Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 25

Thread: New Directors/New Films and Film Comment Selects 2011

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    12,700

    New Directors/New Films and Film Comment Selects 2011



    Isild Le Besco: Bas-Fonds (2010) -- FILM COMMENT SELECTS


    NOÉMIE LE CARRER, VALÉRIE NATAF AND GINGER ROMÀN IN BAS-FONDSa

    Bad girls

    Actress Isild LeBesco's fourth directorial effort, Bas-Fonds ("The Lower Depths," or, better "The Dregs"), is a series of appallingly violent, apparently improvised scenes mostly set in a trashed suburban flat inhabited by three young women who are living a sub-human existence dominated by occasional lesbian sex, physical and verbal abuse, and alcohol. After a while a squat, heavy-looking black dog is brought in. Magalie (Valérie Nataf), Stéph-Marie (Noémie Le Carrer), and Barbara (Ginger Romàn) live a squalid and insensate, violent and inward-turning life on the barest fringes of human civilization. Trash litters the floors of their barren apartment. In their day-to-day life that consists of little more than eating, sleeping, drunkenness, violent squabbling and getting off, with a little watching of soaps and what sound like porno films on a big box TV, they are lost to all but each other.

    Magalie, the lumpish leader, rules with a mixture of male power and animal charisma. Stéph-Marie, her little sister, is a self-effacing simpleton. Barbara, bleach-blond, unaware that she's prettier than the other two, is employed as a night cleaner at an office building. She also acquires a "lover," whom she met at a cafe and has regular sex with. Already estranged from her biological family, she has unwittingly joined the pack out of an attraction to Magalie, met at a dance club, who has sex with her and beats her. One day at the instigation of Magalie and out of sheer boredom they hold up and trash a small bakery at closing time, killing the young baker (Benjamin Le Souef) with a shot from a rifle and terrorizing his wife (Ingrid Leduc). They return to their meaningless life but nothing is the same. Magalie beats Barbara so brutally that one day she goes to the police and this nightmare ends with imprisonment and a trial.

    Le Besco's "Dregs" is a film for devotees of X-rated raunch or cinephiles who scoff at entertainment-seeking and seek to be shaken and disturbed by what they watch. This is the film school of deliberate and none-too-subtle provocation, that, however it may annoy, has commitment behind it, if not great skill. Its cruelty and meanness make Harmony Korine's Trash Humpers , which after all has its humorous side, seem like Singing in the Rain by comparison; Philippe Nahon in I Stand Alone is a polished sophisticate compared to Magalie, and it's impossible to speak of von Trier's Antichrist in the same breath because that film's even more cinematically sophisticated than von Trier intended it to be, and if it goes too far, it also offers much visual beauty. Bas-Fonds isn't technically crude in the camera department, but its acting and directing are, and Leslie Ferperin of Variety has commented with reason that while the second half is "not without grace notes," the " first part is so tacky, histrionic and wannabe-outrageous it feels like an early John Waters movie in French, but without the laughs."

    In between violent closeups of these poor creatures, who communicate only in shouted obscene taunts, there are passages of voice-over with poetic musings, finally, with a recitation of the 23rd Psalm. At the end Barbara has been released and has a job, but she seems disconnected from life, and longs for the bestial suburban cave she used to live in with the two sisters and muses that she would go back to it, sooner or later, if she could.

    The periodical moments of soft, poetic voiceover (Le Besco's own quite beautiful voice) with dappled water and sky shots are meant to and to some extent do establish a humanistic context. These too, they are saying, are God's creatures, poor little lambs who have gone astray. But patched-in comments are too easy and gratuitous. What Bas-Fonds succeeds in doing is both in keeping us at one remove from its characters, and throwing their invective and lurid squalor so much in our faces we can't analyze and think. When we look closer we see that there's more gesture than context and more noise than narrative. We get stunning shtick: scantily clad (but occasionally laundered) young woman going wild on each other and dispensing with the amenities. But dialogue consists mainly of brief shouts, obscene epithets, accusations. "More hootch!" You forgot such and such! (Visits to the supermarché are included). "The bottom on the can is cold!" (Their meals consist of canned food heated in a pan of boiling water and eaten from the can.) A script consisting of barbaric yawp can't develop relationships or history or context. It's only by a flashback that the way Barbara and Magalie met is established. By suggesting that Magalie does a lot of sleeping LeBesco avoids having to give her much else to do. The Guignol of the bakery and its aftermath provide the film's narrative arc. Le Besco seems to do a lot of showing, but in fact her showing doesn't tell, and she has to spell things out with voice-overs to get any ideas across.

    Le Besco aligns herself with a French cinema of desperation to which Bresson, Pialat, Godard, Noé and Dumont also belong. Her context seems more petulant and childish than those others but she may make up for that with a passionate intensity that makes her films, as one French commentator remarked, "more lived than seen."

    Bas-fonds was released in France by Ciné Classic and opened in Paris December 29, 2010. It was seen (and painfully lived) and reviewed as part of the Film Society of Lincoln Center's series Film Comment Selects. The series, now in its eleventh year, includes 26 films this year and they are shown between Feb. 18 and March 4 at the Walter Reade Theater at 65th Street near Broadway.

    FCS screenings of Bas-Fonds:
    Fri Feb 18, 2011: 9:00 pm
    Sat Feb 19, 2011: 4:00 pm |
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-26-2011 at 02:49 PM.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    12,700

    Press screenings schedule, New Directors/New Films

    For the Fillmleaf Forum discussion thread linked with this series, please go HERE.

    INDEX OF LINKS TO REVIEWS IN THIS SECTION:

    At Ellen's Age (Pia Marais 2010)
    Attenberg (Athina Rachel Tsangari 2010)
    Belle Épine (Rebecca Zlotowski 2010)
    Black Power Mixtape: 1967-1975, The (Göran Hugo Olsson: 2011)
    Cairo 678 (Mohamed Diab 2010)
    Curling (Denis Côté 2010)
    Destiny of Lower Animals, The (Deron Albright 2010)
    Gromozeka (Vladimir Kott 2011)
    Happy, Happy (Anne Sewitsky 2010)
    Hit So Hard (P. David Ebersole 2011)
    Hospitalité (Koji Fukada 2010)
    Incendies (Denis Villeneuve 2010)
    Majority (Seren Yüche 2010)
    Man Without a Cell Phone (Sameh Zoabi 2010)
    Margin Call (J.C. Chandor 2010)
    Memory Lane (Mikaël Hers 2010)
    Microphone (Ahmad Abdalla 2010)
    Octubre (Daniel, Diego Vega 2010)
    Outbound (Bogdan George Apetri 2010)
    Pariah (Dee Rees 2010)
    Tyrannosaur (Paddy Considine 2010)
    Winter Vacation (Hongqi Li 2010)

    The press screenings schedule for the 2011 New Directors/New Films is as follows. I will be watching as many of these as I can and reviewing all that I see.

    Monday, March 7
    10:00am MARGIN CALL (109 min) – MoMA, Titus 1
    12:15pm ONE and WINTER VACATION (10 min + 91 min) – MoMA, Titus 1

    Tuesday, March 8
    10:00am MEMORY LANE (98 min) – MoMA, Titus 2
    12:00pm OUTBOUND (87 min) – MoMA, Titus 2

    Wednesday, March 9
    10:00am INCENDIES (130 min) – MoMA, Titus 1
    12:30pm MAJORITY (111 min) – MoMA, Titus 1

    Thursday, March 10
    10:00am HAPPY HAPPY (85 min) – MoMA, Titus 1
    11:45am AT ELLEN’S AGE (95 min) – MoMA, Titus 1

    Friday, March 11
    10:00am 6,7,8 (100 min) – MoMA, Titus 1
    12:00pm THE BLACK POWER MIX TAPE 1967-1975 (100 min) – MoMA, Titus 1

    Monday, March 14
    10:00am CURLING (96 min) WRT
    12:00pm PARIAH (86 min) - WRT
    2:00pm CIRCUMSTANCE (107 min) – WRT

    Tuesday, March 15
    10:00am BUKOWSKI and COPACABANA (10min + 107 min) - WRT
    12:15pm HIT SO HARD (101 min) - WRT
    2:15pm BELLE EPINE (80 min) - WRT

    Wednesday, March 16
    10:00am MICROPHONE (120 min) – MoMA, Titus 1
    1:00pm SOME DAYS ARE BETTER THAN OTHERS (93 min) - WRT
    3:00pm TYRANNOSAUR (91 min) - WRT

    Thursday, March 17
    10:00am NIGHT HUNTER and SUMMER OF GOLIATH (16min + 76 min) - WRT
    12:30pm MAN WITHOUT A CELL PHONE (83 min) – MoMA, Titus 1
    2:10pm MIYUKI and HOSPITALITÈ (9min + 96 min) – MoMA, Titus 1

    Friday, March 18
    10:00am GROMOZEKA (104 min) – MoMA-Titus 1
    12:00pm MILA CAOS and EL VELADOR (18min + 72 min) – MoMA, Titus 1
    2:00pm OCTUBRE (93 min) – MoMA-Titus 1

    Monday, March 21
    10:00am THE DESTINY OF LESSER ANIMALS (87 min) – MoMA, Titus 2
    12:00pm MATCH and ATTENBERG (11min + 95 min) – MoMA, Titus 2
    2:00pm FWD: UPDATE ON MY LIFE and SHUT UP LITTLE MAN! (28min + 85min) – MoMA,Titus 2

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-07-2017 at 06:47 PM.

