Friday, October 22, 2010

7 Days with Podz

7 Days (NR) ★★★

Quebec cinema has truly hit a boom the last few years and I do mean that both Commercially and artistically. I'm obviously concerned on the artistic side and director Podz -yep that's how he wants to be called- released earlier this year 7 Days, which is quite a gruesome experience. I wouldn't exactly call it a great movie but Podz' visual style is very assured and overcomes the scripts' lapses in sappiness towards its finale. This comes at at time when Denis Villeneuve's Incendies is storming Quebec and -I bet- will storm the world with recent news that it was picked up by Sony Pictures Classics for a 2011 release and was also chosen as Canada's entry for the Best Foreign film Oscar. Back to Podz' film, it concerns a couple that have just lost their via a sick pedophiles murderous tendencies. The father decides to exact revenge on the pedophile buy torturing him throughout the film and those scenes are brutal but invigoratingly real and truthful.

The best thing I can say about this film is that it asks the question how far would you go to revenge a thing such as murder or sexual abuse, you begin to see the consequences and wonder if it is all worth it after all. I won't go into detail as to what I thought was right or wrong but suffice to say this is thought provoking stuff for the most part. For the most part. Meaning, I had a few minor quibbles with the direction the movie would take from time to time, instead of focusing on the two men, it would at times linger away to the police chief looking for them. Even worse there's a dreamlike sequence film's end that did not belong there and is the sort of sappiness I was referring to at the beginning. but really this is just good stuff and I recommend just for the curiosity factor. It premiered at Sundance earlier this year and might get some sort of release in the months ahead.

To dream the dream or nightmare

Le Festival Du Noueau Cinema Day (Day 6)

Mike Leigh, one of the greatest directors alive, has built a career over lower British class dreams and nightmares. His filmography reads like a master class in cinema (Naked, Secrets & Lies, Happy Go Lucky) and add his latest, Another Year, to that list of his best movies. It's a real treat to watch Leigh direct a film such as this one, cause there really isn't any other filmmaker that does movies like Leigh does anymore. His way of making movies is simple, yet affective. He gives us a slice of life in British society, a melange of characters and vignettes that are designed to be character and societal studies. Another Year is a character study of 3 main people. A couple in their 60's called Tom and Gerri (played by Jim Broadbent/Ruth Sheen) and Mary, an alcoholic, depressed, middle aged woman that works with Gerri in an office an has a thing for her son.

Lesley Manville plays Mary and it's a knockout performance that will likely get awarded by year's end. Manville, in her fourth decade of acting and a Leigh regular, might have just given the performance of the year with this one. Another Year rests on the shoulders of her character as its dramatic and comedic centerpiece. Don't get me wrong, Broadbent and Sheen are incredibly subtle and effective but Manville does Leigh proud in investing her heart and soul into a destructive and touching characterization of alcoholism and depression. I loved how she could change the expressions on her face so effortlessly, it's a performance that goes along well with Leigh's bravura filmmaking.

Another film that has gotten much buzz here is Jean Luc Godard's latest, Film Socialisme- which I can't really explain cause, well I didn't really understand it + the buzz is mostly coming from the name Godard alone. I guess that's the point Godard was trying to make in his attempt to put out themes and stories that are clearly in his head these days. What themes might you ask? well I guess that's what I'm trying to say, the themes are never pronounced very clearly but only hinted at in context. It's a mess of a film but will clearly get eaten up by folks that have liked some of his later career fare, I haven't necessarily cuddled up to those films just so you know my stance. It's a real shame that Godard has resorted to making movies such as this one because you can still see immense talent in the shots he gives us in this film, there is a visionary flair that has not been lost over the years by the Breathless director. His lack of plot or story is a real shame, he refuses to gives us anything straightforward because, as I understand, he has lost all hope in contemporary movie making and probably thinks it is a lost art. To each his own I guess.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Festival Du Nouveau Cinema (Day 4)

Gaspar Noe never seems to settle for a conventional narrative. His latest is called Enter The Void and runs at more than 160 minutes. It is long, flawed, repetitive but is also something I have never seen before in cinema and I do mean that as a good thing. If he shocked us all with a 10 minute rape scene in Irreversible, the shock is not as nasty here but he instead decides to resort to trippy psychedelia and images that represent an other worldly existence. His inspiration is clearly Kubrick, most notably the last 20 or so minutes of 2001 expanded into 2 hours. Although there is a story at hand here and a clear belief of an after life.

Taking place in Japan, the film uses the colorful scenery of the country to tell the story of two Americans -brother and sister- that are literally lost in translation. The brother, Oscar (Nathaniel Brown) has turned into a junkie that is hooked on the drug DMT (the chemical your brain unleashes when you're dying) and his sister Linda has resorted to stripping for money- she also has a semi creepy affair with her Japanese manager. The brother gets shot and basically waders around the entire film in an undisclosed life form going through flashbacks, present time and another dimension.

Talking about creepy, there's hints of Incest throughout the film although it never really is revealed what that's all about. Suffice to say, I dug this film quite a bit because of its visionary reaches and the way Noe tries to bring a new way of expression to a cinematic medium that has all but failed in inventiveness the last few years. There's no short of originality here, although I felt completely drained by the time the film had ended. It's an experience that you will likely not forget, to say the least.

