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Thread: The 2007 Miami International Film Festival

  1. #31
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    PRINCESS (Denmark)

    Shortly after he returns to Copenhagen, the sister of a missionary named August dies of a drug overdose in a brothel. He picks up his young niece Mia and brings her to live with him. It soon becomes evident that Mia has been subjected to physical and sexual abuse while living with her mother, the porn star known as Princess. The devoutly Christian August vows to take revenge. With assistance from Mia, he proceeds to shoot, maim, burn, torture and bomb anything and anybody connected with the "smut empire" built by Mia's ex-boyfriend Charlie, who may or may not be Mia's father.

    The film is mostly animated, with character and background drawing below the standards of current American and Japanese animation. Animated sequences are interspersed with live-action flashbacks from Augustís camcorder, an original approach that enriches the film by providing detailed backstory regarding August, Charlie and Princess.
    From animator and author of children's books Anders Morgenthaler's statement: "To enjoy a porno film one must either be very dumb or be able to abstract from the fact that one is watching real people". Princess is an expression of its creator's religious, anti-porn crusade. Even those who support his views might wince at the way he glorifies and justifies all sorts of gory, vigilante violence. Perhaps there's an audience out there for Princess. I just don't want to meet them.

  2. #32
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    FICTION (Spain)

    Alex, a 39 year-old film director, comes to a village at the edge of the Pyrenees to spend a couple of weeks with Santi, an old friend. Alex hasn't seen Santi for years and doesn't feel completely at ease around him, but needs a respite from the wife, kids, and big city pressures. Also at the village is Judith, Santi's best friend and a former acquaintance of Alex, and Monica, a musician from Madrid visiting Judith. Fiction concerns these four characters and how they relate to each other, but gradually the main focus becomes what develops between Alex and Monica. They get ample time together when they become separated from Santi and Judith during a mountain hike and get lost. They spend the night in a shelter where each realizes separately there is something special between them, something that is perhaps better left unacknowledged. Later, Judith's girlfriend returns from a trip abroad and Alex's wife makes an impromptu visit.

    Ficcio (Fiction in Catalan) is the third solo effort from director Cesc Gay (In The City, Nico and Dani). All three films revolve around characters who either are not the type to show their feelings openly, or choose consciously to repress them. Only the spectator is truly privy to certain emotions felt by key characters. In Fiction, Gay explores the nostalgia felt by people at mid-life for a time when all the roads were open. Any road taken closes the door on other possibilities because we can never really go back. This is the third script co-written by Gay and Tomas Aragay. It typically avoids any semblance of stiff theatricality or literary wit. Gay's method of shooting chronologically to allow for improvisation without creating continuity problems again pays dividends. The tone is consistently understated and sober, probing character nuance without histrionics or genre twists. Fiction is the type of film in which it's almost unfair to single out any of the actors because the whole cast is impressive. Having said that, Fiction features, arguably, the two best Spanish actors working today: Eduard Fernandez (as Alex) and Javier Camara (as Santi).

    Catalan is the prevalent language in Fiction, which is no small matter. Catalan is spoken by less than 5 million people. The mere use of the language spoken in Catalonia means reduced box office potential and distribution for any film, not only in Spain but also in Latin America and the USA. Perhaps Fiction will eventually be released on dvd in the US (like In The City, which is also in Catalan). For the time being, it will delight festival goers looking for refined adult fare. Fiction is one of the best films of the festival.

  3. #33
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    In Fiction, Gay explores the nostalgia felt by people at mid-life for a time when all the roads were open. Any road taken closes the door on other possibilities because we can never really go back.

    The tone is consistently understated and sober, probing character nuance without histrionics or genre twists.
    The best parts of your description--the only ones other than your saying i(somewhat oddly) it will "will delight festival goers looking for refined adult fare" and "Fiction is one of the best films of the festival" -- which otherwise might leave one a little at a loss as to what the fascination is in specific terms.

    MARC RECHA: AUGUST DAYS (2006)--in the NYFF--was also in Catalan, interesting. What does it sound like to a Spanish speaker? How hard is it to follow?

  4. #34
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    My wife says most Spanish speakers would find Catalan slightly easier to understand than Portuguese and Italian. She's probably right. The reason why it's the other way around for me is exposure to Portuguese via films and Italian via films and travel.

    Acquarello, my favorite online critic on August Days: "Marc Recha channels the spirit of Lisandro Alonso's primitivistic, metaphoric journey of interiority in Los Muertos (a derivation made all the more transparent by an extended river exploration sequence) to a visually sublime, but soporific and tediously unoriginal effect in Days of August."
    Visually sublime? That's reason enough for me to watch it if it comes my way.

  5. #35
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    August Days, August doze?

    So what you're saying is you have a smattering (or maybe more than a smattering) of Portuguese and Italian and not of Catalan, so far? Is your wife Spanish-speaking?

