Monday, January 30, 2012

Live and Let Die

Source Code (2011) - Jones
Isn't it ironical but also fitting at the same time that David Bowie's son grew up to be a chubby sci-fi film geek? Duncun 'Zowie' Jones' Source Code tells a group of gov scientists using a clinically dead Afghanistan War vet (Jake Gyllenhaal) to find a dirty bomber in a crowded commuter train bound for downtown Chicago, using 'Source Code': reliving the last 8 minutes of one of the victims on the train over and over again. This ain't no anti war film with grand messages (Johnny Got His Gun, Caterpillar) or not even Groundhog Day. But in Duncun Jones' hands, the material seems much less incongruous and almost commendable in its optimism overlooking the laws of quantum physics. It's another solid popcorn movie by Jones after much coveted Moon. Enjoyed it a lot.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Fluffiest Pancakes Ever!

I've heard a lot about Clinton St. Bakery's legendary blueberry pancakes. So I decided to make them myself and found the recipe online. It might not be exactly the same recipe but it came out beautifully and tastes wonderful. So without further ado:

Blueberry Pancakes with Maple Butter


2 eggs
5 tbsp butter melted
1 cup buttermilk or half & half
1 1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp sugar
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 cup blueberries

Maple Butter:

3 tbsp butter
1/2 cup maple syrup

Separate egg yolks from whites in two different bowls.

Add butter and milk in egg yolks, beat together. In another bowl, mix all the dry ingredients.

Beat egg whites with a whip until it's foamy and fluffy (about 5 minutes).

Pour liquid mixture into the dry ingredients and stir lightly until just combined. Add blueberries. Lumps are ok. Fold in the egg whites until just combined. Remember, you want the fluffy pancakes. You don't want to overmix it.

Melt some butter on a hot frying pan. Add batter, each about half a palm size. Pancakes are ready to flip once a few bubbles appear on the surface. Flip and cook another minute or two.

Microwave butter and maple syrup together for about 30 sec. Pour it on pancakes.

Serves about 3-4. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012


Poetry (2010) - Lee
Loved it. I normally would not touch Lee Chang-dong's high melodrama with a ten foot pole, especially when it's titled 'Poetry'. I wasn't too sure in the first thirty minutes and thought about turning it off many times. The icky subject matter, an invalid old man, Alzheimer's, all competing for my prejudices in movies. Oh god, what am I getting myself into, I thought. Waterworks probably. But I stuck with it.

Poetry is nothing like what I expected. High melodrama for sure, but it's understated and not afraid of reflecting life's nitty-gritty, ugly, awkward details. Much thanks to Yun Jeong-hie's performance as a sixty five year old woman trying to write poetry for the first time while struggling with whatever life throws at her, everything feels real and honest.

It could've been handled horribly, but no. Compared to other humanist filmmakers like the Dardennes and Koreeda, Poetry lacks the smooth narrative that has clean emotional closures and certain visual style or flare. It feels rough around the edges. What the film does is making you smooth those edges yourself. It makes you breathe. That's perhaps the best way I can describe it. But it feels much more real and honest and even wiser than the said filmmakers' work. I'm very taken by it.

*Thank you Ari for letting me to keep the film all this time. I finally got around to it and you were right. It's a beautiful film.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Dance Dance Dance

Pina (2011) - Wenders
Riveting and deeply moving. Wenders weaves many of the late choreographer Pina Bausch's pieces interpreted by many dancers of her troupe. There is visual, rhythmic cohesion throughout. Coincidentally it's by another middle of the road German director who uses 3D technology aptly and gracefully in this case. Physicality of the pieces shines in 3D. I'm glad I got to see this in the theater. Please go see it before it ends its theatrical run.

Looking at the Past

Nostalgia for the Light (2010) - Guzmán
Chilé's Atacama desert is the driest place on earth. It is also the setting for this poignant documentary that successfully blends astronomy with ugly Chiléan history under Pinochet.

The desert's dry climate has been attracting sky gazing scientists from all around the world since the early 50s. But it also had been used as a site of mass graves for hundreds of 'the disappeared' under the Pinochet regime. Patricio Guzmán ponders the nature of time through interviews with astronomers and the old women who are combing the vast, arid desert ground for the remains of their loved ones.

