Tagged Pregnant

Bleeder Draws a Violent Line in the Sand Between Film and Reality

Bleeder. 1999. Directed & Written by Nicolas Winding Refn.
Starring Kim Bodnia, Mads Mikkelsen, Rikke Louise Andersson, Liv Corfixen, Levino Jensen, & Zlatko Buric. Kamikaze.
Not Rated. 98 minutes.
Crime/Drama

★★★★★
POSTER
People who frequent this site will now be sick of my love for Nicolas Winding Refn. He divides people. Nowadays, some of his supposed fans are really just fans of Drive. Others like his earlier work but find his latest stuff in the past 10 years a bit too much. Furthermore, there are others like myself who enjoy every last inch of film on which he’s left his mark. Not only that, I enjoy his writing alongside his choices and style as director. Not everything works every bit of the time. However, Refn always manages to intrigue me. He pulls at the seams of the brain and makes it unravel, no matter if we’re stuck in the gutters of Copenhagen, the cluttered video shops and bookstores, or whether he’s got you traipsing across the landscape of some foreign place on the way to who knows where – his mind is always working to try and fuck yours. In one way, or another.
Bleeder is in the earlier portion of his career, where the main focus of the stories he told were based in the streets of Copenhagen. First with Pusher, he explored a criminal, drug world. This film is set in a similarly lower class environment in semi-rundown flats and other locations, the characters each lower to middle class types. Above all else, Refn sticks with the gritty, in your face realism of his first feature. Here in his second feature there’s a closer, more personal look into the life of a family that’s falling apart, all due to the husband’s inability to express himself or seek out what he truly wants, instead opting to go along with the status quo – get married, have a kid – when it isn’t what he wants.
The results are tragic and violent.
And ultimately, blood begets more blood.
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The biggest, most evident part of Bleeder is how Leo (Kim Bodnia) is so obviously jealous of the single life. More importantly, his problems with the movies, the difference between reality and fiction are what bother him most. See, Lenny (Mads Mikkelsen) is a cinephile, much like myself. He spends a good deal of his time immersed in the world of various directors, auteurs and blockbusters and everything in between. At the same time, that also paints Lenny’s view on life a little unrealistically.
Or does it?
Compared to Leo and his fucked up life, the life he fucked up all on his own, the way Lenny approaches life is quite normal. Also, he looks at what Leo has and wants that while Leo is busy shitting all over it. Lenny’s a more reserved type, likely hoping a movie romance is going to fall into his lap, as well as maybe he’s a bit too reserved, a little anti social. But Leo is stuck in a life he’s not so sure he wants to live. His wife Louise (Rikke Louise Andersson) is pregnant, he doesn’t truly want a kid, then of course he winds up beating the hell out of her. So when he rags on Lenny for watching too many films and when he rages against a movie because it’s unrealistic, what’s really going on inside is that Leo is jealous.
He wants a different life, but won’t get one. Can’t now. So instead he decides to take control, unlike Lenny who he sees as aloof in the obsessive world of cinephilia. He buys a gun, he acts like a movie tough guy but in real life. However, in real life there are consequences. In the movies we see gangsters beat up on their girlfriends and nothing ever seems to come of it. They get off with everything, free to do as they please, to whomever they please. When Leo takes it upon himself to make his life into a real live motion picture, he also must face the consequences. Even better, the climactic moments of this story are wild and almost outrageous. Yet still they’re all too real. So real in fact that it’s almost nauseating.
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The gritty qualities of the film are paralleled in the ultimate nasty, defining moment that comes in the last twenty minutes. Added to that, Kim Bodnia – perhaps the world’s most underrated actor – gives us a stellar performance. There’s a scene where he comes to and find himself tied up, hanging from chains, and there’s this odd, moaning sound that emanates from him, louder and louder, longer and longer. It’s actually chilling. Even before that he does a fascinating job with a despicable character. You can see him cracking, gradually, then over the course of the film watch him drift into oblivion. There’s a good progression to the character and it’s only made better with Bodnia in the lead, doing a fine job like he did with Refn’s Pusher as Frank.
Similarly, Mads Mikkelsen is awesome as Lenny. He is one of those actors that has wide range. In some projects he plays creepy, scary characters. Here, he’s a timid and shy guy that has trouble reaching out to women, and instead of being creepy or inappropriate merely keeps to himself. So there’s a nice quietude in his character in juxtaposition with all the horrific realities of Leo’s situation. Watching Mikkelsen an Zlatko Buric together in the video shop is a treat, so different from their interactions in Pusher. They have good chemistry. But Mikkelsen really takes us into Lenny, and you can’t help rooting for him to finally push through to meet that girl he’s interested in.
Finally I cannot forget Levino Jensen playing the character of Louis, the violently racist brother to Louise. This guy is actually endearing in the early parts, even if you know he’s a bit of a hard ass. He just has this affectionate quality to him when with his sister particularly. Then there’s a switch, as Leo oversteps his boundaries and abuses Louise. Afterwards, we see Jensen break out in the character, making Louis into an intimidating person despite his stature. That’s the mark of a solid actor, when the physicality is second to the pure, intense emotion they can bring to a part. Jensen is such an actor, which I honestly didn’t expect. But he adds plenty to the film with his performance.
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As opposed to other works from Nicolas Winding Refn, Bleeder is a simple piece of cinema. That’s not to say it’s dumbed down. In fact, it is exactly the opposite. It is raw and to the point, it is brutish, bloody nearing the end and always compelling. This is a close view of violent men; not in the movies, but in real life. Whereas Lenny ends the film embracing a corporeal romance, something palpable and not only the world he loves in the movies, Leo winds up falling into a real life event and story which mirrors the best, bloodiest pieces of cinema out there. It’s perhaps this final hideous act of violence involving Louis and Leo that forces Lenny towards finally stepping into the world, outside the camera’s frame, and finding a life that doesn’t only involve the fictional space of film.
This is a great movie that does not get enough credit. It’s honest and open, while also having an almost surreal aspect in its more intense moments. Refn will always divide people, but I wil always find him interesting, even if I come across something eventually that I don’t like. For now, it’s all good, baby!

