When It Happens Panel Get involved: send your photos, videos, news & views by texting 'OXFORD NEWS' to 80360 or email
Parky at the Pictures (In Cinemas 10/5/2012)
Much has been written prior since Faust won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival about director Aleksandr Sokurov's association with newly restored Russian president Vladimir Putin. Having struggled for seven years to find funding for his reworking of Goethe's masterpiece, Sokurov found himself the beneficiary of a St Petersburg charitable organisation following a meeting with the then prime minister at his country dacha. Despite Sokurov's insistence that he does not support Putin or his policies, commentators have pointed to a nationalist tendency within his pictures and have tried to suggest that he has contracted a satanic pact of his own in accepting Putin's patronage.
But might the critics have misread the situation and could Putin be the one to have grasped the wrong end of the bargain? Sokurov has proclaimed Faust to be the final part of the `tetralogy of power' that began with Moloch (1999), Taurus (2001) and The Sun (2004). These glowering studies of gamblers failing when the odds were stacked highest against them respectively centred on Adolf Hitler, Vladimir Ilych Lenin and the Emperor Hirohito. Obviously, Heinrich Faust is a fictional character who first appeared in a tract written by an anonymous Lutheran in the 16th century. But he fits the quartet's unifying profile, as he is pathologically miserable and, as Sokurov insists, `unhappy people are dangerous'. Moreover, he could easily stand as a symbol for Vladimir Putin, whose deal with Dmitri Medvedev has enabled him to resume the presidency after a four-year hiatus and who now seeks to eclipse his predecessors in Sokurov's rogues' gallery by overcoming the odds and succeeding in swimming against the tide of history.
Despite being desperate to locate the physical position of the human soul, Faust (Johannes Zeiler) is too hungry to concentrate the dissection of the cadaver procured for him by grave robbers. He orders his assistant, Wagner (Georg Friedrich), to have the gutted remains removed and heads across town to the surgery where his father (Sigurdur Skulasson) treats the poor. An elderly man is being stretched on a rack when a flirtatious woman calls with a possibly frivolous gynaecological complaint in the hope of enjoying an intimate inspection. Dr Faust refuses to lend his son money and chides him for wasting his time on astronomy, alchemy and other unrewarding intellectual spheres.
Undaunted, Faust decides to sell a ring containing a philosopher's stone to moneylender Mauricius Muller (Anton Adasinskiy). However, he refuses the deal, but attempts to interest his world-weary visitor in other arrangements. Frustrated by his failure, Faust returns home and ponders the Gospel According to St John as Wagner attempts to give him a foot bath under the watchful eye of his suspicious housekeeper (Eva-Maria Kurz).
Muller arrives to return the ring that Faust had left in his shop and points out the evangelist's flaw by pointing out that, in the beginning, the deed came before the word. His remark intrigues Faust and he agrees to accompany him on a walk around the town. At the local bathhouse, Faust catches sight of Margarete (Isolda Dychauk) doing her laundry and is instantly smitten. However, the other occupants are more preoccupied with Muller's hideous physique when he strips off to bathe and they mock the fact that his genitalia appear to be at the rear and resemble the tiny stub of a tail.
Faust urges Muller to dress and they hurry away in pursuit of Margarete. As they pass Dr Faust's surgery, he seems to recognise Muller and urges his son to have nothing to do with him. However, they retire to a nearby tavern, where students are celebrating the end of the latest war. Muller gets into an argument with the innkeeper (Lars Rudolph) about the quality of the wine and stabs the wall with a fork to produce a cascade of free drink. In the ensuing melee, Faust gets into a struggle with Valentin (Florian Brückner) and kills him with Muller's fork. Grateful to escape the scene, Faust returns to his lodgings and tries to refocus on scholastic endeavours.
However, Muller pays him another visit and lures him into the street in time to see Valentin's funeral and discover that Margarete is his sister. Faust follows the cortège and walks alongside the eccentric woman in black ruffles (Hanna Schygulla) who claims to be Muller's wife. At the graveside, Faust persuades Muller to detain Frau Emmerich (Antje Lewald) while he consoles her daughter and Margarete seems taken with Faust's fine words as they stroll through the forest. She is even more impressed when she mistakes him for the priest in the confessional and he reassures her that being unable to love her mother is not a sin.
