2000s Oldies

L’enfant (2005)

I couldn’t help thinking I had already seen this film. I hadn’t, but there was something all too familiar about it. Films about young couples that are unable to raise newborns together are out there in spades. I’ll be upfront and say I don’t typically like films with this plot to begin with. 

I don’t know if it’s entirely Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne’s fault for its familiarity. I’m sure that after winning the Palme d’Or many filmmakers were inspired and wanted to emulate this film. I’ve probably watched several of The Child‘s the imitators over the years. The lack of freshness is a result of that. I felt like nothing about The Child really stands out and without that, I should be interested in the characters, but I found Bruno (Jérémie Renier) very unlikable and Sonia (Déborah François) underdeveloped.

I didn’t care for Bruno and Sonia’s relationship and didn’t care about it being successful. Sonia was better off without Bruno and I couldn’t wait for her to distance herself from him. I have to give the Dardennes credit for not trying to string that relationship along for the whole movie with the state it was in. Many filmmakers fall into this trap and it makes for an excruciating experience for me. 

Bruno was not charming and most of our time is spent with him. He’s a man-child, which is entirely the point, but I didn’t need to watch 95 minutes of him being immature for him to figure that out. An issue lifelike films fall into is that they can be predictable and that’s fine, but from start to finish it needs to be engaging enough for the audience to get a worthwhile experience. The Child does have interesting moments, but the overall sum of its parts leaves a lot to be desired.

2000s Oldies

Japón (2003)

Japón is Carlos Reygadas at his most aimless and self-indulgent. The film begins great and maintains its quality until about halfway through. What starts as a story of a man going to a small village slowly turns into a story of a man who grows affection for an older woman he wants to receive sex from. It takes such a sharp turn thematically it was hard for me to go along with.

The film shifts from being about a man who is unsatisfied with his life, in the middle of a deep existential crisis, to the man being unfulfilled due to his lack of sex life. I realize this may be a crude and elementary way of looking at the story, but when the actions of “The Man” (Alejandro Ferretis) feel one-dimensional I’m more inclined to think that way. To say his actions are due to a natural primal instinct due to his newly acquired isolation only ends up minimizing his initial, complex issues. It’s an arguably pessimistic and unfair interpretation of human beings. I also don’t think you can write off his feelings for Ascen (Magdalena Flores) as love either because he knows almost nothing about her and proposes sex to her in such an entitled and manipulative way.

Japón has this quality of feeling like everything is spur of the moment and the narrative is constantly shifting. I think this could have worked if what was going behind the camera didn’t feel the same way. The film feels unfocused during the second half. Reygadas’s film eventually starts to feel like a collection of images that don’t always flow together seamlessly. After a while the editing starts to feel choppy.

There’s a weird moment where a non-professional actor addresses the camera crew of Japón. I was instantly reminded of the ending of Taste of Cherry. I personally don’t like the ending of Taste of Cherry, but that had more intent behind it. The one-off line one of the workers utters could have easily been removed or even edited around. It’s such a weird moment.

If Reygadas wanted to remind everyone that they were watching a movie, like director Abbas Kiarostami did, more thought should have been put into it. Or, if the line was completely unscripted – which it probably was – he should have found a way to double down later on the line if he knew he was going to keep it in.

You can expect to see the typical Reygadas flourishes you get in his later films: longer takes, minimal dialogue, and beautiful cinematography. Japón is mostly let-down by his hazy screenplay. He might have been able to save the film if he had a stronger conclusion, but it ends in a cheap way.


Ichi the Killer (2001)

One of the most violent and gruesome movies I have ever seen, Ichi the Killer seems to exist solely to be just that. Director Takashi Miike seems to make the film brutally violent just for the sake of being brutally violent, which is fine, but I don’t always enjoy movies of that nature. I’m definitely not going to enjoy it when it’s done in such a sadistic and confrontational nature. Miike might have been able to get away with it if he was commenting on the brutality of man or violence in general, but he seems to enjoy it too much to go anywhere near that territory.

I might have found it easier to get through Ichi the Killer if it wasn’t plagued by misogyny and sickening violence towards women. With the exception of the scene with Suzuki hanging from hooks, the women get tortured and beaten way worse than the men. The women in the film are merely sexual objects meant to be used and deposed as the men wish.

Despite its gratuitous violence, rampant misogyny, and unlikable characters, there are positives with Ichi the Killer.

The practical effects are incredibly well-done, which makes the torture scenes harder to watch than other movies you may watch. Considering Ichi the Killer was made in 2001, I think it’s a good argument for the effectiveness of SFX vs. VFX considering the CGI in the film looks very cheap by today’s standards, but the SFX still holds up nicely.

Takashi Miike still manages to make the film watchable through his visuals and editing. Ichi the Killer is both easily digestible and arresting to one’s eyes. He gets committed performances from the cast, especially from Tadanobu Asano, who plays Kakihara. Also, fortunately for him, he had interesting source material to help combat particular choices he made.

This film is definitely not for everyone. I’d look heavily into Ichi the Killer before considering watching it.