Archive for May, 2008

What goes around comes around (2008)

“What goes around comes around” (2008 )

This is not a normal entry. I’m not commenting on a film i have seen, i’m showing a film i have done, in group. Last April (7-18th) there was a workshop in FAUP (Oporto school of architecture) a workshop dedicated to explore the links between cinema and architecture, and to do that in an international context and explore, in practical terms, that relation, meaning this: create films.

In the end of the 3 tries i got to work on, this was the one that satisfied me the most, and the only one i think may be interesting to show here. In the production of this film, there were 6 people involved directly. The credits are on the film, but the low quality of this version doesn’t allow you to read them. My participation was in the fields of cinematography (camera work, above all) and the creation/execution of the soundtrack. I’ll try to update this post with the other credits. Meanwhile, should anyone want to know more, please ask, a mail would be better.

What goes around, comes around:

Your opinion: X

CinemArchitecture

Yo puta (2004)

“Yo puta” (2004)

IMDb

Yo, nothing

This was a complete waste of eventually useful ideas. I enjoy a filmmaker who tries to get out of the preconceived canons and ways to tell a story. Nowadays, the best cinematic essays one can find is on how to reformulate narrative devices and story telling, and in a second plan, visual renewed ideas. If the eye narrative is in conformity with the storytelling device, that’s when we have great films.

Here we have a work by someone who probably agrees with what i told above, but, at least in this try (second try, according to IMDb) was completely clumsy, useless, bad tasted. This is a terrible work, it pretended much, it tried to do things in an imaginative way, but the final work is a disaster, originated, i believe, in the lack of sensitivity of who worked this.

So, we’re being told a fictionalized narrative, multi layered. This means we have a great number of threads to follow (here associated with different prostitutes). The device used is the false documentary. In the middle of that assumed fakery, we have a fiction line, with Richards, Hannah and Almeida.The problem is how rigidly this construction is made, and how little imaginative it becomes in its development. I mean, the actresses playing prostitutes (i really suppose they were all actresses, i just had a doubt on one or two) are a complete cliché, someone sit down and thought “how many kinds of prostitutes, and prostitution motivations, and prostitutes social conditions ca i think of?”. And that’s it. We have the African black nymphomaniac, we have the Brazilian hot “sexual available” lookalike prostitute, we have the Latin American Indian descendant prostitute, we have the high class escort (who is french!), we have the male prostitute. We have those who like what they do, those who do it for money, and those who don’t have other choice. So useless, so superficial, so boring, such a waste of time. There are such great examples on fake documentaries about half real realities (‘F for Fake’ being at the top of this list) that it is terrible that someone could do this like we see here. What’s the point of portraying people that look like prostitutes, talk like several stereotypes of prostitution would talk, act like prostitutes, live like prostitutes, but are in fact actors? The question is: why not place real prostitutes and make a real documentary if there is no manipulation, no intention at all behind the fake documentary?

Than, to conclude, the fiction story. An anthropology student, virgin, who is studying prostitution. Her neighbour is a prostitute and due to financial trouble, she comes to enter the job as well. What was the point? In the end, this developed as those common documentaries made for TV channels, History, Biography, Odisseia, etc. With an difference: with those documentaries, one can at least take valuable facts, if you don’t know them, and if you like being distracted (i don’t) you can rely on the awful fictional bits.

The visual resolution of this is made in accordance to the uselessness of the story choices. Most of the way we have women detached from whatever the environment was where they were speaking, and pasted above the photograph of a cheap hotel where prostitution happens. Other times we have useless visual tricks, of deforming images, and highly saturated colours.

My opinion: 1/5 avoid it.

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Uncovered (1994)

“Uncovered” (1994)

IMDb

Kate and Barcelona

This is a worthwhile experience, despite all the many flaws the film has. It’s a weak work in most of the skills you may think of, related to film technique, and film expression:

The acting is childish, this applies to practically every participant. Exception made to Beckinsale, she moves around in a naive boyish manner, but she distills sex, she is that character who concentrates attentions, without being excessively aware of that. She does it well. The rest of the acting is weak. The editing doesn’t help as well. The premises for the montage work in a film such as this one weren’t so hard to follow. They just had to tell physical actions, linear and common. Yet there are transitions, basic continuity problems that aren’t solved, expressions in the faces that change, and so on. The music is also not well placed, it’s a bad soundtrack in its own musical value, but above all in the mood that transmits. The tribal references weren’t needed, and in the kind of story depicted, noir influenced, it would have been nice to have the music link the sets and evolutions in the story line.

But there are three things for which i think this is worth taking a look. One is the narrative structure, how the story moves on. This is based on a novel by Pérez-Reverte, the man who also wrote Ninth Gate. So we have a merging of art and life, the story happening in front of us was “written” or at least determined many years ago, buy an artist, in this case a painter. The first scene is masterful in transmitting this, really it was one of the most economic and meaningful first scenes i saw ever. It basically starts with a closeup of a hand in a painting (a hand as a synonym for power, ability to do things), and the camera moves away from the painting (it moves, it’s not a zoom out)and we get to see the border of the painting fully merged with the “real” environment surrounding it. This illusion of merger works for a few moments after which we get into the environment and momentarily forget the painting. This really works.

