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.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

To Kill a Man (2014)

To Kill a Man (2014)
Director: Alejandro Fernández Almendras
Country: Chile

Jorge is a tranquil, middle-class family man whose neighborhood has become overrun by a fringe class of street thugs. His comparatively fortunate existence makes him the target of their intimidation one night, and a hulking outlaw robs him of his insulin needle. Jorge’s teenage son boldly tries to stand up for his father, which only serves to unleash the bully’s terrorizing reign of threats upon the family. Jorge and his wife, Martha, seek protection from the legal system but are subjected to civic drones and bureaucratic procedure, so they remain vulnerable. As Jorge’s family suffers from fear and humiliating anguish, the situation paints him as a deficient patriarch—until he’s cornered into defending what’s his.

Lines of class and masculinity ignite friction in this rugged thriller, adeptly shot with a discerning eye. Director Alejandro Fernández Almendras elevates raw grit to a new level with a tone that is both elemental and prophetic. Rife with unnerving tension, To Kill a Man is ultimately a surprising exploration of the heavy burden of what it takes to do what the title suggests.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Bird People (2014)

Bird People (2014) 
Director: Pascale Ferran
Country: France

In an airport hotel on the outskirts of Paris, a Silicon Valley engineer bruptly chucks his job, breaks things off with his wife, and holes up in his room. As fate draws him and a young French maid together, an audacious second-act surprise suddenly transforms César Award-winning director Pascale Ferran's dark-tinged fairy-tale into something altogether richer, more beguiling, and utterly astonishing.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

The 50 Year Argument (2014)

The 50 Year Argument (2014)
Directors: Martin Scorsese, David Tedeschi
Country: USA
Runtime:     1h 37mn

The 50 Year Argument is Martin Scorsese's latest film, co-directed with his longtime documentary collaborator David Tedeschi. It charts literary, political and cultural history as per the New York Review of Books, America's leading journal of ideas since 1963. The film weaves rare archive material, interviews and writing by icons such as James Baldwin and Gore Vidal into original verite footage, filmed in the Review's Greenwich Village offices with longtime editor Robert Silvers.

Monday, October 13, 2014

Coming Home (2014)

Coming Home (2014)
Director: Yimou Zhang
Country: China

The ghosts of China's cultural revolution shake their chains and rattle their ivories in Coming Home, a sweet yet suspect romantic drama from director Zhang Yimou, which played out of competition at the Cannes film festival. The first time Lu Yanshi (Chen Daoming) comes haunting, he's a bedraggled, desperate fugitive; the second time, he's careworn and rehabilitated. On each occasion, his wife finds herself unable to open the door and let him inside.
Zhang was the leading light of China's "fifth generation" of film-makers, revered for his pungent epics To Live and Raise the Red Lantern, and subsequently brought into the fold to direct the opening and closing ceremonies at the Beijing Olympics. His new film looks at the cultural revolution more in sorrow than anger, installing the spouses' relationship as a metaphor for the country's stumbling attempt to make peace with its past.
When Chen's dissident professor is released from jail, amnesiac Feng Wanyu (Gong Li) fails to recognise him. It is as if she is practising her own form of state censorship, or perhaps the enormity of his presence makes her unable to see him. Years before, the couples' indoctrinated daughter (Zhang Huiwen) had cut her father's face from all the photos in the family album, which means that there is no visual reminder; no proof that the man is who he claims to be. His wife looks right through him, standing forlornly at the station awaiting her husband's return.
Zhang adapts the tale from a novel by Geling Yan, who also provided the blueprint for his previous picture, The Flowers of War. He handles it sensitively, elegantly, and coaxes some affecting performances from Chen and Gong (although the latter does rather overdo the nervous head-bobbing). But the film is also sentimental and faintly evasive, replete with a plaintive piano score that all but twists our arms behind our backs. Zhang dabs on salve and comforts the afflicted. He lets this intimate, bittersweet reconciliation implicitly stand for the nation at large.
Eventually, Yanshi learns that he must approach his wife with caution, as though he's feeding birds in the garden. He pretends to be a kindly neighbour come to read her husband's letters, or a piano tuner making house-calls. The man means well; the woman's starting to thaw. But he should really have dismantled that annoying piano. It won't stop tinkling and it takes up too much space.

Sunday, October 12, 2014

The Way He Looks (2014)

The Way He Looks (2014)
 Director: Daniel Ribeiro
Country: Brazil

Leonardo is a blind teenager feeling overprotected by all of those around him. Struggling towards a more independent life, he has to overcome the vulnerability orbiting his condition.
At home, his mother won't let him do things by himself, or even be alone. At school, his best friend, Giovana, leaves no room for him to stand up for himself before all the bullying. Besides, he's never been kissed and is pretty confident that no one would consider dating the blind kid.
Seeing no way out, Leonardo considers going on an exchange program, hoping he could start fresh. Things take an unexpected turn when Gabriel, a new student in town, arrives at school, becoming friends with him and Giovana. Leonardo gravitates towards Gabriel, excited to be friends with someone who acts differently from everyone else.
Meanwhile, Giovana has to balance her infatuation with the new kid and the jealousy she feels for sharing her old pal. Glimpsing a possible way to independence in this unfamiliar and yet comforting new friendship, Leonardo changes the way he looks at himself and experiences the blossoming of new and intense feelings towards Gabriel.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Constructors (2013)

Constructors (2013)
Director: Adilkhan Yerzhanov
Country: Kazakhstan

This hour-long film, shot on a shoestring budget, tells a seemingly simple story: three siblings (two teenage brothers and a younger sister) are evicted from their apartment after their mother suffered a stroke. Their last hopes rest on a plot of land outside of the city, to which they have a legitimate claim. Officials arrive in a jeep to tell them that, unless they build a foundation within the next two weeks, the land will be confiscated. With borrowed instruments and stolen material the brothers manage to complete the foundation when another law is issued, requiring a finished house, at least a temporary one, in order to keep the plot. Aliya, the little girl, gets sick and is taken to a hospital; Rauf, the older brother, is beaten up for stealing cement and bricks and is later arrested. The last man standing is Yerbolat, who is willing to finish the roof so that the state will have to provide him with an apartment in exchange for the confiscated land.
The synopsis implies an existential social drama with tragic undertones, but this is not the film’s focus. The siblings’ sad prehistory only becomes clear from three brief verbal attacks that Yerbolat launches against his older brother. First, he accuses him of having mortgaged their apartment and having caused their mother’s stroke. Then, each time when a new loss occurs, Yerbolat adds another accusation – the younger sister’s illness, the theft of construction materials. And yet, when Rauf is about to be arrested, the brothers quietly look at each other for a long time, and their facial expression slowly turns to a shy, warm smile. At this point, Rauf gives Yerbolat final instructions, demonstrating that he will never give up and implying that neither will his younger brother.  
Simple the story may be, but what matters more than the social framework and even psychological finesse  is the cinematic execution. The plot’s unpredictability, combined with a high degree of visual and acoustic control and the relaxed seriousness displayed by the performers, gives The Constructors a rare freshness appreciated by festival audiences around the world. Thirty-something Adilkhan Yerzhanov is an auteur in the truest sense of the word; he wrote the screenplay, directed, and was in charge of cinematography and editing. The film is shot in rich black-and-white. Of particular significance is the picture’s lighting structure during the many night scenes, in which sharp rays from artificial sources aggressively intrude the siblings’ joint space that they are trying to secure and from which they are to be evicted. Darkness offers at least some protection, whereas daylight brutally exposes the incompleteness of their project and their own uprooted state. The film’s inner rhythm is intriguing: its shifts from night to day and back, from dialogue to silence, from raw diegetic sound to haunting music. Some scenes resemble absurd theater, especially when the state officials show up, or when a buffoonish salesman—“Timur Tilman” (his real name)—in a weird quasi-Western outfit advertizes his company’s newest lamps. Other scenes are touching precisely because of the overall laconic tone, conveying the warmth and care that the three siblings feel for each other and the selflessness that they display. Thus, when Rauf and Yerbolat go out on a mission to steal bricks, they put two plastic bottles on sticks and tell their scared little sister that these improvised dolls represent them. When the brothers are about to be detected by guarding neighbors and their dog, Rauf decides to leave his hiding place and confront them, saving his younger brother who had just chastised him in the most brutal manner. Rauf seems to do everything he can to earn, or regain, Yerbolat’s respect and justify his leadership status as the oldest.
While the preposterousness and cruelty of the bureaucratic state and its representatives is obvious, the more intriguing issue is what gives these three forlorn youngsters the strength to go on. One clue might come from the opening—a brief, never explained sequence of historical footage to which little Aliya tells the history of Kazakhstan in two minutes, beginning with the great nomadic nations, through the Mongol occupation, the Soviet period, ending with national independence—and in the kitchen where the three siblings sit in silence, under a shaky lamp reflecting their current unstable circumstances. But this sequence is never commented on or referred to later. Except for Yerbolat’s verbal assaults against his brother, the three usually react to each new stage of the drama with complete, samurai-like silence. Nobody complains, nobody whines. There is a quiet inner drive in them that, if we take the opening sequence literally, originates from their ancestors. Without ever preaching, the young title characters display a stoicism that is vital for their survival and part of their identity, conveyed as an unconditional willingness to ignore or resist adversity and to stick together, regardless of state harassment or occasional filial rivalry.

