Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Wuthering Heights Reconceptualized

Wuthering Heights (2011) - Arnold

In Pictures:
In this version, Heathcliff is not a gypsy but a very photogenic black boy (played by Solomon Glave and later by James Howson) and the misty Yorkshire moors play huge part. Arnold skips the second half of the book entirely but gets the essence of the unrequited love and digs deep into the psyche of a boy who was scarred by abuse and love early on. Without music and sparse dialog the film is largely told by its visuals.

Emily Brontë's source novel about doomed love between Catherine and Heathcliff on the moor has been done to death. Using her dogma 95 trained economy filmmaking- the mostly handheld, painterly full frame, no artificial light cinematography is accompanied by wind, mud, rain and sun-flare mixed with blood, sweat and tears. Andrea Arnold's Wuthering Heights is, dare I say, much more beautiful than any of Malick's meandering pretty picture shows. It never recovers from its breathtakingly gorgeous first half where young Heathcliff and Cathy run around on the misty moor. You just wish it goes on and on like that.

My Interview with Andrea Arnold

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Damned

The Night Porter (1974) - Cavani *rewatch*
Max (Dirk Bogarde) is a night porter at a hotel and a former nazi SS officer. He runs into one of his former concentration camp captives, beautiful Lucia (Charlotte Rampling), as she is now a wife of an opera conductor visiting Germany. Lucia is understandably upset and avoids contacts with Max. He pursues her and they once more fall into a sadomasochistic relationship.

Unlike other former nazi officer friends who have regular meetings to free themselves from the past by interrogating each other, have mockup trials to acquit themselves and 'file away witnesses' of their crimes (group therapy turning into rogue, neo-nazi criminal organization), Max knows he is damned forever and doesn't try to hide his contempt. His attitude makes him and the witness (Lucia) targets. The pair becomes prisoners in Max's small apartment and have their master/slave, protector/little girl existence until their food runs out.

Young Rampling is radiant and seductive and Bogarde svelt. Marvel at the scene where Lucia's does Marlene Dietrich redux in the screencap above. Plus, there are two amazingly erotic scenes taking place in Max's apartment- their first physical encounter after the war in one long take and the strawberry jam scene, as they are almost starving to death. Acting in those scenes are mindboggling. Night Porter became the unwitting trailblazer for slew of Nazisploitation movies to come. But its attractions are a somber condemnation of war past and tragic love story which is as intense as it gets.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Fiddles and Accordions

J'ai été au Bal/I Went to the Ball (1989) - Blank/Strachwitz
A comprehensive anthropological survey of Cajun and Zydeco in Southern Louisiana. Blank, a Southerner (born in Florida, schooled in Louisiana), dips right into the subject and the history of the celtic and West Indies infused, fiddles and accordions heavy, impossible-not-to-stomp-your-feet music. It features many of its pioneers and practitioners showing off their skills. I had very little idea of the Cajun culture, so the film is a great history lesson- the Acadians, the descendants of French settlers in Nova Scotia who got kicked out by the British, made the long journey down to Louisiana (French colony at the time) and mixed in with Creole blacks and Cajun was born. Zydeco, also accordion heavy dance hall music (with a rub board thrown in), was derived from beat heavy African music combined with blues. There are also a lot of similarities between Cajun and early Country music. Fascinating from beginning to end, with plenty of amazing, upbeat music, J'ai été au Bal is a lively, colorful documentary about music and its people. Highly recommended.

Disappearing Act

The Island President (2011) - Shenk
In early February this year, Mohamed Nasheed, the first democratically elected (in 2008) president of the republic of Maldives, a tiny nation consists of 1,200 islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean, was forced to resign in a military coup by the loyalists to Maumood Abdul Gayoom, the former president. This bizarre and tragic turn of event needs the world's attention because Nasheed's victory over Gayoom, an autocrat who ruthlessly ruled the country for 30 years, precedes the Egypt Revolt and the Arab Spring. The Island President's release couldn't have come at any more opportune time than now.

Filmmaker Jon Shenk (Lost Boys of Sudan, The Rape of Europa) documents with unprecedented access, Nasheed's first year in the office as the beacon in the fight against the global warming. For him and the 400,000 Maldivians, the climate issue has direct consequences. The Maldives, considered as the lowest lying nation in the world (mere 1.5 meters above sea level on average), could be under water before 2050 if the carbon emission to the atmosphere keeps up its current pace.

