan who has everything. Whether The Wolf of Wall Street has a clear concept or not (it probably does, but I didn’t find it even on the second viewing), and whether or not it is sexist in its exploitation of the female body (it probably is, because Naomi uses her sex appeal as a weapon), the new Scorsese film remains an entertainingly provocative black comedy (or horror musical?) that pulsates with incredible (masculine) energy for the whole three hours and likably does not try to foist upon us any moralistic wisdom about the harmfulness of money, egoism and various forms of immoderation. 85%

Dallas Buyers Club

MattyDallas Buyers Club(2013) 

Englisch -Thank You. -Fuck off! Breaking Good? Not entirely. Dallas Buyers Club is surprisingly not an emotionally manipulative drama about the belated awakening of a homophobe. It is rather a sober film – in terms of both form and content – that instead of glorifying Woodroof, admits that this cowboy did not deserve any exaggerated compassion even after he contracted AIDS. The effort taken to not harp on the protagonist’s suffering and to simply depict him corresponds to the objectiveness of the form (filming without additional artificial lighting, documentary-style asymmetrical shot compositions, non-evocative use of music). If the film isn’t emotionally cold,  that’s particularly due to the gaunt McConaughey, who lost approximately 20 kilos for his role as Woodroof. Even though he plays only a shadow of his heroes from other films, he never loses the sparkle in his eye. The way that he combines inordinate self-confidence, blatant impudence and admirable tenacity makes the protagonist an ideal campaigner against the (medical) establishment, which expects nothing more from its nemesis, who personifies the indomitable nature of American ambition, than the fact that he will soon die. Also fascinating especially for his physical transformation is Jared Leto, whose scenes with McConaughey are remotely reminiscent of Midnight Cowboy, another film that didn’t take itself too seriously and, on the other hand, neither revelled in its serious subject matter nor trivialised it. 75%

Das erstaunliche Leben des Walter Mitty

MattyDas erstaunliche Leben des Walter Mitty(2013) 

Englisch In addition to virtual relationships, in the introduction Stiller also cautiously raises a middle finger to corporate capitalism, which strips people of their individuality and transforms individuals into pawns who are willing to do anything to hold on to their jobs. A person’s own body – or rather mind – thus becomes his or her last refuge. The liberating power of the imagination allows one to at least dream of doing noble deeds worthy of great romantic heroes, who were long ago displaced from reality and put into epic Hollywood fairy tales. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty is not ashamed to admit that it is itself such a fairy tale whose message justifies its numerous spectacular scenes. The second half of the film is made up of a series of stirring adventure stories whose aesthetic concept is consciously inspired by magazine covers, since Walter escapes from his daily routine into photographs from prestigious magazines. Though the special-effects sequences blur the line between dream and reality to such an extent that the difference becomes irrelevant (instead of creating a certain tension), they also gently complement the characteristics of the main protagonist. Even though the romantic subplot seems superfluous on the surface and the film may seem like a self-improvement handbook for men who don’t know what to do with their lives, other people (his girlfriend, Sean O'Connell, his mother and, indirectly, even his deceased father) directly and indirectly support Walter in his solo adventures and compel him to continue in them throughout the film. In the current “contactless” era, a very welcome feature of this film is its effort to convince viewers not to live only in the virtual world and to not be afraid to realise their dreams, to not be selfish and to not stop thinking of others even in the most difficult moments (due to which the film seems more conformist than the roughly similar anarchistic action flick Wanted). Walter Mitty demonstrates that Stiller is able to suppress his eccentric comic nature in favour of a relatively serious idea. However, that seriousness is fortunately never taken so far that the film would completely step outside the realm of feel-good entertainment for the big screen and for the whole family. With the benefit of hindsight and in all seriousness, I wouldn’t hesitate to call Walter Mitty the most positive movie surprise of last year. 85%

Herzen in Flammen

MattyHerzen in Flammen(1930) 

