DIRECTOR REPORT CARD: Overview on the films of Jaume Balagueró

I have to tell you, I seek out films typically, not for stars, or characters, or writers, but for directors.

For stylistic or qualitative certainties, energies, familiarities,… visions, that certain directors bring to film.

Since the films of Hitchcock and Ford and Lang, I’ve been excited by the vision of singular directors. The work of many distilled through one.

This new section will cover directors that are currently on my radar. Now without further ado…

I seek out the films of Jaume Balagueró.

His films, there atmosphere… compels. With 5 feature films in the horror genre, and one TV movie, I see him as a great stylist, and filmmaker in the vein of Ibanez Serrador.

Balaguro’s films are eerie, sumptuous, disquieting pagents of unease. Of those places where we become… insecure. However watching his filmography including THE NAMELESS, TO LET, etc.., his work is plagued with a tendency to trope writing.

That is, his films are filled with characters performing unbelievably stupid actions, and putting themselves in harm’s way, always finding an excuse to search by themselves at the most inopportune times, in places that they know to be dangerous, whether Emma Vilarasau in NAMELESS or Anna Paquin in DARKNESS. And Balaguero’s reliance on these overused tropes of the medium, these idiocies of character, strains the credibility of his films, the suspension of disbelief, past the point necessary to keep you invested in his stories.

So instead of staying embroiled in his story, the idiotic scripting of his characters, the incredibly moronic actions, plotting, rips me out of the story, and I immediately stop caring.

Characters, open-eyed, making the stupidest decisions possible completely annoys me, and makes me want to see the last of the characters and the film as quickly as possible.

This poor writing, this trope writing, most egregiously seen in films like TO LET and THE NAMELESS undermines an otherwise very talented director, and otherwise very passionate cast, and cause films that should succeed… to fail.

The only exceptions I have seen to this, have been the REC films, where Jaume Balagueró is teamed with a less formulaic, cliche ridden director, in co-director Paco Plaza. Paco Plaza is a slightly less experienced director than Balaguero, but crafts films that are far smarter, and less dependent on irrational, idiotic character decisions to move the story along.

In REC you can see the strength of that collaboration, keeping Balaguero’s masterful visual eye, while also offering smart, full fledged characters, that are capable of acting like real people would, rather than movie cliches/pawns.

All in all the solo films of Balaguero, while always worth a look, are ultimately frustrating, and slightly disappointing viewing experiences. I’m hoping Paco Plaza rubs off on Balaguero, and he gets increasingly better at crafting smart, rather than contrived and stale, films.

So a rental recommendation for the following Balaguero film’s: THE NAMELESS, DARKNESS, FRAGILE (the visuals and athmosphere alone make them worth a look, regardless of how badly they falter, at the very least Balaguero understands how to… disquiet),

A fail/do not waste your money recommendation on his short film TO LET (which is everything that is wrong with his filmmaking, is the poster child for stupid, cliched movie actions)

And finally a buy recommendation for the two REC films he did with Paco Plaza (which are fantastic).

So Juame Balaguero is a filmmaker to watch, but a filmmaker who is not quite there yet.

HOLLYWOOD EXPOSE: REC, foreign films, Remakes, John Woo, RED CLIFF, Movie DVD review

I’m always amazed how people get to this site.

It is so cool, some of the people who have links to my site. Mr. Walter Koenig being the latest one. Thanks all, for the links. They are deeply appreciated.

Okay onto the post:

This post is some rambling notes for myself, so bear with it:
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I just saw REC the Spanish Horror thriller, I’m pimping a review to a paying site, so I won’t say much here except to say, I hated CLOVERFIELD and BLAIR WITCH PROJECT, all these found footage films; and REC avoids the weaknesses and pitfalls of all previous attempts at such a conceit, and manages to imbue it with real strength.

The film is fantastic. And damn Hollywood for remaking it rather than just giving it a US release. People aren’t morons, at least most people; this subtitled movie would have done great in the theaters.

But the suits in Hollywood are all greed and no taste. So we get watered down Americanized versions of great foreign movies. Typically inferior garbage, that only weakens the strength of the original film.

I have not seen QUARANTINE. After being stupid enough to see the garbage that was THE STRANGERS rather than the French original, I’ve learned my lesson.

I avoid Hollywood remakes, at least until I see the original first.

So REC was worth the wait. Fantastic film. Unfortunately for those wanting to see popular foreign films, Hollywood doesn’t make it easy, because they want you to see their crappy US remake, and buy that version on DVD.

So as of this writing, there are no region 1 DVDs available of great foreign films like REC.

Thankfully as long as you have a region free DVD player, which you really should have, and access to a foreign DVD seller, you’re good. Because the rest of the world isn’t as crippled and locked down as the studios have the American market. In the rest of the world, they release foreign films theatrically, and release foreign DVDs. Imagine that.

And that’s exactly what I did. I bought a region 3 DVD of REC, and it rocks.
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But realistically you shouldn’t be at the mercy of the studios regarding seeing foreign films and tv shows.

It’s all greed.

They take a popular foreign series, delay the release of any region 1 DVDs so instead they can feed you their crappy US remake, and their crappy DVD. THEN they release the original series on region 1 DVD! So it’s double dipping! They generate ad revenue on the broadcast of their remake. then they generate revenue on their remake’s DVDs. then they generate revenue on DVD sales of the original!!! It’s a ripoff!

