Stranded somewhere in the Ardennes after his van breaks down, Marc Stevens (Laurent Lucas “Harry He’s Here To Help”), a travelling cabaret singer, is taken in by a kindly inn keeper who offers to fix his van and give him shelter for the night. But the motivation for the innkeeper’s kind actions soon changes from altruism to a fervent desire to prevent his new guest from ever leaving. The thing is Marc reminds the lonely inn-keeper of his long-lost wife. Before Marc knows it, his van is sabotaged and he is stranded. But this is only the start of his ordeal and what follows has to be seen to be believed… “The Ordeal” (aka “Calvaire”) delivers a terrifying and darkly comic tale of obsession, kidnap, and borderline psychosis that brings to mind films such as “Deliverance”, “Straw Dogs” and “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, but that has a continental flavour very much its own.
2004 – Certificate: 18 – Rating Details: Strong bloody violence – Belgium Film – 5.0 out of 10
I don’t drink a lot of wine; (except ginger wine, but I’m not sure that really counts). I don’t know a lot about it either. I know it comes in three colours, bottles or boxes, sometimes it’s fizzy and in France they feed babies with it, but other than that… So imagine my surprise when I sat down on Friday evening and found myself drinking an excellent 2004, organic Merlot from the Central Valley of Chile. (Actually I bought it from Majestic Wines in Reading a number of years ago, due to my misunderstanding its rules about having to buy at least 12 bottles at a time; but you know what I mean.) I think I probably selected it based on four things; it was organic, it was vegan, it wasn’t from France and it was strong (14% vol). That’s basically how I select wine; although do generally prefer rosé wine because I can put it in the fridge and drink it cold, without the wine police raiding my home; and it’s a more interesting colour than white wine. I’m not especially a fan of red wine, but this was actually pretty nice. I’d had it laid down in my wine cellar for nearly ten years. (I don’t like to brag, but my personal wine cellar is a small rack I bought from Argos that sits on the bottom shelf of a bookcase in my hall.) I actually had to wipe all the dust off the bottle before opening it. Along with the bollocks written on the label and the lack of a hangover the next day, that pretty well demonstrates just how authentically high-quality it really was. In fact it was nice enough for me to finish off the whole bottle on my own whilst watching this film. With hindsight, it’s probably just as well, as this movie was a bit like the wine bottle’s label.
Well, this was all a bit rubbish. Weirdly, it seems to have a number of fans at IMDB, but really, it’s not very good. For a start it’s not funny. The sleeve says it is but it isn’t, unless it’s being ironic and we’re supposed to laugh at it because it’s so bad. The continuity is dreadful. Perhaps I’m missing something here, but to me it just looked like the weather changed from shot to shot; in one case from no snow at all to a thick layer of snow on the ground, in the middle of a chase. I’m sure dealing with weather is a nightmare for filmmakers, but most seem to manage. I didn’t find any of the characters the least bit sympathetic, not even the victim, although I think that was intentional; the guy was a stupid, boring wuss and his singing was crap too. There were just too many random incidents that really don’t go anywhere or explain anything. And at times the editing was more jarring than dropping to sub-light speed; (probably, as I’ve not actually done the latter, yet). Maybe I’m being a bit mean. Some of the cinematography is actually very impressive, the acting decent and the bizarre dance the guys do in the pub was nearly worth it for the wtf moment it provides. But no, actually I’m not. It’s entertaining in its own way, but I preferred my bottle of wine.
This movie has a very space soundtrack, very sparse. I guess what there is of it works well.
The trailer makes the film look a lot more horrific, a lot faster and more action packed than it really is.
Movie Weather Forecast. Heavy rain, followed by entirely random sunny spells, snow and rain showers, with the latter sometimes settling and sometimes melting very, very quickly, before suddenly coming back again. Cold at all times, but not so cold that a thin jumper won’t keep you warm enough.
Recommended for inn-keepers, cabaret singers and farmers.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? This is a movie with far too many arbitrary happenings in it, but credit where credit’s due. The random dance by the guys in the village pub is completely inexplicable, creepy and downright weird. Somehow (and I can’t really explain why), that makes it pretty badass.
I’m a bit fragile today. I got ‘dragged around’ the Ashmolean Museum (of art and archaeology) in Oxford yesterday. After two hours of looking at random bits of broken china in glass cases, bent bits of metal in more glass cases and portraits of people I’ve never heard of in rooms hotter and drier than the Sahara, I had a desperate need to ‘refresh’ myself in one of Oxford’s fine alehouses, to recover from this ordeal. The museum was interesting enough, if you like that sort of thing, but when someone says “painting” to me, it’s normally a spot of DIY that comes to mind; and if I see bits of broken pottery, I tend to swear a bit and get a brush to sweep up the broken mug I’ve just dropped. Neither of these things featured very heavy at the Ashmolean, although I did see a pound note; it’s amazing how quickly you forget about these things. My joke about giving all the old Greek coins there back to Greece as it might find them useful now, fell on somewhat stony ground too. I don’t suppose I’ll be allowed back in there anyway, as the person I was with first got told off for carrying her bag on her back (they don’t like small rucksacks in museums, in case you turn around and trash something with it); then one of her shoes developed a really loud squeak, which in a museum of ‘quiet stuff’ probably annoyed just about everyone there. Yes, I needed to recover afterwards; it was all way too exciting for me. I don’t think I’ve got that drunk for a long time and I’m trying not to remember what my companion for this adventure did in the middle of the high street in Oxford on the way back to the station; thank goodness it was dark. For the first time in my life ever, I also managed to leave my mobile phone on the seat in the train when I got back to Reading, but fortunately some community minded spirit saw it and ran after me to return it; what a nice guy! So what’s all that got to do with this film? Well, there’s a couple of scenes in it (including the first) where some small figurines are featured, which later get broken; if that had happened to them 3,000 years ago they might have ended up in the Ashmolean Museum. It also features a conversation about a mobile phone too. Yes, it’s tenuous, I know.
2006 – Certificate: 15 – USA
Rating Details: Strong sex and language
This is a great and rather cleverly written and acted drama, a real train-crash of a story, (as subtlety portrayed in the trailer). Plenty of dysfunctional families and individuals. Kate Winslet having sex. A dark and depressing story. Yep, all boxes ticked. Just as well really, as it clocks in at 131 minutes. Discover what goes on in the dull lives of a bunch of reasonably well-off people dissatisfied with their existence and relationships. For a fairly mainstream Hollywood film, it does manage a high WTF quota too, which is good. The ending is a bit inexplicable, but does sort of make sense in terms of the story and provides some suitable closure to things. Yes, it’s well worth watching, even though it doesn’t have any aliens or explosions in it. (I realise that this is a somewhat dull paragraph, but I’m struggling a bit today with basic things, like thinking.)
Recommended for people who like intelligent, great films. It’s as simple as that.
No cats and no decapitations.
Top badass moment? Larry overcoming his own problems and his hatred of pervert Ronnie. Okay, so first Larry had to all but to kill Ronnie’s mother and then the latter castrate himself before he managed to do this, but I suppose he got there in the end. Overcoming deeply held prejudices is badass; and generally a very good thing too.