Other thing is the use of House Batló, by Gaudi. It’s interesting how the camera (and the editing) lies about the building, to enhance it’s qualities. It’s not a particularly brilliant exploration of the space, but it’s quite competent: what happens is, we get Beckinsale going up the stairs that lead to the first floor, she rings the bell in that first floor. These stairs are beautiful, they curve like the back of an animal, you get the sensation of elevation, instead of going up. Than this is edited and the inner space we get is from inside the attic, which is built with bows that remind an animal spine and bones. Later in the film, we have an outside establishing shot that leads the camera, from the outside, all the way up to the attic. We understand that the character lives in the attic, not in the first floor. This was interesting and showed a specific interest in playing with the house. A side note is that this film is a good opportunity for you to check the great ground floor of the house, which is today polluted by the bars which conduct the tourists, and the tourists themselves, lining up to get in, and filling the sidewalk around. Pity. I have a theory that tourism is literally killing and sucking life out of our best places in the world, but this is another discussion.

Anyway, the touristic gaze can also be seen in the shots that depict the city. Here we also get lies, usually related to the intention of getting the establishing shots. Here i think they messed up. They didn’t have to show all the known places all the time. There are fantastic relatively hidden places in that city that show more of its mood and life than the monuments. One of those places is actually used, the St Antoni market (the protagonist lives in front of it). The place is alive, and they use it well in some scenes. But than they lie about the city, so we have her going from Batló, to Rambla, to the Temple, to the market as if they were close enough to walk to, one after the other, sequenced like i said. It’s a lie, i have nothing against it, but i have against making the postcard taking nothing useful out of it. A good use of common architecture is the one made with Beckinsale’s house, especial its central stairs, and central lifter. The use of Park Guëll is not particularly interest, except for some movement between columns, but that’s it. And in that movement, they inserted some staged flirting between couples. Very poor, very artificial, they didn’t need to do it, the park has an interesting life on its own.

My opinion: 3/5

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1 year

1 year ago, in May 25th 2007, i published my first note in this blog, and introduction and intentions note. The next day i published my first comment on a film. I didn’t imagine than that this 3 language adventure would go so far, respecting the intentions i first set for it. But it did last, i had a lot of joy, and a lot of commitment to this idea.

A year after, i’ve commented on 81 films, i had a fair amount of answers, questions, invitations, or simple notes inviting me to go on, directly on the blog, but above all through mail. 81 films in a year means aproximately 1,5 films a week. That’s more than i could imagine, taking in consideration the completely amateur mood of this blog. I hope i can go on like this, and i invite everyone who passes by and who reads me to write me with suggestions or simple comments, whenever they wish to do it. It’s the greatest joy for me to be able to read the opinions of people who care for what i do.

WordPress registed these statistics for the last year:

7Olhares: 13 537 visitas

7Ojos: 4 174 visitas

7Eyes: 2 711 visitas

Total: 20 422 visitas (visits “on site”, excludes “syndicated views”)

I was happy, i never hoped i’d get so many views. I hope you go on with me in this idea. Read me, comment on the texts, and watch films.

Rui Resende

ruiresende84@gmail.com

Angel-A (2005)

“Angel-A” (2005)

IMDb

quiet Besson

This is sweet, it’s sugar. It’s tender, and it touches me. I’m always deeply moved by what Besson does. He has some qualities i don’t recognize in any other french filmmaker: he trusts his intuition, and he is not pretentious. I think the second is a consequence of the first one. I also think he is a misread director.

He doesn’t develop his films around specially clever or complex constructions, in terms of narrative or story telling. But he builds everything in the eye, he is purely visual in his narrative and in the mood he creates for his films, and that’s what i truly enjoy about him. He has visual ideas to grab the useless stories he tells. But the stories, though superficial and mundane most of the times, help him build his cinematic mood, in the same measure the story helped Hitchcock. One good way to prove i’m right is to see some of the films Besson wrote without directing. Usually we’ll find action flicks, brainless, useless. What he writes only makes sense when he directs it. That’s why we have action scenes in his films (not this one). He is not actually an action director, not in my dictionary. But he is always misread and many times even dismissed as one.

Here he tries something he hadn’t done before (he always tries new things). He doesn’t use so much the camera work (in some moments i even doubt he was behind the construction of the shots) as the creator of the mood. He tries to use the city, and photograph to do that.

The first shot is clear and tells us all. We have a character telling lies about himself, and immediately after suffering physically from those lies. A man trying to be himself. He’ll get a sexy blond to help him, and the romantic involvement that one expects. That’s all. It’s superficial, and i discarded the interest of the storyline right from the beginning. You have to focus on the colours. this is not black and white, this is desaturated colour, with a predominance of blue. It’s subtle, it’s as subtle as usually the camera moves are with Besson. But i really missed those deep movements, which explore space as if a city was the under sea world so deer to Besson, which he already filmed. This one is sweet, but not much more. I needed more of the Reno-Portman relation of Léon.

