Thursday, 11 October 2012
Thursday, 27 September 2012
Quote from Salman Rushdie's Joseph Anton:
"It was curious that so avowedly godless a person should keep trying to write about faith. Belief had left him but the subject remained, nagging at his imagination. The structures and metaphors of religion ... shaped his irreligious mind, and the concerns of these religions with the great questions of existence - Where do we come from? And now that we are here, how shall we live? - were also his, even if he came to conclusions that required no divine arbiter to underwrite and certainly no earthly priest class to sanction and interpret."
Cannot wait to see Rushdie tonight and harass him for an autograph (and a picture of course).
There are few reasons why the international race for the Oscar is an event worth following very closely.
I think it was Christopher Hitchens who once said that politicising every sphere of our existence is inescapable. At least I think that was him who said that, or perhaps it is something that I concluded by myself and put his face to that phrase, as it very well might have been his opinion as well. In any case, the rather wide spread assumption that arts and politics don't mix (the Hollywood machine is the biggest advocate of such art sans politics hybrid) is nothing else than fiction. The word "representative" (as in the representative films chosen by each country) in itself suggest some kind of political activity as every nation wants to be perceived through the prism of the kind of film they submit for the competition.
I am particularly interested in seeing what films are chosen to represent countries that have recently underwent or are still undergoing socio-political turmoil, like Egypt or Iran (who won the award last year and this year thanks to Ahmadinejad's government decision to boycott American film industry, will not allow its directors to compete). It is usually hoped by the film directors who have to work under such autocratic regimes that their films will be seen by the western audiences and the stories of social instability will influence change in their countries and elsewhere. Watching these films tricks me into thinking that by enjoying myself at the cinema I participate in some form of political activism. Delusional as it may seem, I truly believe that by solely igniting an intellectual discourse with the cinema-going audience, these films turn the Plato's cave into an agora. Place as good as any for advocating social change.
For someone like myself who comes from a non-English speaking country the quarrels surrounding such distinctive honour as receiving an Oscar nomination for the country you are from is quite a funny thing to experience. There is a lot of bitching around, slamming films from other countries, propagating that the film representing your nation is superior to the ones that were sent by others. Then there is also a lot of internal fighting over why this film was chosen over another one. As an example - Agnieszka Holland's In Darkness was chosen to represent Poland in the competition last year and the moment the film ended up in the final top 5, the media propaganda machine started howling over the masterful incomparable brilliance of Holland's directorial skills and her ability to put together such monumental piece of film-making. Of course the Polish intellectuals who are very sensitive about being dictated what to think and do by media (the post-communist residue of distrust towards ruling classes I suppose), appeared to approach Holland's film with certain scepticism if not suspicion from the moment it got media's attention and international appreciation. A very similar film to Holland's flick was released almost simultaneously in Poland - it was called Rose and it was directed by another cult Polish director, Wojciech Smarzowski. It is a very interesting Polish characteristic that with international fame comes general public dislike, and quite expectedly the people complained that Rose would represent the country much better than In Darkness did. But the moment In Darkness lost its bid at the Oscars, people flocked to the cinemas in support of their almost-winner as if trying to cheer up a beaten up friend.
And that is just Poland. One could write a book about every countries' behind-the-scenes stories surrounding their Oscar nomination.
The Films Are (Usually) Bloody Superb
You should always note each film that is placed on the official list of contestants fighting for the Foreign Language Oscar because the possibility that some of them they will blow your mind is quite high. As a case study let's just look back at the nominees from years past.
2010: Dogtooth (OMG! you will never look at cats and lamps the same way ever again), Incendies (brilliant and poignant modern day Oedipus Rex), Outside the Law (meh...), Biutiful (double meh), and In a Better World (decent film) - three out of five were really good, and the remaining two were also note-worthy (sort of...)
