I went on something of a Michael Haneke kick this week, revisiting just a few of the great Austrian director’s films. If you haven’t heard of him, czech him out. I’m hoping to be able to watch The Seventh Continent for the first time this weekend, so look out for my thoughts on the next WWW.
EVERYBODY LOOK THE FUCK OUT, SPOILERS AHEAD
Now this is a hard one to describe. Funny Games is about a family who are taken hostage and tortured by two sadistic young men, so it sounds like standard slasher fare on paper, but it’s actually something much more complicated. The film is essentially an indictment of the use of violence to entertain in films; the film’s antagonist, Paul, realizes that he is performing for us, so he tortures the family so that he might create the slasher film we’ve come to see; the three protagonists are killed because of our, the audience’s, bloodlust. Paul becomes frustrated when the standard horror tropes he attempts to recreate are broken by the meddling of the family, cursing when he has to kill the child first, as the child isn’t supposed to die until the end, and, in the film’s most memorable sequence, rewinding time with a TV remote when the wife kills his partner and starts to escape. The film is a very striking meditation on the relationship between fiction and reality.
Funny Games (2008)
I watched this one simply out of curiosity. For the uninformed, Michael Haneke decided to create a shot-for-shot remake of Funny Games in English, with an American cast, for some reason, and the result was this. Since the film is literally the same as the previous Funny Games, there isn’t anything more to say about this one, but it’s interesting to note the changes the language shift causes. It’s somewhat easier to sympathize with the family in this version, as it provokes a greater emotional response to hear their anguished cries for mercy than to just read them, but the shift from the director’s natural Austrian also negates some of the original’s artfulness somehow. It’s interesting to watch both versions just to see how language affects our perception of film.
Recommended? If you watch only one version, watch the original.
Pick of the Week:
Simply a masterpiece. Michael Haneke’s disturbing thriller centers on a seemingly ordinary French couple who start to receive videotapes of their house being recorded for hours at a time. Their stalker isn’t harming them in any way, just watching them. From here, the film spirals into an examination on the devastating effect guilt has on our lives and how the simple act of being watched can deeply affect us. As any student of physics knows, simply observing a phenomenon irrevocably changes it.
Everything I watched this week started with either an S or a B. Weird…
Super Size Me
Morgan Spurlock’s documentary about McDonald’s definitely still disgusts today, although it has lost a little bit of its shock value since its initial release. Super Size Me chronicles his month-long binge on McDonald’s and investigation into the corporation and American eating practices, and what he reveals is now considered by most to be “common sense.” However, the question still remains if this documentary and others like it will actually change anything in America, as we all realize the facts presented here are true, but still remain apathetic to changing our dietary habits.
Recommended? Informational and enjoyable, so yes.
Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One
A film on the precipice between fiction and reality, Symbiopsychotaxiplasm: Take One is one of the most vivid and vibrant pieces of experimental film from the 1960s. Director William Greaves essentially plays an amped-up version of himself, directing a film which has no direction, only one scene which is reenacted over and over again. On-lookers to the set stumble upon the film and become part of it, and a documentary crew films a camera crew filming the action. Soon the crew realize that Greaves has no idea what he is doing, and begin discussing the film’s concept, and realize that maybe he does know what he’s doing, or nevermind, maybe he doesn’t, or wait… It continues and continues and continues. A popping soundtrack by Miles Davis accentuates the (in my opinion) colorful and lovely 16mm cinematography, making this strange meta-spiral/Möbius strip of a film all the more worth watching.
This film by Frank Oz, starring Eddie Murphy and Steve Martin, is decent enough I suppose. About a out-of-his-luck producer trying to make a big hit, it’s somewhat enjoyable, and honestly, I don’t have much to say on it.
Recommended? I guess.
Bill Cunningham New York
Man, man, man. Another documentary. This documentary from last year on Bill Cunningham, a fashion photographer from The New York Times, is a nice story about a simple man who’s always moving and always happy. His life consists mostly of riding around on a bicycle taking pictures of people he observes on the street, and he seems like an incredibly warm and gentle individual. His life reflects this exterior, as there is very little history to the man; he goes to church every Sunday, but does not have deep thoughts on religion, and he’s never been in a relationship. Despite his lack of personal history, however, his life as portrayed through this documentary is one of constant happiness and joy.
Pick of the Week:
John Cassavetes’ masterful and landmark piece of independent cinema is a film that I love, one that moves and flows freely, almost like jazz. A story of an interracial relationship in the 50s, it was incredibly socially-conscious for its time, but that’s not even half of the movie. The story behind it is fantastic, as most of it was improvised by the actors at Cassavetes’ workshop. It is truly a pioneering work of cinema, a beautiful portrait of the city, an incredible film.
All previous editions of What We Watched can be found here.