Shorts #28

Today’s Shorts: Fire (1996), Queen (2014), Rise And Fall Of Idi Amin (1981), Nude On The Moon (1961), Our Trip To Africa (1966), Arnulf Rainer (1960), A Nightmare On Elm Street (1984)

 

With its release, Fire proved to be a very controversial film, and for obvious reasons: this is about questioning and breaking tradition as guided by ones own personal choices. Moreover, this was one of the first Indian films to explicitly depict homosexuality (though, this isn’t the single stress of the narrative).

Shot with enchanting romantic lighting, an immersive soundtrack and some strong satire, Fire is an affecting story about decisions of desire and will. Whilst the commentary on family structure is a little contrived and the rebuttals to ideas of duty aren’t too convincing, the strengths of this narrative lie in its very clear message concerning freedom (and, in a way, this film became a symbol of free speech in Indian cinema).

Overall, this is a very strong film and, arguably, a significant cultural artefact of Indian cinema.

Tremendous. Phenomenal. A flawless piece of entertainment. It’s not a Tarkovsky picture, but, by God, this a masterpiece of some sort that has left me buzzing with joy.

Queen is, in a way, a comedy-adventure, but more so a film about a new-age or modern pilgrimage where the naive and sheltered enter into a world of chaos, danger and hedonism to emerge a greater, enlightened person. In such, this is a film about freedom and discovering ones own strengths and abilities as an independent person. This is not a new concept and, whilst this does break many of the traditional Bollywood picture conventions, nor is this a non-formulaic film. However, all that it does, it does perfectly. And Kangana Ranaut is certainly the shinning light of this movie.

There’s not much more to say than that this is a new personal favourite and a film I can’t recommend more.

As the title suggests, this recounts the rise and fall of the tyrannical Ugandan dictator who ruled during the 70s, Idi Amin. Though this accurately references many historical facts, Rise and Fall of Idi Amin is best seen as an exploitation film as it does not necessarily take its subject matter seriously, rather, gratuitously depicts murder and violence whilst a caricature of Amin provides something close to comedy. There is no point in discussing ethics when a film is classed as an exploitation picture, but suffice to say that this is more a highly critical piece of absurd, melodramatic political satire than a biopic.

As an exploitation picture, this is quite engaging and is even pretty well designed. The plot flies by and the cinematic language is often precise. However, the performances are weak and this isn’t helped by the bad sound design. Ultimately, however, this is tonally… challenging. Some sequences make you want to laugh, others not and the rest are hard to take seriously. So, though this is engaging, now I have to write about it, I feel a bit lost.

Nude On The Moon is a strange movie that finds itself somewhere between soft-porn and a 60s sci-fi picture. However, this is not necessarily either one of these things, instead, it’s a nudist film. These first emerged in 30s to promote the nudist, liberal, health-centric lifestyle, and because censorship laws changed around the 50s, they were revived and merged with the exploitation and erotic picture.

Nude On The Moon is both a narrative, promotional film that comments on the ‘rat race’ and a bachelor’s life as well as an erotic picture that has you watch two ‘astronauts’ take pictures of a nudist camp on the moon (it is so clearly in Florida) for about 40 minutes straight. In such, this just a very weird look into film history that, though it is bogged down by bad acting, a repetitive soundtrack and mediocre direction, is basically passable as a cult film experience.

Without diegesis, a strict and cohesive space, narrative or atmosphere, Our Trip To Africa seems to bring a discordant vision of an African safari vacation to the screen. In such, without any synced, or particularly sensical, sound this depicts various snippets of hunting scenes spliced into voyeuristic shots of African natives. The lack of harmony and the radically disparate ‘spaces’ (which are implied through montage and sound) in this film seemingly comment on the travelogue and ethnographic film, insinuating that the documentation of such trips has little to do with the land being visited, nor the people and animals that exist upon it. Our Trip To Africa then seems to be a film that is designed to alienate and make you feel uncomfortable in a way that the director may feel that this kind of footage (exploitative hunting videos and travelogues) should be viewed inherently.

If cinema is light and darkness is this, a ‘flicker film’ that alternates between white and black frames, cinema? Moreover, if cinema is sound and silence is this, a slalom between white noise and silence, cinema?

These are two questions that Kubleka means to ask by reducing cinema to its most fundamental components and testing them. In such, the expressive nature of a more full and traditional kind of cinema is stripped away as we’re forced to ask if this can mean something to us. The question this then raises is: Are we, the audience, willing to accept this as cinema by giving it meaning, or maybe seeing meaning within it?

The follow up question to a negative response would then be: Why? And so, in a way, this becomes a less annoying constructivist film that has us question our beliefs on cinema without meaning to put us through dozens of minutes, or many hours, of pain. As a result, this one may be worth the watch.

A Nightmare On Elm Street is a pretty good movie – but, more so, a classic cult horror full of iconic imagery. Looking past this, and the sometimes awkward writing and mediocre acting, there is trouble beneath the surface of this movie.

In essence, we can think of Nightmare On Elm Street to be much like (though, the book and the movies would come out at a later date) Stephen King’s It with dreams being the dark place from which personal horrors reflecting ones of confrontation with evil archetypes (who mirror parents and internal anxieties) emerge. With a lot of potential subtext to play around with, seeing Craven’s on-off direction mainly focus on spectacle and gore is somewhat disappointing as this movie lacks in both the narrative and character departments.

Ultimately, A Nightmare On Elm Street is part fun and, as a consequence of a lack of concentration, part pretentious. Nonetheless, an engaging watch.

 

 

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Every Year In Film #27 – The Story Of The Kelly Gang

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Finding Nemo – The Family Circle Of Trust: Dory

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