Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, Kanye West

Every year I find myself annoyed by the year end results of Pitchfork.com because every year the website picks a rap or hip-hop album to praise with every bit of positive energy the staff can muster. And, every year I find myself pissed off that the site is dismissing other bands who are better because it feels right for the hipsters to hold up someone who is not "one of them." This year it seems Kanye West is the winner of their highest praise. I can't remember the last time I saw the site give an album a 10 point scored review, but it has happened. And, Mr. West should be so proud.

To make matters worse, I'm not sure how far off Pitchfork is this time around. In fact, I'd almost agree with their praise. My first listen of Kanye West's album left me in shock. The album is as over the top, bright, and disorienting as a disco ball smashing to a crowded dance floor. This is some entertaining, crazy, pop cultured music. My jaw is open in awe.

I have never and will never respect Kanye West as a person. He is larger than life. He is too arrogant. Too consumed with self to ever do any good. And, for that matter, too self consumed to ever do any real harm. He's just a presence to appear and annoy from time to time. But, sometimes you have to forget the personality and focus on the art.

West writes some incredible lyrics. There are moments of rhyme throughout the disc that took me off guard. I was impressed. I was excited. This is a street wise poet using his money and fame to share his own tortured soul. Or, at least, the tortured soul of the character he has created through his music and public persona. Is an artist ever just one person? Or made up of multiple attempts at creating and recreating?

I don't know enough about Kanye West's past music, about the current state of rap music, or about all the references West throws out throughout the album. So I can't really dissect the album. And, therefore, I can't really call it a best of the year. Because I am so far removed from the reality of the album as singular tracks. I can only experience the pieces as a whole.

I believe this album is truly West's beautiful, dark, twisted fantasy. His entire celebrity has been a series of beautiful, dark, twisted events. But, in the end, he is pleased because it has always been about this end result. West is a man of dream and fantasy. With this album it is quite clear West is deep inside that fantasy. I hope he remains there.


Please Give

BEST OF 2010

Nicole Holofcener has been creating character driven films since 1997. Her first feature film, Walking and Talking, is enjoyable. Very much a romantic comedy of the 90s. Holofcener's second film, Lovely & Amazing, remains one of the most enjoyable films from the 00s. The film is dark, comical, smart, and well acted. Holofcener knows how to use a cast- a great cast. The third film, Friends with Money, is Holofcener's most viewer friendly film. Gone are Holofcener's traits of not giving us the answers or the happy ending. On first viewing, Friends with Money is a lot of fun. As usual, Catherine Keener is brilliant in the film.

As I saw previews of Please Give at the start of other films, I worried Holofcener had started to travel a path I wasn't interested in following. After Friends with Money I was very hesitant to just jump into Please Give. In fact, I didn't see it in the theatre because I was afraid of disappointment. I was wrong to judge the director so harshly based on a film I didn't even dislike. What is wrong with me?

Catherine Keener has returned in her fourth Holofcener film (yes, four. Catherine Keener has been in each of the films). Keener plays a neurotic mother, wife, and business owner. No one captures the neurosis of New York City and our current cultural woes like Holofcener.

Holofcener is always concerned with the female body image. She tackles these issues to complete perfection in Lovely & Amazing. She does a fairly decent job this time around, too. Although, at times, I found myself annoyed with the teenage daughter's tear-filled adolescent rants. It isn't that I can't relate, but it starts to border on spoiled brat behavior. This may be the point of the character. The way some keep giving to others and never receive anything in return.

Amanda Peet is lovely as the granddaughter to the dying neighbor. In fact, this is probably Peet's best role (her role in Igby Goes Down comes close to a tie though). Her portrayal of an obsessive and aging beauty is heartbreaking and hilarious.

Rebecca Hall may be the greatest film actress to arrive in the past handful of years. Hall hit the ground running in Allen's Vicky Christina Barcelona and has only continued to impress in her handful of roles since then. In Please Give, Hall plays the sad, lost, lonely caretaker to her grandmother. She is the perfect amount of innocence and bitterness.

As will all Holofcener's films, it is hard to tell exactly what is being said. And, even harder to decide if it matters. But, in the end I feel it comes down to one thing: stuff. The stuff we hold on to, the stuff we throw out, and the stuff we put on ourselves. Does it mean anything to anyone else? Or, only to ourselves?


Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Stars: November 23rd, 2010: Newport/Southgate House

Opening Act: Geographer

Stars Set List:

(Not in correct order and may be missing a song or two)

1. He Dreams He's Awake
2. Elevator Love Song
3. Wasted Daylight
4. The Passenger
5. The Comeback
6. Dead Hearts
7. Ageless Beauty (Amy Millan solo/acoustic)
8. Time Can Never Kill the True Heart (Amy Millan & Torquil Campbell/acoustic)
9. I Died So I Could Haunt You
10. Fixed
11. The Woods
12. We Don't Want Your Body
13. Set Yourself on Fire
14. Take Me to the Riot
15. Your Ex Lover is Dead
16. One More Night
17. Celebration Guns (Amy Millan/acoustic)
18. Reunion
19. How Much More
20. Changes

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Emily L, Marguerite Duras

I, sadly, am always too quick to forget about the magic of a Duras novel. The pure simple beauty of every sentence and statement. The lines of her prose are so tightly written. Small, short, and spoken in the compact nature of an understanding dialogue. Duras writes about love, obsession, creativity, and the painful nature of truth.

In Emily L, Duras tells the story of a couple, the narrator and the husband. Both are writers. The husband is suffering a dry spell in his writing. The narrator wants to write a novel about their affair. It is never directly stated, but it is made clear the husband feels this is nonsense. He is keeping her from creating. In a way, forcing her to suffer a writers block just as he is suffering.

The two are away on vacation and enjoying an evening at the bar. They watch a couple at the other end of the bar. The novel follows the events of what we all do: creating the stories of strangers. The narrator begins to wonder about the male and female. Even starts to create a history of the two.

The title character, Emily L, is the name given to the unknown woman. She is married to a sea captain. They are traveling the world to keep themselves busy. They have hit a rough patch in their marriage because Emily L wishes to write poetry. It is suggested that Duras is creating a history to Emily Dickinson. Even using a slight different version of 'A Certain Slant of Light' to make clear Dickinson is meant to be suggested.