My opinion: 3/5

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Novo (2002)

“Novo” (2002)

IMDb

what you see is what you get

I think this is messy and out of focus. It tries to be too many things, and it fails to successfully achieve any of those.

This wanted to be love story told through a different angle. It wanted to play with memory as a creator of reality, or something able to define a certain reality. It wanted to establish ambiguity over motivations and over who is controlling, who is bending the reality of what we see. It wanted to use sex, and sexually moved characters (above all females) as a cinematic glue to all this I can think of various films for each of the “wannabe” i mentioned that manage to be more successful in their objectives than this one. I don’t know one film that does well in mixing all this. And if i come to find one, i don’t think it will be made by the authors of this one. At least not for what i saw here.

‘Memento’ played with the notions and the effects of short term memory, and memory loss much deeper. Here, we find the memory losses as the device to allow our character to become who his puppeteers want him to be. It is what it takes for him to be a puppet, to be unstable, to cast some doubt on who he is, what he wants. Noriega played the equivalent role in ‘Abre los ojos’, which was much more effective. I think for this purposes, ‘Clean Slate’ was a much better exploration of this!… Here we have links establish to monitoring our amnesic, the martial arts, the photos sessions, the block notes. But none of that is really used. The ending comes to unfold as a common romantic situation of gathering and decision on which woman the protagonist will elect (which you know who it is miles away from the ending).

So it ends as the love story the film also wanted to be. The ‘woman who loves the man accepting him for what he is’ plot. It’s ordinary, but it is given a new clothing, in order to look new. But if you stop and think, there’s absolutely nothing worth mentioning about this story. If you want renewed fresh ways to join a love environment and the creation of alternative realities, try Medem. In ‘Los amantes…’, in ‘Lucia y el sexo’, in ‘La ardilla roja’. He can do that. By coincidence (or not), here we even have Medem’s Lucia (Paz Vega) as the wife of the sick protagonist who, in his moments of memory recovery comes to speak Spanish…

Than we have the attempts to play with the forces controlling what we see. We know almost always as much as the main character. And practically every character (except the boy and the woman who loves the protagonist) have ambiguous intentions (apart from the fact that we take our time to understand where everybody fits, that’s a good thing). We are given successions of facts we can’t judge correctly. But than we come to understand that the film is moving nowhere, and what we see is what we get. No twist, no revelation, what it seems to be happening is really happening. It’s not that we have to be deceived, but there should be some intention behind the idea of casting ambiguity in every corner of the stone. See ‘Oldboy’, if you want master work working these concepts.

My opinion: 2/5 this is messy, but it has some interesting concepts, if you start imagining where this could go.

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My life without me (2003)

“My life without me” (2003)

IMDb

Kar Wai with a story

i’m really starting to get into the world Coixet seems to convey for her films, and i’m enjoying being there. This was only my second experience with her films (the other was ‘secret life…’).

She has a quality i deeply appreciate in a director, which is the ability to build a world and include me, as a spectator, in that world. And her world is quite personal, a bit depressive, but which invites to self reflexion. It has an interesting dialectic between being in itself dark, shadowed, populated with odd sad heavy characters, but conveying a somehow positive message, in the way it moves you.

The set up is built in a clear away: in the two films i got to watch, she anchors her stories in ‘what if…’ questions. What if you had 2 months to live? not an unusual set up, or beginning point, but we have an interesting version here. The question is immediately answered by the dying character. She writes that answer, defines topics. We even see the words being written in front of our eyes, on screen. This is symbolic. The question comes out of a treat of destiny: cancer. The answer is purely controlled by Polley’s character. So we have a fight between fate and the character’s power to control her remaining life. She controls the whole film, from the moment she knows she will die. She bends all the reality of her life to the vision she has of that reality without her. So, she “writes” her last days to live, and she writes the lives of those who are part of her world and those whom she allows to get into that world. So the world moves around one character, who also controls it. This is a very clever narrative.

Visually, the mood is based in camera work/movement and some clever editing (namely when we get to see a monologue which goes on even when we get the closed mouth of the character speaking) and photography. The way Coixet uses the hand held camera to get us close to the characters is very personal, and effective and i believe it is the visual strenght of the effectiveness of her films world. The photography follows the Kar Wai/Christopher Doyle tradition, more notably in the first third of the film. I don’t think this was a good choice. Kar Wai works films as empty containers in which we can place things, in a really sensitive and complex abstraction, in which we, as viewers, have to be the main intervenients. The visual quality of Kar Wai’s films is there to support us and hint us in our mental/emotional quest. Coixet feeds us with concrete information. She gives her lines to follow, she seeks reflection but through her own reflections (story) which we should follow. So we won’t be able to meditate visually the way we do with Kar Wai. In his films, the image we get is part of the container, the rest is up to us. Coixet fills her container with defined elements, but also cares about the “walls” of the container, even if they’re covered by the characters she shows. In ‘the secret life of words’ she departed from this emulation of Christopher Doyle, despite the cinematographer is the same (Larrieu). I suppose that had something to do with this.

My opinion: 4/5

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