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    12,700

    J.C. Chandor: Margin Call (2011)--ND/NF

    J.C. Chandor: Margin Call (2011)


    KEVIN SPACEY IN MARGIN CALL

    A cooler drama of financial meltdown

    Margin Call is a dark, elegant-looking, well-acted and very focused film that takes a more realistic look at Wall Street's 2008 crash. Sometimes you may wish for more fantasy, for the glitz and drama of Michael Douglas as Gordon Gekko. Or for the drive and desperation of Ben Affleck and Giovanni Ribisi in Boiler Room. J. C. Chandor's feature film debut, which he also wrote, has a real sense of atmosphere, but not quite such a good sense of how to tell a story. You would think a moment so climactic and urgent would fuel a movie of great suspense. Instead there are longeurs, and a sense of slow wind-down, a giving up. The Variety review calls it "methodical, coolly absorbing." But the cool gets in the way of the absorbing sometimes.

    But there is commentary. This is clearly a world of men only pretending to know something (and this is realistic, we have to believe) when they barely have a clue. The highest officer on the sales floor can't read charts on screens, and the CEO asks the explainer of what's gone wrong to "Speak to me as you would a small child, or a golden retriever." Too believable. Margin Call has been described as a thriller but also a comedy. Things would be desperate if they weren't so pathetic, tragic if they weren't so tinged with stupidity and greed. You'd weep for these people if so many of them were not reptiles. These are smart people but they're not fully using their brains or their moral sense because their eyes are on the money.

    Details have been freely altered but the unnamed setting is a firm like Lehman Brothers. It's a kind of vast gilded glass-bound cage with beautiful faraway views of Manhattan. A couple of employees go on a fast early morning drive to Brooklyn Heights, but otherwise for 36 hours hardly anybody leaves the building.

    The action is simple. Heads roll aplenty, but that happens all the time. This time it's different because it emerges that for the past two weeks (and really a long time before that) the firm's holdings have become so shaky that it's going to go under. ( It's credit default swaps and the real estate crisis that are bringing down the store values, but such details are not delineated.) The decision is made to dump all the firm's mortgage securities in a single day for whatever they can get on a dollar per sale as the day wears on. It's the end of the firm and the first big step in the end-of-2008 financial meltdown.

    Chandor gets things going through a risk manager Eric Dale (Stanley Tucci) who's part of a sudden purge. As he's escorted out of the building he presses a flash drive upon one of his underlings. It's something he was in the middle of, he says, that looks very important. "Be careful." The underling, Sullivan (Zachary Quinto, the new Spock in Star Trek and a producer of this film), who along with a star trader, Will Emerson (Paul Bettany) and his pal Seth (Penn Badgley), is among those not let go that day, stays in the office till late at night completing Eric Dale's research. He calls back Seth and Sullivan and Will, and they call in Will's boss Jared Cohen (Simon Baker), and when the information has been dumbed down enough for all to understand they call upon the CEO himself, John Tuld (Jeremy Irons). They must bring back Eric Dale, but in the interests of "security" his mobile was cut off, and he has not come home. Also present now: the head risk manager, responsible for Eric Dale's demise, Sarah Robertson (Demi Moore).

    Once Tuld gets his golden-retriever-level summary from Sullivan, he knows this is The End. It falls to the trading-floor manager, Sam Rogers (Kevin Spacey) to pep-talk the sales floor into selling out the company, knowing most of them are also going to lose their jobs when it's done, but with a million-plus bonus for axing themselves, the company, Wall Street, and the world economy.

    Special kudos go to Kevin Spacey for delivering a performance that is restrained and real this time. He even looks right, and he is the most genuinely complex and conflicted character. Irons too is riveting, managing to be both chatty and Olympian, quick-witted and clueless. Tucci is workmanlike as usual. Bettany is convincing and a little raw in the Ben Affleck role, the aggressive, risk-taking, Nicorette-chomping salesman who's blown a two-million-plus year's earnings mostly on luxuries, a $150,000 sports car (which sounds better than it looks; it's the one that gets driven to Brooklyn Heights to corral Eric Dale), and over $75,000 on call girls and cocaine. The other actors, though carefully chosen, are not as interesting, and this is not an ensemble piece. It doesn't depict a world where people cooperate. There is too much dithering in the script and there are not enough memorable lines, except for almost everything Jeremy Irons says. There's the one about the golden retriever, and the signal line of the piece: "It's not called panic if you're first out the door."

    There's a business about Sam Rogers' dying dog that isn't used forcefully enough to justify its being dragged in. There are also one or two gaps in continuity: but this film was reportedly shot in three or four days. Excellent use is made of steel and glass, of night shots of Manhattan, men (few women) in good suits, and a shot of Tuld (Irons) eating alone by a sweep of windows (On the World?) in the company dining room, a moment that nails the man's sublime indifference. Chandor's own father worked in the industry for forty years, and one thing he brings to this film, well received at Sundance and a creditable, even flashy, first effort, is fairness. We pay attention to these men even if we don't like them. There is sympathy if not psychological depth. These are not caricatures. Chandor deserves credit for bringing in such a good-looking, complicated picture for just a little over three million and delivering a swirl of financial events in only 109 minutes. The Red camera cinematography of Frank G. DeMarco does much to contribute to the film's cool elegance.

    Seen and reviewed as part of New Directors/New Films, presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and MoMA and the series' opening night film. Picked up at Sundance by Lionsgate, it opens in US theaters in the autumn -- October 2011. It was also at Sundance and Berlin.

    ND/NF OPENING NIGHT SELECTION.
    Wednesday, March 23rd 2011 | 7 & 7:30 PM | MoMA
    Thursday, March 24th 2011 | 8:30 PM | FSL
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-13-2015 at 02:42 AM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    12,700

    Hongqi Li: Winter Vacation (2010)

    Hongqi Li: Winter Vacation (2010)



    Much ado; but then, not so much

    Hongqi Li, who has been a hit at the Locarno festival, reminds me of the ultra-dry Swedish director Roy Andersson, but without the production values, the variety of settings and characters, or the momentum. As with Andersson's You the Living, which was in the Rome festival in 2007, the scenes are a series of vignettes with no strong connecting storyline. (Jim Jarmusch and Aki Kaurismäki are also kindred spirits.) Winter Vacation focuses on a group of teenage boys in a generic nowhere land of modern China -- it's Inner Mongolia, but the director deliberately chose shots that could be almost anywhere -- who are frozen in boredom and inertia so stylized it is, occasionally, quite funny. But this is Beckett (one can't help thinking of him too) without the wit or eloquence. Hontqi Li's people stand and stare at each other for a long time before they speak. Very often they just stare into space rather than at each other. There are always, always very long pauses between lines of dialogue.

    These kids have no radio, video games, no iPhones or MP3, no TV -- except one that keeps showing Hongqi Li's previous feature (this is his fourth), Routine Holiday (2008). A fun thing to do is to stand over one of their pals (he's their sort of ring leader) and watch him sleep. And he does a lot of that. To make it really exciting someone holds a small pinwheel in front of the boy's mouth so as he sleeps his exhalations make the wheel spin round.

    A girl brings one of the boys a cap she has knitted for him. Four or five of his friends are standing around and he's on his bed. He turns the cap over in his hands, manipulates it, pulls it, flips it again. Then he passes it on to another boy, who does the same, and so on, around the room, and then back to the boy the cap was made for. "I'm too young to need a cap like this," he says.

