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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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)
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.
Les Yeux Clairs (2005/Jérôme
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
Prix Jean Vigo 2005. Also selected at the 2005 Berlinale.
Pour Mémoire (la forge) (1978/Jean-Daniel
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
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
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.
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
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)
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
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)
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
-1966 : A Time for Love (refering to The Boys From Fengkuei/1983)
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)
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
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:++
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.