A political stage theatre, musical, satire and history lesson all in one: Covering hundreds of years of colonialist, slavery, exploitation and disenfranchisement.
Now this is a Hondo closer to his roots in O Soleil, and what an incredible, mad and beautiful film!
To talk about West Indies, we need to talk about the minimalist setting, and extraordinary scope. Almost every scene is set, fittingly enough, one a stage made to look like a large ship - used both as the transportation of slaves - and as the actual unnamed island home of our study. The black people, with the exception of those set forth to lead them, are always in the bay - that is their home - above them, the higher deck, is the place of parties, elites and rigged elections - and one step higher - that of the 5 people truly ruling the island - in France's stead.
Above them: France's slogen: "Liberty. Equality. Fraternity." - and as we move through the ages, the slogan changes.
We are also fitted to our secondary setting, which is also where our film opens with our 5 elites - the captain's lounge - a throne room with 5 chairs. Their faces remain the same, even as the trail through history - and see them put their "plan" into action.
Their plan: cheap labour - and, well, power. (Not to mention the complete displacement of the entire people)
Slavery, or low paid workers, it makes no difference - and as the film intercuts slave transportation with immigration - and the plot moves to have more and more French take over the island - it truly is a look at how history rhymes - not to mention the complacency and complicity for those allowed to join in the ride.
But what sets West Indies further apart is their dance numbers, and songs - playing into the seduction of France and Paris - the submission and happiness of "assimilation" for those on top - and songs of struggle and freedom of the people.
It even manages to take snipes at petty white revolutionaries, either propagating xenophobia themselves or uttering empty phrases without care and insight.
And "pretty speeches", lies, deceit and complicity is a theme throughout; no one is really spared - though the film's message is clear: take power into your hands and free yourself.
What is truly striking, beyond the scope and message - is how Hondo managed to craft it all, not just within the allegory of a slave ship, but within a literal ship - and the incredible way he plays with form and setting.
Decades before Dogville, he allowed us to suspend our disbelief, and see and understand the boat to be any setting - and the choreography and songs simply feel at home in the visual and formatic landscape he created. The humour, the emotion and the al-together experience becomes something more than real life - and it is through this overt performance of history, that the nature of this reality - past and present - as Hondo sees it - can fully be expressed.
The Chilly Visual Expression of Cold, Creeping Madness
We are introduced to Wozzeck as he is shaving his superior officer. We can see him drifting off, the knife somewhat out of place, his reaction to the officer's words, the knife straightening, slowly gliding in a straighter and straighter position, playing with the skin, ready to slice his throat at any given moment. This scene sends chills down your spine - and sets the mood for the entire film.
Wozzeck, directed by the fairly unknown Georg C. Klaren, really represents what is so interesting and special about German cinema just after WW2 - a period of cinematic creativity, with many overlaps with the expressions we saw in the early Weimar era. Wozzeck takes this one step further by adopting a visual atmosphere reminiscent of the silent era, frequently with faded edges, and play with the image itself - and to one specific aim. You can, through the cinematography, feel the descent into madness, and experience the increasingly (well, honestly, consistently) unsettling world of our protagonist.
The only thing contemporary film I can think of comparing it to is really Hangover Square, but only to the extent that the visuals are a gateway to the madness of our protagonist - the expression here goes in a very different direction, i.e. where Hangover Square bring noir aesthetics to 19th century England, Wozzech takes us into a horror landscape of far more stripped back dimensions. In some ways Wozzeck could genuinely feel like an atmospheric arthouse film from the 80s or 90s - the kind of stripped back nightmarish expression toying with bleak existentialism just wasn't a staple of 40s cinema - and this makes it even more enjoyable.
The only downside here is the exposition, i.e. the real opening, showing Wozzeck's body in a science lad, and a battle of ideas between the dr. who is happy to be able to cut up his new body, and charging an offense against this view of disposable humanity, leading into a charge of freeing the people of oppression - and the premise that Wozzeck was pushed to commit the acts he did by the society he lived in. This is too blunt, too clear and forcefully obvious in steering our mind and connecting it to the issue of class. Luckily this framing plays a minimal role in the film itself, which is simply gorgeous.
