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Thread: NEW DIRECTORS/NEW FILMS 2022 (April 20-May 1, 2022)

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    NEW DIRECTORS/NEW FILMS 2022 (April 20-May 1, 2022)



    NEW DIRECTORS/NEW FILMS 2022 (April 20-May 1, 2022)

    GENERAL FILM FORUM THREAD

    LINKS TO THE REVIEWS
    The African Desperate dir. Martine Syms CLOSING NIGHT FILM
    Album for the Youth dir. Malena Solarz
    The Apartment with Two Women dir. Kim Se-in
    Blue Island dir. Chan Tze Woon
    The Cathedral dir. Ricky D’Ambrose
    Children of the Mist dir. Diễm Hŕ Lệ
    The City and the City dir. Christos Passalis and Syllas Tzoumerkas
    Dos Estaciones dir. Juan Pablo González
    Father’s Day dir. Kivu Ruhorahoza
    Fire of Love dir. Sara Dosa
    Full Time dir. Éric Gravel
    Happening dir. Audrey Diwan OPENING NIGHT FILM
    Hot in Day, Cold at Night dir. Park Song-yeol
    The Innocents dir. Eskil Vogt
    Nanny dir. Nikyatu Jusu
    Once Upon a Time in Calcutta dir. Aditya Vikram Sengupta
    Onoda - 10,000 Nights in the Jungle dir. Arthur Harari
    Pilgrims dir. Laurynas Bareiša
    Rehana dir. Abdullah Mohammad Saad
    Riotsville, USA dir. Sierra Pettengill
    Robe of Gems dir. Natalia López Gallardo
    Shankar’s Fairies dir. Irfana Majumdar
    Singing in the Wilderness dir. Dongnan Chen
    Small, Slow but Steady dir. Shô Miyake
    Talking About the Weather dir. Annika Pinske
    White Building dir. Kavich Neang
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-20-2022 at 09:16 AM.

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    ALBUM FOR THE YOUTH (Malena Solarz 2021)

    MALENA SOLARZ: ALBUM FOR THE YOUTH/ÁLBUM PARA LA JUVENTUD (2021)


    SANTIAGO CANEPARI (RIGHT) IN ALBUM FOR THE YOUTH

    Argentine university students followed around in innocuous vérité scenes

    Malena Solarz's film is sweet, natural, and flowing. It's also blah. The written passages are uninteresting and the piano playing is a bit out of tune. These late-teens are well-behaved. They rarely smoke, they do not drink too much, they are polite. I kept wishing the same figures had different dialogue - that led somewhere. Instead they're just talking about studying and exams, parents and vacations. Relationships are not developed, or are too neutral to be interesting. A critique in Spanish on Escribiendocine said: "Álbum para la juventud (2021) has two young people, Pedro (Santiago Canepari) and Sol (Ariel Rausch), wandering the streets in their routines, in their 'white people problems,' which in reality are not many but for them are important . . . More navel-gazing than promoting a generational fresco, the film allows Solarz to propose an ideal universe in which, precisely this idealization, makes it impossible to project empathy with these anodyne characters."

    Variety:
    Achieving a rare double this year – selection for both the Mar del Plata Festival and Ventana Sur’s pix-in-post competitions – Malena Solarz’s “Album for the Youth” marks the first solo feature of a director who tackles one of the most common of debut themes – a coming of age tale – but begs to differ on its structure.

    Coming-of-age features “usually have big dramatic arcs as the characters discover something very important about their identity, their sexuality, etc. Here the characters do not have big revelations. I was mainly interested in working on a much smaller, millimetric scale almost,” Solarz explained to Variety.

    So “Album for the Youth” gently charts the halting and initial maturing of two teens who both could have a first relationship and show creative yearnings – Sol (Irina Rausch) in music and Pedro as a writer (Santiago Canepari) – which may feed into careers later in life.

    Both plots weave, “looking for themselves” the director said, adding: “They are curious about some things and so is the movie- There’s some clumsiness in their bodies and gestures, and in the movie as well.”

    Solarz cites as inspiration France’s Éric Rohmer and Maurice Pialat and U.S. contemporary comedies. Working with DP Fernando Lockett (Fernando Guerrero’s 'The Dark Beast'), she tried to maintain a certain distance from characters. 'I didn’t want to translate their feelings into cinematic elements – colors, camera movements. I like the idea of the story being watched through a barely visible formal filter,' she added.

    That can also be seen as just not going to much bother.

    Album for the Youth/Álbum para la juventud , 80 mins., debuted at Mar del Plata Nov. 2021; also shown at New Directors/New Films (FLC, MoMA) in April 2022, screened there for this review.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-14-2022 at 08:03 PM.

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    CHILDREN OF THE MIST (Diễm Hŕ Lệ 2021)

    DIEM HA LE: CHILDREN OF THE MIST (2021)



    [Woman] filmmaker helplessly follows a cruel Hmong custom: child bride kidnapping

    Diễm Hŕ Lệ's participating-observer documentary is a plunge into ethnography and the world of the Hmong people of a mountainous and misty region of Northern Vietnam. No question about the skillful, artistically effective quality of this film. It begins with a glimpse of Diễm's pre-teen friend Di and then several beautiful panoramic shots of the local landscape, which could be described as both "rugged" and "delicate." The film meanders a bit, thus conveying families, personalities, and lifestyles. Gradually it acquires a very coherent form and a main subject, the lingering custom of "kidnapping" young girls and making them child brides,, robbing them of a childhood and a better future.

    I thought of Lévy-Strauss's famous title Tristes Tropiques. Not that we are in the tropics. The cool climate occasions the wearing of highly embellished needlework known as paj ntaub or flower cloth: both men and women, especially for an important event, wear beautiful clothing and plenty of it. But observation of the Hmong arouses the mixture of feelings reflected in Lévy-Strauss' adjective "tristes" even though the Mmong are often smiling, laughing, and playful. They are "tristes" because frankly their lives are nothing to envy, a world of limitations, narrow horizons.

    These lives are an odd mixture of hard physical work and almost continual play. Alcohol is central to their culture. A marriage agreement as well as an agreement to suspend an engagement are both sealed by a drink. But beyond that adult men often have a continual buzz on. Nor is drinking and drunkenness a restricted male activity, but practiced by women as well. With this seems to go confused and irresponsible behavior.

