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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Revisiting Tarkovsky


Since I started this blog, my greatest pleasure still is the opportunity to watch almost everything by Andrei Tarkovsky and today I learned that some of you that live near New York City will have the opportunity to watch in the big screen a complete retrospective of the master Russian filmmaker. Lucky you all!!

The Film Society of Lincoln Center will screen from July 7 to the 14 the seven (7) feature films by Tarkovsky and besides being sorry for not being able to go to NYC, I’m sorry that they didn’t included his amazing short films.

Anyway you will be able to watch Andrei Rublev, Ivan’s Childhood, The Mirror, Nostalgia, The Sacrifice, Solaris and Stalker. Also the retrospective includes the documentary Meeting Andrei Tarkovsky by Dmitry Trakovsky that’s one of the several Tarkovsky interesting homage documents available and if you feel like watching the trailer go Movie On Companion.

If you feel like checking more information about this great retrospective and learn about showtimes and purchasing tickets go here. Because is a remarkable quote, I’m reproducing here the opening of the retrospective presentation at the Film Society official site.

"Tarkovsky for me is the greatest, the one who invented a new language, true to the nature of film, as it captures life as a reflection, life as a dream." -Ingmar Bergman

If you’re able to attend this retrospective, I know you will be transported to a highly imaginative visual and narrative world not often seen in any-country cinema. Tarkovsky’s mastery is really impressive!

Please do not miss this great opportunity.

Cheers!!!

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Friday, May 09, 2008

Nostalghia - Ностальгия (Nostalgia)


Today I had to see a great outstanding film and I chose to see Andrei Tarkovsky Nostalghia. I never expected to see such a wonderful masterpiece and one of Tarkovsky most impressive films because one exceptional thing: the use of light. I was absolutely mesmerized, breathless and totally immersed into the most incredible succession of light changes that I have ever seen. This is a true masterpiece in every sense of art forms like photography, paintings and moving pictures.

Since the use of light was what most captivated me I did a little research and found some extraordinary information that I reproduce here to record it forever and to remind me that as according to what I read, I just had the experience of many others when after seeing this film they decided to become filmmakers. Yes, that’s exactly how I feel and even if I never act upon this feeling (or maybe I should…) this has been one of my most glorious experiences while watching a film.

"Andrei used to tell me that cinema uses time like a narrative element, while the photography normally remains constant for the duration of a sequence. It is precisely time that the ‘dynamic photography’ exploits to render a different consistency to the film. An example is the atmospheric conditions within nature: if during a cloudy day the sun comes out at a certain moment this will modify the condition of the light. In an interior space if someone enters a dark room and turns on the light this will change the condition of the light. However, this is all tied to precise actions. This discourse is amplified in Nostalghia, where in addition to variations in natural light were added variations which correspond to emotional motivation rather than any sense of logic.

During the shooting phase we used a transport mechanism posted in front the lights -a series of metal sheets hung on a frame- to vary the light intensity without modifying the color temperature. While in the postproduction there was a much more marked technical intervention because the film was printed with a system called ENR at Roma Technicolor laboratory. With the ENR process I was able to desaturate the colors to the maximum and augment the contrast in a scene, even if this restricted me to print on color positive even the sequences shot in black and white."
Guiseppe Lanci: The Shape of Light. To read the complete interview in Italian go here.

This Tarkovsky movie is not only filmed in Italy but is also in Italian which makes it another very interesting element as it is exceptional to see Tarkovsky and understand everything it says in its original language; you know what I mean as always you will lose many things in translation.

The movie tells a very cerebral story about longing and spiritual hunger and does it with the most exceptional neorealist style, similar to other great Italian directors; has an incredible slow pace that allows you to see everything so you will easily connect the dots of all the moving around with time and stories. Also incredibly good and useful is the use of black and white for some stories and time, as well as the use of color for other stories and current time.

Many long takes that will mesmerize you, especially the long take with the lead carrying the candle, this has been called one of the most captivating ever put on film and it truly is impressive how you’ll follow and follow him doing his amazing walk. The cinematography is beautiful with dripping water, unsettling mists and dew seeping through the eternally damp walls. Yes, water and fire –the reigning elements in Tarkovsky world- are continuously present here.

The film was in competition for the Golden Palm at the 1983 Cannes Film Festival where Tarkovsky won the Grand Prix du Cinéma de Creation, the FIPRESCI Prize and the Prize of the Ecumenical Jury. Absolutely not for all audiences you have to really enjoy serious cinema.

Today more than ever before I’m convinced that Tarkovsky is unique and my only regret is that he did so few movies, but this masterpiece –that he dedicated to his mother- tells a story that perhaps is related to his own life in exile as there are many situations that speak so clearly about what you feel when your not living in your homeland and those feelings can eventually kill you at an early stage of your life.

Cannot say that this is the Tarkovsky film I like the most, as all his films are excellent, but this one really touched me in many ways. Absolutely a must be seen Tarkovsky oeuvre.

BIG ENJOY!!!

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Каток и скрипка, Katok i skripka (The Steamroller and the Violin)


Not very often I will comment about short films here, but this is one that deserves a post here and more. This short film by Andrei Tarkovsky is his thesis film that earned him his diploma at the All-Union State Institute of Cinematography (VGIK) and the grade of отличный (excellent) that was the highest possible distinction.

No matter what I read about this short film (most claim that is not a good Tarkovsky) I need to mention that I definitively do not agree and I mention for your consideration that the unit for children’s films of the Mosfilm studio produced the short even when it was a student short film. The excellence of this short plus the above fact has to mean how even in his beginnings his outstanding work was recognized, including by the major studio in the USSR. So please do not think that this is not a masterpiece as absolutely it is.

Let me reproduce Tarkovsky words regarding this short.

“It will be a short-feature film. My original idea was not to use this screenplay for a full-length feature - that would ruin the entire composition. The story in the film is very simple. The action takes place within one day, the dramaturgy is without sharp conflicts, it is non-traditional. Its main characters are a young worker driving a steamroller at a road construction and a young sensitive boy who is learning to play the violin. They become friends. Those two people, so different in every respect, complement and need one another.

Although it's dangerous to admit - because one doesn't know whether the film will be successful - the intent is to make a poetic film. We are basing practically everything on mood, on atmosphere. In my film there has to be the dramaturgy of image, not of literature. I offered the role of the worker to Vladimir Zamyansky, an actor from the youngest and perhaps most interesting theater "Sovremennik." The little Sasha is played by a seven-year old music school student, Igor Fomchenko. I am very happy with them.”

