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Archive for the ‘Allan’s Contemporary Cinema’ Category

ida a

by Allan Fish

Ida (Poland 2013 80m) DVD2 (Poland only)

Travels With My Aunt

Piotr Dzieciol, Eva Puszczynska, Eric Abraham  d  Pawel Pawlikowski  w  Rebecca Lenkiewicz, Pawel Pawlikowski  ph  Ryszard Lenczewski, Lucasz Zal  ed  Jaroslaw Kaminski  m  Kristian Eidnes Andersen  art  Katarzyna Sobanska-Strzalkowska, Marcel Slawinski

Ageta Kulesza (Wanda Gruz), Agata Trzebuckowska (Ida Lebenstein), Dawid Ogrolnik (Lis), Jerzy Trela (Szymon), Joanna Kulig (singer), Adam Szyszkowski (Feliks), Halina Skoczynska (mother superior),

The critical and financial failure of Pawel Pawlikowski’s misjudged 2011 film The Woman in the Fifth, coming after seven years after his previous film (the much better received My Summer of Love) could have been enough to have some commentators wondering if he could recover from it.  So when Ida was announced for the London Film Festival in the autumn of 2013, I was trying to put his last misfire to the back of my mind.  Unable to attend the festival, it was on DVD that I was always likely to see it first.  But nothing could really prepare me for what I was about to see.

Ida is really several films in one; not narratively speaking, but thematically.  Set in 1962, it follows young Ida, an orphan at a convent who is informed that she must speak to her only living relative before she is able to take her vows.  This relative, her Aunt Wanda, is a former state prosecutor well respected inside the party but who has turned more and more to promiscuity and drink.  She tells Ida that her parents were actually Jewish and died during the war, murdered before they could even be sent to their deaths at the Nazis’ factories of death.  Ida and Wanda agree on a trip to see the primitive house where her family once resided and there come up against a wall of silence from those now living there.  They are sent on a wild goose chase, during which time Ida meets a young musician.  Finally they learn the truth about Ida’s parents’ death, but how will the two women react to this final act of closure? (more…)

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Nymphomaniac a

by Allan Fish

(Denmark 2013 241m) DVD1/2

Mea vulva, mea vulva, mea maxima vulva

p  Louise Vesth  d/w  Lars Von Trier  ph  Manuel Alberto Claro  ed  Morten Hojbjerg, Molly Marlene Stensgard  art  Simone Grau

Charlotte Gainsbourg (older Joe), Stacy Martin (young Joe), Stellan Skarsgard (Seligman), Shia LaBeouf (Jerome), Christian Slater (Joe’s father), Connie Nielsen (Joe’s mother), Jamie Bell (K), Willem Dafoe (L), Sophie Kennedy Clark (B), Hugo Speer (Mr H), Uma Thurman (Mrs H), Felicity Gilbert (Liz), Jesper Christensen (Jerome’s uncle), Saskia Reeves (nurse), Kate Ashfield (therapist), Mia Goth (P), Michael Pas (old Jerome), Jean-Marc Barr (debtor), Udo Kier (waiter), Laura Christensen (babysitter),

Agent provocateur, enfant terrible, just plain naughty boy, call him what you like, any Lars Von Trier film is an event.  In the case of Nymphomaniac it was anticipated more than perhaps any other.  Those expecting something sexually arousing, however, may find themselves disappointed.  After all, don’t forget that this is the concluding part of his trilogy about depression, and when I say that it’s more depressing than either Antichrist or Melancholia, you should take pause.

It follows Joe, the sex addict of the title, who is found in an alley by intellectual Seligman, who takes her back to his flat to recuperate when she refuses to have the police called.  There he presses her about why she didn’t want the emergency services to come, and she tells him it’s a long story.  He’s happy to listen, so she tells him the story of her life and why she is, in her own words, an awful human being.  She goes back to her childhood with a kindly doctor father and an ice-cold mother, and takes in the loss of her virginity and her various friendships and lovers over the years. (more…)

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Scarlett Johansson Under the Skin

by Allan Fish

(UK 2013 108m) DVD1/2

The girl who fell to earth

Nick Wechsler, James Wilson  d  Jonathan Glazer  w  Jonathan Glazer, Walter Campbell  novel  Michel Faber  ph  Daniel Landin  ed  Paul Watts  m  Mica Levi  art  Chris Oddy

Scarlett Johansson (Laura), Paul Brannigan (Andrew), Jessica Mance (alien), Krystof Hádek (swimmer), Scott Dymond, Michael Moreland,

After watching Under the Skin Mark Cousins tweeted “if movies hadn’t evolved out of other art forms, like the novel or theatre, what would they have looked like?  Like Under the Skin.”  Ne’er a truer word was tweeted, and yet it’s a statement that also gets to the heart of why the film was always going to be so divisive.  Many film writers, critics and commentators and the vast majority of audiences are set in their ways.  They like their films to have a linear narrative.  They can jump forward and back in time, so long as they explain everything by the end credits.  Under the Skin is a film that is happy to explain nothing.  It revels in its ambiguity.  To appreciate it one has to take a quantum leap, not to wonder what will happen next but to wonder what we will see next.  (more…)

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lgb 3

by Allan Fish

(Italy 2013 142m) DVD1/2

Aka. La grande bellezza

All the rest is just disappointment and fatigue

p  Francesca Cima, Nicola Giuliano  d  Paolo Sorrentino  w  Paolo Sorrentino, Umberto Contarello  ph  Luca Bigazzi  ed  Cristiano Travaglioli  m  Lele Marchitelli  art  Stefania Cella

