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Sunday, November 11, 2007

Banshun (Late Spring)


This 1949 Yasujiro Ozu film is a film that many consider as Ozu’s best and is the first one of a series of films about families. It tells the story of a widowed father and a mid twenties years old daughter that live happily together caring one for the other. But Noriko, the daughter, is well above the marriage age and has to get married even if she does not want to, as she doesn’t want to leave her father alone and assume the resposibilities of married life. That’s the story, but actually this movie is about anger, passion, humiliation, resentment and unhappiness and you’ll be able to see all this feelings with the great performance by one of Ozu’s favorite actresses Setsuko Hara that plays Noriko.

For about 45 minutes you will be able to see how happy they live in the daily postwar Japanese life, where “modern” women were just starting to emerge and Japanese society was also starting to transform itself. But traditions are traditions and as the father says (I’m paraphrasing) “that’s the way humans are and their history” meaning that there is a moment when you have to do what you’re supposed to do: get married and start your new life. So, the second part of the movie the feelings start to expose themselves in the face of Noriko that’s forcing herself to do what she does not want to do and in her father “sacrifice” that he absolutely does not want to make.

In the surface the story is very simple but the amazing performances, the slow pace, the long and medium shots, the still/fix camera and Ozu’s brilliant ability as a filmmaker and storyteller allow you to easily go deeper into the characters emotions. Then is easy to understand the reason why behind Ozu’s preference for this film, as is one of his two favorite films.

To me this is not an intense story as some of the previous Ozu movies I have seen, which I believe makes it easier to see to wider audiences that want to explore Ozu’s oeuvre. But be prepared to see many scenes where “nothing” happens in the surface.

The Criterion Collection 331 DVD comes with a second feature Tokyo-Ga a 90 minutes documentary by director Wim Weders done as a tribute to Yasujiro Ozu that shows Tokyo in the ‘80s as well as interviews with Ozu’s signature actor Chistu Ryu and long time cameraman Yuharu Atsuta. It’s like a love letter to Ozu and a must be seen.

Have to say that the movie is magnificent, but if I compare it to the previous movies I have seen by him, have to say that this one is different and with this movie he’s very different to Naruse or Mizogushi. I believe that I’m starting to really understand his unique style.

Enjoy!

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Sunday, May 20, 2007

Kôhî Jikô (Café Lumière)


Yesterday I stopped by the very good video club near home and they had new titles so I picked up some (many) movies to watch during this weekend. Hate to wear my reading glasses –without them I cannot see a thing-, so I chose them by the cover. Go home, pick one and start watching. Café Lumière is the first one.

When I finished watching this movie my honest spontaneous reaction was, what a strange movie… but during its 135 (or so) minutes I could not get my eyes from the screen. By half the movie I said: where is the story? By the third quarter I said: there is no story; this is a slice of life. By the end I jumped and exclaimed fantastic! And strange. Little did I knew.

What I found mesmerizing are the many scenes that look like they were filmed in real time and show those meaningless moments of life in such a marvelous way. Loved the urban chaos and the serenity of indoor takes. And I could go on and on but lets get into business.

This film is co written and directed by famous Taiwanese Hsiao-hsien Hou, stars half Japanese and half Taiwanese Yo Hitoto –in her screen debut- and Japanese Tadanobu Asano. The film is shot in Tokyo and is a very Japanese story … and film. So we have a Taiwanese director/writer that does not speak Japanese nor lives in Japan, filming in Japanese and with a Japanese story?? Strange, isn’t?

Well, this film was commissioned by a Japanese studio to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the birth of the great Japanese director Yosujiro Ozu! With one specific instruction, it had to be a true Japanese movie. According to the studio Hsiao-hsien Hou did a masterpiece that represents Japan today and the future.

With this knowledge the story started to appear in my mind. This is about a young woman, Yoko (played by Yo Hitoto) that after spending a few years in Taiwan teaching Japanese comes back to Tokyo pregnant and finds again her friend Hajime Takeuchi (played by Asano) that loves her, her father and wife that do not know how to communicate with her and continues her life. She is an independent and strong woman that does not want to marry the Taiwanese father of her child because he is too close to his mother. She wants to raise her child alone.

According to most marvelous French produced documentary I have seen recently, Ozu’s films were very popular in his time as they reflected Japanese society extremely well and is today when they are considered art cinema. The above story is a story that Ozu could never tell as it was impossible in the Japanese culture of the ‘50’s/’60s or earlier. The industrialization and economic growth has been changing Japanese society and today there are two extremely different generations living together. The role that probably has changed more is women role in society.

According to me, Hou did the same as Ozu but with today standards and he did it brilliantly!

Just yesterday I was hoping to learn more about Naruse, Ozu and Mizoguchi. My biggest surprise is to watch in that fabulous documentary many clips from Ozu films!! Today there are two Ozu’s movies I HAVE TO see Higanbana (Equinox Flower) 1958 and Sanma No Aji (An Autumn Afternoon or Le Goût du Sake) 1962.

I have to admit that after watching the dvd’s extras everything came into place and I understood why I just was hypnotized by this movie.

Last but not least, Yo Hitoto won her fist award as Newcomer of the Year in the 2005 Awards of the Japanese Academy and Hsiao-hsien Hou won the Golden Tulip at the 2005 Istambul International Film Festival and was nominated for the Golden Lion in the 2004 Venice Film Festival.

Do not miss this movie if the dvd is near you and please watch the documentary called Métro Lumière as well as the interviews with the two main actors and the director.

This is absolutely an art house cinema not for all audiences.

P.S. In the documentary Hsiao-hsien Hou mentions how difficult is to make a film about a culture that is so different to his and succeed, this make me think about My Blueberry Nights that is getting so-so reviews.

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Thursday, May 24, 2007

Ukigusa Monogatari (The Story of Floating Weeds) and Ukigusa (Floating Weeds)


Thanks to my posting here, a friend called me with the good news that I could loan a dvd with these two films by no one else but Yasujio Ozu. Of course I said Please!! This is a tiny summary of my first immersion into the world of Ozu.

Rarely one has the opportunity to watch two movies with the same story and by the same director. This is my first experience and has been quite an experience.

The Story of Floating Weeds is a 1934 black and white silent movie and Floating Weeds is a 1959 full color, full audio movie. Both tell the story of a troupe of traveling players that arrive to a village to perform. There the master player goes to visit his old flame and her son, who does not know that the master is his father and believes that he is his uncle. The leading actress is the mistress of the master and becomes jealous, so to humiliate the master asks another actress to seduce the master son.

Both movies have many similarities beyond the story and the use of still camera by Ozu, but they are quite different like if they were two different tales. The 1934 version is very serious and dramatic; the 1959 remake (called like this by Ozu) is comic in the right places and dramatic in the right places. One thing called my attention and is the music score in the 1959 remake that sounded like an Italian score and to me, it was so happy and sort of out of place within this Japanese movie. But then, it does not interfere with the way the movie is and makes it even more enchanting.

There are many things I liked in the 1934 version. I have a hard time watching a silent movie as silence makes me nervous, so I watched with the 2004 score that was extremely well done to accompany what was going in the screen. I have to admit that eventually I forgot about the music as the movie became quite intense. Acting is extraordinary with few exceptions and there are beautiful scenes like when the “uncle” and the son are fly-fishing.