Nasheed, a political activist who was jailed, tortured and exiled before becoming the first democratically elected president, proves to be an unusually shrewd and sophisticated politician who grasped that only way he could stand up to the catastrophic issues of climate change facing his country would be to take his case to the world stage through the power of media. He declares his nation the first country to go carbon neutral within a decade. He holds a symbolic parliament meeting under water with international TV crew in tow. In a good way, with his boundless charm and charisma, Nasheed makes Shenk and his crew his mouthpiece for the cause in exchange for unfettered access to his administration and beyond.
The documentary culminates to the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit and Nasheed's eleventh-hour plea to sign an accord on carbon emission. And it's a nail-biter. Shenk and his all-access crew (as part of Nasheed's envoy, not mere journalists), provides a rare glimpse of the political horse-trading that goes on at such a high-level global assembly. While Copenhagen is judged by many as a failure, it marked the first time in history that China, India and the United States agreed to reduce carbon emissions.

From the planes, the coral islands have otherworldly quality. They seem too beautiful to be real. With Radiohead providing haunting soundtrack (14 songs in total!), Shenk serenely records the tropical paradise that could be lost forever.

The Island President has two-week limited engagement, starting March 28th at New York's Film Forum and limited releases in other cities to follow in April.

For more info and tickets, please visit and the film's website

For Radiohead's involvement on the film, please visit their blog

Sunday, March 25, 2012

ND/NF 2012: Atmen/Breathing

There are NF/ND 2012 Preview write ups I did with the esteemed Peter Gutierrez over at twitch. Click here to view.

Atmen/Breathing (2011) - Markovics
Roman (Thomas Schubert), an unresponsive 18 year old in juvenile detention center gets a job at a municipal mortuary after failing at other job prospects. He has to commute and report back to the center every evening. At the job, it's all business. No one cuts him any slack for being a newbie. He has to observe and learn fast.

Markovics' economical style is devoid of any sentimentality. He is also not in a hurry in unfolding the troubled young man's story. We slowly get to know Roman, a boy who was abandoned by his mother, grew up in an orphanage. He killed another boy by accident at age 14, then has been in the system ever since.

An encounter with a corpse of a naked woman with a same sir name as his leads Roman to track down his own mother. In a rather humorous scene, he confronts his rather young mother in IKEA of all places, shopping for a new mattress. His caseworker spots him there too, apparently shopping with his daughter on his day off. The case worker whispers to him, "I hope you know what you are doing!" Roman doesn't. He has no social skills. He just wanted to see his mother for the first time. He learns that when he was a toddler, the young irresponsible mother almost suffocated him to death with a pillow to stop him from crying.

The title- Breathing, as in being alive, as in being relieved, clues you in on why Roman chooses that mortuary job. Dead boy, being under water, suffocation... everything fits in. But under Markovics' hand, everything is understated. As an actor directing and scripting his first film, Markovics film is closer to the Dardennes than something more hard-knuckled, like Nil by Mouth by another actor-turned-director Gary Oldman, but achieves the same level of poignancy without the emotional fireworks or physical violence.

Schubert, with his natural, matter-of-fact demeanor, successfully conveys quiet, socially inept young man. There is a great scene in a commuter train with a cute American tourist. Being a quite normal looking teenager, it shows that Roman can blend in perfectly and possibly lead a normal life if he was ever given a chance. Schubert's performance goes down as one of the most memorable juvies in a recent movie history.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

ND/NF 2012: Oslo, August 31st

There are NF/ND 2012 Preview write ups I did with the esteemed Peter Gutierrez over at twitch. Click here to view.

Oslo, August 31st (2011) - Trier
It's not fair to compare Oslo, August 31st to Joachim Trier's smashing debut Reprise, but with the same lead Anders Danielsen Lie, playing pretty much the same character (an older, substance abuser in rehab rather than a mental hospital patient) and just as talky script (by Trier and his writing partner Eskil Vogt), I can't help doing so. Reprise was already walking the fine line between being an overly precious 1st world privileged twenty something male problem movie and being an emotionally truthful drama showing the limitless possibility of life. Glad the latter was the case (but almost undone by its flashy style). Oslo is a melancholic downer from the get-go.

