Posts Tagged ‘interview’
Too often in the movies, affairs are either blithely romanticized in the grand European tradition of middlebrow “passion” films (The French Lieutenant’s Woman comes to mind) or used as a teaching tool to bludgeon audiences into accepting a damning moral perspective on the consequences of extramarital activity. (See Little Children, for instance.) Life has its own current, though, and the nature of relationships sometimes follows a pattern that is chaotic and irrational, messy and perturbing, where the boundaries between love and naked contempt (ah, Godard!) are no longer discernible. Movies from Voyage to Italy all the way down to Maren Ade’s Everyone Elsehave portrayed intra-relationship dynamics with emotional honesty and astute insight, leaving us with memorable impressions of love in a state of deterioration, or foundering on the shoals of time. In his fourth feature film, Romanian filmmaker Radu Muntean (Boogie, The Paper Will Be Blue) again fastens his attention on the question of intimacy and loneliness, crafting a frank, tightly constructed three-character drama that speaks volumes about marriage, desire, and how we negotiate the varieties of attachment we have to other people.
When Lu Chuan’s City of Life and Death won the top prize at the San Sebastián Film Festival two years ago, it was a testament not only to the emotional resonance and technical mastery of his widescreen black-and-white epic, which dramatizes the infamous 1937 Nanjing massacre at the height of the Second Sino-Japanese War, but a tacit acknowledgment of the film’s daring revisionist ambitions. A graduate of the Beijing Film Academy, Lu had previously directed a small-scale crime thriller, Missing Gun, and the critically well received Kekexili, Mountain Patrol, a rural drama about efforts to stop antelope poachers that screened at Sundance and won the Grand Jury Prize at the Tokyo Film Festival. But the latest film by this talented 40-year-old writer-director, the result of years of research and toil, has a depth of feeling that far surpasses his previous efforts. While previous homegrown films about the massacre (Dont’ Cry Nanjing comes to mind) have mythologized the incident, framing it in crassly melodramatic terms that speak more to patriotic ideology than to the messy, morally complicated realities of war, City of Life and Death unfolds on a monumental scale, detailing the assault on the village, the systematic mass killings of civilians by Japanese soldiers, and the establishment of a safety zone for refugees, all seen through the eyes of those stationed or held captive within the capital city.
Television has been blamed for the dumbing down of the American public since the ascendance of the boob tube in the 1950s. But in Italy, where scandal-plagued prime minister Silvio Berlusconi controls the flow of information through his monopolistic holdings in that nation’s biggest media conglomerates, there is a more insidious aspect to the chronic press muzzling at RAI and trashy tits-and-ass programming that predominate on his Mediaset channels. If you want to get a sense of how the billionaire entrepreneur’s televisual imagination has transformed the political and mass-media landscape in Italy, Erik Gandini’s cunningly choreographed documentary Videocracy provides plenty of food for thought, taking a gimlet-eyed view of the Berlusconi phenomenon. But instead of stampeding into this tangle of cultural conflict with rhetorical guns a-blazing, Gandini, an Italian-born filmmaker based in Sweden (Gitmo: The New Rules of War), adopts a far subtler, more intriguingly first-person approach.
Long before she became an Oscar-winning filmmaker, Dartford native Andrea Arnold settled on a path that was anything but conventional. After moving to London in the late ’70s, she worked as a dancer on Top of the Pops, and later became a TV presenter in Britain for Saturday-morning kids’ programs like No. 73, Motormouth, and the enviro-awareness series A Beetle Called Derek. Never entirely comfortable in front of the cameras, Arnold was always writing, logging story ideas and character sketches. She left television in the early ’90s, went to film school, and made two shorts that screened at Cannes. In 2003, her 26-minute short Wasp, about a chronically stressed, emotionally desperate single mother living in a Dartford housing project, nabbed an Academy Award for best live-action short. Then came Arnold’s Cannes Jury Prize winner Red Road (2006), a raw, suspenseful, ingeniously constructed personal drama set mostly in a dark CCTV surveillance office in Glasgow. It was the kind of film—moody, absorbing, nerve-jarring, expressionistic—that made you sit up and take notice of this remarkably assured new filmmaker, and wonder where she would direct her energies next.
Topping the Korean box office is no small feat for a first-time filmmaker, given the perennial offerings of sassy romantic comedies and vivid, attention-grabbing genre flicks from this nation’s impressive stable of film artists. It’s even more improbable when you’ve made a no-frills documentary (not so popular in South Korea) for less than $150,000 about the relationship between an elderly farmer and his aged ox. But a few months after it hit the market at the 2008 Pusan International Film Festival, where it won the best documentary award, Lee Chung-ryoul’s Old Partner became one of the most successful indies in Korean film history, playing on more than 150 local screens and drawing 1 million viewers on word-of-mouth buzz alone. It went on to jostle for the Grand Jury Prize in world documentary at Sundance last January, the first time a Korean documentary has been entered in the Park City competition. No one must have been more surprised than Lee, a veteran TV producer whose humble maiden feature—a human-bovine buddy film—has captured the imagination of audiences from Seoul to Vienna.
“A connoisseur of longing and remembrance who brings great sensitivity to each of his reflective fables, Japan’s Hirokazu Kore-eda should be better known in the States, as his films extend the tradition of world-class artists like Naruse and Ozu. Enthralled with the operation of memory and the impact of grief on the lives of everyday people, Kore-eda has created a body of work that’s as rich with feeling as it is modest in tone. In Maborosi (1995), Kore-eda told the story of a quietly devastated young widow struggling to move on after her husband commits suicide. He then departed from this film’s elegant compositions and moody, color-saturated production design to draw on the observational techniques he’d developed earlier in his career as a documentary filmmaker. After Life (1998), built around interviews he conducted with hundreds of participants, visits an institutional purgatory where the recently deceased are asked to choose a single recollection to relive for eternity as a film. Distance (2001) and Nobody Knows (2004) are both loosely based on high-profile news items: the emotional aftermath of the Aum Shinrikyo sarin-poisoning tragedy and the heartrending story of three school-age children who survived for 200 days in an apartment after being abandoned by their mother. Even Hana (2006), an Edo period piece, has none of the usual trappings of the jidai geki genre, instead emphasizing the gentle, domestic rituals of a reluctant samurai-turned-village teacher who elects not to avenge the murder of his father. Throughout these films, Kore-eda studiously avoids the pitfalls of cynicism and sentimentality, exploring the private worlds of vulnerable, emotionally complex people with extraordinary grace and subtlety.”
While meandering alone in the outer precincts of the World Wide Web, surveying long stretches of benighted digital landscape like one of W.G. Sebald’s history-haunted narrators, I happened across an unusual new biannual publication: World Picture Journal. The editors are Brian Price and Meghan Sutherland, professors at Oklahoma State University, and John David Rhodes, based at the University of Sussex. I’m not familiar with their work, but a few names on the editorial board immediately popped out at me: Marxist theorist Ernesto Laclau, Homeland novelist Sam Lipsyte, and “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” essayist Laura Mulvey all play an advisory role at WPJ. Apart from that, details are hard to come by. There’s no mission statement on the Web site (although a conference announcement mentions the journal’s interest in “the intersection of political and aesthetic questions concerning cinema, visual art, and visual theory”), nor is there any indication whether this is a print or online-only review. Thanks to a link at Film-Philosophy, though, I learned that it is a free, open-access digital digest.
Why do I bring this to your attention? Because the quality and range of the essays on the site are impressive. Read the rest of this entry »