Tigre v Meste (Tigers in the City) Film Review

April 1st, 2013 § 0

Tigers in the City is ostensibly an urban love story mixed with an international crime thriller. As strange as that mix sounds, the actual film is even stranger.

TIgre v Meste cast
TIgre v Meste cast

The main story follows a hotshot young prosecutor in Bratislava, Rudolf Jazvec. This gentleman at the age of thirty has not lost his virginity, much to the amusement of his randy bon vivant zoo keeper friend Hyena who has been boffing Rudolf’s oversexed younger sister and fitness instructor Jane for the last five years. Rudolf is in love with a radio host on Bratislava’s culture channel, Marina Kuznikova.

Kristina Tothova Diana Morova
Kristina Tothova and Diana Morova in an intimate moment,
no it’s not a lesbian love story: Tóthová plays a man

Unknown to anyone except the viewer, Marina’s Russian husband Ivan (the boxing instructor of Jane) has been brought in by Marina’s mafioso brother to eliminate a troublesome state prosecutor. Rudolf.

Tigre v Meste (Tigers in the City) Film Review Continues »

Lóve by Jakub Kroner: Review

March 30th, 2013 § 0

Lóve is a deeply sinister film. There aren’t many films made these days in Bratislava or Slovakia that make it to theatres. More particularly there are even fewer films for young Slovaks to see themselves in. I’ve just survived the brutal skinhead-centric feature My Dog Killer (opening film of Febiofest) and had higher hopes for the very glamorously and heavily marketed Lóve.

Love poster Jakub Kroner
Love poster Jakub Kroner

Here we have three typical student girls living in the main dormitories at Mlynskina Dolina. They sneak boys in and out of their rooms and dream of having punky guys turn up with pear spirits in their underpants. After drinking the bottle straight, some of them have sex with the said punky guys. The next week Sandra cries that Tomas doesn’t call her anymore. So far so good. The same maudlin story which French étudiantes might live through, albeit with better rooms and better liquor.

Lóve by Jakub Kroner: Review Continues »

Marfa Girl review: Larry Clark’s bad kids visit the Mexican border

November 25th, 2012 § 0

Larry Clark likes to make movies which shock. Particularly about teenagers. They fuck and swear and sometimes kill (Bully). On the other hand, William Golding’s Lord of the Flies is on the reading list in most English language high schools around the world. Nothing Larry Clark has done can outdo the horror of those kids on an island.

Marfa Girl Adam Mediano Inez Mercedes Maxwell
Marfa Girl Adam Mediano with lovely Inez Mercedes Maxwell

Homo sapiens are a brutal and savage species, probably responsible for the elimination of Neanderthal man and since then we have sent thousands of species into extinction, from mammoths, to bison, to the dodo. If there’s a bad animal around, we’re it.

Clark like Golding is busy with representing the what is, ripping off of your rose-coloured glasses and then stomping on them to boot. Yes, your girlfriend in high school betrayed you. Deliberately. And your son’s girlfriend is probably betraying him now too. It’s just what people do. Your wife probably cheated on you at least once or twice too. Go and read Jane Goodall’s study of chimpanzees: how they mate and how they stalk their neighbours and kill.

Anyway back to Marfa Girl: it’s the same unlikeable group of teenagers smoking up and screwing as we’ve seen in other Clark movies. This time it’s on the US/Mexican border. There are some very dislikable adult border patrol officers and some slightly less dislikable promiscuous kids. It’s a film about ideas and loyalties. There are some extended Socratian dialogues between kids and cops, cops and cops.

Marfa Girl review: Larry Clark's bad kids visit the Mexican border Continues »

Ridley Scott’s Prometheus vs Blade Runner

September 20th, 2012 § 0

Chariots of the Gods I first saw when I was nine. For those unfamiliar with that documentary, Chariots of the Gods breathlessly explores signs from ancient cultures that we have had contact with extra-terrestials. While the documentary raises more questions than it answers, Chariots of the Gods had the same effect on me as it did Ridley Scott: I remain convinced we are not alone in existence (universe is place, existence is state: the universe may be as small in existence as your kitchen is in existence, just one room in one house in one city in a single country) and it is more than likely that sometime somebody has stopped by to visit, no matter how briefly.

