REQUIEM – Suffocating in 1970s’ must and tapestry

May 21, 2008 at 10:38 pm | Posted in Film | 8 Comments
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[This entry is part of Raccoon’s Production Design Blog-A-Thon, which began on May 25 and runs through May 25th. Please consider joining us with your own post on the topic.]

Exorcisms continue to fascinate our enlightened age. Even though in real life, we have replaced our demons by terrorists, immigrants or feminists – whatever lends itself to project ‘otherness’ on it -, it seems as if many people enjoy the sight of gooey, exploding bodies of the kind we were able to witness in the 1973 classic The Exorcist.

2005 and 2006 saw the release of two films dedicated to the same tragic case of contemporary exorcism: In 1976 in Bavaria, Anneliese Michel died from hunger, following a months longs exorcism that was performed on her by two catholic priest, at the request and with the consent of her family.* Scott Derrickson’s the The Exorcism of Emily Rose (which I haven’t seen, but have read up upon and then wasn’t keen to watch) is said to be classic Hollywood fare, where the question whether the female lead character is indeed obsessed or just mentally ill is never raised – the demons that allegedly possessed her are even allowed to find incarnation as coherent characters.

Requiem Movie 2006

Hans-Christian Schmid’s Requiem, by comparison, is a quiet little film that, almost like a documentary, traces the story of Michaela Klinger (this film’s Anneliese Michel) and her attempts to find a place for herself in life when she leaves home for the first time to study theology, and how the mental illness she’s been battling catches up with her, ruining her frail friendships and, with much much aid from her pious family, eventually her health and ends her life.

Requiem does not need any goo or artificial bodily fluids: The entire film is tinted with the patina that we associate with 1970s’ photographs – probably because this is indeed the colour of these photographs, or probably because our media experience has taught us to map aesthetics and memory that way. Production designer Christian M. Goldbeck, who also collaborated with Schmid on Lichter/Distant lights and with Hans Weingartner on the ‘smash hit’ Die fetten Jahre sind vorbei/The Edukators, sets the scene for a suffocating trip into the 1970s where the brownish colour of wall-to-wall carpeting seems to smother all of Michaela’s hopes and ambitions.

The only lights that ever seem to enter her world are the pilgrim’s offertory candles – set against the religious backdrop of her family, these lights are no beacon of hope. The brown colours and faded wallpapers of her family home are replaced only by the cork pin-board and fabric wallpaper of a little room in a student dormitory – her plans to escape, as soon becomes manifest, are futile.

The breakfast room of a cheap hotel, where the family stops on one of their pilgrimages (which you can see in this trailer below at minute 1:13-1:16) is the place where her hopes are finally shattered – trapped between cumbersome furniture, Michaela has another psychotic episode; this happening exactly on a pilgrimage, and under they eyes of convinced catholics, seals her doom.

The film hardly ever switches to a brighter colour pattern – even in Michaela’s brief phase of happiness, where she goes to bars and falls in love to the tunes of 1970s’ psychedelic rock, the colours remain pasty, liveless, washed-out. Once she is brought back home, the musty brownish tapestry and furnitures reappear, lock her inside, until her death. ‘Requiem’, instead of going down the splatter path, shows the real horrors of traditional family structures in a part of Bavaria where enlightenment, sexual liberation or the opening of mental wards never took place.

Unfortunately, I don’t have the DVD here, but I tried to find as many screenshots as possible on the web and added some that I took from the trailer. A little more info can also be found on the film’s official website. (images after the jump if you’re coming through my blog homepage)

Continue Reading REQUIEM – Suffocating in 1970s’ must and tapestry…

Production Design Blog-a-thon coming up!

May 11, 2008 at 3:47 pm | Posted in Film | 5 Comments
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I think I am going to contribute my share by looking at Hans-Christian Schmidt’s Requiem and the way that it selectively confirms and shapes our ‘memory’ of the 1970s, by design.

Austria Wins an Oscar!!!

February 25, 2008 at 7:29 am | Posted in Film | 4 Comments
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And the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film of the Year goes to:
The Counterfeiters | Die Fälscher

Karl Markovics

New York Times Review of The Counterfeiters

Oscar für Stefan Ruzowitzkys “Die Fälscher”

R.I.P. Heath Ledger: No More Brokeback Reunions

January 22, 2008 at 11:41 pm | Posted in Entertainment, Film, Life | Leave a comment
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Minutes before going to bed I read that Heath “BrokeBack Mountain” Ledger died – devastating!