Tanaka's directoral debut takes on all the norms of Japanese Cinema
You rarely expect an actor, no matter how great, to simply ease into the director's chair, especially not in her debut. The thing that struck me the most is how daring she is in regard to composition and style. This does not feel Japanese! In fact it moves almost like an early piece from the French New Wave.
The strict composition of formality and form is nowhere to be seen. Instead of calculated and rigid Tanaka places the camera slightly to the side or slightly higher than Mizoguchi, Kinoshita (who wrote the scrips), Ozu, Naruse, Ichikawa and any of the other masters of cinema in 1950s Japan. The camera moves, a lot, especially on the streets, giving you the feeling of true cinema verité - thought is also clear that this is not an experiment, nor consistently forced, only used when it's natural for the story.
Breaking with the traditions of Japanese cinema does however fit perfectly with the movie itself, where it's characters also break away from the traditions, morals and standards of old. We follow Masayuki Mori, a broken returned soldier barely scraping by while supported by his younger brother. He has a longing. Upon meeting an old friend he gets into a business he had not thought likely - writing "love letters" to American GIs from their mistresses, often several GIs per woman (many of whom are also prostitutes).
One day the woman he has been longing for and searching for comes in for the exact same purpose. Though described as a melodrama, and yes the label may to an extent fit, Tanaka takes the harsh issues straight on and elevates it with her almost unbelievable prowess. What a natural!
Perhaps the most unnerving film experience I have ever had
Without a single death, and no genuine reason to expect harm to be committed this became agonizing from the moment we enter the house. I was genuinely feeling anxious, my heart beating in a way I have never experienced before.
The way this sense of genuine dread, which is a way became claustrophobic, making me want to just look away, talk a walk, breath, was created in such an unbelievably easy, but thereby also genius way. You simply had to nudge the acting slightly off cue, stylizing it in such a way that it narrows the uncanny valley in the opposite direction.
Added visual cues, the music, and our focus point Will's slightly unbalanced state helps building upon this - but the fact that the world we are experiencing is just slightly off key, was all it took.
Gradually all of these factors become more and more exaggerated, but is a very slow pace, slow enough that you accept the world, believe it, and get a certain footing in it - which only makes the experience more unnerving. It feels like there is a ticking timer. that something will happen, that nothing is like it should be.
The only negative here is that despite all of these artistic successes, certain aspects make it feel like a directorial debut, something it is far from being, and I feel that both the very beginning and the end were lacking just a little in skill and thought.
The Innvitation is without a doubt an incredible work, but I feel that it would have been a true personal favorite with only a few slight changes.
The flow of films showing the hard lives of women, and the position they are put in, were at their height in 1950s Japan, and this is without a doubt a standout. Hideko Takamine and character actor Eijirô Tôno are stunning as the kept and the keeper. She, accepting the role of mistress, he, the hated moneylender, barely keeping the illusions which made her accept.
Toyoda's direction is strong, and almost fearless. At times he goes even darker and deeper than most peers, leaving us to study "Otama", and see her self respect slowly fade away. The films only flaw is it's occasional lack of subtlety where it feels like the characters just "had to" voice what we should (and usually already are) feeling - but these occasions are luckily rare. I might also have enjoyed it even more without the introduction of a slight sense of hope, but it's harshness and melancholy is still very much there, in almost every moment.
In fact there is at most time a sense of crassness, especially when Tôno is on the screen. Each gesture, each act, each line. You can genuinely feel why he is despised by the people around him, and this without him ever being overtly cruel, something he brilliantly would be the first to point out.
Toyoda had a brilliant eye for detail, and managed to do things they sometimes even had a hard time doing, such as letting every single character, no matter how small, shine in their own way, and be truly worth remembering. Even more incredibly, no one steals the spotlight away from Otame. Each event, each character, they all reflect upon her story, and often adds a further layer to her prison.
Essentially every cut changed both time and context, while the emotional plateau was built upon, and continued. Instead of telling it's story in a straight forward, narrative fashion, it gives us moments, which together creates an overarching emotional context, both of the characters in question, and their relationships, but also to the main motif. It feels as if Malick took the emotional storytelling of Tree of Life, and purified it further, perfecting his new voice.
