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2009


November 25, 2009

Teen Kanya (Three Daughters), 1961

teen_kanya.gifComposed of three stories based on Rabindranath Tagore's short fiction that span a range of ages, each shot in a different narrative genre - a social realist drama, a ghost story, and a romantic comedy - Satyajit Ray's Teen Kanya (Three Daughters) is a lucid panorama on the lives of society's referential daughters and their relegated place in a deeply class-conscious and patriarchal culture. The first story, Postmaster, is equally a commentary on the cycle of poverty and social invisibility that relegate girls to subservient roles, and an indictment of the armchair liberalism that helps perpetuate these inequitable and disenfranchising institutions. Set in a rural outpost that is still plagued by malaria, the segment chronicles newly hired postmaster and urban transplant, Nandal's (Anil Chatterjee) struggle to adjust to provincial life, endeavoring to cultivate a sense of culture in the remote village by continuing his poetry studies and teaching an orphaned servant girl, Ratan (Chandana Banerjee) to read and write, until a crisis causes him to re-evaluate his circumstances. In capturing Nandal's superficial attempts at assimilation (in one scene, he humors a group of local musicians by finally attending a performance after sidestepping an earlier invitation) and charity towards the villagers, Ray explores the notion of enlightened goodwill as an assertion of superiority that reinforces social division.

Similar to Postmaster, the social imprinting of economics also provides the framework for the second story, Monihara, a gothic tale within a tale told by a village schoolmaster (Govinda Chakravarti) on the events that led to the haunting of a seemingly idyllic mansion across the river. Having inherited a country estate, successful businessman Phanibhushan (Kali Bannerjee) returns to his ancestral village with his attractive, commoner wife, Manimalika (Kanika Majumdar), where she is invariably visited by a desperate relative eager to exploit marginal family ties to curry favor from her husband. Manimalika's reluctant encounter with her long abandoned past provides a glimpse into her relationship with her husband as well. Childless and insecure over his wife's affection, Phanibhusan is quick to indulge her whims, lavishing her with jewelry from his many business trips over the years. It is a token affirmation that soon consumes Manimalika, a dislocated sense of adoration and loyalty that is strained when her husband is compelled to take an extended trip to stave off financial ruin, and she is faced with the possibility of losing her newfound privilege. In its critical examination of transaction as a surrogate for human connection, Monihara represents an intriguing corollary to the status of women in Postmaster. By presenting a paradigm in which social mobility is more fluid (albeit through marriage) and the balance of power is shifted, Ray illustrates the insidious - and intrinsically artificial - nature of class stratification, where the fear of erasure itself becomes a crippling, self-fulfilling prophesy.

As in Postmaster and Monihara, the final installment of Teen Kanya, entitled Samapti, also begins with a journey from the city to the province as a metaphor for reframing cultural norms from an outsider's perspective - and specifically, a modern point of view observing outmoded traditions - in this case, a recent university graduate, Amulya (Soumitra Chatterjee) who has returned home to visit his widowed mother, Jogmaya (Sita Mukherjee). From the comical opening image of Amulya falling into the mud while disembarking from a boat (after stubbornly refusing assistance from the locals) as a spirited Mrinmoyee (Aparna Sen) amusedly looks on, Ray implicitly links the two characters in their strangerness - one, a transplanted native who is no longer accustomed to the village's quaint ways; the other, a poor, displaced young woman who is too old to lead the life of a carefree child, but has also cultivated few skills to cope in a world of adults. Rejecting his mother's notions of a suitable wife - one who invariably comes from an upstanding, middle class family and is equally adept around the kitchen as she is with embroidery hoops - Amulya instead has set his sights on the wild and unpredictable Mrinmoyee, a decision that brings the family much consternation when she decides to climb out of the window on their wedding night. In contrast to the dysfunctional relationships inherent in the previous stories, Samapti confronts the social paradigms that contribute to the inequality and polarization. Juxtaposed against a young couple's search for love and validation, the friction represents the difficult, but necessary process of cultural revolution in its painstaking negotiation of accepted roles and asserted individuality.

Posted by acquarello on Nov 25, 2009 | | Filed under 2009


November 15, 2009

Liverpool, 2008

liverpool.gifWith its rockabilly-infused title sequence coda that segues to medium shots of industrial interiors and, later in the film, a desolate winter landscape (not to mention a running motif of Farrel [Juan Fernández] taking occasional swigs from a vodka bottle that he has stashed in his duffel bag), Lisandro Alonso's Liverpool, on the surface,  suggests a more straight-laced variation of Aki Kaurismäki's proletariat films (in particular, Ariel) than Alonso's recurring theme of internalized journey. From the opening image of an obscured Farrel looking on in the shadows of a dimly lit recreational lounge as a pair of gamers compete in the foreground, Alonso establishes a sense of distance and peripherality surrounding the film's reticent, inscrutable protagonist. Having spent much of his working life adrift at sea, traveling around the globe as a merchant sailor aboard commercial freighters, Farrel decides to seize the opportunity one day to request leave during a scheduled docking in Usuhuaia on the southern tip of Argentina in order to visit his hometown and check on his ailing mother. Having reached the figurative end of the world, Farrel's journey intriguingly represents both a fugue and a homecoming.

This oppositional image is subsequently reinforced in his disorienting return to his native village, whether trying to navigate the now unfamiliar geography of the town, peeking into the window of his home to see a young woman, Analía (Giselle Irrazabal) he has never met, or spending the night camped out at a neighbor's barn unable to go home, only to be dragged inside his parents' house to an anticlimactic reunion with his father (Nieves Cabrera) who is perplexed by his return and seems eager to see him leave. (Note an earlier juxtaposition of Farrel riding alongside harvested timber in the back of a logging truck - a shot that recalls the image of the impoverished woodcutter hitching a ride in La Libertad - that illustrates their mutual displacement and uprooting.) Curiously, Alonso introduces an ambiguity in his father's muted reaction to his homecoming that may not be the result of strained family relations, but rather, financial motivation, implied by Analía's nagging demands for money that reinforce his role as breadwinner for the family. It is this implicit connection between alienation and economics that incisively reframes the pathology of Liverpool in its distilled, allusive closing image, diverging from the notion of human idiosyncrasy towards a globalist indictment of its garish tokens of materialism and disposability.

Posted by acquarello on Nov 15, 2009 | | Comments (7) | Filed under 2009, Lisandro Alonso


November 1, 2009

History Repeating Now Posted at AFI Fest Daily News

Just a quick note to mention that the article, History Repeating, a theme piece on the use of refigured prewar history in Sabu's Kanikōsen, Michael Haneke's The White Ribbon, and Marco Bellocchio's Vincere has been posted at the AFI Fest Daily News.

