Saturday, October 31, 2015

Il Cinema Ritrovato 2012, Part II


گزارش جشنوارۀ Il Cinema Ritrovato، بولونيا، ايتاليا، 23 تا 30 ژوئن 2012
بخش دوم: بيداري
تازه متوجه مي‌شوم در بولونيا هستم. نور داغِ روز از درز باريك بين پرده‌هاي ضخيم اتاق روي صورتم خط سفيدي مي‌اندازد. مثل سرباز وظيفه‌ها يك ربع بعد حاضر و آماده و مشغول ور رفتن با پنيرهاي ايتاليايي‌ بر سر ميز صبحانه‌ام. هفتۀ پيش در اين‌جا زلزلۀ نسبتاً شديدي آمده و دولت بعضي‌ها را موظف كرده كه خانه‌هاي قديمي‌شان را ترك كنند و موقتاً در هتل‌ها زندگي‌كنند. خرج از كيسۀ دولت است و بولونيايي‌ها از اين فرصت براي گپ و معاشرت استفاده مي‌كنند.
مسير روزانۀ من عبارتست از طي كردن شريان اصلي شرقي-غربي شهر و سپس انحراف كوچكي به شمال غربي براي رسيدن به ويا دله لامه كه دو سينماي بزرگ جالي و آله‌كينو با فاصله‌اي دويست متري از هم در آن واقع شده‌اند. در راه ديوارهاي بلند قرون وسطايي و مجسمه شيرها و قديسين و آبريزهاي سنگي حتي براي ثانيه‌اي به چشم اجازۀ استراحت نمي‌دهند. زير ساختمان‌هاي كهنه مغازه‌هاي لباس و غذا با دكوراسيون مدرن جا گرفته‌اند. به نظر مي‌رسد در بولونيا هيچ شتابي در كار نيست.
در راه به گيريش شامبو، سينه‌فيل هندي‌تبار مقيم آمريكا و يكي از مشهورترين وبلاگ‌نويسان سينمايي امروز برمي‌خورم كه مي‌خواهد به تماشاي مالدُن گرميون برود. من به والش مي‌روم و قرار مي‌گذاريم بعد از فيلم‌ها هم را ببينيم. بسياري از قرارها در بولونيا مثل پايان كسوف آنتونيوني به سرانجامي نمي‌رسند.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

LFF#59: 5 Documentaries


Five documentaries from the 59th London Film Festival, reviewed by Kiomars Vejdani

1
HE NAMED ME MALALA
Director : Davis Guggenheim
USA 2015

The story of Malala Yousafzai has received so much attention by public media. A fifteen year old girl who was shot by Taliban for openly opposing their suppressive regime, subsequently rising to the level of international fame having audition with Queen and President Obama and eventually awarded Nobel Peace Prize. But international fame has made her a controversial figure open to debates. Some of her admirers see her achievements as her destiny decided by powers higher above, drawing a parallel between her and a legendary figure of the same name who with her words inspired the army of her country to win a battle over a more powerful enemy. A less sympathetic group see her fame in the light of propaganda created by the West against Taliban. But some facts remain indisputable. Malala is a courageous girl who after being shot by Taliban has not stopped her fight against them. She has a close relationship with her father who is an intelligent, cultured, and enlightened man. Her way of thinking is very much influenced by her father. She is brought up to believe in freedom of people and human rights. She has had a good education. Her speeches are well articulated. Some speculate that her speeches are written by her father but that is not for certain. At interview when faced with an unexpected question she comes up with a well formulated answer. Davis Guggenheim for making his documentary has had a great deal of material to use ( as Malala has been photographed and filmed a lot ). In treatment of his subject he has glorified Malala to the extreme. He particularly highlights the similarity between Malala,s character and her legendary namesake. The end result is a well compiled picture of an emotive subject. But how truthful ?


2
BRAND: A SECOND COMING
Director :Ondi Timoner
UK 2015

Russell Brand as an Stand up comedian is famous for his loud volume of voice, a non- stop barrage of words and jokes which, although at times witty, are mostly vulgar and not to everyone,s taste. But this documentary about him reveals the other side of his character showing that he can be a more interesting person out side the stage. Film focuses, not on Russell,s stage career and scandals of sex and drugs ( although they have been covered adequately ) but more so on his personality and politics which are very much inter -related. The picture that emerges is a manic character with an over-active brain, non -stop coming up with ideas which are immediately voices without being checked for their logic. His uninhibited nature can not accept control. If anything he controls and dominates other ( as shown in the funny scene of American TV interview) with regard to his politics he has a sharp wit to instinctively notice problems but his disorganized way of thinking comes up with solutions which at best are unrealistic and at worse dangerous. Any possibility of his engaging in politics would be nothing short of disastrous. The film tries to present as honest a picture of him as possible. But in the end gives up defending something which is not defensible. In the words of Brand,s manager :” Ask Russell all the questions. But do not follow him”


3
CENSORED VOICES 
Director : Mor Loushy
Israel 2015

During Six Day War in 1967 between Israel and Arab countries leading to Israel,s remarkable victory, some Israeli soldiers were interviewed as they were making their advance towards Jerusalem. The recorded interviews reveals a very different story. A dark truth behind the glory of liberation of Jerusalem. Many soldiers admit that while initially they were proud of their victory, they gradually began to see their role as aggressors. They express the shame and guilt for their treatment of Arab people, making them leave their homes ( in the words of one soldier making them refugees in their own country ) The recorded interviews were only allowed to be partly released. In this film, for the first time and after many years, we can hear them uncensored and in their totality. Director Mor Loushy uses their recording on the soundtrack of the film as a basis for his documentary. They are visually accompanied by authentic ( and rarely seen ) archive material carefully matched with the narrative on the soundtrack. Added to the archive material are shots of key figures commenting on the events of the past. The message coming across is the futility of war, putting more value on human life than conquering lands. A strong anti war film with a moral tone to match.


