Archive for November, 2009

Rodrigo Leão, Coliseu do Porto, November 28th 2009

Those who regularly read what i go on writing here knows that it’s very rare when i write something which is no a direct commentary on films i watch and that when i get out of that formula i’ve been using for the last 2 and a half years, i usually comment on the very life of the blog, editorial anotations of statistics, or small notes to facts i care about. The thing is, just a few hours ago, i watched a concert, leaded by Rodrigo Leão, one of the composers and musicians i care more about, at the present moment. An i decided to write about the concert, because RL’s music is all about cinema. I once wrote, and i underline it now, that despite his previous experiences as a composor for shors/tvshows/documentaries, he still is, up to this moment, the best film composer we Don’t have. Several elements i care about:

1 – mood – generally speaking, music has the capacity to establish (and hold) a certain environment, even if that’s not the intention of who made it. In cinema, the greatest merit a composer may have is to be able to determine that mood: humour, tension, curiosity – that extends to the notion of suspense. Simple to explain, but it’s quite complex to define all the subtleties of what is intented to went through to the audience. Than, there’s the need to hold that mood. This means that the music needs character, and than it needs to explored well enough to hold that character. Now, as far as i can tell, RL starts the conception of every piece of his music with the mood he intends to it. Preceeded or not by the existence of lyrics, it seems to me that the development of the piece follows the idea of that intended mood (or found mood). In a set like the room where i watched the concert, that’s what we get, that’s where we get in, in that specific enviroment, with different tones and shades. We don’t have the visual strength of the images, but we have the music happening in front of us. RL is a master in this environmental definition, and so it would be specially interesting to see him produce consistently to cinema, associated with directors who understand where the music fits in the film.

2 – class – there is a certain idea of perenity, even eternity, that passes through certain art. It seems to me that what is classic is what is built according to a certain set of rules which we know will work, in any context, time or kind of art. We can appeal to them, because its use gives us the freedom to freely explore practicaly everything we want. It’s an interesting paradox, the aplication of classic rules gives us freedom, as much as the intention to break them forces us to create a similar number of rules, so the work won’t fall apart. Nothing requires as many rules as irregularity. In any case, RL is someone who, being highly experimental in his exploration of moods, looks for classic constructions, in shape, and harmony. At the same time, it seems to me that he is fundamentally an intuitive composer, and therefore original, and this means he does what he feels to be needed, not what has been tested and proved right. So, after all, class is necessarily timeless and inovative. Paradox?

3 – comunity – eventually, in cinema or in concert, music may, and many times is, a factor of aggregation. In this concert i watched (actually my first RL), what he does is establish a mood, and invite us to participate. There’s the joy of the comunion of certain values which, though not explained, are understood by everybody. It’s not as strong and spontaneous as say, participate in the demolition of the Berlin wall. It’s an induced sensation, at the end of the concert we’ll all be as friendly or hateful as we were before (or maybe not), but all art is manipulation. And cinema, like Rodrigo Leão’s music, gives us the sensation that we are part of a group, that of the people who share the pleasure of listening, and seduces to see the images that motivate the music. We need all the films that were Not soundtracked by him.

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The Spine (2009)

“The Spine” (2009)

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Cinanima2009

on the edge

It takes breathing, it takes reflection, to assume and finally understand that a film as this is a part of you. You see, short films that are as effective and powerful as this one are necessarily hard punches in the stomach. And indeed this is a powerful film. So in this case, it took me 10 days, during which i watched very few movies, to see which parts of me were shaken by the film. And indeed, i had 10 uneasy challenging days.

I didn’t know the filmmaker, this is my first experience with his work. I’ll want to see what he did before. This film does something that i hadn’t seen done this way before. Now that i saw it, it seems incomprehensible how it hadn’t been tried before. This is a kind of Philip Dick meets Gondry meets Jonze, both of which share the fact of having worked with Kaufman. Animation, in the sensitive way Landreth works, seems an incredibly interesting medium to work with these themes, basically voyages between vessels of inconscience. A constant instability that won’t allow us to know where we stand, which level of consciousness are we visiting. The whole film is a no man land, an uncharted territory to obscure parts of self.

Every emotion is perfectly controlled, the construction is tight and perfectly balanced, and played around poles of madness, depression, love, frustration. Life.

The visual accomplishment is huge. The camera is grounded on our real world, but the images, though springing from this same world, were visualized elsewhere, in the tiny space between being awaken, and deeply sleeping. I’ll want to see this film again.

