Sunday, May 31, 2009


with pops in their corner boasting his Sunday best.


Everybody does it differently.


Can't Be Avoided.

Old on the outside.....

With a youthful vitality deep within.


Another old SCENE piece.

There is a lot that can be said about Lars Von Trier. The Danish film making whirlwind has built up a reputation as being both problematic and endlessly innovative and in the process has received a fair dose of criticism and analysis as to the nature of his tactics. Chief among these are how he tries his damnedest to stump the viewer with each successive project and is always bent on redefining himself through his art. He has forged a resume that includes such startling achievements as the films 'Zentropa', 'Breaking the Waves', the loopy mini-series 'The Kingdom' (remade to ill effect by Stephen King-beware!) and served as one of the founders of the cinema movement Dogme 95 which posited a series of bare bones criteria under which their projects be made.

Some have pointed to his seemingly cold dissection of the human condition and this has been reinforced by many an observation from thespians who've toiled under him. He is alleged to posses a calculating and even cruel manner in his approach to the crafting of a film. Be it as it may, his dedication to his chosen craft is unmistakable and he dares to produce work that, love it or hate it, stands invariably apart.

A case in point is this months subject, 'The Five Obstructions', a piece that took me by sharp surprise at a time when I had been thoroughly abusing my senses with far too much glossy big studio jetsam. All I can remember is a trip to the library that resulted in me bringing home 'Superman Returns' and finding that, at the conclusion of that films ridiculous two and a half hour running time, being left feeling that the Hollywood blockbuster machine has finally ground itself to a stand still. So much sorrow from so much hype. Well anyways, I decided to cure my corporate movie hangover in the only way that seemed feasible. I put myself in true movie nerd mode and dug around for whatever odd ball shit I could to abate the pain.

Enter 'The Five Obstructions'.

The film is basically a document of a protracted duel of wills (taking place across several years) between two Maverick directors hailing from the film community of Denmark. The instigator of the whole affair is the aforementioned Von Trier who cobbles together a rather ingenious challenge for a long standing hero of his, a Mr. Jorgen Leth. Leth is the creator of a short film/anthropological satire from the 1960's entitled 'The Perfect Human'. A personal favorite of Von Trier's, the film simply displays a pale, lanky Dane acting out a series of mundane tasks and behaviors to the accompaniment of Leth's inquisitive narration. What the mischievous Von Trier has in mind is to have Leth re shoot his film on five separate instances. The major factor in each is a list of guidelines (the 'Obstructions' of the title) by which he must adhere.

Setting forth in each instance, Leth employs the restrictions to his increasing advantage, much to his counterparts chagrin. The first of these reworkings is set in Cuba (inspired by Leth's predilection for Havana cigars) and must not contain a single shot lasting more then 12 frames (equaling a duration of under a second). The end product maintains a wonderful, frantic vibe that sets the rhythm of the piece and sharpens the vibrancy of the already bold Cuban settings. A second assignment finds poor Leth absconded to the worst place he can imagine, which turns out to be the red light district of Bombay. This leads to a striking set piece in which Leth takes on the main role of a man at a table dining in luxury while through a silk back drop we can see a gathering of impoverished locals looking on. This results in scorn when shown to Von Trier who reminds his fellow auteur of an additional rule that dictated the surrounding environment not be shown. As punishment for this discrepancy, Leth is told to make his third version utterly free of obstruction, the thought being that lack of restriction will dull his creative impulse. Whether or not this is the case is left up to the viewer, but for me the results (set this time in Brussels, Belgium) bare more polish and diluted energy then its successors.

