All posts tagged taboo

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

Published April 21, 2017 by vfdpixie


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.

Womb: How to Nurture Obsession

Published May 27, 2013 by vfdpixie


Womb (2010, 1 hr 51 mins)

Wow!  I just watch a real mind bender.  As slow-moving as it was, Womb really eases you into a weird world of love, loss and yes, cloning.

In the not-so-distant future, a young Rebecca (Ruby O. Fee) meets a young Tommy (Tristan Christopher) during a stay at her Grandpa’s beach town home.  They become fast friends, running around a bleak beach side, until Rebecca has to move to Japan with her mother.  Tommy misses her send off at the ferry, and the two lose contact.  12 years later, Rebecca (Eva Green) returns to the town, and searches for Tommy (Dr. Who’s Matt Smith).  She finds him, and they quickly rekindle their friendship, much to the chagrin of Tommy’s new lover, Rose (Natalia Tena who plays Osha on Game of Thrones).  Their bond lasted over the years and they start a romance that is abruptly ended when Tommy is run down in a car accident.

Rebecca is distraught and comes up with a unique way to preserve Tommy’s memory.  After an initial objection by Tommy’s parents, they give their blessing and DNA, and she prepares to carry a cloned embryo of her lost love.   Her pregnancy is cocooned with a smug serenity, and after the birth, she raises Tommy-2 with the same protective ownership that she exhibited as a little girl when they were friends.  Cloning is not a received method of procreation however, and once her secret is revealed by a disgruntled Rose, who had seen Rebecca at the cloning lab, Rebecca is ostracized by the town’s mothers.  She retreats to an isolated beach cottage, and they live in relative seclusion until Tommy-2 becomes a young man.  Rebecca’s love has been defined until now, and the lines between maternal love and passion become blurred and distorted.  Tommy-2 brings home the giggly Monica (Hannah Murray), and they live with Rebecca; her watchful eye smouldering with jealousy as Tommy-2 enjoys young love.  Her obsessive love starts to worry Monica, and when Tommy-2’s grandmother/mother shows up unannounced, things fall apart.

From the handful of reviews I browsed, Womb got more pans than praise, but I actually liked this slow-moving, quiet film.  It reminded me of another movie that crossed the taboo line, Birth with Nicole Kidman; the story of  a woman who is lead to believe her husband is reincarnated in a 12 year old boy.  They were both eerie and made you wrap your head around notions of what is acceptable and what is considered sanity and selfish obsession.  I liked the subtle science fiction slant to Womb.  It wasn’t the only focus of the film, allowing the “what if?” aspect of cloning, lost love and the consequences to take the forefront.  I imagine that in the real world, this situation would have been banned by some sort of ethics or incest law, but it brings to question:  Was she just a womb, a mother, or a caretaker raising her lost love?

Hungarian director Benedek Fliegauf was criticized for the lack of dialogue in the film (perhaps this was because it was his first film in English), but I felt the cast had the talent to convey emotion and the mood of each scene without much talk.  Matt Smith was brilliant as Tommy/Tommy-2 and it was great to see his range of acting aside from the quirky Doctor Who. I loved how Smith played up Tommy-2 almost remembering things but not quite, like the first Tommy’s memory still lingered in his DNA.  Eva Green played Rebecca with this subtle, creeping turmoil that reveals itself little-by-little.  My only issue with her character was the fact that she did not age that much.  Was this because in the future, aging is conquered? This point was never addressed.  I also liked Ruby O. Fee who played the young Rebecca.  She really captured the obsessiveness with young Tommy that carried through to adulthood.  She actually gave me the creeps a few times, especially when she watched young Tommy sleeping.

While not for everyone and not the perfect film, Womb is worth a watch for the slow burn creepy/eerie atmosphere and story that distorts the norms of love, science and sanity.

Most Memorable Line (and Scene):  Young Tommy-2 plays with  his “mother” Rebecca and they chase each other until young Tommy-2 wrestles her to the ground, holding her down.  “Now I can do whatever I want to you”, he says in a weird, menacing way, and Rebecca replies, “Go ahead…”, looking meaningfully into his eyes.  Yeah, that’s not creepy.   Not at all.

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burke –verb (used with object), burked, burk·ing. to murder, as by suffocation, so as to sell the corpse to medical science

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