Archive for March, 2010

Palata Nº6 (2009)

“Palata Nº6” (2009)

IMDb

the middle section

Film and Life. Ficcion and Documentary. Here’s two pairs of concepts which could, if we’d like, be placed on opposite corners of the labeling maps. For that same reason, these are concepts which intersect, come close to being confused and considered the same. Each of these two pairs holds inside it the magic of a magnetic repulsion/attraction. Maybe that’s why so much has been said and written and filmed as to what film borrows from life (and how life can be affected by films). Also how thin is the difference between wanting to document something and creating a story that is already in the creators eye.

Shakhnazarov seems to be a dislocated guy. Someone born within the values of the great soviet school, but who lost that context early in his career. Today he makes disembodied soviet films. And also he doesn’t really represent any of the two major soviet contributions to cinema (leaded by Eisenstein and Tarkovsky, respectively). For this, i don’t think i’ll ever watch one of his films that does more than merely amuse me in how clever were the intentions behind it.

In this case, what he wanted to do was not novel, but it’s not very well done either. He starts the film presenting us with a series of interviews to real ill people from a real mental institution. Than he delivers a fiction, with fiction characters modelled after the real ill people, and acted in the same physical place, the hospital. This is actually a very clever idea. The interviews place us in the world of the mental cases, so we need no more establishing of the world of the film. So, we get fully inside the film and that’s something rarely done in such a clear effective way. The problem is that nothing else is worth your time. there is a very literature driven approach to the dialog writing, and that kills the film, which is also not carried well enough by the performances. Dialogs or acting are the things that can carry such a film. Non exists with quality here.

The closing scene is as clever as the initial one. Real patients meet fictitious ones, and they dance, with mixed pairs. Documented reality merges with fictionalized reality. The entry, and this last sequence almost redeem the lack of anything else in the film.

My opinion: 2/5

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Bakjwi (2009)

“Bakjwi” /Thirst (2009)

Fantasporto 2010

IMDb

Feet

Sometimes the post-viewing of a film can be affected by whatever films you see in the meanwhile. By post-viewing i mean the thinking you give it in the hours, days, weeks, after you saw it

I was anticipating dearly this film. The new film of one of my favourite directors working today. Wook Park impresses. He masters the visual vocabulary he chose, and to which he added a few new terms. And he is a masterful storyteller, which in our contemporary world of cinema means he cares (at least) as much for the story he is telling as he cares for what shape he will choose to deliver it to us.

But in the meanwhile, i got on a new chapter of a personal quest to dig into Orson Welles. He fascinates, impresses, changes you. And besides being also a master of his own visual kingdom, he is one of the best narrative manipulators ever, and so, an unbeaten storyteller. Welles and Park are from different worlds. Whereas Welles projects from the inside, to the world, Park projects himself into his projects. He shapes his films according to his intuition, when Welles intuits the films inside him. That i was able to figure this out already rewarded my reflection.

Now to this Thirst. Park is in between phases. He admits it. After his rewarding and life-altering revenge trilogy, he now looks for something new, some new shapes he can explore, some new frames he can create. So, i’ll take this, and the film before this, as experimental pieces, where he expected to find a worthy track to follow. I assume it may be mentally exhausting to work with such intensity on such intense and filled films like the trilogy, especially Oldboy, a very important film.

So he derives to something that on a ground level may be called romance. But on a cinematic level, i think what Park is doing is again playing on the (pre)conceptions the audiences will have, and pull us the rug the very moment we feel comfortable enough over it. Now he plays with the romantic film, and in this case, the vampire film.

This film is, however, a relative failure. The strings of this master of puppets are not as masterfully pulled as in Oldboy. There, the trick was to hide from us that we were the ones being manipulated, by ostensibly depicting the manipulation of the main character. We thought we had everything coming. It worked because the mechanisms were hidden, the manipulator not revealing until it was needed to throw us down with our convictions. Here we see it coming very soon. I suppose the hints of comedy that we see mixed with the romance, and the vampire thing, are a bit too much, and they reveal the structure of the film to us.

Other than that, i feel that the intention was to turn the blood bits into a parody of the vampire genre, and contrast that to a subtle but really interesting love story, one that springs out of different sensitivities than my western ones, but which can universally be reckoned.

