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 While his wife and child wait for him in Yemen, an outdated and fragile satellite phone is his only connection to all he truly values.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.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Conversation Piece (2013)

Conversation Piece (2013)
Director: Gabriela Golder
Country: Argentina
Runtime: 18 min

Two girls read the Communist Manifesto with her grandmother. Girls ask for understanding. There are many concepts they don't understand, words. A familiar scene, a conversation piece

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

A.C.A.B. All Cats Are Brilliant (2012)

A.C.A.B. All Cats Are Brilliant (2012)
Director: Constantina Voulgaris
Country: Greece
Runtime: 88 min  

Helectra is a young woman in her early 30’s living in contemporary Athens. She is an artist but makes her money as a babysitter. She lives with her dog in the dirty, crowded centre of Athens. She is an activist and she lives her life in a non -conformist way. She looks much more confident and strong than she really is. She is lonely, scared and struggles to find her place in the world. Although she is 30, she still lives as a student. She doesn’t mind, but sometimes she feels the pressure to “grow up” and be “like everybody”. She has a relationship with Manousos, a working class 37 year old man, an idealist, a hardcore anarchist who is in prison, facing the antiterrorist law.
Her best friend is Petros, the 8 year old boy she abysits. They discuss politics, art, relationships, their need to be loved, their need to feel wanted by their families. Her parents are middle class leftists, intellectuals who have lived in the great period of the 60’s and who still think of themselves as rebels. Although they speak highly of the “revolution” they still want their daughter to “get a real job”, to find “a good husband”, all the clichés that every parents what for their kids. The only person she opens herself to, is Argyris. A 55 year old man who walks his dog in the same park she walks hers.
Argyris is an architect, married with a teenage daughter who always gets into trouble. She feels free to speak to him about all her worries, all the uncertainties that she has. She invites him to the big event she is planning. With a group of activists and neighbors they occupy an abandonded parking lot and they make it a community park. They plant trees and they put playground toys. The whole neighborhood is out there. Helectra is with them, she tries to dance but she is shy. She tries a bit harder and at the end she finds her rhythm!

The Sun Against My Eyes (2013)

The Sun Against My Eyes (2013)
Directors: Flora Dias, Juruna Mallon
Country: Brazil
Runtime: 65 min

A man comes to his home after a day of work and finds her wife dead. Without saying a word, but broken inside, he puts the body in a suitcase, loads it in the back seat of his car, and drives out to the road heading for the ocean –he never left Brasilia, the city where he was born. She was very different from him –a traveller, always seeking new experiences– and will survive in the man’s memory for the duration of the man’s trip from the Brazilian interior to the hills in Rio de Janeiro state. Fueled by the silent emotional breakdown of its lead, Dias and Mallon’s sensitive road movie moves forward through impressive landscapes and spontaneous encounters with characters that might help the man in his aim of personal reconstruction, or at least keep him safe from pain.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Whose is this song? (2003)

Whose is this song? (2003)
Director: Adela Peeva
Country: Belgium | Bulgaria
Runtime:     1h 10mn

In a small nice restaurant in Istanbul I was having dinner with friends from various Balkan countries - a Greek, a Macedonian, a Turk, a Serb, and me, the Bulgarian. There I heard The Song.
As soon as it sounded we all started singing it, everyone in his own language. Everyone claimed that the song came from his own country. Then we found ourselves caught in a fierce fight - Whose is this Song?
The event in the Istanbul restaurant did not leave my mind at rest. I knew from my childhood that the song was Bulgarian. I wanted to find out why the others also claimed the song was theirs. This is how the film started.
The film action takes place in the countries of the Balkan region. The situation is in itself rather comic - the fight to prove that no one other than us can create such a beautiful song. At times this fight becomes tragicomic and dramatic, takes twists and springs, surprises with the metamorphoses of the song and the emotions of the participants in the film.
“Whose is this song?” is a film which treats with a sense of humor some typical Balkan traits including our constant strife to usurp somebody else's possession and at the same time keep what is ours to ourselves.
In addition to this, “Whose is this song” is a film about a song and the transformations it underwent on its travels along the roads of the Balkans: in the different countries it has different faces and exists as a love song, a military march meant to scare the enemy off, a Muslim religious song, a revolutionary song, an anthem of the right nationalists, etc.
Could a song change people's destinies? Could a song bring lovers together and then arouse blind jealousy? Could a song haunt a man for his whole life and even beyond? Could a song give rise to ethnic hatred or to revenge by hanging?
-- Adela Peeva

