Movie Reviews (such as they are)

Friday, November 24, 2006

Hundstage (aka Dog Days)

The latest film I've seen is Hundstage, or Dog Days -- an Austrian film in the style of Short Cuts, Magnolia, Code Unknown, etc: a peek into the lives of various characters whose lives interact with one another's on some insanely hot summer days.

Generally speaking, I like this movie device, simply because it really is one of the most realistic ways of looking at our lives outside of a documentary format. Sure, the stories can be somewhat contrived (I thought Crash was very disappointing, for example), but in essence we all know people who know people that we don't know, so on that level these films succeed.

Some of the key characters in Dog Days include a young retarded woman who is constantly looking to hitch a ride, almost always managing to do so; a security-systems salesman; an old widower and his helper; a separated husband and wife who still live together following the death of their son; and a mature unmarried couple.

In many ways, this is a brutal, ugly film. It focuses almost exclusively on the nasty side of people and the dirty secrets that most would probably want to keep hidden. But you are drawn to these characters, really wanting to know what is going to happen to them next, even though you suspect it can't be anything good. And mostly your suspicions are right.

The two standout scenes are those in which people are forced to sing "La Cucaracha". These have at least as much tension to them as most latter-day horror movies.

If you like the films of Michael Haneke, you will probably like this. It's no fun, and its underlying theme seems to be that Austrian men are mostly really horrible, but it's well made, gripping, and challenging.
I give it 65 out of 100.