It’s so nice to do this, to follow a master’s career while it still has so many unwritten chapters. Well, so does Orson’s, but his bricks are built. Here we have a new brick to support Park’s unique vision. I hope he does well in his new phase.

Oh, there is a small sequence with feet. The bare feet girl is picked up by the vampire who takes out his shoes and literally places her feet in them. we see it all from the floor perspective of the feet. Beautiful.

My opinion: 4/5

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La belle et la bête (1946)

“La belle et la bête” (1946)

Fantasporto 2010

IMDb

Filming the painting

It should always be an event to watch a Cocteau film. He was one of the good artists of the century. Also he was also too aware of that to be able to produce more important work, other than what he gave us. Like other true artists, he tried to swim on different waters, and experience different medium. That’s respectable, as it is will to bring a personal vision to all of them.

This is my first experience with his films. I recognize i was expecting more. That’s because i thought in the moment Cocteau would want to move into films, he would also question the medium, not only pour his visual sensitivity into it. After all this is a guy who was both a painter, and a writer. Isn’t that what some film masters do? To paint texts? But no, Jean kept himself away from thinking about what he might do with cinema as an art form. Instead he delivered us haunting images and incredibly imaginative sets. But not interesting cinema.

The good thing is the vision of the film. You can subtract any frame that presents a new corner of the sets, and it will be an interesting images. There is a very concept of a set (in the magical palace of the beast) that comes alive, that moves, that performs with characters. So we have literally human elements, people pretending to be parts of that set. arms that come out of the dark holding candlesticks, statues with rolling eyes, hands that come out of nowhere. There is a play entangling those human elements, the placement of lights (and most important darkness!, reminding chech black theater) and the human characters that discover the set, in the story. This play is great, as well as the photography. There is art there.

Not so much in the storytelling, and this is where things fade. I think this story, as it is, would still be acceptable for those days’ audiences. The Kane revolution was still going on, and the romantic mentality still persisted in people’s minds. Not today. It’s dull, it’s dated, it’s useless storytelling. Not a single spark, not catchy enough for us to follow it. It fades, and fades more compared to the magic of the sets.

The side pleasure of this is to think that we’re actually watching one of those sweet director-lovers connection. But here between two men, cocteau and marais, who not incidentally plays the beast and i suppose the beauty. The woman is incidental, necessary to the story.

My opinion: 3/5

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Fausto 5.0 (2001)

“Fausto 5.0” (2001)

IMDb

the missing link

I had a fair idea of what i was looking for, coming to this film. This was a collaborative work, entangled between people coming from films, and people coming from live performances. La fura dels baus are, at the same time, a very interesting group, of people who try to extend and expand the notions of live performance and, more interesting, the notions of interaction with an audience. Basically, their trick is to increase the engagement of people, by bringing them closer to stage, actually, taking the stage to people sitting in front of it.

So i thought i was going to see something similar, regarding film. New ways to engage, a novel way to tell a story that includes the audience, while meaning something.

But film is a total different medium. Different tools, different tricks, different outcome.

The inventiveness and passion you get when watching a performance is here fully replaced by the commitment to build a world, over the real world, that could accommodate the story of the film.

So, we are given a city as if it was an artistic intervention, with all the implied stylization and artificiality. Wrapped Christo-like building, with its interior being actually that of a museum. Transformation of places in the city, by placing groups of people that just don’t belong there. The catacombs of the hospital, a good use of space.

This is all great, but the problems of the film begin here. Although this world is perfectly presented, considering what you can do with a city to make it (more) suitable for the story you’re telling, this isn’t enough to pull us into the film with the same intensity that we are pulled into a show by La Fura. So, despite the effort, the film doesn’t leverage the live performances, and i think that was intended.

But you get Barcelona, a fairly interesting one, and we get some great sequences, although disconnected. Of those, the one in the hospital catacombs (which is fundamental in the story) is the best.

My opinion: 3/5

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Wonderful Days (2003)

“Wonderful Days” (2003)

Fantasporto 2010

IMDb

tentacles

Those who are regular readers of my comments know that i have a special appreciation for the theme of cinematic uses of space. Usually, most of the times, i mean physical built spaces, architecture. I plan on developing the theme, and in a near future hopeful get sponsoring to deepen my research and eventually get somewhere. In the meanwhile, i collect examples of films which clearly address the theme.

