« July 2007 | Main | September 2007 »

August 2007 Archives

August 29, 2007

2007 NYFF Sidebar: Views from the Avant Garde Program

The NYFF Views from the Avant Garde sidebar program has been announced. Aside from a jaw-dropping program entitled Memories featuring short films by Harun Farocki, Pedro Costa, and Eugène Green from the Jeonju International Film Festival Digital Project (by far, my most anticipated program of the entire festival!) and the 35 mm restoration of Robert Breer's Recreation and Eyewash, I'm also especially looking forward to the Robert Beavers program, which includes Grogory Markopoulos' Reel from The Eniaos (Bliss). Views screened Helga Fanderl's Bulrushes in last year's program, and is dedicating an entire program of her work this year. Also worth noting is that Matthius Müller and Christophe Giradet, Jeanne Liotta, Paolo Gioli, Jacqueline Goss, Robert Todd, Jim Jennings, Ken Jacobs, Ernie Gehr, and David Gatten have films among the compilation programs.

Saturday, Oct. 6

12:15 pm - From the Canyons to the Stars, 84m
    - All that Rises, Daichi Saito, with Malcolm Goldstein on violin, US, 2007; 7m
    - The Coming Race, Ben Rivers, UK, 2005; 5m
    - Surging Sea of Humanity, Ken Jacobs, US, 2006; 10m
    - Black and White Trypps #3 Providence, Ben Russell, US, 2007; 11m
    - Energie! , Thorsten Fleisch, Germany, 2007; 5m
    - North Shore, Fred Worden, US, 2007; 11m
    - Armoire, Vincent Grenier, US, 2007; 3m
    - Finestra D’Avanti Ad Un Alberto (a Fox Talbot), Paolo Gioli, Italy, 1989; 13m
    - Transit of Venus, Nicky Hamlyn, UK, 2006; 2m
    - Observando el Cielo, Jeanne Liotta, US, 2007; 17m

3:00 pm - At Sea, Peter Hutton, 60m

5:00 pm - Unending, 94m
    - The Hyrcinium Wood, Ben Rivers, UK, 2007; 3m
    - Nymph, Ken Jacobs, US, 2007; 2m
    - Anonimatografo, Paolo Gioli, Italy, 1972; 26m
    - What the Water Said 4-6, David Gatten, US, 2006-07; 17m
    - How to Conduct A Love Affair, David Gatten, US, 2007; 8m
    - Tziporah, Abraham Ravett, US, 2007; 7m
    - Phantom, Luke Sizceck, US, 2007; 6m
    - In Memoriam Mark LaPore, Phil Solomon, US, 2005-07; 25m

7:30 pm - Ken Jacobs and Rick Reed, approx. 60m
    - Dreams That Money Can’t Buy, a live Nervous Magic Lantern performance.
    - Capitalism: Child Labor, Ken Jacobs, 2006; 14m

9:15 pm - Stranger Than a Strange Land, 112m
    - Untitled, Peggy Ahwesh, US, 2007; 3m
    - Notes from A Bastard Child, Fern Silva, US/Portugal, 2007; 6m
    - The Mongrel Sister, Luther Price, US, 2007; 7m
    - Victory Over the Sun, Michael Robinson, US, 2007; 12m
    - Stranger Comes to Town, Jacqueline Goss, US, 2007; 28m
    - Light is Waiting, Michael Robinson, US, 2007; 11m
    - SpaceDisco One, Damon Packard, US, 2007; 45m

Sunday, Oct. 7

12:30 pm - House Next Door, 111m
    - Old Dark House, Ben Rivers, UK; 4m
    - We the People, Ben Rivers, UK; 1m
    - Detroit Block, Julie Murray, US; 7m
    - Frontier Step, Gretchen Skogersen, US; 8m
    - Dedication, Peggy Ahwesh, US; 4m
    - House (single screen version) , Ben Rivers, UK; 6m
    - Footnotes to a House of Love, Laida Lertxundi, US; 13m
    - Office Suite, Robert Todd, US; 14m
    - Prague Winter, Jim Jennings, US; 7m
    - Electricity, Henry Hills, US/Czech Republic; 7m
    - Recordando El Ayer, Alexandra Cuestra, US/Ecuador; 9m
    - Tahousse, Olivier Fouchard & Mahine Rohue, France; 31m