In many ways Oslo is an improvement. Trier restrains himself in style and concentrates all his energy on creating a character study. Lie is fantastic as a 34 year old man who made some bad choices and ended up wasting the best years of his youth in a rehab. Anchored by 15 minute conversation between Anders (Lie) and his old friend in the beginning of the film, Oslo is as truthful and direct as it gets. Anders doesn't want to hear the usual lecture from his best friend and he doesn't want pity either. He made mistakes and it's done irreparable damage to his social life, job prospects, his whole future. Realizing it is his darkest hour, he wants his former friend from the wild days who now has a wife and kids, home and living mundane life, to understand that he is in dire situation.

The film starts with a compiled video clips of Oslo and its inhabitants in various seasons (including the demolition of a landmark building shot from just outside of its interior) and earnest voice-overs of people reminiscing about their experience in the city. There is something to be said about the nostalgic value at the end of Summer- the setting sun, green grass, an empty pool, all reflecting Anders' loneliness as he treks his day-trip out to his once stomping ground from the rehab. It's the first/last day of his life. He observes other people leading their lives with their ordinary concerns and wishes. As the new dawn breaks, with a little bit of fun with old and new friends, Anders manages a smile. Trier and Vogt are gifted writers, never making life's problems black and white and making sophistication easy and likable.

But I couldn't get over Oslo's specificity of its subject and its foregone conclusion. Reprise had its mature universality that appealed to both a cynic and optimist in me. Oslo, is decidedly a downer. It's still far better than Louis Malle's impenetrable Fire Within, the film that has the same source, Le Feu Follet by Pierre Drieu La Rochelle (I fell asleep during Malle's film years ago), thanks to Lie's affecting performance.

I understand this was an in-between project before his American debut, Louder than Bombs, but I really hope Trier doesn't get stuck with the afflicted, sullen, privileged (middle class, whatever you call it) male schtick. I want to see him and Vogt grow, tackling other territories as well.

Oslo, August 31st plays as part of ND/NF 2012 on March 28th and March 29th. For tickets and more info, please visit ND/NF website.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Everyday Miracles

William Eggleston in the Real World (2005) - Almereyda
Michael Almereyda's intimate, loving documentary about color photograph pioneer William Eggleston is a beautiful portrait of an artist. Almereyda tags along with ever prolific photographer as he snaps photos everywhere he goes with the help of his son, Winston. Eggleston remains largely inarticulate at putting any values and meaning to his well known, vivid photographs of everyday things and places.

It's seeing mundane things in a new way. It's everyday miracles. Even though Almereyda tries to state the fact about concreteness of photographs against fleeting reality ('photos are more real than reality'!), the eccentric but likable photographer answers in his drawl that he just likes to do them (here meaning photography, drawings- he carries cigar box full of color pencils everywhere and music- he composes symphonies with his keyboards). Really loved it.

Some of Egglestone's Photos:

Please visit Eggleston Trust website for more photographs.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Argento: Il Cinema Nel Sangue at MAD

The Museum of Art and Design announces the three month long celebration of Italy's best known cinema dynasty, the Argentos. Argento: Il Cinema Nel Sangue (Cinema in the Blood) chronicles three generations of Argentos (Salvatore, Claudio, Dario and Asia) in their artistic endeavor in film. Presenting 16 films in total, including Dario Argento's Animal Trilogy and Three Mothers Trilogy, and selections from Asia Argento's diverse filmography (including her directorial effort, Scarlet Diva), most of them in rare 35mm prints, Il Cinema Nel Sangue is an opportunity not to be missed by Argento fans!

The series kicks off with Kiss the Girls and Make Them Die/Se tutte le donne del mondo on March 23rd and continues until May 25th.

Program Description

The Museum of Arts and Design is proud to present "Argento: il cinema nel sangue" (Argento: Cinema in the Blood) a three-month retrospective celebrating the first family of Italian cinematic ingenuity.

Rejecting the corporate studio system, the Argentos have for over three generations taken a distinctly Italian approach to filmmaking by relying on family to collaborate on cinematic productions as producers, screenwriters, actors, and directors. The Argento film dynasty began in the 1960s with film producer/executive Salvatore Argento, but became a legend with his two sons, Dario, who started as a screenwriter, and Claudio, who first worked as a producer with his father. With Claudio and his father's support, Dario moved into film direction, distinguishing himself in a series of Giallo thrillers through his sophisticated visual approach and technical prowess. (Giallo is a genre of Italian crime/horror fiction, which takes its names from the yellow--giallo is Italian for "yellow"--covers of the paperbacks.) The resulting films have continued to influence filmmakers, artists, and other cultural producers throughout the globe.

