Archive for March, 2012

This Is Not A Film

March 30th, 2012 - admin

The Iranian Government has enjoyed the reflected glory of the country’s independent filmmakers’ critical success on the international circuit for almost 20 years.  It led to an uneasy compromise with the regime often turning a convenient blind eye to productions that blatantly flaunted its arbitrary and dogmatic list of absolute prohibitions, only to ban them from internal exhibition as a matter of routine.  Along the way, there have been some tricky moments with filmmakers pushing the boundaries further than this vicious dictatorship would tolerate but things took a more sinister turn when Jafar Panahi stepped firmly into the political arena and declared his support for the green revolution in exercise of his basic human right.  The regime’s emphatic and characteristically disproportionate response has left Panahi facing a six year jail term and a 20-year ban from filmmaking.


This Is Not A Film is Panahi’s quiet but equally emphatic response, shot with an i-phone and small video recorder over a period of a single day in his apartment where he remains on house arrest pending the outcome of an appeal.  We hear his lawyer managing her client’s expectations during polite mobile phone conversations; a slightly reduced sentence was his best hope it seemed with ‘egg on the face’ u-turns being out of the question.


Fellow filmmaker, Mojtaba Mirtahmasb, controls the camera and Panahi sardonically redefines his role as an actor delivering improvised lines, something which the carelessly drafted ban did not exclude.  Not that the authorities are concerned with the niceties of legal interpretation in these parts where brave acts of defiance are the only means of challenge to the regime’s unlawful authority.


We receive a privileged insight into his creative thought process as he embarks upon a reading of the screenplay for what should have been his next film but now seems unlikely to be made.  It concerns a young girl under a different kind of house arrest at the insistence of her over-protective parents that fully embrace the regime’s edicts.  Acting with a compulsive urgency, as if anxious to capture a moment of creativity before it was lost, he uses masking tape to mark out a Dogville-style film set and proceeds to explain the opening scenes with some tellingly inventive asides on each aspect of the film’s form.  But as the title says, this is not a film, and the mock substitute serves to intensify the absence of the real thing, provoking Panahi to display his one and only emotional outburst of frustration.


By contrast, he plays DVD clips of his films and explains the necessary process of partial improvisation necessary to bring them into existence, capturing those aspects of reality that elude a screenplay.  We see the key moment from his 1997 film, The Mirror, where Panahi switches from fiction to quasi-documentary when a child actor refuses to continue with a part.  It comes close to creating a ‘found story’ in the André Bazin sense, flowing from a filmmaker exercising an act of spontaneity of a kind that the authorities have now so cruelly denied.


These telling excursions into Panahi’s film world are temporary distractions from a mundane existence where the heavily censored Internet remains his main link to the outside.  We see him killing time, looking out of his window and occasionally engaging with a pet iguana that slowly advances around the apartment with a contented simplicity that touches a nerve.  When a student with a part-time caretaking job turns up to collect the garbage, Panahi seizes the opportunity for an impromptu interview, following him to the gates with an excited enthusiasm that almost tempted him to cross the line onto the streets where the locals were enjoying a Persian festival.


Word has it that Panahi smuggled the film out of Iran on a USB stick concealed within a cake prior to its high profile screening as a late addition to the Cannes Film Festival.  There can be no doubt that the film’s mere existence is testament to a heroic act of personal defiance but the viewing becomes all the more affecting for an unforced dignity that Panahi displays throughout.  The international community has reacted angrily to this appalling misuse of state power but, sadly, it is unlikely to cut any ice with this vile regime.motilium salewhere can i buy motilium in ukbuy motilium tabletsorder domperidone from canadawhere to buy motilium in the usbuy domperidone from canada

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Into the Abyss: A Tale of Death, A Tale of Life

March 30th, 2012 - admin

When Werner Herzog encounters Michael Perry for the first time, he is greeted by an easy smile.  It is a smile of warmth, openness and comfort, the kind that we associate with the naivety of childhood.  The smile returns at the end of almost every sentence as he answers the questions without hesitation.  It leaves us on the wrong foot in the absolute sense, struggling to reconcile this spontaneous untroubled calm with his current plight, starring into the abyss of execution by lethal injection with little hope of another reprieve.  We cannot help but wonder whether he wore this same smile during his part in the cold blooded slaughter of three victims ten years earlier.  We fear that he did.