Ridley Scott’s Prometheus chooses to take up the same questions of alien visitation but in fictional form.

origin of life on earth disintegrating engineer in prometheus
origin of life on earth disintegrating engineer in prometheus

Scott would seem to be the ideal visionary director to take us to other planets and to the future. Scott’s Blade Runner has long been my favorite film, competing strangely with Rohmer and Truffaut New Wave confections but certainly uncontested in the sci-fi and epic genre. The heart rending performance of Sean Young and enigma of Harrison Ford echo through time.

Ridley Scott's Prometheus vs Blade Runner Continues »

Paean to the Oceans: Dark Side of the Lens

October 4th, 2010 § 2

dark side of the lens whales
dark side of the lens whales
dark side of the lens gulls
dark side of the lens gulls
dark side of the lens diver
dark side of the lens diver

This film is supposed to be about surfing and underwater photography.

For me it is about the sea and it is a paeon to this monument of beauty spanning most of the planet.

I see this and I wonder how we continue to relentlessly despoil this unrepairable wonder with oil spills, deslickers, polluted rivers, radioactive waste.

The wickedness of civilisation, at least in its capitalist extant, is to borrow the profit of today against the misery of tomorrow. Man has been at this a long time though. The folk of Easter Island expired when they consumed their entire food chain.

Even archeology has not been enough to sober world leaders apart from that fleeting glimpse of a president Gore.

But back to the film and the ocean. Don’t miss the splendid soundtrack and the free poetry of the voiceover. Here’s a few strong phrases.

i never set out to become anything particular, only to live creatively…

my heart bleeds celtic blood and I’m magnetised to familiar frontiers…

if i only scrape a living it’s a living worth scraping..


Both words and music strongly wrought by subject and filmmaker Mickey Smith. 

A small SEO thanks to energy drink Relentless for making this possible. Via ISO50.

Epic Fantasy still not on the big screen: Stephen R. Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant Trilogies

March 4th, 2010 § 42

I saw a bit of Legends of the Seeker, adapted from Terry Goodkind’s books. The whole series while rather entertaining if for nothing else for the constant stream of look-alike blond action babes who trot across the screen. Can anybody actually tell the difference between Denna, Cara, Corlinda, Nicci incarnation two to name just a few? Whoever is casting the series has tunnel vision.

Much of the story seemed to be adaptations of Stephen R. Donaldson’s Thomas Covenenant novels. In just one example, the Mord’Sith seem a near clone of the Bloodguard but with breasts.

Which set me to asking myself whatever happened to a film version of Stephen R. Donaldson’s Thomas Covenenant Trilogies (there’s three of them)? The Thomas Convenant novels are fantasy for grown-ups dealing with issues such as acceptance and exclusion via physical metaphors like lepresy. The sex lives are also very complex, exploring the breakdown of the physical elements of love over time.

Despite some heavy hitters signing up to develop such a film, no studio signed off on it. Here are Stephen R. Donaldson’s own notes on the subject.

"Covenant" film news: it’s over. The producers who optioned "Lord Foul’s Bane" have tried everything they could think of, without success. Now their option has expired, and they have declined to renew it. Bury it now, folks, ’cause it’s dead. 1/29/07

Possible "Lord Foul’s Bane" film: bad news. It doesn’t look good. So far, the project has been rejected by Fox, Sony, and Dreamworks. "Too dark." "Too much like LOTR." The prospective producers have decided to change their tactics. They are now hoping to get a reputable director "on board." If they succeed, this may increase the project’s credibility.

I’ll post more news when I have some. 2005

This past week, "The Hollywood Reporter" announced that "Covenant" is coming to the big screen. This is both premature and misleading. Here are the facts to date.

