Wednesday, July 3, 2024

A FEW (MORE) WORDS ON IN A VIOLENT NATURE



The older I get the more I like to talk about and dissect interesting films that I feel are a mixed bag of qualities that I love, dislike and am indifferent towards. Unfortunately the term “interesting” is commonly associated with something negative. Nowadays when someone says something is “interesting” it feels like an insult. It’s the kind of term someone uses when they have nothing of substance to describe something that's remotely different. It didn’t used to be like that. Interesting used to be a positive descriptor. We need to remove the negativity surrounding it. Chris Nash’s In A Violent Nature fits my description of interesting to a tee. On a surface level – the film is a somewhat deconstructed slasher story told from the killer’s perspective. There’s no conventional score or soundtrack, there’s stretches of the movie that have no dialogue, and the movie pulls from a lot of non-horror movies for inspiration. There are just as many if not more movie references & homages than a Tarantino film. The difference here is that Nash pulls from very specific sources that hold a special place in my heart (Terrence Malick, Alan Clarke, Gus Van Sant, etc). Ironically, part of my issue with this movie is it feels like it was made just for me. The first time I watched it I kept thinking to myself; “who else was this made for besides me??” I say that as a negative because a lot of films & directors I appreciate aren’t often associated with each other. There isn’t much of a Venn diagram that combines low budget Slashers, contemplative-era Terrence Malick and the realistic documentary-style of Alan Clarke.

I looked at a lot of the key movie references in a previous post from earlier this year (CLIK HERE TO READ) but the one thing I didn’t really get in to is that the references are a bit layered. 
Yes – Nash was influenced by Gus Van Sant’s 2002-2007 run, but those Van Sant films were influenced by Bela Tarr.

Well, I came to the idea just inspired a lot by Gus Van Sant's trilogy, of GERRY, ELEPHANT, and LAST DAYS. I just love those films - Chris Nash, dreadcentral

Scott Macaulay, who works at Forensic Films, was over at my house and told me that Sátántangó was playing at BAM that weekend. It was exactly what I needed to see at that exact moment in my life. It also summed up some things that I’d been thinking about for a long time and been influenced by but never put to use – Gus Van Sant, slant magazine
Satantango / Elephant / In A Violent Nature


Nash mentions Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible as another influence but Noe was influenced by the 1983 film; Angst (another film Nash shouts out). Specifically the overhead shots...

They showed me Gerald Kargl's 'Angst' - Ry Barrett, Indiewire

For me, I was thinking of Irréversible too, just the way the viewer is an onlooker for the whole thing - Ry Barrett, Indiewire
Angst / Irreversible / In A Violent Nature


The same layered influence goes back to Van Sant. This time by way of Alan Clarke...

Also Alan Clarke’s tv film ELEPHANT. That definitely had an influence on Van Sant as well - Chris Nash, Movieweb.com
Elephant / Elephant / In A Violent Nature


The movie references are actually my favorite aspect of In A Violent Nature. I love a good “movie mixtape”.


Earlier I used the term “deconstructed” but that doesn’t mean Chris Nash is trying to reinvent the genre or play in to the that “elevated horror” label. Quite the opposite. The problem is - no matter how many times Nash spoke out against the idea of “reinventing the genre”, critics still continue to use that tagline in their reviews. In A Violent Nature certainly has its fans and I think the movie’s run has been positive overall, but I think certain specific critics are doing the film a disservice by constantly saying the movie is “subverting the genre” or “reinventing the genre”. I think it’s setting up some audiences to be disappointed. In A Violent Nature doesn’t fit in with those NEON/A24-aesthtic horror films. And while it definitely leans in to the classics like Friday the 13th and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, the movie is also very slow and meditative at times. When you take away the gore elements, In A Violent Nature fits in more with the films of James Benning.

