Friday, December 19, 2014

Cold-Hearted

Black Coal, Thin Ice (2014) - Diao
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Black Coal, Thin Ice is a strong, gritty policier that pulls you right in. It features one of the coldest movie protagonists, even in noir standards. The year is 1999. Liao Fan plays 'stached police officer Zhang, whose wife is filing for divorce. He gets injured while investigating what seemes to be serial killings- body parts found in various coal processing plants all over. Then five years go by in a brilliant transition shot. Zhang, now a drunkard, works as a security guard for some factory. Again, body parts are found scattered and it rekindles Zhang's interests in the case and springs him up to investigate on his own. There is a mousy woman (Gwei Lun Mei) working at a laundromat who holds the key to all the murders. As he gets close to the woman, he finds out that her husband, presumed dead as one of the victims from 1999, is still alive and might have faked his death (DNA testing wasn't available back then). Zhang coerces her to give him up. He is just very good at what he does. He is not brutish and doesn't necessarily use violence. But his heart is colder than Nothern China in winter. His environs - grim, cold, joyless and perverted, reflect his character.

The film's almost theatrical lighting scheme (yellow, green, red and purple) doesn't give the film any warmth or slickness, rather it accentuates Zhang's hollow existence. Only in the dance sequence he lends any kind of emotion for the audience. The greatness of this sad/funny dance number is about the same as Denis Lavant's in the ending sequence of Beau Travail. Diao's China, the Beijing Olympics still 4 years away, is still very much provincial ("Who brought in a horse in my apartment?"), yet fast changing and cold-hearted. More dynamic than Lou Ye's Mystery or Jia's Touch of Sin, Black Coal, Thin Ice announces the arrival of another major auteur in Chinese cinema. I gotta track down Diao Yinan's two other films ASAP.


Thursday, December 18, 2014

Better a witty fool, than a foolish wit

Viola (2012) - Piñeiro
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What a delightful film! Doesn't hurt it features tightly shot closeups of very attractive actors bathed in warm, inviting color palates. It starts out as something and morphs into something completely different, but not in a conventional, hokey way. It's light, playful and seems to have some magical, personal logic of its own to follow. Characters goes in and out of the scenes, focus shifts from one to another, plots cross each other and intermingle, sunny and rainy in a same day and certain part is a dream...? Also it's the first movie I can think of where Shakespeare play is used in a very nonchalant, adorable way. The rehearsal scene where two beautiful girls (Elisa Carricajo and Augustina Muñoz) reciting from Twelfth Night over and over again is extremely sexy. Then there is Viola (Maria Víllar), a girl works as a delivery person on a bike for her and her nerdy looking boyfriend's CD/DVD counterfeit operation out of their living room. The ending is even more delightful. I am so regretting not seeing Piñeiro's new film The Princess of France at this year's NYFF.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Power Game

Abuse of Weakness (2013) - Breillat
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Why on earth an intelligent, ballsy woman get herself knowingly conned out of all her money? Based on a real life experience, director Katherine Breillat's Abuse of Weakness poses that question. Always dabbled on sexual power politics in her films, Breillat sets the stage for Maud (Isabelle Huppert), an esteemed film director and a charismatic conman Vilko (Kool Shen). Maud has a stroke one morning in her bed that leaves her paralyzed left half of her body. After a long rehab, she is somewhat back to the way she was. But the usual day-to-day chores becomes tantamount tasks for her. After seeing a TV interview of a thuggish ex-con man Vilko, she immediately decides to cast him in a new psycho-sexual film despite everyone's objections. Vilko, amused by this frail, older woman who doesn't get impressed/intimidated by him and his tall tales, sets out to do what he knows best, charming her to squeeze money out of her. The movie idea is long forgotten. She writes checks upon checks to him as he cites various reasons for these 'advances'. She, in physically vulnerable place but financially has an upper hand, plays out this dangerous power game. Not exactly a sugar mommy, but she enjoys the power she has over the brut. She likes to have him carry her into the car or puts her custom made kinky orthopedic boots on for her. There is a sexual tension, but she doesn't let him have it which is also part of the power game. Things change when she runs out of money.

Abuse of Weakness is endlessly fascinating and delicious and features the most fearless, complex performance of the year by Huppert.

