Frontier(s) (Xavier Gens, 2007)

I love the New French Extremity. For me, the relatively new wave of French horror films has really breathed some new life into my beloved genre; not only is the violence more extreme, the ways of telling scary stories, and the elements contained within said stories, are often more developed and thought-provoking than your average American horror movie. Frontier(s) had the potential to be the biggest breakthrough film of this breed of horror films. It was originally chosen to be a part of the 2007 After Dark Horrorfest, but after getting slapped with an NC-17 rating, was demoted to a very limited release and a life on DVD.

One one hand, that’s too bad. Frontier(s), despite the terribly parenthesis-ed title, could have been a small hit. It follows a familiar formula in American horror movies (actually, follows very closely the Texas Chainsaw Massacre formula): some kids get into trouble, run away into the country, find way worse trouble than they were running from. Only these characters’ trouble revolves around their participation in political riots after the election of a conservative president; they feel threatened as Muslims and one of the gang beats up a cop. Our pregnant protagonist Yasmine’s brother dies in the aftermath, and the gang splits up and meets at a bed and breakfast in the country. But, of course, the inn is run by Nazi cannibals looking to start a new master race. Of course. Yasmine is spared a bloody fate because her captives want her baby. There is a great, bitter irony in the fact that these Nazis want Yasmine’s baby while saluting “pure blood” over dinner.

The plot of Frontier(s) is promising, but the film never quite delivers what it should. Almost nothing of interest happens in the first half of the movie – in fact, things actually only get interesting in the last half hour or so, after most of the main characters have been killed. The most engaging parts of the movie are those between Yasmine and a girl living in the house who is also pregnant, but very supportive and caring, to a creepy extent, towards Yasmine. Gens seems to suggest, through the girl’s actions in the film’s climax, that there’s some sort of universal bond of sisterhood between pregnant women, one that transcends family and history. I can’t decide if I think this idea is empowering or just a little silly and lazy writing (although, interestingly enough, Yasmine doesn’t feel the same way towards the younger girl, as evidenced near the end of the film).

Like Martyrs, Frontier(s) can be interpreted as feminist; Yasmine spits at the family, “I’m not obedient! I never will be!” and I wanted to get up and cheer for her. When she secretly brandishes an axe to use against her male captor as he screams at her about how she will listen to him and start being obedient after all, it’s a perfect visual metaphor for the hidden female rage and violence that Yasmine has inside herself.

But that’s really where Frontier(s) stops being interesting. Xavier Gens takes the momentum out of a few key scenes with poor editing and music choices. Distracting music is played over a violent scene at dinner, undercutting the brutality where it could and should speak for itself. In the climactic scene, there is an onslaught of machine gun violence and explosions, which seem strangely out of place with the more “personal” violence of the rest of the film.

While watching the movie, a year or so after seeing it for the first time and having become more familiar with French horror since then, I was really struck by the similarities to other films of the genre. It has the pregnancy violence of Inside! It has a painful haircutting scene, just like Calvaire and Martyrs! It has freaky country folk, just like Sheitan, Calvaire, and Ils! I certainly don’t think Frontier(s) ripped any of those other films off, as some of them were made after this one, but all these elements just reminded me that I wasn’t watching any of those other films. And I wish I had been.

Bottom line: Not a complete waste of time, but it’s best undertaken after seeing other, stronger French horror first. 7/10

Date watched: 1 January – film 1 of 2010

The 2010 Project

I plan on documenting most, if not all, the movies I watch in 2010, hopefully eliciting thoughtful responses on my part (and yours, dear reader) about what I watch and what it all means. It’ll be exciting, I promise! Of course, I’ll also be writing about whatever else tickles my fancy, probably food/fashion/music related. So, welcome to the (re)birth of Live Fast, Die Old! Stay a while, won’t you?

one of the best host segments ever.

Tom Servo: I’m walking for Helping Children Through Research and Development.
Mike Nelson: Oh – HEPTRAD – I think I’ve heard of that group.
Tom Servo: No, actually, Helping Children Though Research and Development is the acronym. It stands for ‘Hi Everyone, Let’s Pitch In ‘N Get Cracking Here In Louisiana Doing Right, Eh? Now Then. Hateful Rich Overbearing Ugly Guys Hurt Royally Everytime Someone Eats A Radish, Carrot, Hors-d’ouvres, And Never Does Dishes. Eventually Victor Eats Lunch Over Peoria Mit Ein Nauesburger Tog.’

letterpress? at home??

SIGN ME UP.

Once upon a time, I worked at an adorable, wonderful paper store. It was there that I fell in love with letterpressed goods, like anyone who has spent a good amount of time around fancy paper will agree. They just…feel good. And look good. And make other people feel good. Letterpressed wedding invitations can be so beautiful and expensive that they just break my heart.

Not anymore!

I got an email from Paper Source (one of my favorite stores, based out of Chicago, and always perfectly pleasant with wholesale orders, as well) today, with the amazing news that they are offering a home letterpress machine! And at only $150, it’s remarkably affordable (well, relatively). Once I save a little bit, everyone I know is getting adorable, hand-letterpressed cards.

in defense of january jones

or; why all the hate?

this article is stupid. really, really stupid. but it’s a good representation of an internet phenomenon that’s been bugging me for a while now: january jones hate.

the worst part of mad men? seriously, gawker? i mean, that is like saying the worst part of the best thing ever, so it’s not so bad, but i cannot understand people who think january jones is a bad actress (at least, as betty). betty was, by and large, my favorite character on mad men this season. she was trapped with a man she despised by a baby she regrets (and then named after her dead father, with whom she had a complicated, to say the least, relationship), only to find out that her husband wasn’t even the man she hated. he was something worse: a lie.

so yes, betty is annoying (especially in those last few episodes). yes, she can be a terrible mother (especially in that last episode, but hey, is don really any better? answer: no). yes, she is an ice queen. but that doesn’t make january jones a bad actress. she made betty a real person, not just a housewife, but an anthropology major who has this life in the suburbs she never imagined. or wanted, even if she thought she did. so, worst part of mad men? not by a long shot, haters.

and fine, this weekend’s snl was, well, pretty bad, but how in god’s name is that january’s fault? you can only do so much with a sketch in which you play a gassy grace kelly. she was nervous, but adorably so, and her performance got much better as the show went on. the cloud-watching sketch was actually very funny.

plus, there’s this:

this is a test post.

bonjour!