Monday, 22 March 2010

easter hiatus.

Hello dearest readers,

Celluloid Breakfast (and sibling site Celluloid Sushi) will be on undetermined hiatus through Easter due to a silly amount of educational obligations. As always, many thanks for everyone who has visited the blog so far, you give me much-needed drive! I will make sure to keep watching and reviewing films when I get the chance, and I should be back in black within a month.

Sit tight and happy holidays!

love micmac•

Monday, 15 March 2010


Told through a series of flashbacks, The Secret Of Her Eyes follows the investigation of a brutal murder case in which a woman was raped and killed in her own home. Detective Benjamín Espósito shares responsibility for the case with knowledgeable lawyer Irene and bumbling assistant Pablo, but soon finds himself taking particular interest. Having found a set of dubious photos of a suspect named Isidoro, Benjamín determines to prove him guilty, even illegally breaking into the man’s home in an attempt to unearth evidence. The search eventually puts Isidoro to justice, but a year later he is released, becoming an assassin for the Partido Justicialista, a far-right political party. When Pablo is murdered, Benjamín assumes that the bullet was meant for him and moves to the countryside in self-imposed exile. But rather than finding peace or escape, Benjamín’s conscience is constantly blemished by the unfinished case, and one final attempt to solve it brings out shocking results.

Winner of the 2009 Best Foreign Film Oscar, The Secret Of Her Eyes is an engaging murder mystery romp, placing as much focus on the lives of the investigators as the case itself. Seasoned actor Ricardo Darín puts in an excellently stoical performance as Benjamín. But without placing too much emphasis on visual attractiveness, one can’t help but feel that The White Ribbon was robbed of the Oscar – asides from an incredible handheld sequence in which Benjamín and Pablo chase Isidoro during a football match, the film’s shooting style is peculiarly unremarkable.

Saturday, 13 March 2010


An affluent middle-class family in Austria goes about their daily duties. Father Georg works as an engineer, while mother Anna is an optician. When their young daughter Eva pretends to be blind at school, the couple begins to realise the suffocating monotony of day-to-day life. Anna, taking particular offence at the news of Eva’s charade, encourages her daughter to tell the truth under the proviso that she wouldn’t cause her any harm, but slaps her as soon as she admits what happened. This cycle of repressed feelings, pessimism and pronounced ennui continues over the course of three days, and a visit to Georg’s parents’ house proves life-changing for the family, as they appear to be fulfilling a plan to emigrate to Australia, the idealised ‘seventh continent’ of the title.

In many ways, The Seventh Continent is a very admirable first feature. Michael Haneke’s infamous awkward long takes are used here in the same way they have been throughout his career, establishing his immediately recognisable style. The same can be said for the film’s deceptive pacing – by the time it has finished, the viewer is left to wonder if they really saw everything they thought they did. More unusually, Haneke manages to keep the audience magnetised through what should be offputtingly dull and inaccessible. A sequence where a cashier frantically types in codes for a deluge of items on the conveyor belt succinctly delineates the family’s disillusionment with life, the aggressive sounds of the receipt printer serving as a death knell.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010


In something of an unconventional story arc, an American supermodel named Mona travels to Ghana for a photo shoot, only to be transported back in time to the slave-trade era by a local mystic. In her new incarnation as house servant Shola, Mona encounters a world of injustice and suffering in complete contrast to her cosmopolitan lifestyle. Through contact with two other slaves, she begins to see life from the other end of the hierarchy, and shares their righteous indignation as they fight the system. Shango, whom Mona falls in love with, is not afraid to use physical intimidation, while Nunu’s battle is far more personal, her mixed-race son an icon of enforced assimilationism.

The film’s title Sankofa (also the name of the mystic) is a succinct Akan word meaning “to revisit to the past, remember it, and use it to understand the future”, and aptly summarises the film’s intent. Despite the farcical nature of the story (time travel and real world history nary a serious film make), Haile Gerima treats the subject of slavery with the utmost care, pairing the frightening image of Mona stripped almost to the bone with a raw soul soundtrack. His somewhat commercial treatment of the film is a reminder that not nearly enough films have been made about the Maafa, or the African Holocaust. But as emotionally affecting as it can be, Sankofa seems to be missing something, particularly in making the link between Mona and her need to discover the history of slavery.