    August Days is not only a visual extravaganza but an auditory one. The comparison with Lisandro Alonso's powerful Los Muuertos doesn't seem to me very enlightening, "extended river exploration sequence" notwithstanding. They have about as much in common as Catalan and Italian. Acquarello has a slight proclivity for the far-fetched link. I can see why you'd admire that site but I'm glad you don't emulate Acquarello's highfallutin "Strictly Film School" style, which sails high and often sinks, Icarus-like, into the muddy sea of its own pretentions.
    a visually sublime, but soporific and tediously unoriginal effect
    Acquarello does love to multiply those adjectives and adverbs. You have to wonder how something can be simultaneously sublime and tediously unoriginal. (Is there a category of stimulatingly unoriginal, I wonder?) It does go on and on, Recha's film, and never gets anywhere though. You might like it, sure. Acquarello ought to have mentioned the sound. And I guess the Catalan language adds to the richness of that. Here's what I wrote in my coverage of the NYFF 2006:
    In August Days/Dies d'agost Marc Recha has given us a sun-saturated Catalan documentary-style road movie thatís mostly a meandering improvised meditation on brotherhood and reclaiming the dead. The beautiful sometimes large-scale, richly atmospheric 35 mm. landscape images, nice soundtrack and Catalan-language narration are enchanting as a mood piece, if one is content with a trajectory that hasnít much momentum and doesnít lead anywhere in particular.
    You probably are. For much of the time I was.

  6. #36
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    Acquarello's writing style is highly concentrated. Not to everyone's taste. He's got a vast knowledge of the history of the medium, an obsession with finding undistributed gems, and ability to offer insightful takes on films.
    Cristi left Cuba at age nine and lived in Madrid for three years before moving to the US.
    Catalan has managed to survive despite efforts by Franco to supress it. I understand some Italian and Portuguese, but only words in Catalan which are similar to Spanish. The reason for this is minimal exposure to Catalan. I've visited Barcelona twice. Everybody who speaks Catalan seems to also speak Spanish. They notice you are a visitor because you carry a camera or a backpack or whatever and they address you in Spanish.
    Last edited by oscar jubis; 03-02-2007 at 02:54 PM.

  7. #37
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    OUR FATHER (Chile)

    Pedro, Roberto and Meche have been summoned to Valparaiso after their 72 year-old father is hospitalized. The first half of Our Father (Padre Nuestro) is a road movie as the siblings, along with Pedro's Argentine wife Maite, make the hour-long drive from Santiago. The drive is interspersed with flashbacks to each receiving a phone call from Rosa, Caco's second wife. Pedro, the oldest, has lied to Maite about undergoing fertility tests because he believes he's sterile and fears Maite will leave him when she finds out. Meche, who suffers from bulimia, is the one who found out about her father's affair with Rosa when her parents where still married. She is still quite angry at her father and has kept a distance from him for years. Roberto, the youngest, has not told anyone that he separated from his wife months ago. Caco turns out to be quite a character, a gregarious bon vivant with a great sense of humor. He is on the verge of dying but vows to go his own way. After the others return briefly to Santiago, he gets Roberto to "borrow" an ambulance and take him to his old haunts by the waterfront. They have a ball at a bar owned by an old friend of Caco's and visit a lively bordello. At sundown, Caco gets Roberto to drive him to the beach town where they used to go on vacation. Caco's dream of reuniting the whole family one last time is realized there.

    This film, written and directed by Rodrigo Sepulveda, shares thematic elements with The Royal Tenenbaums and The Barbarian Invasions but can't quite reach their high level of artistry. Our Father is impeccably directed and thoroughly enjoyable though. Veteran Chilean thespian Jaime Vadell seems to be having a blast playing Caco, and Cecilia Roth (as Maite) is always a welcome presence. The problem with Our Father is that the compelling issues raised during its first half are abandoned in order to grant Caco one last joyride and the conflict-free reunion that is his final wish.

  8. #38
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    Acquarello; Catalan.

    I appreciate and noted the virtues of Acquarello and said I could well see why you'd admire him. I find the style bothersome. To say it's "highly concentrated" and not to everyone's taste" doesn't adequately excuse its flaws, but you may be willing to put up with it for what he otherwise has to offer, of course, and understandably so. Maybe you don't even notice. Lucky you. I however find that his critical evaluations are often blurred by weaknesses in his writing.

    I didn't even realize your wife Cristi was of non-US origin, and obviously she too would be an excellent judge of Castillian Spanish. I remember that in L'Auberge Espagnole one lecturer insists on addressing the students in Catalan. They are annoyed but don't seem to be saying they can't understand it at all, which from what you say would be likely, since they're foreign students to begin with. Of course maybe they're just there for a good time. Barcelona seems to be a non-stop party town for young people from other countries.

