Movie Review: Cinderella (2006)

For as far back as I can remember I have loved horror movies. Growing up in the 80s I can remember begging my mother to let me see the slasher films of Freddie Kreuger, Jason, and Michael Myers. Mostly she said no, but I still managed to catch them on late-night cable TV. Later the voyeuristic, sick pleasures of real death films like Faces of Death became something of an underground scene at my school. In the decades since that time, I have continued in my love for horror and gore.

The slasher film seemed to go out of style sometime in the early 90s but came back in vogue a few years later with Scream and its winking, ironic sensibilities. Now we’ve got Asian horror and its significant lack of naked breasts, but with plenty of extreme violence. This brings us to Cinderella.

I’m not exactly sure why this film is called Cinderella as there is nary a Prince Charming, a mouse, nor a pumpkin carriage to be found, but there is enough dark moodiness to have Cinderella and her stepsisters screaming for mercy.

The story revolves around Hyun-soo and her mother, Yoon-hee, a plastic surgeon. Dear old Dr. Mom performs facelifts for all of Hyun-soo’s friends who are obsessed with ul-jjang (the ideal beauty), but before long things start going horribly wrong. The face-lifted friends begin having weird visions of their faces being clawed off, which leads them to do some pretty nasty stuff to themselves.

Hyun-soo also begins having visions that her face is a horrible wreck, and she hears voices claiming her own face is someone else’s.

The film is loaded with mood. Shadows abound, and unknown dark faces linger just out of focus in the background. Voices whisper strange and haunting things throughout. As an audience, we’re never quite sure what is going on at any time, but we can be pretty sure it’s eerie.

There are a few Asian horror movie clichés, and to be sure you see more than a few long black-haired girls creeping along. In the end, it feels more like a Romantic era melodrama than a horror film, but for what it lacks in originality and gore it makes up for in mood and social commentary.

Yeah, that’s right, I said social commentary. The film has a great deal to say about our perception of beauty and the extremes we will go through to achieve them. Hyun-soo and her friends, who have all undergone some form of cosmetic surgery, are young students. They haven’t really formed concrete personalities but are more than willing to change their appearance surgically to gain some warped sense of beauty.

In one chilling scene two girls begin slicing their faces open with sculpting knives all the while whispering “I’ll make you pretty.” This mantra is repeated throughout the film. All anyone seems to care about is his or her physical beauty, and they are willing to do just about anything to achieve it. Take a quick look at our own magazines and television commercials it’s not hard to see how such a warped perception could easily be believed.

Unfortunately in its attempts to be a horror film, a melodrama, and social commentary, the film falls a little short in all categories. It is stretched just a little too thin to be completely satisfying as any of them, yet it provides enough of each to make it well worth watching.

Movie Review: The Perfect Crime (el Crimen Ferpecto)

It’s good to be Rafael – he’s got a sweet job as manager of ladies’ wear at YeYos, he is young, healthy, wealthy, and charming. The ladies adore him and the men wish to be him. He takes what he wants from life, and lives to the fullest. All that’s left is a promotion to floor manager at the store, and his life will be perfect. To obtain that promotion he must simply beat Antonio, the men’s clothing manager, in sales for the month — a task made easy by the doting middle-aged woman whom Rafael convinces to buy an expensive fur without even trying.

Yes, life is good for Rafael. That is, until the check for the coat bounces, and he is overlooked for the promotion. In frustration, Rafael yells at the coat woman and is fired by Antonio for it. An argument ensues and Rafael accidentally kills Antonio in a changing room. To make matters worse, the body soon disappears!

Poor Rafael, his life has gone from perfect to rock bottom in a matter of hours. Luckily he has Lourdes on his side. For she is the ugliest – and therefore completely invisible to the sexist Rafael – saleswoman in the store, and she has hidden the body to protect Rafael, for a price. Lourdes wants only the eternal love of Rafael, for her help and secrecy

Having to choose life in prison, or the love of an ugly woman, Rafael wisely chooses love, but may soon regret it. The Perfect Crime is equal parts Weekend At Bernie’s, American Werewolf in London, and War of the Roses, cranked up to 1.5 speed with Spanish accents.

