Friday, February 8, 2013

DVD Review: Branded

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…The fuck did I just watch?

I think of the many, many, MANY unintentionally hilarious moments in this movie, my favorite has to be the moment when Jeffery Tambour’s character (who, for the record, plays a businessman, who was sent to Russia to spy on their government, a fact that sustained me throughout much of the first half of this movie) sums up in dialogue why the movie’s plot up till that point doesn’t make any goddamn sense. I assume that this bit of dialogue was a script note from the producers, and it sort of sums up the entire movie: Intermittently accidentally entertaining, often boring and overall baffling.

I’m going to sum up the plot as best as I can, because I’m not 100 percent certain of what happened. Okay so, the main character is Misha, a Russian advertising genius who gets his advertising powers from being struck by lightning as a kid (roll with it, it’s not even close to the dumbest thing in this movie). Misha is actually a perfect example of how this movie is completely unaware of show-don’t-tell as it keeps telling us that Misha is an advertising genius, when I’m not 100 percent certain he’s not special needs, as all of the advertising he makes is awful and he acts like a moron. He’s also an asshole, but whatever. Anyway, Misha is producing an extreme makeover style show, about a fat woman’s plastic surgery journey, but something goes wrong and she winds up in a coma. So while Misha goes into self imposed exile, it’s revealed that all of this was a sinister conspiracy by Max von Sydow’s character (who I think went a little crazy when Ingmar Bergman died) to increase the profits of his fast food chain by using this woman’s plight to launch a worldwide fat-is-beautiful campaign. Oh and Misha has a dream that tells him to ritually slaughter a cow and bathe in it’s ashes, which gives him the ability to see brands as sci-fi creatures attached to people (the movie never completely decides if these are real or just symbolic hallucinations, but I’m sure I don’t care). Oh and we don’t get to see the dream or figure out any of the plot twists or character actions for ourselves, as everything that happens in the movie is described in voice-over by a woman who sounds like she took enough valium to kill a horse.

This is, without doubt, one of the most surreally awful films I have seen in a VERY long time. It’s got an incredibly obvious, on the nose, point to make about how much advertising rules our lives, which it chooses to make in the most heavy handed way possible, but still manages to be ridiculously obtuse about it. Along the way it manages to also be oddly mean-spirited about it’s point, as a good portion of the second act amounts to the film telling us how awful and disgusting it thinks fat people are. By the time they’ve gotten off and to their supposed real point the whole ‘body shaming’ thing, the movie is nearly over. And when they finally get to their real point and reveals it’s happy ending… holy shit, I can’t remember the last movie I saw that was pro-censorship.

But fuck that, it’s not what a movie has to say, it’s how they say it, right? Except the movie is so poorly made that I half expected to see Tommy Wiseau’s name in the credits. Nothing anyone does makes any sense on any level, either from real world logic or the movie’s own baffling internal logic. Max von Sydow’s character keeps dropping in and out of the movie, large sections of the plot require leaps in logic that would cause Videodrome to stumble and there’s precisely 0 interest in the movie as a whole. The movie attempts to tie the narrator into the plot…sort of (the tie in is just plain fucking stupid, no two ways about it) but I’m not fooled. I guarantee you the narration was a post productions decision by either the editor or the producer (or both) to try to desperately to make this shit make sense.

And I’ve just begun to scratch the surface of awful on this movie. Jeffery Tambour is at least entertaining his role (always nice to see you George) but Max von Sydow is completely checked out and all of the other actors are terrible. And even aside from the completely nonsensical plot, the dialogue is fucking awful, so on the nose and obvious that the narrator explaining every scene doesn’t even feel that out of place. And then there’s the weird direction, which strains for Cronenberg style surrealism, but really just ends up being completely baffling.

The movie this most wants to be is an arthouse version of They Live but it’s not really even fit to stand in the same room as that particular classic. I briefly entertained the idea that this movie was a giant troll, as it’s rather meta that a movie about the evils of advertising had an INCREDIBLY dishonest ad campaign (as in “Haha, see? Advertising is evil, it got you to see this piece of shit!”) but I think that’s giving too much credit to the movie that posits that modern marketing was invented by Stalin. Besides, I’m something of a connoisseur of bad movies (I own a copy of The Room on blu-ray) so I can tell when a movie is intentionally trying to be bad, and this is completely sincere in it’s incredible level of pretention. If you’re into drunkenly ragging on terrible movies with your friends, then this will probably work for that, it’s certainly terrible enough. But if you want a movie to enjoy unironically, on it’s own merits, then stay farrrrrr away from this movie. It doesn’t really have any merits.

Elessar is a 23 year old Alaskan born cinephile and he found the fact that supposedly Russian cars had left hand drivers seat distracting too.

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