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    New Directors/New Films and Film Comment Selects 2012

    NEW DIRECTORS/NEW FILMS and FILM COMMENT SELECTS 2012

    __________________________________________________ _________________________


    MoMA'S FILM ENTRANCE ADVERTISES NEW DIRECTORS 2012

    Film CommentSelects and NewDirectors/NewFilms are two separate series put on by the Film Society of Lincoln Center, FCS a series chosen by staff members of the Film Society of Lincoln Center's in-house monthly, New Directors in collaboration with the Museum of Modern Art. I will cover the press & industry screenings of New Directors/New Films, which generally include all the selections. Of Film Comment Selects I will see only a few. That series is spread out and this year did not have a program of press screenings.

    Links to the reviews:

    5 Broken Cameras (Emad Burat, Guy Davidi 2011)--ND/NF
    Ambassador, The (Mads Brügger 2011)--ND/NF
    Breathing (Karl Markovics 2011)--ND/NF
    Crulic: The Path to Beyond (Anca Damian 2011)--ND/NF
    Donoma (Djinn Carrénard 2011)--ND/NF
    Faust (Aleksandr Sokurov 2011)--FCS
    Found Memories (Júlia Murat 2011)--ND/NF
    Generation P (Vincent Ginzburg 2011)--ND/NF
    Gimme the Loot (Adam Leon 2012)--ND/NF
    Goodbye (Mohammad Rasoulof 2011)--ND/NF
    Hemel (Sacha Polak 2012)--ND/NF
    How to Survive a Plague (David France 2012)--ND/NF
    Huan Huan (Song Chuan 2011)--ND/NF
    I Wish (Hirakazu Koreeda 2011)--FCS
    It Looks Pretty from a Distance (Anka, Wilhelm Sasnal 2011)--ND/NF
    Las Acacias (Pablo Giorgelli 2011)--ND/NF
    Minister, The (Pierre Schöller 2011)--ND/NF
    Oslo, August 31st (Joachim Trier 2011)--ND/NF
    My Own Private River (James Franco 2012)--FCS
    Neighboring Sounds (Kleber Mendoça Filho 2011)--ND/NF
    Now, Forager (Jason Cortland, Julia Halperin 2012)--ND/NF
    Omar Killed Me (Roschdy Zem 2011)--ND/NF
    Oversimplification of Her Beauty, An (Terence Nance 2012)--ND/NF
    Porfirio (Alejandro Landes 2011)--ND/NF
    Rabbi's Cat, The (Joann Sfar, Antoine Delesvauz 2011)--ND/NF
    Raid, The: Redemption (Gareth Evans 2012)--ND/NF
    Rebellion (Mathieu Kassovitz 2011)--FCS
    Romance Joe (Lee Kwang-kui 2011)--ND/NF
    Teddy Bear (Mads Metthieson 2011)--ND/NF
    Twilight Portrait (Angelina Nikonova 2011)--ND/NF
    Where Do We Go Now (Nadine Labaki 2011)--ND/NF



    Click on the title below for the YouTube video (4 mins.).
    Ken Burns on New Directors/New Films

    "It was like a union card that says, 'Yes you can.' And yes, we all did."
    "That afternoon at New Directors cemented what it meant to be a filmmaker for me."

    Filmleaf General Forums thread for ND/NF and FCS 2012 here.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 02-06-2016 at 10:53 AM.

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    film comment selects



    The full program is below. I plan to review Sokurov's Faust, James Franco's My Own Private River, Hirakazu Koreeda's I Wish and Mathieu Kassovitz's Rebellion. I have already reviewed Joshua Marston's The Forgieness of Blood, Kenneth Lonergan's Margaret, and Nanni Moretti's We Have a Pope.


    A Stoker
    Alexei Balabanov, 2010

    Sat Feb 25: 5:30 pm
    An elderly, not-all-there Afghan war veteran known as “the major” feeds the murder victims of cops and mobsters into an apartment building furnace while working on an epic historical novel in the latest nihilistic crime drama from Russian provocateur Alexei Balabanov (Cargo 200).

    All Watched Over By Machines of Loving Grace
    Adam Curtis, 2011

    The BBC essay filmmaker behind 2007’s The Power of Nightmares is back with a new three-part work on mankind’s dependency on computer technology. Compulsive viewing.

    Almayer’s Folly
    Chantal Akerman, 2011

    Sun Feb 26: 1:00 pm
    Chantal Akerman updates the first novel by Joseph Conrad from the late 1890s to the 1950s, and uses it as a springboard for an examination of the bankruptcy of colonialism through the struggle between a European father and Malaysian mother for possession of their daughter.

