Bartender, get me another Tarkovsky. Stronger, this time. For those of you sighing heavily, I promise I’ll get back to watching the trash Hellraiser sequels soon.
I gave my whole Tarkovsky spiel in my write up on his 1972 introspective sci-fi film, Solaris. After having missed Stalker at my local independent theater, I was disheartened that I wouldn’t get to see it, especially after one of my co-workers saw it and really enjoyed it. But alas, you can always count on the Criterion Collection to re-release old school art films for way too much money, and a couple weeks ago, they did just that. Talking about the value of films and how much they should cost is a debate for another day. Let’s just get to the Russian arthouse weirdness.
Stalker takes place in a strange world. Is it post-apocalyptic? Perhaps. Nothing grows in the non-specific country in which Stalker takes place. Buildings are ruined, and the earth is cracked beneath everyone’s feet. Is it a dystopian hyper-industrial future? There’s more evidence of this, with the militaristic police that seem to be patrolling every street corner and every back alley. Chemical factories and power plants make up the skyline. Whatever the case, the world of Stalker is a funereal one. Three men meet in a bar. We do not know their names, only their professions. The Professor, the Writer, and the Stalker, a man trained to bypass the military quarantine surrounding a mysterious area of lush greenery simply known as the Zone. These men are prepared to risk their lives for their mission into the Zone, as legend has it that within the Zone lies a room that can immediately grant the wishes of anyone who enters.
Editor’s Note: I started writing this while kind of blitzed (similar to my Bye Bye Man review, but with maybe half a dozen more bottles of Alpine in me), so bare with me here. I took a sober moment the next day to comb through this write up and clean it up to the usual amount of typos and grammatical errors.
I’m lucky enough to live in a town that has a local independent cinema, which screens a ton of newer indie releases as well as manages to show old prints of classic movies. Local arthouse and documentary films also get a home there, but the reason I’ve taken a new shine to the place is because they’ve been on a bit of an Andrei Tarkovsky kick recently. Last month they showed Stalker, arguably his most revered movie (honestly, among Tarkovsky fans, every single one of his films is up for being considered his best work) which I unfortunately wasn’t able to catch. I was kicking myself for that one, so when I found out that they’d be showing Tarkovsky’s philosophical sci-fi epic Solaris, I made sure I was able to make it out to catch it on the big screen.
For those of you who might not know (I was only introduced to Andrei Tarkovsky recently), Tarkovsky was the most famous Soviet era Russian filmmaker, and was able to produce art so expressive of his own feelings and thoughts his films were repeatedly banned, seized, and burned by the USSR until finally he was exiled from the union. Among the arthouse and independent film fans, Tarkovsky is usually held in the same echelon as Kubrick, Lynch, and Coppola. He’s apparently kind of a big deal. This film is the first I’ve ever seen of his, so we’ll see how he stacks up.
Tarkovsky’s 1972 offering Solaris is often considered as a Eastern European response to Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. It’s a slow, heady sci-fi flick that uses its setting and creative choices to explore interesting and thought provoking themes and questions. Solaris is smaller in scale and a little more introspective than 2001, following a psychologist named Kelvin who is sent to a space station orbiting the eponymous ocean planet. Kelvin’s mission: to investigate the strange messages received from the station. Word is that most of the crew are dead and the survivors have since descended into madness. When he reaches the station, Kelvin is informed that there are “guests” on board: physical manifestations of the occupants’ memories, apparently conjured up by the alien planet below them. Before long he runs into what appears to be an amnesiac version of his wife, Khari. Kelvin is particularly distraught over this, considering Khari committed suicide a decade prior. Things then get weirder, and much more Russian.
It’s been a while since I’ve written about a whole season of a show rather than a movie, and funnily enough, the last one I wrote about was also a Netflix series. Sure, I’ve written about John Carpenter and Tobe Hooper‘s episodes of Masters of Horror, but those are pretty much short films independent of each other rather than one cohesive story told though multiple episodes. What am I saying, you know what a TV show is, you’re not an idiot (I hope). This show has stirred up a lot of controversy with people jumping on either side of the fence and naturally so, being a show that tackles subjects like depression, suicide, and sexual assault. Some people are adamant that the show inaccurately portrays these things and their consequences and that the show is doing more harm than good, while some others feel like this show is taking a brave stance to bring these subjects to light in a time when they’re the most relevant to our current youth culture. I’m not here to tell one side or another which is right or wrong. I’m here to just, like, give my opinion, man.
In case you’ve been living under a rock for the past month and a half, 13 Reasons Why is the newest Netflix series to take the world by storm. In small town USA, Hannah Baker (Katherine Langford), a girl who has just moved to town and started in Liberty High School has killed herself. Slit wrists in a bathtub. After her death, her classmates find a box of cassette tapes, each side dedicated to a person or an event that she believes led her to take her own life. The tapes make their way to Clay Jensen (Dylan Minnette, who was quite good in Don’t Breathe), a quiet, smart kid who was a friend of Hannah’s. Through his eyes we get to see Hannah’s story and everything that culminated in her taking her own life. This show is based on the book of the same name, written by Jay Asher. I haven’t read the book and I don’t intend to. I don’t care how faithful or unfaithful it is to the source material, I just care how well it holds up on its own. (more…)
I know I set out with the intent of writing about the movies I cross off my to-watch list, but considering I rewatched Mad Max: Fury Road twice this past week, I haven’t been cracking down on that list as hard as I’d like. Also, the last two days of my life have been whisked away into the ether by the first season of Stranger Things.
Stranger Things is a Netflix original series that came out just over a week ago, with the entire first season up for streaming. If you can’t tell by the killer artwork and font that looks like it’s ripped straight off of a Stephen King or Sutter Cane novel, Stranger Things is riding aboard the ’80s horror/mystery throwback train. Stranger Things takes place in the sleepy, fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana in 1984. A young boy by the name of Will disappears one night without a trace and soon after, Eleven, a girl with telekinetic and telepathic powers shows up in town. It follows a cast of interesting and dynamic characters including Will’s three best friends, Will’s mother and brother, and the Hawkins chief of police as they all try to get to the bottom of the disappearance in their own ways. As they dig deeper and follow the clues down a rabbit hole, they learn that there’s a much darker and more sinister plot going on in Hawkins than just a lost child. (more…)
Enemy is a psychological thriller/ mystery film directed by Denis Villeneuve who also directed the critically acclaimed thrillers Prisoners, Incendies, and Sicario (all of which also happen to be on my to-watch list). I’m on the fence about whether or not I would call this an arthouse film or not, because it seems to straddle the line between an accessible movie that makes you think and a surrealist mindfuck. Enemy is loosely based on the book The Double by José Saramago and stars Jake Gyllenhaal as Adam Bell, a bored history professor who finds Anthony St. Claire, a small time actor who looks exactly like him. It isn’t just an uncanny resemblance. Anthony is physically identical to Adam. If you haven’t guessed it, Anthony is also played by Gyllenhaal. Adam researches and quickly becomes obsessed with Anthony, and begins interfering with Anthony’s private life trying to figure out who Anthony really is and why they appear to be the same person. Their lives become somewhat intertwined and they both need to find their way through a web of mistrust and deception to get to the bottom of it.