Devout priests Andrew Garfield and Adam Driver convince Ciaran Hinds to send them to Japan, where Christianity has been outlawed, to covertly spread the good word and to locate their teacher Liam Neeson. I’ve seen this story told before, in Masahiro Shinoda’s film, so I knew the general outline and some of the characters. I liked Scorsese’s three-hour remake (with a new epilogue) a hell of a lot better – even if I still can’t comprehend some of the characters’ actions, it’s an intense, awe-inspiring film. Would’ve been cool if it had hung around in theaters, since I would’ve liked to watch again after a few weeks or a month, but I guess America wasn’t interested in sacrifice and devotion this holiday season because it only lasted a week.

I couldn’t resist stealing a couple of screenshots from Film Comment:

In Japan, our white saviors meet interpreter Tadanobu Asano (lead ghost in Journey to the Shore), Shinya Tsukamoto himself (tortured to death by being tied to a cross and pounded by the surf for days), drunken traitor Kichijiro (Yôsuke Kubozuka of Tokyo Tribe), and eventually, toothy torturer Issei Ogata (extremely different from his gentle software developer in Yi Yi and twitchy emperor in The Sun).

J. Cabrita:

There is an essential balance to Silence, subverting a colonizer’s prejudices while also considering the prospect that Rodrigues’ missionary work is disseminating objective truth; one does not reduce the other, but enlivens it, makes it meaningful, potent and mysterious. Adapted from a novel by Shusaku Endo, a Japanese Catholic persecuted for his religious values at home and discriminated against for his race abroad, Scorsese’s film also occupies the novel’s ambiguous middle ground.

N. Bahadur, who also makes good connections with The Age of Innocence:

In terms of the film’s critical distance from Rodrigues, what is important is that it is not Christianity which is being critiqued but rather perspective. The moral fundamentals of both religions in the film do not include concepts of pride and glory which both Rodrigues & the Inquisitor demonstrate. Both men are completely invested in their way of viewing the world – fully formed yet opposing views which make sense – and by watching their debates we can already see Scorsese’s perspective: does moral righteousness negate a moral perspective? A colleague mentioned: “they talk about faith needing to take root, but it only becomes faith after becoming rootless.” Perhaps on a moral and ideological level, Rodrigues and the Christians are right: advocation for a Universal truth, yet they fail on a political level because of the failure to see the colonial implications of their actions. While the Japanese in the film prove to be far more selfless and with rather more reason or martyrdom, yet on a moral level the Inquisitor is despicable and inhumane.

G. Kenny:

The opening title, with its sounds of nature followed by absence of sound, constitutes an arguably almost literal-minded demonstration of the movie’s theme, but that plainness is purposeful … And of course the most virtuoso filmmaking of the piece, the scene where Rodrigues comes to his most crucial decision. It’s just crushing, not least for the way it’s set up. Liam Neeson’s Ferreira, speaking to his former student of “a suffering only you can end,” tells Rodrigues his sacrifice will be “the greatest act of love ever performed,” and Rodrigues’ Japanese interpreter (Tadanobu Asano, great) tells the priest, “It’s just a formality.” Which is it, for God’s sake? And then the soundtrack drops out for the second time.

Bilge, from his great Voice article about Scorsese’s holy trilogy:

There’s a vanity behind Rodrigues’s sense of responsibility, too, and Silence slowly interrogates this earnest man of the cloth. Once he gets separated from fellow priest Garrpe (Adam Driver), Rodrigues is accompanied through the film by … the unchanging, ever-present face of Jesus, about whom he dreams at night. The priest even sees Christ’s visage replacing his own reflection in a pool of water, and he giggles maniacally at the thought that he might be headed for a fate similar to his messiah’s; he exults in the glory of a martyr’s death … Rodrigues will not die a martyr. He will not become a saint. His sacrifice will not be written about in the annals of his faith; if anything, he will be a shameful footnote. But he will, finally, achieve true compassion for another man [Kichijiro], the two of them united in their weakness. And in this, who’s to say that he has not found the divine?

Third version of this story I’ve watched, after the Svankmajer short and the Stuart Gordon version, with which this has almost nothing in common. This was the second full-color Corman/Price Poe adaptation after House of Usher, and everyone was in top form.