Despite the young characters’ coolness, Kazakhstan comes across as profoundly inhospitable: a huge country that has neither space, nor concern, for its young. Yet the three, despite tensions and a chain of bad luck aggravated by arbitrary, punitive legislation, quietly continue to build their future. In addition to the historical and mythical allusion in the opening scene, there is a spatial element suggesting the origin of their proud endurance. The siblings create the foundation of their home against the backdrop of a long line of houses covering the horizon. However, when the camera shows the opposite side, the constructors’ background is formed by an array of mighty mountains. At the end, when Yerbolat remains all by himself, there can be no doubt that he will continue to build, because that’s who he is
Peter Rollberg
The George Washington University

Monday, October 06, 2014

Human Capital (2013)

Human Capital (2013)
Director: Paolo Virzì
Country: Italy

Valeria Bruni Tedeschi, who won Best Actress in a Narrative Feature Film at the Tribeca Film Festival as Carla and Valeria Golino as Roberta in Paolo Virzì's Human Capital (Il Capitale Umano) give brilliant performances entangled in a web of what is perhaps the most revolting selection of male characters in a film I have seen at least this year. Fabrizio Gifuni plays Giovanni and Fabrizio Bentivoglio is Dino. The respective husbands are corrupt each in their own way. The former a hedge fund finance power player, the latter a middle-class real estate agent who would like to be like the other, corruption and all.

On an evening right before Christmas in Northern Italy, a waiter at a school function is run over on his bicycle riding home in the snow. This hit and run tragedy links a number of people from different social backgrounds as Virzì's delicate and bewildering tale jumps back and forth from a summer past to the fateful winter night.
Copy picture

Two families are tied together by an accident and their children. Serena (Matilde Gioli) and Massimiliano (Guglielmo Pinelli) have very little in common outside of school, and their relationship crumbles. Carla, Massimiliano's mother, is a woman who has great financial privileges and no emotional stability. Her life of manicures, massages and antiques shopping makes her feel increasingly worthless. This is reinforced by her husband, Giovanni, who communicates nothing of importance to her.

In an attempt to add some internal beauty for herself and the community - a small fictional town near Milan - Carla buys a run-down theatre in ruins she wants to renovate, and instead ends up falling into her familiar trap of meaningless seduction. A trenchant scene depicts a meeting of the newly formed theatre board and Virzì has great fun savoring the characters' whopping fixations while they discuss a possible repertoire. Anybody who has ever been to a board meeting will recognise someone here.

Roberta, on the other hand, a psychologist working at the public clinic, decides to be completely ignorant about the crumbling world of her family, especially the dealings of husband Dino, who wants to move up in the world.

Virzì, who told at the Tribeca Film Festival that Human Capital was the first of the dozen films he made which did not classify as comedy, keeps a light touch with his heavy subject matter. The different perspectives are woven into a rich tapestry of the present world. Greed and unconsidered, reckless desires are by no means an Italian phenomenon.

Three perspectives, given one chapter each, illuminate disasters far greater and perhaps much smaller than the accident at hand and tell us about the nature of human capital. How much is a person worth? The script is based on a novel by American author Stephen Amidon which is set in Connecticut. The film takes place in a fictional town near Milan and was shot in Como and surroundings.

Paolo Virzì's study of capitalism in crisis gives the audience all it covets. Voyeurism is taken care of as we peek into the hearts and home of the stylish wealthy. Their life is actually hellish, we discover to our great relief. It is crumbling and causing the literal and metaphorical quakes we all feel. A class lower, the annoying guy with the garish orange watch and the "creative" facial hair and glasses is indeed a dope who doesn't communicate with his pregnant wife. Virzi confirms the worst.

Human Capital is a tale of people trapped in the wheels of money, prestige and unfulfilled longings, disguised as a thriller. Some create the wheels, some spin them and others run in them.

Saturday, October 04, 2014

Norte, the End of History (2013)

Norte, the End of History (2013)
Director: Lav Diaz
Country: Philippines

The lives of three people take a turn when one of them commits a crime.
Joaquin (Archie Alemania) is failing miserably at providing for his family when his money lender gets murdered. The crime is pinned on him. Misery and solitude would
transform him in prison.
Left to fend for the family, his wife Eliza (Angeli Bayani) pours all of her strength to battling with despair and eking out a living for their children.
The real perpetrator, Fabian (Sid Lucero), roams free. His disillusionment with his country—its history of revolutions marred by betrayal and crimes unpunished—drives him to the edge of sanity, of humanity.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Still the Water (2014)

Still the Water (2014)
Director: Naomi Kawase
Country: Japan

On the subtropical Japanese island of Amami, traditions about nature remain eternal. During the full-moon night of traditional dances in August, 16-year-old Kaito discovers a dead body floating in the sea. His girlfriend Kyoko will attempt to help him understand this mysterious discovery.
Together, Kaito and Kyoko will learn to become adults by experiencing the interwoven cycles of life, death and love.

Friday, September 19, 2014

To Kill a Beaver (2012)

To Kill a Beaver (2012)
Director: Jan Jakub Kolski
Country: Poland

A man returns home after a long time. The house is in a bad shape, ruined with graffiti on walls, but it doesn't stop him from staying in. The man has an aim that requires complex preparations. The house has however already a new inhabitants that start to influence the man's performance and to mingle with silhouettes from the character's recent past, spent at the Central Asia border. Are the war prolonged tension and the man's shattered emotionality possible to overcome, so that he may really re-locate in a peaceful surroundings of his home-village?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

36 (2012)

36 (2012)
Director: Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit
Country: Thailand

36 is the number of shots on an analogue roll of film. It’s also the number of shots in this film. Yet it’s not a strict film, but the playful quest of a young photographer for the photos that disappeared on her computer: a whole year’s worth, including one of a challenging encounter.

The title 36 refers to the roll of film in the filmmaker’s old-fashioned analogue still camera. Each roll had 36 photos and it was always a surprise to find out after it had been developed what was on the negatives. Often the photos didn’t have much to do with each other, and often he didn’t know when and why he had taken a picture.

Nawapol Thamrongrattanarit also uses the number 36 to divide up his original, crisply-told film, which is made up of 36 shots. The filmmaker wanted to evoke something of the arbitrary nature of the old film rolls – and of memory – even though the story is told in a way that can be followed easily.

