Archive for March, 2011

Carancho (2010)

“Carancho” (2010)

IMDb

inside, outside, bizarre, continuous flow

In the 60’s there was a phenomenon in Latin-American literature that is today reduced to the word “boom”. A very good number of writers throughout the continent began producing groundbreaking work, they broke every formula and introduced new possibilities to literature, unknown so far. Márquez, Rulfo, Llosa, and notably, in Argentina, Cortázar and Borges, among others. Today that trend still weaves its consequences (Chico Buarque has been a revelation as a writer, although Brazil is quite a different world). But i think that lately, those willing to explore new territories in narrative and storytelling have been working more in cinema. Márquez and Borges are 2 well known (and great!) film goers and critics. Anyway, Latin-American cinema today is the heir to the developments in Latin-American literature produced in the last 50 years. In the argentinean case, there was a major set-back in the country at the beginning of this century, corruption and incompetence led the country to bankruptcy, and the intellectual class rebels against that, so (like in Brazil!), argentinean cinema is usually densified by the social concerns of argentineans.

Literature and social context are, thus, the 2 great frames where a film like this is integrated.

And what a good film. The first thing done here is the establishment of a strange world, of people who live under different routines, performing different jobs, conquering the world in a different way, yet in the same sets of the ordinary “real” life, with which once in a while they intersect. The man, someone who chases people who’ve been run over by cars to collect the insurance money, and many times simulates the running over. The woman, who lives by night, as a doctor on site for first aid. And the insight into a corrupt underworld, where we only hint that somewhere close there are honest people. By itself this is a bizarre, tense, and cinematic world worth visiting. Over it, there is a layer of poetic sensitivity that eventually springs out of the male character, through his infatuation with the woman. So, on the core, we have a common story of a weak man who redeems himself because of love, but set in a strange repulsive yet fascinating world. This could be a short by Cortázar.

And on top of everything, the wheel that makes this world spin, is the boldness and visual power with which this is made. Practically every significant shot is enormous and without cuts. For how the camera is handled, we’re entering the vast beautiful tradition of Orson Welles (that from Touch of Evil) as interpreted by the incredible Alfonso Cuarón, notably on a huge film, Children of Men. This camera is unobtrusive yet manages to be on it should be. It knows everything that’s going to happen, and it plays with us to show us more often than not and off-field that’s puts us away from the action only to find us as unaware of what’s going on as every other character in the film. This is really top work, i don’t remember seeing this kind of visual grammar so well manipulated recently. Quite apart from the production obstacles of engineering such long shots, and the tough acting of these actors, with really fine performances, i was amazed at the level of manipulation employed, how this director and DOP understand the subtleties of the devices they use. I’ll want to see more of them. Anything.

Of all the sequences, the final 8 or 9 minutes are the best. See over and over again if possible, the last shot. *possible spoiler* the camera starts at a garage, goes on to the inside of a car, assists to a car crash, sees a street shooting, enters another car, to end up with yet another car crash. Without cuts, with a vividness and wildness with few precedents. What a ride!

My opinion: 4/5

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Hahaha (2010)

“Hahaha” (2010)

IMDb

the soul of the orange hat who told stories about food and women

Rashômon was about the multiple framings of the story.

Chungking Express is about how two different stories, or glimpses of stories can share the same emotional and physical space.

Both were incredibly important films that changed cinema and, necessarily, how we dream and follow a story.

This film is somewhere in between those two, and it extends its hybrid condition as a story framer to the territory of Woody Allen’s dialogs. Allen, himself a master of narrative frames, has his how different set of quirks and obsessions, superficially expressed in his incredible dialogs. That is borrowed by this screenwriter, also the director.

The outer frame is us watching a number of photographs documenting two friends meeting in a mountain, something we never actually see, and so emphasizes the artificial nature of the device: we’re seeing someone telling the story of 2 people meeting. In that meeting, those two take turns to tell the other bits of stories that happened to them in previous months. So, we are watching the meeting of 2 friends, who remember several events. 3 frames. Within each story that we are told there are some other minor frames. One character is a filmmaker, the other one a poet. In one of the episodes, there is a performance framed, and for a few moments we are not allowed to see it’s a performance. This is a very tight structure, very competent writing. But the real fun of this is the interior of this framed world.

All the episodes take place in the same small village. Places are very important. So there are places we get to see repeated over and over again, with different bits of story taking place: the restaurant attended by the 3 men and 2 of the women. The hotel, where every assumed sex happens. The new unfurnished apartment. The coffee with a view over the harbor, and the harbor itself. Everyone of these spaces receives a part of the story, different moments, different characters, different pieces of the puzzle. There is a sense of interlaced lives, which we see by glimpses, by small bits, told from 2 points of view, of 2 people who are protagonists of their own stories. We understand that they pass at each other, those stories are one and the same but in the end they hardly touch each other.

Food is an important element. Food is central to every cultural idiosyncrasy in the world, Korea is not the exception and it is really sensitive how korean specificities in the relation with food are brought to the center of this mosaic. Count the scenes that develop around meals.

The last important element is the orange hat, given by the film director to his mother, who than gives it to another male character whom she’s fond of, and who has a relationship with one of the women who later ends up involved with the film director. That woman ultimately understands the indirect relation between the two men while the director tries to take her to his mom’s restaurant, where she had already been with the other man. That’s this kind of circular relations, crossed lives that we encounter throughout this film. The hat has the same importance here as the teddy bear had in Chungking Express.

What put me out of this film was oddly something that usually never fails in korean movies: the pure qualities of the images and various aspects of the mise-en-scène. This has the cheap look of a video low-budget production, there are several aspects of light and shape that would certainly have benefited the sensitive relation the writer establishes with the spaces. Chris Doyle understands this, we don’t have that here. And the framing of every scene does not remotely match the clever multiple framings in the story. That’s really bad, this film might have a power that we only sense, as it is.

My opinion: 4/5

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