Archive for November, 2011

Harvie Krumpet (2003)

“Harvie Krumpet” (2003)


I saw this when it was coming out. I remember it stroke me as incredibly fresh and imaginative. Part of this might be because i was at quite a different stage in my life through films. But now, 7 years later, this still retains a lot of its appeal. It’s not been so long, but this still works on all its purposes, humor and visuals.

The skill in the making of this is top notch in every respect, of course. The characters, and such a film is absolutely all about characters are great in how the specificities of clay are used to convey absolutely every emotional nuance.

The story is a good piece of writing, using the always powerful combination of tragedy and comedy, something Chaplin understood so well. I think we cry deeper when we feel we shouldn’t be laughing. It’s the contrast that creates the power. By taking you to extremes of fun, enabling you to laugh, and suddenly pulling the rug out of your feet, writers leave you in a state of inner shame, which we interpret with uneasiness. Or it’s the simple overlapping of comedy bits over a tragic environment. But i go with the first possibility.

Geoffrey Rush is great as an actor, and he brings that subtlety to his voice over.

But what probably caught my mind and makes this last is the clever framing they use. The “Fakts” as they’re spelled in the film. Harvie spends his live registering unusual bizarre views of the world, in little sentences he calls (taught by his mother) fakts. These thoughts mirror what goes on happening to him throughout his life, filtered through Harvie’s crippled yet beautiful mind. The fun is in how each fakt never reproduces correctly what really happens, and so it becomes a kind of a comment on the story itself. Born from it, but exterior to it, a separate element, clearly represented by the book Harvie carries strapped around his neck always, even when he’s naked. Great stuff.

My opinion: 4/5

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The Adventures of Tintin (2011)

“The Adventures of Tintin” (2011)


the hawk’s point of view

Animation is taking interesting courses these days. Technology is being conquered by creative thinking, and that is giving us new ways to see. I suppose it’s always been like that throughout history.

There are several nice things about this film, I was really pleased with it, in what it does well. First, we have Spielberg back. The good one. There is one S. with an uncontrollable will to entertain, and be clever about it. That’s great, the guy who gave us Indiana Jones, ET, Minority Report, etc. Than, there’s the S. who wants to put his name in the book of serious filmmakers. The guy from Schindler’s list, and the disastrous AI. I don’t like that director. And than you have the million dollar making producer, who sometimes directs what he was only supposed to produce. That’s a business, i’m OK with that one. This film is great in how it revives the 1st Spielberg, the one i’ve grown up loving. He’s here, with no prejudice or failure, brilliant in his visual conception of the grand arch of action. Now, he’s together with Peter Jackson, who’s been building a world of interesting toys for the creation of cinematic visual worlds, something he began doing in LOTR. These 2 guys do fine here.

Than we have Tintin. I’m totally into the books, I know everyone by heart. I don’t have the personality to become a geek about anything, but I do know a lot about the books, its contexts, the author, etc. I understand there will be a number of hardcore fans who will dismiss any changes made to the original stories, as well as the blended elements from several albums. I’m fine with that, because mostly I think the changes were made to favour the visual ideas that were to be fulfilled in the minds of the makers. From the first half-hour or so on, this film is conceived as a succession of grand action sequences. These required different sets. So they include the Karaboudjan bits to take us first to the sea, than to the desert, and finally to the Moroccan city. There we have the less believable sequence of the film in terms of actual physical depictions, but also the one where the possibilities of the virtual eye are more pushed forward as far as this film goes: we have an extended chase sequence, using several transportation mediums, crossing several sets. The character being chased is a hawk, who obviously is free in terms of motion. Vertical space, multiple points of view (he is not grounded), that’s the stuff that makes this sequence, where the camera and edition choose to change stance and pov multiple times, and where the spatial conception of the place reveals to us. I personally would have like to have had more of the hawk’s point of view, but i was pleased. That and the other action sequences are why the film is built as it is.

The first half hour of the film actually looks from another film universe. It’s a tense, noir sequence, of clues and allusions, shadows and mystery. That’s actually much more what Tintin is about, in terms of its dramatic core. He is a character of adventures, but hardly an action figure. I’ll keep this first half hour as what the film should have been about, if there wasn’t a world of visual opportunities to be got from the animation according to WETA.

The need for the 3D, apart from the possible (but arguable) commercial appeal of it, eludes me here. I’d like to review this on a 2D version, just to make sure the 3D brings nothing new to it. And that’s a pity.

Of course there is also a possible line of argument, on whether the visual flat representation of Tintin’s drawings in the comics would be fairly transposed to the screen. I actually think it is, as the dynamics of the drawings are aptly maintained even if using a different visual personality. The old Tintin cartoons that tried the transition to television are far less successful, although they try hard to be like the books.