2:30 pm - Helga Fanderl, 43m
    - Glaciers, 2006; 3m
    - Drawing Cobblestones, 2006; 3m
    - Gulf House, 2006; 3m
    - Leaden Waves, 2006; 1m
    - Shadows on a Red Wall, 2006; 2m
    - Tents on a Canal, 2006; 3m
    - Warrior’s Market, 2007; 2m
    - Louie, 2007; 1m
    - Tombs, 2004; 3m
    - Broadway, 2006; 3m
    - Reflections, 2006; 3m
    - Courtyard, 2006; 2m
    - Gray Heron, 2006; 3m
    - Three Midtown Sketches, 2006; 2m
    - Pond in the Berry, 2004; 3m
    - Green Balloon, 2007; 1m
    - Carousel, 2006; 1m
    - Swinging Zora, 2007; 2m
    - Throwing the Net, 2006; 1m
    - Under the Water Lilies, 2005; 3m

4:00 pm - Ernie Gehr, 79m
    - Untitled, 9m
    - Cinematic Fertilizer 1, 5m
    - Cinematic Fertilizer 2, 8m
    - 10th Avenue, 57m

6:15 pm - Bits and Pieces (Make Up To Break Up), 80m
    - Antigenic Drift, Lewis Klahr, US, 2007; 7m
    - Hide, Matthius Müller & Christophe Giradet, US, 2007; 5m
    - The Counter Girl Trilogy, Courtney Hoskins, US, 2006; 6m
    - Volto Sorpresso al buio (Face Caught in the Dark) , Paolo Gioli, Italy, 1965; 6m
    - Beirut Outtakes, Peggy Ahwesh, US, 2007; 7m
    - For Them, Jonathan Schwartz, US, 2007; 3m
    - For A Winter, Jonathan Schwartz, US, 2007; 3m
    - Sunbeam Hunter, Jonathan Schwartz, US, 2007; 3m
    - A Logic Sore, Jonathan Schwartz, US, 2007; 3m
    - The Wedding Present, Jonathan Schwartz, US, 2007; 3m
    - 40 Years, Jonathan Schwartz, US, 2007; 3m
    - The Film of A Thousand and One Nights and A Night (Volume 1) , Scott Puccio,
      US, 2007; 26m
    - Hanky Panky, Ken Jacobs, US, 2007; 1m
    - Eyewash, Robert Breer, US, 1959; 3m (35mm restoration)
    - Recreation, Robert Breer, US, 1956, 1m (35mm restoration)

8:15pm - Robert Beavers, 53m
    - Pitcher of Colored Light, US/Switz., 2007; 23m
    - Reel from The Eniaos (Bliss), Gregory Markopoulos, US, 2004; 30m

9:30 pm - Memories, 102m
    - Respite, Harun Farocki; 40m
    - The Rabbit Hunters, Pedro Costa; 23m
    - Correspondences, Eugène Green; 39m