    Alps
    Yorgos Lanthimos, 2011

    Thu Mar 1: 9:30 pm
    In the latest warped and absurdly funny exploration of unnatural doings from the director of Dogtooth, a secret society consisting of four members offers a unique service: the recently bereaved can hire them for a few hours a week to act as surrogates for deceased loved ones, in order to help them adjust to their loss.

    Altered States
    Ken Russell, 1980
    Fri Feb 24: 9:30 pm

    Fearless scientist William Hurt plumbs the unborn soul of mankind through psychedelic freak-outs in a sensory-deprivation tank. In memory of Ken Russell, who died in November.

    Despair
    Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1978

    Thu Feb 23: 1:30 pm | Wed Feb 29: 4:30 pm
    Based on a novel by Nabokov, scripted by Tom Stoppard, and starring Dirk Bogarde, Fassbinder’s first English-language film, a black comedy about a chocolate manufacturer plotting the perfect murder, is a must-see for all, not just Fassbinder completists.

    Face to Face
    Ingmar Bergman, 197
    5
    Wed Feb 22: 3:30 pm | Fri Feb 24: 1:30 pm
    Liv Ullmann is front and center in this underseen Bergman film, playing a disturbed psychiatrist who has an affair with a fellow doctor (Erland Josephson), only to succumb to a nervous breakdown seemingly triggered by haunting memories from her past.

    Faust
    Aleksandr Sokurov, 20
    11
    Tue Feb 21: 3:15 pm | Tue Feb 28: 9:00 pm
    Winner of the Venice Film Festival’s Golden Lion, Russian master Aleksandr Sokurov’s idiosyncratic and playful reinvention of Goethe’s play positions Faust’s craving of knowledge and power (i.e., the Enlightenment) as the source of 20th-century evil.

    Headhunters
    Morten Tyldum, 2011

    Thu Feb 23: 6:30 pm | Fri Feb 24: 4:15 pm
    A slick, charming corporate recruitment specialist leads a double life as an art thief in this twisty and fast-paced thriller that heralds the arrival of an exciting new directorial talent—and will keep you guessing all the way to its finale.

    I Wish
    Hirokazu Kore-eda, 2011

    Wed Feb 22: 1:00 pm
    Japan’s answer to Truffaut, Hirokazu Kore-eda, returns with a truly sweet, low-key film about two brothers trying to reunite their parents. Starring comedy duo Koki and Ohshiro Maeda.

    Land Passion War of the Dead Christ Worlds
    Special Event! J. Hoberman in person!

    Based on 25 years of stunt projections and class presentations at NYU and Cooper Union, it’s Doomsday USA, starring Asia Argento, Tom Cruise, Dakota Fanning, Dennis Hopper, and the mind of Mel “Mad Max” Gibson. With subtitles!

    Le sauvage
    Jean-Paul Rappeneau, 1975

    Tue Feb 21: 9:00 pm
    The Film Society’s 2012 Gala honoree Catherine Deneuve and Yves Montand co-star in this unlikely, lightning-paced screwball farce set in Venezuela, restored and presented in the 2011 Cannes Film Festival’s “Classics” section.

    Life Is Sweet
    Mike Leigh, 1990

    Categories:Don't Miss Mon Feb 20: 6:30 pm
    In Memoriam: Bingham Ray.
    A rare chance to see Mike Leigh’s breakthrough film in the U.S., unavailable here on DVD. Presented in memory of the late Bingham Ray, the man responsible for this film’s U.S. distribution, as the first release of his fledgling company October Films.

    Man at Sea
    Constantine Giannaris, 2011

    Wed Feb 29: 7:00 pm Buy Tickets | Thu Mar 1: 1:00 pm Buy Tickets |
    A tale of the transnational now in which characters rarely speak in their native tongues and everybody’s an alien. An ocean tanker picks up a boatload of refugees in the Mediterranean, only to find itself unable to locate a country willing to take them in.

    Margaret
    Kenneth Lonergan, 2011

    Sat Feb 25: 7:15 pm Standby Only |
    Director Kenneth Lonergan and cast members in person!
    The film maudit of last year and in some critics’ estimation, one of the best, writer-director Kenneth Lonergan’s years-in-the-works second feature is a fascinating and often wrenching drama of moral crisis in post 9/11 New York.