The production team of Mark Gordon ("Saving Private Ryan") and Peter Winther ("Independence Day") is quite serious about wanting to make a "Covenant" film. "Revelstone Development" has a design in place and a screenwriter on board (John Orloff, "Band of Brothers"). What Gordon and Winther do *not* have is a studio (i.e. money); and without a studio little or nothing is likely to happen. Since Hollywood basically shuts down in December, Gordon and Winther plan to start approaching studios in January.

I would like to emphasize that I have no control over any aspect of this process. After all, the film rights are held by Ballantine Books, not by me. I’ve met Winther and Orloff, and I’m convinced that their respect for and excitement about "Covenant" is genuine: for that reason, I’m starting to get excited myself. And I have no doubt that Revelstone Development will consult with me from time to time, and will take whatever I have to say seriously. But I have no actual power here. Nor do I want any. In fact, I’ve refused every offer to give me any power. I love movies; I hope a "Covenant" movie (or several) will be made; I hope it will be good; and I hope it will be successful. But I’m simply not qualified, either by experience or by personality, to make the kinds of decisions–and compromises–which are essential to film-making. And I have my own work to do, work which pretty much consumes all of my creative energy. So I’m rooting hard for Revelstone Development; and if Gordon, Winther, and Orloff ever want my opinion, I’ll give it to them. But really this is all out of my hands.

More news as it develops….

P.S. I’m just guessing here; but I suspect that peculiar references to "Saturn" in "The Hollywood Reporter" are a confused conflation of "Satan" and "Sauron." I can’t think of any other explanation.

As it happens, Russell Crowe has decided NOT to take on the role of Thomas Covenant, no doubt (drum-roll, please) because he considered it too taxing. Imagine my surprise. As you may know, money people typically commit to a movie, not because they like the project, but because a "bankable" star has agreed to participate. Therefore the "Covenant" film remains purely hypothetical.

I’m amazed that the Thomas Convenant series has never been made into a motion picture considering how far near the bottom of the barrel Hollywood scraped for its Lord of the Rings lookalikes in the boom years. Or that it hasn’t been picked up for a television series.

Too sophisticated?

Ann McAffrey’s Dragon series made it to the big screen on a large scale. Even latecomer to the screen Ursula K. LeGuin’s Earthsea trilogy made it Sci Fi channel in 2004. Surely somebody has to get around to the Thomas Covenant Chronicles eventually even if they end up simplifying and whitewashing some of the darker elements.

Viennale Soul Powered on Badeschiff

November 9th, 2009 § 0

Managed to catch some Viennale films and a couple of Viennale parties.

The strange thing at the parties is that many of the people there had not been to any films or to just one film. I suppose at the films many of the people had not been to any parties.

If you get the chance, I’d recommend to do both.

While I was at the Soul Powered evening on 31 October I managed to snap some photos both upstairs and downstairs.

Viennale party upstairs Badeschiff
Viennale party upstairs Badeschiff

Viennale Soul Powered on Badeschiff Continues »

Mafia Glamour: Reflections on Scorcese’s Casino

September 24th, 2009 § 0

Made the mistake of going to see Casino at the Film Museum in Vienna on Sunday night. In case you were tuned out in 1995, Casino is a three hour Martin Scorcese blockbuster featuring Robert De Niro and Sharon Stone. Not that Casino is a bad film, quite the contrary. As great art often will, Casino took me down a long rabbit hole seeking a deeper understanding of its subject.

The setting is mainly Las Vegas and it is a look inside the Mafia’s years at the top of the Vegas totem through the life of Sam “Ace” Rothstein, a sharp gambler who managed the casinos for them.

When in Vegas, Rothstein makes the mistake of falling for Ginger, one of the top hustlers/call girls of the town.

I couldn’t actually believe that Robert De Niro’s character would be foolish enough to put his whole life at risk for the sake of a strumpet. Then I saw the swimsuit pictures of the real life Geri McGee on whom Ginger’s character was based. Even Sharon Stone in her prime looks like a wallflower in comparison to the original here.