The short tells like Tarkovsky says about the friendship that grows between little Sasha and the worker and the short is totally inconsequential if you see it only for the story, that by the way was co written by Tarkovsky and fellow student Andrei Mikhalkov-Konchalovsky. But according to me the story is about contrasts, about art and labor or if you wish “the spiritual” and “the material”. Totally Tarkovsy.

To me this short is absolute Tarkovsky as here you can see his themes, methods and ideas. You have the dream scene, water falling as rain and the takes of the water in the street, the demolition scene, the boy playing violin for the worker in the alley, camera angles, reflections, pace, lighting, texture, etc. all are here and they seem to be taken care almost to perfection.

This is a masterpiece short that most film students have to wish to emulate, one that those that love Tarkvosky have to see, one that with the children story is very accessible to all audiences and a must be seen to all that enjoy serious cinema.

Big Enjoy!!!

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Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Солярис – Solyaris (Solaris)


During one of those days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve I had the immense pleasure of watching this movie that just confirms that for me Andrei Tarkovsky is a genius filmmaker and storyteller.

Have to say that I was very familiar with the outline of the story as a few years back I saw Steven Soderbergh adaptation of the same tale starring George Clooney and I just hate it! Gee, it was awful. In a way knowing a little about the story minimized my pleasure enjoying this movie, but soon enough –before the second part- I forgot about the other movie as what I was seeing, was hearing and was feeling was really intense and grabbed my total attention. The second part is a lot more intense and I was able to enjoy it without all the garbage from the other movie.

This time I’m going to invite you to read a great simple and straightforward essay from the Criterion Collection site where you can learn more about this movie and Tarkovsky. Just to tease you readers, here is an excerpt from the article.

“Solaris helped initiate a genre that has become an art-house staple: the drama of grief and partial recovery. Watching this 169-minute work is like catching a fever, with night sweats and eventual cooling brow. Tarkovsky’s experiments with pacing, to “find Time within Time,” as he put it, has his camera track up to the sleeping Kris, dilating the moment, so that we enter his dream.” If you feel like reading the complete essay go here.

Yes this is another masterpiece from Tarkovsky that not only is perhaps his most close to be labeled as science fiction genre, was his most successful movie in art and money return terms, but also is a strong treatise about the human soul and all the demons and conflicts that live within us. Also is about the only Tarkovsky movie where you can find something related to love even when guilt can dominate the evident story.

The movie won many honors including the Jury Grand Prize and the FIPRESCI Prize at the 1972 Cannes fest; also was nominated for the Golden Palm. In the west, this movie became a “cult” movie seen by many even when the movie came to America in the 70’s.

One of Tarkovsky movies NOT to miss, but then you really have to see ALL seven movies by this great master.

Big Enjoy!!!

P.S. I was lucky enough to find a pic of the original Russian poster, so I decided to share this instead of the dvd cover, hope you like this unusual poster as much as I do.

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Friday, August 08, 2014

2014 Cinema Biennale Check #6 - Borderline European Directors


The European directors in Venezia71 competition, excluding those already preview it, come from Turkey and Russia, which we know are borderline countries as some of their territory is in Europe while the other is in Asia. In this group there is one director that is in Venice film festival for the first time with his first feature-length film, which is a high honor and yes, definitively makes expectations rise above average.

Kaan Müjdeci

Not easy to find info about this director but from the Krakow Film Festival where he had a short documentary in competition, Babalar ve Oğullari (Fathers and Sons) -which was done out of footage from the trip while scouting locations for his first feature-length film- here is the bio:
Born in Ankara in 1980, he moved to Berlin to study Film Directing. His short film, Day of German Unity, was invited to Cannes Film Festival in 2010 and also bought by several television broadcasters. His graduation short Jerry, produced at New York Film Academy, entered Berlinale Talent Campus one year later. Müjdeci is currently working on his first feature film Sivas.

Not sure what to think about his film as story does not call my attention at all; but some movie stills have breathtaking cinematography/visuals, so probably will give film a try. Sigh.

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Monday, June 23, 2008

Сегодня увольнения не будет - Segodnya uvolneniya ne budet (There Will Be No Leave Today)


While studying at the VGIK Andrei Tarkovsky did three short films and this 1959 short is one of the three that was also directed by another student, Aleksandr Gordon. It is a black/white recount about an unnamed city where city workers discover several missiles underneath a street near a children school. The Germans left the remains there during WWII and the current time is peacetime. What follows is quite an intense and nerve-wracking story achieved just with good actors performances, good music, traditional camera takes and excellent filmmakers. This is another Tarkovsky short that many film students have to see and hopefully, try to emulate as an example of excellent filmmaking by a film student .

This film does not feel nor looks like Tarkovsky, but is a very good short that perhaps because it has a happy ending, some say that is Soviet propaganda even when to my eyes it does not look as such. Then perhaps is true as it had a big budget due to VGIK co production with Russian Television, the military provided support with equipment and extras, and the film was to be aired on the anniversary day of the capitulation of Nazi Germany in WWII.

Still, is a very interesting and thrilling short that you cannot miss if you’re looking forward to understand Tarkovsky as a filmmaker and see all of his very small film production. As this does not look as regular Tarkovsky, the short becomes very accessible to all audiences, but obviously if you enjoy serious cinema this is one short that you cannot miss.

Enjoy!!!

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Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Иваново детство (Ivanovo Destvo) (My Name is Ivan or Ivan’s Childhood)


Yesterday I saw my first movie in what I call my Russian movie cycle that this time will include only movies by Andrei Tarkovsky. So I started with Tarkovsky’s first feature film to begin to understand this great director that has been called the greatest since Eisenstein.

According to what I read about this film, Tarkovsky himself dismiss this movie, as being school dreams and he claims that he didn’t even liked the book with the short story; but then he admits that what he considers bad stories are always the best for his movies. Interesting commentary that speaks a lot about this director.

This 1962 movie tells a compelling story about a child and his lost to war childhood. Interesting performance by Nikolai Burlyayev playing a very dramatic and yet realistic Ivan, that complement well the other two main characters Captain Kholin and Lt. Galtsev.

The movie is in black and white and I was mesmerized by the visual quality of the forest scenes, the water reflections scenes and the beach/apples/horses scene. I also liked the dream sequences because it helped to ease the war tale while making the movie tone and manner very dramatic. Then I just loved the magic realism of the total movie.

I definitively enjoyed this movie and it was a good introduction to his oeuvre. Also it’s a very good predecessor to Andrey Rublyov that’s Tarkovsky’s next movie.