4
THE FEAR OF 13
Director : David Sington
UK 2015

It is a documentary about Nick Yarris, a prisoner accused of murder and on Death Row, who after 23 years trying to prove his innocence appealed to Court for his execution. The film is entirely made of showing him talking to the camera. He is a great story teller. He talks about his criminal past, drug addiction, burglary, car stealing, and acts of violence (but not murder ). He tells us about prison wardens and their acts atrocity towards him as well as other prisoners, his relationship with a female volunteer visitor which led to romance and marriage. Later on breakdown of that marriage could have something to do with his appeal for execution. Eventually with advance of science and discovery of DNA he could prove his innocence and was released from prison. He saw his freedom as a second chance life has given him and decided to reform himself. Since then he has become a virtuous man, leading a respectable life, helping drug addicts and criminals with similar problems of his own in the past. He now lives in UK ( away from his reputation of the past ). He is married and has a daughter. A very positive and heart-warming film.
Even more interesting than film was presence of Nick Yarris at the screening, answering questions from the audience, gaining sympathy,respect,and admiration of everyone.


5
SOMETHING BETTER TO COME
Director : Hanna Polak
Denmark – Poland 2014

Only thirteen miles out side Moscow there is a huge garbage site of several miles in dimension. A crowd of homeless people live there. They try to survive by finding whatever left over food in the rubbish, and build some shelter by any means they get hold of to protect them against cold winter. The rate of crime, prostitution, drug abuse and alcoholism is high. A good number do not survive for too long. Director Hanna Polak decided to film this group ( secretly and away from the watchful eyes of police and authority ) Soon she noticed Yula a ten year old girl who was born on the site and decided to film her over the next fourteen years ( a method not dissimilar to Richard Link later,s Boyhood ). The result is document on human misery unimaginable at the heart of our present day civilisation.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Capsule Review of Films from the 59th London Film Festival


Kiomars Vejdani's Capsule Reviews of Films from the 59th London Film Festival



THE LOBSTER
Director : Yorgos Lanthimos
UK-Ireland -Greece 2015

Films of Yorgos Lanthimos are always odd (the good example is Dogtooth) but here he pushes the boundaries of oddity up to the absurd. The film is set sometime in the future when celibacy is condemned. Anyone without a partner has 45 days to find one. Otherwise (with advanced surgical methods of future) he will be turned into the animal of his choice. The animal that film's protagonist has chosen is lobster (hence the title of the film). The setting can be seen as a hotel or a luxury prison and residents as guests or prisoners. The rules are as arbitrary and irrational as the those imposed by the father on his children in Dogtooth. The result is an environment which dehumanizes the people. Irrational rules and absurd behaviour are at the roots of film,s dry humour. But in the end film moves towards a more serious tone and sincerity of feelings when the protagonist chooses the woman he loves against all regulations and in the process makes the biggest sacrifice of his life.


THE ASSASSIN
Director : Hou Hsiao-Hsien
Taiwan-China – Hong Kong 2015

Winner of Best Director Award in this year's Cannes Film Festival Assassin is another example of skilfully made martial art film by Hou Hsiao- Hsien. Set during the ancient dynasty of Tang in
9th century China, it revolves around the character of woman trained in martial arts and equipped with highest level of skills to act as assassin and carry out missions as commanded by her master until she is given a mission which is against her moral beliefs and personal feelings. The story of her moral awakening is told in slow measured pace against the background of classical splendour of ancient China. A visually rich and stylish film,beautifully photographed scenery and skilfully choreographed scenes of fast pace martial arts action.


CEMETERY OF SPLENDOUR
Director :Apichatpong Weerasethakul
Thailand-UK-France

In the hazy heat of tropical area, a group of sick soldiers in a hospital which used to be a school, a mother visiting her son who is in coma, a volunteer visiting girl who has the power of heeling and the ability to see the past. With these elements the director creates his familiar world. In a dreamlike state boundaries between sleep and wakefulness,reality and fantasy, past and present, life and death are all blurred. People change their identity without changing their appearance. Ghosts look like living people while real environment turns into a dreamlike one with neon lights which change colour non-stop. Film ends in a cemetery which has vanished long time ago and now only exists in our memory As his usual Apichatpong Weerasethakul leaves us somewhere between dream and wakefulness


TANGERINE
Director :Sean Baker
USA 2015

A hilarious film about two transsexual hookers on New Year,s Eve are trying to find a girl who has an affair with boyfriend of one of them. In their search for the girl they go through a series of funny situations with odd characters. A fast moving film,bursting with energy, having jokes at every moment. But in the end slowing down to stress the value of true friendship.


VERY BIG SHOT
Director : Mir-Jean Bou Chaaya
Lebanon-Qatar 2015

The film begins with something like Goodfellas in Lebanon with plenty of violence. But soon it changes its tone to become a comedy about film making with the protagonist acting as the producer. But at the last few moments of the film, as the protagonist decides to enter politics,yet another another aspect of the film is introduced. So the film that started as a gangster thriller ends up as a social climbing satire.


DESIERTO
Director : Jonas Cuaron
Mexico – France 2015

Film is about a group of Mexicans being killed by a sadistic mentally deranged sharp shooter while illegally crossing the border into America. Director Jonas Cuaron uses their massacre as a basis for a thriller, increasing the film,s tension as the acts of killing progresses without much attention to dramatic depth. Despite the superficial current of excitement the plot is too incredible to be convincing and the protagonists too stereotyped to arouse our sympathy.


OFFICE 
Director : Johnnie To
China – Hong Kong  2015

The film with the help of elaborate sets,cast of hundreds, bright colour photography, and added
3D technology shows us how not to make musicals. Its only use is as a proof that making of musicals is best left to Hollywood.


THE CLUB 
Director : Pablo Larrain
Chile 2015

The film begins with a quotation from Bible stating that God after creating the light liked it so much that He decided to keep it separate from darkness. The new film of Pablo Larrain concentrates on this area of darkness. In a house by the seaside in the remote part of the country live a group of priests ( and a nun ) who because of some sinful act in their past are barred from active duties.
Pablo Larrain uses such a setting and characters to create an infernal atmosphere. Film,s dramatic tension is created out of contrast between attitude of characters and strict rules of church ( represented by a visiting supervisor, an upright priest with strong religious faith ). Larrain's priests are a mixture of evil beings committing acts of extreme cruelty,and normal human people who enjoy pleasures of life and are honest and frank about their sexuality ( the film,s dialogue is sexually very explicit ) Through their characters and the resulting moral ambiguity Larrain gives us a controversial picture of church and its rules.