In 1975, Dario cast the actress Daria Nicolodi in Deep Red, and for the next ten years the duo became partners both privately as well as professionally . The Agrento legacy has continued on with their daughter, Asia. Who, after staring in her father's films emerged onto the international cinema landscape as an actress, staring in films by directors Sophia Coppola, Olivier Assayas, Catherine Breillat, Abel Ferrara, and Gus Van Sant, before helming her own works as director.

Spanning from March until May 2012, "Argento: il cinema nel sangue" showcases the rich visual tableaus, inventive cinematic techniques, and combined talent of the family Argento.

Special Trilogy Screenings:

April 11th, 13th, and 14th, 2012

Beginning his career as columnist for Paese Sera in Rome, Dario Argento transitioned into the film industry as screenwriter on a number of Westerns, including Sergio Leone's "Once Upon a Time in the West," which he co-wrote with Bernardo Bertolucci. However, it was when he teamed with the producing partnership of his brother and father that Dario discovered international acclaim and box office success in the Giallo cinema. Dario pushed Giallo to new heights with his first three films, known as the Animal Trilogy. His polished yet brazen style made the name Argento known across the globe.

screenings include:

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, L'uccello dale piume di cristallo
Wednesday April 11th, 2012 7PM

The Cat o' Nine Tails, Il gatto a nove code
Friday April 13th, 2012 7PM

Four Flies on Gray Velvet, Quattro mosche di velluto grigio
Saturday April 14th, 2012 3 PM

April 19th, 20th, and 21st, 2012

Visually striking and atmospherically uncanny, the Three Mothers trilogy cemented Dario Argento's reputation as a maestro of the horror genre. Inspired by a 19th-century essay by Thomas De Quincey, the Three Mothers trilogy centers on the exploits of three witch sisters: Mater Suspiriorum (The Mother of Sighs), Mater Tenebrarum (Mother of Darkness), and Mater Lachrymarum (Mother of Tears), who can manipulate events on a global scale.

In the 11th century, the Three Mothers forced the Italian architect E. Varelli to design and construct three exquisite, stately buildings from which the could each rule the world. Centering on the architecture of these homes as a source for evil, the films "Suspiria," "Inferno" and "Mother of Tears" feature stunning visually rich sets filled with lush and colorful lighting. Teaming with the progressive rock band Goblin, Argento took innovative approaches to production design and musical arrangement that broke new ground in the visual and audio representation of the supernatural on the silver screen.

screenings include:

Thursday April 19, 2012 7PM

Friday April 20, 2012 7PM

Mother of Tears, La terza madre
Saturday April 21st, 2012 3PM

Argento: il cinema nel sangue is organized by Jake Yuzna, Manager of Public Programs
For more information and tickets, please visit

Sunday, March 18, 2012

ND/NF 2012: Historias que so existem quando lembradas/Found Memories

There are NF/ND 2012 Preview write ups I did with the esteemed Peter Gutierrez over at twitch. Click here to view.

Historias que so existem quando lembradas/Found Memories (2011) - Murat
Aging Madalena (Sonia Guedes) in a small rural mountain village goes about her routine life- getting up at dawn to make bread, walking along the railroad tracks to deliver the bread to Antonio (Luiz Serra), getting into tit-a-tat sessions with him about how to arrange the bread on the shelf, complaining about the taste of coffee he makes, hearing him talking about the weather, attending a mass at the local church and writing letters to her long dead husband. All of that changes when Rita (Lisa E Fávero), a young photographer, shows up, asking for a place to stay for a few days.

The arrival of the mysterious stranger makes some ripples in the village mostly consists of old folks. At first Madalena is apprehensive about the manifestation of this young person in her life and rightfully so. Rita is indeed a weird one. She takes photos, often with her made-up pinhole cameras (big tin cans), of old buildings and artifacts, never people. When asked about why she came to the village, with her trademark smirk, she avoids the question. But soon Rita's nonchalance and brevity win over the oldsters including Madalena. When she is invited to the mass and the communal lunch afterword, Rita finds out that the town's cemetery that she wanted to photograph is closed. "God doesn't want us to die." One of the villagers tells her.