So I say screw em. Get yourself a multi-region Dvd, and then you’re not at the mercy of region 1 release schedules.

And the funny thing about that is, even when they release foreign tv shows on region 1 dvd, often the DVD is edited and cut differently then the original series. An example of this being JEKYLL BBC series. The show as broadcast in the states was cut, and the region 1 DVD is also cut. So if you want to see this series as it was released you have to purchase the Pal DVD.
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And if you think the current DVD scenario is problematic, Bluray/HDDVD will further cripple your options, and put you further at the mercy of the studios. Which is why I’m in no rush to migrate away from the DVD. Hell there are enough DVD movies and tv shows I haven’t seen, that if they stopped making DVDs tomorrow, I would have enough used inventory floating around out there, to last me the rest of my life.

So screw you Hollywood studios! Screw you FOX!

So do your homework people, and don’t be deprived of seeing the films every other country gets to see. Take John Woo’s latest film RED CLIFF.

There’s no reason that film shouldn’t have gotten a US Theatrical release. But the greedy studios again, they want to be able to double, triple, and quadruple dip. So you’re going to have to wait to see the crappy Americanized remake or edited version of RED CLIFF, a year after the original has made the rounds. Then they are going to sell you the crappy American DVDs of RED CLIFF. And only after they’ve raked in all this money on feeding you two years of crap, are they finally going to release the original “director’s cut” Region1 DVD of John Woo’s RED CLIFF.
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So you can wait two years for the Studios to feed you piecemeal John Woo’s vision. Or you know what, you can decide you want to have the same rights to see this film as someone in Thailand or London, and buy the DVD today. It makes me insane, how for such a supposedly free country, we are increasingly at the mercy of greedy fuckers.

And I understand profit.

I have no problem with profit. I have a problem when profit becomes a juggernaut of greed. A beast that eats away at the consumer, rather than just filling the needs of the consumer. And it’s even worse if the country producing the film, is not a western puppet.

One of the best films I saw last year was the Cuban bio-pic EL BENNY. I raved about it in my review last year. This is a film that should be seen by everyone. Especially Americans. Because it shows the world as something beyond the sound-bites of our nightly propaganda.
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Unfortunately that’s the very reason many foreign films don’t get US releases, and don’t get DVD distribution. Which means some of the vital filmmakers of our age, Diop Mambety, Sembene Oursmane, their best films do not make it onto our shores. Are seen once, in a film festival, and then relegated to molding away in someone’s closet.

The move to all digital cinemas, will further marginalize such filmmakers. It’s all part and parcel of the same beast. It’s really, to a fine level, policing the content of what each region is exposed to. This even goes to the concept of having alternate endings and versions of films, a fad that i wholeheartedly despise.

It pisses in the face of cinema.

Why is CITIZEN KANE a classic? Or why is the THIRD MAN a classic? Or High Noon or JAWS or BRAVEHEART or DO THE RIGHT THING or BLOOD SIMPLE? Because these films offer a singular vision. A shared and shareable vision. An iconic and unwavering vision.

The fantastic ending of DOUBLE INDEMNITY comes to mind (and yes I know DI had an epilogue that was excised from the final version of this film. But the point is we did have a final version, and it is that one, singular version we saw, and those hard decisions that define a classic film).

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And because of this, if you are 9 or if you are 90, and you have seen a great movie, you’ve largely seen the same movie. And you can share the memories, the conversation or the wow factor of that movie. It makes you part of a singular conversation. You gasp at the same moments at the end, you wow to the same scenes. It is a cultural connectivity that is very important, and unites the viewers, even if you didn’t see that film in the same theater, or in the same time, or in the same country, it is still the same film, its beats are the same, and you have that in common. That frame of reference.

In a world increasingly spinning itself apart, this shared cinematic conversation is a tiny way to keep ourselves together.

Cinema then, as that shared endless place in time where all our rosebuds are lost, and all our rosebuds are found.

As opposed to today with the move toward multiple endings. Which in the short term may seem an easy way for studios to triple dip as far as revenues, but in the long term it robs that film of its singular vision, its cultural connectivity. In the long term… it hurts film.

Because suddenly two people can have seen the same movie, but each remembers different endings. And the film rather than being a unique statement, that is memorable for the very fact it has the balls to lock itself in stone, and lock you, the viewers together, instead suddenly is something ephemeral, and transitory, and… forgettable.

The very act of having multiple endings, negates the ability of a film to be a classic. Period.

It negates the very ability of it to be a film, as far as I’m concerned.

It’s the act of a lazy filmmaker.

Multiple endings are great for “choose your own adventure” books and video games, but cinema has always been the domain of men and women, directors, who have something lasting to say to the world. Multiple endings negates the lasting voice of cinema.

DO you sense I really fing hate Hollywood suits?

And the only reason is because I love Hollywood. I grew up on cinema. I love Cinema enough to defend it perpetually and criticize, perpetually, the small minded, fing trolls, who temporarily, find themselves in positions they are not worthy of, interfering with the course of a medium, that was here long before them, and will be here long after they and their works have turned to dust.

Okay, that ends my rant. I’m jumped all over the place, but in summation…

Screw Hollywood. Get an ALL-REGION Dvd player. Screw Bluray. Support International sellers, and international filmmakers and generally screw Hollywood.

Oh and pick up REC, great movie.