by Jeff Meyers
Nothing like kicking the festival off with a droll Danish home-invasion flick. Woo-hoo, good times. To be honest, even that description doesn't adequately describe Alex van Warmerdam’s creepy, quirky kinda -sorta thriller. Like an ironic take on Michael Haneke's FUNNY GAMES, Borgman is the titular satan-like leader of a macabre band of misfits that seem dedicated to destroying the peace and comfort of others. In this case, an upper class Danish family. What starts with Borgman's request for a bath turns into an ever-growing pile of bodies and mysteries for Marina and her thuggish husband. It's the kind of movie where no one behaves like a real person ought to and a lot of the plot doesn't make sense but you can't help but be pulled into its eerie, off-kilter web of seduction and menace.
ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE
Much like Tom Hiddlestone's depressed vampire, in Jim Jamusch's latest flick, Detroit – where HIddleston writes music and broods with self-pity– is hailed as a gorgeous wreck, ready to rise from the dead and once again shine. Or so says Tilda Swinton's contented bloodsucker, who travels from Tangier to Motown to cheer up her centuries-old lover. And like fading, self-indulgent rockstars the two bemoan the shallowness and short-sightedness of humanity and worry over tainted blood all while worshipping at the usual cultural icons (guitars, early rock, romantic poets, etc). Motor City ruin porn actually works in Jarmusch's deadpan portrait , even as he indulges of many of his fetishes. Mia Wasikowska drops in to spice things up and the always wonderful John Hurt makes an appearance as the vampiric Kit Marlowe, bitching that Shakespeare was an illiterate ponce who acted as a front for his 'posthumous' work. If you dig Jarmusch's scene, you'll dig the flick. TWILIGHT fans, however, will haaaate it.
A Korean comic thriller that probably plays better for native audiences than Americans. The set-up is pure Western-style thriller: An uptight screenwriter travels to a secluded mountain B&B to finish his latest script. On the bus he meets a too-friendly local with a checkered past. Soon, grim-faced hunters and belligerent skiers are showing up at his door. Then the bodies start stacking up. Is the ex-con a crazed murderer? Intruders takes too many detours into personal exchanges that go nowhere to build up enough of a dramatic steam, but director Noh Young-seok does deliver a few effectively tense encounters. Rounding the third act, however, it becomes clear that the meandering comic thriller is actually a social satire aimed at Korean audiences. You see, the clues as to who is killing everyone off and why are in easy sight but the film's characters are too petty and self-obsessed to see it. I get it, but I think something deeper got lost in translation.
THE FIFTH ESTATE
Director Bill Condon tries strenuously to make people typing on computer keyboards cinematic and, well, doesn't. Not really. Oh, his visuals are interesting and all, but not terribly thrilling. No matter how many ways you trick the shot out, typing is just typing. And there's an awful lot of it in THE FIFTH ESTATE. Which is just a small piece of what's wrong with the film . For one, it can't decide whether it wants to be a cyber thriller, political polemic or tale of betrayed friendship. Focusing on Daniel Berg doesn't help. Friend and partner to the egotistical Julian Assange, he's far too bland a protagonist for us to find compelling (even if he did write the book the movie is partially based upon). In contrast, Benedict Cumberpatch storms through the film, demonstrating what makes Assange such a charismatic figure. His mission -government and corporate accountability and transparency - is noble, even if the man himself is far less than a saint. Indeed, he's a wicked stew of ambition, ruthlessness, prickly genius, uncompromising idealism and muckraking virtue. But the movie never does more than scratch the surface of this fascinatingly complex man. Similarly, it misses out on some important ideas – namely: How the world often mistakes the message for the messenger. For THE FIFTH ESTATE'S first 2/3 it just flounders – albeit frantically – without a solid plot or point to make. Finally, in its last third serious ethical and moral issues come to the forefront and Wikileaks' methods get the scrutiny they deserve. Barely. Just when the movies gets really interesting, it loses connection. It would have been interesting to see what Aaron Sorkin would have done with this topic. Ah, well. Not every movie can be THE SOCIAL NETWORK.