    A town market in a desolate square. A long range of tables are sparsely arranged with vegetables of various kinds. A woman comes up and goes over every cabbage at one table. The seller challenges her to buy or go away, and she goes away. Off behind, she comes to another table full of cabbages and again goes over them, taking up one and stripping it of most its leaves. Then she hands it to the seller. They haggle over the price, based on the weight. She cheats him by saying she hasn't the right change. Then as she puts the cabbage in her bag, she adds all the leaves she stripped off earlier, saying it would be a shame to let them go to waste.

    A little boy sits in the living room with his grandfather. He asks him why he doesn't go to work and he says he's retired. What does that mean? asks the boy. That I don't have to go to work any longer, says the grandfather. Then am I retired? asks the boy. And so on. He says that when he grows up he wants to be an orphan. Cute little jokes, but with a feeling of déjâ vu.

    Other scenes are harder to remember. They're Marty-like moments where the boys stand around out in a courtyard wondering what to do, exchanging grave, long-delayed comments about each other, their families, the limited possibilities for amusement. Vacation ends and the first day of school comes.

    "One day after another, it seems as if life never ends," one boy comments as they sit outside on abandoned furniture in a light snow. Another friend imagines himself hitching up with his "stupid and average-looking" girlfriend to produce others like himself who will do the same. "It's the endless fruit of my loins," he sums up. Another boy thinks that their "muddling along" in school leads to a "mentality" that will not contribute to the future of socialism. Their learning is by rote, and so is their politics.

    This may be a commentary on the new China. It is certainly a commentary on life in the provinces. These boys are beyond the stimulus of true urban life. They are dullards, but it's the world they live in. The director's minimalist style asks us also whether life should make us laugh or cry. He seems to lean toward laughter (as Roy Andersson also does), but there's sadness and much boredom along the way.

    Hongqi Li's filmmaking has been called "mesmerizing," "scorchingly funny" and "corrosively subversive." I did not see anyone scorched from the funny in my audience, or corroded by subversion. As for mesmerizing, yes. The man next to me fell asleep for some time. Then he left, saying this director has a stunning visual sense. That's true. There was something about the arrangement of figures and objects in the long horizontal frames that was striking and original. Sometimes the color or the light verge, ironically, on the sublime. Of course Hongqi Li has something. Has not Locarno said so? There is another kind of mesmerizing: the kind that comes from watching objects move very slowly in front of one's eyes. It's a kind of hypnosis, and you can do it to a chicken. But this kind of film is a tough watch. It's not the way I want to spend a lot of my time, even though I know that's just the very kind of thing that was said when Beckett's Waiting for Godot first appeared.

    When I first saw You the Living (slow, but not as tough a watch) I expressed admiration, but also wrote that Andersson's sequences sometimes seemed like "the work of a Saturday Night Live writer in need of Prozac." I commented that "Since some scenes plainly move you or draw a laugh, it's obvious that others fall a little flat." One can offer the same criticism of Hongqi Li. Roy Andersson is not for everyone but he has gained an admiring audience of fans. Li may not ever gain that wide an audience. But his success reflects the increasing focus on Asian cinema in the world. And his long shots and unmoving camera positions are a very Asian way to shoot a film.

    Hongqi Li's Winter Vacation was seen and reviewed as part of the New Directors/New Films, presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and MoMA March 23-April 3, 2011.

    ND/NF screenings:
    Sunday, March 27th 2011 | 6:00 PM | FSLC
    Tuesday, March 29th 2011 | 6:00 PM | MoMA
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-13-2015 at 02:43 AM.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    12,700

    Mikaël Hers: Memory Lane (2010)

    Mikaël Hers: Memory Lane (2010)


    THIBAULT VINÇON IN MEMORY LANE

    Summer and this and that

    Memory Lane is the first feature of La Fémis Paris cinema school grad Mikhael Hers, a loose, unfocused film about seven twenty-somethings who return to their old middle class suburb to the southwest of Paris one summer and spend a few days together. The aimless result might be considered Éric Rohmer without the intelligent conversation. Though they like each other and have little else to do, it still takes the whole movie for fellow band members Vincent (Thibault Vinçon of Emmanuel Bourdieu's Poison Friends, NYFF 2006 ) and Christelle (Dounia Sichov) to get it on. Sisters Muriel (Lolita Chammah) and Celine (Stephanie Dehel) must deal with the recent diagnosis of their father François (Didier Sandre), but his symptoms remain mild and he, like others, is available for nice meals and walks in the park. Raphaël (Thomas Blanchard, also in Bourdieu's film) has depression problems, but they don't seem serious enough to keep him from hiking around with the others toward summer's end.

    Vinçon has a charming manner combined with a soulful look that has an edge of sadness around it -- qualities well used for his key role as the university students' con-man leader in Poison Friends. Alas, this is a mere walk-through for him that offers ample opportunity to show his pleasant side but nothing more. Vincent is only vaguely the central figure (and occasional narrator) and the subject is a young generation whose youth ends with the fading of summer, thus changing them all from who they were and dooming them never again to be a band of pals.

    What has happened when the last reel spins out other than some discussions, some partying, some swimming, some sex, some outdoor meals, a few songs performed by the group (who sing in English)? Unlike Rohmer, Hers provides no amorous dilemmas to be resolved. He may deserve credit for naturalism since in everyday life very often nothing much happens. But a director with the magic touch can transform that nothing much into quite a lot, and that, here, doesn't happen. Like Rohmer, the director does have an attractive young cast, and the cinematography of Sébastian Buchmann keeps them bathed in warm, natural light.

    Memory Lane opened in Paris November 24, 2010, receiving fair reviews (Allociné press rating 3.0) including favorable ones from respected sources (Le Monde, Libération, Les Inrocuptibles, Télérama, L'Humanité). Some French critics however found it "flat," "anecdotal," and "without flavor." Seen and reviewed as a part of the New Directors/New Films series presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and MoMA, March 23 through April 3, 2011.

    ND/NF screenings:
    Friday, March 25th 2011 | 8:30 PM | FSLC
    Sunday, March 27th 2011 | 1:30 PM | MoMA
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-13-2015 at 02:40 AM.

  6. #6
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    12,700

    Bogdan George Apetri: Outbound (2010)

    Bogdan George Apetri: Outbound (2010)


    ANA ULARU IN OUTBOUND



    A long day's desolate ride

    Romanian director Apetri's powerful Outbound has some of the tragic intensity, at least in its ending, of De Sica's Bicycle Thief or René Clément's Forbidden Games. First-timer Apetri, aided on the screenplay by a trio of experienced writers, has made one of the best films to come out of the new Romanian cinema. It takes place when a woman prisoner who's served two years of a five-year sentence gets a one-day pass to attend her mother's funeral. She has no intention of turning herself back in. Her day is a chronicle of desperation and hope, beginning with her brother and ending with a doomed train ride. Whatever the crime was, it seems the sullen-faced Matilda (Ana Ularu) wasn't the perpetrator but instead has taken the hit for Paul, the father of her 8-year-old son Toma and a thoroughly sleazy character. Matilda and Paul made a deal, but just see if she can hold him to it. But she has other scores to settle and hard knocks to take.

    The Romanians show a penchant for methodical real-time intensity and Apetri is no different, though a key to the power here is a willingness to elide unnecessary details, even maintain a degree of mystery, in the interest of focusing, as the great Italians did, on a few powerful scenes. Even if Matilda is out of jail and some key scenes are enacted in a wide, desolate open space designated by the original title, Periferic, she still seems to have the bars around her, holding her in the claustrophobia of a life that went wrong early. The actress, with a face as simple as a boy's, has a fixed, sullen glare that sticks in your mind.

    The narrative is in three parts focused on three names: Andri, Paul, and Toma. We find out very vividly who they are. In a prologue Matilda (Ana Ularu) leaves prison on a 24-hour pass to attend her mother's funeral. Right outside the gate she meets up with a fat trucker (Ion Sapdaru) in a sleeveless shirt: it's summer, and everybody is sweaty. Her plan is to collect money to pay this man later to drive her to the port of Constanta, where she will catch a ship to smuggle her out of the country.

