Documentary, of sorts, in which the film-makers hang around with David Lynch while he prepares for INLAND EMPIRE.
Essential viewing for David Lynch fans, this would make an excellent extra for the "INLAND EMPIRE" DVD, even if it never actually tells you anything about Lynch's work. Basically, a couple of unnamed film-makers (the directors are credited, stupidly, as "blackANDwhite") follow David Lynch around with handheld, mostly black-and-white cameras, recording him during candid moments, rather than adopting a more direct interview-to-camera approach. They seem to have been granted fairly comprehensive access during the pre-production and shooting stages of "INLAND EMPIRE", so there are some intriguing shots of Lynch rehearsing with Laura Dern, for example. Other than that, we get a series of anecdotes, we watch Lynch record video messages for davidlynch.com members (you're almost sure to sign up after seeing this), we see him at work and we follow him around as he indulges in his hobby of photographing old factories (apparently he has taken over 1400 photos of Polish factories alone). The directors have a real eye for imagery too - there's a beautiful shot of Lynch where his white suit and grey hair are brightly lit but the rest of his face is in total darkness. However, as watchable as the film is, it is frustrating that we don't get more of a sense of what makes Lynch tick - at one point he all but admits that he makes his films up as he goes along, which seems annoyingly disingenuous. Worth seeing though, especially if you're a fan. Three stars.
Trashy thriller starring Stellan Skarsgard and Melissa George as two cops on the trail of a killer who carves a weird algebraic formula into each new victim.
The title is meant to be 'W Delta (∆) Zed' (or "Zee"), but everyone is calling it "WAZ", which is, of course, hugely amusing for all the wrong reasons. Stellan Skarsgard plays a grizzled cop in what is meant to be New York. His new partner is Detective Helen Westcott (Melissa George), who, frankly, doesn't seem cut out for this police work lark, given the fact that she can barely question a thug without her hand shaking. They're on the trail of a killer who carves part of a strange algebraic equation into the body of each new victim and as the corpses pile up, Skarsgard realises that the deaths might have something to do with a horrific gang rape case several years before. (If you pay attention to the credits you'll quickly work out who the killer is, though the film is nice enough to leave the cast list to the end). W∆Z is extremely trashy and it has its fair share of unforgiveable moments (a shot of the mutilated body of a cute child seems included just to inject a bit of shock value) but the climax has a certain balls-to-the-wall chutzpah about it, even if you can see the main twist coming a mile away. (An early shot should have been cut because it gives too much away). Skarsgard is good value as ever but Melissa George really is a Patsy Kensit for our times and is, as usual, horribly miscast. (It would be fine if her nervousness and unsuitability was incorporated into the plot but it isn't). There's also good support from Ashley Walters (as Skarsgard's informer) and an amusing cameo from Paul Kaye ("Fuck the monkey! The monkey's nothing!") as a creepy scientist. However, the film also features yet another terrible performance from Tom Hardy (see also "Cape Wrath" and "Scenes of a Sexual Nature"), who I've yet to see deliver his lines without mumbling incoherently. Also -and I think I speak for most right-thinking film-goers here- I've had just about enough of torture in movies recently. Having said that, director Tom Shankland is actually fairly coy about the torture scenes on display here (certainly compared with the recent likes of "Paradise Lost" and "Hostel Part II") and, ironically, the climax is weaker as a result. A bit of a mixed bag then, but worth seeing on balance, especially if you're a fan of trashy thrillers. Three stars.
I Served The King Of England
Wartime Czech drama, adapted from the acclaimed novel by Bohumil Hrabal and directed by Jiri Menzel.
Film of the day. After serving 14 years and 9 months of his 15 year sentence, Jan Dite (Oldrich Kaiser) gets out of jail and reflects on the events that led to his imprisonment. We then see flashbacks with Dite (now played by Ivan Barnev) working as a waiter in various hotels as he works towards his dream of becoming a millionaire. However, his life takes an unexpected turn when he falls in love with a Nazi (Julia Jentsch), causing him to turn a blind eye to the fate of his fellow Czechs. There are echoes here of films such as "Life is Beautiful" (clownish physical comedy; the Holocaust; the Nazi occupation) and "Black Book" (picaresque wartime adventures; frequent nudity; more Nazis) but the film has a certain Czech charm all its own. The segments with Dite as an older man are less successful, but the flashback scenes are wonderful and Barnev is a delightful physical comedian (there's a hint of Chaplin in the restaurant scenes). It's also very funny and surprisingly erotic in places (in a tasteful way, not a Paul Verhoeven-type way), thanks to Dite's frequently indulged habit of adorning beautiful naked ladies with whatever comes to hand (e.g. flowers, fruit, money etc). Casting the "Aryan breeding facility" sequence must have been fun too. Four stars.