extremely long and incredibly boring

I both hated and loved Jonathan Safran Foer’s book Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I loved it for its experimental typography, moments of humor and for the story of the grandparents and hated it for its sappiness, idealized characters, overly done gimmicks  and the pointless ending. The movie takes the worst parts of the book and adds some more hollywoodish bad stuff to it, creating a concoction that can be hard to bear. If you’ve read the book you’ll probably get angry at the ridiculousness of the adaptation and if you haven’t, you’ll probably fall asleep after shedding a tear or two. Either way, you’ll probably have to pinch yourself hard to be able to stand the two hour long cinematic trauma orgy, like the main character repeatedly does in the movie. The only thing that kept me going was waiting for the moment when the old guy played by Max von Sydow would start talking and tell the kid in a Darth Vader-like voice with a German accent: “Oskar, I am your grandfather.” Yeah, that never happened.

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Amelie is a guy now

It was surprisingly hard to convince people to go see this movie with me at the cinema. Some objected to the old gay guy story (I had no idea cinematographic homophobia was so widely spread among menfolk), others to the talking dog, although the poor guy actually only talks through subtitles, others had no clue who Christopher Plummer was and had never seen The Sound of Music (they have obviously not grown up in Romania).With all this pressure coming from the expectations of my companions, I couldn’t quite enjoy the film because I was so self conscious about it as if I had written the script myself. Still, it’s not bad for a sappy movie. It has beautiful photography and the kind of feel good for the non-believers thing about it, like the less brilliant love child of Amelie and Michel Gondry.

There is a lot “feel-good” manipulation but also truth involved in the main idea of the film that we never stop being beginners, that there’s always something new to uncover in ourselves and in the world around us, even as we get older or old. There is also an interesting parallel between how two different generations perceive love and relationships and the revelation that the unparalleled freedom my generation enjoys with regard to relationships is not necessarily free of limitations, but that it is precisely this freedom  that becomes one. But if you are looking for a deep portrayal of human emotions and complex relationships, this is not the right movie. The characters are and remain sketchy and the relations between them are superficial to say the least, but who cares about that when you have a dog talking through subtitles (they should have used him more).

Anyway, one of my friends was definitely right in predicting that the best part of the movie is probably the trailer:

life is biutiful

Sometimes death makes life look beautiful, it reveals it as the mystery that it really is in all it’s strangeness. Two  films I’ve seen recently manage to deal with this very delicate theme. Biutiful, the latest Inarritu, appears to be all about the process of dying, but the effect it has is that it makes you feel the wonder of being alive. The breathtaking cinematography includes moments that haunt you for a long time, like the bodies of Chinese illegal immigrants washed up on the see shore, the breaking dawn, the general atmosphere of a Barcelona that the average tourist will find unrecognizable and, most of all,  the dreamed encounter in the snowy forest. Like in 21 Grams, but more elegantly so, Inarritu manages to bring to life the drama of the human soul by setting its aspirations against the ballast of a body that gradually fails it in the most gruesome way. All the suffering, vomiting, degradation and pain do nothing but accentuate the “biuty” of life

The Tree, on the other hand, starts with a death and focuses on how the living deal with the pain and with the very present loss. The metaphor is quite obvious, but that doesn’t make is less effective. And Charlotte Gainsbourg has got to be one of the most imperfectly beautiful people in the world:

and a song I’ve rediscovered after seeing the film:

the sad hipsters

Girls that want to look like Audrey Hepburn instead of themselves, that dress in some other people’s old clothes as if they are trying to inhabit other worlds instead of their own and guys that wear grandpa pullovers, perfectly orchestrated messy haircuts and talk casually about fascism over their vegan lunch; there is something that makes me sad about this generation whose constant quest for uniqueness becomes their uniformity. Love to them is an aesthetic affair, like finding the perfect vintage bauhaus chair in a thrift store, love at first sight, love based on sight.

Every single frame of Les Amours Imaginaires has the narcissistic beauty of the thousands of pictures posted on flickr everyday, by people documenting their stylized selves and lives, it’s like a movie based on Hedi Slimane‘s photos. I’ve almost quit watching after 15 minutes. Another take on the threesome cliche, I thought. And it is that, too. But to me this was a film about the beauty of surfaces, the sadness of a generation of superficial hedonists that can only express themselves by a simulacrum of the past that is devoid of any signification; just beauty for beauty’s sake. Oscar Wilde would probably fit right in with this crowd.

A boy and a girl that are friends fall for the same boy. Its a visual love from the beginning and it stays so. The object of their love is like a painting that grips them and they have to have. He is the archetypal prototype of androgynous beauty, bearing a striking resemblance to the beautiful boy from Death in Venice.  I think I might be reading too much into it and the film might in the end be just as superficial as its beauty. It could be like one of those fashion photo editorials that play a bit with something serious and for a second they make you think and forget that in the end their only purpose is to suck you into that beauty, make you want to posses some of it by buying stuff. It also brings to mind the nouvelle vague cinema with the very important difference that those where rebells that were accidentally chic and these are characters that live entirely through the chic that they surround themselves with.

Aproape mut

Or fi invetat francezii filmul si americanii l-au impachetat frumos si l-au vandut bine, dar parca rusii sunt cei care se pricep cel mai bine sa il transforme in arta. In Izgnanie se vorbeste foarte putin si se vede foarte mult, fiecare cadru spune ceva si creeaza o stare. Ca si la Tarkovski si Sokurov, povestea se desfasoara intr-o lume care aduce cu realitatea, dar care e de fapt un teritoriu simbolic in care fiecare element are o semnificatie. Lumea creata in Izgnanie, ca si cea din Intoarcerea, e ca o harta a lumii interioare, a sufletului.

