To Pabst, Cazals and Apathy – A Film Review of ‘The Comedy’

The Comedy Poster

Be forewarned, the descriptor title of Rick Alverson’s ‘The Comedy’ is largely a misnomer. The film may boast a comedian as its front man and there is a chance that if you like black comedy (and I mean the blackest, soot covered, darkest kind) some type of uncontrollable laughter may ensue. Released in 2012 on the indie label Jagjaguwar, the point of ‘The Comedy’ isn’t to make you laugh. The point is to make you feel uncomfortable, to question motivation and to allow some room for the uninhibited to breathe. Alverson’s success in this regard, whether you like it or not, lies in the hands of comedian Tim Heidecker, the face of ‘The Comedy’ who incites anger or awe from his performance.

Known mainly for his off-beat show ‘Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job’, Heidecker’s comedy is eccentric and off-beat, yet compellingly addictive with the intention of making you squirm. Here, in his dramatic role as Swanson, an aimless overgrown Williamsburg hipster, Heidecker lives to provoke and push behavioural limits, expectations and social norms.

Playing what is essentially a wealthy hobo who lives off the family buck, Swanson is accountable to no one, and lives his life in direction-less escape with friends (James Murphy from LCD Soundsystem and Eric  Warehein from the Tim and Eric show). As he patiently waits for his father to die, leaving him a hefty inheritance, Swanson, cares about nothing in the process. He embodies the final gestures of someone who has reached the ultimate limit of apathy, the cultural phenomenon that is sweeping the twenty/thirty something generation.  A jerk, in the lightest of terms, his only appeal and intrigue can be found when Alverson beautifully captures his rare his moments of introspection pointing to a deep sadness, but one that will not be examined here.

The sarcastic wit of the loosely improvised dialogue is truly brilliant, and Alverson nails the ethereal and easy lifestyle of what hipster dreams are made of; but any film that guarantees to hurt this many feelings should be watched with a fair bit of caution, perhaps under a blanket or at least while bearing the thickest of skins.

‘The Comedy’ is available to rent on itunes.

Christina Stimpson

January 10, 2013 / By

So Close, Yet So Very Inexplicably Far – A Film Review of ‘The Bothersome Man’

The Bothersome Man

Maybe it’s the imminent decent of cold weather on the east coast or the controversial holiday stir that is rising out of a soon to be gender neutral Sweden, but Scandinavia seems to be everywhere I look lately, and I love it. Known mainly for films that explore the bleak side of existence with two very famous exports, Lars Von Trier and Ingmar Bergman figuring at the top of the region’s stark and melodramatic brand, the cinema of this region is not to be ignored.

One of the best films out of Norway in the last coupe of years is Jens Lien’s The Bothersome Man. It is a quiet subtle film, which focuses on the non-verbal and the implied in its exploration of a disturbed parallel reality. If you have ever worked a painful office job and longed for the day that you would be able to break free from the suspended ceiling tiles and monotonous rhythm of the photocopy machine, you will understand The Bothersome Man.

Set in dystopian Iceland, a world that looks unchanged from the land we know today, Andreas (Trond Fausa) is transported (literally) into his new mediocre middle class life. Provided an office job, an apartment, a wife and friends from an unknown source, the new life of Andreas denotes perfection on the surface, yet why does he still feel empty? Realizing that he is the emotional outsider of his cold surroundings, Andreas notices that human indulgences, from the taste of food to the feeling of love, are absent in his new world. Additionally, he begins to witness strange occurrences that all point towards the inability of his fellow coworkers to be able to feel (physically and emotionally).

As Andreas becomes aware that he is also moving towards apathy and desensitization, his only answer is to inflict as much pain as possible on himself in order to escape the dystopian world through suicide. But even that is met with failure. Until he discovers what he thinks is utopia, a gateway to another world on the other side of a concrete wall in the basement of a random apartment building. Andreas is determined to get to the other side.

There are a plethora of amazing Scandinavian films for lovers of early cinema and devotees to contemporary culture. The Bothersome Man is one, five other noteworthy films available on iTunes and Netflix are Wild Strawberries, The Celebration, Antichrist, Let the Right One In and Insomina (the 1997 version).

Christina Stimpson

November 29, 2012 / By

Unfit Father – Son Bonding – A Film Review of ‘Klown’

Klown film poster

We can thank Larry David and the writers of Curb Your Enthusiasm for setting the faux pas slash awkward moment bar so high it is near impossible to have a socially unacceptable incident these days without referring back to an episode in the series. Coming dangerously close to replicating Larry David’s comedic genius are two Danish comedians Frank Hvam and Caspar Christensen, who, with director Mikkel Nørgaard, create an atmosphere of awkwardom in Klown, the most successful Danish film of 2010.

Frank (Frank Hvam) discovers that his girlfriend Mia (Mia Lyhne) has a secret. Mia is pregnant, and although all of their friends already know, Mia has failed to share this important information with her partner for one sole reason. She is unsure if Frank is fit for fatherhood. Frank, of course disagrees, and upon hearing the wise words of encouragement from a taxi driver, Frank sets out to prove to Mia that he has some serious paternal skills and that he is selfless enough to care for a child. His case for defense is met with mild consideration as Frank blunders his way through an embarrassing (sexual) mistake with Mia’s mother, and his failure to protect Mia’s pre-teen nephew from night burglars. Frank’s logical solution to quell Mia’s uncertainty is to up ‘the paternal’ ante.

