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.