Characters A-Go-Go! (US)
My second collection of Chuck Jones cartoons, and yes the popcorn munching kids were out in force, as if it was put on for them or something.
The Hypo-Chondri Cat (7.5/10, with Claude the cat whose hypochondria allows two hungry mice to have a bit of fun with him), Elmer's Candid Camera (6/10, an early Merrie Melodies cartoon - before it was officially part of Warner Bros - with a barely recognisable and rather shiny Elmer and the one of the first appearances by Bugs Bunny. The action is gentler and less focused and the tunes are more wacky, but you can see the beginnings of what becomes the golden era). The Oscar-winning The Dot and the Line - A Romance in Lower Mathematics (7.5/10 - about as abstract as you can get about a straight starched line and his attempts to woo the dot of his dreams - better than it sounds), Hare Conditioned (6/10, another early Bugs Bunny one but Bugs is more recognisable as the thorn in the side of a department store manager who wants him taxidermied, and includes an early example - of many - of Bugs in drag). Cheese Chasers (8/10, a clever reversal of norms where mice hate cheese and poor Claude the cat can't eat mice. Darker humour than some but the best of this bunch). Guided Muscle is a Road Runner film (7/10, early enough not to feel tired and less repetitive than some examples) A Bear For Punishment (7.5/10, the long-suffering dad of Junior, the oversized, under-developed son who with his tolerant mother tries to make it the best Fathers Day ever), and finally Duck Dodgers in the 24 1/2th Century (7.5/10, where Daffy and Porky Pig end up sparring with Marvin the Martian over who stakes claim to Planet X and it's exclusive shaving cream minerals.)
Voluptuous Sleep (US) (review)
In a feat of scheduling genius, the same Duck Dodgers cartoon played before this started. C'est la vie. Voluptuous Sleeps' director, Betzy Bromberg is all about visual trickery. She's worked as a visual effects supervisor on several films you've almost certainly seen. Terminator 2, Last Action Hero, True Lies and more. But this film is perhaps what you get when you let someone from an effects department swig a bottle of brandy and then come to the front and do her own thing.
Her own thing it seems, is taking several arty shots of water - running from a tap, dripping to the ground, draining away through the natural channels in a stone, and then put them through a filter (or just turn the light off in her bathroom) to make it look ethereal and moody.
I was hoping for something Qatsi-like, like Samsara which I am hoping to see tomorrow, but it seemed the director was trying to say to me.. have you seen water up close? I mean have you, like, reeeeally looked at it? Look: here is some water up close. Now look at it for 2 minutes. Now look at this other water. And this.. isn't it just fascinating?
The first section was called 'Language as a Skin'. I didn't stay for the second. 2/10
Mr. Bugs Bunny (UK) (imdb)
So what I did was take time out to see this; an Omnibus special from 2001, a year before his death. It is one of thousands of programs available in the TV Heaven section of the museum, and had been highlighted by the festival because of it's obvious connections. Steven Spielberg, Matt Groening, John Lassetter and most importantly an elderly but still fully functioning Chuck Jones himself come together with clips from dozens of films, taking us through the early influences of Chaplain and the Marx Brothers, and up to the golden years of the Warner Bros. output. It's clear that there is some tension with Jones in the programme as it stops dead in the late 50's with little mention of his MGM output and nothing at all about his split with Warner Bros. and the thorny relations and slow decline of his cartoon output afterwards.
Instead, the hour is filled nicely with upbeat tales from Jones and some other surviving animators of the time, and platitudes from his famous fans who understandably list him amongst their major influences. 7.5/10
Late August, Early September (Fra) (wiki)
The Dot and the Line (above) played before this one just to rub in my schedule choices. D'oh.
