camel-9

IMDb member since August 1999
    Lifetime Total
    50+
    IMDb Member
    21 years

Reviews

Ticket to Jerusalem
(2002)

checkpoint frustrations
Everyday life in the west bank. No violence. The queues at the checkpoint, the lack of jobs, the occasional shouting with the spouse, the friendships. More like a reality TV show following the everyday life of a citizen crossing chasms between two cultures, religions, languages, and physical barriers. Also noted that the greatest percentage of votes in this website were in the lowest category available ("1"). I would argue that those voters were politically motivated, and did not consider the overall motion picture quality, which was decent and engaging and not boring. Because there are considerable outdoor scenes that involve military equipment, curious wether the Israelis provided some support for this production.

L'imbalsamatore
(2002)

a fix for not feeling lonely
A neat little gem, this movie. Not the greatest, but yet, approaches with a careful plot, the relationships between several people. Shot in outdoor location of Castel Volturno, a grayish wintery concrete condominium on the coast between Rome and Naples, and using direct sound and not the usual studio-added dialogues, it gives an immediate feel and support for the main character, Peppino, who, feeling lonely, convinces a young man to follow him into his trade of taxidermy. Peppino is a virtuoso in establishing relationships, and like a magician, he moves his hands and talks big without really revealing much, and gets the young man's attention. It reminded me a bit of "L.I.E.". Would love to see the actor and Danny de Vito in a movie together.

Femme Fatale
(2002)

remake of "Obsession"
was struck half-way into the film of how awkward the plot and acting was, considering that there are sophisticated "quality control" processes to ensure a multi-million dollar investment such as producing such a motion picture with such an established film director, and yet, half-way into the movie, I was beginning to laugh at how ridicolous certain assumptions were being made of the audience. Lets face it, motion picture is a product, and it has a carefully scripted marketability. Its plot, trailer, poster, ad, actor appeal, are often shaped and designed to please a certain demographics. In this case, the nude lesbian embracing in loving kisses and body tangles was appealing to middle aged men. Same for the strip and teasing scene. The actor Antonio Banderas would have had an appeal to the women audience, but it just wasn't his part. He's much better that was he was told to do. The assumptions made about how men see women reminded me an earlier movie filmed by the same director, "Obsession". The role of a venerating husband, the businessman then, and the ambassador now, is unequivokably the same. And this up-closeness of observing how women behave and what their true nature is, as in the scene of the nervous breakdown before attempting suicide, is so archaically silly [and btw: heavily emphasized in a musical score of violins]. The only redeeming features of this motion picture is the visual detail and stunning crafting and care of complex sets, as the camera rotates 180 in the outdoor Paris street scene, incling a visual on a church front with people waiting for the sun to come out to be photographed, two workers gluing a poster on a wall, delivery men, a truck, children chasing a ball, two women seated at a cafe, woman feet in slow-motion running followed by feet of two men, also in slow-motion. Great visuals, but stupid assumptions of what men think about women. Like "Obsession", the director must be obsessed with them. They are simply a facade to which we guys will fight our guts for. As in "Scarface", when Al Pacino talks to the blonde, which, btw, never acts, and is only a face, a FACADE, and he says to her, "I need you, a real tiger, so I can go right to the top".

Cidade de Deus
(2002)

brazilian "Salam Bombay"
gangs of children in the squallor of cities are inspirational:

1946 - Sciuscia' (Italy) 1950 - Los Olvivados (Mexico) 1986 - Salaam Bombay (India) 2002 - Cidade de Deus (Brazil)

Windtalkers
(2002)

boring and repetitive
just like in Bollywood indian flicks there must be three songs, in this John Woo war movie there must be three battles. Repetitive, always the same bullets perforating bodies, limbs flying, corpses blown apart. And when the Yanks are killing Japs, bombastic classical Hollywood-style music celebrates the imagery. If an attempt was made trying to build characters, like in MIDNIGHT CLEAR, it just was blatantly hypocritical, as shown when Chick, who is clearly a Custer fan and redskin hater, then falls in love with them after his life is saved in close combat.