My opinion: 4/5

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Red-end and the Seemingly Symbiotic Society (2009)

“Red-end and the Seemingly Symbiotic Society” (2009)

O filme no FestivalFocus
O filme no sítio da produtora

Cinanima2009

space builders

What an interesting film, in the right moment. After a very rich festival, interesting, with which i’m still dealing right now, i have several high points to remember. This film is, of all the experiences i’v had, one of the strongest, more fascinating, and which interests me the most, for my personal interest in studying the relations between space and the exploration of that space through visual media. This film is one of the best recent experiences i’ve seen in film which approaches so directly the theme. On those matters alone, it already deserves to get into a special list, that i’m making, of films that matter to my mental construction of the theme space and cinema.

But the interest of the film goes beyond that. Let’s see what it’s about. There’s a story. That story has to do with the advantages of difference, in a world where everything is black, the difference the red one can make. Ordinary, so far. Than, there is the idea of a cycle, which transpires into the whole narrative. The Lavoisier idea that everything becomes other things, and everything inevitably disapears. This is better stuff, because the film visually supports the text it chooses. All this is reasonably interesting, but it doesn’t take my breath away, or makes me dream beyond normality.

But than there’s something that yes, fascinates me, and yes, it is made in an exemplary, nearly perfect way. It is incorporated in the story, and it is absolutely supported and compensated by what we see. The story has to do with beings who build the space they inhabit, use, develop. We see the construction. The film starts inside spaces, supposedly natural, but already interesting, where the insects pick up the cubes which will become the pieces that will mold the spaces later used for experimentation. We get to see the picking up of the pieces, we get to see the transportation and, more important, we get to see the actual construction of each space, until the last piece. Finally, after this, we see those spaces, which do not exist only in the abstract world of the story, they are really built, so the camera can photograph them. Now, check this: even though there is digital support in the post-production of this film, it is mainly a stop motion. This means that not only the insects are real objects photographed, but also that every space we see is actually a built model, conceived to be photographed. This means that when we see insects building space, it’s like a folding of the constructive characteristics of the sets, it’s as if we were actually watching the working process of the film. The story of the film is the story In the filme. Subtle, well done, and architectural!

Some of the spaces are well conceived, for the pretended effect. The initial caves, the dome built with (sugar?) cubes and a space built with perfurated plaques. About this last space, which actually i thought was the most interesting and complex, and probably more adequate to be explored by the camera, i missed a bigger investment in its lighting, a more careful ilumination of the shots made there. The advantage (to me) of using those perfurated plaques is the possibility to create environments through light difusion. But that would fight the general imagem of the film. The camera bets mostly on side travelings, to give unity to every shot, and the exploration of space has mostly to do with angles and pov. There’s nothing invented there, even because it’s quite hard to expand even more the glossary of possibilities Tarkovsky and Welles gave us. But we have a consistent work here. My major complaint is the fact that, towards the end, the film fully abdicates its spacial exploration to enhance the less interesting bits of the story.

My opinion: 5/5 it’s an experience, i’ll find out how the film acommodates in my head… that will tell me how the rating will evolve.

Milovan Circus (2008)

“Milovan Circus” (2008)

Cinanima2009

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Beautiful minds

Generally speaking, what amazes me the most in small independent short animated films like this and others i’ve been massively commenting in the last few days, is how each of these films, better or worse, is a perfect reflection of the intimacy of a mind. Everything in animation is conceived by its makers, there is not one single piece of set, one single expression of the characters, one single evolution in the story, that didn’t come out of the mind of a passioned filmmaker, someone who wants to be heard. So, when the mind is talented, a small animated author film can be an adventure into someone’s fears, someone’s concerns, feelings. That’s what happens here.

See the tenderness in every expression of this puppet’s wooden face, see the subtleties in the body movements. it tells a story. this film is narrative, it tells you something, and it can mean something to you. to me it all depends on you being absorbed by what this filmmaker wanted as much as he was obsessively absorbed in carefully lighting every frame of this small beautiful film. Beautiful minds. animations like this are one of the more direct portals to the minds of its makers, that’s what i believe.

My opinion: 4/5

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Le bûcheron des mots (2009)

“Le bûcheron des mots” (2009)

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textures

There was a 1984 feel to this film that frankly starts to bore me. OK, so the world is a cruel place, and words, which mean knowledge, free thinking, are hunted down by some unknown, undefined, uninteresting bad guys. Those who still long for freedom and are willing to live it, are similarly hunted down, and constantly risk their lives. Someone coming from inside the system starts as a hunter, a word tree wood cutter. Than he starts to be fascinated with the beauty of the word world, and eventually crosses the line, and moves to the other side, and becomes a fugitive, one of those he used to hunt. This is one in a huge branch of films derived from the literature of Orwell, Bradbury and others. Something might be invented over this… I mean, Children of Men worked the decadence of a future unpleasant world in a much more interesting way.

