Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Short Reviews from the 31st Mar Del Plata International Film Festival

Nocturama” (2016), Bertran Borello
An electric (and well shot) first part showing the complexity of organized simultaneous terrorist attacks in Paris gets bogged down by teen stupidity when the terrorist group awaits in an empty mall for the air to clear. Regardless of the morbid goodwill generated by the first part, this film is a clear dangerous provocation to the establishment and to citizenry. It glamorizes terror for a pre-adult audience, there is no escaping it, and the director will not convince me otherwise. I completely understand why it was rejected in Cannes, and if the movie did the same thing with the Nazi Youth, this Borello guy could see the inside of a prison cell if presented in some European countries. Another false progressive opens the way for the extreme right wing counter-revolution of Le Pen.
(The problems of the second and third generation immigrants in the banlieue of Paris are real, but this is another animal).

Monger” (2016), Jeff Zorilla
I was expecting a more elaborated work about sexual tourism in Argentina, and I just got images of an obviously sick-in-the-head American going to ugly prostitutes in the downtown financial district of Buenos Aires with some invitees and a beginner Youtuber; and snippets of a completely different story about a British milquetoast guy with resources that somehow managed to have a son with another bottom-of-the-barrel prostitute, which got some money out of the deal. Disappointing.

Reach for the SKY” (2016), Choi Woo-Young & Steven Dhoedt
South Korea, a near dystopian present reality. Hundreds of thousands of students prepare for the annual exam which will define which university they can choose, and thus their social status, their lives. This is an exceptional documentary filmed as a suspenseful thriller about the victory over a self-imposed societal adversity. We follow three students shooting for the stars, the dwindling day clock a reminder of the crucial moment when students must vomit fleeting knowledge to justify the legal reification of Korean social classes. Not only recommended, it should be obligatory for policy makers as a cautionary tale. But I am sure many of those would take it as a positive mechanism to implement the never properly understood malignant concept of “meritocracy”.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_bSlk4XRBtI

People that are not me” (2016), Hadas Ben Aroya
This one is personal. I was part of a certain Tel Aviv cultural milieu that walked and talked on the streets depicted; I was at the opposite side of the estrangement in a similar relationship as one found on the screen (not telling you which one); I studied in the same faculty that gave us this young director. Hadas film feels fresh (albeit not new) and naturalist. It is small, but she only wants to tell you about one idea: love is impossible in a hipster city of the post-post-modern age. Joy, the character Hadas plays, is both a victim and a perpetrator. Yes, I liked it, but I am too entrenched on the subject and place. Even the building I lived during three years in Tel Aviv appears on the movie (Personal note: I met Hadas in the Festival, she is adorable and smart).

Free Fire” (2016), Ben Wheatley.
Two teams, one warehouse, lots of guns. Mayhem ensues. Set in the 1970s to evade the cellphone issue. The problem is that this kind of movies lives or dies based on the correct use of the limited space. Wheatley, by design or by inefficient preparation, does not present a sharp image of the location of every character and their spacial relations to each other. Also, at some points characters seem to merge in a bloody blob,when you can`t tell apart a couple of guys. The pervading nihilism masked as black humor does not help either. Fun as any filmed shooting can be, but nowhere near “Green Room” or similar Carpenter homages.

Actor Martinez” (2016), Nathan Silver & Mike Ott
Millennial hipster douches exploit a working class aspiring actor by “filming his normal life” but zoning badly into his worst personal moments and insecurities. And that is not the plot, that is the reality of the project. Some zooms work, some compositions and one circular shot say “cinema”. The rest is the unequal relation of power between young directors and a person that deserves better. Infuriating. The directors answered questions after the movie and confirmed that this was an experiment and that they don`t care. Another reason why Trump won the US elections.

Seoul Station” (2016), Sang-ho Yeon
Blunt and effective social commentary. The homeless and destitute become (are) zombies and they are coming to eat “us”. Why me? Says one character that thinks that he did everything right to belong to society. Maybe that is why you. Excellent thinking companion piece to the concurrent action film by the same director (“Train to Busan”).
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3845670/

La Reconquista” (2016), The Reconquest, Jonás Trueba
A broken teen love is answered fifteen years later by the male victim with amusement. This is my interpretation and will crash against the simplistic and literal view from the other side of the gender valley. It has an uncommon structure, the re-encounter with the female guiltless “free spirit” comes first, then the current situation of the male, then the story of their teen love. “La Reconquista” says more about the state of modern relationships than the fake adulthood of Linklater stars. For some free spirits the best years of their lives are in the past, for its victims the best are still in the future. Damn hipsters, dancing in the deck of the Titanic.