Secrets

The Imitation Game (2014) - Tyldum
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The film doesn't turn out to be about brilliant English mathematicians led by Benedict Cumberbatch breaking the Nazi Enigma Code. But it's more about keeping secrets in the time when there was less tolerance. Cumberbatch gives a remarkable performance as an arrogant genius who has a terrible secret. Not a stretch for him by any means. He and his team may have helped to win the war but their heroics were classified for 50 years. But it's an unfulfilled, tender love story between Alan Turing (Cumberbatch) and his computer Christopher and the actor really shines portraying the agony of double secrecy Turing had to live with. Touching and well acted, The Imitation Game is a top notch entertainment. Norway's Morten Tyldum (Headhunters) proves to be a very capable director.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Moving Biosphere

The Iron Ministry (2014) - Sniadecki
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J.P. Sniadecki gets on an insanely crowded and aggressively filthy Chinese train and records nooks and crannies of the train, variety of passengers and talks and listens to them. It's another fascinating, seductive doc from the maker of Foreign Parts and People's Park. Just like Leviathan and Manakamana by Havard Ethnography Lab people before it, Sniadecki's camera finds itself in a locomotive moving and not moving at the same time, finding a biosphere that exists in a confined space and within the frame. People eat, sleep, smoke, listen to music and talk to pass the time. Most of them Sniadecki interviews are struggling low-class trying to find a better life somewhere else. It's the microcosm of fast changing China still tied to diehard traditions. Another great documentary I've seen this year.

Friday, December 12, 2014

All the world's a stage, And all the men and women merely players

Synecdoche, New York (2008) - Kaufman *rewatch
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Loneliness and death. For Caden (Phillip Seymour Hoffman) they figure greatly into his unraveling life. Yes there are other important things like finding self and representing truth in art and such. But the bottom line is, everyone dies some day. Don't know how Caden ended up in a loveless, downright cynical marriage and a daughter. His stage play gets a good reception and he gets smitten by a flirtatious box office girl Hazel (Samantha Morton) but waves her advances off to be truthful to his family. But as he struggles as a playwright and with his hypochondria, his artist wife Adele (Katherine Keener) leaves with their 4 year old daughter Olive to become a successful painter. Then he gets a MacArthur Fellowship/Genius Grant. He wants to put up a massive play that reflects real life. Caden, so caught up with producing something truthful, he loses track of time. Time passes aggressively fast. He sets up a duplicate copies of everything in a massive warehouse space, the buildings, people he knows in real life. With a blink of an eye Caden is old, Olive is a lesbian stripper covered with tattoos, dying of ink poisoning, Adele has died after leading successful career as an artist who did tiny paintings of people, just like how she used to make Caden feel- insignificant, during their marriage.

This multi-layered, ambitious film affected me like no other. Kaufman touches upon universal theme of loneliness and melancholy through the eyes of an obsessive artist who builds a replica of life on stage within the replica, within the replica.... Kaufman gives the well worn premise of life imitating art- vice versa and life as a stage play with more depth and intimacy. However absurd the idea of recreating life that is just like the one you are living in in a giant warehouse in New York, Synecdoche's consistently somber mood takes the surrealist whimsy down to earth. Forever romantic, he allows Caden and Hazel to finally unite, but too old to 'fuck each other until they merge into chimera'. There is more in Synecdoche than every 10 yr old's inclination that the world evolves around him/her. As Caden, nearing the end of his life after overseeing the ongoing, unfinished work - the lifelike biosphere he created, realizes that he too, is playing the role, directed by an actress who plays a cleaning lady (Diane Wiest). Synedoche is a massive undertaking that is at once deeply personal, complex and touching as much as any works of Bergman or Fellini.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

A Massive Collage Tribute to Orson Welles

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In Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles, documentarian Chuck Workman, best known for his assembled clips for the Oscar ceremonies, including In Memoriam segments, doesn't have to do much to enhance the drama in Welles' life, because there is plenty of drama already. Using great wealth of materials- clips from Welles' films, interviews with many of his artist friends, colleagues, admirers, historians, his TV appearances and much more, Workman constructs patchwork of the legendary filmmaker's entire lifespan, not unlike that of Charles Foster Kane.

It is interesting that even though there are a lot of things said and written about Welles but no documentaries were made about him previously. Perhaps it was because, as Workman points out in the film, of the disagreement between Welles' two surviving daughters, Chris and Beatrice, that prevented it from happening (Workman did the film without Beatrice's involvement) and many of his work still in legal quagmire.

