Archive for November, 2010

Mary and Max – Adam Elliot

What can be more beautiful than a story about a life lasting friendship? A story about two friends who never met but only wrote to each other. Their letters traveled across oceans bearing besides comforting words some chocolate and other items that talk about their dreams, hopes and inherent flaws.

I say a story like this is one of the most beautiful things life or art can offer. Two strangers comforting each other at the two ends of a world they feel so lonely in, it is a story that goes straight to the heart.

In addition to the sensitive narrative we have the disarming naïvety of the two characters. Their views upon the world’s mysteries, everybody else seems to have figured out but them, is of an almost delusional innocence that assures the necessary dose of humor.

But there is nothing beautiful in this story based on reality. Mary and Max’s world is stripped of all that is commonly accepted to be balanced, harmonious in human nature, human made environment and nature itself.

The world is irregularly shaped and it is shitty brown when it is not black and white. Red appears randomly. What about the brown:chocolate or poop? You chose. I say poop, because it is a shitty world we’re being offered here to watch with all the bodily functions included…repeatedly.

The esthetic of ugliness is in charge not as much in the visual composition but mostly in the composition of the characters. The main characters are deprived of their possible inner beauty; at least it is all so well hidden behind their flaws and fears. The rest of the characters are also described with emphasis on the not-so-shiny-side of their personalities.

So, honestly I was waiting for the light throughout the movie, I was waiting to find balance and harmony, in a way close to Max’s need to rebalance his petty existence, every time one of Mary’s letter pushed him over the edge.

And harmony came, right in the end, the perfect beauty life can offer:… Won´t spoil it for you 🙂

So, in an imperfect world, two imperfect strangers build up, accidentally and out of perfectly understandable selfish reasons, an imperfect friendship.

Yet I cannot tell you this is a perfect movie, not at all. Once the humor chosen to tickle us on the naïve and yucky side warns out and once we get into the slow-paced exposé of the narrator, we need coffee.

Still, I recommend you Mary and Max to remember how fragile and grotesque we are.

One World- Festival de film documentar

Festival de film dedicat drepturilor omului, 11-13 Noiembrie, Cluj-Napoca. Locatii: Cinema Victoria si Casa Tranzit.

Recomand “The Living” (Serhiy Bukovsy, Ucraina, 2008) un documentar despre marea foamete indusa de catre Stalin in Ucraina la inceputul anilor 30′.

Supravietuitorii Holodomorului sunt martorii afundati in amintiri teribile, realizatorii punand accentul mai mult pe momentele din afara confesiunilor propriu-zise. Tragedia acestora ramane, astfel, suspendata in taceri si priviri care devin martuirii senzoriale ale ororilor traite. Supravietuitorii acestui genocid sunt niste statui vii ale miracolului supravietuirii.

Informatiile despre aceasta pagina de istorie ne sunt oferite minimalist, cu decenta, as spune. O decenta fata de acesti supravietuitori pentru care exercitiul rememorarii este mult prea dureros.

Aceasta pagina de istorie a fost inregistrata de un jurnalist englez, Gareth Jones, care a expus-o lumii occidentale. Efectul – nu pot sa spun surprinzator, avand in vedere contextul international din acele timpuri-a fost nul. Dar consecinte au existat, cel putin in viata jurnalistului, cel putin la nivel speculativ.

The man who stare at goats – Grant Heslov

The man who stares at goats is a big promise. The story is a satire on the U.S. Army’s alternative fighting experiments based on Jon Ronsons’s best seller. The cast is impressive (George Clooney, Ewan McGregor, Jeff Bridges, Kevin Spacey) and together with the plot it should guarantee an acid satire.

The start is promising; the cast is filling the high expectations, more or less, is handling this black-comedy with great skill: George Clooney and Jeff Bridges are outstanding, Ewan McGregor follows them closely and Kevin Spacey is a bit behind. The story is promising good laughs; the new eco-friendly war techniques of the “Jedi” warriors are absurd and hilarious.

After enjoying some satire elements spread across the narrative, one is eager to see them coming together, forming an arrow and shooting someone or something down. But it does not happen. Institutions, policies that could have been pinched hardly are unharmed. U.S. Army is still standing, war in Iraq still standing, right-wing policy still standing. Am I missing something here or this would have been a good opportunity to embarrass these?

Anyway it is worth seeing these four cool guys at work, and there are some moments when all things come together and pure satire is created. It is a pity that it only happens occasionally and that in the end satire is just a tamed shadow of itself.

If you really are in the mood for a perfect satire on war, you should watch Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove, of course. You should watch it anyway.

Watch them both!

I used the word “satire” too many times. I think I miss the genre.