Emily's husband is not able to understand the poetry. He feels Emily is trying to prove she is smarter than him. Also, the husband finds himself jealous of the poems. Eventually, the narrator tells us of an affair Emily L had with one of the men working at the Inn. At this point, the reader begins to realize what has taken place. We have to take steps back and look at the novel's progression.

The narrator wishes to create a story about a relationship. She wants to write a story about her relationship. Her husband is keeping her from doing so. What she does is create the story vocally. She places parts of her own story (maybe all of her own story?) onto these two strangers. As a reader, we're never fully aware of the fact and the fiction. Duras is writing about writing.

Also, Duras is writing about male control. The narrator's husband wishes her to not write just as he is not writing. Emily L's husband is wishing her to not write her poetry because he can't understand it. And, I believe Duras makes slight reference to Dickinson because Emily Dickinson's art was controlled by a man, too.

The last paragraph of Duras' Emily L is quite beautiful. It speaks to the nature and style of writing. It speaks to writing with full honesty. To never editing or removing the pieces we write out because we are then only destroying the truths we could have offered. This is Duras' style. And why her work continues to be my muse.


Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, David Mitchell

I hate to say it, but this novel is the biggest disappointment of the year. It is unfair for me to be so harsh. I haven't completed the novel. And, most likely, won't complete the novel anytime soon. I have tried, on three occasions, to read the novel. Each time I only make it as far as page fifty. There is something holding me back.

David Mitchell is one of my favorite contemporary authors. His style is refreshing. His word play, intelligent. His prose is heartbreaking and poetic. Ghostwritten, Mitchell's first novel, remains one of my favorite books. His second novel, Number9Dream, is a dreamworld of delight and surrealism. Cloud Atlas, the third novel, is his grandest novel in that it creates a nesting doll of a world crossing time and continent. Then, Mitchell released Black Swan Green. The novel considered by many to be a departure for Mitchell. When I first read the reviews for Black Swan Green I was nervous. Afraid to hear his style had changed. But, shortly after starting Black Swan Green I realized this was not the case. The novel holds up to all his previous novels. In fact, is probably his best written and most structured novel.

When reviews for Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet were released, I once again doubted the reviews. The statements of this being a historical novel should have scared me, but I assumed Mitchell was going to be playful. Include methods from previous works. Maybe fifty pages isn't enough for me to form a real opinion. Maybe his past styles are present in Thousand Autumns... but, if they are then I am missing them.

From what I read, this is Mitchell's strongest novel. The content is hefty. The characters are complex. All of this is wonderful. I'm pleased to see Mitchell expand his talent on each release. But, I am not a fan of the historical novel. And everything about this is extremely historical. I know in time I will return to the novel and read it due to my love of Mitchell's work. For now, it sits barely touched.

All Day, Girl Talk

Girl Talk, on many levels, is a genius. The concept: take well known songs and turn them into dance hits. And, this isn't your everyday remix. This is mash up at the most extreme. One can find at least five to seven songs cut up and spliced a top another five or seven songs... all in one track.

I call this music ADD dance music. Just as you start to get bored with the track, you are being sent in another direction. One rarely has time to ask "was that --?" before the next surprise songs sneaks its way into your ears. As an album, it isn't a hardcore dance album. Live, I'm sure it is a beautiful event. As an album, it is perfect for getting your energy up, working out, or preparing for a night of dancing.

Throughout the album you find yourself hearing the music of hits from the 80s, alternative songs from the 90s, and a lot of hip hop from 00s. My only complaint, maybe too much hip hop. But, the hip hop has decreased since the last Girl Talk record. The other draw back to the album... since there are so many songs per track, one does get a little tired from time to time.

Artists you will hear mashed together: NIN, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Kesha, Cyndi Lauper, The Bangles, Black Eyed Peas, Pitbull, Ludacris, Arcade Fire, Passion Pit, etc etc etc It really doesn't end.

In a way, I think of this album as a scrapbook of all the songs I've danced to over the past two years. Two years ago, I spent many nights dancing to 80s music. For the past year, I've been dancing to a lot of pop, and a little bit of hip hop, from the 00s. It's a great walk down memory lane. And, Girl Talk's strongest release.

It can be downloaded for free HERE


Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Law of Desire

This is certainly the turning point in Almodovar's career. Prior to Law of Desire, Almodovar was working on the kinks on his favorite themes: love, sexuality, obsession, and family. In Law of Desire, Almodovar combines all of his themes into one film and manages to create the greatest film in his career (up to the time this film was created). Almodovar follows this film up with his biggest success, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown. Sadly, he follows these two hits with two weaker films (Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! and High Heels).

Carmen Maura continues her run as the great actress of an Almodovar film. Sadly, she'll only appear in one more (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown) before taking a long break until her appearance as the mother in Volver. In Law of Desire, Maura isn't quite playing a woman. In this role, she plays a transsexual. And she does it so well. One might think a woman playing a man turned woman should be a very easy job. But, think about it... one needs to almost play up the femininity, I would think. To really make sure to express that womanly quality that was felt beneath the male she was born as.

The film follows a writer, of films and plays, who is in love with a man who only shows him a little interest. The writer finds himself the obsession of Antonio Banderas' character because Banderas is seeking celebrity through film. Banderas' character is not homosexual. One could argue he isn't even bisexual. This adds a very interesting layer to the sexuality of the film. In this role, Banderas' is almost repeating the character he played in Matador. Banderas is playing awkward, innocent, and obsessive.

In this film, we see Almodovar start to focus on the creative process and the controlling nature of the artist. This theme would feature prominately in his later films on a much larger scale (one might even suggest more successful scale). It is interesting the way the writer functions and dysfuntions. Even more interesting the way those around him seem to encourage this arrogance and distance. As if to say the creative type can't be expected to be well behaved.

As with most Almodovar films, the melodrama is through the roof. This result in a fairly serious film slowly turning a little comical towards the end. As a whole, the film works very well. The humor doesn't really distract from the pain of the film. It helps to balance out the drama.

Law of Desire is definately a stepping stone for All About My Mother, Talk to Her, and Bad Education. Law of Desire does not reach the same heights as those films, but it is certainly the sign of things to come.


Body Talk, Robyn

Throughout the year, Robyn has released two EPs. Both EPs being called Body Talk, pt. 1 and Body Talk, pt. 2. The purpose of these EPs was for her listening audience to experience her in the works album, Body Talk. The plan was to take songs from the first two EPs, add a few new songs, and release her full length album, Body Talk. At last, the finale of this musical experiment has come to an end.