Englisch As banal and ridiculous as the plot is in its frantic effort to find space for Dietrich’s performance, which serves purely as an attraction, Morocco is to an astonishing extent open to a queer reading. Marlene wears men’s clothing, kisses a woman and points out that she still hasn’t found a marriage-worthy man who can satisfy her. Of course, both the first and the second incidents are part of a cabaret performance, while we can interpret the third as simply and chastely meaning that she hasn’t had any luck with finding the right kind of guy. However, the actress’s gestures and face, and especially the titillating way in which Sternberg presents both of these aspects, make the possibility of reading against the grain irresistible. The dialogue also addresses gender differences, constantly treading the line between the two sexes and, though it is free of explicit innuendos, we can easily infer that the director was not a major supporter of the traditional family model. In connection with that, the setting in Morocco, where western female stereotypes were gaining prominence, found its justification. It seems absolutely logical when the protagonist “mannishly” salutes Cooper at the end, takes off her impractical and very feminine shoes and goes into the desert to perform more meaningful service than the life of a proper wife would require from her. The question of whether she is also renouncing her femininity by rejecting the role of decorative accessory and whether society is giving her any choice at all remains hanging in the hot Moroccan air. 75%

American Hustle

MattyAmerican Hustle(2013) 

Englisch “Some of this actually happened.” The exaggerated opening title well indicates the strengths and weaknesses of Russell’s American Hustle, which isn’t rooted in any particular genre. No, we will not familiarise you with the procedural details of the central swindle. Who knows what it was really like back then? And yes, like what you are about to see, Hollywood is one big game that plays fast and loose with the truth. So, we will set up a mirror and other reflective surfaces in front of ourselves and from the opening scene (preparation for the performance) we will draw attention to the performative dimension of the con artist’s “craft”. Which is to say that we will not focus on facts or provide enough of them that would create tension and expectations, but only self-reflexive wordplay that belongs entirely to the actors. Due to the sidelining of the course of the operation in favour of the relationships between the characters, who deny and rediscover their own identities, there is nothing that would hold the narrative structure together and keep the viewer in suspense. We can understand the herky-jerky rhythm of the narrative as an attempt to adapt the form to a large number of narrators with different natures and goals (and acting styles, because nearly every actor is attuned to a different genre), though I personally see it as evidence of Russell’s indiscipline as a director, which is caused by putting too much trust in the actors. Similarly, the manneristic use of certain stylistic techniques (rapid dolly shots) and gratuitous incorporation of contemporary music testify to the fact that Russel is adept at his craft and knows how to shoot a “cool” scene, but his directing is non-conceptual. The changes of identities, genres, rhythm and narrators are fun at first and give the film a certain flair. Due to the aimless directing and meaningless plot, however, the excess of images and words, which basically say the same thing again and again (and say it much more straightforwardly than, for example, Preston Sturges in the timeless The Lady Eve, becomes off-putting much sooner than, for example, in The Wolf of Wall Street, which seems to be a much shorter film thanks to its more concentrated and coherent narrative. As is becoming customary in the case of Russell, the actors save the film from being completely rejected and quickly forgotten. Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence, though entertaining, forgot to switch from the eccentric comedy mode employed in Silver Linings Playbook and the atrocious (s)exploitation of Amy Adams’s body needlessly flattens the Sydney character and detracts from her ambivalence, but at least Christian Bale hasn’t looked so bad and acted so well in a few years. 65%

Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit

MattyJack Ryan: Shadow Recruit(2014) 

