#339- Taste of Cherry

Quick recap: A man drives around town, looking for someone to make sure he carries out his job of committing suicide.

I can’t understate the amount of driving in this film.

Fun (?) fact: The director shot each character separately in the car. First he would film the passenger and then the driver.

still more driving

My thoughts: Honestly, I’m having the worst time trying what to say about this film. Would I recommend to others?No. Does it at least redeem itself somehow with music, good acting or a beautiful scenery? Also no. But still, this movie resonated with me in a way I wasn’t expecting. I’ve found myself drifting back to various scenes throughout my day and wondering if I’m just reading too much into something. I probably am. Scratch that. I definitely am. But that’s how film works, sometimes. So for that reason, I’ll attempt to give an honest run down of my thoughts and hold off on the sarcasm you have come to know and love. Shit’s about to get real, yo.

Let’s just get this out of the way first: I get that Taste of Cherry is boring. And not just boring, mind numbingly boring. A man drives around and picks up various passengers and then begs them to help bury him once he commits suicide. It goes about the way you would expect it to. One man runs out of the truck in fear, another admonishes the man for entertaining the thought of such a sin and the third man tries to talk him out of it. And at the end, the man lays down into the hole he dug for himself and watches a storm gather over head. It is never resolved whether or not he goes through with it. It wasn’t until I had finished the movie and started reading trivia that it dawned on me why I felt so uncomfortable throughout the whole thing: It’s because this is my life most days. With depression, my number one feeling most of the time is one of isolation. It doesn’t matter how many people I talk to or text with, I still feel alone. As mentioned before, the director chose to film conversations separately and the result is a disjointed dialogue I am all too familiar with. The main character desperately needs help but it’s as if he isn’t being understood, as if he is operating on a different level. I try not to dwell too much on unhappiness but seeing these scenes played out like they were, made me come to terms with feelings I’ve never been able to put into words until now.

The last scene is the most jarring for me. As the man lays down in his hole, the screen fades to black. The next scene is somewhat blurry and out of focus, as if someone was filming on a hand held camera. The main character is standing in a field, smoking a cigarette. He walks over to some men carrying cameras and they joke about something. Everyone is smiling. In the distance, on a beautiful green hill sit a group of soldiers. They are waiting for their part and take the time to talk to each other and laugh. I found out later the director wanted a different ending but the shots were destroyed and so he just threw in a ‘behind the scenes’ shot. But for me, this was the perfect ending. I grapple everyday with perspective and spend most of my time trying to convince myself that what I think probably isn’t true. The whole movie is set in what looks to be a desert but in reality, it was a lush green field. The main character was lonely and on the brink of suicide and left to beg for companionship when the reality was that the actor was very much loved. Like the title, A Taste of Cherry, there is always the hope that there is something out there to live for, something to cling to. And maybe reality isn’t as dark as one makes it out to be.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: The Wrestler

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#338-Heat

Quick recap: A group of robbers feel the HEAT from the police while the police feel the HEAT from the robbers. Bystanders feel the HEAT from the massive shootout. I felt the HEAT from Val Kilmer’s long luxurious locks.

It’s possible to be underdressed but never overdressed. Even to a shootout.

Fun (?)fact: Actor Kevin Gage, who plays Waingro in the film was imprisoned in real life for a couple of years. Naturally, all the inmates referred to him as ‘Waingro’.

Honestly, the best part of the movie.

My thoughts: I was told by a friend that I had to be in the ‘right mood’ to enjoy this film, so I waited until a Saturday night when I was in the mood for lots of murder. Unfortunately, maybe I misread my own signals because I just didn’t fall in love with Heat like I thought I would.

All the ingredients are there: a stellar cast, top notch directing, a fast moving plot. Really, I can’t think of anything else I would want more in a movie. And yet, I just didn’t really care for it. At a basic level, I failed to care about any of the characters, so when one of them evaded police or when the police got closer to catching the bad guys, I remained meh. I thoroughly enjoyed Al Pacino’s performance as Vincent Hanna but just couldn’t bring myself to really care about his character. I felt like Robert De Niro as Neil had much more depth, but if we are being honest here, the goatee really bothered me. Something about it just screamed ,’this is the 90s and don’t you forget it!’ and I didn’t. Even the music was so 90s- a cross between every heist movie from that time period and the kind of music you would find on Showtime at 2 in the morning back then.

