My Bloody Valentine

My Bloody Valentine (2009) movie poster

(2009) dir. Patrick Lussier
viewed: 02/03/08 at Century San Francisco Centre, SF, CA

“Nothing says ‘date movie’ like a 3D ride to hell!”

I loved the tag line.  It wasn’t like I’d even really considered seeing the film, but then came the point where I just wanted to go see some garbage movie.  Oddly enough, there were a slough of them out there.  My top choice would have been Outlander (2008) which some vikings versus aliens thing.  But there were others too, The Uninvited (2009), The Unborn (2009), and heck, even Underworld: Rise of the Lycans (2009).  But timing being what it was, the remake of the 1981 slasher film, My Bloody Valentine, in 3-D no less, was the gambit of the day.

You know, back in the day of the slasher film, the early 1980’s, I was a teen, ripe for the genre, a little too young to go see them in the theater, but that’s what HBO and stuff was for.  See the horny young people get slaughtered for no apparent reason with blood, blood, and more blood.  And it seemed that every holiday had its own slasher film: John Carpenter probably opened the door here with Halloween (1978), which was followed by Friday the 13th (1980) (of which is also about to have a re-make released), April Fool’s Day (1986), Happy Birthday to Me (1981)…the list goes on.  But of these, I had not ever seen, I think, the original My Bloody Valentine, or if I had, I’d forgotten that I’d seen it.

The revival of the genre today, mostly in re-makes, is probably more about the lack of creativity than anything.  Let’s face it, are slashers really the Id of today’s society?  I mean, there’s actually been a lot of pretty interesting criticism about the original slasher film genre.  The revival is largely due to the fact that we need to see modernly-clad young people getting slaughtered, not any fashion nightmares on top of the gore!

And the 3-D aspect.  Which is a trend that I predict will ultimately fail to hang on, though there is more and more investment in it all the time so I could be terribly wrong.

I have to say, expectations were low.  But they were met to an extent.  The film starts up without a whole lot of story lay-out.  People start getting skewered on the pick-axe before you really know who is who.  And then suddenly, the film flashes forward 10 years.  So, it’s a little confusing, I think, but not that that really matters.  Why some miner decides to suddenly kill every living being and cut out their hearts and place them in candy heart trays really doesn’t get a whole lot of explanation.  Miners and hearts?

The movie has a few elements of fun.  There is an interesting little person who plays a sexy small desk clerk with a dog.  And the whole scene with the woman running around in full-frontal nudity, waving a gun, hiding under a bed, running amok totally naked.  I know this sounds a little like I’m pointing it out for its sexual visual pleasure, but really it’s more just weird to have someone that naked onscreen for that long.  Take it for what you will.

And in the end, there is a mystery.  Is the killer the returned killer from before?  The returned young owner of the mine?  The sleazy sheriff?  But when the truth is revealed, it’s revealed with a barrage of reminder images to say: See?  It was him all along!  Here!  And Here! and Here! And Here!  And Here!  Get it?  Get it?  Get it?

It’s pretty annoying.

But there is always room for a sequel.  If the original slasher films taught us anything, it’s that sequels can beget sequels and beget sequels and beget sequels?  Get it?

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) movie poster

(1972) dir. Luis Buñuel
viewed: 02/02/09

Back when I began this film diary in 2002, one of the first films that I watched that was by a significant filmmaker was Belle de jour (1967) by Luis Buñuel, thinking that it would be the beginning of watching many of his films and catching up.  But here it is 2009, and The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie is only the second of his films that I have watched in the past 6-7 years.  Time certainly flies.  I certainly have watched numerous other classics by significant directors.  But for Buñuel, I have not followed through.

The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie is an intentionally odd film.  The great thing about Buñuel and his Surrealism is how pure and political he maintained his vision throughout his career.  And that he managed to do so with continued critical acclaim.  You know, the only thing that I can come close to comparing this film to is Jean-Luc Godard’s Week End (1967), in depicting a world so clearly set in archetypes and non-logic that the film can’t be viewed for just pure pleasure, rather the film is constantly pushing the viewer into awareness of the medium, breaking the logic of narrative, and critiquing the film’s present world.

A trio of bourgeois couples try to sit down for a series of meals, which are broken up in a variety of non-sensical ways.  Dream interludes invade the story, sometimes quite clearly, and at other times in more disjointed ways.  The bourgeois men are corrupt cocaine dealers, presenting their social graces as pure fraud.  The political situation of Fernando Rey’s ambassador from Miranda is a bizarre mixture of terrorism, hidden crimes, and courtly gentlemanness.

