Director Todd Solondz gets no points for subtle irony. His 1998 effort Happiness blatantly involves characters that are anything but happy. A pedophile lecturing his son on sex? Check. A desperate woman constantly on the verge of a nervous breakdown? Check. A homophobic father coming to terms with the sexual abuse of his gay son? Check. It’s almost sadistic that such people are even allowed within close quarters of each other, much less have their lives entwined with one another. But that doesn’t make this a bad film. No. No. No. It’s really good, in fact…just not, you know, the happy sort.
Directed by high priest of the Australian New Wave Peter Weir, this film is based on a “true” story about a couple of Catholic high school girls gone missing during a picnic at Victoria’s Mount Macedon. On a personal note, it was representative of what I have always enjoyed about Australian films. Ethereal, almost hallucinatory landscapes that expand only if our imagination permits. A storyline that grudgingly moves along against its natural instinct to remain calm and perfectly quiet. And stillness that occurs on camera when the director thinks beyond breaking even with the budget. Exhilarating without any sort of visible movement. Nice.
While the brilliant Caché was Haneke’s most inspired moment yet as a director, Funny Games catches him in a ghoulishly creepy mood. Tim Roth and Naomi Watts play a wealthy couple tormented by two sadistic locals portrayed by Michael Pitt and Brady Corbet. Sadly, there is little else to say about the film. While certain scenes are satisfyingly disturbing, the film – on the whole – displeases with its dour sense of imagination. At best, you can buy the DVD to make your grandma squeal. If you don’t harbor such intentions towards your loved ones, give it a miss.
Jim Jarmusch gives his protagonists neither closure nor comeuppance for their actions, as evidenced in his previous films such as Dead Man, Down By Law and Night on Earth. In Ghost Dog, it is the main character who seeks neither. Forrest Whitaker plays a hitman “who follows ancient code of the samurai as outlined in the book of Yamamoto Tsunetomo’s recorded sayings, Hagakure.” It actually was how I thought it would be…a gangster-samurai Indie film with a delightful sense of irony and an imaginative soundtrack.