The Films of 2017

Discussions of specific films and franchises.
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Brian C
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Re: The Films of 2017

#51 Post by Brian C » Sun Dec 10, 2017 1:14 pm

The Mountain Between Us (Hany Abu-Assad)

This is a MoviePass movie if I've ever seen one, and for the most part it was as middle-of-the-road "fine" as one might expect. Some pretty mountain photography, solid but unremarkable performances, etc.

But one aspect did stand out to me: it has the most convincingly staged plane crash I think I've ever seen on film, helped along by the decision to film most of it from a very novel camera angle that simultaneously ups the visceral impact of it while providing an opportunity to hide the CGI. It's a scene that feels ripped from a Cuarón film, in a movie that otherwise showed virtually no creative energy.

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domino harvey
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Re: The Films of 2017

#52 Post by domino harvey » Thu Dec 14, 2017 10:32 pm

John Shade wrote:For those of you with younger kids, Boss Baby isn't a terrible waste of time. I prefer the kind of irreverence in a movie like this than what you get from Pixar/Disney. There are some good gags, interesting bits of animation when we see the imagination of the older brother, and Alec Baldwin as the baby was a running joke that made me laugh. His voice was a hidden asset of Royal Tenenbaums and is pretty amusing as the corporate minded, 30 Rock CEO turned infant baby. The central conceit that people prefer puppies to babies now is...an interesting choice.
This, uh, was somehow pretty good. A cute take on the usual older brother anxieties directed at younger siblings. Like a lot of childrens' entertainment, there are too many bathroom humor jokes, but there are plenty of pluses to counter this. I liked how the animation designs often had a CGI UPA look, and I laughed more than I expected. Plus more kids movies need a David Mamet joke

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knives
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Re: The Films of 2017

#53 Post by knives » Wed Dec 27, 2017 8:15 pm

The B Side is a perfect example of why Errol Morris is at his most effective with a toss off seeming subject. The short run time and the non-reaction to it only compounds a feeling that this is a b-side itself, but slowly the film weaves a number of strands, particularly on Ginsberg and Polaroid, which come to a very effective portrait which I suspect will after some time come to be be on Morris' upper half. Dorfman at first comes across as a footnote in history that is only the subject for Morris to have some excuse on baby boomer nostalgia, but then the film moves further and further away from fame and more and more into the idea of aging ending on a truly great image and idea.

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thirtyframesasecond
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Re: The Films of 2017

#54 Post by thirtyframesasecond » Thu Dec 28, 2017 6:18 pm

I watched Terry George's The Promise as it was on Amazon Prime. I was a bit surprised to see a movie about the Armenian Genocide costing $90m but Kirk Kerkorian bankrolled the whole thing. It's a bomb, as you'd expect given its relatively niche aspect of history. The main thing that's emerged is its IMDB rating hoo-ha, where the Turkish diaspora were giving out zero scores, and the Armenian diaspora reciprocating with tens - all this before the films release. Oscar Isaac plays an Armenian medical student in Constantinople, Christian Bale's an American journalist - as WW1 rages, the Ottoman Empire deals with its Armenian 'problem'. It's all very one sided and the love triangle is a bit wishy-washy but aren't many historical dramas that way? It's fairly engaging nonetheless.

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knives
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Re: The Films of 2017

#55 Post by knives » Thu Dec 28, 2017 6:30 pm

How does it compare to Fatih Akin's The Cut from a few years ago (or the Taviani's own take on this subject)?

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thirtyframesasecond
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Re: The Films of 2017

#56 Post by thirtyframesasecond » Fri Dec 29, 2017 6:54 am

knives wrote:How does it compare to Fatih Akin's The Cut from a few years ago (or the Taviani's own take on this subject)?
Not seen either. It's a fairly formulaic Hollywood film so I wouldn't expect anything more than a Zhivago-esque set-up. I was thinking of Egoyan's Ararat too, but it's not comparable.

