Archive for April, 2009

April 26, 2009

>cph pix – a mix of the last four days

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The Anarchist’s Wife (Spain, 2008) – I was more interested in watching this film because of Ivana Baquero (Pan’s Labyrinth). She appears mostly in the film’s second half, as the teenage tailor wannabe daughter of Manuela, the wife from the title. Manuela’s husband leaves to fight against Franco’s nationalism during the Spanish Civil War, leaving her pregnant wife and young daughter behind. As a war drama, there’s plenty of terrible happenings surrounding the heroin’s life, who strongly fights each one of them until the end. I was more pleased by the costumes, which serve as a 1940s source of style inspiration, as for the story, I just wish it was either Black Book or Charlotte Gray, but it’s neither original nor emotional.

Synecdoche, New York (USA, 2008) – Charlie Kaufman’s directing debut had to be as or more intriguing as his scripts (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Being John Malkovich). Naturally, he also wrote the script himself, a story made of many parts, which together form a single piece, where life and fiction are united and boarders between reality and imagination don’t exist. I know, it sounds just like the movie scripts he created in the past, but this time, he went as far as he could, and he had the help of the best ensemble cast I’ve seen this year so far. Philip Seymour Hoffmann plays the main character, a stage director struggling with his art, trying to create his masterpiece, the work he’ll be remembered for, while thinking about the meaning of life in a Woody Allen esque manner, where the fear of death and the sense of immediatism life possesses dictates his neuroses. Ironically, everyone but him seems to be passing from this life to the next (if there’s any) – just count the number of funerals this movie has! There’s no doubt about the film’s originality, but it doesn’t make it more interesting, apart from the A-class supporting ladies Kaufman recruited.

Frozen River (USA, 2008) – I confess I knew nothing about the story, and was attracted to watch this due to the fact the actress (Melissa Leo, a great performance, indeed) was nominated to this year’s Academy Awards in the best actress category. I was positively surprised by the whole thing, though! Here’s a good example of a movie dealing with a heavy thematic (look at the still above) without surrendering to pessimism. It leaves an optimistic message, but never underestimates our brains with an easily bought conclusion, as typical “sad in between, happy ending movies” usually do (and God, how I hate such movies).

The Beautiful Person (France, 2008) – I think I may consider Christophe Honoré one of my favourite new directors. Or at least one of those which new films I look forward to since the moment I hear about the production. And the fact he always works with Louis Garrel (Love Songs) make it even better (Long live the partnership between Garrel and Honoré!). He conducts a group of teenagers in a parisian middle-class school in the most elegant manner, observing the beauty of youth, but behind the apparently superficial look the camera gives in the first place, there’s deeper perceptions hidden. Louis Garrell plays Nemours, the first lover as usual, a seductive italian teacher whose lips goes from teachers to students, and whose interest in the new student Junie (Léa Seydoux) is shared with a romantic and almost love-idealistic student, the timid Otto (Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet), who declares his love, unlike Nemours. When it comes to love, it’s everything or nothing, with Nemours in one extreme, and Otto in another, whereas Junie always stays in the middle, and melancholy wins.

Dream (South Korea, 2008) – Kim Ki-Duk films get worse and worse. This wasn’t entirely a bad film, but it’s nevertheless far from the poetic movies he did at first. I think the problem is, that every time I see his newest film, I expect nothing but the new 3-Iron or the new Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter…and Spring. Was Dream supposed to be a drama? If yes, then there’s something wrong with it. It made me laugh in several scenes. It seemed ridiculous at times, like a trash esque thriller. At some point, it acquires sensibility, but then it’s too late for metaphors envolving paranormal disappearances. The story revolves around a man and a woman, Jin and Ran, whose lives intertwine as she sleepwalks and does exactly what he dreams during his sleep. In his dreams, Jin finds a subterfuge to meet the woman who left him and love her again, whereas Ran unconsciouly performs his dreams with the man she left and now despises.

Revanche (Austria, 2008) – One knows things will never turn out as planned when a movie character decides to rob a bank and start a new life. The film (nominated to this year’s Academy Awards in the best foreign languague film category) is divided in three parts: the life before the robbery (which helps to understand why the main character went through such extreme decision), a twist, and the life after the robbery, in which the film title (revenge) starts making sense. The story is simple and universal, but conducted in a realistic and minimalistic manner, almost lacking heart and soul. It believes too much in its actors, but luckily all of them deliver a tangible performance.
April 24, 2009

>cph pix day 5

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Gigantic (2008) – A single 28-year old mattress salesman who has dreamt his entire life of adopting a chinese baby (Paul Dano, the only reason why I wanted to see this) and a I’m not sure what young woman (Zooey Deschanel, I like you better when you’re sort of modeling) fall in love. It’s supposed to be a comedy, but I couldn’t laugh much unlike most of the audience, although the John Goodman scenes (who plays Zooey’s odd dad) were almost entirely funny.