Seeing with increasing frustration that he is largely unable to trump his mentor, Von Trier suggests delving into a method which both men hold in contempt-animation. To create what the boys deem a 'stupid cartoon' Leth finds himself in Austin, Texas and acquiring the assistance of a certain Bob Sabistan who's rotoscoping expertise was the visual lifeline of the Richard Linklater films 'Waking Life' and 'A Scanner Darkly'. The end product, meshing footage from the previous pieces as well as earlier works from Leth's oeuvre, is the best of the lot. A fluid, stream of conscious tone poem that takes on a life independent of its siblings, it also represents another one up on the scheming Von Trier. His final proclamation is to simply have Leth serve as narrator on a fifth variant that Von Trier himself will helm and not take credit for, like taking the concept of homage to the next level.

At the close of this sprawling experiment, I found myself enriched at having been witness to the act of two genuine artists taking their allegiance to cinema in a fresh and uncertain direction. How likely would it be to see some over priced golden boy from tinsletown taking on such a dare as this? Can one even fathom five retakes on, say, 'The Bucket List'? Pardon me whilst I swallow a bullet.

No, I am afraid this is the type of wild tactic best served by the film community's more genuine participants. Those few who hold no fear in regards to a reexamination of that which makes them tick. If one is to learn anything from the endeavor of these two Danish tricksters it is that the creative juices are sometimes heightened more by the starvation of ones resources then by being spoiled by all the conveniences that ass loads of money (supplanting talent) can buy.

So be not afraid to give 'The Five Obstructions' a run through your little at home viewing device, dear reader, you might just gain a deeper appreciation of the art of movie making. On the other hand, this could all just make you think I'm delusional and you'll merely be inspired to cleanse yourself with another run through of 'Knocked Up by the 40 Year Old Virgin'...or something. Maybe that's why I write for this rag and not Maxum (*sniffle*).

But if your feeling it, you can find out more online by going here;

My name is Richard and I value your opinion, especially when it's administered to this address;

Oh, I also saw these........


Being the (mis)adventures of a shake, a meatball and an order of fries committing nonsense of the oddest sort while verily abusing the time-space continuum. There's also a diabolic exercise machine at large and a full stock of wacky supporting creations contributing copious word salad banter to the free form, uh, story. More aptly put, this is the 'Gummo' of the animated cinema. It may just make your brain bleed out the backside of your skull and on down your spine, it's that stupid. Featuring delightfully terrible opening song by Atlanta's metal darlings Mastodon. Bless 'em.


Able craftsman Cristian Bale does the malnourishment thing once again as captured Vietnam era pilot Dieter Dengler in the prolific Werner Herzog's closest flirtation yet with mainstream crossover. Herzog's expansion of his 1997 documentary 'Little Dieter Needs to Fly' still works the emotions to fair degree as Dengler and fellow starving P.O.W.'s craft a plan to escape their deep jungle prison in Laos and trek to the potential safety of Thailand. Overall, a might slicker and more refined then the average Herzog piece, with a feel good coda that feels largely at odds with the extensive jungle sequences (all in keeping with the director's renowned 'voodoo of location' philosophy) where, thankfully, the film devotes most of its' length. Best advice, watch this first and next take in the documentary which features the entire scenario recanted to engrossing effect by the real life Dieter Dengler (who passed in early 2001). Potent stuff indeed.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Y"ALL GOTS TA GO!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!



He'd be sitting on a bench in Berlin, scratching his nasty white's proof.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Thursday, May 28, 2009


My posture might suggest to her a coital valentine unbecoming to a proper lady...........

A Fondness....

Sometime long past, this jalopy made the heads turn in its favor baring due North with pretty, young Samantha riding shotgun unaware of the crude turn for the worse her long-standing innocence would take once they reached the drive in.


(originally published in the Scene-June 2007) THE RESURRECTION OF ALEJANDRO JODOROWSKY.

Long ago, in the (pre) DVD days of home video leisure there was this wonderfully suspect little sub-culture of the bootleg video tape. I discovered this world in the form of a thick, amply xeroxed catalog ordered from the back pages of Fangoria magazine. It featured a wealth of the finest in multi-cultural sleaze, monster, splatter and otherwise undefinable product that, for a plethora of reasons, was never destined for a day in the mainstream sun. Sure, it may have taken a bit to adjust to the often less then stellar picture quality accompanied by frequent poor sound, this and the common lack of subtitles on the many non-English films. But I soon grew addicted to the exotic goodies wrapped in reused brown paper packaging that I awaited endlessly at my mother's mailbox for. I built myself a fine little library of oddities that I was convinced would never rear their heads in any other format but this.