Friday, January 17, 2014

Borgman (2013)

Borgman (2013)
Director: Alex van Warmerdam
Country: Netherlands
Runtime: 113 min

'Borgman' tells the story of a drifter (Jan Bijvoet) that slowly but suddenly takes control of the lives of a young, wealthy family living in a beautiful mansion somewhere in the Netherlands. The movie begins with a scene in a forest, where Borgman, i.e. the drifter, and some of his associates are chased from their underground hiding places by a group of holy workers (lead by the-always-inspiring Pierre Bokma). Soon after their escape, Borgman alone seemingly randomly knocks on the doors of the houses of very wealthy people, asking if he can use bathing facilities in their house. In attempt to do good after a brutal beating by her husband (Jeroen Perceval), Marina (Hadewijch Minis) helps Borgman by giving him temporary shelter in the garden shed. That was all that the intimidating but darkly intriguing character of Borgman needed to unfold his diabolical plans...

Although Borgman is a layered surrealistic film, and probably therefore sometimes slow and hard to understand, its message is clear and the story is continuously compelling. Especially intriguing are the biblical aspects, which are always subtly present in the background, and which give the film a dark, tense character. Not being a religious person, the movie does trigger an interest in the spiritual, or better, meta-ethics, which won't leave you alone for several days afyer having watched it. The excellent performances of Jan Bijvoet and Hadewijch Minis are crucial in delivering the very strong script.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Goltzius and the Pelican Company (2012)

Goltzius and the Pelican Company (2012)
Director: Peter Greenaway
Country: UK | Netherlands
Runtime: 128 min

Peter Greenaway offers up another thickly layered, and this time heavily licentious, crash course in revisionist art history with his latest neo-Baroque creation, Goltzius and the Pelican Company.

Composed of several vibrantly assembled tableaux vivants, this multiform study of the great 16th century Dutch printmaker, painter and (as some may believe after seeing this movie) pornographer, is very much in line with the English auteur’s recent wave of installations and video works, which means it should play best to ardent followers and other such culture vultures. Despite an inspired lead performance by F. Murray Abraham, there is also way too much on-screen hanky-panky to give Goltzius broad Stateside exposure, at least of the theatrical kind.

Expanding on a format developed in such literary minded works as the Shakespeare adaptation Prospero’s Books and the Rembrandt portrait, Nightwatching, the movie is much less of a narrative than an assembly of dense visual compositions, with actors performing inside elaborate set-pieces that are amped up by lots of post-production effects, including written words that appear over the images themselves. This can make for a viewing experience that’s often exhausting and sometimes enervating, although the action is laced with enough energy and humor to compensate for the excess imagery and rather excessive 2-hour-plus running time.

Set in the year 1590, the story follows Hendrick Goltzius (Ramsey Nasr) and his crew of writers, workers and performers as they arrive in Colmar at the palace of a rich and powerful margrave (Abraham), who the engraver hopes will finance a printing press he can use to publish illustrated versions of the Old Testament and the works of Ovid. In order to seal the deal, Goltzius needs to titillate the nobleman and his court with live renditions of what he refers to as the “Six Sexual Taboos,” beginning with Adam and Eve’s original sin and covering such transgressions as incest (via the Genesis passages on Lot and his daughters), prostitution (through the tale of Samson and Delilah) and necrophilia (in the story of St. John the Baptiste and Salome).