So, if you want to duplicate my Tarkovsky experience, have to start with this quite good for a first feature film that won the Golden Lion at the 1962 Venice Film Festival.

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Monday, December 03, 2007

Зеркало – Zerkalo (The Mirror)


Like some say between Solaris and Stalker Andrei Tarkovsky made Mirror a film that not only is his masterpiece –magnum opus- but is one of the high points in the development of modern cinema. A non-narrative, stream of consciousness autobiographical film-poem that blends scenes of childhood memory with newsreel footage and contemporary scenes examining the narrator’s relationships with his mother, his ex-wife and his son.

Think that the key word for this movie is Poetry. Besides having poems from his real life father, famous poet Arseni Tarkovsky the film is like a poem with oneiric intensity scenes like those from the childhood that are truly hypnotic. You’re mesmerized by a series of images, one after the other that move in time forward and backward and by the time you realize that there is no narrative you are totally taken by all the poetry in each carefully built frame. Amazing!

But have to say that its complex yet simultaneously simple structure makes this film complex and very personal –according to what I read. There is a very interesting interview with Tarkovsky from March 1985 where he talks about this movie and many other things. Here is an excerpt from that interview:

“You are asking: what kind of mirror is it? Well, first of all — this film was based on my own screenplay containing no invented episodes. All the episodes were really part of our family history. All of them, without exception. The only made up episode is the illness of the narrator, the author (whom we do not see on the screen). By the way, this very interesting episode was necessary in order to convey the author's spiritual crisis, the state of his soul. Perhaps he is mortally ill and perhaps this is the reason for the recollections that make up the film — as with a man who remembers the most important moments of his life before he dies. So this is not a simple violence done by the author to his memory — I remember only what I want — no, these are recollections of a dying man, weighing in his conscience the episodes he recalls. Thus the only invented episode turns out to be a necessary prerequisite for other, completely true recollections.”

If you feel like reading the complete interview go here. This site is also an interesting resource to learn about this great director.

Innokenty Smoktunovsky provides the voice of the unseen narrator, Margarita Terekhova plays both his mother and wife and Arseni Tarkovsky reads his poems. But this movie is not about performances, which are good, is a movie about outstandingly breathtaking images.

A must be seen by all that enjoy serious cinema with non-narrative structure that has been compared to “stream of consciousness” technique in literature.

Big Enjoy!!!

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Friday, May 27, 2011

Almost Summer Movie Bits


After Cannes I was left with an entertainment mood wishing to watch only irrelevant escape films that take me into fantasy land. So that’s exactly what I have been doing with a few exceptions. But I’m also in a 3D mood so for sure will go to watch not Pirates but the green movie that soon will open at a theater near you with none other than Ryan Reynolds and a story about my favorite super hero from when I was a kid.

Unknown – If you don’t expect much then this thriller will entertain you even when story is similar to many other stories –man hits head and not even wife recognizes him- but here the twist at the end is unexpected and unfortunately anticlimactic. Starring great Liam Neeson carrying the entire film well -but take note that this is NO great Taken- plus many other great actors like Bruno Ganz, Sebastian Koch, Frank Langella, Aidan Quinn, January Jones and Diane Kruger makes movie watchable and for a while you will surely forget everything about your real life. Enjoy!

Just Go with It – Expecting not much, movie really surprised me. First because I had no idea Nicole Kidman was here and much less that she was doing comedy. Second because movie is as good/entertaining as those movies with the Sandler/Barrymore duo. Third I had fun watching Jennifer Aniston, which is absolutely unusual. So if you liked movies like The Wedding Singer and/or 50 First Dates I know you will enjoy this movie. Enjoy.

Red Ridding Hood – Perhaps I really like Catherine Hardwicke filmmaking style with spectacular outdoor compositions and takes but to my huge surprise, I enjoyed this movie for the visuals and well the unusual take on the classic fairy tale. Some female critics are saying that this movie target is female teenagers, hmm… maybe but even if I’m no teen I can tell you I enjoy watching great Julie Christie in the screen –she should act more often- and the twisted story that kept me wondering who the werewolf was. No, didn’t guessed right, so was absolutely unexpected, which is also unusual for me. This is no horror movie or thriller, is more like a suspense “who dunnit” kind of movie with spectacular visuals. Enjoy!!

Ilusiones Opticas (Optical Illusions) – When I finished watching this movie by Cristián Jiménez I said “is okay”. Not much time passed when I started to really think what I saw in the screen and then, story absolutely hit me hard, very hard. Movie is about “optical illusions” about what is crudely in front of you but you don’t chose to see it for whatever reason; so you create your fantasy to cover reality, to dream a dream of change, with a happier ending that never will be. Great story in a minimalist, narrative oriented film with some humor, some sadness, and some temporary happiness. If you decide to watch it you will not be disappointed. Enjoy!!!

Pa negre (Black Bread) - This Agustí Villaronga film tells about what lies can do to people, how one lie takes to another lie, how lies come from ignorance and from fear of what others could say if you admit truth, even when everybody else knows truth but chose to keep it silent or to forget about it, until truth comes out and everyone points fingers. Yes that’s what this entertaining movie is all about but using kids plus the harsh post-war years’ in Spain Catalan countryside makes what could have been a difficult-to-watch story into a more digestible story and an entertaining movie. Enjoy!!

Barney’s Version – Not sure what I was expecting from this movie, but surely wasn’t much as I don’t particularly like Paul Giamatti performances and much less, Scott Speedman; so when movie starts and goes to the past in Italy I almost stopped watching but decided to continue and I’m very glad as in the end, I liked this movie that tells the story of Barney Panofsky with his business successes, his female conquests –until he’s conquered by one woman- and his numerous failures. To me story and movie is a satire that pictures quite well the life of many men, a story that strongly resembles the life of many real life men that I know. An entertaining movie to escape reality while watching what could be reality to many. Enjoy!!

Ubiitsy (Killers) – This 1956 short film co directed by Andrei Tarkovsky when he was a student at VGIK absolutely is the best student film I have EVER seen. Is the last of Tarkovsky’s so reduced (11 titles) oeuvre that I had to see before I die or I decide to stop doing the blog. Now I can say that I have seen all his outstanding films and this short co directed with his student colleagues, with them acting, and with a scene with Tarkovsky acting is truly visual poetry even when is based on a short story by Hemingway about some killers that are in town to kill a man. If you love Tarkovsky’s work as much as I do, you have to watch this short film as well as the other 10 films he did. Truly Outstanding. BIG ENJOY!!!