The full length Body Talk is a strong release. After Body Talk, pt. 2 I wasn't sure how she could top the album. And, to be honest, she hasn't topped pt. 2. Body Talk, pt. 2 was just perfect from start to finish. On the full length album, Robyn reintroduces us to songs we've already heard over and over again. The fresh excitement of the songs is lost a little. And, relistening to songs from Body Talk, pt. 1 isn't quite on my list of things I wanted to do. Much of that album was just so-so for me.

Of the new songs, Robyn is still putting on a very good show. 'Call Your Girlfriend' is probably my favorite of the new batch. There is just something so catchy and honest about the song. I was hooked from the very start. It is a sad song, but a pleasing song at the same time. 'Time Machine' is fun, but not a great song. The lyrics are a little silly and shallow. But, not all pop music is meant to be touching or expressive. 'Stars 4 Ever' is my least favorite of the new songs. So boring and unnecessary. I can't imagine I'll be sitting through too many listens of this song. And, I'm happy to find it is the closing track.

The last of the "new" songs, a popped up version of 'Indestructible.' Now, this is going to be rare for me... but, I actually prefer the strings version of this song. I feel is carries so much more weight. I enjoy the track on the full length album, too. It is something for a more upbeat evening.

Of the three releases, I still find Body Talk, pt. 2 to be the strongest. But, it was nice for Robyn to show us her take on the "making of an album." We were able to see all the tracks created, and then see the final track listing. It was a fun, and successful, experiment.


Down There, Avery Tare

BEST OF 2010

I am a huge fan of Animal Collective. They have yet to release an album I don't enjoy. They remain consistent, but refreshing with each release. Over the years, there has been the side projects of Animal Collective band members. The most famous side project is Panda Bear. I will admit I am not very taken by Panda Bear's releases. In 2007, Panda Bear was praised for the release of the album Person Pitch. The reviews drew comparisons to the Beach Boys and other surf rock sounds. I wasn't interested. It was fine, but I could take it or leave it. And, honestly, at this point... I've left it.

When I heard Avery Tare was releasing a solo project I became worried. I was hoping this wasn't going to be another critical darling mess. But, the reviews haven't been overwhelmingly positive. They've maintained a pretty middle of the road grouping of thoughts on the album. I'd have to agree. There isn't anything exceptional in the album. But, I do enjoy it a lot more than Panda Bear's releases.

Down There sounds very much like an Animal Collective album. All the spastic vocals and music are present. The playful, music box on acid sounds are floating about like tripping ghosts in a haunted house. It is a surprising mix of somber emotion and art-rock. Much of the albums sounds as if it were created underwater. This is hard to explain. But, that sound when you take a finger and run it horizontally across your lips and try to speak... there is this element to much of the album. It doesn't sound pleasant. But, it's a lot of fun.

Man Man gets compared to Animal Collective meets Tom Waits. I agree. But, on Avery Tare's release... I'd say he sounds like Man Man meets Animal Collective. Again, a good thing. I wonder why this needed to be a solo album. Maybe beef it up a bit with the rest of the Animal Collective fellows and this could be a really incredible release.

The sounds of the albums vary. There are a few upbeat pieces that get your body doing a little dance (Oliver Twist) and other songs which are dark, but beautiful (Laughing Hieroglyphic). I haven't given this album enough attention. Every time I listen I tell myself "you need to put this on more often." Then, I forget all about it and find myself rediscovering it a couple of weeks later.

This is definitely a surprise release. And the best surprise of all... it gets better with every listen.


Monday, November 15, 2010

Bored to Death: Season 2

In Season Two of HBO's Bored to Death, the series maintained the same level of literary wit, straight male silliness, and thought provoking story lines. When I first heard about Bored to Death, I was a little turned off. I adore Jason Schwartzman (playing novelist Jonathan Ames), but Ted Danson I think of as so-so and Zach Galifianakis who I only think of as loud and boring. I wasn't sure how these three were going to mix together and create an entertaining series.

In Season One, we learn that Jonathan Ames is having money problems and writers block. In order to solve both, he puts out a detective agency ad on Craigslist. The first season goes back and forth with the detective story. Usually every other episode dealt with a case and the other in between episodes dealt with the characters story lines. In Season Two, it wasn't quite as back and forth, but a much better mix of the two.

The series brings an incredible list of guest stars: Oliver Platt, Mary Kay Place, Jenny Slate, Kristen Wiig, Jim Jarmusch, Kevin Bacon, and F. Murray Abraham. I always find guest stars to be an added bonus to any half hour sitcom when they are used correctly. And, in Bored to Death, the guest stars usually represent those who need Jonathan for a case.

Earlier I complained about Ted Danson and Zach Galifianakis, but after this series I no longer feel the same way. I find Ted Danson annoying, but necessary on Curb Your Enthusiasm. On Bored to Death he is more than necessary. At times, he makes an entire episode a million times better. In this season, he deals with a cancer scare and takes up a lot of pot smoking. And, Zach Galifianakis is added slapstick and is used to add a little bit of a heart. I have grown to really enjoy both characters.

Sunday night marked the final episode of Season Two. And, I must say, it was an incredible season. Season One was successful for its setup of a quirky show and its cast of characters, but Season Two was successful in making us care more about the characters and keeping us entertained. Nothing felt old or recycled. I think this has something to do with the 8 episodes a season format. I feel a series is much better experienced when written and shown in smaller increments (none of this 22 episodes a season craziness).


Sunday, November 14, 2010


In 2006, Lars von Trier treated his audience to a comedy. The Boss of it All is a step back for von Trier. Most of his films are dark and require a great deal of patience. For The Boss of it All, von Trier toned down much of his trademark habits. Gone was the central female character lost in a male dominated world. Gone was the camera work and the Brechtian style morality plays. Was this meant to signify a permanent shift? Or, just a von Trier mood swing? Prior to The Boss of it All, von Trier released Manderlay (his sequel to Dogville). Manderlay and The Boss of it All remain my least favorite of the von Trier films. I was worried. Then, a long period of silence. Four years before word of Antichrist.

Antichrist was being pushed as a horror film. The title and the previews certainly played to the genre. Then word of its release at Cannes. Audience members walking out in disgust. People standing up and booing at the films end. And the press demanding an explanation for the film. Per usual, von Trier doesn't break down easy. He informed those he didn't need to explain himself. The audience was his guest to his film. Lars von Trier has only ever told us the film was created during a period of great depression. A long period of writer's block during which time von Trier thought he would never write again.