But her faith is shaken when Valentin's friend Altamayer (Maxim Mehmet) informs her that Faust murdered her brother. As if sensing that his window of opportunity is closing, Faust tells Muller that he wishes he could read Margarete's thoughts and agrees to sell his soul in order to spend one night with her. Signing his name in blood, Faust wakes as if from a dream to remember nothing of his tryst and finds himself being fitted for a breastplate by a stranger clad in full armour. The pair mount horses and ride through a forest to the banks of a river, where Valentin expresses his gratitude for being delivered from the torment of life.
However, Faust feels cheated by Muller (who is, of course, his mysterious companion) and he bombards him with rocks when he slips into a crevice in a rocky landscape pocked with geysers. Suddenly feeling empowered, Faust strikes out across the forbidding terrain towards a future that holds unknown dangers for both himself and others.
From its opening shot descending through a misty cloudscape to a town nestling between a towering crag and the coast, this is a visually striking, thematically elusive and morally troubling work. Drawing on influences as disparate as the Flemish and Dutch masters, the German Expressionists and Ingmar Bergman and Andrei Tarkovsky, Elena Zhukova's sets and Bruno Delbonnel's restless, distorting photography are quite exceptional. Andei Sigle's quietly insistent and near-omnipresent score is equally unsettling, as Sokurov creates an early 19th-century milieu that seems to have retained more medieval superstition than Enlightenment rationality.
The performances are mixed (with the ravishingly lit Dychauk struggling to match the intensity of Zeiler and Adasinskiy) and there are peculiar moments - such as the enigmatic gyrations of the bizarrely attired Schygulla and the homunculus that Wagner fashions in a jar by cross-breeding asparagus, dandelion and a human liver - and this never makes for anything less than demanding (and often gruelling) viewing. But no matter how philosophically and politically ambiguous and impenetrably self-indulgent the action may sometimes seem, this is an audacious `reading of what remains between the lines' of Goethe's tragedy that recasts Faust as an opportunist waiting to be corrupted and willing to face any later consequences for the satiation of his lust and quest for power.
Another covenant with unseen forces proves crucial to Charlie Casanova. Billed as the first feature to be conceived entirely on Facebook, Terry McMahon's study of a seething sociopath who allows his fate to be dictated by a pack of cards is something of an acquired taste. Chillingly played by Emmet J. Scanlan, the proletariat-loathing executive who literally gets away with murder is clearly supposed to be an anti-hero for our grasping recessional times. But for all the bravura detestability of Scanlan's performance, this bileful parable too often compromises its dramatic power with verbosity and self-conscious stylisation.
Scanlan is an outwardly dapper and charming, but inwardly egotistical and bigoted Dubliner attending a weekend conference out of town with wife Ruth McIntyre and best pals Damien Hannaway and Anthony Murphy and their spouses, Leigh Arnold and Valeria Bandino. They have known each other long enough to spice their banter with taunts and insults that never need excusing. But, when Scanlan hits a girl with his car in a rundown estate and returns to the hotel having torched his car after reporting it stolen, he begins recklessly exceeding acceptable behaviour.
Over dinner, Scanlan suggests that each member of the sextet allows themselves to be led by the turn of a card in pursuing a cherished wish. Having long been reliant on Viagra to rise to the occasion with McIntyre, his desire involves Arnold and he seduces her in her room while Hannaway is out. But Scanlan becomes even more convinced of his invincibility during an interview with copper Glenn McMahon when he realises that, even though the Gardaí have CCTV footage of him setting light to his car, they don't suspect him of the hit`n'run killing. Consequently, he decides to flex his muscles during an open-mike comedy session and incurs the wrath of heckler Johnny Elliott with a vicious diatribe about the whining worthlessness of the working classes.
