Author Topic: The Kings and Queen of Extreme: Greenaway, von Trier and Breillat  (Read 12915 times)

1SO

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Re: The Kings and Queen of Extreme: Greenaway, von Trier and Breillat
« Reply #30 on: September 16, 2011, 11:16:36 PM »
I was excited for Elements of Crime, but I also found it too up its own ass to enjoy. All I remember these many years later are shots of lightbulbs (maybe in a tunnel) and a pretty amazing image of (dead?) horses being raised up by a harness.

Congrats, on making it through a rather difficult section of films. Looking ahead, the next 7 films make up what is perhaps the most interesting section of this marathon. If you reach Europa and have found nothing satisfactory, I'd consider revising or even ending your project.
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Bondo

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Re: The Kings and Queen of Extreme: Greenaway, von Trier and Breillat
« Reply #31 on: September 17, 2011, 12:52:19 AM »
Eight films in both Salo and The Draughtsman's Contract have been pretty strong successes so it's not just been a terrible slog. I was thinking of taking a second look at my list and paring things a little, but I didn't see anything immediately that I wanted to cut out so I guess for now full steam ahead. One place I could cut is to skip rewatching Pillow Book and 8 1/2 Women, the former I remember the liking and the latter I remember being kind of crap.

I think I'm adding Baise-Moi and perhaps one of the explicit films under von Trier's production company that got some praise and was rated as a top film of its sort made for/by women. It could be an intriguing detour.
« Last Edit: September 17, 2011, 12:59:02 AM by Bondo »

Bondo

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Re: The Kings and Queen of Extreme: Greenaway, von Trier and Breillat
« Reply #32 on: September 27, 2011, 10:03:50 PM »
A Zed and Two Noughts (Peter Greenaway, 1985)

About halfway into this film, I was in the mood to give it a 3/5. But then it just kept going and it wore out my resistance. This is one of the longest feeling two hour films I've experienced. It isn't particularly slow in its pacing exactly, it just doesn't really go anywhere. You've got twins, Oswald and Oliver, whose wives die in a car crash, leaving them, in their grief, obsessed with evolution and decay, symbolized by their watching a long documentary on the history of life on Earth and of taking time-lapse photography of decaying animals. Other characters factor in in less interesting ways that provide more opportunity for nudity (ever Greenaway with both male and female nudity). I give ZOO a little credit for enough ideas that I was with it for a while but it just isn't a film I'd recommend.

2/5

P.S. I'm gonna have to skip ahead to Breillat's Anatomy of Hell due to Netflix Instant expiration looming tomorrow night.

1SO

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Re: The Kings and Queen of Extreme: Greenaway, von Trier and Breillat
« Reply #33 on: September 27, 2011, 10:52:30 PM »
I will defend that Greenaway is an excellent case for trying not to get so hung up on a developing plot. There are enough themes and repeating concepts going on to be worth my time no matter how little is happening to move things forward. He tends to direct like The Five Obstructions where he'll film what appears to be the same 20 pages of script 5 different ways. What makes him a great director is how he chooses to differentiate the tellings of that same story.
I wonder if this will be a constant problem with you. The only Greenaway film with a nice pace is Drowning By Numbers, and that's because you can count along with it. (It's also perhaps the most obvious version of him telling the same story over and over.)

Good news is when you do come back to the right order, Medea is only 75 min.

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Bondo

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Re: The Kings and Queen of Extreme: Greenaway, von Trier and Breillat
« Reply #34 on: September 27, 2011, 10:58:25 PM »
Thinking back to Pillow Book and 8 1/2 Women I guess I can see your point about lack of plot development, yet at least in the former case I liked the film. Maybe the problem is I was never entirely sold on this one thematically. You could probably say that Draughtsman's Contract spins its wheels a little but I never felt that one dragging too much.

I should say that I liked the little bits with the daughter matching the alphabet to animals that harkens back heavily to Greenaway's shorts.

MartinTeller

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Re: The Kings and Queen of Extreme: Greenaway, von Trier and Breillat
« Reply #35 on: September 27, 2011, 11:29:40 PM »
I should say that I liked the little bits with the daughter matching the alphabet to animals that harkens back heavily to Greenaway's shorts.

If you pay attention, you'll find a number of these connections as you explore Greenaway.  He definitely has his pet obsessions.  Few directors are more self-referential.
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Bondo

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Re: The Kings and Queen of Extreme: Greenaway, von Trier and Breillat
« Reply #36 on: September 28, 2011, 09:46:49 PM »
Anatomy Of Hell (Catherine Breillat, 2004)

There is one point in this film that the woman (the characters are unnamed) asks if she lost dignity by doing that in front of the man. I won't specify what that is but it hints at the theme. This is a film a bit about exposing that which is made private largely because of the fears and insecurities of man.

Some have accused this film of homophobia, presumably because the woman recruits a gay man to kind of torture with her body and implies to some degree that homosexuality is caused by male revulsion with the female body/female sexuality. To the degree that some gay guys do have an eww, lady parts reaction, it is clearly caused by their sexuality, not the cause of it. So it's a bit weird, but I think the role of having the guy be gay is to remove sexual desire from the frame to talk more broadly.

