> Home          EXIT NOW !


> H O M E <
2 0 0 5

Current Film Log | 2004 Journal | All 2005 films
Latest Recommendations | Coming Soon in Paris

Latest Review

2004 Must See

La Blessure
Café Lumière
Comme une Image
Días de campo
Eternal Sunshine of The Spotless Mind
Le Moindre Geste
Los Muertos
La Niña Santa
Nobody Knows
S21: The Khmer Rouge Death Machine
Tiexi Qu : West of tracks
Tropical Malady
The World


++++ : FLARE (Masterwork)
+++ : FLAWED (Inspired)
++ : FAIR (Skillful)
+ : FLIMSY (Lazy)
0 : FORMAL (Average)
- : FAULTY (Dismissed)

Contact HarryTuttle




2005 Diary : spontaneous impressions


The journal will continue on Blogger from now on:



Manderlay (2005/Lars von Trier/Denmark) +++

Second episode of Lars von Trier trilogy U-S-A on America's darkest hours.
It's not as accomplished as Dogville was, but paradoxaly he improved his handling of this bare mise-en-scene gimmick. The subject is more accessible/digestible too, and suggests unexpected food for philosophical thoughts that are not as obviously manichaean as in the first episode. Lars von Trier becomes more of a Godard every year, caring less and less for a commercial smoothness and diving more into self-reflexive abstract lecturing...
++++++ +++++++


Paria (2000/Nicolas Klotz/France) +++

It’s quite beautiful and gripping. Not as aestheticaly achieved as La Blessure, not as polished and controled either. Stylistically antithetic. The common thread is the excellent playwright (by the same Elizabeth Perceval), a shocking reality check, away from cliché and convenient scenes.
More of a Cinéma-vérité approach with long takes, close ups and free acting.
It’s the parallel stories of 2 impulsive reckless young men, homeless and fatherless for different reasons, struggling to give a meaning to their miserable life. 2 days before the new year’s eve of 2000 wandering in the streets of Paris, between dirty places and social shelter. A disturbing journey in the dregs of a western society, when dignity is lost with the last job.
+++++++ +++++++++

The Mahabharata (1989/Peter Brook/UK/France) ++

The Mahabharata is wonderful, I loved it! Not quite what I expected though, and difficult to follow. From a cinematic standpoint not much innovative, it's basicaly a stage play mise-en-scène. Violence, war and magic are stylized. And the cast is comicaly baroque, japanese, british, irish, french, polish, african... all dubbed in post-synch with a british accent. Only a couple of indian actors. Tapa Sudana plays a great Shiva, disturbing like "mysterious man" in Lost Highway.
I guess the interest is mainly textual for a somptuous source mythology, a mix of greek mythology with the Bible. There is even a Moses character abandonned in a cradle on the river. And 5 brothers with the same wife. The genealogy is so incredible at times I was wondering if the scenario (adaptated by Buñuel's screenwriter,Jean-Claude Carrière) was historical or invented. These wars between gods and humans are grandiose, and the ambiguity of the moral is so refreshing from this good/evil manichaeism of western culture.
The only cinema special effects are some superimposition and a nice reverse footage when a creature dives under the ground (like in quick sands).
However simple the production can be it is very tasteful and doesn't get cheesy like Hollywood epics. This one compares with Peter Jackson's trilogy easily. Kaidan is a good approximation of the style I suppose.
The TV version is supposed to be twice as long, in fact some cuts are a little abrupt and the story speeds up at times. To my surprised, the end credits said it was shot in studio in Paris.
++++++ +++++++++


Estamira (2004/Marcos Prado/Brazil) +++

+++++++ +++++++++


Guelwaar (1992/Ousmane Sembene/Senegal) ++++


Borom Sarret (1966/Ousmane Sembene/Senegal) +++

++++ ++++++++++

La Noire de... (1966/Ousmane Sembene/Senegal) ++++

++++++ +++++++++++

Xala (1966/Ousmane Sembene/Senegal) ++

+++++ +++++++

Ceddo (1966/Ousmane Sembene/Senegal) +++

++++++ +++++++++



Nous ne vieillirons pas ensemble (Maurice Pialat/France) +++


++++++ ++++++++


She's Gotta Have it (1986/Spike Lee/USA) +++

Nola Darling, a young black woman entertains in Brooklyn three simultaneous love affairs with men of very different personality. Thus called (sex) "freak" by her friends. Spike Lee (who incidentally plays the less flaterring lover) directs a highly stylized romance from an anti-Hollywood perspective. First the film is all black, filmed on location, an atmosphere akin to a Cassavetes mise-en-scene like in Shadows or Minnie and Moskowitz, or early Godard. The traditional archetype of womanizer is turned upside down with this woman openly asserting her sexual life: Nola doesn't dream of a love wedding and stable family, she needs sensuality and sex. What's it like for a man to be treated like a sex object? An originality that disturbs her partners as much as the audience. Lastly, the fiction incorporate pseudo-documentary clips of the protagonists addressing an hypothetical journalist, looking directly into the camera, and commenting their role in Nola's life. A "mockumentary" approach Peter Watkins is notorious for (Edvuard Munch). In a caring Black & White photography, Spike Lee shoots admirable frames proving a mastered simplicity. For instance the love scene close ups could be reminiscent of Resnais' Hiroshima Mon Amour opening sequence, the substance of both films being like-minded in some aspects. Scenes may be discontinuous and often elliptical, developping a sense of episodic highlights, through ironical arguments between pairs of characters untill they all meet up on a hilarious Thanksgiving dinner. A tender humor carries us along this peculiar social satire, without striking as excessive activism. The pamphlet hides in the details and the form more than the in what the story says.
A film I watched at the open air summer screening festival, sitting in the grass under a cloudy and stary night sky.
+++ +++ ++++++++

The Red Shoes (1948/Powell&Pressburger/USA) +

Cindirella meets an evil emotionless Pygmalion, obsessed by art perfection. Good TV time for a family night in the living room.
My second Powell movie, significantly higher than Black Narcissus, still navigating in forced melodrama territory. This time the plot is decent at least. And the characters have something of a persona. The film becomes impressive only half way through, after a very classic and average narration. The last part of the Red Shoes ballet is brilliant I admit, and a few subsequent scenes show some inspired direction. I'm surprised by such a gap in quality from one scene to the next. I know I should take more time to study the ressource of mainstream melodrama and the slightly dated aesthetics of early color films to back up my disatisfaction. Maybe upon next viewing if I give it another chance. Now I'm up to the good thing hopefully, with Peeping Tom and A Matter of Lie and Death.


Il Mistero di Oberwald / The Mystery of Oberwald (1981/Antonioni/Italy/Germany) +

Uncreative, uncinematic adapatation of Jean Cocteau's play "L'Aigle à Deux Têtes", who put it himself into film in 1948, famous for giving lead actress Edwige Feuillère the longest monolog on screen with 20 minutes. Ten years after the assassination of her husband, Elisabeth, queen of Austria, continues to mourn the king, hiding away from the public, secretly moving from palace to castle, neglecting her commanding function in the capital. The King's mother and the chief of police manipulate a cunning scheme while the opposition critics the kingdom. Stanislas, a young poet whose nom de plume is Azrael, the angel of death, will carry out the agenda of the anarchists and murder the queen. But that is without counting on the power of love... due to a coincidental resemblance with the king, Elisabeth forges a morbid pact with her assassin.
Here, Monica Vitti, fitted with a long redhead wig, tries her best to save the role of the queen in a suffocating succession of one-on-one interviews between two protagonists who plot against the royal power or for a love intrigue. Although Antonioni doesn't give her as much class and panache as in her earlier films. The print I got to see was obviously old and the colors fading out, so I'm not sure what to make of the playful tweaking with the color hue during certain scenes. Probably this gimmick is meant to color the inner thoughts of the characters. I didn't find it particularly clever nor aestheticaly suited.
++ ++ +0+

Matador (1990/Pedro Almodovar/Spain) ++

Pedro Almodovar creates a subversive version of the traditional crime story setting his film in the bloodthirsty universe of bullfighting, where sex and murder proceeds to the same rush for extasis. A colorful collection of double-faced protagonists combining a social function and a personal darker weakness. A former matador fascinated by horror movies. A lawyer fascinated by criminals. A matador apprentice who is afraid of blood. A psychiatrist sympathising too much for her client. A police investigator attracted to young boys. A top model with masochistic tendencies. A bigot bourgeoise who deny her own son. These unusual elements form an original story revealing its solution early on to ridicule the typical crime movies, and develop the ambiguous intricated relationships between the characters.
+++ +++++ ++