Then in the 1959 version color is very dramatic and intense, new actors -has only has one actor from the 1934 version the kid in the previous, here is the son- and being able to hear them speak makes a different film. Even if some critics believe that the use of color interfered with the grandness of the movie as Ozu uses color here differently than in his other films, I feel that color made this movie quite interesting specially because to me Ozu’s movies are both visual poetry and in this particular version is cinematic poetry! Just to make my point take a look at the first scene of this movie.



No, I would not go on. I’ll stop here. You have to have this experience and my only suggestion is be sure to watch first the silent movie and after the 1959 version, don’t change the order, as I believe it would make a big difference.

If you have the dvd near you, please do not hesitate to experience these amazing movies.

Many thanks to my friend for lending me this dvd from The Criterion Collection and is the number 232 just in case helps you reader to find the dvd.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Day 5 and 6 - 2013 Berlinale


Today is Juliette Binoche day at Berlinale, so who could resist talking about what has been happening and will happen today at the fest? Not me.

These are the films that were screened yesterday and today.

Competition

Layla Fourie by Pia Marais
A German, South African, French and Dutch production that surely will be hard-to watch as "almost casually" develops into a political thriller which takes audience to paranoia, fear and mistrust of a society that is still profoundly affected by racial conflict. A single mother story.

Poziţia Copilului (Child's Pose) by Călin Peter Netzer
No need to say how much I like Romanian cinema and story in this film seems to be interesting as does something not often seen in this cinema, a portrait of the upper-class. But what calls my attention is the quasi-documentary style as not surprisingly we will see the moral malaise of Romania's bourgeoisie plus societal institutions such as the police and the judiciary. The story of a mother consumed bye self-love in her struggle to save her lost son and her own, long since riven family.

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Thursday, May 14, 2015

Day 2 - Cannes 2015




The second day comes like a cinema tsunami as there are films and activities in all the sections of the festival plus the Cannes Market is bursting with high profile projects and selling films from all over the world and for all over the world.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Saikaku Ichidai Onna (Life of Oharu)


The more I learn about Japanese directors the more I become puzzled about their body of work and the more I wish I was able to absorb all of them in a few movies. But that is impossible as I am finding more and more interesting and key information about an era that produced magnificent movies and incredible directors.

Then I think that less than two weeks ago I was wishing to get into an unknown world, today I have seen at least one movie by each of these directors Naruse and Ozu. I extensively knew one director Akira Kurosawa, whom I consider an extraordinary filmmaker. Now I understand that during those decades there was more than Kurosawa and that the Japanese studios era played a major role in facilitating the creation of extraordinary cinema.

This time is Kenji Mizoguchi. This is a different kind of director and probably the most interesting to me as many of his movies are about women and his outcry against the brutalization of women by Japanese society. I am quoting a film critic: “In his films women are stronger than men, partly it’s because suffering strengthens them. It’s the injustice of the suffering to which Mizoguchi kept returning in a long string of films ranging from Osaka Elegy to Street of Shame. In film after film, Mizoguchi conveyed social and emotional tempests boiling beneath immaculately formal surfaces”. This quote makes me even more curious to see more Mizoguchi’s films.

Seems like the early ‘50s decade was difficult for Mizoguchi as his work was barely appreciated in Japan (unlike Ozu’s popularity) and the filming of Life of Oharu was uphill from the beginning as was hard to find funds and hard to film as due to budget constrains he had to use a warehouse instead of a studio’s regular sound stage. The story of the harsh times to film this movie is as fascinating as the story the film tells. Even with all the limitations Mizoguchi managed to create a movie that most critics and movie historians consider a masterpiece that turned around his career and life (he even tuned down his drinking).

To quote another critic: “This is a portrait of a 17th century woman’s repeated humiliation by her patriarchal society and is devastating from beginning to end, but its genius is not so much Mizoguchi’s caustic criticism of a money-obsessed society’s refusal to acknowledge its accountability for her degradation, but that Mizoguchi uses Oharu’s life to peel back layers of the physical self and reveal the soul that lies bruised beneath”. Absolutely agree.

This 1952 film tells the story of Oharu that went from a lady-in-waiting in the imperial court in Kyoto to a street prostitute due to a series of the most unfortunate circumstances triggered since she falls in love with a lower rank man, Katsunosuke played by a very young Toshirô Mifune. But what I call the “most unfortunate circumstances” is no other than the traditions of a society that places women in the lowest possible rank.

The story is an adaptation from the Tokugawa shogunate-era novel Koshoku Ichidai Onna (Life of an Amorous Woman) by Saikaku Ihara (1686) and Mizoguchi started to write this screenplay before the WWII and during the American occupation it was impossible that studios will film this movie, so he had to wait after the Americans left to be able to start production.

This film went to represent Japan at the 1952 Venice film festival and Mizoguchi won the International Award and was nominated for the Golden Lion.

Mizoguchi technique is impressive with his long takes and highly controlled camera producing an hypnotic film.

If in 1952 when the movie was released in Japan, Japanese audiences did not embraced this movie because among other things it was too long, nowadays I think that only western audiences that like oeuvres of art and/or are interested in women stories could really enjoy this movie.

One of the most amazing women stories and movies I have ever seen. Most recommended to every woman in the world.

I have to share with you that learning about this movie and Mizoguchi work helped me to understand even more the intention behind Hou’s Café Lumière and realize the amazing evolution of women’s role within Japanese society.

Last I have to admit that I remembered watching this movie before. Then I like it, but now under a different context, life stage and with this Japanese cycle I have immersed into, I like it a lot more.

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Monday, August 07, 2017

74th Venice International Film Festival Lineup


Today, August 7, 2017 organizers announce three (3) more films in the selection, one is out of competition, another is a special screening and the last one is a documentary in Venezia Classici section.

The two films are by well-known directors, first is the much-awaited return of John Woo to the crime thriller which made him famous and second, outstanding filmmaker Andrea Segre latest opus which hope has his peculiar storytelling style even when story is about immigration to Europe.

Just noticed la Biennale di Venezia changed its website, so have to find where is everything as not being able to find where is the Special Screenings or maybe the movie announced today is the only one (probably not).  While learn about the site will write the Andrea Segre film data in the following paragraph.

Special Screening: L'ordine delle Cose, Andrea Segre, Italy

To check the news at official site go here

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Thursday, May 15, 2014

Day 2 at Cannes 2014


The day brings the first 2 films in competition, the opening films in the parallel sections and the screening of films that are competing for the Queer Palm. Last night was the ceremonial Opening Dinner that lead to the after party for Grace of Monaco so we have many things to enjoy today.

Please remember that the full articles listed on each Reactions to film section are linked at the Pinterest section or film board, so if you wish to read the review you can do so.

The Competition

Timbuktu by Abderrahmane Sissako

Today is the photocall, press conference and premiere of film but yesterday was the press screening and immediately after twitter got many tweets from reliable film critics with very positive comments. The rule among those that tweet was that they were surprised or even "shocked" by their own reactions to the movie, which yes suggests movie will be good for story, storytelling style and according to film stills plus clips, also with visual poetry which imagine makes film harder to watch as "everything" (including subtle humor) will be contributing to impact the viewer. Great!!!

