Monday, March 28, 2011

Egon Schiele - Exzesse

Egon Schiele - Exzesse (1981)
Director:Herbert Vesely
Country:West Germany | France | Austria
Runtime:95 min

Egon Schiele Exzess und Bestrafung, also known as Egon Schiele Excess and Punishment (English) and Egon Schiele, enfer et passion (French) is a 1980 film based on the life of the Austrian artist Egon Schiele. It stars Mathieu Carriere as Schiele with Jane Birkin as his artist muse Wally and Christine Kaufman as his wife Edith and Christina Van Eyck as her sister. The film is essentially a depiction of obsession and its constituents of sex, alcohol and uncontrolled emotions.Set in Austria during the Great War, Schiele is depicted as the agent of social change leading to destruction of those he loves and ultimately of himself.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Children of Heaven 2

The Children of Heaven 2(2005)
Director:Gholam Reza Ramezani
Run time:75 min

Old-fashioned ways are a block to an Iranian girl's future in "Hayat," a pleasing, if light, children's drama. In keeping with kidpics everywhere, some laughs keep the film running smoothly, but most of the comedy relief is lost in translation. One of two features Gholamreza Ramezani helmed last year -- his hour-long "The Play" ("Bazi") is also in Berlin's Kinderfilmfest - this example of more commercial Iranian cinema looks likely not to stray far from the fest circuit, except into upscale tyke TV.

On the morning of a big exam, which could see savvy farmgirl Hayat (Ghazaleh Parsafar) landing a lucrative scholarship, her father is rushed to hospital. From the back of the truck that takes dad to medical assistance, Hayat's mother instructs her daughter to do the chores and care for her younger siblings.

With a little prodding, her brother Akbar (Mehrdad Hassani) can be taken care of, but the needs of baby sister Nabat (Mohammad Sa'eed Babakhanlo) are more problematic. Frantically, but unsuccessfully, searching out relatives to help (including a parched aunt who drinks from the baby's bottle), Hayat is in danger of missing her exam entirely.

Using each of her dilemmas as a way of studying (volume of cow's milk to calculate mathematics, physics to break open a lock, etc.) Hayat wins over audaud support even though she makes little progress toward her goal. Having preceded her to school, Akbar develops his own plan to skip class and aid Hayat in her plight.

While being poor and alone is Hayat's biggest obstacle, the most obvious symbol of Iranian culture to impede Hayat is an elderly neighbor. Deaf and unwilling to listen into the bargain, the woman keeps Hayat hostage with an excruciatingly long rant about the value of the old ways.

Thursday, March 24, 2011


Director: István Gaál
Country: Hungary
Runtime: 81

Also known as In the Current, this was the debut feature by the 30-year-old István Gaál, and has subsequently been recognised as one of the earliest films of an authentic Hungarian ‘new wave’. Gaál had spent two years (1959-61) studying film at the Centro Sperimentale in Rome, and Current shows the clear influence both of Italian neo-realism and its more modernist offshoots. It’s probably safe to assume that Gaál would have seen Michelangelo Antonioni’s L’Avventura (1960), to which Current occasionally bears a strong resemblance in its depiction of a group of friends whose lives are permanently altered when one of them mysteriously disappears during a riverside excursion. The crucial difference here is that the various characters are much younger, some not yet out of their teens, and consequently forced to grow up faster than intended.

