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Thread: New York Film Festival 2019

  1. #31
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area




    Barbara Lee speaks for me!

    Those words are a rhyming chant heard in the first few minutes of this documentary, which is officially entitled simply Truth to Power.. It is blurbed as "an intimate, inspiring, and timely portrait of Congresswoman Barbara Lee, a true pioneer of American civil rights who was the lone voice in opposition to the authorization of military force after the September 11th attacks." She is also, "the highest-ranking Black woman in the US Congress. " She is from a district where I spend a lot of my time. It was at that moment were she stood alone after 9/11 and the American insanity began that I first heard of her. This seems to be the first time, twenty years later, that I've seen what she looks like, but she seems like an old friend. This film was runner up for the audience award at DOC NYC in 2020. It is coming to the Roxie Theater in San Francisco for a theatrical run August 20, 2021, and its release has been delayed until now.

    Singkegabded opposition to the act giving the president unlimited power to declare war after 9/11. Every year she has staged a vote to repeal it. In 2018 finally the House voted yes to her repeal. This action defines her: she acts for what she believes in, not what enhances her stagus.

    She had two uneusuccessful marriages and the second was abusive. In escaping it she had to be virtually homeless for a while, and she was a welfare mother. She bought a house and attended Mills College through government assistance.

    She wound up as an aid for Ron Dellums, Rep. from Alameda Co., and Oakland, for ten years. She was inspired by the presidential campaign of Shirley Chisholm and she worked with Chisholm on it after meeting her when Chisholm came to Mills College when she as a student there. She was in the Cal. State Assembly 1990-96, then the Cal. State Senate, 1996-98. She was elected to take Ron Dellums' position in the US House of Representatives in 1998 and has been reelected nine times.

    She opposes children separated from their parents at the border. She remarks that was done to slaves, they were separated from their children.

    She is shocked by the rise of homelessness of which there is a lot in her district - Oakland, CA. (The Bay Area has the most homelessness in the country. . California and Oregon are the top two highest states with unsheltered homeless people). She thinks in the world's richest country no one should be homeless. She started a committee for this in Congress and headed it.

    She was a major force behind Bush's raising aid funds to fight AIDS in Africa to $15 billion.

    She goes back to her district every week.

    She revisits sites of the civil rights movement of the sixties - Birmingham, Selma - and affirms its inspiration for all the work she and her sympathetic colleagues in Congress do today.

    She loves her work and is on the Hill 14 hours a day. But the film lets us hear from her siblings and her two sons throughout as well as various friends, admirers, and colleagues - including the late, great Rep. John Lewis as well as Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Cory Booker, Alice Walker, and Van Jone. RIn 2019 after 36 years as a divorcee she married Rev. Dr. Clyde Oden; the film shows footage of the wedding ceeremony. she met Oden at Berkeley while getting her M.S.W. 52 years before. He is retired as a pastor. The film ends here. Nothing about her future plans; but while learning to sauté sweet potatoes with her sister, she says she won't quit till her constituents want someone else. Perhaps Barbara Lee's charm is how simple she is. She cares about her work. She loves it. She would seem to have no other thoughts, till we see she found time to get married.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; Yesterday at 11:43 PM.

  2. #32
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area

    THE MEANING OF HITLER ( Petra Epperlein, Michael Tucker 2020)



    A film about der Führer seeks a new glimpse of relevance and danger

    British anti-Semmite and Holocaust denier David Irving is featured taking a group of supporters on an impromptu tour of the Treblinka concentration camp site in the documentary, The Meaning of Hitler. It's likely Irving, now 82, hasn't been followed around even this briefly in any recent documentary, but this is a sign of how explorative this film is in its synthesis of history and psychology as it reviews the lasting legacy of the Third Reich's Fuhrer. It finds troubling new echoes in the alt-right and Donald Trump. Touring around behind the windscreen of a telling Mercedes Bentz symbol, the filmmakers visit many sites, following an exploratory road-movie format. They look at an example of Hitler's watercolor painting preserved in Virginia. They take a look at the building in Braunau in present-day Austria where Hitler was born and the visit the Vienna e Academy of Fine Arts that rejected him. They take a tour of the bunker where Hitler committed suicide, intermixed with film clips of dramas about that event. They hear Martin Amis say a knowledge of Hitler is necessary to be a modern thinking person.