In the mid-1500’s, Mr. Barnard (John Kerr of The Cobweb) shows up at reclusive Price’s spooky old castle wanting to know how his sister has died, is taking no shit from anybody. Price gets to be his haunted, tormented self for the bulk of the movie, explaining that his young wife died tragically of illness (but later changing his story), and later while bemoaning his dreadful family legacy he gets to be an evil maniac in flashback portraying his own father, an enthusiastic Inquisition torturer.

Also in the castle is Price’s sister Catherine (Luana Anders of Dementia 13 & Night Tide) and doctor Antony Carbone (art café boss in A Bucket of Blood). The place is being haunted by strange noises and Price has a phobia that his wife wasn’t dead when she was buried, so finally they dig her up and sure enough:

Of course I’d seen Barbara Steele’s name in the credits and recognized her face in paintings of the “dead” woman so was fully expecting her to show up. She’d fallen for the doctor and this is all a plot to drive Price mad so they can run off together. Unfortunately for them, Price’s madness takes the form of reverting to his family’s torture legacy, and he locks up Steele then puts poor Barnard under the razor pendulum while fighting off the others, eventually falling to his death in the pit (the only detail unchanged in the Stuart Gordon movie).

Screenplay by Richard “I Am Legend” Matheson, in lovely widescreen with some fun color-filtered anamorphic Raimi-effects and crazy oil-color swirls over the credits. I hope the other 1960’s Corman movies are this good.

I started watching Masters of Horror shortly before starting the movie blog, so in my season one round-up, three episodes are mentioned but got no writeup. Well it turns out MoH blu-rays are cheap, so now I own those three episodes, and am gonna rewatch the two good ones – Mick Garris’s Chocolate is doomed to be the odd man out.

Imprint was the episode I remembered the least. I wanted Miike’s English-language debut to be better than it was, and now that I can enable subtitles I didn’t miss any part of the story, but it seems like he and writer Shimako Iwai were trying to impress by throwing in every shocking thing they could come up with: pregnant prostitute murder, sibling incest, parental rape, aborted babies tossed casually into the river, a syphilitic dwarf (actor familiar from Zebraman 2), birth defects, Audition-reminiscent needle torture, madness, hanging and strangling and… this:

But there’s great color and some arresting images – more than any other MoH episode, I’d guess.

And the actors all acquit themselves well enough with the English dialogue, even native speaker Billy Drago (Papa Jupiter in The Hills Have Eyes Remake). Drago has made his fortune and returned to Prostitute Island to rescue his lovely Komomo (Michié of R100) but is told that she’s dead by a facially-deformed woman (Mystery Train star Yûki Kudô), who proceeds to tell him why, changing the story multiple times making herself more and more guilty of Komomo’s torture (at the hands of an evil needle woman played by the author Iwai) for supposedly stealing a ring from the house madam (Toshie Negishi of Over Your Dead Body and Audition), until Drago has heard enough stories, murders the woman and goes to jail.

Surprisingly violent mother-son(s) horror, like The Babadook meets Fight Club, since early on we guess (correctly) that one of the twin brothers is in the imagination of the other. There’s even a proper Fight Club moment where they take turns hitting each other, but no postscript flashback showing an objective view of one kid hitting himself. It all seemed well-made but not interesting – besides the shock moments, wondering how the kid was going to continue tormenting his mom, and the slow creeping sense that the family has long been seriously disturbed (the kid sinks a dead cat in a fishtank full of water – or is it gasoline? – and mom lets it remain in the living room), I would’ve considered turning it off if I’d been watching at home. Ultimately not bad, giving viewers nasty nightmares of dental torture, superglue-as-weapon, and burns both small and large.

So the twin brother died in a car crash, and I think mom was injured (she starts out the movie with her face bandaged). Dad’s out of the picture. They’re wealthy in a secluded house even though it seems like her job (now on hiatus) was calling out lotto numbers on local TV. Movie was actually called I See, I See in its native Austria, where one of the two directors, Veronika Franz, is an Ulrich Seidl collaborator.

Same director, star, writer, editor, cameraman as Z. New still photographer Chris Marker and assistant director Alain Corneau. Instead of communists being attacked by the fascists in charge, this time a group of communists is destroyed by their own party. It’s a depressing slog of a movie, a feature-length torture session ending with the men delivering their well-rehearsed but completely false “confessions” and being sentenced to death.

