“Fish Tank” – 2009. Dir. Andrea Arnold

With Katie Jarvis, Michael Fassbender, Kierston Wareing Rebecca Griffiths

 

“You need sortin’ out, you do.” – Connor (Michael Fassbender)


For me, “Fish Tank” was a must see. Not only did my friend Kevin highly recommend it to me, but it’s also a fresh Criterion release and it stars Michael Fassbender. Nough said. “Fish Tank” is similar to the film “An Education” – but this film is a lot darker and grittier, and it’s a lot better.

We meet Mia (the remarkable debut by non actress Katie Jarvis) from the first frame of the film. She lives in housing projects in Essex. She spends most of her days walking tall on the streets, not backing down from anyone or anything, practicing her hip hop dancing and drinking.

Everything changes when her Mother (Kierston Wareing) – who looks way too young to be Mia’s mother – brings home her new boyfriend Connor (the man, Michael Fassbender). Mia acts tough to Connor, but she’s very, very intrigued by him. She’s always watching him, watches his movements, his motions – Mia almost becomes obsessed with Connor.

Connor is unlike anyone Mia has ever met. He takes the family (which includes Mia’s foulmouthed bratty younger sister) to a hidden forest and creek. It’s unlike anything Mia has ever experienced. Everything is so bright, green – full of life. She absorbs the freshness of it all, while Connor guides her into the creek so she can feel the fish rub up against her legs.

Connor is very supportive of Mia, when she tells him that she is going to try out to become a dancer, Connor lends Mia a video camera so she can send in a tape. There is erotic tension between Mia and Connor – but it doesn’t feel wrong – it feels innocent and new.

This film not only reminds me of “An Education” but also “Lolita”. The reason it reminds me of “Lolita” isn’t because of the relationship between Connor and Mia, it’s because we are only shown things from Mia’s perspective. We only see what she does, nothing more and nothing less; just like how the only things we see in “Lolita” is from Humbert’s perspective.

Arnolds shot this film digitally and with handheld cameras painting us this gritty and raw picture of life in the projects. It’s an unapologetic film that’s masterfully directed by Arnolds. The climax of this film, between Mia and Connor is so remarkable; I can’t get the flawlessness of it out of my head.

With most things in life, nothing is ever what it seems – and this film reinforces the fact that we will never truly ever know anyone and the most complicated thing in life is our relationships with other people. Sometimes good people do bad things, and bad people do good things and we are left with no explination.

Rating: 9/10

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Deep Cuts: “Naked Lunch” – 1991. Dir. David Cronenberg

With Peter Weller, Judy Davis, Ian Holm, Julian Sands and Roy Scheider

“What do you mean – “it’s a literary high?””

“It’s a Kafka high, you feel like a bug.”

 

Bill Lee (Peter Weller) is an exterminator whose “bug powder” also acts as a hallucinogenic drug that is becoming extremely rare and in demand. Lee’s wife Joan (Judy Davis) has become addicted, and has been skimming Lee’s bug powder from him, causing him to get in trouble at work, and causing his work to report him to the police. Lee gets arrested and he’s left in an interrogation room with a bug that begins to talk to him, the bug tells Lee that he’s a secret agent and a writer, and that he needs to get to “Interzone”.

I am a big fan of David Cronenberg, and due to the fact that Barnes and Noble was doing their 50% off Criterion Collection sale, I picked up “Naked Lunch” and watched last night. As a body of work, I think that Cronenberg has made very good films, and I think he’s a very good auteur – but as for “Naked Lunch”, it’s Cronenberg’s masterpiece.


This comes from the “unfilmable” novel by William S. Burroughs, and much of what takes place in the film took place in Burrough’s life. There is a scene early on in the film, where Lee tells his wife it’s time for the old William Tell trick. Joan puts a glass on top of her head, and Lee pulls out a pistol to shoot the glass off. Lee pulls the trigger and shoots Joan in the forehead – this event happened to Burroughs’ while he was living in Mexico and he fled to the United States – in the film Lee fleas to “Interzone”.

This film is built around paranoia and mystery, it’s very incoherent with its flow and intention and the film is the perfect metaphor about the writing process. As Lee dives further into the underground world of drugs and being a secret agent Cronenberg builds the paranoia which at times feel sort of Polanski-esq.