YOUTH
Director : Paolo Sorrentino
Italy 2015

Paolo Sorrentino's new film, like The Great Beauty is about looking back at life after reaching the summit of one,s creative career, With the difference that here we have two protagonists. A retired composer (Michael Caine) and a film director (Harvey Keitel) Being close friends for many years they enjoy each other,s company while staying in a spa hotel in Switzerland. Like the previous film they encounter a range of colourful characters,each with their own idiosyncrasies. They go over their ups and downs of life, remember their happy and sad moments. In the end they reach to the conclusion that at the their old age there is not much more to do but to look back. One of them accepts the situation and compromises. The other does not. Another stylish film by Paolo Sorretino, as beautiful as the Great Beauty.


VIRGIN MOUNTAIN
Director : Dagur Kari
Iceland – Denmark 2015

The film takes us through stages of emotional development of a young man from a childlike existence to full maturity and total independence. Director Dagur Kari in portraying the character of his protagonist pays a great deal of attention to psychological details, taking his time to build his process of development into a mature man. A very humane and heart warming film.


LAND OF MINE
Director : Martin Zandvliet
Denmark - Germany 2015

With the liberation of Holland at the end of second world war the Allied faced the problem of a good number of mine fields in need of detonation and decided to give this task to German prisoners. Director Martin Zandvliet bases his powerful drama on victimization of German soldiers. The prisoners ( mostly teenage boys ) are treated insensitively and cruelly by Allied officers, using them as a target for aggression and to retaliate for crimes of German army while the were victorious. The film by such a reversal of roles raises the morally controversial issue of consequence of victory and its effect on victors. Our sympathy is with young German prisoners.

The film's tension escalates with each occasion that the group goes through fear of death or sorrow of losing yet another friend. The film,s change of moral tone is personified in the character of the camp,s warden and his change of attitude from hostile prejudice and angry cruelty to sympathy, affection and kindness. It is a film which by condemning the consequences of war, whether victory or defeat, puts maximum value on humanity  

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Fish & Cat (Shahram Mokri, 2013)


MAHI VA GORBEH [Fish & Cat]
Director: Shahram Mokri
Reviewed by Kiomars Vejdani

The first thing we notice about Mahi va Gorbeh is the technical challenge Shahram Mokri has taken on board. The film is shot uninterruptedly from start to finish in one long take. But film’s technical excellence is only a doorway to a dark and ambiguous world. By passing through this doorway we face a labyrinth with multitude of questions awaiting us at every corner. Within a single shot of the film we encounter numerous characters, all crammed in a limited space, their life stories cutting across each other to make a complex pattern.

Our first point of contact with the film is a crime story. Right at the beginning of the film we are informed that it is based on a true event of horrible crimes committed by owners of a restaurant in northern Iran. But despite such information, there is no visual sign of any crime within the film. It is totally free of physical violence. Mokri seems not in the least interested in crime story. His approach to film’s subject is purely philosophical. Any referral to a committed crime is indirect and nothing more than a hint like the vague cry of anguish and agony we hear from far away, or the machete Babak takes with him before going into the woods and the blood stained foul smelling bag he carries along. Any intention of crime by Babak is only implied by his way of interaction with his potential victims, either a threatening manner (like his encounter with the driver at the beginning of the film), or a cunning approach (the way he lured Parvaneh into the depth of the woods). The nearest we get to witnessing any evidence of crime is the scene of the cat holding a cut off finger in his mouth. But again instead of visually presenting such an image it is described by Mina and we only have her horrified reaction as she stares straight at us. The subjective viewpoint of camera is enough to convey her horror.

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

The Program (Stephen Frears, 2015)


THE PROGRAM
Director: Stephen Frears; UK/France, 2015
Reviewed by Kiomars Vejdani

Stephen Frears' film about Lance Armstrong is dealing with not so much his sporting life but more so his personality. While film acknowledges his sporting talent as a cyclist and his courageous comeback after cancer, he puts more emphasis on his character flaws. He is selfish, excessively ambitious, obsessed with winning Tour de France. He uses any means to achieve his goal including unethical and illegal ones such as collaboration with doctor of dubious character and unprofessional conduct, clandestine use of illegal drugs. His activities move him gradually further away from true spirit of sport. The unethical aspect of Armstrong's activities are presented through the character of David Walsh, a sport journalist who stands up to him and makes his activities publicly known. As a result Armstrong loses all his awards.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Carol (Todd Haynes, 2015)


CAROL
Director: Todd Haynes; USA/UK, 2015
Reviewed by Kiomars Vejdani

In Todd Haynes' new film, like his Far From Heaven, the influence of Douglas Sirk is very much noticeable. Carol is a romantic melodrama about a relationship condemned and forbidden by the morality rules of the time (mid fifties, Haynes, favourite era) Carol (Cate Blanchett) is a rich woman from the upper class and a homosexual. She is attracted towards Therese (Rooney Mara)
a young photographer who is equally in love with her. Their relationship remains purely emotional for quite a while before reaching physical level. But there are many moral and social barriers in the way of their love, the most prominent one Carol's husband, a jealous and possessive man who nevertheless is desperately in love with Carol, frustrated by her loving someone else and angry about her homosexuality and its stigma. Only the courage of two women enables them to overcome the obstacles in the way of their love. The last moment of the film with alternate close ups of two women keep looking at each other is its highest romantic moment. Essential to film's romantic mood is the excellent performances by Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara (Winner of Best Actress Award in this year's Cannes Film Festival).

