Dogtooth (Kynodontas): three teenagers are completely isolated from the outside world by their overprotective parents; but they’re starting to become curious. This manages to successfully juggle various usually-avoided elements: it’s all very strange, quite full-on, and doesn’t really go anywhere; it’s completely awkward and deadpan – yet despite all of this, it manages to draw you in, entertain, and make you laugh. A lot of the funnies come from simple things like the misuse words; they call a salt shaker a telephone, a large lamp a cunt, flowers are zombies, and in one of the best – and weirdest – scenes the father intentionally mistranslates “Fly Me To The Moon”. The house is an unsettling location, almost like a laboratory: total white-out where everything is crisp, clean, clinical. There’s some full-on sex, full-frontal nudity, and a lesbian sub-plot – but these are also completely cold and sterile. Cast-wise, the three children are fantastic, and the main reason this film works: their naivety and childlike awe of external interference is completely believable and great to watch. It’s also masterfully directed, and effectively shot & framed – the most important part of scene is usually off-center, or sometimes completely out of shot. In a word Dogtooth is bizarre – on the cinematic map it’s in relatively uncharted territory between the severity of Haneke and the dark humour of Solondz – and as the runtime progresses it just keeps getting weirder and funnier. Dark and original, Dogtooth is a treat for those that want to try something completely different.
Tokyo Decadence (トパーズ, Topāzu): a specialist prostitute with a very particular set of skills is doing some very strange things with salarymen in the hotel rooms of Tokyo. The opening scene has a girl strapped to a chair, gagged, blindfolded then injected with heroin – if that makes you uncomfortable, this film’s probably not for you. It starts of feeling like an exploration piece/eye-opener focusing on an extreme (sub)culture. The film portrays some extremely ‘out-there’ acts, without appearing to be overly leery or vulgar. It keeps upping the ante scene by scene until there’s nowhere else left to go; then it implodes during an ending which, out of nowhere moves the film from a risqué/explicit/shock melodrama into plain old existential pompousity. It’s packed with rough cutting and hard editing; difficult to know if it’s intentional/stylistic or just budgetary constraints. If you like a bit of smut dressed as art or ‘world cinema’ then this is about as wild as you’ll probably get; and if you dig S&M, Bondage, BDSM, Dominatrices etc etc then it’s probably a must own. As a film however, Tokyo Decadence is fairly unremarkable, and if you took away the controversial/notorious S&M scenes it would be a completely unremarkable 2-hour instantly forgettable snooze-fest.
Sex and Lucia (Lucía y el sexo): when she gets a call from the police about her partner being in a fatal accident, Lucia flees to an island and tries to find herself. If you’ve ever scoured a ‘World Cinema’ section, you’ve probably seen the picture below of a windswept Paz Vega + red dress + bike + penis-shaped lighthouse? Guess what? That iconic image isn’t even in the film! FAIL! Back to the movie though: unsurprisingly, there’s random nudity and sexual acts throughout, which feel there for no other reason that to ‘kink’ up the film, and make the “tortured writer and other young, attractive people in personal crises” storyline a bit more interesting. It peaks in a bizarre porno side-story in the middle act. The visuals are striking (unique, bold, washed-out, faded etc) and often beautiful, but continual emphasis on sun, moon and sea feel a smidgen on the ridiculous and end up blurring the boundaries between which scenes is dreams/fantasies, flashbacks, or scenes from the writer’s story. Paz Vega (Lucia) is great – and lets face it, who WOULDN’T want a stalker like her!?!? The cast in general are all good, and pull off some (melo)dramatic scenes when required. All of the artsy-rich visuals, vague symbolism and explicit scenes means that the film overstays its welcome by the end, and when you cut them all out, you’re left with a half-decent melodramatic story and some dramatic suckerpunches – it’s definitely destined to stay out in the ‘arthouse’. Sex and Lucia is unsurprisingly less of a cinematic classic, and more of a piece of smutty art.