The film begins in sunny, upbeat fashion, with lithe and energetic young men and women leaving their small village to spend a day frolicking on the sands beside the river and picnicking in the woods. Six of them are old friends, with the seventh, Zoli (Zsofi’s new neighbour) fitting right in almost from the start. They’re a very familiar bunch, right down to the petty squabbles - though the latter will later be replayed and agonised over, as though they offered some kind of clue as to the meaning of what later happened. They even pose for a photograph, largely stripped to their underwear, a couple streaked with warpaint-like mud, an image of carefree innocence (albeit with ‘Lord of the Flies’ overtones) that will also be repeatedly shown in increasingly ironic circumstances. Gabi’s disappearance changes everything, including the film’s pace and tone. Finding his clothes still present on the shoreline, they run along the shoreline calling his name before doing the sensible thing and hand the matter over to the police - but that’s when the recriminations and internal soul-searching begin, which will dominate the rest of the film.
Coming from different backgrounds and with different interests suggesting divergent temperaments (when medical student Zoli is introduced to the rest of the group, we learn that it contains a student, a biologist, a physicist and a sculptor) each has their own individual reaction to Gabi’s disappearance. Zoli struggles to recall his face, Zsofi wonders whether they were truly in love, Laci asks his solipsistic parents what they’d have done if he’d drowned (and is given the less than helpful response “clever boys don’t do such stupid things”) and worries whether Gabi has left anything aside from fading memories, Luja finds solace in his art (he’s training to be a sculptor) and Böbe realises that she feels nothing for Kari, whose love for her is superficial compared with Gabi’s for Zsofi’s (though this is now, of course, an untestable proposition, and implicitly challenged by the memory of her slapping him on the beach).

All recognise that Gabi’s disappearance has changed them in some way, but they can’t articulate precisely what - one attempt at rationalising whether they have a moral responsibility for what happened because they were effectively a community is dismissed with a curt “this isn’t a maths problem”. Böbe claims that Gabi was effectively a ‘father confessor’ to all of them, and he seems to retain this role even in death, his memory triggering numerous revealing reminiscences (notably Zsofi’s monologue about an erotic but strangely chaste encounter with Gabi in an otherwise abandoned boathouse).

Weaving a much more definite path through all these questions and arguments is the figure of Gabi’s grandmother, largely silent (except for the keening song she sings at the funeral), shawled in black and clutching a symbolic loaf of bread and an unlit candle, at one point drifting down the fatal river in a boat as if to get as close as possible to her grandson’s spirit at the moment it left his body, after which she affixes the candle to the bread and lets it drift away. There’s a sense of ancient ritual coming into play here, something that the young people can’t begin to grasp.
Bookending the narrative elements and threading through them is the powerful symbolic device of the fast-flowing river, first seen in the opening credits accompanied by Vivaldi’s stately Concerto Grosso in D minor, as suggesting something largely impervious to the passage of time. Gaál and cinematographer Sándor Sára (swapping the roles they performed on their previous collaboration, the short documentary Gypsies/Cigányok, 1962) contrive some stunning images in which the river looms large. A standout example is a three-plane composition in which Zsofi comforts Luja on the bank in the left foreground, Gabi’s grandmother drifts past in her boat in the middle, with either the sun or the moon (given the use of silhouette, it’s hard to read the time of day) in the background on the right, or the shot of the sextet searching for Gabi alongside the river, filmed from inside the current itself, with the camera occasionally dipping below the surface. Gaál and Sára are just as inventive indoors: Laci’s bedroom, with its decorative rocks, cacti, hourglass and other objects, filmed in close-up so that they momentarily become a series of abstract studies in a way that anticipates the future work of assistant director Zoltán Huszárik (who would collaborate with Sára on the poetic masterpiece Sindbad/Szindbád in 1970).

The film has a very strong sense of place: the opening shots establish the small, close-knit village community, with haymakers and barges frequently glimpsed in the background - the police, too, perform their work unobtrusively and efficiently. The performances throughout ring entirely true, with much of the younger cast being drawn from a local acting school - though one of them, András Kozák, would soon become a familiar face in the work of Miklós Jancsó and other major Hungarian filmmakers of the 1960s.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Incendies (2010)
Director: Denis Villeneuve
Country: Canada | France
Runtime: 130

As twins Jeanne and Simon Marwan (Mélissa Désormeaux Poulin and Maxim Gaudette) learn the specifics of the will prepared by their mother, Nawal (Lubna Azabal), they are handed two envelopes by Lebel (Rémy Girard), a notary, family friend, and Nawal’s long-time employer. One envelope is for the father they presumed to be dead, the other is to be handed to the brother they didn’t know existed. Once delivered, Nawal can have a proper burial; until then, she is to be interred naked, face down, away from the sun. Jeanne drafts herself into the mystery, soon landing in an unnamed Middle Eastern country — though the play is inspired by a woman’s experiences during the Lebanese Civil War.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Around a Small Mountain

