- Product Rating -

Art House Asshole : Import/Export

| July 29, 2016

You know how when you’re wanting to go to the movie theater and you look up all the films that are showing and there are alway at least three that you’ve never heard of, let alone have any interest in seeing? Well, good news! I’ve seen those movies. I spend most of my theater experiences in art house theaters watching those movies that you’ve never heard of and then never watch. Yeah, I’m that hipster asshole. My goal with this is to spread information out about these films, that way you can decide one of the following. “That actually sounds pretty cool! I want to see that now!” or “Man, I’m glad I decided to go see the new superhero movie!”. So without further ado, here is my article and review of Import/Export.

Three weeks into this series, and I’ve realized that Art House films are almost always negative. Don’t get me wrong, they are more often than not good films that are pure art, but god damn are they negative in tone. This film more so than the previous two films. This film reminds me of Gabriele Muccino’s The Pursuit of Happyness, if it was even more depressing and nothing ever went right and you just end up hating the world and yourself at the end. It’s like that. Cold and depressing, but with a flavor of “I should re-evaluate why I think happiness is even achievable.” Regardless, we should probably talk in depth about this film.

Import/Export or sometimes referred to at simply Import Export is an Austrian film directed by Ulrich Seidl. The reason why I choose this film to review this week is because of the poster. The poster for this film, which I won’t show as I’m unsure of the rules of what I can and can not show on this website, pops up almost every month in my circles. The poster has a nude woman posing in front of something in the top of the poster, the title in the middle, and three strangely dressed elderly men in the bottom of the poster. I always referred to the film as “That Movie with the Girls Butt and the Three Old Dudes”, I never knew what the film was about and I thought this could be a good motivation to make the jump and watch it.

The film follows two different people coming from the Ukraine. One is a young woman named Olga, the other is a young man named Paul. The film chronicles the two as they make their way through Austria in search for a better life. Paul ends up being a truck driver for most of the film, and Olga becomes a sex worker, a maid, and a caretaker at an old folk home. The film is very long, clocking in at just under two and a half hours. I want to say that the parts with Paul in them aren’t necessary, but it isn’t like Olga’s parts are more necessary than Pauls. The only reason I can think of as to why there are two people that are both experiencing similar stories is for the director to say “Look! It doesn’t matter who you are! You’re life is going to be horrible no matter what!”

The writing is bleak. This isn’t a surprise, but I was thinking toward the end of the film “Come on! Give the girl a break!” as literally no one in the winter hellscape would bother giving either Olga or Paul the time of day. Ulrich Seidl is known for making fictional films that are so realistic that he often tricks the audience into thinking that his films are actually documentaries. The big example of this is his Paradise Trilogy. This is the film he made just before that trilogy, so I never thought that this was a documentary. But if this film is so realistic, then I’ve officially decided that all of Eastern Europe is just the worst place on the planet to live. Because it seems that every movie that comes out of there is just to say how much they hate their lives.

Where the film shines is its tone and atmosphere. Which if you haven’t figured out by now, is super dark and depressing. Every shot in the film sends a chill down your spine. This might sound like a complaint, because I’ve really only bagged on the bleakness of the film, but the cinematography is so inline with the rest of the film that you have to give it props for that. If a cinematographer can achieve a feeling of dread through the camera, he or she is doing more that most cinematographers can do.

It might sound like this is the worst film of all time. It’s not. It’s actually a fantastic film. With films like this, where the message and experience aren’t as fun as you might want it to be, you have to think about why that is. Did you have a miserable time because the film was clunky and disorganized? Did you hate it because every time the lead character spoke, you could hear a disingenuousness to it? Or did you hate it because you disagree with what the message of the film is? Did you have a miserable time because that is the exact experience that the director wanted you to have? You have to ask yourself these things when watching art house films because more often than not, you don’t dislike the film for how it’s made, you dislike the film because you disagree with what it is saying or doing. I may have had a horrible time watching this film, but I will be thinking about this film for a very long time. The director wanted you as the audience member to walk away sad from this film. And whether we like it or not, he completely achieved this.

Do I recommend this film? Of course not. Primarily because I don’t want you to kill yourself. This is a hard film to get through. Either you will get bored of the film and turn it off, or you won’t and will have to go to therapy after finishing the film. I’m not sure if I want to wish that upon someone. If this sounds like your kind of thing, I don’t know what kind of masochistic kind of person you are, but by all means, check it out! It’s a beautifully made film, even if it’s the most unenjoyable film you will watch in a long time.

About the Author:

Henry Jarvis is the youngest member of the Reel Nerds. His favorite films include Space Jam and Dude, Where’s My Car? and Lawrence of Arabia. He enjoys those pretentious art house films that Ryan hates. He sees a lot of movies! Honestly more than he should. He replaces his lack of social skills and meaningful friendships with his love of cinema! He’s also crying while he writes this biography for himself. His favorite directors are Andrei Tarkovsky, David Fincher, and David Lean.

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