Review: Michael


This is a post that is a repurposing of an old-school Mini-Review Round-Up post. As stated here I am essentially done with running multi-film review posts. Each film deserves its own review. Therefore I will repost, and at times add to, old reviews periodically. Enjoy!

Michael (2011)

I generally remain vague about plot descriptions in my reviews. Philosophically I believe that if you happened upon my review you know enough about the film and you’re just looking for some further information. With a film such as Michael one does need to be forewarned: while not sensationalistic or exploitative this film does chronicle about five months in the life of a pedophile. You will be disturbed and affected by it: I guarantee it. What is most effective is that the film does so almost exclusively through implication.

The film edit of the film is tremendous and much of the dialogue on reflection implies so much more than is said. One example of how the film communicates horrible consequences while doing little is a simple visual: Michael and Wolfgang, the child he has captive, are setting up a bunk bed in his room. That scene has made its point and hits you in the gut.

What makes the film most harrowing is the humanistic portrait painted of Michael. With an act as awful as child abuse, whether of a physical or sexual nature, some films overplay their hands. Meaning they feel the need to make the antagonist over-the-top and borderline cartoony as if to re-emphasize the inherent villainy and cruelty of their actions. Yet more often than not that kind of writing takes a viewer out of the moment. This film takes things as mundane as decorating a Christmas tree, talking to a neighbor, or a haircut and tinges them with malignancy and implications that belie the simplicity of the line spoken or the action taken.

You also have in this film two performances that make this film work and they are those of Michael Fuith, who used his awkwardness to endearing effect in Rammbock, but here is intimidating, frightening, awkward, and charming as needed. Then there’s also David Rauchenberger, who while not in the film a tremendous lot, has the unenviable task of playing the victim who as times dour, at times detached, at times a child and also rebellious.

The craftsmanship of the film is what truly makes it work. There’s one scene that really doesn’t jibe with the restraint, and the ending is one I stewed on but decided it is earned, as a whole other film would start had it continued.


Review: Reckless

Reckless is the inverse of what we normally see as it is a foreign language remake of an English language (British) film, called The Disappearance of Alice Creed. Seeing as how comparative analysis is not something slipped into lightly here, I can only state in the interest of full disclosure that I never did get to see the original. However, a review is self-contained and it is not incumbent on a film to justify its existence in relation to a prior rendition of the same tale. It only matters if it justifies its existence on its own merits. Just recently I happened to see a remake and only became aware of it after the fact.

Reckless is the first title from Artsploitation Films that I had the pleasure to see. Like many independent distributors this company has a specific an precise credo that pulls into focus the kind of film niche they seek to fill. Theirs is one I readily identify with with:

Not strictly a genre label, ARTSPLOITATION FILMS looks for intriguing, unsettling, unpredictable and provocative films from around the world. Artsploitation’s focus knows no boundaries and we hope you’ll enjoy our unconventional cinematic tastes.  Artsplotation: International films with an edge.

That ethos is readily apparent if one synopsizes the film; it tells the tale of Victor (Tygo Gernandt) and Rico (Marwan Kenzari) who met in prison believe they have picked a perfect target for their kidnapping-for-ransom plot, Laura (Sarah Chronis), but secrets about the plan and the identity of the girl could unravel their plot in unexpected ways.

Reckless has a rather deceptive outward appearance. The bare facts belie the intricate web of interpersonal relationships that are motivating the plot. For as unsettling a scenario as it is it is a film that is not impelled by shock value or cheap sensationalism, but rather how these extremes in setting, situation, and circumstance put a strain on both the relationship between the kidnappers and on how they relate to their captive.

Sure there are many stories that breed discomfort and fright and the envelope does get pushed to a degree but never to the detriment of narrative progression. The film is tightly edited, artfully styled, and precisely acted ; and so organically such that the overtures at elevating more base story elements doesn’t feel disjointed.

The film is one rife with twists each of which further elevates the stakes, intensity and suspense of the proceedings. None of them seem out of place and things resolve themselves naturally and correctly based on the momentum accumulated leading up to the climax. It’s not a case where the ending needs to be forced to satisfy audience expectations, but really feels like the only one that is just.