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hearthesilence
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Re: The Films of 2017

#57 Post by hearthesilence » Fri Dec 29, 2017 12:03 pm

Has anyone seen Heinz Emigholz's Streetscapes [Dialogue]? This apparently screened at Lincoln Center back in April - I didn't even know about it and now I regret it because it seems to have made quite an impression on those who saw it. I can't imagine many seeing it - distribution seems to be confined to a handful of screenings outside of prestigious festivals, and it's likely to remain that way since it appears to be an experimental documentary - but Jim Hoberman, Dennis Lim and Jonathan Rosenbaum all placed it among their top FIVE films of the year.

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zedz
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Re: The Films of 2017

#58 Post by zedz » Fri Dec 29, 2017 5:33 pm

thirtyframesasecond wrote:
knives wrote:How does it compare to Fatih Akin's The Cut from a few years ago (or the Taviani's own take on this subject)?
Not seen either. It's a fairly formulaic Hollywood film so I wouldn't expect anything more than a Zhivago-esque set-up. I was thinking of Egoyan's Ararat too, but it's not comparable.
I’ve seen the making-of by Joe Berlinger (Brother’s Keeper, Paradise Lost), which is doing the rounds parading as a documentary about the genocide, and it made its parent film look utterly trite, like an 80s mini-series or something.

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Murdoch
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Re: The Films of 2017

#59 Post by Murdoch » Mon Jan 08, 2018 2:15 pm

I haven't seen any mention of Janicza Bravo's Lemon around here but it easily placed on my top ten for the year. The plot revolves around Brett Gelman's unstable and awkward director as he tries to stage Chekhov's "The Seagull" while dealing with a break-up and courting Nia Long. This makes it sound far more like a conventional romance than it is, but what follows is an odd collection of scenes where Gelman, Michael Cera, Gillian Jacobs, Judy Greer, and quite a few other notable comedians interact uncomfortably through purposely stilted dialogue. I found a sort of brilliance in the way these characters try to connect with each other, each seeming to have a clear thing to express but unable to communicate it well with another person. There's depth in the film's artifice, the people that populate it struggle to connect with others and while there's no real theme or purpose to the conversations they have they do their best to express themselves. I also enjoyed the small gag throughout the film of Jacobs rambling about some trifling matter and being cut off as the film transitions abruptly to the next scene.

The most notable thing to me was the division between the white and black characters. The film has a primarily white cast, but in a scene where Gelman goes to Long's family cookout the black characters show a comfort and ease of speech around each other that's largely absent from the white characters' dialogues. Bravo stated in an interview that she made this film after being fascinated with the type of films centering around middle-aged white men who suffer from a variety of anxiety and social issues but still come out ahead at the end. This film feels very much the antithesis of that, as nothing really resolves or changes for Gelman - no revelation about his behavior comes to light, and he's actually worse off by the end as his unhinged behavior isolates him further.

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knives
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Re: The Films of 2017

#60 Post by knives » Wed Jan 10, 2018 7:01 pm

Hey, Jordan Carlos has a cameo in Landline. That's cool and reason enough to watch. As for the film, I feel like it relies a little too much on Phillip Roth style gross out humour which never has and never will work out for me. That aside though this is really great improving on Obvious Child in a really satisfying way with a great sense of character and a classical sense of visual story telling that is unobtrusive. The way the characters just know each other is such an effective dramatic tool that focusing on the comedy makes sense. It has that Baumbach sense of the funnier a joke is the more a painful a pathos that creates across the whole.

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mfunk9786
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Re: The Films of 2017

#61 Post by mfunk9786 » Tue Jan 23, 2018 12:15 pm

To prepare for the Oscar nominations, I (naturally) watched Jigsaw last night, and found it far worse than I could have anticipated. The perverse pleasure of the Saw pictures is not the plot (that isn't good here either, mind you - the titular character has been dead for ten years at this point, so the writers have to rely on absurd plot devices to ensure that his appearance is only in increasingly ridiculous flashbacks - time to just reboot the thing), but the contraptions and situations that Jigsaw's victims find themselves in. With the real-life popularity of escape rooms sky high, I'm surprised that the studio didn't find this ripe for more creative oomph to get even the squeamish or skeptical into the theater to see what'd been cooked up, but the collection of victims and their stories are particularly dull here, as are their punishments and decision-making - and I'm saying that's in comparison to other Saw sequels.

