AMER

The movies of 2010 still live
giles edwards
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Re: AMER

Post by giles edwards » Thu Mar 04, 2010 10:44 am

(...CONTINUED)

Why I mentioned Bertolucci earlier is that, rather than being a bold new direction for a genre -- such as a neo/future/tech/horror noir mutation -- Amer is the complete opposite: an ultra-precise modern zenith of a very old fashioned style of cinema, a reduction of narrative, character and context in a vital, unabashed “arthouse” representation of cinema. But it is so enamoured with, and spectacularly proficient at, replicating all of these cinematic and thematic ideas that it has no room for narrative, character or context beyond stark and functional archetypes: stern parent, scary grandmother, sexy motorcycle rider, sleazy taxi driver. There’s nothing wrong with archetypes, of course. But they need that context, and I don’t think the picture provides it.

The image is at the expense of any deeper meaning. This film is about Ana. It’s not about a world in which Ana resides, it’s all about her being looked at, looking. Without context, without something to contrast and reveal her purpose means that, for all its surface beauty and psychoanalytical suggestion of depth, the film is simply about the images and not about the soul. That’s what’s missing for me; a soul.

The juxtaposition of images is often brilliant, breathtaking. I just wish the same had been done with her character, to give me something to latch onto. I mean, I *like* that the picture makes its audience work really hard to engage, but without any exposition whatsoever, it’s almost too austere, too aloof: hell, even The White Ribbon gave us *context* for all its odd characters and troubling goings on. It didn’t tell us why or how or even if anyone was doing anything. You had to work that out for yourself, but it allowed you to do that in a contextualised world.

Take the noir out of Blade Runner, you still have compelling tale; take the stylistic elements out of Amer and you’re left with…what? Something like Lodge Kerigan’s Clean, Shaven but without any context for the main characters mental disintegration.

So -- as this lengthy and probably ponderous post shows -- while intriguing and fascinating to sift through and analyse, this lack of context outside of the literal images on screen, prevents the picture from doing anything truly new and bold from a storytelling point of view. It’s the cul de sac, I mentioned earlier. A beautifully constructed cul de sac, true but there’s still no way out of it. Where do you go? Where *could* you go? It’s all exquisite experimentation, nuance and suggestion but without being able to go any deeper and bring soul to the character(s). While it doesn’t stop Amer from being a formidable piece of art, I guess I just found it a little disappointing as a piece of cinema.
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Re: AMER

Post by Satans Puppy » Thu Mar 04, 2010 11:51 am

Mr Edwards brain is too huge for me to comprehend... I'm going to get in my umbrella boat and sail away to the isle of stupidity :)
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Re: AMER

Post by voor » Thu Mar 04, 2010 11:59 am

First, I have to admonish you for calling Thin Man prim: The Thin Man series, especially the first one, is compelling in its' audacity to subert the detective genre: so was it in the book and so is it in the screen. Perhaps prim and proper by today's standards but certainly not then. And Yes I did see the word playful - but I feel it makes feel less out-there than they really are. I don't think we can classify them as something like a nice exercise in cinematic games.

Also I strongly disagree with equating Giallo with the detective series you talk about today. I can take Basic Instinct perhaps even Jade as distinct cousins but the mutation stops at Wallander: if anything Wallander is merely cross-extension of Raymond Chandler and his ilk - minus all the terrific writing (at least for me.) And I don't think you can call Edgar Wallace adaptations cosy at any length - the black and white German series - which incidentally I've been watching for the past couple of years as a project - are as aesthetically insane as any film you can produce today: an inspector eating a bratwrust shot from inside his mouth, the beautifully layered histeria of Klaus Kinski and the absolutely bonkers mysteries which never end in some Christie like nice and neat ending are basic elements that I can sprout off the top my head right now. There are more, I'm sure, I'd just have to think back a tiny little bit.

I think all the stuff about archetypes and how the film lacks a context ie Ana's world, Ana's background is all dependent on the viewer's interpetation. I don't think I thought of the stereotypes that you mention once: for me, the entire film was being forced to view the world through Ana's eyes. Clean,Shaven is a good example but here, the disintegration was more subtle, more concise. So what you call the sleazy taxi driver is only so in Ana's eyes and the same applies for the bikers and any other male gaze. The film never allows you to part from Ana's company - even the final act is propelled by a misunderstanding: Ana misinterpets the visit to her home completely wrong and attaches a completely illogical in reality but fine in her head sexual twist to it.
Think of the third part of the movie: Ana's thought patter is highly sexualised and everything you see, tainted by her sexualisation appears so - even the very ending is somehow filtered through her lens so that an unsexual act (I remain vague here for fear of spoiling for others) becomes the most sensuous moment of the film. It's like the end of The Stendhal Syndrome where through the view of the heroine an event ends up symbolism a second rape for her. (again vagueness for the sake of others)

I think the main problem here is that I feel you have allowed yourself to be trapped by the imagery - because Ana's soul is there on the screen for anyone to see - amdist all the fancy cuts, amidst all the colours a very brief story is told: like the story of one of those people who would be a momentary character in one of the classic giallo's.