Englisch For an American film, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is an unusually disillusioning experience. Before this new Jack Ryan, I ranked Koepp and Zaillian among today’s top screenwriters and I believed Branagh to be a very competent director of intelligent films. However, their combined effort is an example of the worst kind of sloppiness in screenwriting and directing. Though the screenplay holds together in rough outlines (the circular narrative structure, the satisfactory interconnection of the relationship and work storylines, the economical use of props), the individual scenes reveal the confounding laziness of the film’s creators in figuring out how to make a particular character do a particular thing. The number of supporting constructs that they place in front of us due to poorly thought-out situations and the obtuse behaviour of the characters grows exponentially and one long, uninterrupted facepalm is the only appropriate reaction to the final twenty minutes, when everyone suddenly displays miraculous prescience and the ability to be in the right place at the right time. With the exception of the raw hotel brawl, which keeps alive the hope that this could be a decent paranoid thriller in the vein of late Hitchcock, the action scenes are muddled and mediocre. Shifting attention from the directing and screenplay to the actors is a matter of stepping out of the frying pan and into the fire, because the characters are interchangeable and played by actors who lack charisma. The dual (or even triple?) exposition only seems to indicate that this could be the hero’s origin story. As a result, the return to the past is not used for the purpose of tracking the longer-term development of the protagonist, who doesn’t actually develop (on the contrary, Pine’s facial expression at the end is one of even greater surprise than it was at the beginning), but serves primarily to amplify the pro-American emphasis of the narrative: we must defend our territory, values and – mainly – our money. Similarly, it initially seems that Ryan will be differentiated from other action heroes by his use of intellect instead of muscle (though Pine’s acting style is absolutely incompatible with such a concept), but someone else comes up with the main and, incidentally, rather dumb infiltration action and all of the shifts in the narrative are resolved through physical force and not by means of data collection and analysis. In the end, Ryan appears to be the more intelligent character, mainly thanks to the fact that he is surrounded by idiots who are unable to plan an operation that’s not based largely on chance. Nor is the ensemble given much strength by Branagh himself, whose tenacious Russian patriot with liver spots and a light bulb would be better suited to a Cold War-era Bond movie. Those Bond films, though, didn’t lack a sense of detached humour, the utter absence of which definitively kills Jack Ryan, which itself is an offence against spy thrillers and their viewers. Because of its cheapness (not in terms of budget, but in everything else), this is a film that’s suitable only as a Movie of the Week (or whatever they call it these days) on broadcast TV. 50%

L'ultimo gattopardo: Ritratto di Goffredo Lombardo

MattyL'ultimo gattopardo: Ritratto di Goffredo Lombardo(2010) 

Englisch I’m getting too old for this shit. I thought that only action scenes could be “over-cut”. But that characteristic also applies to Tornatore’s tribute to the influential Italian producer. Almost every sentence is followed by a cut. At the same time, it seems that everyone who knew and liked Lombardo, and was able to come to together and hold on to a thought, was invited to reminisce about him. The memories are rather unsorted, extremely informationally poor and strongly biased. (The profligate American Robert Aldrich, with his The Last Days of Sodom and Gomorrah, is indirectly fingered as the cause of the collapse of Titanus. Conversely, the contribution of Visconti and Lombardo himself, two Italians, the former of whom recklessly spent money while the latter gave it away, is marginalised.) Besides the fact that, after a long and chaotic introduction, the documentary starts to very loosely follow a timeline, it does not adhere to any order. It is not divided into thematic segments, it does not separate Lombardo’s work from his private life or crucial moments from banal incidents. Everything thus merges into a monotonous ode of praise. A hundred minutes of repeatedly hearing about what an amazing person he was eventually became rather stupefying and much less enriching than a five-minute reading of a handful of Lombardo’s obituaries. As in some of Tornatore’s overly stylised, emotionally clamorous fictional films, quantity was thoughtlessly given preference over quality here. 55%

12 Years a Slave

Matty12 Years a Slave(2013) 

Englisch A drama with two storylines, an omniscient narrator and clearly defined objective and solidly cohesive dramaturgy? Dialogue handled predominantly with the shot/countershot technique? Softening of violent moments though precise editing? Not this time. Though 12 Years a Slave has been reproached for its conservative classicism, what McQueen adopts from the classic Hollywood style is especially an interest in the human body, which could also be described as an expression of his creative signature. Faithfulness to the original book even at the cost of breaking up the narrative into a number of episodes that are not firmly interconnected, and when one isn’t conditioned by another, was one of the many wise filmmaking choices that resulted in a lacerating cinematic account of the atrocities that whites perpetrated against a race that they considered to be inferior. McQueen’s mastery consists in the way he manages to avoid twisting historical facts in order for them to fit into the bigger story (like Spielberg in Amistad and Lincoln), while providing an extremely intense viewing experience. Thanks to the suppression of dramatic tension and the numerous static shots, the film seems like a series of consecutively arranged images that slowly burrow into the viewer’s memory thanks to the spiral repetition of certain situations and shot compositions. True to his background as a video artist, McQueen does not recount history or turn it into a drama, but instead lets it come alive as if it were happening right now. The protagonist’s hardships are therefore not viewed from the outside. We experience them together with Solomon, through his body, eyes and ears. Throughout the film, we know just as little as he does (for example, we never see the whole ship by which he is transported to New Orleans) and, despite the telling title of the film, we have just as few reasons to believe that he can emerge victorious from the uneven struggle for his own identity. The reduction of life to mere survival and the transformation of a person into an animal (or rather property) are highlighted by the loss of consciousness of spatial and temporal contexts, as we are not informed about the time and place of the events, with the exception of the introduction. In combination with the complete lack of moments providing relief, the abundance of unpleasant shots and images, from which the camera never turns away (the unpleasant shots are also the longest) makes 12 Years a Slave one of the most audacious films of last year. 90%



