Friday, April 26, 2013

Upstream Color (2013)

Upstream Color (2013)
Director: Shane Carruth
Country: USA
Runtime: 96 min

Primer director Shane Carruth returns nearly a decade after his debut feature with the enigmatic thriller Upstream Color. Amy Seitz stars as a woman whose life is shattered when a thief gives her a mysterious drug that forces her to do whatever he says. Years after this incident, she begins a tentative relationship with a man (played by Carruth), but both of them seem to suffer from strange memory problems, and she's still haunted by what happened to her before.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Capital (2012)

Capital (2012)
Director: Costa-Gavras
Country: France
Duration : 1h 53mn

We are slaves to the Capital. We tremble when it trembles. We celebrate when it grows and triumphs. Who will set us free? Should we liberate ourselves? We should at the very least know those who serve it and how. This is the story of the unstoppable ascent of Marc Tourneuil, an expendable servant of the Capital who became its undisputed master.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Bestiaire (2012)

Bestiaire (2012)
Director: Denis Côté
Country: Canada | France
Runtime: 72 min
Animals/People: Along the rhythm of the changing seasons they watch one another. Bestiary unfolds like a filmed picture book about mutual observation, about peculiar perception. A contemplation of a stable imbalance, and of lose, tranquil and indefinable elements.

A drawing course, a safari park and a taxidermist’s workshop: three settings in which humans and animals meet. The focus of observation is on relationships of sight and perception, which often reflect unequal power structures at the same time. In the process, the film also seems to be considering the question of how animals can be filmed.

It’s nothing like the technically high-powered animal films of today, whose almighty cameras transcend the boundaries of water, land and air and no longer know nature’s secrets. Sober visual observation without commentary, with an often static camera watching proceedings from a fixed position with a keen eye for form and movement: horns in front of a concrete wall, nervous zebras’ legs in the cramped stalls, the precision contained in the taxidermist’s skillful hand movements.

Carefully considered shots which allow the viewer time to reflect on beauty and the unfamiliar, on this domesticated wilderness in the midst of civilisation. This all allows a form of choreography to emerge to the accompaniment of the surrounding noises, a cinematic bestiary in which man too takes his place among the stoic, impassive, impatient, wild and rebellious animals.

The Land of Hope (2012)

The Land of Hope (2012)
Director: Shion Sono
Runtime: 133 min

In the fictional Nagashima prefecture, Ono Yôichi (Murakami Jun) lives a peaceful life on his family's small farm, with wife Izumi (Kagurazaka Megumi) and parents Yasuhiko (Natsuyagi Isao) and Chieko (Ôtani Naoko). One day, an earthquake disrupts the calm, causing the reactor at a nearby nuclear power plant to explode. The Nagashima community is directly within the twenty-kilometer evacuation radius—except for the Ono farm. Haunted by memories of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, in which evacuees were forced out of their homes permanently, the Onos are faced with a terrible decision: stay and risk the possibility of radiation poisoning, or leave the home their family has spent generations building.

Out of concern for their unborn child, Yôichi and Izumi reluctantly opt to leave the farm, while Yasuhiko and Chieko remain. Relocated to a nearby urban community, the younger couple try to rebuild their lives. But the newly pregnant Izumi is plagued by paranoia, unconvinced that her new home is any safer from airborne contaminants than the farm. Back in Nagashima, meanwhile, where Yôichi's aged parents are being prevailed upon by authorities to voluntarily relocate, Yasuhiko's true motives for staying are revealed...

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Neighbouring Sounds (2012)

Neighbouring Sounds (2012)
Director: Kleber Mendonça Filho
Country: Brazil
Runtime: 131 min

Life in a middle-class neighborhood in present day Recife, Brazil, takes an unexpected turn after the arrival of an independent private security firm. The presence of these men brings a sense of safety and a good deal of anxiety to a culture which runs on fear. Meanwhile, Bia, married and mother of two, must find a way to deal with the constant barking and howling of her neighbor's dog. A slice of 'Braziliana', a reflection on history, violence and noise.