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Suffragette (Sarah Gavron, 2015)


SUFFRAGETTE
Director: Sarah Gavron; UK, 2015
Reviewed by Kiomars Vejdani

Meant to be one of the prestigious productions of the year, the film is about women's fight for the right to vote in England 1917, as inspired and led by the activist group Suffragetes. The film uses the experience of its protagonist (an ordinary housewife played by Carey Mulligan) to depict the development of the movement. From the condition of women with hard manual work and low wages in a male dominated world to gradual emergence of social awareness and reacting to the injustice of social discrimination, initially peaceful protest but later on defiant acts of sabotage, harsh treatment by the police to suppress the movement, sacrifices of losing job and family, and eventually recognition through one of the members sacrificing her life. Director Sarah Gavron gives a powerful drama based on her own feminist conviction and belief in the rights of women.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Francofonia (Alexander Sokurov, 2015)


FRANCOFONIA
Director: Alexander Sokurov; France/Germany/Netherlands, 2015
Reviewed by Kiomars Vejdani

The story of Louvre told the way only Alexander Sukorov can tell with a style as unique and distinguished as ever. Similarity of its visual treatment to Russian Arc (except its continuous take) is very noticeable. Like the previous film it takes us on a journey through time. From historical origin of Louvre and building of the castle in its initial form through different stages of its development with added structures, right up to its present day state. In his presentation of Louvre Sokurov's main emphasis is on its role in preservation of cultural and artistic heritage of France as the foundation of civilization. In developing his theme Sokurov resorts to any device. He takes us back and forth in time, moves between reality and fantasy. He uses any visual element at his disposal: archive material, dramatic re-enactment, and animation. He brings characters from history back to life. He jokes with them (Napoleon in particular is object of his fun), and in the end tells them their future. Accompanying the images we have Sokurov's continuous informative, and at times sarcastic commentary. Francofonia is more than a documentary. It is a document on necessity of having something of lasting values in the imperfect world of mankind.

Friday, October 16, 2015

El botón de nácar (Patricio Guzmán, 2015)


PEARL BUTTON
Director: Patricio Guzmán; France/Chile/Spain, 2015
Reviewed by Kiomars Vejdani

Patricio Guzmán in his new film uses the same format as Nostalgia for the Light, starting with exploration of nature by science and ending up with investigation of crimes committed by the dictatorial regime of Pinochet in Chile. In the previous film he used astronomy to explore stars in the universe and archaeology to find about early history of mankind in the sands of Atacama desert. But in his new film the object of his scientific exploration is water. It is argued that water is not only the source of life and its creation, but also the agent of its transfer between planets. The existence of water (and hence life) on other planets has been explored by scientific methods. On planet earth people at ancient times used water to move to new areas, settle and build their homes. They enjoyed a peaceful and happy life until Europeans arrived and a chain of exploitation and atrocity in countries like Chile began with criminal acts of previous dictatorial regime as its last link. Throughout the film Guzmán's running commentary is delivered in measured pace to accompany his poetic images. Presentation of atrocities in this film is not as elaborate as in Nostalgia for the Light, nevertheless it is equally powerful, specially in the section about throwing bodies attached to pieces of heavy metal from the aeroplane into the ocean to conceal evidences of their crimes. We see one of these pieces of metal brought back from the bottom of the sea by the divers. The human body is completely dissolved by the salt water of the ocean over the years. The only thing left of it is a pearl button implanted into the metal. The whole history of criminal acts of dictatorial regime is encapsulated in this tiny button.

Il Cinema Ritrovato 2012, Part I

photo by Ehsan Khoshbakht

گزارش جشنوارۀ Il Cinema Ritrovato، بولونيا، ايتاليا، 23 تا 30 ژوئن 2012
والش و گِرِميون، زير آفتاب سوزان
احسان خوش‌بخت

به اندرو ساريس

1 فرود
وقتي روي اولين پلۀ هواپيمايي كه بعد از يك ساعت و نيم گذر از آسمان آلمان و بلژيك در فرودگاه بولونيا در شمال ايتاليا آرام گرفته بود پاگذاشتم، موج گرما يخِ شبِ سردِ پيشين در فرودگاه استنستد لندن را آب كرد. آفتاب با وقار بولونيا به تابستانِ خاكستري جزيرۀ بريتانيا دهن كجي مي‌كرد و شعاع‌هاي درخشان نور روي ديوارهاي نارنجي و قهوه‌اي روشن و مردم بي‌خيال در شلوارك‌ها و عينك‌هاي آفتابي كه براي رسيدن به هركجا كه عازمش بودند كوچك‌ترين شتابي نداشتند، مرز بين اروپاي سرد پروتستان و معجزۀ حرارت مديترانه‌اي و فراغ خاطر كاتوليك‌هاي جنوب اروپا را پررنگ مي‌كرد. وقتي جرج سَندرز در سفر در ايتاليا نظرش دربارۀ اين سرزمين به اينگريد برگمن مي‌گويد («مردم پرسروصدا و تنبل»)، اظهار نظرش بيش‌تر نوعي حسادت نسبت به فرهنگي كه جاي سرسام را به آرامش و جاي ادب قراردادي را به سرخوشي داده به نظر مي‌رسد.
در حين حركت به طرف اتوبوسي كه به مركز شهر مي‌رفت لازم بود كه كم‌كم لباس‌هاي اضافي را به دل چمداني كه چرخ‌هايش از ديشب چند كيلومتري روي زمين به اين ور و آن ور كشيده شده بود بفرستم. اتوبوس از ايستگاه بيرون نيامده همشهري‌هاي مسن بولونيايي همديگر را پيدا مي‌كردند و به گرمي مشغول چاق سلامتي مي‌شدند. انگليسي‌هاي مسافر گيج و بهت زده به نظر مي‌آمدند و ژاپني‌ها دوربين‌هاي گران قيمت و لنزهاي غول‌آسايشان را از چمدان بيرون مي‌كشيدند. چه كسي مي‌تواند زير اين آفتاب خيره‌كننده كه انگار از چهار جهت روي سرت مي‌تابد عكس بگيرد؟ از چه عكس بگيرد؟ از ذوب شدن تدريجي فضا در آفتاب؟

Thursday, October 15, 2015

LFF 2015: First Feature Competition#2

Light Years
Reviews of the First Feature Competition at London Film Festival, Part II
By Kiomars Vejdani



LIGHT YEARS
Director: Esther May Campbell; UK, 2015

The film is from the collective point of view three children whose lives are affected by a dysfunctional father and a mostly absent mother due to mental illness. The impression they have of their parents is like a star light years away which even though can be seen by us might not exist any more. we see the fragmented lives of these children running parallel to each other with the hope of one day family being reunited.