The protagonist in this lightfooted and melancholy feature is Sai. She is a location scout and for her work she records a lot with her camera. One day it turns out that the hard disk of her laptop has crashed and she has lost a year’s worth of photos. She has the feeling that part of her own memory has been deleted and she does everything possible to get the photos back.

In a playful way, this film tackles the issue of changing memory. These days a lot is remembered for us, but what do we still remember ourselves? Deeply hidden in the broken hard disk is also the picture of a possible lover. A persevering quest for lost digital time. –IFFR

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Life of Riley (2014)

Life of Riley (2014)
Director: Alain Resnais
Country: France

In the midst of rehearsals for a new play, amateur dramatics proponents Colin and Kathryn receive the shattering news that their friend George is fatally ill and only has a few months to live. Life begins to come apart at the seams – not just for Kathryn, who was once George’s partner, but also for her friends Tamara and Monica. The full force of the emotional turmoil they experienced in their youth and their long-buried dreams are rekindled. Much to the chagrin of their respectable, middle-class husbands, the women begin to argue about which of them should be allowed to accompany George on a final journey …
After Smoking/No Smoking (1993) and Coeurs (2006), this current work marks the third time French cinema doyen Alain Resnais has chosen to adapt a stage play by British playwright Alan Ayckbourn. By confining the action to an artificial, almost entirely studio-bound world, he succeeds in creating a tragicomic theatre of vanities. Employing the ironic distance of a sage observer of human nature, Resnais ponders the power of love and desire and in doing so enables his characters, driven by their longings, hopes and obsessions, to leave the beaten track for once.
--Berlin Film Festival

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

The Dance of Reality (2013)

The Dance of Reality (2013)
Director: Alejandro Jodorowsky
Country: Chile

Young Alejandro (Jeremías Herskovits) lives with his parents Jaime (Brontis Jodorowsky) and Sara (Pamela Flores) in Chile. Jaime is a communist who worships Stalin. He plans to assassinate the right-wing president Carlos Ibanez (Bastian Bodenhofer). Jaime becomes the president's groom.

"Alejandro Jodorowsky's autobiographical The Dance of Reality is his first film after a layoff of more than two decades. His main character is himself, who, as a young man, interacts with a number of unusual people, and those interactions combined with his own exploration of art and life lead to a personal philosophy and an artistic vision that would produce such enduring works as El Topo and The Holy Mountain." All Movie Guide

"The film blends Jodorowsky’s personal history with metaphor, mythology and poetry, reflecting the director’s view that reality is not objective but rather a “dance” created by our imaginations: “The story of my life is a constant effort to expand the imagination and its limitations, to capture its therapeutic and transformative potential... An active imagination is the key to such a wide vision: it looks at life from angles that are not our own, imagining other levels of consciousness superior to our own.”

Cremation of an Ideology (2011)

Cremation of an Ideology (2011)
Director: Rouzbeh Rashidi
Country: Ireland | Iran
Runtime:62 min

The enclosed, private space a man occupies is penetrated only by images brought from across distances by the internet. Space, distance and memory collapse in this haunting meditation on absence and virtual presence in the 21st century.

Monday, September 08, 2014

When I Saw You (2012)

When I Saw You (2012)
Director: Annemarie Jacir
Country: Palestine
Runtime:98 min

 The follow up to Annemarie Jacir's award-winning feature debut Salt of the Sea, When I Saw You tells the tale of a young Palestinian boy and his mother as they struggle to maintain their dignity after being displaced from their West Bank by the Israeli army in 1967. Defeated by the Israelis for the second time in their quest to liberate Palestine, numerous Palestinians and their families join refugees from the 1948 conflict in refugee camps located in nearby Arab countries. 11-year-old Tarek (Mahmoud Asfa) and his mother Ghaydaa (Ruba Blal) are just two of the thousands who were displaced when the Israeli army seized control of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Desperate, they seek shelter at the Harir Camp in Jordan while anxiously awaiting the return of Tarik's father, Ghassan. Later, when Ghassan fails to appear, Tarik grows emboldened by his encounter with a band of heavily-armed Palestinian freedom fighters, and decides to join their ranks.

Sunday, September 07, 2014

Ana Arabia (2013)

 Ana Arabia (2013)
 Director: Amos Gitai
Country: France | Israel
Runtime:85 min

Filmed in one sequence-shot of 1:25, Ana Arabia is a moment in the life of a small community of outcasts, Jews and Arabs, who live together in a forgotten enclave at the “border” between Jaffa and Bat Yam, in Israel. One day, Yael, a young journalist, visits them. In these dilapidated shacks, in the orchard filled with lemon trees and surrounded by mass public houses, she discovers a range of characters far removed from the usual clichés offered by the region. Yael has the feeling of having discovered a human goldmine. She no longer thinks of her job. Faces and words of Youssef and Miriam, Sarah and Walid, of their neighbors, their friends tell her about life, its dreams and its hopes, its love affairs, desires and disillusions. Their relation to time is different than that of the city around them. In this tinkered and fragile place, there is a possibility of coexistence. A universal metaphor.

Wednesday, September 03, 2014

Florentina Hubaldo, CTE (2012)

Florentina Hubaldo, CTE (2012)
Director: Lav Diaz
Country: Philippines
Runtime:360 min

Chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) is a progressive degenerative disease found in individuals who have been subjected to multiple concussions and other forms of head injury. A variant of the condition, dementia pugilistica (DP), is primarily associated with boxing. CTE has been most commonly found in professional athletes participating in American football, ice hockey, professional wrestling and other contact sports, who have experienced head trauma, resulting in characteristic degeneration of brain tissue and the accumulation of tau protein. Individuals with CTE may show symptoms of dementia such as memory loss, aggression, confusion and depression which may appear within months of the trauma or many decades later. (Wikipedia)

Florentina Hubaldo keeps repeating her story, orally, akin to a mantra, a meditation and a prayer; her way of remembering; her means of maintaining hope for survival and redemption; fighting with what’s left of her memory. She lives and exist in a place and a condition where history, her story, is being systematically being obliterated.

Two gold hunters endlessly dig the ground with their shovels and hoes for the proverbial treasure that will emancipate them.

A father sadly waits for the death of her fragile daughter.

Tuesday, September 02, 2014

Prisms of Perception(2012)

Prisms of Perception(2012)
Director: Gigi Scaria
Country: India
Runtime:3 min
Video Art

Gigi Scaria did his BFA in painting at the College of Fine Arts, Thiruvananthapuram, and his MFA at the Jamia Millia University. His work focuses on issues of change, unsettlement, immigration, exodus and non-belonging. Scaria attempts to draw the viewer’s attention towards the painful truths of displacement.

Monday, September 01, 2014

Polluting Paradise(2012)

Polluting Paradise(2012)
Director: Fatih Akin
Country: Germany
Runtime:85 min

Ten years ago, the government of Turkey decided to dump waste in the hills above the Black Sea village of Çamburnu. The villagers' struggle against the Turkish state's decision has lasted as long – the mayor and the whole village against Ministers of State, judges and financial interests. How can they possibly succeed against these powerful institutions? Director Fatih Akin takes a devastating look at the small village whose health and security are threatened by the introduction of the garbage dump. Situated in a defunct copper mine, the refuse heap pollutes groundwater and streams and fills the air with terrible odors. Akin keeps his cameras rolling over the course of five years as community members, including elderly residents and schoolchildren, fight the smug bureaucrats who signed off on the dump, while they attempt to maintain their daily existence as farmers, fishermen and students. Akin does what all good activist filmmakers do best: expose the stark divide between everyday citizens and the people who supposedly represent them, urging viewers not to let a similar fate befall their hometowns.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Boy Eating the Bird's Food (2012)

Boy Eating the Bird's Food (2012)
Director:Ektoras Lygizos
Country: Greece
Runtime:80 min

Boy Eating the Bird’s Food, inspired by Norwegian writer Knut Hamsun’s 1890 novel, Hunger, tells the story of Yorgos (Yiannis Papadopoulos) a twenty-two year old living an isolated life in modern day Athens and on the brink of poverty and starvation. He is estranged from his family and only really has one true friend – his beloved pet canary. Quite like a bird himself, Yorgos has a beautiful singing voice and occasionally shares his canary’s birdseed.