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Friday, May 02, 2014

2014 Cannes Check #4: Naomi Kawase


One of the two female directors in competition this year and one of the most amazing directors that use the language of images, silences and beauty to tell poignant stories that usually deal with not-so-pleasant -yet very simple- themes, at least for people living in the west.

Not really familiar with all her work as she has an extensive filmography consisting of mainly documentaries and documentary shorts, but VERY familiar with her later feature films like Mogari No Mori (The Mourning Forest) and Hanezu no tsuki (Hanezu) that absolutely blew my mind for her impressive and particular visual/narrative storytelling style.

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Today First Thinking Piece


Not often I get interested in reading articles by well-known critics as most look and feel like "cinema classes" ... but there are always exceptions and today I found two articles that I want to share with you all. This is a copy/paste of the first one.

June 17, 2011
Sometimes a Vegetable Is Just a Vegetable
By A. O. SCOTT and MANOHLA DARGIS

ON May 1 The New York Times Magazine published an article, “Reaching for Culture That Remains Stubbornly Above My Grasp,” in which Dan Kois wrote about watching certain critically regarded movies, like Andrei Tarkovsky’s “Solaris,” that he likened to eating his “cultural vegetables.” In the June 5 Arts & Leisure section the chief film critics of The Times, Manohla Dargis and A. O. Scott, defended such films, adding to a vigorous, sometimes fractious discussion about so-called boring and slow films that is still continuing, lighting up the blogosphere and beyond, and inspiring hundreds of readers’ comments. They invited Mr. Kois to join them in the still-simmering conversation.

DAN KOIS So often the things we write sort of flicker and die, and it’s been gratifying to watch this discussion spreading across the film-loving parts of the Internet.

I’m not surprised that the response from critics in particular has been mostly hostile; I made jokes, after all, about a lot of critics’ favorite movies, and critics are critics because they take taste personally. In part it defines them.

But these issues — of public and private taste and the ways they intersect — are becoming more germane for civilians as well, as Facebook and Goodreads and Yelp and Netflix urge us every day to share our Likes and four-star ratings with the world. And I think it’s a source of anxiety for many, as it is for me: this sense of wanting to stay engaged with the culture, both high and low, but feeling, rightfully, that we no longer have the energy to take it all in.

Most full-time critics naturally consume, as Tony Scott puts it, a varied cinematic diet. But for noncritics the expense (in cash and, often as crucially, in time) forces a set of ruthless calculations whenever a new film is praised by reviewers or friends. In that context aspirational viewing is risky — whether those unfamiliar flavors are the populist blockbusters you often dislike but feel you oughtn’t miss, or the slow-moving art films you’re worried you’ll appreciate without actually enjoying.

So my question for you two is: Do you ever engage in aspirational viewing? Are there styles of filmmaking or individual directors you simply can’t access, but keep sampling in hopes of finally breaking through? I don’t mean things that are just terrible, like “The Hangover Part II”; I mean movies you genuinely wish you could get excited about and feel guilty (yes, Manohla, really guilty!) that you can’t. What’s your cultural vegetable?

A. O. SCOTT A lot depends on what is being aspired to, and in the name of what. A place at some imaginary cultural grown-ups’ table where people speak in hushed tones about exquisite masterpieces? A domain of art where experiences are more difficult and perhaps more intense than in the easygoing, thrill-a-minute realm of pop culture?

I guess my own aspirations are always to see something interesting, and ideally something that will challenge my expectations and prejudices and show me something new about life, love, art, whatever. I don’t believe that certain kinds of work have a monopoly on offering this kind of experience, and the history of movies as a popular art form proves as much. So I don’t want to get pigeonholed as a snob or an elitist, or as someone who believes that one kind of movie is a priori better than another. Thinking in categories — high and low, trash and art, entertaining and “serious” — is a shortcut and an obstacle, and it leads inevitably to name calling and accusations of bad faith. “You’re a snob!” “Well, you’re a philistine!”

The suspicion that only certain kinds of people like certain kinds of movies slides into contempt for the movies themselves, which flourishes on both sides of the supposed high-low divide, and other divisions as well. Action movies are for guys; romantic comedies are for girls; animation is for kids; subtitled movies are for skinny people dressed in black. And so on.

Our job as critics— our mission as freethinking, curious, pleasure-seeking human beings — should be to smash these categories, which are at bottom self-reinforcing artifacts of the tyranny of marketing. Duke Ellington said there are only two kinds of music, good and bad. William Blake said: “To generalize is to be an idiot. Particularization is the alone distinction of merit.” Figuring out how to respect the particulars is difficult enough without falling into the traps of groupthink and pop sociology.

But what was your question? I don’t feel guilty about not caring for “Last Year at Marienbad“ or persisting in my skepticism that the films of Pedro Costa are as transcendent as some of my colleagues believe. But until I can argue my case, the benefit of the doubt goes to Mr. Costa and the burden of proof rests on me.

MANOHLA DARGIS Having an open mind is my only form of aspirational viewing, which is partly why I also think it’s good to resist categories (like cultural vegetables). The critic who insists that every movie in an art house is art and that every major Hollywood release is trash just reaffirms prejudices (aesthetic, ideological, political) instead of looking at the movie with a Zen-like beginner’s mind. Each of us has preferences, of course, that are shaped by our life histories, and we nurture those likes and sometimes abandon them for different reasons, including education and habit. But it’s a problem when critics try to rationalize their preferences — their so-called taste — into a proscribed idea of cinema. And, Dan, I have to think that it’s this proscriptive urge by critics that partly inspired your original article.

KOIS Well, the at times overheated response to my piece has certainly increased my awareness of critical factionalism and the flair some critics have for being proscriptive bullies. (I’m sure there are people who think of me the same way.) Like most thoughtful readers, though, I usually read writers whose insights give me pleasure, not guilt: writers who are catholic in their tastes and honest in their enthusiasms. The guilt, really, comes from inside, specifically the part of me that’s an uncertain college student, terrified I’m not keeping up.

That’s why it’s hard to take offense when critics, spurred by genuine love for individual films, push back against my piece. Just because I appreciated “Blue” and “Tulpan” more than I enjoyed them doesn’t mean I don’t adore reading smart critics passionately make a case for those films.

Which brings me to the most succinct and potent response I’ve read, posted as a comment on The Times’s Web site by Johnny from El Paso. In just a few sentences he demolished my central metaphor, articulated your concerns about the dangers of categories and penned a pitch-perfect review of a film that I feel certain my philistinism won’t stop curious viewers from seeking out. “ ‘Meek’s Cutoff’ is not ‘cultural vegetables,” Johnny wrote. “It’s a steak. Bring your A-1 and chew on it.”

SCOTT “The one thing I most emphatically do not ask of a critic is that he tell me what I ought to approve or condemn.”

That’s W. H. Auden, from “The Dyer’s Hand,” the first dozen pages of which — a series of epigrammatic musings on “Reading” — may be all the theory any critic needs. Old Wystan did not much care about movies, but about criticism he was never wrong.

To wit: “Pleasure is by no means an infallible critical guide, but it is the least fallible.”