  9. #39
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    Roderigo Sepulveda: Nuestro padre

    Always with the reservation that my knowledge of Spanish is limited, I thought this was an interesting discussion of the film that brought out some aspects of it you don't mention re its "intimist" style and portrait of another generation -- and a more philosophical analysis of the content.

    http://nuevomundo.revues.org/document2908.html

    I still don't know why you have this aversion to revealing the name of the directors of the films you are reporting on till somewhere down in your text.

  10. #40
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    I don't mind Acquarello's writing style. Actually, I appreciate his brevity.
    Piece by Chilean writer is more essay inspired by one character in the film than a review. The writer seems to have been inspired by Caco to wax nostalgic about what Chile was like between 1930 and 1970 (film doesn't include scenes set during that period). Film is neither "intimist" nor "austere". Writer doesn't even mention four characters that have more screen time than Caco (whom we meet half way through the film).
    Last edited by oscar jubis; 03-02-2007 at 06:19 PM.

  11. #41
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    SERAMBI (Indonesia)

    Serambi (Veranda) was shot in a town in the Aceh region referred by Indonesian Muslims as the Veranda of Mecca, the point of departure for their pilgrimage to the Holy Land. It is, historically, an important center of trade between East and West. On December 26, 2004, the town was ravaged by the tsunami that killed over 200,000 people and left many more homeless in the Indian Ocean region. Home video footage shows crowds running away from waves of water carrying cars, piles of debris, and people down the streets. After the water recedes, the corpses that litter the street are taken away and survivors look for missing friends and relatives.

    Director Garin Nugroho, returns to his documentary roots after successful forays into fiction features (including the critically acclaimed musical Opera Jawa). He focuses primarily on three survivors from different generations. Reza, a middle-aged man who makes a living delivering goods in a small motorized vehicle, misses his wife terribly, and eats food he buys at street stalls at the ruins where his house used to be. Usman, a college student who worships Che Guevara and attempts to restart a relationship with his despondent ex-girlfriend. Tari, she's about 9 years old, lost most of her family during the tsunami and now lives in a UN shelter. The devout girl prays for "God to love my parents like they loved me when I was little". Serambi follows its three subjects around town as they attempt to cope with their many losses and reorient themselves to the environment. Some of the most interesting issues that come up refer to how the disaster challenges certain religious beliefs of the survivors. Nugroho's approach to the documentary form is anecdotal and poetic, which may disappoint viewers looking for a comprehensive, informational point-of-view of this terrible natural disaster.

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    I AM THE OTHER WOMAN (Germany)

    Robert (August Diehl), a civil engineer, travels to Frankfurt on business. At the hotel bar, he meets Carlotta, a platinum blonde in a red dress and they share a night of kinky sex. She's gone by the time he wakes up. Robert goes to his scheduled meeting with Carolin Winter (Katja Riemann), who looks just like Carlotta (remember Vertigo?) except her attire and demeanor are completely different. Carolin accepts an invitation to dinner, where she denies any connection with "the other woman" and resists Robert's persistent attempts to seduce her. Undeterred, Robert visits the Winter estate and meets her ditzy, alcoholic mother (Karin Dor, making a comeback to the big screen) and creepy, wheelchair-bound father Karl (Armin Muller-Stahl, perfectly cast). Also living in the household: a mute, glowering manservant, who turns out to be Mrs. Winter's longtime lover, and a fortyish secretary who, we will learn, was a teen prostitute Karl met during a trip to Morocco and brought home with him. The intriguing plot of I am the Other Woman is propelled by Robert's erotic obsession and by Carolin/Carlotta's need to escape the clutches of the dementedly possessive Karl.

    I am the Other Woman is an adaptation of a novel by Peter Merthesheimer who collaborated with F.W. Fassbinder on several projects. Perhaps Fassbinder could have made art out of this lurid, grotesque, sometimes preposterous material. Veteran director Margarethe von Trotta was perhaps attracted by the theme of male oppression in the story_a topic she explored in some of her best work. Here she seems content with delivering outrageous entertainment and directing an amazing veteran cast. File under guilty pleasure.

  13. #43
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    SERAMBI

    Home video footage shows crowds running away from waves of water carrying cars. . .
    At first I thought that would be interesting to see till I realized you meant the waves were carrying the cars, not the crowds.

  14. #44
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    *Right. The footage seemed to be shot from a balcony or roof several blocks inland. You watch horrified people running ahead of a huge amount of water propelled forcefully down the streets of the town. Then, shocked survivors walk around wet corpses looking for missing friends and relatives. The awesome power of nature to deliver human tragedy.
    *Festival opened last night. Arrived at the Verhoeven press conference (from work) just in time but all the seats were taken. I had to stand in the back and didn't get a chance to ask questions about Black Book.

  15. #45
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    I'm glad it's well attended. Why couldn't you ask a question, because they couldn't see you in the back?

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