Oh how I have been proven wrong.

In a way it brings a fleeting form of nostalgia to cast those worn old bootlegs into trash can oblivion. Their third or fourth generation images exuded a charming delirium that went lengths to enhance the peculiarities that fueled these types of films. But with new technology comes new promise.

Slowly but steadily, the arrival of DVD (followed by Internet downloading) has opened wide many new niches in relation to so-called 'obscure' cinema. Smaller companies have taken up the crusade of breathing new life into long left for dead movies. They've been cleaned, repaired and supplemented in more ways then could ever have been fathomed by those dingy, brown paper bootleggers. Many of the films focused on in this very article began life before my loopy eyes as bootlegs.

It is in bootleg land that I first discovered the crazed majesty of a certain Alejandro Jodorowsky.

Jodorowsky is an enigmatic smorgasbord of cultural influences and artistic output. He has traveled the world as a mime, playwright, comic book writer, tarot card reader and, most significantly, filmmaker. His work is of the quality not quantity fashion, he has only produced six features and one short in his entire career. Two of said films, 'El Topo' and 'The Holy Mountain', were the pride of my bootleg collection, I watched and rewatched them thinning the tapes slowly to the breaking point. The time has come to finally upgrade with the release of not only these two films, but a full six disc box set devoted to the filmic universe of this startling and unique talent.

I suppose I should first clarify one thing, the title, 'The Films of Alejandro Jodorowsky' (Anchor Bay Entertainment/Abkco Films) stands as a tad misleading. This set does not contain the complete Jodorowsky filmography. In truth, it covers the first half through the span of four films and two soundtracks as well as some bonus treats. Also I strongly recommend that the films be watched in order of when they were produced. I believe that Jodorowsky only got bigger, better and braver as he continued on his sublime cinematic tangent. To aid in this, I will break the set down disc by disc and give my two cent 'fringe' opinion on each flick.

We kick things off with 'La Cravate', a half hour short that served as Jodorowsky's introduction to the film medium. The piece is essentially a mime shtick involving two male characters (one an artist and the other a muscle man) and their dealings with a young lady who switches heads as an occupation. It is silent, short and rather whimsical with more than a passing resemblance to the likes of Chaplain or Keaton. This really serves as an intro for the beast of imagination that would son develop in later work. The story goes that this piece was stolen by the lead actress and thought lost for the better part of fifty years. Somehow it was uncovered in an attic in Germany and polished up for reintroduction via this set. Interesting stuff but keep in mind we're just getting started.

In 1968 Jodorowsky unveiled his debut feature 'Fando y Lis' to chaotic response in his then home of Mexico. Freely adapted (solely from memory, no script) from a play by sometime collaborator Fernando Arrabel and realized in high contrast black and white, the film feels like an aborted Felliniesque bastard flailing itself across the screen. What transpires is less a story than a feverish phantasmagoria committed to the celluloid real (something that holds true for the majority of Jodorowsky's work). A confused young man and his crippled lady are hell bent on finding the Eden like city of Tar. They shamble around treacherous quarries and brave all manner of revelers and deviants who appear at random along their path. The whole of this experience is initially tough to take, but upon additional inspection I am able to appreciate the sheer purity of form and lack of consideration for cliche at large here. It would be oh so easy to dismiss this as artsy fartsy dreck and leave it at that. I prefer to return to a difficult film sometimes and see if I can't dig deeper (especially when its creator progresses with successive works, as is the case here) and maybe uncover its secrets and surprises. After all, no significant film is ever meant to be viewed just once.