And somewhat astonishingly, given our interest in vegetables: “You do not educate a person’s palate by telling him that what he has been in the habit of eating — watery, overboiled cabbage, let us say — is disgusting, but by persuading him to try a dish of vegetables which have been properly cooked. With some people, it is true, you seem to get quicker results by telling them — ‘Only vulgar people like overcooked cabbage; the best people like cabbage as the Chinese cook it’ — but the results are less likely to be lasting.”

DARGIS Dan, I didn’t “enjoy” watching “Shoah,” but I do appreciate it: it’s a long and slow film, and its protracted length is essential to its meaning. Duration is a crucial issue here, and some of the recent discussion about slow (if not boring, at least to some of us) films revisits arguments over what has previously been termed Slow Cinema. In the February 2010 issue of Sight and Sound, the British critic Jonathan Romney characterized Slow Cinema as films that are “poetic, contemplative — cinema that downplays event in favor of mood, evocativeness and an intensified sense of temporality.” He added, “Such films highlight the viewing process itself as a real-time experience in which, ideally, you become acutely aware of every minute, every second spent watching.”

As with other critical coinages, Slow Cinema can easily become misleading shorthand for work that is very different. The truth is that questions of time have preoccupied filmmakers long before Kelly Reichardt, the director of “Meek’s Cutoff.” Filmmakers isolate time (as in the empty hallway shots in films by Yasujiro Ozu, images in which nothing appears to be happening); embody time (the “tirednesses and waitings” of Antonioni, as the philosopher Gilles Deleuze put it); make time stutter (the jump cuts in Jean-Luc Godard’s “Breathless”); slow it down (the long takes of Bela Tarr); and deconstruct it (as the avant-garde filmmaker Ken Jacobs does). Without going too deeply down an academic rabbit hole let’s acknowledge that when we talk about ostensibly slow and boring films, the terms of debate extend beyond issues of entertainment.

Deleuze, for instance, distinguishes between pre-World War II cinema, in which time was subordinate to movement (the passage of time obscured through classical techniques like those of continuity editing), and postwar cinema, in which a direct vision of time emerges. In this new cinema — with its discontinuities, sense of interiority and seer-subjects — time appears “for itself,” becomes something movies confront even if their characters (and maybe we too) don’t know what it means. And so characters in “L’Avventura“ wander around and forget that a woman has disappeared, and Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman, stuck in her horror of a life turning tricks out of her dismal middle-class home, makes a meat loaf in real time we share. They are, as Deleuze puts it, “struck by something intolerable in the world, and confronted by something unthinkable in thought.” Sometimes a slow movie is just a slow movie, but sometimes it’s also a window onto the world.

To read article at the New York Times please go here.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

1st My French Film Festival Latest News - Movie On Contest


The first movie I ever saw I watch it on TV and still remember my first time at one of the extra-large movie theaters that later on became smaller and smaller. Nothing much changed in how we could watch movies until VHS players invaded our homes and we started to record and eventually to buy movies to watch them when it pleased us as well as the many times we wish to do so.

In my first post in this blog I mentioned my LaserDisc collection; still have it and the player, no matter how many countries I have travelled to, is still working. Now and then I still watch films by Kurosawa, Ozu, and many more directors; films came in two laserdiscs and at one moment you had to turn the disc to the other side to continue watching. But it was edge technology, then.

Everything changed when inexpensive DVD’s came, movies really became affordable plus we could watch them with excellent quality and can’t believe that I am witnessing another major change that I’m sure has changed, is changing and will continue to change the way we watch movies: Online Streaming. Yes, can tell you that my first online complete movie I watch it at MUBI; that was then, The Auteurs.

But from today until January 29, you and me, WE, will be able to do something that not many dreamed as possible. We will be able to attend a film festival and we will do it from where we usually watch most of our movies nowadays: at home. No planes, no travelling, no traffic; just your friends, you and the movie. Outstanding!!!

Yes, My French Film Festival starts today a true milestone event that joins three of my passions: movies, festivals and French cinema.

But success will not come only by generating the event, WE have to make this festival a huge success so it can be assured that many more festivals will come in the future. I’m inviting my readers to become active part of this festival where you not only can watch feature films and short films but also can VOTE for your favorite film to win the Audience Award.

To stimulate your interest in participating in the festival I’m doing a contest called: Movie On likes My French Film Festival.

To participate just send an email telling me: Why do you (or you don’t) like to watch French movies.

The PRIZE: ONE FREE TICKET to watch a feature film or a short film from the festival.

So, hurry and send me an email using the envelope that’s in the first column. Winners will be selected by me and will be using my own criteria. HURRY because unfortunately don’t have many free tickets!!!

To check feature films as well as short films in competition, films out of competition, watch trailers and learn more about the festival please go to here.

Before announcing the contest, had to tell a story as otherwise wouldn't be Storyteller.

Enjoy!!!

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Wednesday, November 10, 2010

カケラ Kakera (A Piece of Our Life)


With this film I was reminded once again how much I like Japanese cinema and how different Japanese movies can be from western films, especially in the lesbian interest genre. I should watch Japanese films more often as most of them are true powerhouses when you want to feel strong emotions. This Momoko Ando debut is a strong emotions roller coaster thanks to a great story, excellent (yet different) leads performances, and an amazing use of silence that’s broken with extraordinary music score. Absolutely an out-of-the-ordinary film and my chapeau goes to Miss Momoko Ando for an intense first oeuvre.

Please don’t let all my praising confuse you, this film is not your regular western film and I strongly suggest you open your mind to a cinema that uses very-close close-ups, pocked face plus stiff body performances, and slowish pace at times; but when it comes to represent and transmit emotions, actors are outstanding as well as the director that creates awesome scenes, like for example, when Riku explodes and yells all her love for Haru in a smokey izakaya full of anonymous salarymen who try to ignore the annoying disturbance Riko’s creates to their meal! Honestly this scene is one of the most uncomfortable scenes I have seen in ages, a scene that allowed me to feel all sort of contradictory emotions. Bravo! And there are other intense emotions scenes along the film plus some remarkable simple (yet puzzling) life and gender philosophy that totally gave me food-for-thought.

Inspired by Erica Sakurazawaga yuri manga “Love Vibes” and with 80% original material, according to what Momoko Ando says in an interview, film tells about Haru, a college student trapped in a dead-end relationship with her cheating boyfriend. One day she meets Riko, a prosthetics artisan, at a café and a door is open in Haru’s life that will bring her into whirlwind change. But the development of Riko and Haru relationship is not an easy one nor goes in a straight line and precisely this is what makes the story very different to what we usually watch in lesbian interest films.

If you know your Japanese cinema you will understand that Ando’s debut film recalls the style of Ozu, who definitively had to especially influence her when deciding on compositions and female actors performances and interactions; still this film is totally contemporary Japanese cinema and most remarkable is the sparse but extremely well used music by James Iha, once with The Smashing Pumpkins.

Have to admit that this film was a huge positive surprise for me and I only hope to find more outstanding Japanese films especially when they totally belong to the lesbian interest genre. Absolutely a must be seen movie for many that read this blog, to those that don’t mind to watch ‘different’ lesbian interest stories and most of all, to those that enjoy good Japanese cinema.

Love the film that came to me after watching so many mediocre films that don’t inspire me to write about them. Maybe after this great rush of adrenaline I’ll be able to write about the huge disappointments I got with much awaited films like The Kids are All Right, Tournee and others. Sigh.

Big Enjoy!!!