As one astronomer points out, when we are looking at the stars, we are looking at the past since the light reflected on the stars takes time to meet our eyes. Comparing astronomy to archeology and paleontology, Nostalgia for the Light brings down the sky to human level much more elegantly and poetically than recent films that invoked celestial musings (Tree of Life, Melancholia, Another Earth, Take Shelter etc). I could've done without constant narrations. The visuals speak for themselves most of the time.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Once Upon a Time...

Once Upon a Time in Anatolia (2011) - Ceylan
As the title suggests, Ceylan's new film unfolds like a good book. What seems a police procedural on the surface, Anatolia is a deeply felt human drama that is rich and nuanced as any great Russian novel. The story begins at a crime scene (or rather, on the road searching for one) and ends at a morgue. But in between those places for two and a half hours, you are constantly on the winding, hilly dirt roads with policemen, a confessed killer, a country doctor, diggers, transcriber with a laptop and a Clark Gable-ish prosecutor. As they move from one place to another in the night (because the confessed man doesn't remember the exact location), they converse and lament about their lives. Thanks to the scarce electricity in the small village and only car headlights beaming the much of the action on the road, Anatolia is visually striking in its widesceen format and has many images that linger for days after viewing. The distant thunder and lightening tells the rain is on the way. One character laments, "That hasn't changed for thousands of years, but 100 years from now, who will remember us?" But Anatolia is filled with memorable, deep characters drawn beautifully by its multiple character interactions and leisurely running time.

Anatolia completely avoids clichés of the usual crime drama. Although police incompetency and provincialism are not the main attractions at all, it has a lot of self-deprecating humor and constantly very funny under the given grim circumstances. Only thing that I saw coming from a mile away (not that I'm complaining) was the appearance of the beautiful village mayor's daughter. Only a few female characters appear in the film. Granted all the Turkish girls are beautiful, but the glimpse of this stunning beauty under the kerosine lamp (for everyone to see, as she serves tea to each characters) and them commenting on her beauty was a little too predictable. With quiet but touching revelations, some even only to the audience, it's a very rewarding film.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Altitude Sickness

Black Narcissus (1947) - Powell/Pressburger
A young prudish nun Clodagh (Deborah Kerr) is appointed as a mother superior and sent to the Himalayas to open up a convent where Sisters would teach and provide medical services for the natives. It's a big test for her and others who are young and still haven't gotten over their earthly desires. It might be the high altitude or the clean air or that hunky man-meat Mr. Dean (David Farrar) in khaki shorts, that many of the nuns are acting strange and losing faith. Then there is an enchanting, sexed-up, 17-year old native savage named Kanchi (Jean Simmons) stirring things up. To top it all off, the convent is located in a former pleasure den used by the local general, with grand architecture and salacious wall paintings intact.

It's a soap opera high up in the mountains in glorious Technicolor backdrop and a mind-blowing achievement to think that everything was done in the studio. It culminates to the confrontation between Clodagh and Jealous, feverish Sister Ruth (Kathleen Byron) who abandons the order, at the bell tower at the edge of the cliff. P & P are not interested in religious aspects of Clodagh at all. Rather it's a magnificent adventure story and tests people go through in life. I really loved it.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

I want to destroy something beautiful...

Beau Travail (1999) - Denis
Claire Denis loosely adapts Melville's Billy Budd- a story about the human desire to destroy something pure and beautiful, with a sensual, languid imagery. Arid, rocky Djibouti backdrop clashes with smooth, muscular bodies of young Legionnaires as they carry on their boring daily routines (mostly shirtless) with no real enemies in sight. Galoup (Denis Lavant), a seasoned military man takes an immediate dislike to a beautiful, righteous new recruit Sentain (Grégoire Colin) and looks for excuses to destroy him. His feelings are mixture of desire, jealousy and envy.

It's Lavant's physicality on full display here. His pockmarked face and athleticism dominate the screen. I thought Galoup's narration was unnecessary at first since it doesn't add anything much to the plot. Then again, Denis has little concerns for that. On this viewing, I can see how it accentuates Galoup's loneliness and isolation. Plus, Lavant's gravelly voice is music to my ears and makes the narration all the more poignant. Great Michele Subor also stars as the commandant without principles. The ending is definitely my favorite movie ending of all time. I really hope Criterion picks this one up in the future because New Yorker DVD sucks.

