Thursday, August 30, 2012


Gespenster/Ghosts (2005) - Petzold
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I don't like those intricate puzzle piece films where all the elements neatly tie together and where everything gets explained at the end. Christian Petzold's Gespenster (Ghosts) is a beautifully structured film without sacrificing much of its enigmatic quality. And it's also mad affecting.

A sullen young girl Nina (Julia Hummer) who lives in a group home, witnesses Toni (Sabine Timoteo) getting physically assaulted by a couple of roughnecks in an wooded park. Lonely Nina is at once infatuated with Toni, a hard edged, snarling bad girl, who is in turn, unafraid of taking advantage of Nina and everything else. Then there is Françoise (Marianne Basler), a mentally disturbed French woman in Berlin, looking for her long lost daughter.

There is a revealing scene with Nina where she talks about her dream in her tiny voiced monologue- Toni is her best friend, protector & lover and it's been that way for a long time, even before they met.
Toni is her desire incarnate. There are desirers and desirees. There is fantasy and there is real life. The lines among them blurs in Gespenster, but not in an ethereal, non-sensical way. Nothing feels deliberate in a world Petzold creates.

Timoteo is a force of nature. Her cold stare breaks your heart a thousand times and her smile amends it a thousand before she breaks it again. But it's Hummer who shines in a demanding role as both desirer and desiree. It's a sad film. Nina is the Red Riding Hood or Alice who ends up exactly in the same place where she started. The implication of Nina being a ghost (not in physical sense) deeply affected me more than any other films I've seen in recent years.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Life as It Is

High School (1968) - Wiseman
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I like Wiseman's matter of fact approach to his subjects. He must have spend a lot of time around them, because no one's looking at the camera, no one does anything out of ordinary. It's High School kids being High School kids in 1968 which was kind of crazy times. These mostly white kids in the North Eastern High, Philadelphia, are smart enough to admit that they are in a bubble- well protected and well off. It's endearing to see High School in the media saturated age of reality shows and High School Musical and Glee and Skins. From a tough gym teacher with a crew cut to a wisecracking gynecologist in sex ed., to a blowhardy, disapproving parent of a student at the Teacher & Parents conference, everything seems authentic and rings true. A great doc.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Germany's Reincarnation

Germany Year 90 Nine Zero (1991) - Godard
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The film is Godard's contemplation of Germany after the fall of the Berlin Wall. The aged Lemmy Caution (Eddie Constantine) from Alphaville, slated as the last spy, marooned in East Germany, wanders across grey landscapes asking in French, "Which way is the west?" to equally confused bystanders. There are no similarities between the two films. Godard merely re-appropriates Caution as the archetype of cold war (in itself a parody) whose stone carved face stood on a solid ground and even more solid philosophy. Some thirty years later, he is nothing more than a relic and out of his element.

Godard is as critical of the failure of communism in the East as the Germany's Fascist past and rampant capitalism of the West. With jarring grey old film clips playing constantly sped up or slowed down and the classical music soundtrack by the greats- Liszt, Mozart, Bach, 90 Nine Zero is also contemplates the decline of culture and art. It works better in the last third when Caution finally reaches the West. He notices an East German girl he saw before, working as a maid in a fancy hotel he is staying in. He asks, "So you wanted to be free, huh?" and she answers, "Work makes you free (Arbeit macht frei)," which was the trademark of the concentration camp slogan. It is fitting even in the opulent west. With the soundtrack by Mozart, Liszt and Bach, 90 Nine Zero is yet another beautiful, biting one by Godard.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


Another Lomokino film by me, starring our friends Lisa, Jodi and my lady Nicole. Lisa and Jodi were gracious enough to invite us on their sailing expeditions. This is dedicated to you guys. You are awesome!

Sunday, August 19, 2012

The Rat is the New Unit of Currency!

