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American Sniper (2014)
Have yet to read one accurate review of this film..
Every review seen by this author has either brutally criticized the film for all the wrong reasons, completely missing more troubling mistakes, or falsely promoted the film as patriotic, pro-war or anti-Muslim, which is also wrong, completely missing Eastwood's point. It is as if the film is only seen through a political lens regardless of being critical or supportive.
The film is artfully produced and saturated with a sense of futility, empty heroism, dread and the soul sucking nature of war. Despite Eastwood's political conservatism his work and particularly stylistic choices have always been great. This author approached his latest film with trepidation but ultimately agreed with Eastwood's statement that it is an antiwar film- one that dramatizes how innocent deaths are just a fact of war, how many of the "insurgents" may be ordinary people trying to survive, assumed guilty at a critical moment, and killed, and how even the most venerated soldiers can come back in a state of spiritual crisis. The film shows nothing but horrible events carried out by all sides and a gravitational downward spiral inside the central character, who meets his fatal end.
The film's popularity with the right wing is reminiscent of the way skinheads showed up in large numbers to "Romper Stomper" a 1980's Australian film that was a scathing indictment of skinheads. Maybe fans are drawn to any dramatization of a certain character and scenario, even if the message is a critical one in order to re-enforce an identity or seek camaraderie (ie a pro-gun or anti-Muslim social phenomenon).
What is wrong with "American Sniper" is far more complex than lionizing pathological bigotry. Whatever Eastwood has done wrongly he has not done that. The screenplay itself is rather good. It is not pro-war. It does *not* elevate religious bigotry, it just depicts it plainly. It does not denigrate Iraqis in any way, it just shows the US military doing it. It shows that plainly and without bias. Anyone with a moral foundation will be repulsed to see it, regardless of how that callousness is perpetrated by the central characters. Part of Eastwood's point is there is no moral compass in war scenarios. You have to find your own way through the events in the movie just as someone might in reality. There are few indicators in reality (except bad ones), and Eastwood offers none to his viewers, yet Kyle's ultimate fate is the telling of the tale.
Eastwood's mistake, possibly inadvertent, was making Kyle seem like a reasonable person. Kyle's own autobiography may indicate he was not.
Eastwood depicts Kyle as an anti-hero, as opposed to a blustering or pathological islamophobe capable of killing at will. He depicts Kyle as someone beginning to wrestle with some form of remorse for his actions or what he had been a part of. This is actually more insidious or propagandistic than showing a plain, ugly truth but every reviewer misses this possibility (even Chris Hedges).
Eastwood may have underestimated Kyle's martyr-like stature to some people. Perhaps in order to make a more meaningful and relevant story, he cleaned up the central character and inadvertently white-washed Kyle, because who would care about the story of a patriotic psycho? Is it possible Eastwood did not know of Kyle's popularity, his subsequent popularity if the film did well, or did Kyle became popular as the film was being released, changing the social context of the film?
Whatever the case, Eastwood claims it's an anti-war film and it clearly is, but on the other hand Eastwood should make a statement about Kyle and why he erased whatever pathological ugliness existed in his biography while retaining his name. That is what he did wrong. On it's own, Eastwood's story is a good, realistic, relevant war fiction but regarding the real Kyle it is probably a dangerous, misleading white-wash. It might have the effect of lionizing the real, controversial Chris Kyle as a hero not based on his life but based on the film. His real biography probably does not support his heroism (or even anti-heroism).
There is the question of Kyle's real actions vs. macho bluster, but his writing has taken on an independent effect at this point. Eastwood needs to explain why he took such a possible license and diversion from Kyle's own biography. The popularity of the film should not translate to popularity for Kyle if it is wildly inaccurate.
Jane Eyre (2011)
Anxious, haunting world of Bronte
Jane Eyre illustrates what men don't get about women. The definitive screen adaptation? A most psychologically romantic movie to take a woman to. Stunningly filmed in northern England, dramatically immersed in the desolation of Bronte's settings. Steeped in haunting, subtle imagery punctuated by Bronte's arresting dialog. Her eloquence adeptly slices through both the chasm of years since she penned them, and modern male preconceptions of romance.
