29 septembre 2005

El Perro (2004/Sorin)

Bombon El Chien / El Perro / The dog (2004/Carlos Sorin/Argentina) ++

Carlos Sorin (Historias Minimas) repeats once more the minimalism of uneventful lives with non-actors who give the full emotional truth to this picture. Characters are named after the real people playing them, even if their conditions are slightly fictionized. Juan Villegas, in the film, ends up unemployed at 52 after 30 years spent as a gas station helper. This lonely widower sells hand-carved knives and lives in the house of his married daughter. Illiterate and introverted his social obligated reinsertion is difficult to deal with. After a couple of friendly encounters on the road, rural portraits of argentine faces, one good deed of his adds company to his solitude. Helping a woman stranded with a broken car in the middle of nowhere, he's granted a large purebred Argentinian Mastiff, Bombon, el chien, el perro. This odd, unexpected present is a problematic burden that will make him feel more important overnight. Everybody notices him in the street now, he's admired and considered. Soon introduced to a circle of dog breeders, he will try his luck with the dog show/semen business. Juan teams up with Walter Donado, an enthusiastic dog educator who takes him to his first show. A road-movie visiting the back country and exposing the untold existentialist errance of little people secretly waiting for good fortune.This understated non-actor, dwarfed by his immense dog, successfuly conveys genuine states of mind because they are his very reactions on the shooting location. The allegory of dog training routine echoes with the access of this simple man to a higher society, and maybe to the big city. Juan instantly transfers on his companion who talks as little and express his mood through faces and postures, both discomfit with romance and instinctive.

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Keane (2004/Kerrigan)

Keane (2004/Lodge Kerrigan/USA) +++

William Keane is shook up, erring in a coach station, looking for his 6 yold daughter, lost a few months ago. Divorced, unemployed, he's on his own in a cheap hotel room, walking all night through the streets of NYC, always hyper, talking to himself, feeling persecuted by people around him. The abductor of his daughter has become a mythic figure he converses with like if connected through space and time as an indivisible duet or duel. This desperate woman Keane meets has a daughter, Kira, who recalls sore memories. The instability of his behavior, commanded by a profoundly burried emotional violence, will challenge the right intentions of his disinterested help for Kira and his mother: this is the node of tension and worry explored here between two strangers forced to blind trust. The film cleverly passes beyond the traditional Hollywood conditioning for inalienable evilness, and teaches how to understand better the aggravating circumpstances explaining the social madness of a marginal population. A mysterious journey down NY backstreets. A humanistic documentation of public paranoia.
An hand-held camera follows his footsteps everywhere he goes, like a fly on the wall, making an intense psychological portrait of one individual and only one. This cinéma-vérité-like direction of the action, like an uninterrupted thread of existence, from patrolling the public space to sleeping on the shoulder of a speedway, from a public washroom to a nightclub, from a fastfood to an ice rink. A serie of scenes from his disorganised daily life needs no further commentary to sketch out the borderline life of this man living of a disability healthcare check. The very linear narration, devoid of informational flashbacks, never corroborates or balance the protagonist's understanding by alternate perspectives of side characters for a reality check. We are immersed all along with Keane although we gradually get chances to suspect the sanity of his story.
A compasionate camera, rid of prejudice and judgemental conclusions, remains however bound to an external periphery, outside his mind where the trauma undermines his personality. This basket case confronting abduction phobia, which is the most dreadful fear a parent could experience, with the unspoken, undescribed contemplation of a schizophrenic influence on a persona contradicted by his acts. The role of a naive child attached by his overacted care and frightened by his sudden surge of infinite sadness puts a comfortable distance between the man and his unintentional intemperance.The shortended last shot, before denouement is regretable though, even if it leaves the imagination suspended at a T junction where the inner spiralling isn't totally safe yet.
Selected in Toronto in 2004 and in Cannes in 2005 (Director's Fortnight). Just released here in France nationwide last week.