Toni Servillo (Jep Gambardella), Carlo Verdone (Romano), Sabrina Ferilli (Ramona), Carlo Buccirosso (Lello Cava), Iaia Forte (Trumeau), Galatea Ranzi (Stefania), Pamela Villoresi (Viola), Franco Graziosi (Conte Colonna), Giorgio Pasotti (Stefano), Aldo Ralli (Cardinal), Giovanna Vignola (Dadina), Roberto Herlitzka (Cardinal Bellucci), Isabella Ferrari (Orietta), Giusi Merli (Sister Maria),

Though set in the present day of Silvio Berlusconi’s Italy, The Great Beauty is a film that takes you back.  And it’s appropriate that it does so, because it doffs its hat to the art-house intellectual cinema of the 1960s that, with very few exceptions, now seems a lifetime away.

The lifetime in question here is Jep, a native Roman who is celebrating his 65th birthday in the way he celebrates everything in his life, with a loud party.  Since he published his first and only novel 40 years previously, partying and living a life of professional leisure has been his life.  All changes when he hears the news that his first love, who rejected him for reasons that remain unclear, has died.  While flashing back to a beach encounter at dusk when he was 18 and she 20, he wanders about Rome looking in equal measure for a purpose to go on, distractions, divertissements, and the looking up of an occasional old friend.  His journey will take in nightclub owners, a cardinal who cannot stop talking about how to cook meat, a fortysomething stripper, his female dwarf editor, and even his neighbour who, it transpires, is one of the world’s ten most wanted.  (more…)

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aok 2

by Allan Fish

(Denmark 2012 115m) DVD1/2

There’s many ghosts here

p  Signe Byrge Sorensen, Joshua Oppenheimer  d  Joshua Oppenheimer  ph  Carlos Arango de Montis, Lars Skree  ed  Nils Pagh Andersen, Mariko Pontpetit, Charlotte Munch Bengtsen, Janus Billeskov Jansen, Erik Andersson, Ariadan Fatjo-Vilas  m  Karsten Fundal

Watching Joshua Oppenheimer’s alarming documentary I was consistently reminded of that wonderful speech spoken by Anton Walbrook in front of the repatriation committee in Colonel Blimp.  He talks of the state of affairs in Germany, and describes how it was a place where “the gangsters finally succeeded in putting the honest citizens in jail.”   There at least, some form of justice took place at Nuremberg, if not towards as many as it should have done.  But what do you do if you live in a country where the gangsters that committed such atrocities were not only never brought to justice, but still have privileged lives?  And not only that, but they’re more than happy to discuss the atrocities they committed and mourn the death of the good old days.  (more…)

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blue 1

(France 2013 179m) DVD1/2

Aka. La Vie d’Adèle

Tutoring in philosophy

p  Brahim Chioua, Vincent Maraval, Abdellatif Kechiche  d  Abdellatif Kechiche  w  Abdellatif Kechiche, Ghalia Lacroix  comic book  Julie Maroh  ph  Sofian el Fani  ed  Sophie Brunet, Camille Toubkis, Albertine Lastera, Jean-Marie Lengelle

Adèle Exarchopoulos (Adèle), Lea Seydoux (Emma), Salim Kechiouche (Samir), Aurélien Recoing (Adèle’s father), Catherine Salée (Adèle’s mother), Sandor Funtek (Valentin), Benjamin Siksou (Antoine),

Being as the title of the comic book on which Abdellatif Kechiche’s film is based, and indeed its English title, is a paradox, it’s perhaps appropriate that Blue is the Warmest Colour examines a paradox at the heart of its central protagonists.  Some accused it of being self-indulgent, in both length and its explicitness.  Were they not paying attention?

Adèle is a seventeen year old girl, part of a typically know-it-all clique of girls who have to know everything about each other, and who is being paid attention by a boy for the first time.  He’s a science student, she’s a French literature geek; their incompatibility clear for all to see.  The sex is okay, but not enough for Adèle.  She’s taken by her friend Valentin to a gay club for a drink, but then wanders off down the road to a lesbian bar.  There she meets Emma, a young woman with blue hair she walked past in the street one day.  Emma is a fine arts student at university with a passion for Sartre.  They strike up a friendship, the friendship turns intimate, and they become lovers.  (more…)

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soj 3

by Allan Fish

(UK 2013 300m) DVD2

Paranoia confirmed by history

p/d  Ella Bahaire, Tim Kirby  w  Simon Schama  ed  Sean Mackenzie  m  Arvshalom Caspi

presented by  Simon Schama

One may think, in this so-called enlightened age of ours, that there may be no need for a historical overview of the children of Yahweh.  We know of the Holocaust, of the horror of its conception and execution and the neglect of its being allowed to happen by Allies who could summon up no more than quiet sympathy for their plight.  Yet when it was announced, I remember thinking to myself that this series would set the cat amongst the faux liberal pigeons.  We like to think that we have learned from the calamity, constantly reminded by countless books, the great documentary works of Claude Lanzmann and Laurence Rees, and in the still physical form of the ghostly death camps by the Sola river.

A couple of episodes into the series and I looked at the rating for the show on that reliable gauge of opinion of pre-judged opinion, the IMDb.  Sure enough, the average rating was 4.7 out of 10.  Give that some context; Caligula gets 5.1!  So into the individual voting we go, and what comes up; ratings of 8, 9 and 10, a couple at 6, but then a whopping near 50% at 1.  Depressing does not begin to cover it. (more…)

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