Archive for May, 2011

Le Quattro Volte

May 27th, 2011 - Graham Eley

It can be a perilous game predicting films that will endure, second guessing future canons but occasionally one comes along that is so inventive in its scope, so profound in its effect, so engaging to view that its admission to the high order of film classics should be assured.

 

One such film is Michelangelo Frammartino’s astonishing contemplation of life’s big issues, Le Quattro Volte (The Four Times), the surprise hit of Cannes 2010 and the recipient of rave notices elsewhere.

 

Difficult to classify; a quasi-documentary perhaps but one with dramas that quietly unfold, barely plotted, almost found stories that grow naturally from the film footage.  Everything is real here, Robert Bresson but even more pure, even more ethical.  You sense that we are witnessing something that Bazin might have envisaged but has taken over a half-century to realise.

 

This is a reality observed with minimum intervention.  There is no dialogue apart from the odd word/grunt here and there.  Rituals and nature motivate the action, determine the structure of the film.  All is democratic; the spiritual on a par with the physical and a tree, a dog and a herd of goats share top-billing with non-professional actors.

 

And Frammartino defies our expectations at every turn.  Set in a sleepy Italian village in Calabria, where time seems to have stood still for centuries, we are aware of a strange contra feeling of motion, very slow admittedly but, strangely, always perceptible.  An ageing herdsman awakens our fear of mortality that contrasts with a strong sense of renewal embedded in the natural processes elsewhere.  Humour and sadness intertwine; particularly with the antics of a young goat guaranteed to stop you in your tracks.  And there is a truly astonishing sequence with a collie dog, which will leave you pondering whether it is fiction or reality.

 

Sometimes delightful and charming, other times solemn and grave.  But always engaging; this is slow cinema that seems to pass quickly.

 

There is one scene though that lodges itself into our memories in a way that it is quite unexpected and unusual for the medium.  A single shot simply evokes winter in a matter of seconds before passing on to spring as the seasons come and go.  No more was necessary, all was economy of cinema pared down to basics, which in an instant captured the indestructible force of nature, its still magnificence and silent isolation.  It was like turning a corner in a gallery and unexpectedly encountering a Friedrich winter landscape.buy cialis canadian pharmacybuying cialis from canadacialis generic usabuy female viagra australiabuy gold max female viagrabuy female viagra ukgeneric female viagra sildenafil citratefemale viagra uk next day deliverybuy femaleviagra australia

 

The film closes with a village ritual that is oddly comforting and sad in its repetition at one and the same time.  A fitting conclusion evoking emotions that mirror our reaction to much of what went before.

Cannes Film Festival 2011 (11-22 May)

May 22nd, 2011 - Graham Eley

19 titles compete for the Palme d’Or at the 64th Edition of the Cannes Film Festival including the latest feature from Cannes favourite Lars von Trier whose Melancholia is his ninth time in the main competition.

 

Other films includes Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s Once Upon A Time In Anatolia, Lynn Ramsey’s We Need To Talk About Kevin &  Paolo Sorrentino’s This Must Be The Place, all widely predicted beforehand.

 

Terrence’s Malick’s The Tree of Life seemed a near certainty for a Cannes screening but speculation that it would be out of competition so as to accommodate a May theatrical release proved unfounded.  It will be Malick’s first time in competition since Days of Heaven in 1978.

 

The inclusion of Pedro Almodovar’s The Skin I Live In is a surprise.  Earlier reports indicated that Almodovar favoured a later world premiere so as to coincide with the film’s theatrical release during the autumn.

 

There is no shortage of films from other leading auteurs including Dardenne Bros’ The Kid With A Bike, Aki Kaurismaki’s Le Havre & Nanni Moretti’s We Have a Pope.

 

Nicolas Winding Refn, whose Bronson impressed at Sundance two films ago, secured his first competition place with Drive.

 

After a low key, but nevertheless impressive, competition line-up last year, Cannes returns to the more familiar indie heavy weights this time around, which should provide the sector with a welcome boost.

