Last Week’s Films (04/06 – 10/06)

Body Double (Brian De Palma, 1984)

Another two Brian De Palma thrillers for this week, and they were both okay. In Body Double, a man spies on a beautiful woman through a telescope from the window in his apartment and sees her murdered. He then investigates, and it’s not quite as it seems. It’s entertaining enough, and a little bit cheesy, but it works. 5/10

Raising Cane (Brian De Palma, 1992)

John Lithgow plays Dr. Carter Nix and his “twin brother” Cain in this film where Dr. Nix, a child psychologist, seems to be mentally unstable and discovers his wife is having an affair. We follow his descent into madness seeing him exact his revenge and indulge his murderous impulses. Lithgow is suitably over-the-top, with a “surprise” along the way (although it’s pretty obvious). Again, it was entertaining enough, but not great. 5/10

The Ballad of Narayama ( Shohei Imamura, 1983)

Inspired by the 1958 film of the same name, 1983’s The Ballad of Narayama is set in a small secluded village in 19th century Japan, which has a tradition where once a member of the village reaches the age of 70 they must make a journey to a remote mountain nearby to die on its peak. Our main character is Orin, a 69 year old woman, and we see her final year in the village before making the journey. Although almost 70 she is still extremely healthy and capable, but resolves not to be taken by fear and to make her journey to the mountain with dignity and to cause no embarrassment to her family. The majority of the film deals with life in the village, and it seems like an extremely brutal and harsh place to live. Near the beginning of the film we witness the discovery of a dead baby who had been hidden in the snow, found after the thaw of Spring. The reaction to this is not as dramatic as you might expect, and seems to be taken much more as a part of life in the village rather than an earth-shattering revelation. Later in the film a family found to be stealing from others in the village is punished in a particularly harsh and brutal manner as well. It seems in the village it is all about survival, and to emphasise this point there are various short sequences of nature (animals fighting, mating, hunting each other for food) spread throughout the film, creating a parallel between the village and its natural surroundings, both ruled through the idea of survival of the fittest. The film is gorgeous too, the village and its surroundings beautifully presented. Perhaps not something you would recommend if someone just wants to be entertained, but The Ballad of Narayama is harsh, beautiful, artful and raw. 7.5/10

The Heart is Deceitful Above All Things (Asia Argento, 2004)

I would not recommend this at all. It’s basically a terrible mother mistreating her son and getting him into horrible situations for about an hour and a half. It’s not even done in an especially engaging or affecting way, it attempts to be provocative but for me just came off as trashy. 3/10

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