Rita's presence in the house makes Madalena question her own mortality. With her failing health, Madalena laments her woes to Antonio, "I don't want to die." "Then don't die. Live as much as you want to," he answers. When it's time for Rita to leave, Madalena gives her the key to the cemetery gate. Fávero portrays perhaps the most beguiling angel of death, who dances around to Franz Ferdinand in her headphones.

With graceful performances by Guedes, Serra, Fávero and non-actors who play villagers and beautiful cinematography (especially Rembrandt-esque indoor scenes only lit by candles), Found Memories is a moving tribute to memories we hold dear to ourselves. Murat's sensitive, leisurely storytelling style reminds me of magic realism in Latin American literary tradition.

Found Memories plays part of New Directors New Films 2012. For tickets and info, please visit ND/NF website.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

I Want to Ride My Bicycle

Le Gamin au Vélo/The Kid with a Bike (2011) - Dardenne
The Kid with a Bike opens 3/16 at Lincoln Plaza Cinema in NY. It will undoubtedly be ending up on my year end top 10 list for sure. Please go see it.

Just when I thought I comfortably settled in the world of the likes of Godard, Denis and Weerasethakul, the Belgian neo-realists the Dardenne Bros' The Kid with a Bike floors me and humbles me to appreciate the power of simple narrative once more.

Cyril (Thomas Doret) is an 11 year-old kid with a serious abandonment issue. After briefly running away from some sort of reform school to find his dad while adamantly denying the fact that his young dad abandoned him and sold his beloved bike for money, he has a run-in with Samantha, a hairdresser with a heart of gold (Cecil de France). She buys back his bike and agrees to be his foster parent on weekends. Cyril's not giving up finding his dad though and Samantha obliges to help him. But the young father working menial jobs, can't take care of him and doesn't want to see him. The result is devastating- Cyril scrapes his face and bangs his head against the car door repeatedly on the way back. Cyril is so desperate to find any kind of father figure, he falls in with the local 'dealer' who lures him in. One of many heartbreaking moments comes when the dealer plans a armed robbery of the local business using Cyril: When asked if 300 would be enough for him, Cyril answers, "I don't want any. I just want to do it for you."

With no acting experience beforehand, Doret is a revelation playing a physically violent, emotionally damaged kid. De France underplays her character and keeps her motivations hidden but she doesn't need to try hard. Her warmth pours out with a hint of her smile. You really get to feel for the kid. You really want the best for him.

Talk about quality, I bet every one of the Dardennes' films are exceptionally good. I've seen only two- La Promesse and Rosetta, both excellent. I shunned their films afterward thinking that every movie the Belgians are doing is pretty much the same. I moved away from the pleasures of watching a simple humanist (but never sentimental) drama. Not challenging enough, not edge enough, I kept telling myself. The Dardennes are undoubtedly the master at what they do. They hit the right note every time. Deeply moving and beautifully acted, The Kid with a Bike is undoubtedly one of the year's best. And I am saving some of their films at bay for those days when I get so worked up and angry at this ugly ugly world.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Bareback of Romy Schneider

That Most Important Thing: Love/L'important c'est d'aimer (1975) - Zulawski
Romy Schneider plays Nadine, a washed-up, thirty something actress who does films like "Nympires" to sustain a living. She is married to Jacques (young Jacques Dutronc), an eccentric, old movie memorabilia collector in a big townhouse borrowed from a friend. Enter Servais (Fabio Testi), first seen photographing Nadine in compromising positions in her latest movie set. Whether he wanted to make a quick buck or blackmail her with his photos is unknown, but surely he is drown to the aging yet still radiant actress. Thus begins the love triangle.

Just like other Zulawski films, L'important C'est d'aimer provides plenty of emotional fireworks. Love leads to madness, self-pity, sacrifices and repeated punches in the gut. Three leads are all very good but it's all about Schneider's bare back. Comparably, her role might not be as physically demanding here than in Zulawski's other, later films with more sex and violence, but Nadine's emotional intensity is just as great, if not greater. Schneider's performance is rapturous. With energetic handheld cinematography, Zulawski captures his usual theme- frantic, crazy love, like no other. Klaus Kinski, with his short screen time, truly makes every minute count as a charismatic German actor. The film is exhausting. Its 1 hour 42 minutes runtime feels more like 3 hours. But it's all worth it.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Hysterical Excess: Andrzej Zulawski Retro at BAM