The Walking Dead – Season 6, Episode 13: “The Same Boat”

AMC’s The Walking Dead
Season 6, Episode 13: “The Same Boat”
Directed by Billy Gierhart
Written by Angela Kang

* For a review of the previous episode, “Not Tomorrow Yet” – click here
* For a review of the next episode, “Twice as Far” – click here
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This episode opens with Carol (Melissa McBride) and Maggie (Lauren Cohan) confronted by members of The Saviors. Then the group calls out to Rick Grimes (Andrew Lincoln), Daryl Dixon (Norman Reedus), Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun) and the others. They command over the radio, essentially opening a hostage negotation for the two women. Off in the distance, Rick says “well trade” and then needs confirmation Carol and Maggie are fine. Things go on from there, a little rocky on The Saviors’ side, but steady enough. Then The Saviors put bags over Carol and Maggie’s heads for transport.


A nice grim opening leads way to the women being taken to a facility, most likely a slaughter house as we can see KILL FLOOR written on the ground; the only perspective we’re allowed, as Carol and Maggie go through their kidnapping. Impressive directorial choices at the start of this scene, which forces us into their POV until finally inside.
While the others try and plan their next course of action, Carol steadily hyperventilates, looking terrified. McBride is an amazing actor, and the character of Carol’s become one of my favourites of any television series. But one of the leaders of the group, Paula (Alicia Witt) confronts Carol wondering: “Are you actually afraid to die?” They toss Carol rosary beads, which she holds onto tight.


This group, particularly the women, is tough, they seem hardened more than most people. Paula’s slightly scary. Her demeanour is of a broken woman, but one with a lot of power. She and Maggie go back and forth over life, the meaning, babies, et cetera. It’s clear the good faith of Maggie meets its match against Paula, and whatever horrors she’s seen personally along the way.
Paula says a “scout crew” are coming. Meanwhile, their group is breaking down a bit when the man Carol shot before being captured starts to lash out. He hits Polly, then Maggie gets a hit in. Finally, Paula pistol whips him to calm things down. A nice, exciting few moments, also a bit perilous when thinking of Maggie’s unborn child. Carol gets a good few kicks before the pistol whipping then lays there awhile. Something is certainly coming.
Another parallel aside from Carol and Paula is Maggie and Michelle (Jeananne Goossen). Michelle’s got a situation happening with her boyfriend, and so there’s a certain amount of her which resonates with Maggie. Yet they’re on opposing sides, different interests.
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More negotiation over the radio. Rick tries his best. Although, Paula’s clearly set in her ways, a determined person. Then there’s Carol who attempts to talk. Instead of her usual fighting nature. Except after a little while, she asks for a cigarette. Paula continues telling Carol she’s “weak” and unable to stick to her “own principles.” Then goes on about her life before as a secretary, her family, and how in the end she had to kill to life; “I stopped counting when I hit double digits,” she says re: her murder record.
Again, we’re seeing Carol and the rest of the group as what they’ve become, like everybody else: killers. Though they’ve definitely got better hearts in certain cases, Rick and the survivors still kill, they did last episode in relentless fashion. So while they think of themselves as better or more moral than others, they’re no better than most of the survivors of the zombie apocalypse.


