Whatever else its merits may be, Gaspar Noe’s Enter the Void immediately enters the canon of first-person cinema. The highly subjective camera that depicts an experience from the point of view of one of the characters in a film has been a source of fascination and frustration in cinema for decades. Executed well, and in short bursts, it can be an effective tactic. For instance, there’s a memorable sequence in Carl-Theodor Dreyer’s Vampyr (1932) in which the camera seems to be placed inside a coffin and then carried through the streets. But 1947’s The Lady in the Lake, a feature-length film noir shot entirely with a subjective camera, is an oft-discussed but somewhat goofy curio that is seldom actually dragged out into the light of day.
Formally precise, thematically incisive, and altogether unnerving, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is a bravura piece. With this tense dramatization of the events surrounding an illegal Romanian abortion (circa 1987), director Cristian Mungiu shows how the Communist regime’s intrusive, overweening laws created an environment of not only paternalism, sexism, and physical danger but also outright exploitation. (Abortions themselves were no picnic either, as he’s keen to demonstrate.) Talk about body horror — combining social melodrama, character study, and hair-raising thriller, 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days is a riveting ordeal in three parts. You can’t watch, but you don’t dare look away.
The newest Takashi Miike extravaganza arrived in the U.S. (on DVD) last week, and while many of his films are infamous for some bizarre content, Imprint is the first I know of that can credibly place the word “Banned” in a banner across its packaging. Imprint was originally commissioned by Mick Garris and IDT Entertainment as one episode among 13 in the independently produced Masters of Horror series that was meant to premiere on the U.S. cable channel Showtime and then live forever on DVD. Partway through the season, word got out that the schedule had been changed for the last few airings — Showtime had declined the opportunity to air Miike-san’s contribution to the series. In a series that featured contributions from genre stalwarts like John Carpenter, Stuart Gordon, and Don Coscarelli — and the great Joe Dante piece, Homecoming, about a bunch of Iraq vets who come back in an election year as zombies determined to vote President Bush out of office — the one that succeeded in getting Showtime’s dander up was by the Japanese dude with the crazy sunglasses.
Ruth Stoops, thank God, is no role model. In the course of her adventures, she does not learn a lesson. Hers is not a heartwarming story. It is, however, seriously funny, and in this era of dopey action and dim-witted farce, that in itself is heartwarming enough.