Friday, 28 August 2009

In The Name of the Father (Jim Sheridan, 1993)

"Until all the people involved in this case are proved innocent, until the guilty ones are brought to justice, I will fight on. In the name of my father and of the truth!"

As previously mentioned, one of two films I bought when visiting Ireland last month was this film. I watched this in college as part of my Film A-Level ... I think ... maybe Media Studies. One or the other. Point is, I found the video at a car boot sale also and bought it for 50p or something and it became one of about 10 videos I owned. Now it resides with my Mum and Dad in Limerick. The DVD on the other hand sat in my DVD player last night and I completely got involved - whereby at the point that Gareth Pierce (Emma Thompson) passionately argues the Guildford Four's innocence in a courtroom - revealing evidence that was hidden from the defence during the original trial - I was in tears. I am so proud to feel this way - as someone who watches so many films, who could discuss different styles, approaches and genre cliches, and yet if a film has me I can get emotionally involved, to the point that I cry. The simple case that, as the film showed this crucial moment, I knew that - to some extent or another - this actually happened. There was a point whereby the truth escaped the Guildford Four and Maguire Seven for 15 years and yet, in one trial, it was shown that evidence that proved their innocence was hidden focing them to face decades in prison. Such a powerful film.

What I reckon...

To some extent, this has been summarised above. I love the film - Daniel Day Lewis is - as usual - excellent, portraying such a flawed character. He was a petty thief, a drug user, etc - but he was not a terrorist so it is a testement to Day-Lewis how well he portrayed such a character for us to sympathise with. Pete Postlethwaite playing his father was equally strong, if not more subtle. Guisseppe Conlon (Postlethwaite) was a devout, quiet man - slowly building a campaign for their release while Gerry grew angry and frustrated, understandably, towards the justice system. Their relationship I personally found fascinating - though my Dad could argue pretty damn well with me (nowhere near as reserved as this Father character), he did have the patience and fortitude to think carefully about what to do next in situations and this gave this film a very personal connection with me.

Now, as I got so personally involved, I had to do a bit of research into the credability of the film. I found little - if anything - about it. Nobody seemed to think that it was false or a bad representation except one. Interestingly, the film was shown to MP's and members of the Conlon family and one of the investigators on the case argued, post-screening, that it was a misrepresentation of the police work conducted (see In response to the film itself and its representation, Gerry Conlon himself stated "English people, English MPs and English church leaders played the lead role in getting me out of prison. It wasn't Irish people. I would never want to be part of a film that stigmatised a whole nation or a whole police force for the actions of a few." clearly pointing the blame at the perpetrators and the staff who were content in the crime committed - who have yet to be charged in any way.

Obviously, the spine of the story is Gerry's innocence - and proving that. We know throughout the film that an appeal is going to court - as Emma Thompsons lawyer listens to a cassette Gerry recorded for the first two acts flashing back to the whole situation and his time in jail prior to his fathers death. Considering the recent commotion regarding the Lockerbie bomber and the compassionate-grounds factored into his release, it makes the lack-of-compassion towards Guisseppe Conlon even more horrendous. Then again, Megrahi has always professed his innocence - and in a similar way to Gerry Conlon, evidence was found by the CIA with regard to the timer in the Lockerbie bombing that was deemed 'vital evidence' and was withheld from the trial defence team. Witnesses were paid and, a statement by Professor Robert Black QC explains "that not only was there a wrongful conviction, but the victim of it was an innocent man. Lawyers, and I hope others, will appreciate this distinction". This makes this film that much more relevant and powerful. Other factors not explored in the ilm, was another part of the case whereby Paul Hill (played by Sliding Doors cheating-boyfriend of Paltrow John Lynch ... who, to be honest, I always thought was cooler than Beatles-and-Monty-Python-quoting John Hannah character) and Paddy were additionally convicted - and then charges dropped following an appeal - of the Woolwich bombing. In a quirky turn of fate, Paul Hill married the daughter of Robert Kennedy (brother of recently-deceased Edward Kennedy and deceased-President John F. Kennedy). Through this contact, while as Prime Minister, Tony Blair apologised to Paul and the Guildford Four for a miscarriage of justice.

I was in a Camden music shop (the exchange one on Chalk Farm road) and saw that they had a copy of the single 'In The Name of the Father' by Bono and Gavin Friday. I have to admit, after watching the movie and hearing the title-song, I am quite keen to purchase it - though I wouldn't buy the soundtrack itself as there were also some awful panpies on the soundtrack that, in my opinion, ruined the sequence post-Guisseppe's death whereby the prisoners dropped burning paper from the prison walls. It looked stunning - well done Jim Sheridan - but the music simply didn't work, which is annoying because in most of the other sections it remains exceptional.

To finish, I was not suprised to learn that it was nominated for Best Picture and Best Lead Actor amongst other many other Oscars. It lost out on the Best Picture to Schindlers List. Fair enough. Tough Year I guess. Remains of the Day and The Piano were the same year. I couldn't recommend this more - truly is a great film about a truly fascinating story.

Monday, 24 August 2009

Taking Lives (D.J. Caruso, 2004) / Held For Ransom (Lee Stanley, 2000)

"Everything you saw I wanted you to see. "


First off, don't worry if you haven't watched the films because I would like to think you never will. The 'quote' I chose is merely in jest. They are really that bad. Anyway, the last few posts were written ages ago and I stalled their 'release' as I was sun-ing it up in Morocco ... checkin' out the souks (markets), snake charmers, deserts and the range of stuff Marrakesh has to offer. Even managed to have a gander at a part of the desert (Ouarzarzate) and beach (Essaouira) whereby Lawrence of Arabia, Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven was filmed. But, alas, this is no travel blog (friends will be able to check out the pictures on facebook soon enough...) and, while at the hotel in Marrakesh we spent the night watching some films on a channel which showed cut films with arabic subtitles. Strangely enough, the aforementioned films were cut - language was not too excessive, nudity was a complete no-go and - I reckon - even a certain amount of violence was cut too. So, in the case of Taking Lives - a serial-killer thriller with sexual-chemistry between the two lead characters - without violence and sex ... turned out to be a weird film without any logic and character depth ... then again, there were enough problems to say that maybe the cut-out violence and sex may have been the only good thing about the film.

What I Reckon...

Both these films were truly awful - funnily enough, the worser one - Held for Ransom - was probably better for the comedic value. We have Taking Lives - an Angelina Jolie, Ethan Hawke and Kiefer Sutherland combo whereby Jolie plays a detective on the hunt for a serial killer who replaces his own identity with his victim. Clearly, money was put into the production and - according to my good friend Richard, whose 'facts' are often suspect - Ethan Hawke chooses films himself on their merits. I can imagine this to be true - Training Day and Linklater's After Sunset and Before Sunrise films are exceptionally well made, and in no small part to Hawke. So, we shall come back to the this question: Why did Ethan Hawke work on this film?

As soon as the film started you know the influence - namely the 1995 flawless thriller Se7en. A film released nearly a decade prior ... you would think if Caruso and co are going to rip-off a movie, they might as well do it well, but they make it so much worse. For one, our first introduction to Jolie is her, lying in a freshly dug grave. I guess she is 'sensing' the killer. Funnily enough, I was reading David Simon's Homicide book during the holiday also so seeing Jolie not play detective and then begin an autopsy clearly is incorrect - and when her and the homicide unit are discussing a recent robbery in Hawkes flat you have to ask yourself this: why the hell does this city not employ Medical Examiners to conduct autopsies and why does the police department not have a robbery unit. Surely they are wasting valuable time focussing in areas that are not their expertise. Well, hey, thats Hollywood.

So, the film starts and the first time we see Hawke he is discussing what he saw as a witness to a murder - though Martinez, a homicide cop, clearly has his suspicions about his credability. Obviously, even at this point we are asking ourselves who is the killer ... go on, guess, who could it be? Especially if you factor in the simple fact that most killers lie ... we shall come back to this movie.

Held for Ransom went straight to DVD in 2000. Starring post-Speed Dennis Hopper playing a kidnapper (Billy-the-kid, where has you dignity gone?) and a much-older Timothy Bottoms (of Bogdanovich's The Last Picture Show) as a girl's step-father. Can you guess the plot? Good looking teenagers are held for ransom by complete hick's. Fascinating how the mighty have fallen! If this was 1972, this would have made alot of money; one year after The Last Picture Show and three years after Easy Rider comes Held for Ransom ... wow ... shame it was made 28 years too late.

Nevertheless, the script was awful with Hopper stating "shut the f*** up" to everyone and anyone who cared to listen. A stupid confrontation as some NYC kid 'stood-up' to a cliche jock. This NYC kid, Dexter (Randy Spelling) is so passionate about it, and the script is so attacking of this jock that you feel a bit awkward - as if you have stumbled into a bit of a personal-attack from the script-writer. Bets on the fact that he was bullied and ribbed at school for being 'only' someone who was creative? To make matters worse, for no apparent reason, towards the end of the film the jock admits to committing a hit-and-run, killing a different pupil. So, if its not bad enough that this American jock is sporty, head of the football team, etc - he is also a murderer to clarify the simple fact that sporty-jocks are basta*ds.