Jason Burkett is articulate and intelligent, responding to Herzog with a serious fixed aspect.  He is facing his own personal abyss, a life sentence for the same massacre without any prospect of securing a release on parole when his case comes up for review after 40 years.  There is no meaningful suggestion that he is less culpable than Perry but avoided the injection after the jury accepted an emotional appeal from his guilt-ridden father, Delbert, another lifer.


No promting was necessary from Herzog for Delbert to turn his time in front of the camera into a painful confessional.  This is what sincerity really looks like, something noticeably lacking in the answers of his son and Perry.  Haunted by regret and shame, he blames himself for everything having turned his back on a football scholarship for a miserable life of crime and neglect.  We are left in no doubt that he would have willingly laid on the gurney in his son’s stead if his plea for clemency had failed.


Somewhat against the odds, Jason will soon father his own child following an illicit artificial insemination with a delusional Big House groupie, who construes a rainbow as a mark of approval from high.  He will be roughly the same age as his father is now at the first parole hearing and only time will tell how he will reflect on his role as a parent.


The death row penitentiary chaplain, Richard Lopez, is surprisingly cold with a matter-of-fact account of his role in accompanying the prisoners to the execution chamber.  Things change dramatically as he describes saving a squirrel from almost certain death when the knowing Herzog catches him off guard.  Lopez breaks down with the irony of the anecdote unlocking conflicted emotions in a powerful cinematic moment of recognition.


No less telling is a former death row Captain, whose guilt had forced a resignation, explaining the significance of the ‘dash’, the line between the birth and death dates on a gravestone, which equals a person’s life.  A cross marks the graves of the executed in these parts where the deceased has a number rather than a name.


Herzog frames the interviews with haunting police footage of the crime scene in small town Texas.  Perry and Burkett were teenagers under the influence of drugs and alcohol when they murdered a 50-year-old nurse, her son and his friend for the sake of a Chevy Camaro sports car that happened to catch their eye.  The nurse’s daughter attended Perry’s execution and could not reconcile the boyish looking figure strapped to the gurney with the monster that she had created in her head.  She supported the execution but seemed uncomfortable describing a single tear that ran down his face at the point of death.


Herzog is opposed to the death penalty but this is a non-judgemental film that explores the aftermath of a brutal murder and a state execution and how it reflects and shapes parts of American society.  The execution just eight days into filming seems pointless and barbaric but, as Herzog makes clear to Perry at the outset, any opposition to the sentence does not mean that we like or forgive him.  A lesser filmmaker may have succumb to the temptation of dwelling on the disparity of the two sentences, which speaks for itself, and would have been an unwelcome distraction from the internal conflicts that cases of this kind generate in all of us regardless of which side of the death penalty divide we sit.


Nobody can find the right question at the right time quite like Herzog, a skill that he quietly exercises to the full in this engaging take on a very difficult subject.


And the devastating ready made symbolism of the Chevy in a car graveyard with a tree growing inside is not lost on any of us in this very human tragedy that material greed motilium tabletsorder domperidone from canadawhere to buy motilium in the usbuy domperidone from canada

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Island President, The

March 30th, 2012 - admin

Appearances can be deceptive; particularly when it comes to upmarket holiday resorts.  This has never been truer than with the Maldives, whose 2,000 coral islands summon-up visions of pre-industrial utopian paradises of the Golden Age but face apocalyptic extinction following centuries of environmental damage at the hands of industrial and post-industrial nations pursuing their own agendas.  And to make things worse, it returned to political turmoil this February when forces loyal to former dictator, Maumoon Abdul Gayoom, led a successful coup d’état.


Jon Shenk’s engaging film returns to more hopeful times at the end of the last decade when the pro-democracy leader, Mohamed Nasheed, overcame torture and 18-months solitary confinement in storming to victory in the country’s first free elections in over 30 years.


Confronted with the daunting prospect of his low-lying country soon becoming the new Atlantis, Nasheed embarks upon a one-man campaign to secure international agreement on a global warming cap that would keep sea levels at bay.  We follow him fly-on-the-wall style over a year that culminates in his one big opportunity to make a difference as self-appointed power broker at the 2009 Copenhagen Climate Summit.


A spin doctor’s nightmare, unafraid of provoking jaw-dropping headlines – comparing global warming to a Nazi invasion – he offsets an unabashed combative idealism with a winning combination of charisma, a huge smile and devastating negotiating skills.  There was only once when he looked uncomfortable on the world stage after confronting a major operator from the Indian government who would be a match for anyone.