Englisch This documentary, in which Bogdanovich, Coppola, Scorsese and Spielberg are brought together, won me over before I even saw it. However, that doesn’t mean that this entertaining portrait of the “zen anarchist” doesn’t have other qualities other than the purely cinephilic. The filmmakers largely saved the informationally poor stories from filming for the closing credits, which are immediately preceded by the only hagiographic, overtly sentimental part of the whole story, which is understandable with respect to Milius’s health after suffering a stroke. Otherwise, the bullish nature of the openly right-wing male chauvinist and self-absorbed lover of guns, surfing and samurai films is portrayed in more colours than is customary in documentaries of this kind. The individual aspects of his “larger than life” persona are commented on mostly by people who should know what they are talking about (e.g. Oliver Stone, who is definitely not indifferent to politics, speaks about Milius’s political naïveté). The exaggeration of form and content in recalling Milius’s excesses (such as Red Dawn), which among other factors may have prevented him from ever really breaking through in liberal Hollywood, makes the film similar to other profiles of filmmaking rebels that also managed to ironise the forged legend in the same breath (particularly The Kid Stays in the Picture and Easy Riders, Raging Bulls). Whether you know New Hollywood from Bonnie and Clyde to Raging Bull or you know Milius only as the director of Conan the Barbarian, you will certainly not be bored by this documentary. 75%

Saving Mr. Banks

MattySaving Mr. Banks(2013) 

Englisch Who will emerge victorious from the central duel is obvious from the fact that this film was produced by Disney, which used the subject matter for the tacky promotion of its own values and products. All narrative nuances and character attributes are subordinated to the self-glorifying tone of the film. Any information that didn’t fit into the pre-defined boxes for Walt Disney (the ever-smiling, pragmatic-to-the-bone All American man) or P.L. Travers (the strait-laced admirer of Victorian morality) was simply omitted. We thus do not learn from the film that Travers was an unorthodox bisexual devoted to Zen Buddhism and, of course, there is no mention of Disney’s chauvinism and antisemitism. ___ The desperate author’s attempt to sabotage the American premiere of what Disney turned her book into is presented as a humorous episode that not only couldn’t jeopardise the success of the film, which went on to win five Oscars, but also led to the author’s hardly believable awakening. Hancock’s variation on romantic comedies (in which sex is logically absent) gives cynical viewers no other option than to interpret the woman’s tears in the climax as an expression of helplessness over her lost battle with the media conglomerate. I find it particularly perverse when an outwardly heartwarming film for the whole family unashamedly assert that it’s fine for a powerful studio to defile someone’s creative vision for the sake of higher revenues. After all, the result was a film that is still beloved today, so why be angry? ___ Regardless of the unfair distribution of power that, contrary to society’s current mood, leads us to root for the wealthy capitalist, Saving Mr. Banks is not a film that would go awry in any way. The attempt to liven up the interior drama with flashbacks leads to the haphazard use of these jumps in time (memories are not “triggered” by events in the present) as well as to their excessive sentimentality and visual kitsch (which, unlike War Horse, is not a self-conscious reminder of how Technicolor melodramas looked). The search for parallels between real characters (Travers’s parents) and fictional characters (the book’s protagonists) is as forced and would-be revelatory as in the biographical Hitchcock and the whole storyline from the past, which comes across as needless and only slows down the narrative. ___ Emma Thompson’s performance is more stilted than her character requires and Hanks plays such an idealised and instantly lovable version of Disney that you expect animated flowers to start dancing and singing around him. The hollowness of the directing and the acting in the film, which – unlike the film Mary Poppins – can only talk about the power of imagination, culminates in one of the last scenes, in which we are alerted to the author’s miraculous character transformation by the fact that the woman is wearing a dress of warmer colours and sitting in a room flooded with light. The clouds part, the sun comes out after the rain and we can leave the cinema with the feeling that everything is just as Mr. Disney would have wished. 50%

