Death

All posts tagged Death

Prepare Yourself for the Brutal We Are The Flesh: A Shudder Exclusive

Published April 21, 2017 by rmpixie

 

We Are The Flesh (2016, 1 hr, 19 mins)

 

Extreme cinema has its purpose, usually to tell a story in the most shocking manner in order to get a visceral response as we watch. While some directors use it for pure shock value, others use it as a rejection of the formulaic films cranked out of the incessant Hollywood machine, and some feel that extreme representation of brutality, sexuality and gore is the only way they can express themselves and their subject matter artistically.  In We Are The Flesh (Tenemos la carne), a film that played many festivals including Cannes in 2016 and is now a Shudder Exclusive, Mexican director Emiliano Rocha Minter gives us all of the above and more in order to tell a meandering story about death, rebirth and god complexes.

Lucio (Diego Gamaliel) and Fauna (Maria Evoli) stumble upon an abandoned building and its sole inhabitant, an elf-like man named Marciano (Noé Hernández). He is strange and extremely volatile, spouting cryptic words about his way of life. Fauna bargains for her and her brother to stay with him in exchange for any sort of arrangement since they seek refuge from a harsh environment on the outside. That arrangement turns out to be labour in order to create a womb-like labyrinth of a cave with bits of wood, cardboard, broken furniture and endless rolls of tape. As he gets to know his two young captives locked in the building with him, he is taken with Fauna and takes to bullying her brother. In a series of extremely strange and increasingly cruel events, he forces them do his darkly incestuous bidding, and once they cross the line, they enter an infernal world of raw emotion and mysticism.

We Are The Flesh wins hands down for the title of extreme cinema. Viewers beware as this film is chockfull of writhing nudity, incest, rape, cannibalism, orgies, and even a dash of menstrual blood; letting it all hang out to tell a strange story with creationist undertones in an absurdist and grotesque manner. Adam and Eve, the devil, a God/Jesus/resurrection theme, and Mexico’s nationalistic unrest are explored but goes off the rails just as you think you can make sense of the startling action. Hernández gave a truly arresting performance as the demonic Marciano and Evoli reached deep for her portrayal of Fauna.  From his interviews, Minter sounded very supportive of his cast, but I’m not sure how he got these performances out of his actors.  If the process was anything like Isabelle Adjani’s motivation in Possession, I hope they had a therapist on set.

Only in his mid-twenties, Minter, lauded and backed by Oscar-winning director Alejandro G. Iñárritu, has been compared to French director Gaspar Noé. While films like Noé’s Love also used extreme sexuality to tell a story, once you get past the sex, it reveals itself to be a sensitive film about a vulnerable young man searching for lost love. I actually found We Are The Flesh had more in common with Michael Rowe’s 2010 film Leap Year (Año bisiesto). This too was filled with stark and graphic sex, but like Minter Rowe uses sex, sadism and isolation as a way to convey a connection, in this instance humanity and heartache as a lonely young woman finds solace in a sadistic relationship. Leap Year is also similar to We Are The Flesh in that there is a brother and sister relationship and an overbearing older male that dictates to, or has the potential to lord over, a young woman, but that’s where the similarities end.

Where Rowe creates a quiet intensity, Minter juxtaposes poetic dialogue with brutally animalistic actions that come at you full force. The characters are unfettered and wild; giving into impulse after impulse in a womb-like setting, punctuated with a barrage of sound. Actions like breathing, stirring, and sporadic and aggressive drumming pulls the viewer’s focus, making each scene that much more uncomfortable as you wince from both the visual and aural assault. There were also nods to Samuel Beckett along with colourful psychedelic and supernatural elements. Those connections still didn’t make it more accessible to me, perhaps only helping in categorizing familiar scenes.

I appreciate some extreme cinema for what it attempts to overcome in this age of banal cookie cutter genre films (as long as living creatures-human and animal- remain unharmed in real life) but ultimately I can’t say I liked We Are The Flesh. Perhaps I’m not intellectual enough to grasp the abundance of allegorical notions presented here, but there are some things that become too much of a stretch for me to consider them above their shock value.

