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.
In this debut feature written and directed by Iranian born Babak Jalali, “Frontier Blues” features four, intertwined stories all set in Iran’s northern frontier with Turkmenistan, a region that has long been neglected in Iranian cinema, interesting not only for its magnificent, forlorn landscape but also for its multi-ethnic population of Persians, Turkmens and Kazakhs. Featuring non-professional actors from the northern region of Iran, Jalali’s film looks at fragments of the everyday existence of a varied collection of characters from the region.
2009 – Certificate: 12 – Iranian Film
Rating Details: One use of strong language and a moderate sex reference
7.0 out of 10
Although I frequently do nothing at work for weeks at a time (except procrastinate), I occasionally have to do something. This is normally something which I can’t delegate downwards or pass the buck upwards. Yesterday was one of those days. I had to complete a funding application. I’d known it’d need doing for the last month or so, but it was only yesterday that I did much about it, as it had a 17:00 deadline. I’d had a quick look at it the day before and decided that it wasn’t a lot of work; why I believe myself when I think something like that I’ll never know, but somehow I always do. So yesterday I found myself having to do some real work for a change. Now, there are people who actually do this sort of thing as their full time job and some of them actually seem to enjoy it. I lack the intelligence, focus and strength of character to be like that. I see it as a necessary evil that allows me to lead the decadent lifestyle that I do. No one should be forced to write funding applications; it’s only one step up from begging in the street. Like writing poetry or songs, funding bids come from the heart; they’re not something that can be forced out of someone. In my case they’re dragged screaming and kicking from my very soul, before being nakedly spread-eagled across the page for all to gawp at, pointing and laughing as they do so, as if I was exposing a very private part of me, which in a way I am. Being forced to write a funding bid is like being forced to love someone. Of course I enjoy getting that follow up letter that contains the word “congratulations”, but most of the time they just say “I’m sorry to inform you”. Writing funding bids is like asking someone out, and I’m crap at that too. (You work yourself up for ages to do it and then it all comes out wrong.) I’m just not thick skinned enough to take the rejection and it sends me into a subconscious mire of desolation and self-loathing. I still haven’t got over asking Debbie Warby out in 1977 and getting turned down; I only wanted to go and see “Star Wars” too. I never did see it at the cinema; no wonder I prefer “Star Trek”. So anyway, I got it done yesterday and what a beautiful creation it was; really, it should’ve been on display in a gallery, not stuffed into a brown envelope. After a 100mph death-defying drive, (it wasn’t far to go and I had an hour or so to get there, but I’d drunk far too much coffee), I got to hand it in before the deadline. I got a call about two hours later from the fund’s administrator, asking if I could e-mail her a copy, as she was having to scan all the applications and she’d been “inundated” with them and would be at work for hours doing them, so it would save her time. Inundated. Inundated! It’s like asking girls out again; a futile exercise that ends in humiliation and a feeling of abject failure. A woman gets asked out in this movie; that ends in abject failure too.
So this was a chance to watch my entire collection of Iranian films… all one of them. Not sure what I was expecting really, probably just some propaganda to do with nuclear bombs, oppressed women who choose to wear a burqa and jihadist wars. There isn’t anything else there is there, other than sand and oil… and camels probably? Well, that’s what it says in the papers, so it must be true. Okay, I don’t really believe any of that nonsense, but I was surprised by what I did see. In fact it took me a while to get over my preconceptions and begin to appreciate what this film actually was, which made me feel a bit guilty; I really was under the impression that it would be sort of worthy, but a bit amateurish and boring. In fact this is a black comedy, which pokes fun at itself and Iran’s own, internal preconceptions about itself. It’s true to say that not a lot happens for most of the film and there aren’t a great many spaceships, aliens or explosions in it. It’s simply a snapshot of the lives of four people that to some extent are interconnected. At first I did find it a bit boring, but when I finally worked out what I was watching it got a lot more interesting. It was almost as if I felt guilty about finding the discomfort of the characters funny, which is a bit sad really. The picture quality isn’t always the best, which is a bit frustrating as the scenery is really worth seeing. It’s also quite slow and nothing happens quickly; and in a cultural way there are a few things that just don’t sit comfortably for many westerners too. However, the majority of it is good stuff and I really rather enjoyed it.
The music used in the film is sparse and haunting. It’s not something I’d listen to on its own but as a soundtrack it’s great and adds to the atmosphere a lot. We also get treated to a bit of what sounds like Marlene Dietrich, but I could be wrong.
Movie Weather Forecast. I’ve still not started doing this properly, but it was dry and mostly sunny, with some blustery wind at times.
For stupid people like me, the trailer makes the tone of the film a bit clearer.
Recommend for wrestlers, photographers and anyone who works on a chicken farm.
No cats, chainsaws or decapitations.
Top badass moment? I like tea. I drink a lot of tea. I like coffee but I like tea more. In this film the characters drink tea. They drink a lot of tea. In fact I suspect that it’s a subtle joke about how much tea people in Iran do drink. I thought all they did there was build nuclear bombs and hate on the West, but actually they drink a lot of tea and have a sense of humour that I can relate to. That’s cool, because most of the people I actually know don’t understand it. I’m a Brit so tea is automatically badass and badass in a way coffee will never be. In fact it’s the most badass of drinks; except perhaps cider.