    The custom of "kidnapping" underage brides is one of these. At the traditional time of the Lunar New Year festivities a boy goes off with Di on a sort of "date," and the next thing we know she has failed to return home. Both Di's parents and Di herself behave ambivalently about this. Though Di initially went along with things, she later acknowledges being mistaken because she doesn't like the boy (though other girls say he's good looking). Her parents keep contradicting themselves, sometimes agreeing to the kidmap-marriage, other times objecting to it. As the Variety review points out, at this point any resolve against marriage may now be too late "in a prickly period of negotiation between two mutually wary households, as matters of dowry, obligation and family honor are all considered ahead of the happiness of the two children in question." At one point Di's mother objects to her marrying Kang, the young boy, but then giggles and says "Is he rich?"

    The kids go to school (a fairly new thing) and Diễm films in a classroom where we learn students regularly play hookey to help with farming chores. The teacher scolds them for this one by one. Later a group of teachers intervene on Di's behalf against the imposition of child marriage. But then can only opine, and then they withdraw, having no final authority over custom or family. Di recognizes that if she quits school to be a bride at fourteen, she is opting out of a better life, a possible job, and a chance (she says) to take her mother to places she has never seen beyond the village.

    It is strange to observe that like everywhere in the world the Hmong, at least the young, carry cell phones so they are continually in touch with each other and, to some extent at least, the outside world. (Probably this aids them in learning Vietnamese as well as the Homng language, but that isn't gone into.) And they are on Facebook and have Facebook pages with all the speeded up electronic chatter and gossip that implies. Will this speed change? Surely one would think so, but it's too soon to say, and the culture is a powerful force for continuity in this isolated environment. (The town is only briefly glimpsed.)

    The "participatory observer" role is a long-established one in ethnography, clearly true of Diễm, whom Di or others sometimes address. But it gets more intense when there's a scuffle and they bang into some of the film equipment, and finally when the kidnapping boy grabs Di to take her back and Diễm joins those trying to pull her back.

    The adults are playful and childlike so three's a sense of fun. But we're left with a sense of hopelessness in the face of age-old customs that are disadvantageous for everyone, especially young women. These show no immediate signs of changing; but another film in a year or two may look different. Under the circumstances, we can't expect improvement.

    Children of the Mist, 90 mins., debuted at Amsterdam Nov. 2021; also Seattle Apr. 2022; reviewed as part of New Directors/New Films (FLC, MoMA) Apr. 20-May 1, 2022.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-14-2022 at 03:56 PM.

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    HAPPENING/L'ÉVÉNEMENT (Audrey Diwan 2021)

    AUDREY DIWAN: HAPPENING/L'ÉVÉNEMENT (2021)


    ANAMARIA VARTOLOMEI IN HAPPENING

    A girl struggles with an unwanted pregnancy, 12 years before abortion was legalized in France

    L'Événement, same title as Antonioni's classic but no relation, is a handsome, prettily lighted film in Academy ratio about a star university student who gets accidentally pregnant in 1963 France, twelve years before abortion became legal in France and four years before the advent of the Pill, and all she goes through to end the pregnancy and save her promising literary career. The film is notable for its unsparing detail about gynecological exams and procedures, in which the impressive, convincing star, Anamaria Vartolomei, is fearless, and for the clear way that contemporary attitudes are depicted. The character Vartolomei plays is called Anne Duchesne. The film is adapted from the eponymous autobiographical novel (Gallimard, 2000) by Annie Ernaux by the author, the director, and Marcia Romano. (Ernaux has published more than two dozen autobiographical novels, and won many awards.) Sadly, at a time when the right to abortion is being eroded in state after state and the likelihood of the Supreme Court's overruling the landmark 1973 Roe v Wade decision looms, this story is highly relevant in America. No film shows better why this matters.

    Of course they're aiming at different things, but unlike Eliza Hittmann's tedious, dutiful Never Rarely Sometimes Always, or Crist ian Mungiu's relentless, flair-free 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, Happening is a film that depicts what the pregnant girls's surrounding social situation is like.(I have not read the book, but it sounds like Ernaux is a great storyteller.)* We realize that in this world, for "respectable girls," Anne Duchesne's classmates, pre-marital sex is a thrilling fantasy but too dangerous to indulge in because accidental pregnancy is unthinkable. Anne has fallen into the unthinkable but she is tough enough to tackle it - on her own. Many are unsympathetic to her cause and most are afraid since anyone participating in abortion in France at this time is guilty of a crime and could go to jail. It is risky even to talk about it.

    The French film is suspenseful, eventually intense and troubling, as Anne strives (not altogether successfully academically; her work deteriorates notably) to maintain a facade while she struggles to end her pregnancy by one means or another as the weeks, shown in on screen inter-titles, go by one after another. A self-inflicted method of injections and needles fails, partly because she learns doctors have tricked her with a prescription that strengthens the fetus, not weakens it. At "twelve weeks," Anne has gotten nowhere, but is at last headed for a back alley abortionist, more up a stairway. She is a slim, youthful woman with a deep voice. We see every moment of it from Anne's POV. There's no anesthetic, and she's ordered not to scream, which isn't easy. It's not an abortion; it's a procedure to cause a miscarriage.

    It doesn't work. She goes back and has it done again, at great risk. This time it works but the process is nightmarish and painful and after help from her roommate Olivia (Louise Chevillotte), She has to be rushed to the hospital. Blessedly, for her, but doctor labels the event fausse couche - "a miscarriage." She's legal. Her life and her future have been saved, but only just.

    In between the two procedures she has gone to her professor (Pio Marmaď) and begged him for the notes on his recent lectures so she can catch up and when asked if she has been sick replies, "a sickness that happens only to women and turns them into housewives." She tells him she no longe wants to teach but to become a writer. The film makes clear she went back for the dangerous second try because of her choice to risk death or imprisonment rather than give up her future.

    Naturally, it didn't exactly happen like quite this, and things didn't look at the darkest moments like a yellow-tinged 17th-century painting as they do in dp Laurent Tangy's lovely square-framed cinematography. But Audrey Diwan has delivered a film that combines the harsh and shocking and the classic and beautiful in an original and remarkable way.

    The film features Kacey Mottet Klein as Anne's friend Jean and Luŕna Bajrami and Louise Orry-Diquéro as her friends Hélčne and Brigitte, respectively.

