UDINE FAR EAST FILM 8 The largest showcase of popular films from the far East 21 - 29 April 2006 / ItalyCANNES 2006May 17-28 Line upBuenos Aires 2006Report by Dave Kehr (2, 3)
"Common people with Common Feelings : " Pauline Kael, James Agee, and the Public Sphere of Popular Film Criticism - article by Leo Charney (1996) on the manipulative rhetoric of populist reviewing
Complete Retrospective of Jean-Luc Godard's filmography at the Paris MoMA, April - August 2006, exhibition curated by JLG and Nicole Brenez
Valuing Slowness on The Chutry Experiment
Brenez and the Cinematic Image by Zach Campbell on Elusive Lucidity
Avant-Garde Blog-a-thon Roll call at Girish, get ready for August 2006
Short notes on :U-Carmen e-Khayelitsha (2005/Mark Dornford-May/South Africa) +++Really impressive for a debut film, this filmmaker is promising. The DV cinematography is also skillful, grainy and well lite. Georges Bizet's opera : Carmen (1875), updated to contemporean setting. The original french opera takes place in very Catholic XIXth century Spain (Sevilla), opposing gipsies and christians. The only liberty, I think, is to sideline the matador part in the film, especially the famous song "Toreador" (only played on TV at the cigare factory, and turned off in the middle). The ending in the night with the smugglers reminded me of Baz Luhrmann's baroque adapation of Romeo + Juliet.The lyrics, sang in the local dialect (It's funny to hear the clicking tongue of the bushman-like dialect during the songs) are a little adapted to include new concerns like violence, corruption, sexuality as expected in a South African township. The intrigue respects the source story by Prosper Mérimée (1873), and unlike at the Opera house the singing are subtitled. Lyric songs and dailylife (realistic) scenes are integrated seamlessly. Beautifully stylized. The only baroque aspect (except for the "musical" routine) is the clash of african dance (visual) with european classical music (audio), a divorce (or is it colonial synchretism?) of visual and audio rhythms. Berlin 2005 Golden Bear!
Stephen Colbert from The Colbert Report gives, eyes to eyes, a masterclass in Truthiness to President W Bush at the White House Correspondents Dinner!Full video on ThrowAway YourTV.comThis guy has not only talent, he's got balls! And this is the sign democracy isn't totally dead when a (failing) president accepts to be mocked publicaly like this... especially knowing how the administration is protected from alternative news in its self-alimented cocoon.A reminiscence of the medieval buffoon who was the only one who could contradict and ridicule the king's decisions and behavior at the royal court. This idea of a dinner with the press when the president has to perform a comic skit is incredible in itself. The french politicians and press are so not ready for this yet.Colbert really took his satirical stunt to its uttermost possible conclusion.
Line up announced at Quinzaine des réalisateurs / Director's Fortnight : Cannes 2006
Line up announced at the International Critics' Week : Cannes 2006
Les filles du botaniste / The daughters of the botanist (2006/Sijie Dai/France/Canada) ++Another controversive drama by the director of Balzac and the Little Chinese Seamstress, telling the forbidden lesbian love between 2 girls living on an island with an authoritarian botanist. The film was shot in vietnam because of the chinese censorship, the botanic garden reconstructed from scratch (flowers and medicinal plants), giving some compositions inspired by the paintings of Le Douanier Rousseau. Erotic scenes overtly aesthetized, set design and photography are beautiful but the mise-en-scène and camerawork are too conventional. Overall the melo isn't overwhelming and the contemplative pace focuses on the relationship between the girls. Although the film states feelings and psychology in academic scenes, rather than develop a dramatic power coming from within the characters. One of the girl, mixed-blood with grey eyes, orphan of a russian father and a chinese mother, is played by a pretty french actress Mylène Jampanoï.(s) ++ (w) + (m) + (i) ++ (c) +++