Once You're Born You Can No Longer Hide / Quando sei nato non puoi più nasconderti (2005/Marco Tullio Giordana/Italy/France/UK) ++

Another perspective on illegal immigrants and the italian society, certainly original and thought provacting but on the verge of an artifical TV melodrama. The mise-en-scene saves much of the scenes from excessive sentimentalism.
Sandro, 14, is the only son of a wealthy entrepreneur who is lost at sea in the night during a sailing boat trip off the Greek islands and saved miraculously by a rickety ship full of illegal immigrants coming from all over eastern Europe. He builts an instinctive trust, free of prejudices, with 2 young orphans from Romania and will try to help them get integrated. The film stretches in three long parts dedicated to focus on one side of the empathy. First the wealthy family together and their minor daily concerns. Then Sandro on his own, coming-of-age, facing with a violent reality. Leading to the real substance of the film, unfortunately underdevelopped, although successfuly suggested by little meaningful undramatised events offering more reflexion than ready made answers. Two important cuts cleverly leave some characters out of the narration for a moment to emphasize the isolation of another. The grief of a family having lost their child is synthetized in one scene. Later the romanians disappear from the screen without following their whereabouts. Thus the story centers entirely on Sandro who is vested of humanitarian feelings sometimes oversized in scope and intensity for his age and vulnerability.
The film doesn't always go in the easy direction and propose a couple of good alternatives to questions the plot immediate assumptions. The young Matteo Gadola is remarkably consistent all around the film, supported by the two equally enjoyable romanian characters.
Far from the outstanding The Best of Youth epic, Giordana and his team of screenwriters sound a little too preachy, well-meaning however, orientating this film to a TV-like wider audience.
++ ++ +++ ++


Un Silenzio Particulare / A Particular Silence (2004/Rulli/Italy) +++

A modest, respectful yet assertive self-documentary of the filmmaker, Stefano Rulli (Screenwriter of The Best of Youth; Keys of the House) and his son Matteo, 24, suffering from a mental disorder. Like a 6 yold kid he's capricious, dependent, lonely and silent. His father is the only person able to get in contact with him, and must stand in as a bodyguard, a go-between, to spare his mother, Clara, of a sudden rush of aggressivity. She had her hair trimmed short because he used to pull them when he was young. She is left out of this overwhelming father-son relationship and suffers silently. The only way to fondle his head is to give him a bath.
The "Cittá del Sol" (House of Sun) is a remote vacation farm to accomodate guests susceptible to the mockery of "normal" people. Named after Tomasso Campanello's story (1602) of this man who was so afraid of everything he built an isolated haven to live in security.
On inauguration day, Matteo doesn't feel at home, staying on his own all day in the family car which was the only familiar territory he could relate to. The others sing, read poetry, and make friendship together. He could enter the building at night when the indoor obscurity didn't matter as he was gone to sleep.
Beautiful moments arise from ordinary scenes. Matteo inspects with concerns the wrinkles and white hair of his father's face. Matteo wants desperately to saw a log with his father and gets infuriated because it takes longer than he could handle it. Matteo sings a song his mother wrote about his birth and later sing it to his newborn niece. Learning to look at him without prudish prejudices, we can see his profound humanity inhibited by the thin control he has over his liberty.
A crisis comes up abruptly when his imperious need for order, intimacy or desir resists to the inertia of a reality bigger than him. He can't stand the loud singing in the old 8mm home-movies of his 1st Birthday party. He wants to play his favorite pinball miles away right now. He wants the party to stop so everyone can go to sleep. He wants the wind to stop blowing at night so he can rest in this "particular silence". Like others in the film designated the heart as the place where humiliation hurts, he would describe regret for offending Clara by pointing to his head, heart, throat and stomach unexplainably distressed by a curious pain he wants to stop.

Stefano Rulli gives us a touching first-hand testimony of the burden for a family to live with a disabled child. The "ideal father" operates a self-criticism of his own biased misbehavior as he edits these 50h of footage into a narrative form by adding a voiceover commentary addressed to his son: "I'm sorry I didn't understand your emotional conflict back then when I forced my wish onto you inadequately".
The cinematographer, modest and patient, films simple unscripted slices of life, with uninterrupted plan-sequence, waiting for the moment when the inner silence cracks into action.
Presented at the Venice Mostra in 2004, with Matteo in attendance, who behaved to get the fabulous cappuccino he was promised. He enjoyed watching himself on screen, although he usually cannot sit still through an entire movie, and asked to rewatch the scene when Matteo cries. The distance of time, removed from the implication of an ongoing emotional conflict, he was able to communicate with his father about his mischievous attitude and his disease.
++++ +++ +++++ ++

Black Narcissus (1947/Powell & Pressburger/UK) 0

Heavyhanded melodrama recreating in a plaster studio set with handpainted scenery backdrop the exotism of Indian mountains for tourists. The contrived arc confronts in a claustrophobic monastery, former pleasure serail, a strict nun nostalgic of her turned down first love and a rough topless, loveless man, waiting for the romance to operate. Supposedly, the lust spirit of the place arouses desire in all nuns running away in despair, because their faith in Maria fails to keep them together at the presence of male and female hormons. The stereotypes are laid out from the beguining when the mother superior appoints the nuns to make the trip in a montage caricaturing their personality by a one-dimentional trait suggesting the oncoming gags and conflicts. Not to mention the native supporting characters equally undignified : a crazy old woman, a stupid and naive aristocrat, a horny beggar girl, and jewelry all over the place. Just a bad comedy, only worth watching for some colorful settings. An overtly expressionist direction of the worst kind begging for attention with dramatic close ups and signpost cues to mark mood changes.
Even Buñuel, notoriously anti-clerical, had more respect for the nuns in the superb Viridiana.
- - 0 +++


Les Yeux Clairs (2005/Jérôme Bonnell/FR) +++

Fanny (Nathalie Boutefeu) is affected by schizoid disorder since childhood, always under the compassionate protection of her older brother, Gabriel, Medication helps her to ignore the voices in her head, and cope with a life of boredom and frustrations. The first part establishes the relationships in the house between a man divided by his love for his needy sister and his neglected wife through intimate scenes of daily life troubles. Whispered conversations, patronizing comments, annoying questions and suspended answers. Right when the tension has built up, ready to explode, the film shifts to a road movie, contemplative trip to Germany where Fanny meant to visit her Dad's grave and stumble across deep in the woods a lonely german lumberjack, Oskar (Lars Rudolf seen in Run Lola, Run, or Werckmeister Harmonies), with docile attention for her. The language barrier leaves place to an implied understanding excluding embarassing questions. A body language transforming the last part into a silent movie, except for the sounds of Nature. Fanny's only passion for piano (played by the actress herself) and the music of Robert Schumann artisticaly ties them together.
Such a sensuous dypthic symbolizes the constant dichotomy torn apart by psychosis. Craving for an utopic deserted paradise free of judging looks and queries impossible to satisfy. And the need to belong, to be accepted with this diminushing difference, amidst the overload of personal interactions causing malevolent interferences. This careful script dignifies Fanny's tormenting struggle with her life, dispassionated, anguishing, impersonal, discontinuous, invasive, concerned. She is the central character and walk us through her banal routine. Her fleeing look, ultra-sensible, and very human reactions bring helpful insights to empathies with the hardship of her condition.
This story, patterned on the fairy tale dramaturgy, focuses on the emotional journey of a woman desperate for romance, and never charged with a medical analysis of the pathology crying for pity. Nathalie Boutefeu, mainly acting with her eyes, transcends an inbound personality on screen, reaching out in the most subtle contacts.
Originally meant to be a 5min short film, the actress convinced the director to develop it into a fullygrown feature film. Jérôme Bonnell shows a deep sympathy for his heroine, however flawed, misloved, estranged, alineated, asocialized she could be, revealing her strengh and ressources for trust, more ambitious and lucid than the other protagonists. Cronenberg's The Fly, Renoir's La Bête Humaine, Chaplin as well as Munch's nude paintings have inspired the direction for the performances.
Prix Jean Vigo 2005. Also selected at the 2005 Berlinale.
++++ +++ ++++++ +++
Official Website (french)