    The first stop is Andri (Andi Vasluianu), Matilda's handsome brother. He's not pleased to see her, though he can't entirely hide fraternal feeling. She has disgraced the family, and also ill used him. His wife Lavinia (Ioana Flora) is even more openly hostile. Nonetheless they reluctantly take her to the funeral, and in that ride we feel Matilda's determination and toughness. Lavinia's insults only make her smile. She ingratiates herself with no one, smoking a cigarette outside the cemetery and walking away from the table at the al fresco dinner afterward. Andri is shocked, maybe pleased, to learn he has an 8-year-old nephew, but he's not willing to take Matilda's son in, and Matilda leaves.

    The next meeting is with the abusive, self-indulgent Paul. He will give Matilda only a fraction of the payoff, saying it's not due till five years are up. He has brutal sex with her, then reveals that their son, Toma (Timotei Duma), whom he was supposed to be caring for, is in an orphanage. So that becomes an additional stop before the truck ride to the ship, and it turns into a train ride, with more brutal surprises and the shattering finale, which yet has a poetic rightness about it.

    The tight schedule Matilda must follow -- she has to meet the trucker by evening and must escape before the prison knows she's missing -- heightens all the action, but Apetri's directing never feels rushed and makes every minute count. Ularu may seem one-note at times, but her unwavering drive is the key to Outbound's urgency.

    Cristian Mungiu of 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days co-wrote the original story. Marius Panduru of Police, Adjective did the warm, brown-tinged photography.

    Outbound has shown at Locarno, Warsaw and Toronto. Seen and reviewed as part of New Directors, New Films, the series co-presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art, New York, from March 23 through April 3, 2011.

    ND/NF screenings:
    Thursday, March 24th 2011 | 9:00 PM | MoMA
    Saturday, March 26th 2011 | 5:30 PM | FSLC
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-13-2015 at 02:44 AM.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    12,700

    Denis Villeneuve: Incendies (2010)

    Denis Villeneuve: Incendies (2010)


    LUBNA AZABAL IN INCENDIES

    "Fire," "burnings," a strange family history and a parable of sectarian war

    When you watch the French Canadian director Denis Villeneuve's Oscar-nominated film Incendies -- and it is worth watching – prepare for something long, literally dark, and shocking. The film, adapted from a play by the celebrated young Canadian-Lebanese playwright Wajdi Mouwawad but expanded into a film rich in Middle East location (and in Arabic as well as French dialogue) delves deeply into the hidden past of a family of Lebanese origin. A mother from Lebanon, Nawal Marwan (Lubna Azabal) dies at 60. Her twin son Simon (Maxim Gaudette) and daughter Jeanne (Mélissa Désormeaux-Poulin ) go before a notary for whom their mother also worked, Jean Lebel (Rémy Girard) and they receive instructions in the form of two sealed letters, one for a brother and one for a father. This is incredible news for the twins. They thought their father died a heroic death and they knew nothing of a brother. Nawal also requests that she be buried naked in the ground, face down, without a coffin. Simon is angered by all this and rejects it. Jeanne wants to comply with their mother's wishes.

    What follows intermixes flashbacks to the early life of Nawal with sequences about Jeanne's quest, which Simon eventually joins. For reasons not entirely clear to me, the name "Lebanon" is never mentioned, though it is clear that violent fighting between Christians and Muslims and a country where educated Arabic-speaking people also tend to speak French mark the setting as Lebanese. (Actual location shooting was mostly done in Jordan.) Here it is meant to be a fictional country called "Foad," though it could still have been universal, at least for countries of long war and savage factional conflict, without the fiction that it was not what it plainly is. Rape, torture, genocide and dislocation dominate this world, whose distance from the experience of Jeanne and Simon we can only guess at. Incendies is powerful and absorbing and while the images of war are familiar from many films, what holds them together is the detective-story trajectory that we cannot reveal and is a discovery even Nawal herself does not come to until shortly before her death.

    In flashbacks to her decades-earlier life we see Nawal watch her lover shot in front of her; then give birth to a child who's immediately taken from her; later become the sole survivor of a bus shot up by Christian militiamen; still later be imprisoned for many years and repeatedly raped. It's all a bit much, but it's so stunningly staged and shot that you rarely question it. You only wish the two siblings investigating their mother's secret, violent past were more interesting or more involved.

    One of the first flashback sequences reveals what the twins will only realize later: that the heroic father who died in a moment of strife, a Muslim refugee despised by Nawal's Christian siblings, was actually the father of their older brother, not them, and that older brother was taken away from Nawal because born out of wedlock, but tattooed with three dots on the heel so she might be able to recognize and find him again some day. Those dots are duly connected. It might be better if they weren't.

    More flashbacks show Nawal going in search of her lost son, sent to a Christaian orphanage burnt in reprisal by Muslim militias,though the orphans were saved -- somewhere. Nawal volunteers with a Muslim militia in hopes of finding the boy, and is jailed, for 15 years, where she is known as "the woman who sings" and is so resilient no cruelty, including rape, causes her to crack. Informants' accounts of Jeanne alternate with images of Nawal herself. I couldn't help being reminded of Ana Ularu, in the Romanian film Outbound, just seen, who also is a spare, stony-faced young woman in search of a young boy who's been put in an orphanage. But Nawal must endure greater tests.

    As Peter Debruge explains in his Variety review , Villeneuve "excises entire blocks of text" in the transfer from play to film. Instead there are many striking images, often in a soft semidarkness that underlines the mystery the twins are unraveling. Debruge further suggests that Villeneuve lets us draw our own conclusions and speak our own words where the playwright Mouwawad spelled everything out in long monologues. Whatever one may think of the thorny tragic and tendentious plot whose final revelation strains credulity, and however excessive the measured pace of the 130-minute film is at times, Villeneuve has realized the play on film in a bold and richly cinematic manner and his accomplishment has already gained festival kudos and the justified admiration of cinephiles.

    Incendies could have been a better film if it allowed itself to breathe and curbed some of its drawn-out and less necessary sequences. Perhaps it could have taken a moment to smile, yea, even in the world of near-biblical suffering. Ultimately the source play shakes you up while lecturing you and the film does the same. One is fascinated by the plot twists and can see their poetic justice without consenting to believe them all. Some of the truths of war and sectarianism might ring truer if they were not all so neatly tied into the detective-story search for family origins. I think often in this kind of context of Claire Denis's 2004 The Intruder and Arnaud des Pallières 2003 Adieu, multi-level films about family and wrongdoing whose failures to connect all the dots make them richer and more memorable and perhaps even more truly cinematic. Perhaps only a disturbing and never-explained opening sequence in Incendies of boys having their head shaved to the tune of Radiohead's "You and Whose Army" has that quality of boldly evoking inexplicable but dangerously real worlds.

    Director Villeneuve has thrice before been put forth as Canada’s pick in the Best Foreign Oscar category — for his first three films: Cosmos, August 32nd on Earth and Maelström — but has never won the award (this year it went to Danish director Susanne Bier's In a Better World). Incendies was also shown at Venice, Telluride, Toronto and Sundance. With it he may have moved up a notch as an international artist and even this time a more commercially viable one. Incendies goes into limited US release April 22, 2011. Incendies was reviewed in January in Filmleaf's Forums section by Howard Schumann at the time its Canadian release.

    Seen and reviewed as part of New Directors/New Films, the series co-presented by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and MoMA, New York March 22-April 3, 2011.

    ND/NF screenings:
    Friday, March 25th 2011 | 6:00 PM | MoMA
    Sunday, March 27th 2011 | 8:30 PM | FSL
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-13-2015 at 02:46 AM.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    12,700

    Seren Yüce: Majority (2010)

    Seren Yüce: Majority (2010)


    ESME MADRA AND BARTU KÜÇÜKÇAGLAYAN IN MAJORITY

    Indecision and ethnic issues in Istanbul

    Seren Yüce is a young Turkish director who deserves credit for dealing with the situation of the most ordinary and unglamorous of characters. Mertkan (Bartu Küçükçağlayan) is a paunchy, unambitious, bored 21-year-old who lives with his mother Nazan (Nihal G. Koldas) and father Kemal (Settar Tanriogen). His father is the macho, aggressive owner of a construction company, for whom Mertkan is little more than an errand boy. His older brother is married and lives on his own and is therefore, in Mertkan's eyes, free. Mertkan is in thrall to his dad. His mother is disappointed in him and her husband, whom she calls "insensitive." We see in an opening sequence that Mertkan as a young boy was unthinkingly abusive to their housemaid, and even then he was psychologically bullied by his condescending father. The family's life isn't luxurious, but they don't suffer either, and when there's a problem, dad's money can fix it. Mertkan drives a late-model SUV. He hangs out with pals, all with gelled hair, whose idea of a good time is to drink tea in the mall, scarf hamburgers, or drive around quaffing beer.

