I just can't believe that I am now fifty year-old! If I do feel the increased age, it's not really what's kept me from blogging in the last months, but the fact that I commute nearly three hours each day to get to work, which leave me completely drained (and sometimes even depressed). I fear I won't produce much as long as I will be stuck in this “commute-work-sleep” (or as we say in french “métro-boulot-dodo”) kind of groundhog-day loop. However, I had been still quietly reading news and stashing links to the most interesting stories for later use and posterity. I am still willing to share them with you after the jump:
Friday, June 29, 2012
Tuesday, June 12, 2012
“Five social misfits commit a successful murder-robbery, but, stuck in their hideout, they soon fight over the money” (2011 World Film Festival of Montreal schedule book, pg. 44)Warning: may contains trace of spoilers! People allergic to the discussion of any plot's elements before seeing a movie are strongly advised to take the necessary precautions for their safety and should avoid reading further.
Having rob an old man of his life savings (which he kept under a mattress) a group of young people who are all in dire need of money meet in an unused gym to spit their disappointing spoils. It result in discord and fights as they all plot to try to keep the loot for themselves -- some with the help of unscrupulous yakusa.
Probably the worse film I've seen at the festival this year. It has no real action, the character have no depth and it's a type of story we've seen more than a dozen time already. Since the action is very static and takes place in only two or three sets, it feels like a stage play rather than a movie. By moments some scenes were so ridiculous that it reminded me of those italian comedy (or puppets show) were characters hit each other with a club and fall on their back!
It is certainly entertaining but of little interest as it is not well directed nor played.
Kureizizum (Crazy-ism): Japan, 2010, 90 min.; Dir./Scr./Ed.: Shoji Kubota; Phot.: Aya Matsubayashi; Cast: Ryoba Baba, Akiko An, Makoto Uenobori, Enoku Shimegi, Kurumi Hijikata, Hikaru Shida. Screened as part of the “Regards sur les cinémas du monde” segment at the Montreal World Film Festival 2011, on August 22nd, 21:40 in Cinéma Quartier Latin 10.
Sunday, June 10, 2012
Wednesday, June 06, 2012
“Can time be made to stand still? Can it be reversed? A meditation on this theme, contrasting the worlds of the photographer Eadweard Muybridge -- who in 1878 successfully photographed consecutive phases in the movement of a galloping horse -- and a mother who, watching her daughter grow up, realizes she is slipping away from her.” (From 2011 Montreal World Film Festival program book, pg. 63)Warning: may contains trace of spoilers! People allergic to the discussion of any plot's elements before seeing a movie are strongly advised to take the necessary precautions for their safety and should avoid reading further.
This movie offers a very wobbly hand-drawn animation (made of drawing and painting on paper), a classical soundtrack (a canon by J.S. Bach) without any spoken words and a very confusing story. It is clearly inspired by the contribution of Eadweard Muybridge to the genesis of early cinema with the invention of the phenakistoscope and zoopraxiscope. He first "filmed" a horse in motion by using a series of strings that would be successively hit by a running horse thus triggering a succession of camera. The animation seems also to makes allusion to Muybridge discovering that his wife was having affair and the fact that he shot and killed her lover (a murder for which he was later acquitted). There was also lots of scenes of a mother and child dancing and playing piano, but that would not have made much sense to me if I would not have read the program description. Overall, it is an amusing animation.
A co-production with the National Film Board of Canada, which seemed to have produced the musical part of the animation.
Muybridge's Strings: Canada/Japan, 2011, 13 min.; Dir./Scr./Ed.: Koji Yamamura; Original Music, Sound Design: Normand Roger, Pierre Yves Drapeau, Denis Chartrand; Ex. Prod.: David Verrall (NFB), Kenji Saito (NHK), Shuzo John Shiota (Polygon); Prod.: Michael Fukushima (NFB), Keisuke Tsuchihashi (NHK), Shuzo John Shiota (Polygon). A co-production of the National Film Board of Canada, NHK and Polygon Pictures. Screened as part of the “Shorts Official Competition” segment at the Montreal World Film Festival 2011, on August 21st, 21:30 in Maisonneuve Theatre (opening for Dirty Hearts).
Tuesday, June 05, 2012
“Kyohei, who has retreated into himself after several psychological wounds, finally begins to appreciate the preciousness of live, ironically through dealing with death.” (2011 World Film Festival of Montreal schedule book, pg. 58)A movie about bullying and about the fact that, today, our modern lifestyle put so much distance between people that we don't know how to connect with each other anymore. But, above all, it offers the intriguing parallel between the life of a young man who has been broken by tragedy and the work he is doing for a moving company for the deceased: as he sorts through the possession of death people -- to separate trash from what's worth keeping -- he is slowly sorting through his own memory and feelings to learn how to live again.