Next up is the film that initially put Alejandro Jodorowsky's name into the consciousness of multitudes. 'El Topo' arrived at the early tip of the seventies to almost single handily usher in the 'midnight movie' phenomenon. It tells the tale of an Eastwood styled drifter who, with his naked son in tow, tracks and challenges numerous outlaws and mystics before undergoing a radical transformation/rebirth of his own. The movie both feeds on and reconstructs many of the conventions and ideologies of the era; the western, the 'beat' film, exploitation cinema and spiritual diatribe. The film eventually won favor from none other then outlaw, hippie, cultural mega-icon John Lennon. Fact is, Lennon dug 'El Topo' so much he hustled Beatles manager Allen Klein to procure the film for American distribution. This led to an alliance of both prosperous and catastrophic results. Never the less, it is the reason 'The Holy Mountain' got made.

'The Holy Mountain' is, from this critic's standpoint anyway, a watershed in the arena of fantastic film making. It is startling and amazing in so many ways it almost feels like sensory overload. Anyone with a taste for the imaginative and visionary in their art will find paradise within this picture's running time. The storyline has something to do with a petty street dreg (who more then passingly resembles the Catholic white man representation of Christ) who is taken under the tutelage of a character called 'The Alchemist' (fleshed out by Jodorowsky himself) and led on a quest for ultimate enlightenment....or some such hippie shit. Whatever, the so called story is beside the point. This is the mother of all head trips and I challenge any skeptic to walk away from this journey unscathed, there is just far too much to take in. This is the type of stuff that makes most folks' dreams seem lethargic by comparison. You got everything you need to overdose to in this mother; screaming amputee midgets, orgasm machines, reptiles dressed as conquistadors attacking each other, birds fluttering out of bullet wounds and much, much more! This is the peak of Jodorowsky as a film maker and I urge anyone interested in taking part in this fantastic box set, save this one for last as it is well worth the wait.

Sadly, after completing 'The Holy Mountain', Jodorowsky would enter into what would become a thirty odd year feud with Allen Klein over a more commercial project the producer had in mind. Jodorowsky flatly refused and Klein withdrew his most accomplished films from commercial exhibition. 'El Topo' and 'The Holy Mountain' languished in cinema purgatory for the duration of their spat. In the interim, Jodorowsky continued his maverick path come what may. He would begin work on an adaptation of Frank Herbert's beloved sci-fi opus 'Dune'. This was to be a project that would have gathered a counter culture dream team together for a single ambitious extravaganza. The planned film was to star Salvador Dali, Mick Jagger and Orson Wells. It was to feature designs by H.R. Giger and a score featuring Pink Floyd. Oh the potential! Alas, the big shot money men got big time cold feet and the plug was pulled, only to be reinstated to unfortunate effect a decade later by Dino DeLaurentis and David Lynch. The Jodorowsky envisioning of 'Dune' remains one of the great unrealized projects in the history of film. Pity.

After this debacle, Jodorowsky would focus on various projects aside from cinema only to return in 1979 for another failure in the largely unseen (even by me) children's film 'Tusk'. This picture remains on the bootleg circuit in a French language only version. At any rate, Jodorowsky has since distanced himself from it.

Nearly nine more years would pass before the release of 'Santa Sangre'. The story of a once institutionalized boy and his long suffering, dismembered mother and the violence they inflict together is one of unsettling psychological power. The significant critical and theatrical attention leveled at this return to form must have seemed refreshing to a filmmaker who'd been separate from success for so long. 'Sangre' retains many of the visual tics of the director's notorious style while maintaining a largely straight forward narrative structure. Make no mistake though, this is no everyday movie. In one scene we follow a rather debauched night on the town with a posse of mental ward escapees which covers the spectrum from hookers to cocaine and so on. Now I don't want to give too much away here, like the best of Jodorowsky's works, this one subsists on surprise. It travels roads unexpected and finds many a unique (and sometimes horrid) wonder. The bad news is that this gem was left out of the new set due to ongoing litigation. The best bet is to track down an old copy in a dusty video store corner.

