Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)

Director: Sam Peckinpah

The title of Peckinpah's film is eye-catching, making you wonder who is Alfredo Garcia, what did he do to risk losing his head, and who will go and get it. Being a Peckinpah film you can expect the answer will come with a lot of violence, including multiple shoot-outs. The story focuses on the getter of head, Bennie, and the cost this expedition has for him.

I haven't warmed to Peckinpah's style. I do admire the way he shoots violence, which is impressionistic, with its slow-mos overlaid with loud gunfire, disorientating you as though you were part of the action. He does also focus on interesting characters. My problem is the story is often not as compelling as it could be, and as someone who tires of too much violence quickly (unless it is in horror), I get tired watching his films. All this is true of Alfredo Garcia.

I can't say much more about the film because it didn't grab me. I watched it a few weeks ago, and haven't thought about it since. Peckinpah clearly has his fans, several of his films appear on the 1001+ Films lists, but he doesn't do much for me.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Antichrist (2009)

 Director: Lars von Trier

I honestly don't know what to think about Antichrist. I can't say I enjoyed it, and I don't believe von Trier meant it to be an enjoyable experience. But I am still not sure what the film was trying to say. Is it a decrying of misogyny, or is misogynistic itself?

Charlotte Gainsbourg and Willem Defoe play a couple who are working through grief at the death of their child. Gainsbourg's character (unnamed) feels particularly shattered by the loss, and Defoe's character decides to treat her (being a therapist himself). They go to a cabin in the woods (never a good idea in a film) and Gainsbourg's character starts to really unravel, aided by a surprisingly aggressive natural world.

The central idea of the film is that "nature is Satan's church," and Gainsbourg's character argues that since women are more ruled by nature than men (menstrual cycles, pregnancy, etc.) they too are evil. What makes the film frustrating to watch is you are not quite sure if it agrees with this idea. Defoe's character at first disagrees, and works to try and convince his wife too. He also points out that her study of gynocide appears to have affected her thinking. But as her behaviour spirals out of control, and the wood becomes more aggressive, you feel the film agreeing with Gainsbourg.

The film's opening - a black-and-white, slow-motion, silent (with the aria 'Lascia ch'io pianga' playing) depiction of the couple having sex while their child falls out a window - is extremely well done. It sets up the mother's horror that crescendos throughout the film, and leads to a revelation later about the mother's knowledge of their son's predicament (though we don't know if this is her projecting after the fact). Both Gainsbourg and Defoe completely give themselves to the roles, something I don't think a lot of actors would have done, considering the subject matter.

This falls into the "not going to watch again" category, not because it is the most disturbing film I have seen (it is disturbing, but not as much as, say Salo), but mostly because I don't think its knows quite what it is saying about women and misogyny. Lars von Trier has written some really interesting roles for women, and has shown sympathy for female suffering, but this film feels like a weird distortion of that idea.