Monday, May 6, 2013

30 Countries Parts 2 - 4 (Girlfriend Experience/Tears For Sale/Alice In The Cities)

The Girlfriend Experience by Steven Soderbergh (2009)

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Part 2 of the 30 Countries project.

For the purposes of this project this movie is classed as at least partially being of American origin as per its listing on imdb.

The thing that really bugs me about the general response to this film is that it is entirely ludicrous. Just because Sasha Grey happily makes pornography why should you expect to see her fucking people in a low budget, almost mumblecore in its aims, Steven Soderbergh movie? Sure you can blame the marketing and distribution team for raising expectations that could never be met but me theory is that if you want pornography head to the pornography section of the video store not the new releases.

That complaint aside I found this a relatively enjoyable experience. Sasha Grey is a better actor than you might expect from a non-actor even though she doesn't have to do much, but she's certainly better than a lot of the people roped in to other low budget American features. Soderbergh's direction is the most interesting aspect of the entire piece, the way he uses the camera is nearly always a masterclass and this experiment is no different. The juxtaposition of the prostitute and the capitalists who pay her isn't exactly subtle but I enjoyed it nonetheless.

Tears For Sale by Uros Stojanovic (2008)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Part 3 of the 30 Countries project.

For the purposes of this project this movie is classed as at least partially being of Serbian origin as per its listing on imdb.

Tears For Sale, also known as Charleston & Vendetta, is a magical realist tale of love and death. The loose plot centres on two sisters who are sent to find a new man for their village after they accidentally killed the old one.

Using beautiful visuals, absurd situations, humour, symbolism & dozens of metaphors and surrealism the director Uros Stojanovic seems to be channelling the visual flair and storytelling methods of Jeunet & Caro and Terry Gilliam (as mentioned by almost everyone who has seen this movie I'm sure) amongst others to discuss the absurdity of war and almost certainly whole other aspects of Serbian history that you'd probably have to be Serbian to fully comprehend.

But you don't have to be Serbian to appreciate fine movie making, which this film most certainly is.
This is my first discovery of the 30 Country Challenge, thanks to Berken for encouraging this exploration, without you I might not have searched my library database for Serbian cinema.

Alice in the Cities by Wim Wenders (1974)

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Part 4 of the 30 Countries project.

For the purposes of this project this movie is classed as at least partially being of West German origin as per its listing on imdb.

A slow moving road trip movie from the early career of Wim Wenders. A German struggling to write an article about America, lost in the overpowering nature of its size, neon lights and wall to wall noise of TV and radio is left caring for a young girl. Their trip takes them from New York to Amsterdam to Wuppertal via multiple methods of transport and in true road movie fashion they learn about themselves and each other as they go.

I found the similarities to early Jarmusch and Godard to be very interesting, and the early appearance of themes and styles that Wenders would go on to use throughout his career make it a worthwhile watch for film scholars much in the same way that Permanent Vacation works for Jarmusch.
Already having an appreciation for the director made this an easier viewing experience than it might be for somebody coming at this type of cinema for the first time. It can be hypnotic in its melancholy if you choose to let it and the documentary/verite approach towards cinematography gives the trip an extra sense of reality almost like a travelogue which helps to suspend disbelief of the subject matter.


  1. Interesting group of films. The Girlfriend Experience is on my watchlist, and I'm adding Alice in the Cities, as I like road trip movies.

    1. Early Wenders is always worth watching, this one was part of something called "Road Movie Trilogy" in the boxset I rented. There are two other early road movies included. Apparently more highly thought of than this one too.

      This challenge/project is throwing up an interesting watching order, namely whatever one I feel like picking up from the stack and then reviewing. It shall continue in random groups of three I imagine.