PARTISAN
Director: Ariel Kleiman; Austria, 2014

The film revolves around the enigmatic character of Gregori (played by Vincent Cassel), the leader of a hideaway community of women and their children. He is protective of people under his care, providing them with food and amenities of life. But at the same time he acts like a dictator establishing arbitrary rules, very often illogical, at times immoral and even illegal. Anyone disobeying him will be banished from the community. His character is a mixture of saint and sinner. The double nature of his character is the basis for film's moral ambiguity. Our doubts about Gregori's character and his morality is personified by Alexander, an eleven year boy, who initially see him as a hero but gradually begins to see the other side of his character. The film ends at the moment of Alexander's indecision about the action to take against Gregori, leaving the audience in a moral limbo.


WEDDING DOLL
Director: Nitzan Gilady; Israel, 2015

The film has a mentally handicapped young girl as its protagonist. She can not survive without the support of her mother. She can cope with a simple manual job in a workshop. Her only talent is making wedding dolls. The plot revolves around her romantic fantasy about a young man who by emotionally exploiting her encourages the fantasy. Her ultimate dream is marrying the man which ends up in a bitter disillusionment at the climax of the film. The film's simple technique matches the purity and innocence of its main character.


KRISHA
Director: Trey Edward Shults; USA, 2015

A family drama about reunion of film's title protagonist with her her family. A complicated character with a range of emotional problems, Krisha is trying to re-establish rapport with her family after a long period of absence. But her excessive demand for love, both giving and receiving, proves to be counter-productive, causing rejection by members of the family. The film's tension builds up as the hostility of others escalates and becomes more direct ending up in the film's climax of a stormy scene. A powerful drama with an excellent performance by Krisha Fairchild in the title role.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

LFF 2015: First Feature Competition#1

3000 Nights

Reviews of the First Feature Competition at London Film Festival
By Kiomars Vejdani 


3000 NIGHTS
Director: Mai Masri; Palestine/France/Lebanon/UAE/Qatar, 2015

The film tells the story of a woman who for helping a young man on the run was charged with terrorism and spent eight years in an Israeli prison. Director Mai Masri with her background as a documentary film-maker has created a realistic, textured film with attention to details of environment and characters. Her powerful drama is based on clashes between Israeli and Arab women in the prison (at times amounting to violence), and cruelty inflicted on prisoners by a ruthless wardens (including torture). The horrifying atmosphere of prison well reflects the politically unstable situation in that part of the world where suspicion and hatred are the dominating sentiments.


LAMB
Director: Yared Zeleke; France/Ethiopia/Germany/Norway, 2015

The film is about loving relationship between a small boy and his lamb. The purity of his love is in sharp contrast with harsh attitude of adults who have to deal with realities of life. The boy's love represents innocence of childhood (his minor immoral acts such as petty thefts is carried out in all innocence to save his lamb), but eventually he realizes that a time will come to let his lamb go. Set in unspoiled landscape of Ethiopian mountainside, film tells its story with a simple technique to match the sentiment of is content.


THE WAIT
Director: Piero Messina; Italy, 2015

It is a study in bereavement and loss of loved ones. A mother who has lost her son find herself unable to break the news to her son's girlfriend, waiting for the right moment to do so. The film explores details of woman's grief from denial to acceptance. A suitable vehicle for Julitte Binoche who is expert in portraying women tormented by their emotions.


THE WITCH
Director: Robert Eggers; USA/Canada, 2015

In 17th century New England a devout Christian family living in a farm at the edge of the forest experience strange phenomena which they suspect is due to supernatural powers and work of devil. As the film progresses they gradually begin to suspect their teenage daughter to be a witch. The film's dramatic tension builds up as clashes between members of the family escalates to the histrionic level (similar to the case of Salem witches) ending in the climax of revelation. The film generates an undercurrent of horror in a Gothic atmosphere conveying the existence of evil force. In the final scene film shows the witch as the embodiment of our subconscious desires. Her victory and celebration conveys defeat of Christian faith in the hands of a more powerful enemy.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Taxi (Jafar Panahi, 2015) - LFF Review


TAXI (in the UK: TAXI TEHRAN)
Director: Jafar Panahi; Iran, 2015
Reviewed by Kiomars Vejdani

Following This Is Not a Film and Closed Curtain, Jafar Panahi's Taxi Tehran seems to be first and foremost his reaction to imposed restriction. In his new film (winner of Golden Bear at this year's Berlin Film Festival) the restriction is a self imposed one by limiting himself to the confined space of a taxi. By playing the role of taxi driver Panahi beaks the boundary between cinematic illusion and reality of life. Although taxi runs though streets of Tehran there is nothing specific about places visited. The main purpose of using a taxi is for Panahi to express his feelings and views through encounters with a series of passengers, showing two extreme lines of thought in the society such as in the scene when a heated argument between a fanatic man and a liberal-minded female teacher is depicted. Other passengers include: a man selling copies of pirated DVDs; Two women carrying goldfish in a bowl, highlighting the grip that religious superstition can have on people; Pleasant encounter with a friend (human right lawyer Nasrin Sotoudeh) voices social restrictions which Panahi himself has gone through.

