Film Reviews by Johannes

Welcome to Johannes's film reviews page. Johannes has written 6 reviews and rated 6 films.

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The Father

Underwhelming

(Edit) 10/09/2021

Beneath the shifting surfaces of The Father — many slight tricks are hidden up Florian Zeller's sleeves — there is little to hide the simplicity of its skeleton. Anthony Hopkins plays a man in decline, losing control of his environment day by day, and inevitably his memory. Hopkins' performance more than outshines his fellow cast, whose peripheral roles never properly amount to anything, and bow, reverentially, to his masterclass. The film is wrapped around his little finger; it is the Oscar vehicle any actor might dream of seizing. The Father eventually dissolves into poorly scripted goop, where themes of "losing his leaves" and missing watches are underlined, and underlined again.

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Walerian Borowczyk: Short Films and Animation

The mechanics of animation

(Edit) 04/09/2021

Walerian Borowczyk's animations are unmistakable, teeming with innuendo, danger, wit and lined with absurdist comedy. His animations are fascinated with the mechanics of animation, of life — similar to the Brothers Quay and Jan Švankmajer — with things made and unmade, sculpted or taken apart, within their small narratives. There is something Frankenstein about this animation, something crude and raw. Theatre of Mr. and Mrs. Kabal does all of this within its vaudeville skits: here, the eponymous married couple quarrel and make up, fight and love, whilst shrinking and growing to incredible sizes. It's immensely playful and imaginative.

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Polytechnique

Denis Villeneuve's Storm

(Edit) 23/08/2021

Before the shooting, there is a scene of reflection in Polytechnique: Jean-Francois is drawn towards a reproduced copy of Picasso's Guernica, a bestiary swarming with bulls, horses, and human suffering. It hangs, without explanation, on the wall of the École Polytechnique; later, these spaces will tear open with another violence. The silent witness of Gus Van Sant's Elephant (an impressionistic recreation of the 1999 Columbine High School massacre) is present in Denis Villeneuve's Polytechnique (inspired by the 1989 École Polytechnique massacre), but the latter has more to say, bookending its narrative with male bitterness and misogyny. Like Guernica, Polytechnique represents the difficulty of witnessing violence

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Dekalog and Other Television Works

Falling in Love with Kieslowski

(Edit) Updated 14/08/2021

Reviews of Kieslowski's short television features: 

Pedestrian Subway: Few words and few glances contain a rich, yet irreparable, relationship between two young twenty-somethings (one a teacher, the other a window decorator) on a pedestrian subway in Kieslowski's short television feature. A masterful study of love and separation.

First Love: In Kieslowski's docudrama First Love, what should be the great, cosmic intensity of "first love" is instead an act of naivety and innocence. The couple have made the mistake of committing themselves to each other too quickly, without ever having known other kinds of love. Something of their bittersweet tragedy finds its way into Kieslowski's later statement on love, A Short Film About Love, where a young teenager falls prey to his interest in an older woman.

Personnel: In Kieslowski's mild critique of authority, Personnel, the personal and political compete for space like players on a stage. Nineteen-year-old Romek (Juliusz Machulski) finds employment in the costume department of his local theatre, but the idealised prospect of making art is soon frustrated by the corruption of the business; there is dirt under everyone's fingernails, it would appear. Although undeveloped, the plot of Personnel benefit from its semi-documentary, hand-held format. 

Short Working Day: Overworked and stylistically inconsistent, Short Working Day struggles to develop any tension or visceral dread across its short runtime, despite taking a first-person perspective on the June 1976 protests in Radom, Poland. Kieslowski's chamber piece is too closeted, too insular, and by toiling over the same conundrum, never breaks into anything more exciting or fresh. 

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Bad Day at Black Rock

Spencer Tracy is having a bad day at Black Rock

(Edit) 16/07/2021

Spencer Tracy is having a bad day at Black Rock. One-armed and suited, he strikes a remarkable figure against the tumbling Californian plains – there is something in him of David Bowie's gentle alien, wandering across Nick Roeg's New Mexico, or Caspar David Friedrich's solitary figures. Local townies show immediate resistance to his arrival, and when his mysterious purpose is finally made known, they taken an offensive. These are people caught up in the rush of their resentments and prejudices, liable to tyranny in their old-world rule. Tracy's investigator embodies the coming of modernity in this dusty place; his acting, likewise, is also far more naturalistic than the locals' pantomime. Slow and fascinating to behold.

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Cave of Forgotten Dreams

Caving with Herzog

(Edit) 01/07/2021

There is dark, ancient life in the Chauvet-Pont-d'Arc cave of southern France: 30,000 years ago, stones were arranged in strange patterns on the floor; fires had been lit; and scrawled over the walls, hundreds of cave paintings were made, of horses, lions and butterflies. This is Werner Herzog's Cave of Forgotten Dreams – maybe his greatest example of poetic, ecstatic truth – where the dreams and imaginations of Aurignacian people have been preserved. Herzog's documentaries (which, nowadays, he is mostly known for) distil the existential fear and wonder of his earlier fiction features to extraordinary effect.  

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