Take the stylistic elements out of Amer and you'd be left with a plain psychoanalysis of a sexual perversion - which in my book is nothing to smirk about. After all enjoying films due to the characters is nothing I can deny - this is why classic cinema always engages that extra quarter: the completeness of the characters.

To call Amer cul-de-sac is to do it a disservice in my book, a baring of cinematic style can easily lead to a complete rebuilding. 'Inglorious Basterds' and 'Kill Bill' were cinematic excess whereas 'Amer' sits on the exact opposite side of the scale - it might look like cinematic excess in terms of style but in reality what it contains is pure as the driven snow.

Voor

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Re: AMER

Post by MaxRenn » Thu Mar 04, 2010 12:22 pm

Blimey boys, this is great stuff, keep if going. Then bind it and publish it! LOL
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Re: AMER

Post by giles edwards » Thu Mar 04, 2010 1:32 pm

Ha! Perhaps it was the wrong coice of work (even with the “playful” qualifier). It’s “prim” in contrast to, say, the Dr Mabuse series. For all it’s excesses of consumption and it’s louche and lax morals, it’s still a completely good-natured and quaint inter-war years romp, tainted with the Depression perhaps, but not tainted with the dark undercurrent of the silent immediately post-war Lang crime pictures and crazier European films. That crazinesss you reference proves my point: in a Europe gone to shit after a savage war which really didn’t affect the USA as much, the creative climate was one of demonstrable excess (am I right on that point re: WWI? I’m no historian, but I’d imagine that to be the case – the US lost soldiers, but they remained a free nation).

I’m not sayng the detective genre *is* giallo, I’m saying that that’s what is in it’s place today. You’re right, there *is* no giallo genre as we know it (save the odd Argento, Eyes Of Crystal or, Jesus wept, Fatal Frames). That’s why Amer is such an unrepeatable anachronism. The only way to do so would be to go all Grindhouse. I’m glad it didn’t as the sincerity is another thing that’s so praiseworthy about Amer, regardless of how it affected me. Someone will make the giallo Grindhouse picture, this was just never meant to be it. Nor should it have been. Like I say, I love the diversity it represents and that Frightfest chose to show it.

I think we’re *both* looking at the picture from the very subjective viewpoint, from the pure emotion generated by the images; images you were moved by, images, while I found them beautiful, I wasn’t. I think that’s why you wouldn’t have seen the archetypes that leapt out for me. I’d point out that I use the word “archetypes” not “stereotypes” on purpose -- the filmmakers are far cleverer than the lazy shorthand that the word “stereotype” implies: the “archetypes” are there for a reason, and I feel that’s because a narrative that’s any more complex would, I think, render the whole exercise far too unwieldy a beast for the audience to grapple with. It’s a simple story; it has to be simple, because the telling of it, the technique, is so intricate and bewildering dense. Fine, I can buy that. However, this in itself demonstrates how subservient the whole film is to that image -- even a story of with the exciting potential of brazen, primal sexuality isn’t powerful enough to overwhelm the images and the technique! Perhaps that’s simply how it *must* be; after all the whole film is about “looking”, isn’t it?

Of course, that doesn’t make it a “bad” film but it makes it one I find very difficult to give myself over to anymore than I would something like 2046 or any other picture which beautifully made but is indulgent to the point of emotional abstraction. I like a bit of passion, you know?

Seriously, you can’t tell me that a “very brief story” illuminated by an ecstatic visual onslaught is really preferable over something with genuine depth or character. Or, it springs to mind, mythology – i.e. Suspiria is not exactly War & Peace but the rounded mythology it conjures up via its similarly thin characters’ interaction with each other and the context that interaction illuminates is utterly powerful *in tandem* with the overwhelming images.

