VOD Log: Revenge

Revenge is a French I Spit on Your Grave set in the desert.  It’s not as good as that movie by a long shot — among other things, it’s plagued by problems of both logic and execution — but it’s not without it’s positive attributes.

My first reaction upon finishing Revenge was that I was mildly entertained, so a marginal thumbs-up, but I reflected on those numerous, nagging logic gaps, and then on the overall feel of the film.  It was striving for something that it just couldn’t accomplish.  Between the poster and the trailer, I thought I would really dig the look of the film’s desert setting — but that setting, and the movie itself, felt off and flat.

4/10

Comparison Notes: first and foremost, the previously mentioned I Spit on Your Grave; Eden Lake, Straw Dogs, Last House on the Left (these 3 in Riveting Rentals), After Dark, My Sweet

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Sci-Fi Gone Awry: High Life

Perhaps I was too harsh with Pet Sematary.  High Life is even more boring, because little story ever existed.  Worse, it is riddled with logic and execution holes — like a leading actor who looks exactly the same from one scene to the next when you later realize he is, in fact, 15 years older.  I’ve seen this before.  Pro tip for directors: people don’t look exactly the same 15 years later, unless agelessness is part of the Sci Fi at play — which it distinctly is not here.  The logic issues go way beyond that, but it’s not worth the effort to delineate them.

High Life is so idiotic, so insipid it makes a movie like Raw look brilliant by comparison.  It’s an embarrassment to good science fiction, a slap in the face to the entire genre. I think there was a small seed of an interesting idea which had nothing to do with space travel, but boy was it muddled to nothingness.  2/10

Comparison Notes (all much better; most recommended): Cube, Snowpiercer, Moon, Passengers, Ex Machina, The Box, Blindness, Under the Skin, The Skin I Live In, Holy Motors

Film Brief: Double Lover

At first, I loved Double Lover.  In the early going especially, the storytelling was strong, driven by the leads’ performances.  But the story was uneven, eventually falling into a derivative doppelgänger tale crossed with silly, even absurd, David Cronenberg-esque elements.  David Lynch has proven to be the master of the doppelgänger / film as soufflé .  A key to his success is that he doesn’t belabor the point.  The doppelgänger isn’t the story itself, as it was with Double Lover.  For Lynch, it’s almost incidental to the larger story at hand.

As the doppelgänger elements were mishandled here, a better tack would have been more the approach displayed in Thelma.  That is, the approach of a better movie.  5/10

Comparison Notes: Vertigo, Cronenberg films, Mulholland Drive + other Lynch projects.

Film Brief: Lost in Paris

Lost in Paris: a bit as if Wes Anderson made a Charlie Chaplin movie.  Delightful, charming, and fun, but never enough to thoroughly sink your teeth into.  Of note: the French title is Paris pieds nus, which translates most directly as “Paris, feet naked,” or “Barefoot in Paris”.  I think a more appropriate title than the one the marketers ended up pandering with.  7/10

Raw, Local, Organic

I love good edgy indies foreign and domestic; Raw is not one of them.  I wasn’t buying most of it, and there wasn’t enough style or substance to overcome its many issues, for example I never felt like I was watching students at a veterinary school, but maybe some sort of weird cult.  More problems:

SPOILER ALERT!  SPOILERS ALERT!  This girl is a devout vegetarian one moment, and the next, for no good reason, is scarfing meat down with abandon.  Vet students are animal haters?  And she grew up never seeing her father with his shirt off?  These and many other issues toss Raw down to B-movie territory, except there’s not enough fun to elicit that B-movie charm.  Forced, inorganic storytelling exacerbates these weaknesses.

Still, there was a certain raw, explosive power to the movie that kept it engaging.  But even in this regard, when the director was holding a straight flush she folds.

On top of everything else, Raw just wasn’t as original as it’s been made out to be; see Comparison Notes.  Entering the local arthouse, I was told that someone had fainted during a previous showing.  Barf bags and warning signs were hastily dispatched.  I so wished that Raw lived up to all the hype.  5/10

PS Raw is categorized as a horror film, but it’s a joke as a horror film.  Hardly horrifying.

Comparison Notes (all recommended): for infinitely better French ‘fare’ about consumption of human flesh — which they have a knack for, check out the greats Delicatessen and Les Amants Criminels; Teeth, every vampire movie ever (Only Lovers Left Alive looks like a masterpiece by comparison), Antichrist, The Neon Demon

Film Brief: Elle

I though Elle was going to be about a woman who was sexually assaulted, and then took that experience and instead of feeling victimized by it, turned it around, flipped the script and used it to her empowerment.

Instead, we get a muddled take on Basic Instinct-cum-pseudo Hitchcock psychological crime drama.  Operative word is muddled.  The movie held me well enough through the first half or so, but lost its way later on.  A disappointed, marginal no.  5/10

French Highlights: La Cérémonie

La Cérémonie - poster

I lived in LA for three years, from 1995 through 1997, and caught what seems now an inordinate proportion of terrific films, among them a string of great French and Italian productions.  One of them was a compact little bulldog called La Cérémonie (1995), a later offering by French New Wave director Claude Chabrol.

In 2012, Roger Ebert rendered his highest rating, hailing it as a “Great Film”:

The French have a name for the events leading up to a death by guillotine. They call it “the ceremony.” Although Claude Chabrol’s “La Ceremonie” (1995) contains no guillotines, there is a relentless feeling to it, as if the characters are engaged in a performance that can have only one outcome. It comes as a surprise to all of them, and to us. But given these people in this situation, can we really say in hindsight that we’re surprised? …

The film implacably moves toward a horrifying conclusion.

Watch this one if you can find it.  Availability is limited to DVD rental from Netflix or purchase from Amazon, or VOD from British iTunes (purchase only £4.99!), but you’ll need an account for that store — which I am thinking of doing just for La Cérémonie — it’s worth it.