    Happening/L'Événement,100 mins., debuted at Venice Sept. 2021, winning the top prize, the Golden Lion for Best Film, and showed at two dozen other festivals in 2021 and 2022 including Chicago, Vienna, Miami, AFI, Rotterdam, Palm Spring, Sundance, ND/NF and SFIFF. At the Césars Anamaria Vartolomei won Most Promising Actress (Meilleur espoir féminin) and the film won Best Adaptation; nominations for Best Director and Best Film. It won Best Director at the BAFTA awards and numerous other awards and nominations at other festivals. The film opened theatrically in France Nov. 24, 2021, with an AlloCiné press rating of 4.1 (82%) based on 33 reviews. US release May 6, 2022.
    ______________
    *The French Canadian film about a teenage girl who chooses to keep an unwanted pregnancy, Jean Leblanc's Les nôtres/Our Own (2021), also provides a rich surrounding social picture, but it's different because it doesn't lead to abortion.

    Happening/l'Événement, 100 mins.., debuted at Venice Sept. 5, 2021, and showed in 27 other internationnal festivals including Vienna, Miami, AFI, Rotterdam, Sundance, Goteborg, and in Apr. 2022, New Directors/New Films and SFIFF. US theatrical release May 6, 2022.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-22-2022 at 10:33 PM.

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    DOS ESTACIONES (Juan Pablo González 2022)

    JUAN PABLO GONZÁLEZ: DOS ESTACIONES (2022)


    MARIA GARCIA IN DOS ESTACIONES

    In the bucolic hills of Mexico's Jalisco highlands, iron-willed businesswoman Maria Garcia fights the impending collapse of her tequila factory.

    Dos Estaciones” centers on artisanal tequilera Maria Garcia (a towering Teresa Sánchez) as she fights to keep her family tequila business afloat amidst a plague damaging the agave crops and threats of a buyout from a greedy U.S. company.

    The region’s seemingly endless light is beautifully photographed by cinematographer Gerardo Guerra, who captures the inside of Maria’s tequila plant as elegantly as he does the vast agave fields. We’re introduced to Maria with a long tracking shot, her broad shoulders filling the whole frame. She is a titan of industry here, not just supplying jobs in her factory, but supporting other businesses like her hairdresser Tatín (Tatín Vera, a non-professional actor playing a variation of themself).

    Like Maria, Tatín is an artist and theirs is a relationship of mutual respect. However the balance of power shifts when Tatín declares they plan to expand their shop without Maria’s help. Sánchez plays this moment quietly, her eyes showing both hurt for not being needed further and also pride for Tatín’s success.

    The mannered, deliberate pace of González’s filmmaking matches Maria’s dignified reverence for her craft. The ethereal choral music as she explains how tequila is made brings an almost mythical quality to the process. Sánchez imbues Maria, the last in a long line of true artisans, with such good humor despite her often stoic expressions that when she acts from desperation, you can’t help but root for her to succeed. - Marya E. Gates, RogerEbert.com.

    Dos estaciones, 97 mins., debuted at Sundance Jan. 2022, also shown at Sun Valley Mar. 2022 and New Directors/New Films Apr. 2022.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-19-2022 at 11:39 PM.

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    FIRE OF LOVE (Sara Dosa 2022)

    SARA DOSA: FIRE OF LOVE (2022)


    MAURICE AND KATIA KRAFFT IN FIRE OF LOVE

    A French volcanologist couple who pursued their passion in tandem, gathered spectacular footage, came too close, and died together in their forties

    Intrepid scientists and loving couple Katia and Maurice Krafft died in a volcanic explosion doing the very thing that brought them together: unraveling the mysteries of volcanoes by capturing the most explosive imagery ever recorded.

    Katia was a geochemist, Maurice was a geologist. They died coming too close to a Japanese volcano, at Unzen, in 1991. Alsatians from Strasbourg, hey had met in the sixties and married in 1970. They said their love of volcanoes was born out of their disappointment with humanity. They left behind an exceptionally rich visual record of their explorations and adventures, which has been assembled here with narration (perhaps written? but three other wordsmiths are also named: Shane Boris, Erin Casper and Jocelyne Chaput) read in the hoarse, wispy voice of filmmaker Miranda July.

    The film and the description start out trying too hard: zooms roaring in and out; needless split screens; phrases like "Understanding is love's other name.""The camera loves them, and they love their own cameras back." "Volcanoes must destroy to create. But must this unruly cycle take human life?"

    The material requires no embroidery. The couple are impassioned romantic obsessives. They married and honeymooned on the volcanic island of Santorini. They decided not to have children. Maurice says, "I prefer an intense, short life to a monotonous, long one. A kamikaze existence in the beauty of volcanic things."

    This is obviously a passion threatening to overwhelm caution and scientific impartiality. The surpassing power of this most awesome and fiery of natural phenomena causes them to shiver with excitement - and stay dangerously close and, when they survive, are emboldened. Maurice rejects volcano categorization when questioned on a TV show, saying they're best treated one by one, as individual and unique. But he does accept the identification of two important types: the red ones, where lava flows, which are "kind" (gentilles), and the gray ones, the "killers" (les vulcans tueurs), the explosive ones which are far more destructive and dangerous. Eventually he and Katia turned their focus on the latter.

    Maurice tells the camera he has an ambition "to go down a lava flow in a canoe," and says it can be done in Hawaii. He's tried floating around in a bay of sulfuric acid with another geologist in a small rubber raft; his chemist wife knew the dangers and stayed on shore. (How were they filmed out there up so close?)

    As the Kraffts turn riskier and crazier, Maurice sometimes seems to look plumper and dumpier, and Katia appears ever leaner and more ascetic. Actually both are athletes, pursuing an activity that is as strenuous as it is dangerous. Back home in Strasbourg, they edit their voluminous material. She writes books with her still photos; he gives lectures and media appearances with their films, and thus they finance their ventures. Stills and film show them in a large room packed with their voluminous files.

    They have the sensation of missing too many volcanoes - and of perhaps having a gruesome occupation. They miss the highly destructive eruption of Mount St. Helens in May 1980 in the Pacific Northwest - and are furious - but they spend three months there documenting the ash and damage (not as scenic for us, the viewers as the earlier images of glowing red lava and glorious fireworks of sparks). Miranda July reminds us this eruption in Washington State had the force of 25,000 Hiroshima-style atomic bombs; worth looking into. Mount St. Helens led the Kraffts to focus from then on on gray volcanoes like it - which also include Vesuvius. They're disturbed by the November 1985 Ruiz, Colombia eruption that killed over 22,000 people.

    From our point of view perhaps it's the gentler red volcanoes that are more striking visually, but the gray ones are more powerful and hence perhaps more worthy of the Kraffts' attention. And so they wound up at Unzen where an unexpected pyroclastic flow killed them and 41 other observers. So they were not the lonely risk-takers they sometimes had been. They died at 45 (he) and 49 (she), indicating their lifestyle was as dangerous as the boldest mountain climbers'. They helped establish the importance of volcanologists in warning the public of the danger of volcanoes, but prediction is difficult and getting governments to prepare is an uphill battle.

