I Watch Movies Sometimes: 2010 Foreign Edition

2011 March 12

A few weeks back, leading up to the Oscars, I attempted to watch a movie a night. Once I watched Dogtooth on early in the week, I decided to just run with it and watch more movies not made in America.


Like most movies, I think this one could have benefitted from me not being half-asleep through most of it. The word every single person uses to describe Dogtooth is “disturbing”. I think the cover displaying a girl with a bleeding mouth and missing tooth warn you of what you’re getting into. That said, I’m pretty sure I was totally out during the most unnerving scene in the movie. I woke up and there was a dead animal on the ground and the characters standing around it. I don’t think that’s all that spoilery, but maybe my indifference towards the film affects my judgment when it comes to revealing plot points.

The entire film revolves around a dysfunctional family where the children are obviously not normal. As the film unfolds, you realize they’ve been totally secluded from the outside world, and taught all sorts of strange and incorrect things by their batshit parents. But I could never get invested in the concept at all. Sure, it’s a commentary on how control and isolation can wreak havoc on impressionable and powerless subjects, but the concept is so totally out there and weird that it never clicked with me. And it didn’t stick with me, either. Most parents that control their children as much as possible usually do it for what they think is their benefit. What’s the benefit of the licking other people’s bodies? Not sure why that stands out to me now, but jesus if that wasn’t the most irrationally strange thing ever. Maybe I missed something while I was too busy falling asleep and someone can explain it to me?

Basically nothing clicked at all here. There are parts that are clearly meant to be darkly amusing, but the only thing that elicited a smile was one of the girls reenacting Rocky. Oh, and I guess a vagina being called a keyboard was funny enough. But I’ve already undermined my thoughts by saying how I wanted to snooze 15 minutes after starting it up on Netflix Instant Watch (and ultimately succeeded). I didn’t know Greek people got this weird, I thought they just liked having corrupt governments.

Enter The Void

I almost made it through this movie without falling asleep. I may have even only half-dozed off. In this case, it has less to do with the content of the movie than the length. My God, is this shit incomprehensibly long. The first half of the movie is pretty damn great, as the first-person perspective and the dreaminess that comes along with it creates shots that remain in your mind. And there’s one scene repeated throughout the movie that definitely won’t exit my mind for a long while. I remember being maybe two-thirds through the movie and thinking that scene was done with and it came back and almost gave me a heart attack and I wanted to curse Gaspar Noe. I haven’t seen Irreversible, but I know some people had a similar reaction to that entire film.

Anyway, the second half is where it drags on forever, with the camera swinging back and forth across Tokyo, giving me a goddamn headache, showing the lives of the residents connected to the main character. Like in Boardwalk Empire, Paz De La Huerta is naked seemingly most of the time she’s on screen (it’s to distract people from her face), and she’s still a terrible actress — as is the main character. I’m not sure if it was a conscious choice on Noe’s part to have the protagonist — who you see almost exclusively from behind — speak with absolutely no inflection at all. It’s totally disconcerting and frustrating. I would consider the possibility that Noe wanted the viewer to insert himself into the role as much as possible, but then he would have stuck with the first-person perspective instead of pulling the camera back behind the dude’s head. He definitely wanted the sensation of the protagonist watching his own life — a life where he spoke in a monotone voice, apparently.

So while I was sucked in by the first half of the movie, with its bright flashing Tokyo lights seen from the perspective of a drug-dealing and -taking kid, the second half eventually lost its appeal somewhere around minute 130. Yes, there’s a point to the length that’s pointed out earlier in the film, but it still didn’t make it any less unbearable. Yet, I’d still recommend it. And if I could see it in a proper theater tomorrow, I’d be all over it. I’d probably feel the need to take some sort of drugs beforehand, but either way, it’s the type of movie that lends itself to a big screen. Unlike Dogtooth, which did not move me at all, there’s something here that sticks with you — whether it’s the spectacular credits, or the eerie feeling of being a ghost drifting through the world, or the thought of re-living your life in the same manner portrayed in the film.  It’s a ride that goes on for too long, but it’s a ride nonetheless.

The credits sequence is a necessary YouTube embed, but it’s nothing like watching it on your HDTV in pitch black, which is nothing like watching it in a movie theater:


Animal Kingdom

Hey, a more traditional movie! Like Enter the Void, this one is also in English, but instead of from France, this comes from Australia. A crime film that centers around the youngest member of the crime family and his place in the world after his mother passes away to start the film. Guy Pierce, who is fucking awesome and underappreciated, plays the role that introduces the idea of natural selection and the food chain. Somehow this is handled without being cheesy, as Pierce comes across as a cop trying to both intimidate and reason with the teenage protagonist stuck in the middle of a terrifying and crumbling mess of a family.

There’s quite a few twists in the film, and even more moments where my heart was in my throat either from shock at what had just taken place on screen, or from a achingly tense scene. There’s one shot in particular where you know something is going to happen — and then it doesn’t. The movie is filled with encounters that turn out completely unlike how you would expect, and it’s for the better in almost every instance.

I feel like it takes the movie a while to kick into gear, but the last 45 minutes on the whole are close to flawless. It also took me pretty much until the very last scene for me to warm up to the main character. He seemed like a deaf and dumb teenage with a sullen look on his face most of the time; I guess that can happen when your mom dies. It’s very different from the lead performance in another foreign crime film released in the past couple of years, A Prophet, which is probably a superior film.

The Secret in Their Eyes

I haven’t seen many Spanish-speaking movies, but something about this one just felt Hispanic as hell.  The way love is handled and the flirting and the drinking — I can just see the world of this film reflected in my Puerto Rican mother. To be specific, this is an Argentinian film, and it’s also the odd man out here, as it was released in 2009.

It’s strange; I enjoyed this movie quite a bit, but I can’t find too much to say about it. I will admit it’s interesting how the movie works as two mysteries 25 years apart, one a murder case, and one  just a lingering sense of doubt. In an amusing coincidence, I was talking with a middle-aged female co-worker who said how she liked “epic” movies that took place over a long period of time, and also mysteries. It was like she described this film. I just remembered the soccer stadium scene that adds to the perceived scope of the film — and also the Hispanic-ness.

The ending does feel immensely clichéd, even though the events that lead up to it are very affecting. But it’s also an ending I’m sure this co-worker would eat up. Yeah, I’m spent talking about movies, I think. I don’t know how Roger Ebert does it.

Related posts:

  1. I Watch Movies Sometimes: Oscars Edition
  2. NeoGAF 2010 Movies of the Year (and Mine)
  3. I Watch Movies Sometimes