Most people under the duress of a potential break-up (because they are thought to be selfish and immature) might become more cautious in their decision making if it meant saving the relationship. Not Frank, however, who follows through with his bright idea to kidnap Mia’s nephew so that she can show her how caring he is. Frank’s hope for a wholesome ‘father-son’ bonding experience where he can test his Daddy-ness is dashed by previous plans for an adult’s only canoe trip with his buddy Caspar (Caspar Christensen). Caspar has the opposite expectation for their boy’s only trip.

What ensues is a hilarious set of confrontations from illicit under-age sexual rendez-vouz to a visit to a private gentlemen’s club, a very uncomfortable threesome, and drug related debaucheries that end with some serious confusion. The comedic graces of Hvam and Christensen are matched by the layer upon layer of bad luck they seem to attract to their already crumbling situation.

Most surprising about Klown is its connection to infamous Danish director Lars von Trier, a name not usually associated with comedy. Klown was produced by Zentropa, the production company founded by Von Trier in 1992 with the Dogme 95 movement in mind. Lars von Trier also wrote episode 6 in season 2 of Klovn, the original TV Series that Klown the movie is based on.

Klown is available to download through Drafthouse Films. It is also available on iTunes and Netflix.

Christina Stimpson

November 15, 2012 / By

Creative Revolution or Mediocre Pollution – A Film Review of Press, Pause, Play

Creative Revolution or Mediocre Pollution - A Film Review of Press, Pause, Play

We live in a world where if you have an internet connection you can be a star. In 2011, The House of Radon, a creative agency from Stockholm, Sweden recognized this swelling cultural shift in our society and set out to document the phenomenon that no one else was talking about on a deeper level. Press, Pause, Play, which premièred as an Official Selection at SXSW, and as received accolades from The New York Times, The Guardian, Huffington Post and Wired, explores piracy, advancements in technology and digital mediums, and the notion of ‘accessible fame’ through the channels of art, film and music.

Concerned with the larger questions of technology’s problematic side, the most interesting angle Press, Pause Play takes, relates to standards and how these issues have affected our collective notion of “The Artist”. Prior to the digital revolution, standards in creativity tended to lean towards a black and white approach of ‘good art’ vs. ‘bad art’. Generally dictated by organizations, be it, Schools of Fine Art, record companies or Museums, art was delivered to the masses through a top down approach. What we are culturally experiencing today is a polar shift in the traditional methods that dictate fame and success. Art is growing from the ground up, but quantity is altering quality.

Is the democratic self-filtering approach emerging in art a successful one? Or will mediocrity be all you need to survive.  Named as one of the Top Ten Art Documentaries to watch on Netflix, Press, Pause, Play explores the significant and timely issues surrounding modes of creativity.

Press, Pause, Play is available on Netflix, itunes and is also available to download here.

Christina Stimpson

November 1, 2012 / By

The Greatest Suspension of Disbelief – A Film Review of ‘The Imposter’

The Imposter film poster

Agatha Christie, the grandmother of mystery fiction, couldn’t have written it better.  The Imposter, a first feature by Bart Layton is what fiction dreams are made of. The only predicament is that not one bit of it is imagination. A documentary of sweeping thrill, The Imposter reconstructs the very real, and fully inconceivable crime of Frédéric Bourdin – master con-artist of the utmost niche genre – stealing the identities of missing children.

In October of 1994, Nicolas Barclay, an American lower-middle class pre-teen from San Antonio, Texas was declared missing by his family one evening when he did not return home after basketball. Three years later, a destitute, and lost, un-identified young adult is found in southern Spain, and taken into custody of a children’s shelter. Refusing to cooperate with Spanish authorities until the very brink of legal action, the unidentified person finally announces that he is Nicolas Barclay. But who can attest to the truth of his assertion? In a world where fingerprints and DNA are the only truths that are left infallible, assumption becomes the advantage of those who prey on humanitarian kindness – he is a missing person, and everyone is anxious to be a Good Samaritan. There is only one unsettling piece of the puzzle that doesn’t fit. This Nicolas Barclay looks nothing like the Nicolas Barclay that disappeared. Relying on the power of group-think not to mention the incremental and segregated process of solving a mystery, the new Nicolas Barclay makes his way to the U.S, is reunited with his family, begins to attend high school, and immerses himself in the American dream, with few questions being asked.

As a result of already knowing the ‘Who’ of the mystery, the ‘Why’ and the ‘How’ become the compelling guide to breaking down Bourdin’s crime. The inspirational seed for the design of The Imposter can be found through Errol Morris’s ground-breaking documentary The Thin Blue Line. Morris’s 1988 film successfully freed a man who was falsely accused of murder due to its fact-gathering presentation of the evidence and its stylish re-enactment of the night in question. The same can be said of The Imposter which places sociopath Frédéric Bourdin in the bizarre position of star and culprit. He recounts his own crime with such enthusiastic motivation and eerie charm that even the objective viewer forgoes atonement in place of thrill.

By far one of the best documentaries of the year, The Imposter has the potential to grow a documentary sub-genre that will successfully blur the lines between fiction and reality. Not only will it keep you strapped to your seat in anticipation, it will have you digging through all the angles long after the closing credits.

Christina Stimpson

October 18, 2012 / By

Google+