Saturday, August 1, 2009

out of hiding...

So, here I am, alive and well, mostly well. I don't really have a good excuse for not posting much lately, just the vagaries of day-to-day life, working and trying to get/keep my act together, blah blah blah. This summer has just been disruption after disruption, and I wish I could say I was doing something really cool in between stress freakouts, but mostly I've just been napping and tumblring.

Anyway, I finally got around to watching Michael Haneke's CACHE. After years of being skeptical of Haneke, thinking of him as a pretentious and confrontational-for-the-sake-of-being-confrontational kind of filmmaker I didn't have time for, I finally give in. I've seen most (or at least like half) of his films by now and I really like all of them. He is pretentious, sort of, but his films are also intelligent enough to pull it off. And he's not so confrontational, not exactly, not in the showy, gimmicky way of a Gaspar Noe or someone like that. Haneke is really sort of the complete filmmaker, a bit like Stanley Kubrick, his films are cool, controlled, thoughful, affecting. I don't know that all the themes of the work is as vital as the films seem to think they are, but Haneke's delicately constructed world is powerful nonetheless.

CACHE is perhaps the most minimal of Haneke's films that I've seen, and perhaps also the best. While his other movies (THE PIANO TEACHER, BENNY'S VIDEO, FUNNY GAMES) wrest upon stories of violence and/or sex, or the intersection of the two, CACHE is inscrutable, it's cryptic and menacing without ever providing a palpable threat. There is one scene of shocking violence that occurs towards the end of the picture, but unlike the singular violent act of BENNY'S VIDEO, it is not the center of the film, but rather a point of punctuation, adding a layer of menace and uncertainty to the atmosphere of dread that has already been established.

Dread is, as much of anything, at the heart of CACHE. This is very much a horror film in that it delivers a scenario which is literally horrifying to most people, being trapped in a situation that seems completely without logic, which plays upon one's own human failings, the secrets of the past, seemingly small and long buried, returned to the forefront by forces unknown. A gnawing sense of dread permeates everything in the world of CACHE, and both the film's characters and viewers are given no relief as it progresses. Even by the film's end, we are given relatively little, if any, information as to what is actually happening, and in fact the closing sequence provides even more dread, questions and confusion. If it sounds frustrating, it is, but it's also pretty compelling, and a bold direction in filmmaking. In a sense, we are as alientated from the situation (while simultaneously being involved) as the film's protagonist, who is to an extent alientated from himself, from his past actions. Haneke does fill us in on the backstory, but it's the only concenssion he makes towards providing narrative satisfaction of any kind, a smart move because while it provides no actual clues about the mystery of CACHE, it does provide some coherence to the film as a whole...

So, yeah, CACHE is aces, watch it today if you love love. What else has been good? COLOSSUS: THE FORBIN project is a cool robothriller from the early 70s that presents a kind of intellectual sci-fi ala 2001- A SPACE ODYSSEY or THE ANDROMEDA STRAIN that we really don't see enough of anymore, dealing with ISSUES (in this case, maintaining a balance of technology and humanity in the Cold War arms race) in a compelling, intelligent way, keeping things interesting even without much action, not providing quick, pat, easy answers in the service of narrative resolution. Good stuff, for sure, and the mom from WEBSTER is in it.

THE MAD is a recent horror-comedy that's actually good, kind of shockingly so, when was the last time we saw that? I might save it for a full write up come Halloween time, but if you're looking for a good splatter flick with some earnest laughs, it's worth your 90-minutes. Billy Zane is kind of great in it. Who knew?

THE CAKE EATERS is the directorial debut of actress Mary Stuart Masterson, and it's a decent, low-key indie type of thing that works really well when its characters are just sort of being themselves and living their day-to-day lives. It gets a little hokier when the higher drama kicks in, but for the most part it's more of a slice-of-life than a melodrama, so that's not too much of an issue. Kristen Stewart is good as a handicapped teen, as is Bruce Dern as a stoic family patriarch.

And I think that's enough for just now. More later, but this time, not as much later, not like weeks and weeks, more like days, I hope. I want to write more and feel connected with this blog again...

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