2009: The Secret in Their Eyes (conceptual melodramatic political drama. decent choice), Ajami (Israeli-Palestinian co-production. Do I have to say anything else?), The Milk of Sorrow (sad and beautiful, retrospective look at the post-Pinochet Chile), A Prophet (who wasn't cuming over this one?), The White Ribbon (the name of Haneke says it all)
2008: Departures (a bit odd, sad, but funny film about dying), The Baader Meinhof Complex (complex socially conscious portrait of western-bred terrorism), The Class (think The Real Housewives of New Jersey - high school edition), Revanche (ok, it was the one rotten egg in this selection...), Waltz with Bashir (you will watch it, and watch it again...)
...Do I have to continue? The Academy might very often be completely out of touch with the home-grown cinema (Hurt Locker? seriously??), but the Foreign Language Film category never ceases to surprise.
The list of announced submissions is below.
Albania - Pharmakon, directed by Joni Shanaj (Albania)
Algeria - Zabana!, directed by Saïd Ould Khelifa (Arabic, French)
Australia - Lore, directed by Cate Shortland (German)
Austria - Amore, directed by Michael Haneke (French)
Azerbaijan - Buta, directed by Ilgar Najaf (Azeri)
Bangladesh - Ghetuptra Kamola, directed by Humayun Ahmed (Bengali)
Belgium - Our Children, directed by Joachim Lafosse (French)
Bosnia and Herzegovina - Children of Sarajevo, directed by Aida Begić (Bosnian)
Brazil - The Clown, directed by Selton Mello (Portuguese)
Bulgaria - Sneakers, directed by Valeri Yordanov (Bulgarian)
Cambodia - Lost Loves, directed by Chhay Bora (Khmer)
Canada - War Witch, directed by Kim Nguyen (French, Lingala)
Chile - No, directed by Pablo Larrain (Spanish)
Colombia - El Cartel de los Sapos, directed by Carlos Moreno (Spanish)
Croatia - Cannibal Vegetarian, directed by Branko Schmidt (Croatian)
Czech Republic - In The Shadows, directed by David Ondricek (Czech, German)
Denmark - A Royal Affair, directed by Nikolaj Arcel (Danish)
Dominican Republic - Check Mate, directed by José María Cabral (Spanish)
Estonia - Mushrooming, directed by Toomas Hussar (Estonian)
Finland - Purge, directed by Antti Jokinen (Finnish)
France - The Intouchables, directed by Eric Toledano & Olivier Nakache (French)
Georgia - Keep Smiling, directed by Rusudan Chkonia (Georgian)
Germany - Barbara, directed by Christian Petzold (German)
Greece - Unfair World, directed by Filippos Tsitos (Greek)
Hong Kong - Life Without Principle, directed by Johnnie To (Cantonese)
Hungary - Just The Wind, directed by Benedek Fliegauf (Hungarian)
Iceland - The Deep, directed by Baltasar Kormákur (Icelandic)
India - Barfi!, directed by Anurag Basu (Hindi)
Indonesia - Tiny Dancer, directed by Ifa Isfansyah (Indonesian, Banymasan)
Israel - Fill The Void, directed by Rama Burshtein (Hebrew)
Italy - Casear Must DIe, directed by Paolo and Vittorio Taviani (Italy)
Japan - Our Homeland, directed by Yong-hi Yang (Japanese)
Kazakhstan - Myn Bala, directed by Akan Satayev (Kazakh)
Kenya - Nairobi Half Life, directed by David 'Tosh' Gitonga (Swahili)
Macedonia -The Third Half, directed by Darko Mitrevski (Macedonian, German, Bulgarian)
Mexico - After Lucia, directed by Michel Franco (Spanish)
Morocco - Death For Sale, directed by Faouzi Bensaïdi (Arabic)
Netherlands - Kauwboy, directed by Boudewijn Koole (Dutch)
Norway - Kon-Tiki, directed by Joachim Rønning & Espen Sandberg (Norwegian)
Palestinian Territories - When I Saw You, directed by Annemarie Jacir (Arabic)
Phillippines - Bwakaw, directed by Jun Lana (Tagalog)
Poland - 80 Million, directed by Waldemar Krzystek (Polish)
Portugal - Blood of My Blood, directed by João Canijo (Portuguese)
Romania - Beyond The Hills, directed by Cristian Mungiu (Romanian)
Russia - White Tiger, directed by Karen Shakhnazarov (Russian)
Serbia - When Day Breaks, directed by Goran Paskaljević (Serbian)
Slovakia - Made in Ash, directed by Iveta Grófová (Slovak, German, Czech)
Slovenia - A Trip, directed by Nejc Gazvoda (Slovene)
South Korea - Pieta, directed by Kim Ki-duk (Korean)
Sweden - The Hypnotist, directed by Lasse Hallstrom (Swedish)
Switzerland - Sister, directed by Ursala Meier (French)
Thailand - Headshot, directed by Pen-Ek Ratanaruang (Thai)
Urkraine - Firecrosser, directed by Mykhailo Illienko (Russian, Ukranian)
Venezuela - Rock, Paper, Scissors, directed by Hernán Jabes (Spanish)
Vietnam - The Scent of Burning Glass, directed by Nguyễn Hữu Mười (Vietnamese)
The complete list of submissions will be available in the beginning of October.
