Two films I just finished:
Bronson is not a date movie, though I’d love to hear from someone that gives that a shot. It is, however, a great film exploring the life and legend of one of Britain’s most famous inmates. This is one that stuck with me, as most things that can simultaneously pull off being strange, well-written, violent, and hysterical often do. Stars Tom Hardy and Matt King, directed by Nicolas Winding Refn. Tom Hardy’s performance is a truly great one, and the soundtrack is top-notch. This has been out for some time overseas and just snuck into video stores in the Bible Belt recently. That’s a shame, really, because British flicks are quite good.
If you take the time to watch the trailer I lovingly added above, you will no doubt notice the critical comparison to A ClockWork Orange, the Anthony Burgess novel/Stanley Kubrick film that everyone should read/see several times in their lifetime. While that comparison is a blatantly obvious one, and Refn does nod to Kubrick several times in his film, these are different films with different purposes. I think. The film does not ebb and flow evenly in terms of pace, but I liked that. It almost explodes at you at times, then disappears into a fucked-up kabuki theatre format for a bit. Made the narrative as a whole more unique. And it didn’t remind me of a Guy Ritchie flick. Good stuff, worth checking out.
Directed by Matteo Garrone
In Italian, with subtitles
This is a remarkable film. Let me begin by stating that I am a fan of the mafioso genre. The Godfather Saga, Goodfellas, Casino, Once Upon a Time in America, Road to Perdition (sort of), The Sopranos…all exceptional. I can’t stand Scarface though. Anyway, the genre always makes for good story-telling. For those of us that choose to never act on those thoughts of being a gangster or criminal mastermind, a nice mafia flick is the ultimate in escapism. But should the traits that permeate the genre and give the Michael Corleones and Tony Sopranos their clout be seen as admirable? That question and countless others have been asked about films forever; the idealizing of the out-cast, the criminal, the sympathetic sociopath. And several US films have looked at the brutal side of the life, no doubt. Who can forget Layla playing softly in the background for the executions in Goodfellas, or Scorcese’s The Departed? Hell, the entire film Road to Perdition looks at classic gangster flick notions of violence/revenge/and attitudes towards manliness under a microscope.
But Gommora strips everything back. All the glitz and glamour are gone from the gangster story here. Instead, Gommora shows the brutality, corruption, and utter disregard for human life that drives members of the Italian Cammora. This is a shocking film, though not for the same reasons Scorcese’s films are (Martin Scorcese did produce this, by the way). Violence is everywhere, but it fits into the landscape. The violence did stick with me, but it was because of the nonchalance with which the acts were carried out. Nothing was over-the-top, but simply calculated and brutal. And the director did a great job insinuating things here: costumes, sets, actors. All the parts go in to creating a world that is crumbling under the weight of crime, and nothing is flashy. The set-up reminded me of the Spanish-language flick Amores Perros; several parallel stories wound around a single idea. Great performances by relative unknowns. Can’t recommend this enough.
Hope everyone enjoys his or her week.