Around a Small Mountain(2009)
Director: Jacques Rivette
Country: France / Italy
Runtime: 84

Around a small mountain casts a “novel, unprecedented, never seen before” light on Jacques Rivette's oeuvre. The quote is from Vittorio (Sergio Castellitto), a new, Italian incarnation of themysterious character of guide/savior/intercessor whose mission, since Va savoir, consists in releasing a princess from her spell—in other words, her past or her grief.Iis gracious, princess, inconsolably mourning her late love by a graveside (like JohnWayne talking to his departed wife in SheWore A Yellow Ribbon) is Jane Birkin. Having played the ingénue in L'Amour par terre and the great painter's former model in La Belle Noiseuse, Jane Birkin strips bare, in Around a smallmountain, the enigma of all Rivette's heroines: confined behind the bars of the Rue de Rivoli in Paris in a moment of distraction snatched from the film's Cevennes mountains, she brings to mind Anna Karina, imprisoned in a convent in La Religieuse; haunted by a mistake she didn't make, her heart aches like Sandrine Bonnaire's in Secret Défense ; madly in love with a ghost, like Pauline (Bulle Ogier) in Out 1, she moves like a tightrope walker in a halfway state between life and death, similar to the coma from which Louise (Marianne Denicourt) emerges at the start of Haut Bas Fragile. Yet Around a small mountain introduces an unprecedented space-time,which changes the rules of the game: the circus.Despite appearances, the circus isn't an extension of the theatre by other means.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


Amador (2010)
Director:Fernando León de Aranoa
Runtime:112 minutos

Marcela (Magaly Solier from Milk of Sorrow) is a young woman who lives with her boyfriend, Nelson. Both of them are immigrants. She intends to leave him, but changes her mind when she finds out that she is pregnant, although she doesn't tell him about her pregnancy. Nelson earn a living as a flower thief. He keeps the flowers in the fridge, but when it breaks they have to buy a new one, but don't money for the rent. So Marcela decides to take a job in the city. She begins to take care of a bed-ridden older man whose family is out of town. But only a week into her job and the man dies. Marcela knows that if she calls his family to inform about his death she won't get the money so she keep the things as they are as if the man was still alive. Written by Ilia Ginzburg

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Norwegian Wood

Norwegian Wood(2010)
Director: Anh Hung Tran
Country: Japan
Runtime: 133

A beautiful dream-like interpretation of Murakami's novel.

Like the Japanese translation of the Beatles song itself (Norwegian Forest, rather than wood) this adaptation of Murakami's best-selling novel is just a little askew. It makes up for this by being a sumptuously shot, dream of a film.

The story is deceptively simple. Toru, Naoko and her boyfriend Kizuki are best friends in their high school days in the '70s. Everything seems perfect, except of course everything is not perfect. Without warning, Kizuki sits in his car in a garage with a pipe attached to the exhaust, and turns on the ignition killing himself. The story picks up again 3 years later with Toru now a university student in Tokyo. The student riots are going all around but they always feel peripheral to the story. He bumps into Naoko in a park and they reignite their friendship, which eventually becomes something more. This is too much for the fragile Naoko. She heads to a retreat for depression, isolated in the Kyoto mountains. Toru meets Midori, playful and lively, she is the the opposite of shy Naoko, and finds himself trapped between the past and the future. The deviation from the books narrative is minimal and anyone who has read it will feel immediately familiar.

The book was of a man reflecting from his 30s, scouring his memories. Whilst this flashback element is not really here, apart from Toru's occasional voice-over. The film does manage to recreate this through its airy style though, making the whole film feel like an extended memory. It struck me at times as sharing some parallels with Wong Kar Wai's 2046, visually and thematically, the scene from the back of the cab seems like a direct homage. Unfortunately, the actors don't strike you as Murakami creations at times. Kenichi Matsuyama is handsome and does a good job, but the Toru from the pages doesn't really leap out of him. This is perhaps unfair criticism, as a lot of Toru's characterization was achieved through the access to his inner thoughts as narrator of the book, but there is a notable paring down of all the characters. Rinko Kikuchi, here as Naoko and familiar from Babel, applies herself well to the role. She seems ethereal, adding to this otherly effect by spending half the movie in the clouds of the mountaintop retreat. The three main stars, with Kiko Mizuhara as Midori, are maybe a little too picture perfect for this film but overall they contribute solid performances.