Watch trailer @MOC

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Thursday, September 10, 2009

53rd London Film Festival Lineup


The fest will run from October 14 to 29 and today they announced the complete program that will screen 191 features and 113 shorts. There are many changes in the fest this year and all are for the better. For the first time they will have an Awards ceremony on the night of October 28 and they will present an enhanced range of awards.

Here are some of the awards they will be presenting.

Best Film
This new Award will celebrate creative, original, imaginative, intelligent and distinctive filmmaking in the Festival.
An initial shortlist will be drawn up by the Artistic Director and the programming team, and will then be judged by an international jury of high profile directors, writers, producers and actors.

BFI Fellowship
The British Film Institute Fellowship is awarded to individuals in recognition of their outstanding contribution to film or television culture.
Initiated in 1983, the BFI Fellowships have been given to a host of outstanding actors and film & programme-makers from around the world, including Robert Altman, Michelangelo Antonioni, Dame Peggy Ashcroft, Sir Michael Caine, Bernardo Bertolucci, Bette Davis, Gérard Depardieu, Graham Greene, Sir Alec Guinness, Deborah Kerr CBE, Akira Kurosawa, Sir David Lean, Jeanne Moreau, Martin Scorsese, Dame Maggie Smith.
This year's recipients will be recognised for their significant achievements in the field of acting and directing.

Best British Newcomer Award
The Best British Newcomer Award will celebrate new and emerging British film talent and recognise the achievements of a new writer, producer or director who has demonstrated real creative flair and imagination with their first feature.
This year's judges include Lenny Crooks, who heads the UK Film Council's New Cinema Fund which encourages new, distinctive voices in British Cinema, Michael Hayden, Festival programmer, Sandra Hebron, Artistic Director of the Festival, Christine Langan, Creative Director of BBC Films whose producer credits include In The Loop, The Queen, The Deal, Cold Feet, and Dirty Filthy Love, Tanya Seghatchian, Head of the UK Film Council's Development Fund & Executive Producer of the hugely successful Harry Potter franchise and Tessa Ross, Controller of Film4 and Drama,
Channel 4.

The Sutherland Trophy
For the most original and imaginative first feature at this year's festival.
This award, presented for the first time by the BFI in 1958, has a long and distinguished history and has been awarded to a remarkable spread of filmmakers including Yasujiro Ozu, Souleymane Cissé, Bernardo Bertolucci and Rainer Werner Fassbinder. Some of the films recognised in recent years include Asif Kapadia's The Warrior, Kenneth Lonergan's You Can Count On Me, Lynne Ramsay's Ratcatcher, Andrea Arnold's Red Road. Last year, Sergey Dvortsevoy's Tulpan, the disarmingly sweet comedy about a desperate Khasak sheep-herder and his attempt to find a wife, was chosen as the worthy recipient. This year's Sutherland Trophy winner will again be selected by an invited jury of filmmakers, actors, writers, critics, producers and artists.

Shortlist 2009
Ajami, Scandar Copti and Yaron Shani, Israel and Germany
Bunny And The Bull, Paul King, UK
Cold Souls, Sophie Barthes, USA
Eyes Wide Open, Haim Tabakman, Israel
Lebanon, Samuel Maoz, Israel
Metropia, Tarik Saleh, Sweden, Denmark, and Norway (animation but looks fantastic!)
Samson & Delilah, Warick Thornton, Australia
Shirley Adams, Oliver Hermanus, South Africa, USA, and UK
Wah Do Dem, Sam Fleischner and Ben Chace, USA and Jamaica
Wolfy, Vassily Sigarev, Russia

The Times BFI London Film Festival Grierson Award
For the best feature-length documentary at this year's Festival.
This award is given by the Grierson Trust, which commemorates the pioneering Scottish documentary-maker John Grierson (1898-1972), famous for Drifters and Night Mail and the man widely regarded as the grandfather of British documentary. The Grierson Trust, through its own annual awards - The British Documentary Awards - has a long-standing tradition of recognising outstanding films that demonstrate integrity, originality and technical excellence and social or cultural significance. Last year's Festival winner was Victoire Terminus, the powerful and gripping documentary about contemporary life in a Congo ghetto as seen through the eyes of four female boxers.

These are the first and last films in the fest.

Opening Film: Fantastic Mr. Fox, Wes Anderson, UK (Another animated film opening a festival… hmm! With the voices of Meryl Streep, George Clooney, Bill Murray and more)
Closing Film: Nowhere Boy, Sam Taylor-Wood, UK (with Kristin Scott Thomas! And yes, is about John Lennon.)

To read the announcement with many movies and direct links to read about each movie go here.

As always the fest has the following Film Strands. Each strand name is a direct link to check the films in the strand and read info, see photos, synopsis, etc.

Galas and Special Screenings . Here they will screen Chloe, the Cannes winner and many other films.

Films on the Square. Here they will screen one of my most awaited films, Cracks by Jordan Scott (yes is Ridley Scott daughter). Finally! Many more excellent fims.

New British Cinema

French Revolutions. The best movies in the fest are in this section (lol!). In particular: Leaving, Catherine Corsini, France with Kristin Scott Thomas; and the great French films from Venice fest.

Cinema Europa . The second best place to find excellent movies.

World Cinema . Many must be seen films.

Experimenta. Old and new films that go from Hitchcock to Portugal’s The Portuguese Nun and Argentina’s They All Lie.

Treasures from the Archives will screen Venezuelan Margot Benacerraf’s visually stunning Araya (wow!)and many more.

Short Cuts & Animation

Unlike Toronto’s fest official site this year, the BFI site is a true pleasure to browse all the strands and read about the movies. I’ll be checking the news to find the films competing for the Best Film award. Also seems that the site will be more open to include videos from the fest, so I’ll be checking to find what they upload. Today they have trailers up for Fantastic Mr. Fox, Bright Star, and The Informant.

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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Tôkyô Sonata (Tokyo Sonata)


I had no idea that Kiyoshi Kurosawa is known for his horror movies (a genre that I do not particularly like), but from following fests I knew that this film was no horror at all and once more I find a reason to be so glad to follow fest as otherwise I would have missed this great movie.

Have to start by telling you that after watching for a while I couldn’t relate to what was happening in the story. It was like if what I was watching made no sense to my western eyes. Then suddenly I realized that the problem was that the story was set in modern times, as if the story was set before and the characters were wearing traditional Japanese clothes then everything will have made sense as definitively the film is quite similar to any of Ozu’s ordinary families stories. Realizing this fact allowed me to think about what I already saw and what will follow with different “mentality” and definitively allowed me to enjoy more the story and the film. Perhaps this happened only to me, but just in case it happens to anybody else I had to share it, as this is an excellent film that for no reason should be dismissed as not extraordinary.

Kurosawa’s film tells about an ordinary family that hides things to not disturb their fragile existence. The father, Ryûhei Sasaki, lost his job and tells no one. The mother, Megumi Sasaki, feels lonely and not appreciated. The older son, Takashi Sasaki, never is home and decides to leave Japan to join the US armed forces. The younger son, Kenji Sasaki, wants to learn to play the piano and his parents do not allow him. As everyday situations happen –and unexpected things start to happen- the story slowly unravels the drama that will change this family forever to allow them to have a fresh new start. But to me this is a story that deals with the ever changing/transforming Japanese society that has to deal with their strong cultural traditions while trying to cope to adapt to modern times and as such it becomes more universal, as applies to any society with strong traditions and new generations having real problems to follow old cultural rules and accepted behaviors.

