Da 5 Bloods
On the Record
I May Destroy You
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An eccentric surreal horror/mystery (with some of bits of lame humor) based on a novel. It takes the story of an overbearing patriarchal figure whose last will compels his family and associates to remain in his spooky mansion after his death, and weaves in assorted references to Greek mythology. It's a little hokey but also quite spellbinding in its strangeness, and packs a lot of surprises in its ending. Kumel has yet to "wow" me, but I'm finding him pretty entertaining so far.
Guitry has a blast with the form, from the introductions to all the cast and crew at the beginning to the way almost the entire story is told in narration (except for the parts that aren't flashback). It's a very lively, playful and inventive film. So why didn't I love it more? It was amusing but never funny, clever but never impressive, engaging but never enthralling. It's cute and charming enough, and I wanted to see how the story would unfold... it just doesn't deliver that something extra. I enjoyed it though. Doesn't hold up as the "masterpiece" it's often hailed as, but it's fun.
A haunting debut feature, with lots of room for interpretation (including an intriguing religious angle). It gives you room to think about the metaphorical implications, while also serving just fine as a surface narrative. A bit "been there, seen that" at first, but as the story develops it comes into its own. It's impossible to avoid the Tarkovsky reference; Zvyagintsev's work greatly resembles his, with a slow-paced tempo and long, lingering close-ups. The color palette is drained, painting a world of drab blue-grays that matches the bleakness of the story (although, admittedly, isn't that engaging to the eye). The two boys were both passable for child actors... the younger one, who looks a whole lot like Haley Joel Osment, kind of bugged me with his constant pouting, but given the character and the situation, I guess he didn't have a lot of options there. In a bit of poetic tragedy, the older boy drowned before the film was released.
Costa's style relies on the same kind of understated performances and minimalist dialogue as Tsai, Kaurismaki and especially Bresson. And obviously that's a style I enjoy, but I had a hard time getting into this movie. The problem is that I couldn't relate to the characters very well... in fact, I often couldn't understand them or their motivations. Costa seems to go out of his way to withhold information, which is sometimes an interesting way to subvert expectations... but sometimes just a frustration. I really wanted to like this film, and in a lot of ways I was intrigued, but ultimately I felt unsatisfied.