Archive for September, 2010

Paris – When it Sizzles (1964)

“Paris – When it Sizzles” (1964)

IMDb

sunset at the tower

This is an interesting study case:

As a film, it’s hardly any good. Simple direction, ordinary editing, nothing relevant, it’s a product of old times, but worse than others that created and followed its model.

As entertainment, it lost the value that it might have had in its day. And that’s not specially bad about this specific film. Romantic comedy has to be the genre that gets outdated more easily, because it deals with very dated needs and demands of the audiences. So, this film is as outdated today, as any of our days’ romantic comedies will be in 50 years.

The acting by the main actors is tolerable even though we saw Hepburn, Holden and Curtis do better in many of their other films. And although this is not so well suited to Audrey’s character, we still have her class, the most remarkable in filmdom.

But something makes this film a remarkable and unique piece that you will eventually have to see if you care about cinema and shift the french printed on it at the beginning of the 60′. So here we have a film literally about film writing. From the very beginning we are allowed to know that we will be watching a film which is making itself, inventing as it goes along. Naturally the main characters had to be a writer, and a typist, who unwillingly becomes a writer as well. We have two levels: that of the reality of the hotel room in Paris, which already is ostensibly artificial (that’s why Holden says he had the Eiffel tower placed so he’d know he was in Paris) and the level of the film within, a provisional reality, constantly changing, and affected by what goes on in the room. This constant changes in the film within would provide the entertainment part here (Tony Curtis acts to be funny, and he is).

But where things really become interesting is in the french connection: there are a lot of explicit references to the new wave that was hitting Paris and french cinema those days. Those references were always mockery, things about how in those new films “nothing happens”. And we get this film as the opposite of that, a feast to the eye, where the narrative is filled with events, regardless how silly they sound, even in the context of the film, and even in the context of the film within! What we have is the old fashioned way, and that’s assumed. And the battle field is Paris, at once the stage of the new wave, where deep changes take place, and one of the most cherished locations of the “old days”, one the most used places in the history of film, with all its iconic places, charged with symbolism in the post-war American cinema. That’s what’s at stake here: the rise of new paradigms, that threatened what “american cinema” for the masses meant back than. That’s why the provisional title for the film within was “The woman who stole the Eiffel tower”.

The decadence of Holden’s character (that mirrors what Holden himself was going through at this time) can be accounted with a symbolic weight. The 60′ were a decade of European bright cinema, that Hollywood would follow, leaded by the so called Vietnam generation.

The popcorn selling kiss, that is the more lasting scene of this film in how it fulfills its own assumed cliché is a twilight to a certain type of film. Oh, and we had Audrey…

My opinion: 3/5 a bad film that you really have to see.

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O Último Voo do Flamingo (2010)

“O Último Voo do Flamingo” (2010)

IMDb

wingless

There is a sense of transition inherent to many cultures in Africa. Despite the obtuse violences that muslims and christians inflicted systematically over native bright religions, those transitional states of mind are still palpable if you choose to let them in. Souls than oscillate between the dead and the living, and belong to none. Pure connection to the environment, i mean physical geographical environment. Original conceptions of religion as a link between man and its context (something the Celts brought to Iberia and lived by through esoteric christians). Black Africa’s relation to their true spirituality is as viscerally powerful as it is subtle and unassuming. things are how they are, and you are a piece of the natural machinery. This should have been the first layer of this film.

Mia Couto is someone whose passion is to find an identity to his people, rooted on the genuine manifestations that flow throughout the territory of his native Mozambique. What he does, in his writing, is placing the heart of a true poet in the middle of the land’s spirituality. He is an observer, a passionate and not neutral observer, but still an observer. What he produces is a re-writing of the infinite fluid narratives that build the inner spiritual fabric of Mozambican people. Those kinds of narratives that were never understood or cared cherished by the Portuguese (and still aren’t!). So his work is one of the nobler ones someone can have: for the last decades he (and not only he) has been inventing what it means to be a Mozambican, and an African, today, how can one feel Mozambican, after all the blood, after all the miscegenations (in plural, how Mia likes it). Incidentally, while he writes a possible soul to his country, he reinvents the Portuguese language to all the world who uses it. That transgression, that sense of quite reinvention that Mia Couto has should have been the second layer of this film.

The third layer would have to be the remaking of the remade narrative(s) Mia Couto has been writing for decades and map it into a cinematic vision. Yes, cinema, I know cinema can transport you, anyone who has ever experienced deeply a film knows that cinema can move you, almost literally, into worlds you didn’t know existed. But you’ve got to trust in the people that made the film, they have to win you. This film had to lift you, just like the two characters near the end.