This time we’re in Czechoslovakia in 1951-1952. Yves Montand plays one of the three who only got long prison sentences, Simone Signoret (a year after the even more depressing Army of Shadows) his wife, and Gabriele Ferzetti as his interrogator Kohoutek (not the subject of the R.E.M. song).

Haunting flash-forwards – the worst of which comes during the trial, when the fourteen men on trial enjoy a hearty laugh and the image bleeds into their ashes being scattered on a frozen road weeks later.

Warok, as always:

D. Iordanova:

The film was an important step in the public expression of Western leftist intellectuals’ disillusionment with Soviet Communism … The Confession was the first film that zeroed in on torture as a seemingly endless ordeal, a systematic and relentless process aimed at delivering a specific outcome.

The Second Trial of Artur London (1970, Chris Marker)

Marker was on-set during the making of The Confession, as was London, portrayed by Yves in the film. Marker focuses on the idea that the book and film can weaken the communist movement by showing horrid things done in its name. Obviously the participants in the film’s production would disagree, and Marker lets them explain why. Unbelievably, after the film’s completion, London is again accused of being a spy and stripped of his Czech nationality. But he is defended: “The witnesses who remained silent in 1952 speak up today.”

My favorite line about the film sets: “A retirement home, unmodified, becomes a prison.”

London:

Patrick McGoohan is #6, resigns from some spy organization and is immediately kidnapped, waking up in a prison/town. They want to know why he resigned, and he wants only to escape. Opening credit sequence is three minutes long, and each ep starts with him waking up, dazed, looking out the window towards the title of this week’s episode, giving the impression not of continuity between episodes but that each episode is an alternate reality, or that Pat is caught in a time-loop.

Ep 1 – #2 (Guy Doleman of The Ipcress File) invites him over, has a dwarf attendant (Angelo Muscat, a rare series regular). A girl (suicidal Virginia Maskell of Our Virgin Island) pretends to conspire with him after their mutual friend dies. Escape Method: stolen helicopter, which is remote-controlled back to the island. And there’s already a new #2 (George Baker, an agent in Hopscotch) at end of episode.

Ep 2 – The new #8 (Nadia Gray of Maniac) tells him she’s figured out they’re in Lithuania, and she has friends on the outside. Escape Method: they sail off in a hand-carved boat created as abstract-art project with purchased tapestry as sail, packed by fake #8’s friend into shipping cartons and sent to fake London, revealed by time zone discrepancy. Today’s #2 is Leo McKern of Help! and Finlay Currie plays a chess-playing general.

Ep 3 – Scientist #14 (Sheila Allen of The Alphabet Murders) hooks him up to a mind-reading machine (showing that his mind tends to linger on the show open), gives him experimental drug causing him to dream meetings with three different spies to see his reactions: fabulous party host Katherine Kath (appropriately of The Man Who Wouldn’t Talk), mustachioed defector Peter Bowles (The Legend of Hell House) and former compatriot Annette Carell. Pat takes control of his own dreams to fuck with the new #2 (Colin Gordon of The Pink Panther) in grand fashion. Pat does tell them one definite thing, “I wasn’t selling out. That wasn’t the reason I resigned.” That piece of information won’t keep #2 from getting replaced in the next episode.

Ep 4 – Fake election is held and Pat is voted the new #2 in order to boost his confidence before breaking his spirit and beating the hell out of him. A Canterbury Tale star Eric Portman is the old/fake #2, and Rachel Herbert is Pat’s non-English-speaking personal driver who turns out to be the real #2.

Ep 5 – #6 is made to think that he’s #12, and his doppelganger is now “the real” #6. It’s never explained where they found an identical twin of Pat, but the effects are very well done. Odd to hear mister “I am not a number” emphatically declaring himself to be #6. Jane Merrow (Hands of the Ripper) is his psychic friend, and #2 is Anton Rodgers (a cop in Dirty Rotten Scoundrels).

