Friday, 12 October 2012

Helter Skelter

It’s easy to say that a Japanese film; about an actress and model who’s attempting to keep her looks that have been given to her from plastic surgery, who is also an icon to a legion of schoolgirls, is plasticky and sometimes annoying. The film though does try to go deeper into the subject and to look at what this means to the individual, those that surround her and those in her fanbase.

The beauty in question is Lilicia, she makes women and girls swoon, men lust after her and makes a number of people realise her potential as a commodity. She’s about to embark on a film career, when she appears on a magazine cover the edition sells out, she’s at the top of her game. Although it’s speculated that her plastic surgery will fail and that she will fall apart. It’s here that the film explores the psychology as well as the physical nature of what happens to her. When her looks begin to fail she starts to lose her grip on reality and hallucinate. I suppose really that reality went when she changed her looks and effectively became another person.

The trouble with psychological dramas is that they can become overwrought. This is especially true when a character is portrayed in having major problems distinguishing reality and fantasy. There is as well the thought that the people that are talked about in this film don’t inhabit the real world anyway. That the talent, as it were, have their ego massaged by those around them and that they may have been protected from certain truths and that when these truths coalesce and build up the end can come as a nasty shock. On the balance though the film could have been far more annoying than it was, I just couldn’t bring myself to like it very much though.

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Killing Them Softly

There are gangster films that talk about the social impact of crime. Often you can see how crime affects the family life of criminals and victims alike. Killing Them Softly does this differently by linking what politicians say with what criminals and gangsters do. At the beginning of the film we’re shown a billboard of McCain and Obama, this places the film in 2008 and the election that happened during that years massive economic downturn.
The film continues to punctuate the story with speeches made by the then President Bush and the then leading contender Obama. Are they saying that politicians are criminals? The filmmakers may be saying that what criminals say, to each other about the crimes they commit and the deals they make, is similar to the promises made by politicians to the electorate.
The story is concerned with two men hired by another man to hold up a card game and steal all their money. The thing is that this has happened before and that it was actually previously masterminded by the man running the game, Ray Liotta. He’d confessed to this while drunk once, luckily not to anyone that had been robbed. Anyway they steal they hold the game and steal the money. Unfortunately word of this gets out to the next layer up or down of the underworld, whichever way you want to look at it.
This leads to Richard Jenkins having to manage the situation, using Brad Pitt and James Gandolfini. Managing the situation by third person involves very violent methods. It also leads to some situations not panning out the way they had been expected to and other situations developing. Brad Pitt's mode of work explains the title, he it seems is a thinking and feeling hitman. He likes to kill his targets softly. As softly as repeatedly shooting them, but he doesn't like to know his victims he doesn't what his job to be too difficult. To an extent there is an irony there, as is the soundtrack. It's full of American classics and standards and it doesn't include the song you'd expect it to.
What we end up with then is a well written and well acted tale of modern America. It is set at the scene of one of George W Bush’s greatest defeats where the sea half destroyed the city and he didn’t act on it. Amidst all of this devastation is where this bunch of criminals try and make as much money as they can from each other by fair means or foul, usually foul. When it all goes wrong we find that they will blame each other and take action against those who have failed.