The strain of his mother's terminal illness, his failing libido and the downturn in his business fortunes all clearly impinge upon Scanlan's psyche. But while McMahon considers Charlie Barnum to be a deranged variation on Walter Mitty and Billy Liar, he launches into the hideous fantasy before he has fully established the desperate reality. Thus, despite its aspirations to be a companion piece to Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange (1971) and Mary Harron's American Psycho (2000), this lacks the dystopic clout to match the confidence of its remorseless use of disconcerting close-ups and Scanlan's courageously ferocious lead. Nevertheless, McMahon merits enormous credit for getting the picture made (for under €1000 within a few weeks of his Christmas Eve Facebook plea after the Irish Film Board rejected his script) and this audacious and unflinching debut exerts a sufficiently grim fascination to destine it for cult status.
Following in the footsteps of Jacques Demy and les deux François, Truffaut and Ozon, Christophe Honoré has also been known to take the odd risk in his time. Having started out as a critic on the prestigious journal Cahiers du Cinéma, he made his directorial debut with an adaptation of his own novel about male attitudes to HIV, Close to Leo (2002). Subsequently, he achieved auteur status and was hailed in certain quarters as the legitimate heir to the nouvelle vague with his achingly poignant and sincerely cinematic melodramas Ma Mère (2004), Dans Paris (2006) and La Belle personne (2008), and the sublime musical, Les Chansons d'amour (2007).
However, Honoré missed his step with the somewhat self-indulgent Making Plans for Lena (2009) and Man at Bath (2010) and, in returning to soap operetta with Beloved, he seems to be playing it as safe as anyone can with a storyline that traverses five decades in settings as distant as Paris, Prague, London and Montreal. Complete with another selection of lyrically audacious, but melodically mediocre songs by Alex Beaupain, this is undoubtedly a return to form. But Honoré often seems more intent on evoking the Spirit of Cinema Past than on telling his own story. Consequently, he struggles to make with necessary conviction the romanticised contrasts he draws between the socio-sexual mores of the supposedly freewheeling 1960s and those of our own more troubled times.
It's 1964 and pert blonde Ludivine Sagnier works in a Parisian shoe shop. Unable to afford a pair of Roger Vivier high-heeled pumps, she stuffs them into her underwear without the owner noticing and flounces home as though she's walking on air. Her demeanour, however, prompts a passer-by to ask if she is a prostitute and Sagnier is so seduced by the fee he offers that she starts turning tricks part-time to supplement her pay.
Among her favourite customers is Radivoje Bukvic, a Czechoslovak doctor in France to complete his education. As his visa is about to expire, he proposes marriage and Sagnier is swept away to Prague, where she gives birth to a daughter. However, despite the kindness of her mother (Zuzana Krónerová) and brother-in-law (Václav Neuzil), Sagnier is soon miserable and suspects Bukvic of infidelity. Determined to track him down, she ventures into the night to see Russian tanks rolling through the streets and she sings a melancholic lament about lost romance as Bukvic mocks her intensity while fooling around with mistress Zuzana Onufráková.
Back in Paris, Sagnier marries gendarme Guillaume Denaiffe and moves into the central barracks. However, Bukvic comes to visit in 1978 and Sagnier allows herself to be seduced in his hotel room before sneaking back to tell their teenage daughter (Clara Couste) that they are moving back to Prague. Unfortunately, Denaiffe comes home early and Bukvic loses heart on hearing them making love and, by the time his daughter sees him again, some two decades later, she has matured into Chiara Mastroianni, while her mother, father and stepfather and respectively being played by Catherine Deneuve, Milos Forman and Michel Delpech.
Despite being adored by novelist and fellow language tutor Louis Garrel, Mastroianni has commitment issues and prefers to keep her options open. However, when she finally does fall in love, it's with American vet-turned-drummer Paul Schneider, who is attracted to her in spite of his homosexuality. They have a brief fling in London that results in a fight between Garrel and Schneider in the foyer of the Institut Français. But Schneider returns to New York and Mastroianni tries to pick up the pieces in Paris, where Deneuve and Forman have embarked on another reunion behind Delpech's back.