One viewer’s interpretation of art is another viewer’s headache. Are Lucio and Fauna a new hope in a barren land? Is Marciano their god or a demon? Does an abducted soldier represent a violently dying motherland or an attempt to rid the country of political overseers? Is this an ultimately extreme art film instead of a horror?  Who’s to say, but those questions and more will come to mind as you watch Emiliano Rocha Minter’s chaotic, poetic and ultimately confusing first feature film We Are The Flesh. After this experience, he’s certainly on my radar, and I’m curious to see what he does next. Make up your own mind and see it exclusively on Shudder Canada.

Psychics, Sadness and Mystery in Assayas’ Personal Shopper

Published April 6, 2017 by rmpixie

Personal Shopper (2016, 1 hr, 45 mins.)

 

It’s no surprise that death is devastating for those in mourning. Missing loved ones who have passed on comes in many forms but most of us would confidently say that faith (or lack thereof) aside, we don’t really know what happens to our soul after the physical body ends. In Personal Shopper, we see one woman’s struggle with the death of her twin brother and her belief in the afterlife. It brings to light deeper questions about life and death staged before the backdrop of Paris, the fashion world, and its trappings.

Maureen (Kristen Stewart) works for a self-centered celebrity and socialite Kyra (Nora von Waldstätten) as a personal shopper. Her job is to find the latest and greatest in high fashion and bring it back to her famous employer since her high profile makes it impossible to shop anonymously. Maureen has also recently lost her twin brother Lewis to a heart defect she also suffers from. His surviving partner Lara (Sigrid Bouaziz) wants to sell their house, but Maureen who is a medium, insists that Lewis will send her a sign from beyond, so she spends a few nights in his crumbling house waiting for him to appear. He was a medium like her, so her determination is fueled by his once stronger psychic abilities and their vow to make contact from the other side. When she does contact the spirit world, she also receives mysterious text messages topped off with an unexpected murder that stops her in her tracks. Maureen’s quest for answers becomes more confusing, leaving her in a state of shock and floundering for answers.

Kristin Stewart as Maureen waiting for a sign.

Personal Shopper is a horror, a film noir, a psychological thriller, and a ghost story. It is all of the above and none of the above at the same time, embracing and defying genre. Director Olivier Assayas created a film that’s in a class of its own using art, history and old school paranormal beliefs with 21st century technology and lifestyles to illustrate Maureen’s search for her brother’s spirit. It’s this artistic take that kept me riveted despite the slow burn pace.

Assayas captures Maureen’s loss well, and he also conveys the loneliness of this technological age we live in with Skype and smartphones being key methods with which she communicates. Even when she is with someone physically or electronically, she is separate, guarded, or unsure; from her shopping excursions to her Skype dates with her boyfriend. The smart phone as a thing of necessity in this day and age to stay tethered to this world also becomes an agent of isolation and intense paranoia when Maureen pleads with a nameless messenger behind the texts to reveal themselves.  Assayas takes a now commonplace device and gives it a more otherworldly, sinister presence.

Personal Shopper is also a lesson in how Maureen grieves. She throws herself into her work even though she flat out hates her fashionable job, but Paris is her main connection to her dead brother so she stays there as she waits for a ghostly sign, not ready to let go.  The world of fashion is a fleeting one; rarely delving deeply into the reality around it. Her psychic abilities seem to be stunted as she moves between posh shops in London and Paris to serve Kyra in this superficial arena. It shows how she herself seems like a spirit as she is lost between real life, the supernatural, the fashion world, and her uncertainty with what she believes and how she is perceived. Her only moment of self-awareness comes when the mysterious messenger asks her to do something forbidden, and she taps all too briefly into her desires in her confused and somewhat desperate state. It’s a strange moment in the film, but it makes sense as her character searches for a right fit, so to speak, in environments that while not hostile, aren’t hospitable to her either.

The look of the film is really beautiful. Yorick Le Saux, the cinematographer for Only Lovers Left Alive, does a wonderful job capturing the contrast of the dingy streets and stark sophistication of Paris. He is skilled at making the most of each setting, representing streetscapes and boutiques in their truest and most tangible forms. For anyone that has visited the City of Lights, you’ll feel nostalgic for its frenzied energy.