 

Cannes had previously announced that Gus Van Sant would open the Un Certain Regard sidebar with Restless.  An inviting programme also includes Sean Durkin’s buzz film Martha Marcy May Marlene and titles from Robert Guediguian & Kim Ki-duk.buy cialis over the counterbuy cialis usacialis online pharmacy australiabuy sildalis onlinesildalisbuy sildalisbuy sildalis onlinesildalis onlinegeneric sildalis online sildalis

 

The festival will open with Woody Allen’s Midnight in Paris, which screens out of competition.  Other notable non-competition films include Rob Marshall’s latest in the Pirates in the Caribbean franchise.  There is no news yet on the closing film.

Bombay Beach

May 15th, 2011 - Graham Eley

Winner of the best documentary at Tribeca Film Festival, Alma Har’el’s debut film revisits the largely deserted Salton Sea, California, a failure of 1950’s development expansion, for an intimate portrayal of its current offbeat occupants.

 

In your face newsreel footage, complete with rapid-fire editing and a booming voice-over, takes us back 50 years to the development’s heyday.  This was a resort community with luxury apartments fronting the perfect beaches of a salt-water lake, a symbol of US post war wealth, the playground of the rich.  Har’el switches to its contemporary setting, now a sand coated townscape consisting of little more than toxic water, dead fish and dilapidated buildings.  In between, high sea levels & resort flooding had forced occupiers to flee, a total lack of prudent planning neatly exposed.

 

A wreckage in the desert, nearly a ghost town, it now serves as a final outpost of civilisation, an overflow for unorthodox, fringe and eccentric inhabitants; some are here by choice, others are victims of a mainstream society excluding those falling outside the norm.  Har’el first stumbled across the settlement when filming a music video in the area and returned for a documentary with a difference.

 

This is an impoverished society, part of the Californian underclasses, where the nearest medical supplies are 50 miles away.  Har’el drifts around the community, at times providing an overview, but more often following three of its settlers.

 

There is CeeJay, an African-American who took flight from Los Angles having witnessed his cousin’s brutal murder during gang warfare.  He is a promising running back struggling to achieve the grades necessary for a college scholarship.

 

Red proves that the old timer character-types of American movies really do exist.  A cigarette bootlegger with an eye for the ladies, a harmless rogue in his old age but with a backstory that may reveal a different history.

 

And there is the Parish family who defy expectations.  The parents have fallen foul of the law for setting off explosives in the desert; identified as possible terrorists by the security forces, and yet, Har’el’s filming over a sustained period reveals a responsible couple overcoming adversity with meagre means.  Most interesting of all is their engaging 7 year old son, psychiatrically diagnosed with bipolar, who offers an intriguing view of the world.

 

But the distinguishing factor, which sets it apart from other fly-on-the-wall docs, is Har’el’s extraordinary use of dance.  Partly choreographed but always with space for interpretation, the residents use the movements as another form of expression, a unique alternative to talking heads.  Particularly effective is Ceejay and his girlfriend’s routine of anxiety surrounded by white masks, the demonic symbols of the blank faces of contempt and intimidation that they have presumably experienced at the hands of the white community.

 

The cinematography is breathtaking.  Har’el revels in the natural beauty of decay with an artists eye that seduces us at every step of the way.  We marvel at the multitude of ‘ready mades’ that have seemingly established their own space in the terrain; a testament to time as a great sculptor.

 

This is a film capturing something of our age for the future; an important contribution towards the global movement of synthesised filmmaking operating at the boundaries of documentary and fiction but always feeling absolutely real.
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Hell & Back Again

May 15th, 2011 - Graham Eley

War photographer turned filmmaker, Danfung Dennis won the World Cinema Jury Award at Sundance for this powerful depiction of the full horror of the Afghan frontline and the torment of a badly injured soldier struggling to cope with life back home.

 

The arid emptiness of the Afghan terrain, the invisibility of the Taliban lurking in the shadows taking pot shots at the occupying forces and the sight of dead bodies lying on the ground or on stretchers are images that are so familiar to us that their power to shock in TV footage and newspapers is very much diminished.  Documentary filmmakers have presented it from a different angle; they have sited themselves in the heart of action for sustained periods, given it a personal context and, for a short moment, moving images return the audience to the reality of the conflict, no longer desensitised.

