Pieta – Kim Ki Duk


PietaOh, Parenthood! Toughest job on earth! How come the frailest ones are the most courageous ones in taking this job? But once a parent nothing can break them. This is how the legend goes. Reality goes in infinite other ways too.

This is how Pieta goes – motherhood knows no limits in self-sacrifice. All senses are externalized, relocated into the offspring. She feels only what her child feels and she’s numb to anything inflicted on her.

Ah, Money! Fairest offspring we’re all parents of. We pretend that Money has not placed our center of gravity outside ourselves, that we can live without it, that there are other things in the world that matter, our children, our friends etc.

Ah, Poetry. How nobody give’s a f*** about you so you can feel at ease and elegantly leave a blood trail along the highway!

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Les Misérables – Tom Hooper


les miz
Les Misérables is one of the longest novels ever written. Reading is an activity that permits us to recharge and live a life between attentive reading sessions. Les Misérables, the musical, is almost 3 hours long with one intermission that allows the audience to freshen up with healthy gossip. Les Misérables, the musical drama film, is almost as long as the theatrical musical but without any intermission and obviously cannot keep the viewer’s full attention all the way through.

Starting with these superficial differences I can say the novel is better than the theatrical musical and the latter is better than the musical drama film.

I have to confess I have never read the whole book but as I said this can be a merit of the novel. And I’ve only seen the 10th anniversary dream-cast concert of Les Miz, never the show. But that concert that was mainly about the music with a static cast and chorus tops Tom Hooper’s bombastic approach with all that mad agitation of characters and camera.

Nothing’s wrong with the content and Victor Hugo can be proud there, “somewhere beyond the barricade”. But the form, is it really a musical?

As much as I appreciate the actors’ efforts to sing their heart out I think that every compromise regarding vocal score, modulations, amplitude, range and all those details composers stick to like freaks is a step away from the essence.

Les Misérables is a movie with actors who sing their dialogues the best they can. Their acting is good but, honestly, the professional singers from the original musical played their characters better with fewer acting techniques. I don’t’ think they’re better actors than the ones in the movie but I do think that the music was already composed in a way to transmit all the necessary emotions and all you need is to follow the notes, the octave, the key etc to get the wanted effect. Hooper wanted more than that, he wanted suffering to be super-visible and closed in on the actors’ faces so we can perfectly see the emotional whirlpool, so we can witness every tear thus the singing was forced into melodic whispering. Not necessarily a bad thing but, sadly, Hooper did not know when or how to make a highly recommended step back.

When the most intriguing character, Inspector Javert, is at the peak of his own tragedy and so is the orchestra, Russel Crowe is only half way there and that’s not entertainment! And that’s just one example when the libretto, orchestra and score are off-balance even though they’re correctly tuned according to musical mathematics.

My biggest disillusion was caused by the Thénardiers. I was shocked to see no real conspiracy or any other kind of relation between Bonham Carter and Baron Cohen the two landing far from the novel’s brutal and not close enough to the musical’s successfully comic characters. But is half their fault, they do act and sing poorly but also director, photographer and, I dare say, makeup artist and costume designer are all very chaotic when it comes to Thénardiers scenes.

But the fact that the singing does not meet the perfectionist requirements of a musical that is in fact an opera shouldn’t have been such a major issue if director, photographer and editor would have treated such a complex project with more patience and less over-the-top solutions.

The Golden Globetrotter I


intouchables
Of all the nominees for a Golden Globe award, 70th edition, the first one I’ve seen was Intouchables (The Untouchables) directed by Olivier Nakache and Eric Toledano. Sadly I don’t’ remember much of it. But as far as I can recall is, at first glance, about this white rich guy in a wheelchair (François Cluzet) and a black guy (Omar Sy) taking care of him. Based on a real story it depicts the friendship between the two but the real emphasis is on France’s ethnic, social and political profile. It’s more like an anti-Sarkozy statement than a story about friendship.

It’s a movie about how the “banlieues” and the center should reach out for each other and form a solid bond for the good of The Nation. The rigid, white upper class lusts for life again through an adrenaline shot from the energetic, colored lower class that gains acceptance and financial satisfaction in return.

