July 28, 2011

"A Serbian Film"


A film made by a man who doesn't realise he's a pervert.

MiloŇ° is a aging Serbian porn star living with his beautiful wife and young son.  When he is offered an extremely large sum of money to star in a mysterious porno, he reluctantly agrees, hoping to finally make a clean break from the business and secure his family's future.  However, in spite of the director's passionate attestations that they are creating "art", MiloŇ° is troubled by the man's refusal to let him see the script.  As filming commences, it becomes apparent why.

"A Serbian Film" has already gone down in history as one of (if not the) most graphic, violent and disgusting films of all time.  (10 minutes before the end I had to turn it off and take a half an hour break).  What sets this film apart from being a gratuitous piece of trash, and a work of art, is director Srdjan Spasojevic's insistence.

According to him, the film is a political allegory about the plight of the Serbian people:

"When we say “your boss is fucking you,” we would draw your boss fucking you, but we all know he isn’t really fucking you. We’re just depicting how you feel. And that’s what we did with the film. It’s like we feel violated by authority; our authority in politics and art is so restricted and narrow minded that it makes everything impossible.... It’s kind of pornographic because you get fucked for feeding your family".

Okay, I can understand the violence, rape, and "fucking" metaphors, but a few of the others have lost me.  In metaphor speak, what does stabbing an erect penis through a man's oesophagus say about Serbia?  How about having sex with a dead person?  Maybe I just don't get it!

There's also a subtle "Alice in Wonderland" thing going on (spot the white rabbits) but deciphering this intricate symbolism is beyond me.


An allegory for Serbia?  It's more likely that the film is an allegory for Spasojevic himself.  He's written himself into the script as the insane director, insisting that the snuff movie he is making is "art".  And I think he really believes it.  "Pretentious" is one word I haven't heard associated with this movie yet, but I'm sorry - this has to be one of the most self-indulgent wank-fests I've ever seen.


In spite of all this, Spasojevic might not be totally deluded.  He professes that work like this is cathartic, and I can attest to that.  I started watching this film in a bad mood, but felt better when it ended.  I guess there's nothing like rape, mutilation, pedophilia, and multiple murders to make you appreciate your own life.  Now where's my Disney boxset? 

Post Scriptum:  In fairness, the acting is amazing. 

July 19, 2011

"Life in a Day"

YouTube's brain child: a 'Baraka' for this decade?


In 2010 Youtube celebrated its fifth birthday, and wanted to mark the occasion.  After recruiting Oscar winner Kevin MacDonald ("Touching the Void") as director, and Hollywood legend Ridley Scott ("Alien" etc.) as producer, people from all around the globe were invited to film their life on 24th of July 2010, and upload it onto YouTube.  These disparate days-in-the-life would be edited together, and a feature film would be created.

I went into this film with low expectations, but after 10 minutes found myself riding a wave of sound bites and dazzling imagery.  This doco reminded me of another film: the cinematographer's-wet-dream "Baraka".  There's no conventional plot, stunning shots depict life on earth and are accompanied by amazing music.  However, because it's shot by hundreds of normal people, "Life in a Day" becomes an unique twist on the genre that "Baraka" spawned.

On screen, people wake up, brush their teeth, and go about their daily life.  The resulting montage of birth, love, friendship, illness, death, fear, and quirky stories has the visual and anthropological richness of those non-verbal films, but brings humour and emotion into the equation.

For me it was an anthropological study on two levels.  As I viewer I was engrossed in the visual rhythms, but as a film maker I loved observing the different take each participant had on the project, and figuring out how it was all put together.  There seems to have been a detailed brief that had questions like "What do you fear?", "What do you love?", and the competitive creativity of each film maker oozed through their shots.  Some submissions were filmed on a mobile phone, some were on a computer camera, and some were obviously professional film makers probably hoping to be noticed by Mac Donald or Scott (that's what I would've been hoping ;) ).

My only criticism is that the ending was a bit weak, but it didn't take away from the rest of the film.   Having participated in a similar project a few years ago, I recognise how difficult a task Mac Donald was set, and I applaud him for creating something beautiful from lots of random rubbish ;)

The film is being released by National Geographic on the 24th of July 2011 - exactly one year after it was filmed.  Definitely one to watch on a big screen.

See "Baraka" here.

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