My only issue lies with the text messages and some of the ensuing actions asked of Maureen. While I really enjoyed these suspenseful interludes and there is definitely a point to them, they were problematic with some details that still remain unclear when the storyline makes a sharp turn. Stewart’s stellar performance as a tortured, uncertain and lost character written for her by Assayas, evokes a surprising amount of emotion that overshadows any inconsistencies in the narrative however, as you watch this poor soul wait for her brother to tell her something, anything as proof of an afterlife.

Personal Shopper is an artistic take on a ghost story and focuses on one woman’s uncertainty when mortality comes into question. See this film for it’s beautiful photography, a haunting performance from Stewart and an interesting albeit imperfect story about grief and the afterlife.

 

Face Off Season 10 Episode 6: Death’s Doorstep and Whimsical Obits!

Published February 18, 2016 by rmpixie

This week the artists met at a massive printing press where they had newspapers with obituaries waiting for them.  In the same vein as Beetlejuice, their challenge was to reflect the way their character died in a whimsical makeup.  They would pick a number and match it up with the corresponding obituary and description of death in order to get their literal ghost.

Kaleb’s ghost was called Finn Waters.  He died under “fishy circumstances” and would forever be haunted by a giant fish.  Mr. Westmore advised him to add gills to the fish on the character’s head so it wouldn’t look like a hat.  After the mold, he realized the cowl was too heavy, and when he removed some foam, took a chunk out of the appliance.  It turned out ok, but he had to adjust his paint so the model wouldn’t look like a smurf.  The judges thought the character was wearing an elf hat instead of a fish.  They thought it could have been better technically even thought they liked the concept.  He was in bottom looks.

Walter created a clown called Seymour Sharp who was impaled by the very knives he was juggling.  Walter wanted to include a bowling ball as one of the items that fell on the clown, but Mr. Westmore told him to keep it simple and stick to knives.  Melissa’s Suzanne Stitches fell on her pin cushion.  She created pins out of armature wire and had a great paint job.  Robert’s ghost Thomas Watts was electrocuted in the bathtub.  He created a veiny forehead and a cute rubber ducky.  The judges thought the character should have looked a bit more wet to convey the story, but they liked the duck.  Anna’s Rose Mary died in a kitchen explosion covered in pasta. She painted the hair to have a singed look and even thought the character lacked a story and colour, she, along with the others, was safe.

Johnny’s makeup was called Sarah N. Geti, and she was trampled on a safari.  He incorporated porcupine quills and a hoof mark on her face.  He spent so much time on the hoof prosthetic that he had little left to create the face.  He wasn’t happy with the makeup and the judges were less than impressed.  Ve thought it didn’t read from afar, and it was a missed opportunity.  The quills threw them off, and they felt she had no whimsy and didn’t look like a ghost.  He was in the bottom look.

Rob created a ghostly magician’s assistant by the name of Wendy Wand.  He made a brow prosthetic to mimic a 1920’s brow, and did all the paint in grayscale because she was captured from a black and white TV.  He had to modify the slightly big torso piece that looked like she was cut in half.  The judges loved the grayscale and thought it was successful for the challenge.  Although it was a beautiful, clean makeup, the judges thought he could have gone bigger.  He was in the top looks.

Yvonne had Jerry Rig, a guy who got too close to his drill.  She created a twisted face and a yellow skin tone that won over the judges.  With a hole drill bit stuck in his face, they felt she captured a moment and it gave a sense of movement.  Her makeup fit right into the world of Beetljuice and told a story of what happened.  She was in top looks.

Mel’s Sally Slopes died while skiing.  She decided to go big and create a lower twisted half, with a “front-butt” happening.  It took a lot of work and time away from the other details of the makeup, and the judges noticed.  They were disappointed with the paint and the lost time and effort on a prosthetic that was covered.  She was in the bottom looks.

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The winner was Yvonne for her clean makeup that embraced the challenge.  Johnny went home for his uninspired makeup that didn’t tell a story.  He left, like the others before him, feeling like he had gained so much from being on the show.

