Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A new, ahem, companion and ANTICHRIST

The path of Criterion can be a lonely one my friends. A long, somber march down a treeless vista filled with pretentious art films and thirty five hour Japanese epics. Sadly, not every person I know wants to spend their sun-filled summer afternoon curled up in bed watching The Rock (108) for the second time. Not every person I know wants to spend another evening in the darkened halls of the Castro Theatre perusing the newest touring film from Janus. Not every person I know will sit and listen while I describe the release schedule for the next six and a half months of Criterion.

Except for one, the one I love: Alex Healy, my first and only companion in this Criterion Quest.

A few things about Alex Healy, I think you should know:

1. She prefers to be referred to as a, ahem, Criterion Conquistador. She will often times say things like, "The Criterion Conquistador strikes again!".

2. I will refer to her as my Criterion Companion, much to her dismay.

3. Alex believes the name Criterion Crusade is much better than Criterion Quest. This is something we disagree on. I've swallowed her in to the fold as so she won't branch of her own, and create another, more better Criterion-based website entitled so.

4. Alex wants to write a review of one of the films ... in WingDings. This is still being discussed.

5. Alex has stolen the most recent Criterion film and is now finished with it, putting herself one film ahead of me. Cheeky bastard.

That's what you should know about my Criterion Companion, Alex Healy. The Robin to my Batman, the Han Solo to my Luke Skywalker.

Welcome to the team.


The Film: Antichrist
The Director: Lars Von Trier (The Element of Crime (80), Europa (454))

The Experience: Three lost souls, perched around a laptop, having their minds irrevocably scarred.

Something Interesting: This film is almost nothing but interesting. I'd say I recommend it, but Jesus Christ, this film will live inside a painful part of your brain from the moment it ends until the moment you end. It is as shocking and disturbing to watch as any film I've ever seen. I punch myself in the face daily for not getting to the theatre while it was cutting a swath across the country. It's just that kind of movie.

Quick Notes:

1. Wow.

I don't even know where to start with this picture. Lars Von Trier is a consistently challenging filmmaker. Dredging deep in to the dark areas of our subconscious to pull out some real gems of depravity. His films I've seen in the past are challenging not only in their content but also in their execution, films like Dogville and Manderlay, Breaking the Waves and Dancer In The Dark, these are movies that transcend the simple art of disturbing the viewer. These are films that dig in to the brain, challenging not only what we're seeing, but what we believe in, whom we might root for. These are films that ask what is good and what is evil and how might we deal with it?

And Antichrist is Von Trier's disturbing masterpiece. A masterpiece amongst masterpieces.

2. Wow.

From start to finish, this film pummels you with creepiness. I don't want to say a single thing about this film, because even if there is a good possibility that this film has already been ruined for you, I don't want to play any part in it. As this film about a couple in the woods unfolds painstaking scene by painstaking scene, you'll worry about the dull roar your heart is making. You'll worry that when, ahem, "Chaos Reigns" that you won't be able to make it through it. You'll cover your eyes, you'll quiver, you'll yell out, because this film is that good at fucking withy our head. Days after I watched it, I'm still talking about it and when I talk about the juicy bits, I'm still feeling a little bit queasy. And that merits a second WOW.

3. Wow.

I don't know if there's two more hateable characters in existence, at least two characters that help to populate the film. But Willem Dafoe and Charlotte Gainsbourg, certainly get close. There's tragedy in this film, and we feel for the participants in said tragedy, and at first you think Willem Dafoe is a creep ('cause he is) and you hope and pray that Charlotte Gainsbourg might find release from his meddling. But as the film progresses as the layers are peeled back your gaze shifts and your hoping Willem Dafoe can find a way out, and you're scared each and every time Charlotte Gainsbourg steps on screen. And as the final images roll and Willem Dafoe's almost euphoric face fills the screen, you can't help but hate them both. And that's great filmmaking.

4. Wow.

Halfway through this film, my Criterion Companion, JM, and I started to worry that maybe the hype was too much. That the discussions about the painful bludgeoning this film imparts on your cinematic receptors was overwrought and that we we're about to be disappointed (blissfully so). Let yourself think that, let yourself think that the hype is too much and that this film won't leave you jelly like at the end of the day. This film is seriously disturbing. There is imagery in this film that will punch you in the mouth, steal your wallet and leave you an alley full of homeless pedophiles. It is that sick and twisted. Be excited, be prepared.

5. Wow.

What's amazing about Antichrist is that at the end of the film it isn't just revulsion and shock you feel, but the need to discuss. Why does this film exist? Is this a film about misogyny? Who is Lars Von Trier? Is their point behind the mayhem? What is that point? And so on and so forth. This is a film to see with others, for many a reasons, but mostly so you'll have a sounding board to throw out ideas, 'cause they'll be flowing.

Final Thoughts: Best movie I've seen this year. Handedly.

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