Thursday, January 12, 2012


The Red Shoes (1948) - Powell/Pressburger
Amazing. Can't think of a movie in the theme of ambition begetting the life of an artist better pronounced in such a grand and fantastical way than in The Red Shoes. The 25 minute The Red Shoes production sequence plays out like the live action version of deezzznee's Fantasia on acid. There are so many great visual ideas in that scene it's mindboggling. Even with full use of Technicolor, The Red Shoes has an aura of silent era films from make-up, actors (especially Marius Goring, who played gayest French guardian angel in A Matter of Life and Death and Anton Walbrook as the ruthless dance company owner), expressive lighting to set design, all taking cues from German Expressionism.

It's campy but there are enough cynicism and perversity in Powell & Pressburger films that I dig. I doubt their other films will top this but looking forward to Black Narcissus and Blimp.

Stairway to Heaven

A Matter of Life and Death (1946) - Powell/Pressburger
An English airman (David Niven) has a brief on-air conversation with a button nosed American radio operator, June (Kim Hunter) just before he jumps from his burning plane. It was supposed to be his last good bye to the world. But he finds himself washed up ashore, because a mistake was made upstairs. Blame goes to the horrible English weather. They try to recall him but he attests, citing that he had fallen in love with June. His plea is granted and the repeal process begins.

The film is a romantic fantasy in the highest order, sort of uplifting 'love conquers all' type right after the WWII. Not the type of films I normally watch. But it's very English and enjoyable. Constant back and forth between crazy Technicolor/B&W with great transitions to massive sets & matt paintings, and with real time freeze frames and reverse motions, the film is visually mad inventive. I can see its influence everywhere. It's a very charming film. Sad to see Dr. Frank go though.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Beast of Burden

Au Hasard Balthazar (1966) - Bresson
It took me this long to see this finally and I got nothing much to say. It's profoundly sad and beautiful and moving. And I didn't expect that from a movie whose main character is a donkey. Unlike any other animal films, our donkey starts as a donkey and remains a donkey until the end. Yet it pulls so much empathy and emotion from us. The donkey is the (mostly) silent witness of all the human follies around him. He takes all the abuses and neglect in and dies alone. No character notices or mourns its passing.

Then there is Marie (Anne Wiazemsky). She is sad and beautiful. No wonder Godard hurried up and married then 19-yr old unknown actress right after seeing the movie. It's also the first film I felt there is no excess anywhere, that all the 90 some minutes are totally justifiable. Edits, closeups, sound, everything. The film is a transcendental beauty.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Down with the Old

Palacíos de Pena/Palaces of Pity (2011) - Abrantes/Schmidt
The film opens with the same Vangelis score for Blade Runner in a giant football stadium where our two teen girl protags stretch their legs before a football match. The blonde one is 14 and the dark haired one is 13 and they are cousins. Their ancient grandmother is old and trying to decide just who will inherit her fortune. The grandma sets up a test for them to see which would be a better choice in her gigantic estate near an ominous dam.

The film is a constant battle of opposing images and texture- enormous concrete structures, baby goat, huge glass windows, teenage girls' faces, looming trees and mountains and ipad... After a night of hard drinking and dancing, the girls come home and crash on grandma's lap. The grandma tells her dream where she is a grand inquisitor condemning two young Arab boys to the stake for fondling each other. In the morning, the girls find their grandma dead, and the cousins become rivals for the inheritance.

Weird, dreamlike and beautiful, Palaces of Pity is a playful take on rejecting the old ways of Portugal. It shares thematic similarity with current Greek cinema where generation gap takes an ugly turn. But Abrantes and Schmidt distinguish themselves with sensual imagery. To start a new, the clueless and carefree young'uns will even burn the palace down without knowing the country's history!

Beauty + Art

It Maybe That Beauty Has Strengthened Our Resolve: Masao Adachi (2011) - Grandrieux
Grandrieux is not in a hurry to introduce Masao Adachi, a radical Japanese Red Army member/filmmaker who preached armed struggle in the 60s. Beauty starts with Adachi, an affable white haired old man narrating free association style while pushing his granddaughter in a swing. With his usual hand held camera, Grandrieux walks among the Japanese crowd in Shinjuku, takes a taxi ride and retraces the steps of Tarkovsky's Solaris (driving scene). Adachi tells an anecdote about reading Jean Genet's Thief's Journal out loud with Oshima while writing The Diary of Shinjuku Thief. Adachi to Grandrieux is a hero, because he's always been trying to find a new ways to looking at the world socially and aesthetically. "Cinema moves from one film to another through time, above and beyond those who make it." Grandrieux muses. Less a biography than an examination of difficulties integrating art in politics/life in a meaningful way, Beauty is a beautiful and contemplative documentary I won't soon forget.