BAM Cinematek is hosting the complete filmography of Polish director Andrzej Zulawski, from 3/7 to 3/20. It is a rare treat, because many of his films are not available on DVDs and seldom screened on big screen. This is your chance to see many of the most maniacal emotional outbursts ever captured on film.
*Sophie Marceau in L'amour Braque, Zulawski's interpretation of Dostoevsky's The Idiot

From BAM's Series Description:
Dubbed the enfant terrible of Polish cinema, Andrzej Zulawski is one of the most controversial and polarizing filmmakers in the world. BAMcinématek is proud to present the first US retrospective of the uncompromising auteur’s complete work in partnership with the Polish Cultural Institute.
The series includes two rare, early shorts Zulawski directed for Polish television—Pavoncello and The Song of Triumphant Love—along with a new 35mm print of his first feature, The Third Part of the Night. A true cinematic agitator, Zulawski squeezed fervent performances from all of his actors in these films that rise to ecstatic heights yet dive deep into the nadirs of the human condition: birth, love, loss, death, and everything in between.

As a big fan of Zulawski, I've seen Possession, The Devil, L'amour Braque, My Nights are More Beautiful Than Your Days and On the Silver Globe, but none on the big screen. Be sure to check out Possession with Isabelle Adjani and Sam Neil and That Most Important Thing, Love with Klaus Kinski and Romy Schneider.

Possession Review

Limpet Love/L'amour Braque Review

For more information and tickets please visit BAM Cinematek.

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Debunking American Myth

Twentynine Palms (2003) - Dumont
My god.... Zizek would have a field day with this film if he ever saw it.

David (David Wissak) and Katia (Katerina Golubeva) are driving down to Joshua Tree National Park from LA in their red Hummer. Seems David is involved with filmmaking (he's scouting for locations). With slow pacing, we get to witness their mundane routine- driving, trekking, eating, swimming in a motel pool, fucking, fighting and making up. There is a sense that David and Katia are not communicating well (Katia only speaks in French and David always yells at her, "I understand only a half of what you say!") On the outset, Twentynine Palms plays out like another Antonioni-esque film about disconnection and isolation in modern society. But that's not what Dumont is interested in here. As its sudden, grotesque violence that befalls on our protagonists at the end of the film, it is clear that he is after something else.

Given the context of 9/11 and Invasion of Iraq, Dumont is set out to debunk American machismo- Westerns & military power (Hummer) and also throws in sexual politics: David constantly demands sex and Katia accuses him of not having a heart. When he lets her stir(!) his Hummer, to his horror, she scratches the shit out of the car. We spend copious amount of time watching him looking at the dents and them looking for a car wax in following scenes.

Twentynine Palms is a difficult film to like. Dumont's blunt use of symbolism and sudden violence to illustrate the point rub me the wrong way. Yet I prefer this to von Trier's Dancer in the Dark or Haneke's Funny Games remake. His talent is undeniable.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

More Real than Real

The Pervert's Guide to Cinema (2006) - Fiennes
The three part lecture on cinema from past to present presided by philosopher Slavoj Zizek is an wild ride. 'Pervert' refers to the moviegoer as a peeping tom living out his/her desires from a safe distance. You can take it face value, or not. Take your pick. Either way, it's super entertaining.

The bathroom scene in Psycho after the killing is an example Zizek gives, where Norman Bates scrubs the blood stain off of the tub. Bates meticulously gets rid of all the evidence. It goes down the drain to the other side, to netherworld, never to be seen again. In Coppola's Conversation, the clogged toilet overflows with blood to confront the audience with an uncomfortable secret. When "The shiiiit comess back up!," the distance of our fantasy and reality gets compromised.

Then there are fantasy and sex. You can't have sex without fantasy in films. But when fantasy is realized or being close to being realized, it becomes a nightmare. Lynchian world is a prime example, so is Hitchcockian universe.

There are layers in films where fantasies become more real than reality. Zizek's analyses of films become more relevant in the internet age and transcends beyond simple Freudian interpretations. I don't have to tell you about 'putting on a persona' in social networking or role playing games.

The very recent incident in my life is a testament of this. Someone hacked my email account and sent everyone I know a spam, causing a huge embarrassment for me. Then there is a guy who has been stalking me on the internet forums. Even though I hardly know him other than from some tit-a-tat sessions on these boards, he used that spam mail against me on a website I regularly write for which has no connection to him at all. The anonymity gives you carte blanche to be whatever on the internetz, and it always ends up on the naughty side. The films tell you a lot about yourself- your darkest, dirtiest desires, Zizek informs us with his unmistakable thick Eastern European accent and wildly gesticulating hands. Now this is my kind of entertainment!