Monday, 8 March 2010


An unnamed man (Isaach de Bankolé) meets two men at an airport who provide him with a list of cryptic instructions in various languages. Apparently obeying them, the man then takes a plane to Madrid and endures a series of mysterious meetings with people. The people do not appear to know the protagonist, or even each other, but they share in common a philosophical manner which renders further instructions difficult to interpret. Each of these encounters follows the pattern of a bizarre ritual involving two cups of espressos, the question “You don’t speak Spanish, right?” and a written code which the man reads and then eats. Throughout his unorthodox journey, the man registers almost no emotion, even as he is repeatedly accosted by a flirtatious nude woman. Towards the end of the film, the man’s role becomes clear when he makes his way into a guarded compound in the desert.

It is hard to sum up The Limits Of Control after just one viewing. By deliberately eschewing familiar narrative traits, director Jim Jarmusch demands special attention to detail from the audience, but the film’s slow pacing and the repetitive nature of the meetings often drive away interest. In essence, it is a mystery reluctant to be solved, Christopher Doyle’s stellar cinematography burnishing the more incomprehensible moments to a pretty shine. But even at his most obscure, Jarmusch’s boyish sense of humour remains, with lines such as “sometimes I like it in films when people just sit there, not saying anything”.

Thursday, 4 March 2010


Kikuko is a married woman who, despite being beset by problems, always puts on an upbeat façade, particularly when talking to her caring parents-in-law. The biggest issue she faces is her crumbling relationship with husband Shuichi, an officious individual who is cheating on her. Watching Shuichi’s sister interact unenthusiastically with her own children, Kikuko begins to question the virtues of raising a child from an unhappy marriage, and soon accepts that her own fate is as good as doomed. Disappointed by the negligence of his own children, father-in-law Shingo lavishes attention on Kikuko and provides her with succour. The relationship grows stronger than ever, transcending familial boundaries, but Shingo is constantly reminded that, by betraying his own son, he is no better than him.

Based on the eponymous novel by Nobel Prize winner Yasunari Kawabata, Sound of the Mountain is a subtle but comprehensive study of a family concerned with expectations and responsibility. The films of director Mikio Naruse often feature women who quietly carry the weight of the world on their shoulders, and Kikuko is a fine example of this, balancing her own wishes and desires with those of her adopted family. Naruse’s film also reflects neatly on themes of death and memory, particularly in the character of Shingo. As he succumbs to old age, Shingo holds on to the fragments of the past that may never resurface, and his romantic feelings for Kikuko echo a former longing he had for his wife’s deceased sister. An elegant family drama.

Tuesday, 2 March 2010


Comprising one long zoom (in reality, a series of shots stitched together), experimental filmmaker Michael Snow’s best-known work Wavelength centres on a large, mostly empty room. The camera is pointed at four windows on one of the walls, the rest of the space barely relevant. During the zoom, the image undergoes various changes – colour, film speed, focus. The room is occasionally inhabited by people, forming a narrative which is deliberately sidelined, even in light of dramatic events. As the zoom approaches the windows, it settles on a section of wall in the middle covered in photographs. Moving closer still, the camera frames itself on a photo of the sea, so that waves fill the screen. Throughout the film, a sine wave is heard, running the gamut from 50 to 12,000 cycles per second. The sound ultimately synchronises with a police siren, heralding the end of the film.

Wavelength requires a little patience, particularly bearing in mind the alienating sound of the sine wave, but it is undoubtedly a worthwhile experiment. Snow, who is known for playing at length with camera movement, returns film to quasi-purity – the camera is no longer selective, but is reduced to one constant motion, as is the sound. At times, the camera’s transformations render the room unrecognisable – as the image flips from negative to positive, the negative space of the windows almost leaves an imprint on the eye. By pushing the boundaries of the medium, Wavelength gives us an insight of a world between the lines.