Friday, July 29, 2005
Thursday, July 28, 2005
Wednesday, July 27, 2005
Set in London, the film shows a relationship as it develops over the course of a year. And there's plenty of explicit sex in it, which raised a few eyebrows amongst those who were not too sure whether it was art or pornography. Alas, can't it be both? Why can we show people shooting each other and not making love? Luckily, there have been a spat of films over the last few years that are bringing sex to the mainstream. Prime examples include Catherine Breillat's Romance and Virginie Despente's Baise Moi (which, incidentally, shows both: killing and sex) and they should be welcome as a step forward.
Summer of love: Gwenaelle Simon
and Melvil Poupaud in A Summer's
To celebrate the DVD release of Tales of The Four Seasons by the acclaimed director Eric Rohmer, one of the doyennes of the French New Wave, there will be an exclusive presentation of A Summer’s Tale at the Chelsea Cinema.
A Summer’s Tale is the third film in the Rohmer’s series of stories set amongst the seasons. The film charts the small summer adventure of Gaspard (Melvil Poupaud), a young, good-looking man with few stories to tell but music to play. Gaspard arrives in Dinard, a seaside resort in Brittany to wait for Lena (Gwenaelle Simon). Lena is the girl he longs to hold, the girl he calls his girlfriend. But Lena is not in Dinard and Gaspard begins to doubt if she will come at all. Meanwhile he meets Margot (Aurelia Nolin), a student and part-time waitress. Margot has an air for love and life. They go on long walk together and have longer conversations about the intricacies of romance. But their lips never meet because they both have partners elsewhere. All the same Margot is determined for Gaspard to find a pretty girl for some summer love. She introduces him to Solène (Amanda Langlet), a voluptuous serial dater, and Gaspard falls for her flirty charm. Then Lena turns up.
Over the course of the film, Gaspard dedicates the same song to all three women and plans to go with each of them to Ouessant.Confused and troubled by the mess he has made, Gaspard does not know which way to turn. But the question remains: does he love any of them?
A Summer’s Tale is a charming, if a little clumsy, meandering exploration of moral love, intellectual and romantic love for young, bourgeois France. Director Eric Rohmer continues to shun big-name stars, film on a low-budget and work with his New Wave principles, leaving you with a perfect summer stroll and thought for the winter.
A Summer’s Tale will be showing at the Chelsea Cinema from 29 July to 4 Aug 2005
Want to see more of Rohmer? Then click on the following links:
Tuesday, July 26, 2005
Latin America deserves and needs more films like Whisky. This bitter sweet comedy is the perfect antidote to the fast-paced, sexed up and bleached-out fare that Amores Perros and City of God have institutionalised as the 'new Latin American cinema'. Whisky is more universal, timeless and comes laced with a strong dose fine Jewish humour. It’s not a strictly topical film, but it touches on subjects such as loneliness and social awkwardness.
André Pazoz plays Jacobo Köller, a frumpy Jewish sock factory owner in Uruguay. His extremely humdrum routine doesn't seem to bother him. He has a right hand at the factory, Marta (played by the wonderfully subtle Mirella Pascual) who waits for Jacobo outside the factory every morning, punctually. After that, the two female employees arrive and they repeat the same ritual, day in, day out.
This routine is established right at the beginning of the film with the precision of a clock. Directors Juan Pablo Rebella and Pablo Stoll insert a series of still shots and dialogues that contextualise the mise-en-scene in a broader timeframe. The rhythm of the editing is almost hypnotic.
One morning Jacobo asks Marta to pretend to be his wife during the period when his brother Herman (Jorge Bolani) will be visiting from Brazil (presumably to make his dreary life look a bit better in his happily married brother’s eyes). She promptly accepts the request, with her typically dignified solicitousness. She helps him make the house look as if it's inhabited by a couple; they even take a ‘happy couple’ studio shot, which is when we learn the origin of the film title: whisky is what people say to appear they’re smiling when they have their photographs taken. The irony here is nothing short of genius.
Three's a party: the main characters in Whisky
After Herman’s arrival, Whisky becomes a mixture of domestic comedy and a one-stop road movie when brothers and bogus wife travel to a tacky, cloudy, wind-swept beach resort. At this point, it starts to look like the film Jim Jamursch would have made if he were Uruguayan.
Whisky, like the drink, lingers. Mirella Pascual's performance is particularly good: her sense of timing and the subtlety with which she reveals her character's feelings at the end are a master class in filmic micro-acting. Pazos is also perfection as the dysfunctional middle-aged man who can't look after himself and lives in permanent denial and oblivion. This is a timeless story told with a humane, compassionate touch. Tedium and monotony never appeared so enticing.
Friday, July 22, 2005
James' Journey to Jerusalem
Friday, July 15, 2005
Thursday, July 14, 2005
The mirror has two faces: 3-Iron
Another superb new release proves that the best of contemporary cinema still is coming from outside the Europe/US axis. Korean director Kim Ki-duk's 3 Iron is a laconic, minimalist which, even though it is nearly entirely devoid of dialogues, mesmerises like the proverbial siren. It's an usual love story with traces of magic realism. Ki-duk wrote the original story and shows he has a very fertile, idyosincratic imagination. He's already getting attention in Europe, having won the 54th Silver Bear Award for Best Director at the Berlin Film Festival.