Posted by acquarello on Aug 29, 2007 | | Filed under 2007, Quick Notes

August 21, 2007

The Assault of the Present on the Rest of Time (The Blind Director), 1985

blind_director.gifCuriously opening near the end of the second act of Tosca as the heroine (Maria Slatinaru) fends off the advances of Scarpia (Günther Reich), the corrupt police commissioner, the unexpectedly abrupt, in medias res performance of the Puccini opera provides an incisive prelude to the elliptical structure of Alexander Kluge's "anonymous city" symphony, The Assault of the Present on the Rest of Time, an organic and fractured, yet humorous, intuitive, and poetic rumination on the integral - and correlative - nature of technology and (urban) identity, the intersection of film and new media in the creation of art, and the delusive quest to manipulate time. A rearticulated theory by Professor von Gerlach (Hans-Michael Rehberg) presented during a radio interview discussing the seemingly patternistic evolution of history - remapping the twentieth century as a cumulative progression of compartmentalized, four-year plans that, when stitched together, reveal a tabula rasa, generational life cycle of social change and political reinvention - serves as an introductory paradigm for Kluge's multi-faceted approach to the film. Observing that the year 1984 intriguingly represents exactly sixteen years since the height of the May 68 revolution, as well as sixteen years from the end of the twentieth century, the recursive, yet arbitrary reduction of human history as binary multiples of repeating intervals reflects the perpetuated myth of time as a conceptual, yet quantifiable point of convergence - a precise demarcation of an idealized, indefinable present that exists only in relation to another. It is this illusive idea of time as absolute and infinite that the narrator (Kluge) reinforces in an abstract composition that occurs midway through the film:

"Time is what you can measure with a clock. A child, a city, a love, death...these are clocks. One cannot measure that which we consider past, present, future. People, being at fate's mercy, interpret the period of time in which they decide as 'the present'. They want this period to be long. This is the source of illusion."

In a chapter entitled The Superfluous Woman, Kluge dispels the argument of time as an interminable entity through the case study of a well-respected doctor (Rosel Zech) who goes away on an extended vacation to Africa and returns to find that her superior has recruited an additional physician to the medical practice (enticed, in part, by the ambitious doctor's offer to finance the purchase of expensive diagnostic equipment for the clinic) and has demoted her to the basement office. In a subsequent chapter, The Hasty Ones, the idea of manipulating time through arbitrary parameters of (apparent) activity, preoccupation, and speed is subverted by the randomness of fate as a business executive's "saved time" proves meaningless against the inevitability of death - an egalitarian destiny that also recalls a researcher's (Alfred Edel) earlier conversation on the transitory nature of time as kairos, an intense, but fleeting consciousness of experience (a conversation that is wryly prefigured by the interstitial, keyhole shot of a fluffer at work in an anonymous, high-rise building). Contrasted with an earlier vignette of a young Polish woman who reluctantly entertains the romantic overtures of a German soldier during the war in the hopes that his infatuation will aid in delaying the confiscation of her parents' film collection, Kluge illustrates the paradox of time as both malleable and inalterable - a tradable commodity and an irreplaceable endowment - an interplay between the ephemerality of kairos and the eternity of chronos (whose essential Truth resides in its enduring quality).

In The Handover of the Child, the idea of time as a surrogate for desire is illustrated through a lonely single woman, Gertrud Meinecke (Jutta Hoffmann) who decides to become a foster parent to an orphaned child (primarily out of financial incentive), only to face losing her when the girl's wealthy relative is found years later. The theme of surrogacy similarly infuses the final chapter, The Blind Director, in which a veteran filmmaker (Armin Mueller-Stahl), struggles to complete his latest film despite his increasingly failing eyesight. Enlisting the aid of assistant directors to describe the shot footage, Kluge captures the underlying dichotomy between rote image and vision. In both episodes, time exists, not in the present, but in the acute awareness of its eroding passage - its finiteness. Moreover, Kluge's fragmented, idiosyncratically assembled sequences of narrative vignettes, time lapse sequences, found film, and rough hewn, artisanal compositions also reinforce an integral aspect of the discourse that culminates in The Blind Director (a theme that is also broached in a segment chronicling the captive life of a computer-addicted family): the illusion of technology as a surrogate for human imprint. Juxtaposed against images of steel recycling that allude to the obsolescence of traditional production (the materials having been reclaimed from an automobile salvage yard), Kluge's intriguingly dense exposition transcends the simple novelty of creating thematic variations on the dual nature of time, and instead becomes a stage for articulating its repercussions. Concluding with the extended shot of the blind director alone on the ledge of a fire escape as a montage of heavily matted, vintage film stills supplants the frame, Kluge presents an indelible metaphor for the enduring role of film in an age of immateriality, the relativity of images, and the isolation of creative vision.

