HarryTuttle's Spontaneous Impressions - L

Ladri de biciclette
The Ladykillers (2004)
Last Days
The Legend of the Suram Fortress
Letter from a Dead Man
Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

The Life of Wu Xun
Lilya 4-ever
The Little Chinese Seamtress
The Lonely Human Voice

Un Long Dimanche de Fiançaille
Lost in La Mancha
Lost in Translation
Lovely Rita
Donkozo / The Lower Depths

> CRIT <Ladri di biciclette
1948 - Victorrio DE SICA - Italy

The Bicycle Thief B&W
Realist film of a lower class family in Roma. This bicyle represent all their hopes for a better life, unfortunately it's stolen. there will be no rest untill they find the thief. a realist film of the helpless wandering of a father and his son all over Roma (great shots of the city streets and quarters!), clash of social classes, the society of thieves, politics, faith and fortune-teller, police and self-justice.


> CRIT <The Ladykillers
2004 - Joel COEN - USA

Absolutely unecessary film (and I didn't even see the original, was it that dumb?) The Coen Bros are getting more and more perverted by the Hollywood standard every year! They really downgraded in my favorite directors list, they certainly don't excite me anymore in anticipation of their next... "blockbuster"


> CRIT <Last Days
2005 - Gus VAN SANT - USA

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:+++


> CRIT < The Legend of the Suram Fortress
1986 - PARAJANOV - Russia

Another visual poem by Parajanov, who uses immobile plans with discontinuous/illogical editing to tell us a story close to the comic books' narrative. I haven't seen anyone else developing this concept (maybe Weerasethakul's Tropical Malady second part is the closest to this adaptation of mythology), it's remarcable! Sayat Nova/Color of Pomegranates is even superior, but this one is easier to get into with a simple linear plot. The portrayal of small primitive tribes, nomads most of the time, endlessly victim of invasions, rebuilding their fortress after the wars, small armies and vast unfriendly lands all around gives a good feeling of how was the life of humans in early civilisation.


> CRIT < Letter from a dead man
1986 - LOPUSHANSKY - Russia

Fantastic post-apocalyptic social drama!!! The atmosphere is very strong well supported by the right set direction and a gold-sepia photography (like in Stalker's opening sequence). Credible character study of famous scientists fallen to a survival state of humanity. Could almost be as philosophical as a cross of Stalker + Solaris + Dr Strangelove + 28 Days Later... The world is under martial law, covered by an atomic winter after what seems to be a mistaken procedure of global mutual destruction, and the military command examine survivors to unanthorize them into the central underground bunker where humanity will be sent for dozen of decades or more. Meanwhile a physics nobel prize bet on life and try to convince people around him to settle on the surface.


> CRIT <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
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...)
Maybe inspired by Hergé's adventurous globe trotter Tintin the graphic novel.
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: +++


> CRIT <The Life of Wu Xun
1949 - SUN Yu - China

Wuxunchuan B&W/200'
the story (already exposed in details in this thread) develops very slowly, and redundantly, spanning over the whole life of Wu Xun, from 7 to death, told by a maoist girl (with the revolutionary cap) teaching children in a school, under the portrait of the venerable Wu Xun. the simple message : "a beggar sweated all his life to build free schools for the poor children" is repeated endlessly, especialy with a song, emphasing on the humility of the character, refusing personal wealth, love (his chick hang herslef!), and imperial rewards, after being mistreated, beaten, robbed, humiliated, fooled, oppressed... yet stoicly refusing to use his popularity among the people to raise a rebellion.
the maoist propaganda isnt too annoying, only some footage of (real) revolutionary parades with a short speech added at the end (a couple minutes in total on the 200 of the double feature)
anyway, what stroke me was the seemingly influence of Hitchcock on the cinematography. all the tensed scenes are supported by typicaly hermannish violons, and awkward close ups, with forward trav and titled frames (especialy the hanging scene)! i dont know if Sun Yu actualy watched and paid homage to Hitchcock films (pre-1949 tho...). there are shots of crows on a dead tree just like in The Birds (which didnt exist yet. released in 1963), but those crows (only 2 short inserts) have little to do with the story, it's crazy. who inspired who? even the evil master who employed Wu Xun, looks like Alfred Hitchcock


> CRIT <Lilya 4-ever
2002 - MOODYSSON - Sweden

overtly dramatical, and amateurish performances, in an too obvious plot. the topic is powerful however, politicaly involved, denouncing prostitution and teen abduction from Russia, deconstructing the manipulative mechanism of this network. the storytelling isnt very subtle but there are powerful scenes and the little lead actress (Oksana Akinshina) bears a difficult role on her shoulders from end to end.


