Friday, December 25, 2015

Desaparadiso (2015)

Desaparadiso (2015)
Director: Khavn
Country: Philippines
1h 15min
 One day, they just disappeared. Just like that. One didn’t go to work, one didn’t go to his appointment, didn’t meet his date. The dishes served were left to rot, and the bed remained immaculate; the sheets unruffled and unslept in. One cannot say if they are alive or dead. And for this reason, there is no funeral, no nine-day wake, no mass, no burning of candles, or recitation of litanies for the dead. Because they are not dead (or maybe there are), and who is to know what has become of them?
What can a family do if someone disappears in a dictatorship? You can’t go to the police for help or information. Many families were affected in this way by the cruelty of the Marcos dictatorship (1972-1986). The film shows one of them as an example of paradise lost.

Sunday, May 03, 2015

N: The Madness of Reason (2014)

 N: The Madness of Reason (2014)
Director: Peter Krüger
Country: Netherlands
Runtime :102min

In the mid-20th century, Raymond Borremans left his native France for Africa, where he devoted his life to writing the continent’s first encyclopedia. He had reached the letter N when he died in 1988; his unfulfilled ghost haunts West Africa today. You might have guessed that this is not a straightforward documentary. Combining the realities of present-day Africa with the myths of the past and fictional characters, N skilfully weaves a deep reflection on the legacy of colonialism. Working with high-profile collaborators such as Nigerian writer Ben Okri (script) and French actor Michael Lonsdale (narration), Peter Krüger succeeds in creating one of the year’s most inspired visual worlds. A superb reverie, full of deep, complex meaning.

From What Is Before (2014)

From What Is Before (2014)
Director: Lav Diaz
Country: Philippines
Runtime:338 min

The Philippines, 1972. Mysterious things are happening in a remote barrio. Wails are heard from the forest, cows are hacked to death, a man is found bleeding to death at the crossroad and houses are burned. Ferdinand E. Marcos announces Proclamation No. 1081 putting the entire country under Martial Law.

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Greenery Will Bloom Again (2014)

Greenery Will Bloom Again (2014)
Director: Ermanno Olmi
Country: Italy
Runtime: 80 min

The winter of 1917, the North-East front, the final clashes of the Great War. An Italian stronghold situated at 1800 metres above sea level, on the Asiago plateau, described in the novels of Mario Rigoni Stern. It’s snowing everywhere; the Austrian trenches are so close that you can hear the enemy soldiers breathing.

A hundred years since the outbreak of World War I, maestro Ermanno Olmi describes with Torneranno i prati his vision of a conflict that cost the lives of 16 million human beings, just as it was brought back to him by the memory of his father, called to arms at 19 years of age, to find himself within the bloodbath of Carso and Piave. A drama that scarred his youth and the rest of his life, just like millions of others.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Distance (2014)

The Distance (2014)
Director: Sergio Caballero
Country: Spain
Runtime: 80 min

A heist-movie of such exquisitely bizarre loopiness to make Inception look like Ocean's Eleven, Sergio Caballero's The Distance (La distancia) is a likeably giggle-inducing dollop of deadpan surrealist whimsy. Observing a trio of telepathic Russian dwarves tasked with robbing an abandoned Siberian power-station, Caballero's follow-up to 2010's even more deliciously outre Finisterrae confirms the Catalan's status as a puckish jester in the court of current European art-cinema. Adventurous audiences enduring the longueurs and waywardness of his gloriously uncompromised vision are rewarded with a hilariously abrupt finale that should delight many but leave others baffled and bemused. Festivals with late-night slots to fill will clamor for this cultish item, which might even find small distribution niches in eccentricity-embracing territories such as Japan and France.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

What Now? Remind Me (2013)

What Now? Remind Me (2013)
Director: Joaquim Pinto
Country: Portugal
Runtime: 164 min

Joaquim Pinto has been an instrumental figure in Portuguese cinema for over 30 years, whether directing his own films, as producer or sound designer for renowned filmmakers such as Raul Ruiz, Manoel de Oliveira and Joao Cesar Monteiro.

In his newest film, What Now? Remind Me, winner of the Jury Prize at the Locarno Film Festival, Pinto, who has been living with HIV for more than two decades, looks back at his life in cinema, at his friendships and loves, and at the mysteries of art and nature -- while undergoing an experimental drug treatment.

Moving freely between past and present, fact and fantasia, What Now? Remind Me is a beautiful portrait of a man looking beyond his own mortality at the world around us.

