Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Three Films Make A Post: Brace yourself for the ultimate transplant. The human soul.

The Devil's Tomb (2009): Take one bit of military horror, a spoonful of Event Horizon (but none of that film's glorious production design), a chattier version of the demons from Demoni, lots of running through corridors and a wasted Ron Perlman, shake, stir, add a bit of pus and gore and about two scenes that actually work as they are supposed to, and let cook until the plot becomes increasingly stupid but mildly entertaining in its wilful stupidity. One Jason Connery movie with extra cheese, coming right up.

Viva Riva! (2010): In a sense, the core of this Congolese gangster film is just as derivative as that of The Devil's Tomb, but transplanting the tropes of neo noir into the contemporary Congo produces changes in these tropes that shift one's perspective on them. This aspect of the movie is further improved by the fact that director Djo Tunda wa Munga just loves to give most of his characters hidden depths that are revealed in sometimes painful, sometimes enlightening ways and which keep most of the people on screen here away from just fulfilling their genre roles as written.

This isn't meant to say Viva Riva! doesn't work as a genre film. In fact, its slickly filmed mix of effective hyperrealism, a bit of the old ultra-violence and a sense of humour whose bitterness can become quite cutting with a twisty plot that actually works is pretty riveting. It's just nice to find these virtues paired with intelligence, playfulness, and the type of humanism that can't really believe in happy endings anymore.

The Mysterious Castle in the Carpathians aka Tajemstvi hradu v Karpatech (1981 or 1983):

This film's director Oldrich Lipský is beloved by Czech language viewers for a series of more or less bizarre comedies that mix the corny with the grotesque and the surreal.

This example of Lipský's improbable art is based on one of Jules Verne's lesser novels, and uses this source material for a loving parody of adventure novel and gothic romance tropes that has just as much fun with its parodic elements as it has with showing off the grotesque inventions of its mad scientist (there's always a mad scientist). These inventions have a sort of proto-steampunk aesthetic, fusing the industrial with the weirdly aesthetic. Here - of course! - listening devices are shaped like ears and a scientist has replaced his hand with an excellent, brass-gleaming multi-tool.

If the film weren't told in the tone of a farce, it would actually be a macabre story about two men who can't cope with the death of a beloved woman and do immoral things to keep her with them in what has clear hints of necrophilia; as it stands, it's a very funny film that contains mad science, death, destruction and (in good Vernesian tradition) many a funny beard.


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