Posted by acquarello on Aug 21, 2007 | | Filed under 2007, Alexander Kluge

August 16, 2007

Intentions of Murder, 1964

intentions_murder.gifAnticipating Nagisa Oshima's Ceremony in its metaphoric representation of the dying of the samurai class through contaminated bloodlines, mystical connections, incestuous relationships, frailty, and impotence, Intentions of Murder bears the characteristic imprint of Shohei Imamura's recurring preoccupations: the sensuality and resilience of women, the manifestation of individualism in a codified society, the idiosyncrasies and primitive instinctuality that define human behavior. Opening to an establishing montage of a working class suburb that overlooks commuter railroad tracks, the double entendred image of a train rushing headlong into the foreground is reinforced in the subsequent image of a gaunt salaryman, Riichi Takahashi (Kô Nishimura), his elderly mother Tadae (Ranko Akagi) and his young son, Masaru, restlessly waiting at a train station - as a seemingly random bystander inconspicuously hovers nearby - for the arrival of his earthy, common law wife, Sadako (Masumi Harukawa) who is bringing a change of clothes for his business trip, only to discover that she has misunderstood his instructions and has only brought along a change of underwear. In hindsight, the introductory milieu proves to be a terse encapsulation of the strange dynamics at work in the Takahashi household - a purported "curse" (as alluded to by the servants in the Takahashis' ancestral home) that had been sown generations earlier by the family patriarch's abandonment of his mistress, Sadako's grandmother, following the birth (and appropriation) of their child who, in her profound despair, had taken her own life. Reluctant to register the lower classed Sadako, who once served as the family housemaid, as his legal wife, Riichi's parents had instead registered Masaru as their own child in an attempt to mask the boy's illegitimacy and ensure the succession of the Takahashi bloodline, leaving Sadako without a legal claim to her own son (but with all the domestic responsibilities for his upbringing). Returning home alone after Tadae takes custody of Masaru in Riichi's absence, Sadako is followed by the enigmatic bystander, a poor, washed up musician named Hiraoko (Shigeru Tsuyuguchi) whose nebulous intentions turn from robbing the simple-minded housewife to committing rape, seemingly driven by the mere sight of Sadako's bound, voluptuous form struggling to break free in the shadows. Consumed by thoughts of suicide as an honorable gesture to escape the moral stain of her violation, Sadako's morbid preoccupation soon gives way to a return to normalcy, as Masaru and Riichi return home, and Sadako begins to busy herself with repairing items that were broken during the struggle (and consequently, concealing the evidence of the committed crime). However, when Hiraoko unexpectedly returns declaring his undying love for Sadako, her desperation to maintain at all costs her unhappy marriage and menial status within the Takahashi clan propel her to concoct an ill conceived plan to permanently rid herself of her troublesome suitor.

Returning to animal imagery as a surrogate for human behavior that Imamura would incorporate in Pigs and Battleships and The Insect Woman, the recurring images of captive mice and silkworms in Intentions of Murder, nevertheless, prove to be more malleable. Ostensibly a representation of the robust Sadako's figurative social captivity as an undereducated, peasant woman in a male-dominated society (albeit one of sickly and financially insolvent men), the plight of Masaru's pet mice - the smaller one having apparently killed and consumed the larger one - may also be seen as a reflection of her overturned role in her relationships with the (Implicitly more powerful) people around her. Similarly, the re-appearance of a lone silkworm in the final sequence that recalls an earlier memory of a silkworm being crushed during an act of punishment illustrates both the realization of a stunted, childhood fixation, as well as Sadako's dramatic transformation in her return, full circle, to Riichi's ancestral home. In essence, even as Riichi and Hiraoko alternately use (violent) sexuality as a means of exerting control and domination over Sadako, it becomes an even more powerful weapon in the hands of the exploited heroine - a poetic role reversal that is incisively marked by chance events that would derail her own "intentions of murder", initially, in her fateful encounter with Hiraoko in a tunnel after their Tokyo-bound train is delayed by a snowstorm, and subsequently, in her indirect implication in a traffic accident that would bring an unexpected end to Riichi's infidelity. Framed against Sadako's continued efforts to correct the official family registry that would identify her as Masaru's biological mother, her struggle becomes a metaphor, not only to find a place within the margins of a patriarchal - and vestigially class-entrenched - society, but also for the validation of her own identity.