Perez Hilton writes:

At 3:31 p.m., a masseuse arrived at Apartment 5A in the building for an appointment with Mr. Ledger, police said.

The masseuse was let in to the home by a housekeeper, who then knocked on the door of Mr. Ledger’s bedroom. When no one answered, the housekeeper and the masseuse opened the bedroom and found Mr. Ledger unconscious.

They shook him, but he did not respond. They immediately called the authorities. The police said they did not suspect foul play and said they found pills near the body.

Read the Google News on his tragic death. He was only 28 – 5 years my junior! It’s been a while that Academy Award winners died that young.

Vaginal matters: Teeth and keepers

January 19, 2008 at 6:58 pm | Posted in Feminism, Film, Health, Women | 4 Comments
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I was just stunned to see that one of the oldest patriarchal myths has been revived: The vagina dentata, the toothed fanny, reenters the stage in the form a new horror movie: Teeth, the story of a female teenager who – luckily – is the president of a local chastity group – until an act of violence afflicted upon her lets her find out about this physical peculiarity.

I am not a good watcher of horror movies, although they do intrigue me, precisely because of their obsession with the repressed fears and desires of their present times. The first five minutes of Teeth made me want to see more – but I fear I’d have to keep my eyes closed or watch the film through the fabric of a lightly-knitted jumper for most of the time. 😛

And while we’re dealing with vaginal matters: I came across The Unreliable Narrator‘s blog and she has some weird stuff on her blog roll: A total of 13 links to pages who specialize in ‘alternative menstrual products’. Two types of products can be found in all online stores:

  • Reusable menstrual pads, coming in all kinds of fancy designs (zebra, floral, animals, camouflage…)
  • Latex or plastic cups (‘keepers’) to insert into your vagina to collect the flow (rather than absorbing it like tampons)

Wow. The first means that you’d have to carry around stacks of flannel pads (both unused and used), the second means that you’d have to empty and wash the cup before inserting it again (which – agreed – reduces waste; yet would you want to empty and wash your cup in a public restroom?). Does anybody know whether this product sells in Europe as well? Anyway, it sounds like such an unlikely thing to be successful in a country (i.e. USA) where feminine washes are available in every drug store – yet the USA, thankfully, also produced the most uncompromising feminists. Here is an interesting statement from one of the ladies using the ‘keeper’:

“I recently ordered my Keeper and think that it is the 8th wonder of the world. I am a graduate student of Psychology at Connecticut College and because of my love for my Keeper, have decided to conduct a research project assessing attitudes towards alternative forms of menstrual management. I hypothesize that participants who display an interest in alternative products will possess more accurate knowledge about menstruation, more positive attitudes toward menstruation and/or heightened awareness of environmental issues and feminism.” — JL, New London, CT

Below is a sample of those reusable pads, and a plastic version of a keeper:

Pads and Keepers

The Future of Cinema, according to David Lynch

January 12, 2008 at 12:37 pm | Posted in Film | Leave a comment
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Convergent media are propelling us into the multimediaverse. Watch and listen what David Lynch has got to say about the future of cinema and the special appeal of films being watched on a gadget (like a telephone).

This is not an iPhone commercial, somebody merely made it look that way

Go watch “Eastern Promises” (this is an order!)

January 6, 2008 at 11:57 am | Posted in Film, Popular Culture | 14 Comments
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Viggo MortensenFriday night we went to see Cronenberg’s latest movie “Eastern Promises” which once more features Viggo Mortensen (also starring in A History of Violence from 2005, the previous Cronenberg film). I don’t regret the least bit that Cronenberg has over the years left the path of sexual horrors (e.g. Rabid* or The Brood**, one of the weirdest conceivable stories possible) and is now dedicating his attention to the more banal, yet more sickening horrors of what people can do to each other. To me, the latter is much more edifying.

Eastern Promises is a story about the Russian mafia in London: A 14 year-old prostitute dies during child-birth, leaving behind a daughter and a diary. A nurse (Naomi Watts) confiscates the diary and does her own research – which takes her right into the beehive of the vory v zakone (“Thieves in Law”, a term used to describe the Russian mafia). Viggo Mortensen plays Nikolai or Kai, the toughest of them all, but since he is not family, he needs to carve out a career for himself by serving as a driver and henchman to Kirill (Vincent Cassel), the son of big dog Semyon (Armin Mueller-Stahl). Of course Semyon is not to pleased about the nurses’ interest in his family’s past and present business.