Buoyed on by Oliver Assayas' brilliant Carlos from earlier in the week, I was anticipating this film, another in his retrospective. It's a complicated story about two friends, struggling authors Gabriel and Adrien and the relationships they have with the women in their life. Gabriel's ex girlfriend Jenny is now going out with Adrien, and Adrien has a questionable bit on the side with starstruck young teen Vera that Jenny has no knowledge of. Gabriel is trying to make a new life with Anna, but her fiery nature keeps her at arms length and he and Jenny can never quite let things go. The film charts six or so months in their lives as everyone hesitates with the life choices they made (usually involving puffing on a large number of cigarettes), especially when Adrian's health begins to degenerate due to an illness he is keen to assure everyone, is nothing like as bad as it is.
Assayas' melodrama is kept going at a rate enough for it to never get whimsical or cloying but never particularly reaches the emotional heights that it needed to do; none of the characters, who seem to not suffer from the normal breakup consequences that people outside of France have to deal with, are especially likeable, so when the inevitable happens I just didn't care enough to join them in their grief. It's a competent enough drama with a complicated tangle of relationships (read: don't watch if you're half distracted) that tries hard to capture your heart, but never quite succeeds. 7/10
Faust (Rus) (wiki)
Those crazy Fr... Russians.
Faust takes place in a remote coastal town, centring on a doctor taking the first stabs into the world of actually working out how things work rather than attaching leeches and hoping for the best. Top of the list is the location of the soul in the human body, by means of cutting them open and having a good old rummage around. Faust's father's profession is old hat, his random attempts at curing people have turned Faust into an early man of science.
One fateful day he meets with Mauricius Muller, a creepy looking pawnbroker who could get him some cash for medical research, but he doesn't seem interested in riches and wares. When a pub altercation ends with Faust killing the soldier brother of Margerete, a young woman who has captured his heart, Muller sees his chance to ask for something more useful - his soul, in return for her forgiving heart.
For many cinemagoing people, Faust will prove to be quite an impenetrable experience. Operatic acting - bumbling idiots and drooling beasts, fair maidens with heaving bosoms - but mercifully no musical numbers mean that you really have to concentrate and pick out the little bits that move the story on in among all the confusing bustle. It's undeniably beautiful to look at, it's barbarism harking back to it's very earliest roots, though this interpretation is set in the 19th century. Those who have read and digested Faust in some other form will probably be the ones that get the most out of this film; for others, it is a laboured experience. 6/10
Fast and Furry-Ous (US) - The first Road Runner cartoon is actually one of the best. Jones was still creating quite detailed backgrounds at this point in his career and it results in a noticeably different overall effect. The various forms of Road Runner-capturing devices are fresh and new here (a highlight being the ski/fridge method of propulsion) which makes it much more watchable. 7.5/10
The Raid (Indonesia/US) (site)
To clear out the fug left by Faust, how about a film where lots of people get horribly killed? The raid is a simple excuse for gratuitous violence, which it does very well indeed. Rama is a young cop with a pregnant wife who is about to go on a dangerous mission. Part of a team of 20 or so armed police, they are to storm a large, fifteen storey towerblock, a depressing concrete prison where a few remaining honest types keep their doors locked and their noses clean, lest they bother the large percentage of violent low-level criminals or worse still, vicious gangster and drug dealer Tama who resides on the top floor.
All goes according to plan until floor five and then all hell breaks loose as their until then stealth mission is compromised and they find themselves being fired on from all angles.
As far as I know, this is the first film that I have watched where for several scenes I have had to mop my brow when the action momentarily abated. The Raid is relentless like no other film I have ever seen, in it's violent, intensely choreographed action and you feel the punches, kicks, gunshots, stabs and bodies being flung against concrete posts that the actors must have gone through to get the shots. It's incredibly impressive and manages for the most part to come at you so strong that you just don't have time to think of it as a string of set-piece fights.
I joined the rest of the audience in the gasps, winces and sudden intakes of breath at what we were seeing, not quite believing that it wasn't all done with computers. If you want a film that can leave you winded and gasping just by looking at it, and you can stomach the bone-cracking scenes of barbarity, this is definitely the film for you. 8/10