Saturday, October 23, 2010

Kaboom (2010, Araki)

Rating: **1/2

Garishly tinted, wilfully sophomoric (and only intermittently funny), Greg Araki’s Kaboom wears its credentials on its sleeve, being  its father’s baby through and through. This broad rehash of Donnie Darko-style prescient dread, served as a sex-and-gore farce, relies so much on its characters’ involvement in their absurd predicaments, that it risks missing out on an audience not trained in Araki’s ways.

Nothing less than an Apocalypse-update (the world indeed goes ka-boom in the end), the movie is a story of multiple awakenings and recurring nightmares, building up and canceling each other out at the same time. The main character’s visions of baleful figures wearing animal masks go hand in hand with his bisexual flings, and it’s to the movie’s credit that for most part these two strands are equally engaging.

It’s only towards the end that the cluttered narrative wears one down, and when the whimsical dénouement finally arrives, it’s a cop-out of sorts. The movie seems to be saying that its own democratic vision of an orgasm-chasing, politically inane humanity is not enough to sustain the story – or the world, for that matter. In that sense Araki (as usual) makes a half-desperate, half-prankish gesture towards the void, telling us that we can’t afford anything but a self-destructive joke (and its slow petering out before our eyes may be integral part of his vision).

Friday, October 8, 2010

Polish Film Series in Dublin

On 16th and 17th October it will be my pleasure to host a Polish film series at the Irish Film Institute in Dublin. I programmed the series so that the overall theme of the presented movies deals with “Civility in Crisis”. There will be four features in the series: The Treasure (1948), How to Live (1977), O-bi, O-ba: The End of Civilization (1984) and Zero (2009).

(Click on a title to see the exact times for each screening and a short program note I wrote).

Each screening will be preceded by a short introduction.

Hope to see you in Dublin!

Saturday, October 2, 2010

Lucky Life (2010, Chung)

Rating: ***

In Lucky Life (2010), Lee Isaac Chung’s quietly accomplished second feature, the camera often abandons the characters to ponder their surroundings in a free-flowing (yet somber) manner that seems to owe a lot to the work of Terrence Malick. Shifting freely between tightly structured dialogue and seemingly improvised scenes of friendly badinage, the movie is quite formidable in asserting it slow pace and making the viewer respect its rhythms – as well as respond to them.

A story of a loss as much as it is a chronicle of a budding commitment, Lucky Life takes an unflinching look at the process of forgetting, or rather replacing memories with fresh perceptions. The death of a friend is interwoven into the whole structure in a recurrent fashion, so that is seems less a singular event, and more a dream that will remain dormant for years, only to seep into one’s thoughts years later.

Overall, it’s a sustained piece of work that makes me look forward to Chung’s future projects.

[The film will be presented as a part of the American Film Festival in Wrocław]