> CRIT <The Little Chinese Seamstress
2002 - Sijie DAI - France/China

written by Sijie Dai and Nadine Perront
In the 70ies two chinese 19 yold boys from wealthy "reactionary" bourgeoise family are sent in brainwashing rehab camp in the isolated mountains by the maoist cultural revolution. Luo, the son of a dentist who treated a reactionary rebel, brings a mecanic clock in his luggage, and Ma, the son of a doctor, plays violon.
Hard work in the rice fields and a rural illiterate underdeveloped community of humble devout peasants shall bend their mind and convert them to communism.
The clock and the violin are alien objects to the locals, and even the head of the village cannot read. This will disturb and enchant this tiny uneducated world. The little grand-daughter of the old tailor, will fascinate the two boys and give them a bit of fantasy in this prison without bars.
They are under watch and work hard to be able to return in the city as soon as possible. The chief allows them to go watch a propagandist North Korean movie in the town down below, to review it for all the village, and they gladly comply.
Another reeducated boy in a near village is believed to hide banned books, this becomes the quest of the gang. the boys want to educate the little seamstress, and will read for her some forbidden chinese translation of western capitalist novels from Balzac, Flaubert, Dostoievsky and other reactionary chinese poet.
She will love Balzac and these books will change her life for ever.
This movie could be awesome, we can see the oppression under Mao, the fanatism of the rural chinese population, and the influence of western culture on educated students that helps them to survive and hope. Unfortunately the atmosphere is far too gentle and peaceful like a dream tale.
The western-influenced narration and screen codes destroy this pictural touch I love so much in chinese cinematography. There are oversignificant shots, narrative cues, typicaly american setups and new wave love triangle.
The result is a western movie structure on asian location with asian actors. Personaly that is not what I expect when I go and watch an asian movie. the asian cinema should cultivate this soulful, slow paced spiritual mystery, this edonist craft of pictures that we envy them.


> CRIT <London
1994 - Patrick KEILLER - UK

Essay film 85 min/Color
Patrick Keiller an architect living in London, who, like everyone there cant stand the city life but doesnt know where else to go, observes the evolution of his surrounding in a Romantique way. He photographs glances of streets and monuments, witnesses political events like elections and IRA bombing, remembers the litterary history of each places. Rimbaud strolled around here, Dickens wrote there, Poe went to this school...
this is a daily dairy recited by the voice over of his (imaginary) friend, describing their trip throughout London, in and out, from the City to the far out suburbs and mixing personal life details to psychosocial analysis of the population and the authorities.
there is not character on screen, and no people most of the time. the walls and the street speak for themsleves. we see the rain, the parks, the Thames, the bridges, the Man of the crowd...
a documented narration, rich of historical details, and tinted of emotive reactions, nicely illustrated by a succession of still shots through unexpected point of views. for (liberal) urban lovers!


> CRIT <The Lonely Human Voice
1979 - Alexandr SOKUROV - Russia

a personal movie, about a young love in the midst of a civil war, famine, epidemy and death. A journey in the country of Death.
silent/shy characters, static camera, play with the color/black & white. i regret a certain lack of coherence and the inexpressive chracters.


> CRIT <Un Long Dimanche de Fiançaille
2004 - Jean-Pierre JEUNET - France

A Very Long Engagement

Definitely a mainstream melodrama with an average investigation-plot! But very well done. The finest design reconstitution with realist props and sets. Even explosion effects aren't fireball, but dirt eruption, which makes credible clouds of white or black smoke. Jeunet's trademark are there : lost&found mystery objects telling a story, exagerated lighting (with gorgeous effects), dynamic camerawork (occasionaly giving bird's view shots of the battlefield and peculiar angles), rich sets, nostalgic tone, homage to silent films and news reels, naive storyline based on idiosyncratic expressions and puns.
Don't ask for intellectual cinematographic language, but an entertaining moment for everyone and especially film buffs. Especially recommended for the accounting of WW1 slices of life (hellish trench war, desertion, self-mutilation, canon-fodder troops, bombing, missing persons, executions...)