Another picture which Amer really brought to mind, especially the pay-off iof the final scene, was Nacho Cerda’s devastating Aftermath -- a far less subjective and more generalized and blunt portrait of extreme psycho-sexual power-struggles, told in a similarly technically dazzling style with zero dialogue. But the reason that picture works so well: it’s 25 minutes long. It stays within the limitations of its narrative and the subtext. Of course, Amer spans a far wider time frame, but regardless of the interesting juxtaposition the 3 ages of Ana raise, I don’t feel it really illuminates the human condition any further than something like Aftermath. It’s just longer.

Interesting you bring up Stendahl Syndrome: firstly, because I think it suffers from exactly the same problems as Amer, but for different reasons, it’s *got* the story and context I wished Amer had, but it’s just terribly told. Secondly, I’m wondering if your very passionate and genuine reaction to Amer isn’t some kind of Stendahl Syndrome come to life!?

That’s why I dig you Ervim: your devotion shines through in every word and it would be a far more boring Frightfest without you!

One other thing is for sure – I am very much looking forward to whatever the filmmaker’s come up with next. It’ll certainly be appointment viewing.
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voor
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Re: AMER

Post by voor » Thu Mar 04, 2010 1:46 pm

I think this would be a good place to stop for a while - otherwise what are we going to discuss next week?

But belive you me - my discussion retort is written already!

To be continued after the 9th....

Voor

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Re: AMER

Post by Marlin » Thu Mar 04, 2010 2:29 pm

Interesting Aftermath came up in this thread, I was thinking of it when I was watching Amer. Whilst Aftermath hugely impressed me, I actually enjoyed Genesis, in a multiple viewing sense, far more. Hopefully Amer is the showstopping first event and will allow the creators the time to pull together a plot that hangs together outside the realms of intellectual discussion.

Regardless of which philosophical/psychological/film school route we go down here, it really does boil down to the fact that the plot is bordering on tenuous, even to the people who would traditionally choose to watch a Giallo. This didn't bother me as I appreciated the nods and winks, but for your average punter, this was highbrow, elitist stuff which did not deliver a "Giallo" experience. It was an arthouse reading of the experience.

I'd liken it to describing The Cook, The Thief... to Ms 45, I Spit or Thriller. Yep, they're all revenge shockers, but which one would be booed off the screen in a grindhouse?

:)

voor
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Re: AMER

Post by voor » Thu Mar 04, 2010 2:40 pm

I don't know - you'd be surprised - The Cook, The Thief might prove to be a horrendously effective title to an audience doped up on LSD or Acid or Mushrooms in a grindhouse.

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Re: AMER

Post by Marlin » Thu Mar 04, 2010 2:44 pm

Just so long as it wasn't weed they were on. They'd be clawing at the screen with the munchies...

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Re: AMER

Post by giles edwards » Thu Mar 04, 2010 2:45 pm

Yes, Genesis! Liked that even more and totally forgot about it!

"Greenaway on drugs." Holy shit.
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Re: AMER

Post by Marlin » Thu Mar 04, 2010 2:47 pm

Tried it with Drowning by Numbers in my youth. Don't recommend it. Particularly not the ice lolly scene. :?

Glad someone else liked Genesis. Bonafide masterpiece for me.

:)

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Re: AMER

Post by daveroughcut » Fri Mar 05, 2010 9:23 am

Has anyone figured out why the female co-director introduced it as a story about smells? I got what she meant by watching with all your five senses the language of the film provided the sight (and it was all about looking and wanting to touch) and the sound especially invited me to feel the touch of a lot of the materials, the leather, the comb, but smell them? I'd probably accept taste, thinking about the hair in her mouth of the blade on her teeth but cannot recall any overt thoughts on smell.

Hell of a debate this a clear indicator of a worthwhile film. AMER is going to be with us for a while. I reckon i'm go buy it on release but never watch Act Two: The walk to the shops.

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Re: AMER

Post by maxmum » Fri Mar 05, 2010 9:51 am

I thought the same, the only bit that kind of hinted at a smell was the bit at the start where the girl was poking the dead guy she sniffed a bit... presumably smelling that embalming yacky dead person smell.
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Re: AMER

Post by krispyg » Sat Mar 06, 2010 12:51 pm

Anyone have any ideas regards the films title though, what was the meaning behind it?

Amer to me is something of a marmite film and I sit in teh category of those who just didn't like it.
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Re: AMER

Post by sherbetbizarre » Mon Mar 15, 2010 11:02 am

The author of the new book on Dario Argento interviews Amer directors Bruno Forzani and Hélène Cattet...

http://watchinghorrorfilmsfrombehindthe ... bruno.html

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