These are a lot like the similarly inconsistent Final Destination films - if you cannot construct a clever "game" to play out for whatever paper-thin hapless victims are next in line, there are no good qualities from a filmmaking or acting perspective to make any aspect of the enterprise worthwhile - and this is one of the installments in this franchise that you can skip altogether, if you were at all curious (I know, I know, you weren't).

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colinr0380
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Re: The Films of 2017

#62 Post by colinr0380 » Fri Jan 26, 2018 2:50 pm

"If we die in this escape room, we die in real life!" :D

That reminds me, have you played any of the Zero Escape trilogy of games mfunk? That is a fantastic 'escape room' story, although it goes in some pretty wild directions (and that's putting it mildly. If you don't mind the entire plot being spoiled this video gives a speedy runthrough of the story!)

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swo17
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Re: The Films of 2017

#63 Post by swo17 » Mon Feb 12, 2018 3:23 am

mfunk9786 wrote:Watched Brigsby Bear tonight and it was one of the most pleasant surprises of the year. The concept is a little undercooked but still bordering on brilliant, but the fact that it's utilized in service of something so sincere and kind was really something unexpected. In the hands of an Adam McKay this would be a loud, rude, impossibly obnoxious film - but Kyle Mooney and Dave McCary have something more Be Kind Rewind in mind here and thank goodness for that. Is it maudlin? Absolutely. Are the motivations of the parents at the beginning of the film a little underdeveloped and messy? Yes, they are. But for a first film, this is a pretty amazing little gem that's a great showcase for Mooney, and an blindside of a convincing argument for the value of childhood nostalgia and fandom that melted the heart of this skeptic. See it.
Agreed. I also got a kick out of all the Utah locations. Like the clinic where he stays toward the end of the film is a five minute drive from my house, where I take my daughter when she gets strep throat.

Did you see the "lost episode" included as an extra on the Blu-ray?

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DarkImbecile
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Re: The Films of 2017

#64 Post by DarkImbecile » Thu Mar 01, 2018 4:44 pm

I meant to post about this back when it was screening more widely, but Fatih Akin’s In the Fade was one of my favorite of the year, a psychological thriller with a fantastic, complex lead performance by Diane Kruger, some excellent music (that I didn’t realize until I was watching the credits was composed by Queens of the Stone Age’s Joshua Homme), and imagery that has stayed with me for weeks. Kruger’s Katja is a German woman forced to wade through the personal, legal, and extralegal aftermath of a major crime, less and less able as the film goes on to rely on anyone aside from herself for support, understanding, or justice. Infused with social/political commentary but never ranging into the polemical, Akin’s script keeps a laser-like focus on the impact of trauma on this woman and her attempts to find closure, while propelling the audience along to a divisive finale in gripping fashion.

I really can’t say enough about Kruger’s work here - in a just world she’d be in serious contention for a statuette this weekend - though it certainly helps that Akin has written a multifaceted lead female role that allows her to cover a lot of (quite intense) ground.

I haven’t seen anything else by Akin, though I know Head-On got a lot of support in the 2000s list project a couple of years ago; can anyone who’s seen this and his other work speak to how it compares?

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DarkImbecile
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Re: The Films of 2017

#65 Post by DarkImbecile » Mon Mar 12, 2018 12:29 pm

DarkImbecile wrote:Michael O'Shea's The Transfiguration is a dark, misshapen little horror gem about Milo, a black kid in the New York City projects whose struggles to get by are complicated by his being more than a little obsessed with the mechanics of vampirism. Feeling somewhat like a twisted alternate version of the teenage section of Moonlight - in which the poor kid with the troubled family life is learning how and whether he can live with not homosexuality but psychopathy - the film from its opening scene never tries to engender false sympathy or make excuses for Eric Ruffin's Milo, but presents all but the most extreme of his patterns of behavior with a matter-of-fact style that makes them all the more disturbing.

