Monday, January 31

Review: The Fall

At the end of The Fall, there is a moment where all the characters sit in a room together and for the first time watch a movie. The setting is a hospital in Los Angeles in the early 20th century. The film has just dragged us through a whirlwind of impressions, and as everything is drawing to a close we find ourself in that little room with the characters that have accompanied us in the past 2 hours. There is a striking similarity between that tiny moment and the movie as a whole. Like those early movies, The Fall gives the spectator the room to interpret and let his own imagination run wild. And like that moment, where those people see moving pictures for the first time, the movie presents it's viewers with something completely new.

Giving a synopsis of The Fall is practically impossible. Not because there is a lack of things happening, or because the story doesn't make sense, but because everybody will remember this film differently. On a very superficial level, it's about Alexandria, a little girl from an undetermined eastern European background who is in the hospital to recover from a broken arm. By circumstance, she meets up with Roy, a suicidal stuntman. Even though he is in a horrible condition, he is a very nice man, and to pass the time (and other reasons I won't disclose here) he tells Alexandria stories. They are the most fantastic stories: tales of brave bandits, beautiful princesses and exotic locations. The main characters are a masked bandit, an Italian explosives expert with cigar and mustache, and Indian (from India), a mystic who emerges from a tree, a freed slave and an English naturalist who goes by the name of Charles Darwin.

These stories take shape in the way only bedtime stories can: almost like a conspiracy between the storyteller and the listener. Roys worsening condition and Alexandria's youthful innocence come together in the story, and as it progresses more and more of the outside world is brought in on it. The real life, the life of adults outside these stories is extensively hinted towards, but never truly revealed. A puzzle-oriented viewer will be able to disclose a lot from the hints that are given, but a more romantic viewer might simple let the visuals engulf him.

The first part of the movie, which is set in the hospital, is portrayed with such artistry that even the most mundane and bleak of moments are so pretty it's almost kitschy. Alexandria is a curious child, and the world through her eyes is a place of simple beauty in the way only a child can conceive. But when we enter the world of the stories the visuals just become breathtakingly beautiful. To say this is one of the most beautiful and imaginative use of sets and costumes I have ever seen would be an understatement. This is the stuff dreams are made off, and what makes it ever more mind-boggling is the claim that the movie uses absolutely no computer-generated effects. No matter how impressive the screenshots here might be, they pale in comparison to the film in motion. 

The Fall is a movie that refuses any labels. It doesn't belong to any genre, artistic movement or anything superficial like that. How to watch it is entirely up to you. The director, who is only credited under the mysterious epithet "Tarsem", has invented a way of telling that is completely new, something only so few filmmakers can claim. This is one of the most ambitious and daring undertakings I've ever witnessed on film, and the fact that it exists ought to be enough reason to watch it.


It took a while for me to find an appropriate piece of music.

Wednesday, January 26

Review: Tron Legacy

I think it's fair to say that when the original Tron was released in 1982, no-one would have ever imagined that it would get a sequel almost 30 years later. This was probably mostly due to the fact that the original Tron just wasn't all that good. It was a run-of the-mill action film, with a cool early turn by Jeff Bridged (of Big Lebowski fame) but not really much going for it otherwise. Well, except that it looked like this:

The premise of the movie was that it basically took place within an arcade game, and (as was to be expected) the nerds went absolutely crazy over it. What makes 2011 different from 1982 is that nerds now rule our shit. Smartphones have become musthaves, Apple has become trendy and the acne-ridden nerds of then are now edgy. So a sequel was devised out of an old cult movie that only a handful of  people remembered. And lo and behold: it's an improvement on all points.

A large part of that is due to the fact that Legacy isn't strictly a sequel so much as a remake. Which would probably have been the best way to go: the storyline of Tron was a bit of a mess anyway, and a direct sequel wouldn't have made it any easier on new viewers. The movie starts off with Kevin Flynn, the hacker-hero of the previous film, gone missing. Years later, when his son Sam is an adult, his old friend from the first film gets a page ("you still use a pager?") from Flynn with the phone number of his old office. When Sam goes out to investigate, he accidentally gets sucked up into "the Grid", a futuristic cyberspace where he finds his father imprisoned by the very software he wrote.