The Wrestler and the Clown / Borets i kloun (1957/Konstantin Yudin/Boris Barnet/Russia) +Circus melo movie genre very popular in russian cinema, portraying 2 real-life legends of the beguining of the century : Poddubny, world champion of wrestling, and Durov, mythical clown taming animals. They meet and ascend a successful career together from a starving Odessa to a luxury Saint Petersburg, and across Europe. The wrestling championship was so popular it took place in the circus, on the road.Full of typical gimmicks (love story within the circus family, trapeze accident, mean competition between artists and happy ending) and quite funny, featuring Raoul Bouchet, a sneaky french westler champion resorting to underhanded tricks; Mr. Fish, a greedy british speculator and gambler; Esterina, a seductive french intrigante; an old deaf man and a green pig. The film directed by Konstantin Yudin, who died during shooting, was finished by Boris Barnet.Two-Buldi-Two (1929/Kuleshov) is a much better circus movie, incorporating a pro-bolchevick revolutionary subplot.(s) 0 (w) 0 (m) 0 (i) + (c) +
The previous film and this short film were introduced by a historian of soviet cinema. These are my notes after teh screening:Chess Fever / Shakhmatnaya goryachka (1925/Pudovkin/Shpikovsky) ++1924: World Championship of Chess in Moscow. Some real-life footage of the tournament, featuring Capablanca (then world champion), are included in a burelesque fiction themed on the chess fad that fascinated everyone and caused troubles among couples. The protagonist forgets his own wedding because he plays against himself a chess game. Ensuing drama, both lovers want to commit suicide.This absurd short film from the Kulechov school was performed with many of the most prominent figures of russian cinema at the time; actors (Fogel, Zemtsova, Zharov, Koval-Samborsky, Komarov, Ktorov), and directors (Barnet, Protazanov, Otsep, Raizman)(s) 0 (w) + (m) ++ (i) ++ (c) +++
Identificazione di una donna / Identification of a woman (1982/Michelangelo Antonioni/Italy/France) +A divorced man, famous movie director, falls in love with a mysterious aristocratic woman whose father might be a stranger. Menawhile he receives anonymous threats to discontinue his relationship with a certain woman. The paranoia sinks in and destroys the couple. The reflexion on feminity and cinema are barely suspicious.Like in Beyond the Clouds and his latest short segment in Eros, it's only pointless un-erotic nudity and verbal vacuous political statements without any kind of deeper insightful cinematic development. Almost the opposite of the Antonioni I admire, a bad caricature of a too self-conscious and obscur modernist plotless circumvolution. Lame TV-grade image and improbable acting don't help much.(s) +++ (w) ++ (m) ++ (i) + (c) +
Series of 20 radio broadcast on France Culture this month by famous French critic Jean Douchet on the historical/cultural background of La Nouvelle Vague (in french) available online thru REAL ram.
New issue of Senses of Cinema #39 (april-june 2006)- 4 articles on Hou Hsiao-hsien- Study on the postmodern style of Me and You and Everyone we know- Straub-Huillet's Cezanne- British Free Cinema
Godard's mega exhibition at the Paris MoMA was due to open on April 24 but after a clash with his curator (Dominique Païni). The unique lifetime retrospective was originally named "Collage(s) de France", and later renamed "Voyage(s) en Utopie, Godard, 1946-2006", and will eventually open tomorrow on May 11th.I already caught one of his epic work with Anne-Marie Miéville at the screenings that have already started: France Tour Détour Deux Enfants" (1979), an experimental TV documentary of 12 half-hour episodes, that was never aired. Godard, offscreen, interviews a boy and a girl along a typical school day, asking them philosophical (leading and binary) questions such as "Would you say your body is more like a house or a school?"...I was interested by the reaction of the children but it looked like a hassle to them, Godard trying to "get" something pre-determined from them whether they are enclined/comfortable or not.
I've finished watching the 9 films (Bassae; L'Ordre; Méditerranée; Le Horla; Pour Mémoire (la forge); Tu imagines Robinson, Dieu sait quoi; Ceux d'en face; L'Amour c'est gai, l'maour c'est triste) of a partial retrospective of Jean-Daniel Pollet that luckily was running since march. Now I have to write about this great auteur that developped a very personal style.
Et Dieu créa la femme (1956/Roger Vadim) 0I thought I had missed an landmark of french cinema... it turns out it was just another love triangle melo, spiced up by a sexual revolution of onscreen erotism promoted by Brigitte Bardot's suggestive curves. Not much meat in the script and the direction outside the ostensible provocation... Maybe it was socially subversive back then, but it feels dated today.(s) 0 (w) 0 (m) + (i) + (c) +
A longwinded State of Cinema address by Tilda Swinton at SIFF 2006.