Anh Hung Tran's direction is great and the film is really beautiful from start to finish. The shots of Toru and Naoko in the mountain are spell-binding. Those scenes are translated perfectly into film. He envelops Naoko and Toru in the nature surrounding them, losing them in it. The essence of the seasons, snowy mountains, autumnal hues, are distilled into the film serving as a timescale and a metaphor for the story.His focus on nature, the extreme close ups of the plants are stunning, make for some brilliant imagery.

Radiohead's Jonny Greenwood's score is pitch perfect. It briefly seems at odds, it's the last thing you expect, but very quickly makes a great deal of sense. As in There Will Be Blood it is never merely background music, but something that bears almost the same influence as the camera itself. He imbues a foreboding dread, lacing otherwise innocuous scenes with the feeling of something toxic. There are even sequences reminiscent of Anderson's masterpiece, as the mountainous ranges of Japan are captured just as the desolate wilderness of America's hunt for oil was. The occasional music tracks, apart from the titular Beatles one, comes from krautrock band Can. All well chosen and appropriately used they, along with the immaculate attention to the period detail on screen in the sets and costumes, let the '70s ooze out of the screen.

The film does have moments where it lapses. The acting is a little in patches. One scene where Toru is crying and drooling (literally) in anguish on the rocks is a bit too much. There should be more trust placed in the audience. His turmoil is apparent, he is sleeping in a rock cave, it doesn't need to be overplayed like this. The film is a bit slow in getting running, though it seems to grow with confidence as the story progresses. A couple of the big scenes, like where Reiko, Naoko's confidante, sings Norwegian Wood don't quite come off as perhaps intended, but are in the minority.

Flawed definitely, but an exceptional film. For any Murakami fans complaining about the legitimacy of this as an adaptation, I urge you to cast your memory back to the forgotten Tony Takitani. That was a film, largely ignored, that truly, in every essence, adhered to the Murakami style and atmosphere. Norwegian Wood is more of a compromise but an entirely valid one. At the end Midori asks Toru where he is. He can't answer, unsure like the feeling of waking up from a dream. Norwegian Wood is a film that is hard to hold onto, but lingers with you, a meandering dream-scape of sorrow. --filminjapan.blogspot.com

The Strange Case of Angelica

The Strange Case of Angelica(2010)
Director: Manoel de oliveira
Country: Portugal
Runtime: 93

Isaac is a young photographer living in a boarding house in Régua. In the middle of the night, he receives an urgent call from a wealthy family to come and take the last photograph of their daughter, Angelica, who died just a few days after her wedding. Arriving at the house of mourning, Isaac gets his first glimpse of Angelica and is overwhelmed by her beauty. As soon as he looks at her through the lens of his camera, the young woman appears to come back to life just for him. Isaac instantly falls in love with her. From that moment on, Angelica will haunt him night and day, until exhaustion.

The charm of “The Strange Case of Angelica” lies in the way it balances this mysticism with a thoroughly secular sense of the business of everyday life. Not that any of the nonsupernatural occurrences that surround Isaac — the Greek-chorus chitchat among his landlady and her friends; the steady work in the fields and olive groves; the rise and fall of empires and economies — are exactly banal. The world as seen through Mr. Oliveira’s lens is as fresh as if it had just been discovered and as thick with secrets as if it had always existed.
Of course, both things are more or less true, and Mr. Oliveira’s film has the added virtue of feeling entirely original even as it evokes a number of rich literary and cinematic traditions. As a ghost story, it owes more to Henry James’s psychological curiosity than to Edgar Allan Poe’s sensationalism, but it is also indebted to the various kinds of realism that flourished, in film and in novels, in the early and middle decades of the last century. Finally, though, it exhausts comparison, even to other films by this director, who has both done everything and is just getting started.
A.O. Scott (movies.nytimes.com)