I do understand that this will be a film loathed by many, scoffed at by some, and frequently dismissed as a work of pretension. Malick's recent work has faced this charges, and this is certainly the film of his, so far, that has parted the furthest from the narrative so many need. Still, the last two Malicks are extremely close relatives, and love for these should make you see this masterpiece immediately.
It might hold less content for a personified bond than Tree of Life, but the film still has an incredible focus on relationship, connections and lack thereof. Presented in the form of chapters, usually pinning our lead up with one person, one bond, one relationship, some more pivotal than others. We are given incredible insight into the emotions at hand, and this is because our unique point of entry.
As the images flow, and context change, dialog will run over them. The scenes we are shown will rarely be the scenes were characters are actually talking. Such moments are rare, and when they occur they frequently become inaudible, and we see faces, tears, grimaces. This is a true example of when the traditional narrative is shown to not be superior, and that in fact, more can be told, more can be expressed, when you look away from it. Malick found such a path. It is raw, breathtaking and simply beautiful.
The film follows two orphans, a sister and her younger brother, separated when the youngest is stolen for his magical ability to feel gold, something which at the same time tortures the young boy. The sister runs, looks, even sees him at a distance, but her struggles only continues. Luckily she gets aide from a philosopher and healer, who in many ways serves as the film's main comic relief, but his journey is not a happy one either.
From the very beginning, as the camera closed in on the town, as the music played, as the colors exploded, I knew I would love this film. Almost every frame was perfect, and they drew up the magical world we are visiting in the most perfect way imaginable. This is a beautifully dark and twisted fairytale, in the way only Eastern Europeans can make them. It created it's own world with an amazing eye for details, and managed to be absurd and funny, at the same time as it told a very, very bleak story. It could be described as an odyssey, a tragic chase, a voyage into strange lands, and visions we will see.
And beyond it all, there is color. Nearly every image seems perfectly crafted. The full glory of soviet cinematography. It was so masterly directed and shot I bookmarked all films directed by Aleksandr Mitta, and even looked into other films by the cinematographer, Valeri Shuvalov. Two names I had never heard of before. This was a truly amazing discovery, and I can't wait to search out more.
Jauja is a poetical, mesmerizing and refreshingly quiet film. The camera is content not to move unless necessary. Occasionally it follows a character, but more often than people are allowed to walk out of frame. The sound-picture is primarily bird twitter in a distance. To my joy, we could observe the rider approaching, and it was not so impatient to cut to the arrival.
This can of course only work if the visuals are strong enough to allow your eyes to rest on the details. It was easy be consumed by the moving images at hand, to stare, to slow down yourself and appreciate the beauty - while at the same time a suspense is created. This is a skill only certain masters, such as Tarkovsky and Melville, have mastered, and Lisandro Alonso and his cinematographer Timo Salminen (known for his work with Kaurismaki) managed to bring the same, rare eye. I was astonished.
Interestingly, though possibly a character flaw of my own, my mind could stop placing the film in the context of the Brazilian New Wave. The way the characters moved within the frame, and the atmosphere captured would have fit just as perfectly 45 years ago. The occasional moments of absurd but subdued humor would also have fit. This is in no way criticism or calling the piece unoriginal, but rather making the claim that Jauja is timeless.
Viggo Mortenson is at the center of the piece, he too subdued - but with powerful eyes. My mind drifting as it does I could not help to imagine Klaus Kinski, though Mortenson brings a far more mellow feeling. In his own way he drives the film, perhaps even to the same degree as the frame. His eyes and very being might haunt you. I still conjure up his posture in my mind even as I am writing this.
Co-written by poet Fabian Casas there are clearly more ambition in the events themselves, which I will not thoroughly discuss. The calmness, even under terror, makes it ripe for contemplation - and I believe last 20-30 minutes and particularly the ending itself will leave you with a lot to think about.
A radio reporter out to push the boundaries of his profession gets in serious trouble when he attempts to stage a fake art heist. He wants to capture the police's arrest on air - the one thing he had not planned for was that a real burglary would take place - and such this surprisingly polished and energetic thriller comedy begins to form.