The director's diverse heritage lends him a wide range of film and literature to draw on. Perhaps he emphasized surprising similarities to Japanese legends.
Sayat Nova (1969)
Sacred mysteries of a lost, ancient culture...
Unlike most modern films, Color of Pomegranates does not abandon the subtle, pensive quality of silent film; it is actually a stunning evolution of silent film.
Here Parajanov documents an almost mythical culture lost long ago to history. I believe it is ancient Armenia. It is methodically presented as a slow series of visual artifacts. Each artifact is a complete scene composed foremost of an authentic visual setting, to which is added the hypnotic effect of some simple motion and ambient sounds, the source of which are often not even in view. Together these hypnotic scenes slowly mesmerize and transport the viewer to the mood and feel of a lost culture.
Besides scenes of ordinary ancient existence, which are amazing enough to see, compelling rituals are presented and left as purely mysterious, earthy, and spiritual, which the viewer can only struggle to explain.
The film is also a treasure of authentic clothing and costumes you may otherwise never see.
Color of Pomegranates serves as a surprising unspoken testament to this lost, ancient culture.
I rented this as a movie on DVD, which thankfully seems easy to find in the USA. I highly recommend the DVD, as it also offered a commented version by Parajanov himself, and an incredible interview with Parajanov, before he sadly passed away, in which he describes some of his amazing, tragic life and his epic struggles to create and release his work, most of which, including Color of Pomegranates, was banned or censored in the former Soviet Union. His years WASTED in damn Soviet prison are a true black mark on humanity, and one can only wonder what other fantastic work he might have created had he been free. His own story appears to be worthy of one of his many great films, as it is biblically tragic yet unquestioningly triumphant.
Varuh meje (2002)
Rituals and Womanhood...
"The first female directed Slovene narrative feature film, Guardians of the frontier follows three college girls on a canoe trip through the woods.As they travel down the Kolpa River, which separates the relatively affluent Slovenia from the downtrodden Croatia, they find themselves in the midst of a hallucinatory combination of nationalist and personal passions."
in Slovene with English subtitles
Guardians of the Frontier takes the viewer on the coming of age journey of three young women. The perspective is completely unbiased and neutral. Many aspects and dilemmas of life are presented, and the plot has no singular focus. The characters of the three young women are meticulously and realistically presented. They are very interesting and representative in their differences, which, by the film's end can be seen as archetypical in nature. This is the type of film which is compelling later, when one realizes how succinct and unique it is.
What is doubly striking about this film is that the director is also a woman. It is not a film by a man based on a man's concept of a woman. It is not male nor anti-male, it is operating on a whole different level. The whole film is presented from a distinctly female point of view and the perceptions, issues and context are fundamentally different. A man could just not make this film. The young women, the feel of their characters, their interpretation of the world, and the issues they face are genuinely and distinctly those of women.
The cinematography, like many Slovenian films, is striking, artistic, yet subtle. Clearly it was filmed on emulsion film. Considering it's traditional yet modern cinemagraphic style, a plot accurately representing a women's perspective, and that it is also directed by a woman, Guardians of the Frontier offers a satisfying contrast to Hollywood.
I saw this film at the NSK State in Time/Slovene Avant Garde exhibit in Seattle, November, 2004.
Thank You, Maja, and I look forward to seeing more creative work from you in the future.
Sladke sanje (2001)
Testament to a lost world...
An authentic, slice of life type of film which serves as a document of a world which has largely disappeared. It also serves as a testament to known, institutional child abuse which to this day has not been brought to justice; and ordinary people who are corrupted every day in the demeaning, oppressive struggle to survive in the former regime.
A complete and unbiased presentation of the reality of the day. It is at the same time humorous, horrible, inspiring and depressing.
The cinematography, like many Slovenian films, is striking, classical, yet subtle. A soviet or eastern traditional film style with a modern polish that is a very satisfying contrast to Hollywood.
I saw this film at the NSK State in Time/Slovene Avant Garde exhibit in Seattle, November, 2004.
Thank You, Miha.
Cremaster 2 (1999)
Stunning surrealist masterpiece..
There is a lot that could be said and a lot that will continue to surface about this film, and I have not even seen the others in the series.