Lo and Behold, Reveries of the Connected World” (2016), Werner Herzog.
Werner Herzog and the past, present and future of the Internet. What else can define “festival happiness”? The film consists in some ten vignettes about the influence of the interconnected world in our lives, from the point of view of a poet and thinker that was here before it defined our lives. Some segments have been covered by multiple documentary TV shows and articles, some feel fresh, especially those concerning the origin of the Net. Still, when the guide is Werner Herzog, not many things can go wrong on this trip. Features the creators of the Internet, hackers, robots, wave radiation, sickness, Elon Musk and his dreams of a Martian lifeboat, and the coming Apocalypse. Recommendable.

The Dying of the Light” (2016), Peter Flynn
Uber-nostalgic documentary about film and projectionists. It seems to be made for the general unknowledgeable public,which is fine, but the wide scope (from Edison to DCP) lacks focus (wink wink, oh God, I am a hipster,please no God, oh please, take the irony away from me). Yes, many old cinemas in the US are derelict, and no, you can`t explain that phenomena with throwaway names: i.e. “Television”. Still, watchable and the viewer may learn something from it.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5217256/?ref_=nv_sr_2

Paradise” (2016), Andrzej Konchalovsky
Nazis are bad, but they are people. Aristocrats are people too! And they can be good! Who knew? Useless.

Operation Avalanche” (2015), Matt Johnson
Found footage conspiration tale about the “moon landing”. Justin Long said it well enough in”Galaxy Quest”: “I knew it!” That`s all you need to know about the movie. Mavericks, mischief and finally tension abounds, but the possibilities are crippled by the gimmick. You can actually see the kid inside the director enjoying himself over a personal fantasy finally done on “film”. Nothing groundbreaking, but entertaining nevertheless. Convincing period era technicals, opening credits are special and Stanley Kubrick gets a cameo.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt3776826/?ref_=nv_sr_1

En Busca del Muñeco Perdido” (2016) In Search of the Lost Giant Puppet, Hernán Biasotti & Facundo Baigorri
Looney Tunes comedy is often captured by populist Thai filmmakers complete with “boing boing” sounds effects and cheap CGI. This Argentinean guerrilla filmmaking version comes to the field (sans CGI) with a barrage of jokes, some embarrassing, some that actually work. A group of friends must find their stolen bonfire puppet before the break of the new year`s morning. Tighter editing could make this one a more polished package that can jumpstart a new genre movement in these southern lands. Some aspects of the movie cannot be understood in foreign markets, but the tale of the eternal losers waiting for glory at side of the soccer field is fairly universal. Made by (wait for it) ten thousand dollars and a lot of sweat and friends.

Onión” (2016), Juan Pablo Zaramella
Bookended by crass scenes of white trash behaving badly there is an inspired and funny esoteric acid trip that runs like a tank over a similar “Doctor Strange” sequence, then brakes and puts reverse to bury it a little bit more. Zaramella seems to be a smartass. Enjoyable.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6255764/?ref_=nm_flmg_dr_1

Doctor Strange” (2016), Scott Derrickson.
The conveyor belt of movies for overgrown slow children continues with this outing. The charismatic Benedict Cumberbatch makes the ridiculous work in an origin story for those that never have seen one. The idiotic mythology contains one kaleidoscopic sequence and a couple of place-marker “Inception” bits that look expensive, chaotic and innocuous as hell. Better than most Marvel drivel, still below “Iron Man” or “Guardians of the Galaxy”. Why are you spending money to watch these things, anyway?

Headshot” (2016), Kimo Stamboel & Timo Tjahjanto
Ultra-violent “level-up” Indonesian actioneer, with spectacular coreography by Iko Uwais and mild melodrama scenes. You have seen nothing like this since “The Raid”. There is some certainty in the videogame-like structure of growing difficulty and final bosses, but the realization is novel (enough) inside the parameters of the genre. Think it as a mix of Jackie Chan and his use of objects with a 21st Century dynamic camera of a realist “Scott Pilgrim” scheme.
Seen in the 31st Mar del Plata International Film Festival. Review by Pablo Podhorzer.
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt5147214/



Review of "The Year of Living Dangerously" (1982), Peter Weir

Mel Gibson and Sigourney Weaver at the very top of their game. A talented director just coming from down under to Hollywood.  And an era that still allowed for originality and non-caclulated risks.  The cast is completed with Linda Hunt, acting as a man, in the kind of character that is bound the appear in all clips about diversity in the film industry.