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23 septembre 2005

Fasel's memoir on Paris

Seen on the Web screen : A Girl and A Gun (George Fasel)

I've discovered George Fasel's cinephiliac blog only recently and too late. He passed away on August 20th 2005. RIP. His family keeps his blog going and here are his notes on a project of Memoir dedicated to his visits in Paris during 40 years. A very interesting read. Both for his passion for the city, mainly through cinema, history and politics, and for the pre-production aspect of this interrupted project, like a preparatory sketch, with a suggested plan, questions raised, doubts and awareness of a need for originality in this form of writing.
I've only been living in Paris for 13 years, though I'm french so the icon of our capital had a strong influence on me from my southern town. Nonetheless I understand how his constant connection to the spirit of the city could develop a more acurate sense of observation than any parisian living there all year long. It's only when we're away from what or who we love we fully grasp the personality we cherish. The foreigner's judgement has also a certain truth it takes decades for the native society to assume. That's how the Cahiers critics discovered a neglected side of American cinema for example.
I like his topical partition in chapters leaping through time anachronisticaly, to put together various cultural bricks that built the social identity of parisians. This multicultural approach echoes one of Bazinian essays.
This is a book I wish I could read. Maybe we'll get more drafts of this project published on his blog.
I'm not familiar with this Richard Cobb he cites though... any book on Paris he wrote I should read?

22 septembre 2005

Dossier 51 (1978/Deville)

Dossier 51 (1978/Michel Deville/France/Germany) ++++

Adaptated from Gilles Perrault's most original spy novel (eponymous, 1969), which discontinuous storyline unfolds in a serie of classified administrative memos from various departments of an anonymous foreign intelligence agency. This alone is a groundbreaking narrative development and remarkably transcripted on film with extensive use of anonymous voiceover and subjective camera. An "anti-James Bond movie" as Deville puts it, more like the real thing, a boring, meticulous, chancy, speculative job of a gang of little bureaucrats who research in the shadow like tireless ants. An investigation spanning across half a dozen years.

On a computer screen, a news telex announces the iminent replacement of a diplomat in an international economy organisation linking Europe and Africa. Dominique Auphal, will be refered as File #51, a small politician freshly promoted to this minor position at the bottom of the ladder. Not a very exciting information. Although the first incoming memo from the powers-that-be orders a complete investigation on this individual, scanning his personal life and past inside out to find the weakness allowing for political manipulation later in case 51 reaches an important position in this key organisation. The espionnage atmosphere is catchy right away.

Given access to the confidential correspondance between resourceful agents, the audience is introduced to the forbidden sancturary of this invisible shapeless branch of the government, without ever knowing who they are. Mars is the codename of the field agents tailing the target. Minerve is the brainstorming dispatcher. Esculape is the psychology unit. Venus the seduction unit. 52 will be 51's wife, 53 and 54 his children. Following a scientific and clinical procedure we are fed with each step of the process, for eyes only. Evidences are laid in full display under many forms, with highlighting and comments, suggestions of new angles of attack and closure of dead-end tracks. Agents remain hidden in subjective camera, only identified by their codename and a familiar tone of voice. Their personality and personal agenda surface in the way they file their reports.
First unknown and faceless, this character-target will become our obsession. Old archive photographs, then grainy tele lens snapshots, and eventually film footage of a distant sighting. But the man's whereabout are the least of their concerns. This service deals with information retrieval, not political influence yet. The objective is to gather compromising datas without him or the french counter-espionnage to suspect anything. Instead anybody in his entourage is a potential source for intelligence. From moving in with his maid to interviewing his mother on false pretense, tailing his wife's adultary lover, tracking down his former classmates, and of course bugging and searching his appartment. Each note is a cynical mockery, perversly abusing their power knowing no limits, defying legality, privacy and decency. This mercyless investigation shockingly scrutinizes every aspect of a man's life to his most intimate psychology, analyzed like a guinea pig by a conference of amoral administratives.Revealing as much the wrong leads than the successful hits makes it all real and compelling. Instead of the one-man-show in most spy movies, where the hero is a multitalented superman, here each tasked is assigned to the competent service, uncovering an unsuspected network of anonymous dormant part-time agents living as normal french citizens, with a regular job, and many intimate connections. A realistic depiction developped also in Coppola's The Conversation, althougth without any case of conscience of a subordinate questioning the ethics of his job. Almost no wellknown actors, or at least were unseen on teh big screen at the time, to save this impression of inconspicuousness.

The victim is a nobody, like you and me, only picked out of the crowd because it fits a profile that might be proved useful if speculation plays out well. This perspective somehow relativizes all the energy and resources wasted on one hypothetical pawn for a giant political chessboard. How many files out there? The film denounces the objectionable methods of contemporean secret services. Cruising through many aspects of french politics, abroad and at home, refering to political events and institutions in the backdrop of this very focused examination creates a powerful sense of proximity with real life. Whoever is behind this, and this type of surveillance is probably duplicated by as many world intelligence agency, they are paying attention to everything we are and thinking too much about it could get us really paranoid!
Won the French Critics Award for Best Picture.