    This is a beautiful and interesting documentary, marred by Miranda July's wispy voice. There is a reason why films are traditionally narrated by people with clear, resonant voices and training in acting or elocution. Some find July's voice dramatic, but I side with the reviewer for Screen Daily who says she "lends the picture a preciousness that can be cloying." The Wikipedia article about the couple provides arguably more balanced information on the Kraffts' achievements and importance and their recognition in the field. This film leaves somewhat the impression that they were outliers, and under-reports their importance and the respect they received from other volcanologists. Even the title seems a frantic, unnecessary gesture to personalize what is already very personal because this couple, though they remain opaque, were as unique as Maurice insisted their dangerous subjects were.

    Reviewed by Ryan Lattanzio for IndieWire and in Variety.

    Fire of Love, 93 mins., debuted at Sundance Jan. 20, 2022; IMDb lists 15 other, mostly documentary festivals, also including San Francisco and New Directors/New Films (Apr. 27).
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-21-2022 at 09:25 AM.

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    HOT IN DAY, COLD AT NIGHT (Park Songyeol 2021)

    PARK SONGYEOL: HOT IN DAY, COLD AT NIGHT (2021)



    A minimalist dramedy about an impoverished Korean couple

    This zero-budget Korean feature adopts a kind of Zen minimalism that teeters between dry irony and amateurish incompetence, much as the protagonist couple, Jeong-hee (Won Hyang-ra) and Young-te (Park Song-yeol) teeter between solvency and bankruptcy through the brief course of the action. Part of the "humor," if it is that, may lie in the fact that as Letterboxd contributor Kevin Ma minimally comments, "Dude, they live in a bigger flat than me." They lack decent jobs, but they're not homeless and they're eating (and drinking). Young-te borrows money from some shady people. When they come to collect to Young-te's mother, her mother pays them back. Threatened at exposure for illegal lending, they accept simply being repaid the principal. What happened to the tradition of brutal loan sharks with exorbitant rates and sadistic threats?

    Young-te seeks work as a schoolteacher but only gets one day as a substitute, where she's humiliated by the supervisor. Jeong-hee works as a sort of Uber driver but the first time when the customer is threatening, abandons the car with the customer in it and walks away.

    The main action is the loan of a camera. Jeong-hee gives it to a former classmate to use professionally for two weeks, acting very generous - but really doing it for the fee the guy pays. Then when he doesn't get the camera back and the guy confesses he's sold it to pay a debt, Jeong-hee threatens to go to the police, and gets paid a sum of cash. We don't know how much it is, but Jeong-hee takes a long time to count it.

    Later Jeong-hee feels guilty and refunds $1,000 of the payment. Still later he learns that the man has bought himself a new car. Late at night he walks - he has no car and hurt his leg in a motorcycle accident - and looks at the man's new car. End of film.

    The deadpan manner of the film, which is hard to tell from simply drab, lifeless filmmaking, is also what has doubtless made it appeal to festival juries as dry wit. But this is not a work that has attracted the attention of important reviewers. It hasn't much flair or wit and it has little audience appeal. Something, perhaps much, may be lost in the subtitles. The translation level is indicated by the unidiomatic sound of the film title. But that may be part of the fun for indulgent viewers. Stilted ≈ ironic.

    Hot in Day, Cold at Night (Naj-eneun deobgo bam-eneun chubgo) ,90 mins., debuted at Busan Oct. 2021, showing also at the Berlinale Feb. 2022, and included in New Directors/New Films Apr. 2022.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-14-2022 at 08:09 PM.

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    ONODA: 10000 NIGHTS IN THE JUNGLE (Arthur Harari 2021)

    ARTHUR HARARI: ONODA - 10000 NIGHTS IN THE JUNGLE (2021)


    ENDô YUYA IN ONODA

    TRAILER

    When Japan surrenders at the end of World War II, soldier Hiroo Onoda retreats into the jungles of the Philippines to continue the war himself for another 10,000 days. This is his story.

    "An ambitious undertaking that fulfills its promise," Lisa NEsselson in Screen Daily. calls Onoda in her enthusiastic review. Veteran reviewer Mark Shilling of The Japan Times notes further that "Sometimes non-Japanese directors tell stories on the big screen that Japanese filmmakers and studios shy away from. Sometimes, these reasons are political." He cites Paul Schrader's 1985 Mishima film. Yes, the story of Onoda, and other Japanese WWII Japanese diehards who went on "fighting" the war for decades, is a complicated and ambiguous one, and there are moments in the Onoda story that some members of the Japanese audience may find embarrassing; hence it is not at all surprising that it fell to 41-year-old Paris-born Arthur Harari to make the first important movie about this subject. But it does seem a little miraculous that he made such a good job of it. This is a rich and deeply though-provoking historical film about the drawn-out aftermath of WWII and the Japanese unwillingness to surrender.

    Though Harari attracted notice for his French-language multi-layered heist-revenge debut film Dark Diamond set among diamond dealers in Antwerp, Onoda is more significant, indeed a real epic. Peter Bradshaw calls it "really well-made, old-fashioned anti-war epic in a forthright and robustly enjoyable style," and that's important. It's involving and it entertains as a tale of endurance. But also brings out the absurdity of bellicose, macho ideals of fighting to the end. Yuya Enndo as the young Hiroo Onoda is excellent. Exuding a kind of raw energy that blends insecurity with passionate authority, he gives his all to the role and convinces you his character could indeed have become an indomitable leader in a desperate, drawn-out saga of jungle endurance and combat.

    Flashbacks explain Onoda's complicated military background. With a fear of heights, he initially washes out as a kamikaze pilot, or rather, refuses to fly a plane with only enough gas to go to the enemy ship, not to return. Instead he is recruited by Major Taniguchi (Issei Ogata) for a special training mission for the so-called Secret War requiring that the officers involved, in a last-ditch holdout effort of Japan's Pacific war, must at all costs not die. This is a key difference, rejecting the Japanese penchant for suicide (which Mishima ritually embraced) in favor of the pursuit of endless warfare and indomitability, each man acting "as his own officer" - as a lone survivalist in a lingering jungle war. "We will always come for you," the stylish, shades-wearing Taniguchi assures them. Lt. Onoda's little crew is sent to the Philippines island of Lubang. They map it, name its points of interest, and consider it theirs despite its being occupied by Filipino farmers they regard as enemies. They go on surviving after the Japanese surrender has been signed, preying upon the locals, who fight back - thus creating the effect that they are indeed still at war.

