Archive for the ‘Featured’ Category

Highest Feb opening for ‘Fifty Shades’

February 15th, 2015 - Graham Eley

Universal’s ‘Fifty Shades of Grey’ grossed an outstanding $30.2m at North America’s Friday box office for the highest ever February opening. Both first night audiences (‘C+’ cinemaScore) and critics (26% on RT) lacked any enthusiasm but it’s unlikely to impact on the film’s momentum. Competition from Valentines Day is more of a concern but the E.L. James’ adaptation should still gross $85m over the four days, comfortably above studio expectations.

 

The weekend’s other wide opener, ‘Kingsman: Secret Service’, starring Colin Firth, grossed $10.5m in line with market projections. Again critics and audiences were in agreement and a solid 71% critical RT average and a ‘B+’ cinemaScore should push Matthew Vaughn’s adventure comedy to a $40m session.buy prednisolone eye drops online
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Modern Classics: Pedro Costa’s ‘Colossal Youth’ (‘Juventude Em Marcha’)

October 14th, 2014 - Graham Eley

It’s now eight years since Pedro Costa’s austere epic, ‘Colossal Youth’ (‘Juventude Em Marcha’), provoked a partial walkout during the film’s world premiere at Cannes, with his pared down minimalism and extreme long takes proving too much for an audience used to a less challenging ‘spoon fed’ diet.

 

The Film concludes Costa’s Fontáinhas trilogy after ‘Bones’ and ‘In Vanda’s Room’, and he returns to the Lisbon ghetto at the same time as its Cape Verdean inhabitants end a chapter in their own lives, making way for a wholesale slum demolition.

 

Non-professional actors play themselves recounting stories, shifting between faithful monologues and generalised approximations of a wider experience, with the tall and watchful Ventura – our guide – slowly drifting around the almost empty streets and randomly seeking out old friends, his spiritually adopted ‘children’.

 

Some have already relocated to the near-by off-white housing blocks at Casal Boba, a convenient dumping ground bearing faint traces of Le Corbusier’s urban dream but diluted to a familiar concrete conurbation; contemptuously dismissed by Ventura’s inverted Buñuellian gesture, pointing at non-existent spiders off-screen.

 

It’s here that he finds the title character from ‘In Vanda’s Room’ during scenes that feel like an intrusive look behind closed doors during a ‘fly on the wall’ documentary as Vanda reflects on her journey from drug addiction to methadone management.

 

Ventura’s reflections are very different; flashbacks informing arbitrary recollections and vice versa as memories of the past merge with a present looking back, destabilising our bearings.

 

He repeats a poetic love letter endlessly, each new context slightly changing its meaning until a personal loss takes on a more general lament, bemoaning a further eroding of his culture when any resistance would be futile.

 

But there’s absolute clarity when a security guard ejects him from an art gallery that he helped construct as a manual labourer years before; no more than a ‘pit so deep’ at the time of the letter.

 

And Costa’s own highly stylised aesthetic is no less painterly than the Rubens’ masterpieces that catch Ventura’s gaze, composing still life’s like a Dutch master, lending occasional dramatic excursions a forbidding Caravaggio chiaroscuro and, during moments of stunning ironic beauty, transforming concrete walls into a Malevich ‘white on white’ abstraction with a truly sublime incandescent light; each still being an artwork in its own right.

 

This is an extraordinarily rich and layered film with plenty to engage the active viewer during multiple viewings but, judging by the Cannes walkout, the lazy see nothing.buy zithromax mastercard
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A different way of seeing: Larissa Sansour’s Nation Estate

April 15th, 2014 - Graham Eley

Larissa Sansour’s short film/video installation, ‘A Space Exodus’, was an ironic take on Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ where she plays an astronaut taking ownership of the moon with a Palestinian flag.  But this was an act of survival, a million miles away from a superpower strutting its colonising stuff, and represented the Palestinian people/nation displaced from Earth and finding a new home in Outer Space.

 

Sansour continued to subvert the sci-fi genre, turning notions of the outsider inside-out – an unlawfully ousted insider in this universe – with her controversial, as it turned out, and most prominent piece, ‘Nation Estate’.  It’s another short, sitting on the borders of video art and experimental film – a distinction fast losing any relevance – and serves as a reminder to film programmers that the shorter format, just like in literature, is a means to an end in itself and not, simply, a stepping stone – a glorified promo – en route to a coveted feature.