Posted by acquarello on Aug 16, 2007 | | Filed under 2007, Shohei Imamura

August 15, 2007

New York Film Festival 2007 Lineup

The press release for the NYFF line-up has been released. I'm a little disappointed that Nicolas Klotz's La Question humaine didn't make the cut, but I'm thrilled to see the new Jia on the slate (I didn't know there was one), along with Guerin, Reygadas, Rohmer, Lee, Saura, Ford, Tarr...

Opening Night:
The Darjeeling Limited, Wes Anderson, US, 2007; 91m, screening with Hotel Chevalier, Wes Anderson, US, 2007; 12m

Closing Night:
Persepolis, Marjane Satrapi & Vincent Paronnaud, France, 2007; 95m

No Country for Old Men, Joel and Ethan Coen, US, 2007; 122m

Blade Runner: The Definitive Cut, Ridley Scott, US, 1982/2007; 118m
Hamlet, Sven Gade & Heinz Schall, Germany, 1920-21; 110m (Piano accompaniment by Donald Sosin)
The Iron Horse, John Ford, US, 1924; 132m
Leave Her to Heaven, John M. Stahl, US, 1945; 110m
Underworld, Josef von Sternberg, US, 1927; 80m (Accompaniment by the Alloy Orchestra)

Special Event:
Fados, Carlos Saura, Spain/Portugal, 2007; 92m
The Other Side of the Mirror: Bob Dylan Live at the Newport Folk Festival, 1963-1965, Murray Lerner, US, 2007; 80m
Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers: Runnin’ Down a Dream, Peter Bogdanovich, US, 2007; 238m

Joaquim Pedro de Andrade Retrospective

Feature Films:

4 Months, 3 Weeks, 2 Days, Christian Mungiu, Romania, 2007; 113m
Actresses, Valeria Bruni-Tedeschi, France, 2007; 110m
Alexandra, Alexander Sokurov, Russia, 92m
The Axe in the Attic, Ed Pincus & Lucia Small, US, 2007; 110m
Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead, Sidney Lumet, USA, 117m
Calle Santa Fe, Carmen Castillo, France, 2007; 163m
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Julian Schnabel, France/U.S., 2007; 112m
The Flight of the Red Balloon, Hou Hsiao-hsien, France, 2007; 113m
A Girl Cut In Two, Claude Chabrol, France, 2007; 115m
Go Go Tales, Abel Ferrara, Italy/US, 2007; 96m
I Just Didn’t Do It, Masayuki Suo, Japan, 2007; 143m
I’m Not There, Todd Haynes, US, 2007; 136m
In the City of Sylvia, José Luis Guerín, Spain/France, 2007; 90m
The Last Mistress, Catherine Breillat, France, 2007; 114m
The Man From London, Béla Tarr, Hungary/France/Germany, 2007; 132m
Margot at the Wedding, Noah Baumbach, US, 2007; 93m
Married Life, Ira Sachs, USA, 2007; 90m
Mr. Warmth, The Don Rickles Project, John Landis, US, 2007; 90m
The Orphanage, Juan Antonio Bayona, Spain, 100m
Paranoid Park, Gus Van Sant, US, 2007; 85m
Redacted, Brian DePalma, US, 2007; 90m
The Romance of Astrea and Celadon, Eric Rohmer, France, 2007; 109m
Secret Sunshine, Lee Chang-dong, Korea, 2007; 142m
Silent Light, Carlos Reygadas, Mexico, 2007; 142m
Useless, Jia Zhang-ke, Hong Kong, 2007; 80m