The story might sound a bit complex, but it's really not. This is, first and foremost, a visual movie, and it must be said: it looks downright fantastic.


The whole movie has a very clean, spacey feel to it, something scifi movies seems to have been snubbing lately. Which is a shame, because the movie is an absolute blast to look at. Add to this the awesome score by Daft Punk (who'd ever guessed these guys could actually compose?) and you've got an absolute killer in the appearance department. This is the kind of films it's actually worth going to the cinema for. The performances are also generally solid: Garrett Hedlund is a bit bland, but Jeff Bridges is just as good as you'd expect him to be, playing a sort of cyber-hippie who seems like a mix between a Randall Munroe and The Dude. Michael Sheen also pops up for a moment, and proceeds to go absolutely goddamn nuts. I'm not really sure what his characters is supposed to be, but the way he plays it (like David Bowie on speed) is so entertaining you won't really get hung up on the fact that he doesn't really matter for the plot.

The only real issue with the movie is that a lot of very interesting ideas are hinted at (especially in the beginning), but never really explored. A sequel seems almost unavoidable, however, so we'll see what Tron: Genealogy brings to the table. In the meantime, this is a solid piece of eyecandy that's exactly the kind of mindless fun you'd expect of it.


Ye know what's cooler then Daft Punk? Hot Chip.

Tuesday, January 25

Shorts Circus: Validation

Perhaps my love for insanity is a bit too over-represented in the Shorts Circus. To straighten the balance, here is a short that pretty much defines "lovely".


Review: Notorious

Now this is an interesting case: a thriller where the person you will root for is supposed to be the villain. The reason most suspense movies portray their bad guys as ridiculously evil (shooting their own henchmen and such) is precisely to avoid this sort of thing. Instead of ending with a final "fuck you" to the villain and a kiss-off between the hero and his love interest, it ends with the downfall of a man who is genuinely nice despite all odds being stacked against him.

The movie starts off in a conventional enough manner: we are introduced to the hero and the heroine, played by Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. These two were the biggest stars of their day, and it's not hard to see why: besides being both stunningly good-looking, they have a great chemistry between them. They talk in the way only characters in movies like these can: witty, romantic and without ever making a faux pas. Grant, who is a government agent, convinces Bergman to spy on an old acquaintance of hers whom is suspected of shady dealings. After some persuasion, she gives in and meets up with the guy. The man takes a fancy to her, and her contractors order her to seduce him.

Up until this point the movie is great fun, if a bit by the book. But once this acquaintance is introduced, the movie takes a very bitter turn. Alex Sebastian, played by Claude Rains (whom you might remember from his memorable role as the police captain in Casablanca), is simply a far too nice guy. Even if his alliance lies with the wrong people (the nazi's in this case), he's clearly deeply in love with Bergman and makes a great many sacrifices to be with her. Yet he is played out mercilessly, both by Bergman and his dominating and scornful mother. It's the latter who comes up with the plan to dispose of Bergman when they find out what here game truly is.

Mothers like those seem to be a "thing" for Hitchcock.

What makes the fall of this man even more saddening to watch is that he is the only one truly taking blows in the movie. It's clear that Grant and Bergman are going to end up together from the get-go, but as the movie progresses it's hard to see what they share besides a sense of mutual cruelty at each other. Grant was known for playing mischievous and lovable everymen, and his character here is anything but lovable: as soon as he walks into any trouble he becomes jealous, mean and generally behaves like an absolute prick. And yet he still gets the girl: Bergman seems to yearn for nothing but his approval, like an insecure teenager who dates a jock to boost her self esteem. Rains is, despite everything, clearly the nicer guy in this triangle, but when he desperately pleas for his life and the company of the woman he loves at the end of the film he gets brutally shut out. If this were a highschool film, he would have been played by Micheal Cera. And it would have never ended like this.