Pour Mémoire (la forge) (1978/Jean-Daniel Pollet/FR) ++++

Film essay documenting the ultimate remnants of artisan work before the complete takeover of technology and robotization. In a tiny firm in Le Perche, region in the south west of France, a dozen men manufacture molds and cast iron at bare hands, with a lifetime acquired experience of the matter and the trade. The ancient obscure is illuminated by the furnace where iron is taken to the right fusion temperature by a look at its color.
The opening sequence is a succession of extreme close ups of the idle hand while the other is at work. They are strong, solid, sculpted by a constant effort, polished by the wounds, painted by oil and ashes. We meet their flesh tools before we look at them in the eyes. The faces are hyptonized by the fire, meticulous looks converging to the flowing magma, after a brief approbating check at the colleague manipulating the heavy crane.
Jean-Daniel Pollet alternates B&W to depict either the light contrast chiaroscuro, the thickness of the smoke or color to capture the fire burning in their eyes and shining on their skin. Still photographs in B&W, artistically composed of objects, framing the location punctuate the silence with a contemplative thought suspended in time.
A narrator monologue by sociologist Maurice Born addresses the audience in a direct informal manner, like if sharing thoughts that incorporate the testimonies of these workers. Occasional interview clips of Lucien Doyen, cast worker, denounce the inhumanity of a machine and the pride of casting the first model.
Film dedicated to the filmmaker's father.
+++ +++ +++++++ ++++

L'Ordre (1973/Jean Daniel Pollet/FR) +++

Short film essay, visual manifesto, capturing the memories of a disfigured greek pariah, Raimondakis, quarantined on a desert island, Spinalonga (Crete), with his peer because they suffered from leprosy. A disease persistantly feared like an evil curse, mistaken to be highly contagious until the discovery of a cure. They used to be considered officially dead, and deprivated of all citizen rights like voting, since they were abandonned in the promiscuous leper colony for life, on their own, without dignity. A painful solitude adding on top of the trauma of losing limbs, facial traits, sight and voice. Long degrading death becoming a daily concern for everyone. An impossible love relationship to ease the last days, illusion of a family.
Now Spinalonga is closed and uninhabited. Jean-Daniel Pollet takes the row boat to walk his camera through the streets and corridors of a ghost city to record the evidences left behind proving the existence of this long-maintained segregation camp. The derelict walls make a perfect allegory for the flesh degeneration. Piles of used capsules, rudimentary tombs... under the photogenic mediterranean sunlight. The same path are shot over and over emphasizes the claustrophobic territory enclosed by the sea. B&W and color alternating the weight of an engraved past and a crippled present.
Raimondakis accuses society of cruelty and ugliness with a scrapy voice, tearing his throat. Lepers don't need anybody. He demands the ending of a mediatic freak show to focus a sensible documentary on the real life of lepers. Photos or footage of lepers in bed, prostrate, worn-out, re-enact what might have been their life out there in a place forgotten by humanity,
Truly a thought-provocating complaint, filled with a certain philosophy and the humbling nobility of these people spoiled by nature and by mankind. Also written with the help of sociologist Maurice Born, like in Pour Mémoire (la forge) 1978.
++++ +++ +++++++


Me and you and everyone we know (2005/Miranda July/USA) +++

Christine Jesperson (sublime Miranda July!), young artist experimenting the mystery of love in her video art occasionally helps for a living elders who feel too old to drive. Her life obsessed every step of the way with superstitious rituals struggles through major worries and minor accomplishments to get her work accepted at the gallery and her romance fullfilled. Richard (John Hawkes) learns awkwardly to be a single father of two inhibited sons, going about a new life in suburbia.
A charming ensemble of characters forms a complex mechanic which every little move influences the life of another person.
Mostly breaking the arbitrary frontiers between generations, this creative script essentially depicts a global self-concerned universe populated of hesistant adulescents, either racing naively into adulthood attracted by a fantasized sexuality or resistant to aging with puerile manners frustrated by insecurities. Children and elders equaly clueless before this identity crisis prompted by a very human desir to belong, be recognized and loved.
A feeling of lonely crowd, drifting on tangent trajectories, beautifuly symbolized in the "stranded goldfish" scene, where strangers drive their own private bubble on the highway, like a furtive funeral procession of aquariums on wheels. And Michael, who assists his dying wife, says "We are all together in this". A momentary laps of anonymous compassion in a world of indifference.
These lyrical metaphors seeded throughout trivial situations re-enacts relationship conflicts, more or less consciously, with shoes, photos, furnitures, kitchen appliances, video tapes, phone, computer graphics or a segment of pavement. Ironically, familiar objects personify best what people are unable to express. Our materialistic society has invested so much affectivity into properties that any missuse is perceived as a agression towards us. Would you imagine a shoe salesman providing therapy support to his clients? "You think you deserve that pain but you don't" is what Richard tells Christine who tortures herself walking in bad shoes.
Between the cynism of Terry Zwigoff's Ghost World (2000) and the poetry of Eric Mendelsohn's Judy Berlin (1999), this debut indie film is a beauty, a masterstroke, incarnation of the ravishing personality of multimedia artist Miranda July, on par with a quirky romantic contemplation like Punch Drunk Love (2002). The bunch of kids are directed with a careful instinct and give outstanding performances and stealing the show.
Cannes 2005: Camera d'Or. International Critic's Week Grand Prix. Le Regard de Jeanne Prize. The very young critics Award.
Sundance 2005: Special Jury Prize for Originality of vision.
++ +++ +++++++ ++

Official Website


Le Domaine Perdu (2005/Raoul Ruiz/France) +

Structured around Alain Fournier's haunting novel "Le Grand Meaulnes/The wanderer" (1913), the contraried love story of an enigmatic adolescent. A classic of french literrature, and his only book, he died in the 1914 World War. Ruiz imagine a character, Antoine, who pretends to be the hero of the novel, written by his best friend. Antoine, is one of the aviation pioneer, his firstname refering directly to Antoine de Saint-Exupery, ace of the transatlantic post service, and also author of the famous books "Le Petit Prince", and "Vol de Nuit".
Adaptating excerpts of the lives and literature of these two writers, Ruiz interlaces his narration on five parallel epochs, sometimes seamlessly connected in a plan-sequence pan on the same set. Three main episodes are confronted symbolically echoing Ruiz' personal history between Chile and France, maybe incarnated by Max. 1932, Antoine lands in Chile where he meets Max a 10 yold boy fascinated by the flying engine. 1940, Max has became a flight instructor in the RAF and Antoine wants to fly again and fight. 1973, as president Allende dies during the military coup, Max shelters Augustin (name of the hero in Le Grand Meaulnes), grandson of Antoine. The story incessantly jumps back and forth across the ages, to link details together as if recalled by a tortured memory trying to fix the truth, a complicated history merging the love and descendance of two men running after the same book in their own ways.
Shot in Romania, and sounded in post-synch, which doesn't help the weak acting direction. François Cluzet (Antoine), and Grégoire Colin (Max) use good makeup to performe their aging characters. Grégoire's real father plays Max aged 51. The premise is rich, developping a combination of time and stories, although inferior to the fond impressions a reader will have cherished in the referenced novels. And the direction isn't up to Ruiz' best work unfortunately. Sadly better written than filmed.
C:+ W:++ M:0 I:++ C:+


Cannes 2005 : Alternative Short Films at the Director's Fortnight

Instructions for a Light and Sound Machine (2005/Peter Tscherkassky/Austria) 17' B&W
A spaghetti western found footage processed in the Tscherkassky shredder machine. A cowboy caught in a typical duel scene is tortured on the editing table, meeting with his creator, backstage, after a death on the gallow. Like in Dream Work, the protagonist lives a paranoid tragedy when the film plays around with reality. The actor feels prisonner of a Deus Ex-Machina, and rebels against the system. Fantastic soundtrack beating to death the cinematic figure in an ever changing medium.
C:+ W:+ M:+++ I:+++ C:++++

Résfilm / Slitfilm (2005/Sandror Kardos/Hungaria) 12'
A japanese filmmaker reads a Strindberg book on dramaturgy, and let his memory melt in. Pondering about the ultimate Kabuki theatre performance and how a woman who lost her child affected an invariable smile on her face while boiling inside. The form of the film is very peculiar, like a cubist approach to cinema. Time is frozen, lateral pan over an uninterrupted strip of photograph. The photo seems to be shot all around the scene at once, laying on film the back of the head and the face at once like on an unrolled cylinder (slit camera). Insightful narrator voiceover collided with this abstracted rendition of reality. C:+++ W:+++ M:++ I:+++ C:+++

Consultation Room / Shinsatsu-shitsu (2005/Oyama Kei/Japan) 9' anim
A man waiting at the doctor's consultation room, is overtaken by haunting memories, nightmares and fantasy dealing with physical pain, infection, blood fever. This primal fear of a dysfunction of our obscur body system generates delirium and anxiety. We feel observed, our diminished health is mocked by an oppressing surrounding. Entirely animated with faded strokes of pastel colors and photocopied paper textures, this silent atmosphere populated by noises rather than words, reminds the experiments of David Lynch.
C:++ W:++ M:++ I:+++ C:+++

