Saturday, February 19, 2005

8 1/2 and The Isle

I've been watching a lot of movies recently, a lot of new ones. This year, one of my goals has been to continue exploring the world of foreign film, and keep discovering new movies. So far, it's been going really well. In the past couple of days I watched two really interesting foreign films, Fellini's 8 1/2 and Kim Ki-Duk's The Isle.

8 1/2 is a classic film, and one that I almost feel ashamed to say that I didn't see until now, but it's been taken care of, and I was very impressed by it. The 60s was such a cool time, and even though here in the States, we have this image of the 60s as Woodstock, flower child type thing, other countries had a very differnet stereotypical 60s. For Britain, this was the mod style, as chronicled in the Entropy in the UK storyline in The Invisibles, and lovingly mocked in Austin Powers. This was a classic culture, and a very cool one, but perhaps the coolest 60s culture was 60s Italy. This is seen in Danger: Diabolik, and here in Fellini's 8 1/2.

It sometimes surprises me when I watch a movie from the 60s or 70s that they could ever actually wear the stuff that they're wearing, or edit it in the way they do, not as an over the top type thing, but just in a way that they thought was cool. I think the movie is incredibly cool, but in a way that feels very self consciously designed, not in the same way that a current movie like Fallen Angels is cool. It's like watching The Prisoner, it feels so 60s, you can't imagine a world where this is the style.

But, even though I have trouble imagining it, I would love to live there. It's an awesome movie visually, the style is very 60s, but it's also still relevant. Fellini is definitely along the lines of someone like Lynch or Wong Kar-Wai, in that he constructs his films along emotional beats, rather than with the strict goal of telling a story. As the characters are extremely meta about, the narrative here is hazy and symbolic, but I've got no problems with that. The film dances between dream and reality, with each giving equal advancement to the plot.

The opening sequence is phenomenal, as is the sequence with Gudio and all his women living in a house together. The ending is also a wonderful blend of symbol and narrative reality. What's real? I don't know, that's not what matters, the image of all the people dancing in the line together says it all.

I feel like I need another viewing, because the film dragged a bit at times. I can't think of any specific slow points, it just felt a bit too long, but sometimes that happens on the first viewing, and on a rewatch, I can get into the film more.

The other foreign film I watched was from The Isle, by director Kim Ki-Duk. A few weeks back, I saw Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter...and Spring by the same director. I liked it, and when I looked at it on IMDB, I read that his other films had a lot more edge than Spring..., so I ordered The Isle, and yes, it does have a lot more edge. I guess The Isle is a horror movie, but it's also a romance, a really twisted and nasty romance.

I really liked the film, it has a great atmosphere, and keeps you in the story, despite there not being much plot. The main character is basically mute, but we still get exactly what she's feeling. The most memorable and discussed thing about the film involves two scenes with fishhooks. 'Dat's nasty' pretty much describes them, without even showing anything explicit, they'll get to you. The thought alone will induce a cringe.

But, it's not just shock, these acts are the ultimate expressions of need, and for the mute girl, the only act of communication she has. When you can't talk, you have to resort to extreme measures.

The ending goes purely symbolic, and I'd consider it more a statement about men and women in general, rather than try to somehow tie it into the narrative of the movie. It's quite a film, similar to Spring in a lot of ways, but instead of the meandering Buddhist plot, it's a nasty little horror love story. I really liked it.

So, I'll definitely be seeking out more Fellini and Kim Ki-Duk in the future. Both are directors who make really interesting, arty films, the kind that I like. I'd love to see more stuff like this coming out of America, but it's just not happening, so I've got to look elsewhere.

Related Posts
Satyricon (3/8/2005)
3-Iron (9/10/2005)
Samaritan Girl (11/17/2005)
Bad Guy (12/17/2005)

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