Both Ruffin and Chloe Levine (who has the air of a young actress who could definitely make a name for herself) as a young neighbor who takes an interest in him do quality work in making their unstable relationship convincing and compelling, and O'Shea's script and Ruffin's performance nail the awkward mannerisms of a certain kind of obsessive teenage boy in a way that feels, as Milo would say, "pretty realistic".

O'Shea has crafted a grim yet weirdly affecting blend of genres and styles, leveraging some powerful images, evocative NYC locations, and skillful editing to create a micro-budget thriller that I'd guess will gradually develop a solid reputation. It's not getting much of a release, but definitely worth seeking out for fans of the genre.

Trailer and release calendar
Just noticed that this is on Netflix while I was trolling around last night, and thought it was worth plugging again as I'm starting to suspect I'm the only person in the world who saw it.

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knives
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Re: The Films of 2017

#66 Post by knives » Fri Mar 16, 2018 2:57 pm

Amanda Lipitz's Step is simply one of the best films I've seen in a while. At first it just seems like an aggressively hip take on life opening with the Freddie Gray shooting and being about an all girls charter school's step program in Baltimore. It quickly evolves past that into a great character piece about the need for kids to get into college and succeed generally and also the need for teachers to work with what is perhaps a futile gesture beyond the statistical evidence of failure guaranteed. That last bit particularly worked for me. The guidance councilor with her frustration and anger at Blessin yet real emotional follow through was a good reminder to keep my own cynicism about my kids at a minimum even as realistically it is warranted. In that there is a only five second or so moment about 64 minutes into the film that really helped to push the film from good to great and warrant the feeling of relief the film attempts to end on. I'd be criminal to go in depth on it, but it is an emotional culmination of so many complicated feelings in such an unusual setting to express them even as they are always felt there that I was personally devastated by it.

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Re: The Films of 2017

#67 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Wed Mar 21, 2018 1:04 am

Aftermath (Elliot Lester) is a half-hearted attempt at presenting Arnold Schwarzengger as a serious dramatic actor. He does a good enough job portraying a man in the throes of unthinkable grief, but unfortunately everything else doesn't rise to the occasion. Not even Scoot McNairy's character, who the film spends nearly as much time on focusing but who I didn't find particularly engaging here.

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hearthesilence
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Re: The Films of 2017

#68 Post by hearthesilence » Mon Mar 26, 2018 1:22 pm

I haven't seen Marshall yet, but it is credited to a 74-year-old litigator Michael Koskoff who is more or less a first-time screenwriter, and apparently he got to know retired justice Sandra Day O'Connor. (The producers apparently screened the film for her before its release.) O'Connor served on the Supreme Court with Marshall, and according to Koskoff: “Surprisingly, to me, [she] was very close to Thurgood Marshall...She said that he, more than once, was the person who swayed her to change her mind [on important votes] — with his stories.” Pretty amazing to hear given how the Court's changed in what feels like a very short time.

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knives
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Re: The Films of 2017

#69 Post by knives » Thu Apr 05, 2018 3:01 pm

Frear's Victoria & Abdul is pretty great as a farce and if the film had leaned into that a bit more it would easily be Frears best of the century. As is his dramatic tendencies override a little too much. Part of it is necessary to make the central relationship work, but Frears goes far beyond what is required making some of his idiot comedy less than satisfactory. A big part of that is that this is very much a film about colonialism and how the British are the worst. This makes, though he doesn't have much screen time, Adeel Akhtar (who has been so great lately) just as valuable as Dench. He's the cynical realist who sees the British for what they are while Fazal is something of a naive idiot. He's this film's Fernandel so wide eyed as to not be able to realize he's entered into a world of overgrown children playing house with the world at stake. There's a potentially much darker take such as Iannucci would do lurking underneath through Akhtar's eyes, but seeing this through Fazal's is fun in a classically silly sort of way.