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Freedom Song

La Follie Almayer/Almayer's Folly (2011) - Akerman
Akerman stepping into Claire Denis territory? Loosely based on Joseph Conrad's first novel of the same title, the film finds a disillusioned French colonialist (Stanislas Merhar) deep in Malaysian jungle living with his loveless native wife and a half-breed daughter, Nina (Aurora Marion). Still dreaming of making it big in the mines with his shady business partner/former captain Linguard (Marc Barbé), while boozing and being nostalgic about great Europe, Almayer obliges Linguard's insistence to take his beloved daughter and put her in a boarding school in the city to be 'a proper woman' and join the European society in the future.

In the film's stunning beginning, Nina is seen dancing along with other girls in the background while her lover Dain croons (lip synching) an Elvis song at an outdoor club. As Dain gets stabbed to death, Nina takes the stage and sings. In Akerman's eyes, Nina emerges as the main character, not her pathetic, broken father. With its non linear structure, lush surroundings and long takes, Akerman creates some really blissful cinematic moments. At other times, it becomes a little tedious, especially with Merhar. I wish she chose Barbé (who resembles sedated Kinski and just as charismatic) for the title role and vice versa.

Almayer's Folly is a film of considerable hypnotic power. It hadn't left my head since seeing it on Friday.

Friday, January 6, 2012


In Vanda's Room (2000) - Costa
It's probably the first time for me that I don't want to say much about a film that I just saw. Not because I don't have anything to say, but the film is so earnest, intimate, unique and undefinable, anything I think of saying sounds extremely trivial. I can just tell you what it's not. Even though it is about junkies in urban ghetto (Fontainhas in Lisbon, Portugal), it's not a poverty porn with pretty pictures. Yes, it contains some mesmerizing images. But I felt like an asshole taking those beauty screengrabs above because they don't justify this 3 hour film and its cumulative effect on me in any way. Gritty, grimy reality Costa captures with the least bit of sentimentality has no equal. The resilience of the inhabitants of Fontainhas has no equal.

My favorite segment is probably Vanda and Nhurro/Pango, her childhood friend in her tiny room- him asking her if he could stay with her a little bit, then them talking about choosing/not choosing the way of life they lead. Really beautiful stuff.

Ossos Review

Thursday, January 5, 2012

First Look at Museum of Moving Image

I am ashamed to say that in my 14 year stint as a New Yorker that I've never been to Museum of Moving Image, one of the city's better cultural institutions located in cozy Astoria, Queens. I've heard of all the great things, been impressed by many film series they've been offering over the years. But for some reason, I have never ventured north to visit.

Buried under the end of the year shenanigans, I totally overlooked the newsletters from MoMI about First Look: their first annual independent film showcase by visionaries from all over the world, starting this weekend. As I was beating myself up for missing the boat in getting the press pass for the festival, Tomoko Kawamoto from the press office at MoMI saved me from hurting myself further. Thanks to her, I'll be leisurely attending many of the screenings. The roster is just amazing: Chantal Akerman (Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles), Philippe Grandrieux (Un Lac), Philippe Garrel (Regular Lovers), Gariel Abrantes & Daniel Schmidt (A History of Mutual Respect), Raya Martin (Independencia), Andrei Zvyagintsev (The Return), Johnnie To (Exiled)- all showcasing their latest films. I'll be reporting from Astoria for the next two weeks. Stay tuned!

From Museum of Moving Image Press Release:

Curated by Dennis Lim, Rachael Rakes, and David Schwartz

To start the New Year, the Museum introduces a brand-new showcase for inventive, groundbreaking international cinema. Modest in size but ambitious in scope, First Look is a highly selective group of films that are distinguished by their artistic audacity. Established and emerging directors create new approaches to narrative, documentary, and experimental film, in many cases creating hybrid forms. These films are adventures; not only do they bring us to new places, they offer new ways of seeing the world, and they redefine their medium. Nearly all of the selections are New York premieres, and many are accompanied by personal appearances. In-depth articles about the films will be published on Moving Image Source, the Museum’s multimedia magazine.