Cosmopolis (2012) - Cronenberg
Faithful word by word to Don DeLillo's source material, Cronenberg breezes through the one day in the life of the master of free market Eric Packer (Robert Pattinson). Spending most of his screen time in an indistinguishable white stretch limo, surrounded by glowing screens of charts and numbers and the interior design straight out of Prometheus, Packer conducts his daily business there. The president is in town. The streets are packed, with cars, protesters and ordinary people you will barely see or hear. It is Packer's universe we are living in, not the other way around.

There is a tangible threat to Packer's life, according to his high-tech security team. But he really need to go across town to get a haircut. Dialog is stilted and encounters are stagey just like in many of the other Cronenberg films. He is betting against Yuan (whatever that means) and by the end of the film he would be penniless. His demeanor doesn't change- he doesn't get hysterical or have a sudden epiphany. Detached as ever, his death wish gets fulfilled in the hand of a former employee (Paul Giamatti) living in a squalid building.

Cronenberg brilliantly captures DeLillo's take on the hideous amount of wealth accumulated by the Wall Street types before the crash. Packer's glass kingdom is done in not by the global protest movement, but by him questioning himself 'what's all this for?' He needs constant physical act to feel something- screwing, being voluntarily tased , shooting through his own hand. Juliette Binoche shows up for a quicky, only to be told by him to make an offer to buy an entire chapel filled with Rotko paintings, Samantha Morton drops in as his chief theorist and Matthieu Amalric cameos as the world's greatest pieing activist. Pattinson is perfect as a dead-eyed 28 year old master of the universe and the rest of the casting, impeccable like everything else about the film- sound design, cinematography, etc. You can take Cosmopolis as the driest black comedy in years- it's hilarious. One of the year's best.

Friday, August 17, 2012


Three Crowns of the Sailor (1983) - Ruiz
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A sailor (Jean-Bernard Guillard) promises his job to a fresh faced student who just murdered his employer for no good reason and needs to escape. All he wants in return is three Dutch crowns (croners?) and have his story listened to. Ruiz's take on Ship of the Dead is a nasty riddle. His play on the nature of narrative 'storytelling' is not meant to be satisfying- episodic stories within stories within stories never pan out. Rather, they go around in circles then change directions at a moment's notice. His typical visual style- wide lens, no depth of field trickery adds to our confusion and its dreamlike imagery and colors are constantly dazzling (Shot by Sacha Vierny of The Last Year at Marienbad and many of Peter Greenaway films). After a while you give in, and have his symbolic images wash over you, wondering how it will all end. Not as mesmerizing as City of Pirates, but Ruiz's filmography is definitely something I can see myself getting into.


In a Year of 13 Moons (1978) - Fassbinder
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It's Fassbinder's version of Will O' the Wisp. Only in his version, the alchoholic protagonist is a fat, pathetic tranny Erwin/Elvira (Volker Spengler). She is first seen being verbally abused by her not around much anymore live-in boyfriend Christophe. It is apparent that his love for her is long gone and the same scene has played out many times before. We follow her for the final few days of her life as she encounters the assortment of people from her past and strangers whom she engages in philosophical conversations about life and death. Elvira's back story (all told breathlessly by others) is as dramatic as it gets - a boy who was abandoned at an early age and grew up in an orphanage ran by nuns where he learned to lie to please affection-hungry nuns. After he learned that there was no chance for him to get adapted, he became a sullen young man. While working for a butcher, he married a butcher's daughter and had a daughter with her. But after an offhand remark of a handsome meat market runner (now a ruthless industrialist Anton Saitz, played by young Gottfried John), that he would love Erwin back if he were a woman, Erwin flew to Casablanca and had a sex change operation and became Elvira.

