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Edwin Brienen Collection - Edwin Brienen Collection( Blu Ray) [Brink - 2019]

Edwin Brienen is one of the more fascinating &
unapologetically brash figures to appear out of European cinema in the last twenty years- his work is often edgy, controversial, and at times mocking of both himself &  wider art cinema. Though sadly he never seems to have got the praise of the likes of  Lars von Trier or Michael Haneke- here on Brink is a region free Blu Ray boxset bringing together five of his films- so hopefully this will help get his name out there.

The set comes in a double blu ray case, and sadly there is no inner booklet or extras on the films- but considering you can presently get this get for around $35.00- $40.00 this is good enough value.

The first disc takes in three films- we have Last Performance, Lena Wants To Know Once And For All, and God.  So up first we have Last Performance- this was the fifth film from Brienen- and it came out in 2006. Itís a wonderful head-spinning blend of theatrical fired taboo-breaking interactions, dark-at-moments gothic simmering surrealism, and lovers tiffs. The plot is somewhat of a love triangle between European actress who moves to New York, to fall in with gay couple- cooper who plays an operatic drag act in an underground exclusive club, and Tom who is both smugly damming & unsure of his sexuality. Added into this mix we satanic rituals, seedy rape, bloody gun death- all soundtracked with a versatile & varied soundtrack that moves between dark brooding oddness, kinky avant pop, edgy euro dance music, and ritual sounds. Brienen use of the camera is simply inspired & at times dizzying here- as he drifts in & out of focus, shifts & layers over the screen, or captures great half faced imagery, or in reflection shots. At times it can be a little jarring in the way its tonal shifts, but itís a fascinating ride that moves between darkly trippy-ness,  angled mundaneness, and subtle unsettlement.

Second on the first we have the rather lengthy titled Lena Wants To Know Once And For All came out in 2011- and itís sees Brienen severing a seemingly light & fun comedy-drama, with a decidedly quirky 1970ís & 1980ís leanings- with its chunky retro credits, bright buoyant pop &  retro euro dance/ electronica, brown & orange furnishings, and campy tone. The film follows the life & loves of twenty-one-year-old Lena Liebling(Agnieszka Rozenbajgier)- a happy go lucky budding actress, who is playing the lead in an edgy & serious stage play, and it constantly trying to annoy the director & actors. We also meet her father, who lost his wife some years ago & now makes balloon animals. Lenaís best friend, who is a high-end prostitute..and various other characters who pass through her life- like a karaoke singing gay Christian, & various men she sleeps with. For most of the film one hour & eighteen-minute runtime it managers to stay away from overtly shocking/ controversial elements that appear in Brienen films, though he still quietly mocks human happiness, love, and sex throughout. Itís only in the later part of the film we get more risky content- like an amusing jigging naked man, the sex slaves of her friend- which take in a naked man in a gas mask, and a man pretending heís Jesus- hung up in her S & M basement on a cross, with throne headdress. Brienen use of the camera is often most effective here, as he artful films from & behind things & in reflections- one particularly memorable moment is when Lena mocks her father in a hand mirror. We still get monologues- but they're done in a balanced & interesting manner- in all Lena Wants To Know Once And For All was a most enjoyable ride.

Lastly, on disc one we God the most recent film in this collection and the last film Brienen has made to date. The 2012 film is a blend drama & thriller, with moments of surrealism- it tells the story of Alice- the wife of a politician who has leaked some critical documents- she is brainwashed, losers her memory & then lands up on the doorstep of a local church. There are some interesting ideas & set ups here, for example, it begins with  god & devil playing a board game- god is an embittered older man, and Satan a gone to seed middle age man. Thereís a nod towards the bizarre cartoon elements of Monty Python, Alice talking with different elements of her personality, and a large breaded man singing in a yellow dress.  We get some neat darkly tinged & edgy electronica through-out the film. The problem is that the whole never really seems to resolve itís self, and it flows a little randomly. On the whole, I enjoyed the scenes & elements of God, I just don't think it's a wholly great film. 


Moving onto the second disc in the set- and we have two films on this disc- Exploitation & Terrorama! . So first up on the second disc we have 2012ís  Exploitation, which is seemingly Brienenís take on the Horror genre- but unsurprisingly in a decidedly arty/ off- angle manner. The films central  character is Eva(Eva Dorrepaal) who plays a middle-aged woman claiming she just 18- for most of the film she wears a baroque beehive wig. Part of the film follows her auditioning for a part in lairy English director (Tomas Spencer) film- at times his face is in shadow, or in reflection, or masked in a creepy humanoid mask- the scenes they spend together finds him ridiculing & berating Eva. And when this isnít happening she has lengthy monologues with him, and the past director she works with. Blended though-out the film we get stereotypical horror scenes/ concepts- like a woman (sometimes dressed/ sometimes not) been stalked by a masked figure through a snowy landscape, women with either a candle or Ouija board-talking in demonic voice or having her eyes roll back in an uneasy way. Mixed in with footage of Women been strangled (sometimes by a huge man with either black or white face paint), weird satanic & Masonic footage, nuclear bomb clouds, demon & evil doing focused paintings,  snapshots of hardcore sex, and more.  Added to this we get a soundtrack that blends together barren beats, wonky synth/ electronics, hazy mumbled vocals & noise elements. The whole thing is topped off with unsettling & unbalancing picture & camera effects- hazed black & white grain, filming of TV footage that switches into clear digital footage, and split black & red screens, etc- all to creating a dizzying & at times puzzling film that shifts over itís 77 minutes from eerier uneasy & fear, black humor, and stabbing critique of the art house cinema.

Finishing off the boxset we have Brienenís 2001 debut film Terrorama! - this is very much a statement of intent, instead of a wholly rewarding and consistent cinematic trip. The films move between moments of effective & thoughtful shock tactics, controversy baiting- through at times cringed inducing taboo-breaking and lengthy monologs discussing philosophy & degradement. The films sold as somewhat of a kidnap scenario, where a group depraved club denizens- all headed up by director Brienen- decide to kidnap & torture a TV show host- but in reality, this only really comes to realization in the last quarter of this 100-minute film. The main runtime of the movie is taken up by episodic shock set-ups, for example, we get a Christ masturbating & coming on the Cross, then later swooning around a Nazi soldier. A couple having sex in a car, while someone reads from the Koran. A saint rapes a woman, Nazi punk band backed by a huge swastika singing a song about Hitler been a speed addict. Drug use, male on male forced fellatio, rape, etc. Lots of at times fairly impassioned monologue and a few amusing sexual focused dialogue interactions. The whole thing does feel too long, and at times does become fairly trying- but as an opening cinematic statement/ laying out of intent Terrorama! is ok.

This is the first time all five films are presented in HD, and all of the prints look good/ great. Sonically the whole set is on point too, which is great as the soundtrack elements of each film are important & well realized.


In summing this two-disc set- Iíd say if you enjoy taboo-breaking modern cinema that is arty- but never too much so- you need to own this set, as Brienen has his own take on film making, and each of these five films is his distinctive twist on a host of different genres. Let's hope Brink have got plans to do another boxset of Brienen films- as thereís another ten full-length films in his filmography, as well as a handful of shorts too.

Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5Rating: 4 out of 5

Roger Batty
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