It's not that the idea of a tragic villain is uninteresting in any way. But why use this idea in a thriller? Thrillers aren't meant for character studies, thrillers are meant for the public to bite their nails to and return them home smiling when all is right in the world again. Notorious' ending is one of the most depressing ones I've seen in some time: not only is the hero shown to be a dick, but the nice guy is shown to be doomed. It's not so much an anticlimax as a contraclimax: the big cheer is replaced by a harrowing last look and a character walking to his certain death.

The movie is undoubtedly well-made (this is Hitchcock, after all), but there is no getting away from the fact that we are asked to condemn a person simple because. Rains final moment reminded me of the moment in Inglourious Basterd where a german officer is waiting for the "Bear Jew" to show up and beat him to death. You can see the fear in his eyes, and for a moment this man is the one you root for. But where that moment is short and mostly played out for laughs, Notorious is dead serious. I think it's about time that we filmnerds took a good hard look at our collective Hitchcockboner, and this seems like an excellent place to start.


This is how I felt after the movie. Not exactly what you'd expect after a thriller.

Sunday, January 23

Pulling Rabbits: The problem with video games

The "games as art" debate is over. We won. Roger Ebert, who sparked off the debate, posted a rebuttal to his earlier statements that games never be art. So, yay for games? Well, not quite. Although I defended games' artistic value in an earlier article, I find myself resenting them more and more. And this has mostly to do with their lack of artistic value.

Yes, there are games that are art. Without a doubt. There's Braid, there's Shadow of the Collosus and there's the works of Jason Rohrer. And that's really about it. There are some more examples, but like the aforementioned they are mostly either relatively obscure or didn't exactly sell well. There is a crowd for art games, but they are vastly overshadowed by the legions of players who are dedicated to Halo, Call of Duty and World of Warcraft. If you'd want to play, full-time, every genuinely artistic video game, and I mean every single one ever made, you could probably do so in a month. If you're slow. For comparison: if you want to watch every single artmovie that was made since 1972 (the year Pong was released) you'd be quick if you're done in half a year. And movies usually take a fraction of the time a game takes to complete. You'd probably never get done if you started on the books, assuming you read the newly released ones as well.

The major problem with games is that they explore only a tiny fractions of all human experiences. In games that star human characters they mostly just fight each other to the death. If a game even has dialogue for the player to partake in (and that's a big if) the themes of sexuality, boredom, pointless violence or rascism (to name just a few) aren't very likely to be dealt with in a mature and thoughtprovoking way. The state of diversity in games is even worse. I'm not saying that every game should explore these things, but they are simply a part of how human beings behave. If a game wants to go the extra mile, it has to address at least some of issues other then violence.

But that's where the crux of the issue might lie: games are, by their very nature almost, very bad at this. Allow me to explain.
     First off, a games must be winnable, and winning the game must feel good. And as it turns out, most human experiences translate very badly into terms of winning and losing. Have you ever truly "won" a fight with a loved one? Have you ever really "won" at having a relationship? It's pretty clear that talking about situations like that in simple terms of winning and losing removes every nuance from them. Nuance which is crucial for properly portraying situations like these. The win/lose mechanism can even break a carefully built up nuance, something many players of the otherwise great game Ico might recognize. The absolute worst examples of this problem are the moral choice system which every game and their dog seems to have nowadays. Good and evil are some of the most difficult and fickle concepts in human society, over which philosophers have broken their heads for centuries. Simply reducing the choice in a situation to "good" (help the kitten from the tree while singing Morning has Broken) or "asshole" (set the tree on fire with a flamethrower that plays Slayer) isn't merely oversimplification. It's just plain stupid.

This picture tells the entire moral argument of Bioshock:
do I play evil which helps me play better or do I play good with a tactical disadvantage? 