The film is divided into 5 chapters. It starts with Boy Wonder, 1915-1941, chronicling Welles' rise from a humble Illinois household to theater wiz kid then goes on to dominate Federal and Mercury Theaters. The film unsurprisingly starts with the 'Rosebud' scene and moves on to his infamous 'Invasion from Mars' radio broadcast. We learn that his 'confidence of ignorance' from his theater days bled into making of Citizen Kane as novice filmmaker and acting on screen for the first time.

Outsider and Gypsy cover chapters during 1942-1949 and 1949-1957. The former as an unbankable director and later his exile period mostly in Europe, finding himself to be the reluctant proto-independent filmmaker. The Road Back which covers 1949-1966 includes two of the strongest late Welles' classic, The Trial (my personal favorite) and Chimes at Midnight.

Countless interviews ranges from good- with Welles' biographer Joseph McBride, his filmmaker friend Peter Bogdanovich and critic Jonathan Rosenbaum to irrelevant and crass- Julie Taymor (on theater) and chef Wolfgang Puck (chipping in on the subject's penchant for gastronomy).

In interviews, Welles seems remarkably candid about his career. When asked if his poverty in any way helped his creativity, he answers with definite "No!" He also always loved Hollywood but felt it didn't love him back as much. Was it financial reasons that myriad of his project went unfinished, including his long labored adaptation of Don Quixote and The Other Side of the Wind, or his perfectionist tendencies? With all the interviews Workman presented in the film, the answer lies somewhere in the middle.

'A destitute King' as Jeanne Moreau calls him in one of her interview segments, Welles' life reflects not only that of Kane but that of Paranoid, guilt ridden Joseph K from The Trial and most acutely and self-consciously, that of Falstaff, in his late masterpiece, The Chimes at Midnight.

Magician is not for hardcore film nerds who are already familiar with Welles' trials and tribulations throughout his career, for there are a lot of well publicized, known facts surrounding the legendary filmmaker and his tenuous relationship with Hollywood. Now anyone can google 'Orson Welles wine commercial' and view inebriated Welles fumbling lines and swearing on camera on youtube. But there are plenty more of juicy morsels to go around here to satisfy almost everyone.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Solar Deity

Mr. Turner (2014) - Leigh
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I think the last Mike Leigh movie I saw was Career Girls. I haven't seen his period pieces or biographies. But are they this lackluster? The subject here is J.M.W. Turner, the best known English painter whose almost abstract seascape paintings are the country's biggest treasures. A barber (played wonderfully by Paul Jesson)'s son, Turner (a Leigh regular and great character actor Tim Spall) is obsessive, gregarious painter who is constantly traveling to capture the ever luminous sunlight. For two and a half hours, we follow Turner as he goes back and forth from his London studio to a seaside town, him conversing with the snobby London painters' society, to his death. But Mr. Turner is too subtle to be about anything. He was a fervent abolitionist- where is the fire? He is played by Tim Spall, who's not a good looking man- where is the ramification for his hideousness? His long suffering maid- where does she fit in? Even though he enjoyed relative wealth and fame, he suffered public ridicule for his increasingly abstract work- where is his struggles with this notion? Struggle is precisely what's missing from this film. It's too subdued and too safe. I understand that Leigh is trying to show that Turner was an ordinary man. But he wasn't. There has to be some kind of spark in him to be regarded as the Rembrandt of England.

Shot by Leigh regular Dick Pope, the film showcases beautiful palettes. Turner's primary color, that of the sun, yellow is everywhere. Gary Yershon's score is also beautiful and delicate. Tim Spall grunts his way through Turner's not so eventful life. But watching Mr. Turner is a struggle and a half.

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Potent Indictment of Colonization of Africa and Its Aftermath

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Whew, where do I begin....

Concerning Violence, a new stock footage documentary from Goran Hugo Olsson (Black Power Mixtape) is an extremely sharp indictment on the colonization and its aftermath of the African continent. The matter of fact headiness of Olsson's style may turn off some viewers in its college thesis paper dryness, but one can not deny its power of arresting images and portent words.