Trilogy about Clouds / Mittsu no Kumo (2005/Naoyuki Tsuji/Japan) 13'
Charcoal cartoon drawings of simple characters in an open space environment victim of a cloud invader. On the same white page, each frame is shot after the lines have been erased and drawn over, leaving a trace of the previous frames, like a ghost motion. The motion creating a grey area on the paper. C:+ W:+ M:++ I:+++ C:++

From the window of my room / Da Janela Do Meu Quarto (2005/Cao Guimarães/Brazil) 5'
Silent slow motion of a scene from the street, two children play in the sand under the rain, pushing and pulling, running and tripping. Shot from a fixed point, high angle, overlooking on them in the distance, without the sound of their game, tracking tightly their every move. A position of voyeur, projecting sympathy onto a meaningless slice of life, capturing a genuine activity unaware of being observed, at the antipode of cinema. C:+ W:+ M:+++ I:++ C:+++

Cosmetic Emergency (2005/Martha Colburn/ND/USA) 9' anim
Stop motion animation using old fashion magazine pictures and photos from the Gulf War, masked by stacked layers of oil paint, either shown forward or backward, creating this impression of accelerated aging, or faces skinned off. A cynical commentary rhythms the frenetic freak show succession, to denounces the over-consumption society, the cult of beauty, the miracle of plastic surgery, and the decay of human body. C:++ W:++ M:+ I:++ C:++


Three Times (2005/Hou Hsiao-hsien/Taiwan) ++++
Cannes 2005 in competition
A study of love at its most impalpable expression. A blooming sentiment decomposed into a triptych of aspects in the loving couple re-enacted at 3 key epochs of the history of Taiwan, and corresponding at 3 artistic periods of Hou Hsiao-hsien's filmography, like spare cut scenes from his previous films. The same lead duo in each segment draws a symbolic connection through history, playing with the illusion of cinema. The generations evolve, the set changes but Love is eternal, always repeating itself under the same conditions. Mutic courtship, unconscious gestures, embarassed moments, uncomfortable silences, body language, contemplation and adoration, a communication of feelings at a direct impression beyond words and comprehension. This reunion of social generations invites to compare the attitude and etiquette attached to a certain political regime.

-1966 : A Time for Love (refering to The Boys From Fengkuei/1983) Chinese rule.
The boy is a military serviceman, the girl is an hostess working in a snooker bar. The atmosphere is light and playful, bathed in a shy indecision, unrushed at the pace of the countryside. From courteous letters to an investigative tracking down across the region the trace of the loved one only met once. A very pudic love, respectful of the family and the intimacy.

-1911 : A Time for Freedom (refering to Flowers of Shanghai/1998) Japanese rule.
A silent film in color with intertitles, and a langorous score. Set in a rich urban brothel, involving wealthy families with prostitution, love has a price conditionned by business arrangements, and a woman must buy her dignity back in order to get married. This echoes the political backdrop of this Island, introducing in the dialogue a reference to the anti-japanese occupation activism. Apparent platonic love desiring aesthetism and ceremony, where music is the accepted orgasm. The claustrophobic set contains the organised intrigues.

-2005 : A Time for Youth (refering to Millenium Mambo/2001) Independance.
A girl suffering from epilepsia, lusts for both a man and a girl. Love is wild, carefree, a dizzy feeling to be satisfied immediately. Mostly outdoors on the road, or in the crowd of a night club, the couple is suffocated by an ephervescent city. Technology in the form of a mobile phones, computers, neons, photos and music substitute and delay an impersonal expression of a distanced feeling. This remnant of communication alienate individuals in their solitude, while sex is offered to fill the vaccum.

C:++ W:+++ M:++++ I:+++ C:++++


Last Days (2005/Gus Van Sant/USA) ++
Cannes 2005 in competition.
This hypothetical fiction is based on the 2 days before, grunge icon Kurt Cobain, escaped from a rehab center, commits suicide. A voyeur camera follows the silent footsteps of Blake (who is not Kurt Cobain), out of the woods and around his ill-kept castle, symbol of a dilapidated empire, the precarious house of cards of pop famedom.
Collage of simultaneous realities, delirium and fantasies are confounded along an anachronistic line of events, Blake collapses on his own, constantly mumbling to himself, rote obsessed, incapable to connect with the outside world. This shadow of a man, tortured by an existential crisis, washed up by drugs, wanders around people who used to be his friends. Scott (who is not Dave Grohl), Luke (who is not Krist Novoselic) live a depraved life, with Asia, sex and drug, ignoring the whereabouts of the wornout autistic master they continue to revere. Nicole (who is not Courtney Love), urges him to wake up for their daughter. They deliver him uninterrupted monologues, like a complaining voice in his sick head, neglecting the painful mutism of a desperate suffering. Ironically the only person engaging with him will be a Yellow Pages salesman in a most cynical scene, right after he hung up the phone on his tour manager without a word.
Still haunted by Alan Clarke's short film Elephant, that inspired his eponymous Golden Palm winner, Gus Van Sant repeats the same narrative gimmick of simultaneous plan sequences, edited in flashbacks. Driven by a morbid fascination of the ineluctable imminence of a violent suicide, this dispassionate journey with a "dead-man walking" confronts us with the termination of life, obnoxiously unexplainable, fatalistic, hopeless, unbearable. Although refusing to instill any thesis, this complacent aesthetism, indolent contemplation of decadence, fails to give substance to what comes down to a pure stylistic exercice encumbered by inappropriate religious choir music and bells... The shotgun suicide being entirely occulted, while an oversignificant ghost soul climbs to heaven in the most naive allegory. Lacking context and insights, this arbitrary excerpt of a man's life at the bottom of depression, fails to justify this undignified intrusion in a shameful privacy, as if filming begging zombies in a rehab center was an artful anti-drug campaign.
C:++ W:+ M:+++ I:++ C:+++


Three... extremes (2004/Omnibus) ++
Trypthic by 3 frontrunner indie asian filmmaker subverting the rules of the horror genre, and pushing a pathologic situation to its extreme. Reminiscent of the Twilight Zone. No apparent relation between these three 40 minutes shorts.

Dumplings (Fruit Chan/Hong Kong)
A middle-aged woman, whose husband cheat with a teenager, buy aunt Mei's expensive dumplings to get her 20 years old skin again. This is a social/psychological critique of the vanity of woman unsecurities. How far a woman who lost her husband would go to be desired again? Asia is known for its cult of all sorts of immoral aphrodisiac powers like to drink the sleen of a live Panda bear. This fiction takes this absurd superstition to its extreme, which bends ethics for the sole cosmetic purpose by mixing in murder and abortion with an intimist drama. The ridicule vanity of woman's beauty.
Great atmosphere, fantastic lighting, delicate character portrayal. Visual narration composed by the somptuous cinematography of Christopher Doyle. An extended feature length film existe for this segment. C:++ W:+ M:++ I:+++ C:++++
Cut (Park Chan-wook/South Korea)
A typical dumb horror film plot is taken to an absurd extreme for a genre satire more comedic than scary. A famous director of horror flicks is captured by a killer, an envious loser frustrated extra, who wants to humiliate him by torturing his wife through sophisticated psycholigical manipulation. The cynical character rebels against bad horror genre in a schizophrenic act. No moral, nor motive, all becomes possible, until a supernatural ending. Many references to horror device: vampire opening scene, mirror movie set, horror director becoming a victim of his own games (a plot used in Verhoeven's episode of The Hitchicker). Pleasantly delirious. C:- W:+ M:++ I:++ C:++
Box (Takashi Miike/Japan)
Miike goes for horror with the most quiet atmosphere. Fortunately he doesn't go for the ready-made effects, now overused by everyone: close ups, jump cut edits for Boo! effect, a ghost with the awkward walk...
Although it's not entirely successful. Mostly redundant and hollow, with the same mini story played over and over... The twist ending looks like a joke. The film combines the themes of jealousy, incest, remorse, and murder in a haunting serie of nightmares. Beautiful calm cinematography (especially in the circus). C:+ W:+ M:++ I:++ C:+++