Metéora (2012)

Metéora (2012)
Director: Spiros Stathoulopoulos
Runtime: 82 min

In the hot plains of central Greece, the Orthodox monasteries of Meteora are perched atop sandstone pillars, suspended between heaven and earth. Down in the valley, the eternal cycles of farm life – birth, milking, slaughter – provide a stark contrast to their ascetic world. The young monk Theodoros and the nun Urania have devoted their lives to the strict rituals and practices of their community. A growing affection for one another puts their monastic life under question. Torn between spiritual devotion and their human desire, they must decide which path to follow.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

O Gebo e a Sombra (2012)

O Gebo e a Sombra (2012)
Director: Manoel de Oliveira
Country: Portugal
Runtime: 95 min
Despite his age and general weariness, Gebo keeps on working as an accountant to provide for his family. He lives with his wife, Doroteia, and his daughter-in-law, Sofia, but it is the absence of João, son and husband, that worries them. Gebo seems to be hiding something, especially to Doroteia, who is anxiously waiting to see her son again. Sofia is also waiting for her husband to come home, and yet she fears him. All of a sudden, João arrives and everything changes.
by Kenji Fujishima

The specter of death haunts nearly every dimly lit frame and extended take of Gebo and the Shadow, the latest film from the 104-year-old Manoel de Oliveira, and a work that, for once, could be said to reflect his age. That's hardly meant as a slight. Though the film is dominated by fixed-camera setups within one set, more or less, the Portuguese auteur's minimalist style, rather than seeming tired, ultimately meshes beautifully with the story's world-weary, reflective substance.
An adaptation of a stage play by the Portuguese modernist Raul Brandão, Gebo and the Shadow details a family on the verge of a long-time-coming collapse. Delusions run rampant among the clan members. Most notably, the titular patriarch (Michael Lonsdale) insists on keeping his wife Doroteia's (Claudia Cardinale) hopes for the return of their fugitive son, João, alive, to the point of pretending that he's seen him even though he actually hasn't in many years—a long-running charade reluctantly maintained by their servant, and João's wife, Sofia (De Oliveira regular Leonor Silveira). And then, João (Ricardo Trêpa, another De Oliveira regular) suddenly reappears—and rather than bringing about an end to family tensions, his return merely exacerbates them as his presence exposes even deeper fissures: the family's sheltered lives versus João's hard experience, an insistence on maintaining an increasingly outdated value system, and so on. At one point, a couple of their friends, Chamiço (Luís Miguel Cintra) and Candidinha (Jeanne Moreau), show up, and, in a moment that recalls a similar seemingly throwaway conversation in The Strange Case of Angelica, one of them pontificates about the consolation he finds in art in an increasingly "tasteless" society.
Brandão isn't especially subtle about his themes, and one could criticize the film for essentially offering mouthpieces for various points of view rather than fully fleshed human beings, however beautifully this particular cast of cinematic legends delivers their lines. In a sense, then, we're always aware that we're watching a "stage play"—and De Oliveira intensifies that feeling by basically refusing to open out the play in any way. Other than a couple of outdoor scenes, the majority of the film's action takes place in that one cottage; with De Oliveira sticking steadfastly to an aesthetic of stationary camera setups and long takes, the audience is put in the position of feeling as if its watching a filmed theatrical performance more than anything else.
But De Oliveira's style is hardly a mere stylistic affectation. Instead, a profound sense of stillness comes across in Gebo and the Shadow; we not only hear characters talking about their dead-end lives, but we also begin to feel that inertia in our bones. To that feeling of deadening stasis, Renato Berta's beautifully detailed, Goya-esque cinematography adds a sense of impending death hovering above these characters: Dark hues predominate, with candlelight providing the only sources of illumination in the gloomy decor. (One could conceivably think of this film as a kind of still life with humans.)
All of this might make the film sound like an impossibly bleak and austere experience, whatever its incidental visual and temporal beauties. And yet, the longer we stay with these characters, the more the film begins to come across as an extremely deadpan comedy about people resistant to change beyond all rational reasoning. "Happiness is nothing ever happening," the remarkably passive Gebo at one point says. Maybe it's fitting, then, that, when something truly dramatic does finally occur in his life and he's thus forced to make an honest-to-God decision, De Oliveira presents the outcome as a kind of ironic triumph, complete with outdoor light finally entering into this darkly lit purgatory.