The film is about rich-kids kidnapped by socially-excluded country hicks, and strangely enough there is no comment on society ro anything - its simple. Poorer people envy rich people, and that is why some are violent and commit crime - such as kidnapping. I have a feeling that Lee Stanley not only hates sporty jocks, but is also quite rich - no praise for the working man. Even the 'twist' at the end (c'mon, you're not going to watch it are you?) whereby one of the kidnapees step-fathers (Timothy Bottoms) is responsible for the entire thing to pay off a gambling problem he has. Why couldn't this step-father be her actual father? I assume because how on earth could anybody within that affluent part of society concoct such a plan, let alone have such addictions - the only way such a thing is possible is if they are somehow, shockingly, married into the lifestyle. I am quite content with assuming I am looking into it too much but, if i didn't, I would simply be saying it was sh*t. Full-stop.

The final issue is the cut scenes from both films. My good friend Richard done a little research into Taking Lives and found a few stills from the sex-scene we missed when watching the film - a scene whereby Jolie and Hawke have some sex while the room is decorated in the pictures of the victims of the murders and, to some extent, we assume they both got off a little bit to it. Messed. Up. I felt it was only neccessary (ahem) to hunt down the scene and managed to watch the full sequence on youtube (I'm not going to post the link - find it yourself ...) and, dont get me wrong, I am all for cutting unneccessary sex-scenes from films but this sequence was clearly quite important. Not only have we been watching the relationship brew between Hawke and Jolie for the whole film without seeing any finale to this, we also don't see how screwed up both of them are - passionately gazing at the photographs from the case on the roof of a four-poster bed, establishing the corrupted characters we see at the end. Nevertheless, it does answer the question as to why Hawke 'chose' to be in such a film. ("Yo Ethan, I got a really bad script"/"i'm not doing it"/"it has a sex scene and Jolie is attached" /"oh, ahem, you can never guess what films are successful can you. I had better have a gander at that script then"). Lastly, I reckon even if the film was 'uncut', it would only get 2/10 rather than 1/10 because it ends as Hawke stabs Jolie in her pregnant belly (fake or not, no-one wants to see that!), only for her to reveal that it was all a plan to capture him (see chosen quote... hmmm). To be honest, when he was fighting with her - nearly strangling her, it looked like things weren't going to plan. Would have been a better idea to let the FBI know of her plan.

Held for Ransom on the other hand had a semi-rape scene cut from our arabic-subtitled version. The worst editing in the world too. The girl goes into the lake-area whereby a different hick tells her to take off her clothes and, seconds later he is hit round the head (she has suddenly changed from wearing clothes wearing very little, covering herself) and then, cut again, and suddenly Hoppers girlfriend is holding a gun at them as the two lay on the floor (how did they get on the floor??) potentially making out. What was clearly a long, possibly 10 minute sequence, reduced to seconds of head-hitting and gun-aiming. Looking at the trailer for the film on YouTube, there seemed to be a chase where the girl ran through the lake-area in her underwear - clearly, we missed the best bit. The whole sequence made no sense - but then again, alot of the film seemed pointless.

Another classic bit was when Dexter is shot and Jesse is trying to help him - she takes off his top to find, shock, he has serious burn-scars across his body. We cut to another sequence and then when we cut back to Jesse and Dexter, he starts the scene by saying "stop staring" (for the whole of the sequence prior was she just staring at him? thats weird) to which she doesn't even respond to him, simply kissing him instead. Why does burn-victim = potential-relationship. I mean, I wouldn't hold burn-scars against anyone, but its possible the burns were caused by some thick-as-shit situation which would make me consider whether he/she is the type of person for a relationship.

To finish, never watch these movie unless you are drunk, whereby Held for Ransom is simply so bad, its good. Taking Lives is shit, and if you are buying it for the Jolie/Hawke sex scene - without it, the film is worth buying just to personally destroy - then, (a) you can find it on its own on the internet and (b) why buy a bad two hour film with one sex scene (possibly two? three? I mean they were all cut out in this version) when there is such a thing called pornoraphy, that - if thats your thing - you could simply watch a 2-hour long sex scene.

Bad (Martin Scorsese, 1987)

"But they say the skys the limit/And to me thats really true/And my friends you have seen nothin/Just wait til I get through . . ."

This is a really serious video. Personally, my lack of knowledge when I was younger led me to believe that the kids dancing in Moonwalker to Bad was in fact the video to Bad. Of course, its not. So this is the final music-video analysis on the blog 'in memory' of Michael Jackson. We had David Fincher and Spike Lee. We could have had John 'Boyz in the Hood' Singleton's Remember The Time, or John 'American Werewolf in...' Landis Thriller or even the short introduction to the Dangerous film directed by David 'Twin Peaks' Lynch. I am sure we could go back to these if we get a chance. Nevertheless, Bad has a full version of the video spanning 14 minutes and is directed by Martin Scorsese Pre-Goodfellas (he must have been discussing it though with Nic Pillegi at this point) but Post-Mean Streets, Raging Bull and his most recent film at this point was The Color of Money so he was hardly an unknown or director-in-need-of-attention. He was well established and, to top if off, for the writer of the music video (obviously not the song itself - that was Michael Jackson, but for the script that precedes the video) was no other than the writer of Sea of Love Richard Price. Price also managed to write many episodes alongside a man called David Simon recently, in a TV series called The Wire. Thats Sarcasm. I am a huge Wire fan.

What I reckon ...

You know Scorsese was hardly going to be able to bring the amount of depth and meaning to a Michael Jackson music video as he does in his own films - so you are not going to get any religious symbolism and Catholic iconography here - but you do get a little masculine-identity issues and some technicial correlations that could be discussed. First and foremost the sequence the precedes and follows is shot in black and white, similar to Raging Bull, I assume - if we were going to look 'deep' into the video, because the dream-like sequence shot in full colour with the dancing and completely-different 'bad' look of Jacksons is not what actually happens. Black and white is the real world, while the colour is - possibly mentally - what Jackson wants to express but until the last act, does not manage to explain.

Its an incredibly dark video too - we have references to theft, vandalism, drug dealing - and taking - and the constant problem of breaking free from poverty. Justified, we get no idea as to how 'Darryl' (Jackson) broke free from the 'dodgy' end of NYC, simply that his mother (Roberta Flack interestingly enough) clearly works exceptionally hard to support him (so she is not home when he gets back for the summer) and that he acknowledges this. He has begun to appreciate his life. He's not racist towards his classmates in the private school he attends, while they clearly are not racist towards him (then again, his skin by this point was so bleached maybe this is a difficult issue to discuss when talking about race and MJ...). They are proud of him, and accept his friendship - as we see on the train, while the shifty guy on the train who appears to be someone to fear, in fact only asks him about his pride - something that, I assume, can be detroyed in any area of society and, yet both agree in the sentiment: "Be the man". The question is, what is it to 'be the man'?

Its so upsetting to imagine how only a year - possibly within a year - after this was made, Jackson makes Moonwalker. Such a shame. Nevertheless, its not long before we meet friends of Darryl who clearly - without stating it directly - has issues about Darryls circumstances. He's in private education - there is no indication these men have even gone to school ("no school tomorrow? ha ha ha") and so you can see the conflict. Darryl is more intelligent, he has morals - he has a caring family who will do whatever they can to get him out of poverty - while his friends, including a young Wesley Snipes, clearly have very little of anything. They refer to him as 'joe-college', making sexual references, mocking his school friends and manipulating him when he makes any comment that implies his intelligence. You can feel how awkward it is. This is when it gets even more sinister as we see a drug deal - the four guys attempt to threaten the dealer who carries his own protection. We pan across their faces and Darryl despises what he is doing - but we see the other guys expressions too. While Darryl is out of his element, they are clearly in their element.

In leads to the obvious confrontation - Snipes reacts. All his friends turn on him - the pressure is physically and emotionally claustrophobic as the guys grab and challenge him, knocking down everything he and his family have worked for: "Are you bad? hm? or is that what they teach you up in that little sissy school of yours? How to forget who your friends are?". Darryl knows them, he cares - and he caves. Building himself up for one last 'bad' act. He plans to mug a civilian - but as soon as he see's that the civilian doesnt understand him at all, that this man is completely innocent, alarm bells ring. This whole sequence reminds me of The Godfather the pressure mounting parrallel with the train sounds getting louder - except instead of Michael Corleone shooting Solozzo, Darryl can't do it letting the man go. Snipes and co. get angry - Darryl tells him his thoughts: "If I ain't bad, you ain't nothin' - you ain't nothin!"

The music video itself is what it is - flawless dancing and choreography, dancers from a diverse background representing the range of cultures that are affected by poverty and, inevitably, crime. It is interesting to note that, as soon as this finishes, Snipes and Co. decide to back down on Darryl and as the camera pans back, he is alone again in his usual clothes. Clearly, Snipes' gang don't change their ways themselves - there is no indication that they even agree with Darryl as they walk away. Darryl is just on his own and they respect him for taking the opportunity he was given - fact is, Snipes' gang have not been given that opportunity and they clearly cannot stay friends with Darryl, hence their decision to walk away. Darryl is not 'one of them' anymore.

It is great that such dark themes are brought to the forefront, Jackson never shy's away from these society and worldwide issues, utilising his fame and influence to highlight them to the mass market. So many people claim MJ as inspirational - and people in horrendous domestic circumstances state how Jackson specifically is what got them out of crime and depression - seriously this is true. I would not be suprised that it was videos like this, like Man in the Mirror, like Stranger in Moscow and other inspirational videos that created such a personal link with fans. As fans we can look at his stories and understand - at a very young age - what opportunity is, what 'to-dream' is and how, ultimately, it is down to us (and not down to our parents or our circumstances) to dictate what to achieve.

Interesting info - If you listen to the lyric of the song, you can imagine it as a duet - apparently that was the original intention, whereby Jackson was to duet with Prince! How would that have sounded?