    They take their title from a 1978 book by German journalist Sebastian Haffner (Raimund Pretzel). They talk to historians and to anti-Semitism Deborah Lipstadt, who once suied David Irving for libel. (They also film relevant comments from Yehuda Bauer, Saul Friedlander, Winfried Nerdinger, Francine Prose, Beate and Serge Klarsfeld, Klaus Theweleit, and Jan T. Gross.) They find some who remember the rise of Naziism. They consult with a psychiatrist, a sociologist, a forensic biologist, an archaeologist, a pair of Nazi hunters and a "microphone guru." The latter shows us the early crystal microphone, known as the the 'Hitlerflasche' or 'Hitler Bottle' the Neumann CMV3, whose ability to convey not just the sound but the emotion of HItler's oratory is deemed a part of his power. This was a new kind of mike unlike the carbon chip ones. Those required the speaker to be within an inch and not to budge to be heard. This one let Hitler to be much less constrained, to move around and gesticulate. The film clips in this segment linking Hitler's rallies with the Beatles' appearance at Shay stadium is troubling, to say the least. HItler's oratorical sill is paralleled with Trump's claimed eloquence on Twitter.

    It could all come back. The film shows us how Germany's recent admission of massive numbers of immigrants has turned sour and fueled nativism and racist patriotism. Such people can always reach back to the thirties and forties for inspiration, from a time when a man who, as Haffner says in the titular book, had no occupation and do friends and couldn't even get into a trade school, would become a terror to all the world.

    The film is self-reflective, and calls attention to its simple craftsmanship by having an old-fashioned clap-board into to every new sequence. The effort is to wake us up to this familiar theme and be open to new perceptions. If you respond to its inquests, are inspired by its perceptions and odd facts, that could happen. But the prevalence of elderly talking heads may put you off: it undercuts the filmmakers' intention of being formally inventive. And some of its points are glib. Such is novelist Francine Prose's dismissal of Leni Riefenstahl's striking propaganda films for the Third Reich as mere kitsch. The trouble is, they're very good.

    The film's last word goes to talking head Yehuda Bauer, who is 95 ("I'm still working") who sums it up: "The Nazi ideas were ideas that were acted out by people that were absolutely normal."

    The Meaning of Hitler, 92 mins., debuted at DOC NYC Nov. 2020; also shown at Amsterdam, at Sofia Mar. 2021. Release (IFC Films) Aug. 13, 2021.

    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 06-24-2021 at 07:27 PM.

  3. #33
    Join Date
    Jul 2002
    SF Bay Area

    YAKUA PRINESS ( Vicente Amorim 2021)



    A samurai movie set in São Paulo's Japanese neighborhood of Liberdade

    Director Vincente Armorim boasts of this movie that he and his crew "have built a desaturated version of [a] nineties neon noir, without its corny excesses." He's not lying, and this wasn't a vain project: it's for its gorgeously overwrought visuals that this movie is worth watching, maybe even re-watching. Rather an oddity, this is an expensive coming-of-age/birth-of-a-female-super-hero Japanese gangster movie set in Brazil, specifically in São Paulo's Liberdade section, the largest ethnic Japanese community outside of Japan. Where do you get neo-noir nowadays? In a graphic novel, and Danilo Beyruth has provided one as this film's source and offshoot, a Brazilian-Japanese creation, Shiro Samurai.

    Yakuza Princess is a brooding, aesthetics-over-sense film replete with thunderstorms, blue-lit tombstones and limbs lopped off with a shimmering, ringing ancestral samurai sword with a noble name, the Muramasa, and an in-built curse.