The film is simply staggering. I always see movies cold, with little or no knowledge of the sometimes pretentious "concept" behind the film, but for this film Cocteau is a great reference. The cinematography is a worthy tribute to Kubrick's early style. It is clear that there is sophisticated and complex metaphor embedded throughout the film, though it's not as pretentiously baffling as say, Tarkovsky's "Sacrifice". I have to grudgingly recommend that one should see the website for an overview of cremaster 2 to fully appreciate the sequence, if not the brilliant execution, because in cremaster 2, writer/director Matthew Barney shows a gift for making stunning, almost schizophrenic connections among wildly disconnected stories which are each revolutionary even when taken alone. If you can stay with the film, the dawning of their connections is devastating.
I apparently saw Cremaster 1 and then 2 shown together which was actually even better, especially without the benefit of knowing they were separate films. Cremaster 1, which is like Kubrick's best work- beautifully minimalistic, quietly disturbing, seductive and surreal. It's also completely disconnected from the essential sequence of cremaster 2 so it serves to provoke imagination and destroy conceptual barriers before cremaster 2 starts. The sequence starts with the pristine, amorphous canvas of cremaster1, then becomes gradually more coherent in some unknown direction, and finally crystallizes into an almost tangible object. There is not a normal conclusion or an ending. The separate stories form an object. A beautiful, complete and complex object.
The film is truly working at all levels, and I believe it manages to break new ground conceptually. I consider it a genuine modern surrealist masterpiece, somewhat in the vein of Kubrick.
Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004)
With this much style, who needs content?
This film is a stage for Carradine, and it is so great to see him finally have full reign on a screen. This is one of Carradine's films that really crystallizes his style and attitude.
The plot is about as thin as projector film, but the characters are so grand it seems like a modern tribute to film noir anyway. Violence is often used in movies as a blatant substitute for an intelligent story, and Tarantino may be the poster child for using that device, but memorable characters are his (and his actors') great accomplishment. You can try to interpret the violence as metaphor for internal psychological dilemmas, and in this movie you see love ultimately win out over all the adrenalin addicted characters, but realistically Tarantino works from a gore-fetish basis and that is his most avid audience. That is the underlying vibe, but his films are more than that. Tarantino's films take on meaning simply by virtue of the characters and the interplay.
The film is vaguely reminiscent of Thelma and Louise, and I even see similarities in the methodology of Tarantino's films and Ridley Scott's.
It was great to see funny references to other films, too. There is this female character thrashing wildly on the floor in her death throws, uncannily like the replicant in (coincidentally) Ridley Scott's Blade Runner, and it actually did turn out to be Daryl Hannah! I love NOT knowing everything about a film before seeing it. For the whole film I wondered if that could be her, and if Daryl Hannah could really still look that good.
It goes without saying that all the actors did great work, which is typical of Tarantino's films. Uma is a sex siren of the silver screen. Too many others to mention.
Esoteric surprise 20 years early
Maîtresse is a typical story of seduction and obsession. The dialog is in French with subtitles. Without an unusual or groundbreaking plot, and not presented as a grand film, it was filmed in the popular style of French films of the time, many of which enjoy enduring popularity today because of their minimalist execution. It simply presents a story in an unpretentious format. It is not too sexually explicit visually, though the theme definitely is.
The director, Barbet Schroder, has evolved into one of the incredible directors of our time. His life is probably more interesting even than most of his fictional characters, and his other films are a short list of some of my favorites.
There is really only one noteworthy element of the film, and it is quite noteworthy. The central character, Ariane (Bulle Ogier), who is reminiscent of Catherine Deneuve, is quite seductive as a dominatrix who avails herself of a fetishist's dream chamber complete with a wardrobe that most people would not believe could have possibly existed when the film was made in 1973. It is the fantastic surprise of the film, and the character is easily 20 years ahead of her time.
Anyone into edgy fashion today would be well advised to enjoy viewing this film and accept a humbling lesson concerning underground esthetic's that existed some 30 years ago. Indeed, this film alone may have helped to popularize modern fetishist, "sadist" or bondage sensibilities, especially in France.
