Sunday Film Roundup (6/19/2016)

Waltz With Bashir (2008)

Director:  Ari Folman

This is an Israeli animated film about the remembrances of veterans of the so-called “First Lebanon War” of the 1980s.  For those who don’t know or don’t remember, Israel invaded Lebanon in 1982.  The reasons for this are outside the scope of this review, but we can rudely summarize them by pointing to two objectives:  (1) installing a client regime in Beirut, and (2) destroying the PLO as an organization.  At that time, the PLO had basically formed a state-within-a-state in south Lebanon.

This animated film is very well done.  Directors who take artistic chances deserve a lot of credit.  In this sense, Ari Folman should be praised.  The movie starts out with a story where one veteran tells another of a recurring dream he has had about being chased by a pack of wild dogs.  This leads to a series of interviews (or dialogues) where little stories are told about the brutality of war from the perspective of soldiers who were there.

It is a good film and does what it sets out to do:  to give the veterans who were there a chance to tell their stories.  While I dislike criticizing sincere and creative films, I have to say that I could not get past the fact that I dislike animation in a film like this.  By its nature, animation is meant to be a whimsical medium.  I just don’t think it’s suitable as a vehicle for presenting serious issues.  I find it distracting and, frankly, irritating.  Somehow, animation to me trivializes the conflict, and makes it all seen make-believe.  Far more compelling was the film Lebanon, which I reviewed here some weeks ago.

Why do we even need animation here?  To me it adds little or nothing as a narrative vehicle.  Far more effective it would have been just to let the veterans tell their stories.  I don’t need to see animated surrogates act out the drama on the screen.  Sincere words are sufficient.

Sleep Tight (2011)

Director:  Jaume Belaguero

This has to be one of the most sadistic and demented films I’ve ever seen.  The plot:  a miserable apartment door concierge sees himself as unable to be happy.  So he decides to make everyone around him miserable.  He goes out of his way to irritate and mess with the lives of the people who live in the building.  At first this seems slightly amusing, and then it becomes disturbing.

Soon he focuses his attention on a young woman who lives in the building.  He perceives her as happy, so of course he has to find a way to ruin that, too.  How exactly he goes about doing this is about as depraved as you can imagine.  I’m not sure what we’re supposed to conclude from all of this.  That there are evil people in the world?

Watch if you must.

Cloverfield (2008)

Director:  Matt Reeves

I loved this.  It’s one of those “found footage” films that had a long run a few years back.  But it’s also an innovative mix of old-school monster movie and millennial angst, and it all works perfectly.  The plot:  a monster from the ocean suddenly appears in New York City and wreaks havoc.

Yes, you’ve seen it all before.  Who cares?  Some motifs never get old, and this is one of them.  The suspense is there, the production qualities are great, and the look of the monster is weird enough to remind you that you’re watching something new.


Read More:  Sunday Film Roundup (6/12/2016)