Samotári
(2000)

a Czech Nanni Moretti film
somewhat slow in developing the characters, but towards the end, a three-minute clip was incredibly rewarding: a family of two parents agree to being "seen" in the real and in the flesh by a group of 20 japanese tourists while having dinner inside in the privacy of their home. Daughter comes in. Sees the two parents seated, and on the rim of the dining room, twenty voyeours each holding a video camera. An ensuing discussion begins, with the parents disagreeing that the daughter sees a married man. The genius is that the tour operator, present in the room and who is translating in real-time from czech to japanese the dialogues between parent and daughter, is the married man's wife, and she knows the husband is having this affair. Under the strain of translating the dialogue that indirectly involves her, she cannot hold back a few tears. For the japanese, the crescendo of the dialogue is a rare opportunity in entering a private family domain, something that japanese culture would never allow, and they are grateful and express it with a emotional applause at the end. They also apologize en masse by all bowing with the video camera rolling when translator says something about them intruding. A genius short scene.

Khrustalyov, mashinu!
(1998)

merge of Fellini's 8 1/2 and Katchor's Julius Knipl
clearly, this is a film for which either one votes 10 or votes 3. Those artsy folks will hail it a great feat, and those folks that wish to be entertained will walk out of the theather. A black and white film, the titles appear only after about 10 minutes of pivoting plots, kind of reminded me how the titles suddenly appeared in Sergio Leone's "Once Upon a Time the West". The random appearence of people's faces from left and right, some emerging from sauna tubs, others from foggy and steamy rooms, reminds Fellini's Otto e Mezzo. And much of the interiors, people's musings on everyday life, and the "life goes on" quality of city life, reminds the graphic novel by Ben Katchor, "Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer". On the absurbist twists and plots, "The Nose" by Gogol comes to mind, and the slight fantastic world (look out for those umbrellas suddenly popping open) brings Bulgakov's "The Master and Margarita". Rich (but senseless) plot, lots of takes, lots of baroquely enriched interiors, outdoor scenes of streets in snowy winter and the muffled sound of cars rolling on snow. Even the title is random: a sentence one hears being yelled by one of the many many characters. Now, if Francesco Rosi's "La Tregua" had a bit of this randomness and absurbist quality to give more of the feel of directionless of war's end, it would have been great.

Musulmanin
(1995)

too long - too boring
Nice shots of countryside, ponds, meadows, log cabins. But aside from that, it was too slow and the dialogs too boring. Not an urbanite bunch, small rural village society but presented awkwardly and grotesque (take for example the scene of people jumping into the river to catch dollar bills floating).

Rito terminal
(2000)

slow
saw the description: "filmed in beatiful mountains of Oaxaca". But one hardly sees any outdoor scenery. The takes were slow. Too lengthy. Hardly anything happens for 40 minutes at the mid-point. Had to get a fix for my ADD to wash off my annoyance, and rented a fast-action thriller video later.

Die Unberührbare
(2000)

nevrotic, black&white, and cigarette smoke
do you like to watch a black&white shot that last 5 minutes of theater time watching a still on someone talking on the phone about her neuroses and chain smoking cigarettes? then this movie is for you. The only good scene was the male prostitute (he asked for 400 DM) putting at ease his client (Franco Citti in ACCATONE was good too).

El coronel no tiene quien le escriba
(1999)

great cinematography
a bit slow and boring, the tale of an old man and his wife living a delapidated building and interacting with a fixed cast of characters like the mailman, the brothers sitting on the porch, the wealthy cigar smoking man. The photography of the river is marvelous, as is the interior period decoration. If you like decoration of Banana Republic stores, this is a must.

Kiss of Death
(1995)

disappointing given the array of good actors
given the array of gifted actors, it is surprising how disappointing this motion picture has been. The roles seem stereotyped, and forced into cliches. The dialogues had a canny taste, the ones you could tell were produced by a bunch of screen writers that had to scratch their heads really hard to come up with a punch line and sound "kool". Simply having good actors doesn't mean the movie must be good.

Bajo California: El límite del tiempo
(1998)

spiritual rediscovery to native desert lands
story of a spiritual journey of a losangelitos returning to the land of his ancestors in the rocky mountains of baja california. Style reminds Wim Wenders, in which the main character is a wandering person in search of something that he himself doesn't know, and just like in Wim Wender's films, he too carries a Polaroid camera. Very little dialogue, mostly imagery of rocky mountain desert (very similar to Anza-Borrego state park near San Diego). Initially I was finding the story rather boring and was ready to walk out, but I am glad I didn't: in the second half the story develops into the casual relationship between the character from Los Angeles and his guide, Arce, a local rancher. Again, very parsimonious on dialogue, generous on desert imagery, with a spice here and there of the spiritual rediscovery of attachment to the native land.

