Friday, November 30, 2012

Laurence Anyways (2012)

Laurence Anyways (2012)
Director: Xavier Dolan
Country: Canada | France
Runtime: 2 hours, 48 minutes

Laurence, a young french teacher and soon-to-be-published author, enjoys an intense and mutually loving relationship with his fiancé, Fred. But on the day after his 30th birthday, Laurence confesses to Fred that he longs to become a woman, asking her to support him in this transformation. Despite her best efforts, Fred is too hurt by this development, and they break up. Each of them tries to build a new life, without thinking of the past. Five years later, Laurence sends a copy of his first book of poetry to Fred.

Pieta (2012)

Pieta (2012)
Director: Ki-duk Kim
Country: South Korea
Runtime:104 minutes

Hired by a loan shark for the payment of debts from customers late, Kang-do behave like a butcher, horribly maiming his victims and spreading death. Until it shows up at his door a woman who says she is the mother and the blame for every crime, regretted having abandoned at birth and left to grow up without love. After it has been subjected to the most terrible trials to make sure he's telling the truth, Kang-do finally accepts the woman, but the fear of losing puts it, for retaliation, in a position to check in which he always kept his victims.
The life, death, money. Kim Ki-duk is a term too, an intruder fatal. The pity is not a trilogy but a sacred figure, which includes only two actants. The money should not have a place in these areas, but has acquired, and is a fallacy that demand justice, or rather, an executioner.
There is no doubt that Mercy is a film about the disproportion. He says in one fell swoop (eye) the image of the lead couple: a giant boy and a little lady, and it confirms that every scene, every nuance. The cruelties of Kang-do is beyond measure, as well as the stupidity of some debtors. I am the endurance of one, the ingenuity of the other, the architecture of revenge. They are, therefore, the decisions in the story and direction: the sex scenes admittedly excessive, the musical emphasis, the use of an actress, Cho Min-soo, the skill out of the ordinary.
Yet, one can not help but feel a overconfidence by the South Korean director, a display of self, which sometimes takes strength to what is happening within the frame, or simply prevents to surprise us. It is a kind, this, that Kim has already ridden and which excels in, but not more enchants. If it were not for the massive amount of irony that has fallen into this eighteenth film, probably more than in any other previous work, the risk would be that of preaching morality to overlap somewhat, as is the kyrie eleison final. "Lord, have mercy."
Saved by irony, Kim gives then, after all, a movie circumscribed and high, partly inspired by his countryman Park Chan-wook, but intimate and dirty, less lyrical and more rooted in the "passions" of this dark time.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Orator (2011)

The Orator (2011)
Director: Tusi Tamasese
Country: New Zealand | Samoa
Runtime: 110 min

In a Samoan village, a dwarf with legitimate claims to chiefdom lives an unhappy life of ridicule with his wife, who was banished from her own village at a young age, and his pregnant step-daughter. When his wife dies, a conflict arises over the proper arrangements for her burial.

The Orator (O Le Tulafale) is a contemporary drama about courage, forgiveness and love.  Small in stature and humble, Saili lives a simple life with his beloved wife and daughter in an isolated, traditional village in the islands of Samoa.  Forced to protect his land and family, Saili must face his fears and seek the right to speak up for those he loves.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)

Beasts of the Southern Wild (2012)
Director: Benh Zeitlin
Country: USA
Runtime: 93 min

In a forgotten but defiant bayou community cut off from the rest of the world by a sprawling levee, a six-year-old girl exists on the brink of orphanhood. Buoyed by her childish optimism and extraordinary imagination, she believes that the natural world is in balance with the universe until a fierce storm changes her reality. Desperate to repair the structure of her world in order to save her ailing father and sinking home, this tiny hero must learn to survive unstoppable catastrophes of epic proportions.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Outbound (2010)

Outbound (2010)
Director: Bogdan George Apetri
Country: Romania
Runtime:87 min

IMDB Review:
Author: Chris Knipp (Berkeley, California)