"The Year..." is about journalists and other high-level ex-pats in Sukarno`s Indonesia, troubled times, when Muslim generals and communist revolutionaries expect to swing the powerful leader to their cause, or die trying.  It has been copied various times to this day, from the superficial part of the plot (Whiskey Tango Foxtrot, 2016) to specific suspenseful scenes (Argo, getting the passport stamped in the airport).  "The Year..." has a very good sense of place and time, and a nostalgic feel of impossibility as seen from the contemporary connected reality.  We can`t go back home, but we yearn for it. We do it every time we try to travel to exotic locations, to no avail: the result is an Instagram stream as rare as a Starbucks franchise in the United States.

It is rare to watch characters as those in the film nowadays.  Some of them act without further intentions of personal profit, just from their sense of decency and what it should be.  Moral "beings of Light" and profiteers of decadence fight in embassy soirees and hotel parties.  With the power of insight we already know that darkness won the battle.  However "The Year..." offers hope.  Not in a teen dystopic fantasy, not with comic book super-heroes, but with real pulsating human beings.

Are you kidding me? Yes, Watch it, with a drink and smokes (****)

Sunday, November 30, 2014

Mar del Plata Film Festival, November 2014. Some notes (III)

Some other movies:

Summer of Blood, Onur Tukel, USA.

  • "Red Pill" vampire movie.  Is about the heart of the vampire ethos: how to explain women´s choices in men (or: "nice guys finish last").
  • The style is self-conscious slacker Woody-Allen.
  • It works!
Watch it (***)

 
Reimon, Rodrigo Moreno, ARG.

  • Illustration of Marx´s description of the use of time in a typical day for the working class.
  • The main character is a real person filmed while she goes through her day.  Around her are a couple of upper-middle class characters (which the director considers to be "middle-class", I guess due to his own high-class origin) read from "Das Kapital".  It is not as boring as it sounds.
  • Is the talent is this movie accidental or in purpose? Who knows.  Maybe its good things are the things I want to see in it, be color schemes in the houses the character visits or upper-middle class behaviors.
Watch, and discuss (¿**1/2? Surely *** if you like discussing Marx).


Aventurera, Leonardo D´Antoni, ARG.

  • Pretty Colombian immigrant in Buenos Aires advances her career by using (being used by) men.
  • Some emotional moments sound false, and I wish that the treatment of the remains of the moral consciousness of the main character was more organic.
  • As it is the door is open to put yourself on both sides of the issue (the "poor victim" at its center), since guilt appears and is not clear how its dissolution will proceed.
Watch it (**1/2)


Wyrmwood, Kiah Roache-Turner.

  • Trashy zombie movie with exactly two novel ideas for this genre.  That´s it, just for disposable consumption.
You can watch, be sure to throw the container in the bin (**1/2)


Almost Friends (aka "Linor and Samar"), Nitzan Ofir, Israel

  • Is this a documentary?  It felt like a fiction, is really well filmed, most issues relevant to the case are explained on-screen.  For the uninitiated, a little bit more of background would have been good, but that would mean to hear the director´s voice, and I guess that he does not want to show his cards in the open.
  • Arab-Israeli (Palestinian with Israeli ID) girl and Jewish-Israeli religious girl meet under a school program.  They wait, they hope, they talk.
Watch it (***)


Solo, José R. Nóvoa, ¿Colombia?

DO NOT WATCH (*), just garbage.

 

Magical Girl, Carlos Vermut, Spain.

  • Well filmed tale.
  • That makes every character guilty of something.
  • And proceeds to promptly punish each one of them with violence... and more violence.
  • Nihilist to an extreme, and people seem to like that.  I don´t.  It is the ideology of death.  It is so easy to fall under this kind of spell.  It is a world-view born from a video-store employee mind (Tarantino), not an intellectual of any kind.  This film hurts the human race, more so by being well filmed.
Mmmm, depends if you want to be a serial killer, a genocidal monster or just a dehumanizing soldier.  For Pol Pot wannabes (***), for human beings (**).
 

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Mar del Plata Film Festival, November 2014. Some notes (II)

Let`s see:

Jauja, Lisandro Alonso, ARG.