The thing i’ve been noticing is that unlike other qualities you may find in a film, this space/image adequation is something that simply won’t happen unless the filmmakers are conscious of it. In other words, in order for buildings to become either characters or spacial entities, there has to be a lot of thinking and awareness involved. Being an architecture might help, it certainly did help Meirelles in Blindness.

Here we have a fairly interesting example of the theme. The story is absolutely uninteresting, dull and discardable except for what allows the architecture connection to show: everything revolves around one building, the ECOBAN, where the bad guys have their fortress from where they control the surrounding world of the film. the sequence during the credits is powerful in how it synthesizes this concept: the hero rides his motorcycle through the road, and enters this building. It’s interesting to understand this building: it has a central plant, we actually even see a virtual model of it, inserted in the film!, when the bad guys discuss the security of ECOBAN. from that central round core (with an interior that uses Wright’s New York museum) we have several huge accesses, several long corridors that connect the core to the world. Those corridors great structures that mix Gothic bows with more bionic freely designed structures, one inside the other. It’s one of this corridors that we see the hero ride through, in the initial sequence. So that first essential scene has him reaching the inside of the building. That’s the most spatial sequence of the whole film, and it makes the experience worthy, even though the rest of the shots are usually uneven (with a few exceptions). It’s useless to say the the final solution to release the world from tyranny is found at the centre of the building.

So, we have a story folded into a building, making the building a character itself. that building works in its conception as the metaphor (symbol) of what it represents in the story. So it’s Storytelling mapped into architecture. That’s really interesting. Everything else in this film fades compared to this concept. More than that the story is strangely inefficient. I don’t know how we can have the cleverness of making architecture a character to support such an unclear narrative. It’s like there were different people working on different aspects of the project.

The production, and visual aspect is quite good, as in fact pretty much anything that comes out of South Korea.

My opinion: 3/5

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Cronos (1993)

“Cronos” (1993)

IMDb

Fantasporto 2010

teddy bear

Wanting to make a film is a love affair. Any new film is perfect in the mind of who imagines it. You go to your bed at night, and you picture it, just like you first dreamed it. You may loose that vision, you may compromise it if you ever have the luck to advance the idea, but forever you’ll have the perfection of an idea. So, i suppose doing films starts as an act of love. Guillermo del Toro certainly is in love with what he does. The infatuation probably has been with him for a long time. he’s been around films, as viewer or maker, for a long time. so he invests his films in cinema itself. Every reference, more or less quirky, that molded his imagination, shows up in everyone of his scripts. That means he delivers honesty, consistently, and by itself that deserves respect.

But than, there are several levels of quality that one can consider when watching a film which on what each film-goer looks for. Del Toro delivers competence, all the time, every film. He knows how to explore a camera to convey the idea of suspense. He has a quirky imagination that allows him to deliver worlds worth visiting. And he is able to construct a world that allows for two dimensions. One which is ordinary, the real world where we all live in, and a fantastic dimension, where vampires exist, where little children materialize their games. That’s why Pan’s labyrinth was so loved, right? So, you will find all that, competently done in his films. But he simply isn’t too ambitious for me to really appreciate him. Honesty and competence does not equal spark. Yesterday i saw true fire in the imperfect new film of Wook Park. Better filmmakers play with more tools than they are given. del Toro builds films inside certain cinematic traditions, but simply won’t break them. If i had seen this film when it was new, i would probably have been excited at the perspective of seeing del Toro exceed it. Now i know he didn’t break his own rules. Instead he’s probably sliding into the realm of commercial success. I mean, so is Peter Jackson, but he made Braindead before… I hope del Toro can still surprise me, instead of being merely competent.

The really interesting element, that runs through this film and pan.. is the little girl. She is the materialization of that binding between the two worlds. But she is herself a quirky element that belongs to none. here in cronos she is given a place of ambiguity, as if the world was in fact spinning around her, and not the device that motivates the whole thing.

that artifact is, by the way, the second best thing here. A device shaped like a bug, which actually contains a bug inside. this is the metaphor for the insertion of a world inside the world. One is golden, curious, but cold and dead, the other is alive and odd. The inner bug controls the outer bug. fantastic invades reality. clever writing idea.

the last good thing is the little girl’s personal space. It conveys that sense of old attics where you can find nearly anything. I love that. This one has an arc where the vampire hides during the day, and is perforated in a way that allows the sunlight to be all around, in a cleverly illuminated way. nice.

My opinion: 3/5

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