> CRIT <Lost in La Mancha

I wanted to see "The Man Who Killed Don Quixotte" not this!!! well the documentary is good anyway, and a great hindsight to recall us how extremely complex are movies to put together sometimes... I wish this anti-Munchausen disclaimer will help raise funds to complete the job. this could almost be the scenario of a movie of its own.


> CRIT <Lost in Translation
2003 - Sophia COPPOLA - USA

a beautiful photography and 2 grand stars to look at. Sophia Coppola captures the touristic japan perfectly, trendy, fashionable, maybe too stereotypical... and her 2 characters show a true solitude impossible to share, especially in the silent parts, despite the weak plot abusing of clichés.
outside of the 2 lead i didnt find any other character very interesting nor necessary, they are roughly outlined and overplayed beyond the point.
the comparison with In The Mood For Love is obvious, and unfortunately not to the advantage of Lost in Translation. even if the atmosphere is delicate and discreet, the set up encounters dont seem natural, and appear as obvious follow up excuses to continue the dialog interupted earlier on. well the transitions could be more subtle and worked out in the script.
disappointing but admirable. i hope Sophia dont go the sloppy mainstream way any futher...


> CRIT <Lovely Rita
2001 - Jessica HAUSNER - Austria

2001 FIPRESCI Prize - Special Mention (For its sharply focused study of a disturbed teenager's rebellion against bourgeois (middle-class) conformity.)
Selected for Cannes 2001, nominated for the Golden Camera Award.
along the Thirteen trend, here is a portray of a lone patchkey teen girl, austrian-style!
Rita is shout at by her careless parents, she's out of place at school, she has no connection with people around her, except this younger boy who has a chronic disease that force him to go to the hospital periodicaly. they play together without much conversation, but they are accomplice and enjoy the time they spend together away from their family. this friendship is a little ambiguous, as Rita is aroused by a blooming libido... and hand fights become foreplay.
Rita has a crush on her daily bus driver, and puts make up on to seduce him. she is also jealous of the popular girl in her class, and secretly greed her role in an english class theatre play...
the film is very slow paced, and largely undersignificant. but the atmosphere alone does it, with those selected glimpses from a confused teen life lost in a bleak world, surrounded by stupid, dull adults.
a narrative treatment closer to Kaurismaki (The Match Factory Girl) way of storytelling and an early Haneke (Benny's video) way of psychological disturbing.
it's a social-psychological trip into the mysterious world of a disfunctional teen.
Barbara Osika (Rita) pulls a very credible and touching drift journey in loneliness. she's very cute too
the whole cast seem to be in for their very first film experience. possibly non-professional actors.
well crafted photography and set color choices (kitsch/bleak).
Jessica Hausner was promoted as the former Haneke's director assistant, whereas in fact i notice she was only a scriptgirl on Funny Games (a masterpiece!!!). i saw her former work :
Inter-View (1999), Flora (1995/Short) , both in the very same disturbing intimate atmosphere, portraying confused (if not disturbed) people on the verge of violent social interaction and criminal misbehavior.


> CRIT <Donzoko / The Lower Depths
1957 - Akira KUROSAWA - Japan

based on Gorki's play (which i didnt read) beautifuly adapted to the japanese culture (Tokyo 1860) at the bottom of a trash dish, the lower state of society, during a cold windy starving winter!
i like very much the oppression of this tight set enclosed by high stonewalls of a dominating city that we never see. i also like the all in one room (with only few "exterior" scenes), that feels a lot like Lars von Trier's stage mise-en-scene in Dogville! because the paper-thin walls are riped apart and let the wind blow through, and individual cells are divided by partial veils. so there is no intimacy, and the story plays on the present/abscent possibilities.
however well directed and beautifuly composed, the film is strongly percieved as a theatre play (repetitive camera positions, and hidden off-stage places where the characters come and go.
anyway it's very funny, and the characters have strong personalities, (they yell a bit too loud maybe). the ending "musical" scene is hilarious! (improvised beat reminiscent of Kitano's latest Zatoichi!)
the plot is very "classic", and without surprises, but skillfuly articulated on screen in a continuous flow of dialogs without a pause.