In a Year of 13 Moons is filled with long monologue, absurd humor, spurts of raw emotions, many elegant visuals and lots of nutty characters. Spengler shines as a tragic heroine who made some grave mistakes in search of love and forced to live with the consequences. Not sure I want to try any more Fassbinder, but 13 Moons is an interesting, if not exhausting experience.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Love in the Time of Hope, Love in the Time of Fear

Beloved/Les Bien-Aimes (2011) - Honoré
After 2007's Love Songs, writer/director Christophe Honoré tackles musical comedy genre again, with a deeply personal film, Beloved. This time it's a period piece with the legendary Catherine Deneuve and the famed Czech director Milos Forman, along with his regular set of collaborators- Louis Garrel, Chiara Mastroianni and Ludivine Sagnier. Mastroianni, last seen in the title role of Lena in Honoré's 2009 non-musical, Making Plans for Lena, takes another leading role here, as a woman slogging through a messy love life in a sinister decade we call the 90s. As in Lena, she is mesmerizing in this.

The film also reunites real life mother-daughter team playing mother-daughter -Deneuve and Mastroianni appeared together in two films- André Téchiné's My Favorite Season and Arnaud Desplechin's Christmas Tale, but never in forefront and intimate way as their relationship is portrayed here.

The sprawling film examines loves in two different eras: Madeleine (portrayed by Sagnier and later by Deneuve) goes through somewhat naive yet free-love decade of the 60s and and Vera (Mastroianni), the AIDS and terror stricken 90s - 2000s, the time of fear in many ways. Honoré does a good job in conveying the former decade very economically and effectively, referencing his hero Jacques Demy's pastel color palette (shoes and raincoats) for Paris and a lone Soviet tank in the street for Prague (The Russian Invasion of Czechoslovakia, 1968).

So it's the 90s. Things are more complicated, if not emotionally but in being intimate with someone. After aggressively pursuing a handsome American musician Henderson (Paul Schneider), Vera finds out that he is gay. That doesn't stop them from having a meaningful, long distance relationship. But for Vera, it means a lot of fear, uncertainty and unhappiness.

Milos Forman, the esteemed Czech New Waver, known mostly for his award winning American films (One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, Amadeus, People vs. Larry Flynt) turns up as Jaromil, Madeleine's old flame. Gregarious and uninhibited, Forman's performance gives an unexpected jolt to the film.

is a dense, literary film that could've been a novel (a sizable 500 pager at least). Honore manages it in 135 minutes, still, the longest in his filmography. Not everything works perfectly- the period settings make the film less fluid and inhibited in terms of character dynamics compared to the present setting and immediacy of Love Songs.

At the end, despite the unconditional support and love from her parents, Vera, fraught with unrequited love, self destructs. Both of Honoré musicals turn out to be about grieving, not the happiest subject in musical comedy genre. But Alex Beaupain's music continues to be lovely and light and catchy lyrics reflect the feelings of these lovelorn characters very well.

is an ambitious film and has a lot to admire, especially for its emotional resonance and unconventional playfulness. It's one of the more memorable French films I've seen in a long while.

Beloved opens Friday Aug 17 at IFC Center and Lincoln Plaza Cinema in NY. Director Christophe Honoré will be on hand for 6:55pm screenings on Aug 17- 18 at IFC Center. For more information and tickets, please visit IFC Center website.

Christophe Honoré Interview

christophe Honor�©
With his sprawling new musical Beloved, starring Catherine Deneuve, Chiara Mastroianni, Ludivine Sagnier, Louis Garrel and Milos Forman(!) getting a limited release in North America, I sat down with writer/director Christophe Honoré, a former columnist of Les Cahiers du Cinema and the French New Waver's heir apparent.

I went to the screening of Beloved with my mother-in-law, who is 70 years old and a big fan of musicals, Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Catherine Deneuve and all that. The film takes place in the 1960s and the 1990s spanning two generations. It's very literary, dense and much longer than your previous films. How did it all come about?

Before I answer that, what did your mother-in-law think about it?

She loved it.

Good. It's important for me to know because first and foremost, the film is from a first person's point of view. It concerns my parents' generation and mine. I can imagine what it was like but I can't be one hundred percent sure when it comes to portraying their perspective. So it is interesting for me to know how it rings for somebody who is actually from that generation.

