Road Movies – did we find the end of the journey?

The cinema of road as one may call it, has been exploited quite often – what are the good, the bad and the weird ones included in this subgenre?


Sometimes, just sometimes, the concept of the so-called “road movies” cross the boundaries of being a blissful masterpieces and turn into a complete waste, garbage of the worst sort, which is just unwatchable. And this time, I want to talk about the modern road cinema – we all know the classics, but my big concern was as it follows: is this sub-genre actually still alive? Times of lonesome drivers are quite gone in the cinema nowadays, hence the real road movies are a rather rare experience. If you love the road movies, maybe you will find something to watch this weekend. And if you love the ridiculous clunkers of cinema, I assure you it’s an article for you as well. 

Let me start with the recent cinematic stuff – last week I was given an opportunity to watch “Mange tes morts” (2015), directed by Jean-Charles Hue. I found the first half an hour quite intriguing, developing an outre web of events – the plot focuses around a car-park-like village in France and one family with criminal background. All in all it is one busted flush, bursting with weak acting, fiddly storyline which aims towards nothing constructive and finishes as a flat, incomprehensive pulp.  Not to mention the fact it was promoted as a riveting thriller praising the concept of road cinema, “Mange tes morts” is pure garbage. And even the sublime cinematography taste does not help in this one. After watching “Scenic Route” (2013), I felt exactly the same, with the exception of anything particularly good about it – one of the biggest flops of 2013 without a doubt. Hence it seems to be a fact, that directing a road movie is a breakneck task, especially nowadays, when audiences appreciate booming action, sex and lots of violence. Well, you can have sex in the car, you can punch someone too and you can drive fast – but that does not constitute the magic, which we are trying to extract, right?

My faith was restored by “The Rover” (2014). My review of this pure cinematography brilliance still awaits to be published, but trust me – this is one hell of a movie! Brutal, nostalgic, darksome, sometimes a bit edgy – David Michod (“Animal Kingdom” 2009) thriller grasps the attention from the very beginning. Strongly backed-up by astonishing roles of duo Pearce&Pattinson, “The Rover” encouraged me to give the modern road cinema a shot. A good choice to support the statement, that there is still hope, was 2009’s hit starring Viggo Mortensen, “The Road”. Post-apocalyptic, bleak landscape and human-eaters, walking around the desolate places, created a picturesque and interesting thriller and what is most important – not only the title matches the road-based concept of the movie.

Road movies are not necessarilly dark, lonesome journeys of wretched maniacs, killers or rovers, who’s got nothing to lose – not everyone are supposed to be Mad Max. Although this example might seem “a bit” crazy, Borat, portrayed by Sascha Baron Cohen, was also a perfect example of a road movie hero. The famous comedy document about a reporter from Kazakhstan, who visited the States to pick up ideas how to improve living standard in his own country, met with mixed reviews – either you loved “Borat” or you hated it whole-heartedly. The scene below is the introduction scene to the movie.

My special pick for this text is the tv series “Sons of Anarchy”. How not to love the motorcycle club gang story, an epic drama with one of the best (if not the all-time best) soundtracks ever created? Would be a disgrace, really. A long journey it is (lasts 6 seasons), but it’s worth giving it a try. And it is a beautiful tribute to the idea of a journey in the cinema – not only in terms of kilometers of highways, but this personal one, happening in the mind of each character.

Concluding, let’s melt away with the most remarkable picks from this sort of cinema – throwback time opened. My personal favorite is “Vanishing Point”, followed by “Mad Max” and “Easy Rider” – movies, which somehow defined the whole generation of alike films. And to finish, I have one ultimate conclusion: road cinema is not dead.


Real True Detectives?

Just a quick thing for those, who – just like me – keep their fingers crossed, so that the brand new season 2 of “True Detective” will be, at least, just as booming with brilliance as the first one.

Just a quick thing for those, who – just like me – keep their fingers crossed, so that the brand new season 2 of “True Detective” will be, at least, just as booming with brilliance as the first one. Nevertheless, while we still hang in the cloud of unknowing, here is an interesting video regarding the story of Rustin Cohle and Martin Hart.

The video I found accidentally on YouTube is extreme fun to watch for the fans of Pizzolatto’s big-time flick on HBO. Did you ever wonder whether the Yellow King story could be rooted in something, which actually happened? If so, this is something really cool, referring straight to this concept – check the video!