    "Ren Oshima," 1947-1999," in Japanese on a tombstone, and the headline "Takikawa Clan Boss Brutally Murdered Along with His Family" on an old newspaper clipping hidden there, are shocking revelations for the film's protagonist in the Libertade cemetery. They arrive only in the last third.

    There are two main characters. That they have little connection most of the way through is a sign of the film's somewhat hazy premise and slow-opening water flower of a plot. First is Jonathan Rys Meyers, known here as Shiro, who wakes up in a São Paolo hospital - from which he must escape - with slash marks on his face due to that sword, which was found with him and which he carries away. He remembers nothing, not even his name. Next, and more central, is Akemi (Masumi) a young woman working somewhre nearby at two jobs and also practicing the art of Japanese swordplay. It's her 21st birthday, and now that she wants to walk away from her present life she starts finding out she isn't the person she thought she was and her real grandfather was somebody else.

    Shiro - but he doesn't yet have a name - for some reason decides that Akemi will know the story of the sword he's carrying and give him some fix on who he is. His innate ability to knock out rooms full of men and language skills he didn't know he had mark him as a sort of scruffy Asian-influenced Jason Bourne. Very violent and very empty, he makes a perfect sexy movie-star hero, but he's rather under-used here. Akemi is a mixture, sweet, puzzled, and tough, with a soon-to-be-discovered gift for ultra-violence. The actress, a newcomer, is rather over-used, earnest but not quite as interesting as her constant screen closeups seem to imply.

    In any case these two characters in search of pasts always remain less important than the handsome cinematography by frequent Amorim collaborator Gustavo Hadba. Hadba has said they shot "not the real São Paulo, but a Japanese city from graphic novels, closer to the Tokyo or Osaka we have in our collective memory." Note Amorim calls this a "neon noir," not a neo-noir: his concept of the genre leans toward the purely visual.

    The imagery that grabs you from the film's earliest sequences is dramatic, romantic, and handsomely composed, drenched in desaturated blues or ambers of the "neon noir" the director mentions. A single flash of lightning suddenly illuminates a glittering white blanket of heavy rain: it's a gorgeous throwaway two-shot sequence so striking it makes a memorably pure and pleasing visual meme. Rhys Meyers/Shiro's yellow-greenish hospital room, with its dirty glass wall behind the head of his bed revealing a corridor and orderlies beyond, is a gemlike mix of grungy and grand. It's these visual delights along with the adrenaline rushes of sporadic violence that glue the vague, patchy plot together, and keep you watching for the next mood-swing.

    The narrative craftsmanship doesn't live up to all those production values. Things take a little too long to develop their portents into events. A character called Takeshi (Tsuyoshi Ihara) enters the scene by shooting three men, a prisoner revealing a whispered secret to him and the two men who've been guarding him, and goes on from there. Later, after a mysterious but visually handsome melée in the cemetery that Takeshi begins to spell out more clearly his significance when he reveals to Akemi, who he calls Aki, the secrets of her family that make her partial heir to a divided gangster dynasty. But do we care? And where's "Shiro", whose compelling plight opened the movie but then, except for a some inexplicable murders, fell by the wayside?

    Linguistic oddities of this movie: though it takes place in Brazil, almost no Portuguese is spoken. Takeshi speaks lengthily in slow, laborious English with Akemi, even though she has demonstrated that she can speak Japanese. (He is a veteran Japanese movie actor; she is a first-timer who has lived a lot of her life in the US.) The dialogue can be clunkily generic: "I won't be trapped by a past that isn't my own."

    But in true Japanese gangster movie fashion, this film's ending sets us up for the next episode: Akemi in Japan. An interesting hybrid: one only wishes it were in Japanese and Portuguese, but's going for the international market where dramatically lit sword battles and elementary English are the accepted norm.

    Further notes

    Yakuza Princess, 111 mins., has its festival debut at Montreal (Fantasia International Festival) Aug. 18, 2021. US release by Magnolia Pictures and Magnet Releasing in cinemas and On-Demand Sept. 3, 2021.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 08-03-2021 at 08:40 PM.

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