Mortensen refuses to be called a method actor, but nonetheless went through considerable efforts to get into character: He learned Russian, spent a couple of months in Russia and went to Russian bars in full gear, i.e. with the tattoos on his body that Russian mafiosi (supposedly) sport (and when he went there, some people, nervously, moved further away from him).

I’d like to be able to watch and listen to the movie with Russian ears and eyes, as none of the main characters is played by a Russian – yet it seems they all do a pretty good job at blending in (only Mueller-Stahl has a notable German accent in his speech).

The most memorable features of the film: On the one hand Mortensen’s acting, in particular his interaction with Cassel (whom I adore ever since I saw him in La haine) and with Watts (who gets to play the least interesting, occasionally annoying character of all – like women often do – in that she constantly does things that make you go “no, don’t, how can you be so stupid” – if this were a horror movie, she’d be the one to say ‘I’ll be right back’). On the other hand, of course, there’s Cronenberg’s superb direction, in particular his honest, straightforward approach to the representation of violence. No frills, no guns, just a naked knife fight, but what a fight! It made the whole audience moan. And Steven Knight’s screenplay has a few stunning twists in stall.

Denise Cronenberg was once more the costume designer – and we can be grateful for her job. At least I am grateful for every costume designer who does not expose us to the candy floss world of American prime time series, but instead attempts to show us real people in their natural environment.

*Rabid: A young woman develops a taste for human blood after undergoing experimental plastic surgery, and – by penetrating her victims with a small phallus growing in her armpit, turns them into rabid, blood-thirsty zombies who proceed to infect others, which turns into a city-wide epidemic.
**The Brood: A man’s wife is under the care of an eccentric psychiatrist who uses innovative and theatrical techniques to breach the psychological blocks in his patients. When their daughter comes back from a visit with mom and she’s covered with bruises and welts, the father attempts to bar his wife from seeing the daughter, but faces resistance from the secretive psychiatrist. Meanwhile, the wife’s mother and father are attacked by deformed children, and the husband begins to suspect a connection with the psychiatrist’s methods. Turns out these children are the brood of the women, children she gives birth to using an external reproductive organ whenever she gets angry.

Blackmail: Hitchcock’s Last Silent and First Talking Picture

December 16, 2007 at 11:38 am | Posted in Film | Leave a comment
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I saw two wonderful Alfred Hitchcock movies yesterday at the Filmmuseum in Vienna – they are currently putting on a review of his complete works. I first saw The Lady Vanishes from 1938 (which I always wanted to see because it’s referenced in When Harry Met Sally, a film I’ve analyzed to death – and it is hilarious), and then Blackmail (1929).

The curious thing about Blackmail is that it was filmed as a silent picture, but with the plan to synchronize it afterwards. As a result, the dialog often seems to be slowed down, or the voice and particularly laughter set in a little bit later than you’d expect from the movement; atmospheric sound and voices do not really seem to correlate, yet this gives the movie a rather interesting, artistic atmosphere. The actors’ faces still echo the expressive spectrum of a silent movie – Anny Ondra in particular is one of loveliest faces to be gazed at in a talking picture ever.

She couldn’t cope with the transition though – she was an Austrian-Hungarian citizen, and her heavy accent disqualified her for the synchronized version. Here is Hitchcock’s first sound check, with Anny’s real voice – not the one to be heard later in the movie. The mentioned “squad van” is a reference to Blackmail.

87% of mainstream block buster movies will let you down

December 1, 2007 at 10:14 pm | Posted in Film | 4 Comments
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Once again I watched a movie that my gut feeling had previously stopped me from watching – and found it to be as dull and boring as I biasedly thought it would be.

Chocolat (UK/USA 2000) – not even the chocolate is right, or since when were Mayan chocolates, spiced with chili, a thing that anybody craved for in the late 1950s? The main character, played by Juliette Binoche, is filled by an unbearable desire to do good to the people around her, ideally by the means of chocolate, and the audience eventually has to buy the message that it was better for the old lady Amande, who suffers from diabetes, to ruin her health happily by drinking gallons of hot chocolate, even though this leads to a premature death. Johnny Depp is the blandest gypsy ever, and the fact that not even the defamatory pamphlets to expel the gypsies are in French doesn’t make it better either.

I should really stop watching mainstream cinema.

