Klown (aka Klovn, aka Klown: The Movie) – to prove that he’s father material an awkward and unlucky guy takes his 12-year-old nephew on a canoeing trip with his sex-obsessed friend – what could go wrong!? It’s based on a successful Danish TV show, and the style feels stuck in that format – ‘Dogme 95’ is about as close as you could describe it in cinematic terms. The story plays out like a jet-black feature-length Curb your Enthusiasm episode: lots of small details and throwaway lines coming together for cringe-tastically embarrassing ‘shouldn’t-be-laughing’ mishaps, but don’t let Curb put you off if you’re not a fan as the Danish humour is vastly different. The two-fold aspect that sets Klown apart from contemporary comedies is a phenomenal script outline that gets very dark and risqué; which is built on by two great comedians improvising and bouncing off each other. It’s more male-centric humour than you usually see, but Klown had me continually laughing out loud for the duration. If you can’t handle a finger in the bum, lots of willy talk, or the phrase ‘Tour de Pussy’ being repeated lots you probably won’t be a fan of this. Klown is a crass but surprisingly heartwarming road trip movie that blows most Hollywood output out of the water.
Stoker: when a young girl’s close father dies, his mysterious brother appears – a charming, yet mysterious character that she slowly becomes besotted with. Being a Chan–Wook Park movie, this has his stamp all over it – meticulous direction and framing, packed with striking, bold, elegant, and often haunting visuals. It’s a richly textured film, full of vivid colours, fabrics, designs, and patterns – ultra-visual cinema. Story-wise, it’s a relatively simple three-hander, focusing on layered and complex characters – that unravel, and become more intertwined as the events unfold. Perhaps because it’s a coming-of-age movie, it sticks out as being very level compared to previous works, shying away from the drama and (sensational) gore that director is used to providing, instead coming over as delayed intensity. Written by an actor, and directed by one of the world’s greatest – Stoker is a unique beast where the Korean director appears to be anticipating any ‘lost in translation’ moments from the script, by emphasizing the focus the universal visuals – you could watch this in any language and still make full sense of it. An immersive, throwback Hitchcockian thriller.
Wolf of Wall Street: based on the memoirs of a drugged-up banker that did a load of bad things. Most obviously, three hours is just far, far, far too long for this story, which is essentially: motivational speech, loads of drugs, party harder than Andrew WK, repeat x20. The premise is classic Scorsese – rise-and-fall – but they way in which it’s told, what he chose to film, and how he chose to film it is anything but. There’s so much skin, sex, sensationilsm, and alpha-male testosterone in here that it felt like Michael Bay defiling a Scorsese sceenplay. Another huge problem is that the main character – Jordan Belfort – isn’t even remotely likeable or interesting; just a one-dimensional, remorseless asshole. On the plus side the script it great, the casting is magnificent and Scorsese really gets the most from them. It’s also very funny, funnier than most comedies, although it does have a lot of time to play with. Sadly, it feels a bit cheap coming from someone that’s brought us films like The Departed, Goodfellas, Gangs of New York, Taxi Driver… and it made me remember how good a film Boiler Room was. Scorsese – you’re above this. Studios – no director is above cutting empty & pointless scenes from! Not Scorsese, not Tarantino, nobody.
Starbuck: a middle-aged slacker gets the wake-up call of his life when a lawyer informs him that he has fathered 533 children through a series of sperm donations from 20 years ago. First off, this is one of the few genuinely feel-good, heartwarming, upbeat films I can remember watching – the majority of films in this genre suffer from being far too sickly or cheesy. Director Ken Scott gets the tone absolutely perfect, as it juggles ‘happy viewing’ with enough drama and comedy to keep it interesting and varied. The film looks fantastic for the duration, great use of colour, imagery, locations, that lead to a pop-art, borderline dreamy effect. It’s a ballsy and unique directorial style, but complements the film perfectly. Patrick Huard, as the lead, is a solid screen presence that – no matter what he’s doing – manages to stay entertaining. The film’s kept fairly safe in that it’s never portrayed as creepy that the guy is unknowingly interfering in the kid’s lives, and that ethical / acceptance issues are glossed over, it also gets a little sappy as the ending approaches. The vibe of the film reminds me of ‘Love Me if you Dare‘, both colourful, artistic, upbeat and undeniably French. Starbuck wasn’t much of a hit in the cinemas in the UK, but it is an absolutely top-drawer feel-good comedy film, and a European gem.