Somewhat like my reaction to Belle de jour back in 2002, some of the societal eccentricities and character that are being flouted in the film have an archaic quality today.  Perhaps they are depicted this way to exemplify their archaic qualities of the time.  It’s hard to say.  I was 3 years old in the United States at the time this film was made.  It refelcts its period with images of strange moments against an intended facade of society.  Vietnam is reflected upon, all of the bougeouis are shown up to an extent.  And even everyone gets gunned down in the end.

It’s funny, but I didn’t enjoy watching it so much in the process, but am thinking more of the film as I consider it in retrospect.  Again, like Godard’s Week End the experience itself is a challenge, not meant for “pleasure” perhaps.  But for Buñuel, there is more pleasure, more comedy, more potential for pleasure.  I don’t know.  It’s a lot to think about.

The Painted Veil

The Painted Veil (2006) movie poster

(2006) dir. John Curran
viewed: 01/30/08

You might call this film “Love in the time of Cholera in China”.  While there’s no Gabriel García Márquez, the film is adapted from a novel by M. Somerset Maugham, so you get the literary angle stuck in there.  And really, this is a modern type of genre film, the period romance adapted from literature.  And an exotic setting.

It’s Naomi Watts and Edward Norton, both playing English people in the 1920’s, a couple who is married on the quick, convenience and escape for Watts, infatuated love for Norton.  But he’s a nebbish scientist, she’s a hot would-be flapper.  She has an affair that nearly destroys their marriage.  He then semi-blackmails her into coming into the interior of China where he dedicates himself to saving people from a Cholera outbreak and studying the disease.  And well, that’s the drama.

The settings are beautiful and nicely photographed.  I’ve liked Naomi Watts since Mulholland Dr. (2001).  Norton I can take or leave.  I realized as I sat down to watch this film that I didn’t fully realize why I had even rented it.  It’s not my type of film on the whole, but I think good reviews at the time got it into my queue.  I found it a bit of a drag at first, but then realized that I was involved with the characters and thought the film to be pretty well-produced.

It really isn’t my thing.  And I think I’ll think about it a bit more before voyaging into this genre again, unless it’s on a trope with a director that I like a lot.  It’s pretty.  It’s engaging.  It’s not bad.

The Cameraman

The Cameraman (1928) movie poster

(1928) dir. Edward Sedgwick, Buster Keaton
viewed: 01/30/08

Buster Keaton.  The whole house of kids cheers for Buster Keaton!

The Cameraman was our latest foray into the world of Buster Keaton, though we are looking forward to the Valentine’s Day showing of Our Hospitality (1923) at the Castro Theatre.  The kids totally dig Buster.  And this movie did not disappoint.  The Cameraman is considered Keaton at his best, though it was the first of the films that he made at MGM, a move that would ultimately stifle his creativity and artistic control.  But this film has great pluck and aplomb, and even a monkey (the kids LOVED the monkey).

The story has Keaton as a tintype photographer, falling in love with a beautiful clerk who works in the newsreel office at MGM.  Inspired by her, he strives to learn the process of shooting film, capturing action, and getting both the job and the girl.  Within the photographic process, cranking the handle of the camera, Keaton learns the hard way about double-exposures and shooting both backwards and forward.  I believe that the self-reflexivity regarding the filmmaking process to be played out here is charming itself.

Along the way, Keaton gets involved in shooting a Tong War that breaks out at a Chinese New Year parade, with lots of guns and knives and other action.  Keaton also ends up adopting an organ grinder’s monkey who he accidentally “kills” and is forced to purchase.  The monkey ends up saving the day by photographing the dramatic moment when Keaton saves the girl from drowning.  There is also another great sequence in a swimming pool.

One thing that is interesting, after watching a bunch of Keaton and Roscoe “Fatty” Arbuckle films with the kids a couple of weeks ago, is the New York setting for the action.  Using Coney Island, Manhattan, and other locations certainly adds to the picture.  One of the best scenes in the movie is when Keaton runs across several blocks of Manhattan to see his girl on their first date.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again.  It’s been such a blast watching these films with the kids and their enjoyment of Keaton and silent film has been absolutely pure, unadulterated pleasure.  I, myself, am thoroughly enjoying the films, but watching them with the kids is just something far more wonderful.  Their bursts of laughter, their total excitement.  It’s more than palpable.  It’s totally infectious.  And Keaton is king!