Monday, June 25, 2007

Cronica de una Fuga

Cronica de una Fuga a.k.a. Chronicle of an Escape tells the true story of four men who narrowly escaped death at the hands of a military death squad during the Argentinean dirty war in the late 1970s.

The Dirty War is the name given to the state-sponsored violence against citizens mostly carried out between 1976 and 1983 by Jorge Rafael Videla's military government in Argentina during what was called by the dictatorship the "National Reorganization Process" or what the modern world calls "genocide".

The film follows Claudio Tamburrini, a goal keeper for a minor league football team, who was forcefully kidnapped by members of the Argentine secret military police.

He is taken to a detention center known as Sere Mansion which is an old dilapidated house in a suburban neighbourhood on the suspicion he's an anti-government terrorist.

Tamburrini is not alone and his fellow abductees are frequently tortured by the jailers for information he doesn't have because he was never a political activist.

After four months of imprisonment, and many sessions of torture, Tamburrini and his fellow captives make a break for freedom.

It is a gripping film throughout with bleak filming adding depth to the situation making it a taut psychological thriller especially because you are aware that this actually happened. The camera work and acting immerse the viewer into the mundane but arduous life that these innocent prisoners lead right through to the climatic finale.

According to the Nunca Más report issued by the National Commission on the Disappearance of Persons (CONADEP) in 1984, about 9,000 people were "disappeared" between 1976 and 1983. Estimates by human rights organisations place the number at closer to 30,000.

Cronica de una Fuga is a deeply moving and involving film worth a trip to the cinema for an education on both how to shoot this kind of film and a brief education about the not-so-distant Dirty War of Argentina. Rodrigo De la Serna as usual is raw brilliance, throughout. And the last time I watched him act was in Diarios de Motocicleta, another astounding work in which he looks double his weight of what he looks like in Cronica.. I'm surprised at why this movie is not getting the publicity it deserves. I had the feeling that this was going to be a big bloodbath, but na.. Its sheer adrenaline stuff, guaranteed to keep you thinking of it for a long time to come. In fact, halfway through the movie, you actually accept the nudity in the movie and focus on something far far important, the escape!

Vozvrashcheniye (The Return)

In Russian director Andrey Zvyaginstev's The Return, a father (Konstantin Lavronenko) revisits his family after an unexplained absence of twelve years to take his teenage sons on a fishing trip. Winner of the grand prize at the Venice Film Festival, The Return is a film of rare beauty and authenticity about the complex bonds between a father and his two sons and the need to discover one's self. First time director Zvyaginstev leaves much unexplained and the film, while a simple story on the surface, has suggestions of Greek mythology, political allegory, and religious parable. The film takes place in seven days, separated into segments. The two boys, Andrei (Vladimir Garin), who is about 13, and Vanya (Ivan Dobronravov), a year or two younger, are very different but have become attached to each other as a result of their father's absence.
As the film opens, Vanya is being taunted by a group of friends and called "chicken" because he is afraid to climb up a huge tower and dive from a pier. When the boys return home, they are astonished to discover their father sleeping on a bed as if posing for a religious painting of the dead Christ. At dinner, the father (who is not named) is cold and uncommunicative except to tell the boys that they will go fishing the next morning and to pass out wine to everyone. To confirm their father's identity, the boys find an old photograph of their father in a Bible adjacent to a drawing of the scene of Abraham about to sacrifice his son Isaac. As they drive through the brooding, isolated Russian countryside on their way to a rendezvous at a remote island, the boys confront their most longed for expectations and also their most dreaded fears.
Andrei openly seeks his father's approval but Vanya is rebellious, convinced that he is being kidnapped by a gangster. It is clear that the boys need their father but are baffled by his tough love. On one occasion, the father makes Vanya get out of the car in a heavy rainstorm then drives off only to pick him up soaking wet a short time later. When the boys fail to return from fishing on time, he slaps Andrei so hard that Vanya steals his knife and threatens to kill him. Though the mood is ominous, the father's motives remain unclear. The puzzle is deepened when he uncovers a strong box dug up from the floor of an old ruined house on the island. Is this the payoff from a criminal activity? Is it a treasure the father had buried to give to his sons? One can only speculate.
In spite of their anxiety, the boys seem to grow under their father's tutelage and, when Vanya must climb a tower once again, it is clear how far he has come in his journey to adulthood. His father's inability to reach his sons on an emotional level, however, is the ingredient for a tragedy that takes the film to an unexpected conclusion. The director has said that the film is about "the metaphysical incarnation of the soul's movement from the Mother to the Father." I'm not sure exactly what that means but the film taps into the universal need to love and be cared for, and the hurt that results when the need to be sustained and protected is thwarted. The film rekindled sad memories for me of what it felt like to be a child trying to reach a cold and distant father. Together with knowing that the young actor who played Andrei died in a swimming accident after the film was completed, made The Return a moving and painful experience.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

3-IRON (Bin-Jip)

Bin-Jip (2004) My personal interest in Ki-Duk Kim appeared some months ago after buying Bad Guy on DVD, that movie challenged and moved a lot, but at the end it did bother me that it contained certain plot holes. Months later my path came across another movie of his, The Isle, while this story were without obvious plot holes it failed to contain the emotional strength that made Bad Guy such a remarkable experience for me. Now, my path has crossed Bin-Jip and I must say that as an overall vote I rate it higher than both The Isle and Bad Guy, but I don't necessarily consider it a better movie. It is a challenging movie that will leave each viewer with a unique interpretation, because, as in other of Ki-Duk Kim's movies it's all about interpreting what happens on the screen.
The story, roughly drawn, is about a young man who lives an almost entirely anonymous life, breaking into various houses, fixing things, living their lives, doing their laundry for a little while before he moves onto his next location, a nomad. He uses a very simple technique to know if a house is occupied or not. Stick stupid pamphlets on door-locks and leave quietly. Come back after some time, preferably after a golf practice. If the pamphlet remains where its still stuck, welcome home. One day his path comes across a wealthy house in which he finds a wife beaten up. Once the husband returns he hits golf-balls at him with the husband's 3-iron and leaves with the wife, taking her with him on his journeys.
The first thing that strikes me on this movie is how extremely slow and quiet it is, it often feels like nothing is happening in the movie at all, but actually a lot manages to happen through those 95 minutes. The challenging part about the movie is interpreting the many changes of mood and morals in the movie and as always with Ki-Duk Kim almost everything is hidden beneath the surface. I don't wanna cross my own interpretation of things in this review as that is impossible without making needless spoilers.
Both the acting and the directing is really quite remarkable, the main characters of the movie hardly says anything, actually the lead male doesn't say one single word at all and the female says only 3 words, therefore it can only be considered admirable how many feelings are actually expressed through their faces and movements. The directing is equally brilliant and Ki-Duk brings a powerful and intelligent visual side as he usually does, and of course this movie also includes some fantastic music fitting the mood of the movie perfectly, another typical Ki-Duk detail.
As a final note, I'd prefer to say it very directly, if you like to think during your movies this will interest you, especially if you've found Ki-Duk's other work interesting, but if you prefer nonstop action on the screen, you'll be extremely disappointed with this one, because all the action of this movie happens inside each viewers head.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

"Remember my Name", directed by Gabriele Muccino, kept reminding this viewer about his previous film, "The Last Kiss", because in both, the main characters at the center of each story are named Carlo and Giulia. Could this 2003 has anything to do with the other one? Or was it just a coincidence? We don't get any actual fact to tie both movies together, but in a way, the two movies deal with an inner crisis that the two Carlos must face and come to terms with.This new film has a frenetic pace in the first hour. It seems as though Giulia and Carlo's relationship is strained, despite the somehow normal family life they lead. This is a film that asks a lot from its viewers, as they try to keep pace with the quick tempo Mr. Muccino gives the picture.It's clear to see that things aren't exactly the best between husband and wife. Carlo is at a point in his life where he can't deal with a job he doesn't care about and Giulia wants to go back to an acting career that didn't materialize when she married Carlo. Valentina, the young daughter, wants to pursue a career in television where beauty and a fast friends view her as a desired commodity. Paolo, the son, is an uncool youth who wants to belong in a world he is not cut out for.When the gorgeous Alissia enters the picture, Carlo can't resist seeing her again; they have been lovers before, but have lost track of each other in the succeeding years. Their relationship has a negative effect on both households, as Alissia is by now married, and Carlo loses his head when he decides to quit his job and renew his relationship with Alissia. When Carlo suffers a freak accident that sends him to the hospital for a long time, Giulia and the children rally to support him. In fact, this should be something to change Carlo's attitude in forgetting Alissia, but is it? We realize the accident and his gratitude to his wife and kids will be questioned again when we see him in the final moments of the film in the supermarket where he sees Alissia with her two young children as they make last minute Christmas preparations.Fabrizio Bentivoglio makes us care for the complex Carlo, a man whose passion has been dormant for a long time. Laura Morante, plays Giulia, the woman who has to make choices and wants to keep everyone together. Monica Belucci is seen as Alissia, the one that never stopped loving Carlo.The movie has a great look thanks to the camera work of Marcello Montarsi. The music by Paolo Buonvino is also an asset in the film. Gabriele Muccino, with this new movie proves to be an important voice in the Italian cinema today and we await for his new film with interest.

L' Ultimo bacio

Saw this at an Italian Film fest here..

Carlos (Stefano Accorsi) is a twenty-nine years old man, who works in an advertisement agency and has been living with his girlfriend Giulia (Giovanna Mezzogiorno) for three years. When she gets pregnant and he meets the delicious eighteen years old Francesca (Martina Stella), his relationship with Giulia have a crisis, since he is not ready to reach adulthood. Francesca has a crush and dreams on Carlos. His three best friends have also problems with their mates: Adriano (Giorgio Pasotti) has just had a son and has problems to take the responsibilities of the fatherhood, while his wife Livia (Sabrina Impacciatory) becomes very connected to the baby, neglecting their marriage; Alberto (Marco Cocci) has no ties with any woman, limiting to use them sexually; and Paolo (Claudio Santamaria) has a passion for his former lover. Meanwhile, Giulia's mother, Anna Stefania Sandrelli), has a middle-age crisis, jeopardizing her marriage. "L'Ultimo Bacio" is a beautiful and delightful movie about relationship in different phases of life. The story is very intelligent and realistic, reaching characters of different ages to show the crisis that most of the persons pass along their lives in their relationship with their mates. Whose teenager has never had a passion for a man or woman, like the character of Francesca? And the doubts and insecurity about fatherhood or motherhood, like Carlos, Giulia, Adriano and Livia? And the love jealousy, like Paolo? And the middle age crisis, like Anna? Therefore, the story certainly catch a phase in the life of the viewer himself or herself, and he or she will certainly identify the situation of a character as his or her own. The beauties of Giovanna Mezzogiorno, with her magnificent blue eyes, and Martina Stella, with her wonderful body and look, are another attraction in this lovely and highly recommended movie. My vote is nine.


Imagine the schoolboy sadism of Der Junge Törless (1966), the anarchism of If... (1968), with just a dash of the old school bullying of Tom Brown's School Days, and you get something of the flavour of Evil, which sets its student angst in 1950s' Scandinavia. Ironically for a film that will end up on a relatively pacifist message, it starts with a punch up as the rowdy hero Erik (Andreas Wilson), thrashed by his unpleasant step father at home, duly takes it out on another student at his current school - only to be summarily expelled on the basis of his continuing bad behaviour. Dubbed 'evil' by the headmaster at his disciplinary hearing Erik appears, at least at first sight, to be irredeemably bad. Surly and uncommunicative, a trait he only gradually overcomes, he's a disruptive influence. One measure of the film's success is how it will show a growing moral dimension to this truculent and uncooperative personality, the once-bad boy quickly maturing before our eyes. It will also show how being a 'disruptive' influence can ultimately be a positive, just as much as a negative, force in a closed society. But meanwhile Erik's long suffering mother packs him off at short notice to Stjansberg, an exclusive boarding school where, we are told, are moulded generations of Swedish 'supermen'.

Adapted from a bestselling novel based on painful reminiscence, Evil is praised in interview on the disc by the author for its 'journalistic accuracy' in recreating events. It's a fact that makes the environment in which a more subdued Erik finds himself all the more chilling and depressing. For Stjansberg is a school where the teachers believe in leaving students to their own devices outside of classes, a place where enthused with an ethos of alleged 'team spirit' the system of discipline and punishment is arbitrary, prejudiced against the weak or different, and where elements of fascism still lurk within the teaching profession. Despite its regimentation and strict codes, Erik soon discovers that "there's no honour in (the) school - only ways of making it hell," while eventually realising that "what separates men from animals is not only intelligence, it's morality." Set on a painfully steep learning curve, he makes friends with the best student in the school (his roommate), and while remembering his promise to his mother, struggles to stay out of trouble. Erik's painful introspection at this point recalls that of Jim Stark in Rebel Without A Cause (1955) another film in which a troubled male youngster forms an alliance with a weaker soul (Sal Mineo's 'Plato') while in moral agony over conflicting impulses.

Erik may suddenly be concerned to stay out of conflict, but his refusal to compromise a newfound dignity and moral superiority quickly brings him up against Silverstein, the Flashman figure of the piece who, as a the most visible representation of the fascist strain that permeates the school has "to be fought, now and forever." What infuriates the bullies at the school no end is Erik's unexpected - and, in the light of what we have seen of him previously, uncharacteristic - refusal to fight. Instead he maintains a quiet mocking stoicism, bearing glumly, at least to a point, the institutionalised humiliation heaped upon him. Like Gandhi, a name associated with a philosophy of peaceful protest and civil disobedience (and who is specifically invoked at one point in the film) Erik's mature response to provocation is hard earned, but grows increasingly effective.

Wilson is excellent as the put upon student, although from such a physical person one might have wished more passion in his liaison with Marja, the young woman from the kitchen(Linda Zilliacus), who tacitly supports his tactics. In fact, this affair proves to be Erik's Achilles' heel, and the events leading on from it form the real climax of the picture. So much of Evil has been outstanding and intriguing to this point that it's a shame that the conclusion of the piece, springing so readily from a plot 'plant' earlier in the story, is a little too pat. From the interviews on the R2 DVD the viewer learns that, in real life, the school in question was brought to book by eventual and unwelcome media exposure prompted by the author. Whether or not it was achieved so easily as is suggested by the movie is a moot point, but the convenient threat of sensational journalism, easily obtainable and brought down upon the head of a palpable corrupt and unfair system is too much of let off, at least to this viewer, as well a cliché of a sort, not to pass un-remarked. One imagines that the scene of an arrogant headmaster made to eat humble pie dramatically was too irresistible to exclude, but I sensed here that such a moment was an easy way out.

With this hesitation, one can recommend the film thoroughly, being both excellently shot and acted as well as making an important statement of its own. Rather amusingly in the accompanying DVD material is a comment from one of the principals, that they didn't want it to be "a Dogme film, a small film that no one cares about, we want(ed) it to be a stylish, big, expensive, heavy, good film." It's an ironic remark as, arguably, a stricter and more rigorous approach to the story, familiar from Van Trier and colleagues, would have led to some fascinating dividends especially in the presentation of such stark material. Fortunately filmic conservatism also pays off when the results are so sincere and full of verisimilitude as here, and with a cast who fit their roles like a glove and, as a film with an 'old fashioned' humanistic message about standing out against the evils of totalitarianism in a closed society, the message is as relevant as ever. In short I doubt whether another 'school film' as fine as this will come along for some time, and so seek it out.

Author: FilmFlaneur from London