Nu stiu de ce la noi titlul a fost tradus Exilul, cand “Izgonirea” ar fi fost mult mai potrivit, mai ales pentru ca etimologic e vorba de acelasi cuvant care a ajuns la noi prin filiera slava si pentru ca este vorba despre “izgonirea din rai” si nu de “exilul din rai”. Sunt multe referinte religioase in film si desi mi-e greu sa apreciez simbolistica religioasa uneori, e foarte rar sa mai gasesti un film contemporan care sa vorbesca despre dragoste, familie si umanitate intr-un mod atat de plastic si delicat.

Mai mult decat povestea, mi-au ramas intiparite in minte imagini, mai ales contrastul extraordinar dintre peisajele industriale  si cele bucolic rurale, dintre oameni si masini, muzica foarte stranie, aproape infioratoare si chipul Mariei Bonnevie, actrita suedeza care mi-a placut foarte mult in Reconstruction, si pe care a fost suprinzator sa o gasesc intr-un film rusesc. Alta surpriza a fost sa aflu ca scenariul e bazat pe o nuvela (cred) a autorului american William Saroyan pe care tare as vrea sa o citesc.

un film cald si unul rece

Mi-era dor de un Jarmush, dar mai bine ma uitam la unul dintre filmele lui vechi, decat sa ma duc la The Limits of Control. Nu stiu daca am imbatranit eu sau Jarmush, dar filmul asta m-a lasat incredibil de rece. Povestea e extrem de repetitiva si, daca alta data gustam umorul lui absurd, acum abia daca am zambit. M-am prins oarecum despre ce e vorba, desi e genul ala de film care nu prea te ajuta sa intelegi, chiar din contra, iti da senzatia ca nu e nimic de inteles. Toate personajele si situatiile pot fi in acelasi timp simbolice sau doar absurde, eu nu pot sa ma hotarasc ce varianta sa aleg, dar vorba unei prietene, cand un regizor colectioneaza atatea nume mari e clar ca scenariul lasa de dorit. Si as vrea sa ii multumesc personajului “femeia in pielea goala” sau, ma rog, nudul cum i se spune in film, pentru ca a mai inviorat spectatorii, inclusiv pe mine. Si vorba ei, “no sex, no guns?”, what kind of movie is this?, as adauga eu. O sa revad Down by Law ca sa imi aduc aminte de ce imi placea atat Jarmush.


Die Welle e un film nemtesc previzibil, dar bine facut. Tocmai imi ziceam ca m-am saturat de filme despre Holocaust si nazisti, dar povestea asta e putin alfel pentru ca nu e nici despre victime si nici despre nemti diabolici sau de treaba, ci despre cum au putut atatia oameni sa se implice in acest fenomen. Un experiment initial aparent nevinovat, facut de un profesor de liceu, are urmari grave. Si coloana sonora e misto:

amintiri din copilarie, varianta iraniana

Intotdeauna mi-am dorit sa aflu ce se ascunde sub valul femeilor islamice si ce parere au de statutul lor. In romanul lui Orhan Pamuk, Snow, m-a fascinat perspectiva unei femei tinere care alege, aparent de buna voie si nesilita de nimeni, sa poarte valul. In Persepolis insa, autoarea povesteste (printre altele) cum a fost fortata sa poarte valul si cum s-a revoltat impotriva acestei impuneri. Pentru multi europeni perspectiva lui Marjane Satrapi este mult mai usor de inteles si acceptat, poate de aceea romanul grafic Persepolis si animatia cu acelasi nume au avut success.

 

Intamplarea a facut sa-mi cada in mana intai prima parte a romanului grafic si apoi sa vad filmul. In prima parte din cartea Persepolis, Satrapi isi povesteste copilaria marcata de evenimentele tumultoase care au schimbat dramatic istoria Iranului sau natal, dar si destinul ei.

 

Din experienta mea, rar  se intampla ca romanele sa devina filme la fel de bune. Cu un roman grafic, lucrurile stau insa altfel. Animatia Persepolis este fix cartea animata. Toata frumusetea graficii elegante, in alb si negru, din prima parte a cartii, se regaseste in film.

 

Exotismul unei copilarii intr-o tara araba fascineaza imediat, dar valoarea povestii sta in faptul ca e universala (stiu ca suna a cliseu de comentariu la romana, dar asa e). E povestea formarii unui om si modul in care contextul istoric si politic ne marcheaza fie ca vrem sau nu. E usor sa fii nihilist si sa negi anumite valori cand te nasti in clasa de mijloc intr-o tara a carei organizare e ca o masinarie ale carei rotite sunt bine unse. Dar cand te nasti intr-un loc unde statul e o treaba derizorie, iar revolutia si razboiul sunt un fapt curent, familia si identitatea nationala devin lucruri serioase, singurele de care te poti agata pentru a-ti putea mentine echilibrul. M-a impresionat scena din film in care Marjane izbucneste intr-o discutie cu un prieten austriac, punkist nihilist si ii reproseaza superficialitatea cu care respinge toate valorile.

 

Povestea Marjanei, care in copilarie scanda “jos sahul!” prin casa, mi-a amintit de copilaria mea si de cum la revolutie mi-am legat o banderola tricolora, am rupt paginile cu Ceausescu din almanahuri, i-am desenat dinti si urechi de vampir si le-am lipit pe stalpi in cartier. Sunt ciudat de vii amintirile mele din perioada asta tulbure, in comparatie cu trecutul recent, prea gri si lipsit de trairi si evenimente ca sa ma marcheze.