The Congress: Awful, awful, awful script. Gets better in its second half when the barrage of hallucinogenic images begins, but that little sudden cut from animation to live action trick only works once, Ari Folman.
The Zero Theorem: Watching Brazil immediately afterwards lessened my appreciation of this one. The Zero Theorem often feels like a less good, slightly updated rehash of Brazil. Maybe that’s the point of the it, though – Gilliam’s trying to suggest how society and film have devolved since? Still, eminently watchable, if only to watch Christoph Waltz struggle to maintain his dignity throughout.
Brazil: Brrrrraziiiiiilllllllllllllllllllllllllllllllll! Best adaptation of 1984 ever filmed. Pretty much a masterpiece, except when it occasionally drags in the middle. I’m curious about the Love Conquers All cut, as I can’t see a happy ending making sense in any edit of Brazil.
Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance: I was surprised by how much I liked it, coming in as a hater of both Oldboy and Stoker. I still didn’t get the feeling Park Chan-wook had anything particularly interesting or cohesive tying together the scattershot story, though, in this case, that might have been my lack of knowledge w.r.t turn of the century South Korea. Plays out kinda like a humanist’s take on Fargo. A humanist who watched a few too many Brian de Palma films, but still.
JSA Joint Security Area: More Park Chan-wooooooooooook. Hated the opening framing device, not the least of which because the lead actress’s English was appalling. She was supposed to be playing a character who was born in Switzerland, mind you. Basically Park Chan-wook does CSI for the opening bits until we hit an extended flashback. It embraces a lot of cliche, to be sure, and Park Chan-wook’s obsessive style isn’t quite so polished here as in later films, but the middle stretch of the film is genuinely affecting.
The Signal: It looks very, very good. Like seriously good. Its aesthetics would be the envy of a movie working with one hundred times its budget. Unfortunately, the movie’s also a terribly flimsy, quarter-baked mishmash of maybe a dozen or so different movies. Also not a movie where the visuals fully create and support the tonal, thematic or narrative content (a la Gravity). The ending also sucks, like really really really hard. I thought I was being punk’d.
Memories of Murder: Stray observations: I’m on a bit of a Song Kang-ho binge of late. The title kinda sucks. It sorta fits the story, but it’s unwieldy and inelegant. It doesn’t roll off the tongue. Sounds like the title of some cheapo airport novel. Everything else about the movie is great, though. Almost plays like a Korean version of Zodiac, though Bong Joon-ho’s sensibilities are way different than David Fincher’s. Zodiac’s characters are also far less motivated by moral indignity than the leads of Memories of Murder. A lot of fairly explicit subtext about Korean politics circa late 1980s (i.e. the last days before a democratic South Korea).
Aguirre, the Wrath of God: Less impressed with Apocalypse Now having finally seen this. Very, very effective and potent distillation of madness. Reading about the behind the scenes of the movie is almost as entertaining. Immensely impressive use of a limited budget.