Monday, 11 June 2012
Oslo, August 31st will be released on DVD on June 13th.
Saturday, 9 June 2012
The Queen of Versailles follows a story of the Siegels - one of the richest families in America whose social status is just about to be boosted by building the biggest single-family house in modern history. Their financial success however gets disrupted during the 2008 economic crisis and we see David Siegel and his wife Jackie having to cut back on their portion of the American dream and redefine what it means to live within your means.
Even though the first impulse tells us to despise the Siegels for the billions they own, their influence in politics, and their detachment from reality that exists outside of their mansion's walls, the story is told with heart and feeling; one can't help but sympathise with these individuals who struggle through their lives, trying to pursue happiness like everyone else.
Thursday, 7 June 2012
- It lasts less than two hours
- The special effects are pretty neat, especially the sequence in which the alien spaceship falls from the sky
- Michael Fassbender makes for an awesome droid. His motives aren't always clear (whose side was he really on? Weyland's? The Space Jockeys'? His own?), but that just makes him more unpredictable and intetesting
- Charlize Theron as the mission's commander delivers similarly to Fassbender; if it only wasn't for her lame death... Why run along the trajectory of a giant wheel-like space ship that is coming right at you? Why not just run to the side?
- And last but no least, it has some ummm... nicely spaced credits at the end?
- It got made
- Lindelof was allowed to write the script and ruin the franchise the same way he ruined Lost; starts off as in interesting concept, the film asks some very daunting questions about human existence and the origins of life. But the moment Lindelof starts cutting cornes the whole thing falls apart and it becomes a pro-Christian ideological black hole that sucks the intelligence out of its audience
- Elizabeth Shaw's actions are never motivated by reason, but by blind faith. She states very clearly in the beginning that the mission she initiated should become a success because "she believes so." Her faith is mocked by several characters, expecially by David, who represets the scientific thought and genius, but "lacks the soul." and it is Elizabeth's possesion of soul that saves her in the end. Her devotion to her belief as represented by her attachment to a crucifix she carries on her neck is a virtue which cannot be defeated by the fallibility of scientific endeavours.
- No continuity between Prometheus and Alien. Not only the alien creatures look different than in the original film, the Space Jockey whom we see in Alien, was supposed to have died inside his spaceship, and not inside Prometheus. I know, probably a small detail, but part of the enjoyment I hoped to get out of this film was finding out how Scott was going to piece it all together. Epic fail.
- The dialogue is unnatural, often feels forced and/ or unnecessary; there is almost no character development, especially with the minor characters. Why do we care to see Weyland alive? Why is it important that he is Meredith's father? How come the captain of the ship agreed almost without any hesitation to embark on a suicide mission? Why did the head of the Space Jockey fall off? How did it come back to life? Why did they open the hatch without investigating what might be waiting outside? Why did that dead scientist guy turn into a zombie? Look, I get Scott is hoping to make a sequel, but this film must contain enough information to make it worthwile as a stand alone piece. Again, who allowed Lindelof write this stuff? Did anybody read this thing before it went into production?
Overall I give this film 2 out of 5. I will avoid it's planned sequel if it ever gets made.
Sunday, 3 June 2012
Tuesday, 22 May 2012
Without getting too much into details I confirm that Andrew Dominik's newest film is a very solid 4/5. It has one of the best closing lines ever!
