Kidulthood (UK, 2006) and Beat Girl (UK, 1959)

Kids today eh!

Kids then eh!

Kidulthood is shocking, only if you believe it’s typical of kids in London. Well, I wouldn’t know, but the idea that youngsters are out of control is not exactly new. However, this is a terrific film that does the ‘day in the life’ of the youth of today with pace and style – I particularly like the split screen music montages. Noel Clarke – actor and scriptwriter (who’s also directed the just-out sequel) is certainly an interesting talent.

Of course the rebellion of the Beat Girl is far tamer than that of Kidulthood kids; but it is relative. Beat Girl was cut to get an X (18) certificate and, as far as I can tell, it was the cut version that got a 12 in 1998. The most obviously ‘cuttable’ sequence is an extraordinarily libidinous stripper’s dance – it would be interesting to know what got cut for that to stay in. It’s likely that teen pics date more quickly than other genres, but at least here the teens to get a voice; there are poignant monologues about being brought up during World War II. However, as is standard, the rebellion of the beat girl is recouped at the end.

In Kidulthood, the rebellion is a lifestyle; except it’s not rebelling against anything. A girl swaps sex for money to buy fashionable clothes. The ending doesn’t offer a comfortable resolution but
Alisa does decide to have her baby. That’s what’s called ‘growing up’ and teen pics are always about growing up to become adults.

The Happening (US-India, 2008)

The end of the world as we know it?

Like Cloverfield (two posts ago) The Happening is an obvious disquisition on the west’s ‘war on terror’ intermingled with the ongoing climatic disaster. The opening half is terrific, a mixture of stunning imagery (the builders falling off buildings) and portentous threat. However, it’s difficult to deliver on such a set up as this – maybe aliens would have worked (but they didn’t in Signs).

The film’s also further evidence that the emerging economy of India is going to compete with Hollywood on its own ground. However, this looks like – is – a Hollywood movie, so whether we’ll see any difference from the patriarchal-liberal consensus that ‘infects’ most US movies is debatable.

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (4 luni, 3 saptamâni si 2 zile, Romania, 2007)

Otilia interrogates our gaze at the end of the film

This film succeeds on many levels: as a portrayal of Romania in 1987; as a shocking, and gripping, narrative; as an exercise in directorial style (the camera is often static and not necessarily positioned in the ‘best’ place). The focuses on how Otilia deals with her frustrating friend and her loving boyfriend; they, however, fail to take full responsibility for their actions and she has to carry them.

The directorial style reminded me of Miklos Jansco (The Red and White) where the camera’s unwavering gaze ‘misses’ some of the action as it goes off screen. This technique draws attention to our voyeurism; as does the film’s final shot – see image above. It’s interesting that such an uncompromising film should attract such accolades from imdb audiences; a sign of arthouse cinema’s health.

Cloverfield (US, 2008)

American liberty has lost its head.

It’s taken 10 years for Blair Witch (1999) to get a proper sequel. Whilst Cloverfield is not as effective as its predecessor, it is a fascinating take on a (western) world at war on terror. It’s not just the camcorder aesthetic that is so effective, much of what is happening is left ‘unsaid’. Or, rather, requires us to draw on other films to fill in the gaps. This isn’t simply postmodern referentiality; we don’t know, for instance, what happens to Marlena but the Alien splatter reference suggests it ain’t good. This also links to a piece of ‘thrown away’ dialogue: ‘they are trying to drag me away’. Putting the Alien ref together with the dialogue suggests that humans are being used to gestate there creatures; and you can only work this out through the references. The film will make sense without knowledge of these films, but it is interesting to see a movie built explicity on its generic inheritance.

The Korean film The Host (Gwoemul, 2006) is also an important antecedant, as is 28 Days Later (UK, 2002).

The film portrays American post-9/11 vulnerability: there’s terrible things out there with no explanation for what’s happening. In doing so it offers a picture of a paranoid mindset that’s turning inward rather trying to understand what’s going on (I saw a trailer for the forthcoming The Mist yesterday – looks very similar).

Yella (Germany, 2007)


On the road to nowhere

I watched this based on a recommendation by Roy Stafford and knew nothing about it. I enjoy watching films without preconceptions (as far as that is possible) but that method of viewing can result in missing large parts of the subtext (er, if it was a SUBtext).

I enjoyed the film, found the ending slightly non-sensical as I thought it simply bracketed the narrative without adding anything. The representation of the corruption, and vacuity, and capitalism in its most ‘evolved’ form – ie venture capitalism – is acute. The performances are excellent; particularly Nina Hoss in the title role.

Then, reading Sight and Sound, I find that Wittenburg is in the east of Germany and the river’s the Elbe. My ignorance of German geography, accentuated by not knowing anything of the film, led me to miss the overtly political orientation of the film.

As a parable/ghost story etc of modern Germany it reminds me of New German cinema of the 1970s; such as The Lost Honour of Katerina Blum. The director of Yella is described as part of new German cinema; should we call this new New? Or neu New? Whatever, it’s great to see films engaging politically with the world.