First Look at MoMI

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Sea Change

Film Socialisme (2010) - Godard
Intentional or not, Film Socialisme coming out just before the Arab Spring and the collapse of the Greek economy (the ship sails from Egypt to Greece along various ports) is a hearty validation of Godard's acute observations of Europe and its colonial past over his long career. Here Godard sees a giant cruise ship as a metaphor for Europe- decadent, crass, greedy people enjoying luxury largely serviced by non-European workers, sailing an uncharted territory surrounded by ominous, choppy water. But like always, everything is double edged sword in JLG world. Like the British leaving Palestine and Quo Vadis. But the film is much more than that. Incorporating 35mm, grainy videophone, HD stills and youtube videos, he envisions the filmmaking as a democratic medium, hence the title. Does it always work? No. But it's still darn interesting.
Typical Godard techniques are present. But he puts even more emphasis on visual storytelling by putting fractured Navaho English subtitle. One might see this as just another Godard snub against English speaking viewers, but when one watches a Godard film, most of the dialog goes over his head anyway. I thought this was brilliant and a vast improvement from the irritating presence of actual American Indians in Notre Musique. The next text after above screenshot is ...killing Blacks. When watching a JLG film, one can't take his loaded images and texts at face value, for that is not his actual opinions. They are archetypes in a movie, like Gary Cooper in High Noon.
Strangely, a token American featured is singer/poet Patti Smith. Why would she be on a cruise ship? He's just a big fan?
My classical music knowledge is very limited and I don't really know when people talk about symphony in three movements and Film Socialisme. Yes the film is in three parts (but not your typical, concise three act structure). After the first act at sea on a cruise ship, we are introduced to a family in a remote gas station. TV reporters armed with a small video camera hounds every movement of the family. This thinly disguised as Reality TV parody segment features some of the most visually stimulating and perhaps most hopeful scenes.
Always at the dead center of the frame, youth- always epitomized by beautiful teenage girls in his films, are curious, smart, funny and willing companions in discussions who are not 'corrupted by suffering and humiliated by liberty' while acknowledging the past.
The third part of the film starts with montages of war atrocities. There are still much I don't really get- his notion of Nazi gold and Soviets and Odessa Steps are lost on me. Film Socialisme starts out strongly but kind of fizzles at the end. But as always, watching JLG films is always an invigorating experience.

Monday, January 2, 2012

Adapting Norwegian Wood: Tran Anh Hung Interview

When I heard that Tran Anh Hung, the Vietnamese-born auteur of Scent of Green Papaya, Cyclo and I Come with the Rain, was going to be adapting Haruki Murakami's Norwegian Wood back in 2008, I couldn't be happier. I honestly couldn't think of a better match and have been eagerly anticipating its release. With the film's North American release finally slated for January 6th, I had a chance to sit down with Tran for an interview.

As we all know, Haruki Murakami is a literary superstar. How did you get involved with this high-profile project?

I read Norwegian Wood in 1994 and since then, every time I visited Japan I wanted to talk to someone about adapting it. But there was no one to talk to. It turned out that Murakami didn't allow any movie adaptations of his books. Then about 5-6 years ago, the distributor (Sony Pictures) of my film Vertical Ray of the Sun, got in touch with me. They remembered my desire to adapt the book and told me that Murakami just allowed one of his short stories (Tony Takitani) to be adapted, that it might be a good time to try again.

They advised me sending a personal letter to Murakami and that's exactly what I did. He responded, "Okay, come and meet with me in Tokyo." So I spent two days in Tokyo with his team. There were about 12 people at this round table, asking me all kinds of questions in preparation for me to meet with him. But the actual meeting between us was pretty simple. As soon as I started talking about how much I liked the book and why I wanted to adapt it, Murakami stopped me and told me that he wouldn't give the permission to anyone else but me.

Obviously there was a mutual respect between you too.

I think he saw something in my movies that fit with his writing. He made it clear that he was giving it to me, not to the producers. He was very clever putting me in that strong position. He also wanted to read and approve the script and asked for the budget figure.

This was your first time adapting someone else's material. How was that process?

