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Posts Tagged ‘Zack Snyder’s 300’

Calvaire (The Ordeal): Fabrice Du Welz’s Calvaire is a very watchable backwoods thriller because of Benoît Debie’s cinematography and Manu de Meulemeester‘s set designs. Shot in the Belgian province of Lièg, the film appears so brilliantly wet, dark and dingy that you react to its inherent violence like a junkie kept away from his/her drug of choice for months. The film’s premise is rather familiar as it keeps track of lounge singer Marc Stevens following his car’s breakdown nearby a creepy village. He seeks lodging with the local caretaker – Mr Bartel (Jackie Berroyer) – and pays for it dearly. Apparently, Bartel’s a psycho who thinks the singer is the second coming of his dead wife and takes to him like no dude should to another dude. Jackie Berroyer is in fantastic form here, grimacing and scowling with peculiar intent, taking us through the contours of his delusions.

Some of the stuff in here really doesn’t work at all. Laurent Lucas‘ acting, for instance. Sheesh man, if I were attacked by hog-humping sodomites, I’d think twice about pouting my lips. The arty side of Calvaire ends up looking visibly pretentious because it isn’t backed by anything substantial; the crucifixion imagery and romanticism of tragedy stand out as the worst of the lot. Phillipe Nahon is criminally underused too. The director should have given him a solo performance at that polka song-and-dance sequence at the bar, which (by the way) is the most surreal fucking thing I have seen all year.

The Human Centipede, The First Sequence: The mixed response to director Tom Six‘s latest addition to the genre has obliterated the ‘no shit’ barometer with such velocity that Captain Obvious might come out of retirement. Poor fellow hasn’t had a gig since everybody and their brothers from different mothers loved and subsequently hated Zack Snyder’s 300. The high-brow mainstream critics sure despised the concept behind The Human Centipede, The First Sequence; they called it a derogatory excuse for film-making and an ultra-cheap substitute to Italian barf-worthy films of yore. Hell, even Roger Ebert took the time to channel Don McLean for his dear readers through one of his starry, starry night routines. Most of the underground-dwellers had a hard-on for the film and hailed it as one of the nastiest masterpieces ever. Well, minions, the barometer didn’t fuck around this time.

The malevolence in this film does have its moments. Veteran actor Dieter Laser, who plays Dr. Heiter, is creepy to the point that it distracts us from his ridiculous sunglasses. Also, his moment of euphoria upon creating this twisted Siamese Triplet is very touching; as he sinks back into the couch, the gleaming in his eyes comes across as being scarily genuine. Later on when he snarls, “feed her, feeeeeeeed her”, goosebumps cried themselves to sleep at back of my neck. Akihiro Kitamura is quite possibly on another planet as the head portion of the centipede. The director/actor brings the kitsch like a Tobe Hooper character would and hypnotizes us with his ridiculous delivery of dialogues. Maybe the subtitling was ill-conceived, but for fuck sake, it really doesn’t  get any more gloriously kitschy than this. The highlight being his confessional towards the end. “Hey girls! Hey mister! What an insane world we live in”. Oh Akihiro..you, wonderfully weird centipede, you.

Ashley Williams (Lindsay) and Ashlynn Yennie (Jenny), who play the other two victims/parts, are irritating as hell and almost give us no room for feeling sympathetic towards them. Lindsay even snatches the proverbial ‘defeat from the jaws of victory’ cricket headline and makes us violently shake our fists at the screen. The quality of gore is overshadowed by the lack of quantity. The first time the good doctor brings the scalpel to skin, I was ready to cringe like never before, but ended up feeling distraught about the execution, considering the crisp eloquence and disquieting aplomb with which he describes their impending doom. The dissection of his victims’ kneecaps in particular left a lot to be perversly desired.

The concept of stitching people ass-to-mouth and parade them around like a domesticated pet seemed grotesque to me until I heard that it was based on a joke that Tom Six once shared with his buddies about punishing child molesters. I’d much rather believe that Tom was just insane or had experienced a head trauma as child that led to him wanting carnival folk as pets.

He does make it up with a non-gimmicky ending that works itself into the film’s lack of poetic justice. Even the poorly choreographed swimming pool shoot-out blends in nicely. The high angle camera zoom-out in the last frame (I don’t know what people who study films call it) is probably the single factor that keeps The First Sequence away from the category of extremely forgettable torture porn films.

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