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21 septembre 2005

TIFF 2005 : Toronto Festival

Toronto's 30th International Film Festival, took place from 8th to 17th September 2005, competing for the award of best world festival with Cannes, Venice and Berlin, certainly the largest with a maddening 335 films in only 10 days, including 109 world premieres. Can you believe it?
A well designed website with daily news published in a PDF newspaper!

From the line-up I recommended:
Battle in Heaven (Carlos Reygadas); The Death of Mister Lazarescu (Cristi Puiu); Caché/Hidden (Michael Haneke); Manderlay (Lars von Trier); The Sun (Alexander Sokurov); Three Times (Hou Hsiao-Hsien); The Forsaken Land (Vimukthi Jayasundara) all are Cannes greatest discoveries this year, that I watched in Paris.

And would have liked to be able to see there:
Shanghai Dreams (Wang Xiaoshuai); L' Enfant (Jean-Pierre Dardenne, Luc Dardenne); The Wayward Cloud (Tsai Ming-liang); All the Invisible Children (Mehdi Charef, Emir Kusturica, Spike Lee, Kátia Lund, Jordan and Ridley Scott, Stefano Veneruso, John Woo); L' Enfer (Danis Tanovic); Where the Truth Lies (Atom Egoyan); Mary (Abel Ferrara); Be With Me (Eric Khoo)... as well as the new film of Michael Snow, Matthias Müller, Patrice Chéreau, Matthew Barney, Nick Park, Josef Fares, Tim Burton, Terry Gilliam, John Turturro, Roman Polanski, Michel Gondry, Takeshi Kitano.

Doug Cummings (FilmJourney), Darren Hughes (Long Pauses), Girish Shambu (Girish), J. Robert Parks (on Long Pauses), Robert Davies (Errata) were lucky to be there on site. Don't miss their recommendations and reviews from their blogs, new films to look up to: The Quiet (Jamie Babbit, USA), Les Amants Réguliers (Philippe Garrel, France), Entre la mer et l'eau douce (Michel Brault, Canada); A travers la forêt (Jean-Paul Civeyrac, France); Vers le Sud (Laurent Cantet, France); My Dad is 100 years old (Guy Maddin, Canada); Why we fight (Eugene Jarecki, USA), Sketches of Frank Gehry (Pollack, USA); Marock (Laila Marrakchi , France); Into Great Silence (Groening, Germany), Sa-Kwa (Kang Yi-kwa, Korea), Sunflower (Zhang Yang , China), Un Couple Parfait (Nobuhiro Suwa , Japan). Hopefully I'll get to see these french films sometime soon... what irony!

Dispatches also available on GreenCine.

Awards anounced:
  • Gavin Hood's TSOTSI (UK/South Africa) - People’s Choice Award
  • LOOK BOTH WAYS (Australia) - Discovery Award
  • SA-KWA (South Korea) - Fipresci Prize
  • Jean-Marc Vallée's C.R.A.Z.Y. - Best Canadian Feature Film
  • Louise Archambault's FAMILIA + Michael Mabbott's THE LIFE AND HARD TIMES OF GUY TERRIFICO - Best Canadian Debut (tie)

20 septembre 2005

L'oeil de l'autre (1977)

L'oeil de l'autre / The eye of the other (1977/Bernard Queysanne/France) +++

Opening sequence: A ship enters the harbor of Caen a city on the Seine river. Two men wearing shades and drenchcoats rush on the bank with a suitcase and get in a car that drives away at a steady pace. All throughout the credits we follow this car in the streets until it reaches the bank. The men walk in straigth to the protagonist's desk, then... nothing unusual. Without being overtly dramatized, this sequence obviously uses all the conventions to hint at the danger of a bank robbery. The audience is conditionned to be on guards and expect something fishy to happen even though the forged alert is defused. Even if nothing happened this time doesn't mean these crooks aren't up to something. And we are ready to experience the escalating trauma of this woman who is just like us.