The whole film is an unashamed metaphor for the mood of the people of modern day Greece. A sense of frustration reverberates throughout the film stemming from the fact that Yorgos’ passion and talents are being stifled due to a lack of financial independence. This escalates into the protagonist resorting to more and more desperate measures to keep himself alive and to retain some level of sanity and self-worth.

Employing the use of shaky cam and extreme close up shots, the film is uncomfortably intimate, obsessive and even intrusive into Yorgos’ everyday life. Thus we can’t help but sympathise with this character, having seen him at his most private and vulnerable. Lygizos describes using a small camera from early on in the rehearsal process so that Papadopoulos could become “used to me being his ‘co-player’ – not a co-star, not another actor, but instead his subtle shadow.”

Yorgos’ is deliberately denied a social context or background history in order to convey the message that his story is indeed a ubiquitous one in Greece and the emphasis remains on the obvious metaphor. Greece’s abandonment by Germany is symbolically present within the classical German language piece Yorgos chooses to sing for an audition early in the film. It is no mere coincidence that Yorgos doesn’t understand the lyrics and furthermore, that he fails the audition.

Boy Eating the Bird’s Food is a powerful, uncomfortably honest and truly devastating portrayal of a young man struggling not only to feed and house himself, but also clutching onto a fading sense of identity, masculinity and self-worth. A brave performance from Papadopoulos in Lygizos’ accomplished debut feature film; well deserving of all the critical acclaim it will undoubtedly receive on the festival circuit and beyond.

Tuesday, June 03, 2014

Khan Khanne (2014)

Khan Khanne (2014)
Director:Jean-Luc Godard
Runtime:     8mn 46s

Jean-Luc Godard did not attend the world premiere of his new film, ADIEU AU LANGAGE (GOODBYE TO LANGUAGE), at Cannes. But instead, he sent a letter in motion to Gilles Jacob and Thierry Fremaux, the directors of the Festival.
Made public the 21/05/2014.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Ida (2013)

Ida (2013)
Director: Pawel Pawlikowski
Runtime: 80 min

Directed by Pawel Pawlikowski (My Summer of Love), this story of faith and despair is gracefully told, its simple, uncluttered spaces and luminous black-and-white photography harking back to Robert Bresson. Innocent young Ida (Agata Trzebuchowska), raised in a Polish convent and preparing to take her vows, is persuaded by the Mother Superior to make contact with her only known relative, an aunt (Agata Kulesza) who reveals to the young novitiate that her father was Jewish and her parents both died in the Nazi occupation. Hoping to uncover the details, the two women set off for the family's hometown, where the romantic attentions of a handsome young sax player in the hotel bar prove almost as troubling to Ida as her parents' demise.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

In Hiding (2013)

In Hiding (2013)
Director: Jan Kidawa-Blonski
Country: Poland
Runtime: 103 minute

Radom under Nazi occupation at the end of World War II. After the tragic death of her mother a young girl, Janina, lives alone with her father a photographer. He decides to give shelter to a young Jewish girl, Esther, the daughter of his friend who has been hiding in a small room under the floor. Initially Janina rebels against this situation, but soon begins to take an interest in the involuntary tenant. Gradually, curiosity turns into fascination. One day Janina’s father is arrested in street roundup and now Janina has to look after Esther alone. The young women start to live in almost complete isolation from the outside world: loneliness and fear bring them closer and closer. Mutual dramatic experiences make their relationship more intimate. When the war ends Janina hides the news from Ester and continues to keep her in hiding as her erotic fascination with Esther turns into an obsession.

The Notebook (2013)

The Notebook (2013)
Director: János Szász
Country: Hungary
Runtime: 109 min

Towards the end of World War II, people in big cities are at the mercy of air raids and death by starvation. A desperate young mother leaves her 13-year-old twin sons at their grandmother's house in the country, despite the fact that this grandmother is a cruel and bestial alcoholic. The villagers call her “the Witch” because she is rumoured to have poisoned her husband long ago.

Previously pampered, the twins must learn how to survive alone in their new, rural surroundings. They realise that the only way to cope with the absurd and inhumane world of adults and war is to become completely unfeeling and merciless. By learning to free themselves from hunger, pain and emotion, they will be able to endure future hardships. So they begin their own series of studies: they fortify their spirits by reading the Bible and learning foreign languages. They practice every day to harden their bodies and minds. They hold their hands over flames, cut their legs, arms and chests with a knife and pour alcohol right on their wounds. They desensitize themselves to insults and learn to ignore the more insidious appeals of sentiment and love.

The twins keep a written record of all they have witnessed during the war, the Notebook. When they write, they follow their own strict code: The prose must be free from emotion, the notes precise and objective.

Based on Agota Kristof's famous novel.

Saturday, May 17, 2014

When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism (2013)

When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism (2013)
Director: Corneliu Porumboiu
Country: Romania
Runtime: 89 min

Focused on a director and his leading actress while they are off the set. They discuss the discrepancies between film and digital cinema, Western and Eastern food, and try to capture an unfiltered (and seemingly impossible) sense of "reality" on film.

Television (2012)

Television (2012)
Director: Mostofa Sarwar Farooki
Country: Bangladesh
Runtime: 106 min 

As a leader of the local community, Chairman Amin bans every kind of image in his water-locked village in rural Bangladesh. He even goes on to claim that imagination is also sinful since it gives one the license to infiltrate into any prohibited territory. But change is a desperate wind that is difficult to resist by shutting the window. The tension between this traditional window and modern wind grows to such an extent that it starts to leave a ripple effect on the lives of a group of typically colorful, eccentric, and emotional people living in that village. But at the very end of the film, Television, which he hated so much, comes to the rescue and helps Chairman Amin reach a transcendental state where he and his God are unified. A new twist to the story makes him embrace IMAGE and IMAGINATION 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Vic + Flo Saw a Bear (2013)

Vic + Flo Saw a Bear (2013)
Director: Denis Côté
Country: Canada
Runtime: 95 min

Vic + Flow Saw a Bear is a darkly mysterious tale of lesbian two ex-cons, Victoria and Florence, trying to make a new life in the backwoods of Quebec. Seeking peace and quite, the couple the slowly begin to feel under siege as Vic's probation office keeps unexpectedly popping up and a strange woman in the neighborhood soon turns out to be an increasingly menacing shadow from Flo's past. With it's collection of complex and eccentric characters, unexpected plot twists and unsettling humor, director Denis Cote (Curling, Bestiaire) has created an original film that is as once traumatizing, uplifting, and utterly breathless.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Life Feels Good (2013)

Life Feels Good (2013)
Director: Maciej Pieprzyca
Country: Poland
Runtime: 107 min

Maciej Pieprzyca’s entertaining film about a man diagnosed with cerebral palsy could generate arthouse interest.

Neither tearfully sentimental nor coldly scientific, “Life Feels Good,” Maciej Pieprzyca’s film about a man with cerebral palsy struggling to communicate to those around him that he is an intelligent, sentient human being, instead proves oddly entertaining. The protagonist, diagnosed as mentally retarded since childhood, delivers interior monologues that supply ironically normal counterpoint to the contorted sounds and spastic movements he makes. Brilliantly thesped by non-disabled actors playing the character as both child and grown-up, the film captures as much wonderment as frustration, and is filled with fully fleshed-out characters that defy simple categorization. Having swept the jury, audience and ecumenical prizes at the Montreal fest, this Polish feature could generate genuine arthouse interest.

