Wiener-Dog (dir. Todd Solondz) 2016

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This is a comedy written and directed by Todd Solondz. If you know his name and like his movies you will know not to expect uplifting and light hearted comedy, and this one is bleak even by his standards.

It consists of four short stories about people whose lives are affected by coming into contact with a Dachshund. It is well written, beautifully observed and has some great performances. I thought Ellen Burstyn and Julie Delpy were particularly good.

However, I really did not enjoy the film. Almost every character is cruel, self-serving or damaged and the humour comes from the dysfunctional way they deal with their lives. This is certainly a movie where we are laughing at them – not with them. Most of the laughs fall into the “so horrible it’s funny” category. The fact that that the film is so well made and the characters and situations are so realistically handled, make the comedy darker. I laughed rarely, and when I did, I disliked myself for doing so.  I left the cinema feeling depressed and dispirited.

It is said that “Great Art” is any which makes you feel strong emotions, either good or bad. In that case, this is “Great Art” but, if I were given the hour and a half back, I would choose not to spend it in that cinema.

Requiem for a Dream (dir. Darren Aronofsky) 2000

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I really liked this film. I really disliked this film. They say about good art; it invokes strong feelings.

I found the story preachy and two dimensional. There was no suspense and you will foresee the end, before you are five minutes into the film. It made me think of the 1930’s movie “Reefer Madness” or the 1970’s “Go Ask Alice” – remade for the 21st Century.

However….it is very well made. The acting, writing, direction and soundtrack are all very good.

Ellen Burstyn was nominated for an Academy Award for her part in this and she is wonderful. Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly and Marlon Wayans are very good too. All four characters are beautifully written and we genuinely care about what happens to them. The direction is clever, Darren Aaronofsky illustrates the circuits of addiction elegantly, so it is compelling to watch – even as you tell yourself that you shouldn’t be watching.

Finally, the soundtrack is fantastic. Clint Mansell and The Brodsky Quartet, have created a hypnotic and immersive soundscape that fits perfectly with the mood of this film.

This is a great movie. I didn’t enjoy it. I don’t think it was made for enjoyment, but it is still good art.