  • Really good... if you have problems sleeping.
  • Could have worked as a series of stills in some art gallery.
DO NOT watch (*)


Gente de Bien, Franco Lolli, Colombia.

  • Colombian neorrealism.
  • Is about social class, but not about economic warfare.  More about the rights associated with "being part".  Do poor people have the right to educate their sons?
  • There is a danger of taking it as a sign that nothing is going to change,that "the poor are like this and always will be".
  • It is good that Colombians now can watch this.  Still long stretches of awakening to go.
Watch it (***)


Mr. Kaplan, Alvaro Brechner, Uruguay
  • Funny Holocaust-related movie (!!).
  • Feel-good (yep, same Holocaust-related movie).
  • Filmed as a classic comedy with some hints of 21st Century "digitalism",but just a little.  It is mostly family 1960s comedy territory.
WATCH it (***1/2 or ****,depending on your mood)


Open Windows, Nacho Vigalondo , Spain.

  • Vigalondo is a very cool guy (nothing to do with the movie, I just met him, and he is a cool cat).
  • Opening-windows-in-a-computer gimmick is gimmicky.  But, that is the point of the movie,sort of.
  • Maybe it will be trapped with others into the "found-footage" subgenre.
  • Not so good as "Timecrimes" or "Extraterrestrial" IMHO.  Some parts are pulled from Vigalondo`s cool ass.  But he is aware of that, his mind was on the gimmick.  Which is an interesting one.
Watch it (**1/2) (lots of  movies with 3 stars for me in this Festival, maybe I should give 2 to some of them, if I`m feeling harsh).

Don`t kill me Nacho, I still liked it, but you know, twists are not for everybody.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Mar del Plata Film Festival, November 2014. Some notes (I)

El Patròn: Anatomía de un crimen, Sebastián Schindel (ARG):

  • Real story is terrible and impressive.
  • Good scenes in butcher shop about this particular sub-world.
  • Bare by-the-numbers characterization of corrupt or just inefficient judicial system.
  • Intrusive melodramatic music in certain scenes("now feel sad").
  • Simplification of the moral scheme (sympathy for the "hero" and hate for the "bad guy"). 
 Watch (***)


Birdman, Alejandro G. Iñarritu, USA.
  • Technical marvel in some sequences.
  • Self-important.
  • Good Oscar-chewing acting by Batm...I mean, Michael Keaton (yep, that`s the point).
  • I`m gonna say it: "too meta".
  • Gimmicky one-shot is gimmicky.
Watch (***)


  Spring, Justin Benson & Aaron Moorhead,USA.
  • Derivative mix of discounted Kauffman and Linklater.  Almost mumblecore.
  • With a similar central issue, Doctor Who is far superior thematically.
  • Watch "Afflicted" instead (seems to be filmed in the same Italian town).
Do not Watch (**)



Sunday, June 16, 2013

"Seconds", 1966, John Frankenheimer, TSPDT: 995

This film is one of those little science fiction gems that probably escaped everyone´s attention.  I am afraid to tell you about the plot, because I don´t want to ruin its surprises.  But the mood of the piece is as important as what happens there, so a little bit to entice you:  a man wants to change his stale life so he gets an appointment at a company that gives guys like him a "second chance" by changing his identity.  That´s all.  Rock Hudson is very good in this, as is the rest of the cast.  Think about it as a very good episode of "Twilight Zone" that got the movie treatment.  I could go on and on with interpretations about the plot, but this is not the reason why I am writing these snippets right now (maybe I will for future films).  Watch it all.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

"Devil In the Flesh", 1947, Claude Autant-Lara, TSPDT: 1000

The purposes of these posts is to give you a quick guide to movies in the TSPDT list of 1,000 best films of all time.  In this case, "Devil..." is a melodrama during the Great War (First World War) in a small town near Paris, about a schoolboy in love with a slightly older woman, which already has somebody in her life.  It has fun parts, with lots of modern banter between the leads, and some striking camera movements due to the limitations of the 4:3 format, which gives the director the necessity of "finding" the actors and showing somehow the interesting things that they encounter in each setting, thus the extremely fluid camerawork. The morals of the story, however, are terrible, not so far from the reactionary tale of "Forrest Gump".  It is not a mystery why this movie is rated so low in the list, it is notable, but it will be forgotten.  Still, if you are here, is because you know that you could do a lot worse (modern Hollywood).  Watch at least the first half.