Sunday, 28 February 2010


Sixteen-year-old Juan finds himself in a spot of bother when he crashes his parents’ car into a telegraph pole. With almost no money, and only foot power to keep him going, Juan tries his hardest to get the car back home in one piece, calling upon the local residents for help. To his dismay, the townspeople are of little use to him, in part due to the lack of resources, but mostly due to lack of interest. Don Heber, an old mechanic, provides Juan with a place to rest briefly but little else, lavishing his attention on his dog. Young couple David and Lucia make an unenthusiastic effort to get parts, David preferring to practise martial arts while Lucia tends to their child. Although Juan doesn’t exactly get the assistance he wants, he does find that his sleepy neighbourhood has a lot more to offer than first expected, using his peculiar encounters to help him deal with the recent loss of his father.

Sweet and refreshing, Fernando Eimbcke’s sophomore effort is not an essential film by any means, but merits a watch. The story is light and unfolds with little motive, and as a result there is a heavy reliance on the characters. Even more frustrating is the repeated use of the black screen to punctuate pauses. Nonetheless, Eimbcke’s selective eye ensures that the passive viewer will at the very least take in some pretty sights. Gently humorous, Lake Tahoe could almost be a mellower companion piece to Familia Rodante.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

new short film blog!

After plenty of umming and ahhing about it, I have finally decided to set up a parallel blog for short films. The name of the blog is Celluloid Sushi, and each post will include three embedded videos of short films that I rather enjoy. I haven't seen nearly enough short films as I should as a film student, so hopefully this'll encourage me to be more proactive in the field I hope to get a career in!

I'm hoping for this blog to be more community-based, and have already asked a few mates to help out. I'm more than willing to take suggestions/submissions, including people's own work. Each writer/contributor will get their own sushi icon, in keeping with the blog theme.

So yeah. Celluloid Sushi. Add it!

Wednesday, 24 February 2010


Taking its title and cue from the Japanese belief that the first dream of a new year is premonitory, Bill Viola’s masterwork Hatsu-Yume shows the passing of a day over the course of an hour. Playing with video speed, dubbing and lighting, Viola choreographs what must have been a considerable library of footage into a wordless statement about life, inviting the viewer to absorb the tranquil beauty of time passing by. Opening with a dark shot of the tide, the film travels across Japan, taking in sights of land, water, sky and urban space. Details leap out where they wouldn’t have before - the filthy corner of a polystyrene crate, the subdermal iridescence of an octopus, raindrops on a windshield. No overwhelming link is made between sequences, save for the progression of light and the theme of mortality.

Created while Viola was artist-in-residence at Sony in Japan, Hatsu-Yume is, in its own way, thrilling. The static soundtrack, resembling the sound of a distant sea, sustains a dream-like sensation through the film, and allows the boundaries between sight and sound to disappear. When a coin being fed into a vending machine doesn’t clink, it feels as if this action is happening in a world beyond our control. Viola’s exploration of Japan and careful editing display a strong understanding of mono no aware, the Japanese philosophy of the transience of being. Though it should be watched as a projection, this meditative film is inviting enough that it could essentially be watched anywhere.

Sunday, 21 February 2010


Dealing with the different ways in which blind people handle romantic situations, Juraj Lehotský’s debut feature follows the lives of four individuals over a period of three years. Peter, an avid piano teacher to blind children, is very happily married and plans to take his wife Iveta to the seaside for the first time. Miro eagerly pursues purblind girl Monika in spite of her parents’ intense disapproval. Pregnant Elena is concerned about her unborn child’s sight. Teenager Zuzanna, just beginning secondary school, searches the internet for love in the belief that she will be judged differently if people don’t know she’s blind. The stories are told with a quasi-documentary realism, and are bookended by surreal animated vignettes reminiscent of Georges Méliès.

Lehotský quietly examines his subjects with sensitivity, without excluding them from any definition of ‘normality’. Miro is shown as a typical man whose dual outsider status as blind and Romani means he is always treated differently, and through sharing his intimate moments of self-discovery, the audience instead comes to know him as a normal human being. By showing us in great detail the lives of blind people, Lehotský puts focus on the tactile dimension of cinema that is rarely acknowledged. As Zuzanna runs her hands over a pockmarked desk or writes with her specially-adapted typewriter, we as ‘viewers’ learn more about her life than words or pictures could say. Unusual and heartfelt, Blind Loves is a worthwhile watch, deftly handling multiple stories without sentimentally intertwining them at the end.


