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Bored Man, by David Wester

19 Jun

borgman

Borgman opens with three men, including a very angry-looking priest, who head into the woods heavily armed. They arrive at a spot in the middle of nowhere and start stabbing a giant stake into a hollow place under the ground. This hollow contains an underground lair, the home of the disheveled Borgman, their target. He, it seems, is well-prepared for such a disturbance, and as they attempt to kill him, he makes his way into a hidden tunnel, but only after throwing a smoke bomb to put his attackers off further. After escaping from these people, he then alerts two other men who are also living in similar underground apartments that it’s time for the three of them to move on. The opening sequence, such an amazing and assured silent cinematic set-piece, works so well, I felt like every cell in my body had leaned forward to find out just what on earth could be going on here.

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Home Video Hovel- Stranger By the Lake, by David Wester

12 May

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Stranger by the Lake takes place entirely at a lakeside beach where gay men cruise for sex. The nude bodies of the beach’s inhabitants become a commonplace sight as they swim, sunbathe, and stroll through the nearby woods in search of a place to engage in their sexual pursuits. As they walk through nature, mostly in silence and accompanied only by the sound of the wind whispering through the trees, they resemble ghosts going through an empty ritual they cannot help but endure for eternity, silent in their acquiescence to their fate. With its languid pace and world of characters in a state of constant sexualization, the film is suffused with a hazy, laid-back erotic air that is at once arousing and hypnotic.

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Home Video Hovel: Thale, by David Wester

7 May

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The protagonists of the Norwegian horror film Thale are old friends who are employed cleaning up crime scenes. As the film opens, they are scrubbing away the blood and brains of some poor dead soul after, one presumes, the cops have done all the investigatin’ they needed to do. One of duo is new to this line of work—he’s apparently filling in for someone more accustomed to such grisly employment—and, understandably, he keeps throwing up. This seems indicative of the rest of the film, which has flashes of interesting and novel ideas, but undercuts them at every opportunity. In this case, it defies logic that the throwing up fellow would be so employed, and while I applaud the main cleanup guy for throwing his friend a bit of work, I could not stop wondering why he didn’t hire someone who could do the job without making it worse by spraying his lunch everywhere.

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Home Video Hovel- Hostel/Hostel II, by David Wester

9 Oct

There’s nary a special feature to be found on this 2-movie disc of Hostel and Hostel: Part II, but, if I may suggest one, having some kind of a shuffle setting which played a random chapter from either movie for an hour and a half would be a good one for these two films.  Both are on the verge of being pretty good, and each has certain strengths that buttress the weaknesses of the other.  So if one had the option of somehow fusing them together in a strange, home-video Brundlepod, it seems likely that a good, borderline great movie would emerge (though, in some iterations of this experiment you’d no doubt end up with the cinematic equivalent of the dreaded inside-out baboon).  Alas, the two films lie apart forever, tragically split in two like the creatures in The Dark Crystal, complimentary halves of the same whole.

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Home Video Hovel- Missing in Action 2, by David Wester

24 Jun

As the title indicates, Missing in Action 2: The Beginning is a prequel to the Chuck Norris vehicle, Missing in Action, and, in the interest of full disclosure, I’ll confess I’m entirely unfamiliar with the first film save for glancing at its cover in the video stores of my youth.  I never felt as if this got in my way of evaluating Missing in Action 2, which is, as far as I can tell, self-contained enough to be appreciated (or not) on its own.  It is also, at its best, unremarkable, a passable genre programmer with TV production values and unmemorable action scenes.  What is fascinating, though, is its place in the post-Vietnam pop culture landscape, a representative piece of the culture’s attempt to come to terms with this divisive war.

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Home Video Hovel- Girl on a Motorcycle, by David Wester

1 May

Girl on a Motorcycle opens with a rousing, spirited credit sequence, horns giddily blaring in the score and the names of cast and crew whooshing along with shots moving low and fast on an empty road (not nearly as technically competent as that of Lost Highway’s opening, but ultimately the same idea).  There are more moments of such simple grandeur in the film that follows, but hardly enough to sustain the picture over its 90 or so minutes.  Yet, while the film’s structure is wobbly and doesn’t adequately carry it from beginning to end, it is nevertheless an affecting tale of a woman torn between safety and passion.  It’s directed and photographed by Jack Cardiff, a cinematographer of some note (The Red Shoes and Black Narcissus), and there’s enough sophistication in the handling of the material that the film, amazingly, rises above some of its weaker elements.  The story follows the travels of an ennui-stricken housewife on the way to her sometime lover by way of a fetishized Harley Davidson.  As she makes the journey, the film flashes back to her memories of the moments in her life that led her to this place of desperation.  In so doing, it resembles something akin to Roger Corman’s Wild Strawberries with a dash of Belle de Jour thrown in for good measure.

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Home Video Hovel- Killer’s Moon, by David Wester

23 Apr

Killer’s Moon is a peepshow, first and foremost, a threadbare cinematic excuse to peek under the nightgowns of a few young women and then move on with your life and forget about it.  I’m sure that the intended effect was that of a thriller, but the cues for its actual, subtextual purpose being to provide exploitative, gratuitous female nudity to a leering audience are too overbearing to ignore.  As a film it is, as such films often are, barely literate with perfunctory camera work (this shit’s in focus!), acting that wouldn’t pass muster at a community theater in Kansas (and I can say that because I’ve done community theatre in Kansas), and molasses-in-January pacing (I have no experience with molasses whatsoever).  The plot involves a group of madmen harassing and raping the aforementioned young women after their bus breaks down near an English hotel, and so it goes with one young actress after another baring her skin in the context of sexual violence and some dashing leading men who were camping nearby eventually leading them to safety.  It, perhaps, says more about me than I would like to admit, but the only suspense I felt during the depressing, interminable proceedings was wondering which of these actresses was going to be one of the naked ones.  C’est la vie.

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Home Video Hovel- Jess + Moss

18 Mar

As the title would suggest, Jess + Moss zeroes in on the relationship between its two main characters, putting the titular pair under microscopic scrutiny. Jess is a girl out of high school who still behaves like a young child and Moss is a young child, not quite pubescent, but getting awfully close. Both are quasi-orphans – his parents died in a car accident and he now lives with his grandparents; her mother left her with an emotionally absent father – and they spend, it would seem, most of their time together, nurturing an intense bond that bears resemblance to a brother-sister relationship but is also constantly stalked by the lurking specter of their burgeoning sexuality. Set against the beautiful desolation of the rural Midwest, they play and talk in abandoned, dilapidated houses, wrecked cars and endless waves of grain (it’s so narrow in its focus on these two and its settings are in such a state of decay that for a time it seems like it might be a post-apocalypse film). As a character study, it’s often precociously aimless and plagued with some amateur filmmaking gestures but, by the end, it’s also surprisingly affecting. Though you never quite feel like the movie digs deep enough into its characters, it still manages to explore their peculiar friendship with enough poignant details to render its conclusion moving and earned.

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Home Video Hovel- Summer Holiday

8 Mar


While it is an unrewarding film, Summer Holiday earns some measure of goodwill for its restrained, honest depiction of the confusion and unease that can nearly destroy a marriage when one of the partners is at a turning point in their life.  This Romanian drama employs a familiar fly-on-the-wall aesthetic—long takes with natural lighting, seemingly improvisatory performances, naturalistic dialogue suffused with minutia—to depict a, frankly, banal mid-life crisis suffered by a thirty-something man named Bogdan who is chafing at the constraints of adulthood.  The film is well observed throughout and features some strong acting, but it’s ultimately a shallow affair that never manages to wring any real drama from this oft-told tale.

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