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February 2009 Archives

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


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!


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


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


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

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

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

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