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.