El Sicario: Room 164 - A documentary that tells about the life (20 years) of a man as a highly trained Mexican narco hit man that will capture your attention not only because what he says but also for his multiple drawings while telling the most horrible stories of killings, kidnappings, torture and all the things he did while being trained, starting to work, becoming an expert and how he went into hiding, as now there is a contract on his life of US$250,000. You will not see a thing but you will hear everything, which I believe makes it more ice-cold terrific. Still, is mesmerizing until the very not-expected end that is totally anti-climatic and ruined the doc for me. Watch at your own risk. Enjoy!

El Infierno (Hell) – Actually watched this film before watching the above documentary and definitively was the reason why I decided to watch El Sicario as wanted to learn more about narco’s life as with this movie you get a satiric approach, which is very entertaining and definitively succeeds in getting you to think about this theme that you hardly think about it in your everyday life. As mentioned in other post, film is good as humor facilitates watching everything; but when you live or have lived in Mexico or any other country where chaos is real, film definitively is must be seen to realize that after all whatever is happening in Mexico -and many other similar countries- is consequence of many years, hundreds of years, where citizens indifference –and participation- have made everything possible as they did before, are doing today and unfortunately will continue to do tomorrow. According to what I read –and I agree- many films released for Mexico’s bicentennial celebration tell so many dark truths that makes many wonder if there is something to celebrate as “nothing has changed much” after 200 years. Enjoy!!!

Surely I’m forgetting some films, but this is it for today!

Cheers!

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Offret (The Sacrifice)


This is the last Andrei Tarkovsky film and is quite intense, very intense! Even for me that I can say that I’m used to very intense movies. Just imagine that some critics call this movie his “most generally accessible work”, yes sure… this is as complex as the movies made by who probably inspire him to do this drama full of words: Ingmar Bergman. For many moments I thought I was seeing a Bergman movie.

The film is in Swedish, filmed in Sweden very near to then Soviet Union and is a Sweden, UK and France production, but Tarkovsky says this movie is “as Russian as any other made by me” and no doubt about it as even if is only the third movie I see I can recognize many signs of his own and particular seal and legacy to worldwide cinema.

What story it tells? Think that there are too many stories here and is you the viewer who have to see the story that fits more your mind, your beliefs and your world. The story outline goes something like this: a middle aged intellectual whose birthday dinner is interrupted by something that you can say is like a nuclear bomb exploding (or perhaps is not…) and the TV sends a message to stay where you are as is the safest place to be (or perhaps is not…). Power goes out, nothing works in the isolated place where he and his family live. So, what do you do? Wait until everything is over, meaning total destruction and death or do something about it. He does something about it.

Outstanding cinematography that enhanced the idyllic island where the movie is set, but the use of the camera is so amazing and troubling, like the first take that lasts about 9 minutes and is a single shot! There is a majestic fire that will blow your mind because of the sounds and the images. Then the use of light, black and white for disasters and reality (he did the same in Stalker) and color for…bliss? fantasy? not reality? and a house full of natural light that becomes darker than darker. Amazing!

Very good performances complement this outstanding movie and make me more interested in seeing the other Tarkovsky films and I will, but after each of his movies I have to take a break as this is truly an extraordinary director with movies that you need time to digest.

The film was wrote also by Tarkowsky and won the Grand Prix at 1986 Cannes and many other awards and nominations in other festivals and awards.

Absolutely not for all audiences but is a must be seen for those that enjoy complex masterpieces based on dialogue and the excellent use of all available cinema techniques.

Enjoy!!!

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Сталкер (Lambykins) (Stalker)


A fascinating movie by Andrei Tarkovsky not only because how the movie is made, the exquisite dialogues and the story but also because there is a tragic story behind the making of this outstanding movie.

Lets start with the story that is a very simple science fiction tale about a meteorite or perhaps an UFO that fell to earth twenty years ago. The site had to be surrounded with wired fences and armed forces, as those that go in do not comeback. The site is known as The Zone and there are men that illegally take others into The Zone, these men are called Stalkers. One stalker takes two men into The Zone where there is The Room where your most inner desires are granted. That’s the outline of the story, but be prepared for a highly metaphoric and deeply haunting treatise on the essence of the soul.

Can you imagine a science fiction film with NO special effects? Well, this is one film that even if you know is based in a sci-fi tale it becomes more like a thriller thanks to the outstanding slow pace, very long shots, unbelievable cinematography, great music and the most incredible way of using the camera to generate tension, thrills and anguish. At the end you will not see absolutely nothing special in this movie and everything that the movie will make you feel comes from the director use of all his limited resources (due to the tragic story). It is simply amazing and extraordinary.

Visually this movie will drive you absolutely mad from one of the very first takes that makes you think you’re about to see something from outer space and well, no it is not, is just a simple bedroom with a bed. Then you have the tunnel, this scene is not only visually extraordinary but will make you feel such tension and apprehension that for a moment you fail to notice that there is absolutely nothing to fear or scary in the scene.

Tarkovsky is a Master filmmaker and storyteller. Is only my second movie and I’m absolutely captivated by this unbelievable way of doing movies. This is a must be seen director and hope some of you readers will be able to have the amazing experience of watching this movie.

I was wondering why the movie has this name as the word suggests someone stalking another; but I found that the name comes from the older sense of the word meaning a tracker of game. With this information the name and the movie make total sense to me.

As I mentioned there is a tragic story behind the making of this masterpiece as this is a two-part story and the first part had to be filmed twice, as when developing the film the supplier ruined the negative and everything was lost. One year of work was lost. Can you imagine that? You have to see the DVD extras to learn this awful story.

This is an high art movie, but I sense that has wider audiences as it may appeal to those that need to see a clear story in a movie; but then the clear story is not as interesting as the finding of what everything means and believe me, everything has a meaning here. Nevertheless, this is a must be seen movie for all serious cinema lovers.

Enjoy!!!

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Saturday, September 01, 2012

Let's Talk Telluride 2012


On Labor weekend every year what I consider to be the best festival in USA takes place. You have to buy your passes before knowing what films you'll be able to see, as the festival lineup is a secret (very well kept) that's unveiled a few hours before the festival starts. But fest has so much prestige that passes are sold out days before the opening day.

Then every major USA critics has to go and they do, I follow in twitter some of them and today's news where about Ben Affleck's Argo, with many considering film as good Oscar contender. Good is to mention that none included Argo in their predictions before Telluride. Festival gives many the opportunity to see films they haven't seen and allows them to generate buzz about films that were not considered before. So know that more tweets will come that will tells us about other possible Oscar contenders as if something Telluride truly has is: very good movies.