Chantal Maillet is an anxious clerk at the bank, constantly under watch of surveillance cameras. Gradually aware of everybody staring at her she suspects the regular patrons, the director and even her close relatives. Any street passer by is a stalker and her disapproving husband is too comforting to be honest. It denotes his involvment in the global scheme meant to put her away. Trapped in self-consciousness, she builds up the existence of a conspiracy by giving a meaning to everything occuring in her life. She quits her job, lock herself at home all day long, then in her room. Her territory shrinks ineluctably, all sorts of hazard laying outside, waiting to do her harm, everything she knows is no longer secure. She tries to rationalize, call the police, hires a private investigator, but she can't trust no one as even her doctor is an enemy. This woman believes to be invested of a supreme mission to abort the evil plans of an anonymous gang of bank robbers, but nobody wants to give credit to her intelligence and she feels she's the only person in the world to know the truth, everyone else strives to suppress her witness.

The one-sided story puts us directly in the shoes of a woman sinking step by step into paranoia. Written for TV by Georges Perrec. The extras play multiple characters in different context to emphasize this feeling of persecution of an organised spy network tracking her every move. The subjective point of view of surveillance camera at the bank or at the mall, in black and white, zooms in on her face, like a voyeur taking pleasure in her demise. In a tight drama with a small cast the film depicts the wide scope of an idea taking over a person's sanity in every aspect of life, as the dysfunction controls the very nerve center of judgement ability. Like the opening sequence demonstrates, cinema conventions influence the audience's vulnerability to paranoia through clever manipulation.

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17 septembre 2005

Star Suburb (1983)

Observés / Observed : A fascinating theme threading the retrospective of the autumn season at the Forum des Images. This is a very contemporean concern of our society. The paranoid anxiety of constant surveillance, the fear of conspiracy and manipulation, paradoxally associated simultaneously with a growing envy of exhibitionism/voyeurism to show off one's intimate life broadcasted on national TV. Exploring these 2 aspects, looking back at the visionary filmmakers who anticipated this slope of our world of boundless communication. This fantastic line-up starts off with a couple of unsuspected gems like an inventive short film (Star Suburb) or a made-for TV film (L'oeil de l'autre). Next, a landmark of S.F. literature I never had the opportunity to see until now: Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-four, a major inspiration of one of my favorite film, Gilliam's Brazil (which is also part of the program of course). A serie of dystopic films with an autonomous and coherent universe, a political and philosophical stance, developped as an extrapolation of the worried signals collected by writers at the time they were filmed. The scope and relevency of their insights vary from one to another. Making pertinent science-fiction daring the future and passing the test of time isn't easy.

Star Suburb, La Banlieue des étoiles (1983/Stéphane Drouot/France) +++
Half an hour of crispy science-fiction with a tiny budget and lots of imagination. Filmed on 16mm partly color, partly B&W, and miniature cardboard models. Openning on a slow pan from a painted planet off towards to cosmic darkness in the orbital suburbs: monotonous rows of social housing blocks, numbered and ordered by nationality. At the block 77, the french building section, the light of one window is on. A young girl lives alone with her brothers, a mutant cat and her aunt. A mysterious spaceship patrols outside with a spotlight. A living cell with bunkbeds as tight as the sleeping car of a train, fitted with removable, folded furniture. The film only switches to color when the spotlight enters throught the window. Like in all good S.F. short story the plot isn't spectacular and instead depicts a trivial event of a futuristic daily life, like if it happened today. A radio station offers cash prizes to whoever calls a number when their spaceship spots their lite on window, so the little girl dreams on. Almost no dialogue, yet this girl sets the right mood all along. The ratio of means v. achievement is admirable.

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15 septembre 2005

Paradise Now (2005/Abu-Assad)

Paradise Now (2005/Hany Abu-Assad/France/Germany/Netherlands/Israel) ++
Selected in Berlin 2005.

Opening Sequence: A woman stands in the middle of the road next to a suitcase, looking to the right. Behind her is an israeli checkpoint, with barbwire, concrete blocks, watchtower, soldiers and armored vehicules. She walks under a concrete tunnel where a fully equiped soldier checks her ID and search her suitcase. No words exchanged, they are both used to the procedure, but a stare game keep tension between them, a mix of fear and pride. When she retrives her ID and walks away the frame reveals another soldier further back, behind sand bags, who was pointing an assault rifle on her head all along.