The summit proved to be an edge-of-the-seat cliffhanger with a deal of any kind seemingly beyond Nasheed until his decisive eleventh-hour intervention forced a fudge that, at least, kept the door open for another day.  With extraordinary access to crisis meetings and off-the-record exchanges, we see him orchestrating other smaller nations into forming a single voice, desperately looking for the right button to press.  Occasionally, the sight of Obama and other big-hitters passing-by with their entourage is a sobering reminder of the huge conflicts of interest at that top end where shortsighted protectionism threatens self-inflicted motilium tabletsorder domperidone from canadawhere to buy motilium in the usbuy domperidone from canada

Once Upon A Time In Anatolia

March 16th, 2012 - admin

Nuri Bilge Ceylan brings us a very superior form of serious filmmaking, which, like Uzak and his other work of the last decade, is in the tradition of Michelangelo Antonioni’s brand of film modernism, one that makes the ambiguous, conflicting and unconnected nature of the real world an integral part of his film language.


Set in the small Anatolian hills during the dead of a wintery night, a rabble of Turkish police officers, grave diggers and a doctor attempt to provoke the memories or will of two murder suspects into locating the burial ground of their victim.  We assume that there has been some kind of a plea bargain but the accused are either unwilling or unable to cooperate in this vast area where one foothill looks the same as any other.


We follow the search party going through the motions as cynical world-weary pros engage in a familiar banter of irrelevance, desensitised to the ugly reality that they are notionally investigating.  They periodically halt at various spots fitting the bill, before moving on to the next and the next until repetition dampens their appetite for frivolity.  Slowly and almost imperceptibly, the unforgiving clarity of the late hour takes effect, eliciting long periods of reflection, exposing their vulnerabilities and fears as more fully formed characters come to the fore.


The pivotal point arrives, not with the discovery of the body, but when the party encounter the mayor’s daughter after breaking off for refreshments.  She possesses an almost mythical beauty that has a devastating impact on the men, where no words are necessary to convey their sense of youth lost, past regrets and a pending encounter with the devastating implications of mortality.  It is one of those pure cinematic moments that is simple in execution but derives an overwhelming power from the creation of a shared experience with the audience that transcends the medium.


There are perceptive performances across the board with particularly mention going to Taner Birsel for his portrayal of a vain state prosecutor who resembles Clark Gable and reveals more than he intended when trying to make sense of a personal tragedy.


Ceylan regular Gökhan Tiryaki returns as cinematographer and composes every scene with an artist’s eye for imposing an eerie metaphysical quality onto the landscape and capturing the immediacy of the incidental at one and the same time.  Watch out for one wonderful scene where Tiryaki follows an apple floating on a stream where nature imposes her own rhythms oblivious to our momentary motilium tabletsorder domperidone from canadawhere to buy motilium in the usbuy domperidone from canada


Co-winner of the Grand Prix at Cannes, Once Upon a Time in Anatolia is arguably Ceylan’s most ambitious and impressive film to date.


March 9th, 2012 - admin

Trishna is Michael Winterbottom’s third adaptation of a Thomas Hardy novel but it works far better when viewed independently of its source material.


Loosely based upon Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Winterbottom has relocated the action to contemporary India.  After establishing some passable parallels, it takes on a more interesting turn when exploring an Indian culture in transition from very different perspectives.


Freida Pinto (Slumdog Millionaire) plays the title character convincingly from the inside looking out, an impoverished rural worker’s daughter caught between traditional restraints and a desire to launch a Western style dancing career.  She can see opportunities on the horizon but, for the moment, at least, they are always conditional, with empowerment lying beyond her grasp.


Rising star, Riz Ahmed, who already boasts a number of standout performances, takes on the complex role of a British born son of a successful Indian hotelier returning to his father’s homeland as a partial insider.  He embarks upon a difficult relationship with Trishna where the constant switching of cultural codes ultimately proves irredeemably destructive.  This is a very mature performance from Ahmed, seamlessly embracing different personae that facilitate extremes of behaviour that in lesser hands could easily have jarred.


And Winterbottom is on the outside looking in, focusing upon powerful conceptions of gender from India’s heritage.  Compellingly, it is those that survive within Ahmed’s character moulded from afar that prove the most intractable notwithstanding his Western upbringing.


There is plenty here to enjoy for those not concerned with the niceties of film adaptation and, as we should expect, Winterbottom’s regular cinematographer, Marcel Zyskind, makes the most of some sumptuous motilium tabletsorder domperidone from canadawhere to buy motilium in the usbuy domperidone from canada

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