3 Iron is about Tae-suk (Jae Hee), a loner whose hobby is to spend time in empty houses. He goes from door to door and puts up ad flyers on the key holes of each house. He later breaks into the house where the flyer is not removed, assuming that the owner is away. Tae-suk doesn't steal anything. In fact, he repairs objects (clocks seem to be his favourite) and sometimes even does the laundry. He's just a harmless voyeur. The films makes the viewer follow him through a few houses (therefore becoming a voyeur of the voyeur) until he comes across Sun-hwa (Lee Seung-yeon), a battered housewife whose home has become a prison for her. He sees her crying and her busband abusing her. He frees her, they bond and she starts to accompany him on his wanderings through other people's homes, all the while barely exchanging a word.
3-Iron (a golf term; golf is a main motif in the film) is a delicate, crystalline fable about human relations and the magic that can happen when a special link and how a strong link between people can produce magic, not like in the Romantic tradition, but in a more esoteric fashion. But mainly, it's the fact that the story unravels with such economy of signs that makes the film so perfect. Jae Hee and Lee Seung-yeon carry 3-Iron with elegance, subtlety and puerile humour that charms and enchants. 3-Iron is avant-Zen cinema at its best.
Friday, July 08, 2005
Antonioni's Zabriskie Point
Looking for something different at the weekend? Then head for the Curzon Soho on Sunday, 10 July. At 12noon, there's a double bill of Antonioni's Zabriskie Point and the Mick Jagger-starred seminal 60s London film Performance. Zabriskie Point was to be Antonioni's statement on American culture and Western society. Financed by MGM, which, like other major studios at the time, were dying to cash in on the counter culture, or simply hoping that European arthouse directors would hit gold again after doing so with their low-budet films (Visconti's Death in Venice was financed by Hollywood for that reason as well). However, Antonioni's hippie road movie turned out to be a disaster. Panned by contemporary critics, it was a box-office flop and a major blow to his career. But time has been kind to the film and it has become a cult item after more favourable critical reassessments. Like all time-capsule films, see it for yourself./// Moving from a California to a London time capsule you'll find Performance (directed by Donald Cammell), a glimpse at London gangsterland of the 1960s. Mick Jagger stars as washed-up rock star while James Fox plays a ruthless criminal. The film took two years to be released (it was shot in 1968 and premiered in 1970) because it was, as the cliché goes, ahead of its time.///Later in the evening the Curzon will show Isaac Julien's Young Soul Rebels. Julien is one of the most prominent black British film-makers, and in this film he also deals with black gay sexuality. He is probably better known as a Turner Prize nominee and glossy video artist, so expect a visually stunning film. (see links for details)
Thursday, July 07, 2005
The age of 'indie-cinema' gets its own Sunset Boulevard (well, -ish) with Overnight, a poignant journey through the (brief) rise of Troy Duffy to the Miramax-blessed echelons of indie nirvana and his quick, spectacular descent into alcoholic hell and celluloid oblivion. Admittedly, the film itself is not as good as it sounds but it should be seen by every aspiring filmmaker before they decide to go swimming with sharks.
Overnight is a film that took on a life of its own. TonyMontana and Mark Brian Smith had originally been assigned to follow Troy Duffy around after he managed to sell his script for a film called The Boondock Saints. Miramax's Harvey Wienstein bought the script after it created a frenzy among Hollywood executives and even offered to buy Troy J. Sloan's, the bar where he used to work, as part of the deal. Troy appeared on the covers of the USA Today and The Hollywood Reporter, hailed as the new Tarantino, the protagonist of a real-life rags-to-riches Hollywood Cinderella fairy tale. He also got a record contract for his band The Syndicate.
However, the story would take a tragic turn as Troy quickly turned into a megalomaniacal drunk monster, alienating everyone around him in the process. Overnight focuses on Troy's downward spiral. But not too long into the film, when the point has been made (power corrupts, Hollywood sucks,etc), you feel like you've seen it all and that much of the footage is pleonastic. Stories of broken dreams in the entertainment business are already a staple genre, so from this point of view, the film is not so much an indictment of the industry as one case study set within the 'independent cinema' milieu.
Still, a good editing job carries Overnight fluidly to the end as it creates an expectation of how things are going to turn out. It's like watching a car speeding towards a precipice. You know what the crash will look like but you still want to see it. There are moments of comedy as well. The film did get shot, starring Bill Connolly in the unlikely role of a villain, alongside William Dafoe (the film has a cult following these days). It's also hilarious to see footage of famous stars such as Mark Wahlberg and Patrick Swayze rubbing shoulders with Troy, listening to his manic spiel. Overnight is a sad story of a hugely inflated ego, false hopes and abuse.