Nablus, a city under siege in the Palestinian occupied territories of Cisjordan, North-East of Jerusalem. Polluted water, supply shortage, black market, poverty, social class gap with Israeli colons, blocked roads, bomb explosion... Saïd and Khaled are 2 friends working dispassionately for a car repair waiting for their moment to play a role in the terrorist guerrilla against Israel. Khaled is determined and proud to sacrifice his life for the cause. Said is more introverted but confident. His beliefs are shaken as he meets with Suha, daughter of Abu-Assan a famous martyr, just arrived from France. In a secret and meticulous ceremony, Saïd and Khaled are straped to an explosive belt for a suicide operation in a Tel Aviv bus. The conservative religious patronizing of the instructors comfort the young soon-to-be martyr with a moral high-ground over the Israeli, and keep on reminding the Koranic quotes that leave no choice but to kill the most Israeli civilians as possible. The insidious lecturing covered by religious views overwelmingly imposed to uneducated and desperate men brought to the boil. However things turned out bad and one of them get lost on his own, searched by the israeli military and the terrorists who suspect a betrayal.

This hazardous premise of a walking bomb hanging around awry within Naplus instead of Tel Aviv highlight a new perspective on the impredictability of Kamikazee who can blowback rapidly, and also demonstrates at length the way terrorism hurts foremost Palestinians who live in fear. Collaborators, both Palestinians and Israeli, is another topic developped that feeds the circular escalation of violence and public shame. This unilateral depiction of the conflict leaves the Israeli out of the picture, although a guilty controversy opposes 2 sides within the palestinian protagonists. The diplomatic, life-saving, dignified, peacekeeper hope and the revengeful, terrorist, eye-for-eye retaliation, both defended honorably, that we can hardly judge from outside.

Remarkably dramatized in a succession of encounters and discussions, sometimes edging with the paranoid atmosphere of The Battle of Algier, the choices of scenes and the direction stay away from what this type of action-suspense movie would propose, and present an ambivalent situation without taking side nor judging the agenda. Overall the question raised is not whether violence is justified, but whether the oppressed people has the luxury of a moral choice at all.

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L'Ange (1982/Bokanowski)

Report from L'Etrange Festival (Paris -Sept 2005)

L'Ange (1976-82/Patrick Bokanowski/France) ++++

Words are helpless to describe the visual impressions of cinema, moreso when no reference to wellknown conventions and clichés can be made. This Avant Garde piece is an hypnotic trip constructed on a light/darkness stacatto, precautious frame by frame decomposition, recurrent action, repetition and variation. A wonderful work on lighting texture in a sepia hue and a precise editing assemblage. This one hour long montage is roughly divided into a 5 fold installment, examining 5 different scenes with the same technical experiments. Entirely silent with an added score composed by his wife Michèle Bokanowski, for a concrete music string quartet.

Patrick Bokanowski, an artist born in 1943, painter, photographer and filmmaker, lives and work in Paris. Experimenting optical effects of reflective surfaces, diffraction, liquid mirrors, distorted perspectives, motion and stillness with 2 feature length films and 5 short films in 16 mm.Probably the inspiration of the work of todays austrian Avant Garde (Tscherkawski, Widrich, Müller, Fruhauf)

A man with a japanese katana stabs on and on a porcelaine doll hanging from the ceiling at eye level on a wire. The first shot opens on a freeze-frame, the doll hit at the end of a dark corridor, paralyzed in a motion-blur, unrecognizable. Suddenly motion gives sense to this abstract image. This short sequence is played over and over, identical from various angles, backward and forward, step-by-step, superimposition of a delayed motion, homage to the chronographic studies of Eadweard Muybridge at the origin of cinema. (video sample)

Down in a librairy archive, glasses wearing book-rats patrol the shelves and stack piles of books on the scribe's desk who record them on the registry. This routine goes on faster with more clerks and more books each time, like a studious anthill. The precipitation of chain workers and the overwhelming accumulation of books is administered with fatalistic resignation.

In the style of an archaic silent comedy, a man with a melon hat and a big moustache takes his bubble bath with a dog. The many takes are interspreced in a cataractous editing. Many surrealist visions emerging from darkness, flashed by aesthetical spotlights. Strobe-lit staircase reminiscent of the etchings of Piranese's prisons. A naked woman in a giant cube.

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13 septembre 2005

The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes (2005/Quay)

Festival report : From L'Etrange Festival (Paris - Septembre 2005)
The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes (2005/Quay Bros/Germany/UK/France) + +

The twins were supposed to be in attendance, but since the film is shown in Toronto at the same time, they prefered Canada... Amira Casare, who plays Malvina the Opera singer in the film, was there to replace them. The film is produced by Terry Gilliam with British, French and German funds.