Most films come from Cannes, Berlin and even Venice festivals but there are a few American movies that suddenly appear in the lineup that none of us have paid much attention. So let's take a look at how the lineup looks for this year.

The Show

The Act of Killing, Joshua Oppenheimer, Denmark (documentary)
Amour (Love), Michael Haneke, Austria, France and Germany
At Any Price, Ramin Bahrani, USA
The Attack, Ziad Doueiri, Lebanon, France, Qatar, Belgium
Barbara, Christian Petzold, Germany
The Central Park Five, Ken Burns, Sarah Burns and David McMahon, USA (documentary)
De rouille et d'os (Rust & Bone), Jacques Audiard, France and Belgium
En kongelig affære (A Royal Affair), Nikolaj Arcel, Denmark, Sweden and Czech Republic
Everyday, Michael Winterbottom, UK
Frances Ha, Noah Baumbach, USA
The Gatekeepers, Dror Moreh, Israel, France, Germany, Belgium (documentary)
Ginger & Rosa, Sally Potter, UK
Hyde Park on Hudson, Roger Michell, UK
Jagten (The Hunt), Thomas Vinterberg, Denmark
The Iceman, Ariel Vromen, USA
Love, Marilyn, Liz Garbus, USA (documentary)
Midnight's Children, Deepa Mehta, Canada and UK
No, Pablo Larraín, Chile, France and USA
Paradies: Liebe (Paradise: Love), Ulrich Seidl, Austria, Germany and France
Romanzo di una Strange (Piazza Fontana), Marco Tullio Giordana, Italy and France
The Sapphires, Wayne Blair, Australia
Stories We Tell, Sarah Polley, Canada (documentary)
Superstar, Xavier Giannoli, France and Belgium
Wadja, Haifaa Al-Mansour, Saudi Arabia and Germany
What is this Film Called Love?, Mark Cousins, UK, Mexico, USA, Canada and Germany (documentary)

But there is more, as one Sneak Preview has been already screened: Argo, Ben Affleck, USA. Additional Sneak Previews may play outside the main program and will be announced on the website over the course of the four-day weekend, so fest attendees have to check the site to see what's up.

As you can notice we know about many films in above list, more if you follow Movie On facebook page; but still there are a few that I had no idea they were around and yes, will check them as soon as possible. From the ones I was unaware all are documentaries, worth noting that the last film in the list was shot over three days and on a budget of 10 English Pounds.

Known since a few days ago, Guest Director is Geoff Dyer who will present six films that span from 1974 to 2007. One of the six films in this program is none other than Stalker by Andrei Tarkovsky. The film list continues with more films in different sections plus a short films program. Go here if you wish to read about them.

The 2012 Silver Medallion Awards, given to recognize an artist’s significant contribution to the world of cinema, go to director and producer Roger Corman, Academy Award-winning actress Marion Cotillard and Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen.

One of the critics I follow said in a tweet "Love listening to people in line at #telluride; they're the target art house audience. Smart sharp cinephiles from all over the country". The brief tweet gives us an idea of who the "other" festival audience it is; but also, after reading the above list again makes me realize that for me there are not many "art house" movies up there, as matter of fact, none are. The list has very good movies, many must be seen for me, but "art house"? I believe that not all foreign language films are "art house", much less the English language films and as I said, before watching any of them, none of those films seem to be "art". Then maybe some can be labeled Auteur Films. Indeed, I'm describing the problem with labels but, what do you think? In the list and even if you haven't seen the films, do you find possible "art house" films?

The 39th Telluride Film Festival started yesterday, August 31st, today is in full swing mode and for two more days, until September 3, the great films party will continue. The good news is that next year instead of the usual four-days festival and to celebrate the 40th anniversary the fest will add one more day, making room for a five-day bounty of special programming and festivities. If you wish to attend you will have to hurry as passes fly, but at least passes purchases will begin in March 2013, almost 6 months before the festival starts on August 29, 2013.

Cheers!!!

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Sunday, June 19, 2011

Today Second Thinking Piece


This is the second article that made gasp for one single statement that reads: "Thinking is boring"... Oh!!! What follows is copy/paste of the article.

June 3, 2011
In Defense of the Slow and the Boring
By MANOHLA DARGIS and A. O. SCOTT

WHAT is boring? This question was inspired by a piece in the May 1 edition of The New York Times Magazine by Dan Kois that offered a cheerful conformist’s take on what in certain circles is sometimes termed slow cinema and that he simply finds boring, the equivalent of eating his “cultural vegetables.” Mr. Kois writes that he knows he’s supposed to embrace celebrated films that he variously describes as “slow-moving, meditative” and “stately, austere” and “deliberately paced.” But he can’t, won’t, doesn’t like or understand them. In this he empathizes with his 6-year-old daughter, Lyra, who, at a friend’s urging, tuned into “Phineas and Ferb,” a TV show that she doesn’t fully get but watches “aspirationally, as a sort of challenge to herself.”

Mr. Kois watches aspirationally too. He sees Kelly Reichardt’s “Meek’s Cutoff,” the subject of his longest lament, but his eyes roll back in his head. This makes him feel guilty, but not really. He and his daughter “both yearn,” he writes: she wants to be older than she is, while he aches to “experience culture at an ever more elevated level.” To that end he has watched films by Andrei Tarkovsky, including “Solaris,” but this too bored him as did, apparently, the very different Hou Hsaio-hsien. “As I get older,” Mr. Kois concludes, “I find I’m suffering from a kind of culture fatigue and have less interest in eating my cultural vegetables, no matter how good they may be for me.” Happily for him, movie theaters offer a cornucopia of junk food.

For instance: “The Hangover Part II,” which I find boring, raked in $137.4 million over the five-day Memorial Day weekend. It’s the kind of boring that makes money, partly because it’s the boring that many people like, want to like, insist on liking or are just used to, and partly because it’s the sort of aggressively packaged boring you can’t escape, having opened on an estimated 17 percent of American screens. Filled with gags and characters recycled from the first “Hangover,” the sequel is grindingly repetitive and features scene after similar scene of characters staring at one another stupidly, flailing about wildly and asking what happened. This is the boring that Andy Warhol, who liked boring, found, well, boring.

“Of course, what I think is boring,” Warhol wrote in his memoir “Popism,” “must not be the same as what other people think is, since I could never stand to watch all the most popular action shows on TV, because they’re essentially the same plots and the same shots and the same cuts over and over again. Apparently, most people love watching the same basic thing, as long as the details are different.”