Sunday, 23 August 2009

Grizzly Man (Werner Herzog, 2005)

"I will die for these animals, I will die for these animals, I will die for these animals. "


How strange that days after I write about Man on Wire and how 'documentaries are not something I comment on too much' and yet, here we are, with another documentary. In fairness - this was made by esteemed filmmaker Werner Herzog and it is something of a cult classic. I watched this years ago when a friend of mine (shout out to Tom Wood) had a dodgy copy of it on DVD. I was staying at a different friends house at the time (Tom E) and, strangely enough, the more I thought about the death of the Grizzly Man and the thought of the audio Herzog hears as the Grizzly Man and his girlfriend are killed by Grizzly bears, the more tentative I was about sleeping. It really had an effect on me. Nevertheless, I don't know if TV is going through some 'classic documentary season', but I just managed to catch this on Channel 4 and, I must be brutally honest here, adverts do affect the watching of a documentary - stalling the story every 20 mins. Nevertheless, it won shed loads of awards - including the New York Film Critics Circle Award and the Alfred P. Sloan Prize - for the sensitive portrayal of the man at the centre of the Grizzly Bear tragedy: Timothy Treadwell

What I reckon ...

Now it is clear within a few minutes of watching this that Timothy Treadwell did indeed cross the line of Grizzly bears and humans. It's one thing to see the Grizzly's running amok on the 'plains' and in the 'Grizzly Maze' but when he starts touching their noses, or when the music stops showing a mother bear getting angry as Treadwell pets a the young baby bear - you can see how it was inevitably going to lead to his death. But the tragedy is not what pushes this film forward and keeps it entertaining (Treadwells death is discussed early on in the film opposed to some 'shock' ending.), it is Herzog's mastery over telling the story. Through his narration we not only get an insight into the facts and details of Treadwells life and passions, but we also hear Herzogs views on Treadwell and the footage captured by him over 5 years in Katmai National Park and Preserve, Alaska.

The documentary, to some extent, is discussing what is Timothy Treadwells true reason for his summers with the bears. As a filmmaker, Treadwell manages to capture beauty - the fox playing on the top of the tent and then sitting outside, Treadwell tracking the chase following the playing in the grass, etc. Its fascinating this footage of the foxes - 'Ghost' and 'Spirit' - and if it wasn't for the majesty of the Grizzly bears, this footage alone could show a fascinating insight into nature. As Herzog states himself, it really is warm and comforting to watch these playful animals amongst nature.

Interestingly enough, Herzog states his own opinion on things. On one level he agrees with Treadwells reason for capturing such beautiful footage on camera, while also stating how much he disagrees with Treadwell - as Treadwell pleads to the Gods for rain because the bears are 'eating their babies', Herzog knows that this is the nature of these animals and that this should be accepted and not looked upon as a heinous crime. This personal link Herzog has with the theme of this film is what pulls this film to a more important plain - there is no hidden truth or unexplained bias, Herzog states his opinion quite clearly, given you the opportunity to agree or disagree. Lets be honest, we all agree with him though.

One opinion he doesn't state is what he thinks of Treadwell's ex-girlfriend (opposed to the girlfriend who died alongside him). She is quietly reserved about her real personal connection to Treadwell - she was a girlfriend, she was an employee, etc - but did she like him? love him? did she fear when he was out in the summer? did she argue with him about the safety or the danger of he grizzly bears? or did she feel the same? We see her receiving the watch he wore - we even know how it was found, attached to a ripped-off arm, post bear-eating - and she wears it, amazed it still works. It simply feels like she perceives it as some sort of prize or something - I don't know how I'd feel if my ex-partner was eaten by a bear, but I feel that if I was given anything so attached to them I would simply break down - never having it captured on film and I sure as hell wouldn't wear the watch. Thats just me. Maybe she is a stronger woman.

Funnily enough, in a film rooted in archive footage we do have a few interesting film references. Notably when Treadwell wakes to find that, around his tent, are piles of rocks - one of which has a smiley face on (uh-oh, a wanring?). Two years after the release of The Blair Witch Project you would imagine he would get the reference but, alas, he does not. He even see's the message from the 'poachers' of 'see you next year' as some sort of threat - does it not just acknowledge his -and their - stance. As he will track and trace the Bears next year, they also will will track and do-what-they-do- next year. No 'warning', no threat - just a little joke.

The description of the final audio of both Timothy Treadwell and his girlfriend is referred to a fair few times - obviously it is exceptionally powerful, but it also explains to us how the situation was in highly moving detail. Treadwell being attacked first, while Amy tells the bear to 'go away!' standing loyal to Treadwell before being killed herself. Her death, many people - including people featured in the documentary - is the real tragedy. A woman who wasn't mad - crossing lines she knew she shouldn't cross. This woman even thought that Treadwell was "bent on self-destruction". Timothy Treadwell had demons in his closet - frustrations he vented through the camera akin to diary about the park itself and his trouble with women, etc. Amy did not want to appear on camera and was scared of the bears herself - is it possible that this choice to bring her along changed Treadwells composure and attitude - prompting the attack?

To close this (I need to write shorter reviews!), Treadwell regularly states throughout the documentary "I will die for these bears", and he was granted this wish. His final videos are clearly very eerie and, although he believes in his 'quest', you question whether he understood enough about himself and the bears, to want to fight against it so strongly.

Thursday, 20 August 2009

Anti-Christ (Lars von Trier, 2009)

"Chaos reigns"


Does it need one? I mean, really? A title like Anti-Christ clearly provokes the viewer. Before I continue, its worth noting that this is the first [mock me indeed] Lars Von Trier film I have seen. I question whether it is a fair representation of him as a director ... but it is nevertheless my first. Not seen Dogville or Mandalay or (apparently a friends favourite ever film - Rachel) Dancer in the Dark. So, with no frame of reference, I rely on what I read to assist in my understanding of such a film. But as it is such an explicit and excessive film, with such, almost obsessive, links to raw emotion it inevitably is inspired by a very personal stance of Von Trier himself, rather than something attempting to top previous films. According to Catherine Wheatley [S&S, August 2009], he wrote this "during a period of severe depression", which backs up the exceptionally personal nature of this film. He was raised by atheist parents and feels that "Religion is a nasty business", while not being "a believer", but using the description of "a poor christian" to describe himself.

From what I know, the theme of "long-suffering women at the hands of a manipulative man" (Empire, August 2009) is something that appears often in von Triers work so it clearly links with his previous works - going against my assumption it may be on its own. So, I'm sure the more I watch other von Trier films, the more I will realise how apt this film is ... but I doubt I will re watch this film again, and that says nothing about the well-executed, scenic and spooky nature of the film, it just says what type of film I prefer to watch. Turns out, analysis of grief and suffering though extreme torture and sexual pain - inflicted on both sexes - is not my bag.

What I reckon ...

I'm going to praise the film. The first thing I told Jo as we left the cinema was that there was clearly nothing in the film unintended. Jo felt that it might have dragged in the middle a little bit, which I counter-argued, questioning whether there was anything that should have been taken out of it to speed it up - he, and I, didn't know. Everything was exceptionally framed, lit and planned and prepared. 'Well-executed' does not give the film justice, but it is what it is. If you want to explore the stages of mourning (lets list the stuff it tackles) -of death, suffering, pain, despair, sex, masculinity, femininity, good and evil, religion, Satan - censorship merely hides the truth of such emotions, effectively not giving the topics justice. The sense of destruction of oneself, of a fear of nature in man, whereby you want the audience to experience, to some extent, the horror of evil-nature, of destruction, you cannot expect to shy away from the explicit nature of such a theme.

For one, its not gratuitous - its not an exploitation film, it is an art form and respects these boundaries. This might be a shallow point to raise on something which, to be honest, the majority of film-goers, don't expect the latest Saw installment to be directed by Lars Von Trier. This is not that type of horror - it is psychological, personal and considerate of the audience. The scenes of horror we do see are planned, prepared and controlled. We begin with a prologue, showing the death of Nick - the child of 'his' (Dafoe) and 'her's (Gainsborough) child. The child falls out of a window while the two have sex in the shower. The whole experience is shot in black and white with the Phantom Camera that captures the drops of water from the shower and snow from the sky so carefully it forces you to see every slight movement as a separate art piece unto itself (though the clerk who cleared my tickets said it reminded him of a Marks and Sparks advert ... hmmm ...). Every sequence is introduced by 'Epilogue', 'Chapter 1' etc, painted by an abstract artist by the name of Per Kirkeby - emphasizing that it is first and foremost a work of Art, and not all art is something you put up on your wall (or in this case, own on DVD).

Interestingly, I have recently watched Herzog's Grizzly Man, whereby one part Herzog disagrees with Treadwell (the tragic victim of the bears) was how Treadwell ignored the horror and destructiveness of nature. The 'chaos' and lack of 'harmony' in nature is what Herzog strongly believes in - and clearly this horror is the spine of Anti-Christ, and what von Trier also believes.

Going against what I stated earlier - about the film being what the director intended - there was one part which, though Jo and I sat quietly though, the whole cinema burst into laughter. Dafoe, in the process of coaching his wife through the mourning process, stumbles across animals, mothers in most cases, having killed their young: a deer with the semi-born fawn hanging out of the deer itself, etc. In one case he sees a fox, that appears to eat its own womb, look to him and speak: "Chaos Reigns". Apparently, there is a sense of irony in von Triers work (something I missed completely in this) and maybe this is an example of that, but it broke down the amount of involvement the audience had with the film up to this point. Was that a flaw in von Triers film? I would have to ask if laughter was what he expected from that section ... then again, I imagine von Trier does not expect anything from his audience, making the film for the sake of art itself.

