Archive for the ‘Binoy Kampmark’ Category

DVD: The Last Station
Blu-ray: The Last Station

Vague, Passionate and Erratic: The Last Station

by Binoy Kampmark

“Tomorrow, I’ll go to the station and lie down on the track. Tolstoy’s wife becomes Anna Karenina herself. See how the papers will like that!”
Countess Sofya (Helen Mirren) to Leon Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer), The Last Station (2009)

In Michael Hoffman’s The Last Station, a portrayal over the last days of Leo Tolstoy’s life and a battle over the disposition of his estate and copyright to his works, politics and personalities clash. The wily aide and pejoratively labelled ‘catamite’ Chertkov (Paul Giamatti), who sees himself as more Tolstoyan than Tolstoy (Christopher Plummer), faces off with Countess Sofya (Helen Mirren) over how the great author shall share his legacy. Everyone seems to be scribbling notes in an effort to record the last days of an era. Be it doctor or secretary, the latter played by James McAvoy, there is a furious relaying of all that is said, irrespective of how noteworthy it might actually be. ‘In the beginning, there was the word…’

Parts of this effort by Hoffman are barely believable, though it all comes down to what viewers are expecting. Reviewers have found the scene when Countess Sofya’s desperate attempt to woo Tolstoy with the lines ‘I’m your chicken, you be my big cock!’ desperate and cringe worthy. Tim Roby of The Telegraph (Feb 18), is merely being cranky, though he is right to point out that the carnival, stage element never quite escapes this film. For many, that will be a more than sufficient digestive. Something might have been made about the black and white footage that is shown at the end of the film, featuring a Christ-like Tolstoy engaging in his labours. We are left wondering.

Bad Lieutenant
DVD: Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans
Blu-ray: Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans

Review: The Bad Lieutenant
by Binoy Kampmark

The Very Bad Lieutenant

When asked at a press conference in Rome in June last year on what he thought about Werner Herzog’s The Bad Lieutenant: Port of Call New Orleans, Abel Ferrara could barely contain himself. ‘I think that if they don’t have any original ideas about what movies to make, they should leave mine alone.’ This, regarding his own film from 1992 featuring Harvey Keitel as the drug addled, corrupt member of the New York Police force with an onerous sense of Catholic guilt.

District 9

DVD: District 9 (Two-Disc Edition)
Blu-ray: District 9

See also:

District 9 (2009)
District 9 (2009) – Sci Fi Action With Brains and Soul
District 9 (2009) – Science Fiction of the Now

District 9 & Sci-Fi Politics
Binoy Kampmark

A sci-fi B-Film that punches above its weight. So argued Anthony Quinn of The Independent (Sep 4, 2009) on the South African spectacular District 9, directed by Neill Blomkamp. Certainly, it is a refreshing change from such overly done efforts as the Transformers series and Terminator with their tedious super effect twaddle that does little to inspire. Nor will viewers be left wondering about the special effects in this production – Peter Jackson made sure he peppered this work with a fair assortment of them.

The White Ribbon

DVD: The White Ribbon
The Vicious Countryside: Haneke’s The White Ribbon

by Binoy Kampmark

Arthur Conan Doyle found the English countryside seething with potential criminality. His sleuth creation of Sherlock Holmes was never deceived by the tranquil image of the country retreat and escape from the industrialized centre. London, with its bustle, filth and squalor, was a far more decent option. One finds the same theme repeated in such writers as John Mortimer, who only ever lets his famed advocate Rumpole venture out into the country occasionally for a brief. All tend to end badly. Cynicism towards country life, dominated by casual cruelties and sudden death, is ever present.

This case is brilliantly depicted in Michael Haneke’s black and white The White Ribbon (Das weisse Band), a portrait of a north German village in 1913. The narrator (Ernst Jacobi), who is also a teacher (Christian Friedel) resident in that village during the crucial years, speaks of various mysteries that affected its inhabitants. An attempt is seemingly made on the village doctor’s (Rainer Bock) life through tripping his horse by a wire that is mysteriously removed. The wife of the farmer is killed in an accident. Two children, including one with Down syndrome (Eddy Grahl), are found abused in the woods. The estate barn is burned down; and the cabbage crop destroyed. The police are eventually called in, but they are incapable of making sense of it.

Broken Embraces

Sacred Memories: Almodóvar’s Broken Embraces

by Binoy Kampmark

Pedro Almodóvar is a treasure of the screen, supremely sensitive to surfaces, characters, and the workings of the cinema itself. His devotion to the craft is unmistakable, demonstrated by constant hints, persistent allusions to past greats, and the mechanics of filmmaking.

On Invictus (2009)

Posted: December 16, 2009 in Binoy Kampmark
Tags: , ,


Invictus: Dreams and Realities
Column: Binoy Kampmark

I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul
William Ernest Henley, ‘Invictus’ (1875)

When the Springboks, South Africa’s famed rugby team, returned to the international fold after decades of isolation, suggestions were made to change the name. Drop the label and jersey, went the cry, those hated symbols and reminders of apartheid. Embrace, instead, the emblem of the floral protea. But the Boks were spared by the sagacious and calculating President Nelson Mandela. A traumatized nation had to be healed, and rugby might well assist in that enterprise. Clint Eastwood’s Invictus, based on John Carlin’s account in Playing the Enemy, is a narration on the subject.

The Men Who Stare At Goats (2009)

Posted: December 3, 2009 in Binoy Kampmark
Tags: ,

Men Who Stare At Goats

When men do stare at goats
by Binoy Kampmark

Your wives are back at home having sex with Bart Simpson and Burt Reynolds.”
-Iraqi Propaganda leaflet, to American soldiers in the 1991 Gulf War.

There is a line at the start of Grant Heslov’s The Men Who Stare at Goats: ‘More of this is true than you would believe.’ The line is off putting – what is, or isn’t true? The audience is none the wiser, and the traces to the original book from 2004 by Jon Ronson by that name are left vague.

Military men are as superstitious as any other, hiding behind the veneer of scientific dogma and vast, mechanized schedules for killing and maiming. But when it comes down to it, do these lethal practitioners know any better than the sagacious shaman?

DVD: Katyn

The Struggle Against Forgetting
Analysis by Binoy Kampmark

The Polish novelist Witold Gombrowicz writes somewhere that history has taught the Poles what it means to not exist. ‘Deprived of a state, they lived for over a century on death row.’ The nature of this historical erasure, this perennial placement in a purgatory seemingly without end, is captured in Katyń, the haunting tribute of Andrzej Wajda to the murder of 15,000 Polish officers in the forest bearing that name between April and May 1940. The proposal to do so had come from the Soviet People’s Commissar of Domestic Affairs, Levrenty Beria. Their murder had an obvious tactical object: the elimination of any functioning intelligentsia that might resist Soviet efforts to incorporate Poland’s eastern territories after the invasion.

Continue Reading…