Romanian director Apetri's powerful Outbound has some of the tragic intensity, at least in its ending, of De Sica's Bicycle Thief or René Clément's Forbidden Games. First-timer Apetri, aided on the screenplay by a trio of experienced writers, has made one of the best films to come out of the new Romanian cinema. It takes place when a woman prisoner who's served two years of a five-year sentence gets a one-day pass to attend her mother's funeral. She has no intention of turning herself back in. Her day is a chronicle of desperation and hope, beginning with her brother and ending with a doomed train ride. Whatever the crime was, it seems the sullen-faced Matilda (Ana Ularu) wasn't the perpetrator but instead has taken the hit for Paul, the father of her 8-year-old son Toma and a thoroughly sleazy character. Matilda and Paul made a deal, but just see if she can hold him to it. But she has other scores to settle and hard knocks to take.

The Romanians show a penchant for methodical real-time intensity and Apetri is no different, though a key to the power here is a willingness to elide unnecessary details, even maintain a degree of mystery, in the interest of focusing, as the great Italians did, on a few powerful scenes. Even if Matilda is out of jail and some key scenes are enacted in a wide, desolate open space designated by the original title, Periferic, she still seems to have the bars around her, holding her in the claustrophobia of a life that went wrong early. The actress, with a face as simple as a boy's, has a fixed, sullen glare that sticks in your mind.

The narrative is in three parts focused on three names: Andri, Paul, and Toma. We find out very vividly who they are. In a prologue Matilda (Ana Ularu) leaves prison on a 24-hour pass to attend her mother's funeral. Right outside the gate she meets up with a fat trucker (Ion Sapdaru) in a sleeveless shirt: it's summer, and everybody is sweaty. Her plan is to collect money to pay this man later to drive her to the port of Constanta, where she will catch a ship to smuggle her out of the country.

The first stop is Andri (Andi Vasluianu), Matilda's handsome brother. He's not pleased to see her, though he can't entirely hide fraternal feeling. She has disgraced the family, and also ill used him. His wife Lavinia (Ioana Flora) is even more openly hostile. Nonetheless they reluctantly take her to the funeral, and in that ride we feel Matilda's determination and toughness. Lavinia's insults only make her smile. She ingratiates herself with no one, smoking a cigarette outside the cemetery and walking away from the table at the al fresco dinner afterward. Andri is shocked, maybe pleased, to learn he has an 8-year-old nephew, but he's not willing to take Matilda's son in, and Matilda leaves.

The next meeting is with the abusive, self-indulgent Paul. He will give Matilda only a fraction of the payoff, saying it's not due till five years are up. He has brutal sex with her, then reveals that their son, Toma (Timotei Duma), whom he was supposed to be caring for, is in an orphanage. So that becomes an additional stop before the truck ride to the ship, and it turns into a train ride, with more brutal surprises and the shattering finale, which yet has a poetic rightness about it.

The tight schedule Matilda must follow -- she has to meet the trucker by evening and must escape before the prison knows she's missing -- heightens all the action, but Apetri's directing never feels rushed and makes every minute count. Ularu may seem one-note at times, but her unwavering drive is the key to Outbound's urgency.

Cristian Mungiu of 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days co-wrote the original story. Marius Panduru of Police, Adjective did the warm, brown-tinged photography.

Outbound has shown at Locarno, Warsaw and Toronto. Seen and reviewed as part of New Directors, New Films, the series co-presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, from March 23 through April 3, 2011.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Clip (2012)

Clip (2012)
 Director: Maja Milos
Country: Serbia
Runtime: 1 hour, 38 minutes
Clip is not another ‘coming-of-age’ story about the complexities of adolescence. Miloš has made an honest and non-judgmental portrait of teenagers caught in sexual and social turmoil. Sexually explicit and emotionally disturbing, it goes beyond borders and even further. Jasna is a beautiful girl in her mid-teens. Disillusioned by her life in a remote Serbian town with a dispirited mother and terminally ill father, she opposes everyone, including herself, and goes wild, experimenting with sex, drugs and simply killing time. But gradually, this desperate protest helps her come to terms with painful reality. In her first feature, Maja Miloš (1983) explores the disturbing state of adolescence as bravely and honestly as her protagonist explores herself. Isidora Simijonovic, also a debutant, gives a striking and fearless performance full of contrasts. Together they create a highly dynamic and vibrant portrait of wasted youth lost in the search for identity. Miloš sets this ‘classical’ coming-of-age story in the world of contemporary teenagers obsessed with pornographic images, virtual reality and soft violence, meanwhile exploring the blurring boundaries between sex and affection, simple pleasures and true love, brutality and tenderness. Above all, Clip examines the shifting family and social values in present-day Serbia, where the generation gaps are extreme, placing everyone between disintegrating traditions and uncertain contemporary morality.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

