Attica! Attica! Top Films of 2009! (Part 6) March 19, 2010Posted by Richard Bolisay in Asian Films, European Films, Noypi, Yearender.
15. MOON (Duncan Jones)
Sam Bell, we need to get him to the infirmary.
Such haunting words, delivered not-so-hauntingly by robot assistant Gerty to Sam Bell himself.
That’s the time when Moon decides to track the realm of the predictable, going for psychological sentimentality because the situation calls for it. As with stories that fall under science-fiction—though in this case it’s a bit strange to call it science-fiction—emotion always plays a critical role. The torment of discovering the unknown is one step closer to insanity, hopelessness, and death; and in Moon’s case it is a one-man show—or more fittingly, a clone-show—with Sam Rockwell, the indie superstar, donning all the possible twitches that a lunar loner can wear. The film is interesting in itself, but there are moments that leave a mark—the clones accusing each other of being a clone, the jump-cut video of Sam’s wife, Sam idling away by watching Bewitched and Mary Tyler Moore, and the “planet-earth-is-blue-and-there’s-nothing-I-can-do” look on Sam’s face. With those details, Duncan Jones is consciously alluding to 2001: A Space Odyssey and Solyaris, only Moon achieves neither of the two, which makes it fantastic. Rare is a crazy conversation like this pulled off without writhing:
“Gerty, am I a clone?” Sam asks.
And Gerty answers, “Are you hungry?”
14. FISH TANK (Andrea Arnold)
The moment Michael Fassbender walks in, half-dressed and scorching like someone who just kissed the sun, the heat turns the tide. He not only charms; he leaves teeth marks. He carries our young lady to bed, takes off her shoes, pulls her bottoms, and pulls a blanket over her. He sings Bobby Womack’s California Dreamin’ as he drives. He catches fish, he piggybacks, and he knows how to nurse a wound. He’s got a tattoo of an ex’s name on his arm, he dances, he shakes his booty, and he smiles like he could hide his wife and family from us and we’d still forgive him. In short, he bleeds heat. Director Andrea Arnold sure is aware that she’s making the film for us; she’s making Fassbender flirt not only with her Alanis, but also with her audience, his infidelity becoming irrelevant as he is not the concern of the film. It’s not that he is too distracting; it’s just that his testosterone really shakes things up for Mia—the Alanis—and her mother. He is her mother’s boyfriend, after all.
On the other hand, Mia bleeds hate. She is angry like she was born angry. She swears, she sneaks up on her mom, she runs away. She’s Antoine Doinel, except she likes dancing. It’s the only thing that calms her down. Fassbender acts like a father to her, appreciates what she does, and she in return spites him like a kid does when caught sneaking. It’s a relationship reminiscent of Brocka’s Insiang, except the tension is not among the three characters, but concentrated on Mia especially, her being juvenile. But Insiang it is, ugly things happen. And Arnold, in her nifty way of observing, unfolds so with a mix of ease and tantrum. The camera catches the smell of noisy tenements, empty parking lots, and cramped garages; and later on the camera runs crazy when events turn crazy, always intimately present.
What on earth Mia is running away from? What does she want? Why does she hate the world so much she seems to want everyone around her dead? That’s plain to see. Arnold lays all the cards very casually.
13. THE WHITE RIBBON (Michael Haneke)
The “poverty of ideas” that A. O. Scott is referring to in his review of The White Ribbon is more or less related to Haneke’s adherence to similar themes, which is rather unfair to say considering the degree and depth of experience one feels while watching any of his films. But contrary to the raging comments following the review, I like that Scott has written something that is completely different, in terms of tone and vision, from the film itself. Qualities like humor and illumination are present, things which Haneke is always reluctant to give; though in defense, Haneke sure has these qualities—particularly in Caché and Funny Games—no matter how twisted they seem to be.
Undeniable is Haneke’s manner of controlling the film from the tiniest detail down to the most critical. Polarizing his films may be, they possess a style that is distinctly Haneke’s—the precision of shots, the furtive storytelling, the lack of answers, the (de)mystifying suspense, and the blow in the end that defies judgment, like a ghost story without any ghost—and in The White Ribbon, these things are still present, which is to suggest that this is like any other Haneke film, tight, gripping, masterly, introspective. Predictable is also an accurate description, but the literary pacing—the unfoldment of the plot and the exposition of every character’s germ of criminology which compose the ethos of the entire village—reveals less about its period or the actuality of its setting than Haneke’s nagging sense of ownership. The ownership of ideas, the ownership of blame, the ownership of totality, all presented deliberately. One is left to argue against him and not his films, for he owns them and gets away with inflicting perplexity. To Haneke, answers are dummies we create to comfort ourselves, as he lingers on questions and their inescapable trait. It feels like being punished, let alone being forced to admit something that one is not completely aware of—yet between us and the filmmaker we both know what is going on, but what about to happen is out of the question. Murderers, in theory, are no one except us. Punishment purifies, as the pastor tells his children, and all of us walk in blindfold while the perpetrator is still at large, us in between wars, depressed and joyless, not allowed to masturbate because it’s some form of sickness, eventually bearing the children of Forbidden Games and The Night of the Hunter, stern and emotional but never, as the film flags unfailingly, in any way innocent.
Frankly, what makes Independencia difficult to write about is that it is never really meant to be written about. The writer will just give in to ordinary words in the praise-book (Oh, Independencia, what terrible beauty), telling how this and that are important (the nostalgia of black-and-white pictures), or how this and that qualify as unique filmmaking (Martin’s play with Philippine history and its “cinematic” equivalent), which again, no matter how truthful, only excels at gobbledygook but does not really tell why those pronouncements should be taken seriously. In other words, the writer’s task is done before he knows it. Annotation unnecessary. Watch it, write about it, and turn yourself into a failure. A masterpiece always deserves the time. (Ooooops)
11. IN THE LOOP (Armando Iannucci)
You know, I’ve come across a lot of psychos, but none as fucking boring as you. You are a real boring fuck. Sorry, sorry, I know you disapprove of swearing so I’ll sort that out. You are a boring F, star, star, CUNT!
This is when dignifying television comes close to surpassing it, only in fact it surpasses it. Iannucci’s debut, which is not far from what he is doing with The Thick of It, bursts with every wit possible. Its fireworks of absurdity and foul language is not overshadowed by the mockery it presents, its outrageous outpouring of dialogues pushes its political satire to a shocking riot, unbelievably turning the war on terror into a carnival of errors.
Like one critic said it is impossible to single out anything outstanding from it because everything is outstanding, from the seeming little details (the wall collapsing, the one-night stand, the jerk officemate) down to the huge conference meetings and flare-ups (the White House, the UN, the BBC). In the Loop tirelessly connects the loose wires of the Iraq War, and without the sight of the President and the Prime Minister or any political parties makes it all the more impressive. With such smart script and one hell of a powerhouse cast that can throw any film in Hollywood right now, In the Loop deserves the wild rumpus it gets from its fans. And yes, you heard the comparisons right. It’s this generation’s Dr. Strangelove—the panic and the insanity of war, the doomsday machine awaiting its cue, the hysteria of possibilities over the lives at stake—and certainly it will remain relevant, not to mention hilarious, for years.