Inside Llewyn Davis

MattyInside Llewyn Davis(2013) 

Englisch “Where’s its scrotum?” Joel and Ethan Coen attempt to penetrate the inner life of another one their down downtrodden heroes and succeed at least as well as they did in the Kafkaesque Barton Fink (which also featured an artistic setting, the futile efforts of an artist and the thematisation of the relationship between art and commerce) or in the apocalyptic A Serious Man (the unfortunate feeling that the protagonist “owes” his misfortune to a higher power). The film also recalls the Homeric comedy O Brother, Where Art Thou? with its exploration of the roots of American pop music and the Coens’ revived collaboration with music producer T Bone Burnett. ___ It thus isn’t true that Inside Llewyn Davis would be a lesser “Coen-ian” film. At most, it is more perceptive with respect to its protagonist. And rightly so. In comparison with the characters in the above-mentioned films, Llewyn is both more active and more talented, due to which he is of course viewed with greater understanding and less cynical condescension, though the brothers leave it to us to judge whether Llewyn’s unassertiveness is a sign of defeatism or merely an unwillingness to sell out. ___ Llewyn’s multi-day struggle, during which he is mostly kept company only by an orange tomcat, begins with a slammed door and continues with the loss of his money, cheery prospects and even his own identity (when he loses not only his last few dollars, but also his ID). Though his agent likes people, this is manifested in his frequent attendance of funerals rather than in intensively seeking out work for his client. Conversely, the hatred that Llewyn’s ex-girlfriend holds for him is intense (Carey Mulligan again tries through most of the film to perform in the same acting mode, which this time is hysterical), as she is shocked by the protagonist’s ignorant attitude toward his own and others’ past and future. ___ It’s true that Llewyn doesn’t do much planning, he’s not strong-willed and he more or less freely lets the world pass him by. Perhaps because of his indiscipline and inability to take life firmly in his hands and assert his interests, he repeatedly finds himself in similarly unenviable situations, ending his ill-fated journey where it began. We can only wonder whether the film begins with a flashforward or ends with a flashback, whether the epilogue is supposed to be a statement on Llewyn’s incorrigibility or something else entirely. ___ Though he would perhaps want to, Llewyn Davis does not decide his own fate. Fate, perhaps embodied in a cat with a very meaningful name, rather calls the shots for him. With its absurdist hopelessness, the film is reminiscent of another story of a man who didn’t know what to do with a cat, Juráček’s A Character in Need of Support. The tone of the spiralling narrative is set immediately by the first of the soundtrack’s numerous balladic songs, in which Llewyn sings about how he has travelled around the world and wouldn’t mind if he died. It’s as if his acceptance of his assigned role as a supporting character is manifested in his choice of songs. It is characteristic of his life story that while Bob Dylan is onstage getting ready to enchant the audience, Llewyn is being beaten by a stranger in a back alley (the recurring image of Llewyn walking alone is an apt variation on the cover art of The Freewheelin' Bob Dylan, in which we see a happy pair of lovers). __ But to what extent is Llewyn’s passivity voluntary and to what extent does it stem from the fact that others accept (or reject) him. Most of the characters either cannot remember his name (the devilish John Goodman as a jazzman with an outsized ego) or – as if he did not exist in and of himself – try to assign him to someone else, such as to the infirm father who responds to his son’s musical output with a display of incontinence and thus paradoxically shows himself to be a more receptive listener than music producer Bud Grossman. ___ The reason for Llewyn’s unpopularity and the fact that he doesn’t fit into any environment may be his stubborn inflexibility, which prevents him from singing other people’s songs more often, for example. But is rejection by the outside world too high a price for maintaining his own authenticity? Though music is the most natural form of self-expression for him and he exhibits a certain self-assuredness only when he is playing, does Llewyn really know what his authentic self looks like? Or does confronting it make him uneasy, just like the knowledge that somewhere in Akron his child is toddling and babbling? He thought he had resolved the issue of the child, but she comes back like a boomerang, just as the cat and the thought of Mike’s suicide disappear and return. The feeling of loss never subsides. Instead, like a doppelgänger, it accompanies the protagonist everywhere he goes. ___ With cool visuals and settings such as narrow hallways with double doors at the end (of which Llewyn always naturally chooses the worse one), the Coens succeed in brilliantly expressing the anxiety of a world that is constantly pushing us to make fundamental decisions. Impactful editing and the equally apt use of interludes (the endless journey to Chicago), original swearing (“King Midas’s idiot brother”), bizarre characters (the man on the subway, the elevator operator) and even more bizarre names (Howard Greenfung) turn individual scenes into brilliantly timed gags. Bolstered by appropriately chosen songs, the melancholic atmosphere of failure is the main unifying element of the narrative. The film lacks a traditional plot structure with multiple dramatic acts and a catharsis at the end. The Coens do not try to combine the individual picaresque incidents into a unified narrative flow. The film is a drama without a third act, indicating – among other things – that Llewyn is the hero of a story taking place against the backdrop of bigger stories (in the spirit of Life of Brian). After the exposition and initial complication, there are just more and more complications. ___ The universal questions that the Coens examine this time involve the (in)voluntariness of choice due to one’s own convictions and the demands of the public. Instead of simple answers, they offer a wonderfully melancholic comedy that will resonate in my head for a long time to come. 90%