The film finishes as Dafoe walks down the hill - having been tortured, pierced by a sharp implement, crawling into a cave, whereby the rock fell to shut it, then - you could say - he was 'resurrected' and manages to walk away. Remind you of anyone? Dafoe played the role himself too! Nevertheless, as he walks away, he walks past a mass of women walking up a hill. I imagine this relates to the evil woman he has just killed, does not link with all the other women with no evil desires. One interesting choice of word is exceptionally interesting. Dafoe's character is attempting to work out what Gainsborough fears - and by tackling the fear - she can move past this point of grieving. He considers that her fear is 'nature' (which to some extent it is) but crosses it out, writing 'Satan' (which to some extent it is), and then - upon realising that she was purposefully placing the wrong shoes on her sons feet (to the point that he had a deformity in his feet recognised on the autopsy) its not a completely impossible assumption that she was content with letting her son kill himself (which, in flashbacks, we see was the case). He crosses out her fear of 'Satan', realising what she truly fears is "Me", before smashing Dafoe round the back of the head, knocking him to the ground. My automatic assumption was that it is her definition of herself - labelled as "Me" - that was what he felt she feared. Clarifying the hatred she began to believe following her research into witches and 'evil-women' she researched when last in Eden, that she now believed she was. But, she hated and despised Dafoe too - so the choice of word "Me", verbalised by Dafoe himself, might imply that to some extent she feared him. Throughout the film she resents him and his arrogance and pride - and his psychiatrist-mode and therapeutic measures do nothing to change this opinion. Thus she attempts to destroy him, who she believes is some sort of Satan - natures man. Just an interesting side point.

Nevertheless, the non-innocent part in her child's death voids all the progress and therapy her husband attempts to 'help her' with. She thinks she is to blame, he tells her she is not. But he is wrong, because she is to blame. She is actually evil, akin to the witch women she researched when in Eden previously. Dafoe constantly tries to help her, but his self-satisfied attitude hinders any progress - she does tell him that it is recommended that patients must never be your partner, and yet he thinks he is better than that and this is the consequence, confirming her belief in his god-like attitude: controlling, creating ("I'm going to teach you to breath" - can he give her life?), etc.

Food for thought I think. I'll stop going over all of it - because there are bound to be bits which are completely wrong. Oh, before the conclusion - Art references, Hieronymous Bosch and all the bodies in the woods, naked and in foetus position. William Blake in the tone and portrayal of a Satanic-like presence. And, I considered not saying it, but the yellow jacket of Gainsborough, the sitting on the porch of a victorian-ish, old cabin did remind me of The Village ... I'm sorry, it did, and all you Shyamalan haters will hate the comparison.

It is a dark-subject, and the raw emotions it explores require visceral, vivid detail to relate the horror and pain to the audience but I question whether this is the type of thing I personally enjoy and, to push this further, I am dubious about the audience members who 'enjoyed' (is that the right word?) the film, people who will buy and, akin to me watching my favourite film many times, they would do the same with Anti-Christ. Surely if, genital mutilation and destruction is what you want from a film then there must be deep-rooted issues you have not faced. By extension, maybe this means that i do not condone such a film. The irony is, as a fan of the torture-porn genre (to some extent, by no means a professional) I feel like the completely OTT horror, fairground-ride nature of, say, the Saw films, somehow makes the films that much more palatable. So, when guy saws his foot off - you know its a prop, you know its fun and games and then you can laugh about it afterwards. While, with Anti-Christ I was so engrossed with the actors and the story itself that by the time we see her visual destruction o her femininity, I literally could not watch and had to quickly turn as the scissors cut. Jo said he forced himself to watch it - and that was what was expected of me, I guess. We don't make films so people turn away at the first opportunity of horror. It's a cheap shot comparing Saw with Anti-Christ - and I do apologise for it. I do not compare the acting, the directing, the cinematography - in fact anything and everything structurally is hugely superior in Anti-Christ. I merely discuss the nature of censorship and violence in cinema - fact is, nothing like this appeared before 2000. Apparently Irreversible raises the same type of concerns... and, as I said, I hope I never see this film again. But Irreversible is highly acclaimed ...


Listening to a radio interview on The Guardian podcast and Lars von Trier gives a great analogy - that he also stated at a press conference, possibly in Cannes - whereby he does not feel any need to justify his work, let alone justification of himself. He states how, as an artist, he has created something that you are a guest to - a party, however sick, - that you are invited to. The invite in and of itself is not a bad thing, so - in that sense - I assume he intends to state that, therefore, the justification in his actions are unneccessary. Interesting point.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

They Don't Care About Us (Spike Lee, 1997)

"Tell me what has become of my rightsAm I invisible because you ignore me?Your proclamation promised me free liberty, now"


Straight off the bat we have problem with this song. First off, we have two videos - both directed by Spike Lee - but it begs the question (which I shall try and answer) about why two and, the lesser seen video, is not seen so much. Michael Jackson sure does court controversy but its often brought upon by himself. If you write a song about injustice - people are going to have a problem with it. It happens so often whereby people get into heaps of 'controversy' because, to show pure and morally sound perspectives, it is neccessary to show ugly and immoral perspectives to contrast the argument with.

It is also worth noting that the 'Prison' version of the video I had never seen prior to this week. So, to think that I, as a pretty big fan, was not aware of a music video of Michael Jackson is pretty shocking. Either the makers did not push the video as much or I am actually not a big fan of MJ ... I think its the former.

Rio De Janiero Video


This is a very run-of-the-mill video to some extent: Singer sings along, no narrative, lots of dancing, etc. But on the other side of things, it is actually quite groundbreaking. MJ constantly reiterates his view to the police on the streets - shoving his hand in their face, [it looks like] he is swearing at them and they do no respond. Clearly uninterested in his view. They don't care about him. The percussion is different to the music in the song as rather than a very solid-beat, we have 200 drummers, drumming in time perfectly. This drumming continues after the song itself has finished and we see over a minute of flawless cultural brazilian music.

What I reckon...

This has to be one of my favourite music videos by Michael Jackson. Seriously - over 'Bad' and 'Thriller'. I can appreciate how it has not got the complexity and cinematic value of other videos, but as a music video, it looks and sounds stunning. Its more the song I think - which for obvious reasons - makes any visuals look better. The best part of the song is the beat that, as we pan over hundreds of drummers, simply adds to the force that the beat is supposed to emanate.

The vivid colours and beautiful setting of the faeva in Brazil simply adds to this cultural and angry video. Apparently, there was a huge problem with filming in this location - whereby the Brazilian government were concerned about how MJ highlighting the poverty in Brazil would affect their chances of holding the Olympics. It truly is suprising that they felt like that becaue the video appears to - on one side with the song lyrics itself - highlight human injustic that not only affects Brazil but many other parts of the world, but also manages to show the beauty of Brazil. The panning shot of Christ the Redeemer at the start simply looks stunning - and the children singing and dancing simply adds to the cultural traditions of this country. We jump from the ignorance of the police -an important point - when Michael dances, to Michael dancing in the street - prompting fans to run out and hug him, not so important.

On the flip side to this, a friend of mine (shout out to Richard B) noted how the video is hardly a 'Spike-Lee-Joint'. You don't see credits written on signs or clear signifiers of human brutality - and this is true. But then, when you watch the second video for this song, you realise where Spike Lee's direction becomes clear. This first video with its brilliant percussion is what we see the most and makes us want to dance and move ourselves, while the second video actually angers, frustrates and upsets you ...

Prison Video


Michael is in a cell, with TV's surrounding him, 'broken' into the wall. The film is interspersed with human rights violations from across the world and then mixes this up with men in jail, banging on the table - rocking the screen and room with their anger - as they punch the sky in time and bang on the tables. It truly is a work of real Art.

What I reckon ...

This second video begins with a child coverng their eyes - ignoring the brutality of the world. As the music beat starts we see CCTV footage of riots, whereby police use brute force on the people. We hear children ad toddlers crying as they sit alone, covered in garbage, we see Tank man in Tianamen Square and we see footage of assasination attempts and the KKK. This is before we see MJ himself, in a cell, with the footage we have just watched surrounding him. He is in the middle of all of this violence and horror.

The lyric - which on this version of the song, you become accutely aware of - is filled with anger an aggression. Amongst the lines are the following lines: "You rapin' me of my pride/Oh, for Gods sake" and "I'm tired of bein' the victim of shame/ They're throwing me in a class with a bad name" and so it goes on. (Seriously, check out the lyrics:

This is a song about the divide in society - how people are ignored, beaten and -ultimately - not given their human rights because of their race. There was a huge uproar when the song was released with the lines used in the song "sue me, jew me" and "kick me, kike me, don't you black or white me". These slurs or use of race as an insult is what the song is trying to highlight - Jackson isn't ignoring the issue he is putting it out there for all to see. The song is 'They don't really care about us' and through people ignoring what actually happens - rarely showing the video and censoring the lyric (which is what happened), in my opinion, it seems, people don't want to swallow the pill. Human rights are violated in a number of ways, but we ignore it.