Helmer-scripter Pieprzyca places the character of Mateusz squarely at his story’s center. As a boy (Kamil Tkacz), Mateusz devises a unique method of moving around the apartment, lying on his back and flailing his arms to propel himself backward, which gives him a measure of autonomy.  His happy childhood provides all kinds of education, from social instruction gained by watching neighbors from his window, to cosmic knowledge imparted by his whimsical wizard of a father (Arkadiusz Jakubik). While his mother (Dorota Kolak) wheels him around and showers him with kisses and laughter, his father fires his imagination.

As he grows up, Mateusz (his role now undertaken by David Ogrodnik) even wins a loving girlfriend, the beautiful blonde next door (Anna Karczmarczyk).  But, as with all his attempts to influence the world around him, his efforts to help her backfire: Momentarily freed of her abusive dad, she flees with Mom to parts unknown. Exit romance.

But not sex. Once his father dies and his mother becomes unable to physically tend to him, Mateusz is uprooted and placed in a home for the mentally disabled (or “morons,” as they are unkindly called), where only his undying interest in breasts keeps him sane. He devises a system to judge female caretakers by breast size, since they have little else going for them. Even more than at home, where his excitement at possibilities for communication were misread as hysteria and met with sympathetic quashing of his supposed “fits,” he is treated like a mindless carcass in the asylum.

Then Magda (Katarzyna Zawadzka), a beautiful new nurse, arrives and pays loving attention, dancing for him and waltzing with him in the wheelchair, the subjective camera turning in time to celebratory music. She even lets him touch her breasts; Mateusz feels vindicated. But comprehension does not always prove a blessing: When Magda takes him on an outing for her own neurotic needs, he understands her betrayal all too clearly.

Pieprzyca situates the central axis of his film in that gap between the emotional vegetable, seen by even the kindliest, and the smart, quite sardonic “inner Mateusz” manifested in his interior monologues and extremely expressive eyes. His erratic movements and unintelligible sounds register less as symptoms of disease than as a language that others are too unimaginative to interpret.

Visually, “Life Feels Good” falls somewhere between the overstated optics of “The Diving Bell and the Butterfly” and the clinical/humanistic distance of “The Sessions.” Like these disability dramas, the film is based on a true story, though its happy ending yields some unexpected twists.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Rocket (2013)

The Rocket (2013)
Director: Kim Mordaunt 
Country: Australia
Runtime: 96 min

THE ROCKET begins with the birth of twin boys in rural Laos. Local superstition dictates that one is blessed, while the other is cursed, and the only way to return balance to the village is to get rid of them both. But when the second baby emerges stillborn, the young mother hides the truth – and raises her “cursed” child Ahlo without the knowledge of his possible destiny. When an Australian corporation carries out a village-wide relocation for a hydroelectric project, the boy and his family suddenly find themselves refugees. As the truth about his birth becomes known, Ahlo begins a journey down a path of redemption, strewn with unexploded bombs, hungry ghosts and the healing power of James Brown. Director Kim Mordaunt has crafted an explosive fable of human connection, marked by extraordinary performances from his child actors and haunting imagery of a land still reeling from the destruction of the Vietnam War

Journey to the West (2014)

Journey to the West (2014)
Director: Ming-liang Tsai
Runtime: 56 min

The face of an exhausted man breathing deeply, his face agitated and, nearby, the sea. A Buddhist monk walks barefoot and incredibly slowly through Marseille – so slowly, that his progress is barely perceptible and he becomes a calming influence in the midst of the town’s goings-on.

More like a performance or installation art project than an ‘art film’, "Le Voyage en Occident" (Xi you) is a follow-up to the 2012 short "Walker" or a kind of second segment, set in Marseille (South France - French Mediterranean coast).
Consisting of only 14 shots of varying lengths - from very brief to a centrepiece of approximately 20 minutes - the film shows two men, narratively unconnected, who finally come together in a sequence that shows off both actors’ physical skills and sense of timing.
Lee Kang-sheng, who features in all Tsai Ming-liang’s films, plays the monk with impressive energy. His uniform slow motion footsteps and devoted posture turn his performance into a veritable tour de force as he unswervingly makes his way from the coast to the market in Noailles (popular market with mixed communities people), like an illusion in his bright red robe. Xi You represents another edition of the director’s series of short films that expand Lee Kang-sheng’s thirty minute slow walking performance at Taipei’s National Theatre into a ‘slow walking expedition’. Unusual, brilliantly chosen camera angles provide a collage of various districts in Marseille, creating a hypnotic space in which this meditative peregrination becomes a surprising journey of discovery.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The German Doctor (2013)

 The German Doctor (2013)
Director: Lucía Puenzo
Country: Argentina
Runtime: 93 min

Patagonia, 1960. A German doctor (Alex Brendemühl) meets an Argentinean family and follows them on a long desert road to a small town where the family will be starting a new life. Eva (Natalia Oreiro), Enzo (Diego Peretti) and their three children welcome the doctor into their home and entrust their young daughter, Lilith (Florencia Bado), to his care, not knowing that they are harboring one of the most dangerous criminals in the world. At the same time, Israeli agents are desperately looking to bring THE GERMAN DOCTOR to justice. Based on filmmaker Lucía Puenzo's (XXY) fifth novel, the story follows Josef Mengele, the "Angel of Death," a German SS officer and a physician at the Auschwitz concentration camp, in the years he spent "hiding", along with many other Nazi's, in South America following his escape from Germany. Mengele was considered to be one of WWII's most heinous Nazi war criminals.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker (2013)

An Episode in the Life of an Iron Picker (2013)
Director: Danis Tanovic
Country: Bosnia and Herzegovina
Runtime: 75 min

Nazif barely makes ends meet as an iron picker to support his family. He searches daily for scrap metal while his partner Senada tends to their home and their two young daughters. A third baby is on the way.
After a long days work, Nazif finds Senada laid up in pain. The following day, he borrows a car to drive her to the nearest clinic. The diagnosis is that Senada has miscarried and is still carrying her dead five-month old fetus. The condition is critical and Senada needs immediate treatment at a faraway city hospital.
Because she does not have a state-provided health insurance card, the hospital requests that Senada pay 980 Bosnian marks (500 euros), a fortune for a modest iron picker. Despite Nazifs begging, Senada is denied the crucial surgery and forced to return home to their Roma community in central Bosnia and Herzegovina.
For the next 10 days, Nazif will do everything he can to try and save Senadas life desperately searching for more scrap metal, seeking help from state institutions For the next 10 days, Nazif and Senada will be fully exposed to the callousness of contemporary society.

The Fifth Gospel of Kaspar Hauser (2013)

The Fifth Gospel of Kaspar Hauser (2013)
Director: Alberto Gracia
Country: Spain
Runtime: 61 min

Here is a new episode of the adventures of the enfant sauvage Kaspar Hauser together with his inseparable and loved wooden horse. On this occasion Kaspar, an untenable subject, possesses the personality of five archetypical figures: a sadomasochist dwarf, a seductive maiden, a cynic and despotic fellow, a romantic sailor and a pathetic batman that, in this movie is played by the director himself. This is a portrait of an antihero dressed in robe and slippers, a compulsive smoker, a true image of the maladjustments that so well depict the state of a disappointed humanity, one that is given to thinking, one that belongs to this world, but, yet, it never does so.
The Fifth Gospel of Gaspar Hauser is a preposterous system of categories.