UMP Recommends – Body/Ciało

Polish cinema was always trapped in the confines of its own history trauma and social problems, which always kind of excluded the Polish films from being acclaimed by broader audiences. The new feature by Małgorzata Szumowska already proved to be “not-only-internally watchable” – it received the main prize during Berlinale festival. The Polish director weaves for us a complex web of mazes in which ordinary people are trapped. Apart from all the bitterness – “Body/Ciało” leaves you with a warming ray of happiness and hope in the heart. When a prosecutor’s wife dies, he’s left with an only child – Olga – who suffers from deep psychologically-backgrounded problems, which as a consequence leads to anorexia. Despite that, the relationship between the father and daughter is in ruin, as Olga blames the prosecutor for the death of her beloved mother. When Olga is put in a psychological ward, she participates in the treatment led by Anna, who claims to be a psychic. Olga, completely distraught and weak, begins to believe that Anna is her only chance to contact mother again.

Szumowska tells her story in a very subtle way, letting the actors to fully dig into the tenebrous reality and take advantage of the tangled relations bonding the characters. Janusz Gajos as the prosecutor and Maja Ostaszewska playing Anna put sublime performances on stage, giving also field to an astonishing debut by Justyna Szuwała. “Body/Ciało” provokes to think in a non-strident manner, engaging in a manner as a play in the theatre, a bit hermetic and claustrophobic – portraying the minute worlds of us all, bit by bit broken with sorrow.
Emotions are what really grasps the attention of the director – Szumowska looks for tiny gestures, like eyes looking the other way and hidden smiles. The magical, elfin final scene is one of the most mezmerizing studies of tenderness I have ever seen, touching on many levels and warming even the coldest ones. “Ciało/Body” is a tale about a broken family, but also about how we deal with tragedy and how do we perceive the loss of someone close to us. The life’s irony hits you hard in this one – the down-to-earth prosecutor starts to believe in psychic just to retrieve some of the long-time buried and lost delicacy and faith, that deep inside, his daughter needs a father more than anytime before.

All in all, I have to say I was really charmed by “Body/Ciało”. It’s beautifully directed, sometimes kinky in its own way, sometimes haunting – never leaves you bored. the picture is also perfectly enhanced by the soundtrack – old-time Polish classics enrich the pallette of emotions, which Szumowska offers. And not being over-hyped about this movie – I am proud to be Polish and hope to see more of films like that in the future – directed not only  by Małgorzata Szumowska.

UMP Review – The Hybrid

A lacklustre effort to make an intense sci-fi thriller ends up as an action packed yet immensely ridiculous film.

Billy O’Brien’s rinky-dink flop “The Hybrid” mixes a horror-like straying in dark corridors theme with B-class sci-fi. There is also space for some Soviet Cold War weaponery project, immortal scientists and screeching bulb-headed things. All in all, there is just too much going on which finally develops into a murky and a bit ectypal film. 

A group of piad mercenaries is hired to conduct an undercover mission in some unknown territory to investigate an underground, post-soviet laboratory with purpose to find and secure some geneticallly enhanced human genes. The mission gets even more difficult when the troop is forced to face not only the soldiers on the ground, but also the bloody human hybrids, that were part of the genetics-based project.

One may call this puzzling mystery around project “Scintilla” a riveting pursue as the mercenaries find themselves in deeper and deeper morass. Others will feel overwhelmed by the out-of-nowhere subplots, which emerge just as the screenwriter’s ideas were popping out simultaneously with writing. And although I was trying hard to convince myself, that this British movie is an ambitious attempt on sci-fi and horror blend, I ended up being tired.

There are moments, when O’Brien’s sci-fi becomes unuterrably grotesque – obviously, this effect is completely accidental. The after-granade wounds do not kill the almost immortal scientist, although we’re given a clear camero shot on how precisely her backbone was shattered – seriously? The mercenaries are getting outnumbered quite easily and follow the well-known patterns, that if you have a gun, you can’t have a brain. And as the icing on the cake comes this beautiful prejudice, that all the Eastern people are drunks. And if you have to deal with a bunch of fearsome Eastern soldiers – vodka soothes everything.

I cannot deny, that “The Hybrid” happens to be entertaining, even despite numerous flaws. It’s a well-directed piece of lower budget sci-fi, which should satisfy the fans of classics like “Alien” – not that I compare those two on any grounds. O’Brien’s movie will never make it to the pantheon of sci-fi genre, but as a quickly forgettable experience for those ones who sit on the fence for a dose of some extraterrestrials – it should work just fine.