 Secondly, most games nowadays are expected to have a certain length. If you can complete a game in a single three-hour sitting, most people feel cheated. Considering how expensive games are, this is completely understandable. But this also means that games can't really venture into deep emotional territory. Even if they find a way around the problem that people will get up and leave halfway and it will be practically impossible to build up emotion that way, it's unlikely that gamers will want to play a game that makes them depressed every time they get back to it. You'll sit down to get kicked in the balls once, but you won't sit down to get kicked in the balls three times in a row.

Thirdly, games allow for very little interpretation on the part of player. When you watch a warfilm as a pacifist, you can still take away a message of the futility of war from it. When you're actually forced to play the war, that becomes a little harder. I quit playing both Modern Warfare games after less then an hour because of this. In the first there was a part when I had to shoot NPCs in their sleep, in the second it was after the infamous No Russian mission. You can disgust a character in a movie or a book for his actions, but when you actively control this character things become a little more difficult. This argument doesn't really apply to RPG's, but the more freedom you give a player the more noticeable the things you can't do become. This what made me quit playing Mass Effect.

The most common solution to these problems is simply replacing human characters by aliens or fantasy monsters. Which, to be fair, is probably the best solution. The Super Mario games, for example, don't have the slightest pretension of artistic value, yet they are still universally loved. And you know why? Because they're fun. And this is very important: there is nothing wrong with simply being fun. Fun is good. I'm pro-fun in every medium there is. So, am I saying that games should simply give up any attempts to be artistic? No, of course not. But what I'm saying is that they shouldn't have the pretension of making any statement about the human condition when they're really not.

I have hopes for games as an artistic medium. Interaction with what you're exploring is something that's really new to media, and it offers a lot of genuinely fascinating possibilities. However, if game designers continue to fine-tune something that they will never be able to perfect, instead of coming up with genuinely interesting new ways of playing, I doubt there will ever be a mainstream game that has the emotional and intellectual complexity of a Citizen Kane, or even an Inception. I don't know how to fix this problem, but I definitely know there's something broken.


Because there are no really good songs about video games, here is some music from video games. Played by a guitar orchestra.

Thursday, January 20

Shorts Circus: Un Chien Andalou

In the spirit of this weeks Movie You Should Totally see, Waking Life, here is another dream picture.

Only this one is... uhm... how do I explain...

Well, see for yourself.


Movies You Should Totally See: Waking Life

Of all the things we experience in our lives, dreams have to be the most puzzling. We can figure out why we think something, and with some personal reflection we can discern why we feel something. But why we dream something is almost impossible to find out. And yet, our dreams seem to tell us a lot about ourselves. For as long as people have slept, dreams have been an endless source of fascination for poets, artists and philosophers, and filmmakers are no exception to that. Besides providing lazy screenwriters with a cheap twist ending (it was all a dream!), there have been many notable films about dreams (in the last decade alone there were The Science of Sleep, Mulholland Drive and Inception, to name a few). But what makes Waking Life so different from those movies is that it's not about dreams. It is a dream.

Although it has a very distinct visual style, Waking Life is first and foremost about people talking. Who these people are, or even where, doesn't seem to be relevant. We simply zoom in on their conversation, and leave when they're done, or when the moment is opportune. We move from interviews to monologues, from lectures to anecdotes. The topics are all over the place, but they're never trivial: society, consciousness, reality, life itself. These are conversations of the sort that you can only wish for most of the time: literate and out-of-the-box, with mutual interest. The dialogue is what keeps the movie going: there is almost nothing in the way of a plot. The dialogue itself is what matters, and it's bliss to listen to. Precisely because there is nothing to move towards, the dialogue never feels rushed or trying to prove something: it is simply moving at it's own pace. Sometimes we hear a 5-minute monologue followed by someone saying a single line, and both make equal impact.

The central figure amongst all this is the unnamed protagonist, played by Willy Wiggins. He talks, but mostly listens. It seems to be that we're exploring his dreamworld: we see him waking up several times in the movie, only to find out later that we're still in a dream. The movie seems deceptively complex: it's entirely possible that it's all set within a single dream. But this is not a puzzle movie. If you just allow the movie to overtake you, it will become a meditation, a shower of good ideas. And just when you think you have grasped what one speaker is saying, another has already taken his place. You won't be able to really ponder upon anything that happens. Instead, you will be made to think about life and the world in general in a way that can only be described as philosophical. The real depth is at the surface.