Paula: “Are you going to kill me?”
Carol: “I hope not


Once a supposed deal with Rick begins to turn wheels, Paula and her haggard old lady friend head out leaving Carol by herself. Naturally, using the rosary beads, she gets free, and then releases Maggie. “We have to finish this,” says Maggie sternly. Some sort of crisis is happening for Carol in her head. It’s as if she’s lost her nerve. Meanwhile, Maggie is tougher than nails, and she picks up all the slack; even smashing one woman’s head into jam. A bit surprise for Paula when she comes back to find a bloody scene in the room where she’d last left Carol.
The two escapees come across a walker trap left for them. But Paula shows up firing bullets. She taunts Carol: “You have no idea, the things Ive done, what Ive given up.” This starts a big fight that ends when Carol shoots Michelle in the head for nearly slicing open Maggie’s stomach. Eventually, Carol kills Paula, too; something we knew had to come. The fighting survivor in Carol will only take so much, even if it wounds her inside.
Still, she and Maggie lure more Saviors to the kill floor where they’re lit on fire and locked in a room. Can we really still totally root for Rick, Carol, Maggie and the others? Are they still the good guys? Not according to Michelle from her conversation with Maggie earlier.


Out into the daylight Carol and Maggie go. They meet up with Daryl, Glenn, Rick and the rest. “Theyre all dead,” Maggie says with a fragile shake in her voice.
At the finale, Rick asks Primo (Jimmy Gonzales) to talk. He claims he’s Negan. Then Rick goes ahead and shoots the man in the head, as Carol watches on gripping her rosary beads until her hand drips blood.
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An exciting chapter in this sixth season. One that asks more questions about the nature of morality, as well as questions whether we can stay fully on the side of Rick Grimes & Company, while they rip and tear their way through the post-zombie apocalyptic landscape. Jeffrey Dean Morgan’s Negan is sure to be a horrifically savage counter-balance to this group when he comes. Stay tuned with me for “Twice As Far” next week.

Beautiful Black Cinema in Mother of George

Mother of George. 2013. Directed by Andrew Dosunmu. Screenplay by Darci Picoult.
Starring Danai Gurira, Isaac de Bankolé, Anthony Okungbowa, Bukky Ajayi, Yaya DaCosta, Klarissa Jackson, Ishmael Omolade, Roslyn Ruff, Chinaza Uche, Florence Egbuchulam, Mutiyat Ade-Salu, Atibon Nazaire, Da’Vine Joy Randolph, & Susan Heyward. Parts and Labor/Loveless/Maybach Film Productions/SimonSays Entertainment/Fried Alligator Films.
Rated R 107 minutes.
Drama