Posted by acquarello on Nov 01, 2009 | | Filed under 2009, Quick Notes


September 23, 2009

Wife! Be Like a Rose!, 1935

wife_rose.gifIn Nippon Modern: Japanese Cinema of the 1920s and 1930s, Mitsuyo Wada-Marciano cites the contradictory delineation between urban and provincial life in Mikio Naruse's Wife! Be Like a Rose! as an example of interwar Japan's amorphously defined domestic and social spaces that arose from society's ambivalence towards the rapid pace of modernization in the aftermath of the Great Kanto Earthquake. In Naruse's film, this nostalgia for a distant, idealized hometown is embodied by Hirao Village, where the estranged father, Shunsaku (Sadao Maruyama) has gone to prospect for gold in the mountains (a paradoxical emigration from Tokyo that is antithetical to the idea of moving to the city to seek one's fortune). Having settled into a new life with a former geisha named Oyuki (Yuriko Hanabusa) and their children, Shizuko (Setsuko Horikoshi) and Kenichi (Kaoru Ito), Shunsaku's new life reflects a return to a more traditional way of life even as it represents a rejection of another tradition - his marriage to Etsuko (Tomoko Ito) who, along with his now grown daughter, Kimiko (Sachiko Chiba), were left behind.

In turn, the seeming modernity of Tokyo with its Western-dressed workers and bustling streets (made all the more kinetic by the establishing shot of offices closing at the end of the work day) is contradicted by Etsuko's anxiety over being asked to act as a go-between for a former student in Shunsaku's absence. Channeling her loneliness and heartbreak through poetry, Etsuko ostensibly plays the role of the devoted, long suffering wife waiting for her husband to return - a reunion that seems at hand when Kimiko decides to go to Hirao village to fetch her father in order to attend to family obligations. However, inasmuch as Shunsaku's trips between Tokyo and Hirao Village reflects what Wada-Marciano describes as the cultural negotiation of space, the separation also reinforces Naruse's familiar themes of perpetual disappointment, stubbornness, and perseverance that would resurface throughout his body of work. For Etsuko, the poems express a romanticized longing for the absent Shunsaku, an image that evaporates when the idealization converges with the reality. For Oyuki, a life of sacrifice and shame are the price of her devotion to the feckless Shunsaku. For Kimiko, the desire to reunite her family is undermined by her parents' self-absorption. In this respect, Naruse's social observation transcends the contemporaneity of interwar society and converges towards a broader commentary on the human condition, where the quest is elusive and grace lies in the longing.

Posted by acquarello on Sep 23, 2009 | | Filed under 2009, Mikio Naruse


August 23, 2009

Paria, 2000

paria.gifParia opens to a Felliniesque shot of a man suspended between earth and sky: in this case, a vagrant - perhaps under the influence - swinging from pipes along the walls of a subway station tunnel. But rather than a metaphor for the struggle between the body and the soul, the suspended state in Paria is one of social uncertainty - a sense of limbo that is also reflected in the disembodied, back of the head shot of a state worker seemingly floating as he looks out from the windshield of a social services van, cruising the evening streets in search of homeless people to transport to the local shelter. The first installment in what would become Nicolas Klotz and screenwriter Elizabeth Perceval's provocative and impassioned trilogy of modern times (along with La Blessure and La Question humaine) - named in homage to Charlie Chaplin's Modern Times, a satire on mass production (and by extension, the Industrial Revolution of the late 1800s) - Paria also presents a collective portrait of lives that have been figuratively caught within the cogs of a monolithic, dehumanized system at the turn of the century. One such story is Victor (Cyril Troley), a farmer's son who moved to Paris in search of better job opportunities, only to end up living at a tenement (and makeshift hair salon) eking out an existence as a video store courier. Already behind on his rent, his circumstances become even more precarious when his motorcycle is stolen during a visit with friends. Another story is cocky, silver-tongued Momo (Gérald Thomassin), a homeless young man who spends his idle hours prowling commuter stations. Presented with an opportunity to earn some money by entering into a paper marriage, he begins to insinuate himself into his prospective bride's bemused family.

Proceeding in flashback, the interconnected plight of Momo and Victor (who is first seen struggling with him, resisting attempts to be loaded into the van) seems destined - a fatedness that is revealed in an earlier episode in which Momo steals Victor's shoes after he falls asleep on a train platform, in essence, demonstrating their physical - and socioeconomic - interchangeability. The shot of an African immigrant girl passing Victor in a hallway illustrates another point of intersection among the disenfranchised, alluding to a sense of shared station (note a similar passing encounter in La Question humaine in the interstitial image of immigrants - including Adama Doumbia from La Blessure - being targeted by police for a random identification check). Similarly, Momo and Victor's encounter with an ailing homeless man, Blaise (Didier Berestetsky) on New Year's Eve seems fated, bound by the community of resigned marginalization. Within this context, Victor's search for Annabelle (Morgane Hainaux) in a crowded café and Momo's celebration of his nuptials also represent a paradoxical juncture, converging towards a fleeting glimpse of respite and normalcy, even as they reinforce their increasing distance from them.

Posted by acquarello on Aug 23, 2009 | | Comments (2) | Filed under 2009


August 16, 2009

La Vie moderne, 2009

modernlife.gifIn an episode in Richard Copans's autobiographical essay, Racines, an elderly man provides Copans with a tour of his grandparents' house in Picardy, explaining that, like the expression "to put under glass" something that is cherished, he was inspired to convert the modest, turn of the (nineteenth) century home into a museum as a means of capturing the essence of a way of life that no longer exists. In a sense, La Vie moderne, the third chapter in Raymond Depardon's pastoral work in progress Profils paysans, expresses a similar sentiment of admiration and nostalgia. Returning to the farming village of Le Villaret in the mountainous region of Cévennes in the Massif Central, Depardon first visits the remote farm of cattle ranchers, brothers Marcel and Raymond Privat who, both already in their 80s, find the physical demands of their livelihood an increasing challenge, even with the begrudging addition of a family member, Cécile, the new wife of their middle-aged nephew Alain, who left the city life of Calais to live as a farmer after meeting her future husband through a personal ad in the newspaper. Struggling to adjust with unfamiliar household dynamics caused by Cécile and her teenaged daughter, Camille's introduction into what had been a bachelors' home for decades - and perhaps more subtly, their waning authority over family matters as a result of Cécile's influence on Alain - Marcel and Raymond bristle at the idea of a generation gap that has widened since Cécile's arrival, even as they complain of a general lack of deference to elders and the old ways.

