I saw these two great movies in one day which I think is significant enough to commemorate with a blog post.
13 ASSASSINS directed by Takashi Miike, screenplay by Daisuke Tengan (who also did Audition)
I had to go all the way out to Dendy Portside to see this one, it was the only cinema screening it. It was in E-Cinema, which is a type of digital projection at about DVD quality. The curtains were separated for Wide-Screen but the movie was in Cinemascope, letterboxed. Have you ever watched a movie letterboxed at a cinema? The subtitles were over the black bar at the bottom, I guess so it doesn't interfere with the image. The sound was in stereo, I think, I couldn't here any sound directly behind me or beside me, just mainly from the front. Miike films aren't really outstanding for their sound-design though, which makes them so much more fun, in a way.
The movie, none the less, hooked me in. Being roughly 2 hours 20 minutes, the first hour-and-a-half or so was a huge complicated mess of information in typical Miike fashion. If you don't concentrate, you'll easily lose track of who's who and what's happening. In most cases a Miike film is designed to be watched multiple times, so I was used to it. I gathered the basic plot was that there was this evil aristocratic overlord who was killing a bunch of people because he felt like it, this is considering that the film is based in the Edo period, a time of peace after many era's of warfare. A badass samurai called Shinzaemon is summoned to take care of the business. Shinzaemon does what he can to gather as many top-class samurai and ronin as he can muster, which is difficult in a time of peace, when a Samurai's services are hardly needed, which is why he only ends up with a rag-tag group of 12. The 13th assassin is a mystery, barely explained in the film, I think he's some kind of Shinto myth or something, but he was really cool, and the most distinct and recognisable character in the entire film.
The last hour or so is a total bloodbath. The bad guy is lured into a seemingly innocent town, but it's really a trap set up by the 13 assassins. The problem is, the overlord has an entourage of 200+ men and this is where things get completely absurd/awesome. This is probably the most impressive Miike film yet, in his signature over-the-top style the brutality just keeps going and going and going. There's one great shot where a river of blood gushes over the roof of a building, and I still don't know what that's all about!
This is one for the Blu-ray collection.
SUBMARINE written/directed by Richard Ayaode
The guy who plays Moss in The IT Crowd has made a movie! What's so special about an actor who plays a computer nerd making a movie? Because Richard Ayaode is also a huge film nerd. This is evident in his earlier television creation Garth Marenghi's Darkplace, a show about bad story-telling. I often talk about jazz musicians who knowingly break the rules they have mastered, but there is another side of the spectrum, is when you unknowingly break the rules you were never aware of. If you watch Tommy Wiseau's The Room or James Nguyen's Birdemic Shock and Terror, there is a strange charm in films that explore the completely wrong way of story-telling. What makes Garth Marenghi's Darkplace such a mindfuck is that Richard Ayaode and Matthew Holness are knowingly breaking rules in a way as if they're unaware of them.
"Rules" are hard to define in cinema, as there aren't really any rules, just guidelines to make sure the audience doesn't become confused, bored, frustrated or unintentionally laughing at a serious dramatic scene. Then you have a "conventional" style of film making that uses and re-uses well established film techniques so that audiences don't have to think or feel too much for themselves. Convention keeps things sterile and can get boring in its own way. Submarine is an unconventional film.
I don't know if it's good or bad to say this, but I am reminded of Stephen Spielberg's early movies, like Duel or Jaws, that felt similar in style to Alfred Hitchcock's movies. Spielberg's stories needed suspense, so who better to borrow from? In the same way, Submarine felt stylistically similar to a Martin Scorcese movie. I can't really define in a few words what that means exactly, but if you watch a lot of Scorcese movies you'll see what I mean. Maybe Scorcese is the master of unconvention?
I loved Submarine, and I must watch it again some time. Ayaode has managed to construct a story out of back-to-back moments that should be nothing but awkward and excruciating, but has made them beautiful and engaging. He employs humour and drama in perfect fluidity. It may be obnoxious for me to say, but the most unconventional thing about this film is how much I invested in the characters emotionally. The most heart-breaking moment is when Oliver Tate, the protagonist, has his heart broken. Etcetera.
I highly recommend this film, I recommend it for all.