Archive for July, 2008

July 25, 2008

>Nat Film Festival – the last day

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24 Bars (24 Mesures, France, Canada, 2007) – Three characters will have their paths crossed on Christmas Eve. The first of them is the fake blonde prostitute Helly (Lubna Azabal), who’s trying to contact her son against his caretakers’ will, while trying to make the money she needs. About to have a breakdown, she meets Didier (Benoit Magimel), who offers to pay her if she pretends to be her fiancee when they visit his hospitalized father. A tragedy happens, and Helly meets Marie (Berangere Allaux), a lesbian whose conflicted relation with her apparently selfish mother has twisted her love life. Lonely and seeking nothing but companionship and a feel of familiar bond, they’ll end up in a night club with a third lonely soul, Chris (Sami Bouajila), himself also coming from an earlier seething encounter, although poorly connected to the others. Despite of the strong and convincing performances (especially Azabal’s), the stories lack profundity, sometimes even turning out superficial.

Lars and the Real Girl (USA, 2007) – Ryan Gosling’s brilliant portrayal of Lars Lindstrom, an introverted young man in a relationship with Bianca, a custom-made, life-size plastic doll, is one of the best tragicomedy performances I’ve seen in a long time. Of course he has helpful tools around him, as the script is quirky to say the least, treating a dark matter in a soft and unusual manner through sensibility and laughters. Besides, there’s an outstanding supporting cast surrounding him, first Lars’ familiar nucleus – his older brother Gus (Paul Schneider) who finds it difficult to deal with Lars’ sudden “insanity”, along with his much more understanding and pregnant wife Karin (Emily Mortimer). They will be advised by doctor Dagmar (Patricia Clarkson) to act like if Bianca was actually a real person while hosting her in their house, a decision that will be followed by the entire small town community, which will genuinely embrace Lars’ “girlfriend” kindly. It’s hard to imagine the real world in the way the characters in the movie are portrayed, but in this aspect the film succeeds through its originality.

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July 18, 2008

>Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing – Part 8

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The End of the Affair (1999) – Maurice & Sarah

I’m sorry, but you have to realize… I’m jealous of everything that moves. I’m jealous of the rain.

July 9, 2008

>Nat Film Festival – Days 9 and 10

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Still Orangutans (Ainda Orangotangos, Brazil, 2007) – The movie festival’s release described Still Orangutans as the brazilian equivalent to Short Cuts, probably due to the different stories that take place in the city of Porto Alegre in the hottest day of the year, like a collection of short films united in a single one. What’s more interesting about it is to see the good result of the idea of filming the story in a single plan, which might not be innovative (it has been done before), but how most of the different pieces complete eachother perfectly while supporting the film’s comic purpose (in this sense, the nightmare scene seems a little out of place). There’s no deep intentions in connecting one moment to the next, therefore the film leaves neither space to discussion nor reflexion, and this isn’t entirely bad.

Let the Right One in (Låt den rätte komma in, Sweden, 2008) – A peculiar story set in a very ordinary place, a big city’s suburb. Oskar is 12 year-old boy who is bullied at school, until he falls in love with Eli, a girl (?) who can’t digest food, lives during night, has incredible powers and needs to drink blood often – in short, a vampire – “I have been 12 for a long time”, she answers, when the boy asks how old she is. The film was such a pleasant surprise, mixing horror, romance and comedy, many times united in one single sequence. The film’s only flaw would be the mysterious relation between Eli and his protector (her father, perhaps?), the man who kills in order to feed her. I would love to read the novel which inspired the film in order to know more about the story.

Canvas (USA, 2006) – It was more worth watching this movie for the performances than for the story itself. Not that there’s anything severely wrong with this familiar drama centered in Mary, a mother and wife (Marcia Gay-Harden) who suffers of schizophrenia, affecting everyone around her with explosive mood swings. With the wrong cast, I doubt I’d still remember the 101 minutes I spent in the theater. Her husband John (Joe Pantoliano) and 10-year-old son Chris (Devon Gearhart) will be on their own when she moves to a mental hospital, especially Chris, who can hardly find emotional support at his own home, as John spends most of his time constructing a sailboat to Mary, not dealing with his own sorrow. The child is, nevertheless, strong, and fills his time discovering a seweing job (as well as making profit out of it in school), while being bullied by his classroom friends due to his mother’s “craziness” and his father’s “idiossincrasies”.