The initial credits are an incredible bit on their own, Pink Panther like.

My opinion: 4/5 good news, we have a new director called Spielberg back.

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How to Train Your Dragon (2010)

“How to Train Your Dragon” (2010)


motion – under, above, through

I’ve seen this film almost a month ago. I’m commenting on it now, as a preface to the viewing of Spielberg/Jackson’s Tintin. I want to see that film, because I think Spielberg is a valuable filmmaker when he moves inside is native area, that of energetic electrifying adventure films, being “adventure” a wide term. I want to see what’s his word on motion capture, the concept he so willingly defends, and that his long time friend Zemeckis began to explore a few years ago.

Watching films is, as many things in life, a matter of personal choices. You choose what you are looking for in a film. Animation is subject to those decisions as well. I made my choices. I go to animation because a virtual camera can do things that a real one can’t so easily do. Of course we than watch Soy Cuba and this statement becomes pretty much useless. But that film is an alien.

As an architect I care about space. Built space, integrated or not, but always built. In an animation, everything is built space. Even mountains and landscapes, the sea and the caves. It’s all chosen and designed to appear as we see it. And it is built to look as it does depending on the also freely chosen framing, and movement of characters in the space. So, it’s total freedom. Of course this is a several million dollar project, and it has to appeal to a certain crowd, so you hang the thing in a story, and this one is well put. But I don’t come to films like this for the characters, although the black dragon does seduce me, as well as a number of other characters. This film is rich in its textures, and character construction, within the constraints of the genre. But I don’t want to talk about that.

The really good things here for me come from the motion scenes. In the sky, and in the cave. One uses fluid motion, following the path of the dragons or inventing a virtual path for the camera that dances with that of the dragons. In the cave, the camera use is more conventional, but the design of the space is intelligent. Pixar has made the biggest progress in recent years, but this has a specific vision of its own, maybe a consequence, or even an iteration of Avatar. Worth watching on those terms.

My opinion: 3/5

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Der Baader Meinhof Komplex (2008)

“Der Baader Meinhof Komplex” (2008)



The history of post-war West Germany is an important piece of a complex puzzle. The story of how the federal Republic invents and fights itself to the point of mere implosion is a good synthesis of many of the inner ideological conflicts that the Europe faces today. On the other hand, the radicalized views that we see on this film are the product of how west Germans dealt with the memory of its own (by than recent) history. It is a delicate matter, one that I find of extreme importance, how one nation reinvents itself when the certainties of the past are shame in the present, and nothing in the present clearly shows how you can look at yourself in the mirror as member of that nation. As a Portuguese born after the 16th century and after the colonial explosion of the 20th century, I know something about growing inside an ideologically disfigured nation.

With this in mind, what this film does is to reduce to essential terms the complex thing that we face: These uninteresting people, Baader, Meinhof and friends, stand for the disenchantment that even less radicalized Germans felt right than: Germany was after all emptied of all its might as a cultural nation, left to its own also valuable technological and material achievements. In its mad search for a superior nation, Hitler forced the Germanic world to a cultural suicide, the abrupt ending of a long road of artistic enrichment to all of us. Post war W.Germany literally bought its way out of the past, betting everything on living material quality. What is left are the wounds to scar, the disenchantment and desperation as a means to go on. When you mix that with extreme radical left wings politics, inserted in the minds of uninterested, you had just the kind of cocktail that would explode in the 70′.

So, Baader/Meinhof were the more wide spoken of a series of radicals of the sort. And they probably expressed just too intensely what other non politicized Germans by be feeling as well. They are uninteresting character, whose actions were ultimately unimportant the larger view of the things. Today they matter only as tokens to the conflicts that they addressed, which were real enough to cause true pain in the souls of the German. The resolution of these conflicts, raised by the suns of the war, would define what Germany today became. The fall of the Wall only extended this version of Germany to the other side. And the augmented weight that the Union has gained in all European countries extended That notion (mixed with some old- fashioned french politics) to the rest of the continent – the UK decided at an early stage to be out of the central European core.

I’m sure that much more can be said here fully directed to more specifically German themes. I’m out of that discussion.

It’s important to highlight how the Baader/Meinhof phenomenon is not isolated within Europe. Just a few days ago, ETA announced the end of its armed actions. That was probably the last living fossil of the mental revolution undergoing through Europe at this moment.

The merit of this film is that it allows for this and other comments, and reflexion on the theme. It reminds us of this, and that is important. As a film, it’s an ordinary experience.

My opinion: 3/5

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