Chas' film reviews ... new and old, B&W and colour, slime or sublime.

Trailer: Black Dynamite (2009, no not 1974)

Torchwood writer and Twitterpal James Moran turned me on to this righteous trailer that brings back that coffee-black blaxsploitation groove you know we were all hurtin’ for ever since The Man took it all away from us. Set in the early 70’s, if this thing is half as good as the trailer makes it look, we may be in serious need of some new Dolemite action in the not-too-distant future!

Even After All These Films ...

I have seen, in my life so far, at least 1500 movies.

That’s not an idle boast: I have supporting documentation from the film festivals I’ve covered, the reviews I’ve written and other sources to confirm at least that number. On the AFI’s list of the 100 Greatest (American) Films (2007 Edition), I’ve seen 73 of them. I would guess that there are a handful of movies I’ve seen more than 50 times, dozens I’ve seen more than 20 times, and hundreds I’ve watched more than once

In short, I am a serious movie geek. And yet after all these years, and all those films, someone like me can still get excited and “hyped up” over a forthcoming movie.

Of course, I’m a trickier customer to please than your average schmoe who actually goes out to the cinema maybe six-to-eight times a year. I know these plotlines. I recognise storytelling techniques. I notice shortcuts, edit points, lighting, cinematography, the whole mix. And I can tell when a trailer is giving me a distorted view of what the film’s really about, or when it’s trying to salvage a turkey, or just trying to get by on quick cuts, explosions and a touch of T-n-A.

But certain trailers still get me excited, usually if they have a very distinct look to them, or communicate clearly that this is the sort of film that will only really work well if you watch it in a cinema, or make it obvious that everyone involved is very proud of how it turned out. A good example of these sorts of trailers would be the ones for Amalie, City of Lost Children, The Chronicles of Narnia, The Lord of the Rings, and Pan’s Labyrinth.

This trick doesn’t always work: the trailers for the recent remake of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Speed Racer and Star Trek actually served to lessen, not raise, my interest in these films. It takes more than just fantastic visuals to get me worked up, there has to be a promise of a story, of the creative vision and imagination necessary to really take me somewhere.

As I sat in the cinema recently for the most recent Harry Potter movie, I noted with some alarm that out of six trailers for upcoming films, five of them were based on TV shows, comic books or toys of the 70s and 80s. Only one was for an original story. How depressing.

Happily, I just stumbled across an HD version of the one trailer I’ve seen in the last year that has me chomping at the bit to see it: the one for The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.

I’ve been a fan of Terry Gilliam since about 1971 or so, when I got my first glimpse of him in “Monty Python’s Flying Circus,” and have since discovered and enjoyed nearly everything he’s ever done before or since that point. He’s definitely one of my favourite directors, despite his ability to sometimes miss the mark. He’s had a dud or two, and indeed the last one starred Heath Ledger, as does Imaginarium.

I hope audiences will have long forgotten the similarly-named but pretty-bad Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium and that it being Heath Ledger’s final film will push mainstream filmgoers to give this a chance, even though the trailer just screams “This is weird! It will disturb you! It will challenge your comfortable notions!!” I would so love this to be widely seen, and having almost every popular male screen idol in the thing (Jude Law, Johnny Depp and Colin Farrell stepped in to finish the film in Ledger’s stead after his accidental death) might ironically not only salvage the film but make it a mainstream hit.

Have a look and see for yourself. I personally can’t wait.

The Longest Way

What follows is, rather unusually for this site, not a film review of a movie shown in cinemas, but a video on the inter-tubes. I don’t plan to make a habit of this, but this one is extraordinary enough on various levels to warrant the same kind of attention given to traditional movies.

You can find out more about the young man who made the video via his website (currently overloaded) if his story interests you, so I will only recap it very briefly here: Chris Rehage walked almost the entire width of China, from Beijing to Ürümqi over the course of a year. Rather than just “take pictures and/or video” as most of us would have done, he was inspired by the “picture per day” videos that have become a fashion on the net, but took it a definite notch up from there.

This is a brilliant fusion of photo-journal diary, time-lapse travelogue and music video, beautifully edited to a fabulously incongruous soundtrack. I think it really “raises the bar” on self-made travel videos and rises to the level of a genuine work of filmic art.

The first time you watch it, you will likely (and should) focus on Rehage’s own metamorphosis over a year’s time; as he says, “one year walk/beard growth time lapse.” But there’s a lot more going on there; you’re watching a man step into the unknown, and it doesn’t always go to plan. It’s part of the fascination of these sorts of self-portrait videos, looking directly into their eyes.

The second time you watch it, try to look past Rehage most of the time and notice his various surroundings; where he lingers, what goes by fleetingly, all the detail captured in the background. You may be surprised what (mostly) rural China has in store for you ...

I also suggest a third, more frame-by-frame (or at least slowed-motion) view so you can catch captions and combined details of each photo (and often, photo-sequence) composition.

One of the best things about projects like this is that modern photography is very “high-def” and so while we are constrained by annoyances like “economical file size” and “bandwidth” in determining how “big” a picture we can see, the “original” in Rehage’s possession is entirely suitable for future, larger presentations. I look forward to seeing a real “HD” version of this again soon.

The Longest Way 1.0 - one year walk/beard grow time lapse from Christoph Rehage on Vimeo.
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