Lourdes is the perfect crazed lover willing to do anything for the attention of the incredibly handsome and sexist Rafael. In a scene that would make Goodfellas proud, she slices and dices the dead Antonio without batting an eye, while Rafael gets deeper and deeper away from the life he has always wanted.

None of the characters are particularly decent, and I didn’t exactly care for their fate, but the story is told with such flair that I never really cared. The pacing is His Girl Friday fast with an eye for the absurd with its often hallucinatory imagery.

Guillermo Toledo and Mónica Cervera are pitch-perfect for the leads, adding a real emotional core to characters who are completely outlandish. Álex de la Iglesia does a nice job handling all the chaotic action with a smirk and flair.

It is an absolute joy to watch, and one of the most purely comical films I’ve seen all year. And yes, I know it is only March, and I haven’t seen that many comedies this year, but still, it’s a hilariously brilliant film.

The Death of Mr. Lazarescu (2005)

the death of mr lazarescu poster

Poor Mr. Lazarescu, his wife has left him, his daughter has moved across the ocean to Canada, and his sister and brother-in-law lecture him about the money he has borrowed. He’s been having massive headaches and throwing up since morning, and the ambulance never seems to come.

And everybody chastises him for the drink.

The Death of Mr. Lazarescu is billed as a comedy, but if it is such then it is so black that I couldn’t see it. Really it is just sad, very sad, possibly the saddest movie I have ever seen.

The movie starts with Lazarescu (Ion Fiscuteanu) calling for an ambulance. We then see him call his sister, who promptly, along with her husband, yells at Lazarescu for drinking too much and asking for the return of the money he has borrowed.

Then he waits and waits for the ambulance. Eventually, he finds his way into the hall, knocking on the door of the neighbors requesting medicine.

He is chastised for the drink.

The neighbors have mercy and nurse him to the couch where he pukes up blood. They call the ambulance again and note its more serious nature. When the nurse, Mioara Avram (Luminita Gheorghiu), arrives she finds Lazarescu in the tub, where he has fallen. She takes his vitals and tries to determine what is wrong with him.

And yells at him for the drink.

They take him to the hospital, where the doctor is extremely rude.

He chastises Lazarescu for the drink. He abuses the hospital staff, Mioara, and Lazarescu mercilessly. There is no bedside manner. Lazarescu is completely belittled for not taking care of himself properly, for the drink, for everything. The diagnosis is that it is liver failure due to the drink and tests are ordered from another hospital.

Lazarescu is abumulanced to hospital number two.

He is chastised for the drink.

The doctors there are much kinder and run a series of tests which result in serious complications for Lazarescu. Because of a bus accident, this hospital is completely full and unable to perform the immediate surgery needed to keep Lazarescu alive.

He is taken to a third hospital.

He is chastised for the drink.

The staff here is worse than the staff at hospital number one. Mioara tries to explain the urgency of the situation, but the doctors want to reexamine Lazarescu and spend most of their time arguing with Mioara. They then refuse to operate because a now near comatose Lazarescu doesn’t understand he needs to sign the release forms.

He is taken to a fourth hospital.

They do not chastise him for the drink and get him ready for surgery.

It is nothing short of heartbreaking.

It is shot in a documentary style. It uses natural light and lots of handheld cameras giving the film a very realistic feel.

Though it is a Romanian film, it asks plenty of questions about the state of healthcare systems around the world. It is a film that physically angers me. When doctors are more concerned about being sued and filing the proper paperwork than about caring for the ill what has gone wrong with the world?

Even the nice doctors and nurses look haggard. Long hours and extra work due to the bus accident leave them all exhausted. I’ve never thought about tired doctors, but it makes sense, they work long, hard hours and should be exhausted by the end of their shift. The healthcare workers also spend their downtime between tests and examinations chatting about personal things as if they weren’t involved in matters of life and death. It is an intimate look into the chaos, madness, and complications of caring for people.

It is a difficult film to watch. The pacing is languid and the subject matter is dark. Despite being a “comedy” there are few if any light-hearted moments. At a 153 minutes it is a large dose to swallow. Yet it is an important look at healthcare, loneliness, growing old, and how we take care of our fellow man. One that shouldn’t be missed.