    Mortem
    Eric Atlan, 2010

    Tue Feb 21: 1:15 pm
    Director Eric Atlan in person!
    A woman checks into a deserted hotel and finds herself unable to leave her room in this crepuscular trance film that takes inspiration from Bergman’s Persona and Lynch’s Mulholland Dr., but casts an uncanny spell that’s all its own.

    My Crasy Life
    Jean-Pierre Gorin, 1992

    Sun Feb 26: 3:30 pm Buy Tickets |
    Winner of a special jury prize at the 1992 Sundance Film Festival, the concluding chapter in Gorin’s SoCal trilogy finds the filmmaker intrepidly venturing into the world of the West Side Sons of Samoa, a Long Beach street gang.

    My Own Private River
    James Franco, Gus Van Sant, 2011

    Director James Franco in person! Music by Michael Stipe! Pre-reception for ticket holders 8-9pm!
    Actor-director James Franco creates a dreamlike portrait of actor River Phoenix and his iconic character in Gus Van Sant’s My Own Private Idaho, combining footage from the original film and unused outtakes.

    Pink Floyd Live at Pompeii
    Adrian Maben, 1971

    October 1971: the prog gods give a spectacular concert to an audience of ghosts on the volcanically desolate stage of a Roman amphitheater.
    .
    Poto and Cabengo
    Jean-Pierre Gorin, 1980

    Sun Feb 26: 7:15 pm
    Erstwhile Godard collaborator Jean-Pierre Gorin’s first American feature is a beguiling documentary about the case of twin San Diego girls believed to be communicating in a language of their own invention.

    Rebellion
    Mathieu Kassovitz, 2011

    Thu Feb 23: 8:45 pm Buy Tickets | Wed Feb 29: 1:45 pm Buy Tickets |
    A compelling and tightly directed thriller about a team of elite counter-terrorism hostage negotiators who attempt to resolve a standoff between political separatists and the French military in the Pacific island of New Caledonia.

    Role Models
    David Wain, 2008

    Wed Feb 22: 8:45 pm
    David Wain’s inspired third feature turns Hollywood’s pious, “be yourself” genre deservedly on its ear with the cheerfully irreverent tale of two disillusioned energy-drink salesmen (Paul Rudd and Seann William Scott) serving out a community service sentence in a youth mentoring program

    Routine Pleasures
    Jean-Pierre Gorin, 1986

    Sun Feb 26: 5:30 pm
    Gorin’s unclassifiable second American feature begins as an affectionate group portrait of devoted model-train hobbyists in the San Diego suburb of Pacific Beach (filmed in lustrous black and white), detours through the painting studio of artist-critic Manny Farber (at work on two of his bustling, crowded canvases), and pauses for ruminations on Thelonius Monk, William Wellman, and Howard Hawks—yet somehow, wonderfully, feels all of a piece. The subjects are all miniaturists of a sort, and so too is Gorin, treating us here to another lyrical, inimitable vision of his shoebox America.


    Silent House
    Laura Lau, Chris Kentis, 2011

    Thu Feb 23: 4:00 pm | Sat Feb 25: 10:45 pm
    Directors Laura Lau and Chris Kentis in person for Q&A after February 25 screening!
    In this perfectly executed real-time thriller from the directors of Open Water, Elizabeth Olsen finds herself trapped inside the dilapidated cabin her family is readying for sale. With no contact to the outside world and no way out, panic turns to terror.

    Sleepwalk
    Sara Driver, 1986

    Wed Feb 29: 9:00 pm
    A beguiling and enigmatic nocturnal adventure set in New York’s no-man’s land, at the intersection of SoHo, Chinatown, and Tribeca, Sara Driver’s first feature begins in mundane daily life but imperceptibly drifts into the dreamlike realm of the trance film.

    Snowtown
    Justin Kurzel, 2011

    Arguably the most disturbing, least sensationalistic serial killer movie since Henry: Portrait of a Serial Killer, director Justin Kurzel’s stark, enormously accomplished debut feature recounts the horrifying crimes discovered in Snowtown, Australia in 1999, where police found dismembered bodies rotting in barrels.

    Target
    Alexander Zeldovich, 2011

    Fri Feb 24: 6:30 pm | Thu Mar 1: 3:00 pm
    In the year 2020, a Russian oligarch, his wife, a handsome TV host, and a champion equestrian fly together from Moscow to Central Asia in search of a modern-day fountain of youth... only to discover that eternal life has its downside.