It's quite interesting, because when you are writing your own script, you have to discover various characters' emotions step by step, as you write along. But if you are adapting someone else's, the emotions are already laid out. You just have to translate that on to the screen. It's different.

But it wasn't my first adaptation. There were other projects that didn't happen. That explains why there was 5 year gap between Cyclo and Vertical Ray of the Sun and I Come with the Rain 8 years after that.

I was always wandering about the fact that there are only 5 Tran Anh Hung movies in the last 20 years! Obviously not enough for your fans! What was the project that fell apart? If you don't mind me asking.

It was a great book called Night Dogs by Ken Anderson, about a Vietnam vet, set in 1975, Portland, Oregon. After I read the book, one of those eureka moments happened. I got up one morning and my head was filled with Jimi Hendrix songs. (Claps his hands) Bang! I really wanted to use about 11 Jimi Hendrix songs for that adaptation. It would've been great. It had Adrien Brody, Holly Hunter, Elias Koteas and Harvey Keitel attached...

What happened?

Well, Adrien Brody won the Oscar and didn't want to do it anymore. (Laughs) Actually it was more complicated than that. Canal +, which initially greenlit the project went through a management change. And the new guy said, "If there is any change in this project, we are axing it". Then Adrien dropped out.

Norwegian Wood is essentially a Japanese period film: shot in Japan and with Japanese cast. Did you do any research on that period (1960-70s) of Japan?

No. Not at all. My wife Yen Khe (Tran Nu Yen Khe, luminous actress in all Tran's other films) did costumes and production design for the movie. So we talked a little bit about that. But all the research was for her to do. I didn't feel I needed any research for the characters at all.

I didn't want to have that 'vintage' movie. I didn't want the audience to come out of the theater and go, "I really want that jacket." Same with the furniture. (laughs) For me, it was all about actors and how they convey those emotions.

You worked with Mark Lee (Lee Ping Bin, mainly known for his work in Hou Hsiao Hsien films and Wong Kar Wai's In the Mood for Love) on this project.

Yes. We worked together on Vertical Ray of the Sun and I really wanted him again for the project. When he moves his camera, the psychology of the characters are always on his mind. That aspect of him is quite precious to me. And he is like a big brother. When I'm ever in doubt and need a shoulder to cry upon, he's there for me.

How was directing all Japanese cast?

Very easy. When they are good actors, it's not really much of a problem. I never tell them 'do this or do that'. We talk about the scenes and on the set, I ask them to show me and we go from there. When I asked her (Rinko Kikuchi) to cry in one of the pivotal scenes [when Toru Watanabe (played by Kenichi Matsumura) and Naoko (Kikuchi) make love for the first time, then she disappears the next morning] while, how do you say, not showing too much with her face, you know, while keeping a straight face, she understood in preserving that beauty of the moment. She could pull it off because she is a great, intuitive actress.

The reason I loved the book so much was that it is (for me) the best book I've ever read about the first love experiences. Is that what rang true to you?

Yes, of course. There is an element of danger when you fall in love for the first time. The way you act, each word you say, each gesture, everything you do is so delicate and precious. There is definitely danger in that relationship, like Kizuki (played by Kengo Kora) and Naoko's and later with Watanabe's.

You used Radiohead's music number of times in your previous films and Jonny Greenwood did the soundtrack for this movie. How did it come about?

It was after I heard what Jonny did on There Will be Blood that I had to bring him in. It sounded so different from anything else. Jonny is a serious man and his music reflects that. But he can pull beauty out of the darkness.

So what are you working on now?

It's a complete French movie. It's another adaptation from a book. Honestly, this project will change the way I make movies. But I can't divulge much about it because we are still in negotiations. After that, my producer will need to raise money and all that.

Hopefully I can expect another Tran movie in 2-3 years, sooner maybe?

Yes, lets hope.

My Review of Norwegian Wood

Norwegian Wood opens January 6th in New York, Washington DC and in other cities on January 20th. Check on the movie's official website for more info

Dustin's Top 10 Films 2011

2011 was the year I started regarding cinema a bit more seriously. It was not only because there were better crop of films out, but also because I've got a chance to talk to many of my heroes (thanks to press junket) and felt their passion for filmmaking firsthand. With the help of online film forum buddies and a brand new computer, I was able to watch many of films that were on my wish-list for the longest time. Along the way, I've (re)discovered some of the films and filmmakers that profoundly affected me (among many, Zulawski and Godard come to mind). My love for cinema was re-evaluated and recharged. It was a fruitful and educational year.