May 9th was the European Union day over here.And I didn't even know there was a retrospective of current (mainstream) European cinema, one film per state member, most had never been released in France yet.Germany : Lucy (2006/Henner Winckler)Austria : Antares (2004/Götz Spielmann)Belgium : The Room (2006/Giles Daoust)Chypria : Dreams for Life (2004/Anna Kannava)Denmark : Adams æbler / Adam's Apples (2005/Anders Thomas Jensen)Spain: El Método / The Method (2005/Marcelo Piñeyro)Estonia : Täna öösel me ei maga / Set Point (2004/Ilmar Taska)Finland : Melancholian 3 huonetta / The 3 Rooms of Melancholia (2004/Pirjo Honkasalo)France : Comme t'y es belle! (2006/Lisa Azuelos)Greece : Omiros / Hostage (2005/Constantine Giannaris)Hungary : Who's the hell's Bonnie and Clyde (?)Ireland : Isolation (2005/Billy O'Brien)Italy : Manuale de amore (2005/Giovanni Veronesi)Lettonia : Krisana (2005/Fred Kelemen)Lithuania : Seven Invisible Men (2005/Sharunas Bartas)Luxembourg : Le Roman de Renart (2005/Thierry Schiel)Malte : Malte, histoire de roc (2006/Pierre Brouwers)Netherlands : Shouf shouf habibi! (2004/Albert Ter Heerdt)Poland : Pornografia (2003/Jan Jakub Kolski)Portugal : A cara que mereces (2004/Michel Gomes)Slovak Rep. : Kruté radosti / Cruel Joys (2002/Juraj Nvota)Czech Rep. : Stestí / Something Like Happiness (2005/Bohdam Slama)UK : Tristram Shandy : a cock and a bull story (2005/Michael Winterbottom)Slovenia : Uglasevanje / Tuning (2005/Igor Sterk)Sweden : Wallander / Mastermind (2005/Peter Flinth)Unfortunately there was only 2 screenings for each film and at the same time (absurd schedule!) So I could only see 2 films... and I went for Denmark and Hungary. I had already seen the films selected for Czech Rep., Poland, Lithuania. It's interesting to have a look at foreign cinema as the distribution market is rather compartimented... very few movies make an international career, even in a country nextdoor. The language barrier probably, but the territoriality of markets too.
A Miskolci boniésklájd / Who's the Hell's Bonnie and Clyde? (2004/Krisztina Deák/Hungary)It's really just another Bonnie and Clyde story... but the complicated editing of the flashbacks is interesting, not playing on plot-point suspens (we know they get caught early on) but on the non-linear revelation of the partial events. Understated thriller, emphasizing on their clandestine daily life.Sorstalanság / Fateless (2005/Lajos Koltai/Hungary) that has been released this week in France. An original point of view on the holocaust that gives a more realistic impression (and also less dramatized, I'm thinking of Polanski's The Pianist) of the labor camps and especially the difficult return home after the war ends, in the soviet zone. Powerful writing and mise-en-scène, purity and to the point. No long speaking parts, mostly expressed with superbs images. I like period films that focus on the small history without refering to famous characters or famous battle. It's strictly the life of a young hungarian jew deported from Budapest way and back.
Girish on Austrian Avant-Garde filmmaker, Martin Arnold, and Hungarian filmmaker Bela Tarr.The last short experiment clip by David Lynch analyzed on Digital Poetics.