    Unfortunately the film seems as unmotivated and listless as its protagonist, and while it has realistic and occasionally humorous moments, it utterly lacks flair or the ability to make its scenes pop.

    Into Mertkan's demeaning, dull and senseless existence as an homme moyen sensuel, spineless version, comes Gül (Esme Madra), a young, slim, darkly pretty Kurdish woman (though the word "Kurdish" is never spoken) who works in the fast-food joint where Mertkan bolts hamburgers to assuage his humiliations from his father. She begins to show interest in Mertkan and since he has nothing better to do, he goes along. If he's not a virgin at least he may not have had sex for free before, with kissing. This seems as much as is going to happen to stir things up, and writer-director Yüce's main point seems to be highlighting the ways in which bourgeois prejudices plug into the Turkish-Kurdish split. The prejudices are shared by Merkan's mall rat pal Ersan (Ilhan Hacifazlioglu), who refers to Gül as a "gypsy," which is either slang for "slut" or a Turkish code word for "Kurd." In fact these subtleties are hard to judge by an outsider, and a Turkish viewer of the film has questioned the casting of Gül, saying the actress speaks Turkish with too perfect an Istanbul accent to have come not so long ago from Van, as designated in the story. Given the fact that she's studying sociology at a good university, the viewer also questioned Gül's telling Mertkan her greatest dream (he can think of none himself) is to find a handsome man and marry him.

    This seems not so surprising: Gül is away from her family, and short on money. The fast-food job is necessary to pay for school and her digs are humble and shared. Gül escaped from a suffocating, traditional home life and she needs some security. She's not unaware that Mertkan has money in his pocket. Marriage could indeed be high on her list of priorities, even though it means risking entrapment in a situation that will not allow her to use her education to full advantage.

    After Martkan brings Gül home for dinner (which at least he has the courage to do), Kemal very quickly tells him to dump her. People from Van are communists, he says, and this woman represents the people who want to break up the country. This is Mertkan's chance to show some cojones. But will he? Unfortunately Yüce has no excitement up his sleeve, though from scene to scene he keeps it realistic, and sometimes slightly funny.

    Yüce has been assistant director on films like Akin's Edge of Heaven, but Akin's brilliance and ambition have not worn off on him. However, the casting is good. Despite his schlubby appearance and lack of energy, as Mertkan Bartu Küçükçağlayan manages to be somebody you can identify with, and the other three principals are quite real. Yüce just needed to write a script that made something more telling happen. Majority doesn't make sufficient dramatic use of its issues and conflicts.

    Yüce's first feature, Majority/Çoğunluk won a number of awards in Turkey and the Lion of the Future prize at Venice. It was also shown at Thessaloniki and Rotterdam. Seen and reviewed as part of New Directors/New Films, the series jointly presented by MoMA and the Film Society of Lincoln Center in New York from March 22 through April 3, 2011.

    ND/NF screenings:
    Friday, March 25th 2011 | 9:15 PM | MoMA
    Sunday, March 27th 2011 | 12:30 PM | FSLC
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-13-2015 at 02:47 AM.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    12,700

    Anne Sewitsky: Happy, Happy (2010)

    Anne Sewitsky: Happy, Happy (2010)


    JOACHIM RAFAELSEN, AGNES KITTELSEN, MAIBRITT SAERENS, HENRIK RAFAELSEN IN HAPPY, HAPPY

    Danish couples comedy with cringe-worthy giggles

    Anne Sewitsky’s directorial debut Happy, Happy (Sykt lykkelig, which means "sickeningly happy") is a dark little satire of sex and manners with musical interludes and an ugly little subplot that seems tasteless and pointless. Two couples, each with a little boy, are thrown together in an isolated piece of the Norwegian countryside as into a Petri dish. Into the world of Kaja (Agnes Kittelsen) and Erik (Joachim Rafaelsen) and their young son Theodor (Oskar Hernæs Brandsø) come tall Liam Neeson-lookalike Sigve (Henrik Rafaelsen), his blond Danish wife Elisabeth (Maibritt Saerens), and their adopted African son Noa (Ram Shihab Ebedy). The writer, Ragnhild Tronvoll, wastes no time. The one couple is renting the house to the other and they've close together. A joint dinner is staged the first evening. Kaja's neediness is embarrassing. She seems to have no social outlets and Erik seems to have no social skills.

    The second night the landlords dine chez the new tenants. This time a couples game causes Kaja to blurt out more. She and Erik haven't had sex for a year! Drunk, she rushes from the table crying, and in comforting her Sygve reveals the embarrassing reason for their coming to the country: Elisabeth has just had an affair. Sygve and Kaja embrace, and the loosened-up kaja gives Sygve a quick blow-job.

    This only leads to more in the days to follow. Sex with Sygve is much better for Kaja than it ever was with Erik. Erik, it turns out, has told Kaja she isn't attractive anymore. He'd rather go moose hunting. Actually (this emerges more gradually) he may never have liked women that much, and his hunting trips are a probable excuse to indulge his sexuality "on the down low." This comes out when Erik and Sygve go on a run, and afterward in a rush of emotion and misunderstanding Erik tries to kiss Sygve. Kaja turns out to have long feared Erik is gay. He may have married her out of pity because when they dated she was so unhappy and unlovable.

    Elisabeth is a cold, unpleasant woman, hardly the "perfect" creature Kaja sees. For a while, Sygve may believe he's in love with Kaja, who definitely thinks she's never been happier in her life than Sygve has made her. A (possibly reformed?) Erik attempts sex with both women, but his technique is comically crude and pleases neither.

    Meanwhile Theodor and Noa enter into a sick master-slave relationship involving beatings and confinement brought about by Theodor's reading about African slavery. Erik finds out about his wife's infidelity and, having been a good wrestler in his youth, tries to beat up Sygve out in the snow -- where one day Theodor comes upon Kaja and Sygve cavorting in the nude. Maybe the boys' unhealthy role-playing is an expression of their emotional confusion about their parents' misbehavior.

    The narrative arc leads up to a somewhat weak climax as Christmas comes and Sygve, Elisabeth and Kaja have joined the local glee club and Elisabeth, who knows about Sygve's affair with Kaja pushes Kaja to sing the soprano solo in "Amazing Grace," which looks like it's going to lead to huge embarrassment. In the end it turns out at least one of these marriages is over, but there's no follow-through.

    A young male quartet in suits and ties sings American songs in interludes staged in a studio that both break up segments of the film and add to the comic distancing and neatly dovetail with the musical theme of the glee club and classics that underline sexual moments. Dennis Harvey of Variety calls the quartet "a Greek-chorus device that restores good humor at the darkest moments." And there are dark moments. Harvey acknowledges that the writing sometimes "risks pushing the envelope farther than the feature's lightly farcical emphasis can handle."

    Happy, Happy is an accomplished comedy -- if you can call it a comedy. It is hard sometimes to see Kaja's unresolved personality -- she turns out to be an orphan raised in foster homes -- and Erik's sexual confusion as funny, and it is quite impossible to see the Norwegian boy's continual abuse of the African boy as in any way risible. A playing with the squirm-worthy slips into the tasteless there. Noa isn't developed as a character either. Is the slavery-play just good fun for him? He never interacts with his parents, and barely speaks.

    There are gaps and implausible elements in the writing too. How come this young couple owns two houses in close proximity? Kaja is a schoolteacher and Elisabeth is a lawyer, but what do Erik and Sygve do? The direction is sure enough to keep the scenes moving energetically, but Sewitsky can't manage the various tonal shifts in the script. The actors, particularly Rafaelsen and Kittelsen, do good work, with Rafaelsen providing the subtlest moments.

    Sykt lykkelig, not to be confused with Henrik Ruben Genz's droll Jutland Danish comedy Frygtelig lykkelig (Terribly Happy), won the World Cinema Jury award at the 2011 Sundance Film Festival, which shows how well the setup works for audiences. There is some talk of a Hollywood remake. Seen and reviewed as part of New Directors/New Films, presented by MoMA and the Film Society of Lincoln Center March 23-April 3, 2011.