The thing that works in this film is the over layering of images to create something visually coherent and attractive. Words are taken literally here, they are a visual layer, over some pleasantly undefined shadows of characters, themselves layered on a yellow/brown tone last plan. It works, as a plastic piece of work, it works on the purely visual aspect. This is not cinematic at root, the theme is rooted on literature (on words, beyond their physical expression), but the film is pretty enough for us to follow.

My opinion: 3/5

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Les ventres (2009)

“Les ventres” (2009)

cinanima2009

Cinanima2009

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bach is singular, not serial

This was a huge failure to me, but an interesting one. It’s not so common to see things like this, when you feel you watched something that was pretty far from fulfilling you, but you know that the filmmaker meant well, and wanted to do something ambitious. So, i’ll choose films like this any time over serial copy paste work like so much of what we see.

The films slides almost to the horror genre. It’s a well built tale about how everything that is a part of our life, in this case the food we eat, gets more and more artificial, to the simulated point of considering that we may start eating ourselves and not noticing it. So we have a curious game of scales, where men start as eaters (of snails) only to become an unwilling cannibal. Think what you want about such a metaphor; it doesn’t give me the kicks, although i recognize the validity of this reasoning. It’s a good dramatic theme, though.

What i cared about was the music, how it is deliberately chopped and made into the narrative. He chooses Bach. To me he is the zenith of western music, forever untopped in understanding the possibilities, and studying one by one the possibilities of using harmony, or melody, or both at once. The piece this filmmaker chooses, the prelude nº2, of the first book of preludes and fugues, is part of one of the most important works in the history of music. That’s where Bach addresses all his ideas about layering melodic lines that work both as single independent phrases and as harmonies. The thing is, there seems to be two ways of facing Bach: one which considers him a highly rational composer who, through rationality achieves a mythic, religious, otherworldly transcendency. the other way is to consider Bach for his importance in the development of western music, but understanding that music as soulless, mechanic, even repetitive sometimes, so making him something of composer of historical interest. I stand for the first way. This film assumes the second, and that’s where i stand out. Bach as the twisted soundtrack of a cannibal, upside down, decadent lost world? No, i don’t think so. I appreciate the effort of transforming his music to make it suit the context, but i reject it being associated with repetition, cold world, empty streets with repetitive facades, enormous dinning tables where everybody looks the same and eats the same. This is not Bach, not for me.

My opinion: 2/5

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Vive la rose (2009)

“Vive la rose” (2009)

cinanima2009

Cinanima2009

IMDb

framing

I’ve been having a kind of a love affair with the stop motion technique, using real images. Well, using puppets as well, but that’s quite a different thing. Real images stop motion is what i’ve been looking for. I think what fascinates is the time lapse sensation. I mean, objects gain a life of their own, they move on their own, yes. But even we’re seeing photographed objects instead of people, there is a sense of time elapsing. So it is a matter of what we don’t see that captivates you. It’s a good experience. This film is as fresh as it gets, in relation to the use of the technique, and the way it looks. As fresh and lovable as the landscape that it starts to frame. Basically it is a music clip to a certain song, and it doesn’t move away from what a vclip may be. But there are two notions that interested me, and probably make the film to me:

-one is how we are transported from the outside to the inside. We start looking at a big landscape, we pan towards a shack, we get in that shack, towards a desk, where a drawer gets opened, and we get a close-up of that drawer. It is a well structured shot, which probably could be interesting if this was a simple live action film, but the way this is put, with stop motion that cuts fluidity to the sequence, it gets interesting in an awkward way. At the end of the film, we’ll see the landscape once more, since we’ll have a kind of fast forward reverse initial shot. This allows the film to breathe, and frame the sequence inside the drawer, and also to give it a context;

-the drawer, which is the majority of the film. What interests me here is how the frame we have coincides with the drawer and how that frame is divided into different boards, literally divided by wood separations inside the drawer. So we have different boards, where different things happen. To enhance this, on one of those boards, instead of stop motion we have animation through drawings, inserted into the photography of the stop motion. On the other board we have plain stop motion.

Two notions of framing. One at the scale of the big film, the other inside the very frame of the drawer. Good. The music gives a good feel to the film, or the other way around. It’s a simple exercise, and it doesn’t go beyond what we see, but it is good enough.

My opinion: 3/5

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