Time – Kim Ki-Duk

Another terrifying love story is unfolding in Kim Ki-Duk’s “Time” that opens brutally with a plastic surgery. Plastic surgery embellishes and restores youth at least for a while. But it can also be used in a more dramatic way for a more dramatic purpose. Kim Ki-Duk, as always, finds the extreme way to make his point.

Plastic surgery is used here to change (not necessarily to embellish) one’s face completely to keep a relationship alive, to keep love fresh. It is an ultimate, desperate attempt to save love from fading away, to keep alive the sexual interest, this wanderer.

They say time is a healer, and that is right. Time is also a killer, and that is also right. Love is a game and games are played by children, right? Children enjoy games to the maximum, then, in time, they get bored, very bored, right?

All lovers are riveted by their lovers just as children are fascinated by their toys and games. For them time is suspended, history has stopped and eternity is the only thing that matters; the “forever and evers” are dancing in crazy circles with the “NOW!” But time, this low-profile thief, has not stopped its slow and sure pace during love’s celebration and went on corroding the enthusiasm, the playfulness bit by bit, day by day.

Kim Ki-Duk puts his main male character on a mad run after the lost lover. But he is actually looking for something not someone; the feeling, the one that switches on eternity. He is looking for that feeling everywhere, in everyone, because “we’re all humans” right? Anyone can be “the one” if she would only awaken the enthusiasm in him. Then his lover comes back with a changed face, with a different name. They meet each other they even like each other…

Then Kim Ki-Duk starts slapping us. Roles are changing and now she has to run and look for him everywhere, in everyone. Hide and seek is a thrilling game, isn’t it? She is also looking for the feeling that, in her case, the right answer would bring: “How does my hand feel?” she asks obsessively waiting one answer only: “Feels like the right fit for my hand”. Her quest becomes unbearably desperate and the outcome is another slap that whirls time that seemed so goddamned linear.

The only place where love rides along with eternity is art, is the only place where it can escape time’s mill. The characters are constantly visiting a sculpture park – its theme is love and its different stages – they keep coming back, contemplating the everlasting lovers, the everlasting “forever and evers” they’re longing to utter but which they can never keep.

Fortunately is not their fault is just time passing by.

Orlando – Sally Potter

One of the most spectacular self-discovering journeys, literature has known, has found a perfect adaptation on screen. We all say, at least once in our reader/spectator life that cinematographic adaptations never match the quality of the novels. Some do, some adaptations enrich the original to a point that one cannot be taken into consideration without the other. It is the case of Sally Potter’s Orlando based on Virginia Woolf’s novel, Olrando. If you read the book and see the movie, no matter in what order, you will never think of one without considering the other. At least, that is my case.

Orlando is about a person’s journey to the inner self, to the perfect equilibrium of the human being. It is neither a man’s journey nor a woman’s, it is the voyage to freedom of the genderless heart and mind, encaged throughout history in the “how you should be” rules of the male or female behavior.

The story is perfect; out of an excellent novel came out an excellent script: witty and sparkling. The dialogs are memorable (they should spice up anybody’s conversation in social circles). The roles are played perfectly by an outstanding cast. Tilda Swinton playing Orlando is a delight. Naïve, idealistic as Orlando can be, Swinton still finds ways to slip in some auto irony.

But what really makes this movie a masterpiece relies in what makes cinema a fully grown art: composition of the image, angle and montage.

All that the seventh art can give back to the major arts, it so much stolen from in the beginning, is to turn stones and oil into animated lights and to turn poetry, music, and architecture into a realm where these are of equal texture.

The plastic composition of the image in Orlando gives the movie its style. The cinematographer (Alexei Rodionov) chooses to shoot scenes using the classic frontal perspective. The composition of the image is strictly built on horizontals and verticals giving a sense off static and rigidity. All this matches perfectly the times Orlando’s is trapped in.

There is a single exception when the operator indulges us with a view from above; in the scene where Orlando returns from Far East, it is also one of the rare occasions when we can see oblique lines in the composition. A perfect moment to escape the western classical golden measure the renaissance came up with. Orlando has just made a big step toward completeness.

The choice of color and light/shade combination is, in the first half of the movie, indebted to the Dutch and Flemish renaissance and Northern mannerist painting; so crafty, opulent and attentive to details.

The montage counterbalances the composition. It is alert and lightens up the atmosphere, contributing to the ironic view of the director on all characters (Orlando included) and social customs.

The irony does not stop here; the costumes are also tools that outline ridiculous gender and social standards everyone takes so damn seriously.

Orlando is a story about freedom and happiness on one’s own, by one’s own means. Fellow humans are all blown by the winds and there’s always rain after their departure. We are all following our dream on our own, needing the company of others only when faith in accomplishing that dream fades, when we are strangers to ourselves or when an ankle twists. Humans should search for unity inside themselves before searching for company. This is what we should do to stand firm against social, political, economical, well, life’s adversities. This is what Orlando stands for.

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