Los ilusos

MattyLos ilusos(2013) 

Englisch Young people in turtlenecks sit around in bars and cafés, discussing the end of film and human life. This could have been an excellent parody of French existential dramas, but The Wishful Thinkers doesn’t want to parody anything. Like a parody, however, it allows its characters to repeatedly step out of the narrative and draw attention to the artificiality of the world that they inhabit. Through the dialogue, breaking of the fourth wall and the technical limits of the film medium (the characters sit behind glass, so only the sound of the street can be heard rather than what they are talking about), we are made aware of the inseparability of the fictional world and the world in which the fiction is created. Despite a certain forcedness in the constant highlighting of the cinephilic qualities of the film, which, in addition to traits of the French New Wave, adopts some of the characteristic features of the Barcelona School (improvisation, episodic structure, jump cuts, “literary” division into chapters, the use of written texts, the impression that some scenes are missing, while the narrative flow comes to a complete halt in other scenes), The Wishful Thinkers gradually won me over with its sincerity and spontaneity both in front of and behind the camera. To reject such films on principle would mean taking it for granted that immediacy and imperfection today necessarily mean posturing. Maybe so, but I would like to foolishly believe that The Wishful Thinkers is more “cinematic” than more run-of-the-mill and commercial productions, not because of its belief in its own importance, but because of its creators’ love of cinema. 75%

A cavallo della tigre

MattyA cavallo della tigre(1961) 

Englisch A farcical escape comedy that is livened up by an unreliable narrator, a notorious liar put behind bars for faking an assault on himself, and is then forcibly transformed in the final act into a raw, neorealistic social satire showing the other side of the Italian economic miracle (which corresponds to the fact that the film was directed by a “pink” neorealist). The same impression of incoherence is evoked by the digression from the “first-person” narrative (a conversation between one of the prisoners and his wife, which the protagonist was not present for) solely for the purpose of highlighting the social-realist thematic level. The gradual transition from ironic detachment to melodramatic pathos is accompanied by a sudden (and thus unconvincing) attempt to show the escapees in a better world. Due to the fact that for most of the time they are presented to us as a bunch of interchangeable imbeciles, it is difficult to suddenly start respecting them and sympathising with them. The film’s strong cast and a few humorously composed shots can’t overcome the embarrassment of its inconsistency. 60%