I decided one day that this movie had to be a gospel, nothing less. The world, under that set of questions, is nothing but complicity and correspondence instead of will and representation; it goes without that rigorous will that maims the outside (or the inside) in order to indulge the senses. It is an impossible narrative, a “tragicomedy” for the 21st century. Is a gospel an act desperate to introduce ethics into an aesthetic that escapes us and that is impossible? Conducted that way, the dialectics of reflexive discourse lead to experiencing religious acceptance, to say “yes” to life, to no more intimate secrets, but to accept, instead, the gossip that spreads to the infinite, and that contradicts itself at the same time. Here, the Christian promise is projected as a question: if behind Grace’s veil there is nothing, why, in the first place, you wanted to undress Beauty? Language cannot speak about language. Revelation is not accessible through language, it is pure immanence, is to think the outside, and to rethink reflexive discourse from the standpoint of silence. A fly buzzes inside a glass. The glass is in silence, but the whole breaths beyond that glass.

I suspect that all possible tragedies can be distilled into one: the passage of time. Is this a utopia of fiction? Can optimism begin here? Can it begin in the current circumstances, after all sad speeches have been delivered, and the long culture of martyrdom and lamentation gets finally brought to an end? Since Romanticism is impossible to escape, Gaspar suggests a journey from the Romantic utopia of change, of perpetual movement, to the utopia of fiction. If Batman is going to save us, are we going to get fucked?

Does it make sense to make a movie when there is nothing New to say? I suspect that all types of creations and recreations are a kind of flight, a kind of stroll with the impossible child of our childhood; that one we have never ceased to be. And truth is the search for the Truth with an uppercase “t”, and, therefore, the creation Process of this gospel is an act of faith, an act of idiocy and of cheerful stubbornness.

O Quinto Evanxeo de Gaspar Hauser is a Nobody’s movie, a Nobody that lives surrounded by the darkness of knowing himself impossible, while enjoying, at the same time, the freedoms that lock him in a small size cell. Should this remind us of that Gaspar Hauser’s pre-linguistic phase, as much as, those avatars of social media and our narcissism 2.0? As an object of study, will we find, in the concept of the auto-readymade, the challenging solution to the paradox of the self-referencing subject?

As Gaspar says: “What keeps men together is not nature or the feeling of reclusion within the boundaries of language, but the vision of language itself, any language, any signifying methods that men use”.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

The Missing Picture (2013)

The Missing Picture (2013)
Director:Rithy Panh
Country: Cambodia
Runtime: 92 min

The Missing Picture (French: L'image manquante) is a 2013 Cambodian-French documentary film directed by Rithy Panh about the Khmer Rouge. It was screened in the Un Certain Regard section at the 2013 Cannes Film Festival where it won the top prize. It was also screened in the World Cinema section at the 2013 Cinemanila International Film Festival where it won the Grand Jury Prize.

The film has been selected as the Cambodian entry for the Best Foreign Language Film at the 86th Academy Awards, and was nominated.

" My children, I look for as a lost picture. Or rather, it is she who calls me . Is it because I'm 50 ? " This past dating back as excessive wave, that's life of a young Cambodian broken 13 years , which in a few months , under the Khmer Rouge regime , see disappear most of his family and survives alongside daily death and horror in labor camps . But it is also the quiet happiness destroyed by genocide, " the world before , music , sweetness , family " , whose memory is no less dangerous for that was irretrievably lost . These images that burn in memory? mass murder , the family home in Phnom Penh? remain ever found in reality. Then the narrator filmmaker revives his way. " With land and water, with the dead , rice fields, with live hands , a man is doing. Just not much . Just want . His costume is white, his dark tie . I would hold it against me. This is my father ... "

Through the magic of cinema, purifies the comment, the talent of a sculptor who is born under the eye of the characters, sets and props clay camera, then carefully painted, Rithy Pahn manages to evoke with always contained a powerful and which for so many survivors, remains inexpressible emotion: the suffering experienced day after day, the pain of surviving, love for those lost. Counterpoint propaganda images filmed by the regime, its tiny clay dolls, animated amazingly humanity restore all the inhumanity of four years of Khmer Rouge terror.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)
Director: Jim Jarmusch
Country: UK
Runtime: 123 min

Noted indie director Jim Jarmusch directs the vampire story Only Lovers Left Alive. Tom Hiddleston stars as Adam, a bloodsucker who makes a living as a reclusive musician. He reunites with the love of his life, Eve (Tilda Swinton) a fellow vampire who leaves her home overseas to be with him in the downtrodden Motor City. They eventually get a visit from Eve's irresponsible sister (Mia Wasikowska) who irritates Adam and eventually causes trouble with the one human - the vampires refer to the living as zombies -- with whom the depressed music hero gets along.

Omar (2013)

Omar (2013)
Director: Hany Abu-Assad
Country:  Palestine
Runtime:  96 min

Omar (Adam Bakri) is a Palestinian baker who routinely climbs over the separation wall to meet up with his girl Nadja (Leem Lubany). By night, he's either a freedom fighter or a terrorist -- you decide -- ready to risk his life to strike at the Israeli military with his childhood friends Tarek (Eyad Hourani) and Amjad (Samer Bisharat). Arrested after the killing of an Israeli soldier and tricked into an admission of guilt by association, he agrees to work as an informant. So begins a dangerous game-is he playing his Israeli handler (Waleed F. Zuaiter) or will he really betray his cause? And who can he trust on either side?

Tuesday, March 04, 2014

You and the Night (2013)

You and the Night (2013)
Director: Yann Gonzalez
Country: France
Runtime: 98 min

A slut, a star, a stud and a teen all walk into an orgy... If you think there’s a punchline to this joke, then you haven’t yet seen You and the Night (Les Rencontres d’apres minuit), a visually exquisite, occasionally hilarious, and intermittently trying meditation on sex, love, dreams, death, camp and kitsch that marks a promising feature debut from French filmmaker Yann Gonzalez. Picture The Breakfast Club remixed by Jean Cocteau, Paul Morrissey, Dario Argento and Peter Greenaway, and you’ll get an inkling of what this avant-garde item has in store.

Definitely too experimental for widespread art-house play, Night should nonetheless find solid festival bookings, as well as niche theatrical play, following its out of competition premiere in the Critics’ Week. Above all, it will establish Gonzalez, whose well-regarded shorts (Entracte, Three Celestial Bodies) have already played various Cannes sidebars, as a bold new director to look out for.

While the pitch—seven Frenchies participate in a midnight orgy—promises something like Emmanuelle meets Francois Ozon, the film is less a prototype of artsy, subtitled porn than it is a lyrically made mindf---, using eroticism to explore the psychological and phantasmagorical backstories of its horny cast of characters. It’s also quite funny in parts, dishing out a few outré gags and, in one instance, an x-large prosthetic penis (worn by none other than soccer legend Eric Cantona) to mine laughs out of what increasingly becomes a trippy, dreamlike affair.

Without further ado, we’re quickly introduced to the young Ali (talented American actress Kate Moran) and her beau Matthias (Niels Schneider, Heartbeats), who await the night’s events along with their uber-queer man-maid, Udo (Nicolas Maury, delivering some of the script’s best lines). One by one the guests arrive: first there’s The Slut (Julie Bremond), then The Stud (Cantona), The Teen (Alain Rabien Delon, son of the great Alain Delon) and finally, The Star (Fanienne Babe, Thieves).

If these all sound like clichés, that’s the point, and Gonzalez uses a structure similar to the 1985 John Hughes comedy, with the characters gradually laying themselves bare (sometimes literally) as the stereotypes tumble and their true natures are revealed. Yet the director also has something quite different in mind, and as the action moves more and more into fantasy mode, Night ultimately becomes less of a character study—which sometimes makes it drag at 90 minutes—than a sexually infused journey into the nature of storytelling, myths and film form itself.

The latter aspect is clearly where the movie succeeds most, with Gonzalez employing a number of deliberately fake studio techniques (day for night, rear-screen projection, a painted sunset) to amplify the artificial nature of both the settings and subject matter, resulting in several bewitchingly beautiful sequences, particularly in the dreams and flashbacks.