Incorporating recurring, seasonal images of long, winding roads that weave the farms together into a collective portrait of isolation and obsolescence - a theme that is insightfully prefigured in the landing shot of Marcel grazing a flock of sheep with his Occitan-trained dog, Mirette - Depardon further juxtaposes images of death that implicitly correlate the fate of these ancestral farms: a visit to the reclusive Paul Argaud who is watching a televised broadcast of Abbé Pierre's funeral; the rapidly declining health of Raymond's prized cow; the news of Marcelle Brès's death, who had been the last inhabitant of the neighboring hamlet of Lhermet. However, the crisis of a disappearing way of life is not only relegated to an aging rural population, as a younger generation of farmers also echo similar tales of hardship and a limited future: Brès's former tenant farmers, Jean-François and Nathalie recount their struggle in the previous year with a virulent parasite that killed several cows, providing not so subtle encouragement to their son to study hard in order to have better opportunities and not follow in their footsteps; Germaine and Marcel Challaye, planning for their retirement, are resigned to selling the family farm after their children expressed a lack of interest in assuming control; Abel Jean and Gilberte Roy have entrusted the farm to their youngest son, Daniel who, in turn, resents being rooted to one place, and prefers the itinerant life of a seasonal worker; a young mother, Amandine Valla, eager to try her hand at farming, cannot afford the added maintenance of raising livestock and is forced to abandon her avocation. Closing with the shot of a sunlit narrow road that now leads away from familiar pastures, Depardon abstains from a direct commentary on cultural extinction and instead, captures the ephemeral moment under his own preservative glass, casting a lingering, reverent gaze over a gradually transforming landscape that is distant and sublime.

Posted by acquarello on Aug 16, 2009 | | Comments (2) | Filed under 2009


August 2, 2009

On the Passage of a Few Persons Through a Rather Brief Unity of Time, 1959

passage_few.gifThe panning shot of an anonymous city street establishes the tensile, yet integral relationship between citizen and environment in Guy Debord's dense and minimalist essay On the Passage of a Few Persons Through a Rather Brief Unity of Time, describing the rows of generic apartment buildings as places of refuge from the constant social immersion imposed by the shared spaces of urban living. Like the market-based industries that propel the economy of these interchangeable cityscapes, social progress has also come to be measured by the mechanism of consumption, and by extension, leisure and recreation have also become commodities. In a sense, culture is not only a reflection of the present but an ingraining of the past, and as a consequence, cannot objectively reflect on the problems of the environment - the society - that cultivates it. This symbiotic relationship between culture and civilization is also contained in Debord's comment that one cannot challenge an organization without challenging its medium of exchange - its language. Visually, Debord reinforces this idea of language as currency through repeated use of interstitial blank screens that suggest both the hollowness of the mediated image and its implicated role as an instrument of social whitewashing. Perhaps the most telling of this compromise is the refiguring of the concept of social gathering from a forum of interaction to a marketing tool for selling beverages and reinforcing the notion of public (and often commercial) spaces as venues for exchanging ideas.

However, mediated images are not only relegated to the fiction of commercial advertisement, revealing itself in the realm of non-fiction in the way a filmmaker defines the scope of a documentary, where the subject is strategically (if arbitrarily) bounded into titrated, consummable sub-doses of a larger, unfilmable reality - a correlation that is reinforced through a similar suturing of a white screen with documentary footage of "real life". Within this paradigm, filmmaking - whether fiction or non-fiction - may also be seen as inherently a construction that, like the urban landscape, is created in the image of the society that consumes it, and therefore, is a tainted medium for creating social revolution. Rather than breaking away from the cinèma de papa that a liberation of cinema represents, the liberation of society requires the destruction of cinema itself as an enabling medium of social language, dismantling an apparatus of projected ideals in exchange for the tabula rasa of an amorphous and indefinable social ideal.

Posted by acquarello on Aug 02, 2009 | | Filed under 2009


July 14, 2009

Racines, 2003

racines.gifSimilar to Boris Lehman's essay film, Searching for My Birthplace, Richard Copans's Racines (Roots) examines the nature of identity, migration, transplantation, and reconstructed history. A routine trip to the dentist provides the point of departure for the filmmaker, as they discuss implants as a way of recreating permanent teeth through artificial roots. For Copans, the analogy proves salient. The son of Simon Copans, an American expatriate and Voice of America jazz radio personality (as well as a communist sympathizer who emigrated to France during the Red Scare to avoid political persecution), his knowledge of his paternal family history had been limited to familiar stories of turn of the century immigrants from old Europe coming to America to avoid religious persecution. But retracing the past through the ravages of history soon proves to be a tangled and disconnected tale. Tracing the family surname to millers at a farm in Vilnius that had once been designated as a ghetto for the country's "stateless cultures" who migrated from other places such as Poland and Russia, Copans is faced with the reality that he may never be able to trace his roots beyond his ancestors' adopted Lithuanian homeland. Finding a kindred spirit in a Yiddish professor from Brooklyn, New York who relocated to Lithuania in order to study - and in some small way, reclaim - traces of his heritage, Copans hears first hand the indirect legacy of the diaspora: abandoned cemeteries now dependent on the charity of expatriates for their maintenance, younger generations who no longer carry on the traditions of their faith, and splintered families who have lost relatives in their search for a better life (in one episode, an octogenarian named Ziske idiosyncratically parallels his reluctance to leave Lithuania and resettle in Israel with his cousin's ill-fated passage on the Titanic in pursuit of a better life in America).

In an encounter with a Jewish family in Vilnius, a passing dinner conversation about traceable history as a kind of status symbol that is often denied ordinary people unexpectedly recalls an earlier conversation in Copans's maternal ancestral hometown of Picardy, where an enterprising man has decided to open his grandparents' home as a preservational museum, arguing that there is an audience interested in a glimpse of their forefathers' nineteenth century peasant life. In a wry coincidence, Copans's American cousin, a certified public accountant, keeps a framed picture of a fabricated family crest (claiming a Russian ancestry that the filmmaker was unable to decisively trace) and a collage of store fronts bearing the Copans name in order to impress clients with his many varied "business ventures" (in reality, the reference to Copans was from name of the street and not directly connected with the family). Perhaps the most illuminating point of convergence occurs in Copans's search through US census logs, assisted by a professional genealogist specializing in African American ancestry who explains that her focus stems from the absence of national archives available before the abolition of slavery in 1865, requiring additional research using ship manifests, plantation owner logs, and property tax assessments to trace distant ancestry. Reconnecting with long-time family friends who share their vivid memories of his grandparents as they immigrated to America to establish a new life, Copans's earlier reference to his father's jazz finds a paradoxical sense of arriving at a terminus in his grandparents' adopted home, where the exhilaration of new cultures transcends the particularity of the immigrant experience and converges towards a human one.

