Archive for February, 2011

The Kids Are All Right – Lisa Cholodenko

“The kids are all right” is a standard story about the institution of marriage and about its turning points. There is nothing new in it. The same concerns, the same platitudes, the same betrayals and compromises.

What is new – to some extent – is the story about gay people in a marriage. But there’s no surprise in their behaving like all married people. Institutions level us all. Marriage offers the comfort spouses take for granted sooner or later. But this comfort is not – isn’t it funny? – all that comfortable. This comfort gives married people the energy to endure the partner’s limitations and the alpha spouse versus beta spouse frictions.

Good news, good political news is that the kids are all right in gay marriage too. Did anyone expect anything else? I bet they did. But they are all right; they’re no misfits, no different from other children.

Annette Bening and Julianne Moore, mothers of two, form a middle-class lesbian couple. They are great parents even when they nag the kids. Their marriage is cozy but not perfect; it is actually ridiculously dull and conventional. So conventional that when the sperm donor, a much less conventional Mark Ruffalo, is invited in the family, marriage’s pillars begin to shake.

The cast’s is a delight. Bening, Moore and Ruffalo offer great performances, the young actors follow them closely and so does the rest of the cast. There is nothing special about the movie’s cinematography; image, shots, music, editing are all submitted to the plot. That is not bad but it is not good either. It works.

The movie promotes gay parenting with a twist of reverse psychology on marriage, be it gay or straight. The result is a drama/comedy with a bitter end that can be mistaken with a happy one, and vice versa.


Entr’acte cu Kazimir Malevici (23.02.1879 – 15.05.1935)

Încă un pictor în vâltoarea vremurilor tulburate de maşinăriile care au ucis pictura ca oglindă, ca embelmă a rangului social, ca istorie: aparatul de fotografiat şi cel de filmat.

Binenţeles, Malevici merge pe acelaşi drum ca şi celilalti pictori eliberaţi de constrângerile tabloului la comandă, liberi să picteze ce vrea pana lor. De fapt, pictorii „eliberaţi” născocesc reguli noi de care ţin cu dinţii ca nişte academişti versaţi şi-şi rup urechile de pe ei în apărarea acestora.

Malevici urmează cuminte drumurile nou deschise.




Şi apoi asta!

În zorii celei mai radicale revoluţii politico-sociale se naşte pictura supremă. Nu e de mirare. Culme a tabloului ca obiect, culme a abstractului, a non-figurativului. Ce e asta!? Un tablou, pur şi simplu. Nici până în ziua de azi această lucrare nu este recepţionată cu comoditate. Toate manierele de vernisaj se duc pe apa sâmbetei în faţa acestui neant geometric sau mai degrabă tot geometric? Care este acea onomatopee a cunoscătorului care să salveze aparenţele? Pentru că nu poţi privi decât ca un sălbatic. „hm!, aha!, tz tz!” nu te liniştesc de data asta. Poţi să treci prin toate fazele premergătoare ale artei abstracte, fără ca să te ţină cineva de mână, pentru că aceste faze, toate, sunt înlănţuite şi te pot conduce înapoi pe terenul sigur al figurativului până hăt, la picturile rupestre . Dar aici trebuie să te ţi dom’le de ceva sau de cineva.

Ca un sălbatic, poţi să pui mâna să simţi rama şi textura, poţi să adulmeci aroma pânzei amestecată cu cea a uleiului, poţi chiar să-i molfăi un colţ, poţi să îl priveşti până îţi stă mintea în colţuri. Nu poţi, în schimb, să emiţi fraze sforăitoare camuflându-ţi elegant guşa cu arătătorul.

Acest imens semn de punctuaţie (de tipar) – nu reprezintă asta! Asta e doar o vorbă de guşat – marchează un moment de linişte în pictură. Nu avem poveste, nu avem nuanţe, nu avem ritm, avem în schimb tabloul în sine. Nu putem spune despre el altceva decât că este ceea ce este. La fel ca şi despre un obiect utilitar; furculiţă sau macara.

Ce putea să urmeze din partea artistului care nu şi-a pierdut minţile în această linişte perfectă? Binenţeles, variaţiuni pe aceaşi temă:

Pătratul alb – revine dinamismul

Cercul negru – deja avem un balans al volumului, se şi aude ceva.

Iar apoi muzica – arta cu adevărat majoră , spre care toate celelalte tind– îşi reintră în drepturi.