Iranian filmmaker Samira Makhmalbaf became internationally renown for her features The Apple and Blackboards. The daughter of Moshen Makhmalbaf (Salaam Cinema), she is one of few female directors in the country. That's changed now. Her 14-year-old sister Hana, literally following in her footsteps, made a documentary about Samira's pre-production saga in Afghanistan as she prepared to shoot At Five In The Afternoon. The obstacles she encounters are enormous, the situations surreal and often hysterically funny. Hana captured her older sister's fiery temperament with candid humour and visual intelligence while also capturing everyday life in a land where it seems to be constant erupting into moments of unpredictability, at least to the eyes of a westerner. The Joy of Madness debuted at the Venice Film Festival in 2003 and marks a new addition to the Iranian film-making dynasty. A joy to watch.
Friday, July 01, 2005
Of course, the most hyped up film of the week is Spielberg’s War of the Worlds, based on the 1898 book written H G Wells, even though the marketing people don’t seem to emphasise that too much. If you, like me and Jean Luc Godard, have a problem with Spielberg’s moralizing, saccharine style, you may prefer to read this or simply watch the old DVD.///Those who have been missing Sigourney Weaver from the big screen can catch up with the Alien star in Imaginary Heroes.///Now, those who've been missing the media rock darlings of the mid-1990s, the Dandy Warhols, can see the full-story behind the band in the rockumentary Dig!. It's also about The Brian Jonestown Massacre and the rivalry between the two bands' respective founders, Anton Newcombe and Courtney Taylor. ///Here you can see the trailer of another release of this week, The United States of Leland./// Clean and Walk on Water also come out on 1 July./// Finally, the well-received Who Killed Bambi hits the screens. Read here what online critics have been saying about this film.
As London continues to celebrate African culture (see the review of Mooladé on previous posts list), filmmaker and photographer Horace Ové gets a look on as well. Born in Trinidad, Ové is internationally known as one of the leading black independent filmmakers to emerge in Britain since the post-war period. The programme includes the short The Equalizer (Saturday 2 July, 12:30) in a double bill with the feature The Garland. The Equalizer tells the story of Udham Singh, a water carrier at the Amritsar massacre, conducted by the British in 1919, who vows to avenge his people. Many years later in 1940, he shoots Sir Michael O'Dwyer in London, who was Governor of the Punjab at the time of the massacre during British rule. Udham Singh was subsequently tried and hanged. The Garland focuses on the story of two Asian couples in 1980s Britain. One is a mixed marriage between a middle class Asian man and his white wife, whose understanding of her husband's culture evolves when their son falls for a Muslim girl and struggles with his own identity. The other couple is the local Muslim butcher and his wife, who fall foul of English law when he divorces her and marries another woman within the Muslim faith, resulting in her deportation.
Still on Saturday, the Barbican will screen the feature A Hole on Babylon, at 2:45 . This film is Horace Ové’s dramatisation of the 1975 Spaghetti House siege, in which two West Indians and an African tried to finance an African studies programme for black British children, who they felt were deprived of historical and cultural education concerning Africa. Events culminated in a siege in an Italian restaurant in Knightsbridge when the police surrounded the area and the situation came to a head. That is followed by another feature at 4:05, Playing Away 15. This tale focuses on a black cricket team from Brixton who, never having left London, head off to play a match in a conservative white Suffolk village. The film deals with three differing layers of society, and focuses on racial and class tensions as highlighted through the cricket game.
On Sunday at 2pm there will be a screening of The Skateboard Kings, a documentary uncovering the then little-known Californian sport called 'skateboarding' (the film was made in 1978) followed by the featurette Reggae, deemed as the first independent documentary on Black Music in Britain. Shot during the first major reggae concert at Wembley Stadium in 1970, it illustrates the social and political messages behind the music.
Baldwin's Nigger is next at 4:15. Made in 1968, this feature shows a wild and witty debate between James Baldwin, the legendary African American author, and Dick Gregory, the American comedian who gave up his career to work with the Black Movement in the USA. They compare Black life in America and in Britain, during a meeting at the West Indian student centre in London. The programme closes with Dabbawallahs, which was made for Channel 4 in 1985. The film follows a group of unemployed farm workers, who have to leave their families behind to find work as lunch-box carriers (Dabbawallahs). The work is hard and complex and involves them delivering home-cooked dinners to individuals in the overcrowded bustling city of Bombay. The trays they carry on foot, bike and train weigh up to 200lbs, the documentary follows their daily life and dangers through the busy streets of the city. (See links for Barbican info)
The other big surprise was the third place finish of 1966’s Batman! The theatrical release based on the popular campy 1960’s tv series starred Adam West and Burt Ward as Batman and Robin beat out several of the big budget, but increasingly campy Batman films of the 1990’s.///Independent filmmakers have a new online resource about all things indie. Indietalk.com IndieTalk is a website that consists of multiple forums (if you are unfamiliar with Internet forums, they are sort of a deluxe version of message boards) where members can either ask questions, answer questions, or post experiences. Need to know what filter to use? Confused as to what the Script Supervisor's role is? Looking for a Director of Photography to help you on your next shoot? You may find the answer on Indietalk. ///Film stars have caught on with the blogging mania. According to Cinematic.com stars such as David Duchovny, his X-File mate Gillian Anderson and even Mellanie Griffith are blogging their thoughts away. Check out Griffits' super-tacky site and conclude by yourself whether she's lost the plot for good.