Monuments Men - Ungewöhnliche Helden

MattyMonuments Men - Ungewöhnliche Helden(2014) 

Englisch I would like to believe that Clooney was inspired by the text of Kristin Thompson’s An Aesthetic of Discrepancy and it would thus be correct to perceive the variability of tone as a sign of formalistic richness rather than creative cluelessness. The actual drama in the film is the struggle between respect for the work of the real Monuments Men and adulation for lighter ensemble war movies (The Great Escape, The Dirty Dozen). On the one hand, the book’s episodic structure and its loose connection of chapters through the use of letters is preserved; on the other hand, The Monuments Men definitely is not intended to be an objective, fact-based docudrama. It would also like to pay tribute to the group of men and women who were instrumental in preserving rare artifacts for future generations. Each of the participants therefore got his or her own scene (or two). However, these scenes add information to the micro-stories, which either go nowhere and lack a satisfying resolution (the love affair), or are too hastily brought to an end and used as an assault on the viewer’s emotions (Jeffries regaining his lost self-esteem). Th film needed to decide whether it cared more about the monuments or about the preservationists, because it’s not able to deal with both in the span of two hours in a way that wouldn’t seem incomplete. At the same time, it isn’t able to use for the purposes of the narrative the scenes that effectively convey its noble ideas and which will thus be all the more annoying the more you find American patriotism distasteful. The absence (or at least unclarity) of a firm core causes the narrative to break down into individual incidents, which sometimes work on their own (the antipersonnel mine, most of the grotesque interludes with Murray and Balaban), but do not fit into any greater whole with a clear direction or tone. Though the alternation of these incidents has a certain logic (assembly of the team and division of tasks after fifteen minutes, the team splits up after half an hour, they come back together after roughly an hour and then go their own ways again in pairs), we don’t spend enough time with any of the protagonists to be drawn into their personal stories. Not even the recovery of the Ghent Altarpiece and the Madonna of Bruges can be described as a goal to which the events lead in a focused manner. The preservationist do not gradually gain clues; in fact, we are not given the impression that they are in any way under time pressure (with the exception of the artificially dramatised climax, when they have to be faster than the caricature of a Russian leader), as they simply get to the two treasures at the right time (i.e. at the end of the film). They get there thanks in part to random chance (the incident with the dentist actually happened), and partly thanks to soldiers forcibly clearing the way for them. In the end, thanks to the great actors who obviously enjoyed their roles, I enjoyed a scene here and there, but the film as a whole didn’t manage to hold my attention for long. At the same time, I wasn’t bothered by it. Though The Monuments Men doesn’t know what it wants and reduces history to a struggle between good and evil, it’s not stupid or cheap (in terms of production values). Clooney perhaps failed as a director and screenwriter, but he still managed to retain his dignity for the time being. 60%



Englisch The search for a lost son and a deep human story in a film that does not try very hard to be anything more than a deep human story itself. But if a drama is supposed to be pleasant and moving, then let it be pleasant and moving in the same subtle way as Philomena. The screenwriting duo did not succumb to the temptation to reduce an ambiguous story to emotional porn. Despite prioritising emotions over broader socio-cultural contexts, they offer more than a handful of clearly comprehensible truths, turning Philomena into a passive victim and the Church into an diabolical institution. Besides the nuanced fictionalisation of actual people, the film greatly benefits from its sense of humour. With precisely measured portions of humour, the dialogue protects the narrative from academic dullness and significantly lightens up the fatally artsy combination of religion, politics and homosexuality. Thanks to the actors, we can – similarly as in the recent Rushsympathise with both of the characters simultaneously, even though their natures and worldviews are completely different. Whereas Frears takes care of the smooth transitions between investigative and intimate drama, we are responsible for switching between the sentimental (Philomena) and cynical (Sixsmith) framing of the story (the points of view of the two self-styled detectives align in the end, as expected). Philomena openly appeals for the favour of viewers, but in the context of heart-warming films for all ages, it retains its dignity in spite of its populism, which is an increasingly rare feat. 75%