What surprised me most were the apparent influences, and just how exciting this film would turn out to be. Particularly the early portions of the film seemed filled with the energy and charm that defined Ealing comedies at the exact same point of time in Britain, while also incorporating film noir aesthetics. But more so, they incorporated a great sense of suspense.
There is never a dull moment, and no sequence is without either comedy or suspense - typically both. And this is what surprised me the most: Just how well it managed to keep the suspense going. Two major chase sequences are particularly noteworthy - and how the suspense and humor fit together so seamlessly is nothing short of applause worthy.
No, the formula is not something new, and it is clearly made for mainstream appeal - but when it works as well as here this is hardly a negative critique. The film delivers a friendly, exciting, well-shot and just altogether ace package. The conclusion itself could have been handled slightly better - but I'm never the less sold. 8.5/10.
Perhaps the most charming (though still unsettling) film Okamoto made
You never know what you are going to get when you turn on a Okamoto movie, it can be nihilistic terror, slapstick comedy, straight up action or even surrealistic yakuza breaking into song. It was therefor not surprising that At This Late Date, the Charleston was all over the map, in the best sense possible. Cops, assassins, a missing multi-millionaire, a shady family, a group of eccentric elderly people who have founded their own micro-country in the missing multi-millionaires house, and an attempted rapist in the middle.
It's certainly a comedy, and a ridiculously convoluted one at that - but again, truly, in the best way possible. Going in I simply had no idea what I was expecting. I knew it set itself apart from all of Okamoto's films by having a large elderly ensemble, and that was a very interesting hook. Imagine my surprise then when we open up with a juvenile delinquent assaulting a young couple, and then attempting to rape the girl, featuring a comical chase played for as many laughs as possible: showing just how far removed Japan is culturally from the west.
At This Late Date, the Charleston does manage the incredible feat of gradually making the turn from unsettling to potentially being a charming feel good movie - which is certainly new for Okamoto. I don't want to say how the story pans out, but the focus is rightfully where I expected it to be - at the eccentrics and their lifestyle - a political statement against the violence of WW2.
But why is it working as well as it does? It is largely because it manages to balance the farce to the fullest, almost approaching Oh, Bomb in it's ridiculousness at points, but at the same time creating interesting characters and group dynamics portrayed humanely enough to get attached and care beyond the comedy. Every piece plays it's part, and the story actually manages to come together wonderfully well.
Possibly the most realistic journey into dystopia put on film
In this explosive, slow burning film Watkins infuriated both sides of the political spectrum in Denmark - which is to the film's honor! Evening Land is careful and disturbingly realistic near future sci-fi that continues Watkins documentary inspired filmmaking. The film is an incredible study in just how carefully it crafts it's world, and it's done to such perfection that many people easily could be fooled by it's authenticity today.
The focus of the film is a large scale strike carried out by danish workers who refuse to construct submarines (and ships) that will (likely) carry nuclear weapons and a conference that might determine the future presence of nuclear weapons in Europe. At the same time "non-violent" terrorists strike, leading to full scale orchestrated panic, bad journalism, resurgence of the right and a continuing downward spiral into a bleaker and bleaker reality.
It's only true downside is that it can be a bit long-winded, particularly the early portions of the film were we mostly focus on the worker conflict, and we still seem to be in normative Scandinavia (I even had to check if this was in fact a documentary). Put the fact that the path to dystopia is painted by reality (or something dangerously close) only increases the value of the work.
The rhetoric used by the increasingly oppressive government is exactly the same you'd not only expect to hear today, but likely have heard many times before. You can also understand the rational of all sides, you can understand why the government and the factories want this, you can see why most people wouldn't even think this was a particularly big problem, and you can see how each event influence the next. 8/10.
Varastettu kuolema / Stolen Death (1938, Nyrki Tapiovaara)
There is something very special about the careful and intricate way Stolen Death is made. With a visual flair, strongly reminiscent of film noir and German expressionism, the film creates a bleak and cold world - but not one without hope.
It's staunch and calculated rhythmic journey also has a flare of romanticism, that peaks through it's harsh exterior. This makes it harder to put in a box, as a movie of this kind could easily be a brilliant exercise of style, it feels far too human to simply fit this label - despite the minimalistic atmosphere at hand.