Then the story also deals with something that is very relevant nowadays, the financial depression with companies downsizing and outsourcing to other countries with cheaper labor, high executives unemployment and their inability to find a similar new job and finally ending doing below their social status jobs; families lack of communication, generational lack of willingness to understand each other, and women that start trying to fulfill their empty lives but have no idea of what to do. So I can say that the story has many layers -as well as many readings- and will be up to the viewer to see whatever they want to see or want to relate to.

Also this is a movie where the finale is the climax that closes the movie in a grandiose way and makes sense to everything that you have watched, including the bizarre plot twist that allows the presence for a few minutes of great Kôji Yakusho that plays Dorobô, a character that propels Megumi liberation.

But the film develops quite flawlessly and very easy to watch what happens in the screen. Is when you try to tell others what is all about that becomes quite complex, as you all have realized by now with my long writing about the story.

Nevertheless the film as a film is quite spectacular with a grainy grayish cinematography that totally contributes to the Sasaki family spiral down to breakdown and absolutely allows the finale to become more grandiose. Performances are truly outstanding with Teruyuki Kagawa impressive performance as severe Ryûhei trying to “save face” in front of his family members (he was also in the third story in Tokyo!); and both Kyôko Koizumi as Megumi and Inowaki Kai as Kenji delivering remarkable intense characters.

The film was premiered at 2008 Cannes at the Un Certain Regard section where won the Jury Prize and did the fest circuit to many accolades and honors, including Kurosawa winning Best Director at the 2008 Mar del Plata fest, Best Film and Best Screenwriter at the 2009 Asian Film Awards and Best Film at India’s 2008 Osian’s Cinefan fest.

Definitively a film that I highly recommend especially to those that truly enjoy Japanese cinema and one that I strongly suggest to watch until the very end as the movie climax and finale is truly extraordinary, outstanding to watch and to listen, and closes the bittersweet story in somehow an unexpected way.

Big Enjoy!!!

Watch trailer @ Movie On Companion

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Friday, October 31, 2008

23rd Mar Del Plata International Film Festival


The fest will run from November 6 to 16 at the famous beach resort in Argentina and since some of the movies in the fest are new to the blog, I’m listing the movies in the main competitions sections.

Inaugural Film: Aniceto, Leonardo Favio, Argentina, 2008
Opening Film: The Hurt Locker, Kathryn Bigelow, USA, 2008 (A war movie made by a female director… intriguing!)
Closing Film: Soom (Breath), Kim Ki-duk, Korea, 2007

International Competition

Alicia en el País, (Alice in the Land), Esteban Larraín, Chile, 2008
Skrapp út (Back Soon), Sólveig Anspach, Iceland and France, 2008 (seems interesting!)
Desierto Adentro (Deep into the Desert), Rodrigo Plá, Mexico, 2008
El Artista (The Artist), Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat, Argentina and Italy, 2008
El Cant Dels Ocells (Birdsong), Albert Serra, Spain, 2008
Den du frygter (Fear Me Not), Kristian Levring, Denmark
Home, Ursula Meier, Switzerland, Belgium and France, 2008
De Ofrivilliga (Involuntary), Ruben Östlund, Sweden, 2008
Medicine for Melancholy, Barry Jenkins, USA
Pa-ra-da, Marco Pontecorvo, Italy, France and Romania (must be seen!)
Aruitemo aruitemo (Still Walking), Hirokazu Kore-eda, Japan, 2008 (more Ozu than ever!?)
Das Fremde in mir (The Stranger in Me), Emily Atef, Germany, 2008
Tokyo Sonata, Kiyoshi Kurosawa, Japan, Netherlands, China, 2008
Un Coeur Simple (A Simple Heart), Marion Laine, France
Vil Romance (Vile Romance), José Campusano, Argentina, 2008 (gay interest)
Zift, Javor Gardev, Bulgaria, 2008

Latin American Competition

El Camino (The Path), Ishtar Yasin Gutiérrez, Costa Rica and France, 2007
Estrada Real da Cachaça (The Royal Road of Cachaca), Pedro Urano, Brazil, 2008
Frankfurt, Ramiro Gomez , Paraguay, 2008
Gallero, Sergio Massa, Argentina, 2008
Lake Tahoe, Fernando Eimbcke, México, 2008
Los Bastardos (The Bastards), Amat Escalante, Mexico, France and USA, 2008
Perro Come Perro (Dog Eat Dog), Carlos Moreno, Colombia, 2007
Regreso a Fortín Olmos (Back to Fortin Olmos), Jorge Goldenberg and Patricio Coll, Argentina, 2007
Salamandra (Salamander), Pablo Aguero, Argentina, France and Germany, 2008
Voy a Explotar (I’m Gonna Explode), Gerardo Naranjo, Mexico, 2008 (could be interesting)

Argentina Competition

Artico (Arctic), Santiago Loza
Dilatante (Dilettante), Kris Niklison (could be interesting)
Imagen Final (Final Image), Andres Habegger (intriguing)
La Asamblea (The Assembly) Gaiel Maidana
La Tigra, Chaco, Federico Godfrid and Juan Sasiaín
Las Hermanas L (The Sisters), Eva Bär, Santiago Giralt, Alejandro Montiel and Diego Schipani (Kitsh cinema??)
Los Pernoctantes (Night Oversleepers), Hernán Khourian, Deigo Carabelli, Angeles Casares and Sebastián Martinez
Música Para Astronautas (Music for Astronauts), Ernesto Baca
Parador Retiro (Retiro Shelter), Jorge Leandro Colas

In the Argentina Competition some are documentaries. To check information about the above films and other films in the many sections go here and press the sections link.

Festival director Jose A. Martinez Suarez says, “We want to offer an ice-cream parlor for all tastes, not just vanilla, chocolate and strawberry” and well, it is absolutely true as this fest has many very interesting films in competition and in the multiple sections. Lucky those that live in near Buenos Aires, as they will really have a cornucopia full of diverse movies from allover the world!

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Thursday, October 30, 2008

Kirschblüten – Hanami (Cherry Blossoms)


This is one exceptionally beautiful movie that even when has an old age and death related theme it will make you feel so peaceful and uplifted as deals about cultural differences between west and east.

Writen and directed by Doris Dörrie tells a story of a German family that when older Trudi, the mother, learns that his husband is sick asks him to go to Berlin to visit their two children and it is truly impressive how families in some countries in the west become strangers when people become individuals and as Dörrie says, forget about our ancestors. After visiting their children decide to go to the beach where Trudi dies. When Rudi, the husband, is left alone, none of the children want to take care of him and what follows is the most amazing story of grieving that I have seen lately, as Rudi decides to “find” Trudi and goes to the place where Trudi always wanted to go and never went. So the rest of the story happens in Japan where the youngest of their sons lives.

The tale is inspired in Yasujiro Ozu’s Tokyo Story according to what I read, so if you have seen Tokyo Story I suggest you to be kind to the western adaptation, as it is not a remake of this film, but an interpretation that totally fits current western values and the opportunity for westerners to find internal peace in the eastern values and life philosophy.

