Author Topic: August 2011 MDC: IMDB Top 250 Write Ups  (Read 6829 times)


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Re: August 2011 MDC: IMDB Top 250 Write Ups
« Reply #30 on: January 31, 2012, 06:31:01 PM »
I like broadening my horizons and challenging myself, but it should be more of a stretching of boundaries rather than a blind leap into the unknown.

Again, it's a glimpse inside a world I barely grasp so most of it didn't make any impact on me besides "oh, that's kind of interesting."
African film is strange, and frankly I don't think there's any way to ease into it. No matter where you start the first few are going to be a huge culture shock and hard to engage with because there's so much of the native culture that is completely foreign and so much of the remnants of colonialism that affect every aspect of the worldview that you just have to piece together bits and pieces. That whole glimpse into the unknown is what I really like of the dozen or so African films I've seen.

Here's what I wrote when I saw a year and a half ago:
I really don't think it's fair to speak about African cinema based on a single film, or even the 3 films I've seen. But one thing I will say is that it's strange how aware I am that I'm watching a different culture in a way that I don't get when watching other foreign films. There's an extra cultural barrier that I don't feel even when watching an Indian or Iranian film, for example, and I can't quite put my finger on it. The other thing the three films I've seen have in common is that they're about dealing with cultural invasion, but where the other two (Xala and Touki Bouki) were strictly about French colonialism this one is broader, set in a village dealing with an Islamic Imam trying to convert the villagers, the Catholic arms dealing white man and the native culture. I found this to be the most fascinating African film I've seen, and in fact one of the best films I've seen period. Semebene is an accomplished director and while some limitations are apparent the film is very nicely shot and edited. I can't judge the acting but the writing is sharp and incisive and the delivery is certainly good enough to make the film work. While many nuances are lost on me, both the plot and the the general message are crystal clear as Semebene emphatically makes his point about religious domination. I feel hardpressed to put into words how amazing I think this film is having just finished it, but it is definitely something everyone here should check out.
I've seen more African films since and a lot of that feeling remains. There are inherent social norms and traditions that I have no experience with and I find the films interesting both because they expose me to something radically different and because the similarities also stand out more clearly as general aspects of the human condition.

With regards to Ceddo specifically, the ideologies are certainly important to what it's saying about colonialism, and the flash forwards are a way of connecting the old Islamic colonialism in the film with the more recent Christian colonialism as well as the inherent technological colonialism of the modern world. That said, even without an understanding of those specifics, the general commentary on the way we react to change is pretty transparent. Some resist change, some embrace it, most reluctantly follow it. Coercion plays a part, not just physical but also social. You don't want to be the one left out so you'll do whatever to fit. It's particularly notable in the film because religious conversion should be about beliefs while all you can really enforce or negate are rites.

Characters would take their spot, and the film is as cinematic as a political debate. It's obvious that the cast is not used to performing for a camera.
This is certainly true, but I also got the impression that, at least in some parts, the woodenness was part of the ceremony. There's a time and place for where you can speak, where you can't and what you can say and how you can say it.

I don't remember the specific of the climax but I think what I took from it wasn't so much "the times are a changing" or "sticking to the old ways" as "change must come from the inside out." One of the core aspects of the film is the contrast between the easy superficial changes and the much more difficult personal changes. Superficial changes are easily reverted or corrupted, and only true conviction and education can make a lasting impact.

I'm glad you got something out of it and after you do get around to watching other African films you can come back to it.


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Re: August 2011 MDC: IMDB Top 250 Write Ups
« Reply #31 on: January 31, 2012, 07:25:27 PM »
I got a feeling that the only true way to prepare for films from African cinema is to watch a few. I was also thinking that this is a movie I will return to at some point, when I feel more comfortable with the culture.


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Re: August 2011 MDC: IMDB Top 250 Write Ups
« Reply #32 on: January 31, 2012, 09:41:06 PM »
Aren't Lion King and Madagascar primer enough for African movies?


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Re: August 2011 MDC: IMDB Top 250 Write Ups
« Reply #33 on: March 01, 2012, 09:27:18 PM »
I had a terrible time getting this film.  But I finally got it and I watched it.  Better late than never!

The Great Dictator (1940)

I’m pretty particular about the comedies I enjoy.  Apatow is okay, I guess, but not my cup of tea.  The Farlley Brothers are the worst, for my taste.  Jim Carrey is occasionally good, but usually he just looks like he’s trying too hard.  And I don’t find impressions funny at all.
I do love the Marx Brothers and especially their film Duck Soup.   Yes, it is over the top silly, but the lines hit my funny bone and Harpo is always brilliant.  I especially like the none-too-subtle digs at the war mindset, especially at the beginning of WWI. 

If someone had said, “What would you think about Charlie Chaplain making a remake of Duck Soup, as a talkie, not a silent, setting it at the beginning of WWII, playing an imitation of Hitler, and throwing in a healthy dose of holocaust?  Think that would be funny?” 

Honestly, it sounds like the worst film ever. 

And yet… somehow… after watching this very film, I have to put it alongside the greatest of Chaplain’s films.  Rarely have I laughed so often at a film.  And even though we don’t have The Little Tramp (perhaps only a semblance of that character), it is still that combination of poignient, funny and sweet that works so well in Chaplain’s other films. 

 What Chaplain does with Hitler is not imitate him so much as re-imagine him as an easily misguided dictator, who only speaks German-speak when angry or in public speaking.  Chaplain, in his dual-role, is at his most brilliant, and shines in every scene.   And please, if you haven’t seen the film but heard it as some kind of prince-and-pauper story, the film is nothing like that.  The two characters don’t converge until the very end of the film.

Chaplain uses audio to the full extent.  This being his first talkie, he uses it like a novelty, something to take advantage of rather than an assumed aspect of film.  There are moments in which the scene continues all in audio, without any visual movement.  And he clearly worked hard at his vocals, and uses his voice to full effect.   What a comedic genius.  Whatever he focused his mind on, he could turn into brilliant humor.
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