Rito terminal
(2000)

slow
saw the description: "filmed in beatiful mountains of Oaxaca". But one hardly sees any outdoor scenery. The takes were slow. Too lengthy. Hardly anything happens for 40 minutes at the mid-point. Had to get a fix for my ADD to wash off my annoyance, and rented a fast-action thriller video later.

Così ridevano
(1998)

mezza sola
"mezza sola" means half a shoe sole in italian. It is an expression used to describe something that didn't quite satisfy. After all the oop-la, the expectations for this motion picture were high. But at the end, our "stomachs" were left empty. Production-wise, it was poor: most of the shots are indoors, with very few outdoor shots. In the entire movie length, only one vehicle is seen. The movie is billed as the emigrant experience of a southern italian to the industrialized city of Turin in the late '50s. It is actually a family drama of the relationship of two brothers. It used the Turin emigrant story as background, and yet the city was hardly seen. If the movie was billed as the story of two brothers in China's Shangai, one could hardly find a problem with it (I say this to emphasize how much the "indoor" shots were dense). Also, each single take seemed to be three seconds too loooong. It is as if the director is in love with the story, he is financing the movie with his own money, and thus he feels justified to make his story told on his long, boring way. The style of the cinematography and costumes is a Spielberg-like focus on a few pivotal items such as rope being used to tie shut-closed the overbulging suitcases, the rawness of clothing, and the thick sician accented dialogues. But, like Spielberg's, this picture was noticeable in that it was a historical drama *intentionally* retouched awash in a sepia-backgrounded memory. To me, it trivialized the story. A more sucessfull aproach is Lina Wertmuller's, that, while certain traits are over emphasized, but justified if the film is not a drama but a comedy, in which the focus is not the manieristic style itself but the story, this in a mannieristic background.

La ciociara
(1960)

miscast bizarre schizo production
Vittorio de Sica= neo-realism director Sophia Loren= sex symbol Alberto Moravia= famous up-and-coming author

The year is 1961, and it is 13 years after bicycle thief. The 50's have gone by and Italy has been all consumed by its decade of Commedia all'Italiana. Sophia Loren is an established sex symbol actress. Moravia is a famous author whose novels are being scripted for movie production. De Sica is an established director. The recipe is just perfect. But the result is a terrible minestrone of different styles, tensions, trends, to produce a schizophrenic bizzare production.

There are numerous neo-realistic scenes of peasants in the Agro Pontino, of living inside the capanne with hay roofs, of getting off trains in the middle of the countryside and carrying luggage on your head the way old peasant women used to do it.

But then there are intruding snippets of comedy, like the old man eyeing the breasts of Sophia Loren and turning his head away when he realizes he's been caught watching (audience laughed), and a caricaturistic portrayal of a german officer that has studied phylosophy in the Universita' di Roma that lists the ambiguities and paradoxes of italians.

What is one to make of this movie? is it a comedy? is it a mix comedy with serious peasant life portrayal?

Towards the end of the movie, a terrible dramatic event makes it clear that the movie must be categorized as a Drama. But then, why all those comedic overtures? It is as if multiple assistant directors worked on the production at different times, each taking its turn. Even the orchestration of the different caracters made no sense. Giovanni, which we see at the beginning of the movie in a powerful entrance, is never to be seen again. Absurd.

The biggest mistake was to cast Sophia Loren. She was too fine to portray the character of a peasant. She looked much more middle class than peasant class, and it simply didn't help at all on the credence of someone abandoning the conforts of city life for the hardships of living in the hills of the Agro Pontino. She was probably cast because producers wanted her role, being it a cash flow for box office sucess. She is too expressive, to volunteering for outbursts of gestures, verbal communication, for her role of a quiet peasant. And she was too beautiful.

