In the interests of not falling hopelessly behind (these seven movie days are killer!), I’ll be brief:
Rampart (Oren Moverman)
Set in Los Angeles in 1999 and dealing with police corruption and brutality, this is exactly the sort of drama you would expect it to be. Harrelson is committed to a character that is barely more than swagger and debauchery. The script is something of a mess. It tries to incriminate every aspect of the Los Angeles justice system and the protagonist’s home life in an attempt to be comprehensive, but really it never gets below the surface. Ultimately, a very light, unsatisfying retread of Bad Lieutenant with no obsessive core to drive it.
Whore’s Glory (Michael Glawogger)
A triptych of depravity. Rarely have I wanted a shower after viewing a film more. Glawogger shows us sights here that most of us will never see, though he seems as interested in architectural spaces as the people who live in them. The whores all seem like individual personalities, so no sense of what constitutes a typical life in any of these places emerge. Indeed, the best information here is usually gleaned through a process of comparison between one whorehouse and the next. While the women in the Thai brothel “The Fishtank” seem reasonably well adjusted and even go out to hire “bar boys” after their shifts end, the young girls who work in the Bangladeshi “City of Joy” seem to have little but the avoidance of homelessness on their minds. Admittedly, I found myself grooving on the soundtrack from time to time, taking questionable aesthetic pleasure in what could only be described as sheer abjection.
Roman’s Circuit (Sebastian Braham)
I can tell that I’m in the minority in finding this one intriguing, but then again I am currently writing a thesis on French philosopher Henri Bergson’s theories on memory and perception, making me part of this talky film’s very narrow target audience. It’s a promising debut, at times recalling Shane Carruth’s Primer, due to its stylistic commitment to its theoretical underpinnings and its willingness to indulge in babble. The schtick in this drama set in academia is that memories, when recalled simultaneously, tend to bleed into one another. Braham uses this as an explanation for why our patterns of behavior repeat, and this makes for an interesting thesis, if not quite a powerful dramatic core (I literally felt no emotional involvement here whatsoever). Formally, this means the early scenes end with abrupt cuts while later scenes blend into one another without any cuts whatsoever. It’s intriguing stuff, even if it’s extremely dry, and it suggests that Braham is a potential talent to watch.
The Woman in the Fifth (Pawel Pawlikowski)
Not at all what I expected from the director of My Summer of Love and Last Resort, this comes across like a classier, less thrilling David Lynch film. In it, Ethan Hawke plays an American author who travels to Paris in hopes of reuniting with his estranged wife and child. Instead, he falls into relationships with two beautiful, dangerous women and hobnobs with Arabic gangsters. The style here relies heavily on translucent surfaces, out of focus images and reflections, giving the movie a dreamlike feel. The narrative is purposefully opaque, and never congeals into something that can be firmly interpreted, which is sure to frustrate some viewers. The Lynch comparison doesn’t do Pawlikowski many favors, given that his film is entirely too aimless and sedate to draw us in. Fine but forgettable.