She was saddened by the later part of the story. But we agreed after the film that there isn't really a difference in how we experience love no matter what decades we were in. She really loved it.

It was a project for me of course. In my parents' generation, there were the pills, the sexual liberation, etc., that the feeling of love was linked to hope. Where as for me whose sex life took off in the late 80s, it was a lot different. With AIDS, love was not associated with hope but with fear. We had to be watchful.

Now that I'm a father, I realize how nerve wracking it must've been to be a parent of an adolescent in that time period. Me as a gay person, starting to go out into the world, I can only imagine how my parents felt.

Even though we have this grand ideal that love is eternal and everything, but our intimate lives are shaped by our surroundings in that particular time. And that's why I was interested in this block of time to see how the characters were coping with their intimate lives.

This was the first time you were doing a period piece, correct?

Yes, but I'm not really sure there will be a next time.


For me, it is very difficult to reconstruct a certain period. It is difficult for me because I realize that I like working in the present. Doing a period piece means that I have to artificially reconstruct whatever the time periods, and it's not something I really like to do.

Was choosing these two decades any way influenced by you being a father?

Of course, it's drawn from my life and anything I write is influenced by it. Though I guess what's missing from this film is the ensuing (younger) generation. I did have characters Justin in Montreal and Omar in London who are younger and have their particular relationships in regard to their homosexuality but a lot of their scenes are cut in the editing process.

The problem is that you still don't want to have that reflexive censoring of yourself when you have children and family. Before shooting Beloved I shot a short film called Man at Bath. It was shot during the course of a week and it's very sexual and absolutely not for children. I hope I'll never make something that is 'parent of a student' film, something that my daughter will be proud of me later on when she sees it. I'd prefer to make something that she'd feel a little ashamed of me. (laughs)


It was good to see all the actors you worked with before again in Beloved- Ludivine Sagnier, Louis Garrel and Chiara Mastroianni of course. But I didn't expect to see Milos Forman there and singing! How did that come about?

Well I wanted a Czech actor who is Catherine Deneuve's generation. Unfortunately, there aren't many Czech actors from that generation still working. I kept saying, to casting directors that I needed someone like Milos Forman. Then I thought, 'Hey, I should just write to him and ask him'. And I think he was really happy to come back to France and to see Catherine again. Because when the (Soviet) tanks came into Prague, it was two French directors- François Truffaut and Claude Berri who drove up to Prague and rescued Milos and his family and brought them to France. So he has that relationship with French cinema. It was also the time when Truffaut was very close to Catherine. So I think all that played a role in him accepting my proposal.

What about the singing part? How did he react to the suggestion?

I had sent him my previous film Love Songs and he was gracious enough to tell me that he liked it. And I think he likes Beloved. He told me that I take a lot of risks in making films. I think he is someone who is very joyous in relationship to cinema. At no point on the set he made any comments that put pressure on me. I mean, he's done some amazing films and I was very self-conscious about him being there. But he is very much like Catherine- they both have a genuine respect for cinema and at the same time, they don't take it too seriously.

Once they realize that you hold the bar high and have high expectations, they jump right in and are very easy to work with. Because at the end of the day, you don't really know how exactly things will turn out in films.

How is the collaboration process with Alex Beaupain?

Alex is someone I've known since we were kids. He wanted to be a singer and I wanted to be a filmmaker and we feel very lucky that we've become what we wanted to be. So it's always fun to blend our stuff together and what better than a musical comedy.

I work in parallel with him from the beginning of the script and when I see a dialog that would work better as a song, I send it to him with general melodies I'm looking for. Since he is really fast, he sends me songs with some skeletal piano accompaniment within few days. And as I work on the script, I just integrate the songs into it, so when the script is finished, it's all there, ready to go.