Another Breathtaking Western: “The Missouri Breaks”

September 23, 2007 at 5:17 pm | Posted in Film | 4 Comments
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In a way my favourite film thus far in the Filmmuseum’s “The Wild Bunch” programming is: The Missouri Breaks (USA 1976, directed by Arthur Penn), starring Jack Nicholson and Marlon Brando, with the former appearing after 10, the latter no earlier than 30 minutes into the movie. And it’s those two actors who are giving the film an unusual flavour, considering it’s a Western. Nicholson does his Nicholson thing, yet in careful doses. Too much talking can kill a Western, but the few times that he gets the chance to exchange a few more lines he excels at it – it’s all in the voice and some carefully administered facial expressions.

The exchanges with Kathleen Lloyd as Jane Braxton (daughter of the rancher who got one of Tom Logan’s a.k.a. Nicholson’s cattle-rustling buddies hanged) in particular are hysterically funny. She is putting the moves on him and he decides to be shy… Kathleen Lloyd was fantastic in her role – but she didn’t even get credited in the festival programme, and I just had to add her name to the Wikipedia article on the movie. How odd!

Marlon BrandoOh, and the old man Marlon Brando. He plays a lilac-smelling ‘regulator’, hired to put an end to cattle rustling around the Braxton ranch. The character already has a taste of the insanity of a Colonel Kurtz, yet also a hint of Mrs. Doubtfire and Tootsie, as odd as that may sound.

And we get no happy end, no we don’t. Love and romance don’t get a chance on the frontier, not in 1976, and not if Nicholson and Brando are in it.

Photographs: Hiroshima after the bombing

September 17, 2007 at 8:49 am | Posted in Film, Photography | 3 Comments
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I had never seen these photographs before. I watched Hiroshima mon amour 10 years ago (France 1959, directed by Alain Resnais), which made me feel so sick, yet is one of the most remarkable films ever. The very fact that it exists is remarkable. In the meantime I have obviously suppressed the memory. This was a refresher: Somebody called Fogonazos has posted Pictures they didn’t want us to see’. I think it’s worthwhile looking at them again now. Nuclear radiation turns you into charcoal immediately if you happen to stick around ground zero.

[» Link to Photographs].

I admit I also didn’t know about the discrimination of the Hibakusha (“those affected by an explosion”) that Fogonazo reports:

[The Hibakusha] and their children were (and still are) victims of severe discrimination due to lack of knowledge about the consequences of radiation sickness, which people believed to be hereditary or even contagious. Many of them were fired from their jobs. Hibakusha women never got married, as many feared they would give birth to deformed children. Men suffered discrimination too. “Nobody wanted to marry someone who might die in a couple of years”.

Or give a job to such a person.

The comments below the pictures inevitably jump right into the comparison of Hiroshima and 9/11, or rather 75,000 immediate killings (and a double number who died later; plus the victims of Nagasaki) vs. 2974 (plus 25 still missing). I really shouldn’t embark on this discussion yet it makes me sick to the bone that civilized countries develop bombs which they call Little Boy and Fat Man and turn against hundreds of thousands of civilians.

I should stop believing in mainstream cinema

September 9, 2007 at 8:50 am | Posted in Film | 11 Comments

Last night I turned down a friend who wanted to go out because
a) I had to get up early this morning and
b) because Bridget Jones was on the telly.

I didn’t know it but since it has already became an important element of popular folklore I thought it would be worthwhile knowing it.

Ok, now I know it. It’s not worthwhile knowing it. It’s only good for pointing out that things are far worse than I often think. No woman should be confronted with representations of women as deriding as these.

The overwhelming showdown of Logan’s Run

September 7, 2007 at 9:38 pm | Posted in Film | 14 Comments
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Sob! I am right now watching Logan’s Run (USA 1976) in the telly (the first time ever that I have more than three TV channels!), and the end is soooo delightful – when the 30year olds consecrated to death finally spot the old man and touch and caress him…. next movie on is Once Were Warriors (new Zealand 1994) – am trying to make up for all the movies I missed in the past three years.

Here are a few fashionable moments from Logan’s Run – lemme know if you find the showdown on youtube ore somewhere!

Don’t (Grindhouse Fake Trailer)

August 8, 2007 at 10:45 am | Posted in Film | Leave a comment
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And here is another one of the fake trailers that accompanied Grindhouse: Don’t, directed by Edgar Wright, which I like even better. It seems the trailer below has been filmed from the screen – or maybe that’s part of the intended appearance.

Werewolf Women of the SS

August 6, 2007 at 9:56 am | Posted in Film | 3 Comments
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The fake trailer directed by Rob Zombie that I missed in the theatre because the Tarantino/Rodriguez double feature was released as two separate films in Europe.

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