Tag Archives: Krzysztof Kieslowski

WEIRD LOVE: THE WORLD’S TOP 10 ART-HOUSE INCEST MOVIES

Eugene Vasiliev provides 366 Weird Movies with his own translation/adaptation of his original article, which appeared in Russian here.

366 Weird Movies may earn commissions from purchases made through product links.

10. Murderous Maids [Les blessures assassines] (2000) (France)

DIRECTED BY: Jean-Pierre Denis

PLOT: Two lustful maids (and sisters) turn tricks in the attic, until caught red-handed by their housemistress. They ignore her remonstrances and calls to virtue. In fact, the two “guilty” servants thrash their mistress and her daughter to death after gouging out their eyes.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Domestic workers’ struggle for equal rights is sometimes an uphill battle.

Scores of movies about incest feature absent fathers, mothers, delinquent daughters, and criminal sons. Religious families, orphaned children, widowed mothers, and the underclass form fertile ground for weird love. (A rare exception is a case of upper-class incest in Louis Malle‘s Murmur of the Heart, discussed below.)

Still from Murderous Maids (2000)

Murderous Maids is based on a real case that shocked France in 1933, when the Papin sisters brutally murdered their employers. The film shows us how things went so bad in a very long and tedious way up until the denouement. The ruthless exploitation of the poor orphans, fated to live their lives at someone’s beck and call in a noble house, stirs up indignation in the viewer’s heart. Throughout the movie the unfortunate “feminists” are forced to iron clothes or scrub toilets.

Amazingly, the unholy acts that “the midnight maidens” do look innocent at first. They just relax for a moment in a bizarre position after vacuuming. Then something goes wrong. What we’ve got here is failure to communicate. They wish for the ground to swallow them up, but it doesn’t. The sisters then try to wipe out reality,  press the “DELETE” button, by gouging out the eyes of their mistress.

There was a trial, a society scandal, and a dungeon. In 1941 the younger sister–Lea Papin—was set free. She died at the age of 89, outliving her employers by almost 70 years.

9. A Woman’s Way [Strella] (2009) (Greece)

DIRECTED BY: Panos H. Koutras

PLOT: After serving 14 years behind bars for the murder of a promiscuous woman, a Greek man suddenly realizes that he was deeply wrong. He comes to believe true virtue isn’t found in fasting and praying, but in incest, sodomy, and other types of taboo love.

WHAT IT’S ABOUT: Cinema is an art of illusion.

The great French film theorist Jean Epstein noted in his book “Bonjour, Cinema” back in 1921: “The close-up alters drama through the impression of proximity. Pain is within reach. If I extend my arm, I touch your intimacy… I count the eyelashes of this suffering.”1.

Still from A Woman's Way (2009)

Extreme close-ups, zoom-ins and creepy music transform your perception of reality. Art can justify any sin, make black into white and Continue reading WEIRD LOVE: THE WORLD’S TOP 10 ART-HOUSE INCEST MOVIES

CAPSULE: THE DOUBLE LIFE OF VERONIQUE (1991)

La double vie de Véronique

Recommended

DIRECTED BY:

FEATURING: Irène Jacob, Philippe Volter

PLOT: Stories from the lives of two women—Polish Weronika and French Veronique—who are both musicians, look identical, and share a vague psychic bond that is never explained.

Still from The Double Life of Veronique (1991)

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: It tends too much to the “arthouse drama” side of the “weird arthouse drama” scale.

COMMENTS: Weronika and Veronique are only present together at one moment, when the French music teacher glimpses the Polish singer in a crowd. Yet, their lives are almost mirror images, or alternate histories. They share a metaphysical bond: Weronika burns herself on a stove as a child, and Veronique dimly senses her pain, and carries a fear of hot surfaces for her entire life. In the early going it can be difficult to tell which of them is which, although the plot makes it very clear who is the main character in the end.