Este interesantă evoluţia picturii lui Kazimir Malevici dar nu neobişnuită. El se întoarce treptat la figurativ şi ajunge din punct de vedere stilistic cu mult în urma impresionismului de la începuturile carierei.

Shutter Island – Martin Scorsese

This one is filled with spoilers, mixed up, accidentally hidden and crystal-clear spoilers. If you didn’t see the movie and hate spoilers, don’t read it but you should definitely see the movie. If you saw the movie than scroll over the trailer and read if you feel like it. You are more than welcomed to place a comment.

Stuck in the middle of nature, humanity is, absurdly, not in equilibrium but off-balance. Only animals and the gods, if gods exist, are in harmony with the world, their violence and goodness are extreme, never controlled, sublime.

Our brain is the tool that can help us find an equilibrium that won’t hurt us, our surroundings or the others. It is also the tool that can make us perfectly violent. In the same time, our brain is the first to stop us in achieving perfection be it in goodness or in violence.

We don’t use our brain to make our existence truer. Day by day we exhaust it building the scenario in which we’re the good guy – sometimes the victim, sometimes the hero – who always fights for the right cause. All our actions have perfect alibis. Our brain is working overtime on that.

Cinema is one of the many reasons we are all prisoner of our self-absorbed, escapist scenarios. This form of entertainment was the opium of the people throughout the 20th century. The scars of this century were continuously looked after by cinema; healing them and opening them repeatedly.

Cinema offered much stronger illusions, released more powerful violence, feed more effectively the frustrations than any other force that influenced the masses. Because cinema it’s not the judging, finger-pointing church, nor the ruthless economy, nor the humiliating politics. It washes off class-boundaries, moral values and offers everybody a personalized ecstasy pill in the dark. It offers the illusion of freedom in a damp, dark room.

Today, even if one’s not a cinemagoer he or she would still build up the conscience-appeasing scenario resembling to film scenarios of the cinema’s golden era, because the silver screen left a prominent mark on our day-dreaming language.

In the same way cinema abducts us and melts our brain into whatever story we are watching, the scenarios we build up every day to overcome our pettiness, cowardice and harm we inflict on the world, alienate us from our true selves, they alienate us from the truth about our actions. Luckily, like any form of art, cinema learned to offer the opposite too, to expose our weaknesses, to work as a wake-up call.

What does it mean to be true to oneself? Art, religion, secular law, philosophy and even sports talk about freedom, honesty and fair-play. We brag about all this things when we feel mistreated but do we use them effectively in our relationships with our fellow human being?

Freedom is probably the most uttered word in human history, it is the star concept of human kind yet we seem to be most afraid of using it. Because freedom means to choose between those two sublime extremes only animal and gods can reach: pure violence and pure goodness. If we practice the first we’re locked away, if we practice the second we’d probably end up crucified. So what’s a human to do with freedom? What does it mean to be free on a human scale? How do we become free? Once free, can we still be active in society or even alive?

If we are lucky, as the main character in Shutter Island is, we’d have a few people (or experiences, or accidents, or studies) around us who’d conduct on us an intervention at the end of which we’d become self-aware, able to recognize our defense mechanisms, our disgraceful and our honorable traits etc. If we accept the intervention – we’ve already found an honorable trait; courage – we have the chance to free ourselves from our alienating dream, to take a few steps back and have an objective look at ourselves. Now we are free to choose to live without illusions, exposed or we can choose to reenter our cozy, illusionary cage. Either way, we become free to choose.

For us, the “sane” ones, who commit but trivial crimes-that sometimes hurt like torture, sometime feel like murder – what are the choices if we want to have choices? To head for the lighthouse or to stay in society’s ever reshaping cage which will never turn us into perfect lambs, the cage which will only continue to frustrate the lonely wolf within and will always tolerate our numbing scenarios.

Shutter Island is a heartbreaking psychological journey from the illusionary scenario to self-awareness. At the end of it there is freedom to choose between recognizing the harm inflicted on the world or to have a good old-fashioned transorbital lobotomy.

The movie is perfectly built; its architecture has the foundation on one person’s perspective; the music, the surroundings, the cast, the special effects all play along a perfect tune. That one character, whose perspective Scorsese masterly follows, is played by Leonardo di Caprio never off-key.