Posted by acquarello on Jul 14, 2009 | | Filed under 2009


June 4, 2009

Death on a Full Moon Day, 1997

death_fullmoon.gifFor the impoverished villagers of Prasanna Vithanage's Death on a Full Moon Day, the civil war is an abstraction, a distant reality removed from the struggles of everyday life. The idea of war as self-reinforcing, interwoven ritual is prefigured in the opening sound of a Buddhist chant (alluding to the solemn observance of the full moon) that is heard amid images of a rural landscape, creating a sense of disrupted nature in the subsequent shots of a lone automobile traversing a dirt road in the early hours of the morning, and a blind, elderly villager, Wannihami (Joe Abeywickrama) walking barefoot through a parched lakebed to fetch water. However, the advent of a full moon proves far from auspicious, the automobile seen earlier revealed to be a hearse transporting soldiers en route to Wannihami's house to escort the casket of his only son, Bandara back to the village for a proper burial. With the family unable to find closure after the soldiers refuse to allow the opening of the sealed casket for a viewing (presumably in deference to the condition of the remains after he was killed in a landmine explosion), Wannihami refuses to acknowledge that his son has been killed during a bloody skirmish, a skepticism that is seemingly reinforced when a letter from Bandara later arrives in anticipation of his impending homecoming for his younger sister, Sunanda's (Priyanka Samaraweera) wedding.

Vithanage incisively parallels religious themes of cycle, enlightenment, and renewal within the context of endemic poverty in order to expose the dysfunctional institutions that help perpetuate the inhumanity (and unnaturality) of the protracted civil war. In retrospect, Bandara's expressed hopes of providing a better life for his family by becoming a soldier reflects the villagers' sense of despair as well, where young men from the provinces (such as Sunanda's suitor, Somay), unable to eke out a decent living through farming, increasingly see the military as the only means to improve their circumstances which, in turn, indirectly serve to perpetuate a conflict that fosters destabilization (in one episode, the government authorizes the addition of a bus stop in the village in memory of Bandara, linking the seemingly noble pursuit of socioeconomic development with politically-motivated appeasement). This interrelation is further implied in the military's contingency death benefits that preclude independent investigation, where acceptance of payment represents a tacit compensation for silence and complicity. Framed against Wannihami's defiance, the breaking of the seal (and consequently, the metaphoric covenant with these exploitive institutions) is also a humble act of enlightenment - a search for truth in the face of isolation, adversity, and dispossession.

Posted by acquarello on Jun 04, 2009 | | Filed under 2009, Prasanna Vithanage


April 9, 2009

Dark Night of the Soul, 1996

dark_night_soul.gifA transplantation of Leo Tolstoy's turn of the century novel, Resurrection from Tsarist Russia to modern day Sri Lanka, Prasanna Vithanage's Dark Night of the Soul also finds kinship with Shyam Benegal's Ankur and Carl Theodor Dreyer's The President in its potent examination of class division, spiritual desolation, and moral anxiety. Alternating between past and present, objective and subjective points of view, Vithanage retains the epic scope of Tolstoy's novel to cast middle-aged businessman, Suwisal's (Ravindra Randeniya) crisis of conscience as a metaphor for the country's unresolved postcolonial history that continues to foment social unrest. Having once seduced - then promptly abandoned - a servant girl, Piyumi (Swarna Mallawarachchi) in his youth, Suwisal finds himself once again holding her fate in his hands when he is called to serve as a juror in her murder trial after she, now reduced to prostitution, is accused of killing a client in an attempt to commit robbery.

Vithanage poses this idea of personal history as collective consciousness in Suwisal and Piyumi's intersecting fates after a twenty year separation, integrally linking the leftist movements of the late 1960s embraced by student radicals with the ongoing civil war. The duality is illustrated in an episode in which Suwisal and a friend reminisce about their involvement in an organized protest in 1969 that initially seems to reinforce, then negate their commitment to social justice, rationalizing that the ideal outcome would be for Piyumi to be found guilty without ever recognizing her former employer, thus avoiding any potential scandal. Their conversation reframes an earlier flashback in which university student Suwisal returns to the country and decides to briefly join the farmers in their harvest in between studies (a naïve attempt at worker solidarity that is reinforced in a shot of him removing his sandals to walk barefoot behind cattle). But his egalitarian gesture proves to be hollow. In a subsequent encounter, Suwisal, having already taken advantage of the trusting Piyumi, offers her a handful of money in lieu of undying devotion, and later ignores her pleas for help after discovering that she is pregnant. This interconnection between past transgression and present unrest is similarly suggested in Suwisal's return trips to the family mansion after a long absence, initially in his visit home to work on a Marxist thesis away from the chaos of campus protests (and brief his disinterested aunt on how his activism intersects with a global social revolution), and subsequently, to recuperate from the emotional toll of the trial, and is once again confronted with his own impotence after a group of tenant farmers ask for his help in finding their missing sons who have been rounded and disappeared in the waging of the protracted conflict.

At each juncture, Suwisal's actions prove to be in opposition: retreating to privilege amid calls for solidarity, and conforming to majority opinion in order to bring swift, if unjust, closure to a tainted past. Visually, Vithanage illustrates the disjunction through narrative ellipses that not only interweave past and present, but also between indeterminate presents that reflect Suwisal - and by extension, the country's - unreconciled conscience. Similar to Ritwik Ghatak, Vithanage also integrates dissonant, yet naturalistic soundscapes to reinforce rupture and conflict, most notably in the prefiguring sound of a crying woman at the empty mansion that is repeated in a subsequent, similarly dissociated shot of Suwisal taking a shower, and in the amplified sound of dust sheets being removed from furniture that reflects the implicit violence of his deeply buried transgression and the turmoil caused by its revelation. Closing with the shot of Piyumi walking away into the horizon, her haunting image becomes - like Suwisal's (and a nation's) process of redemption - a reflection of a shared uncertainty and broken humanity.

Posted by acquarello on Apr 09, 2009 | | Comments (2) | Filed under 2009, Prasanna Vithanage


March 30, 2009

The Pope's Toilet, 2007

pope_toilet.gifIn an episode near the denouement of César Charlone and Enrique Fernández's The Pope's Toilet, grocery runner Beto (César Troncoso), racing across the countryside on his rickety bicycle to install a public toilet in front of his home in time for the papal visit to his village - and more pressingly, the hordes of people expected to attend the holy mass and will invariably need restrooms - is overtaken by a bus filled with Brazilian pilgrims shouting words of encouragement to the hobbling cyclist on their way to the historic event. In a way, the momentary encounter between the struggling, desperate Beto and the pilgrims who express their support from the comfortable distance of a charter bus - but do not offer him a ride to town - reflects the dysfunctional relationship between hierarchical institutions and the people they are entrusted to guide. A historical fiction based on the real-life papal visit of John Paul II to the Uruguayan rural village of Melo during his 1988 Latin American apostolic tour, the film is a wry and trenchant satire on the abstract nature of mediated images, the cycle of poverty, and the exploitive mechanisms of powerful institutions.

Set during Uruguay's transition to democracy after years of military dictatorship, its repressive legacy is still evident in the arbitrary inspections by guards who patrol the porous border between Brazil and Uruguay - a constant, looming threat that is embodied by the intimidating, mobile customs agent Meleyo (Nelson Lence) who, near the beginning of the film, chases a group of returning cyclists from across the hills in his off-road truck before crushing the entire contents of a rider's parcel and confiscating a bottle of rum from Beto's friend, Valvulina (Mario Silva) in retaliation for attempting to running away. Already eking out a meager existence by running grocery orders from local shops to neighboring stores in Brazil, Beto's livelihood is further strained when he is blacklisted by shopkeepers after an afternoon of carousing (propelled, in part, by guards confiscating his groceries after discovering alkaline batteries that had been smuggled, without his knowledge, by a shopkeeper). But salvation seems at hand with the arrival of the pope along with the thousands of pilgrims expected to make the journey into town for the occasion, and villagers have already begun to stake their concessions spots along the route, where they hope to peddle their wares - assorted refreshments, balloons, and commemorative banners - before a generous (and hungry) crowd. Meanwhile, pope fever has also spread to Beto's household, with him eager to earn enough money for a motorcycle that can outrun the customs agents (and prevent further injury to his already hobbled knee), his wife, Carmen (Virginia Méndez) fretting over having enough money to send their teenaged daughter, Silvia (Virginia Ruiz) to a vocational school, and Sylvia, in turn, dreaming of a more glamorous career in journalism, perhaps inspired by the media frenzy surrounding the papal visit that have turned ordinary villagers into perennial television news fixtures.

Interweaving archival footage from street reports and excerpts from the papal visit within the fictional story of Beto's search for a better life, Charlone and Fernández create an ambiguity between truth and fiction that reflect the film's underlying social realism. By presenting the villagers' plight as a series of inequitable encounters - whether by corrupt border guards, shopkeepers (who deduct fees for confiscated items), the media (who sensationalize events in order to create news and boost viewership), and even the church (in an ironic episode, Valvulina's wife, Teresa [Rosario Dos Santos] buys a souvenir medallion from a member of the pope's entourage, even as her vended snacks remained unsold) - the filmmakers reinforce the idea that enabled institutions collectively lead to entrenched marginalization and poverty. It is this sense of collusive exploitation that is implied in Beto's impotent act of protest, implicating both the media and the church in their hollow calls for benediction, as well as the consumerist society (as symbolized by a television that was purchased on installment) that conceals its own degraded status under artificial tokens of privilege.

Posted by acquarello on Mar 30, 2009 | | Filed under 2009


March 15, 2009

New York African Film Festival: 2009 Line-up

The line-up for the 2009 New York African Film Festival has been announced, and this year's selection once again proves why this festival continues to be an indispensable forum for engaging with other histories and cultures that too often remain at the distant periphery of Western consciousness. I'm especially looking forward to the new works by essayist Jean-Marie Téno (Sacred Places) and Sex, Okra and Salted Butter, the new feature from Daratt filmmaker, Mahamat Saleh Haroun, as well as Angèle Diabang Brener's portrait of Sérère poetry singer, Yandé Codou (Yandé Codou, The Griot of Senghor), Siki, Ring Wrestler on World War I hero and boxing legend, Battling Siki who was murdered on the streets of New York in 1925, and The Burning Man - Ernesto Alfabeto Nhamuave on the immolation murder of Mozambique guest worker, Nhamuave in South Africa. The festival runs from April 8-14, 2009.


Behind the Rainbow (Jihan El-Tahri, 2009)
Wed Apr 8: *8pm; Mon Apr 13: *2:50pm

The Fighting Spirit (George Amponsah, 2007) screening with
Siki, Ring Wrestler (Mamadou Niang, 1993)
Fri Apr 10: 1pm; Sun Apr 12: *5:15pm

Filmmakers Against Racism:
Congo My Foot (Okepne Ojang, 2008)
Martine and Thandeka (Xoliswa Sithole, 2008)
The Burning Man - Ernesto Alfabeto Nhamuave (Adze Ugah, 2008)
Baraka (Omelga Mthiyane and Riaan Hendricks, 2008)
Fri Apr 10: *10pm; Sun Apr 12: *12:30pm

From A Whisper (Wanuri Kahiu, 2008)
Sat Apr 11: *3:00pm; Tue Apr 14: 7:00pm

The Importance of Being Elegant (George Amponsah, 2004)
Thu Apr 9: 2:15; Sat Apr 11: 10pm

In My Genes (Lupita Nyong’o, 2009)
Sun Apr 12: *9:15; Tues Apr 14: 5pm

Jerusalema (Ralph Ziman, 2008)
Fri Apr 10: *7:15pm; Tues Apr 14: *9:00pm

Killer Necklace (Judy Kibinge, 2009) screening with
Area Boys (Omelihu Nwanguma, 2008)
Thu Apr 9:* 9pm; Mon Apr 13: *10:00pm

Kinshasa Palace (Jose Laplaine, 2006)
Wed Apr 8: 1:45pm; Mon Apr 13: 5:30pm

Paris or Nothing (Josephine Ndagnou, 2008)
Wed Apr 8: 3:30pm; Mon Apr 13: 7:30pm

The Prodigal Son (Kurt Orderson, 2008) screening with
Bronx Princess (Yoni Brook and Musa Syeed, 2008) and
African Booty Scratcher (Nikyatu Jusu, 2008)
Fri Apr 10: 3pm; Sun Apr 12: *2:40pm

Sacred Places (Jean-Marie Téno, 2009)
Wed Apr 8: *6:00pm; Sat Apr 11: *1pm

Sex, Okra and Salted Butter (Mahamat Saleh Haroun, 2008)
Fri Apr 10: *5:10pm; Sun Apr 12: *7:20pm

Triomf (Michael Raeburn, 2008)
Thu Apr 9: *6:15pm; Mon Apr 13: 12:30pm

Wrestling Grounds (Cheick Ndiaye, 2006)
Thu Apr 9: 4pm; Sat Apr 11: *7:35pm

Yandé Codou, The Griot of Senghor (Angèle Diabang Brener, 2008) screening with
Nora (Alla Kovgan and David Hinton, 2008) and
Coming of Age (Judy Kibinge, 2008)
Sat Apr 11: *5:15pm; Tue Apr 14: 2:40pm


*African directors and guest speakers will be present during the festival.