As you probably guess the film has more than outstanding cinematography while in Japan with spectacular views of Mount Fuji, but also Tokyo looks just fabulous with all the trains takes and sunsets. But really all the locations in Germany also look outstanding. Great framing with a slow pace that takes its time telling the story and the journey more than rushing to get to its destination.

One of the things that marveled me is learning a little about the Butoh dancing that I found just extraordinary. As I learned Butoh is dance of shadows and a way to keep in touch with dead ancestors. Particularly touched me what Dörrie said in an interview that I reproduce here.

As Dörrie confided: "The Butoh dancers say, 'we dance on the backs of our ancestors.' We in the West trample on them."

It touched me not only because in those societies that celebrate individualism is so true, but also the image totally represents what you will see in this movie.

Have to mention that there is a lesbian interest moment in the movie as the only daughter of Trudi and Rudi is lesbian and lives in Berlin with her partner, Franzi. The moment is small, but I found it so sweet and lovely, as is Franzi the one that takes care and is really kind to them, while their own children are not. Very nice to watch such a positive representation in the big screen.

Performances are excellent and I was taken by the character Trudi in the German moment of the movie, played by Hannelore Elsner; when in Japan I learned to appreciate the character of Rudi, played by Elmar Wepper and was totally mesmerized by Aya Irizuki that plays Yu. Then, as in many Japanese movies, the film is full of carefully shown symbolisms related to Japanese culture that if you’re familiar with them you will simply enjoy them as they happen in the screen.

The film was in competition for the Golden Bear at the 2008 Berlinale and has more nominations and wins in German film festivals, but also won the Golden Space Needle Award for Best Film at the 2008 Seattle fest.

This is a film that I strongly recommend to some of my known readers as not only is outstandingly beautiful to watch with very beautiful visuals, but also goes from a cold and stern German mood into the most peaceful Japanese mood. Then the story is compelling and the lesbian interest moments are just perfect.

I know that this movie is not for all audiences, you have to enjoy at least European cinema or art cinema to really appreciate the beauty of this film.

Me, I enjoyed the movie a lot and yes I dropped one or two involuntary tears as the story touched me thanks to the beauty of the message, the great performances and the top production values all under the very careful crafted hand of Doris Dörrie.

Big Enjoy!!!

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Yukinojo Henge (An Actor’s Revenge)


My spontaneous reaction to this 1963 film by Kon Ichikawa is that is very different to any other Japanese movie I’ve have seen, but as fascinating as the works of Kurosawa, Ozu, Mizoguchi and Naruse. The film is really ‘different’ not only as a film but also because the story it tells.

Tells the story of female impersonator Yukinojo Nakamura that works with a Kabuki troupe that arrives to Edo where Yukinojo is finally able to implement his revenge against three greedy man that ruined his family while he was a little kid. Honestly is a simple story but the way that is presented makes it one of the most complex stories I have seen lately, as the mise-en-scene, the performances and the director style makes a simple tale to become outstandingly complex, mesmerizing and very interesting.

According to what I have been reading, Kabuki female impersonators (onnagta) used to dress as women even when they were not in the stage; so in this movie you have Yukinojo always dressed as a woman with the most beautiful kimonos you can imagine. She truly looks like a woman (with some masculine facial features) and the character attracts other women that instantly fall in love with him (or her?). In the translation Yukinojo is called “half man, half woman” by the woman thief, Ohatsu, that falls for her/him. By the way, Ohatsu is called a ‘man hater’, but nevertheless she falls for Yukinojo.

Yukinojo in the beginning because of the revenge machinations seduces very beautiful Namiji, the daughter of Dobe a powerful man in Edo and one of the objects of his revenge; but in the end is willing to accept that she’s an innocent bystander. So you are able to watch what looks like two women in tender seduction and tormented romance.

The movie was sort of a ‘punishment’ given to Ichikawa because previous films failure to achieve commercial success and it’s a remake of a 1935 film by Teinousuke Kinugasa of the same name in Japanese but with a different translation as it is called Yukinojo Revenge. In the original film actor Kazuo Hasegawa plays Yukinojo, Yamitaro the Thief and Yukinojo’s mother. In Ichikawa film the same actor plays Yukinojo (always a woman) and Yamitaro (always a man). So, this adds another layer to the film that makes it quite playful because you have one Yamitaro monologue where the character really is saying that he is a good actor! But also makes it look like mirror characters with clearly plural intertextuality as James Quandt calls it in his book, Kon Ichikawa, that if you feel like reading some excerpts regarding this movie go here.

But what really blew my mind is the film as a film. With very few exceptions, the film had outdoor scenes that purposely look like unrealistic outdoors or like Kabuki stage montages. The end product is fascinating especially when the film is in cinemascope and takes all the possible advantages of the then new technique in many scenes, like when Yamitaro is ‘captured’ by a rope that you just see it goes into infinite dark. Also the lighting is very stage alike, which allows great dramatization of moments and playful kind of ‘silly’ sword fights. Some serious cinema historians consider his theater-to-cinema style to be a precursor inspiration to future anime/manga. One hallucinating extra is the eclectic use of background music that includes traditional kabuki accompaniment, folk music, jazz, and avant-garde ambient sounds. Amazing style that has all the elements of a disaster and only in Ichikawa hands became not only outstandingly beautiful to watch but also flawlessly cinematic art. Bravo!

The movie is the winner of the Best Art Direction at the 1964 Mainichi Film Concours and truly deserves the award and more.

Yes, I’m very impressed by this film that came as a total surprise as I found it while doing the research for the lesbian cinema project and had the great opportunity to find it in a friend’s collection. I’m really torn to assign this movie the lesbian label, as while watching the movie even when I saw a woman with another woman, I knew it was a man! But well, the movie is so interesting, different and fascinating that I will assign the label so perhaps some of you readers decide to give it a try, but definitively is not your regular lesbian interest movie.

If you feel like reading more about the movie I suggest you check this article in the Senses of Cinema site.

I imagine that most of you serious cinema and Japanese cinema lovers have already seen this movie that is one of Ichikawa most famous films in the west. But if you have not, I strongly suggest you consider it as a must be seen.

Big Enjoy!!!

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Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Gion Bayashi (A Geisha aka Gion Festival Music)


I needed to watch a Japanese movie as all I have seen, no matter how intense they are, bring me interior peace and I was not disappointed at all with this 1953 Kenji Mizoguchi film even when it has the somber aura of a postwar film has a quite interesting story about what women can do to and feel for other women.

The basic story is about a geisha, Miyoharu, that accepts a young girl, Eiko, as her apprentice when the girl asks for Miyoharu’s help to avoid having to sleep with her uncle that paid for her grandmother’s expensive funeral and is requesting payment. After about a year Eiko is ready to make her debut and Miyoharu incur in debt to be able to pay for the expenses of Eiko’s costume. At Eiko’s debut both meet Kusuda, a scheming entrepreneur that will manipulate them for the sake of winning a vital business contract with Kanzaki a head of a department slanted for promotion to the position of company director. Kanzaki develops an intense attraction to Miyoharu. All is happening at the teahouse of powerful Okimi where Kusuda is a regular and valuable customer. What happens next is the development of a web knitted by all the characters that will trap both older and younger geishas, until Miyoharu is forced to the maximum Geisha sacrifice (go to the dark side) to save Eiko and herself.