★★★★1/2
POSTER
We all – meaning those of us with any sense – know that the mainstream Hollywood system largely ignores stories about people of colour, apart from the civil rights pictures and slave narratives. It’s obvious, if you take the time to look at it. Rarely do we just simply get to look inside the culture of others aside from the perspective of white people, at least when it comes to the mainstream films in the West. Even more rare is a film starring solely black people.
So Mother of George is a unique piece of cinema for a film set in the U.S. Although, it is most certainly a Nigerian film. The story is all about the cultural expectations within a Nigerian neighbourhood in Brooklyn, involving a married couple. Plus, Nigerian director Andrew Dosunmu leads the movie, as well as adds his unusual style to the mix. It is a refreshing story, Dosunmu presents it gorgeously with the added help of cinematographer Bradford Young, and the main performances of Danai Gurira and Isaac de Bankolé root the drama in such a wonderful yet tragic humanity.
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Ayodele (Isaac de Bankolé) and Adenike (Danai Gurira) are married in a grand traditional Nigerian ceremony. Ayodele has been in America a little while, whereas Nike is newer. She’s still trying to adjust, stuck in the old school role of wife at home her husband works during the day. She tries to get a job cleaning, though, this angers Ayodele whose culture demands of him masculinity; part and parcel of which is providing for his wife and not needing her to work. Between the culture clash and her marriage, Nike has a million different things on her plate.
Meanwhile, her mother-in-law is pressuring her – in their culture it is proper for a woman to get pregnant soon after the marriage, and unfortunately Nike and Ayodele can’t seem to get pregnant, though. When the situation becomes more and more dire, with Ayodele refusing to go against traditional, conventional methods, and his mother insisting he take another woman, Nike soon makes a decision which will have huge repercussions for her, her husband, and everyone around them.
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The first thing you’ll notice is the extremely rich, vibrant colour palette of the film. Bradford Young brings a unique and beautiful look to Mother of George. Some of his other work includes Pariah, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints, as well as most recently A Most Violent Year and Pawn Sacrifice. Young’s visual flair through the lens adds a true gorgeous quality to every single frame of the film. Added to that, Dosunmu has a different style of direction, which I’ve seen some people say detracts from the performances and the screenplay. Not at all, I say. In fact, the way Dosunmu and Young capture everything together in their respective ways it draws me tight. I felt as if I were right next to Nike (Gurira), going through the motions. The tight frames on the characters helps their world absorb into you, the colours reach out and touch you. There’s never a moment where I felt outside of the story, or the characters, even if the film moves at a slow pace much of the time.
Brings me to another portion of the movie I love: the screenplay. The script doesn’t have much dialogue throughout, which places a special significance on the performances. At the same time, the lack of massive pieces of dialogue lends itself to a film with a main concern for aesthetic and tone. With a lot of subtle, quiet scenes, the actors are left carrying so much of the weight – like a complete counterbalance between style and performance.
Isaac de Bankolé, whom I knew originally from Jim Jarmusch films specifically (as well as the impressive White Material from director Clair Denis), plays a very strong, if not fairly flawed character in Ayodele. He portrays the vulnerability and masculinity, both tied together most of the time, with such an ease. You feel for the man while also wishing he might let go of a little of his boisterous pride, instead it pushes his wife to a point of no return. Bankolé is a reserved and thoughtful actor whose presence is large in this film.
But mainly, it is Danai Gurira I love here. She is a strong and powerful actor. Her presence is equally enormous, if not more so than Bankolé. Gurira is tough, she is also flawed, but above all she bears the weight of a relationship on her shoulders. The way she has to navigate the trappings of her Nigerian culture, stuck between what she wants and what is expected of her, it is a difficult life. Gurira brings out Nike’s pain, her desire, everything with such a subdued and commanding performance. She and Bankolé work very well as a couple onscreen, their chemistry helped their relationship seem natural. Further than that, Gurira presents a woman who struggles to both adapt to living in America and adapt to marriage, plus its requirements, all the while – even in her rash decisions – making us feel for her every step of the journey.
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There are not enough films set in the U.S. which celebrate the other cultures among Western culture. It is a melting pot, even if the cities become, at times, broken into ethnic enclaves. Still, this is a beautiful and heartbreaking story of two worlds coming together, as one woman tries to hold her own together. A 4&1/2-star film that succeeds because of Bankolé and Gurira acting their hearts out, as well as the combo of director Dosunmu and Young’s cinematography. Everything in this film speaks volumes, from the wonderfully sparse screenplay to the vibrancy of the visual style. All these elements are so important to Mother of George. This is not the conventional black narrative we’re offered in mainstream Western films, but as I said, this is totally a Nigerian film regardless of its Brooklyn, New York setting. We need to see more of this, and hopefully with all the talk of diversity re: Oscars in 2016 we may see a shift; somehow, some way. Studios need to take the chance and tell more stories like this one, affording different cultures a look, giving them an avenue to touch peoples hearts and minds. This is a piece of art, not simply a movie. Mother of George should be seen by everyone, especially those who love powerhouse acting and a unique sense of visual storytelling; all of which you’ll find here, in spades.