Month: December 2009



Dominique Abel, Fiona Gordon, Bruno Romy :: Belgium :: 2006 :: 1h24

Fiona (Fiona Gordon) works as the manager of a fast food restaurant in a prefab suburb. She leads a settled-in life with her husband and two children, which are like silent carbon-copies of themselves. One day, she accidentally locks herself into the restaurant’s freezer-room setting off a journey of introspection causing her to question the entire set-up of her life. It is a line of questioning which will push her to the pursuit of a dream: sitting on a real iceberg.

The film has been made as if it was a physical theatre piece where the audience moves their chair from one scene to the next to follow the action. At every scene, we can almost feel our own presence as we sit for the action, to see what will happen. The actors battle it out in the (usually) static frame of our view. When they walk out of our field of vision, we are forced to patiently wait for them to come back on the stage, where we can see them. It is a curious approach for a film, which brings in a spectator proximity which we normally only have with theatre.

Part of this theatrical approach, is a specific portrayal of the characters. They all barely speak, as if living in a mime world. To express themselves, the characters have lost some of their human complexities, to be able to expose their core. The approach works well in combination with the curious story.

From a grey north, to a postcard coastal town to a boat on an ocean. Fiona takes us further and further away from her home in a quest to find herself, taking us with her. I loved the experience, but must warn you that some effort is required when watching. But if you can handle that, the film should keep you smiling all the way through.




James Cameron :: USA :: 2009 :: 2h41

On the faraway planet Pandora, a human mining company wants to move an indigenous population to be able to extract valuable minerals from under their village. Jake Sully (Sam Worthington) is sent in to attempt diplomacy before they resort to military force. The villagers get the point, listen to a few inspiring speeches and decide to fight back.

As you will have guessed from the summary, Avatar is not about the story. This is old-school blockbuster cinema: the story is just simple and customary, so that you not only do not have to think but there is nothing to worry about either. The movie is about showing-off special effects, which, as usual, can already be seen in the preview on their website. To fully understand this blockbuster strategy, let us search further for a moment: the site is integrated with YouTube, Flickr, Twitter and Facebook. And then there is the merchandising, even before the movie starts you will already have seen the spin-offs with Coca-Cola and games on your Playstation, PSP, Xbox or even your iPhone. All this made me check with McDonalds and you can rest assured: they are also ready to cash in. I am sure Fox has taken care of the production of puppets, mugs and T-shirts for the holiday season too. This is all so tacky for a children’s movie, but does it still matter? Well, in a sense: yes it does.

The bad guy in Avatar is the mining cooperation (which incidentally shifts the blame of its immoral behaviour onto their shareholders). It is in their name that the planet Pandora is being destroyed and the villagers killed (or displaced). The xenophobic and ecological disaster which is the cooperation in the film, is reflected by the real life version (a conglomerate of US companies huddled around a copyrighted image cutting out others with an ephemeral, disposable product). The movie criticises what it represents itself – the use of capitalistic power to the detriment of others. The movie just pushes capitalistic behaviour further than its own production house does (with criminal consequences). But are we supposed to take a blockbuster movie seriously? But then if we discard the story and are prepared to ignore the moral message, then why should we bother going in?

There is actually an answer here: the dream world which is on the planet Pandora. It is absolutely magical! A civilisation which is as a mix of Amazonian Indian and African cultures with a holistic Gaia-type world view. They live in the trees in a Jurassic-ish rainforest world with wavy ocean-like properties. It is all credible enough and beautifully worked out (irrespective if you watch the 3D version or just the big screen). In a word, it is spectacular! The memory of the trip through their world makes me want to return. I think they might have a solution for that. On the playstation. Or on the iPhone…

( / / / etc.)

The Box

The Box

Richard Kelly :: USA :: 2009 :: 1h55

It’s 1976 in small town USA. Southerners Norma and Arthur Lewis, a NASA scientist and a school teacher, live a comfortable life beyond their means with their son Walter. At the first set-back, Norma realises they have no financial buffer. A tall stranger appears at that exact moment to test their morals: he offers them a box with a button. If they press it, they will receive a million dollars and someone they do not know will die. They are not told how or who will die, but just that someone –they do not know– will die. The young couple stares at the box wondering what to do.

For those of you who think they recognise the plot, this is a feature length version of a famous Twilight Zone (1985) episode called Button, Button (from the short story by Richard Matheson). The original film was 20 minutes long, with some notable differences: there we were introduced to a stuttering Arthur and a chain-smoking Norma who live as a bickering working class couple in California, trying to make ends meet. The couple, when presented with the perverse choice, take opposing ends. Arthur is morally outraged by the idea while Norma is blinded by the prospect of the influx of wealth, hiding behind the anonymity of the obscure murder.

But the reason to push the button, poverty and misery, are removed in the contemporary version. The contemporary Norma and Arthur love each other, they are both healthy, living in a beautiful house, fully equipped with everything they could ever need, they go out to the theatre when they want to and even have a sports car and fancy clothes to boot. Under such circumstances, even a little set back should make you wonder what could that million add to their lives? Norma explains that it would “make it easier to live the life they want”, which makes you wonder what on earth they are missing. She says it would “provide security for their entire family”, but if they thought that was important, they would not have been living above their means. The final argument, is “are we ever going to leave Richmond?”. If the script had been a little more challenging, Arthur could have responded: “We have to kill someone because we never took the trouble to leave Richmond?” The reason to push the button is not there. Norma is fooling herself, succumbing under her own greed. And she is to realise it very quickly. But of course, too late.

The Box starts out as a stretched Twilight Zone episode brushed up with the contemporary Hollywood feel-good ethos (everybody is beautiful, wealthy, intelligent and loving) even if it does not suit the story. But as the film rolls on it starts to seem more and more like a M. Night Shyamalan movie. But then there are so many tangents, that you lose count. Some of them end up being storyline fluff while others become mysterious supernatural escapades. This is a wild moral adventure, best watched under cover of night, even if it is scarred by obscure lapses in logic. It is none the less enigmatically captivating, leaving the pieces in your head for assembly afterwards – even if you end up throwing the pieces on the floor because they do not fit.

(The Twilight Zone episode: