Author Topic: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons  (Read 19702 times)

Teproc

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #540 on: December 16, 2017, 05:37:40 PM »
I love this review. I think you're right about this and F+A being culminations of a sort. They feel both new and full of stuff from their predecessors.

Thank you very much ! That reminds me I should really get to that full TV version of Fanny & Alexander. Christmas is coming up too, hmmm...

Teproc

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #541 on: March 09, 2018, 05:08:40 AM »
Otac na sluzbenom putu / When Father Was Away on Business (Emir Kusturica, 1985)



Adam & Matty's takes (starts at 39:57)

Watching films like this one, which won the Palme d'Or but haven't quite lived up as towering achievments (I'd say this is, what, Kusturica's fourth most acclaimed film ?), and try and figure out why the jury felt that this was the film to elevate can be quite interesting. Most often, it's politics: Cannes is similar to the Oscars in that way, and the key element a film generally needs to win the Palme is a sense of historical relevance, of importance. Just looking at recent years, you have Dheepan and I, Daniel Blake as examples of that logic applying.

In this case, Kusturica tries to balance the political with the personal in what I assume to be a semi-autobiographical story, and makes the choice of centering the film on a child, constantly forgoing him as if to ask "well how is that going to affect him ?" and - by extension - getting us to wonder about the future of Yugoslavia and other countries under similar regimes. He manages that balance quite well, and imbues the whole film with a certain sense of bittersweet melancholy, which is best represented in the music, starting with that opening scene.

There's also that sarcastic but resigned brand of humour: again the opening scene, with its cheery Mexican song because "these days it's safer"* to sing Mexican songs (Mexico notably being the place where the most famous of Stalin's enemies tried to hide, unsuccesfully I might add)... but there is something missing to the film as a whole for me. It never quite adds up to more than the sum of its parts, and its musical moments never elevate the story in the way that one might expect them to for Kusturica. It's also quite drab visually... it all very much feels like a first film (though it's his second), with all the elements there but not the whole package yet.

6/10

*this may not be an actual quote, but that's the idea

P.S. : I knew she looked familiar somehow, but I certainly wouldn't have put together that the brother's wife was Danielle Rousseau from Lost. Neat.
« Last Edit: March 09, 2018, 05:11:56 AM by Teproc »

Teproc

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #542 on: March 10, 2018, 05:23:21 AM »
Ba wang bie ji / Farewell My Concubine (Chen Kaige, 1993)



Adam & Matty's takes (starts at 22:52)

This is a big film. In its length, its acting, its production values, and its overall scope, its ambition. But I can't agree with Matty when he describes it as the most epic thing he's ever seen, because the story it tells is very focused on three characters... and really even three is a stretch as Gong Li's character is a supporting one through and through is, even though she feels like more than that because, well she's played by Gong Li. This focus is, to be clear, a good thing: films that aim to tell a country's history generally fail by losing sight of their characters. It never feels epic to me, but I don't think it's meant to either.

As it moves through eras though, Farewell My Concubine never moves away from its central conflict, which comes in about 40 minutes in as we jump ahead to our main characters as adults. It's an interesting enough dynamic even before it gets complicated by the political situation, and the parallels between the actors (within the film that is) and their characters are not exactly subtle but compelling nonetheless... it does gets to be a bit repetitive after a while though. It's like episodes of a TV Show where the main dynamic can't really change too much or there wouldn't be a show anymore, so the interest lies in what's happening in the background. I suppose there's something to be said about their relationship being stuck on repeat in the same way that the opera they play is always the same, and again: there is enough going on there that its repetitiveness never crosses over into being boring.

And there's Gong Li, and she is magnificient. The performances are strong across the board, but she has a charisma, a presence that's undeniable and made me wish the film was about her: she initially seems like she's going to be your typical Yoko Ono type - or, more appropriately to this context, a Pan Jinlian type, apparently the archetype of the treacherous femme fatale in Chinese folklore - but she ends up being the most sympathetic of the trio by a mile I'd say. Only knowing here from Raise the Red Lantern (and, sigh, Miami Vice), this got me looking at her filmography, which is sadly rather sparse for an actress of her caliber, but at least there are those Zhang Yimou collaborations to look forward to for me.

Back to the film, it does fit the pattern of Palme d'Or winners having political relevance... interestingly though, it seems the ban against it in China had at least as much if not more to do with its depiction of homosexuality as with its portrayal of the Cultural Revolution. Which... let's just say this it would not score many political points in that regard today: the gay character is heavily implied to be that way because of abuse in his childhood, and what relationship there is only leads to betrayal and tragedy for everyone involved. This might be a bit unfair though, as Chen never feels like he's judging his characters, and the ending feels as bittersweet as much as tragic.

7/10
« Last Edit: March 10, 2018, 05:26:11 AM by Teproc »

valmz

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #543 on: March 10, 2018, 11:58:02 PM »
Otac na sluzbenom putu / When Father Was Away on Business (Emir Kusturica, 1985)
Watching films like this one, which won the Palme d'Or but haven't quite lived up as towering achievments (I'd say this is, what, Kusturica's fourth most acclaimed film ?), and try and figure out why the jury felt that this was the film to elevate can be quite interesting.
I looked up this year and found... maybe the jury figured it was a uniquely weak year, since almost all of the films are totally forgotten to time. Including one of my favorite films (Farewell to the Ark), but that's not the kind of films they give awards to anyway. Plus Terayama was dead, so he didn't mind.

pixote

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #544 on: March 11, 2018, 01:23:42 AM »
It's fun to imagine a parallel universe where Bogdanovich's Mask is a Palme d'Or winner.

pixote
I think I'd love how awkward it'd be, or how awkward it should be.

Teproc

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #545 on: March 11, 2018, 06:28:02 AM »
Otac na sluzbenom putu / When Father Was Away on Business (Emir Kusturica, 1985)
Watching films like this one, which won the Palme d'Or but haven't quite lived up as towering achievments (I'd say this is, what, Kusturica's fourth most acclaimed film ?), and try and figure out why the jury felt that this was the film to elevate can be quite interesting.
I looked up this year and found... maybe the jury figured it was a uniquely weak year, since almost all of the films are totally forgotten to time. Including one of my favorite films (Farewell to the Ark), but that's not the kind of films they give awards to anyway. Plus Terayama was dead, so he didn't mind.

Kiss of the Spider Woman, La historia official and Mishima are the only ones that ring a bell in the list, so maybe it was a weak year (for Cannes anyway, that year had Ran, Sans toit ni loi, Come and See and others I'm sure Cannes missed).

Teproc

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #546 on: March 11, 2018, 04:24:12 PM »
Ta'm e guilass / Taste of Cherry (Abbas Kiarostami, 1997)



Adam & Matty's takes (starts at 54:31)

My first Kiarostami, which I'd feel worse about if I wasn't pretty sure it was also the Filmspotting guys's first at that point (Close Up is coming later in the Contemporary Iranian leg of this marathon), and it looks to me like two films I love (Panahi's Taxi and Ceylan's Once Upon a Time in Anatolia) were influenced by this to various degrees... why is it that I find people mysteriously wandering around in cars so interesting, especially with those weirdly enthralling landscapes in the background ? I'm not sure, but I was entirely on-board with the film on that base level, and even moreso when it started hinting at some thriller aspects.

**Spoilers, I suppose**

Once we learn more about the main character's purpose, those hints reveal themselves to be red herrings, and what we have is a parable rather than a thriller. A man is planning to take his own life, and he's looking for someone to help him with it... though really, the more I think about it, the more I tend to agree with Adam & Matty that he's rather looking for someone to talk him out of it, or at least to someone to talk to, to give more meaning to his gesture, to bear witness to it. The reasons are unclear and the main character is kept as mysterious as possible by Kiarostami, which works rather well, though from the context and the way he broached the subject of the Iran/Irak war a couple times made me think it might be connected to it, perhaps the loss of a son ? I suppose that line of thinking goes opposite Kiarostami's intent, and he's supposed to be a universal stand-in for any suicidal person, which I would venture most people have been at one point in their life, to some degree.

There are four encounters here, or five I suppose if you want to count the two Afghanis as separate encounters. They get longer each time, which makes sense on a script level of course as we get to know more about our main character every time, but it also means that the connection made between the two people talking is stronger every time. I'm not familiar enough with Iranian society to know the full relevance of everyone's origins, but it's noteworthy that they are all outsiders to some extent: from Kurdistan (persumably the Iranian part), Afghanistan or Turkey. There is something slightly too neat and too perfectly humanistic in the fact that the last one, the one who might succeed in talking him out of it, is the one making the simplest, most empathetic points, but it is a parable after all, and it's all rather well executed. After that last encounter, I was ready for the film to end whichever way it would, ambiguosuly or not, anything would work really... or so I thought.

It's been a while since I've been this taken aback by the ending of a film. The first that come to mind would be Enemy and Solyaris, but even in those cases, the ending felt of a piece with the films coming before them... not the case here. This felt like the cinematic equivalent of "Pull my finger" to me. It's, frankly, an infurating way to end a film, and I can't say that Adam & Matty's attempts at justifying it are convincing at all. Why would we need to be reminded that "it's just a movie" ? What kind of nonsense is that, why undermine your own film that way ? I can only assume it's something else, but my guesses are all in such contradiction with the rest of the film (nihilistic absurdism does not mesh well with thoughtful humanism) that I just can't see it as anything else than a total failure, which messes up what might have been a masterpiece otherwise... it doesn't entirely ruin the film for me, but it does sour me a fair bit what would have likely been a favorite.

7/10

Teproc

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #547 on: March 16, 2018, 08:50:25 AM »
Dancer in the Dark (Lars von Trier, 2000)



Adam & Matty's takes (starts at 28:54)

I had a hard time wrapping my head around this film. For the first 40 minutes or so, I was reminded of how distracting I already found von Trier's exaggerated handheld style in Melancholia, and how weirdly surreal the whole film seemed, with it's 60s American being populated by the likes of Björk and Catherine Deneuve as factory workers, Peter Stormare as a nice guy and other unfathomable things such as David Morse playing the most "normal" character around. Deneuve as a factory worker especially seemed like an obvious nod towards this all being some sort of a commentary on the artificial nature of film, and how the juxtaposition of this social drama with the style and the cast only served to underline that. Interesting enough, but not that riveting either, frankly.

And then it turned out to be a musical. I suppose I knew music would play a part given Björk's involvment, but I didn't know exactly how. Throughout the film, any time a musical sequence would happen, the whole film would suddenly make sense. It's perhaps the best repudiation to about half of Dogme95's rules, yet I can't quite decide if von Trier is celebrating the American musical or ridiculing it. The easy out is to say it's a deconstruction of it. Obviously that is the case, and von Trier uses the setting to take a few easy potshots at the America those classic musicals celebrated (namely McCarthyism and the death penalty), but the more interesting point of conflict is Björk's character. She's saintly, but delusional, and her delusion seems to stem specifically from musicals: "There's always someone to catch me" being the key idea here. Of course there isn't always someone, as von Trier takes great pleasure in concluding the film on... but does that make her - as Matty suggests in the podcast - a selfish, perhaps reprehensible character ? I don't know that it does, and I  think the film challenges von Trier's natural cynicism through these musical sequences. Is it something that Björk as an artist forcefully brings to the film, or an internal conflict in von Trier expressed through her ? I don't know, and I'm not sure it matters, because the result is strangely fascinating.

What is it, then, that makes the musical scenes work so well ? Well, most of it is Björk, obviously, both as a composer and as a performer. Matty seems dubious of her performance here, and I wouldn't argue that we need to see her in another film because of how great she is here... but she truly is great. It's a role that could easily feel completely artificial, but she brings something to it, that I would hesitate to call "real" but nonetheless makes her able to ground the film, emotionally speaking. Sincerity is probably the key thing here: that's what she exudes, and it's something that the film really needs to work, in the middle of all the postmodern deconstruction. The way the musical scenes are edited is striking as well, and do make von Trier's hand-held affectations worthwile if only because the contrast is so strong in those moments that he doesn't need to go that far to make them stand out.

It all combines in this weird, bittersweet tragedy that I can't quite believe works, and yet does. Magic of movies, right ?

8/10

MartinTeller

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #548 on: March 16, 2018, 09:14:22 AM »
I have great love for DITD -- largely because of Bjork and the music, although there are other fine qualities as well -- but the straw man LVT builds for his anti-death penalty argument is so friggin ludicrous. I am anti-death penalty myself, but the way LVT stacks the deck makes my eyes roll clear out of my head. Do you know how many women were executed in the U.S. in the 1960's? One. ONE. It just didn't happen, but just to cover his ass LVT manipulates an absurd series of consequences to ensure that she's unwilling to defend herself. It makes his argument weaker when he frames it in such a convoluted and unlikely corner case.

Teproc

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Re: A Filmspotter's Marathon of Filmspotting Marathons
« Reply #549 on: March 16, 2018, 09:21:44 AM »
I have great love for DITD -- largely because of Bjork and the music, although there are other fine qualities as well -- but the straw man LVT builds for his anti-death penalty argument is so friggin ludicrous. I am anti-death penalty myself, but the way LVT stacks the deck makes my eyes roll clear out of my head. Do you know how many women were executed in the U.S. in the 1960's? One. ONE. It just didn't happen, but just to cover his ass LVT manipulates an absurd series of consequences to ensure that she's unwilling to defend herself. It makes his argument weaker when he frames it in such a convoluted and unlikely corner case.

Yeah, between that and the nods to McCarthyism, I don't know how seriously we're supposed to take the film on a political level. I expect "not very" is the answer there, much in the same way that the film is nominally about working class people but its version of reality is so disconnected from any reality (again: Catherine Deneuve and Björk as factory workers in 1960s America) that it almost seems like a joke, perhaps a mockery of "social" films as being just as unreal as escapist musicals. Which is where I'll come back to Björk's sincerity being what makes the film coalesce into something good, because von Trier's brand of postmodernism gets really messy when left on its own.