Sunday, April 25, 2010

Keshtzar haye sepid, 2009
[The White Meadows]
Mohammad Rasoulof

Monday, September 07, 2009

Hong Sang-Soo

[24 City]
Jia Zhang-ke

[All Around Us]
Ryosuke Hashiguchi

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Chain, 2004
Jem Cohen

Iklimler, 2006
Nuri Bilge Ceylan

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Kangwon-do ui him, 1998
[The Power of Kangwon Province]
Hong Sang-Soo

Hong Sang-Soo in CinemaScope Issue 29:’s my response to the locations and the actors. If I chose a different actress or actor, I might have come up with a different ending. I have some of the details, and then I shoot this person, and my response to this person and what she gives me makes up the next day’s storyline. One important factor contributing to that particular ending is who she is in real life. If you have too much conceptualization, the options in terms of where you get details are restrained, because of this strong outline. Of course we need some kind of outline, but I really like to pick up details from other places beyond the main dramatic points. For me, those dramatic points are not the centre. It’s up to you how you connect them. The details come from an unusual place and make a pattern, but patterns don’t necessarily have a symbolic meaning. That’s not my intention. My job is just to make a complex pattern so people can feel something that is alive. I can think of a person [points at a woman]—let’s say you and I met her and after two hours you can talk about her this way and I can talk about her that way. Because she is a living being, we can say different things about her. That’s as far as I want to go, rather than telling you what to feel.

Wassup Rockers, 2005
Larry Clark

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Notable selection from 2006 SFIFF:

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Kôhî jikô, 2003
[Café Lumière]
Hou Hsiao-hsien

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Me and You and Everyone We Know, 2005
Miranda July

Miranda July summarizes

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Parapalos, 2004
Ana Poliak

  • The film opens with an extended shot of a naked man casually sitting on an hospital stretcher, waiting for, presumably, a physical examination. The shot is framed in a dark doorway and serves as an underlying metaphor for the film's examination of the hopeless, mundane routine of the poor and their objectifization (rather comoditization) as the sum of their body parts for their unaware (or indifferent) patrons.
  • The role of the protagonist is really one of a good, amiable, disarming listener. He curiously listens to his colleagues tell their story (which might be a window to his own future). Not many, though, are curious about his own life.

Notes from Interview with Ana Poliak, May 2004:

  • I wanted to talk about light, in the two senses of the word. The light of the sun and the interior light of a person. I wanted to show a character that had an interior light in order to think about how much a human being can be pushed and pressured in a job and how much he can resist thanks to his own light. These are questions, and I don’t have any answers for them....I think that my social class doesn’t have that capacity, that light...the main character, who’s almost mute, to work as a mirror; a character who, from his own light, is eager to listen to others, in whom who he awakens the need to talk and tell their life stories. He is curious about what the other people keep inside... I attempted to achieve a piece that was ...luminous and simple. I didn’t think of it as a recipe, but I did want it to be simple.
Los Muertos, 2004
Lisandro Alonso

  • Opens with a sublimely beautiful shot of the camera exploring trees in some wilderness, occasionally going out of focus, generating a dream-like effect. Two (?) bodies of children are briefly seen.
  • Vargas begins his journey in the boat, but briefly hesitates (he disembarks from the boat and heads back to the shore, hesitates and then decides to continue anyways). Is he afraid of himself, of his inherent primitivism, that has killed once and can kill again? (Or did he, perhaps, want to kill the fisherman who gave him the boat?) Was the first scene really the end of the film? (Alonso’s use of ‘opening credits’-like closing-credits insinuate at that).
  • Vargas' primitive instincts are alive when he is freed from jaill – in his love for his daughter, in his interaction with the hive, in his killing of the goat, etc. His peculiarities include his walk, his manner of washing his face head downwards and and his cluelessness about his daughter’s possible age (buying candies without realizing that she would be much older).
  • Camera used as a dramatic element in the long shot of Vargas rowing and receding from the scene, eventually disappearing, with the camera taking a life of its own, moving deliberately, with a rower’s exertion, in the opposition direction and, eventually, away from him (with only the sound of wilderness and Vargas' rowing in the background). The very same exertion returns at the very last scene of the film when the camera remains intently focussed on the toys (with incomprehensible sounds of slashing in the background). Is it the children, the goat, or himself (or just the audience) ?
  • Beautiful, long expressions of "stillness" with sudden disturbances (reminded me of fade-out to black narrative ellipses in Kieslowski's Trois Couleurs: Bleu )
  • Relationship between nature and the human race, and the inherent, but latent, violence in both. The hive, the constant sound of bees/flies are indicative of nature's intense upredictability. Unpredictability exists in us all.
  • There is a beautiful part in the film when Vargas gets rid of his shirt (he has also got rid of most of his money), and we now find him dressed akin to his grandson. It is him coming home and accepting that he is now home. Previously, Alonso shows how Vargas is retracing many steps of his past (undoubtedly spent in the jungle), and his meeting his grandson brings a finality to his new found freedom.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Mondovino, 2004
Jonathan Nossiter

  • Jonathan Nossiter uses the battle for the soul of wine as a metaphor for how "crypto-fascism" in the new "globalized" world order is destroying small-scale enterprises.. This is aided by a rampant complicity between the big companies and its' (so called) critics, in this case, wine producers and (so called) wine journalists. (Similar to the collusion that exists between film and film critics, politicians and political journalists, etc.)
  • Not infrequently, the poet is greater than the object of his verse. Nossiter's absorbing documentary is in sharp contrast to the influential wine critics who assign numeric scores, while advising the very same vineyards on how to confirm to their 100-dollar-a-bottle "new oak" palates.
  • This seemingly innocuous "homogenization of taste" is really a form of fascism where subversion of terroir is really a subversion of individual expression -- and affects (and reflects) both how we live today and what of ourself we pass onto the future...when our unique and defining imperfections (the very imperfections that make human beings human) are destroyed by economic greed.