Posted by acquarello on Aug 15, 2007 | | Filed under 2007, Quick Notes

August 8, 2007

Sink or Swim, 1990

sink_swim.gifComposed of twenty-six distinctive chapters, each thematic, one word title representing a letter of the alphabet in reverse order, Sink or Swim is, in some ways, an autobiographical corollary to Su Friedrich's The Ties That Bind, a series of allusive, poetic, and insightful third person anecdotes that deconstruct the complicated relationship between a girl - now a young woman - and her estranged, emotionally distant father. Appropriately opening with the moment of creation in a chapter entitled Zygote, as archival laboratory film footage illustrating the fertilization of an ovum traces embryonic development (a scientific approach to physiological and biological phenomena that evoke the films of Jean Painlevé and Barbara Hammer), the image of growth and cultivation is replaced in the succeeding chapter, Y-Chromosome, by the seemingly abstract composition of disembodied hands setting free a dense clump of milkweed spores into the wind. In hindsight, this odd act of metaphoric emancipation serves as a reflection of the filmmaker's father, Paul Friedrich's disconnection and absence from her life as well - a double-edged gesture that represents, not a custodian placing faith in a child's journey towards maturity, independence, and sexual awakening, but a willful dissociation from the "ties that bind" a parent to his child.

By chronicling tell-tale incidents from their strained relationship through recurring, often complementary patterns that provide the abstract fragments of a candid and intensely honest autoportrait, Friedrich introduces the idea of human behavior as inherently hereditarian - a self-perpetuating cycle of trauma and dysfunction that has not only been instilled since birth, but also passed on from generation to generation through the emotional baggage of a tenacious collective consciousness (a persistence of long memory that is alluded in the early shot of a grazing elephant). Perhaps the most emblematic of this transference is the discovery of the father's commemorative poem that he had written on the occasion of the birth of his first-born daughter, a celebration of a new life that he would weigh against the loss of his younger sister from a childhood drowning - in essence, offering his newborn child at a figurative altar of memory to atone for his guilt over his sister's accidental death. (Note the father's self-absorption between lamentation and culpability that is also reflected in a subsequent poem that paradoxically expresses his grief in watching his daughter's growing distance from him, even as he single-handedly bears the responsibility for sending her packing for a premature return trip home during a Mexican vacation.) A similar duality of celebration and mourning is also revealed in the girl's eventual victory in a game of chess against her father - a triumph that would prove to be bittersweet when he decides to stop playing against her. Still another is suggested in the long-awaited introduction of a television set into the household after her parents' acrimonious divorce - an object that he had refused to purchase during their marriage (and who would, instead, send the children to a neighbor's house to watch such spectacles as Don Ameche's Flying Circus Show) - the images of intact, nuclear families represented by The Donna Reed Show and Father Knows Best serving as an ironic surrogate for their own rended family. But far from merely reflecting a child's rebellion over her absent father, the oppositional elements in Sink or Swim also reflect the institutionalization of this dichotomy within the complexities of a contemporary family structure (one that, in Friedrich's case, entails a succession of three wives and the addition of half-siblings) - a perpetuated conflict posed by the coexistence of bifurcated, unrealistic ideals that is mirrored in her father's kinship studies at the time of the divorce, as well as his research on Aphrodite (the goddess of love) and Demeter (the goddess of grain and fertility). Juxtaposed against alternating images of women as both mother and whore (as depicted through assorted ecclesiastic art and Ukiyo-e prints of the pleasure quarters), Friedrich exposes the inherent irreconcilability of these ideals - a mythologization that is reinforced in the film's final (and only multi-titled) chapter, Athena, Atalanta, Aphrodite - a reflection, not of god-like invincibility, but a father's inflicted destiny.

