Daily archives "June 23, 2015"

Chuck Norris vs Communism ***

  

UK, Germany, Romania/ Director Ilinca Calugareanu/ 82mins

 

Synopsis: In 1980s Romania, thousands of Western films were made available through a black-market VHS racketeer. With the assistance of a courageous female translator, they brought the magic of film to the people and sparked a revolution.

 

Romania was under the Communist regiment of Nicolae Ceausescu. All of the media was strictly controlled by the secret police, who used intimidation and violence. Entertainment was censored before being broadcast to citizens.

 

Then VHS tapes and VCRs appeared on the scene with films from the West being made available via a black-market ring led by a mysterious figure, Teodor Zamfir. In towns and villages secret underground parties would happen so people could watch the best and worst of Hollywood. From Sylvester Stallone to Jean-Claude Van Damme to Chuck Norris of course.

 

The film comprises of archive and film footage, reenactments and interviews with the people who attended these parties along with the entrepreneur Teodor Zamfir and his dub artist Irina Nistor who translated around 3,000 films.

 

Overall the material is extensively researched and the viewpoints from the individuals are interesting. However at the midway point these become incredibly repetitive, during the focus on the actual parties.

 

The most interesting aspect is the details about Zamfir’s organisation and how Nistor thought she would be caught by the Secret Police at anytime.

 

A fascinating and educational piece shows how the power of images can encourage people to take stand.

 

Reviewed by Paul Logan

  

Manglehorn ***

  

U.S./ Director David Gordon Green/ 97mins

 


Synopsis: Manglehorn, an eccentric small-town locksmith, tries to start his life over again with the help of a new friend.

 

Director David Gordon Green brings another character study after Prince Avalanche and Joe, with another star who has struggled with their career. This time it is the turn of the once great Al Pacino.

 

In a small Texas town, an eccentric locksmith Manglehorn (Pacino) writes letters to a girl he claims is the one that got away many years ago. He has few friends apart from his white person cat Fanny. While his estranged financially successful son Jacob (Chris Messina) will have little contact with him. Every week Manglehorn visits the local bank to see teller Dawn (Holly Hunter). But when he eventually goes out with Dawn, things do not go according to plan.

 

The film is marred by an episodic script and fails to match Pacino’s reserved fantastic performance. Random scenes including one where the Manglehorn walks past an accident involving a car crash are never explained and have very little to do with the overall narrative. Whether this is due to the script or whether it is part of Green’s vision is unclear, but the on the whole distracts from the story.

 

Green experiments with slow motion and flash-forwards, in order to give a sense of the man’s frustration with his own life, which to be honest is not really needed.

 

Not much is known about Manglehorn, only a few key details are given. He is man longing for his long lost love, what happened is very much left to the audience to fill in the gaps. What is detailed is his violent past with his own family.

 

However Pacino makes the film compelling, as he has not given this good a performance in years. Not once does he chew the scenery or go completely over the top as seen in recent features. Hunter gives warmth and quirkyness to her underwritten role as love stricken bank teller. While Harmony Korine who is known as a controversial Director and screenwriter brings some much needed humour as an old acquaintance.

 

Even although the film is not as good as Green’s previous works, it has brought a Pacino that many thought had vanished from our screens.

 
Reviewed by Paul Logan