Friday, October 31, 2008

Hallowe'en Triple Bill

The glow-in-the-dark bats are glowing in the dark, the illuminated pumpkin is trying to disassociate itself from how crap a movie 'Halloween III: Season of the Witch' is, the nibbles are arrayed in bowls on the coffee table, the wine is poured and Paula pulls the first title out of the witches' cauldron.

Way-hey! One from the faves list.

PERSONAL FAVES: A Tale of Two Sisters

Getting the triple bill in and posting before midnight means thumbnail write-ups and this film suits brevity down to the ground. There's almost nothing you can say about it - you certainly can't get into a discussion about director Kim Jee-Woon's genius for misdirection and the keeping of crucial things under wraps - without spoiling the twist.

Although perhaps twist is the wrong word. Twist implies something that's thrown in at the last minute to take you by surprise. What 'A Tale of Two Sisters' has is one fuck-off big hum-dinger of a narrative development; it comes about two-thirds of the way through and forces you to re-evaluate everything you've seen up to this point. But Jee-Woon's not satisfied with that and the last half hour or so takes the film into ever darker territory.

Giving nothing away, I'll just say this: it's about guilt (this applies to more than one character); you might think that one of the characters is a ghost (they kind of are and aren't); pay attention to the cringeingly embarrassing dinner party (it's all about perspectives: who sees what).

It's a beautifully shot, incredibly well acted and infinitely creepy piece of work. It proves that 'The Ring' doesn't necessarily have the monopoly on freaky women with lank black hair creeping slowly towards you. It blends psychological horror with arguably the best take on the haunted house movie since Robert Wise's 'The Haunting'. It yields up its many facets and ambiguities with repeated viewings: think 'Memento' or 'The Prestige', but with the requirement that you shelter behind the sofa to watch much of it.


A short break, the topping up of drinks, a bit of mood music ('Danse Macabre' by Saint-Saens), then the next title is drawn:

Land of the Dead

The most maligned of Romero's zombie sequence (even the decidedly hit-and-miss 'Diary of the Dead' got better reviews). Nonetheless, 'Land of the Dead' is a film I enjoy for its socio-political themes, and one that I see as the logical conclusion of the critique of Americana that spans 'Night', 'Dawn' and 'Day' and pretty much makes 'Diary' superfluous. The zombies evolve, fall in behind a leader, revenge themselves on a surviving core of humanity who have become so inured they treat the living dead as sideshow entertainments. Maybe it should have been called 'Sympathy for the Dead'.

Plenty to love: Asia Argento's tough-chick performance; the 'Shaun of the Dead' stars in an inspired cameo; supporting roles by Dennis Hopper and John Leguizamo ("I still prefer him as Chichi," Paula comments*). Then there's the whole post-9/11 American insularity subtext ...

But enough. My musings on Romero's ground-breaking sequence have already been documented on this blog, here, here, here, here and here.


Another short break, another gothic tune (Mussorgsky's 'Night on the Bare Mountain'), then it's heads-down-and-see-you-at-the-end. Here we go: the final title is picked.


The Addams Family

Barry Sonnenfeld: a master of style over substance. Yes, 'The Addams Family' looks great. Yes, everyone's perfectly cast. Yes, it's a pleasant little diversion after the head-fuck of 'A Tale of Two Sisters' and the viscera of 'Land of the Dead', but I find myself wishing it was the sequel, with its gloriously subversive summer camp subplot and expanded role for Christina Ricci's deliciously deadpan Wednesday, that we were watching.

* 'To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar' up next on The Agitation of the Mind? Watch this space.

1 comment:

Meeg said...

I followed your recommendation and watched the Two Sisters last night. I'm still not sure I 100% understand what happened. ;)