September issues [II] : GAMER [6/10]; MAN OF ARAN (1934) [5+/10] … both online, TUE.22.SEP.

rated 6/10
GAMER (USA 2009) dir. 'Neveldine/Taylor'

   Further thick-ear/high-concept high-jinks/extravagance from the writing-directing duo Neveldine/Taylor, showcasing a beefily inexpressive/gruff turn from Gerard Butler that may impede rather than hasten his progress towards the A-list of Hollywood leading men.
|  Alternating between hyperactive/ear-splitting hyperkineticism and mopey/downbeat interludes, the picture is the latest death-sport dystopia (in the vein of the Rollerball and Death Race remakes), its USP the idea that future technology will result in a development of video-games whereby the "players" will control not CGI avatars but flesh-and-blood humans.
   Rather too much time is expounded on exposition, and the backstory of Butler's character is somewhat garbled: suffice to say that he needs to escape the "game" and reunite his family, his daughter having been adopted by the Machiavellian/megalomaniac uber-baddie played by Dexter's Michael C Hall as a bony-faced/buff cross between Bill Gates and Watchmen's Ozymandias.
   The sentimental family stuff is typical Hollywood cornball, delivered pretty straight – particularly in contrast to Neveldine/Taylor's post-modern/snarky attitude to pretty much everything else on view. The bloodthirsty/shoot-em-up action sequences deliver, and, as with this duo's previous hit Crank, there are enough oddball/offbeat/satirical touches along the way (including a sinister "dance" number and a nicely wry Keith David cameo) to give Gamer some hints of its own distinct flavouring. 
   And when the two alternate-realities of the game-world collide – kill-or-be-killed, colour-bleached macho-verse Slayers and the day-glo cyber-sex-ish environment known as Society - we glimpse the head-spinning, genre-transcending movie Gamer might have been if it hadn't been cobbled together in such evident haste (it's less than a year since Neveldine/Taylor served up Crank 2.)
   As it is, however, this is a Paul Verhoeven-ish vision of the future (with a touch of David Cronenberg) refracted through a Tony Scott directorial sensibility. The hardware is satisfactory; the overfamiliar software in need of an originality upgrade.

rated 5+/10
MAN OF ARAN (UK 1934) dir. Robert Flaherty

Tiefer, tiefer.
Irgendwo in der tiefe
Gibt es ein licht

All-too-transparently faked-up quasi-"documentary" along similar lines to Flaherty's Nanook of the North from over a decade before. Despite sound having come in at the end of the twenties, this one is also silent, supposedly chronicling the tough lives of those living on the Aran islands off the west coast of Ireland (not to be confused with the isle of Arran off the west coast of Scotland). It's worth a look mainly for the spectacular shots of the stormy seas in this part of the world, some sense of scale being provided by the people – tiny specks scurrying along clifftops or rocky shores in search of shelter. An hour purely composed of the titanic ocean would have sufficed – but Flaherty is more interested in assembling a pseudo-anthropological study of the local residents, orchestrating an elaborate shark-hunting sequence (even though such activities hadn't actually been carried out in this area for over a century) chiefly notable for some ethereal images of a pre-slaughter basking shark.
   The landlubbers remain distant, wordless, nameless figures – a "man", his "wife", their "child". Opening credits reveal that the man and wife weren't actually a couple, though the woman and boy are evidently mother and son: she's a well-scrubbed sort who tends to grin whenever the camera is present (even in situations of tense danger), the laddie looks like he's wandered in off a Hollywood set. While evidently of seminal importance in terms of cinema history, Man of Aran now only intermittently engages seven decades on – more of a curio than a time-capsule. If you get the chance, try to see it via film rather than projected DVD – and the 2009 soundtrack by British Sea Power adds little in terms of mood or ambience, the music only very occasionally seeming to complement or augment the images.

Neil Young
September 2009

GAMER : [6/10] : USA 2009 : NEVELDINE/TAYLOR (= Mark NEVELDINE, Brian TAYLOR) : 95m (BBFC*) : seen at Empire cinema (Sunderland) 16th September : paid  £4.80
     further reading : Ignatiy Vishnevetsky, The Auteurs Notebook

MAN OF ARAN : [5+/10] : UK 1934 : Robert FLAHERTY : 70m (approx) : seen at CineCity cinema (Vlissingen/Flushing, The Netherlands) 19th September : paid  ‚¬9.00 (Film By The Sea film festival) – DVD projection of new 2009 version with soundtrack by British Sea Power

GAMER is a futuristic action film in which a star video game character tries to free himself from the players and masterminds that control his world. The film was classified '18' for 'strong bloody violence and sexualised nudity'.
   The film maintains a near relentless focus on gun violence, in the near realistic setting of urban shoot-outs and personalised fighting. There are strong moments of realistic and bloody violence, including the graphic sight of a man smashing another man's head with a rock several times, strong bloody detail of a character's head being blown off by a gunshot and a frequency of gun violence that challenges the '15' guidelines on violence. At '15', the violence guidelines state that violence should 'not dwell on the infliction of pain and injury'. These scenes contain enough detail to challenge the terms of the guidelines. The film's impact is also aggravated by the fact that it is the hero, with whom viewers will identify with, who is using violence as a means of resolving all disputes and challenges. The film is thus most suitable at the '18' classification for these issues.
   The film also contains scenes of strong sexualised nudity. There a scene in which a teenage online user watches a hologram screen pop up in which two 'twin-like' blonde females lift their t-shirts to reveal bare breast nudity for his sexual pleasure. There is some focus on the sexualised nudity in this scene. There are also other brief, but strong images of female breast nudity, buttocks and some sexualised images in a kinky nightclub. All of these cumulatively suggest an '18' classification is the most suitable for the audience. The guidelines at '15' require that nudity in a sexual context may not be 'strong'. 
   The film also contains some brief images of performers swinging on hooks embedded into their skin, as part of a bizarre futuristic nightclub scene. There are two brief images of these performers and not enough focus to raise any concerns about imitation or safety in the film's context. 
   The film also contains strong language and sex references, all of which are suitable at the recommended '18' classification. 
   This work was passed with no cuts made. 
The main spoken language in this work is English.