Elegant cinematography from Simon Beaufils, overtly kitschy sets from Sidney Dubois, and an electro score from M83 that evokes both Vangelis and Daft Punk, make for an impressive tech package that winds up gets much mileage out of limited means.

Monday, March 03, 2014

Light in the Yellow Breathing Space (2012)

Light in the Yellow Breathing Space (2012)
Director: Vimukthi Jayasundara
Runtime: 40 min

 This is one strange semi-feature (40 minutes long) film. At first, you would think it's about a young boy who comes home to spend time with his dying father. They go off into the woods. Then from there, it turns into something that I can best describe as The Tree of Life if it was directed by Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

Friday, February 28, 2014

A Touch of Sin (2013)

A Touch of Sin (2013)
Director: Zhangke Jia
Country: China
Runtime: 133 min

An angry miner revolts against the corruption of his village leaders. A migrant worker at home for the New Year discovers the infinite possibilities a firearm can offer. A pretty receptionist at a sauna is pushed to the limit when a rich client assaults her. A young factory worker goes from job to job trying to improve his lot in life. Four people, four different provinces.

Jia's world has its own geography. It (re)organized China into a personal map, where almost  everything starts and ends in the filmmaker's native province of Shanxi. It is the starting point and the ultimate "home." This is where Xiao Wu the pickpocket operated, where the itinerant performers of Zhantai (Platform, 2000) roamed, where the sad heroes of Ren xiao yao (Unknown Pleasures, 2002) burnt their lives out, where the migrant worker of San Xia hao ren (Still Life 2006) and Shijie (The World, 2004) came from.  This is where Tian zhu ding starts and finishes at the end of a tragic "tour." The cities of Fenyang or Datong, the countryside and the murderous privatized coal mines have long been a compass to Jia's filmic China.
 Here Shanxi has two "alter ego" characters. One is called "Sanming," and the other is played by Wang Hongwei. Wang Hongwei was Xiao Wu, and Xiao Wu has a filmic biography that made him a small town crook again in Ren xiao yao. In Tian zhu ding, Wang/Wu dies under the blade of the film's lady knight, played by Zhao Tao. He did not make a big fortune, his money came from local corruption. The banknotes he slaps Zhao Tao's Xiaoyu with are somehow archaic: archaic money compared with the very modern money of the clients of the night club "Golden Age." We see the class differences among crooks and bullies.

The other character mirroring Shanxi and Wang's Xiao Wu is "Sanming," the miner, the worker. Not a "favorite actor" and maybe hardly a regular "film character;" more a person and a figure of destiny.  Sanming's status never changes. Time has passed, from his place in Platform as the "about to work at the mine" cousin of Wang Hongwei's character, to his story as a Shanxi miner looking for his fiancée in Still Life. "Sanming" has not changed: In Tian zhu ding, he is the first person Dahai meets when entering the mine canteen, and  the one who sees him off when he goes "hunting." He is on the boat to Chongqing-Fengjie where we meet again the assassin San'er (actor Wang Baoqiang, who started with Blind Shaft, a film about miners, before becoming a huge TV star). An almost voiceless worker, whose low-key design is the representation of a "prolonged sorrow,"  "Sanming" is a figure of the people, the "lao bai xing ("old hundred surnames," old being here the adjective for a warm touch), workers or peasants, younger or older. Yet Jia's vision is neither a nostalgic nor a merely compassionate one: it is subtly lyrical. "Sanming" is the hero of a ballad than is sung from film to film, whose virtues are told in an undertone, far from the glossy vulgarity of official images and globalized show-business. In Tian zhu ding, "Sanming" has a younger avatar: Xiao Hui lives the fate of the new age of Chinese industrial boom. Textile and computer factories, huge dormitories, quickly built cities and malls are the coal mines of a globalized economy.
 ia's geography has its bitterly ironical El Dorado. It is a place that is never seen, but mentioned and referred to in all his films: Mongolia, the province north of Shanxi.  "It snows over Mongolia and Shanxi" says the weather forecast Lianrong reads to Xiao Hui at the Golden Age. Mongolia as a mysterious promise of another life, the goal of a journey that will never be made, a dream place, even if a real one. An utopia never to be realized, a new home never to be found, or a "next world" for hungry ghosts.  In Tian zhu ding, the Mongolia of San'er's bandit is Burma, a place where guns are cheap. To each his El Dorado. On Jia's map, the "capital city" is never seen. It has a name, though: "Zhongnanhai in Peking." This is where Dahai wants to send his petition. Zhongnanhai is the domain which serves as central headquarters to the government and the Communist Party Central Committee. Some call it "the other forbidden city." In Tian zhu ding, it is enough for Dahai to write the name. But the post office girl insists that "the address is incomplete." Another Mongolia, another illusion.

Jia's geography has a central region: the provinces of Sichuan and the neighbor province of Hubei.  This is where Tian zhu ding's Sanming is going to spend the New Year's holiday. More specifically, in the city of Fengjie that was wiped out of the map by the Three Gorges Dam (Still Life).  San'er is headed to his home village halfway between Wuhan and Chongqing, while Zhao Tao/Xiaoyu's home city is Yichang. Thus, the triangle where the Three Gorges Dam is. The filmic "central region" is the huge controversial symbol of  a country's official politics of "modernization." An emblem, a key reality to tell the wiping out of the past, the uprooting of millions. Destruction disguised as construction: a leitmotiv.

Going South means heading toward the "modern world": a globalized universe where hopes and necessities are confronted with the updated forms of oppression, as dreams are challenged by the glossy illusions of globalized high life. In the South are the "special economic zones" in the province of Canton: the megalopolis of the Pearl River delta (one of the first to open to foreign investments) and Dongguan, where young worker Xiao Hui meets Lianrong, before injustice catches up with him and throws him into despair. In Jia's geography, the South is the place where linguistics complete the mapping. With extreme attention and precision, he makes every character (professional actor or not) speak the "right" language: whether through dialect or the use of accents. Language is the constant reminder that someone is "from somewhere," geographically and socially. In the never ending travels of the migrants, dialect is the fragile link with "home", the basis for some solidarity, the last trace of a personal identity.  The presence of national standard Chinese (continental putonghua and Taiwanese guoyu) is clearly here an occasion for a critical variation on "newspeaks": the communist vocabulary is a farce in the "leader's train wagon" sex play, television shouts the bombastic formulas of "harmonious" society, the welcoming sentences imposed by the night club manager are the archaic formulas of old times servility, and the businessmen's language is an anthology of readymade managerial slogans. There is a crisis in language. Dialects and accents are a territory where language is neither "communication" nor coercion but a fragile means of free expression and resistance. [...] (Marie-Pierre Duhamel - link)

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Reklamfilm Bris. Tredimensionellt (1953)

Reklamfilm Bris. Tredimensionellt (1953)
Director:Ingmar Bergman

In 1951 there was a conflict in the Swedish film industry. The production companies had declared a ban on filming in protest against the high rate of tax on entertainment. Recently remarried, Ingmar Bergman, found himself with three families to support, and his contract with the Gothenburg City Theatre had expired. In order to earn any income whatsoever that year, he agreed to direct nine commercial for Bris soap on behalf of Swedish Unilever. It seems more than a coincidence that Sweden's most famous film director should be the one to take the country's advertising to a higher plane: the Bris films were the most lavishly funded that the country had ever seen.

The films were made under highly serious and professional conditions. Bergman was given access to the same technical equipment that he would have used for a feature film, and he chose Gunnar Fischer as his cameraman. He also had total control over the films from screenplay through to final cut.