It proves short-lived, however, as Forman is fatally injured by a falling tree branch and Mastroianni isn't sure how to cope when Deneuve plunges into a depression. But more bad news follows, as Schneider reveals he has AIDS and Mastroianni flies out to see him on 11 September 2001. Her plane is diverted to Montreal and Schneider comes to see her in her hotel. He is appalled when she asks if he will father her child, but winds up in bed with her and new lover Dustin Segura-Suarez, only for the evening to end in tragedy.
Some months later, Garrel comes to Deneuve's birthday party and she coaxes him to revisit the apartment where she lost her innocence. As she walks away, she leaves the Roger Vivier shoes on the pavement outside and reprises the song about the mysteries of love that Sagnier had sung in times that may actually only have been happier in Mastroianni's idealising imagination.
Although this is a musical, the first mention must go to cinematographer Rémy Chevrin, production designer Samuel Deshors and costumier Pascaline Chavanne for enabling the action to transcend timeframes without the décor or fashions becoming a kitsch distraction. Alex Beaupain also merits praise for the emotional insights embedded in his lyrics and for making the songs flow so naturally from the action. However, with the exception of the opening tune (which is slickly cut by Chantal Hymans to convey Sagnier's restless excitement), Honoré's staging of the numbers is often uninspired, with characters often strolling though nocturnal streets as they pour out their innermost thoughts. Yet his selection of locations is invariably impeccable and he ably succeeds in showing how ordinary life continues in the face of momentous historical events.
That said, the plot leaves much to be desired, with contrivance coming to the rescue far too often to convince. Despite the excellent performances, Mastroianni's doomed passion for a self-centred gay is as dubious as Garrel's undying devotion. Much more believable, however, is the hopeless passion between Sagnier and Bukvic and the awkward ménage between Deneuve, Forman and Delpech, which reaches its hilarious apogee when the Czech comes to talk his rival into an amicable divorce.
A song-and-dance routine is just about all that's missing from 28 year-old Yuya Ishii's Mitsuko Delivers, a relentlessly optimistic rallying cry to banish the recessional blues and seize the initiative in order to create a better tomorrow. Replicating the upbeat quirkiness of Sawako Decides (2010), this is a busy satire on the national tendency to insularity, the bashful hesitancy of the modern Japanese male and the surprisingly defeatist attitude to the economic downturn that tamed the Asian tiger. Some may find this a touch too propulsive. But Ishii directs with knowing brio and he is sparklingly abetted by Riisa Naka in the title role.
Having disappointed parents Shiro Namiki and Miyako Takeuchi by relocating to California, twentysomething Riisa Naka had a fling with a burly black man and now finds herself heavily pregnant. Deciding against returning to the family's Tokyo pachinko parlour, Naka allows a gentle wind to dictate her fate and she follows a floating cloud to the very backstreet where she grew up. Former landlady Miyoko Inagawa is still in residence, but she is now bedridden and much else has changed.
The once bustling alley is almost deserted and has lost its characteristic sense of `iki' or smart spontaneity. Convinced she can turn things round, Naka moves in with Inagawa and quickly discovers that childhood sweetheart Aoi Nakamura is still on the scene and is still working at uncle Ryo Ishibashi's restaurant. She also learns that Ishibashi has long nursed a crush on café owner Keiko Saito, who lives with her young son and struggles to attract custom.
In between power naps and phone calls home to reassure her parents that everything is hunky dory Stateside, Naka sets about making changes. She encourages new tenants to move into unoccupied properties along the street and agrees to marry Nakamura. But she has more difficulty in coaxing the painfully shy Ishibashi into declaring his feelings for Saito, who is about to sell up and move to Fukushima to look after her ailing mother.
Yet, while she is quite prepared to let fortune dictate her own destiny, Naka cannot resist meddling in the lives of other people. Thus, when the unexploded Second World War bomb beneath Inagawa's home finally goes off, Naka bundles everyone into a car and heads to Fukushima to ensure everybody has a happy ending.
