Monday, 29 September 2014

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974)

The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, 1974, USA
Director: Tobe Hooper
Stars: Marilyn Burns, Edwin Neal & Gunnar Hansen
''You don't want to go fooling around other folks' property. If some folks don't like it... they don't mind showing you.''

Tobe Hooper's 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' is a film I have seen at least a dozen times at home via DVD and Blu-Ray, it's a film i thought I knew like the back of my hand, until I got the chance to see it on the big screen last night. In a theatre, ''Chainsaw''s already unmatched disturbing aura is only maximised. Resulting in one of the most relentless cinematic experiences imaginable.

From John Larroquette's eerie opening narration, and that unforgettable sound of the camera flash in the begging, to the incredibly haunting final 15 minutes, 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' is an exercise in sheer terror. Hooper's gruelling assault on the senses is an absolutely unshakeable experience, from the first second till the last.

I currently attend a film school and have Camera, lighting and sound classes in which they tell us about how each film should abide by at least the simplest set ups for each, 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' is a film that doesn't abide by any of those standards and that's one of the reasons it is so special. There are scenes in this film where we can barely hear the dialogue which the characters are speaking, like in the scene where Kirk and Pam first stumble upon The Family's house and there is a generator blaring in the foreground as Kirk is trying to spout some dialogue, and there are plenty of scenes that are just so damn under litten, the chase scenes through the forrest. If 'Chainsaw' lack of complying to standards is an indication of anything, it's that sometimes you have to bend the rules in order to create something truly groundbreaking, and 'Chainsaw' is definitely that.

In many ways, 'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' is a portrait of the decline of the American family. Leatherface's family is a far cry from the typical nuclear family, yet they still seem to be a cohesive family unit. While they are a bunch of cannabilistic, murderous monsters, they are a family unit with a routine in which all the members have a part.  The Old Man, play by Jim Siedow, is the father and the bread winner of the family, he works at the BBQ/Petrol station. He doesn't seem to be a morose of morbid, sure he partakes in awful crimes but it's more in the way of "what has to be done" rather than for the sick pleasure of it, he even displays humanity throughout moments of the film ("I just can't take no pleasure in killing. There's just some things you gotta do. Don't mean you have to like it."). The Hitchhiker, is almost the child of the family, as displayed by his childlike behaviour and speech. Leatherface doubles as the muscle and woman of the family, he is the intimidating behemoth who will dismember a victim on inspection, but he is also a little oppressed in terms of the family hierarchy, as shown when The Old Man demands he goes back to the kitchen and he proceeds to quickly scurry away. He also dons a female wig and make up on his mask, showing that he is the honorary woman of the woman-less family. And finally, there's Grandpa. The 100+ year old, wheelchair bound, patriarch of the family, the three other family members gush over Grampa's past glory, because ''he was the best'' and ''killed 60 in 5 minutes''. In their own world, the family is as normal as anyone. but as Morticia Adams said ''Normal is an illusion. What is normal for the Spider is chaos for the fly.''

''Chainsaw'' isn't a film with wide array of incredible performances, because it doesn't need to be, the experience is more vital performances, but Edwin Neal's performance is something that needs to be adressed. Neal plays The Hitchhiker, in a performance that sees the man completely disappear into the character, to the point of which I can't imagine the man being any different in real life to the character he is portraying, A truly mesmerising performances. The other standouts of the cast is Jim Siedow, who is awesome as The Old Man, the way in which he switches from evil to humane is brilliant. Gunnar Hansen gives the defining portrayal of Leatherface, unlike later performances, Hansen's portrayal is not really that of an indestructible monster, but rather that of a childlike giant who is living the only way he knows how.

'The Texas Chainsaw Massacre' is an unshakeable experience. It's just as haunting and visceral experience today as it must have been 40 years ago. A true horror masterpiece that was incredible to behold on the big screen.


Thursday, 18 September 2014

Boyhood (2014)

Boyhood, 2014, USA
Director: Richard Linklater
Stars: Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette & Ethan Hawke

"Who do you wanna be, Mason? What do you wanna do?"
"I wanna take pictures. Make art."
"Any dipshit can take pictures, Mason. Art, that's special. What can you bring to it that nobody else can?"
''That's what I'm trying to find out.''