Once the screening was over we got a nice surprise - the sun finally came out! Cannes rocks!
First screening of the day was a complete disaster. Le Grand Sour was not intended for international audiences; It's script is filled with jokes and references that only the francophones would be able to fully enjoy. Also, it's punk, anti-capitalist message is presented in a way which I found rather tiresome, although everybody else in the auditorium seemed to have a lot of fun.
So far, the worst film I have watch in Cannes.
Monday, 21 May 2012
So... The system of reservations and tickets, and then queuing for hours screwed me over yet again. Even though I had Alain Resnais' screening pre booked, they did not let me in.
Silver lining is that I get to see Michael Heneke's Amour. Starts in 2 hours, I'm already in the queue.
Sunday, 20 May 2012
Two years ago during the 63rd Festival de Cannes I stood for two hours in front of Salle Debussy to see Xavier Dolan's Les Amours Imaginaires. Even though I showed up at the theatre considerably early, the number of people who arrived before me was overwhelming to a point where I started to doubt I would manage to get in. The level of excitement ahead of Dolan's nawest piece Laurence Anyways, if judged by the number of people who queued up two hours ahead of the screening, was certainly smaller. Yet as the time went on, more and more people started showing up and the crowd managed to fill up Debussy from top to bottom.
Why is the whole queuing up ritual so important? Well, I think there is some level of anticipation and familiarity with Dolan's craft that his devotees (aka the loosers who waited in front of the theatre for so long) have when going to see Laurence. I am not saying that whomever showed up closer to the time of screening was not as excited, but they probably didn't consider seeing his newest film as such a big thing as I did.
Ok, get to the point Adam. I was simply thrilled to see the film, to know that it will tell a sex change story (topic that was very popular at last year's Sundance), and to see Monic Chikori as one of the leads again. But here's the thing about expectations, the higher they are, the harder you fall. And did I fall hard!
Seems like the old rule about Woody Allen's films: a Woody Allen film without Woody in it is not a Woody Allen film, fits Dolan's craft perfectly. Now that the director was not occupied with acting in his film, he tried to compensate by taking care of post production like he never did before. The film is built in the following way: it is a very long string of segments which all begin with a masterfully aesthetised opening shot accompanied by loud music, and then are followed by a number of slow-mo shots and conversations which don't always bring anything new or interesting to the overall narrative.
The style he adopted for his latest flick is filled with cheesy references to the 80's/90's pop culture showcased by glossy shots and corky costumes. It all captivates very well in the beginning of the film, but as the time goes by, the amount of effects used starts to irritate because a. The aesthetics don't bring any additional commentary to the presented story b. As a stand alone feature of the film they are simply pointless.
So consumed in building the aesthetical scelletone of the film, Dolan naglects the narrative. The story of the main character's sex change is eventually pushed to the background and the story of Laurence's relationship with his girlfriend Frank takes the spotlight. The transition from one story to another has no motivation in the narrative, becomes frustrating as one begs to ask what this film is supposed to be really about.
And the film is more about Dolan then about any of his fictional characters. It is about his over-confidence, about his desire to surprise, about his fascination with Almodovar, and about his affair with impressionistic imagery rather than a story.
But no matter how irritating and dreary this nearly 3 hours long spectacle was, it did not stop the audience of Debussy from giving Dolan a 10 minutes long standing ovation. I like to think of Laurence... as a practical joke: Dolan thought to himself, let's make a long boring pointless film and see if the idiots at Cannes will still clap for me. And they did.
Point of the story: do not encourage bad filmmaking. The joke is on you, Cannes.
Friday, 18 May 2012
On my way to the airport studying the festival programme. This year looks more than promissing! I will kick off with Xavier Dolan's latest film: Laurence Anyways, and that will be followed up with films from Michael Heneke, Thomas Vinterberg, Bernardo Bertolucci, and many others.
Thursday, 17 May 2012
Tuesday, 14 February 2012
Sunday, 12 February 2012
Sunday, 5 February 2012
Saturday, 28 January 2012
Informative, but not necessarily destined for a cinematic exhibition.