47 FILMS: 22. STALKER

In our continuing series of ’47 Films to see before you’re murdered in your dreams’ we look at Andrei Tarkovsky’s slapstick comedy Stalker.

A meteorite has hit the Earth creating a Zone in which there is a Room in which your deepest wish may or may not come true. Two men – a writer and a scientist – are guided by a ‘Stalker’ through the dangers of the Zone, which may or may not exist, via a series of game like rituals which may or may not help. And it might all be inside the head of a little girl, the Stalker’s daughter, called ‘Monkey’. Or not.

Tarkovsky is probably most familiar to Western audience as the guy who made that film with George Clooney set in space, but before that he made some interesting films in Russian! Don’t let that scare you. Well, actually do. Tarkovsky didn’t give a shit. Working in Soviet Russia, his films were challenging, critical pieces of work – Ivan’s Childhood is a wonderful anti-war film, Andrei Rublev, his masterpiece, is about a fifteenth century Russian icon painter struggling with his faith and the brutality of the times (made in the USSR at the height of the Cold War remember). He actually wanted people to leave his film and when criticized by one apparatchik about being elitist told him there were only two people he wanted to please in the audience: himself and Ingmar Bergman. Take that, Proletariat Art!

Anyway, back to the Room in the Zone. Or maybe not. The whole point of the Room in the Zone is you can’t approach it directly and although it is supposed to be everything you always wanted, the ultimate McGuffin, the sad fact of the matter is perhaps we don’t really want everything we always wanted. Perhaps everything we always wanted is the last thing we want. Maybe it would be better if we just take naps in puddles and continue with the silly games which might or might not keep us safe.

Tarkovsky’s film is a darkly funny, brilliantly strange film which stupid people will find boring and other people (us, dear readers, us) will find so fascinating there’s a danger it’ll change your life. If that’s what you want.

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THE REVENANT – REVIEW

THE REVENANT – REVIEW: Alejandro González Iñárritu’s follow up to Birdman, The Revenant is an inspiring tale of survival ruined by blatant product placement.

Drowned on the Titanic, jailed for embezzlement, lobotomized on an island, beaten by Jack Nicholson, betrayed, basketball diaried, tricked into suicide by his girlfriend and a priest, Leonardo diCaprio has to be one of the unluckiest men alive. In The Revenant he’s torn to pieces by a bear and frozen by a hard winter, attacked by Indians, half drowned in a river and dropped from cliffs. As if this wasn’t bad enough, Tom Hardy offs his son and leaves him for dead. It’s almost as if Iñárritu is putting DiCaprio through some sort of Oscar endurance test. But it’s well worth the journey and diCaprio is magnificent along with Hardy.

With Terrence Malick’s cinematographer Emanuel Lubezki and set desginer Jack Fisk, there’s a fair bit of the Malickian here, but Iñárritu is more interested in nature red in tooth and claw. Immersed in the elemental extremes of fire, water, frost and violence, The Revenant drags the audience through an unforgiving wilderness. A history of massacres looms in the background and cold freezes throughout the film. There’s also a bit Tarkovsky with visions of floating women and sopping landscapes forgotten by an absentee God. Occasionally, the story veers too far into the extreme with logic and credibility be damned, a precipice too far if you will. But I’ll be gored by a bear and buggered by it too, if you can find a more fascinating and visually sumptuous depiction of why we have dentistry and central heating.

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NEW TARKOVSKY FILM DISCOVERED IN SOLARIS

MOSCOW – A previously unseen film by Russian master Andrei Tarkovsky has been discovered hidden between the frames of his 1972 masterpiece Solaris.

Mark Cousins (no relation to the humorless Irish critic Mark Cousins) spoke excitedly about the discovery. 

It seems that the film час пик is set in Moscow and involves a mismatched pair of policeman one of them from the far reaches of Eastern Russia while the other one is a fast talking ex-KGB agent. It is a marked departure for Tarkovsky whose career is cluttered with long-winded masterpieces, with car chases, fight scenes involving martial arts and a fast talking wit that is not usually associated with the director of Ivan’s Childhood.