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: The Films of 2017

#70 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Apr 05, 2018 3:17 pm

Naoko Ogigami's Close Knit (original is something like "when they knit earnestly (together) ..." -- sort of parallel construction to Naruse's "When the Woman Ascends the Stairs ....") finally showed up in Boston, courtesy of the 34th Annual LGBT Film Festival. This story of a neglected 11 year old girl (a mother almost as problematic as the one in Kore'eda's Nobody Knows) being taken care of by her uncle and his transgender (almost fully transitioned) girlfriend seemed to be a crowd pleaser. Plenty of comedy mixed into a story with lots of serious elements (child neglect, home/trans-phobia, school bullying, etc.). The young heroine (Rinka Kakihara) is very well done -- and the performances are all quite good (as usual for Ogigiami). Not sure that all plot points fit perfectly, but didn't find anything especially aggravating.

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DarkImbecile
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Re: The Films of 2017

#71 Post by DarkImbecile » Thu Apr 12, 2018 12:06 pm

Samuel Maoz' Foxtrot is purposefully disorienting - with an elliptical structure, surreal imagery, animated interludes, and a strong lead performance by Lior Ashkenazi that is (purposefully) often withholding and near mute for much of the film - but the audience's inability to get a firm grip on the film's aims for much of its runtime is ultimately more appropriate to the material than frustrating, as the emphasis put on Foxtrot's titular metaphor is (arguably more than) enough to make both its intended points clear by the conclusion. Jumping between a family receiving tragic news about their son and that young man's time at a border checkpoint somewhere in Israel/Palestine (though neither nation or their people are mentioned by name), the narrative ultimately coalesces around a sharp sociopolitical criticism couched in character-driven drama, bolstered by striking cinematography and production design that emphasizes the sense of place in (and the distance between) the muddy, ragged outpost and the upper class urban apartment that serve as the primary settings.

Though obviously very different in form and plot, I was strongly reminded during Foxtrot of the sensibility of Waltz With Bashir; that film's director, Ari Folman, was - like Maoz - deployed to Lebanon during the 1982 war, and both films are clearly grappling with the personal and societal impacts of that conflict. I haven't seen Maoz' debut feature, 2009's Lebanon, which appears to cover events similar to those in Bashir through a more gritty and realistic lens rooted in Maoz' experience, but there's enough clearly biographical detail in Foxtrot to infuse it with a sense of personal and social urgency that provides clarity to what could have been a more obtuse, less compelling film without it. Definitely recommended, and worth heading out to the theater for as it continues its limited release in the US.

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knives
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Re: The Films of 2017

#72 Post by knives » Thu Apr 12, 2018 1:51 pm

Lebanon, which I voted for in our war list, isn't quite a realistic film with a lot of fantastic imagery (the polarizing donkey tears being the most obvious point) though it is a film of psychological realism.

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domino harvey
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Re: The Films of 2017

#73 Post by domino harvey » Sat Apr 14, 2018 11:50 pm

Lady Macbeth (William Oldroyd) One of the things I've noticed from tours of colonial homes is how terribly noisy everything is, and if nothing else, this 1800s Brit-set film shows how hardwood floors got their name! The title clues you in to what will transpire as the new lady of the house deals with an impotent husband by fucking the help and then killing everyone who gets in the way of continuing-- and I do mean everyone! This one gets away with being predictable by virtue of not flinching, and the film crafts an expert unease throughout its compact running time that makes for a stressful viewing experience regardless of knowing the beats it's about to sound

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Re: The Films of 2017

#74 Post by Michael Kerpan » Sun Apr 15, 2018 4:36 pm

domino harvey wrote:Lady Macbeth (William Oldroyd)
I find it hard to imagine this story without the tremendous music Shostakovich created for its operatic adaptation (and which put him deep inside Stalin's cultural dungeon).

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colinr0380
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Re: The Films of 2017

#75 Post by colinr0380 » Sun Jun 24, 2018 5:41 am

The Wound (Inxeba) (John Trengove, 2017)

"They trust you with the softies. I'd just make them cry."

Major spoilers:

This is the film that has apparently been extremely controversial in South Africa, to the point of being banned from mainstream theatres (despite being not all that explicit), seemingly because its central setting is around portraying the Xhosa circumcision manhood ritual and the weeks of seclusion that follow it before the boys emerge as 'men' and rejoin society, which is a period that is apparently meant to be kept private and not discussed 'off the mountain'. This film has been given a bit of an air of authenticity by being co-written by people who actually went through the initiation. Combining a portrayal of that initiation period with a gay themed drama as well has likely only added to its controversy, as apparently according to Tregove in his interview on the DVD, the initiation was supposed to act as a 'cure' for homosexuality by imposing masculine behaviours onto a person.

Both the initial bloodletting and sex are relatively discreetly shown (certainly more discreetly than the goats that get killed! Though the death of the goats are used metaphorically to stand in for characters in some respects). The film is perhaps less about the initiation ritual period itself, though that is the unique backdrop, and more about class and generational conflict (westernised, 'white' (in mind if not in body) urban cities versus traditional rural communities) as well as about power dynamics in relationships.

We get introduced to a factory worker in Johannesburg, Xolani, who apparently travels to the mountains each year to be a 'caregiver' for each new batch of initiates. This year he has been given the privileged son of a successful family to take care of, Kwanda, whose father wants him to toughen up and go through the ritual in the traditional way rather than more safely in hospital back in 'Joburg'. The estranged father is also suspicious about his son's sexuality due to living too much with the mother and the amount of time the boy is spending 'locked in his room with his friends', which is kind of ironic since he is sending him away to be in a hut for a fortnight with events entirely revolving around his penis. But that is the 'acceptable' form of being locked away with other men, I suppose! (As well as acting as a bit of a punishment)

Once up in the mountains Xolani meets up with another caregiver Vija, and it turns out that these two men have been meeting each year to have a sexual relationship with each other on the side during the period of seclusion their initiates have to go through. Vija is married and his wife has just had a baby, whilst Xolani is single and apparently just lives for this couple of weeks each year when he and Vija can be together, even though it is pretty apparent that Vija just sees him as a 'fuck buddy' and is only using him for sexual relief whilst away from his wife. The early moment where Xolani talks about moving jobs from Joburg to somewhere closer to his friend so that they could potentially meet up more often (which is met by stony silence and a concerned look from Vija) suggests Xolani's love-blindness after seemingly many years of these routine meet ups as to the nature of their relationship. There is a pretty tragic view of not just unrequited love but also the non-life giving aspect of homosexuality there as Vija's life is constantly moving on and developing in the normal course of things and he is building up a family as 'all men do' (his Christian cross twinkling around his neck only becomes more prominent as the film goes on as well), whilst Xolani (and Kwanda, though Kwanda is part of a younger generation who is less closeted and more accepting of his feelings. But Kwanda has his own trials to face) is trapped in stasis, waiting for a brief show of affection on an annual basis that will keep him going for the next year.

It is perhaps a telling moment of priorities that on the first private meeting between the two men that the sex takes place first (with Vija the top, arm wrapped around Xolani's neck as he takes him from behind. Vija is always the top, controlling the encounters), and then Vija asks Xolani how he has been, and appears glad to know that X has not changed at all.

The rest of the film becomes about the interesting shifting relationship between this pair that gets complicated and brought to a head by Kwanda's growing suspicions about his caregiver's sexuality. Kwanda himself is described by his father in that first scene, as well as the other initiates, as being 'soft' and 'urban' due to everyone having at least suspicions about his homosexuality and jealousy over his privileged lifestyle with his expensive trainers and having an iPhone. However Kwanda is not soft but one of the hardest characters, continually challenging his elders (asking questions about the ritual and even refusing to speak to the elders to complete his part in the ceremony, which is perhaps another controversial part of the film) and acting haughty and aloof to everyone around him in this primitive environment that is demanding respect and obeisance from him.