    The Forgiveness of Blood
    Joshua Marston, 2011

    Director Joshua Marston, stars Tristan Halilaj, Refet Abazi, and Sindi Lacej, and co-writer Andamion Murataj in person!
    In his long-awaited follow-up to 2004’s Maria Full of Grace, director Joshua Marston focuses on a modern-day blood feud in a rural village in Northern Albania. Winner of the Silver Bear for Best Screenplay at the 2011 Berlin Film Festival.

    Transfer
    Damir Lukacevic, 2010

    Mon Feb 20: 4:15 pm | Mon Feb 20: 8:45 pm
    In this post-colonial spin on John Frankenheimer’s Seconds, the Menzana Corporation offers its elderly, white German clientele the chance to live new lives inside the bodies of young African refugees who willingly lend out their corporeal residences for 20 hours a day.

    Wanderlust
    David Wain, 2012

    Wed Feb 22: 6:15 pm Standby Only |
    David Wain, Alan Alda, Paul Rudd, Kerri Kenney, and Ken Marino will attend and participate in a post-screening Q&A!
    When on-the-go Manhattanite George (Paul Rudd) is downsized out of his job, he and wife Linda (Jennifer Aniston) hit the road for Atlanta, detouring en route at a modern-day commune where free living reigns. From the director of Wet Hot American Summer.

    We Have a Pope
    Nanni Moretti, 2011

    Mon Feb 20: 2:00 pm Buy Tickets |
    In Nanni Moretti’s latest comedy, Michel Piccoli plays a newly elected Pope who gets cold feet and is put under the care of a shrink (Moretti).

    Whores’ Glory
    Michael Glawogger, 2011

    A non-exploitative, matter-of-fact study of the world’s oldest profession, Austrian documentarian Michael Glawogger’s film travels from Thailand to Bangladesh to Mexico, allowing the harsh realities and professional hazards of the trade to speak for themselves.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-23-2014 at 08:03 PM.

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    Aleksandr Sokurov: Faust (2011)--FCS

    ALEKSANDR SOKUROV: FAUST (2011)--FCS


    JOHANNES ZEILER AND ANTON ADASINSKY IN FAUST

    Sokurov's very strange and visually remarkable version of 'Faust'

    Aleksandr Sokurov's Faust won the top prize, the Golden Lion, at the Venice Film Festival in September 2011. Gavin Smith, the editor of Film Comment, introduced the FCS series and this film at the Lincoln Center Walter Reade Theater by saying that this was probably the only chance audience members would get to see it on the big screen. Indeed other than his big US art house success, the tour-do-force one-long-take trip through a museum with music conducted by Valery Gergiev film Russian Ark, Sokurov's films have rarely gotten theatrical releases Stateside. And Faust is not a likely candidate. The grubby opening sequence included hoisting up a naked cadaver whose guts fell out, which sent half a dozen people from the theater. When giving the Golden Lion, Darren Arronovsky announced that it was the kind of film that could change your life forever. Sokurov's films are remarkable as they are off-putting and strange. Most are haunting and hypnotic. Alexandra, (NYFF 2007)about an old woman who visits her soldier son at the front, is moving. The Sun (NYFF 2005), an incredibly sensitive portrait of the Emperor Hirohito in the time up to and after the Japanese surrender, is a hypnotic, revealing, and extraordinary touching portrait. Father and Son is as sensuous and homoerotic and strangely beautiful as any film about men ever made. Like many of Sokurov's films it exists in a foggy hyperreal dreamworld that is complete but only partly parallel to our own.

    Faust, which like Sokurov's Moloch, is in German, announces in its opening titles that it is based on the work by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, but interprets the legend of the man who trades his soul to the devil to gain knowledge in a very peculiar manner. This Heinrich Faust (Johannes Zeiler), who follows the traditional pattern in being a learned scientist, is linked up with a strangely annoying and grinning busybody of a devil with a pear-shaped body and scraggly reddish hair. He is a moneylender (Anton Adasinsky). Faust has become attracted to Margarete (Russian actress Isolda Dychauk), a pure young woman with pale skin and flaxen reddish hair, and it seems that his bargain is to give up his soul for a little time spent with her. Some "Faustian bargain."

    The mood of Sokurov's Faust, as Variety reviewer Jay Weissberg has emphatically noted, is different from most of his other films in its ceaseless nattering verbosity. Mostly Sokurov's mood- and image-centric films contain few words but this one never stops talking. What with its voiceover from Faust or conversation between him and the moneylender, or the rambles of the moneylender, the soundtrack here keeps a constant chattering rhythm going like an outboard motor continually running. Sokurov thus creates and maintains a kind of peculiar energy and a sense of a world that is going on just beyond us, inside the screen so to speak. Sokurov has done this before, but this time the sense of a world that we can't quite penetrate is a little different. In other films we feel swept away (Russian Ark) or enveloped and hypnotized (Father and Son, The Sun). Here we are more alienated.