In the face of such abuse, how much are people expected to go through before they snap - Will me, thrill me/You can never kill me", even though Roosevelt and Martin Luther King, years before, attempted to stop such out-and-out racism, it still exists. You notice all the moves of the prisoners are all linked in frustration, anger, and sadness and then when the - how do I put this - 'rock-bit' kicks in, rather than have some fan hug Michael Jacksn (as in Rio De Janiero), it shots Michael Jackson spinning while we clearly see shots behind him, and it cuts away to, shots or violence and racism, Vitenam, Civil Rights protests - am I right for thinking that its Rosa Parks in one shot? - and it really is shocking.

As the song builds up - we see hands reaching through fire for freedom - we see the guards in the prison intimidated, we see prisoners holding their hand up, in protest. The video ends as we see Jackson run through the streets of Rio de Janeiro and we move back to the other video ...

It is shocking to think that this video is 14 years old and yet these things still happen. In Northern Ireland, only recently, Romanian immigrants houses were burnt down. This was in the last six months. Such a brilliant video and director, such a brilliant song and performer - and such an important issue.

Sunday, 16 August 2009

The Omen (Richard Donner, 1976)

"Here is wisdom. Let him that hath understanding count the number of the beast; for it is the number of a man; and his number is 666"


I borrowed this from friend Jo who you may notice, often puts his view of films as comments on this very blog, but I raided his collection as soon as he moved to London and amongst the films he had was this. A 'classic' horror film - so they say - that I felt I really should watch so that I know my horror films. Bear in mind this is four years after 'The Exorcist' and three years after Roeg's 'Don't Look Now', so horror films that involve families and demon-children/dead children seem to be a recurring theme in 70's films. But, this seem to warrant many sequels - akin to 'The Exorcist' - and so, the orginal was worth the watch ...

Quick Synopsis

Switched at birth, Damien (Harvey Stephens) is child of Robert (Gregory Peck) and Katherine Thorn (Lee Remick). The Dad, Robert, switched the child as his actual child was a still born. It is 6th June 1966. 6am. The happy family move to England, whereby Robert Thorn is appointed US ambassador to England.

Damien turns five and the family nanny hangs herself in front of everyone and, at the same time, a rottweiler dog barks. Mrs Baylock - a new nanny arrives, and she is clearly a bit weird, while a Priest begins stalking Robert, confronting him on many occassions, warning him about Damien who, he believes, is the anti-christ. Not to mention that Satan himself has decided how Katherines current child, still in her womb, shall not be born.

Not long after telling him this, the priest falls from onto a church spire impaling himself, and, turns out, Katherine is preggers. It's not long before 'Damien' strikes again and he pushes Katherine over a banister. Robert needs to find out more - especially when he sees photographs taken showing ghostly images of the cause-of-death, before the death of the nanny and the priest (E.g. the spire the priest fell onto). That seems unclear, read it again and it should make sense.

The photographer and Robert visit Italy, where Damien was initially adopted and the hospital has since burned down alongside all the birth records. Finding the head priest of the hospital, he is found very ill indeed - having been severely burned giving him only movement in his left hand. But alas, he uses a small piece of charcoal to point them in the direction of Damiens mother. At a graveyard they find that inside one grave is a jackal skeleton - seems he wasn't born of a human and may actually be the antichrist, while in the other grave is the body of Robert and Katherines first child showing that it was not a stillborn but was, in fact, murdered at birth. Cue rottweiler dogs and, luckily, they escape. Robert calls the wife, Katherine, asking her to come to Italy but, before she gets a chance, she is thrown out of the hospital window by Mrs Baylock. Robert is devastated and the photographer and him travel to Israel to find an archaeologist who can stop the antichrist. Bugenhagen, the archaeologist, tells him that there is a way to stop him: by stabbing him with the seven daggers of Meggido. Easy.

Robert can't kill a child though - thats crazy talk - and he throws the daggers to the side. The photographer on the other hand goes to grab them and is suddenyl decapitated by a pane of glass. Robert can kill a child and will. He gets the daggers and returns to England.

He finds Damien and - just in case - he checks his body and finds 666, just as Bugenhagen said, confirming the fact that he is the antichrist. Mrs Baylock trys to kill him but, luckily, he has a knife and kills her - taking Damien to a church. He pulls the first knife and - police break in and shoot him. Robert and Katherine are both dead and have a double funeral.

So Damien has new parents - no other than the President of the US of A. Credits.

What I reckon...

Its all a little messed up to be honest. I watched this a while ago and came away feeling non-plussed. I think the idea of an antichrist is clearly a great idea for a movie, while practically having an actor effective as the antichrist is something different. Probably why the film rests on Gregory Peck's shoulders, and even Damien - the antichrist - needs a nanny to fight off the good guys.

Now, maybe its rooted in some fascinating back-story and history - akin to the history of Dracula and Frankenstein, but I have a funny feeling its not. I mean, 666. Yeah, we get it - the number of the devil. "Born on the the 6th of the 6th of 1966" at 6.06am. Just because you can't do 6.66am. Or maybe you can. he is the antichrist.

As mentioned in the introduction - it wasn't particularly new. Exorcist and Don't Look Now was years before this, so you know it was a product of the new kids-as-evil craze that was sweeping through Hollywood so you have to ask yourself the question - what was so special about this one, because, honestly, I'm not too sure. Its a boy for one - alot of the pre-pubescent girls-who-are-possessed/evil often have some subtext of girls growing up and all that puberty stuff. Exorcist is a prime example, while this is a boy possessed since birth. The horrors are visual also - impaling on a church fence and the dogs, which are adds to the fear factor, but I felt it was all a bit horror-by-numbers and, alas, I am in an awkwards position because I don't know exactly the context it was released within in '76 as I was not born for another four years. maybe there is something about modern day outlook (London) versus traditional, religious outlook (Rome/Vatican). aith was beginning to be less important in society in the seventies, so these little digs at Catholocism might be a product of that - how technology (photography) is, bit-by-bit, making us ignore the real question of faith.

I can't knock the score by Jerry Goldsmith - but it hardly beats The Exorcist now, does it? The little gander I have had of other materials claims that it got more credability because it is played as a Thriller (hmmm...) and that the sequence of the lady hanging herself, happy-as-larry ("this is all for you Damien") is indeed, messed up and can't be really topped by other horrors.

Nevertheless, I have a funny feeling that the franchise this spawned, combined with the notion of a 'Damien/antichrist' tag (To the point that Only Fools and Horses references it) used in pop culture has given us the impression that this film is important to the canon of cinema - or at the very least of horror, when in fact, it just happened to benefit from publicity it didn't ask for.

Friday, 14 August 2009

Moonwalker (Jerry Kramer, Colin Chilvers, 1988)

"I'll never finish this movie! Who let him in? Isn't anybody in charge?"


Now I am a huge Michael Jackson fan, and this is his only 'feature length' movie (I am not gonna count films like Men In Black 2 because that was just a cameo) so it is inevitable that I bought, watched and, consequently, review this title. I will come back to the music-video reviews I explained I would do ... but this does not fall in the three, lesser known, music-videos I said I would discuss. Nevertheless, Moonwalker does have some stunning sequences in and so it is worth a once-over at the very least.

What I reckon ...

Okay. There are two ways to describe this film: "Influenced by directors as diverse as Paul Verhoevan, Carol Reed and Robert Zemeckis - alongside Pop Art influences - comes Moonwalker" or I could describe it as "a mish-mash of incoherant stories that have no background, connection or depth to even qualify as a feature-legth film - it might as well come free with the Bad music album". The 'story' - if you could call it that - was by Michael Jackson. You can imagine it: "then spiders and then, then, then I turn into a car ... and then I turn into a robot and shoot him away... and, and, and the bad guy is a Joe Pesci-like drug lord... etc". Any sense is not applied - you coould call it 'surreal'. I'd call it random. "From the imagination of Michael Jackson, comes a movie like no other" - indeed.

Interestingly, there are some great influences - mainly taken from 80's movies - that may have played a part. The whole robot-thing seems very Robocop-esque (1987 was its release date ... so, it might be too close to call...), while the Michael-Jackson-car speeds off leaving a trail of fire akin to the Delorean in Back to the Future (1985...) and - to top it off - the colours, music and general sense of wonder we are expected to have when the Michael-Jackson-spaceship flies off into the night recall E.T. (one of MJ's favourite films apparently), when E.T. goes back home. I think, because it is so obvious, it takes the edge off of any credability that could be given. Nevertheless, the whole Smooth Criminal story is very separate to the rest of the film - bookended by live performances of Man in the Mirror and Come Together, and music videos of Leave me Alone and Speed Demon (Directed by Will Vinton, it is a very strange Roger Rabbit inspired sequence whereby live-action mixes with stop-go-motion creatures). That is not to say some inspirations go unfounded -its clear the film-noir style of the Smooth Criminal and the tilted cameras come from Carol Reed's The Third Man and - lets be honest - the dancing sequence inside Club 30 is up there as one of the top Michael Jackson dance sequences and that gives the entire movie a higher-quality - the fact that the sequence is preceded by what must be ten minutes of 'chasing', torches and shooting, for no clear reason does hamper the film.