Some have claimed the film means nothing. Just a film to disturb an audience. Images from dreams and the depths of depression. Those people feel they've been tricked. As if film must hold meaning. But, this wouldn't be the first director to create a film from dreams. Robert Altman's 3 Women is a surreal film with no answers. Altman admitting it was created directly from a dream and that the meaning is open to interpretation. Art is created out of periods of change for artists. Paintings, music, film, etc. The artist is expressing a mood and not always a purpose. Do we judge film harsher because it includes so many people? The money put into a film, the actors living the film, and the audience following a director. If this were a painting, it would be contained within a small square. We could walk by it. Do we expect more from film because it so often expects more from us?

I do believe Antichrist is about nothing. Let me rephrase this. I believe Antichrist is about our nothingness. But, the film itself is about everything. On my first viewing of the film, a little over a year ago, I enjoyed the film. I was very critical of the film, though. I was missing pieces. I had watched the film in two parts (due to the website's constrictions). This is not a film to break into parts. This is a straight through roller coaster assault on every emotion a film is capable of bringing out of its audience. I found (and still find) the Prologue of the film to be a little difficult. I wish it were shorter. It boarders on becoming "too artsy" for the sake of drama. But, on the other hand, it is a beautifully shot black and white handful of minutes. In no way weakening the film.

If the Bible is a Christ story, is the anti-Bible the Antichrist story? And, if so, is this film the anti-Bible? I feel watching the film with this as thought helps one to move through the film without asking 'how is this possible?' We have been handed stories of Noah's ark, Jonah and the whale, and (most importantly) a talking snake in the Garden of Eden. Are we just being handed this anti-Eden story and meant to take lessons? Not to question the validity of the actions and consequences? von Trier has turned Eden into Satan's garden in place of God. This is a world where God is truly dead. It has been suggested this is the world where God has given up.

After the death of their child, a couple returns to their country retreat. The wife is a mess. The husband is a controlling therapist. The country retreat is named Eden. The husband, never given a name and referred to as He in the credits, wishes to control/recreate/shape his wife, She. Isn't this what we've been taught from the Bible? Man helps, saves woman? Is the Bible not to blame for so much of what society deems as "not equal" (women, queers, African-Americans, etc)?

Many have argued the film is misogynist. I could not disagree more. I believe this is one of the strongest feminist films created. Lars von Trier may put his women through hell, but he does it for a reason. von Trier wants us to recognize what history has done to women. And, what we continue to do to those we are taught to believe as "different" or "less than."

I am usually capable of holding in my emotions. I have only cried, with others in my presence, during a small handful of films (Dancer in the Dark, The Wrestler, The Event, Home for the Holidays) and by the time this film ended I had tears. I was able to control myself from a complete breakdown. The last forty minutes of the film does not let you breathe. The constant attack and anger keeps your breath deep inside and one is afraid of shifting.

I only have two experiences with the film. There is so much symbolism (the Three Beggars require a lot of attention and study). I have a lot of questions. A lot of theory I still need to work through. This requires repeated viewings. But, Antichrist isn't made to be sat through back to back without totally removing yourself from the film.

There are scenes in this film you will never have thought would be presented to you in a movie- or ever. The material, the action, the message are filled with dread. I think you're fucked up for refusing to watch it. And you're fucked up once it's over.


Saturday, November 13, 2010


I am always confused when I read reviews of Almodovar’s films and they discuss the sexual tones. When they make reference to his sexual thrillers. I always assumed critics were just being a little too “American” about the way Almodovar uses dialogue about sex in his films. But, after Matador, I realize they are referencing actual sex in his films. Matador is filled with some pretty racy scenes. And, when the scenes aren’t sex, the suggestion certainly exists.

At this point in Almodovar’s career, the role of homosexuality in his films is clearly significant. And, I adore the way he presents sexuality. Never is queer made to be an issue. In the Almodovar world, transsexuals, lesbians, gays, and bisexuals coexist with heterosexuals. This is a perfect world when it comes to sexuality.

Matador is a thriller in every sense of the word. There are women disappearing, men being murdered, and an attempted rape. All by the same person? Different people? And, why is the village innocent confessing to these murders? Is there something more sinister behind his eyes?

Antonio Banderas stars in this film. I have to say, I know very little of Banderas’ film career. I have only seen him in, maybe, two other films? And, I have never been a fan of his acting or image. But, I must confess, in Matador… Banderas puts on a great show. His acting fits with the rest of the cast. And, he is very beautiful in his youth. I was smitten from the start.

Almodovar is starting to use color more. This is the first film I have noticed him use colors in a way similar to his more recent films. The clothes are a little brighter. The backgrounds a little more bright. There is a scene with an eclipse which is quite beautiful (although, a bad point in the writing). And, a couple times, during a scene change, there are flashes of bright colors.


Friday, November 12, 2010

What Have I Done to Deserve This?

After Dark Habits, I thought Almodovar was prepared to move on from his extreme camp roots. But, he has back tracked for this film. What Have I Done to Deserve This? plays out very much like Spain’s answer to John Waters’ Polyester. Now, don’t get me wrong, I adore Polyester. In fact, it stands as my second favorite Waters film. But, I wasn’t expecting it from Almodovar after his work with Dark Habits.

The film is very funny. At times, very smart. The way Almodovar plays up his characters with such an extreme honesty. He might be poking fun at the mess of family struggles, but he does wear his heart on his sleeve while doing this. The characters are lovable even if they are extreme caricatures of a family unit.

The highlight of the film is the role of the grandmother played by Almodovar regular Chus Lampreave. Lampreave played one of the nuns in Dark Habits and works with Almodovar throughout many of his films that follow (she was even in the most recent film, Broken Embraces). Her characters are always likable, silly, extreme, and filled with a lot of heart. Her role as the mindless grandmother in a dysfunctional family adds a little heart and spirit to the film.

Carmen Maura, as the mother, plays the role to perfection. Her acting has shown much improvement since the Almodovar debut of Pepi Luci Bom. In fact, it takes a while for it to set in that she is the same actress. How much she has matured over just a few of Almodovar’s films.

My biggest complaints of the film: the comfort the family has with the prostitute next door, the mother selling her 12 year old homosexual son to the dentist for sex, and a bit of unnecessary magic (and mediocre effects). I realize it is a comedy. I’m supposed to let these feelings go and just enjoy the experience. And, I did. I just feel this film should have come before Dark Habits.