I spent my twenties in the 90s. Everyone tells me that the 90s were the modern Dark Age for culture. I want to know what your take on that decade is.

I don't really agree with that sentiment. Certainly not in America since there were many great filmmakers in the 90s there. On the other hand in France, it's clear we were on the decline. Obviously French cinema is no longer a leader aesthetically or from an industrial standpoint. I would say Asian cinema was the leader in the late 90s and early 2000s.

When I started making films, there was a general reactionary movement harkening back to the old times. The values that are put on cinema today in France are the same as, I would say, during the war (WWII) and just after the war. What it means is that the filmmaking today is at odds with the spirit of the New Wave. So what I'm trying to say through my films is that the golden age of French cinema was the New Wave and I want to keep that spirit alive. But I realize that's a very minority viewpoint.

It is 2012 already and I wonder if there will be any difference in the post-Sarkozy era in French cinema?

In any case, French cinema that works abroad now is very Sarkozian cinema- like the Artist. If you look at the Artist, it corresponds with the idea of cinema that is really to the right of Sarkozy. I'd say right now the filmmakers who are revered, like Jacques Audiard, do very bling-bling kind of cinema. And that's not really what I strive for as an artist. But I have to say those kind of cinema works- it gets prizes and do well abroad, etc. So from the outside perspective they are what the best of French cinema can offer. I don't know if the change of political scenery will bring change in the value of cinema. But I don't think it's an accident that that kind of cinema is lauded when Sarkozy took over.

Let's hope it does.

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Dying of a Broken Heart

Stellet Licht/Silent Light (2007) - Reygadas
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I’m still not convinced Carlos Reygadas is a great director. Yes, I get his Bressonian use of non-actors to convey real truth in human interactions. Yes, he is arguably one of the most technically daring contemporary directors that got me excited about current Latin American filmmakers. In Reygadas universe, those exchanges with true human feelings seem to be existing in extremes (and therefore everywhere?) – in Japon, it is in improbable September-December romance, in Battle in Heaven, it’s in btwn rich/beauty and poor/ugly. In Stellet Licht, it’s in an isolated Mennonite community in Mexico.

Johan, a Mennonite farmer, father of six, is having an affair with Marianne. He told his quietly suffering wife Esther when the affair began. He tells his father and best friend that he made a mistake marrying Esther because Marianne is a better match for him. Even though it's wrong, he just can’t end the relationship. It's been two years like that.

For Reygadas film, Stellet Licht is a surprisingly subtle one. It starts out with five minute long take of dawn breaking. The camera slowly rotates from the star studded sky down to the horizon then dollies slowly forward with the sound of barnyard beasts breaking its morning orchestra of insects: the scene is truly a virtuosic filmmaking. There are many measured, beautiful sequences throughout the film. His non-actors bring out some genuinely moving moments also.

Then the magic realism ending comes around and Reygadas leaves everything up to the audience to decide what to make of it. There are some indications to this conclusion- when Johan and Marianne were having one of their last rendez-vous in a small room, a leaf falls from the ceiling. Surely without that ending, the Stellet Licht is nothing but some technical brilliance and turgid melodrama. I haven't seen Carl Theodore Dreyer's Ordet which Reygadas pays an homage to. Maybe it's my cynicism that got a better of me. I just can't easily buy into films that someone dying of a broken heart anymore. I can see the beauty in the modern fairytale, but it's very hard to swallow.

Sing Your Sorrows Away!

Les chansons d'amour/Love Songs (2007) - Honoré
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So this is my second Honoré musical I saw about grieving. Unlike Beloved which was a time specific, period piece if you will (unless you count large plastered Sarkozy poster on the street), Love Songs feels more fluid and less cluttered (maybe not emotionally). Ismael (Louis Garrel) and Julie (Ludivine Sagnier) are involved in menáge a trois with Ismael's co-worker Alice (Clotilde Hesme). Julie's family with three grown up daughters likes goofy Ismael but can't really understand the relationship. One night at a club, Julie suffers a cardiac arrest and dies. Julie's family wants Isamael's help to cope with grief, especially the older sister Jeanne (Chiara Mastroianni), but he is having a hard time his own, trying to fill the vacuum with a young waitress or a smitten High School boy.