The Taste of Money (2012)

The Taste of Money (2012)
Director: Sang-soo Im
Country: South Korea
Runtime: 115 min

Young-jak who is a private secretary of madam BAEK, the center power of Korean conglomerate, deals with immoral private issues of her wealthy family. As his desire for money and power grows, he endures whatever he’s ordered to do and letting people around him get hurt is not a concern for him. Meanwhile, Young-jak reports to madam BAEK that madam BAEK’s husband, Mr. YOON is having an affair with a Filipino nanny, Eva. Madam BAEK is now despaired, then greedily seducing Young-jak for her sexual desire.
On the other hand, he begins to feel conflicted by madam BAEK’s daughter, the only family member who approaches him with the true heart. Lost between his morality and shortcut to successful life, he has to make the biggest decision he’s ever made to choose whom he will hang on to, in order to survive in this harsh world.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Corpo celeste (2011)

Corpo celeste (2011)
Director: Alice Rohrwacher
Country: Italy
Runtime: 100 min 

13 year old Marta who is struggling to resettle to the south of Italy after ten years growing up in Switzerland. Bright-eyed and restless, she observes the sights, sounds and smells of the city but feels very much an outsider. Marta is about to undergo the rite of confirmation and she takes catechism but confronts the morality of the local Catholic community. From experiencing her period to making a bold decision to cut her hair, Marta begins to shape her own life for the first time since moving back to Italy.

Detachment (2011)

Detachment (2011)
Director: Tony Kaye
Country: USA

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Paradise: Love (2012)

Paradise: Love (2012)
Director: Ulrich Seidl
Country: Austria | Germany
Runtime: 120 min

The premiere of the first part of Ulrich Seidls PARADISE trilogy was celebrated in this year's competition of the Cannes Film Festival with great success. The film tells the story of Teresa (Margarethe Tiesel), a 50-year-old Austrian from Vienna who travels as a sex tourist to Kenya in search of love. On the beaches of Kenya they´re known as Sugar Mamas: European women to whom black beach boys offer sex to earn a living. The movie of Ulrich Seidl deals about older women and young men, the market value of sexuality, the power of skin color, Europe and Africa, and the exploited, who have no choice but to victimize other victims.

PARADISE: Love is the opener in a trilogy about three women in one family who take separate vacations: one as a sex tourist, another as a Catholic missionary (PARADISE: Faith) and the third at a diet camp for teenagers (PARADISE: Hope.) Three films, three women, three stories of longing.

"Paradies: Liebe," Ulrich Seidl's film about middle-aged white women who go to Kenya to exploit poverty stricken males by paying them for sex. Most women of a certain age who have "let themselves go" have long since given up on passionate sex. To be adored and hungered for isn't on the menu. In its place, either sexless companionship or chicken-fried steak and the jackrabbit vibrator. But the truth of it, which is what "Paradies" sets out to illustrate, is that it isn't really sex so much as love that many of these women are after. But if is to be sex for money, it might as well be as customer-friendly as possible. We're accustomed to seeing men exploit vulnerable women in poor countries for sex, but we haven't often seen women do it. It's hard to imagine a woman, much less one who looks like your grandmother, needing sex so much she becomes the predator. But just because a woman's sexuality is hidden from view after she reaches middle age doesn't mean it goes away. The story follows Teresa (Margarete Tiesel), a woman who works with the disabled. She's a single mother to an indifferent teen, and for the most part has nothing in her life that makes her even remotely happy. Life has become a chore. Then her friend tells her how African boy toys in Keyna are ripe for the picking, just waiting for a white "sugar mama." It's a mutually beneficial relationship if everyone plays by the rules -- he needs her money, she needs his attention.
Teresa decides to go to a Kenyan resort, and for much of the early part of her trip we watch her parade around in her bra and underwear. The director doesn't want us to see her as a desirable woman. He appears to seek both our disapproval and perhaps our repulsion, and he succeeds at both. Watching Teresa lumber around the room, we can't take our eyes off of her flab, which hangs from her torso and rests on her upper thigh. We silently wonder: What man is going to want to devour that? We hate ourselves for thinking that -- but we're all thinking that.
What follows is a display of the very desperation that motivates young African males to seduce women like Teresa, playing an odd courting ritual. First comes the hand-holding, then the trip to the young man's improverished village, then the purchase of a condom, then awkward sex in a tiny hovel. At first, Teresa resists the advances of her fake beau, but soon she meets a guy who knows exactly how to seduce her.

