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Ken and Robin Consume Media: Witches Lovely and Otherwise

November 29th, 2016 | Robin

Ken and Robin Consume Media is brought to you by the discriminating and good-looking backers of the Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff Patreon. Each week we provide capsule reviews of the books, movies, TV seasons and more we cram into our hyper-analytical sensoriums. Join the Patreon to help pick the items we’ll talk about in greater depth on our new podcast segment, Tell Me More.

Recommended

Beyond the Robot: The Life and Work of Colin Wilson (Nonfiction, Gary Lachman, 2016) Biographies of writers are (if the writer mostly behaves himself, as Wilson mostly did) even more boring than films about writers; a biography of the polymathic Wilson must needs be both recondite and diffuse as well. Lachman brings his typical clarity of mind and prose to his subject, arguing for a core philosophical unity to a body of work spanning literally everything from existentialism to Atlantis. Lachman’s sympathy and affection for his mentor somewhat bates his normally sharp appraisal of Wilson’s occultism (and he scants Wilson’s fiction) but if Wilson is your jam, this is your breakfast. –KH

British Commando 1940-45 (Osprey Warrior 181) (Nonfiction, Angus Konstam, 2016) Concise description of Army and Royal Marine Commando training, equipment, and esprit, with five actions discussed in slightly greater detail. Those looking for details of tactics or a full military history of the units need to hit another book, but this is another great RPG splatbook that only technically is not an RPG splatbook. –KH

Evolution (Film, France, Lucile Hadžihalilovic, 2015) Pre-pubescent boys on remote island discover that their so-called, oddly young mothers and nurses are performing weird medical experiments on them. Hypnotic tone poem suffused with horror themes and imagery.—RDL. Seen at TIFF16; now in limited US release.

Heaven Will Wait (Film, (France, Marie-Castille Mention-Schaar, 2016) Interwoven narratives show two French girls at different stages of being lured, via cult-style social media recruitment, to Syria to be given to ISIL soldiers—one being indoctrinated, the other, deprogrammed. Fragmented storytelling techniques lend texture to what might otherwise be a standard-issue social problem film.—RDL. Seen at TIFF16; now in limited US release.

The Invitation (Film, US, Karyn Kusama, 2015) Grief-stricken man returns for a reunion of friends at his former home, a place where something terrible happened, only to discover that his wife and her new husband (Michiel Huisman) hope to recruit their pals into a transformational religious movement, which totally isn’t a cult, they none-too-convincingly insist. Sharply drawn characters maintain interest through a finely modulated, inch-by-inch transition from drama to horror. You know something’s wrong when one of the surprise guests no one else knows is played by John Carroll Lynch.—RDL

The Love Witch (Film, US, Anna Biller, 2016) If wicxploitation wasn’t a genre already, it is now. Biller wrote, produced, directed, scored, and perhaps most importantly designed this period-bending blend of 1960s giallo, 1970s grindhouse, and almost Sirkian melodrama to keep viewers off-balance but enraptured, much like the protagonist Elaine (Samantha Robinson) designs her sex-magickal spells. The film takes weird detours in story and in gender politics, but the trip is always, well, bewitching. –KH

Man is Not a Bird (Film, Yugoslavia, Dusan Makavejev, 1965) Love-hungry young hairdresser pursues an affair with an older man who has come to her grim mining town on a short-term contract. Ostensibly social realist drama bubbles with a subversive energy that the director, here making his first film, will soon take in ever more wild and surreal directions.—RDL

Good

The Quiet American (Film, US, Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1958) Morally empty British journalist Fowler (an excellent Michael Redgrave) competes with an American aid worker (Audie Murphy) for young b-girl Phuong (Giorgia Moll) in 1952 Saigon. At the behest of US psywar operative Edward Lansdale, Mankiewicz detourned Graham Greene’s novel toward anti-Communism; Lansdale should also have tightened up the dialogue while he was at it. Full of great Saigon location shots, it intensely evokes the early Indochina war; given later revelations about Communist manipulation of the Western press, it has at least as much claim to prophecy as Greene’s novel does. –KH

Okay

The Outfit (Film, US, John Flynn, 1973) Fiercely independent heist man (Robert Duvall) goes after the mobsters who killed his brother, who helped him knock over a crooked bank. Adaptation of a Richard Stark/Donald Westlake novel, in which his iconic character Parker is renamed Earl Macklin and played by Duvall less as a stoic exponent of existential competence than as a surly small-timer. Flynn has an eye for gritty criminal detail but sours it with a misogynistic streak harsh even for the period. A film so deeply stocked with great character actors (Joe Don Baker, Richard Jaeckel, Sheree North, Timothy Carey) that it feels free to throw away Elisha Cook Jr. on a nothing part as a diner cashier.—RDL

The Witch (Film, US, Robert Eggers, 2015) Banished New England Puritans stuck on a failing farm suspect witchcraft after the inexplicable disappearance of their infant son. Moody evocation of a now-alien historical worldview betrayed by a botched twist ending that not only fails to surprise but strips layers of meaning from the prior proceedings.—RDL

2 Responses to “Ken and Robin Consume Media: Witches Lovely and Otherwise”

  1. Christopher Glew says:

    Re: The Witch.
    The ending, and many other vision moments in the film seem dreamlike and distant, perhaps even delusional. My take on this is that perhaps that there is no supernatural element to the narrative at all but merely the fever dreams of religious belief, repression, ergot poisoning (shroom trip) and maybe borderline starvation.

    It’s a very divisive film, I’ve had a lot of rich conversations with friends about it but hardly any agreements. Perhaps there is scope for a Hut to strip the hokem from The Witch?

    All the best,

    c.

  2. Matt says:

    Great recco on The Invitation, RDL. Not what I was expecting. Great movie!

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