Fragmented Films March 2010

Bronson

When a film makes you laugh at someone vomiting blood you know you’re in good hands. Somehow Korean director Park Chan Wook (Oldboy) grafts an uneasy gravity to evil dark humour in Thirst (Eastern Eye), pretending not to enjoy the chilling moments of absurd bleakness. It’s vampirism as a disease when a Roman Catholic priest nobly volunteers to test an experimental vaccine and comes out with a penchant for struggling to restrain himself during ‘that time of the month.’ It’s the anti Twilight, very sick, occasionally slapstick, and very very not sexy.

So this idiot grabs his sawn off shotgun and attempts to rob a post office. The police nab him and he gets seven years. But he’s not done yet. “I love you,” says Charlie to his stripper girlfriend. “It’s been nice,” she says to a man with no impulse control. A man who’s name wasn’t big enough to fit him and changed it to Charles Bronson. In Bronson (Madman) every moment is filled with dread as the ultra violent Bronson finds real joy in defying society and attempting to murder everyone he comes into contact with. It’s part Chopper part A Clockwork Orange, combined with Danish director Nicholas Winding Refn’s (The Pusher trilogy) yen for tension, viewing Bronson’s ultra violence as artistic expression. Having now spent 30 of 34 years in solitary confinement Refn in his directors commentary suggests he sees a lot of himself in Bronson. Scary

It’s impossible not to recognise the genius of Withnail and I (Umbrella) in the opening credits. Nothing happens. A bloke in a messy apartment puts on the kettle and a jacket. Yet it’s to the strains of King Curtis live at the Filmore East, so when the applause starts it feels like we’re applauding the kettle and jacket, the mundane now worthy of adoration. It’s a squalid tale of two out of work actors loading up on inebrients and taking a trip to the country to unwind from, well, nothing. The beauty of this film is that even midway through you still really have no idea what’s going on. It’s the ultimate drug film, hell they consume so much booze that there’s even a drinking game where you follow Richard E Grant’s eccentric lunatic Withnail drink for drink. It’s okay though, they let you substitute rum for the lighter fuel. This Blue Ray version looks great, brimming with extras, ridiculous quotes and one of the wrongest attempts at seduction ever courtesy of the very round very red and very randy Uncle Monty. Just don’t expect it to be normal. Or to be normal yourself afterwards.

Michael Hutchence as a seedy self involved drug addict, a talentless lead singer of an angry young band of no hopers? Bit of a stretch right? Director Richard Lowenstein, director of numerous INXS videoclips delivers a messy affectionate almost plotless ode to the decline of the 1970’s punk scene, ecstatically sweeping through the human debris of a grotty share-house in inner Melbourne. Dogs In Space (Umbrella), re released on Blue Ray, looks more vivid than ever, you can almost smell every stain, touch every hair on the livestock wandering the hallways. The bevy of extras features a bunch of middle aged blokes fondly reminiscing about the joys of getting mangled, whilst Ollie Olsen prefers the film to actually living through it.

Hey you wanna buy a t-shirt? Che Part One: The Argentine (Paramount) is Steven Soderbergh’s attempt not to be the ugly American, a Spanish language biopic of Ernest ‘Che’ Guevara that chronicles the events leading up to the Cuban revolution. In the extras Soderbergh, who frequently cuts back and forth in time says “I didn’t want to make a film where someone asked, ‘so why do they call you Che?’ So instead we learn little of the man, and like all Jesus flicks, every action Che makes is treated with the utmost reverence. Che is nice to people, so he is kind, he treats them with respect and they respond accordingly, therefore he is smart. Soderbergh is methodical in his treatment of guerilla warfare and a restrained Del Toro is exceptional. Che Part Two: Guerilla (Paramount) leapfrogs to years after the revolution when the restless revolutionary travels to Bolivia to further the cause. Strangely it’s almost a mirror of the first, filled with repetitive scenes of guerillas training and heroic death in battle sequences with people we haven’t yet developed an emotional attachment to. In fact there’s something strangely impersonal here, despite the 253 minutes spent with the Che’s he remains little more than an emblem.

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