Fassbinder spells out the film’s personal relevance from the very beginning by calling it a ‘case history’ and identifying an unnamed male as the inspiration for Marlene’s character. The all-female cast is perfectly selected, all faces that will be familiar to fans of Fassbinder. Margit Carstensen is marvellous as the lead – uncomfortably rakish in appearance, she portrays the predatory Petra with aplomb. Irm Hermann as Marlene is a ghostly presence throughout the film – in one scene, her teary pale face suddenly vanishes into a blur, underlining her comparative insignificance once Karin has entered the frame. The fashion motif in the film suggests a theme of deception, the two women dressing competitively in a bid to convince the other of her feelings. Though it carries the relics of a low-budget seventies production, Petra von Kant is fundamentally timeless and classic.
Wednesday, 2 November 2011
Sunday, 28 August 2011
Buoyed by strong performances and subtly intrusive sound design (see the opening five minutes for a fine example), Blind Shaft acts simultaneously as an exposé of a shocking practice which has become far too commonplace, and as a universal statement on financial greed. Li himself has stated that the film should not be seen specifically as an indictment on the Chinese work ethic, but its ban in China suggests that the content hits closer to home than expected. Comparisons to the films of Wang Bing, particularly his marathon documentary Tie Xi Qu, may be reductive, but both directors work towards the similar goal of offering an unabashed insight into the ‘real’ China, and as such one could never overstate the importance of Blind Shaft.
Wednesday, 8 June 2011
As usual, Wiseman does not offer any singular commentary, and with a subject matter which is a constant hot button in many circles, even rivalling some human rights issues, one gets the feeling that Wiseman deliberately avoided being more pronounced in his critique of the more inhumane practices of these packing plants. However, it is important to remember that Wiseman had previously documented more shocking animal cruelty in a research lab in Primate, an institution with arguably more responsibility towards their subjects. While Wiseman’s film does grant the viewer exclusive access to the domain of its subject, it does not feel like a particularly unique perspective, nor does it compare with Wiseman’s other in-depth documentaries.
Saturday, 4 June 2011
Andrey Paounov’s shrewd documentary asks many questions and leaves the answers, if any, to the viewer, and as a result it is difficult to understand the intended effect. Each interviewee offers a unique perspective on the town’s many issues, and the cumulative effect is somewhat depressing. A sinister commentary is made on the town’s future when it is revealed that the ex-mayor, the man who was responsible for much of Belene’s city planning and industrial development, also played a key role in the local Communist-era labour camp. While the film does concern itself heavily with the impossibility of leaving the past behind, Paounov does not forget to balance his piece with humour and wit, and at times it feels as if Christopher Guest and his team have taken on small-town Eastern Europe.
Wednesday, 30 March 2011
Sunday, 6 March 2011
A huge success at the box office, grossing more than any other Indian film ever, Endhiran covers many genres and feels as if it was designed to entertain the widest range of people conceivable, although whether it fulfilled this goal is another question. Lead actor Rajnikanth, playing both Vaseegran and his robot analogue Chitti, has some great comedic turns but is unable to sustain interest for the film’s 155-minute runtime. For the casual Western viewer, there are plenty of WTF moments – a scene where a naked girl runs into traffic is particularly baffling – as well as a plethora of tongue-in-cheek movie references, although the proviso of satire has not saved the film from accusations of plagiarism. But for all its various flaws, this Kollywood blockbuster has undeniable entertainment value.
Friday, 25 February 2011
From the first moment we see Tonka, she is already a tainted woman, her reputation scuppered by her brothel connections, and as such it is difficult to know which part of her story we are to learn from. If anything, the film appears to tell us, as in Mikio Naruse’s later Morning’s Tree-Lined Street, that the bright lights of the city are a misleading augury. The scenes with Tonka in the countryside are beautiful, pleasant, summery – when the story returns to the city however, we are greeted by nocturnal shadows and noxious smoke. Slovenian actress Ita Rina, best known for her role in Erotikon, does a great job of portraying the protagonist trapped in the evil shadows of Prague. Director Karl Anton employs tropes of German Expressionism and French Impressionism in his visual arsenal, creating a melodrama with surprising emotional reach.
Unapologetically experimental in his storytelling, Tahimik works without any strong semblance of rhythm or pace – pieces of music begin and then are abruptly stopped before the next scene. Dubbing is similarly amateurish, with Tahimik’s character providing a partly diegetic commentary which brings to mind underground filmmakers. This is not to simplify Tahimik’s intellectual goal – if anything, the uneven shooting style and use of bricolage clarify his point, implying that his cinematic voice is an imbalanced compromise as a result of colonialism. Tahimik makes frequent use of visual and verbal puns – the motif of chewing gum plays a metaphorical role, painting the American influence as a fleeting fancy. Perfumed Nightmare lacks the rigour of other post-colonial films such as Soleil Ô, but the personal angle makes this film all the more charming.
Wednesday, 16 February 2011
The strength in the film is in not revealing the differences between Martha and Rukundo immediately – on face value, the two are able to get along without issue. Themes of unity prevail throughout the film, although often these are presented as illusions, and the open ending serves only to suggest that there are still repercussions of discrimination. The film is utterly absorbing at moments – some great acting in the scene where Rukundo’s family express their distrust of Tutsi makes for compelling viewing – but there are several flaws which keep the film from achieving its goal fully. Martha and Rukundo’s relationship happens quicker than the audience can fathom, and the film suffers from a few distracting technical shortcomings. Nonetheless, A Love Letter To My Country has great intentions and hopefully augurs well for the Rwandan film industry.
Friday, 28 January 2011
Peter von Bagh is better known by some as a film historian, and this project displays as deep a love for cinema as it does for Helsinki. Many of the films shown share superficial elements in common – long shadows, minimal movement – and while technical aspects of the film are never brought up, the film functions as a history of Finnish cinema. The one issue here is in the editing – given von Bagh’s access to previously unfamiliar films, one wonders if we’re seeing the clips that best fulfil the film’s intent or if the visual connections are too enjoyable to pass up. In this sense, Helsinki, Forever falls short of the likes of Sans Soleil in creating a compelling film essay, but it nonetheless manages to hold one’s attention. Wistful at times, joyful at others, Helsinki, Forever manages to brim with vivacity through a reconnection with the past.