To Rome with Love (2012)

To Rome with Love (2012)
Director: Woody Allen
Country: USA | Italy
Runtime:112 min

 Four separate stories with a common scenario: the city of Rome. In the first, an American couple (Woody Allen and Judy Davis) travels to Italy to meet the family of his daughter's fiance (Alison Pill). In the second, an Italian (Roberto Benigni) is no reason for the famous overnight. In the third, a California architect (Alec Baldwin) visits Rome with friends where she meets a student (Jesse Eisenberg) and in the fourth, a newlywed (Alessandra Mastronardi) are lost in the Italian capital, which have been to visit the family of her husband

Friday, November 09, 2012

Holy Motors (2012)

Holy Motors (2012)
Director: Leos Carax
Country: France | Germany
Runtime: 115 min

 We follow 24 hours in the life of a being (DL) moving from life to life like a cold and solitary assassin moving from hit to hit. In each of these interwoven lives, the being possesses an entirely distinct identity: sometimes a man, sometimes a woman, sometimes youthful, sometimes old to the point of dying; sometimes destitute, sometimes wealthy. By turns murderer, beggar, company chairman, monstrous creature, worker, family man…

It’s clear that DL is playing roles, and plunging headfirst into each – but where are the cameras, the crew, the director? He seems horribly alone, exhausted from being chained to all these lives that are not his, from having to kill enemies that are not his enemies, having to embrace wives and children who are not his. But sometimes, conversely, we feel DL is wounded by having to leave, the moment his scene is over, other beings he would have liked to leave no longer.

Where is his home, his family, his rest?

Thursday, November 08, 2012

Chantrapas (2010)

Chantrapas (2010)
Director: Otar Iosseliani
Country: France | Georgia
Runtime: 122 min

 Nicolas is an artist, a filmmaker who merely wants to express himself and whom everyone wishes to reduce to silence. When he first starts out in Georgia,
the "ideologists" hope to gag him, concerned that his work does not follow the set rules. In the face of their determination, Nicolas leaves his homeland for France - the land of freedom and democracy. But the "state of grace" will not last long.

Dan Fainaru

Welcome to the private, whimsical world of Otar Iosseliani. Access permitted only for those who share his constant thirst for any liquid containing alcohol, the stronger the better, for his ironic outlook of the world around him and his immense sympathy for the human race, despite its countless shortcomings.

The film is cut by Iosseliani in his typical easy-going manner, suggesting that telling the story in a cogent manner.

Unbelievers would better stay away, for they will never quite grasp the spirit of this satirical sketch, autobiographical to be sure, though, as Iosseliani himself points out, reflecting not only his own past (he claims to have been luckier than the film’s hero), but that of many others, from Alexander Askoldov to Andrei Tarkovski.

Probably one of the more personal pages in Iosseliani’s family album, this is bound as usual to be welcome only in festivals and art houses, but luckily, there are plenty of those around.