This is a slow burner, that gradually let's you into it's time and world, and requires your concentration. Set while Finland was still a part of the Russian Empire, we follow revolutionaries through some fiercely banal groundwork, from their publication, to the attempts to gain guns - all with the police, authority and other betraying dangers lurking in the shadows.
And the shadows truly come out in this movie, they almost become their own character in the early portions of the film, rendering most noirs to shame, and interestingly utilizes many techniques we'll later find among the later American wave - at the same time as there are clear Russian influences. At the same time it's atmosphere and progression feels more true to the contemporary Japanese filmmaking of the time - though this is likely a coincident.
While watching it my most frequent thought, not relating directly to the plot, was the extraordinarily surprising talent of Nyrki Tapiovaara. He utilizes a wide variety of shots, and techniques, that all deliver the emotion and atmosphere intended - and he makes it all come together seamlessly. This is a level of film-making equal to that of Lang and Ozu in this era. I will need to investigate more of his filmography. I believe we have an internationally forgotten master here! 8.5/10
This sensation could hardly have come more unexpectedly, but from the minute we see our narrator, director, writer, composer and, if you will, lead of this essayesque autobiography stand before a mirror, all in negative, shaving his blue face - I was captivated beyond belief. Already from the first second he contemplates about life and the function of time, all while turning colors on their head and in his sink, via a magical combination of shaving cream, water and distortion of reality - creates patterns representing not only the movement of time - but also also looks pretty damn dope.
Jerome Hill is the perfect narrator, bringing a massive amount of wit - and going to so many different lengths of dissecting the power of time. He hypothesizes his future - all in comic sketches - but then we move away from potential and impossible futures and all the way back to his childhood. It's incredible what emotions he manages to convey, as instills both nostalgia and the true spirit of childhood wonders, recreating his childhood through multiple animation techniques, from cut-outs, to drawing on film, to more traditional animation - to shooting at the presumed locations, recreating some of his pastimes in real life. Pictures and very early home video also plays an extreme part - and together these all form one of the most unique cinematic experiences I have had.
Each effect and image, coupled with Hill's own thoughts, wits and insights invokes an ever-lasting sense of magic and wonder - one line that particularly stands out is: "My father didn't have the skill of a professional cameraman. Result? Avant-garde cinema" - and it was quite true. The off, over-exposed images he shows us are effective in their own right. It's remarkable how much of the flaws in the material he presents us becomes strengths and qualities in the context he presents it. Soon he himself begins to be in charge of the projects he presents - and he shows how youthful experiments with film directly affected his later cinema.
He even shows two full shorts, one his largest experiment as a youth, and the second his first true short, the 12 minute La cartomancienne from 1932 - which blends perfectly in, and really shows the magic he had in his heart. Some of the magic withered as the film started to focus on his career and the level of experiments decreased, but he quickly won it back as his contemplations returned to those of the beginning. A unique experience. A wonderful masterpiece. And what a beautiful note it managed to end on. 10/10.
In this morally black play for money everyone are wearing fake faces, and I must say, though it is based on a book, it's rare plot is so original that you can never guess where it is going. A wealthy businessman is dying of cancer, and his much younger wife in a loveless union is expecting to get everything, but the man reveals that he in fact has 3 illegitimate children - as investigators attempts to find them and plots are being hatched out from all angles tension grows.
Described as a drama this feels much more like a thriller. Some might have a problem with the lack of essentially any "likeable" and "good" characters (in that case this probably isn't for you), but if you seeing the darkest corners of humanity put on display this might even put a smile on your face. Yes, there is a certain level of dark glee in seeing these treacherous characters put on acts, switch on their game faces and play everyone else for a fool - and the game only becomes more and more exciting as each pawn is placed. Made in the middle of Kobayashi's golden stretch it's a shock that such a strong entry is not more acknowledged. 8.5/10.
Anguish truly is a unique experience. At one point I had to pause because my heart was beating too fast. It was the very effective visual of people struggling with the same thing on screen, had never thought a film could affect me like this. Almost wanted to throw up in parts, and just because of the sound and bizarre visuals, rather than gore. It's not just a horror movie, it's an experiment into film-within-film with audience members watching a movie at a theater about an insane killer and his mother collecting eyes - with the way it's made disturbing and upsetting many of them - and then the events in the main movie switches to the theater as well - and the claustrophobia and mental states of "the real audience" starts going wild. I can only imagine how insane it would have been watching this in a movie theater as intended. It lost some of it's power when it got more plot driven towards the very end - but it stayed incredible throughout.