Love is abstract and it’s absolute. True passion between two beings is so violent that it doesn’t even admit children. They would be disruptive to absolute love. Absolute love craves androgyny, it’s the anxiety of two beings to become just one. It’s an impossible desire, but it’s real. Here, everything is violent. This is a terrifically violent film and much more violent than my films about war, which reveal a more or less calculated violence. This is real, it kills. It comes from the individual, the person. The act of filming is... I mean, of photographing, is in itself violent. (...)
I once said that a director is like a murderer. And just as a murderer can’t avoid killing, the director can’t avoid the act of filming. It’s its own attraction and it’s fatal because it has nothing to do with life. Life is something else.
Manoel de Oliveira (A conversation with Manoel de Oliveira)

Friday, March 04, 2011

In a Better World

In a Better World(2010)
Director:Susanne Bier
Country:Denmark | Sweden
Run time:119 min

Anton is a doctor who commutes between his home in an idyllic town in Denmark, and his work at an African refugee camp. In these two very different worlds, he and his family are faced with conflicts that lead them to difficult choices between revenge and forgiveness. Anton and his wife Marianne, who have two young sons, are separated and struggling with the possibility of divorce. Their older, ten-year-old son Elias is being bullied at school, until he is defended by Christian, a new boy who has just moved from London with his father, Claus. Christian's mother recently lost her battle with cancer, and Christian is greatly troubled by her death. Elias and Christian quickly form a strong bond, but when Christian involves Elias in a dangerous act of revenge with potentially tragic consequences, their friendship is tested and lives are put in danger. Ultimately, it is their parents who are left to help them come to terms with the complexity of human emotions, pain and empathy.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011


Dir:Romain Gavras
Runtime:90 min

Though it remains to be seen whether he will be loved our hated by audiences at large - and both seem equally likely - there is no doubt at all that Our Day Will Come announces the arrival of Romain Gavras as a significant new talent in world cinema. Though working with a very different style, Gavras embraces the same sort of fuck you abrasiveness that has made Lars Von Trier such a polarizing presence on the world scene and we should expect nothing less from Gavras.

A cynical outsider epic, Our Day Will Come is the story of Remy and Patrick, a pair of misfits joined together by their dislike of society and their red hair. Patrick (Vincent Cassel) is a psychotherapist sick to death of listening to the banalities of people's problems and pretending to care. He is cynical in the extreme and seemingly desperate for anything he can manipulate for his own entertainment. And that object comes in the form of Remy, a boy in his late teens from a shitty family that treats him horribly who has been ostracized for his entire life, other children fixating on the color of his hair as the prime fodder for their teasing. Once the two meet sparks fly immediately.

Patrick stumbles across Remy as the youth runs down the road away from his home, where he has just assaulted his mother and sister. On a whim Patrick picks the boy up and offers a ride and begins to play, his training giving him ample skills to read and manipulate Remy's obvious insecurities. It begins with Patrick winning Remy's trust, offering to help him, but the help soon turns to Patrick picking fights that Remy cannot avoid and pushing the young man into ever more extreme and uncomfortable situations.

But what Patrick does not anticipate, perhaps, is that his goading will unlock something in Remy, a desperation for acceptance fused with a facility for violence, and before long Remy has taken charge of the situation and forced Remy to take him on an increasingly sociopathic road trip to the ferry that will take them to Ireland where Remy dreams he will assume the mantle of a sort of redhead messiah.

There is absolutely no doubt that Gavras is a wildly self indulgent film maker, one prone to ranting and bursts of rage. But there is also no doubt that Gavras has the skills and intelligence to back that indulgence up, his debut feature constantly writhing and twisting itself into new, unexpected shapes. He is bold and brash and one wonders if Remy is not simply a replacement for himself in the film with the brilliant Vincent Cassel - who turns in an absolutely bravura performance here while also serving as a producer - egging him on and goading him ever farther from the sidelines.

Not quite a genre film, not quite an arthouse film, Our Day Will Come is a powerful hybrid with a unique, sharply focused eye and a restlessly misanthropic sense of creativity. In many ways Our Day Will Come is this year's Ex Drummer, an instant cult title in the making.