Posted by acquarello on Aug 08, 2007 | | Filed under 2007, Su Friedrich

August 4, 2007

Nordrand, 1999

nordrand.gifThe advent of the Balkan Wars following the collapse of the Soviet Union (and leading to the breakup of Yugoslavia) - and in particular, the engagement of NATO peacekeeping forces in Kosovo - forms the destabilized, uncertain backdrop for Barbara Albert's politically loaded Nordrand, a zeitgeist film on the changing face of Austrian society at the end of the twentieth century framed from the perspective of a pair of working class young women living on the outskirts of Vienna. Opening to the interweaving voices of children in prayer, among them, a girl named Tamara who wants to be a nurse when she grows up and Jasmin who wants to have a large family, the universality of their humble dreams is subverted by an early awkward encounter between Tamara, a shy, Serbian immigrant girl being humiliated, then summarily left out by the other children during play time, after passing a friendship note to Jasmin, the most popular girl in class. Their inability to come together as friends - an imposed distance that is implicitly reflected in Jasmin's seemingly privileged status as a cherubic, Germanic child - establishes the sense of alterity and exclusion that runs throughout the film, an image that is subsequently reflected in an ideologically divided family's argument over a loved one's involvement in the Kosovo War at a hospital where Tamara (Edita Malovcic), now a grown woman, works as a part-time nurse's aide. But even away from the sensationalism and scarred images of the local news, the corrosive effects of the war on Austrian society prove to be inescapable, as refugees and migrant workers from Eastern Europe converge on Vienna either in search of opportunity or as a gateway to other countries, and soldiers are called into service to reinforce border patrols and stem the influx of illegal immigrants fleeing the neighboring war torn region. Meanwhile, Jasmin's (Nina Proll) reputation for popularity has taken on a more insidious connotation, embarking on a series of reckless affairs (perhaps a promiscuity brought on by incest) with all too familiar endings of abuse and rejection. Rebuffed by her lovers after discovering that she is pregnant, Jasmin, still living at home, is left with few alternatives but to undergo an abortion, a decision that would unexpectedly reunite her with Tamara who, too, has arrived at the clinic to terminate a pregnancy against the wishes of her boyfriend, a border soldier on weekend leave named Roman (Michael Tanczos). Brought together by the unspoken trauma of their own hidden scars, the two women embark on a long overdue friendship that had eluded them in childhood.

Structured through intersecting episodes of chance encounters and parallel experiences (visually reinforced through recurring shots from a bustling train station and extended, interstitial musical seques), Nordrand provides the blueprint for Albert's subsequent (albeit, less cohesive) film, Free Radicals on coincidental interconnectedness. However, while the peripheral associations in Albert's latter film occasionally prove to be abstract, they serve as an integral representation of Austrian society's state of flux in Nordrand - an uncertainty that has been imposed both externally by the trauma of a virulent, neighboring war, and internally by the challenges of large scale assimilation. Juxtaposing images of a military (and implicitly nationalistic) parade with a targeted police identity check of a group of Eastern European workers waiting at a train station, the film poses the integral question on the essence of Austrian cultural identity at a time when an unprecedented influx of foreigners have raised the specter of Anschluss on a nation's moral character. Indeed, inasmuch as political pressure towards enacting tighter borders and stricter immigration policies reflected the public's growing anxiety with an interminable war, it is also a reflection of society's endemic xenophobia and propensity towards ethnic scapegoating - a bias that is revealed in Jasmin's flippant dismissal of Serbs during a radio news report on the war while hitching a ride with Roman and Tamara from the abortion clinic (in a seemingly dour episode that is hilariously turned on its ear when Roman changes the station and the trio begins to listen to Ace of Base's All That She Wants (Is Another Baby)). Far from portraying the seasonal "sameness" of human behavior, the film's elegance lies in Jasmin's subtle, yet profound transformation after Tamara (re)enters her life - a metamorphosis that illustrates the human capacity to retain one's identity even as it learns to accept (and even embrace) change. Concluding with a parallel montage that begins with an emotionally liberated Jasmin crossing a pedestrian overpass (in a shot that uncannily prefigures Hou Hsiao Hsien's bookend shots of the heroine, Vicky (Shu Qi) in Millennium Mambo), the images of people in transit becomes a metaphor, not of flight, but a redefined homecoming.

Posted by acquarello on Aug 04, 2007 | | Filed under 2007