Personally, I think the film falls short when it comes to the supporting characters. I found their performances flat & distracting. Considering the movie is told from the killer’s perspective, it would’ve made more sense if the supporting characters/victims had no direct/clear dialogue at all. Almost like background noise. There was also no need to give any backstory on the killer. It would have also been nice if the movie leaned even more in to the “slow cinema” that it tried to emulate. Imagine a three hour long movie with even less kills and more nature. But I understand that would alienate even more potential viewers. Most folks don’t want to sit through a three hour slow slasher film with almost no direct dialogue. And that’s not the movie Chris Nash wanted to make. Going back to what I said earlier – I think because this movie was so coincidentally catered to my specific taste, I feel I have the right to say what could have made it better even though that’s a very selfish & insane claim to make. 
At the end of the day – this is just one man’s opinion. What do I know? The movie has made a profit and I’m rooting for Chris Nash to succeed at the end of the day. Even though I haven’t given this movie a glowing review, I’ve still dedicated two separate posts and a podcast appearance on it. Anyone with any common sense or nuance can tell that I have respect for Nash and his film. No matter what criticisms I have – I look forward to what he does next.

Monday, July 1, 2024

L’EMPIRE


Bruno Dumont’s latest film is another example of a bored filmmaker throwing something against the wall and seeing what sticks. Everyone from Harmony Korine (Aggro Dr1ft) to Steven Soderbergh (Bubble) has made their “bored movie” where they don’t feel challenged and still want to do something “different” but you can tell their heart isn’t all the way in it (this is all just my own speculation). L’empire is certainly Bruno Dumont doing something random & unexpected but it (mostly) works because, in my opinion, his heart is in it. At least I think it is…
L’empire is Dumont’s take on Star Wars. Yes - Bruno Dumont’s latest feature is a very loose reimagining of George Lucas’ sci-fi franchise. In the film - two opposing space factions battle it out in a rural French town. And instead of 9 films, 2 side movies and multiple television shows - Dumont manages to tell his space story in under 2 hours with just one movie.

Putting the Star Wars stuff aside, L’empire still fits in with the rest of Bruno’s body of work no matter how out of left field it seems (random dry humor, boats, fishing, seaside towns, unconventional-looking non-professional actors, etc). The film also takes place in the same cinematic universe as the L’il Quinquin series (the detectives from Quinquin & Coincoin et les z'inhumains make an appearance).


Some reviews have described this as a full-on parody of Star Wars but I don’t think it’s that simple. There are certainly plenty scenes of lightsabers, spaceships & holographic messages that we’re supposed to smirk at and not take completely seriously. But there are other aspects of the film that are absolutely genuine and filled with beauty. Normally I hate cheesy taglines to try and describe a movie in an effort to go on the front of the Blu-Ray case, but L’empire is like Robert Bresson doing Empire Strikes back (after almost 30 years of filmmaking it appears Dumont will never shake the Bresson comparisons).

Lancelot Du Lac / The Empire Strikes Back / L'Empire

The strongest connection that L’empire has with the rest of Dumont’s films is the ongoing references to Jean Epstein. When you remove the (intentionally goofy) science fiction aspects, you’ve essentially got a modern day Jean Epstein film with sound.

Finis Terrae / L'Empire

he [Jean Epstein] took himself off one day to Brittany to film exclusively there, with Bretons. Film a region, whichever it is, and the door is opened to filming the whole world - Bruno Dumont, filmmaker magazine
Le Tempestaire / L'Empire

I am simply doing the same thing that Pharaon de Winter did by including in my film people from northeast France, as [Jean] Epstein also did - Bruno Dumont, Cineaction Issue 51, Feb. 2000
 Mor'vran / L'Empire

In L'OR DES MERS there is a non professional actress chosen by Epstein who is truly exceptional. She manages to express infinite emotion - Bruno Dumont, thehotcorn.com
L'or Des Mers / L'Empire


If you’ve been following my “reviews” of this year’s new releases you may have noticed the common tread of: “I like it but I wouldn’t recommend this to most people”. L’empire is no exception. The difference here is that you don’t just randomly watch a Bruno Dumont movie. This is a movie strictly for his hardcore fans. I’m also still not sure if Dumont was trying to make an unnecessarily mean-spirited cynical commentary on modern cinema or if he was truly being experimental and trying his hand at a new genre (I honestly hope not because making fun of Star Wars in 2024 as an arthouse filmmaker is very lazy & predictable). This excerpt from a recent interview in film comment does indicate that his intentions are genuine. But you never know with a filmmaker like Dumont…