This is probably the start of Almodovar’s interest in “the other.” Much of Almodovar’s career is made up of using other styles and other film movements within his films. For this film, I am very much reminded of the Italian film Fists in the Pocket. I would assume this suggests Italian Neorealism


Thursday, November 11, 2010

Loud, Rihanna

I am not the best person to review pop music. I enjoy pop music. But, mostly, I view it as something trivial. Music for a good time. For dancing. Etc. I have never viewed pop music as something with much substance. Of course, there are those I cherish... Madonna and Lady Gaga. So, take what I say with a grain of salt. I'm pretty harsh.

Looking at the artwork for the album cover, one expects a softer side of Rihanna. After the dark and angry cover of the previous album, Rated R, I thought maybe the cover image was used to match the tone of the album. But, at the start, it feels I may be wrong. 'S&M' is the opening track. It is a kinky song filled with mediocre lyrics, but I love it. In fact, on first listen of the album, I listened to 'S&M' about ten times before I allowed myself to move on in the album. The song doesn't quite match the sexual charge of 'Rude Boy,' but it is a nice addition to the sexually charged sound of Rihanna.

The second song is 'What's My Name?' which is catchy enough. It gets in your head and is beautifully produced. But, it doesn't go far above a radio friendly mid-level hit. 'Cheers(Drink to That)' is a little too forced. And, her accent a little too heavy. I'm not sure I understand the reason for bringing out such a different piece of her voice. From here on out the album begins to fall apart. The songs become a little slower and a little melodramatic.

I have never enjoyed a Rihanna slow song. Not sure I really understand the point in most pop music ballads. If I want an emotionally heavy song, I want little production and a lot of big voice. I don't feel Rihanna is capable of this on her own. If she is, I haven't seen it. She tries on 'California King Bed' (which has a lovely first few lines, but quickly fades to cliche), 'Complicated,' and 'Fading.'

I am supposed to be excited about 'Raining Men.' Supposed to have some interest in this Nicki Minaj, but I don't. In fact, I've done my best to avoid her ever since her name has been thrown about music blogs. And, 'Raining Men' does not deliver something new. For the most part, just a series of ADHD sounds and distorted vocals. I am annoyed before the song is over.

'Skin' and 'Only Girl(In the World)' are the only other rewarding tracks on the album. So, to be honest, I really only enjoy Rihanna when she's singing about sex or there's a dance beat involved.


Dark Habits

Almodovar's third full length feature shows a lot of improvement over his first release. I would like to get my hands on his second film, Labyrinth of Passion, to see if the shift took place in the second film or this film. In Dark Habits, Almodovar is still playing to the camp element one saw in his first feature. But, the camp element is played down... a lot. In place of the over the top raunch of Pepi, Luci, Bom, Almodovar has inserted a lot of dark humor. It is most likely Almodovar's early films are in response to the government shift in Spain. The control of the government loosened its control of the arts. Almodovar responded through film and used film to express his opinions in extreme ways.

Dark Habits is a mild attack on religion. The film follows the nuns of a convent named the Order of the Humiliated Redeemers. As you can see, Almodovar is poking fun, but does it so obviously as to not be hateful. The film follows a cabaret singer who runs from the police after her boyfriend overdoses on drugs she gives him. I like to think of this film as the more adult, Spanish Sister Act. Yolanda, the cabaret singer, runs away to the local nunnery. The Mother Superior is a fan of Yolanda and is willing to help her hideout from the police. (See the Sister Act relation?)

The nuns are all given names to cause humiliation- Sister Manure, Sister Damned, Sister Snake, and Sister of the Sewer Rat. Again, this is very funny in relation to the film. All of the nuns have their own odd behaviors. One of the nuns writes smutty, cheap romance novels. Another nun is always tripping on acid and uses her hallucinations as a time to cook. Another nun keeps an adult tiger as her son. The Mother Superior- a lesbian with a heroine addiction. As you can guess, all of this leads to some pretty funny scenes.

Dark Habits isn't all humor. As I said, there is a lot of dark humor taking place. In fact, the film as a whole is pretty dark. With an ending that is quite sad. This film is made up of a mostly female cast. This is very common for Almodovar's film. I was reminded of the mostly female ensemble of Volver while watching this film. Almodovar is known for his bright, vivid, technicolor films. But, in his earlier films, Almodovar was not keen on bright colors. The film is filled with shadows and maintains a monotone color scheme.

Dark Habits is definitely the stepping stone for the future films of Almodovar. A quirky, dark comedy with just enough emotion to impact the viewer a little.


Great House, Nicole Krauss

There is the occasional novel that I find I am not quite prepared to understand. I feel there will always be those who are better able to understand our world. To capture the truths, the pains, and the frustrations of our world. Perhaps, Krauss is the master of such talents. In reading Great House I found myself removed from much of the plotting. The characters so distanced from reality and even themselves. Too self diagnosed and heavy with too many dimensions.

Great House is a novel of questions. All of the characters always asking questions of one another, of themselves, of the world at large. These aren't simple questions. These aren't questions to brush away. There is much heaviness to their inquiry. And, in the heaviness, a past. A reason to be digging so deep beyond the self as singular existence. Where do we come from? And, how did we get so far away from the selves we may have once imagined for ourselves?

Krauss is fond of objects. In her second novel, The History of Love, Krauss uses a book to travel back in time and to connect the history of its characters. Similarly, Great House uses a large desk. A writing desk. We follow this desk as it is passed through the hands of the novel's characters. Two of these characters are writers, too. The two stories of the writers are my favorite portions of the novels. They hold up strongest and follow through the most.

Krauss' language is still beautiful. The way she describes a body being lifted as if it were clothes for a laundry line... there is a poetry to her sentences. But, the poetry doesn't flow as it did in The History of Love. This time around, Krauss is seeking our darker realities. The happiness and possibility of her previous novel is all gone. We are left with searching souls unable to find a purpose or a reason for all their struggle.

It would be unfair for me to dislike this novel. I can only say I was disappointed. I wanted something closer to her second novel. I wanted something a little more focused. I feel in five to ten years, Great House will be worth revisiting. Maybe then I'll be better able to really grasp the heft of her message.


Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Pepi, Luci, Bom

Pedro Almodovar's first film. Created in 1980. This was the birth of a great director. Sadly, it was a pretty sloppy birth. The elements of Pepi, Luci, Bom are all familiar elements of later Almodovar film: strong women, high drama, and queer culture. All three of these factor pretty heavily in Almodovar's first feature.

It is safe to say this film is closer to John Waters' early work than it is to Almodovar's later work. Much of this has to do with budget. The film snaps, the scenes pop, and the dialogue goes in and out. The camera work is pretty basic. These are all elements of a low budget film. But, the content also makes this film similar to Waters' films. There are loud mouthed lesbians into S&M, a cop on a raping streak, a bearded woman, a cock size contest, and (most surprising) a golden shower scene during a knitting lesson.

All of this is pretty campy and not too vulgar. Almodovar is going more for laughs and not at all for drama. In fact, it is impossible to make emotion out of this film. It feels more like skits and ideas acted out and then pasted together to create a feature length.

I enjoyed watching the film. It was nice to see where Almodovar started. To recognize how far he really has come in his film making, plotting, and demands of his actresses. Also, it was lovely to see Carmen Maura and Almodovar's long lasting relationship begin with this film.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

8 1/2 Women

To those few who have followed along, I promise I am almost complete with my Greenaway "study." Nightwatching and The Baby of Macon are the only two films left for me to view. And, at the moment, it may be a bit before I get to those films. So, for now, I end with one final Greenaway film, 8 1/2 Women. It seems most fitting for this to be the last of the Greenaway films I review. In many ways, this is Greenaway's culmination as a filmmamker. Not only are many of the unusual elements of a Greenaway film on display, but many of the bits and pieces of previous films are at play.

The twinning of A Zed and Two Noughts, the humor of The Falls, the sensuality of The Pillow Book, the numbers game of Drowning by Numbers... all of these elements are falling into place within 8 1/2 Women. I wonder if Greenaway meant for this film to be a stopping point in a specific type of film. Following this film, Greenaway took a small break only to return with a large project involving 3 films, a tv series, and live performance installations. He followed that project up with his most recent film, Nightwatching. Nightwatching is meant as part one of a trilogy on painters. Having watched only the first 30 minutes of Nightwatching, I can see Greenaway has started a new period in his filmmaking.

8 1/2 Women is just as disturbing as many of Greenaway's film. The topic of the movie is grief and power. A man's wife passes away and, through dialogue with his son, realizes he may have missed out on a certain side of sexuality. After the father and son view Felinni's 8 1/2, the two decide to create a harem of sorts. They want 8 1/2 women to live with them and fulfill their sexual fantasies. There is a tone of misogamy to this act. While the father remains loveable and, in his heart, unable to really let himself go... the son appears to be the more hateful.

As in most Greenaway films, the battle of the sexes may be hard fought... but, women are always the winners. In the case of 8 1/2 Women there is no difference. One of the most interesting aspects of the film is the representation of each woman. One woman represents religion, another innocence, another fertility, etc. It is interesting to see these women used as devices.

This is not the strongest film of Greenaway's career. I believe Belly of an Architect to be his weakest, but 8 1/2 Women comes close only because so much of the film feels recycled.

The score is beautiful. The acting delightful. And the dialogue between father and son is poetry.


Monday, November 8, 2010

The Pillow Book

The artist, the painter, in Peter Greenaway creates a film like a beautiful skyscraper. The structure is strong. The material of the film is so completely thought through that there is little chance for the finished project to fail. Greenaway is a perfectionist. Clearly obsessed with every aspect of film. And, most likely, Greenaway is a frantic man. Each of Greenaway's films run wild with plot, image, and character. Nothing ever goes in a straight line or exists on a single level.

The Pillow Book is a film about obsession. The father's obsession with writing, the father's obsession with tradition, the publisher's obsession with the male body and literature, the daughter's obsession with body writing, the Englisman's obsession with language, and the daughter's obsession with revenge. The film is brimming over with a need to keep moving towards a goal, a purpose. A desire so difficult to meet.

I first saw this film about five years ago. At the time, I didn't think much of the film. I enjoyed the images. Found myself confused by the story. On my second viewing, I am not sure how I was so confused. Or, why I felt so removed from the film. In fact, this is a film for any person with an artistic desire. Those who want to create and the pain one feels when creating and not creating. This is a complex study of art.

In typical Greenaway fashion, the film uses nudity in a naturalistic fashion. The bodies are nude. But, never overly sexualized. Greenaway uses the nude body to represent the greatest piece of imperfect art. He refuses to allow the body to be hidden. For Greenaway, it is all or nothing. He will never hold back from giving his entire vision.

Since I have started my travels through the films of Greenaway, I have grown to respect, admire, and love his art in a way I never thought quite possible. This isn't art for the sake of art. This isn't shallow or empty film. The Pillow Book is a great piece of the Greenaway filmography.


Sunday, November 7, 2010

Prospero's Books

If I were to sit down and really think back to the first time I saw an "art film," I believe it was when I was fourteen. I was babysitting for two of my cousins. Even then I suffered from insomnia. I sat awake in my aunt's basement flipping through their cable at 2am. At the time, my family didn't have cable and I was excited to have all these options. Before I knew it, I had come across a film called Prospero's Books. At the time, I didn't know the title. I just sat mesmerized. It was a couple weeks later when I finally found the title.

The film is a visual masterpiece. But, first, I should not refer to this as film. The movie follows very little plot. This is a "re-telling" of Shakespeare's The Tempest. The only spoken voice (mostly) is Prospero's (John Gielgud). Prospero plays not only the plays character, but tends to fill in for the role of Shakespeare. The movie is just as much about the process of creating as it is about the final piece created.

Back to how this isn't quite a film. The plot is barely there. Gielgud the only speaker for the majority of the film. The cast is made up of about 100 people. Most of them fully nude. Adorned in paint or draped cloth. Most of them are for background. They dance about as if in a ballet. At one point, during the wedding scene, the film turns into an opera with three powerful voices. The film is a little over two hours. I wouldn't call this the easiest movie experience. Actually, the hardest. And worth the work required.

Julia Taymor must owe a lot to Greenaway's Prospero's Books. Taymor's film Titus appearing to owe the most to Greenaway. Also, Greenaway may owe a bit to Caligula (the pornographic feature film also starring John Gielgud). Every scene is made up of lavish sets and nudity.