To close, it is worth noting how impressive the music-video for Leave Me Alone is. It is directed by Jim Blashfield (not Jerry Kramer or Colin Chilvers interestingly enough...) and shows Michael trying to escape dog-press people on a fairground ride. He rides through all the gossip, rumours and newspaper articles that spiralled out of control after Thriller so it features references to the Elephant Man, Elizabeth Taylor (footage from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof) and the cryogenic-freezing chamber. The whole thing reminded me of Richard Hamiltons Pop Art pieces - using collage to make up an entire image - or in this case - a video. The video ends with Jackson emerging from the theme park - and akin to Gulliver in Gullivers Travels he breaks free from the 'chains' of entertainment that restricted him before. The i-hate-the-press song has been done by Michael Jackson on his Invincible album, with the song Privacy. Even Britney Spears has her own i-hate-the-press song on the album released post-baldness. Something about 'You want a piece of me', etc. But, thi video shows Michael completely mocking them and their goals - he laughs and dances in what he believes is complete fun and games. he doesn't take them seriously and, it is clear, that as much as he hates them, at this point in his career he gt frustrated but understood their neccessity. But he still wants them to go: Leave Me Alone, he cries ... and, they never did.

Interestingly, the video to Leave Me Alone was the only video from Bad that got a Grammy award. In fact it was the only Grammy Award given for the Bad album.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Public Enemie's (Michael Mann, 2009)

"They ain't tough enough, smart enough or fast enough. I can hit any bank I want, any time. They got to be at every bank, all the time"


Michael Mann can be a truly brilliant director - amongst his best films would be Heat, Collateral and - now - Public Enemies. Reality is, Miami Vice was problematic, so even though the trailer looked awesome for this, I was a little reserved before watching the film. Not to mention the obvious comparison to Heat. Was Mann doing anything truly original? But I watched this on an fluky orange Wednesday whereby they done the whole two-for-one deal on a preview of Public Enemies. Now I knew I wasn't going to watch The Hangover and was planning to see Looking for Eric but, alas, it was not being shown. I had been exceptionally excited about this - it appeared to be a real back-to-basics classical Gangster movie - with an exceptional choice for the lead with Johnny Depp. Could it live up to the high-standard I expected? Both 'Sight and Sound' and 'Empire' had Johnny Depp and his tommy gun spashed all over their covers, while both separately devoting additional column inches to the Gangster genre and the production of the film itself. This was a big event ... could it live up to the hype?

What I reckon...

[Note, until I write in these brackety thing again, the majority of this was written soon after watching the film. I think it rambles a little so I shall try and just tack on a concise conclusion and leave it at that] So, I have just arrived back from the cinema - it was hot and sweaty because of the current heatwave in London, but the entire film was breathtaking. The entire film rests on the shoulders of Johnny Depp as the fated gangster John Dillinger. A bank robber in Chicago in the thirties.

Michael Mann has turned to digital camera-work in recent years and in this film is suits the film perfectly in no small part to the cinematography of Dante Spinotti, Mann's long-time collaborator. Not only do we have the fantastic period sets shown with calm confidence, we also have a rough, edgy, uncontrolled camerawork during the shootouts to contrast it with. Its interesting to note that there are no opening credits - it shows '1933' and then it starts.
Purvis often asks 'Was that Dillinger?', 'Who was that?' - obssessed with the 'legend', also his task of taking down Dillinger himself, following a successful termination of Pretty Boy Floyd. It is truly fascinating how we feel so much - not resentment - but pity for Purvis. To the point that even when Dillinger is killed, we are actually not too fussed about how Purvis feels. We are not introduced to a family, a personal life - we only see him order his 'Dillinger Squad' about what to do. Even then, he is often undermined by his Special Agents while also being responsible for his weaker agents deaths - so its no suprise we root for Dillinger: a man who doesn't steal from the public, he steals from 'the bank'.

Metro (a local free tabloid paper here in London - and Birmingham and Manchester ...) released a review today saying that the film was akin to 'Miami Vice'. This is absolutely untrue - while you struggled to follow the convuluted plot about drugs and 'the underground' and truth and fiction and what not in 'Miami Vice', the simple plot in 'Public Enemies' gives Mann space to focus on the characters themselves. In a nutshell - its Purvis trying to catch Dillinger - but the anti-hero edge to Dillinger, the persona Depp creates, makes you root for him - even though you know Billie's prophesizing his death is true, you cannot help but be upset at the expected showdown.
[Okay, the conclusion]. A good friend (Shout out to Rhys BL) told me how he had hoped there would be an extended cut. I did question what he meant and he replied to me about the small role of Gionvanni Ribinisi and Channing Tatum. Why would they hire such top-class actors for such small roles? He had a point. The film lacks the even balance that Heat and Collateral had, and as such, may have been cropped. This was an epic film focussing on Dillinger moreso than any other character. I must admit, I hope there is an extended version with the epic proportion included that, unfortunately, this cut misses the mark on. Sight and Sound noted how the film is somehwere between Mendes Road to Perdition and the Coen's Millers Crossing, and it is superior to both - but you feel it could have been even more impressive and, who knows, if there is an extended cut, maybe it is...

Quickly - as I scanned the pictures for the poster-picture for this film I saw a comparison with Road to Perdition - its so-o-o similar!

Monday, 10 August 2009

Brüno (Larry Charles, 2009)

"Ich was going to become famous by solving a world problem! But which one?"
Sarah loves Borat. Not literally - because that may make our relationship a little awkward, but she actually cries with laughter when watching that film. So, as a portion of her birthday treat this year, I managed to get two tickets to see [the 18 rated version of] Bruno at the Barbican. Another part of her present was membership for the Barbican - it really seems to be a worthy investement because it has every type of art form you can imagine but, crushingly, over the summer there is no theatre on. Gutting for a Drama teacher, such as Sarah is. Nevertheless, it has a cinema, a music hall and absolutely tons of Art space - and now she gets discounts and information on the forthcoming shows! Nevertheless, I was tentative about watching Bruno because you knew it would be no plain sailing - he would have to try and 'top' Borat and, possibly, to please the masses, he may just go that little bit too far. Interestingly, as mentioned in 'Sight and Sounds' review this month, Bruno got more column inches in the press than expected - and I am sure it was more that Borat. All that racism and sexism, etc in Borat seemed to pale in comparison to Bruno's overt sexual and shallow attitude to life and others. I'm getting ahead of myself ...

What I reckon ...

To get a sense of context - with regard to story (not Cohen's strongest point, but then again Ali G Inda House and Borat were not trying to be Shakespeare), we meet Austrian fashion guru Bruno (Cohen) who manages to lose his job in Austria on TV programme 'Funkyzeit' and so decides to 'be famous'. Pretty loose context, but then again it manages to squeeze into the procedings pranks onto the American public. All very Borat and, to some extent it realy is a carbon copy, except that we have Bruno in his place. Though clueless - he is from the Western world and does know the culture of society so his lack of awareness seems a little unfounded, while Borat had an air of innocence about him - he didn't have great social skills in America so many jokes that could easily have been on him, turned out to be more on the people attempting to 'westernize' him because they didn't know what to do. What do you do when a Kazahk reporter brings a prostitute to your house? All you can do is call it a night. While when an incredibly camp man asks you at a swingers party to show positions you shag in ... its that little bit more sinister. He knows what he is doing, chances are you would know what he is doing - but you trust him so you run with it. But alas, your trust is what is abused.

Bruno's hunt for fame is so shallow in itself - and the obvious quest Borat had to learn the culture of America - again, was more moral. I feel that this was the biggest problem. The set-ups worked: an African child delivered to an airport in a box and the reactions of the others is so side-splittingly funny. His overt sexuality is great - but his purpose seemed so weak. I felt the whole thing took a turn for the best when he decided that he had to 'become straight' - and the attitude of others to someone they knew was gay but didn't say it (the 'shooters' - Donny, Mike and the other one - ignoring him at the campfire...), the gay-convertor pastor (who recommends he doesn't listen to 'The Village People' and takes part in masculine activities such as shooting) - these things highlighted prejudices and lack of understanding and, thus, the serious edge side-by-side with the very obscure Americans he met, made for great viewing.

The finale of the film shows Bruno, now rebranded as 'Straight Dave' present a cage-fighting match. This includes ripping girls clothes off - he is that straight! This then changes to a highly-gay viewing as both Bruno and his longtime lover make-out in the middle of the cage while the entire audience flips out. This was truly fascinating. To see how aggressive and violent these folks were about something that, personally, is not such a big deal, really highlighted how little I know about societies within the Western world that are still stuck in the stone ages with their non-liberal views. This finale is the only point that tops Borat as it manages to really go for the jugular with the comedy and serious-note it is trying to make. The Americans truly show their colours and it's funny (who is like that?) and then, when you think about it, so upsetting (imagine one of those Americans with a son/daughter who is gay... it would be difficult to come out in that family). Borat never created those emotions - merely climaxing with the Pamela Anderson debaucle.

Nevertheless, it is still a comedy and - serious-points aside - the sequence showing Bruno and his pygmy boyfriend with their range of sexual toys (E.g. Dildo attached to a cycle-machine, elasticated chair, etc) is fascinating and - again, akin to Borat - I think the use of the censor covering up the obscene actions helps the comedy! Reminds me of Starship Troopers when they ram that machine into the anus-like creature. We also manage to watch Bruno's celebrity show whereby we watch some penis-flapping (that won't make the 15-cut) and the celebrity 'status' of Jamie Lynn-Spears unborn baby: a 'Z-lister' apparently. Pushing the button when Bruno asks his 'celebrity-insider' whether Spears should 'abort or keep' the baby as if it is a prize.

I personally found this less offensive than Borat but then it managed to make a more serious point. Don't get me wrong - I enjoy Borat but I shall explain the problem with his influence on the kids on the Borat review. While Bruno, I doubt will be copied by the kids and yet also manages to make a serious point about the homophobic attitude many people still have.

