Eskalofrío

[Screenshot]I allowed myself to be suckered into watching this one by a tenuous Pan’s Labyrinth connection which seduced me into expecting something deeper than it was. The connection is in the production designer, and we can give credit where credit’s due: the sets are effectively spooky when they need to be, and effectively stark when they need to be. But the actual plot was something of a disappointment. This may be an incompatibility of preference: I like mysteries, in which at the end the resolution ties together all those bewildering loose ends, but this is a thriller, which means that the resolution can be completely out of left field. The story somewhat lost me after it veered beyond the persecution of the obvious suspect. So I’ll give this one props for its visual design, which is indeed the only connection it had really drawign me in, but not much else. People who are fans of thrillers might not like it either; the part I preferred, the languid first half, might not be to their taste.

See also: IMDB.

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Csak szex és más semmi

[Screenshot]Csak szex is as fun as it is predictable. It’s a romantic-comedy-cum-sex-farce with all that entails. It doesn’t exactly transcend but it shines reasonably well, getting some pretty good situational comedy into its obvious path from point A to point B.

There’s an interesting aspect of the casting though, which distracted me from the film’s other merits. The lead actor is Csányi Sándor, who I guess has a real and thriving career in Hungary, but who is most well known outside Hungary for his leading role in Kontroll. So every time he was onscreen, I couldn’t help but think of him as Bulcsú. Apparently other people had the same problem, since they threw us a bit of a bone by having BulcsúTamás getting hassled in the metro by Nagy Zsolt — who also played one of Bulcsú’s crew members. Cute.

Why am I focusing so colsely on an offhand 2-minute Hungarian in-joke, you might ask? Possibly because there’s not much else here. This was an entertaining film but not exactly an envelope-pushing one. It did what it did quite well, and the time I spent watching it felt well-spent, but it doesn’t exactly stick in your mind.

See also: IMDB.

Sense and Sensibility

[Screenshot]It surprises me, to be honest, that people make screen adaptations of, or indeed even read, Sense and Sensibility. One can see in its construction that it’s in large part a dry run for Pride and Prejudice, which seems in many ways both a more solidly constructed and more cinematic work. But Austen, like Shakespeare, has a limited canon people keep returning to, and for better or for worse S&S is her third most well-known book.

So, on to this particular adaptation. There’s much that it does well. It has excellent sets, shot on location and capturing both the beauty and the savagery of Devonshire. It’s a TV miniseries, so it has plenty of time to tell the polt without doing short shrift uch of anywhere. It’s actually mostly excellent, but it’s brought down a bit by the acting. There’s very little passion in evidence, whichi is especially destructive to the characters or Marianne and Colonel Brandon, since their story arcs pretty much require them to be passionate. This is a pretty major flaw, but I’m loathe to condemn this adaptation out of hand for it. It’s so very beautiful, and hews well to the story, and both of those count for something.

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia.

N・H・Kにようこそ/Welcome to the NHK, episodes 1–4

[Screenshot]I’d heard good things about Welcome to the NHK. Not nearly good enough, really. It’s a brilliant black comedy shot through with interesting dramatic elements. Satou and Yamazaki come across as fairly sympathetic, which is already a feat since they’re really not terribly attractive human beings, and their hopeless fumbling through life is actually quite keenly tragicomic. It seems like they should be not only repulsive but also inaccessible, what with their disorders falling into categories not really common in America: namely, hikikomori and otaku. But they’re drawn with enough life and character that even for people to whom these are a bit remote, their social awkwardness and paranoia provide reasonable handles on the character. Misaki’s somewhat more cipheric, but her character, which I imagine is expanded upon later in the series, is surely supposed to be a bit enigmatic at this point.

So we have a sad story about the awful life and foibles of two losers. it’s also howlingly funny. Not funny in the usual post-Dumb and Dumber style of a lot of American comedy, althoguh it plays on the same basic framework, because I think it hits closer to home (at least for me). Mental illness is not generally funny and most authors tread a thin line trying to make it so. Here it really works, and I couldn’t say why.

Apropos of technical details, it’s generally pretty well-animated and stylistically consistent. The voices sound good even in the English dub, particularly Misaki. And, since this may be the area of discussion this best fits into, it’s worth noting that the closing animation is the second most disturbing credits roll I’ve seen on anime (incidentally, the characters in this appear in the anime itself too, although I’m still hazy on their narrative function).

See also: IMDB, Wikipedia, Anime News Network.