Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Mother's Love

Child's Pose (2013) - Netzer
 photo 1c8d8075-fdb9-40bb-adef-f04ec21ff4bb_zpsda70c742.jpg
Winner of Golden Bear at the Berlin Film Festival and Romania's official entry for Best Foreign Language Film for this year's Oscar, Calin Peter Netzer's Child's Pose is a riveting family drama spiked with some sharp social commentary that is inherent in the Romanian New Wave. Veteran Romanian actress Luminita Gheorghiu (4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days, The Death of Mr. Lazarescue) gives a remarkable performance as Neli (Cornelia), a well-connected Romanian upper-class professional whose resolve as a mother of a deadbeat son, Barbu (Bogdan Dumitrache) gets tested.

The film opens with Neli's extravagant birthday dinner with many of important government officials attending. She tells her sister that Barbu is not only not showing up for the party, but told her to 'go suck a cock,' and that he wishes that the old generation would die off soon. Her sister tells her that he is too spoiled and she shouldn't pester him all the time. From the beginning, it is obvious that this mother-son relationship is strained beyond repair. Then a few days later, she gets the news that Barbu has run over and killed a child from a poor neighborhood and is in police custody. From then on, Neli uses every connection and power to get Barbu out of jail.

Neli is not an one dimensional caricature of a high society woman who is completely oblivious about class differences. But nonetheless, she remains a concerned mother to a spoiled son, who, now in his thirties, didn't turn out the way she wanted. Even with all the insults Barbu throws at her, she would stick by him and help him get through the hard times, even if that means begging the parents of the dead child for forgiveness in place of him.

Unlike recent class conscious satires like Lucrecia Martel's Headless Woman, Lou Ye's Mystery and even Bong Joon-ho's populist cinema Mother, Child's Pose is much more subtle and down to earth and much less melodramatic. In a typical Romanian New Wave fashion, Netzer favors unhurried, almost documentary like procedural to advance the story. Neli finds the local police difficult to deal with at first, but easily corruptible. Just as the witness of the crime, played here once again at his sleaziest by Vlad Ivanov (the memorable abortion doctor in 4 Months, 3 Days, 2 Days) can change his statement at the right price. With beautifully nuanced script by long time Netzer collaborator Razvan Radulescu (The Death of Mr. Lazarescu), Child's Pose examines mother's obsessive love in the context of social dynamics in modern day Romania.

Child's Pose has a two week exclusive engagement at Film Forum in NYC starting 2/19. It opens in LA on 2/21 and the national roll out will follow.

Book Fetish

Goltzius and the Company (2012) - Greenaway
 photo b75ffd25-9fff-46c8-abef-0b4d0253dfef_zpsc44874c9.jpg
Goltzius and his printing company employees ask a wealthy Italian merchant Margrave (F. Murray Abraham) money so they can continue printing series of high quality eroticas. Margrave agrees to give him the money, only if he and his trope performed 6 plays about 6 sexual taboos based on the Old Testament for his pleasure. Even though Margrave gave his court freedom of speech, the plays are too blasphemous for some to take. To complicate the matter even further, there are constant squabbles in the trope about the roles they play, whether or not to have sex in public (simulated or otherwise) and creative differences. Soon there are casualties for people confusing play with real life.

As usual, Greenaway's aesthetically robust production is visually stunning. He makes the great use of giant old smelting plant with wide lens as a Margrave's palace. All his usual elements are here - book fetish, necrophilia, erect penises, free speech.... Love how he equates Goltzius' endeavor with that of a film director - financing, mananging (and failing) egos on set, fighting censorship, politics dealing with the audiences, etc. But like most Greenaway's stuff, the repeated visual rigor loses its steam and gets tiresome mid-way. The put-on accents of some actors get in the way of dense texts as I tried to understand what's happening half the time. Also, I wish Greenaway stayed away from CG effects since it lessens the impact of his already crowded palate. Still, it's a mesmerizing visual feat.