Packed with flashbacks, digressions and flights of fancy, this can be seen as an updating of cosy shoming-geki sagas like Yasujiro Ozu's Record of a Tenement Gentleman (1947) or the 48-strong Tora-san series (1969-95) that starred Atsumi Kiyoshi as a travelling salesman solving the problems of others while searching for his own slice of happiness. But, while Ishii dwells on touching incidents like Inagawa being widowed during the war before she could consummate her marriage and the young Naka (Momoka Oono) being enchanted by the bustle of life around her, this is never simply a wallow in rose-tinted nostalgia. Indeed, this is very much a call to disregard the current acquiescence in conformity and Naka makes an ebullient cheerleader (even though some may be dissuaded by her hectoring tactics).
Amusingly designed by Tomoyuki Maruo and crisply photographed by Yukihiro Okimura, this Amélie wannabe has a belligerent charm. But it lacks socio-political edge and occasionally drifts like Naka's guiding cloud. Moreover, the ending increasingly comes to feel like a cartoon soap opera and, while there's no denying that Ishii is a distinctive new voice, he still needs to learn the fine art of modulation.
Until recently, this was also an accusation that could be levelled with some justification at Takashi Miike. Best known for his combustible yakuza thrillers and gleefully gory J-horrors, this prolific provocateur is always capable of springing a surprise. But, with 13 Assassins (2010), Miike demonstrated a controlled artistry to go with his trademark bravura and he has proved this masterly venture into the jidai-geki genre was no fluke by producing another exceptional remake with Hara-kiri: Death of a Samurai. Originally adapted from Yasuhiko Takiguchi's largely forgotten novel by Masaki Kobayashi in 1962, this steely study of debased bushido honour has been rendered in 3-D. However, opportunities to see it in this format will be limited, especially as the film is going to DVD so soon after its theatrical release.
The story opens in 1635 with impoverished ronin Ebizo Ichikawa seeking admittance to the elegant House of Ii in the city of Edo. He is granted an audience with senior retainer Koji Yakusho and asks if he may be permitted to commit ritual suicide in the courtyard, as a death on the premises of a respected clan is thought to go some way to restoring the victim's depleted dignity. However, Yakusho suspects that Ichikawa is seeking charity rather than quietus and relates a cautionary tale story that took place on 20 October 1634.
On that day, a young ronin (Eita) had come before Yakusho and made the identical request. The limping courtier had granted his wish. But, while Eita was preparing for his ordeal, cynical squire Munetaka Aoki opines that he is a `bluff suicide', who will allow himself to be talked out of seppuku in return for alms. Fearing that word will get round that the House of Ii is a soft touch, Yakusho agrees to force Eita into going through with his disembowelment and appoints Aoki as his second and fellow samurai Kazuki Namioka and Hirofumi Arai as his attendant and witness.
Just as Aoki surmised, Eita proceeds to plead for clemency and requests the sum of three ryo, which he insists he needs to pay for a doctor to tend his sick wife and son. Yakusho refuses and orders Eita to do his duty or face the shameful consequences. There is an audible gasp as Eita unsheathes a bamboo sword, but Yakusho and Aoki insist that he slashes his stomach and twists the blade to hasten death. However, the wood snaps and Eita is forced to endure the agony of stabbing himself with the splintered remnants before Yakusho hurries forward to put him out of his misery.
Ichikawa is moved by the account, but remains adamant. So, Yakusho assembles the household to witness the deed in the courtyard. However, he is taken aback when Ichikawa asks to be attended by Aoki, Namioka and Arai and Yakusho starts to suspect something is amiss when he receives news that the trio failed to report for duty and cannot be found anywhere. Realising he has everyone's attention, Ichikawa begins telling his own story, which opens shortly after the Battle of Sekigahara that confirmed the hegemony of the Shogunate.
Part of the Chijiwara clan based at Hiroshima Castle, Ichikawa and his mentor Baijaku Nakamura had applied to the Shogun for permission to repair the battlements. However, he refused and declared the clan to have bellicose intentions and ordered its disbandment. Nakamura dies soon afterwards from the humiliation and the widowed Ichikawa raises his son alongside his own daughter and is delighted when Eita and Hikari Mitsushima marry and have a child.