The Countess (2009) – directed and starred by Julie Delpy, this film’s first minutes presents us to its main character in a dynamic sequel of events from her childhood to her early 40s. When the actual story begins, we think we might know what kind of woman the hungarian countess Elizabeth Bathory is, but the fact is, we have no idea. Deeply heartbroken after her young lover had left, she becomes sickly obsessed with her appearance, literally seeing wrinkles in her face while in fact she looks quite fine (like the anorexic victim who sees a fat figure in the mirror). “Time has no respect for beauty”, she says, until the day the blood of a virgin young woman appears to be the solution for her aging dilemma. Julie Delpy explores this bloody side of the countess’s life in nasty detailed pictures of cutting wrists, heads and mostly skin in general. I couldn’t finish my popcorn (well, I’m sensitive), but overall her acting and directing suit the story told quite well.
April 23, 2009

>movies I’m looking forward to see

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1. the lovely bones because it’s based on a great book and the main character is played by Saoirse Ronan, 2. alice in wonderland directed by Tim Burton, 3. 1939 starred by Romola Garai 4. public enemies (Johnny Depp and Marion Cotillard are in this film!)
April 21, 2009

>cph pix day 4 – the best so far

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Coraline (2009) – Secret doorways in the history of Literature and general fiction almost always means great potential to a surreal adventure. Think Alice in Wonderland (ok, there wasn’t actually a door, but still..) and more recently Pan’s Labyrinth. Escaping from reality towards a magical world will always be connected with the innocence of children’s vivid imagination, with dreams and nightmares, which heads us to a dark territory, after all, behind the surface, fairy tales are creepier than we imagine them to be. “Tell me about it”, the 11-year-old Coraline would say. The loving mother she finds in the magical world turns out to be a monster that wants to sew buttons in her eyes! In order to return to the real world and save her real parents, she will need to complete a few tasks, but if she doesn’t succeed, she’ll be forever a prisioner inside a pink old mansion. Based on a children’s novel and directed by Henry Selick (The Nightmare Before Christmas) in 3-D technology (which makes Coraline’s world even more alive, scary and tangible), Coraline is made for those of us who love Tim Burton films. So grab your 3-D glasses and bon voyage! ^.^

Mammoth (2009) – Director Lukas Moodysson himself (Show Me Love, Lilja 4-ever) was there yesterday to introduce his newest film, that besides being clearly more ambitious in budget therms by dividing the story in three locations, is nevertheless grounded, unlike some others in a similar situation – to give an example, Alejandro Gonzáles Iñárritu’s Babel. Ellen (Michelle Williams) and Leo (Gael García Bernal) form a rich new yorker couple, she’s a dedicated emergency surgeon doctor, he’s a successful business man, both immersed at their jobs and unable to spend quality time with their little girl, who is taken care by a filipino nanny who came to USA in order to make money enough to provide a better future to her two boys. When Leo travels to Thailand because of insignificant business purposes, he becomes deeply affected by the reality of many locals, more specifically of young prostitute women. A couple of events in Leo and Ellen’s lives will make them change their perception of their own world and work better as a family. Mammoth might feel like a critic against how the western world exploits the third world in the name of globalisation. It can feel really obvious in some episodes, and smooth and subtitle in others. But the criticism is always there, along with individual dramas easy to sympathise with.

April 19, 2009

>cph pix day 3 – not so great

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When it comes to film festivals, I just wish I could guess which films are the very good ones and which films are the not so good ones, after my humble opinion, naturally. But unfortunately, it’s impossible to guess. I read synopses, watch trailers when these are available, and sometimes none of these, íf such films in question are: 1. directed by Wong Kar Wai, 2. starred by Isabelle Huppert and based on a Marguerite Duras novel and 3. starred by Michelle Williams, an actress I admire more and more. Ashes of Time Redux (Hong Kong, China, 1994) is supposed to be a different version from the original 1994 one, which I haven’t seen. After seeing it, I realize I’m not a Wong Kar Wai fan after all, but a In the Mood for Love (and more recently, Chungking Express) fan. I wasn’t really moved by the epic filmed in oversaturated colours, although the images were indeed stunning.
The Sea Wall (France, 2008) has an outstanding actress playing the leading character, a woman who struggles against bureaucrats and nature, in order to suceed as a rice farmer in french Indochina, 1931. For those of you familiar with The Lover, here’s a similar story told through the mother’s point of view. A few elements from The Lover are there: the rich chinaman, the girl (not wearing her famous hat, though), the big brother (although much softer), nevertheless there’s neither romance nor poetic lines/cinematography. It’s all about the economical and consequently healthy degradation of a middle-aged woman.
Wendy and Lucy (USA, 2008) is not a happier experience. It’s a story about Wendy (Michelle Williams), a penniless young woman and her female dog, Lucy, heading to Alaska. After her car breaks, she sees herself stucked in a small town, and shortly after, she loses her beloved dog, which was taken somewhere unknown while she almost got to prison by stealing dog food in a grocery shop. The movie is pretty much about Wendy looking for Lucy. She won’t take a step further without her dog, even if it means that she’ll be living as a homeless. Altough she meets one or two nice people, there are creeps out there, most of the time. We see everything through her own eyes, in a very sad and sometimes depressing picture. It doesn’t get any better. The movie finishes and leaves a lot of questions in the air. Why she became this, what’s so important in Alaska? Somehow, it’s more like a narrative flaw than a positive aspect. Luckily there’s Michelle Williams, who portrays the character with sensibility.
April 19, 2009