A personal history is enlarged to reflect a desired, post-Sarkozy, status-quo for a whole nation.

royal
En kongelig affære (A Royal Affair) directed by Nikolaj Arcel is also based on reality yet not on private destinies but on public ones. Denmark is embracing the ideals of the Enlightenment about state and civil rights through an insane king (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard) influenced by his German physician (Mads Mikkelsen) who falls in love with the queen (Alicia Vikander) who’s British.

An ordinary love triangle is ennobled by the most revolutionary reforms it produced in 18th century Europe. The tragedy that naturally follows is caused by the good old hybris, the exact type that later led to the fall of the Enlightenment itself: excess.

En kongelig affære is worthy of our undivided attention as a history lesson but also for its first class acting performances and exquisite directorial pacing.

game
Then Game Change directed by Jay Roach came along and I found myself on a very different page of political history. Recent history has this undeserved quality of being ridiculous while nobody’s laughing. If there is any laughter is far from being relaxed and is usually followed by frustration, disgust, anger and panic on as many different levels as there are earthlings.

There is a positive distancing effect in contemplating contemporary political history through art that can add bits of catharsis to our laughter. Still, the world really sucks and thank gods for Julianne Moore, Ed Harris and Woody Harrelson for making it easier to bear.

To be continued….

Horseshoe


horseshoe
Is the midst of the aughts, I don’t remember the season, I live close to the city limits of Kolozsvár, in Kerekdomb, an area with old, modest family houses that looks more like a village than a part of a city. I had to get up really early, at 4 a.m. We are leaving on a one week Transylvanian tour and I hate this early departures. We most probably have a show at 9 a.m, 250 km far from Kolozsvár, in the middle of nowhere where a few dozens of children will be impatiently waiting for us in a cold, so-called cultural center that looks more like a stable.

I have to cross half the city to get to the meeting point. I decide to walk because, miraculously, I woke up fresh and I already managed to pack my rucksack lightly the night before. It is still very dark outside, middle of the night kind of dark. It is probably Autumn.

At 4:30 I’m in the street, completely awake and considering it would probably be wiser to take the first cab I find. But street lighting is encouraging to my night walk yet protective with the sleeping houses, fences and trees. There is no one in sight and not a single car passes me by.

I managed to remember these details later, much later, but from what was about to happen I have never forgotten any.

I exit my little street and turn right on a larger one. After about 50 meters I turn left on another street that in 60-70 meters becomes a viaduct above the city’s railway station. I can see the viaduct in a mild electric light and after a couple of steps later I freeze. On the deck of the bridge a horse appears, trotting towards me. Actually there are two, three-fou’-five, six…No, seven horses are trotting down!

They’re getting closer and closer, their glittering eyes completely ignoring the flash and bone statue of the rucksacked pedestrian me. Six of them are dark-colored, the seventh horse is white, a bit behind and has a loose horseshoe that sparkles every time it hits the asphalt but the animal keeps his gait as cool as the other six.

The rhythmic clinking-clanking sound of all the good horseshoes together with the broken one’s that’s off-key, washes my brain, empties my chest. Now they are passing me by and I can vaguely smell their skin, their breath. I can vaguely hear the air brushing their big bodies. Now they left me behind, I look back at their croups and the little spark of the loose horseshoe is burning my eyes.

They exit right, whence I came in.

From the moment I saw them till the moment the street went silent again I completely forgot my life, I probably forgot my name and my aim too. I was a thing, an it, able only to record the event and totally unable to process it. When they disappeared around that corner forever, a longing, I have never felt before nor since, hit me with such a force that it had at least seven horsepower.

As I walked up the viaduct I was thinking common things like “these are tears of joy!”, “unbelievable!”, “oh, my God!” but mostly “waaaahhhh!”. Then I saw the proof: steaming horse manure scattered on the other side of the bridge. I heard my self laughing very loudly and I took several deep breaths.

From that point on I forgot everything about the rest of my journey to the meeting point, I forgot the entire week that followed and I even forgot which show we were touring with. The next thing that I remember is that the first time I talked about those horses was when I arrived back home.