Posted by acquarello on Mar 15, 2009 | | Filed under 2009


February 7, 2009

Septiembres, 2007

septembers.gifAt the end of an earlier Festival of Song contest, inmate and reigning singing champion, Norma García, a Mexican national serving a ten year sentence for unwittingly carrying contraband for a friend during a holiday trip to Spain, returns to her narrow cell after briefly basking in the limelight before a captive audience and bids farewell to the film crew with an affectionate request not to forget all the people they had been filming when they leave the prison and return to their daily routine. In hindsight, Norma's parting comment captures the sincere and impassioned social observation that lies at the core of Carles Bosch's incisive chronicle of the annual Festival of Song competition at the Soto del Real prison on the outskirts of Madrid. Similar to Maria Ramos's unmoderated documentaries on the Brazilian justice system (Justice and Behave), Septiembres frames the plight of the inmates as a procedural, chronicling moments in their everyday life as they prepare from one contest to the next.

Having won the cash prize of 290 euros for the past two contests (which promptly went to pay for tuition at a correspondence school and subsequently, dental treatment), Norma reveals that she is planning to buy her young daughter a Christmas present if she wins this year's contest, having continued to maintain the ruse (albeit tenuously) for the past three years that she has gone far away to work. The ruse of a pesky, overseas job also proves convenient for Argentinean national, Adalberto "Beto" Usoli, explaining to his beloved elderly grandmother that his extended absence and infrequent (and spotty reception) calls home are the result of working aboard a cruise ship. Accused of embezzling 3,000 euros from his employer, Beto moved to Spain in order to be closer to his Barcelonian lover, and is petitioning to resolve his case in the Spanish court system, fearing a lengthy separation from his partner if he is extradited back to Argentina. Following one's heart proves to be Lithuanian immigrant and counterfeiter, Rudolf Schlessinger's Achilles heel as well, having violated the terms of his weekend furlough in order to spend more time with an attractive young woman he had just met, and has been handed down an additional sentence for the impulsive act, delaying his upcoming parole. Beto's limbo within the Spanish court system is also echoed in the indefinite imprisonment of a young woman, Patricia Ávarez, the eldest of twelve children who is serving an open ended sentence for drug possession, and in the plight of Arturo Jiménez, a Madrileño of gypsy descent and devoted family man who has been detained for over two years at the Valdemoro Men's Prison awaiting a court date on drug trafficking charges.

The wide reach of the drug trade also casts its shadow on recovering addict and self-admitted black sheep of the family, Estefanía Maestre (who, like the young, unemployed couple in José Luis Guerín's En Construcción, hails from the working class port town of El Chino) who has found a measure of stability in her life with her fiancé Cristian (and who, in turn, is serving ten years for wounding his former girlfriend's lover in a jealous rage) and is eager to move on, but must wait until they both serve out their sentences. Another is José Antonio Gardoqui, the gravel-voiced, former drummer of a popular 80s band called "Burning" who once robbed banks to feed his habit, and his girlfriend and fellow inmate, Fortu, who tried to save her addicted children from the streets (ultimately, in vain) by buying drugs for them. In each story, Bosch illustrates an underlying pattern of marginalization and underprivilege - poverty, under-education, racism, alienation, and despair - that binds each contestant's search for happiness and normalcy. As in Ramos's films, the absence of an overarching commentary creates a sense of intimacy between subject and viewer. However, while Ramos reinforces the image of entrenched hierarchical structures in interactions with authorities, Bosch collapses these structures by filming solely from the perspective of the inmates, enabling their figurative self-expression through heartfelt song renditions and articulated personal aspirations that capture the humanity beneath their marginalized lives, and the quotidian moments of grace that reaffirm their dignity.

Posted by acquarello on Feb 07, 2009 | | Filed under 2009


February 6, 2009

Rendez-vous With French Cinema: 2009 Line-up

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The line-up for this year's Rendez-vous with French Cinema has been announced, and with the back to back programming with Film Comment Selects, it looks as though I'll have to make some tough planning choices on which films to catch on an extended weekend. Suffice it to say...help!


OPENING NIGHT

Paris 36 / Faubourg 36 (Christophe Barratier, 2008)
Alice Tully Hall: Thu Mar 5: 8:00pm

U.S. PREMIERE

35 Shots of Rum / 35 Rhums Claire Denis, 2008)
Film Society of Lincoln Center: Fri Mar 13: 1:30pm
FSLC: Fri Mar 13: 6:15pm
FSLC: Sun Mar 15: 8:00pm
IFC Center: Thu Mar 12: 7:00pm

Mesrine Part 1 / Mesrine, L’instinct de mort (Jean-François Richet, 2008)
FSLC: Tue Mar 10: 6:15pm
FSLC: Sat Mar 14: 1:30pm

Mesrine Part 2 / Mesrine, L’ennemi public n° 1 (Jean-François Richet, 2008)
FSLC: Wed Mar 11: 6:00pm
FSLC: Sat Mar 14: 3:50pm


NORTH AMERICAN PREMIERE

The Apprentice / L’apprenti (Samuel Collardey, 2008)
FSLC: Wed Mar 11: 3:45pm
FSLC: Thu Mar 12: 8:45pm
IFC: Mon Mar 9: 7:00pm

Bellamy (Claude Chabrol, 2009)
FSLC: Thu Mar 12: 3:45pm
FSLC: Sat Mar 14: 9:10pm
FSLC: Sun Mar 15: 1:00pm
IFC: Fri Mar 6: 9:30pm

