Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Films Big and Small


Even though it was a direct-to-video release, garnering little mainstream theater time except for a few screenings at various "Frightfests" around the festival circuit, Christopher Smith's "Creep" is a film that rivals the reckless abandon of sanity that infests Rob Zombie's "House of 1,000 Corpses". Starring "Run Lola Run" sprinter Franka Potente, she plays Kay, a woman who is en route to (possibly) meet George Clooney at a party. After falling asleep and missing the last metro train on the London underground, she awakes to find herself locked in the massive subway system where something is slowly hunting her. Never mind the plot. Holes abound and the acting is uniformly average, but the film hits such a note of savage intensity that it spirals into an unbelievably demented story of torture and scientific experiments run amuck beneath the concrete. This is not for the squeamish. "Creep" is a horror film that deserves its place on the midnight circuit festivals. It deserves long standing and newfound support on video. And director Christopher Smith certainly has the visual chops for bigger and better things. The atmosphere is photographically ripe- full of green fluorescents and ominous blacks. The editing is sharp, creating unusually genuine scares from quick cuts and Smith's knack for utilizing the darkness around the edges of the screen. And Potente delivers on the heroine in peril character, having fun running around in ripped stockings, being the bait for men both monstrous and normal. And through all the sickening plot twists, "Creep" maintains a sense of humor that, ultimately, collides into a finale that subtly resonates a social conscience.


Steven Speilberg's "Munich" is a thrilling, tightly constructed drama that finally delivers on his promise of intellectual cinema without the falter of maudlin sentiment in the final third act. So much of Speilberg's oeuvre in the last five years (with the exception of "Minority Report" in 2002) grips you so wonderfully in the beginning with high expectations of kinetic ideas and energy, then gradually unravels as emotions and forced happy endings take place. With "Munich", that does not happen. The final five minutes of this film are as devoid of optimism as the first five. Avner (Eric Bana) is spiritually and psychologically bankrupt. There are no clear winners. And like so many other films this year, "Munich" is a film about repressed violence slowly re-incarnating itself in various other forms. A masterpiece.

Grizzly Man

Werner Herzog's "Grizzly Man" continues his long progression of documentary oddities- films that portray marginal figures in society butted against social and political impasses. This time, the subject is Timothy Treadwell, a man who spent 13 seasons in the Alaskan wildlife living and befriending grizzly bears. That is, until they ate him. Treadwell is an ingratiating character, and Herzog presents him in many forms and fashions; allowing him to spit virulent slanders towards the Parks department one minute then crying over the carcass of a dead fox the next. On the right afternoon, "Grizzly Man" could easily pass as a broad comedy (especially when a coroner and one of Treadwell's female friends woodenly act out the trading of his personal belongings, and the same coroner later tells his improvised vision of what he thought really happened with wide-eyed wonderment) and Herzog's holier-than-thou voice over lends the tale even more comedic credence. It's not that I'm being unfair to the film. Perhaps Herzog wants us to take things lightly due to the exaggerated premise of the film. If this were meant as pure drama, the film wouldn't be as fascinating.

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