As usual, Honoré's strength is in the well developed, evenly important characters. No one seems out of place or two dimensional. Alex Beaupain's light music is quite beautiful and matches well with the poignancy of dialog- "I'm the bridge between your banks/Your quarrels leave me cold/Trample me and rub my flanks/I'll stay here and grow old," "Love me less/But love me a long time." The musical comedy genre makes things lighter and keeps the movie afloat from becoming too schmaltzy, but I love the idea of singing your sorrows away. A good one.

Thursday, August 9, 2012


Eat, for This Is My Body/Mange, Ceci est Mon Coup (2007) - Quay
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It starts with an aerial shot of Haiti- swooping over the coastal area, shanty towns, finally reaching at arid mountain range. A singer's falsetto turns into moans of a very pregnant woman in labor. Then it is documentary style Haitian life in the gutter- the water bubbles with trash and sewage, mix of exquisitely composed and handheld scene of voodoo dancing. Then we move to a grand mansion. There lies an ancient, white woman who doubles as mother nature/white colonialism. Her daughter, played by Silvie Testud, is the matron of the house. A gaggle of black boys visit the house, get haircuts, bathed and dressed. They learn to say "Merci" over and over and over again by Mme. In the hands of Michelange Quay, a Haitian director, Mange, Ceci est Mon Coup is often visually stunning but too on the nose on Haiti's tumultuous colonial history. Lots of milk drinking & bathing, black bodies against white fingers, lots of nudity, etc, hints at Black/White relationship, visually contrasted here with very white Testud entertaining a group of young boys- both suggestively sexual and demeaning. Slow panning shots and visual associations have hypnotic power but not so subtle symbolism gets in the way. Still, interesting mix of techniques makes the film worth the trip.

Brothers Quay at MoMA

Starting August 12, 2012 through January 7, 2013, The Museum of Modern Arts (MoMA) is presenting a comprehensive look at the work of the renowned moving-image artists and designers the Quay Brothers. Quay Brothers: On Deciphering the Pharmacist's Prescription for Lip-Reading Puppets features over 300 pieces including never-before-seen cross-disciplinary works and a complete film and video retrospective.

From MoMA's press release:

The Museum of Modern Art presents Quay Brothers: On Deciphering the Pharmacist's Prescription for Lip-Reading Puppets, the first major retrospective encompassing the full range of work by the Quay Brothers, August 12, 2012 - January 7, 2013. The identical twin brothers have labored together in their London studio, Atelier Koninck, for over 30 years, creating avant-garde stop-motion puppet animation, live-action films, and graphic design that challenge easy categorization. Quay Brothers: On Deciphering the Pharmacist's Prescription for Lip-Reading Puppets presents full scope of their achievements: animated and live-action films (including never-before-seen early work), puppets, décor, drawings, paintings, graphic projects, calligraphic works, and installations. The exhibition is organized by Ron Magliozzi, Associate Curator, Department of Film, The Museum of Modern Art.

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Early years: The twins with their mother

This massive exhibition tells an improbable narrative of aspiring illustrator twins from Philadelphia ending up in the stop-motion animation field- all because on their way to Amsterdam, their final destination, they were sidetracked in London by getting a grant for an animation project from the British Film Institute. Lucky for us fans of their amazing stop-motion work, they basically fell into it.

This Unnamable Little Broom, Little Songs of the Chief Officer of Hunar Louse, décor

Not only their work, but the exhibition devotes a large portions to their early influences- the works of naturalist painter Rudolf Freund, Polish surrealist posters, the Polish film director/animator Walerian Borowczyk and of course, the Czech master Jan Svankmajer.