Borrowing the text of Frantz Fanon, a Martinique born controversial Afro-French thinker and revolutionary, from his book The Wretched of Earth and powerfully narrated by musician Lauryn Hill as the large white texts appear on screen, the film explains how Europe's five hundred years of exploitation and violent oppression led dehumanization of the whole continent.

Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, a Columbia professor, opens the film in its preface, noting that Fanon's dissertation and books were rejected and criticized by the likes of Sartre as inciting violence against the colonizing oppressors. She urges us to read between the lines and acknowledge that under murderous colonizing power, the poor and the oppressed were forced to resort to violence in order for change to occur.

A long time admirer of Fanon, Hill came on board to narrate the film for Olsson after he sent her the texts and his idea for the documentary. Here she gives a strong, commanding oration to Fanon's fiery words.

Most of the of footage in the film comes from the Swedish TV archive from the 60s and 70s -- as was the case with Black Power Mixtape, Swedish TV seems to possess great wealth of black experience on film all over the world during that time -- and covers pretty much the whole continent, from Angola to Zimbabwe. The images are upsetting, unforgettable and revelatory. 

The film starts with an aerial view of the green field below and the African soldiers senselessly mowing down peacefully grazing cows, Apocalypse Now! style. Then close up of cow as it gets shot to death. The image is shocking and extremely upsetting. This is the legacy of Europe's ruthless colonialism over the continent. And one of the more unsettling images of the film is 'black venus' as Spivak calls it in the preface (she even criticizes the film of its inclusion): a young mother and her suckling baby. She is missing an arm (like Venus de Milo) and the baby is missing a leg, they are both victims of a bomb dropped by government forces. In my opinion, Olsson's fearless approach (and not shying away even from the criticism) is completely appropriate and commendable.

As most African countries gained their independence around the 60s and 70s, the film is a good time capsule; there are a lot of footage of white settlers being interviewed and expressing their views in changing political climates in their large homes with black servants and workers. There are also embedded war journalists filming the carnage of guerrilla wars on both sides. Even though The Wretched of the Earth was published (and subsequently banned) in 1961, Fanon's words are just as relevant today as it was then. In the film's hopeful conclusion, because Europeans, and in turn, Europe aping capitalist Americans, were so successful at dehumanizing the world, Fanon through the hopeful voice of Ms. Hill, calls all African comrades to find the new way to be 'whole human' and completely abandon European approach to build the new post-colonial world.

But Concerning Violence is most impactful when one reflects on the current state of Africa -- kidnappings by Boko Haram and the siege of Timbuktu, and realizes that the death grip of colonialism on the continent is still very hard to pull away from. Along with Joshua Oppenheimer's The Look of Silence, Concerning Violence is one of the best and most potent documentaries I've seen this year.

Concerning Violence is a Kino Lober release. It opens 12/5 at IFC Center, New York

Tuesday, December 2, 2014

A Sharply Observed Military Comedy

Zero Motivation (2014) - Lavie
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Stationed in the middle of dusty nowhere, the girls of the administration hub in an Israeli military post spend their time making coffees for the senior officers and doing boring office duties day in and day out. It's far from what we expect in the army life. No one wants to be there and longs for their discharge dates. Daffi (Nelly Tagar), a little waif not meant for military service nor any kind of simple office work, dreams of being transferred to glamorous Tel Aviv when not crying her eyes out. Her best buddy, sassy mouthed Zohar (Dana Ivgy), gets by being indifferent to the task given by senior officers and playing minesweeper on her computer all day. Rama (Shani Klein), a strict administrative officer who wants to advance in the echelons of military ladder, gets her leadership often undermined by the duo. In Talya Lavie's army comedy Zero Motivation, there is little blood, guts or glory. The Israeli women's two year mandatory military service is portrayed as anything but gung-ho patriotism. It's more like witeouts, paper shredders and staple guns: a purgatory of Kafkaesque proportion- menial tasks and mountains of paperwork.

Lavie quickly establishes the background with the opening sequence where Daffi and Zohar hitching a bus back to their post after a shabbat. As usual Zohar saves the seat for her best friend in a crowded bus. There they meet a young new soldier whom Daffi instantly takes as her replacement. Her prayer is finally answered. Soon she would be transferred! In their barracks, Daffi shows the new girl around and explains her duties, saying without any irony that she is a paper shredding NCO: the most prized items in the office are a couple of staple guns hidden inside file cabinet and so on. It is quite clear that Daffi and Zohar are not in the clique of relatively content pencil pushers who gossip incessantly and sing pop tunes together annoyingly. It turns out the new girl was not the replacement. She was not even a soldier.