Based on Argentine writer Adolfo Bioy Casares' "The Invention of Morel". On a strange island inspired by XVIIIth century aesthetics, Dr. Droz , a mad scientist who pursues the dreaded quest to immortilize the perfect moment, the perfect sound with curious automatons. A baroque conglomerate of various myths from Pygmalion to Frankenstein, in a Raoul Ruiz-like psychanalitic re-enactment. All the story seems to be inspired by the Opera allegory of a naturalist factoid: This ant living in the forest of Cameroon is parasited by a microscopic fungus damaging it's nerveous system, leading the disordered insect to climb high up on a stem and die hanging out up there. The fungus grows a spike through the ant skull and ejaculates a spray of spores to parasite more ants down bellow.

I'm not sure yet if I prefer it to Institute Benjamenta (long time since I saw that one), I'd say this one is as loose and as experimental. Getting into the film is rather difficult, the first hour seems to struggle aimlessly. The lighting quality, often too dark to see, is uneven throughout, from glimpses of marvel (like in their short films), to dull pitch black.

The issue is once again a flawed acting direction, maybe too neutral, uninvolved in the peculiar universe of the fiction. Although it might be a conscious deliberate decision, I can't really pin down the essence of the mood they develop. But the visual proposition, free of any known conventions makes a worthwile trip, despite the long stretches and weak plot-descriptive dialogue. One character actually says it out loud "you'll get used to the confusion"

The last reel is extraordinary. The dream sequences are especially experimental, with reverse footage, stopmotion animation and a multilayered soundtrack.

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11 septembre 2005

Dali's surrealist documentary (1976)

Festival report : From L'Etrange Festival (Paris - Septembre 2005)

Metamorphosis of Hitler's Face into a Moonlit Landscape with Accompaniment, 1958

Impressions de la haute Mongolie (1976/Salvador Dali/José Montes-Baquer/Germany)

Homage to Impressions d'Afrique (1909), a free-associative poem written by Raymond Roussel (1877-1933), even though he never visited Africa. The film is dedicated to this french author, forefather of the Surrealists, who developped a formal constraint system to generate inspiration from dislocative puns.
Dali does the very same thing with this chimerical pseudocumentary leading us to the mysterious realm of High Mongolia where a gigantic, soft, white mushroom grows, many times more hallucinogenic than LSD! From his studio-museum in Cadacès (Spain), he proceeds to report with fake newspaper clips and newsreel on the alleged scientific expedition sent out by himself to retrieve this precious treasure. Childhood memories (like the picture above) are the opportunity to explain throughoutly the source of his inspiration. This bucolic landscape is in fact a close up of Hitler's portrait (his nose and moustache) turned to the side!
Wholly daliesque, this film experiment pieces together astonishing combinations on superimposed images, fading in and out, switching scale with odd perspectives. Dali invents a filmmaking process and applies his very language to cinematic purposes, bending the rules to serve his desperate need for originality. Travelling through a microscopic close up of paintings or the rough surface of a pen, his voiceover commentary gives sense to the landscapes taking form under his eyes. We get the chance to see some of his art, and watch the artist being his egotico-paranoid self (in French). A delirious experience, beautifully crafted. The backdoor to Salvador Dali's twisted mind.

This brought back fond memories of spending time staring at abstract motifs on tacky wallpapers, marble tiles or on geometrical rugs, discovering unmistakable faces and curious monsters or animals, that would later stand out everytime I'd lay my eyes in this area. The mind always tries to rationalize in an anthropomorphical way an image devoid of meaning, lacking recognizable features. The same game as discriminating shapes in the cumulonimbus. And suddenly we blink for a second and it's all gone, impossible to spot it again like it was before, even though we know it's right there before our eyes. I used to trace them over, as it was a rich generator of original shapes, but it never looks as real when the hand "improves" by filling the blanks on paper, adding a missing eye, or connecting dots. The creature emerging from a stain appears genuine and evident in its alien context only. Dali operates the same doctoring by overlapping his drawings on the footage to hint us how to read his vision. Then he takes it away and let our imagination build the rest, like a collective visual palimpseste.