Some have found the movie a little too slow, but it uses lots of "unspoken dialogue" where much is "said" by a gaze, a facial expression or body language. It takes longer to pass information to the viewers and takes much more skills from both the director and actors, but in the end it is a more satisfactory experience. We also must not forget that healing broken people is quite a slow process well reflected in the pace of the movie. The two young actors are quite good. Well worth seeing.
Antoki no Inochi (Life back then): Japan, 2011, 131 min.; Dir.: Takahisa Zeze; Scr.: Tanaka Sachiko, Takahisa Zeze (Based on the novel by Masashi Sada); Phot.: Atsuhiro Nabeshima; Ed.: Junichi Kikuchi; Cast: Masaki Okada, Nana Eikura, Mitsuru Fukikoshi, Akira Emoto, Rei Dan,Yoshiko Miyazaki, Kanji Tsuda. Screened as part of the “Official Competition” segment at the Montreal World Film Festival 2011, on August 18th, 21:30 in Théatre Maisonneuve. It has won the “Innovation Award” at the 35th Montreal World Film Festival.
Monday, June 04, 2012
"When Usagi, a WWII veteran, returns to Tokyo everyone is surprised to learn that he survived. Usagi hopes for a revival of his prewar theatrical career but his efforts quickly hit a snag when another “Usagi” turns up." (2011 World Film Festival of Montreal schedule book, pg. 60)Warning: may contains trace of spoilers! People allergic to the discussion of any plot's elements before seeing a movie are strongly advised to take the necessary precautions for their safety and should avoid reading further. Really!
I'm not sure what to make of this film. The first part of this weird movie seems to be a variation on the "Martin Guerre" story. After WW2 a man walks alone in the streets. His face is bandaged, he seems shell-shocked and never says a word (for almost the entire movie). A small theatre attract his attention, he walks in and silently sits on the stage from where he is quickly expulsed. However, he is recognized as the rakugo artist Usagi. Considering his state, people assumes he his amnesiac. He is welcomed back without much questions into his artist "family" and they help him coming back to the stage. He is also to be married to the theatre family head's daughter. But he seems now more talented as a mime than as a rakugo performer!
Of course, another man eventually walks into the theatre and this time he is the real Usagi. We learn that both men fought together in the war and when Usagi (the real one) was deadly wounded, he asked his friend to go announced his death to his theatre family and fiancé. Since he was himself wounded and not very talkative, people just assumed that he was Usagi. The man never really attempted deception. He just played along. It is however decided that, since the real Usagi was wounded in the throat and is therefore mute, he would pass his stage name to his friend but would nevertheless wed his fiancé. A big party is planned for the stage premiere of the new Usagi and the couple's wedding. On stage, Usagi takes a big machine gun out and shoot everybody. I guess that, in the end, they all laugh to death (the dream of any comedian, but is it real or is it figurative?).
The movie is sprinkled with weird scenes. At some point, Usagi is sitting on a dock by a quiet lake, looking at the moon (Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata playing in the background -- Usagi means rabbit in Japanese and is often associated with the moon) and then a strange man dressed in modern clothes materialise in a Star Trek-like teleporter and cross the scene saying “I'm a time traveler”. later, in the red-light district, he is with a huge geisha and they start digging a tunnel into the ground (maybe he is trying to free the geisha? Or looking for the machine gun he needs for his rakugo/mime skit? Who knows?).
I feel that the entire movie is built as the punch of a rakugo's story. There is no surprise there since the director is himself a comedian. And, actually, there is a rakugo story that is told throughout the movie by Usagi: A soldier is asked to identify his friend Bob, but he doesn't know he is dead. Or is he Bob himself? “Uh, Oh. I'm getting confused,” says one soldier at the end of the story. “What's wrong,” says the other. “I know I am the one that's dead. But, if I'm looking at me… Who in the world am I?” Well, I am equally confused. The movie started in a very interesting way, but the end is rather disappointing. It is not my favourite movie of this year's festival, but I admit it is quite original. It is certainly worth watching.
The director was at the festival (I saw him in the lobby of the hotel dressed in a white tuxedo), but he didn't show up when I went to see the movie.
Gekko no kamen (Moonlight mask): Japan, 2011, 102 min.; dir.: Itsuji Itao; Scr.: Itsuji Itao, Shoichiro Masumoto; Phot.: Masakazu Oka; Ed.: Ken Memita; Cast: Itsuji Itao, Tadanobu Asano, Satomi Ishihara. Screened as part of the “Regards sur les cinémas du monde” segment at the Montreal World Film Festival 2011, on August 21st, 19:00 in Cinéma Quartier Latin 10.