After the suicide of a lovelorn 'civilian' in the barracks and finding out Zohar never sent her pleading transfer request letters to the top brass, "in order to save you the embarrassment", Daffi decides to sign up for the officer's training (with Rama's enthusiastic approval) in the hopes of getting transferred to Tel Aviv. In the meantime, Zohar desperately tries to lose her overripe virginity and scores a date with a visiting paratrooper. A sultry Russian transplant and a fellow miscreant Irena (Tamara Klingon) is haunted by the ghost of the dead girl and becomes catatonic and attaches herself to Zohar, following her to the date, promising that she won't be a bother. She snaps back to her sardonic, M-16 wielding self when Zohar gets almost date-raped by the paratrooper and places fitting judgment on him. But there are much more surprises to come.

Lavie skillfully steers away when things get darker, countering with instant funny comeuppances. With unexpected twists and turns, she keeps the mood of the film consistently light. Smart and often hilarious, the film observes the evil of inanity and boredom of the military service as well as office politics and disaffected generation unaware of their own sense of irony. Zero Motivation is a great mixture of Girls, M*A*S*H* and Office Space.

Winner of this year's Tribeca Film Festival for Best Narrative Feature, Zero Motivation opens at Film Forum, New York on December 3 and Nuart, LA on January 16.

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Time, The Revelator

Boyhood (2014) - Linklater
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Before Sunrise, that perennial hit, the milestone of a generation, didn't hit me even though I was still in college when it came out. I thought it was too precious of a subject to be portrayed right and that there was no way to show young adult's romance without being pretentious. I thought the movie brought out/added to the worst traits in precautious, sensitive young men: a false sense of self confidence and self-righteousness. Linklater was the proto-hipster. I shunned him and his movies forever (ok, I watched Before Sunset, Waking Life and some others over the years).

I don't know why, but I gave Boyhood a go. Maybe because I wanted to prove me right the point I have been espousing for years that there is absolutely no salvageable profundity in movies about suburban white boy's life. Maybe I just got up too early after having all that thanksgiving food and booze and wanted to watch something. Maybe I thought I could place a safe distance to be objective because the subject is about childhood not adulthood. But Boyhood touched me to no end. There is nothing much going on in the film. It charts a Texan boy Mason (Ellar Coltrane) and his nuclear family for about ten years until he goes off to college. Linklater plays with time- the great revelator and equalizer, more expressively here than his 'Before' series. At first it plays out like a stripped down, down to earth version of the childhood segment of Tree of Life (which was by far the best part of that film). There are a lot of moments that are just as magical as Jessica Chastain spinning off the ground: a little talk in the car where dead beat dad, Mason Sr (Ethan Hawke) tells Mason about the blue whale as a proof that magic exists, or forever frazzled mom (Patricia Arquette)'s existential musing when Mason leaves for college, or the Mason talking with the girl he just met about the moments seizing you instead of the other way around.

Linklater chugged along consistently sticking to his gentle street philosophizing without a care in the world: no one really knows the big answers in life. I finally see his guilelessness in his films. Whether he observes life with the help of his famous actor friends, he is honestly portraying characters with what life throws at them. Seeing a boy growing up and forming his opinions and minds while acknowledging the time zipping him by is really something. Boyhood is a culmination of everything he's done before and it's marvelous. Still, Linklater's optimism is still very much American and it annoys me sometimes for a fact that we never see Mason cry or having a real tragedy in life. But I also understand it's called Boyhood, not Boyz 'n' da Hood. It is about celebration of growing up and unseen possibilities. Tragedies come later. They can wait.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Getting on the Bus

The We and The I (2012) - Gondry
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Michel Gondry did a 2 year workshop with teenagers from the Bronx for The We and The I, a one-day-in-the-life-of-real-innercity-teens on screen. It's a unique social experiment that is rarely seen in American cinema. Kids talk like themselves, loud and obnoxious, oblivious to their surroundings. No one in the film is made-up, snapshot-ready pretty. And all of it takes place inside a public bus.