Bible scholars and art historians will likely take issue with some of the film’s more outlandish interpretations, but the ample displays of lewd behavior are often both entertaining and thought-provoking, lending a whole new decadent flavor to the works of Baroque masters such as Albrecht Dürer and Cornelis van Haarlem.
Indeed, one can come away from Goltzius thinking that Northern Europe in the late 1500’s was very much like Ibiza during the month of August, with the printmaker’s troupe — including playwright Thomas Boethius (Giulio Berruti) and his mistress, Adaela (dancer Kate Moran) — engaging in plenty of foul behavior and showcasing their private parts to no apparent end. This winds up simultaneously arousing and frustrating the margrave, who makes things increasingly dangerous, sometimes tortuously so, for the visiting band of artists. Luckily, when things get really bad, Abraham's character can always bury his head in the breasts of his former milkmaid (Lisette Malidor).

Despite all the outré antics, erections and bouts of simulated intercourse, Greenaway’s ornamented imagery is very far from dirty, and regular cinematographer Reinier van Brummelen creates some lovely visual arrangements as the camera glides back and forth throughout the immense Croatian warehouse where the project was shot. Also helping move things along is the constant tongue-in-cheek narration of Goltzius himself, which Nasr recites with a Dutch accent worthy of the first Die Hard movie — though this seems hardly out of place in such a rowdy cultural collage.

Burning Bush (2013)

Burning Bush (2013)
Director:Agnieszka Holland
Country: Czech Republic

Burning Bush is a three-part mini-series created for HBO by world-renowned Polish director Agnieszka Holland. Based on real characters and events, this haunting drama focuses on the personal sacrifice of a Prague history student, Jan Palach, who set himself on fire in protest against the Soviet occupation of Czechoslovakia in 1969. Dagmar Buresová, a young female lawyer, became part of his legacy by defending Jan's family in a trial against the communist government, a regime which tried to dishonour Palach's sacrifice, a heroic action for the freedom of Czechoslovakia.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Richness of Internal Space (2012)

Richness of Internal Space (2012)
Director: Kai Parlange Tessmann
Country: Mexico
Runtime: 89 min

Lázaro is kidnapped, held in a room, completely isolated from the outside world. Forced to reveal private information about his relatives, and in fear of having betrayed them, Lázaro falls into a drastic abandon of himself. Near death/ Close to death, Lázaro finds a glimmer of hope, which shows him that his heart, will, and mind are not kidnapped nor held, and never will be. By standing the possibility of never being freed, an immense faith, unconditional dignity, and a profound desire for liberty, shows Lázaro the true nature of an unbreakable human spirit.

Two Lives (2012)

Two Lives (2012)
Directors: Georg Maas, Judith Kaufmann
Country: Germany
Runtime: 97 min

Europe 1990, the Berlin wall has just crumbled: Katrine, raised in East Germany, now living in Norway since 20 years, is a war child: the result of a love relationship between a Norwegian woman and a German occupation soldier during World War II. Katrine enjoys a happy family life, with her mother, her husband, daughter and grand-daughter. But when a lawyer asks her and her mother to witness in a trial against the Norwegian state on behalf of the war children, she resists. Gradually, a web of concealment and secrets is unveiled, until Katrine is finally stripped of everything, and her loved ones are forced to take a stand: What carries more weight, the life they have lived together, or the lie it is based on?

Saturday, January 04, 2014

The Congress (2013)

The Congress (2013)
Director:Ari Folman
Country: Israel
Runtime: 122 min

Robin Wright, a Hollywood actress who once held great promise (“The Princess Bride”, “Forest Gump”), receives an unexpected offer in mid-life: Mirramount Studios want to scan her entire being into their computers and purchase ownership of her image for an astronomical fee. After she is scanned, the studio will be allowed to make whatever films it wishes with the 3-D Robin, including all the blockbusters she chose not to make during her career. As if that were not inducement enough, the studio promises to keep the new 3D Robin forever young in the movies. She will always be thirty-something, a stunning beauty who never grows old. In return, Robin will receive tons of money but shell be forbidden to appear on any kind of stage for all eternity. Despite her deep internal resistance, Robin eventually signs the contract, since she understand that in the economy of scanned actors, its her only way to stay in the business, but even more crucial, Robin can give her son Aaron, who suffers from a rare disorder, the best treatment money can buy. The contract is valid for 20 years.