    He counts this as the last in his tetrology about the corrupting effects of power. Those that I have seen (I'm missing Taurus, about Lenin) have little in common with each other. Moloch (1999) deals with Hitler in 1942, in Bavaria, and focuses on a visit to Eva Braun by Hitler, Goebbels, Goebbels' wife and Martin Bormann in which they sit around for several days talking about politics. The Sun, as mentioned, is an intimate portrait of the Emperor Hirohito.

    What distinguishes Faust, which seems otherwise one of Sokurov's brilliant misfires, are the images and the mise-en-scène. Weissberg comments that the photography echoes Flemish painting and also folk art about witches. This may be so, but what seems even more striking is the way the director has recreated the look and feel of early photography. One could also not help but be reminded in the early sequence of Faust's laboratory of the photographs of Joel-Peter Witkin. And this gives a sense of how rich and elaborately staged and photographed the interiors and exteriors are and how convincing the people and costumes are in their sense of period. Beyond that, the framing of exteriors, the peculiarities of aspect ratio and focus, and the complex "gray" tonalities all build up the nineteenth-century look. Jim Jarmusch's Dead Man is an analogy, but here the effect is richer -- and stranger.

    Manohla Dargis has commented on a shot as unforgettable. It's one where Faust is united with Margarete and he embraces her and they flip over together into a river. It's a dream-image, symbolic rather than real. And the whole film is best understood as what Dali and Bunuel might have done if they'd gone on working together and done their version of Faust. But there's just a gutted corpse here, no dead donkeys lying inside a grand piano. I still remember the late Graham Leggett introducing Sokurov's The Sun at a press screening for the 2005 New York Film Festival saying this was one of the world's great directors: the sheer boldness and conviction with which Leggett made the statement left a lasting impression. And somehow it still rings true.

    Seen for this review as part of the Film Society of Lincoln Center's series, Film Comment Selects. Screening times:

    Friday, February 17 at 8:15PM, Tuesday, February 21 at 3:15PM and Tuesday, February 28 at 9:00PM.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 03-23-2012 at 07:01 PM.

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    James Franco: My Own Private River (2012)--FCS

    JAMES FRANCO: MY OWN PRIVATE RIVER (2012)--FCS



    A chance to see a lost actor at work

    James Franco was fifteen when Gus Van Sant's My Own Private Idaho came out. He has said that it is his favorite film, it moved him, it helped shape him as a teenager. After he worked on Milk he went to see Van Sant and learned that he had kept 25 hours' worth of film footage shot at the time of My Own Private Idaho. Franco has written about the experience.

    "We spent two days in Portland watching as much as we could. While we were watching, we discussed how Gus’s movies have changed in the intervening decades. His films now are much more spare in story and dialogue; they involve longer takes and fewer cuts. We were naturally led to wonder what Idaho would be like if he made the film now, and Gus offered to let me make my own cut."

    Franco seems to have made three films, or maybe two that were combined. They've been shown at Toronto and put in an installation in LA at Gagasian Gallery, when Franco got Gucci to pay the cost of digitalizing the many hours of film Van Sant turned over to his use and the gallery agreed to present Franco's piece. The Gagasian installation is described in a Guardian blog, "James Franco brings River Phoenix back to life,"and now appeared at the gallery across from the entrance to the Walter Reade Theater at Lincoln Center in New York where the Film Comment Selects series is shown. This was a shabby-chic version of an AA meeting, with scattered mismatched camp chairs and romantically tacky hanging gold and orange drapery, a table with a coffee urn and paper cups, a color film projected on a big screen at one end of the room and a small screen at the opposite end high up with a film in black and white on a monitor. (The latter turns out to be the Shakespeare material that Franco chose to leave out.)

    I did not go to the Film Comment Selects' late evening event at which these were handsomely projected in their combined form on the really big screen with a Q&A by Franco at the end, because this was sold out. But I got the feeling from the faux AA meeting installation, which was one of sadness mixed with respect for the talent of River Phoenix. Van Sant's film gives us fragments of a lost life, love, hope, comical sad hustles, love and disappointment. River Phoenix delivered other notable performances. At a memorial service after his death Sidney Poitier, who worked with him on one of his films, called him "incandescent." It's surprising to see that what would seem to be a child role, Stand by Me, comes only two years before Phoenix played a precocious, gifted youth in Running on Empty, and a mere five years before the layered complexity of My Own Private Idaho.