    The scenes of Onoda when at first he is lodged with the war-weary cell 900 crew include eye-opening images of pervasive sickness, depletion, starvation, and desperation, the ugly losing side of the last-stage war. What come next are images of brainwashing, which some reviewers have linked with the new disturbing tendency for people to latch onto absurd conspiracy theories. That may help one understand how Onoda and others could insist every report by Filipinos that "the war is over" ( proclaimed in poorly-pronounced English) is nothing but "fake news," and feel obliged to go on "fighting" when what they are now doing has lost the sanction of war and become robbery and murder. The timeline is late 1944.

    The aim of the film isn't to chronicle decades of bellicose Robinson Crusoe survival drudgery month by month or year by year but to look at this man as a phenomenon, highlighting the attrition of his little crew. Hence the need to jump forward to the much older Hiroo Onoda, played by Kanji Tsuda (who has played minor roles in Takeshi Kitano films), first seen in 1974 wearing a whole bush on his back as camouflage and laying flowers in sites were comrades have died over the years. Eventually his original group of soldiers has shrunk to no one but Onoda's one longtime comrade, Kozuka (Yuya Matsuura, then Testsuya Chiba), still with mindless heroism "serving the Emperor." as Lisa Nesselson wrote, "with a zeal that becomes its own hermetic and needless devotion." Nesselson compares the pair's 1950 reaction to Onoda's father using a loudspeaker to urge him to come out - one of several efforts - to "what QAnon dolts would now call a 'crisis actor'" pretending to be his father to trick him into surrendering.

    By the time Onoda and Kozuka pick up news — "via a little transistor radio made by a new-ish company called Sony — of men walking on the moon," Nesselson writes, "having stayed vigilant and in fighting trim while continuing to wait for reinforcements to repulse the enemy, it seems like a feat as amazing as anything NASA may have accomplished." Or perhaps more like something in that Forties classic, Ripley's Believe It Or Not? The accomplishment of Harari and his cowriters Bernard Cendron and Vincent Poymiro is that they penetrate into this novelty and find the nobility and courage lodged within it.

    Finally a nervy young man, who boasts of having visited 50 countries, is found by the now long solitary Onoda camping on the island. Face to face, Norio Suzuki (Taiga Nakano) tells Onoda-san that he's famous but that many think he's dead. Onoda agrees to surrender but only if his immediate superior, Major Taniguchi, comes and gives him the orders. The young man makes this happen. Some details of the film may be questioned (how can you keep a uniform and boots going for 30 years of jungle and monsoons? How did he find batteries for the little Sony radio?) but the power of the film is its human interactions, its noble poses, its silences, and these are fine. This winds up being a complicated tribute to Japanese will and noble determination and honor - and to Japanese foolhardiness and destructiveness.

    Onoda/ONODA 一万夜を越えて, 173 mins., debuted at Cannes 2021, where it was the opening film of the Un Certain Regard section, and it was included in eight other festivals including Karlovy Vary, Busan and Warsaw. One of the memorable films of New Directors/New Films (Apr. 20-May 1, 2022) Opening theatrically in France Jul. 21, 2021 it received raves, and an AlloCiné press rating of 4.4 or 88%. (See the interview with Harari about the film in Cineropa )


    TSUDA KANJI IN ONODA
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-19-2022 at 07:28 PM.

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    PILGRIMS (Laurynas Bareiša (2021)

    LAURYNAS BAREIŠA: PILGRIMS (2021)



    Revisiting the sites associated with a brother's murder exposes the moral weakness of a town

    Bareiša won the Orizzonti Award for Best Film for Pilgrims at the 2021 Venice Film Festival. It must have appealed to jurors because of its chilly, unyielding - but assured - presentation. It is a relentlessly unfun and rather creepy work and not altogether understandable, avoiding easy exposition, even at first of basics.

    Two people, a man and woman, go on a tour (the title "pilgrims" is odd) of sites associated with a brutal kidnapping and murder, that of the brother of one of them four years earlier. The plan is to visit all the locations the victim was known to be at on the night of the murder, leading up to it. The "pilgrims," if you will, are Indre (Gabija Bargailaite), whose boyfriend, Matas, was killed, and Paulius (Giedrius Kiela), who was his brother. As they do this, they encounter a mixture of indifference and hostility. The general response sometimes is, We dealt with this properly at the time, we want to hear no more about it. Others simply seem to have forgotten about it.

    Some call this a "thriller," others a "horror movie." It is certainly not a mystery; the wrongdoer has already been brought to justice. Probably it is not quite the other two either; its steering just this side of any specific categories could be another part of the appeal to jurors. The setups of scenes are cool, the images clear and bright. Long takes, pauses. No score.

    The crime being revisited involves a car. At one point Paulius obtains the car (Indre has begun seeming to think him a nut case) to reenact the moment of the act more vividly.

    Nikola Jovic, who considers this film thoughtfully in his review for Eye on Film, explains that "early on" it becomes clear that this "isn’t simply a tale about a particular incident," but much more "a story about a whole town subsumed by this veil of moral bankruptcy." Somehow perhaps many of the local inhabitants are participants in the crime, if not by commission, by omission, by silence or indifference or lack of sympathy. Jovic seems to think the development of this theme gets sidetracked somehow, but he still admires the film.

    Jonathan Romnney has a slightly more detailed description of the film in Screen Daily, noting likewise that the townspeople "close ranks, objecting to the pair’s investigation, apparently friendly and helpful one moment, hostile the next," and he adds that "What’s also upsetting is the sense that somehow violence is a part of the fabric of normal life, only thinly hidden under the surface of the everyday." He points out that one person shows Paulius a site of wartime atrocities. Enough said? Ultimately the focus isn't on a kind of therapy or bonding with the victim by Paulius and Indre so much as on a seeping guilt, a human lack of redemption or redeemable-ness. If the film works its chilly magic on you, it may leave you with a stunned sense of new troubling awareness. But doesn't Bareiša's accomplished film become possessed of the very ills it seeks to decribe?

    Pilgrims/Pilgrimai, 92 mins., in Lithuanian, debuted at Venice Sept 6, 2021, and showed at Vienna, Thessaloniki, Tailinn and Göteborg. Included in the FLC-MoMA New Directors/New Films series (Apr. 20-May 1, 2022).
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-19-2022 at 12:40 AM.

