Author Archives: Brad

Screener is moving to screenmachine.tv

The dream is over. And it’s only just begun! I’ll be blogging from now on with a whole team of talented young writers at Screen Machine (screenmachine.tv). All the content from Screener can be found on that page.

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MIFF09 review: ANTICHRIST (dir. Lars Von Trier)

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Review by Brad Nguyen

Lars Von Trier’s Antichrist is a shock to the system even when you know beforehand that the film involves cliterectomies and bloody ejaculations and graphic sex involving Willem Dafoe. But, like his previous films, Antichrist is intellectually stimulating even as it repels you, shifting from cute Lynchian surrealism in the first half to Bataillesque perversions in the second.

The film opens with Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg as a couple having wild animalistic sex while their child climbs out of his cot onto a window sill and falls to his death. The woman is distraught, crippled by grief and guilt. The man, a therapist, is more controlled in his emotions and undertakes to treat his wife as his patient. Her treatment leads the couple to their holiday home in the woods where evil supernatural forces conspire against the man and the woman’s grief transforms into crazed malevolence.

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Once again Lars Von Trier has sustained attacks from critics calling him a misogynist, but this point is not really sustained by the film, even if Lars Von Trier is admittedly walking a fine line. (Walking a fine line is probably not the right phrase. A woman is credited for being the film’s “misogyny expert” so it’s more like Lars Von Trier taking that fine line and beating it to a pulp.) The main concern of Von Trier in Antichrist is the stupidity of psychology as it attempts to tame the mysteriousness of the human psyche. Hence the dedication to Andrei Tarkovsky in the credits, meant as a knowingly ironic provocation and at the same time with absolute sincerity. As in Solaris, a rational man enters a physical space where the subconscious reigns with a mission to restore order. Willem Dafoe’s character doesn’t understand the grief that consumes his wife but determines to impose on her scientific explanations for her grief, complexes that he prepared earlier.

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The weirdness that follows is not so much inspired by Tarkovsky as by Bunuel and Dali – the cliterectomy that is performed by Charlotte Gainsbourg’s character on herself, seen in full view, recalls the slicing open of an eye in Un chien andolou only it’s much, much more shocking (Much). I suspect the Surrealists would approve of Antichrist.

But how to position the “misogyny” of Antichrist? We learn that the woman has been writing a thesis on “gynocide” in the woods but becomes convinced in the film that the witch hunts and the whole of history is proof of the evil of woman. She subsequently smashes Willem Dafoe’s penis in with a log. The least convincing argument is that Lars Von Trier actually believes women to be evil which leaves two explanations: The first explanation is that the “evil” of the woman is a projection of the man’s anxieties. The second explanation (which I like) is that the woman is audaciously appropriating misogyny. Her proclamations on the evils of women are not so much coherent arguments on the subject so much as a big fuck you to the man attempting to structure the psyche.

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Ritual spectatorship and capitalism in Jarmusch’s THE LIMITS OF CONTROL.

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Review by Brad Nguyen

I’m always up in arms about empty film references but what distinguishes Jim Jarmusch from, say, a Quentin Tarantino, is how he uses his film references as a jumping off point to make something new and meaningful. The point of the exercise is not in ‘getting’ the reference but in where he takes it. In The Limits of Control, as in Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai, Jarmusch is riffing off Jean-Pierre Melville’s Le Samourai but reconfigures it to create his most overtly political film yet. Continue reading

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To do: Uhh MIFF of course!

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Post by Brad Nguyen

  • TUESDAY 21st: Ang Lee is speaking via satellite at a very early screening of TAKING WOODSTOCK. [Cinema Nova] The cooler kids will be at the PHILOS-o-FACE launch. PHILOS-o-FACE usually makes images of philosophers’ faces into brooches (I have the Deleuze one) but they are making a special batch of directors’ faces for MIFF. At Kids in Berlin, 472 Victoria Street. [PHILOS-o-FACE]
  • THURSDAY 23rd: Some exciting new releases this week: Legendary action director John Woo tries on his wuxia epic with Red Cliff, American independent director Jim Jarmusch tries on his existential art-noir with Limits of Control and Sam Raimi returns to his horror roots with Drag Me to Hell.

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  • FRIDAY 24th: Opening night of the Melbourne International Film Festival which is running until August 9. I, of course, will be blogging and tweeting from the festival and, in the event that you should want to stalk and kill me, I’ve written up my MIFF schedule as a note on my Facebook page. Despite the slightly depressing popularist vibe of MIFF’s marketing campaign and the fact that most of the films are really just preview screenings for films that are being released this year by local distributors, there is still some interesting films on offer. I’m personally excited about the new Hirokazu Kore-eda film Still Walking and watching Willem Dafoe ejaculate blood and talk to a fox in Antichrist but, you know, to each their own. [MIFF]

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  • SUNDAY: Really one of the best films of the year that no one is talking about, Summer Hours (dir. Olivier Assayas) is playing in a matinee session. [Astor]

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In defence of BRUNO

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Review by Brad Nguyen

The comedy of Sacha Baron Cohen traffics in causing conservative outrage yet time and time again he courts criticism from what might be badly defined as the Liberal Media. SBC’s latest film, Bruno, in which he plays a flamboyant Austrian fashion journalist on a quest for celebrity stardom in America, is designed to make fun of American homophobia but critics are still calling Bruno a homophobic film. Are they right? Continue reading

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To do: BRUNO, STYLE WARS, ADVENTURELAND, OBSERVE AND REPORT and MAD MAX

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  • WEDNESDAY 8th: Sacha Baron Cohen’s Bruno opens wide. Following the mixture of mockumentary and real-life pranks of Borat but replacing the misogynist/antisemitic Kazakhstani reporter with an uber-camp fashion reporter from Austria, the film is bound to offend, I dunno, rednecks and gays without a sense of humour.

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  • THURSDAY 9th: Style Wars, a doco on the birth of hip-hop culture plays at the ACMI until Sunday 12th. Shot in NYC in the early 1980s, Tony Silver’s groundbreaking film documented the new language of hip hop – graffiti, rap, breakdance. [ACMI]

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  • FRIDAY 10th: Two recently released comedies that didn’t get much notice but we gave very good reviews for, Adventureland and Observe and Report are showing as a double bill at Astor. [Astor]

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  • SUNDAY 12th: Mad Max and Mad Max 2: The Roadwarrior are showing at the Astor. [Astor]

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Does Gervais’ THE INVENTION OF LYING trailer prove the law of diminishing returns?

serge-gainsbourg-Eric-ElmosninoIt’s really not a bad likeness. There are some new photos from the upcoming biopic of Serge Gainsbourg. Hopefully coming next year. [The Playlist]

mamaodieWho would have thought that racial stereotypes would actually become en vogue? First there was Sing Song, the bumbling Asian and the magical negroes of Australia! Very recently we’ve had the jive-talking illiterate black robots of Revenge of the Fallen. Now we have the upcoming Princess and the Frog to look forward to. Princess represents Disney’s return to 2D animation under the guiding hand of Pixar king John Lasseter. From the video linked, it seems assured that its jazz alligator, slack-jawed Cajun firefly and Mama Odie the comic-relief swamp witch doctor are bound to offend. The question is: how much? [Movieline] Continue reading

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