Prospero's Books is clearly Greenaway's dream for a film. I always feel a director follows up their biggest success (in this case The Cook The Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover) with an even bigger, but less friendly film. Woody Allen did this early on in his career with films like Stardust Memories and Interiors. I have yet to see Greenaway's The Baby of Macon. This is the last of Greenaway's film I have to view. But, I get the sense that Prospero's Books may have been his last great success (as I find The Pillow Book and 8 1/2 Women to only be so so).

It is hard to review Prospero's Books. Hard to judge a film that has lived in my head as memory more than fact for 14 years. To finally see it from start to finish was a lovely moment. If you have the energy, the film is worth hunting down and enjoying.


Thursday, November 4, 2010

Drowning By Numbers

The whole gang has returned (Greenaway, Nyman, and Vierny). After a break with The Belly of an Architect, all the wonderful traits of a Greenaway film have returned. But, the attempt to make films slightly more available to audiences is definitely at its height with this film. In The Belly of an Architect, one could tell Greenaway was attempting something slightly more viewer friendly. This is not to say the film will ever be viewed by a large audience or that it has hit potential. All those efforts and elements are going quite strong in Drowning By Numbers. This is most certainly the most viewer friendly film in all the Greenaway oeuvre.

Drowning By Numbers is, in every sense of the word, a British comedy. The humor is dark and dry. The pacing is sharp, but slow (in a good way). The characters are very much English (in fashion, speech, and manners). A review referred to this film as "Agatha Christie on acid." This isn't entirely accurate, as there isn't too much mystery. But, it is fair to say the film does have a bit of that touch.

The music (by Nyman) is quite beautiful this time around. In many of Greenaway's films, the music is used in a very powerful way. At times, the music is the entire scene. Often times louder than the characters speaking. In Drowning By Numbers, Nyman's music is used much more as soundtrack. Also, the Flemish painting effect of many of Greenaway's films is still present. Although quite muted and toned down this time around. And, finally, the cataloguing has returned. The film begins with a young girl jumping rope and counting the stars. This in itself opens up both forms of catalogue throughout the film: numbers and games. Most of the cast, at one or many points, is seen counting. And, throughout the entire movie, one is presented with a series of unique games (are these games real or make believe?). By the films end, we understand their importance: life is a series of games and we count down to our deaths.

Throughout the film there are numbers. Sometimes the numbers are spoken. But, most times the numbers are written on objects (the side of a barn, a tub, a bathing suit). The first number, 1, is spotted at the films start and by the films end we see the final number, 100. It sounds as though it may be distracting to watch for these numbers. But, it isn't. I found myself forgetting from time to time. It seems too much? Too "artsy?" Not quite. After watching this film, driving to the gym, I noticed numbers everywhere. A number 7 on a curb side, a 17 on the back of a semi-truck, a 9 and a 14 spray painted on a wall. Greenaway wants us to pay closer attention. To the details of our lives.

The film must have been inspiration for Rushmore. In fact, Wes Anderson may be very inspired by Greenaway's film. The way Anderson crams his shots with so much stuff. One really comes to learn a lot about a character based on the objects found in their space. This is used a lot in Drowning By Numbers. And, the young boy of this film (named Smut) is very similar to Max Fischer (in Rushmore). Also, it is time I point out the similarity of Greenaway and Almodovar. Both use the masculine and feminine in very similar ways. Both use the feminine as the strength of a character and the film. The masculine always viewed as difficult, sloppy, or trouble.

Drowning By Numbers is definitely number five in Greenaway's top five films. A lovely game with a lot of mystery and enough playfulness to request your return.


Wednesday, November 3, 2010

The Red Shoes

There is much to be said about film as art. I recently read an article about a film collector. About those of us who believe in purchasing and owning films. Many will buy a film, but then think they need to watch it repeatedly to get their money's worth. Then there are those who feel differently. For me, a film is a painting. A thing one can just walk by and spend no time on at all. Then, there are moments when you need to stand before the work and study. Focus your thoughts on the why of such a masterpiece.

I have been lucky over the past couple of weeks to have returned to watching films. I am always amazed at how much I don't know and haven't seen. Every time I discover a gem of a film, I wonder how it took so long for me to be aware. I think back to Faces (a film I recently watched and which has stuck with me for weeks) and A Zed and Two Noughts (only a couple days behind me, but still very much alive inside my mind). The Red Shoes falls into the same category as these two films. A movie I can't imagine I lived without experiencing.

The Red Shoes works on two levels. On one level, it is a lush ballet film. One could easily just enjoy the talent, the music, the images. And, on another level, the film reveals the struggle of the artist. The constant battle between good and evil. It is suggested a darkness lives within all creative types. That drive to put forth a work for others... a maddening need to express. This is so very well expressed throughout the film.

I have always enjoyed ballet films. There is something so beautiful about the structure of a dance movie. All those involved in dance films always seem less rigid, more alive within their character. Robert Altman's The Company is one of my favorite dance films. And, as strange as it may sound, I really enjoy Center Stage. Even Suspiria benefits from its ballet presence. (Of course, all this goes without saying, I can't wait to see Aronofsky's Black Swan).

I'm not sure I've said much about the film. This being my most abstract review. But, it is a film to experience. From the technicolor tones to the 15-minute dance sequence to the expected, but still heartbreaking finale. The film is from 1948. It does struggle (rarely) with special effects. And, is occasionally overacted. But, all this is forgiven. All this is understood.

By the film's end, I could only feel like my grandparents when I thought to myself: 'they don't make films like they used to.'


Special Affections, Diamond Rings

My first experience with Diamond Rings was from listening to the single 'Wait & See.' The music is catchy and the lyrics are playful. At the same time, I wasn't drawn in enough. The cover of the single reminded me of more 80s punk than what I was hearing from the song. The B-side of the single is 'One Fire.' This track is not available on the full length release of Special Affections. After hearing two songs from Diamond Rings I was very quick to think the act was just trying to fit into the Patrick Wolf world of music. It felt too similar to be distinctive.

On the full length album, Diamond Rings moves a little bit away from the Patrick Wolf sound. It is still there. The deeper tone of the voice, the instruments used, the dramatics of the whole thing... very Patrick Wolf. But, there is more pop present in the sounds of Diamond Rings. After the albums release, I started to search for information on Diamond Rings. I found a couple videos. There is something Boy George meets Lady Gaga meets awkward youth about the artist. I enjoy the androgyny of his look, sound, and music.

