XL Popcorn – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre / Ariel

One month in and it is spreading up into my neck from my right arm. Dictated reviews will be continuing until I know more about what I am dealing with.

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Title: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre
Director: Tobe Hooper
Year: 1974
Country: USA

It is difficult to watch this in 2016 and was trying to keep the myself someone living in 1974. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is arguably one of the most influential horror films of all time. In fact, I think that other than A Nightmare on Elm Street this would be all the major horror films covered for the 1001 list.

If you took all of the ingredients that make a horror film it makes sense that The Texas Chainsaw Massacre would be classified as such. However, viewing it in 2016, I can quite easily say that this is not scary. Unsettling? Most definitely. Disturbing? Hell yes! Scary? Not really.

The thing is I felt more tense and felt more squeamish whilst watching an episode of Happy Valley with my mum last night. The problem is that I did not care about any of the characters enough to feel scared for them. The only two that I fell moderately okay with were dispatched fairly early and, it might just be me, I actually laughed out loud at the first death.

The most sinister bit is really in the first 10 minutes with the hitchhiker going mental in the back of their van with his razor blade. The last 20 minutes felt more like an extreme black comedy than a horror film. I never quite expected to see Leatherface in makeup and a woman’s wig. Truly the stuff of nightmares.

Despite all this (and the very annoying screaming match at dinner table) this was an enjoyable film. Just don’t expect it to give you sleepless nights. Wow, did not have that much to say on this classic.

Title: Ariel
Director: Aki Kaurismäki
Year: 1988
Country: Finland

For whatever reason the only Finnish films I have ever seen are those from Aki Kaurismäki’s body of work. This is my 5th of his films after his Finland trilogy (Drifting Clouds, The Man Without A Past and Lights In The Dusk) and the absurdly comic Leningrad Cowboys Go America. Ariel is actually the middle of an earlier trilogy of Kaurismäki’s known as the Proletariat Trilogy; all films united by main characters who do low-level jobs.

I have seen Ariel described by a number of critics as one of his lesser films, the likes of The Match Factory Girl and the Finland trilogy usually rank higher than this. If I am being honest, I find myself agreeing with the consensus. If this was on the 1001 list as a way to represent this director and/or his style filming it would have surely been better to pick The Man Without A Past instead… but there you go.

One thing that I always find interesting about the work of Kaurismäki is how he represents Finland and the Finnish people. Everyone and everything feels extremely matter of fact in his world. Any humour stretches the definition of deadpan and any happiness that people gain is very much tinged with the knowledge that bleakness is just around the corner.

A very obvious example of this matter of factness is in the first 5 minutes. Taisto Kasurinen is sat in a café with his father, both having lost their jobs after the mine closed down. His father says his goodbyes and then proceeds to shoot himself in the toilet. There are no tears, just a shrug of the shoulders before driving off to Helsinki in his dead father’s convertible. Similarly is the relationship between Taitso and Irmeli. They come together out of loneliness and they bond because it’s better than being alone. Sure, their relationship grows more loving as time goes on… but it’s a weird set up. It reminds of a line from the anime Gintama (which I have started watching for the blog… and is 201 episodes long) saying that marriage is more about becoming more familiar with each other than it is about love… something that rang very true with this film.

Also, if you see this film you will see John Hodgeman’s Finnish doppelgänger in the form of Matti Pellonpää. There was a double take as I was watching this.

Ariel makes for an interesting contrast to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. To watch a film so hellbent on overdoing it and then see one where everything is in the subtlest and minutest of details has made for an interesting exercise.

Progress: 524/1007

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