This escapist story could have not reached its goals in another art form than cinema. A book, a painting, a music score could never conquer our brains as totally as the pervert cinematographic tools do. That’s why Shutter Island is another perfect movie, for it can’t be anything else.

Un prophète – Jacques Audiard

A never-ending (2h30’), comme il faut gangster story, with an anti-hero who is doing all the necessary tricks to survive, to make his living in jail safe. The hero, a young Arab is a multiple misfit, socially and religiously. His story is about choices, the inevitable ones, the ones that make him live another day, the ones that make him imperfect but alive. It is also a story about the revenge against the powers that force the individual to commit crime. When the alternative is extinction, there are a few who refuse committing the crime. Those, they say, are the perfect ones. But this story is about survival in the jungle, it is about the human beast craving for life and security.

Audiard treats the law with the indifference law treats people; law is absent and its people are all corrupt or numbed by bureaucracy. Jail is a jungle and the guards are the poachers. But outside is pretty much the same, desolately the same. The absence of the law is here the absence of choices, our hero cannot choose not to commit a crime, he is alone and there is no higher power which could save him and he just cannot choose his own death.

I found the movie, too long and that is a shame considering the poetry of its cinematography and the story that can represent a milestone in the genre. Being too long is the movie’s only flaw, so don’t miss it.

Leaves of Grass – Tim Blake Nelson

“Leaves of Grass” is a philosophical cocktail poured on the never-changing, cruel and instinct-linked human nature. It is an antic story following an itinerary that has its major stops at Raise Above Your Condition, Inevitable Fate, Downfall and the last stop at Apatheia. The movie has a Bros. Coen feeling; the absurdities, the hilarious coincidences, the story from the heart of America with small, petty people committing outrageous crimes, and with a few characters who have the possibilities to rise above but fail to do it, all ring Coenish bells.

The movie’s plot offers welcomed surprises and a few good laughs too. The story is simple and cruel yet it is wrapped in many references to antic philosophy; one could feel pretty overwhelmed by the amount of information. My advice is to relax and only chew on the philosophical statements related to the plotline. Hah! They’re all related to the plotline! Ok, just relax if you don’t know what the heck the characters are talking about and enjoy the first level of those great references and quotations. Weed should help.

Mother – Boong Joon Ho

We are in for another South Korean treat. This time we are delighted with an extraordinary performance of actress Kim Hye Ja. She is playing a magnificently constructed role of a mother trying to prove the innocence of her mentally disabled son. The horror-comedy develops gradually, never losing the element of surprise, but surprises do not come as shocking revelations, they emerge slowly as a giant monster’s head.

The style of the storytelling balances the style of the cinematography. The cinematographer, Hong Kyung Pyo, leads all his shots smoothly through blue and all shades of its orange complementary even in the most tensioned scenes. Few other colors are used; sometimes green appears and the scenes get tensioned and the mother is always in purple or deep red, red as dried blood. It is an excellent choice of colors. In this case we have the luck to enjoy a choice of style and form that empowers the story and gives joy to the eye.

In my opinion “Mother” has it’s excellence in Kim Hye Ja performance, the cinematography and the ending scene. Don’t miss it.

Machete – Ethan Maniquis and Roberto Rodriguez

My recommendation is to stay away from it; it is a B movie from the ´80s produced in 2010 with no twist to contemporary smart. It is all in there, all that it should be, without Chuck Norris but with Steven Seagal, Jessica Alba, Don Johnson. Juicy isn’t it? We also have Robert de Niro, always landing on his feet.

The directors, Ethan Maniquis and Roberto Rodriguez, prove to know all it takes to make a genuine bad movie from the ´80s, with the rampaging possibilities of this century. I am pretty sure the directors intended it to be a satire, but the result is too dirty-stupid to launch the arrows and hit a serious target as illegal immigration is or any other stupid target. And the laughs, well, I had none, I was only wondering: WHY?

Being nostalgic on stupid B movies it takes a Tarantino to make it worthwhile. Roberto Rodriguez has talent and he is familiar with parody and satire, still this one is a flat, stupid movie.

Maniquis’ and Rodriguez’s latest reminded me of the young generation of the ex-communist countries who find communist relics cool and they find them even more valuable if granny’s eyes get moist seeing those relics and sighs: “Oh, it was much better those days!”.

There is nothing valuable in sheer imitation, and surely there is nothing valuable reiterating bad movies, bad times. Not this way.

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