Thursday, May 9, 2013

30 Countries Parts 8 - 10 (Surveillance/Children of Glory/Little Red Flowers)

Surveillance (2008) Dir. Jennifer Lynch

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Part 8 of the 30 Countries project.

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

Enjoyable enough drama/thriller from the daughter of David Lynch. Lazily referred to as a sick and twisted Rashomon by some reviewers, both with a positive and negative intention. This is nothing like Rashomon in terms of structure, style or content. In the aftermath of a murder in a small town in America two FBI agents question three witnesses who tell the story of the same events from completely different points of view. That sounds like Rashomon I grant you but the approach towards the idea taken by Lynch will not bring Kurosawa to mind in the slightest.

She builds atmosphere from the start and presents some interesting Jim Thompson-esque cops, a basic horror movie family on a road trip complete with creepy child and a young couple with the prerequisite quirk of being crackheads, their stories told in voice over as the events unfold in flashback, slowly building to a dramatic if predictable ending. It bears more similarity to 70s grindhouse (including colour palette) than it does to anything else.

There's nothing too special about the film except perhaps the performance of Pullman & Ormond as the investigating agents or even Stewart & Harper as the cops, both pairings might have been enough to carry an entire movie with a stronger script but the major flaw of the film is that it tries too hard to be too many things and therefore doesn't do anything beyond averagely.

There's too much fake intrigue, too many red herrings, not enough Michael Ironside and not enough depth to the characters to make it work. Overall disappointing considering how much it got right.

Children of Glory (2006) Dir. Krisztina Goda 

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Part 9 of the 30 Countries project.

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

Hungarian made for Hungarian people, a film to memorialise the brave men and women who fought back against Communist oppression in 1956 only to be left to die by the West as Soviet Russia returned to destroy the uprising. There's little in the way of explanation for those of us uneducated on the subject but nevertheless it's an interesting wartime biopic with an Olympic showdown sub-plot which allowed the distributors to use the marketing phrase "Lives of Others meets Chariots of Fire!" Co-starring Sandor Csanyi from Kontroll who has now become my most watched Hungarian actor working in their native language, the ensemble cast all put in good performances and the script, rather bizarrely penned by Joe Eszterhas of Showgirls, Flashdance and Basic Instinct fame, does a good job of keeping enough detail in whilst keeping the final product under two hours.

We were recently in Budapest and learned quite a lot about the various revolutions and some of the horrors perpetrated by the Russian regime, they are stories that deserved to be told to as many people around the world as possible so that these people can be remembered and these acts might never be repeated. For that reason alone you should seek out this movie.

Little Red Flowers (2006) Dir. Yuan Zhang

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Part 10 of the 30 Countries project.

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

Quite intriguingly this Chinese film looking at the uniformity of their preferred society in an undefined period post 1949, could have been classed as an Italian picture. The vagaries of modern film funding.

Much can be said about the strength of the child performers throughout, it is from a child's perspective that we see the magic of the world used for Communist gains afterall, without strong performances this would have been quite dreadful. As it is however they are perfect examples of children; constantly screaming, screeching, moaning, whinging, crying, grizzling and generally giving me a headache. Nope, I'm still not ready for fatherhood.

It's beautifully filmed and I can see exactly why such a big fuss was made of its premiere on British TV several years ago when I first saw clips from it (and have had it recorded and unwatched ever since) but I have a heart of stone and it just didn't effect me the way it is intended to and the way others surely were.

If you're not as cold and hard to the beauty of childlike wonder as I am you may well have a great time with this one.


  1. Surveillance sounds the most interesting, so I might give it a look.

    1. Oh absolutely worth seeing if you like that kind of thing. Try not to compare to her father though.