Monday, January 3, 2011

Short Takes: "Four Lions", "Valhalla Rising" and "Micmacs"

Micmacs **½
Director: Jean-Pierre Jeunet

You can almost see the ACME label on every scene in this hyperactive, restless revenge comedy. Dany Boon plays a man who is almost killed during a shooting. He recovers, is adopted by a group of misfits (including Yolande Moreau and Jeunet favorite Dominique Pinon) and decides to take revenge not on the man who shot him but on the company who made the bullet. There is often too much going on in this movie and while Jeunet is a master of Tati-esque sequences and sepia toned acid comedy, this time his story gets lost behind the style. There are references to old Warner Brothers films (Max Steiner is even credited as a composer) but we never really understand what this has to do with anything, given this isn't an homage to classic films and Jeunet tries to discuss morals he can't handle while holding a stick of dynamite in his hand.
The film never decides if it wants to be Wile E. Coyote or Bogie and because of this it's unable to either catch or seduce us.

Valhalla Rising **
Director: Nicolas Winding Refn

If Conan the Barbarian had been directed by Stanley Kubrick from a screenplay by Ingmar Bergman, it would've looked something like this odd Viking tale set during the Crusades. Mads Mikkelsen plays a one-eyed mysterious warrior who goes by the name of what else but One-Eye? A man of few words, he doesn't utter a single word in the entire film (Mikkelsen's commitment is impressive!), he prefers to gut a man with his bare hands and use his power of prophecy to lead a group of Crusaders to their demise.
Because of its excessive infatuation with itself the film often forgets an audience is sitting in front and the film seems to quickly lose any interest in getting the audience involved in any of what's going on. The landscape cinematography is marvelous but what should feel primal and hauntingly adventurous mostly feels self indulgent and overdone.

Four Lions ***
Director: Chris Morris

A film that makes the phrase "I would kill you bro" sound funny and heartwarming (!) deserves an applause based only on the cojones of its screenplay. That said screenplay is a comedy about British Muslim terrorists, that not for a single moment results demeaning, offensive or reductive is nothing if not remarkable. The way a satire should be done, Four Lions relies on a magnificent ensemble (Kayvan Novak is a comedic revelation) to work effortlessly.
"Why shouldn't I be a bomber if you treat me like one?" asks one of the characters in one of the film's many moments of brutal poignancy. Written with bravado by Morris, Sam Bain and Jesse Armstrong and handheld shot by the appropriately named cinematographer Lol Crawley the film resembles a BBC mockumentary series and suffers slightly because it's too episodic for its own good sometimes.
Four Lions is funny not because of how dim-witted and stupid its characters are but because it reminds us of the idiotic acts committed in the name of faith. Terrorism's greatest weapon aren't bombs but simple human stupidity.

1 comment:

Castor said...

I saw Valhalla Rising last night and although it's a deeply self-indulgent movie with a lot of pointless moments that should have edited out, I was oddly transfixed by it. Certainly not a movie for everyone.