Ben X (Belgium, Netherlands, 2007) – Ben (Greg Timmermans, who walked into the theater to introduce the film) is an autistic teenager who finds relief for the daily classroom bullying in the fantasy world of an online game called “ArchLord”. In the real world he’s constantly humiliated, sometimes in sadistic proportions, but in his virtual reality he acts boldly beside his princess “girlfriend” Scarlite. Director Nic Balthazar uses a docudrama technique as a storytelling element, making it clear for the audience how the story is going to end, except for a surprise twist that feels a little forced. One of the film’s best accomplishments are its technique, as the fantastic world of the online game is integrated into the main story in a way that allows the audience to understand Ben’s mind.

Breath (Soom, South Korea, 2007) – I had high expectations towards this film, as it was written and directed by the brilliant Kim Ki-Duk, the same man who delivered Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter… and Spring and 3-Iron, however, I’d not put this picture in the same level of those, although Breath results in a good film filled with some poetic moments. As shown in 3-Iron, love is not meant to be easily understood, since words are not needed to justify the characters’ actions, only symbols and lirism are enough. Yeon is imprisioned in an unhappy marriage, she no longer speaks to her husband who recently was unfaithful to her. On the TV she gets to know about Jang, a man who has commited a barbaric crime and waits on the death row. He tries to suicide by stabbing himself in the neck in the small cell he shares with other men, including one who can’t speak, but is in love with him. Despite not sharing any bonds with Jang, Yeon decides to visit him daily, attracting the voyeuristic attention of the prison’s CCTV operator, whom presence will control every single step the lovers-to-be will give, almost shaping their four seasons symbolic journey. Revealing more than this would spoil the experience of watching this film, and figuring out why it is called Breath.

P.S.: I’m currently in my hometown in Brazil, where I’m spending the next three weeks, therefore the blog might be a little left out (except for a very few posts I had written when I was in DK… It’ll be also hard making comments on your blogs often. Hope you all understand! It’s lovely being at home with my family again, after a year and a half away from them, and eating all the yummy food I missed all this time too. The weather is a little crappy, after all, it’s “winter” and it rains and rains… But it’s warm enough for me. Flying was ok (which means tiring) except for the fact my beloved black wayfarers got broken. But I can just buy new ones some other time. Cheers for now. Romeika.

July 4, 2008

>Nat Film Festival – Days 7 and 8

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Garage (Ireland, 2007) – Josie is a gas station attendant in a nameless village located in a rural irish region. In this provincial place, everyone knows everyone, but despite the familiar atmosphere, Josie has no real friends and lives a quite lonely existence. Not focusing in an obvious dramatic atmosphere, the film’s tragicomedy plot is subtitle while showing minimalistic every day life moments of Josie, like when he talks to a local horse while feeding it with apples, has a chat with the guys at the pub or even tries to be accepted by a group of teens. He finally finds some companionship in the teenager assistant David, as they share beers at work, but something else Josie naively shares with David will twist Josie’s life, which is already sinked in apathy. Despite touching in the universal theme of loneliness, I found the film’s nuances easier to be comprehended by an irish audience, especially the ones aware of the character’s reality.

Mad Detective (San Tam, Hong Kong, 2007) – Co-directed by Johnny To (from him, I had only see Exiled before) and Wai Ka-Fai, this is a mix of comedy and tragedy that didn’t really work for me, but the festival audience seemed to love it. Inspector Bun (Lau Ching Wan, the film’s best thing) is the mad detective of the title, a cop that works using his supernatural gift of seeing people’s true selves – “I can see a person’s inner personality” – he says, and what he sees is literally on screen, like in the moment he’s in a room with someone who suffers from a multiple personality disorder while the room is occupied by several different people, who are actually just one person. Forced to retire from the force after cutting off his own ear as a “gift” to his boss (!), Bun will use his peculiar investigational methods again in the future, as the story fast forwards five years later, when a clueless office can’t figure out a case and asks for Bun’s help.

Angel (France, UK, 2007) – It begins with a group of school girls walking at the snow, wearing beret hats and carrying their leather satchel bags, and from this moment, I knew I’d love the film directed by François Ozon, who pays homage to the classic Hollywood melodramas making a nearly “vintage” film. Classic, as it’s easy to take the side of Angel (Romola Garai, outstanding), the film heroin, cheering for her welfare and happiness despite her arrogance and petulance, from the first moment she appears, reading an essay in front of the classroom in what should be a brief and plain drescription of the place she lives. Actually her “essay” is an imaginary description of the mansion “Paradise”, where she dreams of living someday. Determined to become a writer, she sends one of her novels to a publisher (Sam Neil), whose relation with Angel is hardly explored along the film, as it focuses on Angel’s search for the same unconditional happiness her novels’ characters achieve. Almost deprived of a sense of reality, dreamer and optimistic, she likes all beautiful things, and not even a war makes her see the world with less bright colours. In this sense, Angel suffers, but doesn’t let the ones around notice her pain, however, as she matures, she becomes clear.

