Month: March 2008

Terre Champs de Bataille

Terre Champs de BatailleBattlefield Earth: A Saga of the Year 3000

Roger Christian :: USA :: 2000 :: 1h56

The planet Earth has dominated by an alien race called the Psychlo’s for a 1000 years, who over-ran the planet to be able to mine it for gold. Tyler grows up far from all this, in the Rocky Mountains in a primitive tribe, when one day he sets out to discover the world. He is captured and enslaved by the Psychlo’s and set to work at their mining camp run by the corrupt alien Teri (John Travolta). Basically, Tyler rebels and frees the world from the evil aliens.

It is not easy to make the story more captivating, because it is not. Similarly, it would be impossible to convince you to watch this movie as it has already been near universally trashed by the critics and audiences alike, for just about every aspect of the project: the embarrassingly simple story, the plot errors, the silly dialogues, the unconvincing acting, the tilted filming, the bland colours, the unconvincing special effects… It’s all true. The movie smells of failure from beginning to end. By the time you see a primitive man learning to fly Harrier jets in a week (which incidentally were perfectly preserved after a millennium, just like books in a library…) there is not a shred of credibility left.

What attracted me to the film was the thought that a movie based on a book written by the Scientologist founder L. Ron Hubbard could be completely without merit. After all, he did manage to convince a few million people around the world including the producer of this film – John Travolta. The movie was supposed to introduce the audience (a new generation) to the Hubbard’s writing, with potential new recruits for the school of Scientology. Considering the trouble he went through to get the project off the ground (piles of rejection letters), you would think the pressure to make something of it was enormous. At the time of promotion for this film (in 2000), Travolta was handing out signed copies of the book in bookstores instead of waving at movie fans in multiplex’s. The problem of course remained, that a lousy film does not encourage people to read the book, although, admittedly, it can only be better in this case.

Bear in mind that this (and the book) is pure science-fiction – it has no other pretensions. The route to Scientology would only be by the awakened curiosity about Hubbard, his writing and his teachings. But that will not happen after seeing this. If you are interested in learning about Scientology, then pick up a book on Dianetics. If, however, you want a Science fiction, then… watch Blade Runner, Dune or Solaris

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Simon

SimonSimon

Eddy Terstall :: The Netherlands :: 2004 :: 1h42

Through an awkward accident, Camiel (Marcel Hensema) meets Simon (Cees Geel). Camiel is an intelligent, shy, insecure, gay student studying to become a dentist. Simon is close to his opposite: a true Amsterdam mythical hero – down-to-earth, liberal, dry humoured seducer (“Couldn’t you just instantly turn into a naked chick?”) who owns two cafés and lives in the Dutch paradox – he’s in the semi-legal business of running a hash home delivery service. Both are true products of Dutch society, as it is dreamed to be, with their multilingual, easy, matter-of-fact approach to life. But the film is mostly about Simon. Well, about Camiel looking Simon, fascinated.

So what is it about Simon that so fascinates Camiel? To a certain extent, Camiel is an outsider, he is just someone who walks the streets. He is not extraordinary in any sense. Neither his love life, nor his profession can help him up, nor does he play an instrument or have any hidden talent. When he meets Simon, it seems as if Simon has his whole life organised around himself, to be able to live his life fully. He is surrounded by his oddball friends and has a loving family (in Thailand!). And that with a forgiving smile which allows him to boyishly do as he pleases.

The second half of the movie is darker than the first, when the weight on the looming tragedy starts to be felt (Simon’s approaching death). The second half of the film is more emotional, building on the characters and relationships of the first half. Notice the remarkable difference in the treatment of the subject with Les Invasions Barbares, of death, friendship, love, sex and society. Perhaps the last is most remarkable, because somewhere Simon is the society. There is no clash with an outer world which is different to him – because the difference between the individuals is what makes up the society in which he lives. Similarly there is no generational gap either, Simon’s children will make something out of their lives as he did with his, nothing fundamental has changed. It is Western society at its (brief?) peak.

If there is any weakness in the film, then it would have to be Simon’s interest in Camiel, the reasons of which could have been more explicit (perhaps his stability, or his intelligence?). None the less, the audience takes on the role of Camiel, and is taken along into Simon’s world. A world which is a rare glimpse into the liberal post-modern society which is (was?) The Netherlands. Camiel will not be the only one leaving impressed.

La Fabrique des Sentiments

La fabrique des sentimentsLa Fabrique des Sentiments

Jean-Marc Moutout :: France :: 2008 :: 1h44

Eloise (Elsa Zylberstein) is a 36 year-old public notary comfortably living in her cushioned  apartment in Paris, who starts to feel the weight of solitary life on her shoulders. She decides to take matters into her own hands, to force the fate of love into her life and joins the speed-dating circus. Her snappy and cultivated responses to her job-interview-type suitors in the futuristic android environment contrast sharply, spinning her further into a sentimental void.

Eloise kept her young ideals of love into adulthood, as the princess in waiting, which conflict with the biological and society’s pressure of instant success. The movie traces the tragedy of the ambitions of romantic love, a love which requires the time and patience to develop in a world which, barring the chance of good fortune, rarely delivers. The solutions offered, are presented as a “forced marriage” of the past, despite the addition of a lingering ideal, which will more likely disappoint and destroy than be a true source of happiness.
The movie is blessed with an accuracy of portrayal of character, notably including the small side roles (the associate public notary, the intern, the seducers) and many a captivating image (a line of men and women all exchanging CV’s in the hope of finding a perfect match). The charm and beauty of Eloise in a world which clashes with her youthful fantasy makes for captivating watching. The director presents long scenes of short events as a TV show might do to provoke reactions from an audience left in the dark, even though we are given plenty of time to get to know her. A well placed bet, producing a gem of an unconventional movie of a excessively exploited theme.