Traffik
(1989)

great storyline
beautifully constructed, "Traffik" tells the story of narcotics usage and commerce from multiple points of view. From a policeman view, from a politician view, from an addict view, from a smuggler's view, and from a farmer's view. In a carefully contructed storyline, one gets the impression on how everything is inter-related. From beautiful on-location shots in the poppy fields in Pakistan, to downtown Karachi, to the entry points airports of Frankfurt and London, to the delapidated buildings where the smuggling takes place, one sees the massive dimension of narcotics consumption.

Fuori dal mondo
(1999)

Sensible
having missed the showtime for one of the blockbusters in the cinemaplex in this xmas season, we instead diverted to a small art-sy theather in the cultural district to see this film. After five minutes, I was already believing I was better off in the cinemaplex to watch action-packed fast moving images with special effects in surround-sound state-of-the-art stadium seating theaters, and was somewhat put off by the slow moving italian film images of a nun looking for meaning behind the find of an abandoned baby. But by the end of movie, we realized that this carefully structured and written work would have never been done in the United States. It was a moving and human touching story, in which the characters were real. If they told me that the dry cleaner workers and the nuns where not actors but actually real people, I would have believed it. It is hard to pack into 90 minutes of reel a story that looks real without having fast cuts, sound bytes, and artificiosities in verbalisms and acting, and thus transmorming a story from real to hyper-real. Spread in the movie story are still pictures of "functional" groups of people, the dry cleaner workers, the nuns, the hospital workers, the ice cream parlor workers, the janitors, the police squad. And they all contribute to give this move a special realistic bond. One important note: all the outdoor scenes are in Milan. This is unusual, as usually all outdoor scenes in Italian movies are in the Rome and surrouding area (just as Southern California is for the US).

Struktura krysztalu
(1969)

for physics majors
the story of two old friends, that studied together physics in their youths, who get together in the Polish countryside. One is a sucessful and urbane researcher, the other is just a weatherman in this fringe outpost, but seemingly happily married. All three (one of the wives joins the group) they do town village activities, like go to the movies, take walks in the countryside, watch TV. The airwaves from the Swedish television broadcasting stations reach into their TV, showing walkirian blond sculptured bodies in scandinavian saunas in an atmosphere of consumeristic excess. A careful movie, depicting a friendship, the two go on for the rest of day discussing a physics problem. A beautiful movie, slow by today's standards, but at a human pace.

Bamboozled
(2000)

Drop Squad was better
While seeing Bamboozled, "The Drop Squad" came to mind. Comparing the two, I think Drop Squad was more effective. The similarities are striking. In both movies, there are blacks that made it in the establishment, one as an advertisement professional and in the other as a television writer producer. And in both roles, they are enmeshed in producting something for the black audience. The advertisement professional is soon black listed by his family for having made television advertisements that use stereotypes such as fried chickens and malt liquor, and other parodies of which the family relatives are ashamed and hint of an Al Sharpton's "genocide". The televion production in Bamboozled is protested by Al Sharpton (playing himself). The sponsors of the televion series show ads of fashion clothing, malt liquor ("The Bomb"). While Bamboozled ends in violence, Drop Squad ends with the uppity black returning to his true self, reminded of his own "blackness". In Bamboozled, reflecting the interested by white teenagers in Hip Hop, one member of the rap group is white and is the only survivor of a police shootout ("why me? why me? kill me too!"), and in the followers of the television series is a "Sicilian Nigger", an italo-american that covered his face with blackface and wants to act "black". Or is it "blak", since we don't need the "C", as one of the rapsters suggests.

Drop Squad
(1994)

a better Bamboozled
Having just seen Bamboozled, this movie came to mind. Comparing the two, I think this one was more effective. The similarities are striking. In both movies, there are blacks that made it in the establishment, one as an advertisement professional and in the other as a television writer producer. And in both roles, they are enmeshed in producing something for the black audience. The advertisement professional is soon black listed by his family for having made television advertisements that use stereotypes such as fried chickens and malt liquor, and other parodies of which the family relatives are ashamed and hint of an Al Sharpton's "genocide". The television production in Bamboozled is protested by Al Sharpton (playing himself). The sponsors of the televion series show ads of fashion clothing, malt liquor ("The Bomb"). While Bamboozled ends in violence, Drop Squad ends with the uppity black returning to his true self, reminded of his own "blackness". In Bamboozled, reflecting the interested by white teenagers in Hip Hop, one member of the rap group is white and is the only survivor of a police shootout ("why me? why me? kill me too!"), and in the followers of the television series is a "Sicilian Nigger", an italo-american that covered his face with blackface and wants to act "black". Or is it "blak", since we don't need the "C", as one of the rapsters suggests.

