Four Lions (UK, 2010)

Four berks

In the current issue of Sight and Sound Chris Morris explains:

‘A bomb goes off. We tear about like headless chickens. Our dread infests the fabric. We change our laws. We restrict our freedoms. We lash out at strangers. Brilliant. Of course we long to laugh at our fears, but we don’t know how. Where’s the joke? Actually, ‘Four Lions’ demonstrates it’s staring you right in the face. At training camps young jihadis argue about honey, shoot each other’s (sic) feet off and chase snakes. A minute into his martyrdom video, a would-be bomber asks the cameraman, “What was that question again?” Terrorist mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohamed spends two hours looking for a costume that won’t make him look fat on camera. And when 9/11 hijacker Mohamed Atta was teased for pissing too loudly, he blamed the Jews form making the thin doors.

‘In three years of research, I have spoken to terrorism experts, imams, police, secret services and hundreds of Muslims. Even those who have fought jihad report the frequency of farce. On millennium eve, five jihadis planned to ram a US warship with a launch full of bombs. In the dead of night they slipped their boat into the water. They stacked it with explosives. They stepped in. It sank.

‘Terrorist cells have the same group dynamics as stag parties and five-a-side football teams. There is conflict, friendship, misunderstanding and rivalry. Terrorism is about ideology, but it’s also about berks.’

It’s no surprise that Morris should cast a berk’s eye view on the world as he’s always thrived on doing so. Four Lions is a brilliant comedy on the absurdity of both jihad and the ‘war on terror’. It doesn’t look at the causes of either but shows the effect of being in a world where western imperialism resisted by eastern religion. So don’t go and see this film for analysis, go for the (often uncomfortable) laughs. It portrays British Muslims as everyday (if not quite normal) people and, I think, wins our sympathies for them; they are, after all, just everyday berks (as we all often are).

The Bothersome Man (Den brysomme mannen, Norway-Iceland, 2006)

Bourgeois hell

Bourgeois hell

It will be difficult to blog about this film without spoilers… It most reminded me of Fight Club (US, 1999) in its satire on an  IKEA-built existence but while Fincher’s movie’s ‘in yer face’ this piss-take of bourgeois existence is more muted (and low budget). It effectively uses the mise en scene to present a place where, in the words of David Byrne, ‘nothing ever happens’ and, indeed, it is meant to be heaven; or rather a hell.

Heaven is populated only by white middle aged folks but that only goes to emphasise the ‘hell’. Our protaganist rails against the lack of emotion – you can’t even get drunk – and tries to get out. This results in some grotesque and funny scenes – like being run over by an underground train – but there’s only one place that he can end up.

I can’t say the film gripped me. The narrative is as muted as the tones and I didn’t feel the world presented was uncanny enough to give a sufficient sense of weirdness. I felt I was watching a low-budget The Matrix (US, 1999) without the action (which is a peculiar comparison I admit).

Charley Wilson’s War (US, 2007)

To say this mess is confusing is an understatement. It ranges from a condemnation of America’s lack of reconstruction of Iraq to a celebration of childlike Mujahideen in Afghanistan. Presumably the latter is such a retro-representation of 3rd world peasants that it’s meant to be satire; read it as you will.

Even if we take the film as a critique of US intervention it still fails to cohere. The script seems to pretend its one-liners are satiric and all the performances are off-key as if they didn’t know what tone to strike.

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Shampoo (US, 1975)

Watchable satire; though it’s slightly unclear who’s the target: hippies; men (lead by their cocks); businessmen; women; politicians. Probably all. Beatty’s great as the stud without much of a brain, that organ doesn’t make the decisions. Great restaurant scene when a pissed Julie Christie tries to go down on Beatty who’s pretending it isn’t happening. (OAR)

Buffalo Soldiers (UK-Ger, 2001)

The release of this was scuppered by Sept 11 (not a time, apparently, to offer a satire on the military). The post-Cold War environment also disappeared on that date and we entered the ‘war of terror’ (I bet this lasts a lot longer than the Cold one) and this also undermines this film. Bored US soldiers in Germany on the scam. The cocaine fueled tank ride is funny. (DVD).

Team America: World Police (US, 2004)

A bad film; though the vomit sequence is very funny. Satire can be great; this movie takes the piss out of both hawks and doves. However, it’s the hawks that win (or is that part of the Hollywood parody?). Where’s Bush? A bit faint-hearted not to include the leader of the war of terror. One of those films I wonder why I get to the end.