"Originally, I accepted the Bris commercials in order to save the lives of my self and my families. But that was really secondary. The primary reason I wanted to make the commercials was that I was given free rein with money and I could do exactly what I wanted with the product's message. Anyhow, I have always found it difficult to feel resentment when industry comes rushing toward culture, check in hand. My whole cinematic career has been sponsored by private capital. I have never been able to live on my beautiful eyes alone! As an employer, capitalism is brutally honest and rather generous - when it deems it beneficial. Never do you doubt your day-to-day value - a useful experience which will toughen you."

Saturday, February 08, 2014

Astigmatismo (2013)

Astigmatismo (2013)
Director: Nicolaï Troshinsky
Country: Spain
Runtime: 4 min

“Astigmatismo” is a short-film about the feeling of being lost. This feeling is created thanks to an extreme blur effect, leaving only a very tiny space in focus. The focus shifts and moves rhythmically, synchronized with the sounds and the music, revealing a constantly changing landscape.

The optical effect of blur is at the core of the film, so to make this effect as beautiful and authentic as possible "Astigmatismo" is shot in a 5-level multiplane using a special lens. The animation involves cut-out marionettes and paint on glass. Everything is entirely made by hand and there are no post production effects.

It is, however, computer-assisted. The camera and the lens were entirely controlled by computer making it possible to adjust the focus and the depth of field with extreme precision, allowing for a variety of focus effects that wouldn't have been possible to create otherwise. In this way, the film combines old school animation techniques with recent advances in camera technology.

Sunday, February 02, 2014

Hidden Colors (2011)

Hidden Colors (2011)
Director: Tariq Nasheed
Country: USA
Runtime: 110 min

Hidden Colors is a documentary about the real and untold history of people of color around the globe. This film discusses some of the reasons the contributions of African and aboriginal people have been left out of the pages of history. Traveling around the country, the film features scholars, historians, and social commentators who uncovered such amazing facts about things such as: The original image of Christ; The true story about the Moors; The original people of Asia; The great west African empires; The presence of Africans in America before Columbus; The real reason slavery was ended And much more.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Fishing Without Nets (2012)

Fishing Without Nets (2012)
Director: Cutter Hodierne
Country: Somalia
Runtime: 15 min 

In Somalia, principled, young husband and father Abdi turns to piracy to support his family. While his wife and child wait for him in Yemen, an outdated and fragile satellite phone is his only connection to all he truly values. Abdi and his fellow pirates hit the high seas and capture a French oil tanker, demanding a hefty ransom. During the long, tedious wait for the cash to arrive, Abdi forges a tentative friendship with one of the hostages. When some of the pirates resort to violence, Abdi must make dramatic choices to determine his course. Shot in East Africa using Somali nonactors, Fishing Without Nets tells the mesmerizing and sobering story of the bandits from the Somali point of view. First-time feature filmmaker Cutter Hodierne, whose short film of the same name won the Jury Prize in Short Filmmaking at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, combines the epic cinematic vision of a glorious action thriller with the intimate, textured qualities of an art film, humanizing the pirates ...

Drew: The Man Behind the Poster (2013)

Drew: The Man Behind the Poster (2013)
Director: Erik Sharkey
Country: USA
Runtime: 97 min

Filmmaker Erik Sharkey pays tribute to prolific movie poster artist Drew Struzan in this documentary featuring interviews with such luminaries as Steven Spielberg, George Lucas, Frank Darabont, and Guillermo del Toro, each of whom has previously commissioned the artist to immortalize their films in poster form.

Redemption (2013)

Redemption (2013)
Director: Miguel Gomes
Country: Portugal
Runtime: 26 min

On January 21, 1975, in a village in the north of Portugal, a child writes to his parents who are in Angola to tell them how sad Portugal is. On July 13, 2011, in Milan, an old man remembers his first love. On May 6, 2012, in Paris, a man tells his baby daughter that he will never be a real father. During a wedding ceremony on September 3, 1977 in Leipzig, the bride battles against a Wagner opera that she can’t get out of her head.
But where and when have these four poor devils begun searching for redemption?

 Miguel Gomes (Tabu) muses with characteristic humour and melancholia upon small-scale, perversely prescient moments of human fallibility in this witty and affecting found-footage film.
Redemption features Rodrigues' confrere and countryman Miguel Gomes musing with characteristic humour and melancholia upon small-scale, perversely prescient moments of human fallibility. A witty and affecting montage of colour Super 8 and black-and-white 16mm found footage is accompanied by four epistolary monologues (in Portuguese, Italian, French and German), each of which betrays a sense of haunting guilt or deep-seated regret. Whose redemption is this?

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Heli (2013)

Heli (2013)
Director: Amat Escalante
Country: Mexico
Runtime: 105 min

Heli (Armando Espitia), the protagonist of Amat Escalante's 2013 Palme d'Or nominee of the same name, is a young Mexican who lives with his father, his son, his young wife (Linda Gonzalez) and 12-year-old sister, Estella (Andrea Vergara). He's prone to bad luck, keen on his naps and, when a census taker comes to the house, hesitates about how many people live there with him. However, when 17-year-old army cadet Beto (Juan Eduardo Palacios) falls in love with Estella and makes plans for the two of them to run away together, Heli's cataclysmic knee-jerk reaction will plunge the family into pitiless and brutal violence.

Narrative films concerned with roving drug gangs, political corruption and barbaric acts of extreme and horrendous violence are depressingly common nowadays and have formed the backdrop for several high profile Hollywood movies in recent years, including Oliver Stone's Savages (2012) and Mexico's own Miss Bala (2011). However, Escalante's Heli - the director of Sangre, Los Bastardos and a close friend of fellow countryman Carlos Reygadas (Silent Light, Post Tenebras Lux) - provides us with an uncompromisingly dark look at his nation's plight, showing clearly how some families live in impossible situations with no hope of escape, short of keeping their heads down and fingers crossed.

The details are telling: the American advisor who implements the most disgusting and degrading humiliations on his cadet students; the doctors who refuse abortions to rape victims; the politicians who will burn drugs as a photo opportunity but will do nothing to address the real problem. The brutality on display in Heli is at times almost impossible to watch, as it should be. A horrific torture scene takes place - made worse by the fact that it is interrupting a computer game - and there's a disapproving mother who occasionally peeks from the kitchen to see what the young lads are up to. There's also a subplot about Heli and his wife's sex life, as they attempt some normality in the midst of the madness.

Escalante avoids numerous well-worn social realist clichés and creates (at times) genuine beauty, evoking the place with a an eye for atmosphere. Yet ultimately, it's the pain and madness of the foreground - a country in a state of pitiless war with itself and in which there is very little place for ordinary life - which will dominate. By simply avoiding complete despair Heli hints at hope, but remains an intense and disturbing experience nonetheless.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Shirley: Visions of Reality (2013)

Shirley: Visions of Reality (2013)
Director: Gustav Deutsch
Country: Austria
Runtime: 92 min

13 of Edward Hopper’s paintings are brought alive by the film, telling the story of a woman, whose thoughts, emotions and contemplations lets us observe an era in American history.

Directors statement

As the starting point for this film, which has at its heart the staging of reality and the dialogue of painting and film, I selected Edward Hopper’s picturesque oeuvre, which on the one hand was influenced by film noir – in his choice of lighting, subject and framing as seen in paintings such as Night Windows (1938), Office at Night (1940), Room in New York (1932) and his irect references to cinema such as in New York Movie (1939) and Intermission (1963) – and on the other hand influenced filmmakers such as Alfred Hitchcock, Jim Jarmusch, Martin Scorsese and Wim Wenders.

Based on my conviction that history is made up of personal stories and influenced by my reading of John Dos Pasos’ USA novel trilogy[1] in which the life stories and destinies of a few are representative of the wider public and social and cultural history of America, I have chosen an actress as the film’s protagonist – Shirley – through whose reflective and contemplative inner monologues we experience America from the beginning of the 1930’s through to the mid-1960’s.