Vsichni dobrí rodáci / All Good Citizens / Chronique morave (1968/Vojtech Jasny/Czech) +
Chronicle of a community of farmers, spaning a couple of decades, in a post WW2 rural village overtaken by the communist rule, in the czech province of Moravia, before the russian occupation. A realist social drama, testimony of an epoch, when the idealism of the communism theory prompted a few men to take control of the workforce and properties for the greater good. A careful critique of this manipulative process on the verge of legality using pressure and personal threats. The wealthiest families are driven away and their farm ceized to form a kolkhoze (collective farm), although these idealists are motivated by the prosperous economic plans of the USSR, they have no practical sense to figure how to work it out. So this authoritarian power is helpless to produce proficiently as the good farmer with a traditional (and individualistic) knowledge of agriculture refuse to take part in the project. Their resistance to defend the moravian identity is an obstacle to be taken care of by force.
A handful of companions, characterized by a stereotypical trait (pronunciation impairment, thief, gipsy, greed, ambition, honesty, lust...) are put into dramatic situation when they have to make a choice, take side, make a mistake and take responsability. Coveting, suspicion, delation, murder or suicide. Notably a gipsy who divorced his jewish wife during the german occupation and drink away his remorse over her death in a camp. Or the righteous man who prefers to be sent to a rehabilitation camp than to sell his soul to communism, and insist to finish mowing his field before they take him away.
Several lyrical scenes bring poetry and irony to the otherwise rather bleak and banal narration carried out by a recurrant voiceover. Animals from the dog to the horse, pigs or geese, represent the primordial wealth of these families who rely on a good production. The music of the church choir or the bar band plays a structuring part to consolidate the community falling apart, like the allegorical paintings of the local artist or the masks of a traditional folklore.
C:+ W:0 M:+ I:+ C:++


Mucedníci lásky / Martyrs of Love (1966/Jan Nemec/Czech) +++
A B&W surrealist triptych, inspired by dream work, a kafkaian universe and discontinuous montage. Funny and surprising.
Surrealist cinema Award 1966 - Special mention Locarno 1967

Part 1: Martyrs of Love
A young shy bureaucrat dressed up in black like a Magritte model, with a melon hat and an umbrella, dreams of women legs and spends the night with a girl he met in a jazz club. Surrealist visual poem about shyness/lust for erotism / Shots of woman's legs and breasts.
Homage to René Clair's Entr'Acte. Cameo of the girls from Daisies, and participation of Lindsay Anderson.

Part 2: The dreams of Anastasia. Erotic dream
A girl living on a train, daydreams about erotic fantasies in a castle with aristocrats, a military wedding and a gipsy. Social and religious critique to ridiculize ceremonious protocol and discipline, perverted by veiled libido. Sexual symbols against puritan education. Pursuits in uniforms in the streets and gardens of Prague.

Part 3: The adventures of an orphan Rudolf. A farce burelesque.
Rudolf is mistaken for Jacob by an eccentric family who celebrate his return with a champagne feast, undress him and dress him up. A girl falls in love and begs him to come back. But the house is not to be found again. Waste of money by eccentric aristocrats, house trashing, pursuit, absurd idleness of the wealthy.
C:++ W:++ M:++ I:+++ C:+++


Witman fiúk / The Witman Boys (1997/János Szász/Hungary) ++
Hungary. 19th century. A small town freezing in the snow. Two brothers, in their early teen, see their father die of a heart attack before their eyes. Their mother, distant and unloving, soon find a surogate husband. The boys are mocked in school. A trauma turning into urge for revenge, passion for violence, adoration of death. Torturing animals is their favorite occupation when a motherly prostitute met outside a brothel becomes their icon, the most beautiful woman in the world worth dying for... or killing for. A very soft study of awakening to sexuality, largely fantasized, changing them into men.
The somber photography, often in outdoor nightscape, dim oil lamp lite interior is a superb transcription of an ancient atmosphere. The story develops a child vision of the world of adults, naive and superstitious, in rebellion against the conservative tradition of education. A cold and difficult film with touching moments.
C:++ W:++ M:+++ I:+++ C:+++


Vyssí princip / Higher Principle / Monsieur Principe Superieur (1960/Jiri Krejcik/Czech) +++
Reinhard Heydrich, dictator of Bohemia and Moravia, Hitler's third man after Himmler, is assassinated by a czech commando in Prague on spring 1942. The 3rd Reich declares a national mourning, and will retaliate with random executions in Czech occupied territories. Meanwhile students of Pardubice prepare their graduation exam with the latin professor, nicknamed "Mister Higher Principle" for his moral lectures. A frat joke noticed by the gestapo will bring trouble in town. A new SS commandant is appointed and 3 students are arrested without trial. Suspicion corrupts mutual respect and friendship among oppressed people fearing for their life and the safety of their loved ones. The tension unmasks propensity to individualism or forces heroism.
Through philosophy and roman history the latin professor put into perspective the condition of being occupied by a tyrant. Ironically the exam subject is a citation of Seneca, the adviser of bloodthirsty emperor Nero. This philosopher had to commit suicide when accused of plotting against the tyrant, which echoes the situation in the film.
C:+++ W:++ M:++ I:+++ C:+++

Transport From Paradise (1962/Zbynek Brynych/Czech) +++
Opening sequence: Shot from inside a luxury car, on the passenger seat, shallow focus set on the Mercedes sign on one side of the screen and a black rigid SS flag at the front of the car to the other side of the screen. The background is out of focus, we see the road with signposts on teh side saying "warning", "ghetto", "keep out"... then some barracks, barriers and a gate. The car pulls out, the camera pans to the side where an Oberführer waits with a grin and opens the door.
Music outside, people dancing and singing. Then we notice some klieglight in the background, and a voice shouting directing orders in a megaphone. We realize this is a propaganda film being staged.
On the continuity of this exploration of movie set backstage, the camera opens in a dark cave where silhouettes are hunting a cat. In a few phrases, some key roles of the story are defined, and anounce already the tension existing between friends.
A subversive film from the czech new wave.
The first sequence veils the ghetto from the outside with blur like if nobody should/could see it. Meanwhile the Mercedes sign, like a sniper crosshair, seems to hunt a target as it is static on the screen and the road behind it is moving.
The movie set marks the cynical humor of the film. Right away the ghetto is split between the happy camp the nazi wants the world to believe in, and the hard reality of a ghetto ruled by fear and discipline.
The Terezin concentration camp in czech occupied territories during WW2. A general arrives to check the ghetto before approving a visit of the Red Cross. According to an idea of the führer a film is being shot in the ghetto, by a jewish director, with staged happiness and singing children for propaganda purpose.
The general finds a pro-russian poster in the ghetto, "Death to Fascism", and orders the deportation of 2000 jews from this ghetto to Birkenau for "special treatment" in retaliation. The dean of the jewish council in the ghetto, Nobel prize of chemistry who invented aspirin, refuses to sign the paperwork of this unusual transport and is arrested.
Until the transport is formed the tension builds up among the people on both sides: the organised underground of the jews running an illegal print workshop, also the german hierarchy composed of individuals with variable loyalty and ambition. The human flaw is the loophole of the system allowing for the slimest leeway. Even under oppression and the threat of death, lust is still a powerful drive to bend the minds, the dark humor of the czech new wave.
C:+++ W:+++ M:+++ I:+++ C:+++


Les Mistons (1958/François Truffaut/France) ++++
François Truffaut's first short film, when the critic from Les Cahier du Cinéma decided to act out and become a filmmaker himself, giving birth to La Nouvelle Vague with his friends Rivette, Rohmer, Godard, Chabrol...
Adaptated from Maurice Pons' eponymous short story, Truffaut tell us the simple story of romance between late teens from the naive perspective of young boys spying on them. These little brats keep on badgering this blooming couple who hides to kiss. This age when love is alien to children, a funny behavior, unexplainable, only worth mocking around, and their repressed jealousy becomes contempt. A serie of disconnected episodes when the gang first admires with fascination the beautiful young woman (Bernadette Lafond) playing tennis and ride her bicycle, then plot tricks against her lover (Gérard Blain) to break this exclusive relationship. Playful shots of the kids going to the movies (watching Rivette's first short film Le Coup de Berger, 1956), playing cowboys and faking slo-mo death scenes like in the westerns, a tender look at children games, like in the subsequent The 400 Blows (1959).
A delicate and humorous narrator commentary, by an adult voice, as if looking back on a childhood memory printed with affection and a retrospective remorse for being a joy-killer between the two lovers parted by a military service draft...
A screening introduced by Bernadette Lafond, telling us how her long standing career in independant french cinema had begun by chance. She was dating the "french James Dean", Gérard Blain, at the time when Truffaut was preparing his short film. Blain and Truffaut were good friends, and naturally offered a role to his non-actor girlfriend. Gérard Blain didn't think it would go anywhere, until the acclaim received by Les Mistons, a springboard for Bernadette's debuting career. Bernadette divorced Gérard later, but remained faithful to cinema.
C:+++ W:+++ M:+++ I:+++ C:+++