While Ichikawa ekes a living making paper parasols, Eita works as a teacher. But, when Mitsushima falls ill, he is forced to sell his books and his swords to purchase medicine and occasional luxuries like eggs. However, when their infant son also develops a fever, Eita has no option but to follow the trend for bluff suicides and sets off to the House of Ii. Neither Ichikawa nor Mitsushima knows of his scheme and they are distraught when his body is returned that night. Already heartbroken by the death of her baby, Mitsushima also expires and Ichikawa vows vengeance on those who have destroyed his family.
Stung by the revelation, Yakusho insists that Eita was treated with due deference and lacked the courage to do fulfil his destiny. Enraged by the slur, Ichikawa tosses the ceremonial topknots of Aoki, Namioka and Arai on the courtyard gravel and he mocks their spineless capitulation. Hearing enough, Yakusho orders his men to kill Ichikawa. But, even though he is only armed with a bamboo blade, he puts up heroic resistance and smashes the clan's prized suit of ceremonial armour before perishing in the softly falling snow.
Closer in tone to the recent trilogy directed by Yoji Yamada (who, incidentally, was responsible for all but four of the Tora-san films) than anything produced by Akira Kurosawa, this is a formally rigorous dissection of the warrior code and its relevance to contemporary society. The narrative may be bereft of the unexpected, but Yuji Hayashida's production design, Nobuyasu Kita's deep-focus widescreen photography and Ryuichi Sakamoto's elegant score are outstanding. The performances are equally exemplary, with Eita exuding bitter bravery in his excruciating death scene and Ichikawa and Yakusho seething with a righteous indignation that emanates from the `ninjo' and `giri' or compassion and duty extremes of the bushido way.
But it's Miike's measured direction that most impresses, as he attempts to replace the Kabuki stylisation of classical samurai pictures with a social and psychological realism that makes both pomp and penury seem entirely authentic. He misjudges the pacing in the opening third and could perhaps have foregone the flashback to Ichikawa besting the absent triumvirate in what appears to be a lakeside temple. However, his disciplined approach and deft insights suggest that behind the iconoclastic façade is the soul of an auteur.
Finally, this week, there's Dinotasia, a disappointing documentary culled by directors Erik Nelson and David Krentz from the Discovery Channel programme Dinosaur Revolution. Drawing on the latest paleontological research and narrated by Werner Herzog, it reveals the `savage indifference of nature' and warns that the same space debris that eradicated the majority of prehistoric lifeforms over 65 million years ago could easily curtail our own already fragile existence. Those familiar with the BBC show Walking With Dinosaurs will recognise the kind of computer-generated imagery used to resurrect these majestic, but often ferocious creatures who epitomised Darwin's concept of the survival of the fittest. However, with its florid commentary and coyly anthropomorphised vignettes, this is likely only to appeal to seven year-olds in the first stages of dinomania.
Rather confusingly, the film opens with a reference to `the Great Dying', which took place some 250 million years ago at the end of the Permian-Triassic period. Scientists are still uncertain what nearly ended life on our planet and Nelson and Krentz muddy the waters by alluding to this phenomenon without explaining how it impacted upon Earth or how species from trees to microbes evolved from it. However, this cavalier attitude comes to characterise an increasingly frustrating feature that stubbornly refuses to identify a single beast, even though the action is strewn with captions detailing times and places that are, frankly, little more than notional.
Following a risible segment in which a museum skeleton is suddenly reanimated and stomps through the entrance and into the street, the directors take us back 150 million years to Western Portugal in the late Jurassic period to witness a winged mother bite the head off a pesky rival whose cawing was keeping her chicks awake. The way in which the decapitated victim charges around before collapsing in a heap is unnecessarily cartoonish, but the mood grows more serious as a baby allosaurus playing with a bone bumps into the feet of a juvenile brontosaurus (or apatosaurus, as the spoil-sporting experts now insist we say), which dislocates his jaw with a single swish of its powerful tail.