Stille Nacht II: Are We Still Married? puppets

Duet Emmo, Or So It Seems

The Calligrapher

Occupying MoMA's two floors, On Deciphering the Pharmacist's Prescription for Lip-Reading Puppets' labyrinthine set up is filled with their paintings, drawings, book and record covers, puppets, scale set designs and a great number of cabinets of curiosities- seen through magnifying holes, and projections of their short film and video work, add to that the screenings of their entire filmography- shorts, two feature length live-action films, commercials, dance films, music videos, documentaries; one should prepare spending a whole day in the museum.

Doll Funiture, from The Piano Tuner of Earthquakes, décor

Black Drawings

O Inevitable Fatum, Rehearsals for Extinct Anatomies, décor

At the brief Q & A session with the press, the Quay Brothers appear reserved and thoughtful in their measured responses. With their long and lean figures, the twins possess a distinct other-worldliness. When asked if they ever argued while working on a project, they said they never disagree. Often finishing each others sentences, they always seem to be in perfect sync.

Stephen and Timothy Quay

Bradley Rust Gray's film Jack and Diane (which will be released in the fall) features new stop-motion animation sequences by the Quays.

Prior to the exhibition's opening on Aug 12, there will be a screening of the new 35mm print of the Quay Brothers' luminous first feature (and one of my all time favorites), Institute Benjamenta, or This Dream Which People Call Human Life, on Aug 9, 7pm.

For more information and tickets, please visit MoMA website

Monday, August 6, 2012

People are People

The Red Chapel (2009) - Brüger
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A very promising premise: 3 Danish comedians travel to North Korea to pull a Borat style stunt in front of stunned, humorless audience. Mads Brügger doesn't come close to achieving that goal. It's not even that funny. But instead, The Red Chapel becomes something else entirely.

The Red Chapel, comprised of two Korean-Danes- brawny Simon Jul Jørgensen and spastic Jacob Nossell who's bound to a wheelchair most of the time and managed by Brügger, arrives in North Korea under the guise of a cultural exchange act and set to perform a traditional Danish comedy act (whatever that means) that's all fart gags and involves singing Wonder Wall. The idea gets shot down by NK Cultural Ministry bigwigs. Brügger, deathly afraid of blowing the cover, compromises on everything with authorities despite Simon & Jacob's protests. It becomes something else when Nossell has a breakdown and refuses to comply with Brüger's deception. For Brüger, there are no moral scruples- North Korean regime kills its own citizens and they are thoroughly brainwashed and pretending to live in worker's paradise. And we see the evidences of that time and time again: adorable but robotic little children can't seem to stop waving at the camera. Mrs. Pak, assigned to be the translator and the shadow of the crew, breaks down in tears whenever the late Great Leader is mentioned.

Young Nossell (18 at the time) realizes Pyungyang's two faced niciety and is horrified by it. There is a scene where Brüger and the crew is pressured to march with the huge military march commemorating Korean War (for them, instigated by the imperialist US). Brüger has no problem shouting slogans with his fist in the air- it's gonna look great in the film. However, Nossell can't bring himself to be part of it. Obviously both Mads and North Koreans try to manipulate him for their own benefit. The whole footage of them marching is on the State owned TV that night.

What Brüger doesn't realize is that for N Koreans, the nationalistic fervor overcomes everything, including famine, personal freedom, even their own death. Pak's maternalistic, genuine niciety toward invalid Nossell is touching too. Nossell tries to put Pak in the corner when he says that everyone he meets is beautiful, asks her to meet other invalids in his slurred English (North Koreans kill off their invalids at birth to show their purity and strength as people) but decides to save face at the end, saying, "maybe next time." Only part that made me smile was a group of pretty teen girl performers playing with Nossell and Jørgensen. It shows that their ideology maybe different, but young people behave the same way everywhere. Even though he failed to capture what he set out to do, Brüger reveals a lot about the hermit kingdom in The Red Chapel: people are people.