But most interesting of all is Panahi's niece, a delightful little girl who is trying to make a film as a school project and is confused between restrictive instruction given by school and advice given by his uncle about how to search for reality. The film ends (or rather interrupted) by someone breaking into the taxi while Panahi is away for a short while. It is implied that it could be an act of surveillance rather than burglary. Panahi's final message seems to be he is prepared (and able) to work under any restrictive condition.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Jia Zhangke, A Guy from Fenyang (Walter Salles, 2015)


JIA ZHANGKE, A GUY FROM FENYANG
Director: Walter Salles; Brazil, 2015
Reviewed by Kiomars Vejdani

A film about a great director, made by another great. Walter Salles' documentary on Jia Zhangke is mainly made of conversation between the two filmmakers, while they visit various places from Zhangke's past life, including some of the locations used in his films. Tone of conversation is informal and friendly. Zhangke talks freely about his younger days and mischievous acts. He mentions his favourite films including some he remembers from his childhood (interestingly among them we see Raj Kapoor's Awara).  Further comments come from people in his life, including his wife and actress of his films Zhao Tao. The film gives an informative picture of Zhangke's world and the relationship between his life and his work. Walter Salles, treatment of his subject is intimate and friendly. But his affectionate respect for his follow filmmaker is felt throughout.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Sunset Song (Terence Davies, 2015)


SUNSET SONG
Director: Terence Davies; UK/Luxembourg, 2015
Reviewed by Kiomars Vejdani

Terence Davies is on top form with a film reminding us of his early works like Distant Voices, Still Lives. But while his new film is not autobiographical and is based on a novel by Lewis Grassic Gibon set in Scotland of the early 20th century, the familiar elements of romantic nostalgia is present. The film follows the life story of its protagonist from her days as a teenage girl, living in a farm with a loving mother and a tyrant of a father, and after their death becoming a farm owner, wife and mother, deeply in love with her husband until First World War brings her a sorrow that many women faced. A literary third person narration gives a film a poetic touch added to the visual beauty of its images, whether outdoors such as golden corn fields under the sun or indoors as lit by oil lamp or candle. Terence Davies at his most stylish.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Saul fia (László Nemes, 2015)


SON OF SAUL
Director: László Nemes; Hungary, 2015
Reviewed by Kiomars Vejdani

The first shot of the film establishes its theme and style: a long take fixed on the close-up of the protagonist with stages of extermination gas chamber proceeding in the blurred background. The film is from the point of view of Saul, a Sonderkommando (a prisoner in concentration camp, carrying out the unpleasant task of helping Nazis with their extermination). In a succession of long takes all the horrifying aspects of life in concentration camp is shown with Saul nearly always at the centre of the frame. We share his experience as he carries on with his task, from seeing prisoners are undressed and moved into the gas chamber and afterwards collecting their clothes and possessions. Director László Nemes has created a nightmarish atmosphere covering every aspect of atrocities committed by the Nazis. We watch prisoners murdered (either sent to gas chamber or shot dead) and being poured into a common grave. We hear their screams and even feel the smell of rotten bodies (by seeing Saul covering his mouth with a piece of cloth).The only sign of humanity in this infernal setting is Saul's determination to give a descent burial to a young boy who briefly survived the gas chamber. Holocaust has never been watched more closely. A well deserved winner of Grand Prix at Cannes Film Festival.

Friday, October 9, 2015

The Forbidden Room (Guy Maddin, 2015)


THE FORBIDDEN ROOM
Director: Guy Maddin; Canada, 2015
Reviewed by Kiomars Vejdani

Guy Maddin's surrealistic experimental film with its disjointed storyline, a succession of colourful psychedelic and monochrome images dissolving into one another to create a kaleidoscopic dream world. The film is full of literary and cinematic references (such as Jules Verne's submarine) as well as symbolic and analytic allusions (with forbidden room the ultimate one). A funny dialogue and narration, odd situations and eccentric characters (portrayed by exaggerated performances) gives the film its dry sense of humour and edge of satire. The film despite (or perhaps because of) its total chaos, incoherence and confusion keeps our interest alive and propel it forward right through to the end. If there is one one word to describe Maddin's delightful mixture of humour and fantasy it would be fantastic.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Évolution (Lucile Hadzihalilovic, 2015)


Évolution
Director: Lucile Hadzihalilovic; France, 2015
Reviewed by Kiomars Vejdani

Director Lucile Hadzihalilovic explores the sexual awakening of a young boy in the setting of a hospital in an isolated island, and his relationship with a young attractive girl (her nurse /carer). Film's approach is an analytical one with plenty of symbolism such as deep water for subconscious and final return to the shore of civilisation representing conscious level of mind. But director makes the picture even more complicated by taking the boy's relationship back to its origin in the system of evolution, thus adding Darwinism to Freudian psychology.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Room (Lenny Abrahamson, 2015)


ROOM
Director: Lenny Abrahamson; Canada-Ireland, 2015
Reviewed by Kiomars Vejdani

The film is from the point of view of a boy of five who has lived from birth in the confinement of a shed with no direct contact with the world outside. We share his restricted world and his confused perception of reality due to limited feedback he receives from his environment. For him a fly is real because it exists in his room but cats, dogs, and trees are illusion because they exist only on TV screen. The fact that he still has a good understanding of the world is because of her mother. She shares her son's confined environment and has made it the main task of her life to teach her son everything about world outside so that his perception of it remains normal. As the story progresses we come to realize the horrifying circumstances which has led to their present situation. The crucial question we face is how the boy is going to react to his own perception of reality after he reaches the world out side. The film answers this question in a most satisfying way. Lenny Abrahamson has built a powerful drama based on an unusual and emotive subject treated with great sensitivity and gentleness.

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Murnau's 4 Devils - Production Design Drawings

Feminine Vertigo [RIP Chantal Akerman 1950-2015]

Notes on Chantal Akerman's encounter with Hitchcock and Marcel Proust
Recently in a collection of articles in an Iranian film journal, dedicated to the Hitchcock’s Vertigo, one of my colleagues had chronicled the films influenced by Vertigo which covers many films from 1958 up to this day, directly inspired by Hitchcock’s masterpiece, or as an homage to it. Though a long and interesting list, it lacked one decisive title which in a sense is the most vertigoic of the all vertigo childrens; A film that presents love, death, voyeurism and obsession in the most contemporary context, reverses some of the gender issues of the original film, and significantly it’s been directed by a woman.  The film is La Captive [The Captive] (2000), directed by Chantal Akerman and an adaptation of Marcel Proust’s La Prisoniere (volume five of In Search of Lost Time).