 

Playful yet deadly serious, Sansour returned to terra firma in ‘Nation Estate’ for another satirical sci-fi solution to the Palestinian dilemma.  It’s one that sees the shrinking state downsized to a single building – a gargantuan skyscraper, quite literally – which extends vertically almost ad infinitum and gives us a utopian town planner’s (wet) dream turned dystopian.

 

Sansour plays the main and only substantial character, an unnamed woman wearing gear from an undetermined future but it’s close enough to now, in the same way as Spike Jonze’s more recent ‘Her’, to serve as an analogy of a contemporary reality at a very slight remove.  And just like ‘Her’, the sci-fi has a retro feel – Sansour argues, with some force, that this is always a trait of the genre – which traps the current Middle East in a claustrophobic virtual time zone sandwiched between an interchangeable future and past; triggering a wholly appropriate anxiety within the viewer, in the most abstract sense, to echo the position on the ground, one where the political standoff is destined to remain at a standstill.

 

She takes the elevator to Bethlehem, each floor has its own city, where hints of former Palestine float within a hyperreal simulacrum of faux historical monuments – an inverted theme park – combining high tech with ancient culture; the ultimate in designer alienation and post modern despair.

 

Her flat is as austere as a hospital clinic; boxes within boxes.  But we see her watering an olive tree – something real – and it comes across as a silent and impotent act of deviance; clinging on to a fading past with a private act that should be public and becomes so by virtue of Sansour’s film.

 

And it’s the film as a political statement – weapon perhaps – that caused a media storm even before entering production.  Various photo sketches that Sansour was developing for the film’s launch as part of a multimedia event Wilson Twins style received a nomination for the Lacoste Elysée Prize.  That is, until the sponsors blacklisted the photographs as ‘too pro-Palestinian’ and removed them from the process.

 

Sansour turned art whistleblower and the usual latent price of corporate sponsorship became very public and, under pressure maybe, the Swiss Musee de l’Elysee withdrew from hosting the prize and showed ‘Nation Estate’ instead in a rare victory of sorts.cialis online without cialis online in usa cialis cost cvs generic cialis uk online pharmacy cialis cost canada cialis price with insurance cialis 10mg cost

Bab el Oued City: A 20th anniversary reappraisal

February 2nd, 2014 - Graham Eley

Just as today’s local filmmakers are providing an essential birds eye view of the Arab Spring’s complex aftermath, often focusing on details that seemingly lie beyond traditional journalism,  Merzak Allouache’s sixth feature, ‘Bab el Oued City’, gave us an invaluable insight into Islamic fundamentalism within Algeria when it challenged an old order rather than being one under attack.

 

The film made an immediate impression, screening in the Un Certain Regard sidebar at Cannes, where it won the FIPRESCI Award.  But, inevitably, it has slipped beneath the radar during the intervening twenty years and the film is now ripe for a revival; particularly as Allouache’s latest feature, ‘Rooftops’, competed for the Golden Lion at last year’s Venice.

 

And rooftops played their part in ‘Bab el Oued City’, where loudspeakers boom out fundamentalist propaganda/extreme edicts, seemingly all night long.  These have the feel of a totalitarian regime imposing/exercising an arbitrary authority – a Big Brother command – but, in reality, this is a transitional period; the ideological battle still under way.

 

We sense that the fundamentalists have a foothold but there is no likelihood of sweeping change.  This is a war of attrition at a local level – political substitution by coercion – where nothing is quite what it first seems.  Local thugs target individuals rather than an official body, trying to bully them into submission but a mysterious sinister presence – unseen occupiers of a car circling the city – could be co-ordinating the apparent random acts.  We never do find out who is pulling the strings and the film is far more effective for it.

 

The fundamentalists demand ‘cleanliness’, an euphemism for a familiar religious purity that silences women and restricts men to a single worldview.  Various story-lines – some interconnected – explore the community’s reaction to the fundamentalists’ gradual but discernible tightening of their metaphorical net.  Inevitably, though, the net not only catches opponents but many supporters, who apply the new rules more liberally when it suites them; leading to hypocrisy and a qualified morality upon their own terms.