This Jewish propaganda film from Austria is quite the historic curiosity. Aside from having relatively good intentions this films comes off as as bit of a joke, particularly because the The Jewish Relief Foundation, who sponsored the film got the main character to say the organization saved his grandson's life in the first seen of the film, they also refer to themselves in third person as "the noble benefactors". How full of yourself can you get? And of course at the end they use little children to beg you for money - which might have been my favorite part because at least the kids were cute. The film is reasonably well made, but the plot is just too contrived. One thing I found amusing was that the Jewish wasn't victims of hate because they were Jews but because they were rich factory owners who lost their funds in the Russian revolution. The backstory has the films most emotional moments, but it's primarily done to such a silly and ludicrous manner that it's hard to get particularly worked up. It just fights so hard to be sappy, sentimental and forceful. From an historical perspective it can be seen as a tragic attempt at scoring points with the right wing by denouncing and demonizing communism as much as possible. In the end all it's flaws just kills it.
Nakashima's debut proves that he's far more than utter absurdity and flashy style
Nakashima's debut feature is a simple, charming and welcoming coming of age story. Aside from the always spot-on photography, a certain artistic flair and a slightly comically off atmosphere nothing here suggested that Nakashima would become a master of style, that it's a thoroughly impressive debut obviously marking the beginning of a great artist is on the other hand quite clear.
I particularly loved the Ozu-esque focus and depiction of children and seemingly unimportant school tasks. The children having to redo a certain gymnastic work-out after school until they got it right, focusing on repetition after repetition added both emotion, soul and humor. And yes, this is a charmingly funny film, done in a semi-minimalistic way about a young boy growing up, experiencing his family and school situation, while being a tad too focused on tits. In fact, the first line is "I love big tits".
And though that might rub you the wrong way, it's actually quite cute in it's way. He narrates through his child eyes, and a lot is actually very heart warming, sometimes even poignant. I felt that the flashbacks to his mother as a child and her dealing with her mother's illness was, however well done, a bit of a digression which too a very small degree fit into the rest of the film, but aside from this is was a great experience. I hope more people take the time to check this little film out. It's just 73 minutes. 8/10.
Brilliantly stylized surrealistic minimalism at it's best
It's always fascinating to go back through a director's oeuvre and see how much their style has changed. While Nakashima is known for extremely flashy and fast paces stylistic trips, here in his second feature we are met by a contemplative mood and slow progression showing one heck on an absurd Sunday. He truly is a master of stylization, and this is certainly as present as ever, as is the absurd humor, but instead of throwing bright colors in our face this shows a remarkable amount of restraint.
This is almost the kind of film you could have expected from Weerasethakul or Tsai - and for those of you scared off by that I can calm you don't by saying that quite a lot of "action" do occur, including a car chase. We follow the alienated, cold and isolated lives of people living in an apartment complex in Tokyo. The camera is detached, never moving, just observing them. I'd say it's humorous rather than funny. The mood is equally detached, and this, as well as the characters odd personalities and antics is the base of the humor. It's slow pace and eye for details allow for build-ups and amusing observations.
I'm fully aware that this might be too slow for some, so I cannot recommend it to everyone, but if this sounds like your kind of cinema I pretty much know you are in for a treat! Surrealistic minimalism at it's best. It's about time to brush the dust off this tragically overlooked Nakashima and bring it back out into the light, because for the right type of person this will be one wonderful and utterly captivating experience.
Cute and innocent family comedy that really managed to charm me
Kobayashi's debut is not only the anti-thesis of the films he's most known for - It's warm, bubbling and charmingly innocent - but also an thoroughly impressive first film. Though constantly threading close to the silly this romanticized drama comedy about an average Japanese family and their son who is becoming a man, was just too irresistible. I can easily see why many wouldn't consider it a great work however, and some contrivances were pushing it. It's saving grace here is the consistent style that allows this. Can't see any veteran doing this better, and my, in hindsight, the contrast to his latter work is as if planned. Having yet to discover most of his early films I can't wait to see the rest of his evolution and how he went from this to Black River, that until now was the earliest film I had seen from him. The change could not be greater, the only thing they have in common is his craftsmanship.