Ep 6 – The young new #12 (John Castle of Blow-Up) is possibly an actual counter-conspirator inside the organization? Maybe not, I wasn’t paying close attention. The organization controls a professor (Peter Howell of Scum) through his artist wife (Betty McDowall of Time Lock and Dead Lucky), getting him to design a supercomputer (“the general”) to brainwash the already-brainwashed citizens in the guise of speed-learning. #6 blows up the computer, conspirator and professor before an amazed #2 (Colin Gordon again, from ep 3) by asking the machine “why?”

Ep 7 – The town is deserted. Pat builds a sailboat and compass, keeps a log, sails to England. He meets Mrs. Butterworth (Georgina Cookson of The Woman Who Wouldn’t Die), the woman living in his old apartment, borrows his old car from her, and goes to headquarters, tells The Colonel (Donald Sinden of Mogambo) and his man Thorpe (Patrick Cargill of A Countess From Hong Kong) about the village. They figure where on the map he could have sailed from and Pat searches in a jet until he finds it – and the pilot ejects him back into the village, where everyone reappears (including Mrs. Butterworth).

Unhappy birthday:

Ep 8 – Pat finds a radio on a washed-up dead man, tries to drive his observer (Norma West of And The Ship Sails On) crazy. New #2 (Mary Morris of Thief of Bagdad) focuses on convincing him that the outside world is dead to him, and he to them, as she has the dead man sent back into the ocean with Pat’s ID in his wallet. Crazy scene where after a trial on carnival day, the costumed villagers chase Pat through town hall.

Ep 9 – Nice double-cross variation. Pat teaches fellow prisoners how to detect who’s a secret sentinel, recruits an inventor to create a distress signal to summon nearby ships, but because of his confidence and authority, the prisoners decide Pat is a sentinel and turn on him. New #2 is Peter Wyngarde (The Innocents, Flash Gordon) even though Mary Morris claimed she was playing the long game and seemed triumphant at the end of the last ep.

Ep 10 – Pretty straightforward. Pat runs around doing fake spy stuff, having hushed conversations with bewildered villagers, sending coded messages to nobody in particular, to drive #2 (Patrick Cargill from episode 7) mad. As a bonus, Pat has a trampoline duel with #2’s main man #14.

Ep 11 – Trampoline fights are the new padding scenes. This is feeling like the flabby center of the series, with Pat’s goal changing from escaping the village to fucking with various #2s. Outgoing #2 (Andre Van Gyseghem of Demy’s Pied Piper) is going to be assassinated by Incoming #2 (Derren Nesbitt of the 1972 Burke & Hare), or was it vice-versa? – and Pat cares about this supposedly because he fears retaliation against the villagers since a brainwashed watchmaker (Martin Miller of Peeping Tom) rigged the bomb. Pat teams with the watchmaker’s daughter (Annette Andre of A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum), turns the bomb against the bomber, ending in stalemate.

Ep 12 – Pat has lost his sunny disposition, is being short-tempered with everyone, so he is declared persona non grata by the town and given the silent treatment. The new #2 (John Sharp of The Fiendish Plot of Dr. Fu Manchu) is into mind control, has a Clockwork Orange-like “aversion therapy” room, but orders instead a mood-improving lobotomy for our hero. Of course they can’t burn his brain with all those valuable memories inside, so they fake it with drugs, leaving Pat meek and defenseless against the striped bullies – for about 20 seconds before he pulls himself together and turns the drugs against his handler #86, then at his “confession” in the town square, Pat gets the townsfolk to rebel, and another #2 goes down.

Ep 13 – Excitingly weird one, in which Pat kinda escapes but decides to use his semi-freedom to rescue/endanger a scientist. Chubby-faced Colonel (Nigel Stock, Watson to Peter Cushing’s Holmes) comes to village, sent by “the highest authority,” and they electrically swap his psyche with Pat’s, then send Pat’s consciousness in Colonel’s body back to Pat’s house, where he dances with his fiancee (daughter of his spy boss – did we know Pat had a fiancee?), confuses his superiors (technically his ex-superiors, since he’s still angrily quitting his job in the opening credits), then leads the Village baddies straight to the mind-control scientist who invented the brain-swap device, though if the device worked so well I wonder why they need him. I also wonder why they keep fucking with Pat’s brain, since in the early episodes they were claiming they didn’t want to injure it. Anyway, back in the lab, scientist pulls the ol’ switcheroo, escapes via helicopter in the Colonel’s body (the Village has brain-swap technology, but not a simple radio to recall a helicopter that has barely lifted off), Colonel dies in the scientist’s body, and Pat’s his smarmy self again.