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    REHANA/REHANA MARYAM NOOR (Abdullah Mohammad Saad 2021)

    ABDULLAH MOHAMMAD SAAD: REHANA/REHANA MARYAM NOOR (2021)


    KAZI SAMI HASSAN, AZMERI HAQUE BADHON IN REHANA

    A feminist professor goes wacko in pursuit of a cause

    In the film Rehana, Azmeri Haque Badhon plays a professor of medicine, Dr. Rehana Maryam Noor, who, in the words of the Variety review, "teeters between fierce feminism and personal obsession" in Abdullah Mohammad Saad’s second feature, which happens to be the first film from Bangladesh included at Cannes - in the Un Certain Regard section.

    Badhon gives a powerful, non-stop performance. The review reports the film doing well in local theaters weeks after its release. It is less likely to draw non-festival audiences in the US - for numerous reasons that make it a trying watch. But first of all, what is this about? What starts out as a depiction of intense feminism degenerates into craziness as the protagonist goes from moral commitment to self-destructiveness to outright craziness and child molestation. This is no role model; it's a caricature.

    The intensity holds you for a good while, but it's ultimately numbing. Most of the dimly lighted scenes are one-on-one, with background scenes blurred out, and they could almost be enacted on a nearly-bare theatrical stage. There is no opening up, no contrast of venues or scenes. And what about the blue? Every scene is suffused with an intense azure-filtered light that creates a slightly foggy and very artificial effect, as in a nightmare dream. What kind of choice was this? It seems a kind of arbitrary, distracting stylishness. Nonetheless some of the shots are beautiful, and Badhon holds our attention with her intent, velvety face and her Muslim headscarves.

    Every effort seems to be being made to give the viewer a hard time. Apart from the visual oddity, there is a lot of noisy ambient sound - cars, street noise, children squabbling, an unrelated tune - that adds nothing to the action. Jump cuts are the rule for moving from one scene to the next.

    As the story unfolds, Rehana, as for the most part she's simply known, starts out supervising an exam, where she grabs a girl student, Mimi (Zopari Lue) who appears to have a ruler in hand on which some information has been scribbled. She seizes the ruler, then the girl student, pulling her from the room, ending her exam participation. She also threatens to disqualify Annie (Afia Tabassum Borno) when the latter pleads for Mimi to be forgiven. This action will come back to haunt Rehana because some consider her action unnecessarily harsh.

    Next, Rehana is in a hallway when a girl student, by coincidence Annie again, emerges from the office of a respected and liked senior teacher, Prof. Arefin (Kazi Sami Hassan), in tears. Rehana has not, strictly speaking, observed an act of sexual harassment, and the girl wants to forget the whole thing. She thinks making an issue of the event (if it was one) will lead to her own disgrace, because she is a girl. Later, Prof. Arefin's denials hint that harassment did take place, and Annie gives Rehana details - and there was the physical evidence of a torn blouse. Annie, however, will simply not go to authorities, no matter how much Rehana insists that she must.

    This doesn't stop Rehana, who does have a lengthy discussion with an older woman administrator, the principal (Saberi Alam), who eventually tries to buy her off with a raise in return for silence. Director Saad, who also scripted the screenplay, shows very well the closed circle here which apparently drives the self-righteous and obsessive Rehana to abandon all else in pursuit of this one event. Eventually she begins threatening to accuse Prof. Arefin in her own name, saying he assaulted her, even though it's warned that this will destroy her own career at the school and she'll have to go elsewhere.

    Another strain enters because Rehana's feisty young daughter Emu (Afia Jahin Jaima) has been accused of biting a boy in her class. It turns out to be a mistake for Rehana to make an issue of this too, and no advantage that Emu says she was retaliating for the boy's constantly pinching her. The boy's protected by the chauvinism of society, as is Prof. Arefin. There is a long rather hard to follow sequence about Emu wanting to give a comic performance at school, which she's nervous about but eager to do, when Rehana finally locks the shrieking girl in her own office. The rest is forgotten. All focus is on the protagonist's brutality and unreasonableness toward her own small daughter. At 108 minutes, the film goes on too long and could have benefitted with reediting.

    Sexual harassment in a school setting like this is a social event, but Saad's narrative structure makes this more and more a kind of monodrama in which everything revolves around the increasingly deranged woman. This is a strange, arresting film but despite the riveting power of its moment-by-moment action, it doesn't altogether make sense. But the Un Certain Regard section was certainly right: this is the expression of a unique cinematic POV.

    Rhana/Rehana Maryam Noor, 108 mins., debuted in Un Certain Regard at Cannes, appearing in 11 other international festivals. Screened here as part of the April 20-May 1, 2022 issue of the FLC-MoMA series, New Directors/New Films.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-15-2022 at 11:23 PM.

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    ROBE OF GEMS/MANTO DE GEMAS (Natalia López Gallardo 2021)

    NATALIA LOPEZ GALLARDO: ROBE OF GEMS/MANTO DE GEMAS (2021)


    A SCENE FROM ROBE OF GEMS

    TRAILER

    A walk on the creepy side down Mexico way in a brilliant but disappointing debut feature that winds up being a downer

    Married to Carlos Reygadas and his film editor, Lopez Gallalrdo has also done editing for Lisando Alonso (Jauja) and Amat Escalante (Heli),. She shows their influence, steers her own path, but it's not clear where she's going. Aesthetics of mood trump dialog scenes or narrative line. Initially the film, her feature debut, is deeply intriguing with its special sense of complicated life observed without being understood. Eventually a certain outline emerges, involving a wealthy woman, Isobel (Nailea Norvind), known as "blondie" and her bereaved and corrupted longtine family servant María (Antonia Olivares), and a young criminal, Adán (Daniel García), whose band of narcos María is tied up with.

    The persistent obscurity of the film frustrates all efforts to make sense of it as its nearly two-hour run-time wanders along. In the Guardian Peter Bradshaw, while initially enthusiastic - or at least impressed by the critical buzz at the festival debut, and assigning the film a rating of four out of five stars - wonders whether some of its "obscurity is not a first-time film-maker’s flaw." The Variety reviewer agrees ("The Banality of Evil Is a Little Too Banal in Elliptical Anti-Triller"), but notes the movie "still shines as a sensory experience, mind." She illustrates with: "The din of summer insects gives way to police department chatter in one scene and the not-quite bliss of Isabel’s home life in another." She also notes how Lopez Gallardo's observations can bring out the strangeness of the ordinary; and how even when one knows her influences, the film's moments of unexpected, silent violence are still shocking and troubling here.

