Speakers Push Air

Some Assorted Recent Film Reviews For KYEO
October 12, 2012, 12:13 pm
Filed under: KYEO, Movies | Tags: , ,

REVIEW: Berberian Sound Studio

By Lee Fisher on September 10, 2012

What the hell IS Berberian Sound Studio, other than the finest film of the year? It’s not a horror film or thriller, not really – nothing especially horrible or thrilling occurs, at least not that you see. It’s barely a drama: Toby Jones’ Gilderoy is a Home Counties nebbish tempted out of his garden shed studio to work as a soundman on a grisly giallo movie called The Equestrian Vortex, thrown into a claustrophobic world of Kafkaesque expenses claims and shrill Italian stereotypes, but nothing much really happens.

Instead, this astonishing and original work is ultimately about the power of movies, a love letter to foley artists, and yet is more easily compared to music, to the kind of albums coming out of the esoteric and unsettling world of artists like Coil or Nurse With Wound (who contribute treated screams to the movie) and the hauntology of the Ghost Box label (indeed the bulk of the soundtrack was provided by Broadcast, presumably their last project following the tragic death of Trish Keenan).

So, while there is nothing ostensibly horrific or dramatic, things unfold in an entirely gripping and disturbing manner. Humiliated by the egomania of the film’s director and producer, bested by a cruel, disinterested secretary, horrified by some of the scenes he’s expected to soundtrack, Jones – in surely a career-defining role – starts to buckle. And as he buckles, reality begins to slip, to jump cut and slide, calling to mind the mental collapse of Catherine Deneuve in Repulsion.

As an ever-more bizarre array of professional movie screamers pass through the vocal booth, Gilderoy becomes more shambolic, his sleep more disturbed, his behaviour odder and more obsessive. Scenes seem to repeat or appear out of sequence, Gilderoy is suddenly speaking Italian (or is he dubbed?). By the end, the viewer is utterly unsettled and acutely aware of the insidious, rarely noticed power of the foley artist.

Director Strickland’s debut, Katalin Varga, was a strangely bucolic revenge movie, but this couldn’t be more different – dark, menacing, without a single external scene. Which isn’t to say it’s without humour –Julian House’s incredible credit sequence for the otherwise unseen movie is brilliant, and some of the characters in the studio – the Goblin, Massimo e Massimo – are a delight.

Perhaps it helps to have seen some gialli movies – something like Suspiria or The Beyond maybe – to pick up on some of the stylistic references and in-jokes, and to understand quite why the Italian characters are quite so overblown and wooden, but even without this, Berberian Sound Studio is a brave, challenging and entirely powerful film and unlike anything else you’ll see this year.


REVIEW: Lawless

By Lee Fisher on September 11, 2012

There’s a danger in reviewing Lawless of giving it a poor-to-middling review because of what it ISN’T. Because it isn’t a really brilliant film, it doesn’t reinvent any cinematic wheels, It doesn’t have much by way of characterisation or even plot.

But it is stupidly good fun, stylishly rendered. From the old timer Christians washing feet in the church house to pantomime villain Guy Pearce wiping a victim’s blood from his fancy dan leather gloves, we’re deep in Nick Cave world (never mind that Lawless is based on a true story). Cave wrote his first novel And The Ass Saw The Angel without ever visiting the deep South where it’s set, and his screenplay for Lawless is driven by the same mythical notion of a Southern Gothic land of swamps and violence and sadism.

Long time collaborator John Hillcoat does a brilliant job of realising Cave’s vision (as does DP Benoit Delhomme, who works wonders here), and in many ways Lawless is a close companion to the previous Cave / Hillcoat collaboration on The Proposition – more bloody violence in the arse end of nowhere. The cast are solid, even though there’s not a great deal to do – as head of the bootlegging bad boy Bondurant family, Tom Hardy mumbles like a good’un, while Shia LaBouef is decent if not outstanding as the ambitious little brother. As the love interest, Jessica Chastain is radiant but rather sidelined (which is becoming a habit, someone needs to give her a role of real substance, and soon).

The story, such as there is, hinges on big city corruption eating in to small town, deep south moonshinining (think Dukes Of Hazzard scripted by William Faulkner) and allows plenty of opportunity for gleefully rendered violence, hokey backwoods wisdom and some great performances (the aforementioned Guy Pearce, big time gangster Gary Oldman, the frankly simian third Bondurant brother Jason Clarke). There’s a lot of humour here, and despite much of the film being fairly dark (and often brutal) there’s a real sense of devilry, of Cave and Hillcoat and the cast really revelling in the Bonnie & Clyde-go-hillbilly clichés. Props also for a fantastic soundtrack, another typically Cave project that sees bluegrass legend Ralph Stanley taking on The Velvet Underground’s White Light / White Heat and winning.


REVIEW: Dredd 3D

By Lee Fisher on September 14, 2012

Let’s start with a positive (because I’m an upbeat, accentuate the positive kinda guy). Dredd 3D is a lot better than 1995’s Judge Dredd. But then so is being beaten around the face and neck with a baseball bat. After that, I start to struggle to find good things to say.

I’ll put my hand up here and say I’m with Mark Kermode in thinking that 3D is a tiresome, distracting gimmick which will crash and burn this time out the same as it has every other time the film industry has foisted it on us to revive its flagging fortunes. Dredd offers nothing much to disabuse me of that view – the few excellent 3D shots (down the central well of a towerblock, that sort of thing) don’t justify the poor image quality the rest of the time. Which is a shame, because the OTHER good thing about this movie is how great it looks.

Director Travis and the production designers have eschewed the lurid plastic of the first movie and gone for gritty reality – equal parts UK riots 2011 and Glastonbury’s Shangri La area after the pills have worn off. Every shot has something to catch the eye, from shop names to graffiti, which makes it even more galling that all this work has gone to waste on what is otherwise a pretty poor movie.

Let’s not get bogged down in arguments about whether Dredd 3D rips off The Raid: Redemption (forces of law and order invade tower block controlled by drug gangs: bloody violence follows) or vice versa, but the bottom line is that The Raid is a FAR better movie. Original, exciting, beautifully choreographed and paced. All the things Dredd 3D isn’t. Nobody’s looking to a comic book adaptation for rich characterisation or a multi-layered plot, but this movie takes the piss.

The script is lazy, the acting perfunctory, that gags visible a mile off, the pace so close to flat out boring I nearly walked after 30 minutes. To make things worse, the film’s key narrative device is a drug called Slow (like an uber-ketamine that slows time down to 1% in the mind of the user) which is employed purely to enable endless, tedious 3D-showcasing shots of people falling slowly through broken glass, or smashing to a pulp on concrete.

The first Judge Dredd movie was an utter clusterfuck, and nobody was much surprised. In some ways, Dredd 3D is more disappointing, because with a sharper script and just 2 dimensions, this really had potential.

Valhalla Rising
April 12, 2012, 11:05 pm
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That was intense. Equal parts Malick, Herzog, Apocalype Now, Idi I Smotri and all sorts of other brooding horribleness. Amazing soundtrack too