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Venice 2005

FESTIVAL: 62nd Venice International Film Festival - Mostra - septembre 2005

  • Golden Lion (Best Film) : Brokeback Mountain - Ang LEE
  • Silver Lion (Best Director) : Les Amants réguliers - Philippe GARREL
  • Jury Special Prize : Mary - Abel FERRARA
  • Coppa Volpi (Best Actor) : David Strathairn in Good Night, and Good Luck - George CLOONEY
  • Coppa Volpi (Best Actress) : Giovanna Mezzogiorno in La bestia nel cuore - Cristina COMENCINI
  • Osella (Outstanding Technical Contribution) : William Lubtchansky for the photography in Les Amants réguliers - Philippe GARREL
  • Osella (Best Screenplay) : George Clooney & Grant Heslov for Good Night, and Good Luck - George CLOONEY
  • “Marcello Mastroianni” Award (Best Young Actor) : Ménothy Cesar in Vers le sud - Laurent CANTET
  • Future Lion (Best Debut Feature) : 13 - Gela Babluani
  • Special Lion (for her work as a whole) : Isabelle HUPPERT
  • Honnorary Award (Lifetime Achievement) : Hayao Miyazaki & Stefania Sandrelli


  • Best Feature : East of Paradise - Lech Kowalski
  • Best Documentary : Perviye na lune - Aleksey Fedorchenko


  • Audience Award : Mater Natura - Massimo Andrei
  • Leoncino D´Oro : Sympathy for Lady Vengeance - Park Chan wook

From the line-up, I'll be looking forward to:

Vers le sud (Laurent CANTET/France); Mary (Abel FERRARA/Italy); Corpse Bride (Tim BURTON); All the Invisible Children (Mehdi CHAREF, Emir KUSTURICA, Spike LEE, Kátia LUND, Jordan SCOTT, Ridley SCOTT, Stefano VENERUSO, John WOO); The Wild Blue Yonder (Werner HERZOG)

And I'm intrigued by:

The Brothers Grimm (Terry GILLIAM/UK); The Constant Gardener (Fernando MEIRELLES/UK); Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (PARK Chan-wook/Korea); La bestia nel cuore (Cristina COMENCINI/Italy); Romance and Cigarettes (John TURTURRO/USA); Bubble (Steven SODERBERGH); Drawing Restraint (Matthew BARNEY); Carmen (Jean-Pierre LIMOSIN); La dignidad de los nadies (Fernando E.SOLANAS)

06 septembre 2005

Year 2005 (Ongoing)

Ordered alphabeticaly

  • El Battala en el Cielo
  • Caché / Hidden
  • The Death of Mr. Lazarescu
  • The Hand in Eros
  • The Forsaken Land
  • Manderlay
  • Me and You and Everyone We Know
  • Profils Paysans: Le Quotidien
  • Solntse / The Sun
  • Tale of Cinema
  • Three Times

The Mahabharata (1989/Peter Brook)

The Mahabharata (1989/Peter Brook/UK/France) ++

One major Indian founding scripture is the great epic of the Bharata dynasty. The Indian subcontinent is also known as Bharata. Contemporary to the Old Testament, this sacred document, Mahabharata, unfolds four to seventeen times longer than the Bible (according to sources). "The political history of the human kind" as Vyasa the writer-narrator calls it. They say everything that is in the Mahabharata can be found somewhere else and what isn't is nowhere else.

An impressive Indian genesis developing all the subsequent intricate semi-gods genealogy, overcrowded by minor characters with complicated names and head-scratching cross-family ties. The Pandavas family and the Kauravas family are the princes claiming each the exclusive authority over Earth and the human people, leading up to a global war summoning all the powers, tricks and politics of Gods, magic creatures, warrior champions and humans. On each side of this merciless fratricide conflict, a secret weapon could annihilate all things and depends on the judgement of its owner. A battle for the control of power, involving pride and competition, allegiances to ideas or to friends, gambling, exile, humiliation, sacrifice, education, asceticism and wisdom.
- Arjuna, one Pandava brother, the warrior model, is the hero of the film, if there are any central character in the multitude. He's instructed by lord Krishna, incarnation of Vishnu.
- Karna, is the illegitimate son of Kunti, mother of the Pandavas princes, who was abandoned on a river in a cradle, like a Moses-type character. Ignoring his identity, he is adopted by the Kauravas and will fight on their side. He is as skilful a warrior as Arjuna, his brother, and wants to defeat him in a duel.
- Bhishma is an invincible general on the side of the Kauravas, who could decide the time of his death, a power gifted by a god.
- The five Kauravas will marry the same wife, and unite as one ultimate warrior: eyes, ears, heart, arms and legs.

