October 22, 2008

Mother of Tears (2007)

It was a long time coming, but eventually director Dario Argento got around to completing his Three Mothers trilogy. The trilogy started with Suspiria (my all time favourite movie), and was followed by the impressive Inferno, and I have to admit that I was looking forward to the final entry. Of course, over recent years Argento has been off the boil and maybe his best movies are in the past, but hope springs eternal as they say. So, I went into this movie hoping for the best and expecting the worst.

The movie starts off with the discovery of an ancient casket in Rome. The casket is shipped over to a local museum where Sarah (Asia Argento) and her colleague foolishly decide to open it. Before you can swing a monkey all Hell breaks loose with the colleague being mercilessly ripped apart by unknown assailants.

Unbeknownst to them they have awakened the Mother of Tears, or Mater Lachrymarum, an evil bitch whose effects on the folk of Rome is devastating; mothers drown their babies, fights break out and general chaos ensues.

As luck would have it though Sarah's mother helped destroy one of the previous Mothers and passed some of her powers onto her. The Mother of Tears knows this and is all set on killing Sarah. At the same time, after some horrendous acting and a word from her mother in ghost form, Sarah realises that she needs to destroy the Mother of Tears before it is too late.

Firstly, I'll get this out of the way, some of the acting here is pretty damned bad, the story doesn't always make coherent sense and the ending is piss poor. But, and it is a big but (and I cannot lie) I really enjoyed this movie. I mean really enjoyed it. Visually it was terrific, with Argento at his goriest best, I don't think I have seen gore like this in one of his movies and at times it is quite shocking. Aside from that though the whole atmosphere of the movie is filled with an evil dread that seeps out of the screen. He may not do plots well, but boy can he create atmosphere.

Having Claudio Simonetti doing the score helped this no end, the closing theme with vocals by Dani Filth was just perfect.

There is an element of fanboy gushing about this review, but believe me I was ready to rip the guts out of it had it not lived up to at least some of my expectations, as I really do expect a lot from Argento. I can honestly say though that I thought this was a good movie. Sure, the acting wasn't good, looking at Asia makes up for it though. Also at times it seemed as though Dario was rushing from one scene to another, without giving the story enough time to develop properly.

On the whole though I thought this was a success. It's not anywhere near as good as Suspiria, but it is more accessible than Inferno. It'll probably not win him any new fans due to the confusing story, and doubtless piss off some of his older fans, but as a visual spectacle this was good stuff indeed. I'm looking forward to sitting through it again as I type.

Rating 3 stars

Review by Jude Felton

October 20, 2008

Mongol (2007)

When this was first released I had hoped that it would have gotten a wider theatrical release. Alas, it was given one of those delightful "limited" releases, which basically means that next to no-one got to see it on the big screen. Having now seen it I can maybe kind of see why; it really doesn't have mass appeal, despite it being a very good movie. Having said that though I can't quite understand it creeping onto DVD almost unannounced. I only happened to come across it by chance, so when I did I snapped up the chance to finally watch it.

What you don't get with Mongol is scene after scene of Temudjin, later to be Genghis, Khan ravaging Mongolia doing what he was perhaps most famous for. Instead what follows is the early life of the warrior, following him from childhood up until he does finally become known as Genghis Khan. This did make sense when I found out this is intended to be the first of a trilogy following his entire life. That's not to say that there aren't any battle scenes in Mongol, there are, just maybe not quite as many as you might expect.

The story starts off with Temudjin being a nine year old, travelling with his father in search of his future bride. This we will find out is part of the basis for events later on in his life; Mongols aren't supposed to war over a woman, Temudjin did. Anyway, upon returning from his wife-finding expedition Temudjin's father is poisoned, leaving Temudjin as the Khan of his people. However, loyalty to this clan is not a priority for some of the other folk, and Temudjin and his family are basically cast out.

From here on in the story focuses on his struggle to stay out of slavery, his seemingly eternal search for his wife and his eventual rise to power. It is a story of loyalties, betrayals and of the love for his woman, and quie a damned good story it is too. How much of it is based on truths and how much of it was made up for the screen is not for me to say, as I have no idea, but as a slice of cinema it was most enjoyable. Mongol is filled with lavish set pieces, especially the final battle, gorgeous scenery and incredible cinematography.

For me Mongol worked on both levels; first as a stand alone movie, and secondly as a precursor of events to come later in his life. It isn't perfect, there is only so much that you can fit into a two hour movie, so some events seem to be skimmed over whilst others are dwelled on for slightly too long. That being said I did enjoy this for the most part and would recommend it to anyone that likes sweeping epics, the kind that rarely see the light of day in Western cinema these days.

Rating 3 stars

Review by Jude Felton