“Mi ricordo, si, io mi ricordo”


Dear Cinema, It has been a really long time since you scratched my itch. The past six-seven months my itches were itching very much beyond your possibilities to scratch ’em. Now my itching is yours to scratch again. End itch theme!!!!

The truth is I ran out of words and reasons to write about you and I don’t even have a reason for this. Do you think reading too much of Albert Camus lately has anything to do with it?

First let me tell you about a painting because this made me grab the pen again. There is a painting in Canada I bumped into accidentally. Right at the first glance I felt that usual yet unfamiliar shock when I could feel the galloping synapses connecting, the endorphins producing, the mechanism of pleasure awakening. The sensation was increased by the last synapse that connected me to a movie. Of course, when something you instantly fall in love with reminds you of something else you love is the most common and perverted of all pleasures. Nevertheless is a pleasure worth to remember.

There is a scene in Amarcord by Fellini when the whole village sails out to sea, on little boats, at night, to get a glimpse of a majestic cruise ship. When the ship arrives the poor villagers are so happy and awestruck they’re actually feeling like taking part of the extravagant life on the deck.

Fellini shoots the scene allowing the big body of the ship to take over the screen. What’s left free is filled with a little night sky and the mesmerized, enthusiastic villagers.

Now, seeing this little painting made me feel like I believe those characters might have felt seeing SS REX. I perceived this painted ship detail with all my senses. Thank you, painter!

hulla

The art of painting using a still, flat, colored image to catch the attention of our brain, can produce a more memorable effect then the movies. Movies are desperately trying to impress us with 3D, 4D, amazing sound effects, odors and kinetic theater chairs. I fully understand now the big disappointment some have felt when the movies started talking or when colors invaded the silver screen. The receiver’s imagination was gradually put to rest.

But, I know, being a king and a beggar belonging both in an art gallery and an amusement park is your main and most fascinating feature. Even though lately you failed to rapture me don’t get me wrong Cinema, I still love you more than I love your closest rival, Theatre. And there were some good moments between us this months too. About those, some other time.

Cheers!

Rampart – Oren Moverman


Sly editing and camera work, scenes twanging stretched to their emotional limits, hot dialogues and Woody Harrelson; these can make you go on watching mesmerized one of the biggest bastard cops on screen. Anti-hero concept is revisited but no excuses are allowed to sneak in our hearts. The system, the Nam, family issues, financial problems are used up generously but cannot equal a dirty cop’s pride, bullheadedness and stupidity. A tragic character impossible to save himself, impossible to be saved. He just simply can never ever allow himself to say “I fucked it up” or can he?

Il Conformista – Bernardo Bertolucci



There is a certain circle of, well, not friends, where I hear this repeatedly “one has to know how to place one’s self in convenient circumstances” socially and politically. Easier said than done, I always reply, because that implies some sort of self annihilation and that’s hard to do. Or is it not?

What makes it easy to blend in and what makes it impossible? Sometimes I think it depends on how familiar one is with one’s self. If you have no idea who you are it’s a walk in the park to annihilate your ego, identity, principles etc and to adopt anything else that keeps you away from social and political bruises. But knowing yourself in and out can serve the same purpose give or take some sleepless nights. For the first ignorance is required for the latter courage to face the mirror.

In both cases cowardice is the main ingredient or shall I call it self-preservation?

When history gives you a hard time, when all is black or white, no neutral gray, for some is safer to cowardly blend in than heroically stand out or even passively stand aside. The consequences? It depends on how the blending in game is played.

Il Conformisto is the story of anti-hero Marcello Clerici (Jean-Louis Trintignant) playing the game with absolute conviction.

Bertolucci tells the tragic story spreading pinches of humor along the way. The characters are placed with mannerist rigor in perfectly framed extravagant locations and interiors. Some use of strong color filters and camera tilting complete a delicate and elegantly decadent atmosphere.

It’s a delight, all is thoroughly prepared to light-heartedly enjoy such an atmosphere while contemplating conformity, cowardice, self-preservation, a perfect Jean-Louis Trintignant and an unforgettable Stefania Sandrelli “tutta letto e cucina”.

“Animula vagula blandula
Hospes comesque corporis”

“Little soul, you charming little wanderer,
my body’s guest and partner”
Hadrian

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