    It's interesting that James Franco has done these pieces and Van Sant let him do them. Whether or not there are more long takes in Franco's edits, Idaho was a highly improvisatory production with a lot of people hanging out and living approximations of the dissolute lives the film chronicles. (This is brought out more because Franco stressed the documentary aspect of the film footage.) Rumor had it that there were a lot of drugs and some said the atmosphere gave Phoenix a push toward the downward path (his death from an overdose came two years later). But what the extra takes and footage show of Phoenix is of him living the sensibility of his character, Mike, the narcoleptic gay street hustler. Phoenix had in some sense lived on the street, since he and his siblings reportedly entertained on the sidewalk to make money when very young, and this is how River became a performer, as a street singer and busker. We can see Phoenix turning talk about nothing into seamless rifs on Mike's sad aimlessness and longing for home and love. We can see him turning stage business over pasta at the table in Italy to an expression of his jealousy and sense or rejection. He is so expressive you hardly need the movie, or the dialogue.

    In a page Franco published in The Paris Review he talks about the many alternate takes that go into any movie. Mostly the ones not used are thrown away. But "sometimes—as when they feature an actor like River Phoenix in a film like My Own Private Idaho, the best of his generation giving his best performance—every scrap is gold." So here simply we have some scraps of gold gathered by James Franco with the collaboration of the original filmmaker, Gus Van Sant.

    The interest for students of acting is to see a gifted actor "in character." It's playacting so good you can't see when it starts and stops.

    While the installation went on for several days, My Own Private River was a one-time event of Film Comments Selects at the Walter Reade Theater of Lincoln Center.

    Sunday, February 19, 2012 at 9:00PM.
    James Franco attended and participated in a post-screening Q&A.


    There is a Film Comment Q&A with Franco avaiable online . Franco says Phoenix in the film (and rushes) often seems like "a cross between James Dean and Charlie Chaplin."


    Visitoers hanging out in the "My Own Private River" installation, Walter Reade Theater Feb. 2012, seem like
    Gus Van Sant characters.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 07-23-2014 at 08:12 PM.

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    Hirakazu Koreeda: I Wish (2011)--FCS

    HIRAKAZU KOREEDA: I WISH (2011)--FCS


    Oshiro and Koki Maeda in I Wish

    Watching bullet trains, choosing the world

    In 2004 Koreeda made a wonderful but sad film about children, Nobody Knows. I Wish is another one, nearly as fine, but much happier -- though again it has children dealing with unreliable parents (just not as bad). There are superb scenes in which kids are charming and real. But I Wish moves around much more than Nobody Knows. In that one, four siblings are abandoned together by their radically irresponsible mother and must try to survive in their apartment on their wits. This gives Nobody Knows, perforce, unity of place. I Wish skips around, as it must, because this time there are two brothers who are now living with separate parents. At one or two points I Wish says a little bit too much in the mouths of babes, but it also contains moments of such beauty you wish they would never end. Probably some of the magic comes from the fact that the film stars real-life brothers Koki and Ohshirô Maeda who already had their own sibling comedy act, Maeda/Maeda.

    Are Japanese kids cuter and happier than other children? Sometimes it seems so. Whatever the case, these qualities feed into the magic moments that abound in Koreeda's new film. I Wish isn't an unqualified success. It may ride too much on its cuteness and its magic. Or Koreeda may have been too reluctant to cut any of the cute or magical moments, which -- due to his success as a director of children and documentary filmmakers and the charm of his young cast -- kept multiplying. As a result his film meanders and sprawls. But it's possible meandering and sprawling are Koreeda's way no matter what his subject is. He isn't a director who likes to move fast. Note how patiently he wanders through the long summer day in his 2008 Still Walking. The meandering is deceptive. The film builds, and when it's got all its force together it hits you with a quiet emotional wallop. Koreeda creeps up on you.

    But I Wish is deceptively random-seeming and deceptively simple and "accessible." There is as much order here as there is complexity. This may be Koreeda's most accessible film but it's up with his best and most original work. And what it's all about may not become clear till later.