Palindromes (2004/Todd Solondz/USA) ++
A 13 yold adopted girl, raised in suburbian middle-class home, Aviva, pursues an obsessive dream to give sense to her existence, having babies. The misunderstanding of her innocent existentialist quest, will throw her on a grimy road-trip to meet the dregs of humanity who also seek the meaning of life in their own ways, immoral or fanatic.
Both the discontinuous form and the politicaly charged content of this parable are disturbing.
7 different actresses (of diverse age, size and skin/hair color) play the same role of Aviva in a dozen of chapters along this outlandish journey populated of equally caricaturized people.
Highly sensitive moral topics are intentionally trivialized or fantasized from the naive point of view of an immature child or mystic fundamentalists...
C:++ W:++ M:+++ I:+++ C:+++


A Good Lawyer's Wife / Baramnan gajok (2004/Sang-soo Im/South Korea) ++
Beautifuly executed, with a creative and restrained mise-en-scène, falling short of being a great movie by lack of a clear message. The film appears to be an assemblage of separate stories merely linked by the protagonists. This multiple context gives a richer background to the main couple crisis, without solidifying into a satisfying conclusion. Too much aimless digressions into sub-plots (each so interesting they could be a film subject of their own) underdevelopped and unable to contribute to the coherence of the main story. So we are left wondering if the film was the unfinished chronicle of a korean couple, overwhelmed by a piling of unfortunate coincidences and difficult topics... (identity crisis of an adopted child, adultary, voyeurism, alcoholism violence, war crime cemetary, North/South Korea history, eldery sexuality, terminal disease... not to mention spoilers)
So-ri Moon impersonates an emencipated housewife, in a very different role from Oasis, to see her talent in a more extraverted life: a dance professor, exhibitionist who walks around naked at home, horny and frustrated by a cheating husband, mother of an adopted son. Her husband is a confused lawyer who doesn't seem to have a hold of his own life, half noble, half evil, a weak personality inconsistant between work and home...
The individual stories are very nice though.
All the subtext about female sexuality, young wife or old widow, is both subversive (almost disturbing) and progressive. Notably the scene in the grandmother's bed, subtle mise-en-scène, with few words and all in the position of the bodies.
The voyeur/age-difference story is delicate and promising, although discontinuous and caricatural. A slow seduction of attraction/repulsion, all talking or all action.
The eldery disease story with confrontation to death is also quite powerful, even if sometimes heavyhanded and gory. I especially liked the performance of the son who sees his father dying, helplessly, cowardly, relying on the unconditional support of his neglected wife.
The handheld camea was too much of an unecessary stylish distraction.
I don't know anything from this director yet. I don't where these flaws (according to me) come from, but he's obviously inspired to make a very personal cinema out of a simple story.
C:+++ W:++ M:+++ I:+++ C:++


Visions d'Europe segment Prologue (2004/Bela Tarr/HUN/5')
Vision d'Europe is an omnibus of 25 short films made by 25 directors from the 25 countries of the new extended European Union formed in 2004, adding 10 new countries from eastern Europe beyond the former iron curtain.
B&W. Long plan sequence slowly travelling up a line of homeless people waiting for the opening of the free soup. The camera frames profiles, slightly looking back on their eyes staring at the beguining of the queue with an impatient docile resignation. Dignity, gravity, nonchalent desperation, emphasized by a plaintive symphonic score familiar to Tarr's work.
I recognized an actor (János Derzsi) from Satantango in the very first persons, but most are probably non actors.
C:++ W:+ M:++ I:+++ C:+++


La Femme Papillon (2003/Virginie Bourdin/BEL/FR/10') +++
A wordless fable of naive puppets in a manipulated world ironically mirroring our fated existence.
A puppet theatre in a clockwork music box, opened on an audience of birds also hung to threads coming from a dark uninhabited sky. A sexy butterfly woman performes her routine number with tiny paper butterflies flying about like sparks. A bird applauses so hard he falls off his threads and walks away to live his own life, the thread of his head hanging on his beak like a turkey. He sneaks in backstage behind the red velvet curtain, and looks around amidst a forest of threads and the frightening props and sets lying lifeless in the dark, attempting to free the beautiful creature off of her threads.
The work on lighting and photography is simply outstanding! I couldn't tell if it was real puppets or 3D models. The seamless animation suggested CGI, while the non-uniform textures gave away handmade puppets.
C:++ W:+ M:++ I:+++ C:++++

Father and Daughter (2000/Michael Dudok de Wit/ND/8') +++
Beautiful wordless ellipse of a life span in a few bicycle rides by a girl becoming eldery. A father kisses goodbye his 5 yold daughter, rowing away on a small boat. The daughter will come back often to the same spot hoping for his return. The visits space out as she grows up, distracted by her friends, and her boyfriend then husband, until she's grandmother... From a single place, flat, planted of cypress, with high grass and cycling passer-by, typical of the dutch landscape, this simple story suggests the weight of the abscence throughout a lifetime, an endless mourning left open by the hope for life over death. Did he flee during the war? Did he know it was a one way trip? Did he found a new family on the other side? Did he forget about me? Did he stop loving me? Only a corpse could bring peace to the heart. 80 years later, these three cypress planted on the shore still remind her of her father everytime she passes by.
Entirely handpainted with highly contrasted shadows, black ink on sandy background paper. Few details, opaque silouhettes delicately animated, birds, vivid weather effects of the rain and the wind, reflections in the poddles. Magnificient piece of animation reducted to its simplest elements.
C:+++ W:++ M:++ I:++++ C:++++


Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004/Wes Anderson/USA) +++
Here's a quirky and incoherent parody, not a romance with love relationship, not a drama with a denouement. Deliciously cynical and witty. A cult comedy coming from
I like the comparison with O'Brother, where art thou? (the Coen brother's playful cynism), because this one happens to be also a parody losely based on the Odysseus, like this one is losely based on Cousteau's odysseus.
Although Life Acquatic is closer to the Monty Pythons (skit, cardboard sets, witty punchlines, british humor) or the Marx Brothers (A night at the opera).
Zissou is the sweet anti-hero loser we like, between Indian Jones and James Bond (or Rowan Atkinson more likely). Both a tender parody of Jacques-Yves Cousteau's Calypso TV serial adventures and a spoof of Jaws. It's pure fun and a mockery of the genre film taking itself too seriously. The wreck of Henessy's yatch, the clip of Zissou diving in an pool when his ship is locked in the ice are obvious evidence of a literal adaptation of TV cartoons (Droopy, Scooby Doo, Popeye...)
It's not new, it hasn't been done in a while though alright. And it's refreshing to see Anderson bring it back to life, with a disco/80ies revival.
C: 0 W: ++ M: +++ I: +++ C: +++


Notes from a lecture by François de la Bretèque (film historian) on Bresson's Lancelot du Lac.
(Saturday 9th of April 2005 at the cinema Reflet Medicis, Paris. With Mrs Bresson in attendance!)

Author of the newly published L'imaginaire médiéval dans le cinéma occidental / Medieval imaginary in western cinema (Ed. Honoré Champion, 2005), in which he lists about 300 films, historical or fantasy, involving medieval figures and events.
The King Arthur with Tristan and Isolde are the two major myths inherited from this era, and often adaptated to the screen. The dramatic structure of the former is strangely similar to the impossible love triangle of the later where Lancelot is Tristan, Guinevere is Isolde and Artus is Lord Marke.
Bresson's original script is believed to be inspired from the late XIIIth century french tale "La Mort Artus", which fits the best with the film's elements. Although Bresson never claimed to refer to a particular text, and freely adaptated the famous legend for a contemporean resonance with our society's concerns (notably the revelation of Guinevere's adultary and her later surrender to Arthur).

The adventures of Artus are meant to take place in the early Middle-Age (VIth century), remotely based on an existing character. As it was written by monks from the XIIth to the XIVth century, who belonged to the religious higher class of their time, it is usually the epoch when films set the action, using castles, costumes and weapons accordingly however anachronistic. Although Bresson uses XIIth century armors, most medieval historians mentionned his film as one of the best rendition of the actual period, in direct opposition to epic Hollywood spectacles with grandiloquent battle scenes and richer sets.

Neither the archeologic reality, a scientific perception based on historical findings, nor the mythologic truth, a fantasy based on artist's iconography or writer's imaginaition give us a realistic idea of how people actually lived back then. Bresson's cinematographe seeks for authenticity rather than resemblance.
Armors are rusted, used and deformed. the population is small and isolated in distant castles, the forest is dense and dangerous.
The symbolism of "couleurs" (meaning in french both color scheme and heraldic coat of arms) is a structural element in Bresson minimalistic framing and editing, especially in the tournament sequence, combined with an audio identification.

- Lancelot is associated with a black armor (color of guilt/mourning/adultary), and horse neighings.
His "white armor" without coat or arms is called "mute", it was used for knights to cover their origin and remain anonymous.
- Guinevere is also associated with a black cape, and her totemic animal is the black chaterring magpie.