An interesting and odd film, decidedly kinky, and with an ending that makes a brief but incredible prediction of the work, "Crash" by J.G. Ballard, written soon after the film was released- or perhaps coincidentally.
Das Boot (1981)
Epic modern tragedy. Battle death noir.
Such a tale of woe on the high seas is only rarely portrayed on film. To me, the film goes beyond the actors and the film making. It seems to have taken on an inexplicable life of it's own- straight to some mechanized Nazi oblivion at the bottom of the north sea.
The tragedy builds to a mythical, nightmarish scale. The film seems to inadvertently portray some accursed modern archetype of war. Perhaps the sea and the boat itself are the true, silent commanders of the crew, who are merely the pathetic pawns of fate. The kapitan, who's life at sea depended entirely on the boat- you could almost see his soul fall away as he watched it finally go down. This film seems to cut right to the seductive myth and horrible reality of war.
The film is long. Relentlessly long. Torpedoes travel in real time. The sets are dark and gritty probably beyond the reality of the day. It's over three hours long. I cannot explain why I had to watch it twice. In the second viewing, you may start to see glimpses of your own face among the crew. The film is so haunting, it leaves me so incredulous and begging for any type of resolution, some kind of explanation, conclusion or the slightest psychological comfort offered to address the merciless, hopeless abyss which is the end... it is never offered.
Rumble Fish (1983)
A box of nowhere to go....
I have to admit having a soft spot for this film as I have for Apocalypse Now, though perhaps Coppola could never quite carry out a truly inventive directing style. His films mostly seemed somehow constrained to an unchallenging format, and avoided the complexity, surrealism or depth so often used to great ends by film directors. Coppola's films will always seem to this author to be part of that distinct class of "Hollywood Films", though some are arguably "really good" Hollywood films.
As often the case with good films, Rumble Fish featured a fantastic collaboration of other great artists. This talent comes together to create something memorable on film which communicates, as few films have, a certain mood or feeling that is perhaps peculiar to the American midwest, especially during the 1980's. Something about the antipathy of growing up in such a vast, apathetic, culturally blank, comfortably mediocre place and attempting to go beyond it or find something in it, like punching your way out of a cardboard box only to find that things seem just as dark and empty on the outside. It should be made clear that this author also comes from that midwest and identifies with this theme, so there is some bias in this review, but this may apply to other "midwestern refugees" as well.
Fans of S.E. Hinton, on who's book the film was based and who co-wrote the screenplay, will appreciate the film, as well as fans of Tom Waits, Stuart Copeland (of the Police and little known project Klark Kent- which closely resembles the soundtrack), Mickey Rourke, or any of the (then) young, up and coming actors like Matt Dillon, Nicolas Cage and Diane Lane.
Rourke is at one of the peaks of his young career here, a cool rebel without a cause type, vaguely reminiscent of young Peter Fonda or James Dean- a striking character. The film has memorable scenes and lines, one of which is Dillon's character saying to the fatalistic older brother- "Motorcycle Boy" played by Rourke, something like- "People would really follow you anywhere, why don't we do something?", to which Rourke responds- "Yeah, they'd probably follow me right down to the river...and jump in."
Similar scenes and numerous references to time passing away seemed to summarize the hopeless stagnation of growing up nowhere and proceeding to go nowhere. Groping in the dark for everything or anything meaningful in the context of a forgotten, lifeless irontown where even the young seem more like ghosts trying desperately to become tangible in some sense, and the middle aged are already on some other world.
Other films that come to mind- James Dean films; "Reckless", another Hollywood film released a year later, with Aidan Quinn (as "Rourke"- coincidence?), and Daryl Hannah, was semi-successful in making the occasional reference to a similar blighted steeltown theme, though overall it was spotty; "Dogs in Space" with Michael Hutchence of INXS was a punk classic, and had some of that "nowhere with style" appeal with an Australian twist; two other 1980's films the author never saw- "Down by Law" and "Rivers Edge" probably fit somewhere in here as well.
The Loved One (1965)
American Surrealist Masterpiece...
This rare, surely blacklisted gem of a film is one of a very few genuine examples of early American surrealist film. This seems to be something like a monument to the 50's beat generation, and must have been classed as the work of certain "communists in Hollywood", some of whom actually did sport their own variety of communism.