Both mythological and religious, this legendary prehistory constitutes a remarkably woven array of moral values in the philosophy of Hinduism, distinctive from the good/evil dichotomy of monotheistic western religions. Evil is sometimes a way to a greater good, such as lies, betrayal, deception or killing, because karma supersedes life.

Adapted by Jean-Claude Carrière (Luis Buñuel's screenwriter) after 20 years of researches and travels throughout India, and the publication in 1985 of a book on this legendary text unknown in the western civilisation. In 1984, he writes a 9h long stage play for Peter Brook. A film version is shot in 1989 in the French studios of Joinville near Paris, for a TV series running 318', later edited into a 171' theatrical version.
The motion picture I saw is compacted in 3 parts, largely digested, with short cuts and quick summaries of the historical backdrop. Some cuts are a little abrupt and the story speeds up at times.
-The game of Dice, tells the origin of the Gods, the birth of the princes, and how the kingdom of Earth is lost on a roll of dice.
-Exil in the Forest, tells how the younger branch of the family, the Kauravas who lost the game of dice, are banned for 12 years, de-possessed of everything they had and prepare the vengeance.
-War. tells the great battle at Kurukshetra, the inevitable conclusion of the political rivalry, when the Kauravas are victors helped by Krishna.

All the digressions are difficult to follow, complicated by long names recited in strings and characters with multiple identies or variable alignment. Although each one has an amazing story and a fully constructed personality. The stagey adaptation in studio soundstage, makes for a rather stylized and symbolic rendition of violence, war and magic. The baroque ensemble cast is composed of actors of various ethnicity, British, Irish, French, African, Japanese... all dubbed in post-synch with british accent. Ironically very few indian actors. Bruce Myers plays a great Krishna, disturbing like "mysterious man" in Lost Highway.
From a cinematic standpoint nothing is very much innovative nor particularly impressive aesthetically, because of the very stagey look and the flat mise-en-scene. The only cinema special effects are some superimpositions and a nice reverse footage when a creature dives under the ground (like in quick sands). However simple the production can be it is very tasteful and doesn't get cheesy like the old Roman Hollywood epics. This one compares with Peter Jackson's trilogy easily. Kaidan is a good approximation for the narrative style I suppose.

(s) +++ (w) +++ (m) ++ (i) +++ (c) ++

02 septembre 2005

Year 2004

Ordered alphabeticaly

  • 3-iron - Kim Ki-duk/South Korea
  • 2046 - Wong Kar-wai/Hong-Kong
  • La Blessure / The Wound - Nicolas Klotz/France
  • Café Lumière - Hou Hsiao-hsien/Taiwan)
  • Comme une Image / Look At Me - Agnès Jaoui/France
  • L'esquive - Abdel Kechiche/France)
  • Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind - Michel Gondry/USA
  • Hotel - Jessica Hausner/Austria
  • Le Moindre Geste - Fernand Deligny/France
  • Los Muertos - Lisandro Alonso/Argentina
  • La Niña Santa - Lucrecia Martel/Argentina
  • Nobody Knows - Hirokazu Koreeda/Japan
  • S21: The Khmer Rouge Death Machine - Rithy Panh/Cambodia
  • Tiexi Qu : West of tracks - Wang Bing/China
  • Tropical Malady - Weerasethakul/Thailand
  • Whisky - Rebella/Stoll/Uruguay
  • The World - Jia Zhang-Ke/China)

01 septembre 2005

Blog Index

Articles Index



  1. Deception
  2. Manipulation
  3. Simplification
  4. Burden of Proof
  5. Complacency
  6. Mannerism
  7. Synopsizing /capsule reviewing
  8. Prejudice
  9. Conflict of Interest
  10. Insularity
  11. Egocentrism
  12. Name Dropping
  13. Digression
  14. Populism
  15. Conservatism
  16. Spoilers
  17. Ratings
  18. Labels
  19. Cleverness / Humour
  20. Bickering
  21. Credentials
  22. Arrogance
  23. Equivalence / Short Sightedness
  24. Gullibility




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Film Ratings

Rating System

  • (s) : subject
  • (w) : writing
  • (m) : mise-en-scène
  • (i) : inspiration
  • (c) : craft

Rating Scale

++++ : FLARE (Masterwork)
+++ : FLAWED (Inspired)
++ : FAIR (Skillful)
+ : FLIMSY (Lazy)
0 : FORMAL (Average)
- : FAULTY (Dismissed)