    So it is a very rich mix, augmented by a gorgeous, original visual style piloted by dp Adrián Durazo, with pale, subtly colored widescreen ugly-beautiful images. But this is also a film that excites, fascinates, and then gradually disappoints.

    "It is a disturbing and unsettling piece of work," wrote Bradshaw, "a psycho-pathological moodboard of a film, in which guilt, horror and shame poison the atmosphere." He specifies that "exactly what is going on has to be inferred through the indirect hints and cloudy indications" and that these are "never finally and definitively revealed,"

    Bradshaw has figured out(or found in the press kit) a detail many are baffled by, the title. He explains it "appears to refer to a Buddhist parable about the man who lives in poverty, not knowing that a wealthy friend has securely but invisibly sewn a precious gem into his robe so that he would not have to live like this." Bradshaw adds, "this allusion is one of the many opaque and difficult things about this film. "The problem, then," notes Variety, "is that too much of this is dispiriting without also being enlightening."

    Robe of Gems/Manto de Gemas, 118 mins., debuted at the Berlinale Feb. 11, 2022 and opens theatrically in Argentina Jun. 2nd. Included in the Apr. 2022 New Directors/New Films series. The five-review Metascore is 69%.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-19-2022 at 11:34 PM.

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    SINGING IN THE WILDERNESS (Dongnan Chen 2021)

    DONGHAN CHEN: SINGING IN THE WILDERNESS (2021)


    SHENG, TOP CENTER, IN SINGING IN THE WILDERNESS

    A scrubbed-clean Chinese Christian farmer/choir turns out to have problems individually and as an exploited Miao minority

    "The disorienting speed of “progress” in modern-day China is engagingly encapsulated in Dongnan Chen’s Singing in the Wilderness, whose starting-point is a Christian choir in the mountains of the southern Yunnan province. Switching nimbly between individuals, groups and their wider cultural and socio-economic contexts over several tumultuous years, Chen — herself Chinese, though New York-based — effectively conveys vivid implications without the need for direct editorializing." - Neil Young, Screen Daily.

    Things get interesting when Chen follows several of the choir members.

    "Chen pays particular attention to two choir-members: Ping, a spirited, ambitious woman in her early 20s (“I don’t want to be a farmer for a lifetime,”) and Sheng, a 30ish goatherd who concentrates on his religion, work and singing to the detriment of his personal life. Both Ping and Sheng eventually get married – Ping moves 50 miles away and must leave the choir – and both experience harrowing domestic woes as a result. Over several years we see them suffer the social, economic and cultural vicissitudes of the area, and its citizens receiving regional, national and ultimately international attention.

    "The insensitive handling of people, traditions and landscape conveyed by Singing in the Wilderness is, of course, a microcosm of much wider developments across China. Zhang schemes with a developer to turn Little Creek into a tourist magnet, 'a very exotic town,' with predictably unfortunate consequences for all as residents are displaced and farming and traditional crafts are rapidly abandoned. Chen maximizes her access to several revealing discussions, all which paint officialdom in a dim light. Her eye-openingly candid film may attract a frosty reception from the Chinese authorities; audiences both at home and abroad, however, will find this a touching and rewarding example of deceptively low-key political documentary. - - Neil Young.

    From "WarMachine" on Letterboxd (from the French):
    "The genius of the film lies in the subtlety with which it formulates its critique of the capitalist and political opportunism and misanthropy that characterize contemporary China. Director Dongnan Chen focuses on a hyper-talented Christian choir of Miao farmers, a second-class mountain people who reside in the inhospitable peaks of Yunnan. They are beautiful and touching, the choristers, and one would like the 'success story' we see on screen to be truly beneficial to them. The truth is that they are actually being fleeced by everyone else...

    "The Miao are already one of the poorest peoples in China, and if they do something extraordinary, a choir for example, they are bled even more. Their act is commercialized, they're brought on The Voice, they're sold merchandise in their likeness, they even buy up parts of their land to build properties, which some broke investor will eventually leave in the ground. It's fuckin' disgusting, but at the same time it's so symptomatic of our times..."

    Singing in the Wilderness, 94 mins., debuted at Thessaloniki, Jun. 2021, included in several other festivals including Montreal and DMZ, and part of the Apr. 2022 FLC-MoMA New Directors/New Films series.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-20-2022 at 10:47 PM.

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    THE CATHEDRAL (Ricky D'Ambrose 2021)

    RICKY D'AMBROSE: THE CATHEDRAL (2021)



    TRAILER

    The author runs through his life age one to nineteen as a series of tableaux

    "What makes the fabric of our upbringing? The memories we’ll reflect on after those years have passed are often not what we may hold onto in a moment filtered and refracted through a thousand more experiences. Following his hour-long debut feature Notes on an Appearance, Ricky D’Ambrose’s Bressonian style continues with The Cathedral, a less intellectually rigorous outing that still impresses with its sense of personal significance, recreating slivers of a life experience over some two decades to form a vivid recollection of both the fracturing of a family and the United States at large. It’s an ambitious undertaking for an 87-minute film, and while this lofty aim can result in a few passages striking a bit broad, one comes away admiring D’Ambrose’s meticulously committed approach to storytelling." Jordan Raup, The Film Stage

    "If we can even trust our own memories (and science says we can’t), it’s far more likely that what we retain from our childhoods is random and unremarkable, an episode of an old TV show we once watched rather than a trip to Disney World. Much like we remember slights more than compliments, so too do negative events remain fresh in our minds far more than the good times. Ricky D’Ambrose’s The Cathedral is essentially a brain dump of these bits and pieces of his life, committed to film. It’s not a 'slice of life' movie, exactly, more like a collage that would benefit from some filling in of a few blank spaces." - Raup.

    "As someone who grew up in the 80s, I appreciate the touches of realism, like Richard’s bland, pastel living room, which looks like it came directly out of a Polaroid circa 1988. I appreciate D'Ambrose’s fascination with the ordinary, like when he holds a shot on a pair of shoes, or a relative's bejeweled hands. The Cathedral is an interesting concept, and a fresh departure from the usual Wonder Years narrative. But its insistence on depicting moments without emotion feels, in the end, a little empty." - Gena Radcliffe, The Spool.

    The Cathedral, 87 m,ins., debuted Venice, showed at Sundance, Rotterdam, several others and included in Apr. 2022's New Directors/New Films.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-20-2022 at 10:50 PM.