Boyhood is love, Boyhood is life.

After seeing 'Boyhood' again, this time on the big screen, I felt like I could finally compile a proper review after being at a loss for words the first time around, so here it goes...

This is not just the film that was 12 years in the making, it's 100 years in the making! Ever since the employees left the Lumiere Factory, ever since the train arrived at La Ciotat, and ever since George Melies' Trip to the Moon, Cinema has been building towards Richard Linklater's ground breaking masterpiece 'Boyhood'.

Roger Ebert once said of David Lean's 1962 masterpiece 'Lawrence of Arabia' that ''what a bold, mad act of genius it was, to make "Lawrence of Arabia" or even to think that it could be made", this how I feel about Linklater and the creation of 'Boyhood'. To capture a child's growth from adolescence to adulthood via film, sounds like something a filmmaker would hypothesise about but never follow through with, Linkater is bold and daring enough to follow through with such a mad act, and in doing so, he has created one of the most incredible and special film experiences of the last century.

Ellar Coltrane is Mason, the boy of 'Boyhood'. From the ages 5 to 18, we get to see a fresh faced adventurous young child grow into an independent artistic young adult, Coltrane's youth has been immortalised on film and it is such an unprecedented thrill to behold. It's difficult to call Coltrane's role in this film a ''performance'', because it never really feels like one, it's more like watching the main character of a documentary. Linklater is very sure of keeping this character grounded, making sure to display his changing personality through the years but still making sure the good hearted we were introduced to at the beginning still shines through. the character, like the film, is a tremendous achievement, both due to Linklater's writing and direction as well as Coltrane.

It almost feels a little dismissive that the title of the film is simply 'Boyhood' as there are three other characters whose progression we witness through the course of the film. Loreleli Linklater playing Samantha (Mason's sister and Director Richard Linklater's real life daughter) also devotes her childhood to the film, and like with Coltrane, it's incredible to watch her grow into a young adult. The other two characters whose progression I was alluding to, is Mason and Sam's Mother and Father, played wonderfully by Patricia Arquette and Ethan Hawke. Arquette, in the performance of her career and an Oscar worthy performance if I've ever seen one, plays probably the most motherly mother character I have ever seen portrayed on film. A performance that is equal parts fragile and strong, the single mother character is the heart and soul of 'Boyhood' and she goes through a "parade of drunken assholes'' (as Mason says late in the film) and several occupations in order to make a good life for children, her final scene in the final scene in the film is fantastic (as are all her other ones). Ethan Hawke, in yet another stellar collaboration with Linklater, plays the divorced father,who comes off as much of a loveable child and Mason or Sam. He's the kind of guy who has reached his 30's yet is still living the life of a teenager, which makes it clear why his relationship with Arquette's character didn't work out. Yet in another masterstroke in Linklater's incredible piece of work, we also see Hawke's character grow into the man he should have been 20 years prior.

One of the cornerstones of Linklater's career is his uncanny ability to write incredibly immersive dialogue, which is very present in 'Boyhood' but it serves a much different purpose in this film than it does in his 'Before' trilogy, 'The Waking Life' or 'Dazed and Confused', in this film it serves as almost a time capsule to represent the year in which we are in. Linklater's scatters clever little references to the time period through out, giving it even more of an authentic feel.

While 'Boyhood' has rightfully received unanimous praise, it has also been released in a time where social media and what not is at its most prevalent, which means that even the greatest pieces of work will get hate from some corners of the internet. While it's certainly people's right to not like what they don't want too, i have read people that diss the film for the reasons that make it so special, my favorite of which being "people wouldn't like it if wasn't filmed over 12 years", that's kind of like saying that people wouldn't like childhood as much if it was only one year long. Of course, 'Boyhood' wouldn't be the same if it wasn't filmed over such a long period of time, 12 year long production is necessary if wanting to create such an authentic portrayal of life.

Maybe it's because I am the same age as Mason (although my life has been very different to his) which is why 'Boyhood' has such a strong connection to me, few of which have ever had. This film will be a big part of life in the future, I look forward to revisiting it at every turn.

At first, Cinema was of portraying our dreams, now it's a way of portraying our lives. 'Boyhood' is a bonafide cinematic masterpiece, in every sense.

Boyhood is love, Boyhood is life.