 

And it paints a very different picture of women’s submission than that emerging from more recent films dealing with contemporary tyrannous regimes.  One of the more shocking aspects of ‘Wadjda’ and ‘B for Boy’, for example, was the portrayal of women colluding in their own suppression, acting as gender police for an extreme patriarchal society.  The women in ‘Bab el Oued City’ are far less accepting of their position, establishing rules within rules, looking for ways that they can subvert the new doctrine and get away with it.

 

Hassan Abdou plays a young butcher, Boualem, who has a complex relationship with an alcoholic woman living in solitude and a much simpler one with the virginal younger sister of an extremist, Said.  Boualem removes a roof loudspeaker in an act of impotent deviance that has wider consequences than he anticipated.

 

Mohamed Ourdache plays Said.  He leads a personal crusade against Boualem and seems to rule the roost in these parts until an ambiguous encounter with a man from the ominous car.

 

And from these straight-forward set-pieces emerge an elaborate network of fluctuating and unstable social interactions, one that Allouache somehow shapes into a coherent structure without losing the majority ‘s political and cultural equivocation.

 

This is a film that extends beyond its immediate historical moment – fundamentalism establishing a power basis – and has much to say about the nature of extremism and power in general and how key moments remain undetected, which distorts subsequent thinking and understanding.  It’s a film that deserves and demands wider attention.generic cialis online mastercard cheap cialis uk cialis online mastercard generic cialis tadalafil rxmeds hub order cialis online buy cialis online in usa cialis 5mg online usa

Future My Love and the Modernist documentary

January 12th, 2014 - Graham Eley

Modernism is alive and kicking within documentary filmmaking and can be found in the experimental debut feature of Maja Borg, ‘Future My Love’.

 

And stylistically it works very well.  A verbal letter replaces a traditional commentary, which is less arbitrary than Chris Marker’s Sans Soleil but will, nevertheless, draw comparisons.  Diverse contemporary interviews, poetic footage and archival material seamlessly blend into a non-linear narrative that sits on the cusp of artistic vision and political statement.  And there is a nod to Alain Resnais with scenes and voice overs repeated at surprising times but it adds clarity to the main thrust of Borg’s argument rather than infusing the text with ‘Last Year in Marienbad’ style ambiguity; a necessary ploy for the documentary format.

 

Here, the Modernist devices serve and frame a meditation/reflection on new beginnings at a personal and global level with Borg pulling together two threads; the demise of her relationship with Italian actress Nadya Cazan and the fall of our outmoded monetary system.  The letter becomes a valediction to both and Borg explores a replacement that takes us to the futuristic theories of the quirky inventor/alternative thinker, Jacque Fresco.

 

How unfortunate, then, that the film’s subject is not really worthy of its formal and stylistic ingenuity.

 

Fresco’s Venus Project is a prototype of sorts for a new society that can only come into being once Capitalism fails – there is no acknowledgement to Marx but perhaps Fresco/Borg consider the ‘M’ word too provocative; particularly for American audiences.  He extols the virtue of cooperation and community over competition and individualism – nothing wrong with that – but it all goes horribly wrong with his solution for a money free alternative.  Wait for it – Fresco proposes that we surrender control to computers for organising our economy and producing food and other resources – via 3D printing – whilst we put our feet up and enjoy a new Golden Age where the concept of ownership does not exist.  It’s an obvious recipe for a dystopian nightmare of genetic and social engineering that sounds more like a synopsis for a sci-fi ‘B’ movie than a serious theory.

 

But Fresco is right about one thing.  Limited resources will eventually end the economic cycles that have repeatedly bailed out our chronically flawed Capitalism – the ever decreasing circles of financial ruin and the political manifestos of self-deluding deceit/mythology.  Fresco’s proposals may be as absurd and dangerous as Social Darwinism at the other end of the scale, but we need a new plan A and we need it now.buy cialis online overnight delivery cialis 90 day supply lowest cost for cialis order cialis pills generic cialis with dapoxetine price cialis for daily use discount cialis coupon