Dienstag, 25. März 2014

Short takes

"Hundraåringen som klev ut genom fönstret och försvann (The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared)", a Swedish comedy about just what its title promises, is, despite its far-fetched, century-spanning storyline involving dictators, espionage and atomic bombs, a rather modest affair. Not eye-catching in terms of acting, visual or sonic design, the movie by director Felix Herngren relies mostly on the unlikely tale to intrigue and entertain. While here and there that goal is achieved with an extra helping of off-beat Scandinavian quirk- the escape from the Siberian labor camp and the whole Cold War sequence come to mind- its humor is never sophisticated nor out-right hilarious, but more of the harmless "ha-ha" variety. Loopy, irreverent and in the end, all those casual deaths and body disposals notwithstanding, quite life-affirming, it's a pleasant ride with plenty of eccentric characters but, without a confident hand to hold it all together, it's one that can't be called memorable.

"Alles inklusive (All Inclusive)", a cross-generational German dramedy about an eclectic bunch of lonely souls out searching for happiness but landing where they started, is generally agreeable but not exceptional in any way. Writer/director Doris Dörrie is known for her empathetic take on the little joys and heartaches of the everyday, and indeed there are places in this film where you can sense the hint of prickly wit or crushing sadness projected on the flamboyant, furiously colorful vista of a Spanish beach resort. It's to her credit that she always seems to find unremarkable but definitive gestures or words that can make a character come to life. Unfortunately, this movie can't quite connect those bits of revelation into an expressive, organic whole, so in the end one is left with the empty feeling you have when an itch is not properly scratched. The cast is fine, but when a dog steals the show from such iconic/reliable players as Hannelore Elsner or Nadja Uhl, you know something's wrong.

"Kill Your Darlings" is a tale of romance and murder surrounding famed poet Allen Ginsberg set in 1940's New York. The movie looks fetching and boasts strong acting from an able supporting cast. First-time feature film director John Krokidas puts an edgy, modern spin on some of the scenes using flashy speed modulations, nifty cuts and warped sound that prove to be impressively controlled. So it's too bad that outside the fantasy sequences or montages, the narrative often feels drab, a fact probably most attributable to a script that's muddled and too inarticulate for a story about such legendary writers. It doesn't help that Daniel Radcliffe, while serviceable as Ginsberg, is no match for his on-screen crush as he is instantly out-acted by co-lead Dane DeHaan, whose unreadable blue eyes threaten to blink away that look of helpless fragility with an icy glare at any second. Otherwise Nico Muhly's soundtrack is a gem. Where the writing fails, the surprisingly varied and bold musicality of the film saves it from ever being a bore.

"שש פעמים (Six Acts)" is a sexually charged Israeli teenage drama, although drama may be too strong a word, since the movie, built on a loose, incident-based narrative with a lascivious focus on the young, toned bodies of its actors, often feels like a late-night special on date rape or an extended Abercrombie & Fitch ad spot. What director Johnathan Gurfinkel succeeds in doing is conveying a restless vibe among a group of adolescents high on hormones and low on reason or self-esteem. The giddiness of constant lust and easy lay, the thrill of dominating, owning someone else, the shame of rejection are all photographically captured on a shaky camera with suggestive lighting. But the story, besides making sure you know that everyone and their father and kid brother want to get into the pants of the female protagonist, is characterized by an utter flatness and lack of tension. There's no arc, momentum, twist, substance, which makes it a risqué little atmosphere piece shockingly devoid of meaning.

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