    ND/NF screenings:
    Friday, March 25th 2011 | 6:00 PM | FSLC
    Sunday, March 27th 2011 | 4:30 PM | MoM
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-13-2015 at 02:48 AM.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    12,700

    Pia Marais: At Ellen's Age (2010)

    Pia Marais: At Ellen's Age (2010)


    JEANNE BALIBAR (LEFT) AND STEFAN STERN (RIGHT) IN AT ELLEN'S AGE

    A woman poised on the edge -- very poised

    Pia Marais grew up in South Africa, Sweden, and Spain, studied in London and Germany. At Ellen’s Age (Im Alter Von Ellen) is an international film, a film aware of but at ease with dislocation. Jeanne Balibar is a famous French movie actress, who here acts in meticulous German. Arnaud Despleshin, Jacques Rivette, Olivier Assayas, Benoît Jacquot, and Christophe Honoré love Jeanne Baibar, and you can see why. Here, as Ellen, she is a woman at the end of her tether who never loses her implacable cool. That's Jeanne Balibar: a poise and neutrality, that is at the same time amused, present, intelligent. Here, as Ellen, she is an international person by occupation: an airline stewardess, who has a panic attack and walks off the job just as the plane is ready for takeoff because she sees a leopard on the runway.

    That's one reason. But she is slightly unhinged already. Her longtime companion, Florian (Georg Friedrich) has left her. Or his relationship with another woman has made theirs too unstable. He is about to be a father -- of the other woman's baby. He seems to want a kind of ménage à trois. Without the placebo of the formerly stable "home" to return to, the instability of Ellen's job becomes simply aimlessness. She learns that her walk-off will force her superiors to fire her, and she wanders off. She walks in on a gay colleague at an airport hotel and spends the night, sleeps over and is taken up by a woman who stages a drunken sex party to amuse and distract her -- or perhaps just make us think of the drawings of Otto Dix.

    Ellen's aimlessness is a kind of distracted chutzpah. She won't put out her cigarette in a taxi, and the driver evicts her -- and drives off with her suitcase in the trunk. She hitches a ride in a van to catch the taxi, but instead, still wearing her flight attendant uniform, the only clothes she has, becomes the somewhat out of place guest of a commune of young long-haired animal activists. They are a hippie and punk German version of the anti-poachers she saw after the leopard appeared on the African runway and delayed takeoff. A little African boy lighting a handmade cigarette said they were "professionals." "We are the only ones who shoot the poachers," he had said.

    Marais' film, following Horst Markgraf 's screenplay, has an admirable dreamlike quality that creates a sense of captured reality. The young German activists are attractive. They argue about all their actions. They are vegans. They are a commune, so they find a temporary place for Ellen. Her maturity and sense of order might help them. But in one of their demos she won't strip naked as they do so she doesn't get full voting rights, and later she is not allowed to live in the guest room.

    Florian, who has been desperately searching for her, finds Ellen in a furniture store, finally not in her stewardess uniform any more. "I live here," she says. He wants to take her back, but she won't go. She has him come and see her with Karl (Stefan Stern), a young man in the commune who finds her beautiful. She has Karl pretend he's her boyfriend to show Florian she no longer needs him. Later Karl proposes marriage to her, because it may exempt him from military service. She marries him but will not have sex with him -- till she does. There is a good scene in a bathtub. Karl makes one realize that Ellen has bravado. He has it too, but he admits he's not as confident as he seems. "I know," she says.

    The German activists stop a truck and release a load of chickens, and later let loose a lot of white lab mice. Memorable moments: Ellen with a monkey on her shoulder; in the dark with a horde of white mice scurrying away. The message (to us) is clear: this is foolishness. The sexy young activists are not helping the animals. Suddenly, we're in Africa, and Ellen has found the anti-poacher group again and the African boy who rolls cigarettes. In the final scene, when she has been given a bed and made it up, the boy says, "I think you need a new set of clothes. . . or maybe you just need to come with me for a walk." And they go off into the African haze, her dawn. We don't know if this will be her life or is just a stepping stone, like Karl.

    In this second film by Marais (her first won four prizes for a promising beginning) Ellen has come to a mid-life crisis that's a crisis of age but also a kind of rebirth into an age of reason. Viewers who find the script aimless or think the film establishes too little distance from its protagonist can enjoy Balibar's sublimely improvisational, self-possessed performance as a woman stripped of everything and therefore free. They may also enjoy the convincing and detailed scenes of the German animal rights commune, and the flavorful moments in Marais' home continent of Africa. The transfer from 16mm to 35 is handsome and the sound is atmospheric.

    This picture debuted at Locarno just before a JetBlue employee walked off in very similar circumstances, life imitating art. At Ellen's Age was also shown at Toronto. Seen and reviewed as part of the New Directors/New Films series presented by MoMA and the Film Society of Lincoln Center from March 23 through April 3, 2011 in NYC.

    2010. Germany. 95 minutes. In German.

    Series showing times:
    2011-03-24 | 6:00 PM | MoMA
    2011-03-26 | 3:00 PM | FSLC
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-13-2015 at 02:50 AM.

  11. #11
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    12,700

    Mohamed Diab: Cairo 678 (2010)

    Mohamed Diab: Cairo 678 (2010)



    A campaign against Cairo gropers

    The title stands for a crowded Cairo bus where women are routinely harassed sexually by men. The story is one of self-empowerment. Thus it fits in well with the post-January 25 moment in which Egypt lives today. The film reads at first like an a lesson and consciousness-raiser for Middle Eastern women. But it's done with such vividness and humor it quickly becomes involving and thought-provoking for any audience. 678 follows three women who become connected because of shared anger at the way Egyptian men habitually feel up and assault women in public places. If it was noted that it didn't happen in Tahrir Square during the demonstrations, that reflected the new revolutionary spirit.

    Each of the thee women suffers from different assaults -- gropers, grabbers, feelers, lone and group. A wealthy young woman is felt up by a dozen men who press upon her at a crowded football match. She isn't raped, but she feels violated. Another is a "muhaggiba," a veiled women who's constantly bothered on buses, which limited income forces her to ride to her job at a government registry office. The third is a free-thinking young lady -- she aspires to doing stand-up, like her fiance -- who is grabbed and pulled along by a man driving a pickup truck through a public square.

    Fayza (Bushra), the "muhaggiba," gets groped daily. Her husband Adel (Bassem Samra) is a crude dude who works two jobs just to pay the rent. Their two kids are being forced out of a tuition school. He wants a little loving when he gets home, but Fayza is so turned off by men she pushes him away. A TV appearance by Seba (Nelly Karim) leads Fayza to attend her class in self-defense for women threatened with male groping. She keeps coming back to the class again and again, but is too ashamed to tell Seba what's been happening to her.

    Seba is the one who was assaulted at the soccer game. What's worse, when it happened her husband Sherif (Ahmed El Fishawy) was more concerned about himself than her. He claimed to be so disturbed by Seba's "defilement" that he had to stay away from home for weeks. This meant he wasn't around when she had a miscarriage, for which she can't forgive him.

    After Fayza keeps coming to Seba's class, Seba tells her she doesn't need to learn self-fefence. She points to a pin she's wearing and says that's all she needs. Fayza takes this advice and after she stabs several perpetrators with sharp objects, she tells Seba. They both know it's wrong but still feel pleased.

    Nelly (Nahed El Sebai) is the would-be comedian engaged to marry a standup comic (Omar El Saeed). She wants to take the pickup truck driver to court in a sexual harassment case, but Omar's family says it she does that, he can't marry her. Another issue is he must give up standup and become a banker to be able to afford to marry -- the crippling cost of weddings and the low incomes of college grads being big issue in Egypt.

    The stabbings lead to all three women being questioned by a wry and rotund cop, Essam (Maged El Kedwany), who eventually figures what's going on (and also stands in for various segments of the Egyptian male audience). El Kedwany is especially good as a classic Egyptian figure who yet is complex and unpredictable and has tragedies of his own to deal with. When the tension grows to a peak, the women temporarily turn on each other, Fayza accusing the more modern women of provoking assaults while they blame her traditional outlook for perpetuating male chauvinism. Nelly's case refers to the first actual presentation of a sexual assault case in an Egyptian court. After-titles point out that there are still very few such cases. But both Fayza's counter-attacks and Nelly's daring in court evidently reflect shifting attitudes.

