Fuel for flaming youth
‘9 songs’, 2004, cert. 18, dir. Michael Winterbottom, 0/5 stars

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This is the first film I’ve awarded zero stars since I started this blog. It seemed to do everything wrong. The only good things about it were the music performances to a degree but the fact that the performances were there still annoyed me, particularly the choice of bands, all of whom seemed to be ‘hip’ bands of the era.

All it seems to consist of are footage of rock concerts, explicit sex scenes showing warts and all and seemingly unrelated documentary footage of Antarctica. Let’s talk about the sex, which made this film notorious. I was expecting to get some pleasure from the film’s sex scenes but not even that. My mind even wandered while they were happening, which is not a good sign. Winterbottom seemed to believe that by sticking repetitive piano over clumsily shot sex scenes, they could be rendered romantic. They just bored me, even repulsed me. If the film was trying to show sex as natural as possible, fine. But don’t think that just by showing shots of penises you can break boundaries.

The film tried to show a relationship, but the dialogue and acting just felt unnatural and you were left with no emotional impact. This film could have worked, maybe, with more emotion and character development. As it is, it’s a case of style over substance, except there wasn’t any style! Winterbottom was trying to do too much with too little. It’s unsatisfying, unimaginative and thank God it was only an hour long. 

‘The Killer Inside Me’, 2010, cert 18, dir. Michael Winterbottom, 2/5 stars

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At first I thought I was enjoying this film and it did sound promising. Very firmly set in its environment of 1950’s small town west Texas America, the film offers some pleasantries such as period setting and dialogue, boosted by good acting, especially from Casey Affleck in the lead as a respectable, mild mannered deputy sheriff. At least, that’s what he and the film appear to be on the surface. Underneath, however, runs a powerfully dark undercurrent of violence and sadomasochism, reminding me a little of Blue Velvet. The film opens strikingly with Affleck’s character, Lou Ford, attempting to run a prostitute (Jessica Alba) out of town. He ends up belting her and then having hot blooded sex. As the film progresses, he develops a complex get-rich scheme involving revenge, lies, blackmail and savagely killing anyone close to him.

As good as the acting is, as brutal the violence and as dark as the depths some of the scenes reached, the film contained numerous flaws. It tried too hard to adopt the period 1950s film noir atmosphere, especially with an entirely rock ‘n’ roll soundtrack. Some events aren’t filmed well and left unexplained. The sex scenes are gratuitous, unrealistic and awkward. In short, the film tried too hard to be what it was, but failed to leave a lasting impression, apart from annoyance. The film had some promising elements but at the same time there was vast room for improvement. Also Affleck’s high pitched accent grew frustrating after a while!