Friday, June 21, 2024

I SAW THE TV GLOW *UPDATED*


Much of the focus on Jane Schoenrbrun’s I Saw The TV Glow is about the pivotal moment where a young queer person transitions. But the film is much more than that. It's certainly shot from a queer lens/perspective but isn't exclusive. Quite the opposite. In my personal opinion, I Saw The TV Glow is just as much about the comfort of slightly weird childhood/teenage nostalgia as it is about identity & transitioning. I use the word comfort because there’s something nice about another person or small group of folks that are in to the same weird niche stuff you’re in to. There's no better feeling than finding your people. There's comfort in someone making you a copy of some underground music or those 6 hour blank VHS tapes with 3 random movies on them that have no connection or correlation with each other (if you went through my Dad's VHS collection in 1991 you’d find maxell tapes with Lifeforce, School Daze & Death Wish all on the same tape). Having specific similar odd interests matter. Those kinds of things can make unbreakable lifelong friendships and can transcend different cultures, races, backgrounds, etc (I still have friendships that span over 30 years that are rooted in a love off the same "non-traditional" things). This applies to music, art, film, or, in the case of I Saw The Tv Glow – television. An important part of this film is about the bond our two young characters make over their love of the same television programming that is a clear homage to shows like Pete & Pete, Eerie Indiana, You Can’t Do That On Television, Encyclopedia Brown, etc (it should be noted that Pete & Pete’s Mike Maronna & Danny Tamberelli make a cameo in the film). 

Old children’s programming from the late 80’s through the early 90’s, specifically Nickelodeon, was certainly accessible but it was also kind of weird (especially when compared to children’s programming in 2024). You watch shows like Pete & Pete or You Can’t Do That On Television and there’s something intentionally “off” with the overall tone of those shows. It’s like PG-rated dark humor with a nice pinch of surreality. There was a sweet spot where a lot of the shows we had as kids where weird, informative & different but also easy to access. I hate to sound like an old grump but a lot of today’s programming for young people is very safe & homogeneous.

Pete & Pete / I Saw The TV Glow

Because this film is rooted in nostalgia, there are plenty of intentional & unintentional nods to the works of other filmmakers. This isn’t a bad thing in my book. Nostalgia can sometimes be seen as insufferable but in the case of I Saw The TV Glow that’s the point. Nostalgia is a key ingredient to the film so if that’s not something that interest you - it’s probably best to just not even watch it. It’s important to note that the nostalgia in this movie isn’t associated with happy memories. The characters in this film are antisocial outcasts with rough personal lives. Schoenbrun also shows that some of the things we loved as kids/teenagers are kind of dated & disappointing when we revisit them as adults.

This isn’t a movie for everyone but anyone who appreciates Lynch, Cronenberg, TV Carnage & weird youtube algorithms will find something interesting buried in here.
 
Schoenbrun has always been open about her influences (click here to read my thoughts about previous film) and her latest film is no exception. A lot of the older movies that are subconsciously referenced by Schoenbrun were/are a safe space and/or comfort for outcasts & outsiders...

I just find the glow of a screen to be appealing. It's something that I very naturally gravitate toward, in the way that David Cronenberg gravitates toward body horror - Jane Schoebrun, The Hollywood Reporter
Videodrome / I Saw The TV Glow

Videodrome / I Saw The TV Glow

Videodrome / I Saw The TV Glow

Videodrome / I Saw The TV Glow


Between when I was a kid and watched Twin Peaks for the first time and when the show got rebooted in 2017, I just had recurring nightmares about it- Jane Schoenbrun, Inverse.com
Twin Peaks: Season 2 / I Saw The TV Glow

Twin Peaks: The Return / I Saw The TV Glow


I’m a big fan of thinking of a film as infinitely deep. I think I got that from [David] Lynch - jane schoenbrun, Letterboxd
Mulholland Drive / I Saw The TV Glow

Eraserhead / I Saw The TV Glow

I’m a big fan of thinking of a film as infinitely deep. I think I got that from [David] Lynch - Jane Schoenbrun, Letterboxd
Inland Empire / I Saw The TV Glow

Inland Empire / I Saw The TV Glow

I don’t mean to put one film down to prop up another but I Saw The TV Glow feels like a more successful attempt at doing what Flying Lotus tried to do with his Kuso which was a cosmic slop/mixtape of surreality, nostalgia & body horror.

I personally enjoyed this overall but there’s only a specific list of folks that I would actually recommend this to which keeps with the theme of the film. Maybe in 30 years Schoenbrun’s sophomore feature will be that discovery that bonds a group of outcasts.