Face Off Season 9 Episode 9: The Four Horsemen

Published September 23, 2015 by rmpixie

After Evan got a boost from his win, and the gang regrouped after the grueling Gauntlet, the artists geared up for what McKenzie called one of the most intimidating challenges.  They met on a ruined set with crumbled buildings and abandoned, burned out cars to find out what the subject of their next Spotlight Challenge would be.  This time, they would be dealing with the end of the world and the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.  They would have to pick one of the four horsemen:  War, Famine, Pestilence and Death, and create their own horrific interpretations.  Resident judge Glenn Hetrick was there to give his advice since he was the makeup designer behind the film Legion.  He told them to find contrast and range with their characters.  The artists chose from survival kits adorned with the names of each horseman character, and even thought they would be creating individual makeups, the 8 artists would be split up in groups of two, each with four horsemen shown together on the reveal stage.

In the first group, Jordan, Stevie, Scott and Meg would tie their characters together with pocket watches.  Jordan picked War and created an armoured look complete with a war mask.  His horseman would also have a terrifying hole for a face that absorbed souls.  He waited until last looks to put his makeup together and the result was pretty creepy.

Stevie’s Famine would have an emaciated look.  This horseman would kill everything with a touch.  She planned on a face and chest piece, and was advised by Mr. Westmore to change his mouth so it didn’t look so healthy.  This would be the first time she made a chest piece, and she was the last in the mold room, but managed to get it finished.  The starved ribcage was a key look to her makeup, so she was lucky!  Her gothy Famine horseman got a nod from the judges with the colour palette she used.

Scott wanted to create an empathetic Death character.  He would incorporate a burial shroud look, and as usual, had his strategy planned out well.  He also made an hourglass from scratch for Death’s timepiece and to imply an aged look for her.  His clean face prosthetic, planning and consistent confidence was behind my favourite horseman of the night.  The mummified face was brilliant!

Meg worked on Pestilence.  She would create a female character that brought death instead of life, and make her impish.  She used some interesting techniques like latex and salt for a boily textured skin, and her character was really gross.  The judges liked the lower eye area.   Group one was safe for another week.

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The second group consisted of Kevon, Nora, Ben and Evan.  They linked the characters by having collars that Death held onto with chains.  This group held the best and worst looks of the week.

Kevon wanted a bacterial look to his idea of Pestilence.  This horseman would serve Death, and would have the key feature of a rotting, sore-like mouth.  He also wanted tendrils around the mouth, but was afraid it would look too alien.  Mr. Westmore agreed and told him to add boils.  While he did add the boils, Kevon also kept the tendrils.  It ended up being a little weird, and the judges thought they didn’t work with his story.  The obscure choices he made created what Ve called “the Goonies sloth and The Fly baby”.  He had too many ideas that didn’t work, and that put him in the bottom looks.

Nora would go for a skeletal Famine.  She had trouble once again with her sculpt and concept, but with some encouragement from Evan, and working out a cool barbed wire detail, she finally came up with something she liked.  This was also a favourite of mine, and the judges liked that her skillful paint job showed with the matching skin tones of both Famine’s face and body.  The barbed wire detail was used to wire the character’s mouth shut, which impressed the judges as well.  Neville loved the forms and textures, and Nora was in the top looks.

Ben went big with War.  He aimed for a Kevlar chest piece, and mapped it out with paper.  This would prove to be a huge time eater, especially with his time for painting.  He felt defeated, but didn’t give up even though the look was not what he envisioned.  He was disappointed and cringed when the judges inspected what he called a “total turd”.  They thought it looked too dry and too red, and even thought it wasn’t horrible, it lacked passion and clarity.  The poor decisions got him placed in the bottom looks.

Evan created a bare bone and muscle look for Death.  He wanted an interesting character and Mr. Westmore told him to look at his sculpting carefully.  He used vaccuform to create a mask that would reveal the skinless face once removed.  He tweaked his paint job and added a jelly for shine.  His risk with anatomy paid off.  Because it was treated with a graphic design approach, the judges loved his liberties with his facial sculpt.  The mask looked like metal due to his great paint job, and Glenn raved that Evan did exactly what the challenge called for:  a unique interpretation of the character.  He was in the top looks.

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The winner this week was Evan for his risky but gorgeous makeup.  The person going home was Kevon.  There was too much going on in his makeup and no presence of a terrifying horseman.  The judges would miss his high concept thinking and Kevon was pleased with how far he had come.  I can only see extreme weirdness (in a good way) for Kevon’s future.

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