The same holds true for the next and final produced film from Jodorowsky to date.

'The Rainbow Thief' is another project that the directer now disowns. As he tells it he was hired by the producer to film his wife's script to the letter as a birthday gift for her. Thus Jodorowsky was given access to his biggest budget and name actors such as Peter O' Toole to shoot a light tale of an odd prince and a filthy beggar who become friends in a sewer. The resulting film swiftly died on all levels and stands as an unjust final note to an ingenious career.

Let's hope that the arrival of 'The Films of Alejandro Jodorowsky' makes that all go away. The set is a godsend to any discerning fanatic of the arts. It opens the door to a body of work that has gone mostly unseen for far too long, and has certainly never been this exquisitely presented. The films have all undergone transfer overhaul and the final product is top self. After countless times sitting through the barely passable quality of those damn bootlegs, these discs make the experience as fresh as if the films came straight from the lab. The set features commentary, set photos, two soundtracks ('El Topo', 'Holy Mountain'), deleted scenes, script excerpts and a full length documentary. This last item, the 86 minute 'La Constellation-Jodorowsky' from 1990 is an engrossing insight into the man's philosophies, inspirations and theories on everything from his childhood to the art of self discovery that is film making. It features lively interviews with the directer as well as admirers like Marcel Marceau and Peter Gabriel(!). I think only complaint I hold on the subject of this bountiful new set is the lack of any accompanying booklet/liner notes. Though that may be due to the forthcoming publication of 'Anarchy and Alchemy', a literary analysis of the man and his art by Ben Cobb. Expect that volume by the end of the summer. Do, however, try to check out 'The Films of Alejandro Jodorowsky' at your local media shack (i.e Best Buy, Exclusive Co.) and let it sink deep into your psyche.

For further info, you can web it up at,

Hold on! Put that beer down you scumbag, I'm not done yet.

Here are some other hits and misses.

'Tideland'- A little girl gets lost in the wilderness of her own imagination following the back to back overdoses of her junkie parents. She finds solace in the company of talking doll heads and a local spastic who thinks he's a submarine captain. Oddly not as bizarre ass it sounds. In fact, the whole thing is a tad mundane in its quest to be eccentric and 'daring'. The latest offering from the once great Terry Gilliam, who continues to distance himself from the genius of 'Time Bandits' and 'Brazil'. Oh, and Jeff Bridges is in it.....sort of.

'Pan's Labyrinth'- Another little girl lost, only this time the result is one of the best fables (hell, movies!) of the year. Guillermo Del Toro puts himself one step closer to icon status with this rich, visually hypnotic tale of creaky ghouls and creepy men. Set in 1940's Spain at the height of fascism, the movie gracefully dances between vivid fantasy and cold, cruel reality. It propels its doe-eyed pre pubescent heroine into a race to change the fate of an alternate reality from certain doom to life affirming hope. A triumph of the imagination.

'Zodiac'- M.T.V. got nothing on this. David Fincher proves once and for all that he is beyond the A.D.D. of his music video past. Articulate and exacting, this is a major epic chronicling a rather dark chapter in our recent history. In the late 60's, the Bay area of Northern California is thrown into turmoil by a series of serial attacks accompanied by the media published taunts of the perpetrator himself. The movie also charts the repercussions that follow for years afterward as the Zodiac killer is never caught and simply buries himself into urban legend. Long, methodical and rewarding for the more focused movie goer.

To The Core....

Drunk as a mother fucker, he said to me; 'I'm 37 years-fucking-old an I'm still into this shit. What the fuck is wrong with me?'

A man's got have priorities.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

I see the water as an enemy.

I am undergoing a (likely) fleeting fetish for horizon lines, particularly those found on tranquil bodies of water. That and I like to distort what would normally be considered rather done-to-death subject matter.

Did I succeed?

Don't care.

Frontier Status and Regret.