A sensual and atmospheric coming of age tale set in a small town close to an American army base in 1960s France. It all takes place within 24 hours. Opening early in the morning as two teenage girl hitch-hike their way to school rather than taking the bus. Our lead, Martine, and her friend are adventurous, taking pleasure in tempting the male driver while remaining silent, and simply heads off to school. Later that night they want to go to a party, but they find it too childish, they then head for a more "adult" party where Martine's brother is supposed to be.
Cinematically strong, with great camera work, particularly some wonderful pans accompanied by great music from the time. The way this was used, often going gradually through a landscape or room before finding it's characters were simply beautifully done. It's a simple story, with a slight feel of danger, and it certainly managed to catch the discomfort of being a teenager, particularly in such situations. Denis' restrained style works wonderfully.
The minimalistic touches are used in order to make you feel closer to the leads, to sense aspects of their emotions rather than spelling it out. It's also down to earth and realistic, while remaining that certain poetic sensibility you can find in essentially every Denis film. The performances are strong, particularly Vincent Gallo who plays an American soldier. Loved the uneasy tension in the scenes he was in despite him acting so nice and showing no intentions of wanting to do anything more than what he's doing. I must applaud Denis for all the emotions she managed to pack into this film. You never know exactly what to feel, you never know exactly what the characters want, but you can feel the complexity and their world like you can in few other films.
Essentially a series of close, intimate conversations between people living together in a flat. Wonderfully human. The occupants are an elderly woman, her son, the mother's nurse, her boyfriend and a tenant. We see them argue, fight and love. Many fabulous performances. Can't recall the last time I was this drawn into a film.
Very unlike anything I've seen from Tarr. A reminder that the most cinematic of all landscapes is a face. Never leaving the apartment, it's the faces, the dwelling shots of their emotions and the emotional complexity of their relationships that drives this truly marvelous hidden gem. It has a welcoming tone, at least at first, though the atmosphere is cold, and kept getting colder as the situation got less and less pretty. No extensively long takes either, though it remained hypnotic all the same, hell, in my case even more so. I could not take my eyes away. 9.5/10.
Being one of the more overlooked and forgotten Pialats this took me quite off guard. This seems to be the point where Pialat really changed his style. This is actually quite warm, even though we're still, at least in parts, the objective observer. We follow the lives of a group of young friends in their final year of high school, who drift about, make out, have sex, get married, get low paying jobs, etc.
The first half really felt like a more low down contemporary French version of American Graffity only without the cars. It has quite a bit of charm, and the characters are quite the personalities. Slightly lost it's drive towards the middle, when they went on vacation, and the tension with parents, etc. was rather left behind, but it went strong till the end - though I must admit I was slightly disappointed by the final reveal. Anyhow, pretty spectacular stuff. And very unexpected coming from Pialat. 8.5/10.
Die Parallelstrasse / The Parallel Street (1962, Ferdinand Khittl)
The number 188 appears, then the screen goes completely black. We hear noises and words spoken in many tongues. Then as suddenly as it all began we find ourselves in a poorly lit room, photographed in black and white, where a clerk stationed at his desk tells five men, seemingly researching documents that this is the end of the first session. Soon, after the credits are done rolling, we're told that this is the end of "Part 2".
The clerk is our only direct link into an logical comprehension of what is appearing before our eyes. In the early minutes of the film he confesses to us his sorrow over how the five men cannot comprehend the documents are mirrors of their own existence. He comments on their futile efforts to make sense of what's before them. How they have made a meaningless chart and made rules that comes to nothing. He notes that they will fail, like all before them, and that at the end of the last 90 minute session their lives will end.
And after this introduction "part 3" may commence as the five men goes through document 189, 190, and so on in the hope of reaching the last document 310 before their time is up. The documents themselves are segments filmed in color covering parts of the world, the human mindset, human constructions, etc. usually with an attached set of information the clerk reads out. We are now to follow the men try to make sense of what's put before them and the discussions they have between them. Their tone is calm, and relatively collected.