As in the contrast between Xolani and Vija, Kwanda is also being contrasted with the other initiates who are smoothly going through their initiations in the manner expected of them by the society, and coming out through it with their masculinity defined and their roles laid out and celebrated for them (with their initiation huts burnt as the elder's encourage them to fulfill their role as men, have sex and grow the tribe using their newly modified penises for that purpose). However whilst Xolani as a member of the previous generation stayed closeted and moved away to the big city to avoid taking on those responsibilities of child rearing, Kwanda as a product of the city does not care about the traditional meanings behind the ritual and thus keeps entirely undermining it. His father perhaps wanted to impose 'manhood' on him, but Kwanda knows that it is only a couple of weeks before he goes back to Joburg again, with its less strict notions of sexuality. It kind of ends up being true that Kwanda is too urban, too 'white' in his thinking and behaviour. But that appears to attract Vija towards him - is Vija looking to drop Xolani for someone younger and fresher? Or is Vija interested in Kwanda because of his urban nature, seeing that Kwanda understands the nature of casual commitment-less sex and is not going to become as needy and fixated on him, with impossible dreams of being together, as Xolani is? Either way, it fuels Xolani's, steadily more justified, paranoia and insecurities about their interactions.

There is some amazing juxtaposition of imagery here, especially in the late fight between Vija and Xolani (which kind of mirrors their sex) where Xolani gets subdued by Vija, as Kwanda feet away subdues and cuts the throat of the stolen goat, thereby sort of making his own transition from being the 'soft, bottom' that Xolani is getting revealed to be and towards becoming the 'callous, dominant, top' like Vija. Xolani himself is going to end up attempting his own deadly gesture at the climax of the film, but one which will entirely alienate him from society rather than bonding him with it.

Though in his forthright comments and confrontational attitude in a situation where everyone might have benefited from him not behaving in such a manner, Kwanda also ends up being an interestingly abrasive character himself, eventually fatally overconfident in his own approach to the world and that the old world does not matter or have any impact on him (which of course it did, as for everyone else in that initial circumcision scene). Kwanda bluntly reveals the truth behind situations and drags the metaphorical down to the prosaic by constantly revealing the contrived mechanics of the initiation process, undermining the male bonding that is supposed to be taking place, and is occurring between the other initiates. He is not appreciating the significance of his initiation, which makes sense since he was forced into it! Perhaps it would have been better for everyone if he had had his circumcision done in the hospital after all, if he was going to have to have had it!

This all reaches its climax in Xolani and Vija being discovered post-sex by Kwanda. Kwanda has to forcibly out both of them because he does not understand the power of brief liaisons and the power of love, even if it is driven by impossible yearnings. In fact he thinks it is stupid, and understandably berates Xolani for being in the closet and ruining his own life by allowing himself to be used by Vija (Xolani is constantly being equated with dogs as a metaphor for his subservience. Even rabid ones). They chase Kwanda into the forest but lose him (though Kwanda's expensive sneakers don't save him from a nasty fall!) and eventually Vija returns to the group of initiates completing their manhood rites (with encouraging speech about procreation from the elder) and being welcomed back to the village and society, whilst Xolani tracks Kwanda down in the wilderness, both entirely apart from society at that point.

Kwanda is fine with that and in his final scene is relating his own philosophies on life and how (ironically for a circumcision ceremony participant) stupid it is that men think with their dicks all the time and the pointlessness of sexuality as a whole, and is wanting to expose Vija for his hypocrisy. Kwanda is speaking this way to Xolani because he thinks they have some solidarity together because of their shared sexuality. But that is not enough, as Xolani ends up pushing him off a cliff to his death before he catches a truck back into the city, never to return to the mountain. The music over the end credits goes from tribal chants to electronica.

It is a devastatingly powerful ending as In a way despite Kwanda's murder the whole film is Xolani's tragedy. Is the murder about Xolani's jealousy of Kwanda? Perhaps, as he does seem to realise that Kwanda is much more secure in his sexuality (and defiant about it) than he is. But its also as much about Xolani sacrificing himself on behalf of Vija, murdering Kwanda so that Vija's hetereosexuality remains unassailed because X himself has nothing to lose from doing that. Maybe Vija told him to do it, or maybe Xolani did it off his own bat. Either way it ends with all three characters entirely separated from each other, which no possibility of return.