Dissecting film and reading metaphor into every random detail is abhorrent, as little of that kind of thing (beyond the screenplay) is likely to be intentional on the part of the director. There is a collaboration of amazing talent, everyone creates inspired work, and the result is almost a random stream which transcends it's elements and becomes worthy of all sorts of interpretation. Like art, the viewer finds his or her own meaning in the work. However, this film is open to the interpretation of all sorts of illusory social commentary as much as any film by Bergman or Fellini. Thankfully, it has not been ruined in that way, but I would claim it easily compares to other great surrealist films. ....(spoilers)..... The gothic slumber room, "deatheticians", pet cemeteries, blasting ashes into space, selling out and paving over a full cemetery to build a convalescent home to start the whole process over again- nothing is sacred. This film presents everything antithetical to 1960's values. Maybe it was supposed to have a laughter soundtrack so everyone would know it was supposed to be funny; it was left out, and the brilliant result is that one can't discern the cynicism from the dead-pan humor. Light years ahead of it's time, it's minor theme puts modern suburban gothic wannabe's to shame. Megalomaniacs, greedists, maniacal genius' and hapless, pathetic victims. A ludicrous scenario somehow composed of all too realistic elements of American culture, combined to create quite a scathing view of jet age values, but like most great films, it ultimately goes beyond any references to reality at all, and creates it's own unique, bizarre, and now completely unpredictable world. Only god could know where this particular world was headed.
Released when the Beatles were kids and all the surrealist films ever made were from Europe and could be counted on one hand, -and during the earliest days of the Viet Nam war-, perhaps it's cynical message should not have been passed over so easily.
This film was directed by Carradine himself, and embodies his unique screen presence and character. It is a minimalist, somewhat surreal film of an American midwestern drifter, and depicts a certain odd aspect of the midwest that few films have been able to. A certain maladjusted yet benevolent alienation at the core of the loner.
Wim Wenders' "Paris Texas" comes to mind as another film that portrays the cultural impotence of midwestern existence.
Salome's Last Dance (1988)
Rare, Kinky and Cultish: Classic Russell
There is never ending debate over the value of work by directors like Russell. He is almost universally written off by professional critics as a mostly sensationalist, tasteless crackpot who's real talent is questionable, yet he is passionately defended by other people and this deserves some comment. Russell's work is often described as "tasteless, vulgar, unrestrained, even misanthropic" and "employing the imagery of sexual excess." One might make a case for the idea that these adjectives describe many fans of Russell's work themselves, or at least that they enjoy these themes in film. The latter is admittedly the case of this author, and unlike many people I certainly feel these are often necessary qualities of good art. Many fans of Russell attempt useless claims that his work is really quite tasteful and not offensive or "over the top" at all, but that would be somewhat inaccurate and in this author's opinion completely missing the point of his work. Compared to normal standards, Russell's films ARE as many critics claim they are, and they will offend people who for the most part should not waste their time viewing his work, and no, offending people is NOT the point of his films, and yes- many nice, healthy, well adjusted people feel his work is fantastic, ingenious and rewarding. Rather than digress into some probably useless philosophical (or political?) arguments over whom is correct or whom is better qualified to comment, it's better that the author's perspective be made clear from the outset. In the end, it might be argued that all ideas about the comparative merits of film or art are pointless, pretentious exercises used to promote arbitrary opinion based on personal taste.
When I saw this film (on DVD), I was under the impression that it was much older than 1988, for some reason. I have since found nothing online to confirm this, but I will always think of this film as something from the 1970's that was way ahead of it's time, and it has that feel to it. It included a copy of the entire film with live commentary by Russell himself that I found as interesting as the film itself. It is a simple, low budget film, almost deliberately retro in style. The work is Russell in a nutshell. What a man can do with a stage, almost no money, a camera, a few extraordinary friends (including a passionate costume designer), a love of irony and a profound sense of visual style. The elements are crude, simplistic devices- annoyingly, even deliberately so, like archetypal metaphors, and the results completely transcend the execution. That crucial departure is where many critics are simply left behind and forced to write off the work as plainly bad, manipulative sensationalism (unlike every Hollywood film? this film is NOT Hollywood in any way). I could not help thinking how easily this film could be adapted into a cultish, kinky and funny stage play.