    The story focuses on a child's urban legand: the idea that if you can see two new bullet trains crossing paths the wish you make then will come true. The two brothers talk on the phone. They're apart now because their parents couldn't get along. Their mother Nozomi (Nene Ohtsuka) found their musician father Kenji (Joe Odagiri) totally unreliable, so she moved back in with her grandparents (Isao Hashizume, Kirin Kiki) to work in their little supermarket as a cashier, taking the older brother, Koichi (Koki Maeda), a sixth grader. The small but lively Ryunosuke (Ohshiro Maeda) goes to the big city of Fukuoka with his dad, a rock musician who's never quite successful enough to do without other work but can't stick to a conventional job. We get a few looks at the parents' former squabbles, but mostly we focus on Koichi and Ryo. It seems as though it's Koichi who most wants to get back together. A chubby, perhaps more staid chap, Koichi may be a bit jealous of Ryo's new friends, who include the prettiest girl in class, Emi (Kyara Uchida). He chafes at life with the grandparents, and is annoyed by the volcanic ash of Kagoshima, where he now lives. Obviously life with their laid-back dad and his band-mates is cooler, even if life with mom is more reliable.

    Koreeda is skillful at managing three plots: the life of Ryo, the life of Koichi, and their project to meet midway to observe the two bullet trains and make their wishes, which finally takes over as a group "road picture" with a subtle kind of "resolution" that avoids conventional feel-good aspects with moments that may make you cry but none of the saccharine tear-jerker outcome ordinary filmmakers would have made with this plot outline.

    Part of the time is spent following Koichi and his classmates and their dislike of a teacher (Hiroshi Abe) and crush on a school librarian (Masami Nagasawa). Meanwhile Ryo becomes the pet of a group of girls including an aspiring young actress s (Kyara Uchida) whose failed actress mom (Yui Natsukawa) keeps telling her daughter she will fail. Back with Koichi, grandma is learning hula dancing and grandpa and his cronies drink and tweak an old-fashioned (comically tasteless) cake recipe which some think can be sold as a novelty tie-in with the new bullet train.

    None of this matters so much in dramatic terms except for the way it all creates a three-dimensional world going in various directions linked by the bullet trains and the boys' bullet train project. The scenes of the children are particularly sprightly and winning, and the progress of the film is punctuated by the linking cell phone chats between the two brothers. The wish-making meeting involves fellow classmates, money-raising (the tickets are expensive), permissions for a 24-hour absence from school, and a lot of logistical planning. The wish-making project takes on a metaphorical meaning: the journey becomes the destination. Making the wish as the bullet trains cross paths turns into one of those childhood myths, like the tooth fairy. In the event, the boys find themselves discovering a new outlook, or choosing "the world," as Koichi puts it. But that thought and those final sequences are just something to hang your hat on. I'm sure the deepest truths of I Wish are buried in the laughter of classmates, the cell-phone conversations, or Ryo's fava bean-growing. This is film that will obviously profit from repeated viewings.

    The score by the soft rock group Quruli may seem more ingratiating than necessary, but it helps underline the youthful good spirits that prevail; maybe Koreeda is consciously creating an antidote this time to the deeply downbeat feel ofNobody Knows. The reassurance of I Wish is that parents in modern urban society can part without the children's being left abandoned or desperate. These kids are good at fending for themselves but they also have good adult support.

    I Wish (128 minutes, cinematography by Yutaka Yamazaki) debuted at Toronto September 2011 after a June theatrical release in Japan, and has been at numerous other festivals, including Rotterdam. It enters French cinemas in April 2012. It was also included in the Film Society of Lincoln Center's 2012n Film Comment Selects series shown at the Walter Reade Theater, where it was screened for this review. It showed to the public as part of the series at these dates and times:

    Sunday, February 19 at 6:15PM and Monday, February 20 at 8:45PM.

    Koreeda's I Wish is being distributed in the US by Magnolia Pictures and will open in New York at Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and Angelika Film Center May 11, 2012.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 09-16-2013 at 11:20 PM.

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    Mathieu Kassovitz: REBELLION (2011)--FCS

    MATHIEU KASSOVITZ: REBELLION (2011)--FCS



    Kassovitz's smart actioner

    Mathieu Kassovitz's Rebellion, which he directs and stars in, is about the revolt and hostage-taking that occurred in 1988 on the tiny Pacific island of Ouvea in New Caledonia that was put down by its French rulers. This is an intense action film about shocking historical events -- one that effectively goes beyond the action format to show how politics trumps military and diplomatic considerations. Kassovitz has to that extent made a war movie for smart people. and this isn't a crude polemical piece but a deftly executed film with high production values full of elaborate set pieces and showing a superb and natural sense of place. Note however the limitations of personal POV: this is the arguably one-sided account of one man, a main player (as he saw it anyway) and based on his published memoir of events. The good man surrounded by military puppets is a well-told tale that provokes thought -- and one of the best new political films from the French in some time as well as a great leap forward for Kassovitz as a filmmaker -- even if it is not a work of sublime complexity.

