Hey gang! It’s morphin time as Bryan shares his love of the MIGHTY MORPHIN POWER RANGERS in this car episode of AFTER THE HYPE. We will resume our longer episodes next week starting with Guardians of the Galaxy.
Starting off with what is undoubtedly the opening credit sequence of the year, Peter Strickland’s The Duke of Burgundy never ceases to surprise and delight over its 100 minutes, offering a dry but meticulous humour and rhythm. Those credits, offering the promise of ‘perfume by’ and ‘lingerie’ by,’ evoke a specific period of Euro-sleaze cinema from the early 1970s that was drenched in velvet, silk and hosiery (and undoubtedly all kinds of musk). Harpsichords and cellos abound.
In Strickland’s previous film, Berberian Sound Studio, he took the mood and repeated patterns of the Italian Giallo to deliver a witty and uncomfortable workplace comedy. It was a film where a British man is driven mad simply by the culture shock of alien ungraspable protocols. It was terrifying, confusing and above all, funny as hell. Here he does a two-hander in an over sized, lushly designed manor house in the country exploring the sexual politics of two women immersed in the protocols of their own passions. Their only break between shared intimacy is in the meticulous study of moths and butterflies, creatures who are nearly infinite in variation, aid in pollination, and whose rapidly pulsing wings sound more than a little like a vibrator.
Young Evelyn arrives to work as the housemaid for the matron of the house, who haughtily finds fault in every task; a master who is clearly power tripping. Everything is heightened as Evelyn brushes the carpets on her knees, hangs damp underwear up to drip-dry, or slowly polishes the barrel of the microscope in the entomology laboratory, where hundreds of glass cases of moths and butterflies pinned to velvet pillows. If you can take your eyes off the production design here, your sympathies might slide towards poor Evelyn, but things quickly get complicated as it becomes obvious that she is seriously getting off on the ritual. Body language and pregnant glances are the key to unlocking this picture, so keep at attention.
Like nearly every scene in the film, there is a punchline. It is amusing to watch this film with a large festival audience (I hope everyone gets a chance) as certain visual cues become apparent at different times for different people, giving an atmosphere of someone on the verge of laughter at any given moment, while others are intent on something entirely different. I won’t give anything away, but suffice it to say, that as the film progresses, it gets murky, then clear, then murky again, in who is the slave and who is the master. The rhythms and cycles of The Duke of Burgundy echo the give and take between lovers. How far can things go before the proclivities of a partner begin to feel like a chore? When do the sexy outfits begin to be more constrictive than empowering? When does the purchase a human-toilet device start to feel like a compromise?
Strickland is fond of saying that he does not deal in metaphor, but comedy is association, and the image a moth pinned by its wings and displayed glass is ripe. As is a room full of handsomely attired women lecturing one another on the minutiae of cricket sounds and colour markings. No matter, there is mood to spare – the film is nothing if not fully immersive. But it also traffics in playfully obscuring its own sight gags. Be sure to pay attention to the slightly out of focused middle ground during the films several moth seminars with out loosing focus of all the passive-aggressive judgement throughout.
Observation and understanding create entertainment and pleasure, that works just fine even whether or not you are familiar with the genre Strickland is archly riffing on and re-configuring. And boy, oh, boy those opening titles. For that matter, stay for the closing credits for further gems such as ‘human toilet consultant’ which are scattered throughout the text.
There is not a single man in The Duke of Burgundy, but the film doesn’t need any to show us some universal truths about the species and its mating rituals. I can still smell the perfume.
It’s been a good week for Kristen Wiig, an actress who has come a long way to celebrity, and can now comfortably anchor a film on her star power alone. Her latest film gets one of the most handsome pieces of marketing this year, which to me evokes a South Korean style of doing movie posters; lean design elements, precisely spaced and coloured. The credit block is pushed up to the top, which is just the right amount of unusual from typical poster convention. And then there is that boom mike coming in off from the left. Do we need to know more? The tagline on the poster is so white it is nearly invisible, so here is an synopsis excerpt from the 2014 TIFF catalog, where it quietly played last year:
Alice Klieg suffers from borderline personality disorder, and though she manages it — and the accompanying medications and therapeutic care — fairly well, past tumult has left a broken marriage and strained familial relationships in its wake. She finds grounding in her daily routine, which includes memorizing every episode of Oprah and carefully monitoring her wardrobe and protein-laden diet. One can’t help but get the sense that Alice is straining to embrace bigger things, and when her numbers come up in the state lottery, suddenly she gets focused… on eighty million dollars’ worth of possibilities. In quick succession, Alice buys a stretch of hours at a local television company, eschews her medication and therapy, moves into a casino, and creates her own talk show about — what else? — herself. As her show gains an audience (despite some off-the-wall cooking and medical demonstrations), Alice realizes that viewers identify with her re-enactments of past hurts and social slights. What she doesn’t recognize is that her own hunger for fame may just reflect a deeper need to be heard.
Party crasher on the set of the RowThree Cinecast arrives in studio in the form of one Sean Dwyer from Film Junk. More well-equipped to take the punches from Matt Gamble than anyone, it turns out to be a much more agreeable show than we anticipated – even with the latest Wachowski output being compared to Citizen Kane. That’s right, from the Ascension of the Jovian Gas Giant to the depths of Jude Law’s Russian sea we are a literal high and low podcast. Later in the Watch List, Sean and Andrew look deep into the “Black Mirror” while Matt and Kurt praise another successful editing venture of the great Louis C.K. – of course it doesn’t stop there. We have Steve McQueen, Spike Lee and “that one about the Nazis” on Amazon TV; among many other tid-bits of discussion. We’re happy and honored that Sean could finally make an appearance and happy to hear of the many upcoming moments of greatness still to come from the Film Junk crew.
As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!
A pox on all your houses! Or Cancer. Which begs the question: Who in medieval times even knew what Cancer was? Apparently Morgan Freeman does. Along with (after The Knick) a slumming Clive Owen, Noway’s biggest star Askel Hennie (Headhunters) as well as Shohreh Aghdashloo and Cliff Curtis paychecks are cached considerable talents likely wasted on a grim, dour, and ultimately silly looking cash-in of the current Game of Thrones popularity. The Last Knights is directed by Kazuaki Kiriya, the Japanese director responsible a pair of films (Casshern, Goemon) big on ideas but small on execution and written by the guy adapted the Canadian novel Barney’s Version for the screen.
“A fallen warrior rises against a corrupt and sadistic ruler to avenge his dishonored master.”
I dare you to waste your money on this.
This ridiculously fun a, Amblin-esque popcorn muncher from Finland was a big hit at last years Toronto International Film Festival with the midnight crowd. Much of the Finnish cast from Jalmari Helander’s previous exercise in dead-pan holiday fun, Rare Exports return and are mixed in with a slew of Hollywood character actors Samuel Jackson, Ted Levine, Jim Broadbent, Ray Stevenson, Felicity Huffman, and Victor Garber to achieve maximum results on a limited budget. And in English, too. It is a shame that Big Game doesn’t have set release dates on this side of the Atlantic yet, but UK folks get a chance to see it on May 8th.
When Air Force One is shot down by terrorists leaving the President of the United States stranded in the wilderness, there is only one person around who can save him – a 13-year old boy called Oskari. In the forest on a hunting mission to prove his maturity to his kinsfolk, Oskari had been planning to track down a deer, but instead discovers the most powerful man on the planet in an escape pod. With the terrorists closing in to capture their own “Big Game” prize, the unlikely duo must team up to escape their hunters. As anxious Pentagon officials observe the action via satellite feed, it is up to the President and his new side-kick to prove themselves and survive the most extraordinary 24 hours of their lives.
Note: I interviewed both Jalmari Helander and his young star, Onni Tomilla, at TIFF over at Twitchfilm.
Also known as “I’d rather be watching ARCHER.”
Spy spoofs are a dime a dozen, as are Baby Boomer TV shows blown up into unnecessary feature films. After dumbing down Sherlock Holmes for two handsome (but inert) feature films, Guy Ritchie has a free-pass to go hog wild with 1960s production design in this expensive looking update of the era’s TV staple The Man From U.N.K.L.E. Stunts, sex and suave suits ensue as The Man of Steel himself, Henry Cavill, takes the title role along with support from Armie Hammer and Hugh Grant.
At one point, Steven Soderbergh was going to make this film with a screenplay by Scott Z. Burns (Contagion, The Informant!). After seeing this tired mess, I will be watching in my imagination that never-to-be version. Or hell, there are 5 seasons of Archer re-runs on Netflix.
The Movie Club and Row Three want to serve up a great big hug and a kiss for Valentine’s Day with two rather unconventional love stories. The first is Robert Altman’s uniquely weird live-action adaptation of Popeye cartoons. The second, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Punch Drunk Love, is a deconstruction of the Adam Sandler man-child character amongst many other things. Kurt Halfyard is joined by a number of Rowthree regulars Jim Laczkowski (who also runs The Director’s Club Podcast, Bob Turnbull (who is also caretaker for Eternal Sunshine of the Logical Mind), as well as the Mamo! Podcasts’s Matthew Price to discuss these two films at length. Andrew James produced and edited the episode. Join us if you like, it beats flowers and candy.
The streaming conversation as well as the downloadable audio podcast can be found at:
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The Movie Club Podcast page.
Spider-Man joins the Marvel Cinematic Universe and we look at white privilege in superhero movies, Hollywood, and film history via last year’s Jon Hamm baseball picture, Million Dollar Arm. Watch us weave our web!
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