To take a bit of the blame here, I spent way more time trying to figure out what the con was, rather than focus on the relationships. At its heart, this is what makes Heat so powerful. No just the symbiotic relationship between Neil and Vincent, but all the relationships between the characters. One scene in particular really drove this home. All of the gang got together at a swanky restaurant and brought their significant others as well as a few children. Neil sat at the head of the table, looking around and feeling sorry for himself that he didn’t have someone special to share the night with. But to go to a deeper point, all of these men were in a dangerous profession and in fact, cops were watching their every move as they dined together. There was this impact point when I realized that every single person at that table was about to have their life ruined in some way. It brought to mind the whole idea of choices and at what point our choices become another person’s destiny. So, to that effect, I totally get this movie and it’s importance. But I still don’t like the goatee.

Final review: 4/5

Up next: Taste of Cherry

#329- Three Kings

Quick recap: Set during the Persian Gulf War, a group of military men head out on a rogue mission to find gold.

It’s Maeby from Arrested Development!

Fun (?) fact: I’m just going to quote this straight from the IMDb trivia page:

During the editing stages, David O. Russell attended a fund raiser for George W. Bush at a Warner Brothers executive’s house. Russell walked up to Bush and said, “Hi, I’m editing a film that will question your father’s legacy in Iraq.” Bush shot back, “Well I guess I’m going to have to go back there and finish the job.”

Yeah.

The man sure can dodge a shoe though

My thoughts: War is hell, you guys. Yadda yadda yadda. If you watch Three Kings like I did, though, you’ll become jaded towards all things war. I’ve never considered myself a pacifist but this movie had me questioning all sorts of things- like, what really is the point of war? Is it ever really necessary? And who can we trust to keep things in line? Let me tell you something, an existential crisis was not what I had planned for the holiday break.

Despite the snazzy script and slick cinematography, Three Kings is fairly scathing look the Gulf War. Casting the likes of George Clooney, Ice Cube and Mark Wahlberg makes it seem like this is a buddy heist romp, but it’s actually a complicated story. The beginning of the film, which is set at the end of the war, plays out like I imagined it really did- a bunch of confused but happy 18 year olds quick to pat themselves on the back for a job well done even though they didn’t do much. I was put off by the careless attitudes of the three kings (even though it’s really 4 guys) as they started out on their journey, although I knew that was the point- to show that no one really understood what was going on. By the end of the film, everyone learns a valuable lesson about war being hell and so on but it was frustrating how many lives were lost before that point hit home.

I think my main issue with the movie was George Clooney’s character Archie Gates. He has a Bugs Bunny quality about him- always one step ahead and a scheme to get out of trouble. I think I was supposed to cheer for him and the men but I just couldn’t. I know they did the right thing in the end but there was so much that was wrong to get to that point. It just showed how flawed the system is. And I think what taints this movie more is that 4 years after Three Kings was released, we were back in Iraq dealing with the mess we left. War isn’t just hell. It’s bullshit.

Final review: 2/5. Kept my attention but disagreed with almost everything else.

Up next: Amarcord

#317- Audition

Quick recap: A director uses the audition process to find an actor for his film as well as a wife. What he gets instead is a big ball of crazy.

Crazy, yes, but also really talented at torture, so points for that

Fun(?) fact: That was totally actress Eihi Shiina’s (Asami’s) throw up given to the prisoner. IMDb says she’s a method actress but I’m going to double down on ‘big ball of crazy’.

My thoughts: As with every Horrorfest, my goal is always to find the movie that scares me most. Being an adult, it’s hard to latch on to anything creepy these days. I’m more likely to freak out about whether I paid a bill on time than if there is a ghost haunting my house. Then again, the other day I walked into my bedroom to find my cat meowing at the wall and it scared me so much I just walked back downstairs. So, where does Audition fall on Mary’s Spectrum of Horrors? I’d say it’s scarier than a wind turbine (seriously, those things are so unnerving) but not as scary as my child silently walking down the stairs with an astronaut helmet on at 6 in the morning.

There were definitely parts of Audition that stuck with me and I thought the film itself was gorgeous, in that ‘someone’s about to get murdered’ way, but I can’t say it was enough to keep my interest for long. I was really surprised by how normal everything seemed in the beginning and I admit to be lulled into a false since of security. But then unnerving information started coming to the surface and soon it was just all out crazy. I don’t want to reveal much because I think that’s the film’s best quality: surprise.

Two elements of the film keep me from giving it a higher rating- the over the top torture, and the explanation as to why the woman turned out the way she did. For some people, these elements are what make the movie so fascinating and scary but personally, it detracted from what I was looking for.

Final review:3/5. Not a strong start to Horrorfest but there are several days left in the month! The search continues.

Up next: more Horrorfest!