This is not a movie to explain. This is a movie to experience, talk about, inspire people and spark conversations. Many people will resist a movie that's not to be figured out, and resistance to this movie is like waking up from it. It renders it completely worthless. This is a movie for dreamers, people who are genuinely willing to dream. Like one of the characters in the movie says: "Things have been tough lately for dreamers". This movie feels like solace in hard times. It's one of the best dreams I've ever had.


This is called dream pop. 'nuf said.

Sunday, January 16

Shorts Circus: Vinni Puh

This little guy is called Vinni Puh. He is the Sovjetversion of Winnie the Pooh. Is that enough reason to watch this? Yes.

Pay attention to the hilariously crappy subtitles as well.


Pulling Rabbits: On Robert Rodriguez

Most filmmakers would do fine without movies. They make art in the same way a novelist or a playwright make art: imagining something beautiful, and then expressing that through their medium of choice. If they wouldn't have film, they would just express themselves in another artform. But there is also a group of filmmakers that do things a little more different. Their art isn't told by way of the movie. Their art is the movie. People like Godard and Riami work like this, creating films that  simply revel in the fact that they are films. But the person who has used this ethos more then anyone is Robert Rodriguez.

Rodriguez started out, much like his good friend Quentin Tarantino, as a massive filmnerd. His dad bought him a camera when he was 7, and he never stopped making movies after that. When he was 24, he scraped together 7000 dollars and made El Mariachi. He let his friends do the acting, and basically did everything else himself: writing, directing, filming, and editing. The fact that the movie got made is impressive enough all by itself, but the fact that is was well-received was even more astounding. To put it in perspective: Clerks was made on over three times as much budget, and that movie didn't contain a single action scene.

This man had sex with Rose McGowan and is
therefore infinitely cooler then you

Rodriguez work has been hit-or-miss since then, containing greats such as Once Upon a Time in Mexico and shitstains such as From Dusk till Dawn. But the thing that never changed throughout his career is that he steadfastly refused to grow up. He still stands behind the camera with the same enthusiasm of the 13-year old boy who sneaked out to watch crappy scifi movies at the drive-in. You might call his work immature, but it also has a sort of wide-eyed wonder to it which is impossible to resist. Just watch the opening credits from Once Upon a Time in Mexico:

Not a damn thing happens here. But what makes it such a blast to watch is its utter devotion to the possibilities of film. There are crane shots, shadowplay, jump cuts, weird transitions... every tool from the filmmakers box. Rodriguez is taking full advantage of every possibility he has, not so much to bring across a message, but to bring across his love for pure film. Watching his work brings back the eternal 15-year old in everyone of us, and with that he has found himself a nobler cause then many a filmmaker.


I have nothing to say about this song. Just listen to it.

Wednesday, January 12

Pulling Rabbits: The Music Videos of 2010

2010 saw some very interesting music videos. This is not a rundown of the best of those, but an analysis of three of the more interesting ones.


We all know the song. It's not particularly remarkable, but it's a catchy and danceable tune that comes by on the radio now and again. I can say it's really my style, but everyone can sing along with it and it's far less obnoxious then most top-40 songs nowadays. But then there's the video:

What the fuck?

The "mainstream" has gone completely bonkers over the last few years, and this is a perfect example of that. The video has been compared with Stanley Kubricks work, and I can see why. So what, you might ask? Well, it's Stanley Kubrick. His movies were some of the most innovative and controversial of their day, and they still polarize cinephiles. Truly an renegade. And now a world famous singer has a video based on his work? And it has gotten over 300 million views? I have honestly no idea what this could mean.  Is this a blend of high and low culture? A sign that there isn't a "safe and wholesome norm" anymore? Whatever it is, it's certainly something different then just a video of a pretty chick playing a song,


(I didn't embed this video because watching it in low quality completely destroys the effect. Click the link and watch it in HD.)