    We begin with the violent finale. Then we go back to the beginning, from the narrator's point of view when GIGN (French national police intervention group) Captain Philippe Legorjus was sent out to New Caledonia with his personal team because locals who rebelled independently (separate from the French-branded "terrorist" independence insurgents, the FNLKS -- Le Front de libération nationale kanak et socialiste) -- had taken some hostages in two places and killed a few people in the process. Negotiation in such crises is Legorjus' job, and he is sent the 23,000 kilometers with his own team. As he sees it since New Caledonia is French territory the rebels are French, and should be treated with the respect accorded French citizens. The action is limited and he has no doubt -- this remains true to the bitter end -- that it can successfully be contained by negotiation.

    But it's 1988 -- in the middle of the 12-year socialist presidency of François Mitterand when opposition from the right is virulent. An election is coming very soon. Right-wing PM Jacques Chirac leads a conservative cabinet. The Ouvea revolt and hostage-taking becomes a tool of their conflict. Both sides must take a strong position on it. And this will be fatal for Legorjus' negotiations.

    Kassovitz's film shows excerpts from a debate between Mitterand and Chirac that took place in the middle of the events. The two politicians take opposing views, but the film overlaps their remarks after a while depicting them as merely a political blah-blah-blah. The point is that the issue has to be resolved before the election and to do that, negotiating would take too long. Politics intervenes and negotiating is doomed. He doesn't quite know it yet, though Legorjus and his team arrive to find the French army already deployed in alarming numbers, for a tiny rebellion (ten to one, anyway): heavily armed intervention by special assault troops is already a foregone conclusion.

    It's a tribute to Kassovitz's well-executed film that it tells a complicated step-by-step story over a ten-day period with great clarity and including action on many levels. And this involves meetings with the main leader, the hostages, and many communications back and forth by Captain Legorjus with the local military in charge, the government minister sent to New Caledonia, the general to whom he must report, and CIGN government liaison in Paris. He also meets with the leader of the insurgent Kanaks FLNKS. The leader of the rebel hostage-takers, Alphonse Dianou (Iabe Lapacas) is depected perhaps as too gentle and sweet to be true. But you have to grant that Kassovitz is making a smart person's action movie but still an action movie, and this is not a mini-series: he turns in the whole story in a fast-moving 135 minutes, so there is come simplification. The complexities of the New Caledonian independence moviement are left aside. A newcomer to the topic might think what had gone on for a century had just arrived last year.

    Advocates of the government or even of the CIGN, who might wish to argue they acted correctly and not simply under pressure are not so pleased with Kassovitz's anti-colonialist analysis, but the basic principle is a universal one. Issues are crudely resolved to satisfy the needs of an election. White soldiers quelling a non-white rebellion 23,000 kilometers from home are not likely to be gentle. They tortured. They massacred. Captain Philippe Legorjus fought a desperate race against time to carry out negotiations before the attack and almost got killed doing it, but -- spoiler alert! -- in the end (it's where the movie begins) he didn't get to do the job he had been trained to do. As Legorjus, Kassovitz has that same neutral, easy-to-identify-with quality ha had in his iconic early role as the young con man in Jacques Audiard's early A Self Made Hero/Un héros très discret. Other good cast members: Malik Zidi as JP Perrot as Legorjus' second in command; Alexandre Steiger as Jean Bianconi, a local negotiator; Sylvie Testud as Legorjus' wife; and a host of Kanak people and Frenchmen who make the scenes come alive and look right.

    Rebellion is a misnomer. The French title is L'ordere et la morale, Order and Morality, an ironic tag that leaves us with a tonic dose of frustration instead of the usual catharsis. This is Kassovitz's most significant directorial effort since his important 1995 film about class in France, Hate (La Haine), and this time he is working with a bigger concept and a bigger budget and project.

    Rebellion is a film that debuted at Cannes and also showed at other festivals, including Toronto and London. It opened in Paris November 16, 2011 to very good, if not great, reviews (Allociné 3.2); some critics understandably see the film as fine, but flawed; perhaps some did not see how much is done well here, but they did see that Kassovitz produced a creditable effort after serious missteps and the entertainingly lurid The Crimson Rivers. Rebellion was also included in the Film Society of Lincoln Center's series, Film Comment Selects, where it was screened for this review (Feb. 29, 2012).

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