*I'd like to thank Leopold (if that is your real name) for directing me to many of new discoveries and being very supportive in everything. I owe you big time, brother.
*And for being amazing source of most of my cinema related activities.

Please click on the titles for full reviews

1. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives - Weerasethakul
Languid, spiritual yet playful, Uncle Boonmee embodies everything I love about cinema right now.

My Interview with Joe

2. Melancholia - von Trier
Character study in grander scale, von Trier doesn't do it with self mutilations or bloody ejaculations this time, but with the demise of all living things. Definitely the most visceral film watching experience this year.

3. Cave of Forgotten Dreams (in 3D) - Herzog
Best use of 3D technology I've seen so far. Herzog's search for that 'ecstatic truth' takes him to a remote cave where 30,000 year old delicate cave drawings are kept. Cave of Forgotten Dreams is a contemplative, beautiful yet funny film in that absurd Herzogian way.

4. Curling - Côté
A nice surprise find. Saw it at NF/ND Series at MoMA this year. There are many great talents in French-Canadian cinema but Denis Côté stands out amongst, at least for me.

5. Project Nim - Marsh
Me Hug Nim.

6. Hanna - Wright
It is refreshing to see a film so unabashedly and knowingly embracing implausibility. The fast-pased actioner starring a pint-sized little girl is impeccably executed and a great fun to watch.

7. Certified Copy - Kiarostami
In Abbas Kiarostami films, you have to expect the unexpected. While contemplating on art and life, he takes you somewhere else entirely different from where you started. Pure Kiarostami Magic!

8. Meek's Cutoff - Reichardt
Understated and not providing any easy answers, Kelly Reichardt gets to do her Aguirre and it's the most welcoming news.

9. Super 8 - Abrams
80s nostalgia piece very well done. I was totally sold on it.

10. Shame - McQueen
With the subject matter about 25 years too late, Brit visual artist Steve McQueen pulls the two of the best performances out of his actors this year. Carey Mulligan's rendition of New York, New York alone is worth the price of admission.

Other fine films: Tomboy, Tabloid, Ringing in Their Ears, Sleeping Beauty, Into the Abyss...


A Zona/Uprise (2008) - Aguilar
A beautifully shot, elliptical film about a loss that is complete opposite of the cinema of Alejandro González Iñárritu in every way. A man visits his dying father in the hospital. He meets a woman there who lost her husband in a car accident. She has a new born baby. With jumbled timeline and flashbacks, we get a glimpse of these people's lives. They have met before, maybe. The most striking shot is the tracking of the darkly lit empty hospital rooms from a guy playing electric guitar. Sandro Aguilar charts a zone between life and death, past and present, and the distance between people. Just as enigmatic, but A Zona one-ups Angela Schanelec by having gorgeous cinematography. A director to look out for in growing Portuguese indie cinema scene.

Anchor Song

Hayat Var/My Only Sunshine (2008) - Erdem
The film begins with a 14 year old school girl Hayat (Elit Iscan) waiting on the dock for her father's little motor boat. It's a choppy ride home, passing by gigantic cargo ships in a busy Istanbul harbor. Erdem sets up his main character's daily routine early on, providing some breathtaking scenery.

Hayat, her no-good father and her bedridden, childish grandfather live in a shack near the water. They barely eke out a living by her father's peddling- using his boat to transport drugs and prostitutes to the sailors while always being under the threat of immediate police arrest. But her dysfunctional home life, bullying at school and sexual harassment from a sleazy shop keeper don't seem to faze Hayat. What's admirable about her is her defiance to the world that is pigeonholing her. Even though she is attention starved, she doesn't want to be treated like a child, nor she wants to be a full pledged woman (even though she is still a thumb sucker and physically on the cusp of womanhood).

Iscan's Hayat is radiantly beautiful and the camera adores her. Erdem takes his time to create a rich character. Hayat Var is filled with the sound constant foghorns, streets, animals, water, breaking glass and Hayat's humming. Also it's beautiful to look at from start to finish. With its hopeful and exhilarating ending, I didn't mind its slow pace.