Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Three Films Make A Post: All they had was a skill for violence and nothing to lose but their lives!

The Stranger (2014): This Chilean film concerns s a very interesting variation on the right now second-most overused horror monster, and, if nothing else, proves you can do something worthwhile with it still; at least if you’re the film’s director Guillermo Amoedo. Amoedo not only manages to do something interesting and at least half-way original with his monster but also finds a place where the naturalistic portrayal of pretty shitty lives and a dream-like mood aren’t mutually exclusive approaches.

The fact that the film, mostly cast with Chilean actors speaking their English with more or less obvious accents, takes place in what seems to be supposed to be a US small town (I think), actually furthers the weird mood of proceedings for my tastes, locating the film not in a place as in the idea of a place. However, it is, like The Stranger’s somewhat peculiar pacing, certainly a point that’ll annoy some viewers to no end.

The House of Hanging aka Byoinzaka no kubikukuri no ie (1979): Kon Ichikawa is one of the big Japanese directors outside the pure arthouse realm I often find myself having the most trouble with. It’s not that I don’t think some of his film’s are masterpieces, but he seems – at least for my tastes – to have rather more films like this adaptation of one of the adventures of private detective Kosuke Kindaichi (in this case embodied by Koji Ishizaka) than I’d like. Films that fluctuate in tone so heavily and so (in)consistently – in this case between stuffy comedy and handwringing melodrama – it becomes difficult to ascertain what tone the director is actually going for; films where for every brilliantly and complex staged scene there’s another one bland, boring and lifeless, and a further one where Ichikawa just seems to be showing off; films where contrasts neither rub productively against one another nor seem to have another reason to be there.

In House of Hanging’s case, these problems are exacerbated by one typical flaw of late 70s biggish prestige productions from Japan, needless length that makes a film feel rather bloated and slow, particularly one which really could have been improved mightily by having various scenes of “comically” inept cops removed, and various plot strands tightened.

Mystery on Monster Island aka Misterio en la isla de los monstruos (1981): I don’t loathe Juan Piquer Simón’s family adventure movie quite as much as parts of the Net do, but then, that’s because I’m trying very hard to ignore the odious comic relief taking up half of the film, the idiotic twist ending (which actually is Jules Verne’s fault as author of the novel the film adapts), the plodding pacing, the expected (because nobody in his right mind will expect a production like this to actually afford many shooting days from these gentlemen) underuse of Peter Cushing and Terence Stamp, the film’s dubious racial politics, on account of this being a rather naive children’s film I did indeed enjoy when I was a kid.

For us grown-ups, even for those of us used to “bad” movies, the whole thing just might be pretty unpalatable, but then, it isn’t actually meant for us.

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