There is no meaningful interaction between the two young women; in fact, it proceeds almost like two separate dramas placed alongside each other, concerning stories from the lives of two superficially similar characters. Small individual moments create more impact than the whole: Weronika singing rapturously as raindrops splash her upturned face, a Lenin statue carted away by truck (an earthbound mirror of La Dolce Vita‘s helicoptered Christ), a cathedral inverted in a handheld crystal ball. The first half focuses on the more likable of the pair, while the second half launches into a skewed love story involving a puppeteer. The incidents are related in the straightforward, mostly realistic way typical of Kieslowski and his arthouse cronies, with the bare mystery of the doppelgangers providing an unsettling subtext. The end result is a Rorschach test (inkblots are mirror images, after all).

Although I’m awarding The Double Life of Veronique a “recommended” rating, it’s a qualified one. Veronique‘s  technical qualities are exemplary: Slawomir Idziak’s lush cinematography, Zbigniew Presiner’s beautiful classical score, and Irene Jacob’s ravishing presence merge to create truly sensuous, quietly seductive film. But the enterprise is also overly enigmatic, in a way that’s not completely satisfying. It doesn’t deliver the surreal magic of a Persona, and as an intellectual exercise, even Blow-Up is easy to parse compared to Veronique. Is it a study of Europe’s East contra its West, or of how the author manipulates the personas of his characters? Scant evidence appears for any particular interpretation, but there’s a too much explication, and too few fireworks, to suggest a mindblowing irrational experience. The mix of mundane and off-center elements make for a movie that, while impressive, may not offer quite enough return per unit of attention it demands.

WHAT THE CRITICS SAY:

“[Kieslowski] takes us into a world that merges the most natural with the most surreal and inexplicable happenings. Some critics find the film too cryptic and baffling, since it offers many clues but no easy explanations. Double Life is his most lyrical and beautiful film to date, but it’s also his most mysterious, enigmatic, and elusive—by design.”–Emmanuel Levy, emmanuellevy.com

(This movie was nominated for review by “Tomash,” who mysteriously said, “this is the BIG movie.” Suggest a weird movie of your own here.)

CAPSULE: CINEMA 16: EUROPEAN SHORT FILMS (EUROPEAN EDITION) (2007)

DIRECTED BY: Lukas Moodysson, Patrice Le Conte, , Virgil Widrich, , Peter Mullian, Nanni Moretti, Jan Kounen, Roy Andersson, Juan Solanas, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Jan Svankmajer, , Lars von Trier, Javier Fesser, Anders Thomas Jensen

FEATURING: , Sten Ljunggren, , Isis Krüger, Thomas Wolff

PLOT: Comedies, dramas and experimental films are collected together in this anthology of sixteen award winning short films made by Europeans.

Still from My Wrongs #8245-8249 & 117 ()

WHY IT WON’T MAKE THE LIST: Compilations themselves aren’t eligible, and although some of the shorts here are quite weird, none of them are powerful enough to displace a feature film from the List.

COMMENTS: Short films have almost no commercial prospects: filmmakers generally make them as calling cards, for festival competitions where artistry is more important than marketability, and as a way to fiddle around with the medium of film. Experiments, whether visual or narrative, that might grow wearisome at 90 minutes can be refreshing at under 15 minutes, and directors can indulge their outré aesthetic impulses without fear of alienating audiences and distributors. There are, therefore, a higher proportion of weird works in the world of the short film than are found in the feature film universe: here, nine out of the sixteen offerings—more than half of the total—make at least a nod towards the strange, surreal, or fantastical.

Although we will run down all the films on the set, our primary interest here is in “My Wrongs #8245-8249 & 117,” provocateur ‘ first self-contained short film after years of making blackly absurd, boundary-pushing sketches for British television. Our interest in “Wrongs” stems both from the fact it’s likely the weirdest offering, and because a reader suggested it to us for review. Before we get to the unique films in this collection, we need to explain a little about the “Cinema 16: European Short Films” sets. For reasons that are somewhat unclear, Cinema 16 released two different discs entitled “European Short Films,” one for the European market and one for the U.S. market.  The two editions share seven films in common. We reviewed the U.S. release previously, and mini reviews of the overlapping shorts will be found in that article. The seven repeats are:
Continue reading CAPSULE: CINEMA 16: EUROPEAN SHORT FILMS (EUROPEAN EDITION) (2007)