But actually the story is about how women in power positions (Okimi) can destroy the life of other women to save her business and how a family-less woman (Miyoharu) is willing to do the ultimate sacrifice for the love of a girl (Eiko) that she loves as if she was her own daughter. So you have that the main characters are strong women that will do anything to save what they care for. Still, there is another story layer and is related to how younger geisha generations started to change after the war because women started to question what they were doing and to have rights in Japanese society; and another story layer, how after the war many geishas had to become prostitutes. So it is a movie with a story that has many layers parallel running in front of you as smooth as most typical Japanese movies do, as in this movie that has an excellent women drama, there are not many dramatic scenes (but there are a few excellent ones), everything is done with the smoother and polite tone and manner that is peculiar to their culture.

When reading about this movie I got all confused as seems this movie is regarded by some as ‘not a good’ Mizoguchi movie and they dismiss it with the most unusual comments that I absolutely cannot relate to the movie I saw. In my opinion this is a very good Mizoguchi movie that masterfully deals with a complex and layered story and presents it in the easiest way for viewers pleasure, as absolutely is the reflection of what I want to call the Japanese quotidian post war life.

I loved the movie and find it different to the other Mizoguchi movies I have seen but not for a moment I considered that this was not an excellent Mizoguchi movie that I’m certain he impregnated his style and vision to the novel by Matsutarô Kawaguchi, who also wrote the screenplay. I say that the movie is different because looks and feels like studio movies with no outdoors scenes and still straight angle camera takes, and also like a western stage play.

Performances by the lead and supporting actors are impeccable and the actors’ that played Okimi, Chieko Naniwa, and Eiko’s father, Eitarô Shindô, won the 1954 Blue Ribbon awards for Best Supporting Actress and Actor respectively.

This is one Mizoguchi movie that I highly recommend to all that like his movies, that like to watch the women stories in his films as well as in Naruse and Ozu films and to those that have to see the movies of that long go era of excellent Japanese cinema.

Big Enjoy!!!

P.S. The picture is the original poster of the movie.

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Monday, June 16, 2008

Dong


This documentary is the companion piece of Jia Zhang ke film Sānxiá Hǎorén (Still Life) that follows artist and actor Liu Xiaodong as he invited Jia to film him while he paints a group of laborers near the Three Gorges Dam and later a group of women in Bangkok, Thailand.

In the Three Gorges Dam segment the documentary shares some takes from the Still Life film, so it is obvious to me that Jia was doing the film at the same time. The evident story about the big format spreads that Liu is painting in each segment is interesting as you are able to see how he sketches and some paintings transformations into the final art production.

But everything I have told you is only the excuse to do what Jia Zhang ke does like no other contemporary filmmaker I know, as he chronicles moments in the ordinary life of people, this time in China as well as in Thailand and he does it in his quiet incisive way that here flourishes so good especially in the Thailand segment.

The Three Georges Dam segment was an excellent complement to the movie as gives you more insights on the local population ordinary life. But the Thailand segment was a true surprise to me that engaged me up to the point of imagining a complete short film out of the situations presented for one of the girl’s posing for the painting; mesmerized me when followed the blind beggars couple, and totally drove me crazy with his camera moves and framing.

This is not your regular documentary, this is a fantastic film that incisively peeks at people’s lives and does it without being intrusive. Amazing! As a film has some long takes, silent majestic moments, absolutely great framing, and there are not many words involved in the 66 minutes it runs. This film is a confirmation to me that he has to be recording the contemporary lives of people as Ozu and Naruse did in their time and as I first felt with Still Life and Unknown Pleasures.

As you perhaps guessed by now this film is absolutely not for all audiences as most people expect a documentary about a painter and well, yes it is… but that’s not the true value of this film. I believe you have to be familiar with Jia Zhang ke filmmaking style to really enjoy this film and please notice that I do not call it a documentary, as this is a medium length outstanding film that serious cinema lovers cannot afford to miss if you have seen Still Life, but also if you haven’t as is a oeuvre that stands alone especially for the Thailand segment.

By the way, Dong literally means East, which to me means exactly what this film is all about, an extraordinary glimpse at the contemporary and ordinary lives of some eastern people. Now more than before, I'm "dying" to be able to see Jia Zhang ke latest movie, Er shi si cheng ji (24 City) that premeried at the 2008 Cannes.

Big Enjoy!!!

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Friday, June 06, 2008

Rèn xiāo yáo (Unknown Pleasures)


Yes another Jia Zhangke movie that is as compelling as the one I saw the other day and as I was hoping it tells a story about contemporary China and does it in his quiet incisive way.

But before talking about the movie I want to record some information about this filmmaker that is becoming more and more interesting. The following is an excerpt from an article in Senses of Cinema.

"Jia Zhangke is a leading figure of what is known as the “Sixth Generation” of film directors in the People's Republic of China, following the “Fifth Generation,” whose members include Zhang Yimou and Chen Kaige. The Fifth Generation directors occupy themselves mostly with spectacle-driven mythic histories laden with pointed social criticisms that jeopardize their standing with the government censors. In contrast, the Sixth Generation filmmakers largely produce their gritty, contemporary realist films well outside of the state system, relying instead on personal or private funding, often through sources outside China."

So now we all know that definitively as I suspected with the first film I saw, Jia’s work is a contemporary raw realism and this movie has exactly that style that borders closely to a documentary look alike. Is like if he’s recording the changes that had to happen and still have to happen with the “modernization” of China. In a way recalls the work of Ozu and Naruse that today allows us to see a different Japan, but when the movies were released represented their own simple reality.

The movie tells a slice of life of two teenagers and is set in a remote city near the Mongolian border called Datong. Both Bin Bin and Xiao Ji just completed the school and are unemployed, have nothing much to do and kill time consuming mostly American pop culture from TV, movies, music and Coca-Cola (!!!), they have no future and they look and behave like sleep walkers transiting a senseless life. In the background everything is happening Beijing named for the next Olympic games, the new highway that will communicate Datong to Beijing, an US spy plane downed, etc; but they do not care and even do not become consciously aware that the explosion they heard killed people. In this explosion scene I just love what Bin Bin says that I paraphrase: Are the Americans bombing China? (Gee, did I laugh!).

As you can guess the movie is not for all audiences as actually nothing happens in this slow paced essay about uncertainty with the abandon of the ones forgotten that only are able to catch the invasive consumerism of the American ways. But of course a lot is being said in the quiet, sarcastic and outstandingly incisive silence, scene after scene. Incredible! Images and impeccable actors performances say all that words will not.

By now you know that I found another director that is becoming a must be seen director for his visual narrative and the most interesting recording of contemporary life in China. It is truly remarkable how without many words, without drama, and with excellent cinematography and performances a filmmaker can tell so much.

Anyway the movie was in competition for the Palm D’Or at the 2002 Cannes and has another award at the 2003 Singapore International Film Festival. But beyond the artistic value of this film and probably of all Jia’s body of work, this film is a must be seen for those interesting in knowing a filmmaker vision of contemporary China.

Still, because Jin Zhanke is an excellent filmmaker I strongly recommend this movie to all serious cinema lovers.

Big Enjoy!!!

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