The two sections of the plot are quite similar, though the first part takes place in Iosseliani’s native Georgia, the second in France, the country he has lived in since the early 1980s. It starts with the illicit projection of a film sequence (in reality a Iosseliani short of 1959 never shown before) and it goes on to follow Niko (Tarielashvili), an aspiring filmmaker, facing ideologues who are only too happy to explain officially their objections to his work, and to congratulate him secretly for his talents.

There is a brief flashback to Nicholas’ childhood and plenty of insights into the particular nature of his family and his neighbors, not to mention a glimpse or two into his filmmaking and his clashes with the filmmaking system.

Once it is clear there is no future for him at home, he tries his luck in Paris, sweeps the streets, cleans the zoo, feeds the elephants and the bears and finely meets a producer who offers him the chance to direct a film in France, at which point he discovers that the free-spirited West puts no fewer obstacles on his way than the indoctrinated censors of home.

The plot, however, has never held much of an interest for Iosseliani, it is the details on the road that have always delighted his admirers in the past, and will probably charm them all over again. A poet at heart whose visual imagination is always at work - watch one shot young Niko sets up which starts with an orchestra playing on a balcony and ends with an officer being blown-up by a bomb behind a tree - as he delivers his running commentary on the world we live in, embracing one and all in a warm, gentle hug and rejecting any such sentiments as spite or revenge, which would make life so much more miserable to live.

Around brief guest performances by Iosseliani himself (he claims the actor for whom the role was intended died just before the shooting), Bulle Ogier and celebrated actor/director Pierre Etaix in a great send-up of a French producer, the cast consists, as usual, of non-professionals who fit perfectly in the mood, with lead Tarielashvili quite reminiscent of the young Iosseliani.

Homogenously shot by two different cinematographers, one in Georgia the other in France, the film is cut by Iosseliani in his typical easy-going manner, suggesting that telling the story in a cogent manner has never been an essential quality in his eyes.

Monday, November 05, 2012

Compliance (2012)

Compliance (2012)
 Director: Craig Zobel
Country: USA
Runtime: 90 min
When a prank caller convinces a fast food restaurant manager to interrogate an innocent young employee, no-one is left unharmed. Based on true events. (IMDB)

At a fast food restaurant, the manager, Sandra, is having a bad day. Suddenly, she gets a phone call from a man claiming to be a police officer who has a complaint that one of her young female employees has stolen from a customer. At the orders of this authoritative sounding stranger, Sandra takes the apparent accused, Becky, to a back room to search her before she is picked up. Once there, the phone scammer manipulates the gullible personnel into participating in Becky's sexual humiliation that grows more twisted with every new sucker on the phone. Only when one final person has the conscience to revolt do they realize the crime they were tricked into, which the real police are hard pressed to solve. Written by Kenneth Chisholm.

Sunday, November 04, 2012

Sister (2012)

Sister (2012) 
Director: Ursula Meier
Country: France
Runtime: 97 min
 Every day, twelve-year-old Simon takes the cable car up to the mountains where the slopes bristle with the hustle and bustle of winter season tourists. He pokes about in hotel wardrobes and changing rooms looking for something to eat in rucksacks, but what he’s really after are skis that he can turn into cash.
Whenever he talks to holidaymakers or hotel staff, he tells them that his parents died in a car accident and that he lives alone with his sister. Louis, the young woman who lives in the apartment in the valley has no idea what Simon gets up to all day long. Their odd relationship alternates between quarrels and tenderness.

Ursula Meier sets her second feature-length drama against the backdrop of a popular tourist destination in the Alps. From the broad, anonymous mass of people, she has distilled the story of one child who believes he has found a way to offset his breadline existence. This portrait of a boy on the brink of puberty, poised between deceit and an unquenchable need for love and tenderness, is at the same time an exploration of the contradictions and hidden depths of an ostensibly prosperous world

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Papilio Buddha (2012)

Papilio Buddha (2012)
Director: Jayan Cherian
Runtime:108 min 

 A band of displaced untouchables in Western Ghats of India embrace Buddhism in order to escape from caste oppression. Papilio Buddha explores the life of a group
of displaced Dalits in the Western Ghats of India and probes the new identity politics based on Ambedkarism, gaining momentum among the Dalits in the region, in the milieu of an ongoing land struggle.