Warhol’s own films are almost always called boring, usually by people who have never seen or sampled one, including minimalist epics like “Empire,” eight hours of the Empire State Building that subverts the definition of what a film is (entertaining, for one). Long movies — among my favorites is Béla Tarr’s seven-hour “Sátántangó” — take time away even as they restore a sense of duration, of time and life passing, that most movies try to obscure through continuity editing. Faced with duration not distraction, your mind may wander, but there’s no need for panic: it will come back. In wandering there can be revelation as you meditate, trance out, bliss out, luxuriate in your thoughts, think.

Thinking is boring, of course (all that silence), which is why so many industrially made movies work so hard to entertain you. If you’re entertained, or so the logic seems to be, you won’t have the time and head space to think about how crummy, inane and familiar the movie looks, and how badly written, shoddily directed and indifferently acted it is. And so the images keep zipping, the sounds keep clanging and the actors keep shouting as if to reassure you that, yes, the money you spent for your ticket was well worth all this clamor, a din that started months, years, earlier when the entertainment companies first fired up the public-relations machine and the entertainment media chimed in to sell the buzz until it rang in your ears.

So, is boring bad? Is thinking? In Chantal Akerman’s 1975 film “Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles” there is a scene in which the title character, a housewife who turns tricks in her fastidiously neat home, makes a meatloaf in real time. It’s a tedious task that as neither a fan of meatloaf or cooking, I find difficult to watch. Which is the point: During the film’s 201 minutes Ms. Akerman puts you in that tomb of a home with Jeanne, makes you hear the wet squish-squish of the meat between her fingers, makes you feel the tedium of a colorless existence that you can’t literally share but become intimate with (you endure, like Jeanne) until the film’s punctuating shock of violence. It makes you think. MANOHLA DARGIS

MOVIES may be the only art form whose core audience is widely believed to be actively hostile to ambition, difficulty or anything that seems to demand too much work on their part. In other words, there is, at every level of the culture — among studio executives, entertainment reporters, fans and quite a few critics — a lingering bias against the notion that movies should aspire to the highest levels of artistic accomplishment.

Some of this anti-art bias reflects the glorious fact that film has always been a popular art form, a great democratic amusement accessible to everyone and proud of its lack of aristocratic pedigree. But lately, I think, protests against the deep-dish and the highbrow — to use old-fashioned populist epithets of a kind you used to hear a lot in movies themselves — mask another agenda, which is a defense of the corporate status quo. For some reason it needs to be asserted, over and over again, that the primary purpose of movies is to provide entertainment, that the reason everyone goes to the movies is to have fun. Any suggestion to the contrary, and any film that dares, however modestly, to depart from the orthodoxies of escapist ideology, is met with dismissal and ridicule.

Even though, in the bottom-line, real-world scheme of things, the commercial prospects of a movie like “Meek’s Cutoff” are marginal — and even though the distributors of foreign-language films can only dream of such marginality — it is still somehow necessary, every so often, to drag “art movies” into the dock as examples of snobbery, pretense or a suspect form of aesthetic nutritionalism. Vegetables! Yuck! And the supposedly more sophisticated arenas of cultural discourse are hardly immune.

Last year there was a big kerfuffle at Cannes when the jury dared to give the top prize to “Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives,” Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s dreamy and oblique spiritual head-trip through the jungles of his native Thailand. This year a different jury gave the Palme d’Or to “The Tree of Life,” Terrence Malick’s dreamy and oblique spiritual head trip through the bungalows of his native Texas. And while much love has been showered on that movie — including by me, once it opened here — it was also met with scattered boos at the press screening and corresponding sourness among some critics. Writing in TruthDig, the venerable Time critic Richard Schickel strikes out against Mr. Malick’s “twaddling pretenses,” seeing them as the latest example of what he calls “The ‘Hiroshima Mon Amour’ scam,” after Alain Resnais’s quintessential art film of 1959.

For Mr. Schickel the problem with “The Tree of Life” is not just that it isn’t a good movie (“inept” is his succinct appraisal of Mr. Malick’s skill), but also, more seriously, that it gets the medium wrong. Movies, Mr. Schickel writes, “are an essentially worldly medium, playful and romantic, particularly in America, where, on the whole our best directors have stated whatever serious intentions they may harbor as ignorable asides. There are other ways of making movies, naturally, and there’s always a small audience available for these noble strivings — and good for them, I guess.”

Yes, good for them. I will stipulate that Mr. Schickel has forgotten more film history than I will ever know, but in this instance his summary of that history strikes me as strangely narrow. A whole lot of cinema, past and present, falls into that “other ways of making movies” category, and dismissing it outright in the name of fun risks throwing out quite a few masterpieces with the bathwater.

In Mr. Schickel’s argument, “pretentious” functions, like “boring” elsewhere, as an accusation that it is almost impossible to refute, since it is a subjective hunch masquerading as a description. Manohla, you had some reservations about “The Tree of Life,” but your dispatch on it from Cannes emphasized its self-evident and disarming sincerity. Sincerity is the opposite of pretentiousness, and while it is certainly possible to be puzzled or annoyed by Mr. Malick’s philosophical tendencies or unmoved by the images he composes or the story he tells, I don’t think there is any pretending involved. (And while we’re at it, if “The Hangover Part II” is a quintessentially boring movie in its refusal to do anything new or daring beyond a few instances of easy, sophomoric shock-humor, is there a recent movie more deserving of being called pretentious than “Thor”?)

Why is it, though, that “serious” is a bad word in cultural conversations, or at least in discussions of film? Why is thinking about a movie an activity to be avoided, and a movie that seems to require thinking a source of suspicion? It seems unlikely, to say the least, that films like “Uncle Boonmee,” “Meek’s Cutoff,” “The Tree of Life” or Jean-Luc Godard’s recently and belatedly opened “Film Socialisme” will threaten the hegemony of the blockbusters, so why is so much energy expended in defending the prerogatives of entertainment from the supposed threat of seriousness? I certainly don’t think fun should be banished from the screen, or that popular entertainment is essentially antithetical to art. And while I derive great pleasure from some movies that might be described as slow or tedious, I also find food for thought in fast, slick, whimsical entertainments. I would like to think there is room in the cinematic diet for various flavors, including some that may seem, on first encounter, unfamiliar or even unpleasant. A. O. SCOTT

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

So what do you THINK about the two articles??? (hope you don't got bored by the two articles...)