Examining the psychology of eroticism is a hallmark of Russell and is put to great use in this film. That is not some simple offensive device used in Russell's films, it is the whole genius of his work! Sex and eroticism is the driving debacle of social, moral and religious history and deserves a great deal of examination. People have a crying need for Russell's talent of recontextualizing erotica in order to create self-understanding and inspire it's positive aspects within themselves. In other words, if one ever happened to fantasize about any of the crude scenarios Russell presents in his films (though no one can admit it), one might then find it incredibly beneficial to see it presented in an intelligent, imaginative way by someone else. If these themes interest you, I recommend the film highly.
"Salome's Last Dance" is spectacular only in terms of it's personalities, in no way is (and does not have to be) one of the "greatest" films, yet it is wondrously rare. It is uniquely stylish, and because of it's truly low budget and simple execution, I would say (in direct contradiction of many critics) it is amazingly unpretentious and humble, as well as beautiful.
The Book of Life (1998)
Cute and Hip
The whole recontextualizing of Christ is just killer subject matter. Once you get past despising or evangelizing ancient religious texts, they are a wealth of great metaphors, characters, plots and paradox. PJHarvey here is super junky-sheik petite punk-rock eye candy- with a biblical twist. The idea was kind of a Svankmayer meets Bukowsky perspective on the cataclysmic turning of the millennium- a great concept. Didn't quite pull it off though. The proof is always in the surprise sense of irony in the ending, and it just didn't have it.
The anguish of soviet visual poetry
A simple story of ordinary, desperate but seductively portrayed characters, with the slowly building sad circle of fate and irony typical of a Chekov short story, all sumptuously filmed in a most authentic looking setting. The meticulous detailing of this era of Russia is itself of great value to someone half a world away. The great lengths and high standards necessary for criticizing this film sound more like praise to me. This film is sadly beautiful, poetic and seductive.
Very pleasing and rewarding film.
I won't try to add much, but Twelveth Night is richly filmed and full of incredible bit performances. It is lusty, passionate, beautiful, anxious and very intelligent at the same time. Kingsley really shines unbelievably in a secondary role like this. All these charaters are so developed and important that the story truly seems to be about the supporting characters as well as the leads.
If you care to transcend the meaningless strategic details..
You can know know how many many divisions there were, where they were, how many were SS verses Wehrmacht or Panzer brigades and what type of insignia and weapons the men used, and the casualty rate verses the average daily temperature, but the point of this film is clearly that the mistakes in Stalingrad were far more reaching than logistics, the German high command or even knowing right from wrong. This film speaks about the potential trap of our own system when things go wrong and there is no way out at the level of the individual. This film is about the character of Russia formed from the inhuman tundra in winter, and what it means to slowly freeze to death without shelter wandering a hostile wasteland in the darkness of winter. This film shows the inhuman coldness as a metaphor of our own blatant denial of our own individuality for the sake of professionalism and following orders- as much as for a lack of reason as for a mere lack of heat. This film shows the real victims of modern chivalrous warfare- defenseless civilians in their homes. This film shows a ragged bit of love crushed as a simple matter of course within this context, and that's more timely and far scarier than some chapter of military history. To imagine that this film was made by 'war buffs' is a sad mistake.
Prospero's Books (1991)
Visual and philosophical masterpiece.
Possibly Greenaway's greatest work, and possibly (dare I say it?) John Gielgud's greatest as well. This film is so full of amazing talent in incidental roles, and ground-breaking cinematography, that it's easy to forgive the weak performance of one or two main characters. Add the Greenaway's usual lineup for the score by Micheal Nyman along with unique vocals, with state of the art digital effects masterfully and transparently placed in a medieval setting, and you have the elements of a masterpiece. I also appreciated the effect of the slow but then sudden realization toward the end that the whole story may just have been a phantasm leading to utter madness, or maybe it was all in truth, but that ultimately, truth is nothing more than what is imagined, so the question is mute. That is a stellar ending, and for the viewers attentively following the story it is unexpected, and leaves one reeling in awe.