Ep 14 – Pat wakes up in a Western movie, thinks nothing of it. So it’s his stubbornness and moral character transplanted into a drifter who becomes town marshall. Nice Western sets but I think this was underlit because it’s not sunny enough in England. Pat is in prison when the brother of some girl (Valerie French of Jubal) is hanged, then he fails to save her from a loony, obsessed redshirt (Alexis Kanner, who later directed a film starring Patrick McGoohan). Final shootout, then Pat wakes up and realizes it was all a multiplayer dream-RPG. In two weird postscripts, the sets are are real and filled with cardboard cutouts of the other players, and redshirt remains obsessed with the girl leading to both of their deaths in the “real world”. New #2 David Bauer had a small part in a Sean Connery Bond film.

Alexis Kanner #1:

Ep 15 – So right after the episode that gives Pat a backstory and a fiancee, we get two in a row that turn him into an interchangeable spy. This is a really weird one, but fun, as Pat’s in London on the trail of a mad bomber, a resourceful woman who calls herself Death (soap star Justine Lord) and leads Pat into trap after trap, each of which he escapes, up to the lighthouse from where her Napoleon-wannabe dad is planning some kind of attack. The whole thing turns out to have been a story he’s freewheeling for some Village kids. Not entirely sure what #2’s theory was: that Pat would tell the kids his own life story, ending with his reason for retirement?

Ep 16 – An intense #2 (Leo McKern from the second episode) returns to the village, reviews clips from previous episodes to see what he has missed, then resorts to his ultimate solution to get Pat to confess: regress him to childhood via a magic lamp then lock them both in a room with the butler (Angelo Muscat, who may have appeared in every episode) for a week of intensive role playing/interrogation. Leo’s theory is that only one of them can survive this. There’s some 1984 number-play, Pat refusing to say the number six for a while, and Leo slips the retirement question into every scenario, but finally Pat makes him crazy, turns the tables, and Leo falls dead. It’s one of the more boring, shouty and unsatisfying episodes, with Pat being bonkers for most of it, but it’s all setup for an even weirder finale, as Pat is given his desire to see #1 at the end.

Ep 17 – Of course we don’t see #1 – this show makes nothing easy. Instead, Leo #2 is shaved and resurrected and put on trial as a nonconformist, along with Pat and a young mod who never stops singing “dem bones.” Nothing ends a thrilling spy series like a good, slow courtroom drama, amirite? It’s hard to explain what happens, and apparently fans have been trying for years, but Pat seems to escape and/or become #1, and “All You Need Is Love” is played over a machine gun battle and the village is given a specific location in the opening credits and the guy singing “dem bones” is the same actor who died three episodes ago. David Lynch could hardly have done better.

Angelo Muscat made it through the final episode!

Alexis Kanner #2:

Episode directors include McGoohan himself, Don Chaffey (Jason and the Argonauts, One Million Years B.C.), Pat Jackson (Don’t Talk to Strange Men), Peter Graham Scott (Into the Labyrinth, Night Creatures), Robert Asher (Maid for Murder) and David Tomblin (Return of the Ewok). Wonder if the remake is worth checking out? After all, prisoner torture, personal freedom and intrusive searches for information are still making headlines.

It’s Political Documentary Month! We will see how long that lasts. Katy asked if all Errol Morris’s films are about death (as far as I know they are) and commented that the square photos within a widescreen strip within our square TV across the room made her feel blind, so I brought up stylistic differences between Morris and Ken Burns, figuring we’re being punished for watching a theatrical feature in the same way we’d watch a television program. Afterwards, I showed her In The Loop, which I thought worked much better than S.O.P. on the TV screen. I was psyched to revisit it but she didn’t like at all, since it doesn’t count as satire on government if it’s exactly the way she imagines government works, and anyway it’s not funny.