The story follows Simon (Stanislas Merhar), survivor of a wealthy family who lives with his grandmother (Midge?), and in love with Ariane (Sylvie Testud), while she is in love with both Simon and Andrée (a girl with whom she has a close relationship). Simon is allergic and vulnerable even to the smell of flowers.  Such is Simon’s vertigo and interestingly, there are workers painting the walls, throughout the film, leaving him to cope with allergic reactions to the smell of paint. Simon wants to change Ariane and shape her, like a statue, to his own liking. He tries hard, but fails, as Ariane drowns (or get lost) at sea.
Akerman’s film has a prologue which serves as an equivalent to the roof chase scene at the beginning of the Vertigo. Simon is watching an 8mm film of a woman, whom he will be eventually following. The shots become closer to the woman and Simon is obsessed by her. This is Simon’s fall!

Then story more and less follows the pattern of Vertigo that is mostly evident in the two Hitchcockian themes of chase and gaze. Similarities are more than one can imagine: following her by car and the static medium shot of Simon, following her to the museum and the hotel, she is dressed in grey, he stands in the doorways and looks at her emotionless. In the museum there is a statue of a woman whose hair reminds us of Kim Novak’s famous bun. These alternations in Akerman’s work when become necessary, and even crucial, that the idea of possession turns into male looking at female as a museum piece, a lifeless object that could be the source of passion and inspiration. Akerman points his camera to the masculine mindsets of Simon. One of the most expressive scenes happens in the museum, when Simon is surrounded by statues of women who have missing arms, heads or legs. Simon is unable to link the real identities of the woman he loves, or he thinks he love, with his thoughts and temptations which are based upon “women as an object to worship and idolize”. There is a physical obstacle between him and women (as in the famous poster showing a glass barrier between Simon and Ariane) that makes him a mere observer.


In Akerman’s view, things could be simple, real and tangible for a woman. Woman lives and the man’s life is watching the woman live.  Ariane allows Simon to mold her into the object of his desires, obeys his every whim and wish. The combination of his authority and her total compliance leads the situation to a bitter end, Akerman’s version of the tower of death. During his long drive to the beach, Simon tries to search the real core of Ariane. For the very first time we see him trying to understand her. But his efforts are shattered by her death in the sea. The closing scene shows Simon (Scottie?) on a boat, searching for her body. As in the last scene of Vertigo, everything is in grey. If Scottie overcomes his fear, Simon seems to be lost forever.

La Captive is not a masterpiece, but it has many brilliant ideas in dealing with Vertigo which are executed almost flawless. I think this is one of the best tributes to Hitchcock’s cinema. If Vertigo between psychoanalysis and poetry choose the second, La Captive stays faithful to the first, and creates a powerful dreamlike story of the oldest notion of possession in history: man owning woman! She dismantles this concept, demystifies it, and stays calm all the way.

Feminine Vertigo [Farsi][repost]


شانتال آكرمن، ديروز، دوشنبه، خودكشي كرد. - 14 مهر 1394

پرسۀ شانتال آكرمن در دنياي هيچكاك و پروست
سرگيجۀ زنانه

در شماره مهر 1389 ماهنامه 24 حسن حسيني به فهرستي از فيلم‌هايي اشاره كرده كه زمينه‌ها را براي ظهور سرگيجه فراهم كرده‌اند (كه البته بيشترشان بدون تأثير مستقيم بر خالق سرگيجه فقط پيشينه‌هاي سينمايي سرگيجه محسوب مي‌شوند) و سپس فهرست طولاني‌تري از فيلم‌هاي بعد از سرگيجه، آثاري كه با تأثير بلاواسطه از شاهكار هيچكاك يا به‌عنوان اداي دين به آن ساخته شده‌اند. من مايلم به فهرست او يك فيلم ديگر (از ميان انبوهي از فيلم‌هاي كه مي‌توان جزو چنين فهرستي دانست) اضافه كنم، فيلمي كه به نظر مي‌رسد بيش از اداي دين‌هاي مستقيم و معمولاً آسيب ديده از تصويرپردازي‌هاي خلاقانه، اما بي‌بنيان دي‌پالما مانند وسوسه (1976) و بدل (1984) به روح سرگيجه نزديك‌تر [1] و تنها وابسته به مفاهيم اصلي فيلم و چند تصوير ازلي آن است؛ فيلمي كه مفهوم عشق، وويريزم و وسوسه را در متني امروزي تكرار مي‌كند و از همه مهم‌تر اين كه وسوسه مردانه، كه نقطه ديد فيلم و زاويه روايت آن است، حفظ شده، اما اين‌بار راوي و تعيين كننده مسير اين نگاه، يك زن است: شيفته/زنداني [La captive] (2000)، ساختۀ خانم شانتال آكرمن، بر اساس داستان زنداني مارسل پروست، از جلد پنجم در جستجوي زمان از دست رفته.
داستان تقريباً چنين است: سيمون (استانيلاس مرار) شيفتۀ آريان (سيلوي تسو) مي‌شود. آريان دو هويت دارد (او هم شيفته سيمون است و هم آندره، دختري كه با او روابطي نزديك دارد). سيمون مي‌خواهد آريان را به شكلي كه خودش مي‌خواهد در بياورد. تمام سعي خود را مي‌كند، اما ناكام مي‌ماند، به‌خصوص وقتي در انتها آريان در دريا غرق مي‌شود يا اين‌كه گم مي‌شود. سيمون كه احتمالاً تنها بازمانده‌ خانواده‌اي ثروتمند است كه با مادربزرگش (ميج!) زندگي مي‌كند. او دچار آلرژي است و بوي يك دسته گل مي‌تواند او را زمين‌گير كند. اين سرگيجه سيمون است و جالب اين كه در تمام فيلم در خانۀ قديمي او عده‌اي مشغول رنگ كردن ديوارها هستند. موقعيت بحراني او عبارت است از تركيب آلرژي و بوي رنگ!
 