Note: naturally, with this being such a good film, Hollywood has decided to give this the Vince Vaughn treatment – renamed ‘The Delivery Man’. I’d love for him to prove me wrong, but I don’t think that Mr Vaughn has anywhere near the amount of charm or magnetism to match Patrick Huard’s performance.
Love Exposure (愛のむきだし): everything’s epic these days: a night out, food, car insurance, 99% of fails… how about this for a movie epic: a 4 hour film examining the relationships between religion, cults, family, perversion, sins, obscenity, love, erections, and upskirt photography. THAT’S EPIC! First-off, it feels a lot more like a TV series: technically (camerawork, budget, quality etc) and story-wise in the four, quite individual hour-long segments of the film. The acting however is fantastic; all three youngster are great to watch, but the two main adults are particularly engaging and believable – really adds to the drama. When one of the main story threads is the usage of ninja moves (and weapons) to take upskirt pictures in order to sin – it’s mental, it’s batshit mental, and when you throw in some schoolgirl karate lesbians it could really only be from Japan. In saying that, it’s all done very well and with lots of humour, much like the pervert’s motto the film is “Careful, Oblivious and Bold”. Staying true to it’s subject matter, there’s at least one – if not a montage – panty shot every 10 minutes – so if that’s your bag, this is an absolute must-own. For being as long as it is, the melodramatic final half hour is the only time the film feels like it’s truly stretched. Love Exposure is a lot of things, but at four hours (237 minutes!) long, and containing this subject matter – forgettable is definitely not one of them.
Juan of the Dead (Juan De Los Muertos): when zombies infest Havana Juan and his friends start up a zombie disposal service for survivors that want zombies out of their house. For a zom-com this is, crucially, really funny – the film’s held together with great moments of dark humour, and several genuinely laugh-out-loud running gags about the zombies being branded “dissidents” by the government, harpoons and poking fun at wider horror clichés. For a country with such a tiny film industry, it’s well shot and directed – with decent action scenes (mostly hacking and slashing) – and it looks great, save for some lame CGI explosions. The political undertones and jibes at the government are great because it’s something that Romero did at the beginning of the Zombie resurgence that has been lost in the plethora of modern flicks. Being Spanish, it does suffer from some over-acting, with most of the supporting cast ‘hamming it up’, and for some reason, a completely unnecessary random man in drag. It’s also crammed with naff music that sounds ripped off of cheap TV adverts and old ‘carry on’ films. Juan of the Dead is far more than just a witty title (and tagline “He’s Havana killer day”) – it’s a funny, entertaining zombie romp with more to say than most horror films.
“She’s a blogger; one of those people that write nonsense on the internet”
3-Iron (Bin-Jip): a young man takes temporary residence in the homes of holidaying families; washing their clothes and fixing their broken stuff as payment. The central character is absolutely fascinating: peculiar, creepy, kind, well-meaning, frugal, meticulous, disturbed, zombie-like… what makes it all the more unbelievable is that he doesn’t say a word for the duration – it’s an exceptional performance. The central aspect of the film is a bit odd, but it’s the attention to detail and ghost-like existence of the characters that make it all so unsettling. The film gets a tad silly towards the end with the hiding in plain sight/shadow dancing stuff, but it’s poignant and justified nonetheless. Being such a peculiar love story set in a bizarre situation, I can see why people wouldn’t like this film; it’s also two almost-speechless leading roles, but the performances are haunting and memorable – if you give this a change and ‘buy in’ to the idea – 3-Iron is a truly unforgettable film.