Sunday, 28 July 2013

HIDDEN TREASURES: ELENA, FAUST, HARA-KIRI: DEATH OF A SAMURAI


As limited as the reach of my blog is, I nevertheless like to think that any extra attention I can bring to undervalued films won't be in vain. Since I started this blog, there are some films which I haven't posted reviews about but which undoubtedly deserve larger audiences than they have reached since release. Today's Hidden Treasures article is about three recent films which fit that bill.

ELENA (2011) - ANDREY ZVYAGINTSEV

A spare, often wordless drama, that resembles a film noir without the thrills, and with some provocative social statements in their place. This is a formalist's dream, executed with utmost style and precision, with excellent, stark cinematography from Mikhail Krichman. Nadezhda Markina's performance is a marvellous accomplishment, in what she conceals and what she reveals. For a film so narratively simple, it's incredibly thematically rich.

FAUST (2011) - ALEKSANDR SOKUROV

Aleksandr Sokurov weaves a hazy, dazy, almost half-remembered tapestry of curiosity and quirk out of the classic tale of Faust, ambling around it mischievously, pausing only to interject with a mocking smirk at the story's hapless inhabitants. A gritty texture of shades of beige from DP Bruno Delbonnel adds a layer of visual fogginess to compliment Sokurov's lewd irreverence.

HARA-KIRI: DEATH OF A SAMURAI (2011) - TAKASHI MIIKE

Not the action film you expect - its only scene of true samurai action is a messy brawl at film's end, a callous disturbance of the rigour exerted elsewhere by Takashi Miike, at his most serious. In most respects, it's an anti-samurai film, lingering on the pain and poverty that accompany the lifestyle, and the emotional wounds, rather than the physical. The images are spellbindingly beautiful, and a number of moments will linger long in the memory.