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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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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Izgnanie (The Banishment)


Thanks to a dearest friend I had the unbelievably opportunity to see this amazing movie and have to say that definitively I was mesmerized with the second feature film from Andrei Zvyagintsev.

Have to say that this film is exactly the type of art cinema that I enjoy the most as it blends a good story, outstanding cinematography, slow pace that allows you to see and feel everything, superb framing and composition, outstanding performances, and a great director and storyteller that magnificently orchestrates all cinema techniques and delivers an incredibly amazing masterpiece. I definitively prefer films that stimulate viewer’s emotions and here I was feeling everything.

I’ll stop the praise of this movie and tell you about what is about. Like in The Return it tells a story about a family; this time the main character is the father. He takes his family from the city to the countryside, to his birthplace, his father’s old house. One could think that the story will develop into the adaptation process from a dark and somber industrial city to the most breathtaking empty rolling hills and fertile land. But no, it doesn’t go this way, it becomes one of the most interesting human drama revolving around what it is not said, about those things that you keep to yourself in a relationship and how destructive this equivocal silence does always become.

Starring Konstantin Lavronenko as Alex the father (he was also the father in The Return) with an amazing performance that won him the Best Actor award in 2007 Cannes, you cannot miss him taking you into his character emotions, it is just incredibly amazing. Also here we find Swedish Maria Bonnevie playing Eva the tormented wife that cannot show her emotions and when at almost the end she’s allowed to do so, you’ll be devastated.

But since the very first scene with a long shot and fabulous framing the movie will take into a marvelous voyage of outdoor and indoor images that will drive you totally mad. Once scene was absolutely magic for me, when Alex runs into the forest, you see the trees and for a few seconds the camera stops in one tree and you are able to see every detail in that tree, including two small snails! That’s the kind of details you’re able to see in this film. Magical! Then we have the use of light, truly hypnotizing; as the story develops the house indoor takes become darker and darker, things (not people) shadows start to appear until walls are erased by darkness. Outstanding!

I could go on and on praising this movie, but have to stop to share some key data I found. Guess which movie is one of Zvyaguintsev’s favorite? Well these are his words: "The Sacrifice is my favorite film. People often ask me if Tarkovsky was an influence on my filmmaking. If his films did have any influence on me, it was not in a conscious way. I also like Antonioni". Obviously this helps me understand why I’m so captivated by his filmmaking.

Perhaps these comments will also help you to understand more about his filmmaking style: “Andrei Zvyagintsev on the film's relationship to reality: ‘In filmmaking, reality is so present that it is difficult to be detached from it. But you have to succeed in doing so to reach another, higher level of reality. When you are directing a film, you have to create a world, and make the invisible visible, which is an exceedingly complex task’.

Andrei Zvyagintsev on the contrast between the film's formal beauty and its dark subject: "This contrast doesn't trouble me at all. Above all, the film is a recreated reality, almost dreamlike. For me, a dream has to be beautiful, whole, and harmonious’.”

The movie was received with controversial critic’s reviews, some praise it and some dismiss it. So, chances are that when you’re able to see it you’ll either love it like me or will feel unimpressed like others. Still, the movie was an Official Selection in the 2007 Cannes and has already won 2 awards.

In my humble opinion this is a must be seen movie, but I know that is not for all audiences, you have to like serious cinema to be able to enjoy this masterpiece.

Big Enjoy!!!

P.S.: Now I'm very confussed. Even if my real name is Russian, I can hardly understand Russian beyond some basic words; so, I do not know how to spell his last name: Zviagintsev or Zvyaginstev. The only thing I'm sure is that is: Андрей Петрович Звягинцев! I really hate when this happens, as with a Russian name I know what you feel when your name is always misspelled.

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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Japón (Japan)


This first feature by Carlos Reygadas is all about images and sounds and less about a story, that definitively you do not miss that much as you are absolutely hypnotized and mesmerized by the combination of images and sounds. There are not many movies that can be described as Visual Poetry, this is one of them with the plus that the soundtrack is also essential part of the poetry.

Most of the movie I was wondering how Reygadas did those outstanding takes of Mexico’s countryside. To me they looked so surrealistic, like those photos that come from painted or treated negatives. If it wasn’t because the DVD comes with a feauterette I would have had to do hard research, but thanks to Reygadas explanation I understand that the main effect comes from shooting in 16mm and then transferring to 35mm, besides the spectacular use of light that I will comment next.

This is a movie that uses total presence of light, total absence of light and everything in-between. You have here long dark screens, long white screens, all sorts of chiaro-oscuro and many light overexposures. The results are breathtaking scenes outstandingly framed to convey feelings. Then you have exquisite music soundtrack that not only complements the visuals but also becomes part of it. When there is no music, you have sounds that do exactly the same and if it was not enough, you have silences that also do the same. Outstanding!!

Is hard for me to believe that this is Reygadas first feature film as is quite exquisite, very European alike with some influences that I believe also come from eastern cimena and he express them with the extremely slow pace, extremely long shots and more than enough time to see not only details but to divagate into your own thoughts.

I’ve been writing all this without reading anything about the movie, now I’ll stop and read. Not much to say except that if I believe in Reygadas own words, the movie was not shot in Super 16mm nor in Cinemascope, it was plain 16mm with anaphormic lenses. I’m so glad I saw the featurette!

Well, the movie is set in the Mexico's State of Hidalgo in a small village near a ravine and the simple story told with very few dialogues and mostly actors expressions is about a city man that decides to go to this isolated place to kill himself. All actors are non-professionals and perform quite realistic, which allows me to mention that this movie is cinema verité.

Most critics and viewers after seeing the movie question why is called Japan and I have to say I did it too. According to Reygadas he didn’t want to have name for this movie and wanted to call it “Untitled” like many paintings, but he realized that it will became a pretentious name. So thinking about eastern cinema techniques he realized that in the movie there were many images, long silences, respect to everything that surrounds, etc and thought about calling it Taiwan, Korea or Japan. Eventually Japan stayed. After all he did the same as Brazil the movie , that has nothing to do with the country.

As you can realize by now I’m really impressed with the work of this Mexican director and now more than ever I need to see his latest film Silent Light. I could go on writing about this movie, but everything else I have to say relates to outstanding technical aspects of the movie that most people do not like to read and the director’s influences and inspiration, so I’ll stop.

The movie has 16 wins and 8 nominations in awards and festivals around the world. Among the incredible achievement of so many wins for a first feature director he won the Camera D’Or at the 2002 Cannes.