Compared to Vija's almost practical use of sex and Kwanda's dismissal of it, Xolani seems like the only character to understand the power of sexuality as a driving force. Albeit to a murderous extent, so even that is complicated! All three characters are stepping outside of the circumscribed bounds that the society has allowed them into 'unacceptable' territory. But it also seems that the society understands the erotic power of homosocial bonding and potentially illicit love between men, as long as there remains a 'don't ask, don't tell' attitude about it all. Which is something that Kwanda fatally does not seem to pick up on, being unable to survive his initiation into flawed, compromised, hypocritical manhood.
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In terms of the visuals I actually had a few concerns about the handheld nature of the photography and filming style at the beginning, but ended up quite liking its half too close (to the protagonist)-half too distant (from other characters, though they often move about in the background in a well calculated manner to catch the audience's attention from the corner of their eye) approach to action, especially the way that the camera feels tied closely to the character. It is perhaps not quite as rigorous as a Dardennes Brothers over the shoulder style (the film feels distant from all three main characters at certain times, rather than complicit with them), but close.

It was really interesting to hear on the interview with Trengove on the DVD that he was purposefully trying to get away from a 'National Geographic' well composed approach to photographing the scene, as well as trying to eschew beauty spots because he did not think that the characters in this film would be in the natural world for the purposes of appreciating the beauty of nature around them but for more practical purposes to do with the initiation ritual. When I was looking at the film I kept thinking that some areas reminded me of a field I live nearby or a copse of trees, rather than a grand vista, and it was interesting to hear that this kind of down to earth approach to nature was quite intentional (the opposite kind of film to this would perhaps be something like that Mexican film Heli, where the action is confined and grubby, but the natural world surrounding the characters is grand, immense and spectacular in aspect. Both approaches can work in sketching in characters and their relations to their landscape depending on what the filmmakers are going for).

Having said that there are the three sequences of intimacy between Xolani and Vija the develop interestingly in relation to their environment: the first is their initial sex scene inside an abandoned building (the only building we see other than the Johannnesburg warehouse in the opening shot); then the lyrical amlost Malick-esque golden hour discussion-turned-fight in the field between the pair (though even this is shot in a down to earth manner, with electricity pylons in the background); and then finally perhaps the most cliched image of all: the waterfall sex where Kwanda discovers the pair in flagrante delicto!

However Trengove's comment on damping down on the beauty of Africa in the photography made the Gerry-style ending in particular quite amusing, as Xolani guides Kwanda up to the top of the cliff, and the one slightly panoramic view of the landscape, purely for the purpose of pushing him off it!
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I would also highly recommend watching Trengove's short film The Goat from 2014, which kind of acts almost as a prequel to The Wound (certainly themes and images in the later feature), as a young man in his initiation hut asks a young boy outside whether anyone other than his mother has asked for him and then when it seems that his friend is not coming climbs out and wanders across the landscape before perhaps disappearing into it. The young boy then brings his friend to Xolani's hut (for at the end we find out that the young man here has the same name as the protagonist in the later feature) and on hearing what sounds like screaming coming from it peer inside only to find a bleating goat staring back at them!

This is perhaps because Trengove collaborated on both the short and feature with Thando Mqgolozona‚ using his book A Man Who Is Not A Man as part of the research into the subject matter. There are a lot of interesting aspects carried over from The Goat into The Wound - young boys hanging around the initiates as kind of helpers during the healing period; the idea of strange sounds coming from Xolani's hut (in The Wound Vija tells a story of Xolani fighting off a rabid dog with his bare hands that had wandered in there); and the whole goat getting equated with the young man as being a softer, sacrificial figure in the eyes of tougher figures.
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So The Wound is a very interesting film, despite the primary metaphor being a rather blunt one of having to cut away the most sensitive part of yourself (literally) to fulfill your role in society. Although it is difficult to call it a 'metaphor' since this kind of act is literally being carried out for that intended purpose! That idea though of becoming callous and hardened to your feelings is probably what ties everything together, from the circumcision and initiation period as a whole (with its laddish banter), to the closeted gay liaison theme. A male bonding through bloodletting and pain rather than through sexuality and other bodily fluids. Though the way that Xolani is able to carry on an affair with Vija (though it is a problematic one with no good ending) undermines that idea that such feelings have been 'cut away' in the adult man. They are still there, albeit deeper under the surface and harder to reach. That perhaps only makes them more intense when they eventually come to their long delayed climax.

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