    His directorial debut, this is Diab's fifth screenplay, and the writing skill shows in the earthiness of some of the characters and the street, police station, standup audiences, domestic scenes of different social levels and bus scenes, all written and directed to deftly convey the texture of Egyptian daily life. Ahmed Gabr's handheld camera could have been toned down a bit. Cairo 678 is distributed by Fortissimo Films (Jean-Michel Basquiat: the Radiant Child; Winter's Bone).

    2010. Egypt. 100 minutes. In Egyptian Arabic. (The title was mistakenly given as "6,7,8" in the ND/NF series program and has now been revised to Cairo 678. The original film title is 678.)

    678 was shown at the Dunbai festival, where it won the Muhr Arab award and Bushra and Al Kedwany won best actress and best actor prizes. The film opened in Cairo to acclaim and notoriety in December 2010. Seen and reviewed as part of the New Directors/New Films series presented March 23-April 3 by MoMA and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, NYC.

    Screening times and dates for ND/NF:
    2011-03-26 | 3:30 PM | MoMA
    2011-03-28 | 9:00 PM | FSLC

    NOTE: This film, under the title Les Femmes du Bus 678, is being released in France May 30, 2012.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-13-2015 at 02:52 AM.

  12. #12
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    12,700

    Göran Hugo Olsson: The Black Power Mixtape: 1967-1975 (2011)

    Göran Hugo Olsson: The Black Power Mixtape: 1967-1975 (2011)


    VINTAGE COLOR FROM THE BLACK POWER MIXTAPE

    A Swedish look at the Black Power era

    What can Göran Hugo Olsson, a Swede born in 1965, add to our understanding of the Black Power movement in America? The answer is not a lot, really, other than a "clean and clear" point of view uncolored by American emotions or prejudices of the movement's radical rise and importance as a new generation's break from the passive resistance of Dr. King leading up the its decline under violent attack from US law and the FBI and the government-induced drug epidemic. But to tell the story, Olsson had access to some rich and beautiful newly unearthed footage shot by Swedish journalists. And by "mixtape" he means that he added new commentary by Black Americans who were around at the time and have lived to tell their tale -- or, more accurately, to reassess the significance of events in the light of today. In the discovered footage, in particular there is more than usual of Stokely Carmichael (including him interviewing his mother), an interview with Kathleen Cleaver when she was in jail, a full-dress interview with Lewis Farrakhan on the eve of his rise to power, and, perhaps best of all, much lovely and atmospheric old 16mm color footage of life on the streets off Harlem.

    A peculiar interlude concerns how TV Guide, oddly described as "the most popular magazine in America," published a cover story by the editor that lambasted Sweden's depiction of American politics. Emile De Antonio is shown putting the magazine in its place as idiotic and read by idiots.

    The Swedish descriptions of Harlem treat it as if it were some third world country. There is a Marxist slant that's not out of place in describing the demographics there and the radical aims of the Black Panther Party of Oakland, whose free breakfasts where children are led in empowerment chants are shown, and which were famously described by J. Edgar Hoover as the most dangerous activity in America. It doesn't always come together. Though Last Poets member Abiodun Oyewole is one of the contemporary "mixtape" voiceovers, the Swedes can't give a full sense of the American context, and the American present time speakers, like Erykah Badu, Harry Belafonte, Cleaver, Angela Davis, Talib Kweili, Bobby Seale, and Ahmir-Khalib Thompson, discuss 1968 as if it only happened in America. Oddly, a world-wide picture of the Sixties political upheavals is never drawn.

    Göran Hugo Olsson has made commercials, shorts, documentaries, and music videos. This is his first documentary feature. It won the World Documentary Editing award at Sundance in January and was also shown at Berlin in February and will be shown at Miami, Istanbul, and San Francisco. Sundance Selects is distributing the film. Seen and described as part of New Directors/New Films, presented March 23-April 3, 2011 by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and the Museum of Modern Art, New York.

    ND/NF screenings:
    2011-03-26 | 9:00 PM | MoMA
    2011-03-28 | 6:00 PM | FSL
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-13-2015 at 02:55 AM.

  13. #13
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    12,700

    Denis Côté: Curling (2010)

    Denis Côté: Curling (2010)


    EMMANUEL BILODEAU IN CURLING

    Overprotective dad and a pileup of corpses

    In Denis Côté's miserabilist mock-thriller a French Canadian bowling alley handyman develops increasing mental problems while keeping his 15-year-old daughter out of school and away from much contact with the outside world. An opening scene shows she hasn't even had her eyes examined before. With glasses, she wanders out one day and comes upon a pile of frozen corpses. Later her dad hides a corpse himself -- that of a neighbor boy he finds dying by the highway -- in an abandoned motel where he used to work. Emmanuel Bilodeau plays the borderline-autistic dad Jean-Francois, and his real life daughter Philomène plays Jean-François' daughter, Julyvonne. The names may be fun, but the action decidedly isn't in this feature, the director's fourth, which has little to recommend it other than a Beckettian alienation, without the eloquence.

    Curling takes place, we're told, in a "rural Quebec town," but we see only desolate settlements. The bowling alley, where Jean-Francois Sauvageau, the man with the mustache and the the Aznavour stare, cleans up; a deserted motel called "Mistral" where he also cleans up, until its owners shut it down; his own house, where he keeps his 15-year-old daughter Julyvonne a virtual prisoner; and thin strips of wind-and-snow swept highway in between. The father-daughter acting collaboration isn't a very fruitful one: the two Bilodeaus have little chemistry or presence; both maintain sad-sack stares. A visit to wife and mother Rosie (Johanne Haberlin) in prison leads to an outburst. Rosie knows Jean-François is keeping the girl isolated and declares with fury that she's "borderline retarded" and that threatens that she'll get revenge for this wrongdoing when she gets out.

    Left all day by herself, Julyvonne seems strangely content with sitting outside staring into space. When she finds the group of frozen corpses, she runs from them at first, but then goes back in the daytime to join them now and then. They might represent the evil outside world her father has tried in vain to shield her from, but for her in an odd way for her they represent life, the existence of other people. Côté doesn't really do anything but drop vague hints as to what anything may mean. When Jean-François hides the little boy's corpse, it's apparently because he doesn't want to deal with cops. Since the motel lady also says not to call the cops when he finds puddles of blood on the bed and floor of a room recently vacated by a trucker, Jean-François emerges as only marginally odder or more secretive than the other rural characters in Côté's oddball world.

    "Fun" (the Canadian French word for, in fact, fun) is offered by the bowling alley boss, who brings in a bright-haired goth girl to mind the snack bar, and by Jean-François' former motel employers, who take him to a commercial location where people play the Canadian variation of the game of curling -- where big polished granite stones are slid over ice in a competition that combines aspects of bowls, boule and shuffleboard. Jean-François takes his daughter, eventually, to these activities. After he hides the boy's body, he has a mental meltdown, though, and goes off in his car leaving his daughter to her own devices. A brief encounter with a rural call girl seems to soften him up, however, and as the film ends he calls Julyvonne, declaring love and affection, and returns to her again.

    In constructing his bleak tale, which is not enlivened by music (save a few CD's played for Julyvonne as rewards for being good) or by any humor, Côté has provided some of the trappings of a murder mystery, namely the group of adult corpses the girl finds -- and for all we know the boy might be victim of the same feud or gang fight. He has also created an emotional crisis in his protagonist. However both of these are red herrings. The emotional crisis is deflated, or turned around. The bodies -- well, the cops are coming, but it's a while till spring thaw time. Côté is intentionally careless in spinning his yarn.

    Shown at Locarno in compettion, the film won the Best Director prize there. Seen and reviewed as part of New Directors/New Films presented March 23-April 4, 2011 by the Film Society of Lincoln Center and MoMA, New York. In French-Canadian dialect. 92min. In 35mm.

    ND/NF screening times:
    Sat Mar 26: 6:15 pm - MoMA
    Sun Mar 27: 3:30 pm - FSLC |
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-15-2011 at 10:27 PM.

  14. #14
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    12,700

    Dee Rees: Pariah (2011)

    Dee Rees: Pariah (2011)


    AASSHA DAVIS AND ADEPERO ODUYE IN PARIAH

    Gay soul sister comes of age

    "If Aliki, a sassy 17-year-old New Yorker, knows anything it’s that she’s gay and she badly wants a girlfriend," the blurb of this movie starts out. "However, there’s a problem— her middle-class Brooklyn family," her macho dad and her religious mom.

