Thursday, September 22, 2011


Mamoru Oshii
is a Japanese gentleman who, way back in 1995, directed an animated film called "Ghost in the Shell" - I've never seen it but it was apparently inspirational to both "The Matrix" and "eXistenZ" and did very well indeed.

He didn't make another film until 2001, when the film he made was 'Avalon': a live-action cyberpunker made in Poland, using Polish actors speaking in their native tongue.

'Avalon' didn't do so well. The Japanese didn't care for it. It was shown at film festivals around the world, no distributor was interested and so it was released straight to DVD. I'd never heard of it until recently but I checked it out and um... now that I've seen it I can see why it didn't do so well, but mind you that is not to say that the film is entirely without merit.

First off: you'd have to be in the humour for 'Avalon' and it'd probably help to know exactly what you're getting into: if you fancy something Matrix-like you'd best steer clear of this one.

But action & pacing isn't all that there is to fillum-making and even though I saw many flaws in this film I still find myself banging the pot on behalf of Avalon because I reckon it's worth a gander.

So firstly the flaws as I see 'em.

Avalon has a paper-thin story about a game that you the viewer don't understand that looks like a steam-punk 'Halo' but has some Dungeons & Dragons-type heirarchy involving Thieves/Warriors/Mages/'Bishops' and experience points.

That is simply not interesting.


The main character lives on her own and plays the game a lot. She barely interacts with anybody in the whole film: when she does interact all these other characters ever really seem to do is supply information about the game.

Not very interesting either.


It looks a little bit like everything else, it has that digi-dour Dark City/The Matrix thing going on in a big stylee and, well, we've seen it before and it's neither innovative nor pleasant.

Dull in every sense.

The main actor never smiles, or expresses anything- she just kind of mopes around.
She has beautiful eyes, we see a lot of those eyes but we never see any emotions in them.

Nil points for an emotional core then.


It focuses inexplicably and in some detail on strange and undramatic elements of food preparation and consumption.

Whathefuckery abounds.

So why do I reckon that every last copy shouldn't be just hunted down and burned?

Well... because I found it to be beautiful.

I mean, yes a whole heap of nothing happens and that is frustrating to the story-follower but a whole heap of nothing happens in 2001 and I personally prefer the Avalon brand of ennui because it's better done and not pretending to be about evolution. I don't think.

Overall... watching Avalon was such an odd strange and quiet experience. Certain scenes and certain moments just pulled me right in and I still honestly have no idea why they did and I respect it for being able to that without having to include either characters or a story that I gave a shit about.

Not one for everyone but if you fancy a break from the roller-coaster story-arc you might well enjoy the weirdness.

I certainly did.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

2001 a space odyssey.

Well I reckoned that having just watched A.I., that 2001 would be a perfect follow-up, and besides, I had never seen it.

I don't know why I had never seen it... I suppose because it's long and because it has a reputation as a master-piece and a reputation as a masterpiece can put me right off a thing. Also, I remember that I tried watching 2001 with my Dad back in the 70's when it was first on television and this was a disaster because Da totally ruined it by pointing out how there was no story and that nothing was happening.

That memory coloured my watching of it this time. To be fair to me Da, I can see what he meant; it's not exactly an action movie. Still, after a while I found the slow pace of it smooth and engaging. Kubrick came up with a number of ways to suggest zero gravity ( and solutions to it) on film and he takes his time to show these off, and I'm glad he does because it looks so cool.

The 'computer going mad' section is very well done too but unfortunately after HAL sang 'daisy' the film seemed stop being about anything anymore. I felt that for the end of this film instead of being told a story.... I felt I was just 'shown some stuff' and left to make my own sense of it, and I hate that.

'Something' was happening but I'd no idea what and I stopped caring pretty quickly and waited for the film to end. Which took a while.

2001: You lost me at 'Daisy'.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Supertoys age better than expected.

It isn't very difficult to pick holes in things, the good stuff is very often not the stuff that we cant pick holes in, but rather the stuff that we enjoy so much that we either don't notice the holes or don't care.

Case in point, the original Planet of The Apes fillum was full of holes: a discerning viewer might've watched it and asked:

Where are these astronauts going to?
Why,( if, as suggested, they were supposed to populate it )- were the crew mainly men?
Why didn't they have space suits?
How come you can smoke on board?
As scientists, wouldn't the fact that you could breath,
or that the planet had plant-life rich with earth-bound species,
or that there was humans on it,
or that the sky at night contained all the exact constellations visible on earth,
or the the 'ancient antiques' ( the toy doll, or the false teeth or the pace-maker ) existed,
or that the ape-language was american english,
... shouldn't at least one of these things give an inkling to an educated astronaut... shouldn't they have given him some indication that he was on his own planet?

Yeah they might have, but if they did... it'd kinda ruin the ending of the fillum wouldn't it?

Sometimes you gotta watch a thing and remember it's only a fillum and step around the holes.

Now A.I. has a lot of holes. Big holes. Big huge gaping ones, but I'm a fillum viewah who can handle it. I like to think that I can step around those gapers by and large, but there are a few and they bother me. Yetiboy covers them fairly comprehensibly here and I could nearly leave it at that, and perhaps I should but I wont.

I watched A.I. recently again for the first time since it's cinema release.
I was pretty disappointed with it first time-round. I had read the short-story that inspired it: 'Super-toys last all summer long' and expected something great, but it wasn't great, not even slightly good: there was just way too many of them holes.

The holes in Artificial Intelligence are so big that they don't need picking at. These holes are big: big enough that an entire audience's interest can fall out of them at any time, and, on first viewing, my interest certainly dive-bombed into the abyss at several points.

What persuaded me to revisit A.I. was seeing it on someone's list of top fillums ever. Such praise was incomprehensible to me...Top Fillum? Really?... Ever? and so I thought I'd revisit A.I. with an open mind and see if I could find this merit anywhere.... Having viewed it...well... I must admit that yes, I can see the appeal. Knowing all of the flaws in advance makes it more watchable. It is still a mess, but a repeat viewing improves it, the more you look at it the better it becomes.

It don't think It'll ever be on my top-ten ever but it's definitely an interesting film and can be read as truly dark story about humanity, love, suffering and obsession.

If you can avoid the holes.