Saturday, 8 August 2009

Man On Wire (James Marsh, 2008)

"To me, it's really so simple, that life should be lived on the edge. You have to exercise rebellion. To refuse to tape yourself to the rules, to refuse your own success, to refuse to repeat yourself, to see every day, every year, every idea as a true challenge."


To be honest I only knew about this from the coverage in the film magazines and, ultimately, the winner of Best Documentary at the 81st Academy Awards. Strangely enough, my Uncle only recently bought it and was singing its praises and - regular commenter Jo - watched it at the cinema (possibly twice... but don't quote me on that). I'm always wary about documentaries. I keep track of the 'important' ones on the cards - but I am hardly going to make records of the snippet 'making of's on DVD's. Or the Rihanna music video I happened to watch on MTV. Or the rubbish programme I happened to catch on BBC1. But, this one has some credibility so I thought, well, why not - and believe me, I have a few things to say about documentaries by Michael Moore or the visual feast that is Waltz with Bashir and hopefully, their time will come.

What I reckon ...

To summarise, we are tracking Phillippe Petit - a wire-walker - who managed to set-up and walk in between the twin towers in the seventies. The film jumps between the documentary talking-heads talking about the day itself and then flashes back to archive footage showing the young Petit wire-walking in between the Notre Dame and a big bridge in Sydney, Australia. Its based on a book Petit wrote called To Reach the Clouds, and so he is credited as writing the documentary also. He truly is a fascinating character - and his passion and desire forces itself through the TV and onto you, so that you personally feel incredibly excited about this prospect of walking between these two giants.

The coverage of his childhood - following the opening - is truly inspiring. We see a blurry, black and white reconstruction of when Petit first knew about the twin towers being built. It was his destiny to walk in between them - and this in itself, he felt, was fascinating, because they were not even built! The documentary cuts between Petit himself narrating this destiny-dentist visit, while also showing the twin towers themselves being built. His concentration and passion for circus-skills (unicycling and juggling, etc) leads, inevitably, to tightrope walking and wire-walking. This seamless editing is down to Jinx Godfrey whose work, because it is so seamless, can easily be unacknowledged - but it is a credit to him that the documentary flows so fluidly. We even see actual footage of Petit walking across the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris - opposed to the lack of film-footage of him crossing the twin towers (whereby their are many pictures, all shown in this documentary!)

It also tracks his relationship with Annie Allix - a relationship that ended soon after he crossed the twin towers. She held him and supported him through his life - and we see beautiful footage of her holding Petit across a tightrope. He mentions how, post-twin towers, he slept with a different woman - "pleasure of the flesh". I have a funny feeling that this was the nail in the coffin of their relationship.

The documentary is so well made that all the technological factors all assist in telling a smooth story - they use reconstructions, talking-heads, archive footage, etc - and yet you know the footage which is real (colour, dated) from the conscious choice of blurry, can't-see-their-faces footage that is used for the reconstructions. The one aspect, which I was aware of prior to watching this was that the finale solely relied on photographs - not film footage. I have to admit that I felt that it would be difficult to get me tense about something that is still - while the beauty, I felt, was in his movement. By the time we reach this point in the film, you are thoroughly aware of his movement and his characteristics - so the subtle layering of the sound of commotion of NYC far below the twin towers while we see the footage makes you feel as if you are watching something truly beautiful. They set everything up so perfectly.

Petit claims that the beauty is how what he is doing is 'framed by death' - you are in awe because you know the slightest lack of concentration and he's gone. This is what makes the documentary so fascinating - every time you see him balancing you see that concentration and beautiful balance.

Quick note - Michael Nyman composed the majority of the music, but it did just sound like a bulk of music taken from a 'Classical Chillout' CD - indeed Nyman's 'The Piano' score often features on these albums - so the addition of Erik Satie tracks did nothing but confirm my feelings.

Thursday, 6 August 2009

Michael Collins (Neil Jordan, 1996)

"You've got to think of him. The way he was... He was what the times demanded. And life without him seems impossible. But he's dead. And life is possible. He made it possible."

I visited Ireland recently. Popped over the day term finished - flight from Gatwick (the worst airport in the world) to Dublin, straight to the pub (Doyles) for a Guinness. I saw U2 in Croke Park on the Saturday, went to Limerick for Sunday to see Mum and Dad, and then saw U2 again on Monday night. We were due to fly out on Thursday so between Tuesday and Thursday Sarah and I intended to be complete tourists and visited all the top spots in Dublin (shout-out to Kev, Maura and family for putting us up for the nights: Fantastic!). We went to the Guinness Storehouse, John Jameson & Son Distillery, Dublin Zoo, National Gallery (lots of Reynolds and Gainsboroughs), Museum of Modern Art (Rachael Whiteread and Richard Long amongst others) and, on our counsin's advice, visited Kilmainham Gaol - a jail in Dublin where the leaders of the 1916, Easter Rising in Dublin, were taken and then, out the back, were shot. My Dad has told me that back when he was a boy - and even now - Irish History was/is taught and, from the small snippets I have heard, it truly is fascinating. I'm not a big history buff- far from it - but when smething interests me I do try and have a gander. This Michael Collins chap was incredibly important with regard to forming unity between Ireland and England and, ultimately, the signing of a treaty that enabled Ireland to become a free-state and then, become The Republic of Ireland that it is today. Obviously, the civil war strife continued and what-not, but there is only so much that can be done. This treaty was the first major step in restoring Irelands independence - and Michael Collins (amongst many other memebers of the Irish Republican Army, pre-1921) was behind that.

Anyway, in Kilmainham Gaol, a lot of these important leaders were killed fighting for their country and their freedom and that struck me quite powerfully. First thing to do was get a basic overview and - upon countless Aunties, Uncles and - most importantly - Mum and Dad's advice I purchased the Michael Collins DVD. I also got In the Name of the Father (I had it on video and studied it for Media studies and it is a bloody good film I haven't seen for a long time) and these will sit next to my Angelas Ashes DVD recommended to me by my Mum - who spent her young teenage years in Limerick herself. But in better circumstances than Frank McCourt (R.I.P).

So plowing ahead with Irish cinema (most likely paid for by American studios), I discuss Michael Collins ...
What I reckon ...
So, the film startsff with the failed showdown in 1916: The Easter Rising. The Irish rebels surrendered and the leaders were found - amongst them Pearse, Plunkett, an injured Connelly, DeValera - and many others. Connelly was badly injured and was held at a hospital while the others were jailed in Kilmainham Gaol. As DeValera (Alan Rickman) had American citizenship he could not be executed - while all the other leaders were taken out the back and shot by court marshal. Even Connelly was specially wheeled in from the hospital and shot. The coverage of this horrendous action by British troops was told around the Ireland and, inevitably, created sympathy for the Irish rebels. Prior to this, they did not have as much support.
This is merely the fast-paced introduction to the film. Michael Collins (Liam Neeson) is assists in the Easter Rising in the film, but is released following a short imprisonment. He travels the country gaining support and, unexpectedly, gains support from one of the spies who are following him. This is Broy (Stephen Rea) who, according to Wikipedia - not a great source but... - was an amalgamation of a range of police informers for the rebels, soon to become the Irish Republican Army. Anyway, Broy lets Collins have access to the police records and, turns out, they have a lot of information on them. So, Collins decides they have to cut out an important part of the police investigation - cut out the spies themselves. The 'Dublin Castle' - the police - are gaining all their information from following the known Irish Rebels. A letter is sent and the IRA hire younger violent sympathisers to kill detectives who continue to follow them - thus sending a clear message that 'the IRA will not tolerate being followed'.

Now, my cousin tells me their are many inaccuracies with tthis film - so bear this in mind because, obviously, I wasn't there, I'm just telling you the plot. I'll try and hurry it up a bit though.

This violence against violence leads to Bloody Sunday - whereby following British troops being sent into Dublin, the IRA killed 14 of these troops. In turn, the British got into their tanks and went down to Croke Park where a gaelic football game was being played and shot at the people there. Killing about 14 themselves - and then they tortured known IRA members in the evening for information also - in the film, Broy, is amongst these tortured and is killed in the process, as a few of those who were tortured indeed did themselves. A horrible day in Irish history (See U2 song...)

Anyway, a failed attack from the IRA akin to what happened in 1916, leave the IRA weak but, strangely enough, Britain call for a ceasefire and Collins goes over to England to sign the treaty - he gets independence, but only for the south of Ireland. Northern Ireland remains tied to Great Britain. De Valera is angered by this, but Collins is adamant that this is the first step t independence. Their are pro-treaty and anti-treaty groups and a civil war breaks out - in the hope of stopping this Collins goes to meet De Valera in Cork - his hometown - whereby prior to meeting him, Collins is ambushed and killed by anti-treaty protestors.

There are love interests and friends who are also a big part of the story - so don't feel that that is all it is, but it summarises the Irish history it covers. It truly is epic in scale and the fact that Julia Roberts is in it, explains how much money was put up behind it to make sure it had every chance of success. You can really feel the support the film had. Interestingly enough, Neil Jordan wrote the film also and so has discussed on the DVD the inaccuracies and explains that in most cases he simply didn't want to have to explain the huge amount of history behind this short period of time as it was only a two hour movie, while his approach showing Bloody Sunday (whereby the tanks enter into the Croke Park football ground, rather than wiat outside and shoot from outside) was changed so the sequence would be shorter and more powerful. The fact that people died and they were civilians is bad enough in my book - and that happened in both cases. Its funny, these technical aspects Neil Jordan talks about should really have been listened to by Zack Snyder on his Watchmen film - too long, too much shit. Someone should have said: cut it down, you have to make it two hours. Would have been alot better. Neil Jordan should of made Michael Collins three hours and then establish alot of inaccuracies.