Lancelot is an existentialist hero who believes in his acts. His philosophy and conscience clashes with Guinevere's.
He's the only knight coming back from the quest who saw the Grail. Although Lancelot was the best knight in the world, the queen's favorite, and the king's best friend, the burden of his guilt for courting his suzerain's wife denied him access to it, because he was impur. That's why Percival was designated to retrieve the holy relic. Percival never returned home.

The Grail is only shown once in the film, after the opening sequence, in the background of unrolling title cards introducing the story. Bresson chose to focus his attention on the post-quest life of the Round Table, after the defeat. The knights have failed to bring back to Camelot the cup where Joseph d'Arimathie collected the blood of Jesus Christ on his cross. Merlin on his death bed had asked Arthur to find it, somewhere hidden in Britany, for the honor and prosperity of the kingdom.
Many knights have died, as briefly and very graphicaly depicted in the gore and morbid opening scene.
The king, his knights, and his people are desperate, depressed, inhibited by idleness and loss of faith. This is the end of utopies, which was also a key theme for contemporeans when the film was made in 1974.
The absent Grail stands for the vacuity in their heart.
And the film explores at great lengths the degradation of morale leading to rivalry, plotting and vengeance between the knights, in opposition to the sacred Code of Chivalry. The heart also rots and changes. Lancelot is changed for ever by this quest and pushes away a longing Guinevere.
Lancelot and Guinevere, the sinful lovers responsible of the fall of Arthur's kingdom, are distant and unable to connect on the same wavelength. At the beguining he claims loyalty to Arthur and turns down her lustful love. In the end she turns down Lancelot's heroic love demonstration and returns to Arthur to stop the bloodbath. The romantic myth of doomed love.

Lancelot du Lac is also a doomed film almost invisible as long as Bresson was alive, by his decision.

Unfortunately the print projected this day had turned magenta, killing the color contrast at work in the careful photography... Hopefully the oncoming DVD release will put new restored prints in circulation.
We didn't have much time to have a real debate, and Mrs Bresson didn't speak.


Searching for Debra Winger (2002/Rosanna Arquette/USA) -
Rosanna Arquette interviews her friends from the movie business about the status of actresses in Hollywood, compared to actors, and around the question "how an actress can work while being a woman, a mother and a wife?"
I never heard of Debra Winger before, but she is presented like a landmark in the trend of aging actresses retired from work for family duties.
Three dozens of famous american, british or french actresses ponders on the moral pressure put on them to look beautiful (with forceful plastic surgery) and limited to supporting the lead male role for simplistic dichotomy without grey areas between the horny teenager and the ugly mother.
Their conclusion is unanimous there aren't any good roles for females in their 40ies, and very few for Oscar winners oldies.
An interesting glimpse of behind the scene non-P.C. thoughts of famous actresses. Unfortunately it doesn't go very deep beyond the well known clichés ("is she fuckable?", "plastic surgery bad", "kids are my first priority"...)
Rosanna is too easygoing and flaterring with her interviewees "I love your work, You're my inspiration, You're still sexy, You're beautiful" so this chat at dinner tables sounds like girl's night out gossips. And doesn't make real life actresses look smarter than their scripted roles...
Only the older actresses (Rampling, Stone, Redgrave, Fonda, Winger) have a meaningful look back on their career choices and the business environement. Which alone makes the documentary worthwhile.
The part when they talk about child education is especially pathetic, making actresses look like the naive bourgeoisie of motherhood amazed at the fancy of raising real life children : how tragic it is to go to work leaving a child behind, stealing that moment when peeking at a sleeping child, compromising their career for their kids and husband, being mom full-time...
Anyway it's a wide range of stars criticizing the male-driven society in the film industry, where only perfect women fit in and aging mothers are alienated for ever.
Rosanna once asks "Why did Debra Winger have to quit? What can we do about it? Should we raise a revolution?"
The girls talk a lot, complain a lot, but finally don't come up with any solution and obviously condone the male-centric system by accepting weak roles or giving up to a private family life altogether.
C: + W: 0 M: 0 I: 0 C: 0


Walk on Water (2004/Eytan Fox/Israel) +
A nice little film pushing around the usual stereotypes of people and positions in Israel. Quite enjoyable to watch but it isn't a cinematic breakthrough either... There is more subject than genius in the writting/directing.
This secret agent is more of a hitman. To get rid of enemies is an unofficial covert operation of the Mossad, it's not what spies do all day. Just to correct the James Bond generalization because it is a realistic film, not to mix up the image of intelligence retrieval services with killing special forces. This said the Mossad does run a black list of people (mostly arab terrorists worldwide) to get rid of by all means, without trial, this is wellknown.
Personaly I thought the cliché of the dry/cold hitman without feelings (Léon), was rather dull in the film. What I appreciated was to speak out loud and confront archeenemies ideals and prejudices. To have a german and an israeli share their perceptions of eachother without insults (because the spy must play a role of the friendly tour guide), the confrontations between the arab and the israeli is a little more brutal though, and (unecessarily) complicated with the hetero/gay discrimination.
The gay message is limited to a few homoerotic scenes (full frontal male nudity, and gay club aesthetics), this is never an assertive propaganda in the film. Although to add this on top of nazi history and Mossad is almost ridicule... Making Mossad agents looking like gay-haters then gay-friendly. I'm not sure how this approach could mend fences between Israeli hardliners (incarnated by intolerant haters) and palestinians (incarnated by a gay man). The most absurd happy ending (in closing sequence) might be a german audience pleaser, but should be taken with great irony by the jewish comunity. Too bad the film tries too hard to make peace to the extent of sounding comically naive. Maybe this is the cynical note contained in the title to remind us this is pure fiction.
The expression of the german guilt for nazi history is real, even in the newer generation (Axel and Pia), and well developped with subtle touches telling the social/familial taboo around this era, and the undermining decay it develops inside the mind. Although again it's annoying to portray "sensible germans" by a gay boy, and a jew-lover girl who works in a kibbutz... this seems far too extreme.
Dealing with conflicting feelings between family ties and moral ideals is the most interesting issue in the film, if we abstract all the distracting reservations I mentionned above. Nazism seems to be a heavy burden even for Israelis who get tired of it too (Eyal).
C: ++ W: + M: 0 I: + C: +


Le Conseguenze dell'amore / Consequences of Love (2004/Paolo Sorrentino/Italy) +++
Cannes 2004, in competition.
C: ++ W: ++ M: +++ I: +++ C: +++

Hotel (2004/Jessica Hausner/Austria) +++
Presented at Cannes, section Un Autre Regard.
The film is panned by the french critique, but I loved it. I like all her films. She was an assistant to Michael Haneke on Funny Games. Well to be fair, the ending is highly disappointing, falling back into conventional tricks, like if she didn't find any other way to close the story.
All the build up to the last minute is deliciously anguishing. Mostly uneventful, this "silent" film focuses on inner thoughts, social prejudice, jealousy and manic misanthropy of idle empty people with uninteresting daily life concerns. The atmosphere is bleak indeed, but the observation of human nature in these smallest moments are insightful. The careful cinematography and lingering editing of this paced thriller are masterful in my opinion.
Even if it uses the premise of horror (as a way of satire), this is not at all a scary movie. It adds up to nothing ultimately, which is really disappointing. But the objective of the film wasn't to draw a conclusion on the events presented. It belongs to this new family of films developping a careful observation of every inches of an uneventful path, instead of building the suspense to emphasize a climactic destination.
C: +++ W: ++ M: ++ I: +++ C: +++

9 Songs (2004/Michael winterbottom/UK) +
9 ways to make love without strings attached.
Porno chic. Brit Rock. Antartica. These are the seemingly antipodal elements put together by an elusive jump-cut edit of unrelated clips. She's 21, american, had dated men from Brazil, Colombian, Mexico and UK. He's 30ish, british, well hung and analyzes ice samples from Antartica. They are in London, go to rock gigs and make love. The plot is this shallow, or should I say selective, because every other aspect of their life is eluded.
The wordless succession of multiple sexual positions alternated by live songs, could look like a non-violent version of The Empire of Senses, thanks to quality lighting and delicate cinematography. But the film wouldn't be as dreadful if there was a meaning to all this. The message escaped me at least. Nonetheless, these 2 young actors going through non-simulated sex scenes and naked dialogues, are remarkably natural.
C:+ W:0 M:+ I:++ C:+++