I’ve always felt that Cronenberg’s themes to his films is a central character that has to lead a dual life (whether he wants too or not), and from that dual life comes a lot of repercussions and struggles. In “Naked Lunch” Bill Lee deals with the dual life of first being an exterminator and second being this secret agent/writer.

Peter Weller is amazing in this film. I’ve always liked him since “Robocop”, and his stint on this season of “Dexter” displays the range he has as an actor. He brings this Humphrey Bogart style domineer and perspective to the role of Bill Lee. This is a character that we’ve seen before, but Weller puts his own unique style and brand on it. Weller is slowly making his way to becoming one of my favorite actors.


Roy Scheider (who I heart) plays Dr. Benway who Bill Lee goes to for help for his addiction to bug powder. Scheider has limited screen time but he is incredibly precise and effective in his small roll that should have earned him a Best Supporting Actor nomination.

The film is a remarkable homage to pulp fiction. The set décor, consumes and especially the music are all musings of a film noir, and that era of film. The film feels a lot like “Chinatown” because it’s a merging of film and neo noir. As to where many feel that “Chinatown” is a perfect film, I feel that “Naked Lunch” is a perfect film.

Exterminate all rational thought.

Rating: 10/10

CRITERION NEWS!!!

I am fucking jacked! Yeah, we know Criterion is going to release Lars von Trier’s masterpiece “Antichrist” and “The Thin Red Line” and “Night of the Hunter” are going to come out too. This is the latest “teaser” image from their newsletter that was sent out around noon today.

It’s been long rumored that Criterion was going to release a New Hollywood box set in the fall – word on the street is November. The titles of the New Hollywood box set are as followed:

  • “Easy Rider”
  • “The Last Picture Show”
  • “Five Easy Pieces”
  • “Head”
  • “Drive, He Said”
  • “A Safer Place”
  • “King of Marvin Gardens”

What all these films have in common is that they were the start of the era that paved the way for the culture shock of the films of the 1970’s. Bob Raffelson who was the best filmmaker of that era not only directed some of these films, but he produced them all. The image itself shows monkees (the name of the actual image file is wackymonkees) riding a motorcycle. The image references not only “Easy Rider” but the film “Head” which was a film that started the musical group The Monkees.

The New Hollywood Box set will only be released as a set, and the films won’t get their own Criterion releases. I’m buying that fucking shit on Blu-Ray.

To me, this is more exciting than sex. Seriously.

Your Criterion Collection

I have always felt that Criterion Collection DVDs were a film lover’s wet dream. I pride myself on my collection and whenever Barnes & Noble or Borders has a great deal on DVDs that is when I splurge and get at least three or four Criterions. How can you not buy them when it’s a sale where Criterions are 50% off – you are seriously losing money not buying a few. So to my fellow bloggers and film freaks I want to know some things from you…

1. How many Criterion Collection DVDs do you own (or did own) and what are they?

  • 11. The Seventh Seal
  • 13. The Silence of the Lambs
  • 26. The Long Good Friday
  • 42. Fishing with John
  • 52. Yojimbo
  • 55. The Unbearable Lightness of Being
  • 61. Monty Python’s Life of Brian
  • 65. Rushmore
  • 70. The Last Temptation of Christ
  • 75. Chasing Amy
  • 97. Do the Right Thing
  • 107. Mona Lisa
  • 133. The Vanishing
  • 140. 8 ½
  • 147. In the Mood for Love
  • 157. The Royal Tenenbaums
  • 176. The Killers
  • 182. Straw Dogs
  • 258. Tanner ’88
  • 265. Shortcuts
  • 289. Hoop Dreams (See Castor’s excellent review)
  • 300. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou
  • 399. House of Games
  • 409. Days of Heaven
  • 469. The Hit
  • 475. The Friends of Eddie Coyle

    And I own the Dr. Strangelove Criterion Laserdisc…oh yeahh

2. Have you bought any Criterions without seeing them first?

Oh yeah. I’ve bought films I’ve never heard of just due to the cover art.

3. Name one film, just one that deserves to be a Criterion.

“The Door in the Floor”

4. Have you ever called a film that would eventually get a Criterion release?

Yes. “Antichrist” coming Fall of 2010 – I’ll be standing in line for it.

5. Have you ever wondered why a film was a part of the Criterion Collection?

Yes – “The Rock” and “Armageddon”

6. Do you visit their website a lot?

Yes, everyday at least once.

7. Do you look forward to seeing the cover art for future releases?

Absolutely.

Alright that’s it for the Your Criterion Collection?