L'humanité
(1999)

long, boring, slow french small village life
This two and a half hour long film was shown recently at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) at a 10 PM show. There was a scheduled 1 AM show after that, but wondered if anyone was going to stay awake to see that until 3:30 am. The opening scene is of a man walking in a field, and it lasts four minutes of movie time. It is an ominous sign of what's to come: a good 144 minutes more of pretty much the same. There is a scene of a man and a woman against a wall, standing in the sun. It is repeated 15 times, with very sparse dialogue. Occasionally, these very long slow sequences are interrupted by shocking stills, such as a close up of female genitalia, shown for one full minute of film time (audience crowd laughing in the last 20 seconds, as to say, "what's the message?"). The story resembles Dostoyevsky's novel "The Karamazov brothers", in which a cretin falls in love with a woman of easy morals. In one of the rare instants in which the crowd was laughing (more in desperation to try to justify having been there already a full two hours to see nothing happening) was when the statement by a british tourist that he couldn't see things clearly since the Eurostar train was traveling at 180 miles an hour, was translated by the translator with automatic switch of units of measure from English System to Metric system to "they couldn't see things clearly since the train was traveling at 300 kilometers per hour". What was amazing about this movie is that the quality of cinematography reveals that alot of money has been spent on it. This was no film kitchen 8-mm experiment. It was carefully planned, structured, acted, montaged. Yet, I got so little out of it. Some comments indictated on the excruciating detail, such as the minutae of a dandling key chain on a door just opened. Okay, it was noted, but what was the purpose? Some corageous people in the audience walked away after the first hour. The rest remained out of curiosity: there must be something happening at the end. There never was. And maybe that's what the film is about. All the movies at the theater are action-packed. This one wants to be different. There is nothing happening.

Amor vertical
(1997)

weak comedy
The title refers to a project of an architecture design student, in which minarets of glass-walled elevators lift couples involved in sexual intercourse lighted by seaside sunset whom reach orgasm when the elevator reaches the top. The film is a comedy of a couple in Havana. It is mostly a series of sketches of caricatures, too many caricatures. The bureaucrats, the siamese twins, the police comissair, the mother that calls by telephone. Found the story weak and the visual imagery unsupporting. Why clutter the story with all these sketches? Light comedy is the best definition, as of amateur authorship. Considering that precious hard currency resources were most likely spent for this production instead of some more potentially interesting alternatives without needless clutter, I would rate this production as a disaster. In the movie, one of the characters portrays a bureaucrat in charge of approving and denying funding for artists and projects. And one such bureaucrat probably funded this motion picture. That bureaucrat could have made a better choice.

Höhenfeuer
(1985)

alpine family living in the mountains
this is a peculiar film. In the bucolic mountain settings of swiss alps, a rural family raising cows and living in a mountain hut, struggles with the awkward behavior of the deaf child. The sudden ending is an anti-climax. As the mountain fog envelops the hut and the family, with the cow's neck bells in the audio background, the movie ends, the lights in the theater are turned on, and one has to wonder what the message was. Definitely *not* the average story of swiss alps family.

El elefante y la bicicleta
(1994)

highly structured and symbolic on cuba
The story starts in 1925. Ends in the present. There are two stories. One of the real people, the ones that are watching movies, and the one portrayed in the movie itself, fictionalized. With a series of film clips from the fictionalized stories, we see different cinematic styles of the 20's, 30's, 40's, 60's and 70's. And as the fictionalized stories parallel the real stories, the two get closer and closer together, until the ending, in which the audience sees exactly themselves portrayed on the screen, as if of a refletion from a mirror. What is art? should it portray reality? or should it take liberty and license to be a little different? The different characters in life and in the movies have evolved in style, clothing, and attitute. There is one character, however, that did not change. He is wearing the same 1920's suit and panama straw hat through out the entire time evolution. Not sure what he symbolizes, but at the very last screening, he is locked out on purpose. This movie is symbolic, and a couple of viewing may be necessary to see small details such as this.

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