The music is this short is from Wests new album My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy. He made quite a comeback with that album: after being called a jackass by no other then the president of the United States, Fantasy is now being called "the Sgt. Peppers of hip-hop" and "the best album in 10 years" by critics. It's pretty good, 's what I'm saying. But it's doesn't stand on it's own.

Kanye West is someone everyone has an opinion of: some people think he's a complete douchebag, some people think he's a musical genius, some people think both, and one person appears to thinks that he's the voice of our generation. That person is Kanye West himself. The funny thing, however, is that he's aware of the fact that many people hate him. He explicitly talks about it on the album, both defending himself and apologizing. And the video is an extension of the music. Everything is connected to each other: the video, the music, his public image, his image of himself. Everything is commenting and the other things, making them inseparably connected.

The film itself is also quite a on oddity. It's kitschy, over-the-top and generally just in bad taste. Yet somehow, West manages to make this strengths instead of weaknesses. The cinematography and the set design are both ridiculously pretty, but it's used for an aesthetic that I've never seen before. It's like a mix between high art and a hip-hop sensibility. Mixing visual art and music have been done before, of course. Just look at Pink Floyd's The Wall or R.E.M.'s Losing My Religion. But this is the first time I've seen it done with other music then rock. This might just be the first video of it's kind. A hip-hop opera, if you will.


(Because this is an interactive video, I cannot embed it. You can find it here:

The Arcade Fire released the other record-of-the-year in 2010: The Suburbs. It draws on the memories that frontman Win Butler has of his youth in the suburbs in Houston. He has stated that the album doesn't try to glorify or condemn suburbia, but rather "[write] a letter from the suburbs".

The music video, set to the song "We Used to Wait", connects with this sentiment in a very unique but very effective way. When you go to that website, enter the address and press "play", your browser basically explodes. Windows pop up faster then you can manage to organize them, and they disappear just as fast and unexpected. The effect is rather unsettling. You lose control over that one place in the world that you have absolute, totalitarian control over: your computer. Even if it's only for a moment, you feel powerless.

I think this is where the music and the video meet. The music has a sense of remembrance over it about our childhood, and the video makes us feel like a child again. Powerless against the constant onslaught of new impressions that the world is at a certain age. It's a sense of hopelessness that will be instantly familiar.

What turned most heads about the project, however, was it's personalization. Before the video starts, you have to enter the address of the street you grew up in. Images and streetviews from Google Maps are then used in the video. It might sound a bit silly, but it really works. The video becomes about you, the viewer, instead of about the band. Quite the departure from the usual egotrip that is a music video.

The thing that unites these things seems to be it's medium of distribution: the internet. The Arcade Fire's video makes use of it in the most obvious way, but I get the sense that the other two also have a sensibility that people will watch it on the internet. It doesn't really matter if you watch away for a moment from Bad Romance, and Runaway knows that you can stop watching it any second and does everything to keep this from happening. The ways the internet is used (and not used) are really starting to come alive in this videos, making them much more vibrant then they used to be. I have no idea what 2011 will hold in store, but it sure as hell is going to be interesting.


I think that's enough music for today.

Sunday, January 9

Review: Dead Poets Society

Hitchcocks movies are often described as machines. When you sit down to watch them, you are fed into them. Mr. Alfred will then make you a puppet on his strings, making you feel exactly how he wants you to feel. You emerge scared shitless, laughing or with a silly grin on your face. This is the way most Hollywood movies are: experience in a can. The good ones, at least. The shitty ones don't feed you emotions, but little signs reading "feel (emotion X) now". You completely see through the illusion that way, which makes the movie obnoxious rather then moving. An excellent example of this is Dead Poets Society, a movie that tries so hard to make us cry it only made me groan.