Change of Plans / Le code a changé (Danièle Thompson, 2009)
FSLC: Fri Mar 6: 6:20pm
FSLC: Sun Mar 8: 8:45pm
FSLC: Mon Mar 9: 3:30pm
IFC: Sat Mar 7: 7:00pm

Eden Is West / Eden à l’ouest (Costa-Gavras, 2009)
FSLC: Sat Mar 7: 9:00pm
FSLC: Wed Mar 11: 1:30pm
IFC: Sun Mar 8: 4:00pm

The Joy of Singing / Le Plaisir de chanter (Ilan Duran Cohen, 2008)
FSLC: Sun Mar 8: 3:30pm
FSLC: Tue Mar 10: 1:00pm
IFC: Wed Mar 11: 7:00pm

The Other One / L’Autre (Patrick Mario Bernard and Pierre Trividic, 2008)
FSLC: Wed Mar 11: 9:00pm
FSLC: Sun Mar 15: 5:30pm
IFC: Tue Mar 10: 7:00pm

Stella (Sylvie Verheyde, 2008)
FSLC: Thu Mar 12: 1:00pm
FSLC: Thu Mar 12: 6:15pm
IFC: Wed Mar 11: 9:30pm

Villa Amalia (Benoît Jacquot, 2009)
FSLC: Fri Mar 13: 8:45pm
FSLC: Sat Mar 14: 6:45pm
IFC: Thu Mar 12: 9:30pm


NEW YORK PREMIERE
The Beaches of Agnès / Les Plages d’Agnès (Agnès Varda, 2008)
FSLC: Sat Mar 7: 1:30pm
FSLC: Mon Mar 9: 8:45pm

The Girl from Monaco / La Fille de Monaco (Anne Fontaine, 2008)
FSLC: Fri Mar 6: 1:00pm
FSLC: Sat Mar 7: 6:35pm
IFC: Sun Mar 8: 1:30pm

Séraphine (Martin Provost, 2008)
FSLC: Fri Mar 6: 8:45pm
FSLC: Sun Mar 8: 12:30pm
IFC: Sat Mar 7: 4:00pm

Versailles (Pierre Schoeller, 2008)
FSLC: Fri Mar 6: 3:30pm
FSLC: Sun Mar 8: 6:00pm
IFC: Sat Mar 7: 1:30pm

With a Little Help from Myself / Aide-toi, le ciel t’aidera (François Dupeyron, 2008)
FSLC: Sat Mar 7: 4:10pm
FSLC: Mon Mar 9: 1:00pm
FLSC: Mon Mar 9: 6:15pm
IFC: Fri Mar 6: 7:00pm

WORLD PREMIERE
The Girl on the Train / La Fille du RER (André Téchiné, 2009)
FSLC: Tue Mar 10: 3:30pm
FSLC: Tue Mar 10: 9:10pm
IFC: Sun Mar 8: 6:45pm


TOUT COURT: NEW FRENCH SHORTS
France, 2008; 90m
Baby (Bébé, Clément Michel); New Skin (Peau neuve, Clara Elalouf); Good Night Malik (Bonne nuit Malik, Bruno Danan); The Fire, The Blood, The Stars (Le feu, le sang, les étoiles, Caroline Deruas); My Little Brother from the Moon (Mon petit frère est de la lune, Frédéric Philibert); and My Name Is Dominic (Tous les enfants s’appellent Dominique, Nicolas Silhol).
FSLC: Fri Mar 13: 4:00pm
FSLC: Sun Mar 15: 3:15pm

Posted by acquarello on Feb 06, 2009 | | Comments (4) | Filed under 2009


January 24, 2009

Film Comment Selects: 2009 Line-up

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The 2009 Film Comment Selects line-up has been announced, and I'm happy to see Philippe Garrel's The Frontier of Dawn and Michael Almereyda's new film, Paradise in the program. The series runs from February 20 to March 5, 2009.

OPENING NIGHT
Paradise (Michael Almereyda, 2009)
Fri Feb 20: 6:30pm

CLOSING NIGHT
The Hurt Locker (Kathryn Bigelow, 2008)
Thu Mar 5: 7:00pm

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A l’aventure (Jean-Claude Brisseau, 2009)
Sat Feb 28: 9:15pm
Wed Mar 4: 4:00pm

Adam Resurrected (Paul Schrader, 2008)
Tue Mar 3: 9:00pm

Better Things (Duane Hopkins, 2008)
Mon Mar 2: 6:30pm
Tue Mar 3: 4:30pm

The Chaser / Chugyeogja (Na Hong-jin, 2008)
Sat Feb 21: 6:00pm
Sat Feb 28: 1:30pm

The Frontier of Dawn / La frontière de l’aube (Philippe Garrel, 2008)
Sun Feb 22: 7:00pm

Jerichow (Christian Petzold, 2008)
Fri Feb 27: 8:45pm
Mon Mar 2: 4:30pm

Lake Tahoe (Fernando Eimbcke, 2008)
Fri Feb 27: 7:00pm

The Mugger / El Asaltante (Pablo Fendrik, 2007)
Fri Feb 20: 9:15pm
Sun Feb 22: 1:00pm

Revanche (Götz Spielmann, 2008)
Tue Feb 24: 8:30pm
Sat Feb 28: 6:45pm

The Tiger’s Tail (John Boorman, 2006)
Sat Feb 21: 1:30pm and 8:30pm

A Week Alone / Una semana solos (Celina Murga, 2007)
Mon Mar 2: 8:30pm
Tue Mar 3: 6:30pm

A Woman in Berlin / Anonyma – Eine Frau in Berlin (Max Färberböck, 2008)
Fri Feb 20: 3:30pm
Wed Feb 25: 6:00pm

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SPECIAL RETROSPECTIVES

The Killing of Sister George (Robert Aldrich, 1968)
Sat Feb 28: 4:00pm

Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains (Lou Adler, 1981)
Wed Feb 25: 8:30pm

The Third Generation / Die Dritte Generation (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1979)
Sat Feb 21: 3:45pm
Tue Feb 24: 6:15pm

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DOUBLE TROUBLE: JOEL DeMOTT AND JEFF KREINES

Demon Lover Diary (Joel DeMott, 1980)
Sun Feb 22: 2:30pm

Seventeen (Joel DeMott and Jeff Kreines, 1983)
Sun Feb 22: 4:30pm

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FILM COMMENT SELECTS: GUY DEBORD

In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni (Guy Debord, 1978)
Sun Mar 1: 2:00pm