When Shintaro, the elderly patriarch of the titular Toda family dies on his 69th birthday, eldest son Shinichiro is left to discover a mountain of debt. After some deliberation, the family decides to pay off the debts by selling off Shintaro’s entire collection of antiques and properties, save for a seaside house. The process forces the family to move out, and each member finds a different arrangement to suit them, except for the mother and youngest daughter Setsuko. Feeling uncomfortable at the house of Shintaro’s wife Kazuko, Mrs. Toda and Setsuko move in with eldest daughter Chizuko, only to encounter similar disagreements. Finding no luck living at any of her children’s houses, Mrs. Toda unhappily moves into the ramshackle house by the sea with Setsuko, and it isn’t until the return of second son Shojiro (who had upped sticks to China after Shintaro’s death) that the family’s strained ties are made clear.

As with every Yasujiro Ozu film, the drama is gentle but abundant, and is sweetly complemented by a sparing score. While she isn’t exactly a lovable character, Mrs. Toda is endearing in her own way, and the tense relationships she has with her children unravel at a realistic pace – we are never forced to believe the issues are irreconcilable, but are able to understand Mrs. Toda’s motives for moving. With all the characters involved, it is sometimes hard to tell who’s who, but Brothers And Sisters Of The Toda Family is otherwise a pleasant minor work from Ozu.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010


In 2009, filmmaker and critic Mark Cousins travelled to Goptapa, a tiny village in Iraqi Kurdistan which is sat at the crux of one of the twentieth century’s best-known conflicts. His role here was not only to record the beauty of the area through his own lens, but to give voice to the previously voiceless by donating high-definition cameras to the children in the area. Cousins invites his subjects to film whatever they wish, arranging projections of diverse films (Chakmeh, The Singing Ringing Tree, E.T.) to inspire them in their projects. The results are endearing, comical, even surprising – some of the children choose to film their parents or local elders, interviewing them about the horrific chemical attack on Goptapa in 1988. One boy, Mohammed, chooses to film his best friend, narrating his thoughts while he plays in the mud.

Cousins, born and raised in war-torn Belfast, is clearly speaking to his own background with this experiment, but The First Movie is above all about the children of the village. Rather than narrating over them, Cousins lets the films speak for themselves, only lending his voice to the sequences he shot himself to contextualise the documentary. In the film, Cousins notes David Lynch as an inspiration, and some of his sequences show an unacknowledged disquiet, particularly one showing a cow wandering through the streets at night. His love of cinema also percolates through the film, and it’s such a rush of emotion to see children so enraptured by The Red Balloon.

Monday, 15 February 2010


Made on a budget of $0, Adam Cooley’s Me, Myself And My Third Eye is an unusual exploration of the self, which nominally deals with the exploration for God. Cooley himself portrays four diverse characters, all of whom have their own need for religious experience. An unremarkable hand-puppet of a cat (basically a drawn-on paper bag) purposelessly explores various parts of the house, a masked maniac finds himself jealously coveting an electrical socket, the masked wife of an unnamed president ruminates over possible visits to the sperm bank, and an abrasive rapist father recounts uncaringly how his daughter works as a phone sex operator to fund his heroin addiction. The film flips indiscriminately between the stories.

Naturally, a non-existent budget provides stringent limitations, but it seems that Cooley wasn’t competent to begin with, as the sound and image editing attest. One also wonders whether he set out to spend most of the film in his bedroom, or if it was just easier that way. Fluxus it ain’t, but perhaps it is unfair to judge this sort of films so flippantly. After all, this is essentially the digital age’s equivalent to underground cinema, Cooley handling all roles (including promotion) himself. Visiting his website is somewhat encouraging, although he has more to say about his impressively lo-fi methods of filmmaking than what he wants to achieve. As such, Me, Myself, And My Third Eye is tedious and aimless, but the fact that it was made is refreshing enough to warrant further viewing.


In a sleazy cabaret named El Dorado, a young single mother named Sibilla works unenthusiastically as a dancer and performer to support her ill son. Neglected by Estiria, the reluctant father of her son, Sibilla sees a perfect opportunity to endanger his high status when she learns that his débutante daughter Iliana cheating on her wealthy fiancé with Hedwick, a Swedish painter. Awaiting the lovers at their usual meeting place, she locks them away for Estiria to discover, and the lovers are forced to take shelter at the house of Hedwick’s mother. Here, they concoct a counter-proposal to Sibilla, offering to take her son with them to convalesce at the Sierra Nevada. Sibilla agrees, but upon reflection regrets her decision to give away the only important person in her life, and her inability to reconcile issues with other people lead to dangerous consequences.

El Dorado is frequently noted for its striking originality, becoming a source of inspiration for filmmakers such as Alain Resnais, and the acclaim is justified. Director Marcel L’Herbier deftly infuses drama with physical and narrative layers, and plays creatively with focus to represent the state of Sibilla’s psyche. It is clear that a lot of influences are being dealt with simultaneously here, particularly in the mise-en-scène and the camera’s selective consumption of each scene. But El Dorado is no mere child of its progenitors – though mixing nuances of several European styles, L’Herbier creates a distinctly French dramaturgy which sees later offshoots in the films of Dmitri Kirsanoff.