Somebody claimed that an impoverished family of three plied their days inside the shack sans the luxuries of heat, running water and functional resistance from the malevolence of roaming mountain folk who often showed a suspect interest in the young mother and her (often) sickly infant daughter.........

...Of Oblivion


(originally published in the SCENE newspaper-June 2009)

Release comes on strong in the world of 'Martyrs'. It comes via a succession of moist, life-claiming shotgun blasts that reduce an upper crust family to pulp. It comes also care some merciless self mutilation administered by both sharp objects and handy head to wall application. Said release has been brewing steadily and proves tragically overdue for a poor, damaged soul named Lucie (Mylène Jampanoï) who has served out an inexplicable sentence as the subject of curious experimental abuse early on in her life. Escape and prolonged rehabilitation have done little more then fade the extremity of her external wounds. Deeper in, things have merely festered to a homicidal apex. This brings an adult Lucie to enact a methodical and graphically detrimental home invasion on the aforementioned family unit. She is convinced of their role in her past trials and seeks savage revenge to both even the score and ease the clinging burden of one particularly vivid personal demon.

Paired with this troubled creature on her hellish stab at some piece of mind is the more controlled Anna (Morjana Alaoui) who swiftly befriended Lucie while both were undergoing treatment for their separate abuses (Anna's past is only touched on during a brief telephone conversation with her mother). Anna questions Lucie's vengeful methodology yet does little to intervene and even sets about mopping up the bloody after-effects. Anna also dotes on Lucie to little avail, as the girl proves too far gone into some sort of nihilistic rapture at the conclusion of her killing spree and her actions only serve to pave the way for a whole new level of twisted revelation and, ultimately, a sinister passing of the torch that gives base to the film's title.

In lieu of divulging too many plot points and ideas that would rightly be tagged 'spoilers', I will instead pay focus on the significance of the film both as a technical achievement and, ever better, as a potent work or sheer (albeit painful) art. 'Martyrs' is the brainchild of upstart French auteur in waiting, Pascal Laugier, a man who toiled at behind the scenes DVD fodder for fellow countryman Christophe Gans. Gans, in turn, served as producer on Laugier's maiden feature, 'House of Voices', giving the man a shot at visual distinction. 'House of Voices' plays on the Gothic mood and tone of the whole haunted locale/ghost story routine. It is brooding and stylish with atmosphere to spare and it details its specter scenario in an abandoned orphanage setting that prefigures Juan Antonio Bayona's much praised 'El Orfanato' by several years. What one does not gather from this debut, however, is the sharp contrast the director's sights would take in his second work.

I shall come back to this point in a moment.

Origins (in brief)

For the past several years, the horror genre has seen a gradual rekindling in the country of France. A place best known for its 'new wave' phenomenon back in the day that catapulted the careers of Jean-Luc Godard, Francois Truffaut and Claude Chabrol among others, France has held its film industry largely vacant on a substantial horror movement until recently. With the notable exception of entries like Georges Franju's 'Eyes Without a Face' in 1960 and some assorted low brow product from the far more exploitative Jean Rollin (i.e. 'Rape of the Vampire') horror films have remained a sad minority in the realm of French cinema.

From the tender early age of cinema, French film makers have been dabbling in horrific themes and imagery. Iconic directorial forefather Georges Méliès is said to have crafted the first ever horror film with the three minute short 'The House of the Devil' which he unveiled on Christmas Eve, 1896. The film's parade of bats, ghosts and wretched deities is often credited as one of the key seeds of influence that would go on to nurture the modern horror film. It is with such an example that one begins to recognize the groundbreaking tendencies that would inevitably reemerge on and on through the years. Such tendencies have never been more preeminent then they are here, in the 21st Century.