The Society of the Spectacle / La société du spectacle (Guy Debord, 1973) screening with Réfutation de tous les jugements, tant élogieux qu’hostiles, qui ont été jusqu’ici portés sur le film ‘La société du spectacle’ (Guy Debord, 1975)
Sun Mar 1: 4:10pm and 8:40pm

Hurlements en faveur de Sade (Guy Debord, 1952), screening with On the Passage of a Few Persons Through a Rather Brief Unity of Time / Sur le passage de quelques personnes à travers une assez courte unité de temps (Guy Debord, 1959), and Critique de la séparation (Guy Debord, 1961)
Sun Mar 1: 6:15pm

Posted by acquarello on Jan 24, 2009 | | Filed under 2009, Quick Notes


January 21, 2009

L'Enfance nue, 1968

enfance_nue.gifPart autofiction in its reflexive tale of emotional abandonment and part social realism in its clinical illustration of the nation's overtaxed foster care system, Maurice Pialat's L'Enfance nue finds greater kinship with Jean Eustache's studies on hybrid modes of representation than with a deconstructed cinéma du papa that François Truffaut's involvement as the film's co-producer would suggest. This intersection is established in the opening shot of a workers' solidarity march that cuts to the image of a working class woman, Simone (Linda Gutemberg) fitting her foster son, François (Michel Terrazon) for a jacket, attempting to elicit the word "mom" from the taciturn boy after leaving the shop with their purchase. Like the young protagonist, Daniel (Martin Loeb) in Eustache's Mes petites amoureuses, François has been placed in the custody of others by an absent mother, and the uncertainty of his place within his surrogate family surfaces in acts of displaced aggression. However, while Daniel remains in the care of biological relatives, François has been scuttled from one foster home to another, unable to be permanently placed while his mother continues to reserve her right to regain custody. Despite Simone and her husband Roby's (Raoul Billerey) sincere attempts to welcome François into their home, his makeshift room on the stairwell landing is a constant reminder of his temporary station within the family. Frustrated by his increasingly destructive behavior and propensity to steal from shops around town, his foster parents return him to the custody of the state, where he is escorted by social workers traveling on their monthly return trip to bring back abandoned children who were not able to be placed for adoption in Paris in the hopes of finding local families willing to take them in. Placed in the care of an older couple affectionately called Mémère (Marie-Louise Thierry) and Pépère (René Thierry), François gradually begins to adjust to his new life with his older foster brother and roommate, Raoul (Henri Puff), until a family tragedy seemingly reinforces his insecurity and leads to a senseless act of adolescent mischief. By placing François' destructive nature within the context of workers strikes that defined the sociopolitical landscape of 1968, Pialat illustrates the intrinsic connection between personal and social history. In this sense, Pépère's chronicle of his family history as members of the resistance who were killed during occupied France not only serves as a gesture of inclusion, but also introduces the idea of rebellion as a necessary passage towards defining one's identity and sense of place. Juxtaposed against images of transit that occur throughout the film - a train ride from Paris, an overloaded station wagon transporting abandoned children, an ill-fated passing car - Pialat reframes François's sense of dislocation and rootlessness as an ironic act towards a newfound, if familiar identification, where home continues to represent a distant and elusive ideal.

Posted by acquarello on Jan 21, 2009 | | Filed under 2009


January 5, 2009

Innisfree, 1990

innisfree.gifAs in Tren de sombras, José Luis Guerín ambiguously prefaces Innisfree as a series of images and observations recorded from the site of a historical event, in this case, the filming of John Ford's The Quiet Man around Cong village in the Irish countryside. And like the film, Guerín alternates between modes of non-fiction - documentary and found footage - to explore the amorphous nature of image creation and representation, the impreciseness of translation, and the imprinting of historical (and geographical) memory. Guerín prefigures the deconstruction of Ford's film (and, implicitly, Ford's persona as the town's famed native son) in the opening commentary by the director's friend and colleague, Michael Killanin (producer of The Rising of the Moon) on the absence of primogeniture tradition in Irish culture that had led to large scale emigration during the last century (as subsistence farmers inherited subdivided land or were completely disinherited and forced to seek their fortune elsewhere). Framed against a shot of two men (presumably Ford's relatives, the O'Feeneys) surveying the stone wall ruins of a farmhouse, Guerín illustrates both the reality (of abandoned land) and implied fiction (of returning émigrés) intrinsic in Ford's seemingly autofictional premise of an Irish American boxer, Sean Thornton (John Wayne) returning to his ancestral land in order to reclaim his homestead.

This duality is also reflected in the juxtaposition of Killanin's comments with the appearance of a hitchhiker. On one hand, Killanin points out that Thornton is, to some extent, an alterego (whose shared history with Ford involved immigrant parents who settled in Pittsburgh) and represents an idealized, other gaze that goes against the grain of historical reality. On the other hand, the hitchhiker represents an antithesis to the immigrant story by describing her experience as having worked as an au pair and in a millinery factory in Pittsburgh before deciding to return home to Ireland. The convergence of disparate realities is further developed in the young woman's employment as a concession stand attendant for one of the local, film-themed sightseeing tours that now capitalize on the popularity of The Quiet Man. In a sense, fiction and reality not only coexist (an idea that is also suggested in the deliberately staged shot of the attendant, still in her Maureen O'Hara costume, riding home that evokes a shot of the bicycling couple in Ford's film), but that fiction has also transfigured into reality by creating (and perpetuating) its own illusion.

The transformation of Innisfree from scouted, rustic town suitable for the location shoot to one now defined by - and economically reliant on - perpetuating the fictional images created by the film also reflects Guerín's theme of cinema as simultaneously a medium of illusion and conjurer of reality (a theme that also surfaces in Tren de sombras in the figurative conjuring of the dead by restoring amateur filmmaker, Fleury's lost film from the turn of the century). In one episode, film reality diverges from geographic reality when an IRA partisan describes the war torn, mine-filled landscape that was cleared to create the film's idyllic images of pastoral life. In a subsequent episode, the two realities again converge in a staged explosion caused by an errant cow for Guerín's film. In both cases, the landscape has been altered by artificially constructed, historical realities. Similarly, by using repeated shots of the attendant shuffling full-scale cutouts of John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara at a tour site (the scenes wryly cued by opening and closing the shutters of the small, puppet-theater sized concession stand), Guerín reflects on the idea that the town, too, has become a modern day, real-life staged spectacle. Concluding with images of the hitchhiker moving on to another town in search of job opportunities, she becomes an embodiment of the immigrant paradigm and a traveling performer for Guerín's camera.

Posted by acquarello on Jan 05, 2009 | | Filed under 2009, José Luis Guerín