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Leviathan (2014)

Leviathan (2014)
Director: Andrey Zvyagintsev
Country: Russia
Runtime: 140 min

The latest drama from Andrey Zvyagintsev, the acclaimed director of The Return (Venice Film Festival Golden Lion winner and Golden Globe nominee). Kolya (Alexeï Serebriakov) lives in a small fishing town near the stunning Barents Sea in Northern Russia. He owns an auto-repair shop that stands right next to the house where he lives with his young wife Lilya (Elena Liadova) and his son Roma (Sergueï Pokhodaev) from a previous marriage.

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Opium (2013)

Opium (2013)
Director: Arielle Dombasle
Country: France
Runtime: 77 min

The frustrated loves of Jean Cocteau and Raymond Radiguet at the beginning of the 1920s. The death of Radiguet that sank Cocteau into opium. A story under the influence of drugs. A narrative in the spirit of Cocteau. And all this in a musical.

Monday, January 05, 2015

Home from Home: Chronicle of a Vision (2013)

Home from Home: Chronicle of a Vision (2013)
Director: Edgar Reitz
Country: Germany
Runtime: 225 min

Edgar Reitz's Home From Home: Chronicle Of A Vision is his latest exploration of the fictional village of Schabbach, in the west German region of Hunsrück, close to the Luxembourg border. Shot as a feature-length film, he delves further back in time than the previous chronicles, to focus on the family of a smithy in the mid-19th century. I should admit at this point that I have not seen the previous outings by Reitz, although this engrossing and well-realised instalment - which is perfectly self-contained - has encouraged me to rectify that as soon as I have 50 or so more hours to spare.
Key to the action is the family's second son Jakob (Jan Dieter Schneider) a voracious book reader and dreamer, much to the chagrin of his father, who believes in more earthly pursuits. Nevertheless, Jakob skives off work in the blacksmith's as often as he dares to self-teach himself the languages he believes are necessary - Portugese and native South American among others - to put into action his long-term desire to escape to Brazil. He is not alone, as Reitz offers a backdrop of small town decline, with the Prussian autocracy and poverty leading many to pack up and head out, despite the dangers that may lie ahead and in the full knowledge that there will be no turning back.
 It's situation which resonates with the illegal migratory patterns of the modern era and is no doubt intended to remind European audiences, who are generally seeing an anti-migratory rise of the political right, of what it means to leave everything and go in search of a new life and better circumstances.

Reitz and co-writer Gert Heidenreich define home as the bosom of family, as an emotional shelter or storm, rather than simply the roof over Jakob's head. His elder sister Lena (Melanie Fouche) represents how it is possible to be a million emotional miles away from your clan even when you live within striking distance, as she has become estranged through marriage to a Catholic (Martin Schleimer). Her desire to reconnect with her family offers an opposing force to Jakob's objective of disengaginge with his old life in favour of a brave New World. He is smart and articulate but also a naif, as evidenced by his flowery voice-over, but his passions, however misguided, make him a compelling presence.
The lengthy runtime allows Reitz and Heidenreich to spend time with members of Jakob's extended family, including local lassies Jettchen (Antonia Bill) and Florinchen (Philine Lembeck), although there is sometimes a tendency to gloss over the more social realist aspects of the plot - such as the deep bite of the feudal system - in favour of romanticism. There are also signs of budget limitations, particularly in two scenes where a doll has all-too-obviously been substituted for a baby.
Reitz and cinematographer Gernot Roll, shoot in black and white, with Roll's camera at its most free - like Jakob - in the rolling fields around Schabbach. The decision to occasionally pick out items - a horse's shoe, a wall - in colour is, presumably, intended to suggest the echo of the modern found in the past, but it is more of a distraction than a useful tool, providing little more than a guessing game as to what will be highlighted next. The stunt casting of Werner Herzog in a cameo role - although he is clearly enjoying himself - also feels like a flourish too far in a film which is at its best when it is at its most traditional.

Friday, December 26, 2014

Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy (2013)

 Mary Is Happy, Mary Is Happy (2013)
Director: Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit
Country: Thailand
Runtime: 127 min 

Portraying a character struggling to make sense of her life as it threatens to spin out of control, Nawapol’s brilliant second film creates an inventive narrative of an uncontrollable life through a brilliantly modern artistic concept: to adapt a Twitter stream into a fictional film.

The director used 410 real Tweets from an anonymous girl as a springboard to create a fantasy world of a contemporary Asian teenager, and the results are funny and strange, a conflation of modern Thai teenage life, Wes Anderson-esque humour, and the possibilities for escape offered by the digital world.