Sunday, 31 January 2010

'If you want to kill, kill.'

Izgnanie (The Banishment)

Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev

The story is simple: a criminal gets in trouble, so retreats to the countryside with his family – here his wife makes a confession – setting in motion a tragedy. Alex, the film's protagonist played by Konstantin Lavroneko carries a reserved demeanour to the extent that it is intimidating to an audience. Set in the Russian countryside (though filmed in Moldavia and Belgium) the film is full of meandering hills and barren planes. Everything about this film is laconic; the performances are succinct, the frames feel as if they have been deliberated over and over again as Zvyaginstev strives for perfection, some of the compositions are simply stunning. The interiors of the cars, the houses, the landscapes– are rich in detail, and portray a different world to the west.

Car chases are great in films – see The French Connection and Ronin - but The Banishment suggests that the most powerful scene involving a car in a narrative sense is when you have two characters in a stationary car just talking. The scene in question allows the camera and actors just to focus on each other – no distraction. Case in here point, Alex asks his brother, Mark, what action should be taken after digesting some new events. Mark replies:

Whatever you do will be right.
If you want to kill, kill.
The gun's in the dresser upstairs.
Then, that's right.
If you want to forgive, forgive.
Then, that's right.

The camera majestically moves between each character developing a tension and malevolence between the brothers. It's impressive and the film should be viewed for this scene alone.

The film is full of religious undertones – children piecing a jigsaw together of an angel visiting the virgin Mary, revealing that she will give birth to little baby Jesus – cue a black cat walking over the jigsaw, with choir girls singing. It's all dramatic and beautiful. The lives of Russian criminals is a world unknown to me and it is mesmerising to see how these people operate.


Saturday, 9 January 2010

'Never trust anything that can bleed for a week and not die.'

In the Company a Men

A cult indie directed by Neil LaBute

A monomaniac story of two work colleague as they hatch a plan to take revenge on the female race: they will wine and dine the same woman, the romance will blossom and then dump her within a blink an eye. Why? Because they can....

Two men standing around and pontificating about how much they hate women yields some truly memorable dialogue. Aaron Eckhart, plays a chauvinistic, sadistic marketing executive, fanatical in his distaste of women. Eckhart is one smooth operator when it comes to fucking over women, and though you may despise this man, you admire his vernacular. Chad's physical presence juxtaposes nicely with his colleague, Howard played by Matt Malloy, who has the stature of Gary Coleman, and brings new meaning to the word 'seedy'.

It just so happens that the female target, Christine, played by Stacy Edwards, is deaf. LaBute brilliantly tests the conscious in even watching the film, when we know she is simply a lamb to the slaughter. Even with her impending suffering, the performances of Eckhart and Malloy make it hard not to be fascinated and drawn into this world of two men orchestrating evil.

The film seemed to consist of wide shot after wide shot – a lot of the frames felt cheap – wide and yet limited in exploring each location – perhaps bullshit - but it gave a lot of frames a space to let the actors perform, it somehow felt intimate – observing these characters in their element, listening to every word that was uttered from their lips. A nice touch that a lot of the scenes were either in the toilet, a bar or some place where the two men were eating. LaBute clearly has an understanding of the primal instincts of man: shitting, drinking and eating.

Chad and Howard's line of work is never revealed – yes they work in an office – but it could be any office. Along with their garish ties, LaBute puts these highly individualistic characters in a generic space which works brilliantly to illustrate it could be any office environment in a capitalist world where these men prey. Men doing the obscene to women is a universal fable.

The film was reportedly made for $25,000 -this is hard to believe for a feature made on 35mm. LaBute must have called in a lot of favours or sucked a lot of dick...Either way this is not a criticism but a nod to the director's ingenuity and perseverance in getting this impressive low budget indie made – it is truly a feat to marvel at.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010


What a horrible weekend. Losing to Leeds is a bitter pill to swallow. I don't understand Old Trafford sometimes – admittedly 95% of the crowd who grace our stadium are numpties; tourists with the latest digital photography gear. But it beggars belief that even for a fixture against one of our biggest rivals, the atmosphere was more akin to a library. But hey, never mind the crowd right? We only sing when we're winning.

Some constructive thoughts...Fergie should retire and the Glazers should let us see some of the 80 million from Ronnie's transfer. Either way, there's more chance of Terry keeping his nose clean and fat fwank not being a fat cunt. Even after the match – the worst was not over. The car journey home included sitting next to a Leeds fan. Needless to say throughout the 200 miles down south he was grinning like Chris Langham in a sweet shop.

Conversations during the car journey included the many sexual conquests we had all undertaken in our young life times. It seemed to make the time pass quicker and lessen the pain from defeat. Needless to say the Leeds fan paraded the story of when his girlfriend gave him a blozza in a Burger King toilet - at least it made a change from a sheep.

Maz who is Arabic and a very good friend of mine was doing the driving – however on reflection I should have taken issue with his approach to balancing the books. Maz wanted £10 petrol money – I succumbed to his demands even though this was blatant extortion, considering there were four of us in the car. £40 one way Manchester – London, I think not...I'll just have to overcharge him now when it's my turn to drive.

The Leeds result will take a while to fog over in the memory. Capello's thoughts that we are not the 'war machine' we once were appear justified. That said it is hard to be too in the doldrums when the flights to Milan have been booked.