But no. They trust conventions, the worst kind of conventions, TV ones. The people here assume that spiritual equals picturesque, that choosing a random number of words from the book equals understanding it. They add a couple of establishing landscapes, and that’s it. No real ideas about anything. The acting is an incredible mess, all the way, with all the actors. The Italian is the worst among them, because he is as bad, but can’t rely on the language. One of the worst castings i’ve ever seen.

What a waste, what a shame. I hope someone will ever do this right. Mia Couto and Mozambique deserve it.

My opinion: 1/5

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Inception (2010)

“Inception” (2010)

IMDb

eternal sunshine, with a kick

This is a page turn, an important statement by an important director of our days. It is also the peak (so far) of whatever interesting things Nolan has been exploring so far. Di Caprio is in this ride and this is probably his best effort into becoming a serious actor in the film world. He won me here.

I am a perfectly defined film viewer. I care for emotions, for feelings (love or others), and for their visual depiction. And i really really care for storytelling devices and the narrative building of a film. I really despise any film that banalizes simple and real emotions. So i appreciate more the films that conceive a coherent narrative structure even if they don’t hit so hard on the emotional tension, than films that depict love or friendship or empathy as sentimental pornography. So, the top of the game for me in what concerns cinema is sensitive and honest stories, backed up but intelligent narrative structures.

That’s what we have here, shiny and beautiful as i have seen very few times. The very abstract concept of what is being told merges with the fabric of the film. The film itself builds the content we are supposed to have in the story. The structure of the film Is the story. How we enter those sub structures mimics how the characters do it. It is as simple as that to explain, and as complex as the film is to understand.

There are several notions, dear to me, that moved me. We have Obvious layers (dreams within dreams) that are literally and constantly explained to us by many characters in the film. Moving from one layer to the other is literally moving deeper, in a spatial sense. Each layer has autonomy, but is severely affected by how the other layers progress. So a sneeze in a layer is an earthquake in the other.

The most beautiful notion is that we have people on the inside of people. We have people bending the soul of other people, intimately touching each other, touching in a sense deeper than what we have ever seen in cinema. Nolan nearly leverages literature in how we can reach the inside of a character beyond what we can see. For those matters alone, the best sequence is probably the visit to Paris. Di Caprio and Page. How she bends his memories of Paris, how she literally bends the set. And the final sequence, the collapsing city, a reinvention of di Caprio’s memories of his memories. One of the greatest things here is how emotion is mapped into space. Every set is the very portrait of a memory, of a sensation. It’s an original way (for how it’s done) to associate film with the visual use of space. I’ll mark this.

Marion Cotillard as the character who, from where we can see, is merely a memory (invented or not) and hardly the real person. Her performance is great, eventually the greatest in this film.

We play the game of invented/shared memories, that happen over reality, and we move deeper into the layer where we can bend and change those memories, thus creating new ones, or inventing them. That’s the Inception. Can you create the memory of this film? Can you co-create its layers while you dream it? And more important, can you induce it into the layers of your own life as naturally as if it had grown out of you?

My opinion: 5/5 experience it.

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La marche de l’empereur (2005)

“La marche de l’empereur” (2005)
March of the penguins

IMDb

to build a narrative

The beauty of Nature is how everything fits everything to build a coherent whole. the environment and its actors are one and the same, fully interdependent: they build each other. It’s symbiotic and global warming allows dramatically to understand to each extent. So, the purpose of those who observe nature is to build a narrative that allows us to understand the mechanisms of Nature. To tell a small part of the story, that will fit in the larger context. That’s what precedes this film and informs it: the narrative of the penguins in the process of reproduction. The trick is to establish that narrative pushing us to the middle of it, and making us face the animals not as an observed subject, but as true almost dramatically dense characters. In other words, what they do is deliver a documentary disguised as fiction.

The idea by itself is appealing enough to create the enthusiasm that this film generated. Plus, it is remarkably well executed, from the quality of the cinematography, performed under rough circumstances, extreme temperatures and human adverse environments. the way this is put together is flawless, although the off voice narrations push a little too much on the fiction sentimentality for my taste.

this narrative, of the penguins, is really pleasant for us to follow because the animal has a humanoid look to him. the boundaries between documentary and fiction are more easily crossed because so are the boundaries between these animals and our reality as humans.

The place where penguins gather, where the babies are born, that is a special place, with an incredible strenght. I praise this filmmakers for conveying it so strongly. This was a worthy, powerful journey.

My opinion: 4/5

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