روايت آكرمن يك مقدمه كوتاه و متفاوت دارد كه مي‌‌توان آن را معادل تعقيب روي بام سرگيجه دانست. سيمون در حال تماشاي فيلمي هشت ميلي‌متري از زني است كه بعدها دست به تعقيبش مي‌زند. نماها مرتباً به زن نزديك‌تر مي‌شوند و سيمون شيفته او مي‌شود. اينfall  سيمون است (كه در انگليسي هم براي سقوط و هم عاشق شدن به كار مي‌رود). [2] سپس فيلم در فصل‌ آغازينش مو به مو الگوي سرگيجه را به كار مي‌برد. سيمون آريان را پياده يا با اتوموبيل تعقيب مي‌كند. رنگ لباس آريان خاكستري است. نماهاي نقطه نظر سيمون از خيابان‌ها و ماشين آريان، نماهايي عموماً طولاني و تقريباً هميشه ساده‌اند. سيمون در تعقيب آريان به هتل و سپس موزه مي‌‌رود. موهاي آريان تاب‌خورده و هميشه باز است، بنابراين به جاي تأكيد روي گره موي او آكرمن مجسمه‌اي با آرايش موي كيم نوواك را جايگزين مي‌كند. تغيير آكرمن وقتي سرنوشت ساز مي‌شود كه در نگاه مردانه، زن، شيئي كه مايل است آن را به تملك خود در بياورد مجسمه‌اي سرد و سنگي است. در سكانس موزه اطراف سيمون مملو از مجسمه‌هايي است كه پيكره‌هايي بي‌دست، بي‌پا يا بي‌سر از زنان را نشان مي‌دهد. سيمون قادر نيست بين هويت‌ واقعي زناني كه احاطه‌اش كرده‌اند، با وسوسه‌هاي خود و تخيلات مردانه‌اش پيوندي برقرار كند. او هميشه با فاصله فيزيكي – مثل نماي معروفي كه او و آريان با شيشه از هم جدا شده‌اند – در كنار زنان قرار مي‌گيرد، يا اين كه مثل مجسمه تنها بهره‌اي كه مي‌برد «نظاره كردن» است.
 
در نگاه آكرمن همه چيز براي زن ساده، واقعي، ملموس و زميني است. زن زندگي مي‌كند و مرد تنها اين زندگي كردن را نظاره مي‌كند. مرد منفعل است و معناي زندگي‌اش را از راه نگاه به زندگي زن به دست مي‌آورد. زن اجازه مي‌دهد تا مرد او را به شكلي كه خودش مي‌خواهد دربياورد. او مطيع خواسته‌اي مرد است و انتخاب، حتي انتخاب آب‌پز بودن يا نبودن تخم مرغ‌هاي شام، را به مرد وامي‌گذارد. اما تركيب وسواس‌ها و فرمان‌بري‌هايِ پايان‌نا‌پذير همه چيز را به آخر خط مي‌رساند. مرد در رانندگي طولاني به سوي دريا – معادل حركت به سوي كليساي اسپانيول– سعي مي‌كند به حقيقت دروني زن پي ببرد. تلاش او با مرگ نابهنگام زن و گم شدنش در تاريكي دريا ناتمام مي‌ماند. آخرين نماي فيلم سيمون را سوار بر قايقي در جستجوي جسد زن نشان مي‌دهد. همه چي مثل نماي آخر سرگيجه خاكستري است.
 
شيفته/زنداني يك شاهكار نيست، و حتي لحظات گذرايي هست كه فيلم در آن كند و بي‌رمق به نظر مي‌رسد، اما ايده‌هاي ساختاري آن درخشان‌اند و به خوبي اجرا شده‌اند. بخشي كه به سرگيجه هيچكاك مربوط مي‌شود فيلم را به يكي از بهترين اداي دين‌ها به دنياي هيچكاك بدل كرده است. بايد گفت دقيقاً به خاطر تغيير نگاه مردانه به زنانه، فيلم شاكرمن به وسوسه‌ها و رنج‌هايي كه بعدي شاعرانه به فيلم هيچكاك داده، نگاهي واقعي انداخته است، به همين خاطر فيلم او بيشتر شبيه به تحليل يك روانكاو است تا روايت يك شاعر. بقيه زناني كه در اين سرگيجه نقشي مهم داشته‌اند عبارتند از: سابين لانسلين با فيلم‌برداري رنگ‌مرده و تابلو وارش، كلر آترتون با تدوين تعليق‌دار و بلاخره كريستين مارتي با طراحي صحنه درخشانش.
 
تصور من اين است كه تأثير سرگيجه بر سينما پاياني نخواهد داشت، درست همان‌طور كه بيل كرون درباره موقعيت مادلن اظهار نظر مي‌كند: «شاید سرگیجه ساختار یک رویا را داشته باشد اما چنین نکات ظریفی آن را تبدیل به چیزی دیگر می‌کند: چشم‌بندی با نوار سلولوید، زنجیره‌ای از وهم. به‌همین‌خاطر توهمی ‌به نام مادلن هرگز توجیه نخواهد شد و تنها تا ابد ادامه خواهد یافت.» تا زماني كه مادلن هست، سرگيجه ادامه خواهد داشت و به همين ترتيب فيلم‌هايي مانند شيفته/زنداني. همه اين فيلم‌ها نمايش مرداني هستند كه دچار بزرگ‌ترين نوع وسوسه‌اند: وسوسه براي خود وسوسه به عنوان راهي براي زنده بودن، شركت در بازي و مادامي كه فيلم‌ها مطرحند، اشاره به ماهيت خود سينما.


پانويس:
[1] منهاي Dressed to Kill ، شاهكاري از دي‌پالما كه چكيده سينماي هيچكاك و رواني است و گهگاه، مثل سكانس موزه، از الگوي اصلي‌اش هم پيشي مي‌گيرد.
[2] اين بازي‌هاي كلامي با تصوير، در خود سرگيجه فراوانند. مشهورترين آن به بعد اروتیک فيلم و عبارت Laying a ghost برمي‌گردد كه Lay هم می‌تواند معنای جن‌گیری داشته باشد و هم تصاحب تن.