 

But audiences’ appetite to experience the hell of frontline conflict has its limitations.  Filmmakers require a buzz factor; something different to catch the eye of festival juries and generate positive word of mouth.  Danfung Dennis’ debut film is a superior example, an intelligent juxtaposition of two time frames that intercuts  between the fighting and its appalling consequences for one Marine.

 

Dennis follows the terrifying Russian Roulette existence of the Echo Company trying to avoid the bullet, based on little more than instincts.  We witness deaths at extremely close quarters and Marines breaking down in the absolute sense upon the death of their friends in combat.  With Dennis’ camera held at a respectful distance, these are instants that appear momentarily frozen in time, that suspend our thought, intensifying the experience of the loss.

 

The supremely confident Sgt. Nathan Harris rises above the chaos strutting around this waste land thinking on his feet, providing orders.  And then, in the final throes of his deployment, machine gun fire from a Taliban ambush demolishes his hip and femur.  In a flash, it was the end of his frontline career and the start of a new living hell.

 

Back home in North Carolina, Harris undergoes the lengthy, repetitive and agonisingly painful rehabilitation process but worse is his torment at being destined for a civilian lifestyle that he finds repellent.  “I would rather be in Afghanistan where its simple” he says, concealing his face.  With frustration taking hold and dependency on painkillers increasing, this is a mental and physical battle that seems as unwinnable as that in Afghanistan.

 

With powerful and penetrating footage shot with Dennis’ discerning eye and shrewd editing from the impressive Fiona Otway, co-editor on Iraq in Fragments, the two stories depict a very complete picture of the realities of war in the 21st century.  A welcome addition to the sub-genre, offering new insights without losing impact.buy dapoxetine ukgeneric viagra with dapoxetine 160 mgdapoxetine 60 mg cialis sublingual tabs taking cialis sublingual cialis sublingual side effects cialis sublingual purchase online cialis sublingual absorptioncialis sublingual buy cialis generico sublinguale

Screaming Man, A

May 13th, 2011 - Graham Eley

A quiet, deeply affecting film about an ageing swimming-pool attendant in a war torn country that tears his family apart.

 

The country is Chad where there have been four devastating civil wars since it gained independence from colonial France in 1960.  The latest has been raging for 6 years where Idriss Déby’s Government forces attempt to repel Sudan backed rebels within the entangled web of North African politics, a failed non-aggression border agreement and corruption.

 

Cinema is non-existent here except for one that shows the films of its only filmmaker of note, Mahamat-Saleh Haroun, the French based auteur who has set all of his films to date in his homeland.  His latest moves to the Chadian capital, N’Djamena in a plush luxury hotel principally for the overseas market, which seems horribly out of keeping with its modest surroundings.

 

The protagonist’s plight is not immediate; it is like the civil war itself, which slowly encroaches on the film.  A former swimming champion in his younger days and still known as the Champ amongst the locals, he is more than content with his lot attending to the hotel’s swimming pool with the aid of his trendy son.  And then a change of ownership brings cutbacks and the Champ’s demotion to the lowly paid gatekeeper only for his son to take his former job.  It proves to be a bitter pill to swallow but things go from bad to worse when the Champ cannot pay his war tax, the penalty of which is that local thugs brutally apprehend his son in a barbaric form of drafting for the army.  His reinstatement at the pool compounds the guilt, a sense of betrayal that he cannot rationalise but it is unclear whether it is a case of the Chinese proverb of ‘be careful for what you wish for’ or something worse; a planned outcome.  Either way, we witness the Champ’s pain, a pain evident in his every look, in his every slow movement but never at the expense of his resolute pride, a pride that he now redirects away from his job to reconciliation with his son.  But with army helicopters hovering above, curfews restricting movement and neighbours evacuating in droves, the prospects seem bleak, tragedy inevitable.

 

This is the portrayal of war at a very local level where we feel the impact of the conflict, the arbitrariness of the human rights abuses and the disproportionate severity of the Champ’s fateful punishment for a momentary lapse all the more keenly.

 

Youssef Djaoro’s often silent performance is a masterclass in reserved anguish that intensifies our empathy and would have been a certainty for major awards if delivered in a film at the more commercial end of the indie sector.