    Dee Rees' semi-autobiographical first film is a young black lesbian's breezy, fast-moving New York coming-of-age story. This is a brightly colored, appealing, ultimately upbeat little film that fills a welcome niche. There are plenty of white male gay coming of age films (two of the best of them Edge of Seventeen and Get Real), but the LGBT audience has not had many about black girls who considered suicide when a girlfriend was enuf. Actually Aliki, who most people call Li, is too strong a girl to consider suicide.

    The word "pariah" is a bit misleading. At school, Alika's orientation is perfectly cool. In fact when some fine young ladies talk about her, it turns out one of them finds her attractive. And she changes into butch attire that she wears at school, and switches back into earrings and combed out hair and takes off the baseball cap when she returns home.

    As the story begins, Aliki (a very convincing and warm Adepero Oduye), is a 17-year-old who gets taken to lesbian clubs by her older butch best girl friend Laura (Pernell Walker). Aliki does dearly want to find a girlfriend to give her her first girl-to-girl kiss and become her first lover. But she's too bashful and uncomfortable with the overt song lyrics she hears and overly role-defined styles on display at the clubs to seek that girlfriend there. Meanwhile at school -- the camera using indirection to show her eavesdropping as well as switching outfits -- Li sees the delicious girls who might be interested -- and also might not be the kind you meet at clubs. Meanwhile her uptight, over-stressed mother Audrey (Kim Wayans) is buying her feminine sweaters and complaining about the way she dresses. Obviously Audrey knows what is going on, but just can't accept it.

    In the course of the movie Aliki experiences heartbreak both at home and out -- and comes out at home with the usual difficulty. Audrey objects to the dyke-like Laura in no uncertain terms. She turns her away rudely when she comes to the door. Instead she foists a classmate whose mother she works with on Aliki as someone to walk to and from school with. This is Bina (Aasha Davis), who turns out to know where Aliki's coming from. But when Bina kisses Aliki, she jumps away at first. Later Li has a night to remember with her new friend -- only to be rejected the next morning and told it was only playing around. Li runs to Laura -- who was hurt by being left out of the loop and rebuffs her. Meanwhile Li's mom and her cop dad Arthur (Charles Parnell) are constantly fighting. Arthur's pretense of working double-time is beginning to be an obvious cover for a double life. Aliki's only solution is to escape from home, and she gets early college admission on the West Coast through her writing talents -- the usual bittersweet happy ending of coming of age tales.

    Rees does not entirely steer clear of cliche or of routine exposition; this may have been a little too self-consciously a Sundance Workshop project at times. There are some unnecessary or too-generic student-teacher moments, there's a bit too much of the fighting parents, and the hand-held camera swings back and forth a bit too much in closeups of conversations. But the look of the film is still a pleasure, especially the color filters for several key moments, through Bradford Young's rich use of 35mm and the costuming, ranging from Laura's and Li's butch outfits to the stylish many-colored gear worn by Bina that expands Aliki's world into something more expressive and gender-complex. Beyond the warm, lively look, above all the scenes of the young women are acted with refreshing naturalness. Cornell grad Odepero Oduye has been hailed as a breakout star.

    Debuted at Sundance January 2011, Pariah has been picked up by Focus Features. Seen and reviewed as part of the New Directors/New Films series presented from March 23 through April 4, 2011 by MoMA and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, New York.

    ND/NF showtimes and locations:
    Sat Mar 26: 8:00 pm FSLC
    Mon Mar 28: 9:00 pm - MoMA
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-15-2011 at 10:52 PM.

  15. #15
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    Location
    SF Bay Area
    Posts
    12,700

    P. David Ebersole: Hit So Hard (2011)

    P. David Ebersole: Hit So Hard (2011)


    AUF DER MAUR, ERLANDSON, SCHEMEL, AND LOVE IN HOLE'S HEYDAY

    A rock musician felled by drugs who recovered

    The Seattle grunge look came from the style of butch lesbians. That's one of the nuggets we get from P. David Ebersole's rocumentary Hit So Hard: The Life and Near-Death Story of Drummer Patty Schemel. Schemel was the drummer for Courtney Love's group Hole from 1992 until 1998, replacing the original drummer, Caroline, Rue but then herself had to be replaced. Love declares that for her Patty will always be Hole's drummer. But in fact the feisty, good-humored but sensitive lesbian drummer was downed by drugs, left the band over a recording issue, and for a while was living on the streets of LA addicted to crack. Today Patty Schemel has been clean and sober for six years, is married to a woman and raises a child with her, and has her own dog day-care center, while giving serious drum instruction to young girls. Schemel isn't one of the rock giants people go out to see movies about. But Ebersole and Schemel do tell a hopeful story -- about someone who did not die of an overdose or some other kind of rock suicide but has lived to tell the tale with spirit and a sense of humor. And this movie incidentally takes us back to some intimate moments in the world of Seattle rock's most celebrated casualty, Kurt Cobain.

    Patty shared an apartment in LA with Cobain and Courtney Love shortly after the birth of their baby daughter, Frances, and not long before Cobain's suicide. She has provided a wealth of video footage of Cobain, Love, and touring with Hole. The unpublished Kurt Cobain footage is the most newsworthy part of the film. It was an effort to preserve that footage and Schemel's show of skill as a raconteur while film was being re-recorded that decided Ebersole to make a movie all about the drummer and her context. Over a dozen major talking heads contribute to the portrait besides Patty Schemel herself, but most important among these are Patty's mother, Terry; her brother, Larry; Courtney Love, the leader of Hole; Melissa auf der Maur, who was bassist for Hole for five years; and Hole's co-founder, Eric Erlandson.

    Schemel grew up in Marysville, a farm town outside of Seattle. At 15 she formed her first band. She worked her way up through high school-era bands, playing with her brother Larry. Many picturesque fliers for her early aggregations are displayed onscreen. Eventually she entered into the world of grunge royalty, when she was considered to replace the departed drummer of Nirvana and became a close friend of Curt Cobain. She was always drinking, and drugs of all kinds, notably heroin, were rife on the Seattle scene. The Pacific Northwest was a pretty druggy place, and the Nineties were a time of "heroin chic." Patty realized that neither heroin nor alcohol gibe with keeping a hard beat. It was her job to provide her band's structure, its backbone. She cleaned up her act and stopped performing high. It was Courtney Love whose wild onstage behavior constantly caused disruption at concerts. But a recording session with producer Michael Beinhorn proved Patty's downfall. Beinhorn was known for undermining and replacing drummers for his dates. He set things up so that Patty failed, and after a couple weeks of exhausting solo recording sessions, he pushed her out and brought in a man with an Italian name who duplicated all her performances. She felt so humiliated by this experience that she went back to drugs and alcohol with a vengeance and withdrew from the band and from everybody. Eventually she wound up living with a shopping cart on the corner of Temple and Alvarado streets in LA. Patty's account of her descent into hell is vivid and good humored.

    The film focuses on the idea of women drummers and on Schemel's sexual orientation, and also on her drug problems and subsequent clean life. It doesn't recount her musical career since she left Hole. You can find more about those details in a discussion of the film in the blog Jestherent.

    Ebersole has said he used the Maysle brothers as his model in working with a bare minimum team so the interviews would be more relaxed. Hit So Hard is a well-made documentary that tells its story forcefully and clearly, but it will not interest everybody. Likely to be entertained are fans of Seattle rock, Cobain, Hole, Courtney Love, and anyone interested in a musician who overcame the ravages of drugs, or in female drummers. This is also peripherally the portrait of an American generation that grew up from Reagan to Bush I and a dark time when within two months of 1994 Kurt Cobain committed suicide and Hole bassist Kristen Pfaff died of an overdose of heroin. The film significance of the band and the generation is well discussed in Cindy Widener's piece about the film for The Austin Chronicle in connection with its SXSF screenings.

    Seen and reviewed as part of New Directors/New Films, presented from March 23-April 4, 2011 by MoMA and the Film Society of Lincoln Center, New York. The film was shown March 15 and 18 at the SXSF festival, Austin, Texas.

    ND/NF screening times:

    2011-03-28 | 6:00 PM | MoMA
    2011-03-30 | 9:00 PM | FSLC

    June 2011: Hit So Hard was included in Frameline35, the LGBT film series in San Francisco. Poster image from Michael Hawley's Documentary Capsule Reviews on Michael Guillen's film blog The Evening Class.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-23-2011 at 12:56 PM.

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Bookmarks

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •