Monday, September 30, 2013

Paradise: Hope (2013)

Paradise: Hope (2013)
Director: Ulrich Seidl
Country: Austria
Runtime: 100 min 

Her mother goes off to Kenya in search of beach boys willing to provide her with amorous services. Her staunchly Catholic aunt is absorbed in house-to-house evangelism. Thus, thirteen-year-old Melanie spends the holidays in a diet camp in the Austrian mountains. In between physical training and nutritional counselling, nightly pillow fights and a secret bout of binge drinking at the local disco, she falls in love with the doctor and camp director, who is forty years her senior. Melanie uses all her seductive wiles to win him over …
In the third part of his 'paradise' trilogy - following Paradies: Liebe and Paradies: Glaube - Ulrich Seidl pits the deep-seated human desire for love and security against harsh reality. From the sterile surroundings of the diet camp, Seidl filters impeccably pristine, minimalist images in which any hint of sensuality, passion or anarchy would appear to be a complete anathema. And yet Paradies: Hoffnung is the most tender of the three ‘paradise’ films, for his young protagonists bear within them a spark of hope that love is not just an illusion, but can be an honest and powerful emotion.

Hannah Arendt (2012)

Hannah Arendt (2012)
Director: Margarethe von Trotta
Country: Germany
Runtime: 113 min

Hannah Arendt is an interesting movie based on the true controversy caused by the report written by Arendt on the Eichmann trial. The movie by Margarethe Von Trotta offers a different perspective on World War II. One that is rarely approached: the post-Holocaust trials. Hannah Arendt was a Jewish great thinker who covered the trial of the SS Eichmann for The New Yorker. After she published her report, she was accused of defending Eichmann when she stated that the Jewish leaders certainly played a role in the deportation of so many Jews and that the SS officer was simply a piece of a much more complex puzzle. I think you'd be better off checking background information on Arendt and her work and this specific trial to perfectly understand the film. The movie also lacks some clarification about the characters and their relationships. For those reasons, I find it a bit elitist and not easy to reach. But I definitely like how the plot focuses on Arendt's personal struggle to respect her philosophical impartiality and freedom of speech. She's stuck into the battle between her thoughts and people's judgment. I believe the screenplay could have dug a bit deeper into Arendt's self-struggle and loneliness as this topic of the banality of evil will remain her life-long philosophical and inexhaustible well. I especially appreciated how the archive footage and audio files are perfectly inserted on screen. The director used several languages switching from Hebrew to English or German with touches of French. It surely makes the story true to the immigrant universe. This movie has an undeniable quality to it but I expected much more from such a topic that could have been examined to its fullest. I was hoping for more insight on being a public figure and having to justify your every opinion as well as being treated as a renegade by your own people, friends, and family.

The Fifth Season (2012)

The Fifth Season (2012)
Directors: Peter Brosens, Jessica Woodworth
Country: Belgium
Runtime: 93 min

Winter, spring, summer, autumn...and then? La cinquiememe saison (The Fifth Season) is an apocalyptic tale which does not need to make use of extraterrestrial aliens or natural catastrophes to impress the viewer. Humans and nature have a very fragile connection - what if nature suddenly decided to cut this connection?

Set in a little rural village in the Ardennes, the inhabitants are preparing for the local feast to celebrate the end of the winter. But something goes wrong: the fire that was supposed to light up the bonfire refuses to burn, a bad omen for the whole community. We do not see the end coming at first but season after season we gradually witness a slow but implacable process of decay: the crops do not grow, the animals become sterile, people fall ill and the trees collapse. The two young protagonists Alice and Thomas, the outsider Pol and his paraplegic son, and all the others can do nothing other than be spectators to this silent disaster.

La cinquieme saison cleverly mixes ancient peasant beliefs with contemporary fears such as the collapse of the natural world. It is a powerful viewing experience, perhaps because of the intimacy of the environment in which it happens. Protagonists and viewers alike are utterly powerless in front of such drastic changes. It is a slow death and, even though it is not set in a famous city like most catastrophe films, the film suggests that the same process is happening everywhere in the world.

The cinematography is outstanding: each single frame could be a magnificent photo and actors, props and sets are all arranged with extreme attention to composition and perspective. Like puppets in the hands of destiny, humans are helpless and nature, being non-human, has no pity. Bleached out colours highlight this little world in decay. Dying trees and vast empty crops surround the village as reminders of the imminent end. We are given a little hope when a man from some other village drives there, symbolically selling plastic "flowers of hope" - but it is an illusion. To say more would give too much of the film away, however.

The directors Brosens and Woodworth created and excellent work of spectacular photographic beauty, detailing archetypical fears of men vs nature in which there is no space for hopeful illusions. A distressing film but a unique cinematic experience that gives food for thought and employs a great cast.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Printed Rainbow (2006)

Printed Rainbow (2006)
Director: Gitanjali Rao
Country: India

A big city. A tiny apartment. There, in solitude, live an old woman and her cat, stuck in their daily chores against the hiss of the city.

The Windows look out into more windows with more desolate lives.

The old woman, however, has a secret window: her precious collection of match boxes. Their printed labels open into a myriad of exotic worlds. The cat is the sole companion in her explorations of these magical worlds where beauty, imagination and wonder triumph over the insignificance of her existence.

Lilet Never Happened (2012)

Lilet Never Happened (2012)
Director: Jacco Groen
Runtime: 105 min

The film Lilet Never Happened is a character driven story about Lilet, a maladjusted Philippine street-girl, who becomes Manila's most famous child prostitute. International social worker Claire desperately tries to safe Lilet from the sex industry but she falls again and again. Though Lilet gets many opportunities to quit, she stubbornly chooses the hard way.

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Night Across the Street (2012)

Night Across the Street (2012)
Director: Raoul Ruiz
Runtime: 110 min

On the verge of a forced retirement, Don Celso, an elderly office worker begins to relive both real and imagined memories from his life - a trip to the movies as a young boy with Beethoven, listening to tall tales from Long John Silver, a brief stay in a haunted hotel. Stories hide within stories and the thin line between imagination and reality steadily erodes, opening up a marvelous new world of personal remembrance and fantastic melodrama. A playfully elegiac film from the great Raul Ruiz, conceived to be seen only after his death, Night Across the Street is a beautiful final masterwork exploring the director's favorite subjects: fiction, history and life itself.

Yesterday Never Ends (2013)

Yesterday Never Ends (2013)
Director: Isabel Coixet
Country: Spain
Runtime: 108 min

Year 2017. Barcelona. A couple reunites after five years of not seeing each other and after going through some tragic incidents in their past in their lives. She had stayed in Spain while he moved to Germany. Two ways of facing the current economic crisis: she preferred the idealism of staying and struggling to change the situation, and he left everything behind, a more lucid and logical point of view. When they both feel that the past is no longer important, it suddenly comes back. Unhealed wounds will always remain open.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Chomana Dudi (1975) aka Choma's Drum

Chomana Dudi (1975)
Director: B.V. Karanth
Country: India
Runtime: 141 min

Choma is an untouchable bonded-labourer in a village who is working along with his family for a landlord, due to a paltry loan of twenty rupees borrowed from him years ago.Due to his social status, he is not allowed to till his own land, something that he desires most. Though he managed to rear a pair of bullocks that he found straying in the forest, he cannot use them to till the land. He comes in contact of Christian missionaries who try to convert him giving him the lure of the land, but Choma does not want to let go of his faith. He releases the fury that fate has beset on him, by beating his drum.

He has three sons and a daughter; two of his elder sons work in a distant coffee estate trying to pay off the debt. One of the sons dies of cholera and the other one converts to Christianity by marrying a Christian girl. His daughter, Belli works in the plantation and falls for the charm of Manvela, the estate-owner's writer. She is raped by the estate owner, who then writes off Choma's debt. She returns to Choma's home without telling him of the reality. His youngest son drowns in a river, with nobody coming to save him because of him being an untouchable. He then finds his daughter in an compromising position with Manvela. With anger, he beats her and kicks her out of the house. To defy his fate, he starts tilling a piece of land and then chases off his bullock into the forest. In the climax, Choma shuts himself in his house and starts playing the drum till he dies.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Moebius (2013)

Moebius (2013)
Director: Ki-duk Kim
Country: South Korea
Runtime: 89 min

A woman catches her husband cheating and in a fit rage brings a knife into his bedroom, slips under the covers and tries to castrate him. He awakes and thwarts her impetuous plot but still wracked with anger she then visits her teenage son's room and dismembers him instead.

The above plays out over mere minutes but to say any more about the events that unfold would only dilute its impact. Safe to say, things only get worse and more bizarre as the film's protagonists are pushed to delirious extremes. It's not exactly a restaging of the Oedipal Complex (though some of its elements are evident) but it does borrow a lot from Greek tragedy, though it's a bit more extreme than what you would find in the Classics.

Friday, September 20, 2013

The Dead Man and Being Happy (2012)

The Dead Man and Being Happy (2012)
Director: Javier Rebollo
Country: Spain
Runtime: 92 min

This is the story of a Spanish man on the top floor of a hospital in Buenos Aires who one day realises he is dying. Aware that he only has a short time left to live, the man hot-foots it from the hospital and heads north, making his way across Argentina. The dying man knows that all roads lead to the whole world, that the destination matters little; what is important is to keep moving, to have the feeling of never stopping, of leaving behind the life lead until now. A life that, given his specialised trade, had always kept him close to death. That's why, as a professional, he advances peacefully towards it, making his way along B-roads, drifting slowly as if in a modern book about chivalry. A woman he meets on the road will be his squire in this movement that does anything but flee from death, instead heading straight towards it. This film is the tale of a hit-man who doesn't kill. It's the story of guns that don't shoot, of dogs and roads.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Camille Claudel 1915 (2013)

Camille Claudel 1915 (2013)
Director: Bruno Dumont
Country: France
Runtime: 95 min

Winter, 1915. Confined by her family to an asylum in the South of France - where she will never sculpt again - the chronicle of Camille Claudel's reclusive life, as she waits for a visit from her brother, Paul Claudel.

Paradjanov (2013)

Paradjanov (2013)
Directors: Serge Avedikian, Olena Fetisova
Country: Ukraine | France | Georgia
Runtime:95 min 

Sergei Paradjanov can, without exaggeration, be called one of the most distinctive filmmakers of the 20th century. Indeed, Federico Fellini, Michelangelo Antonioni and Andrei Tarkovsky were among the many admirers of his fascinating powers of visualization. This biopic, evincing an original take on the genre, relates some of the key moments in the life and work of this director of genius, a native Armenian who was persecuted by the Soviet authorities. We watch Paradjanov as he makes his ground-breaking films Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors and The Colour of Pomegranates, and also during his imprisonment by the communist regime. The filmmakers present Paradjanov as a gifted artist overflowing with ideas, but also as a complicated personality. In creating the film’s artistic vision, the directing duo relies heavily on Paradjanov’s own, unmistakable trademark style, vividly showing the audience his distinctive way of seeing the world.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Fuck for Forest (2012)

Fuck for Forest (2012)
Director: Michal Marczak
Country: Poland
Runtime: 1 hour, 22 minutes

Danny, a roaming twenty-something from Norway, moves in with neo-hippies in Berlin. His new housemates form a group that campaigns on behalf of nature through 'ecoporn'. Surrounded by old-school clouds of incense and guitar music, they film their sexual exploits and then publish the films on their activist website. Visitors to the site pay to watch the films and the group uses the money to save rainforests. For this documentary, Marczak follows these extremely serious 'erotic activists' in Berlin and on their trips to Colombia and Peru, from which the well-intentioned hippies return rather disillusioned. The protagonists are introduced in a dryly comic voice-over that subtly confirms all the stereotypes. As do the protagonists themselves, who make coffee topless, incessantly smoke joints and say such things as: 'I really like your energy level.' Free love meets altruism meets twenty-first-century campaigning.