Whether or not the exercise is an allegory of life and the human existence can be debated, I felt this was the most comprehensible solution, but this is about so much more than simple answers. I cannot underline many enough times what a unique experience this is. It harbors an obscure sense of poetic beauty, that much like the documents explored are slightly out of our comprehension. Be it an astute beauty of life, a melancholy feeling of being lost or simply the joy of watching and partaking in such an astonishing artistic creation/experience, this movie manages to cover so much emotion, and perhaps even information, without ever really revealing its core or giving us something we can easily grasp and categorize.
The fact that it consciously incorporates into our minds that this is the last part of a larger picture was also something I could not easily shake, and it stayed on my mind throughout. First I thought it was a negative, a form of unnecessary confusion, but now, in retrospect, I view it differently. It not only creates a craving for more, but it creates a sense of claustrophobia, and in a lesser sense bewilderment. With the exception of one re-evaluated document you see none of the 187 first documents, and the exercise itself is a mystery, we know nothing about the surrounding situation and reasoning behind what we see. I found this to create an incredibly strong experience for me. The Parallel Street is a film I will never forget.
In a world where art and humanity is under siege, George Gittoes fights back
We are taking into the midst of the Taliban world in Pakistan. A world where artists live under the threat of death. A world where video and cd stores are bombed and their owners killed. A world where taliban propaganda films with real life children beheading claimed spies are being sold from stands by smiling salesmen.
Art, entertainment and humanity is under siege, and it's this world Australian director Director George Gittoes dares to explore. To survive and be accepted he teams of with the Pakistani action star Javed Musazai, and takes roles as the foreign bad guy in low budget films. This is an industry where 4000 dollars gives you a two hour "epic", and Gittoes gladly puts up the funds. And while making these movies he's able to meet the people of this world, see book burnings, bombed mosques, speak with religious leaders and explore the complex nature of Pakistan.
Gittoes brand of Gonzo-journalism can be compared to Michael Moore's, but unlike more he's under constant risk of losing his life. His ability to add humor only increases the clarity of the horror around him, and makes us love and care for the people we meet. The artists themselves, no matter how joyful and careless their cinema might seem live in constant fear and you see some of the people in the movie meeting terrifying and tragic situations.
Nothing could have prepared me for how powerful this would be. The humanity this film manages to capture in such a bleak place is unique. I'm shocked this hasn't gotten more attention. It even made me respect and appreciate the film industry over there, which seems to be on par with the Turks, but I could see the hope and joy they represents. This is a movie, everyone, not only film buffs should see. It's power is universal and it's can hardly be paralleled. A movie every single person in this world should see.
I don't think I've ever seen a movie that manages to be both funny and sad at the exact same time, essentially throughout it's entire running time. We're introduced to Eburi, a chubby employee of an advertisement company who's single joy seems to be the one day a week he goes out drinking. However, his life is about to change. His drunken rantings has caught the attention of two journalists, who he, in his drunken state, promises to write a masterpiece of a novel. Not finding anything better to write about, he starts recalling his own life.
Using every means to convey a story; from animation, to aesthetics of silent cinema to stop motion The Elegant Life of Mr. Everyman is filled with playfulness, creativity and soul. Eburi's observations of life are poignant, feels true to life and are of a irresistibly humorous manner. Kihachi Okamoto truly manages to capture what could very well be called the essence of life, or at least these peoples essence of life. Everyone in this movie, that are given a decent amount of screen time, feels like real people. It's never glamorous, everybody are flawed, and it's all related through the keenest observation. The movie notes the trite situation of life, the everyday struggle through reality, and it does it like no other movie I've ever seen before.
I sat bewitched. Laughing out loud at numerous occasion, while never losing my smile, yet feeling the underlying sorrow in almost every scene. Sometimes the tragedy takes precedence, but in the next minute I'm essentially rolling around in uncontrollable laughter because the scene and mood turned 180 degrees. Essentially every aspect of this movie is perfect. It's creative artistic touches, beautiful visuals, in-depth performances all compliments each other. It manages to be hilarious, intensely captivating and profound. I take my hat off to Okamoto, who has now earned a solid spot among my favorite directors.