Geri McGee Casino Sharon Stone
Geri McGee inspiration for
Sharon Stone’s Ginger in Casino

At the end of Casino, the whole deal falls apart with a campaign to drive Rothstein out of Vegas, Ginger dead of a drug overdose after robbing him of a million dollars and spending it on rough bikers. Rothstein’s best friend and nominal protector in Vegas, mafioso Nicky first watches his own brother beaten to death in an Iowa cornfield by the same guys who used to be his own crew before suffering the same fate himself. The higher up bosses who ordered the hit on Nicky have problems of their own, in the form of an indictment for racketeering and rigging the casino books. All witnesses and accessories must disappear.

Generally the message is not that crime doesn’t pay, but that you don’t get to keep the money and it costs too much personally.

As the plot behind Casino is based on a true story (Frank “Lefty” Rosenthal’s life), it sent me to research whether this message is the truth or a trite simplification.

Once you start digging into the lives of the mafia in Vegas, you are led into the mafia of Chicago and then New York. From there the story moves to Naples and Sicily and to the murders of the special prosecutors Giovanni Falcone and Paolo Borsellino and the corruption of Italian prime minister Giulio Andreotti who was in the pocket of the mafia and running interference for them most of his political life.

If you read them in a novel, you wouldn’t believe the stories of betrayal and viciousness. But they are true stories and people’s lives.

Of the thirty or so short biographies* I found and read, over 80% of the protagonists either spent decades of their lives in prison or were murdered by other mafiosi, in many cases their former closest associates. In some cases, both prison and murder.

Each of these men lives extraordinarily unpleasant lives of anticipation and worry and brutality before finally suffering a similar fate to that which he had so glibly wreaked on others. It’s Rousseau’s social contract gone totally awry.

There is so little room for upside in their world. In the case of Rosenthal/Rothstein, he accidentally survived a car bombing before being able to go on with his life. He should have been just another mafia victim. He only survived thank to a special floorplate installed on that model of Cadillac due to a factory recall.

What were Rosenthal’s crimes:

  • appearing on television and thereby attracting attention to himself
  • being at the centre of a very lucrative business which worked out very well, i.e. he knew too much.

It turns out that with the Mafia if you strike it rich, you have probably signed your own death warrant. Almost the entire generation of mafiosi who helped run the casinos in Vegas ended up in body bags at the end of Scorcese’s film. Otherwise they might talk.

A more striking example is the Lufthansa Heist which took place in JFK airport in New York. A crew managed to heist $6 million in a single evening in 1974. Jimmy Burke who organized the heist didn’t want to share so much money around. Moreover loose lips sink ships.

So instead he tried to knock off almost every heist participant. With great success.

The Lufthansa Heist is perhaps the single most successful single street level operation the Mafia ever managed to pull off. Yet the guys who did the good work ended up dead.

Quite frankly, as a career mafioso sucks. Do good work: get iced. Do bad work: go to prison and/or get iced.

When you look at each of their faces (mostly mugshots so one should make allowances) very little love and very little grace. Being a thug or a wiseguy is bad for your physiognimy.** These guys do not look as good as Dustin Hoffman and crew in The Godfather Trilogy. The dingy apartment of Lefty in the film Donnie Brasco is closer to the truth.

Most of those who do get to old age, get there without much in savings. Despite the millions that went through their hands as working wiseguys, they end up living very dreary lives in a suburb somewhere in Arizona.

Frankly after all the glamorization of the Mafia, I was surprised at how tough the life really is and how bad the odds are.

Conclusion: as a career move, joining the Mafia is probably even worse than signing up with Enron. At the end of the day, you can only lose and every day you know the reaper may be coming for you.

Notes and Trivia

* Surprisingly the Wikipedia entries for most of these guys are so badly written that basic sentence construction and verb tense are wrong most of the time. The entries are curiously repetitive as if never properly edited. I’ve never seen worse Wikipedia articles on any subject.

** Single exception La Piccolo in Italy. He was a very good looking young man and even now doesn’t look too bad for his age.