Romanian cinema has just been boomin' the last few years, what with that incredible stunner 4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days garnering worldwide acclaim in 2007 and of course The Death Of Mr. Lazarescu. I had high expectations for Radu Muntean's Tuesday After Christmas which explores infidelity with long takes and a retainment of emotions. So far, so good right? and for the most part it is but there's only so much you could do with the a story about adultery and with the limitations Muntean sets out. The man in the marriage is cheating on the family dentist's assistant. even worse, Christmas is around the corner and our old buddy is thinking of making a decision that will likely change his life in a major way. Starring Dragos Bucur as the husband, Maria Popistasu a the mistress and the brilliant Mirela Oprisor as the lost and bewildered wife, a memorable performance that sneaks up into you. A Pitch perfect ending helps the film hve a bit more of a groove near its conclusion. A bewildering film I will likely need to thoroughly think about.

Greg Araki's new film has not found a distributor since its auspicious debut at Cannes in early may, which kind of sucks considering I enjoyed many parts of it. It's just a plain old, goofy, stoner comedy with lots of female (and male) flesh. Kaboom will not change the world and will likely not get the cult or critical acclaim Araki managed to get with his last film (Mysterious Skin) but Kaboom has enough interesting bits that I'd recommend it for a night of good old debauchery. Its College humor is unlike any comedy out there- whereas its last 20 minutes are so ridiculous that you need to just uncheck your brain and go along with whatever is fed to you. It all has to do with these damn cookies our main protagonist devours at a party. Lesson of the day- NEVER EAT COOKIES YOU DID NOT BAKE YOURSELF.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Festival Du Nouveau Cinema (Days 2 & 3)

Not that I should complain much but Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu's latest film is a real downer I tell you. Oh is it ever. Then again, his first 3 films (Amorres Perros, 21 Grams & Babel) wouldn't qualify either as feel good cinema. His latest is called Biutiful and it has an incredible lead performance from Javier Bardem. In fact, I'd shocked, just shocked I tell ya if he didn't get a Best Actor nomination. He plays Uxball, a man that has to take care of his two children because his ex-wife has lost custody since well, she's an alcoholic. To make matters worst, Uxball is dying of cancer and there are quite a few scenes in the film that umm show his symptoms in quite a direct, in your face manner (blood with urine). The man also makes a living with numerous jobs, most of them illegal such as helping out illegal Chinese and Senegali immigrants. Oh and he can see things too, by seeing things I mean he can actually SEE things, dead people and such- he gets payed by desperate families at funeral homes to try to relay messages from their loved lost ones.

All in all, it's an exhausting experience that definitely is not perfect by any stretch of the imagination. What makes it worth seeing is Bardem, who's Uxball is slowly but surely losing his mind and disintegrating on screen, his weight lowering, his eyes getting sleepier and his lip moving less and less. Bardem never loses sight of his characters' fight to leave his children with a better life once the cancer has taken him down. The film's flaws are marked and noticed but Bardem fights them all at once with his knockout performance. Now I just wish Inarritu, a talented filmmaker, can make a fresher movie next time around, one that does not involve the predictable disintegration of a lead character ala 21 Grams or Babel. His pleasure in making films about suffering and death is starting to get to me. Then again it might just be like telling Peckinpah to stop making violent movies or Lynch to stop dreaming about dreams.

Another film that came into the fest with some heavy buzz is Claire Denis' White Material which recently screened at the New York Film Festival. Denis comes back to Africa with this one and casts Isabelle Huppert as a woman that resides in Africa with a Coffee Bean business at her disposal. Of course, Coffee has nothing to do with the picture. In fact, African Civil War is the layout of this excitingly tense and violent picture. Huppert's family is dysfunctional to say the least, her husband (played by Christopher Lambert) tries to negotiate a deal with the mayor, her father in law just wanders around the house like a lazy bum and her son, well let's just say her son goes crazy and wanders off in thin air, disappearing into the African night.

Compared to Denis' other films, this is conventional stuff. Then again, it is nevertheless an interesting piece of cinema done by one of the great filmmakers around. The violence that Denis shows us is brutal, as child soldiers roam on the streets, not scared to attack or kill a civilian. The setting is pitch perfect and brings back Denis to a childhood she clearly remembers in colonial Africa. There are scenes that are unforgettable here, yet the mystery that lingers in almost all her other films is missing. Instead she decides to tell her story in a conventionally paced manner and doesn't feel the need to bring a little more of her trademark nasty darkened mystery. This is a well recommended picture but clearly not one of her best.

Another picture I saw was Carl Bessai's Fathers And Sons and it is one of those movies that you see every once in a while at a film fest. I'm talking about the kind of movie that makes you wonder why it was picked to be in the damn program. Its interwoven story lines all have to do with, well guess Mr. rocket scientist, fathers and sons. There's an Indian family, a Jewish family, an Irish family and a black family. All this and maybe I should have just chugged that glass of wine to make the pain go away a bit. uggh next time.

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