Absolutely not for all audiences as this is really an art movie with images and sounds telling a story, more than characters telling a story. Perhaps if you are familiar with Andrei Tarkovsky films then you will totally enjoy this movie. Me, I just loved this outstanding visual and sound experience.

Enjoy!!!

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Thursday, August 07, 2008

Мать и сын - Mat i syn (Mother and Son)


OMG! WHAT A MOVIE! This is one the best movies that I’ve ever seen. I believe that the movie is almost impossible to describe, as it is awesome. Each and every scene of this movie should be in a museum, as is the most unbelievable impossible visual succession of incredible paintings! I heard about movies being moving pictures (or photos if you wish), but never imagined that I was going to be able to see moving paintings or that a filmmaker could paint the screen.

Alexandr Sokurov painted the screen with some of the most beautiful paintings you can imagine and he did it with a purpose, to transmit the strongest feelings you can imagine, as there were many moments that tears pour out of my eyes… some moments because what I was seeing was more than breathless and another moments because of the story. Yes, the movie has a sad story, but it is told in the most awesome and beautiful way.

No, I haven’t read about the movie as I’m deeply touched by this movie; my eyes had a wet feast, my heart shrunk, my ears exploded with the outstanding use of sound, and my body contracted and expanded during the entire movie. How could a filmmaker do something like this to me? Absolutely unexpected and unexplainable… but Sukorov totally did it.

You have to see how he used the light (darkness, saturation, and everything else you can imagine), the unbelievable odd camera angles, the editing to trick your eyes, the images distortions, coloration and blur (the lenses, he had to use different lenses); the longest takes with awesome framing (the actors stop and stay still for you to better appreciate the painting), and those sounds that crunch your ears! You have to live all this… but you have to be aware and prepared for the story.

The movie tells about a son and his dying mother and you will see the opening with the mother in bed and his son at his side, he will eventually take her in his arms and take her out of the house to a bench, then with her in his arms will take a long promenade in the county surroundings, he will go back to the house, take her to bed and alone will go for a long-long walk in the country surroundings. He goes back to the house and to the climatic end of the movie. I know I’m sort of spoiling the story, but I wanted to tell you that you will never see any melodramatic moment (which seems so impossible with the story essence) and I need you to imagine all the opportunities Sukorov had to paint the screen.

Now that I burst out all that I had inside of me, I’ll stop and read about the movie. Yes, he used anamorphic lens and here is the story in Alexandr Sukorov words.

“The story is about an ideal human relationship — about love and deep affection between a mother and her son. Neither she nor he loves anybody in this world as much as they love each other. Their love is almost physically palpable, it is the edge, the limit of love, but only beyond it something true lies. It seems that those two are the only people on the entire Earth — no routine, no bustle, no unnecessary things, just a wooden house in the country where the seriously ill mother and her loving son lead a quiet life… To a certain extent the mother and the son are one single creature plunged into the strange and beautiful world of eternal Nature, the world which either has never been visited by Man (and thus nothing has been spoilt) or was forever abandoned by Man long-long ago…”

The story is strong and intense, but non-actors performances are outstandingly good as most is done with expressions, postures and very little dialogue. Then the story is sad, but what actually makes it so powerful is all the technical resources that this master filmmaker used to make you feel absolutely everything, including the love, the despair, and death.

This truly is a masterpiece of real art cinema that has great accolades and here are some of the awards as listed at the Sukorov site.

47th International Film Festival in Berlin (1997): Special Award of the Ecumenical Jury
Award of the program Forum (Berlin)
Award of the International Confederation of Cinema Art
Prize of the Guild of Film Researchers and Critics of Russia (twice)
FIPRESSI award
Awards of the program Young Cinema to the director of photography Alexei Fedorov and actor Alexei Ananishnov
Andrei Tarkovsky Award
Big Special Award Silver St. George for the Intention to Widen the Borders of Cinema Art
KODAK award for Best Debut to the director of photography Alexei Fedorov (twice)
Bronze Horseman Award of LENFILM studio (1998):
Best Directing
Best Photography – A.Fedorov
Best Design – V.Zelinskaya
Best Sound Design – V.Persov

I cannot help but to comment that for me it’s hard to understand why Sokurov changed his style when doing the second movie of the trilogy, Father and Son. The later movie is very good, but Mother and Son is breathlessly awesome.

The film is 70 minutes long and I’m glad it was short as it generated in me so many intense feelings and emotions that I could hardly endure what it was happening to me. But then, this film absolutely is a MUST BE SEEN cinematic experience that no serious cinema lover can miss.

ABSOLUTELY BIG ENJOY!!!

I just decided to include some screens that I found from this awsome masterpiece so you can get an idea of what you'll be able to see.

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Thursday, May 18, 2017

Day 2 at #Cannes2017


The first day of the festival is over as well as the beginning of the anniversary celebrations with the formal dinner after the opening ceremony.  By-the-way, in the era of ubiquitous cameras is not surprising to see photos of empty seats! Yes, yesterday was able to see how many rows in the Palais were empty, minutes after the festival was declared open and before the opening film began.

Gee, perhaps a good idea will be to have seat-fillers (like in the Oscars) but in this case with people that actually like the cinema and wish to watch the opening film or maybe there should be some control with the many "celebrities" that walk the red carpet for the photographers and not for the cinema event or in the extreme case, perhaps organizers should avoid hard-proof possibilities and should ban cell phones/cameras! (LOL) (I'm kidding-about cells only)

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Thursday, May 01, 2014

2014 Cannes Check #2: Andrey Zvyagintsev


AndreyZvganistev (андрей звягинцев) is in Cannes for the third time as he won the Un Certain Regard Special Jury Prize in 2011 with his film Elena and was also in competition with his awesome film Izgnanie (The Banishment) in 2007 -male lead won best actor-, four years after his also amazing Vozvrashchenie (The Return) won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2003. Seems like a short Cannes history but he has only three (3) feature films and all are highly honored in festivals all over the world; his fourth feature film, Leviathan, premieres in competition in this year Cannes.

Born February 6th, 1964 in Novosibirsk (Russia) he is perhaps a less-known director and actor with only nine (9) films in his filmography and more than half (5) are short films. In my opinion his first two feature films, The Return and The Banishment (both have reviews here) are extraordinary for the use of images, color, compositions and very unusual storytelling style told in slowish to slow pace; his third film Elena is different, looking/feeling more contemporary cinema which was a bit disappointing for me. Perhaps because his two first films are set in the past while Elena is set in the "new Russia" is why his style becomes more raw-ish realism and has much less visual poetry.

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