Redacted (Canada, USA, 2007) – This film is not only one of the best I’ve seen in this year’s first semester due to its clear political message – Stop this damn war – but for its sense of immediatism – what’s happening now, what could be avoided right now, which is not often seen in an anti-war picture. It’s not a subjective look of something that once happened, but a forward question about what’s going to be left in the future, and to state this message, director Brian De Palma used images from ordinary digital cameras to videos uploaded on the web, or even a footage from a french documentary about Iraq. Images that are obviously fictional, but outstanding in how realistic they feel, as realism-naturalism is what this film pursues. Some might find Redacted ordinary, manipulative, manicheist, nearly obvious and they could even be right. Some others, like me, will see the film’s simplicity as a virtuosity.

July 4, 2008

>Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing – Part 7

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Titanic (1997) – Jack & Rose

If you jump, I jump, right?

July 3, 2008

>Nat Film Festival – Days 5 and 6

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Across the Universe (USA, 2007) – When I first watched its trailer, something reminded me immediatly of Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge and Romeo + Juliet, the first due to its stunning and fast images, the second due to the adolescent love, both blended in a musical of non-original songs. It comes out that Julie Taymor’s musical enchanted me with the breathtaking beauty of its images and made me believe in the characters’ romance, and just because of that (besides being a huge Beatles’ fan), I won’t condemn the fact this film, after all, is a huge editing mess.

Expired (USA, 2007) – Samantha Morton (outstanding, as always) plays Claire, a kind-hearted meter operator and traffic control officer who lives alone with her stroke-victim mother. Her colleague Jay (Jason Patric, in his best performance I’ve seen) is the other side of the coin – he’s also a lonely man, but unlike Claire, it’s easy to understand why love doesn’t come to him: often angry, he treats everyone around him (especially the ones he tickets) disrespectfully, to say the least. Despite their opposite personalities, Claire and Jay will start a relationship, twisted, turbulent, darkly humoured, as this is not a conventional romance.

Azuloscurocasinegro (Spain, 2006) – I haven’t yet figured out how the film title connects to the story in deeper terms, besides refering to the colour of the business suit the lead character Jorge (Quim Gutiérrez) dreams of wearing one day, as the obvious symbol of social and economical sucess. Forced to abandon his studies to take care of his stroke-victim father, he’s intimidated by his girlfriend’s professional accomplishments, at the same time he agrees to impregnate the imprisioned gilfriend (Marta Etura) of his also imprisioned, but sterile brother (Antonio de la Torre). To complete the dramatic circle, there’s Jorge’s best friend, Israel (Raul Arevalo), a sexually confused young man who has just discovered that his father is an avid client of a male “massagist”. Melodramatic, as well as humoured, it’s hard not to think of a Pedro Almodóvar influence in the way the story is told, although it doesn’t reach the emotional power of so many films from the acclaimed spanish director.

Black House (Geomeun Jib, South Korea, 2007) – Being a huge fan of contemporary south korean cinema, I tried to see as many south korean titles as possible, although I knew this film was going to be a horror/thriller and I’m tired of asian horror/thriller films, but since this one was south korean, it could be different, right? Wrong. Based on a novel previously adapted to the big screen in Japan, the film is about an insurance agent who gets too involved in a boy’s suicide case, after visiting the house where the suicide or perhaps, the crime happened. It begins quite well with a psychological atmosphere, due to the character’s childhood demons (which connects to his present), but by its final part it becomes laughable, nevertheless better than the last american films of the genre (that insist to remake asian pictures).

Cruel Winter Blues (Yeol-hyeol-nam-ah, South Korea, 2006) – Another south korean film that didn’t deliver as much as I expected, despite its interesting plot and good moments. Perhaps I wanted to see a typical gangster film, which Lee Jeong Beom’s directorial debut is certainly not. The film is almost a moralistic tale about one man’s difficult choices. Jae-Mun (Sol Kyung Gu, charismatic enough to play the not so likable character) is a gangster that searches revenge in a rural area in the middle of nowhere. He’s looking for the man who assassinated his friend. In the company of his subordinate and newcomer Chi-Guk, younger and softener in manners, he develops a bond with the local restaurant owner, an old lady who happens to be the mother of the man he’s looking for. This is definitely a film I’d like to give a second look in the future.
July 3, 2008

>Leo & Kate – Now and Then

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Titanic (1997)

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Revolutionary Road (opening december 2008)