Notes from Who is killing the great wines of Europe ? - Jonathan Nossiter on Mondovino by Mark Peranson (CinemaScope, Spring 2005) :

  • "I'd like to send every filmmaker on a three-month stint working for a good winemaker with a sense of terroir...I'm deeply moved by the Burgundian notion of terroir as expressed by Hubert de Montille, which is that you express your personality in everything you do, in any activity, from a dry cleaner to a filmmaker. The Burgundian argument is that individuality is a given, stop fretting about what you're personally bringing to something, think instead about what you are able to bring out from something else..."
  • "What I'm most interested in cinema is what I'm most interested in wine, which is what I'm most interested in people: the veins of imperfection that create idiosyncrasy and individuality. To me this is the highest form of beauty...And I think that in cinema we live in a world in which the way films are shot ... is becoming extremely plasticized, standardized ...The camera movement in Mondovino is never a premeditated aesthetic gesture. I hope that it becomes aesthetic because of human needs: the camera moves in relation to what I felt was being felt and being exchanged, and the moves were spontaneous. Organic. And I think that, by and large, a sensitive audience generally can feel when a camera is moving gratuitously, and for aesthetic effect, and for the glory of director's ego, and when it's moving out of human and dramatic's filmed with a kind of ebullience, vitality, and playfulness, and that's how I felt making it and cutting it...Whatever technical imperfections, which are constant, are transformed by the vitality of the camera's curious eye and the vitality of its life within the frame."
  • "With Robert and Michael Mondavi, that was absolutely formal interview, demanded by them, and I tried to frame it exactly like an interview, which I hope would take away from the interview aspect. And i think it did."
  • "Whether you're talking about a wine, a book, or a human being, the moment we say we all agree on what faults are and how to eliminate them is the moment we have completely capitulated to fascism."
  • "Making a film of any kind is a Sisyphean enterprise. Unless you feel deeply moved, and at some point unless you're in love."
  • "I see documentaries as the tension between two people in any given scene (the director and the co-director - the person in front of you) - which is why for me Michael Moore is not interesting because I don't feel the other [co-]director present, there's only some big guy with a sledgehammer. Obviously, I'm using the camera to my advantage, the cards are stacked in my favour. When it's like that, the worst thing to do both ethically and aesthetically is to play a heavy hand. ...I showed some moments he [Rolland] wouldn't allow me to see, because that is part of the tension. And in his scenes, he is the screenwriter. As the editor and director, I don't literally interpret the screenplay, otherwise I wouldn't be a director. Any screenplay that is interpreted directly by its director is a dead film by nature."
  • "If I'd done a film about the pharmaceutical industry, politics, or something that matters, I would never have got any sense of the human dimension....Precisely because wine is so irrelevant, ... I simply had access to everyone, and everyone was off their guard, even with their masses of press attaches."
  • "The Mondavis, or Bush, or Parker live with a mixture of belief and layers of cynicism that they won't acknowledge at any conscious level. They live in a culture that allows them to believe in their delusions. This is personal jet-lag - the French have a word for it, decalage, which means "displaced", but it's an internal displacement."

Thursday, March 31, 2005

Ren xiao yao, 2002
[Unknown Pleasures]
Jia Zhang-ke

  • The in-construction Datong-Beijing highway is symbolic of a bright future, but Xiao Ji's motorcycle is going nowhere fast.
  • The recurrent presence of the amusingly self-absorbed, operatic singer speaks volumes about cultural disconnection.
Notes from Lost In An Open Society by Dennis Lim (CinemaScope, Spring 2003):
  • [An] empathetic tale of alienated youth, characterized by an unresolved mood of corrosive [almost bitingly sarcastic] statis.
  • Trapped in disused, emptied-out spaces, Jia's characters find themselves constantly chafing against something - a feeling literalized in burts of repetition: Bin Bin awkwardly fending off a masseuse; a tearful Qiao Qiao being restrained by her mobster boyfriend; Qiao San's cronies slapping Xiao Ji to the pulse of disco strobes.
  • Jia: "I feel strongly about maintaining an unbroken relationship between the audience and the characters, both with respect to time and space (and maintain a unity of time and space). From the perspective of the spectator, the feeling of the passage of time is extremely important. Even those long scenes where nothing is happening and it seems like everything has stopped, even those scenes are important. It's possible that nothing at all happens over a long period of time; it's also possible that a lot of things are happening simultaneously in the same space, and I love that juxtaposition. In my films, i never want to use an all-knowing time as if God knows what's happening. I want this feeling of waiting and of not being able to anticipate what's going to happen"