This is the type of album that is great for fitting your mood. There is enough to make this a slow, sad album. But, at the same time, you can easily find yourself dancing around to the same songs you were saddened by. I think it has been a long time since I last found an album that so easily fits into a mood. It is a tricky line, but done oh so well on this album.

Diamond Rings is not just a singer. He's a personality. I like to think there is more than just style about him. There is a lot of individuality at play. There is an entire theory at play within his person. I respect the confidence and the awkwardness of John O. A voice to remind you of The Magnetic Fields, a look to remind you of Patrick Wolf, and a playfulness to remind you of Simon Curtis.

This album hasn't made it to my Best of 2010. Yet. But, I feel with enough listens I'll be on his side in no time.


Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The Belly of an Architect

In yesterday's review, I mentioned a Greenaway film is most successful when Greenaway, Nyman, and Vierny are not all working together. While this didn't quite hold true for The Draughtsman's Contract (missing Vierny), it certainly holds true for The Belly of an Architect. Of the seven Greenaway films I have seen, this film falls the shortest. But, I am not entirely sure why.

Yes, Nyman's music is missing from the film. The music is still quite beautiful. Vierny is in charge of photography, but this time is a lot less in charge. The film takes place in Rome. Vierny does not have the control of the space as he did with A Zed & Two Noughts. For this film, Vierny must work with the architecture and the lighting that is already made available. This is not to complain about the images. In fact, The Belly of an Architect has some of the most beautiful shots I have seen. The film uses Rome as a character. Quite possibly the main character. The way people stand so small against the city's backdrop is a very powerful experience.

So, why does this film fail? It doesn't contain the same obsessive cataloguing of a typical Greenaway film. In fact, I'm not sure I spotted any form of cataloguing. The plot is fairly focused. It moves along at a slow speed, but it is always present. And, the female character isn't a typical Greenaway woman. In most films, the woman is in charge. While she may not always seem to have the power, by the films end it is clear who holds all the cards. Some could argue this is true for The Belly of an Architect. And, in a way, it is true. Again, not in typical Greenaway fashion.

Am I arguing against this film because Greenaway has changed things up a bit? Sadly, yes. I enjoy Greenaway for all his neuroses and all his obsessive needs. The Belly of an Architect isn't quite up to par with these expectations.

Anyone interested in the career of Greenaway should definately view this film. But, it is not for the casual viewer.


Monday, November 1, 2010

A Zed and Two Noughts

I will start at the title: A Zed and Two Noughts. It is easily translated to ZOO. This happens to be the location of much of the film. But, the film follows the grieving process of two twins, Oswald and Oliver (two more noughts?). Already the film is playing games. And within the first five minutes: the twins both lose their wives in a car accident. The black car, driven by Alba Bewick (pronounced Buick), crashes into a white swan on a street named Swann's Way. How wicked and playful. And all within the first few minutes.

And, what of the prostitute, Venus di Milo? She tells dirty stories involving animals and hopes to be published some day. And a doctor obsessed with Alba as the perfect work of art. And a color blind zoo keeper hoping to form the first zoo of only black and white animals. And, poor Alba, convinced her leg is lonely since the loss of one... why not rid oneself of the other?

Greenaway has created one of the great darkly humorous films.

A Greenaway film is most successful when made up of three elements: Peter Greenaway (as writer/director), Michael Nyman (as composer), and Sacha Vierny (as cinematographer). This is Greenaway's third (technically) film and the first time all three men work together for a film. All that I found fantastic about The Cook, the Thief, His Wife, and Her Lover is taking place throughout this film. Vierny has created a world that glows with colors from off camera, a world of the most surreal scenes. Nyman's score is classical and up to date all at the same time. These elements have never fallen together so perfectly in one place.

The plot? Twin brothers attempt to understand the loss of their wives. They seek to understand meaning in life. They do this through a series of experiments. They begin to photograph the decaying process of things (apples, prawns, dogs, etc). The eventual goal... a human. They can't come to terms with the images of their wives bodies decay. They need to see in order to believe. In order to understand. There is something quite disturbing about this need. But, at the same time, very easily understood. What do we become? How do we become that? And, why? What purpose did we have? The existential nature of the twins journey is bold.

I have a few Greenaway films yet to view, but I imagine A Zed and Two Noughts is his masterpiece.


The Idiots

Lars von Trier’s The Idiots is his second film in The Golden Heart trilogy. The first film (Breaking the Waves) and the last film (Dancer in the Dark) in the trilogy were fairly successful in terms of von Trier’s career. In fact, both of those films received Oscar attention. The middle film, The Idiots, is the lesser known of von Trier’s trilogy. This may be due in part to it being unavailable on DVD in the States. Or, that the film is heavily edited (either entire scenes removed or images blurred out). But, probably, due to the film’s disturbing content.

The film follows a small commune of people living in the abandoned home of the “leader’s” rich uncle. The group wishes to stand up against the norms of society. They see no reason to behave within the boundaries expected of those in society. The purpose is to find a more child-like, animal behavior. For von Trier, and the rest of the cast, this means behaving mentally handicapped. The first half of the film follows the group as they go out in public settings (restaurants, a public pool, a bar, etc) and pretend to be handicapped. This sounds awful. This sounds hateful. And this is why the film is probably less popular than von Trier’s other outings.

Can I excuse the characters’ behavior? In a sense, yes. Because deep down each of these characters is struggling with some form of emotional handicap. There is something deeply wrong with these characters. Not because they want to behave this way. But, because they are able to behave this way. They create a false reality. All those problems we bury deep inside can be played with, exposed, thrown about in public under the guise of being handicapped. This group is challenging society and their views of those “less than” the norm, too. There is, almost, something purposeful in the experiment.

After two-thirds of the film, I started to wonder how this film fit into The Golden Heart trilogy. I understood the character of Karen being the struggling heroine following behind Bess (Breaking the Waves) and leading us towards Selma (Dancer in the Dark). But, I couldn’t understand what her story was… only little background hints were placed in front of us. By the films end, Karen’s story is exposed. Her past is equally traumatic and pained as Bess’ and Selma’s. Once again, von Trier has found a dark corner within his female lead and used her pain as a journey.

The Idiots is the weakest film in the trilogy. In that so much of the film seems to stand too far away from Karen. But, this is not a bad film. This is a painful film. This is an honest film. This is a film one will struggle through (as with the other two films in the trilogy). The end result is pure, raw emotion. Worth the entire two hours.