By the Bluest of Seas / U samogo sinyego morya (1936/Boris Barnet/S. Mardanin/Russia) +++During the war effort, women are alone to run the business, and these two young single sailors, rescued from a shipwreck, become the attraction. Melo-comedy driven by the competition between 2 friends for the same woman, who happens to love another one. Confusion and misunderstandings ensue. The story backdrop develops a nationalist propaganda to support troups fighting on the Pacific front, and promotes the utopia of communitary farms such as this fishermen village on an isolated island pompously named "Lights of the Communism". First russian color film with a minimalistic use of dialogue that owes to the peak mastery of silent movies that still prevailed. The Soviet montage inspired editing provides all needed dramatic effects. The photography is superb, especially the filming of the Caspian sea in an amazing opening sequence. I've never seen the force of waves, the ondulating immensity, the many shapes water can take so well captured on film. Notably an orange sun setting on the horizon filmed through the transparence of splashing waves!The good-feeling romance is a little light but told in small smart details, the directing is original and intelligent, almost experimental at times.(s) + (w) ++ (m) +++ (i) +++ (c) ++++
Adam's Apples / Adams æbler(2005/Anders Thomas Jensen/Denmark)Black cynical comedy tackling on the religious-based battle between Good and Evil, and its dependance on interpretative perspectives. The pitch is laughable, the characters are an extreme caricature of the stereotypes they represent and the literal Deus Ex-Machina plot drives are ridiculous, yet it's because the director doesn't take himself, or any of the touchy topics he deals with, seriously.Adam is a neo-nazi convict ending up in a lutheran protestant church for community service to earn his parole. Ivan is the pathologically optimistic preacher of this parish, who believes Evil doesn't exist... as it's all God testing human's faith.The existence of God is assumed a series of quasi-miraculous coincidences (stroke of lightning, medical impossibilities, biblical parables), but the atmosphere remains definitely pragmatic. What's interesting within this setting is how each character keeps a straight face without comical gimmicks and plays an anti-dramatic denial of emotions in the midst of outrageous scenes, responding with the unexpected action that defuses the conflict or more exactly diverts our attention onto something even more immorally tenable.These aren't slapstick comedy resorts, but cold dry humour relying on absurdist shock value. The ending is a little too over-the-top unfortunately, falling back on the traditional genre of good morals to tie up all the subplots with a passably happy ending.(s) ++ (w) +++ (m) ++ (i) ++ (c) +++Related link:2006 SFIFF—Adam's Æbler / Adam's Apples at The Evening Class
Interesting panel debate between 3 major american critics in 1963 (Dwight Macdonald, Pauline Kael, John Simon) in a 73' soundbit posted on the blog : If Charlie Parker Was a Gunslinger, There'd Be a Whole Lot of Dead Copycats. They discuss back and forth 3 films (Ritt's Hud, Fellini's 8 1/2, Resnais' Muriel) and one filmography (Satyajit Ray).The intellectual aesthetics elitism v. the american-centered populism. Cheap shot at Sarris' auteurism who is "a messiah but not a critic". Dissmissal of Hitchcock's The Birds. Free bashing of "boring" Satyajit Ray, "heavy and clumsy" Antonioni, "incomprehensible" Alain Resnais... Apparently they only agreed on the greatness of dead filmmakers. This is simply outrageous and terribly funny.Why take movie-rating so much at heart when critics can be so wrong on current cinema?Anyway this comfirms my intuitive rejection of Kael's posture.
I saw Volver and Il Caimano, both great films, Almodovar is more creative with his mise-en-scene but the plot is thiner, even if the female archetypes and symbols at work are interesting on deeper levels. Moretti's is the contrary, more conventional with the direction and visual creativity, but the nest narration, film-within-the-film, and political satire through family crisis goes further than Volver's pseudo ghost story.I don't know when I'll have time to review them properly though.
Controversial interview of BlogCritic Walter Chaw, angry at the system that keeps him out of the print world privileges : Keep up, or get out of the way at The House Next Door.A commentary on The Chutry Experiment, by chuck.And a detailed reaction posted at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule by Dennis Cozzalio.
Critical Edge: critics in a critical age - an online debate that took place from May 14 to 17, between art critics arguing the goods and the bads of the possibilities of online criticism in the blogosphere...Dozens of entries to read through!Commentary on BuzzMachine by Jeff Jarvis
Everyone's Always Been a Critic -- But the Net Makes Their Voices Count by Scott Kirsner at the Boston Globe.Mark Schannon's class in essay articulation : So You Want To Be A Critic at Blogcritics, who believes criticism is all about baiting your readers, and leaving them with something good to take home. Like if rhetoric mastery was enough to produce good criticism...Chuck's commentary of these 2 articles at The Chutry Experiment : What is a Film Critic?
Grumpy Old Farts vs. Whiny Young Whelps by Dave Kehrabout old critics, how long they hold onto their job, and how far a gap there is with their age and the one of the movie audience and their filmmaker.
Controversial review of the Godard Exhibition at the Paris MoMA commented by the filmmaker club on Le Cinéma l'après-midi (French) available online for a week.
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