Profils Paysans: L' Approche (2001/Depardon/France) +++
Profils Paysans: Le Quotidien (2005/Depardon/France) ++
a great documentary on the last independant farmer owner in deserted countryside of France. Patient observation of introverted people who don't speak much, but given the time are giving their opinion on the latest reforms of the European Union, family heritage, lacking renewing generation, and hard daily labor. They are 80 yold and still walk the cattle every day all year round in the steep mountains! This tradition coming from a centenial history is over, taken over by a disgraceful industry driven by profits rather than quality. This is not a political statement, but the touching portrait of a dying community hanging on their folklore culture.
C:+++ W:++ M:++ I:+++ C:++

Le Couperet (2005/Costa-Gavras/France) +++
Neo-noir political satire. Based on Donald E. Westlake's eponymous novel The Ax. Passional crime adaptated to job-hunting. Unemployment is like an intimate relationship breakup followed by breakdown. A man only exists through his social position, when it's taken away from him, because of proficiency purges, firms fusion or dislocation, the employee takes it personaly and feels abandonned, cheated, betrayed, devaluated. Costa-Gavras deepens this metaphor in a parallel couple therapy the wife brings her husband to:
Him: "This job was my life! They took away my life!"
Her: "...but you have me"
Him: "Can you give me a job?"
A deliciously cynical observation of the many paradoxes in capitalist globalization. Behind a darker extreme case study (a top specialized manager in paper chemistry plots to assassinate the 5 other unemployed managers on the job market, as qualified as him, who could steal the next available position), the film explores human nature when subjected to challenging situations, when morality digressions escalate to justify previous faults. Begining with a lie (as in L'emploi du Temps / Time Out), a double life, outlaw way of life, up to cold-blooded premediation, crime justifications.
Andy Garcia, formerly famous for his comedic roles, is this self-home-made serial killer with naive improvised tactics. This first serious dramatic role is successful, yet I thought a moustache or somekind of prop missed to make him feel somebody else, and break away from his comedy-typing. Thus the atmosphere tends to be lighter. Humor isn't absent though, as Costa-Gavras plays with a recurrant billboard ad with naked girls and wealth/power icons (diamonds, watch, phone, gun, lingerie) that show up on screen like a subliminal message confusing both the audience and the hero.
C +++ W +++ M ++ I +++ C ++


Mar Adentro (2004/Amenabar/Spain/France/Italy) +


Tiexi Qu : West of Track - Rust 1 (2003/Wang Bing/China) ++++
It took me long enough to see All 4 parts of this 9h epic documentary. I had missed the first 2h when initially released last June with Wang Bing in attendance.
Each part is autonomous, in fact as it is DV footage, it can be viewed on TV easily and paused anywhere. Inside the whole rests an amazing sum of realities, juxtaposed on several levels! An extraordinary ethnographic study, re-inventing cinema from zero on the footsteps of Lumières and Flaherty, giving its original meaning to the patient descriptive image. This is as much a contemplative critique of the chinese society on the verge of a capitalist outburst, as an exhumed newreel from the XIXth century european industrial age, as an intimate relationship between the camera and people's genuine lives. Articulated in 3 portions spanning over 3 years and 300h of dailies, Wang Bing observes the fall of a major industrial pole in the North East of China. The accomplice intrusion of the silent cameraman behind private doors brings out a transcendant human nature of community dependent on an immaterial/irresponsible/ideological regime. A truly powerful testimony to experience as this film is its last remaining evidence.


The World (2004/Jia Zhang-Ke/China) +++
The emerging generation of chinese youth coming from a village live a surrealist life throughout foreign attractions without leaving Beijing. Drinking tea on top of the Eiffel tower, dancing near the Taj Mahal, crossing the Tower Bridge to the Keops Pyramids, all in one day, this Disney-like entertainment park offers a fake glimpse of the capitalist culture within an isolationist regime. Driven by mobile phone touch, love grows from an illusionary escapism to leave labor/sexual exploitation and go to Hong-Kong, Mongolia, or France with a counterfeited passport.
Jia protrays a dreamy timid China, in this artificial cocoon, craving for social liberties and individual opportunities in the 21st century.
Jia Zhang-Ke was in attendance to discuss his latest film, co-produced by Kitano and Shanghai, the first one to be released in China (in 5 main cities on April 15th). Improvisation was allowed to make the script evolve as the sentimental relationship developping between the cast during the 2 month of rehearsal influenced Jia to rewrite some scenes. As he says "Cinema is life".

Le Diable Probablement (Bresson) ++

Rebels of the Neon God (Tsai) ++


Howl's Moving Castle (2004/Miyazaki/Japan) +++
It's a really intelligent film for children, or for children at heart (and grandparents with their grandchildren), playing the Shreck "I'm an ugly monster needing love" chord, without the smartass punchlines. A beautiful and rich story (maybe too complex for kids), constructed like a medieval fairy tale (although the encironment looks like the 19th century), with some great animated scenes, although generally based on stop motion patches (instead of frame-by-frame hand drawn animation) which gives a seamless flow to the vehicles. My favorite character is the fire-spirit, very funny.
Ironically Miyazaki developped his story in an (imaginary) England? The style is very european, even the monsters are not his usual japanese style. Is it based on an existing legend? It's surprising, but works very well because it's not a cross-culture hybrid.


Juliet and the Spirits (1965/Fellini/Italy) ++


L'Armée des Ombres (1969/Melville/France) +++
brand new print restored by Pierre Lhomme its cinematographer. french DVD out in march.
What an extraordinary film! 3 years after Resnais' La Guerre est finie, it depicts the very same claustrophobic solitude of the underground spy network, but this time under the WW2 german occupation, adaptating in a full story Joseph Kessel's best seller (which was only a patchwork of unrelated short stories). Both Kessel and Melville took part in the Resistance themselves, and the anti-dramatic/anti-romanced realism is telling. The film ignores totally the larger scope of the war, and focuses exclusively on the daily lives of a handful of agents crossing the borders undercover to move material and carry out missions. Outstanding interpretations, minimalist, stylized, by Lino Ventura and Simone Signoret (ironically she has been married to Yves Montant who leads in La Guerre est Finie), who underplay their star ego. The film is slow paced and emphasis on dead moments in-between action. No happy ending, except for the noble spirit of the french resistance.


Beyond Good and Evil (1977/Italy/France/Germany) +
The fictionous biopic of Fredrich 'Fritz' Nietsche, between Berlin, Venice and Leipzig at the end of the 19th century. Impersonated by Erland Josephson, with Dominique Sanda (who stars in Une Femme Douce, and The Garden of the Fizi-Contini) as his Super-Human woman, partner in a ménage-à-trois with Paul Rée. Srtange homoerotic-orgiac atmosphere akind to Russell's Gothic. A few beautiful shots, but overall rather average. Josephson pulls out hte best performance.


Sleuth (1972/Mankiewicz/USA) ++
Outstanding duo performance in a dialogue driven intrigue, well written for the stage, but not so impressively adapted for the screen. The frequent inserts of automates close ups get annoying after a while.

Généalogies d'un Crime (1997/Raoul Ruiz/France) ++++
Haunting crime story swimming into psychoanalysis satire, between Element of Crime and Mulholland Drive.

Le Lion des Mogols (1924/Jean Epstein/France) ++
Epstein shoots a melodramatic romance in the grandiloquent sets of a nepalese palace and the grand Hotel of Paris.

The Corporation (2004/Canada) +
Powerful anti-globalization message deconstructing the psychopath profile of major corporations without ethic for the environment and the human condition. Only money matters, and they condition people to become dependant consumers since childhood. Uninventive documentary.

La Chambre Verte (François Truffaut/France) +++

Umberto D. (Vittorio De Sica/Italy) +++


Floating Weeds (1959/Yasujiro Ozu/Japan) ++++
I finally got to see the sound-color remake of the silent A Story of Floating Weeds, a much better accomplished direction from an almost identical storyboard. With all the mature style of Ozu latest films. Introduced with a conference by Eugene Green on the formation of this atypical style in cinema history.


Good Men, Good Women (1995/Hou hsiao-hsien/Taiwan) ++++
Multilayered storyline intertwining past a present to pay a homage to a woman political refugee who was captured and repressed by the chinese regime during the japanese occupation of the island of Taiwan. Her daughter who mourns the loss of her ex-lover recalls memories and historical flashbacks in parallel. Exceptional cinematography.

Irezumi / Tattoo (1966/Masumura/Japan) +++
A photography harmoniously composed like a japanese etching on every single plan!
The story is a bad B-movie, with gore scenes and heavy plot-driven dialog. The daughter of a rich owner is kidnapped and sold to a Geisha house where a devilish spider (awesome graphism!) is tattooed on her back. The spider wil alter the girl's already affirmed misoginy and provoke a succession of murders by fatale seduction.