Kino sans musique (and lesbians)

This time I’m going to tell you about a film that doesn’t involve lezzers. Shocking, eh? But believe it or not I don’t just visit the kino to watch lesbian-interest movies. This time I took myself out to the Curzon in Soho (second only to the Curzon in Mayfair, in all it’s glorious opulence with marble walled bathrooms and satisfyingly thick pile carpets. Red, naturally) to see the grizzly 122 minute snapshot of communist life that is Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days.

The film is set in post Ceauşescu (miserable boring commie git) Romania circa. 1989 with scenery that is a typically washed out, barren affair with grotty towerblocks and rabid dogs barking in darkened damp alleyways aplenty. The characters all look like they didn’t get enough milk when they were growing up and baggy stonewashed denim shirts = fashionable. And, in keeping with all of the above, the storyline is suitably grim. Needless to say, I enjoyed it.

I shan’t spoil the plot but suffice to say that neither beginning, middle or ending is happy, and there is a particularly gruesome scene with a dead fetus lying on the bathroom floor. Abortion in Romania is not acceptable now and was even less so in 1989 – it was punishable with a prison sentence at that time, not to mention social exclusion. Thus the need for the desperate measures in this film…which made for pretty uncomfortable viewing. The Tarkovsky-esque cinematography only added to this.

The best thing about films like this, and Eastern European cinema generally, is the total lack of soundtrack. There is no doleful Elliot Smith track accompanying the forlorn yet pensive character’s walk down the deserted street, nor are there any stringed instruments with a cue to play when crucial plot-defining decision needs to be made. This makes for a refreshing take on angst and pain, because it makes everything seem more convincingly real (for me, anyway).

And it’s subtle. It was only when the silent credits rolled that I realised the film had been music free. I’m torn about whether ‘Elliot Smith-ridden soundtracks’ are a good thing or not. A couple of other films I’ve seen recently used them to good effect, and had they been silent, just wouldn’t have worked.Gus van Sant’s Paranoid Park and my new favourite teen-flick Juno (got tickets for the special preview at the BFI, suckers!) both used this sort of music to good effect. And had Little Miss Sunshine not had a lovely DevotchKa soundtrack I probably would have fallen asleep somewhere along that long dusty road to the children’s beauty pageant.

Likewise, when I went to see Hallam Foe last year, I was getting excited about purchasing the OST after about 20 minutes of viewing.

So, I think I conclude that when I’m Prime Minister there won’t be a need to outlaw film soundtracks, especially considering that the last time I went for a pensive walk, I did have a Bright Eyes soundtrack playing loudly in my ears, courtesy of my iPod, so maybe those Blockbuster films with Elliot Smith-ridden soundtracks aren’t so fake after all.

And just FYI, Bright Eyes has nothing to do with Bonnie Tyler and her bloody eclipse.


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