I think my personal problem was this 'epic' tag it clearly had in pre-production. The finale - as we move from the inevitable tragedy of Collins and then cut to love-interest buying a wedding dress is so cliche. Sarah told me she was glad that the love story didn't overshadow the politics. I think she is right - it could have been alot worse - but, why have it at all. Touch on the fact he had family and a girl - but whats with the love triangle? Too much in my book. I did think about 'improvements' that could be made and, from my knowledge, music is so important and, in hindsight, I don't recall a theme or anything specifically heart-wrenching or emotional about the music. Maybe its me, because rarely do people fault a composer such as Elliot Goldenthal (with Sinead O'Conner doing the odd vocal no less), but then again, rarely do you hear people sing his praises! Not to mention, it seemed very unexpected when he died. I mean, if people are watching the film, they know he died - theres no need for shocks. Maybe a focus on Collins as he knew his time was up, alongside some music that simply makes you feel that its all over would just tip you over the edge with emotion - but what happened seemed as if "its an ambush" and, bang, "no, Michael, no! [its a head wound, he's gone] no-o-o-o-o!". The crying over the corpse and Julia Roberts backing away-because-she-knows-without-him-saying, is just a little obvious. We didn't even see Roberts face when she was told because she was running away from the guy - and from us.
I'm not Neil Jordan and, to be honest, he's a great director (The Crying Game ...), so maybe the whole directing job is actually quite difficult, but I did feel that he might of thought that as it was an epic, he had to do certain things - when it was these things which made it very run-of-the-mill, taking it out of a unique story territory to standard-historical-epic territory.
Note the poster-picture chosen - very 'Liberty Leading the People' Delacroix rip-off... seems to be the new craze, as Coldplay just uses it for every single, album and EP they release!

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

King Of New York (Abel Ferrara, 1990)

"You think ambushing me in some nightclub's gonna stop what makes people take drugs? This country spends $100 billion a year on getting high, and it's not because of me. All that time I was wasting in jail, it just got worse. I'm not your problem. I'm just a businessman"


It is worth noting in this section that Christopher Walken is a legend. His simple prescence in a film puts it automatically into 'classic' status: Annie Hall, The Deer Hunter, Pulp Fiction and, I would even include True Romance in there. Thing is, this is - by far - his best film. I knew about this film a while ago after it was mentioned in one of those 'Rough Guides to Gangster films' and it was a shot of Walken in King of New York that was on the sleeve. The minute I saw that sleeve I thought - "my god, Walken as a boss... incredible". It really is. But, over the past few weeks I have been attempting to perfect a Christopher Walken impression myself ... I am failing magnificently, thought I can do one word well: Dad. So, I guess that leads to any word whereby the 'a' is pronounced the same so, Fad, Bad, Sad, etc. I'm getting there, one word at a time. Nevertheless, this is not a blog about my Walken impression (and my god, what a blog that would be) it is a film blog and thus, I discuss Walken's best film: King of New York.

What I reckon ...

Well, it begins as Frank White (Christopher Walken) is released from prison and observes the slums of NYC (Just like Travis Bickle does at the start of Taxi Driver) sitting in the car with two women - one black, one white - who, we soon find out, he has relationships with (Good times for Walken in the hotel room). So, without him speaking we understand he has power and has the women and - having recently watched Scarface - it is as if the first two hours of Scarface is erased. Frank White has got everything Tony Camonte wanted as he steps out of prison - except he is high on coke. This entire opening sequence with Walken is juxtaposed with a drug dealer who goes by the name of Jimmy Jump ('Larry' Fishburne), who is crazy. You often find this cliche black drug criminal who laughs like a maniac and wears expressive clothes and, I always think is to some extent, like Robert De Niro's character in Mean Streets - except without any sympathy. Jimmy kills some Columbian dealers (those Columbians got a raw deal in Scarface and King of New York) in this introduction (Steve Buscemi lurks in the background too!) and then meets Walken in The Plaza - are they friends? is Jimmy going to 'jump' Walken? Alas no - Jimmy works for Walken. It is quite strange because the whole of Jimmy's crew are lower-end drug dealers who take the drugs they deal also - bar Buscemi - they are African-American also so suited-and-booted Christopher Walken with his calm attitude is the last person whacko-Jimmy to respect but, we have a group hug and even some impromptu dancing from Walken (no doubt the reason for FatboySlims 'Weapon of Choice') to establish their strong bond.
Having a gander on the IMDB message boards the comparisons to Scarface are immense (Don't get me wrong, I saw the comparison especially having watched Scarface the day before but its just striking that everyone else could see it too!) - and I think that is just, but there is something so much more gritty and, not so-much realistic, more as closer to realism as a style in King of New York. So many roaming shots of New York to establish the setting - we are dealing with the underworld here and so the gutters and dodgy crack houses and muddy under-the-motorway sections are so key to the realism of the film. It doesn't take long in Scarface before we are in Miami - and although we thrown into the 'gritty-ness' of Scarface pretty soon (having a guy sawn apart and all), the fact is they all wear Hawaiian shirts and Pacino shoots the Colombian in the middle of the street and gets away with a certain 'edge'. When Jimmy Jump kills the-only-black-cop, Wesley Snipes, and is in turn himself, killed by the-Irish-cop-from-CSI (David Caruso), it is dirty, it is messy and is anything but classy. The cinematography is by Alex Tavoularis - a relation to Dean 'The Godfather' Tavoularis perhaps? (Alex worked on Godfather Part III with Dean ...) - who creates and uses shadows that look absolutely stunning - very dark sequences whereby very few colours are used - I swear the crack-house is just different shades of black and blue and this does remind me of the huge use of shadows and black in The Godfather.

Moving back to the story, the police are portrayed as weak, powerless, suicidal di*kheads. They have hot heads and are always ready to blow a gasket whenever anything goes wrong - opposed to the calm and controlled manner Walken and his two-faced consigliere, Dalesio (Paul Calderon - in Michael Jackson's Bad music video and Pacino's Sea of Love all watched in the last month by me - how weird) are. Calm, controlled and professional.

I mentioned Wesley Snipes role - its quite funny really, because his role is incredibly small but, in my opinion, is pivotal. His character is Thomas Flanigan and - as mentioned in the cops wedding sequence - he is one of very few (if any) African American cops and this is mocked by both Jimmy Jump and his cronies. One sequence when Jump manages to squeeze his way out of any arrest -an arrest that was humiliating and overblown managed to be squashed very quickly by Walkens top-end lawyers. CSI-cop spits in Jimmy's face. He wipes it off. But Snipes just stares at him - you question how much Jimmy cares but you can see the anger and frustration in Snipes face. Something that spitting-Caruso will never understand. It nevertheless evens the score - as humiliating as Jimmys arrest was and being spat in the face, Jimmy completely mocking the justice system and mocking Snipes position in the force was far more humiliating for Snipes himself. While discussing the race representation in the film, Walken himself is one of the very few white criminals - within a gangs of African-americans, Chinese, Columbians, Italians, etc. This racial divide gives Walken - by far the worst criminal of them all - the opportunity to not only mix within the underground groups but also the upper-class politicians and congressmen and women (to the point that a top-class female lawyer he goes out with represents him and his clients - wilfully, he even reduces her up-class status, as he has a quick fondle of her on the train, in the subway. Could she get more underground?), therefore gaining a political prescence in the city.

The irony is in the finale - his 'gang' and business is not wiped out. In fact, it is quite clear that they inevitably continued. Hence my choice of rank's words at the top of this overview. The unit deovted to catching Frank White are all wiped out. Two killed in a failed ambush that, in itself, was illegal and showed how corrupt the NYC police were, another killed at the funeral for the previously mentioned dead cops. (Frank pulls up in a limo, shotgun out, bang - killed). The last one is the only one with some sort of dignity. Frank has the power to get into his apartment and tell him his stance - as a businessman - then leaves under the assumption that he will stay out of his way. But he decides not to - appearing on the train Frank has got on for a showdown. Remember the cops are portrayed as di*kheads and, consequently, rank sprays him up with bullets and, in response, the cop manages to squeeze out one bullet.

We see Frank stumble away - was he shot? he see's the commotion of the streets and gets into a taxi. We see he's been shot in the belly. The music starts up as we see brilliant crane shots over all the New York cars residing around this one taxi ... the police surround the taxi. He drops his gun. He's dead. Alone in a taxi. I assume the point is that this one last cop - a decent man who was in no part of the failed attack on Franks crack-house - was the one that succeeded in their mission to catch him. Bishop (Victor Argo) is the cops name and he clearly is aware of the problem in the city and, to some extent, doesnt care anymore - its gone to far. The film lacks any hope for the future and this is merely pointing out the flaws in the legal system and the power of criminals and in this way, on a much smaller scale, it has themes which are similar to The Wire. A programme which, ultimately, is superior to King of New York, showing every side to the very complex story of crime, law and justice. If anything, it is this in comparison to The Wire that shows how TV is a better medium to present stories through.

Quickly - in Michael Jacksons music video to You Rock My World, Marlon Brando shows up as some Godfather-esque bad guy. When MJ first see's him, he says "bang bang" in a very similar tone to Walken as he leaves Bishops house. Maybe all of Brando's lines in that music video are taken form kick-ass Gangster films ... it would make sense whether this was referenced or whether, more likely, it is simply coincidence.