If I viewed this film as speaking at a personal level, I'd actually be willing to accuse it of being anti-male, because it would be unfair to accuse this individual man of mankind's sins without any indication that he deserves it. But this is a symbolic film, likely one of the reasons for the generic character titles. It really is man and woman as broad groups, ultimately commenting on patriarchy.

Though it would never happen, this film would actually be a useful component of sex education (at a much older age naturally). In commenting frankly on various things; body hair, periods, sex toys, etc that are seen as revolting/threatening to any male ideas of virginal (adolescent) purity and ownership, I think it does quite a service in forcing male viewers to deal with these things and hopefully work toward overcoming them. Though the film has its actress completely naked virtually through the whole film and the actor often naked, and it includes some rather close up views, the most shocking element here is in its explicit depiction, in flashback, of a childhood game of doctor, which I suppose could either be the first moment of revulsion or a contrasting moment of purity.

Anyway, I feel like there are details that I wasn't picking up on. Sometimes the film felt like, while I was understanding the individual words, when put together I lost the meaning that almost felt like it was occurring off frame. Still, I found a great deal of interest in the film's style here. Of course having jumped out of order to watch this film I kind of pity losing the steady chronological progression for Breillat that took her from the rather lacking filmmaker of her first two films to this success (and the very competent hand that provided Bluebeard, which I had seen prior to the marathon). At least this reassures me that Beillat isn't one to write off.

4/5
« Last Edit: September 28, 2011, 09:50:04 PM by Bondo »

Bondo

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Re: The Kings and Queen of Extreme: Greenaway, von Trier and Breillat
« Reply #37 on: October 04, 2011, 07:46:49 PM »
Medea (Lars von Trier, 1988)

I wasn't really familiar with the story of Medea before seeing the dance based on the greek tragedy as part of Wiseman's La Danse. Based on that great film, I had a keen interest in the story going into this one. The first impression one gets watching von Trier's Medea is that it appears to be filmed on the camera technology of the ancient Greeks. This is a pretty ugly looking film, which is a pity because what it is shooting poorly looks magnificent. It certainly suggests medieval Scandinavia more than Greece and takes its time with lots of long shots of windswept fields of grass (Sam take notice).

Unfortunately, this Scandinavian iciness or austerity carries through to the telling of the tale. If you know the story of Medea, I feel like it goes without saying that it is a story of passion or madness. The actors don't do much to express this (though von Trier does sometimes with camera tricks). I guess it goes back to that classic concern with films about relationship disintegration, if you don't show me what is being lost, it is hard for me to care. This also kind of gets into one of those irksome storylines that I've complained about with Chicago, Adam's Rib and others (including Carrie Underwood's Next Time He Cheats) where women choose illegal/immoral approaches to respond to a husband's violation rather than legal avenues, though arguably the ancient setting's disempowerment of Medea goes further toward justifying her reaction to her husband's betrayal. It is interesting that this story dates back so far with its misguided approach to feminism.

Anyway, for the second straight film I find von Trier kind of getting in his own way at times. Though I have enjoyed his daring if not entirely his filmmaking in some of his efforts in the 00s, I think his films are a good candidate for some trimming in the marathon. Anyone who wants to chime in with those on the list that I should keep, let me know. The Idiots, Dogville and Meloncholia are probably sure to stay around. Breaking The Waves? Europa? What's the word?

2/5

1SO

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Re: The Kings and Queen of Extreme: Greenaway, von Trier and Breillat
« Reply #38 on: October 04, 2011, 08:02:31 PM »
arguably the ancient setting's disempowerment of Medea goes further toward justifying her reaction to her husband's betrayal.

Inarguably. To say arguably is to miss the entire point of the story. Desperate times call for desperate measures. You can't look at her actions through a modern eye. It's like arguing that if they had cell phones the entire mess could have been avoided all together.

I can't tell if you're knocking the cinematography or praising it. The ugly look matches the story perfectly and Von Trier manages to find some poetry in the images without betraying the realism of the time period.

Von Trier always gets in his own way. It's part of his charm. From the stylized splashes of color interrupting the pristine B&W of Europa to the stage setting of Dogville. Von Trier sets up rules and then breaks them to see how you react.

If this is truly a marathon of Extreme Cinema you can easily cut Europa, which is perhaps his least offensive work. Breaking the Waves is long, but it remains his masterpiece. I'd hesitate to see it go, though I worry about your endurance. (Perhaps Katrin Cartlidge can help sustain your interest.)
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Bondo

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Re: The Kings and Queen of Extreme: Greenaway, von Trier and Breillat
« Reply #39 on: October 04, 2011, 08:12:40 PM »
The resolution of reality in ancient times was just as high as it is today, though the eye sight of the people was not as well corrected for. I see no reason to use grainy images to tell old stories. It was excusable when technical limitation was the reason, not so much as artistic choice.

As to the thematic point...whether set in the present or in ancient Greece, you are still accepting that a woman has to get back at a man who betrays her rather than moving on. I wasn't saying the time doesn't matter though, I was trying to draw contrast to the current tales of the same sort that work much worse at a time where women can work and own property and can more reasonably just ditch the bastard. Medea works as shallow morality tale but they could have played up what cost Medea faced beyond the emotional one. Let me feel how much worse her life is going to be as a result.