Tuesday, June 11, 2024

IN A VIOLENT NATURE

Elephant / Elephant / In A Violent Nature

However you may feel about Chris Nash’s In A Violent Nature, there’s no denying that the film draws from some cool unexpected sources. This is hardly the first slow burn horror movie director to pull from “unexpected”/outside lanes of cinema, but I can’t think of too many that mention the likes of Terrence Malick, Gus Van Sant & Alan Clarke as references.

Now… Nash does not deny his more obvious sources like Friday The 13th and Fincher’s Zodiac..

I would say FRIDAY THE 13th is intrinsic to the existence of this film because it built the framework. We’re not reinventing the wheel, but we are looking at the wheel from a different side - Chris Nash, Dreadcentral.com
Friday The 13th Part VI / In A Violent Nature

Friday The 13th Part II / In A Violent Nature

Friday The 13th / In A Violent Nature

Friday The 13th Part II / In A Violent Nature

Friday The 13th / In A Violent Nature

Friday The 13th / In A Violent Nature

Friday The 13th Part 5 / In A Violent Nature

Friday The 13th Part 4 / In A Violent Nature

Friday The 13th Part VII / In A Violent Nature



The Raft segment in Creepshow 2 had an indelible affect on me - Chris Nash, Flickering Myth
Creepshow 2 / In A Violent Nature


I can watch Zodiac anytime as soon as it's on. It just puts me in a mood. It puts me in a vibe. It's that same kind of calculated feel that I like where I'm just thinking, 'Oh, this is a plan' - Chris Nash, Indiewire
Zodiac / In A Violent Nature

And without needing any pull quotes, you can imagine this is the type of film to pay homage to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. TCM has the kind of impact where it can influence someone who isn’t even familiar with Tobe Hooper’s work.
The Texas Chainsaw Massacre / In A Violent Nature

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre / In A Violent Nature

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre / In A Violent Nature


But what drew me to this films were the homages to the likes of non-horror/thriller directors like Van Sant, Clarke, and Malick…

Well, I came to the idea just inspired a lot by Gus Van Sant's trilogy, of GERRY, ELEPHANT, and LAST DAYS. I just love those films - Chris Nash, dreadcentral
Last Days / In A Violent Nature

Elephant / In A Violent Nature

Gerry / In A Violent Nature


Because Gus Van Sant's Gerry/Elephant/Last Days trilogy was inspired by Bela Tarr, Nash was sort of indirectly influenced by Tarr as well...
Satantango / In A Violent Nature

Werckmeister Harmonies/ In A Violent Nature


So just, especially the Van Sant films, focusing so much on the nature or the environment of where the characters are and how they're interacting and where they’re walking through - Chris Nah, Nofilmschool.com
The Sea Of Trees / In A Violent Nature

I thought this would be a pretty cool approach to just follow the slasher around and just treat it like one of those Van Sant films - Chris Nash, Nofilmschool.com
Paranoid Park / In A Violent Nature


The other directors we looked at were, yes, Malick - Chris Nash, thirdcoastreview.com
The Tree Of Life / In A Violent Nature

The Tree Of Life / In A Violent Nature

The Tree Of Life / In A Violent Nature

The Tree Of Life / In A Violent Nature

Badlands / In A Violent Nature

Badlands / In A Violent Nature

The Tree Of Life / In A Violent Nature


They showed me Gerald Kargl's 'Angst' and Alan Clarke's Elephant, just to give me an idea of what the feel was going to be - Ry Barrett, Indiewire
Angst / In A Violent Nature

Angst / In A Violent Nature

Angst / In A Violent Nature

Angst / In A Violent Nature

Elephant / In A Violent Nature


Angst went on to influence Gaspar Noe’s work so it’s not off-base that Nash would also find inspiration from other films from the school of Angst…

For me, I was thinking of Irréversible too, just the way the viewer is an onlooker for the whole thing - Ry Barrett, Indiewire
Irreversible / In A Violent Nature

Irreversible / In A Violent Nature


I haven't found any hard evidence of Nash being influenced by the likes of James Benning or the Dardennes but his film definitely invokes their work on a surface level as well...
13 Lakes / In A Violent Nature

Rosetta / In A Violent Nature



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