The film was discovered during a restoration of Solaris for its Blu-Ray release when technicians were astounded to see different images every alternate frame. 

It’s odd that we should see one film and not the other all these years, because there are exactly the same number of frames per film, but everyone saw Solaris and no one saw час пик.

An additional effect of the discovery has been the fact that now Solaris – with the frames of the parasite film removed – moves along at a far smarter clip, now clocking in at only 93 minutes, as opposed to its original theatrical run time of 167 minutes. Film historians are now carefully checking Stalker and Andrei Rublev for other films and Cousins points out that it might also be the case that within the version of час пик there might even lie another hidden film ‘like a Matroyshka Doll’.

The new film час пик (Rush Hour) will be shown at a special BFI season this Summer entitled ‘Look How Clever We Are!’

STEVEN SODERBERGH’S NEXT LAST FILM TO BE STALKER REMAKE

HOLLYWOOD – Steven Soderbergh‘s last last film was Side Effects, his latest last film is Behind the Candelabra is about to show at Cannes and his next last film – we found out today – is to be a remake of Andrei Tarkovsky‘s Stalker starring long time collaborator George Clooney in the title role.


The film involves a forbidden area of strange power called the Zone where a meteor once crashed. The Stalker (Clooney) leads two other men, a writer (Matt Damon) and a scientist (Brad Pitt), towards the center of the Zone where they will find the mysterious room, where apparently wishes come true.

Many have reacted with horror at the idea of the follically challenged whizz kid getting his greasy mitts on what many regard as the Russian master’s finest work, but writer and confessed Zone-head Geoff Dyer disagrees:

Soderbergh has already improved on Tarkovsky with his brilliant version of Solaris which absolutely knocked Tarkovsky’s version into a cocked hat. I’m sure he will do just as well with Stalker, which anyway is itself a remake of Wizard of Oz.

Soderbergh’s plans come as no surprise as it had already been announced that he will make a last film every year until 2025. The only surprise perhaps is this year he has already made three.

SCARY MOVIE 5: SEVEN YEARS IN THE MAKING

 

HOLLYWOOD – In 2006, when Scary Movie 4 was released everyone naturally assumed that the next entry in the money spinning, gross out and laugh free franchise would be along within the year.

After all, up until that point each script had taken less time to write than it actually took to sit down and watch the finished movie. However, six years passed and no Scary Movie. Some hoped – even prayed – that the bone headed franchise which only seemed to exist to give Charlie Sheen and his wife money had finally fallen into its own dark hole of pointlessness. Yet now a new entry is on the horizon and Studio Exec asked Malcolm D. Lee (cousin of Spike) what took so long?

‘There was the feeling that the quality of the franchise had gone downhill,’ said Lee. ‘We wanted this to not just be another Scary Movie movie, we wanted it to be a Scary Movie movie that was also a good movie movie, a moving Scary Movie movie movie.’

Beginning in 2000 with  the Keenen Ivory Wayans directed Scary Movie, the formula was quickly implemented with a series of broad stroke parodies played out by tired hams and vacuously inept actors. Scary Movie 2 followed in 2001 and Scary Movie 3 followed in 2002 and Scary Movie 4 in 2006 under the direction of the once great David Zucker.  

We watched a lot Andrei Tarkovsky. I’m particularly fond of Stalker. I thought Tarkovsky because I know that Keenen had been very influenced by Ingmar Bergman, especially his later films, so I didn’t want to repeat him. And Zucker of course is Godardian to a fault. If you watch A Bout de Souffle and then you watch Scary Movie 3 you’ll see that structurally the films are identical. 

 What can we expect to see that’ll be different from the other Scary Movies?

Obviously I don’t want to ruin a very successful franchise. But we sat down and we went through the script again and again and again. We put in layers. We put in a whole Kabbalistic thing and then we took it out. We got all the actors to get into their roles in a way that was crazy. Charlie Sheen went totally method and I think you can see that in the headlines as well as the film.

Scary Movie 5 will be released in 2018.