Fellini's best? definitely Sutherland's best...
One of Fellini's more coherent and conventional films. Though I could hardly bear Satyricon, I consider "Casanova" one of the best films of all time.
The surreal nightmare world of Casanova's lost wanderings of the obscure cities of 15th century Europe comes alive and his willing enslavement to his own lust given free reign, in sex scenes which are only disturbing, could leave you wondering if you would be any different given the same freedoms. A frightening but hauntingly beautiful and poetic film. Fellini's lush cinematography was never better. The best role of Donald Sutherland's career- his performance is simply amazing.
The Devils (1971)
A grim and masterful tale.
Well the philosophical statements and commentary embedded into this film are far too numerous to evaluate. It's every line of dialog and every character. The overall moral of the story seemed to me that 'If a leader truly departs from the structure of power and refuses to submit to the boot of governance, and then starts to have real power and a following of their own, they will be utterly destroyed.', but there are many other equally ominous themes to choose from. I wish I could say I haven't watched stories which seemed hauntingly similar to Loudon's played out on the news many times.
But beyond the 'moral' as I see it, is the truly very creepy feel to the whole film. The scene in which an entire convent of naked nuns are being exorcised by an inquisitor of the 'demons' that are forcing them into a wild orgy of sex, is genuinely memorable as one of film's most surreal scenes. Amazingly, these events happen in a quite understandable sequence for logical (if nightmarish) reasons under Russell's direction. These people really seemed from a whole different world, as if they weren't human but they obviously were all-too human, and the sudden realization that this might actually be closer to the heritage of my own culture than what I was taught REALLY creeped me out. A very effective device. Almost made me ill to imagine it. A very powerful film, one of my picks for an all time best film.
Women in Love (1969)
The embodiment of the Avant-Garde style.
By it's mere cinemagraphic style and on screen personalities, this film introduced me to the idea of the avant-garde, existential and 'esoteric ritual' perspective of ordinary events. Their true mystery. For me, the style of the film went far beyond its content or dialogue. This film taught me the idea of an intelligent stylishness, and how erotic Glenda Jackson's character could be sheerly by virtue of her brilliant and cunning personal style. Pretty surprising, but then, seducing his audience in great new ways has been one of Russell's great talents. His films always seemed at the cutting edge, and I was seeing them 12 years later!
The Music Lovers (1971)
Tragic drama of ill-fated heroes.
One of Richard Chamberlain's most memorable and fringe roles. Glenda Jackson is brilliant. The romance, passion, melodrama, and ultimate tragic fate of the main characters are all intensely portrayed with rich cinematography and the most lavish sets Russell ever used. The film carries that subtle yet omnipresent surreality which is a trademark of Russell's films, and which some find so annoying, and others so seductive and heightening of the experience. A truly wonderful but sad film.
Surreal and artful masterwork of rebellious British students
One of my favorite flicks of all time. This is maybe the archetypical alienated, surreal, rebellious British youth film of the 1960's. The film starts so quiet and boring. Annoyingly so. Then it hypnotizes you in stages, each with a chapter title. The last chapter 'Crusaders..' which should have been the title of the film, will wake you up with the stiff realization of what is at the core of quiet, well adjusted society. This film is logically coherent, yet psychologically confusing, and offers no truths. The viewer is left to realize their own truth somehow, and that is one of the surprising qualities of the film. The foundations of the status quo are so in doubt here that the quiet incidental scenes are the most disturbing and beautiful of all, merely because of what the VIEWER may read into them. The characters are seductive, and that is dangerous in this case. I am still looking for the soundtrack, if it was ever released. The scenes seem to be ritualistic, mysterious and metaphorical- things not easily projected onto the stiff, starched, 'proper' society of it's setting. All these elements combine into a stylized, surreal esthetic that makes the dialogue seem almost redundant. This is the true genius of the film to me, it's something that really transcends words. It's a feeling, a mood or atmosphere created in the film that communicates more powerfully than words that self-identity may lead to orgasmic revolution. It is this complex philosophical style that is so profound and wondrous to me about this film, and the creators probably had no idea what they were doing. They probably were simply drawing on their own authentic environment and context.