S.O.P. was surprisingly tame. As one of the former prison guards points out, it’s not like they were beating prisoners or killing them, although that happens when the CIA bring in their own prisoner, a guy who they’re told “was never here.” Unfortunately for the CIA, photos of that incident leaked along with the rest – the ones with prisoners tied up in “stress positions” with panties on their heads, handcuffed into simulated sex scenarios and stacked in naked pyramids, all with Lynndie England flashing a thumbs-up in front. The prison holds a confusing number of military and government groups and private organizations – it would’ve taken a whole other movie to get it all straight. The guards certainly weren’t clear about it themselves. A side-effect of Morris’s technique here is that he’s made the opposite of The Road to Guantanamo, which was told from the prisoners’ point of view. This movie is an analysis of the photographs, of the circumstances behind them, but only from the guards’ points of view. The nameless prisoners, degraded and objectified in those photographs, remain anonymously dehumanized in the film, enigmatic vessels of suspicion (they are, after all, “enemy combatants”) and sympathy (for the torture/s.o.p. depicted).

“The world has come to a point that there are only victims left. Martyrs are rare.”

Where we left off last year, I’d been exploring new French horror with Frontier(s), Calvaire and Ils, which plainly made the point that it is dangerous in the countryside. This one also promotes the idea of random, senseless, brutal violence, but unlike the others it pretends to be making a point.

Young Lucie escapes from a Hostel torture factory but leaves behind another. She grows up in a school for abused kids, becomes best friends with Anna. 15 years later Lucie busts into a suburban house and intensely kills mother, father, daughter and son with a shotgun, believing they’re the ones who captured and tortured her when she was little. Anna catches up, attempts damage control by burying the bodies in the back yard, but Lucie loses her damn mind, and delusionally cuts her own throat.

Anna is cleaning up, burying her friend’s body, wondering whether these regular people in this ordinary house could be responsible for Lucie’s trauma – and that’s when she finds the giant lockdown basement and the girl with a metal blindfold stapled to her head. Kindly attempts to help the girl. Then a crew flies into the house, kills the staple girl and locks up Anna in the subterranean chamber.

Up to now the movie has been nonstop action and energy, with lots and lots of screaming and bleeding, nervously shot, with an air of WTF but not the tiresome kind that dragged down last year’s batch of horrific Frenchies. Here it slows way down as Anna is strapped down and shaved and beaten and held for months to break her spirit before all her skin is removed. The idea is that there’s a rich cult of sadists who aim to give young girls ultra-traumatic death experiences so they will narrate the afterlife. Movie sets up an interesting premise then cops out when the group leader listens to Anna’s skinless report and blows herself away before divulging her secrets. Better luck next year, France.

Kid is on a game show being asked a series of questions to win 20 million rupees. How does he know all the answers? Is it luck? Fate? Or does each question somehow relate to an incredibly depressing detail of his life? Yes it’s that last one, because this is the most toilet-diving, poo-covered, mother-killing, tourist-swindling, prisoner-torturing, implicitly-sexually-violent movie to ever be marketed as the award-winning feel-good love story of the year.

image

Jamal, brother Salim, and hot girl Latika live in the Mumbai slums, parents are killed over religion so they hang out together. Join the local beggar group, but the beggarmaster is gonna blind them to rake in more sympathy cash, so the boys skip town and become Taj Mahal tour guides. Back into the city because Jamal is fixated on finding Latika, just in time to rescue her from being sold for sex by the beggar dude. Salim kills the king beggar and joins a gangster group, turns on Jamal and rapes Latika, eventually gives her up as live-in lover to the king gangster. Jamal, meanwhile, gets a straight job as intern at a call center, gets himself on the Millionaire show, wins 10m one day, gets arrested and tortured by police chief Irfan Khan (dad in The Namesake), tells Irfan (and us) his life story the whole next day, then back to the show and wins the other 10m on the final question. Salim shoots his boss, gets killed (having raped the heroine, he has to get killed), but releases Latika who has a happy ending (with train-station dance sequence) with our rich boy.

Boyle got the writer of The Full Monty and Mira Nair’s co-director, and used his 28 Days Later / Millions cinematographer (who also shoots Dogme stuff). The camerawork, along with a high-energy MIA and A.R. Rahman soundtrack and great editing (ooh it’s Edgar Wright’s regular guy) make for a rockin’ good time of a movie, despite the story. Maybe I’m missing something, because Katy loved it, story and all.