>cph pix day 2 – hilarious

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Pussy Soup (Japan, 2008) – Taishou is a very cute cat destined to model in cat food commercials, just like his equally cute father. But that’s not the life he wants. Tired of being pressured, he runs away in search for independence. It won’t be an easy journey. He tries several jobs (including one as a surgeon!) and fails in every single one of them, until he’s saved by a noodle cooker, right before commiting suicide. After this episode Taishou’s life changes completely. He learns how to cook noodle soup and opens his own little business. The place is not a complete success, but after Taishou’s father opens a soup restaurant just around the corner, a big challenge will be launched. Taishou and his father will compete on who makes the most delicious soup on nationwide japanese TV. Who will win? Pussy Soup is another bizarre animal film directed by Minoru Kawasaki, a director I knew from the old danish film festival back in 2007, when I saw Executive Koala, a story about a koala accused of murdering his own (human) wife. What can I do, I love all this nonsense and I laugh out loud. ^.^

April 19, 2009

>movies I’m looking forward to see

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1. grey gardens, although it’s a TV film (isn’t it?) 2. an education 3. the young victoria 4. sunshine cleaning.
April 18, 2009

>cph pix day 1 – absolutely perfect*

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My Darling of the Mountains (Japan, 2008) – Film art would be poorer and less beautiful without Japan. Director Katsuhito Ishii proves that in his remake of the 1938 japanese film The Masseurs and a Woman. An innocent and poetic film with a charismatic leading character, a blind masseur that falls in love with a mysterious woman from Tokyo. Funny in the manner of silent films, a bit old-fashioned and slow for today’s audiences, here’s a rewarding cinematic experience, if you’re the kind of person that appreciates the beauty from the simplest things, like the stillness of a home interior and little yellow flowers that grow by a river in the country side.

This is a film to watch when you’re feeling blue, when the weather turns cold and gray or maybe when you just wanna laugh until you can’t anymore. Rumba (France, Belgium, 2008) tells a very simple story, that almost lacks dialogues, after all, who needs words anyway, when there’s music and dance? Sometimes I wonder why movies aren’t more like Les Demoiselles de Rochefort these days, and surprisingly Rumba is the closest from the french musical I’ve seen in years. Similar use of saturated colours, costumes and scenario to celebrate not only love though, but optimism. A tragedy told as a comedy in the most refreshing way.

Sparrow (Hong Kong, 2008) – No one directs long slow motion scenes the way Johnny To does. And with umbrellas, in the rain. Mad Detective was a disappointment, but this time the Hong Kong director delivered a film piece as captivating as Exiled, although completely different.

*I’ll be only commenting the films I liked.

April 15, 2009

>the virgin suicides

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“So much has been said about the girls over the years. But we have never found an answer. It didn’t matter in the end how old they had been, or that they were girls… but only that we had loved them… and that they hadn’t heard us calling… still do not hear us calling them from out of those rooms… where they went to be alone for all time… and where we will never find the pieces to put them back together.”

Sofia Coppola’s debut film is still my favourite of hers.

April 8, 2009

>Guess the picture – part 3

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Where do these feet/shoes come from? (from last week, since no one has guessed it so far…)
Tip: both films are italian.
Tip 2: The leading character in the 1st picture is played by an italian actress known for playing roles that show “the degradation of women” (in her own words). The 2nd picture was directed by a man whose daughter is an actress. She’s named after a continent.
Tip 3: in the first film, the story is told through a boy’s point of view. in the second film, there’s a child’s doggerel tune, which anticipates the killing.

Answer: Malèna (1st picture), Profondo Rosso (2nd picture)