The movie tells about a group of gifted youngsters who are being held down by The Man in the form of a repressive school system. But then they get classes from a cool and inspirational teacher, who opens their eyes to the beauty of the world and their true potential. But although the people in charge try to put them down, in the end they all... what do you mean, that is the plot of a thousand other movies? Well, this one is different, because it ends with one of the boys killing himself and the teacher getting fired. So much for the all's-well-that-ends-well moment at the end that is always the high point of movies like this.

They do stand on their desks, though. So there's that. Dude still gets fired, though.

What's even worse, though, is how untrue Society is to exactly the point it's trying to make. Tom Schulman, who wrote the movie, apparently wants to advocate a free-thinking, romantic sort of lifestyle. He did so by writing a sentimental, melodramatic movie. But the worst crime it commits is playing it safe. There isn't a single deviation from the formula here. Come on, Schulman! Just making the characters cite tons of poetry doesn't make them romanticists! In fact, it makes them come of as whiny bitches, instead of the heroes in agony you want them to be. You can have all the criticism you want on the romanticists you want, but at least they were sincere. 

Schulman was educated in a restrictive, authorial school himself, so you could see it as a way of coming to grips with his youthful ideals. But what is there to take away from this? Schools like that don't exist anymore, and children nowadays are being encouraged to be creative and free-thinking and such. This movie is about a problem that was solved before I was even born and how bad it was. This was not a rebellious act when it was made, and now it's even more painfully safe. If you want to see a movie about a true rebel, go check out Steven Soderberghs monumental Che. That guy had balls in the face of death, and the movies are made that way too. Dead Poets Society doesn't even have the stones to mix things up in the face of bad reviews. Get the fuck over yourself.


P.S. If you think I'm being hard on Schulman: the man won an Oscar for this piece of shite.

Now THIS is an honest song.

Friday, January 7

Shorts Circus: The Hallway

The woman who made this installation piece is called Miranda July. I'm sort of in love with her. And even though this is not technically a film, it's my favorite thing of hers so far.

The Hallway from The Hallway on Vimeo.


Wednesday, January 5

Movies You Should Totally See: Hard Candy

Aristotle said that a good play should take place in a single location, contain a single central act and should have a time span of less then 24 hours. Most movies break these rules almost immediately, but there is a certain quaint type of film that still sticks to these rules. One room, a few people, real time. No flashy action, no grand narratives, just people talking.

Hard Candy had a grand total of three actors with dialogue, and one of those has about 20 seconds of screen time. Everything in it takes place within a single afternoon, within a single house. This is the house of Jeff, a charismatic photographer who mostly works with young girls. Very young girls. When the movie starts, we see him contacting his next model. He meets her in a coffeehouse, and invites her over. She pours them both cocktails. He suggests a photoshoot. She happily obliges. He fetches his camera. He walks back into the room. And he passes out. When he wakes up, he is tied to a chair, while the girl is mockingly looking down on him.

It's a bit of a cliche to call a film like this a game of cat and mouse, but the term was never more fitting. The girl has a plan, but how solid is the evidence for her accusations? How much is she telling? The man is into some fishy business, but does he actually deserve what is done to him? The film peels off the layers of lies slowly and deliberately, in a way that pretty much defines "gripping".

Aristotle based his rules on the theatre, an artform that (in his day) depended mostly on two things: a good script and great actors. The script of Hard Candy is perfectly fine, but you'll completely forget about it once the actors show up. Patrick Wilson does a great job as the man in a tight spot, but he is simply no match for Ellen Page. Watching her unleash all hell is a simply chilling experience, even more so because she portrays her character as a complete enigma. Even in the most vulnerable of moments it is never revealed how much she really knows, and when the movie is done many questions remain unanswered. It's an uncanny achievement, especially when you consider that Page was only 18 when she played the role.

But like the drama Aristotle described, this is something that first and foremost should be experienced. You can (and will) think about it all you want, but there will never be any conclusive answers. Hard Candy is a movie that will keep you in it's grip long after you've turned off your TV.  It's is a hell of ride, and not one you'll leave unscathed.


This just feels right. Don't really know why.