 

The film was more than worthy of its jury prize at the recklessly underrated Cannes 2010 and confirms Haroun as not only one of the most important African filmmakers of his generation but a major player on the world stage.  His earlier film, Daratt (Dry Season), is an absolute must for anybody who has not seen it.dapoxetine online purchasedapoxetine buy online usadapoxetine for salebuy dutasteride ukdutasteride costdutasteride online pharmacybuy dutasteride ukbuy dutasbuy dutascheap dutasteride

Pipe, The

May 1st, 2011 - Graham Eley

“Blood money, blood cops” cries one of the residents of a small rural community, faced with corporate bullying of an all too familiar kind, the kind where the ruling government throws its full support behind a global consortium proposal, which, for one reason or another, self-evidently works against the national interest.

 

The village is Rossport, County Mayo, a stone’s throw from a huge natural gas reserve, quite literally eleven trillion cubic feet, off Ireland’s sleepy West Coast. Shell leads the consortium and the proposals involve the installation of a dirty big pipe through Rossport.  The issue is not so much whether Shell should access the reserve although some diehards would risk life and limb before allowing the consortium on Irish soil.  Nor, as far as the locals are concerned, does it particularly concern the Irish’s government’s reckless failure to secure long-term benefits for the people, Shetland style.  The main objection here is Shell’s failure to consider plausible options to site the pipe in uninhabited areas, the blatant disregard of the planning process and the uneven enforcement of the law generally, and court orders and injunctions in particular.

 

Shocking is the sight of the Irish Garda beating the villagers exercising their right to peaceful protest on the back of a spurious authority that defies National and European law.  The Garda are from the community, they know the score, everybody knows, and decisive are the moments when they cannot look the protesters in the eye when it comes to the legal arguments.  They are following orders, orders that have no regard to the key point, actually the only point, at least, in a democracy, that the legal processes were still under way, unresolved.

 

Inconvenient for Shell was that the various timetables for the legal due processes did not comply with its own project plan; particularly the arrival of the gigantic pipe laying ship extraordinaire, the Solitaire.  Enter local fisherman Pat O’Donnell who in his diminutive boat, John Michelle, openly challenges, mocks even, the Solitaire on the waters that he has fished throughout his adult life and sets up his own David & Goliath battle.  Using fisherman etiquette, wit, an intimidating mix of  charm and calculated abuse, O’Donnell leads the Solitaire a merry dance before his inevitable arrest, an arrest that he craved.  “Arrest me” he taunts the Garda, who have boarded his vessel, as they search in vain for a peaceful solution, a solution that avoids the hero’s welcome awaiting O’Donnell on shore.

 

Extreme is the passion of the fearless school teacher with a difference, Moura, who insists on direct action and, ultimately, goes on hunger strike.

 

Telling are the contributions of the wonderful Willie Corduff, whose farmland is most under threat from the proposals, who with a huge dose of Irish humour, has an absolute understanding of the wider picture, the villagers’ duty to future generations.

 

Moving is the genuine fear of the villagers awaiting an uncertain future.  Shock evolves to anger as we witness villagers routinely imprisoned without a cause.  And, of couse, we share the villagers’ total jubilation as the Solitaire lamely backs off for what O’Donnell sardonically describes as “calmer waters”.

 

This is fly-on-the-wall filmmaking from Risteard Ó Domhnaill, himself a member of the community, giving a voice to it that Shell, the Garda & the Irish Government tried so hard to silence.  This is not a one-sided rant in the Michael Moore sense nor an investigation into the unknown exploring the issues from all angles.  It is an honest record of events as they unfold where the filmmaker is not afraid to get close to the action and get his hands dirty.  But it is all done with a strong narrative drive that sweeps the audience along for the ride to its, for once, just conclusion.  Not that anybody is so naive as to believe that Shell will not be back for the next round.dapoxetine price in usabuy cheap dapoxetine onlinedapoxetine online pharmacycialis sublingual sale cheap cialis sublingual online cialis sublingual order online cialis sublingual cost cialis sublingual cialis sublinguale cheap cialis sublingual