Abandoned by its mother, the allosaurus manages to survive 11 years and is having its teeth picked by some sort of avian ancestor when it spies the brontosaurus family arriving at the watering hole. In the ensuing struggle, the allosaurus manages to bite off the tip of the tail that maimed it. But its triumph appears short-lived and the brutality of life is briskly summed up by a montage in which an icthyosaurus (or similar aquatic critter) gives birth to a baby that leaps into the sunshine like a frisky dolphin before its mother feasts on a predator that has been drop-kicked into the water by a stampeding brontosaurus. No wonder Herzog opines that, while this was a beautiful world, in the absence of poets and painters to appreciate it, the only worthwhile art was that of survival.
Coming forward some 80 million years, the scene switches to Madagascar in the late Cretaceous period to show a blue-plumaged bird riding on the back of a bronto-looking quadruped in order to peck titbits from its scales. However, when its ride is attacked, the bird is forced to flee from two of the predator's young and scurries to the uppermost branches of a tree where it proceeds to imitate the call of a giant amphibian beelzebufo that guzzles the pursuers with relish - only to be squashed by a passing bronto-like who is swiftly reunited with his impersonating feathered friend.
In order to demonstrate the herd mentality, the next scene takes place in Mongolia some 85 million years ago in the late Cretaceous era, as a lone protoceratops reluctantly adopts a baby whose mother has been killed by a pair of velociraptors and defends it until it can find new surrogates and it can continue its journey to what seems to be a graveyard. Lurching back 80 million years to China in the late Jurassic, the directors tap into Disney surrealism, as a naughty diplodocus ignores its parents and gulps down some red-spotted mushrooms and somehow manages to resist a pair of predators while tripping out. And the playful mood continues in early Cretaceous Brazil (some 112 million years ago), as a mother pterodactyl pushes its chicks out of an eyrie nest so they learn to fend for themselves. The first two expire in unfortunate circumstances, but the third evades a couple of snapping crocodiles on the beach before returning home with a tasty crab that it refuses to share with its mom.
The focus shifts to 13 years before the mass extinction for the last scenario, as a pair of brutish tyrannosaurus rex fight on a plain and one has a forelimb partially severed. Two years later, it gains revenge by devouring its rival's newly hatched young as they excitedly explore their environs and the mother is plunged into depression. However, the couple win out in the end, as the rogue t-rex pounces while they are feasting on a tricerotops and a butt from the furious mother sees him impaled on the carcass's horn.
The vindicated pair mate and a lengthy passage (complete with intra-ovioular shots) shows them protecting the eggs in a mound. But, even though one of the brood survives, it only manages to live for nine years, as it perishes in chasing food a month after the asteroid collision that decimates wildlife and, as snow begins covering the devastated wasteland, a bird shelters inside its open jaws and the film ends with a match-cut from its eye to that of a pigeon roosting on an aquiline gargoyle on the Chrysler Building to affirm the theory that birds are descended from the dinosaurs.
A curious mix of the academic, comic, quaint and cruel, this is a curious compendium of random snapshots that will fascinate and frustrate in equal measure. Herzog's narration is frequently preposterous in its pomposity, while the quality of the CGI and background work is dismayingly inconsistent for a big-screen release. One suspects, therefore, that if this does find an audience, it will be on DVD.
In this section
- Parky at the Pictures (In Cinemas 16/5/2013)
- Parky at the Pictures (DVD 16/5/2013)
- Parky at the Pictures (DVD 9/5/2013)
- Parky at the Pictures (In Cinemas 9/5/2013)
- Parky at the Pictures (In Cinemas 2/5/2013)
- Parky at the Pictures (DVD 2/5/2013)
- Parky at the Pictures (DVD 25/4/2013)
- Parky at the Pictures (In Cinemas 25/4/2013)
- Parky at the Pictures (In Cinemas 18/4/2013)
- Parky at the Pictures (DVD 18/4/2013)