Friday, March 2, 2012

"Love Will Tear Us Apart" film Series at Japan Society

March is a golden month here in New York, if you are a movie buff like me. All around town, there are plenty of film series to satisfy all your nitty-gritty cinephiliac tendencies. At Japan Society starting today, some amazing films from the past and present under the loose theme of amour fou are present, included are some recent Korean films too. I've seen many of these films and I strongly encourage you to go check them out.

From Love Will Tear Us Apart Press Release:
Bad romance, blind love, amour fou! This spring, we screen a series of twisted, obsessive, heart-blazing love stories from Japan and Korea, because, after all, it takes two to tango and at least two to tumble. The 20+ film lineup, mostly from the past decade, includes the U.S. premiere of Shinya Tsukamoto's latest film, KOTOKO, and the world premiere of Koji Wakamatsu’s Petrel Hotel Blue, as well as Hirokazu Kore'eda's Air Doll, Nagisa Oshima's arch-classic In the Realm of the Senses, Yukio Ninagawa's Snakes and Earrings, Lee Sang-il's Villain, Lee Chang-dong's Oasis, and Kim Ki-duk's Bad Guy, among other twisted tales. The complex relationship between Korea and Japan provides a fascinating coupling of national cinematic identities. Although both Japanese and Korean films and filmmakers demonstrate their own unique preoccupations, narrative traditions, structures and cultural sensibilities, a considerable amount of shared ground leads directly to unique avenues of artistic collaboration (Korean actress Bae Doo-Na and director Hirokazu Kore'eda, Kim Ki-duk and Joe Odagiri), ultimately revealing a similar visual grammar and inclination towards the emotional violence that flows beneath the quiet surface of societal restraints.

I'd personally recommend following films:

Vital - Tsukamoto
Shinya Tsukamoto's experimental horror at its most elegant, touching form.

Running in Madness, Dying in Love - Wakamatsu
One of the Japanese New Wave giants Koji Wakamatsu's examination of the world in turmoil in still rigid society and desperate people in love. One of my favorites.

My Review

In the Realm of Senses - Oshima
Nagisa Oshima's controversial 1976 film. Still shocks with its depiction of graphic sex and obsession.

Tale of Cinema - Hong
Hong Sang-soo's love, jealousy and all its pettiness, excessive drinking and public drunkenness, mountain of cigarette butts are an acquired taste. But once you get into it, it's very funny.

The series runs March 2-18

For more information and tickets, click here.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Rendez-vous with French Cinema 2012 Preview:

Coinciding with The Artist grabbing the Best Picture at the Oscar, Rendez-vous with French Cinema 2012 kicks off tonight with fluffy Intouchables (dir. Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano) at Alice Tully Hall, Lincoln Center and continues through March 11. I got to see only a couple of films this year at Rendez-vous preview screening. To be honest, the roster this year doesn't seem that exciting.
Here is the complete line up of Rendez-vous with French Cinema 2012, March 1-11

My to see list was like this:

17 Girls - Coulin
Farewell, My Queen - Jacquot
The Last Screening - Achard
The Screen Illusion - Amalric
Unforgivable - Téchiné

In the end, I only got to see these two stellar films:

Farewell My Queen
(2012) - Jaquot
Diane Kruger (Inglorious Basterds) is Marie Antoinette. Yes it's yet another one of those, but as if Léa Seydoux (Beautiful Person, Inglorious Basterds, Midnight in Paris)'s loveliness wasn't enough, Jaquot had to throw in Virginie Ledoyen (8 Women, Late August Early September, A Single Girl). The screen sizzles.
Full Review pending upon its own theatrical run.

More info and tickets, click Here

17 Girls (2011) - Coulin
16 yr old high school girls in a declining sea port town decide to form a pregnancy pact. Taking a cue from an American tabloid headline, 17 Girls falls somewhere btwn Andrea Arnold and Sophia Coppola territory. Still, no one does better doing films about being adolescents than French. Directed by sisters Delphine and Muriel Coulin.
Full Review pending upon its own theatrical run.

More info and tickets, click here

If you are a fan of French cinema and wondering about what films to watch this weekend, try the above films. You won't be disappointed!