It's the last day of the school before the summer recess, and about 30 High School kids gets on the MTA bus to go home. They bully people out of their seat, gossip incessantly, furiously texting into their blackberries, exchange funny youtube videos, make guest lists for parties, flirt and fight. There is a hierarchy even in seating arrangement inside the bus. Asshole bullies all the way in the back, then cluster of other cliques scattered through out. There are gay kids, popular girls, artistic kids who always draw in their sketchbooks, musicians and so on. As they intermingle with each other, playing unending musical chairs, the ever mobile camera jumps from one chat to another. This overlapping cacophony of interactions are like old Altman movies but given that it's a confined, noisy space, you don't really get to grasp everything they say. There are some Gondry moments but he keeps his visual gags to a minimum (for comic relief), only accompanying only small portions of kid's recounting their many stories and anecdotes.

Things become a little more coherent as kids get off (or kicked out) at their destinations or middle of the road. The rhythm kind of settles and the meat of the story emerges: Teresa and Michael, once a couple but not anymore, she not attending school at the moment and he the part of asshole/bully clique. Without sentimentalizing, Gondry observes their insecurities and misunderstandings and finds gems in the rough. Much more real than Laurent Cantet's The Class, partly because the absence adults save for the no non-sense, tough as a nail bus driver, The We and The I is a one of a kind, beautiful observation that's all about kids.

Scary Movie Well Done

Babadook (2014) - Kent
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Babadook takes a well-worn premise, i.e.: monster under the bed/in the closet, and makes a superbly effective scary film. Amelia (Essie Davis) is a single mom working at a retirement house, raising a troublesome 6 year old son Samuel (Noah Wiseman). The death of Dad in a car crash 6 years ago really affected them both and Amelia is really struggling to make ends meet. Sam's fear of monsters and the thought of his mom's mortality makes him being extremely paranoid and result in increasingly violent behavior. He finds a scary children's storybook named Babadook which contains horrible drawings of Amelia commiting murders. Only he can sense this Babadook at night but soon enough, the monster haunts Amelia and scares her stiff.

What makes Babadook way above average horror is first and foremost in writing, among other things: Jennifer Kent's script is psychologically apt and plausible, therefore doesn't have to rely on CGI or easy scare to fill up the gaps in the plot. The second is superb acting. Both Davis and young Wiseman are not only perfectly cast but amazing in their roles as troubled, paranoid nuclear family. The third is the absence of overwhelming score. I mean, I can't remember any recent horror that don't rely on music to create tension? Babadook makes a case for 'less is better'. Too bad this didn't come out in Halloween.

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Existential Road Trip

Jauja (2014) - Alonso
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Loved it! Director/writer Lisandro Alonso along with co-writer Fabian Casas's take on western genre doesn't catch (small) fire until mid-point and turns The Searchers storyline into something that resembles more of a Conrad/Herzogian, existential road trip. Static long takes and 4:3 aspect ratio with round edges betray its supposed genre and picturesque landscapes. Nevertheless, Jauja is a gorgeous, seductive trip. Alonso's formalist, minimalist approach can be challenging but it's a worthwhile trip as it morphs into something much more adventurous and rewarding. There is hardly any music in its 1 hr 50 min running time and no close-ups. Viggo Mortensen's great as skulking Danish captain (of engineering team?), lost in the new, unforgiving surroundings. Stooped and lean and anxious, he wears the burden of all European men on his weathered face. The missing daughter is a macguffin of the story then resurfaces again as something else. Is this unreachable destination, the earthly paradise called Jauja, all but a dream of a 15 year old European girl? Daring in its style and structure, Jauja is everything I look for in cinema right now.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Delicious Twist

Seventh Code (2013) - Kurosawa
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I don't care if it is an hour long promotional material of some Japanese popstar. It's KK's take on the espionage thriller genre and it's delicious. A frail looking girl, Akiko (Atsuko Maeda), with a huge luggage cart with little wheels is stalking Matsunaga (Ryuhei Suzuki), in the streets of Vladivostok. He is a major dreamboat and according to her, he snubbed her after picking her up and buying lunch back in Tokyo. After being dumped on the side of the road in a burlap sack, she gets friendly with a Japanese restaurant owner with a chip on his shoulder. From there, things progress in a very different direction. Absorbing and unpredictable, it's one of those films better not knowing anything going in.