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    THE CITY AND THE CITY ( Christos Passalis, Syllas Tzoumerkas 2021)

    CHRISTOS PASSALIS, SYLLAS TZOUMERKAS: THE CITY AND THE CITY (2021)



    Installation piece on antisemitism in the Greek city of Thessaloniki fails as a stand-alone film

    Greek duo Christos Passalis and Syllas Tzoumerkas deliver a kaleidoscopic chronicle of mid-20th-century anti-semitism in their native Thessaloniki via their first writing-directing collaboration The City and the City (I Poli ke i Poli). A deliberately disorienting affair which shifts freely between fiction and documentary elements, colour and monochrome images, live action and stills across multiple time-lines and several languages (some sentences start in one tongue, finish in another), it’s an absorbing and appropriately disturbing indictment of man’s inhumanity to man. - Neil Young, Screen Daily

    Seeking to achieve a "kaleidoscopic chronicle," this documentary depicts pro-Nazi anti-Semitism in the filmmakers' hometown of Thessaloniki, scene of a film festival and a Greek port city on the Thermaic Gulf of the Aegean Sea. Maybe I'm wrong, but it seemed to me that Presenting acts of anti-Semitic cruelty from the Nazi era in an "artistic," "experimental:" manner (shifts of language, B&W to color, reenactments to stock footage and stills) without any development of the abused people as real individuals seemed to me to partake of the worst qualities of the wrongdoers. It may help to understand that this is a film "originating as an installation project." It might work on a loop in a gallery with related supporting information: it does not stand alone very well as a film.

    The City and the City/Poli i poli, 87 mins., debuted at the Berlinale Feb. 2022, showed at Thessaloniki Mar. 2022, and is included in New Directors/New Films Apr. 2022.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-20-2022 at 11:07 PM.

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    WHITE BUILDING (Kavich Neang 2021)

    KAVICH NEANG: WHITE BUILDING (2021)


    SITHAN HOOUT AND PISETH CCHUN IN WHITE BUILDING

    TRAILER

    Phnom Penh’s Rapid Urban Transformation seen autobiographically though the eyes of one family in 35-year-old Kavich Neang's assured debut feature

    A young man's dreams of dance-star fame start to fade as the massive, decrepit building he calls home comes under threat from developers in this year's Cambodian Oscar entry.

    A dampness-stained low-rise apartment building in Phnom Penh has been bought and is doomed. It's a place where director Kavich Neang himself lived growing up. It housed artists, teachers, and government employees near the center of town. That couldn't last in the face of the country's rapid recent transformation. In this film, Kavich Neang depicts his displacement from the actual historic building (constructed in 1963) where he had lived most of his life.

    Stephanie Bunbury describes the eponymous building in her Deadline review as "stained with tropical rain, its cement falling off in chunks, its cat’s cradles of improvised electrical wiring truly shocking, in every sense of the word." Director Kavich Neang grew up here, and memorialized it in short films. Here he builds a feature around it, and a young man, and his retired sculptor-teacher father. This is a beautiful film, notable for its slow, philosophical quality and its noble silences.

    Our main guide to this world is young Nang (Piseth Cchun, who won the Best Actor award in the Horizons section of the Venice Film Festival for his recessive, hypnotically calm performance) who is the moving force in a three-man dance crew, his eyes fixed on the prize of Cambodia’s Next Superstar, its X Factor, with them performing their hip hop- inspired routines wherever they can, on the street or in restaurants or clubs, to practice and build up confidence. "Riding three-up on his scooter through the night markets," Bunbury writes, "Nang and his pals are as recognizably part of the streetscape as the building itself." Those nighttime scooter shots are a reminder of, and quite likely a homage to, Tsai Ming-liang's classic 1992 Taiwanese coming-of-age film debut, Rebels of a Neon God starring his handsome future alter ego Lee Kahg-sheng.

    The first half of the film features Nang, the dancing, and the scooter ride flirting with three pretty young girls on another scooter. But Nang's pals drift away, and his own ambition dissipates without a team, while the focus shifts to his father (Sithan Hout), who is the de facto leader of the White Building tenants who conducts discussions of what they are to do to counter a miserable offer of $1400 per square meter, which for those with small apartments won't provide them the money to move.

    The discussions stagnate, while Nang's pop, who has diabetes, fails to deal in a timely fashion with another kind of rot, a big toe that has died and turned black. He rejects as a mere scam a doctor's suggestion that he must have the toe amputated by a surgeon friend with a clinic and goes on treating the gangrenous toe with folk remedies. The outcome is that the family winds up out in the country, but with the younger generation, first Nang's sister and then Nang, gradually back to Phnom Penh and the father having undergone the surgery that was threatened earlier.

    But while these actions take place, more memorable are the visual elements that precede them, the pauses, the silences, the long shots of Piseth Cchun's handsome, changeable young Cambodian face, sometimes vibrant, sometimes childlike and vulnerable, sometimes sad. There is an arresting moment when Nang's father, all dressed up in a double-vested suit, stands quite still, ringed with light, smack in the middle a White Building hallway, staring at the camera. Sometimes the light and the color in cinematographer Douglas Seok's filming of interiors in the building, with their tropical glow, make them deceptively spacious, open, inviting, peaceful. It all vanished in 2017 and I'm not sure exactly how all the scenes were filmed, perhaps several years before the film's release. Slow cinema takes time.

    But this is a kind of slow cinema with vibrant youthful dance and street scenes. This is more like gradually-slowing-down cinema. It moves toward acceptance and peace and a sense of the inevitable, though Nang's mother (Ok Sokha) is always left protesting the changes that dissolve the family and erode security. Ludovic Béot of Les Inrockuptibles wrote "The strength of the film is to restore this soon-to-be-wiped-out building as an intimate but also universal experience, both a reminiscent image that haunts the memory of its author and a powerful metaphor for all the aesthetic and cultural dispossessions generated by today's neoliberal actors."

    White Building has the sponsorship of Jia Zhangke - himself a longtime observer of impoverished youth swept away by the forces of ruthless urban development. In addition there was French participation in the production of this assured, handsome film. It's produced by Les Films Du Losange, which was originally started by Barbet Schroeder and Éric Rohmer. It entered French cinemas Dec. 22, 2021.

    White Building/Bodeng sar 90 mins., debuted as mentioned at Venice, showing at other international including London, Busan, Chicago, Hong Kong, Taipei and Singapore. It was Cambodia's 2022 best foreign Oscar entry.


    KAVICH NEANG
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 04-18-2022 at 02:09 AM.

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