Beginning with a few modest art house fillers like 'With a Friend Like Harry...' the French slowly gained momentum genre wise completing an initial crescendo with the wacky international mini-blockbuster 'Brotherhood of the Wolf' in early 2001. The real uber-horror antics kicked in fully after the arrival of Alexandre Aja's 'High Tension' (aka-'Switchblade Romance') which ushered in the 'can you top this shit?' attitude toward depicting explicit acts of violent behavior geared specifically toward upstaging the lagging, sanitized direction frequently being taken by American horror films. Since its release (and mostly home video generated success), many other noteworthy pictures have followed suit. Tantalizing morsels like 'Them', 'Frontier(s)' and the deliciously excessive pregnant lady under siege shocker 'Inside' give their envelope pushing best in terms of form, content and the tossing about of splashy, all-out gore (with the substantial exception of 'Them' which feeds more off the creepy nature of its primary threat element in order to work at a viewer's psyche). Even the art house crowd proved subject to such ante-upping in the form of more class act meditations like 'Irreversible' and 'Calvaire', both driven by unsparing set pieces. Most of these films have built up audiences from across the globe and many of their creators have graduated to the sinful artistic vacuum known as Hollywood. But behind them back in Frenchy Land, they keep crawling out of the woodwork.

Which brings me right back around to this nasty thing called 'Martyrs'. What Pascal Laugier and co. have done here is create one of those rarefied works in which the element of horror is not based around stand alone, gore for gore's sake set pieces and a cast of simpleton caricatures just begging for hyper-stylized mutilation. By contrast, this film generates a genuine level of dread and uneasiness in regards to its protagonists and their plight. In part this is due to the performances delivered by the two leads. I find myself returning time and again to that pivotal home invasion sequence and the sheer velocity of the crippled emotional state actress Mylène Jampanoï is able to convey though out the course of her malicious agenda. The wealth of her internal torment helps to thicken the tone of the sequence and levels away any potential for a knee-jerk response to what transpires on screen.

This whole section of the film is what cemented its place in my mind along side such limited company as 'Henry-Portrait of a Serial Killer' and DIY maven Jim Van Bebber's trippy-bleak magnum opus 'The Manson Family'. It is films such as these that treat dark, horrific ideas with a level of reverence in regards to the fact that, yes themes and concepts such as those addressed in these films are often very tough going for an audience, but that in no way discounts the fact that they deserve to be explored for all their merit (whatever that merit may be) with out the handicapping of main-steam constraints. I was most impacted by this film's stern refusal to cop-out at any point along the way and when it progressed into an even more difficult second half it revealed itself to be alternately frustrating, pulverizing and achingly poetic. It may sound a touch odd to think like this but, I often found numerous elements of 'Martyrs' to be strangely beautiful (especially on repeat viewings, after any initial surprise is depleted). The technical aspects employed here are largely impeccable, particularly as it is a fairly low budget project. Laugier's direction is steadfast and complete, he rarely misses the mark (this is not to give the notion that the film is without flaws, yet what few there are tend to fall under the distinction of 'spoilers' and, as mentioned earlier, it behooves me not to touch on such things) and often times he manages to populate the screen with images that are destined to linger long and potently in the mind. The harsh violence thrives on the screen in great measure due to the superior effects work shepherded by a gifted technician named Benoit Lestang, a gentleman whose real life demons got the best of him as he took his own life shortly after the film wrapped. Pity.

Another thing that impressed me about this picture (and there are many things) is the method in which it utilizes its leads, not as the atypical 'hot chicks in peril', but as strong, organic presences who feed the drama with an energy that is realistic and immensely engrossing. To their credit, in the real world, both actresses are physically stunning works of human art (especially Jampanoï) but the film cares not how fine they are and that works wonders in the story's favor. This is no feather weight masturbatory parable involving nice pairs of breasts on the run from some malevolent machete. This is raw shit people, prone to divide and conquer and audience. This movie isn't here to help you pass the time nor get you laid on the first date.

This movie doesn't like you very much.

Either you can accept this, or retreat back to the comfort zone of whatever numbing mid-eighties dreck they've remade and poured neatly into your local cineplex. I'm sure it will be easier to swallow.