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  • Written by lezard on 12.05.2020

    Everything starts with a look. An old man, Carlo Levi (Gian Maria Volonte, a great actor!), looks at his paintings and through them he looks at his past. On these paintings, there are faces.
    Looks and faces play a great part in this movie by Francesco Rosi .

    Flash back : it's a painter's look that Carlo casts at the landscapes he drives through, on a bus. It's a documentary maker's look that Rosi casts on this countryside and its people that we are about to discover.

    1935. Carlo, an artist and doctor from Torino is under house arrest and exiled in a remote village of Lucany, for political reasons (Italy experiences Mussolini's fascist regime).
    Everything opposes Carlo and the village people. It's a bad match : he's an intellectual from the North, they are peasants from the South. He is rational, they are pagan and superstitious. He is politically committed when they deal with nature and its plagues.

    It's a motionless journey which begins for Carlo, a fantastic and fascinating journey through a region which is all the more beautiful as nothing is easy and given there. A place where even Christ didn't dare to come. It has nothing to do with the sweet beauty of Tuscany or the postcard aspect of Naples seaside. It is a fierce, lunar countryside of a scaring beauty. It is a primitive landscape which has shaped people to its image. Even Carlo's bedroom looks like a cave, with a theatre of shadows.

    First a bit ironical, amused and condescending toward these people, he slowly becomes intrigued, admirative and fascinated by the sheer strength of what he discovers, their rituals, their songs, the way they exorcise their daily sufferings. Life there is a fight against poverty, misery, disease, war, exile. The earth itself is so dry that you often have to wait for the rain to be able to plough it.

    The mayor is not part of them. To him they are savages. For the village priest they are heathens, infidels. Both of them don't really see them. They disregard them, look « through » them, bored and uninterested. These people are neglected, forgotten and politically unrepresented. They have no voice, so to speak.
    Carlo does look at them and accepts to be looked at, scrutinized. Moreover, not only does he look at them but he represents them by making their portraits. He gives them a picture and they accept to be painted, as well as they accept to be cured by Carlo. Their diseases are their gift.
    Far from the stereotype of the typical talkative, gesticulating Italians from The South, far from the touristic documentaries, the movie teachesus to truly look at them. As Carlo who gives painting lessons to children and tells them : « You've got to look closely at everything, a twig, a piece of bread and the air itself. » A real lesson of cinema !
    When his sister visits him, she says she can't grasp the irrationality of these people. Carlo replies she first has to know and undertand them. He has lost his superior manners and his certainty has vanished. By becoming poorer he has of course become richer.
    Rosi has hired the real people from Lucany. His film focuses on what Bergman regarded as the most important and Ford the most moving : the human face.
    Take a tour of Lucany with Carlo and enjoy the ride. A great movie !

  • Written by Pisluck on 30.04.2020

    This is the second movie of Tsui Hark and already an incredible one.
    From the insane "Chaos trilogy", after "Butterfly Murders" (1979) and before "L'enfer des armes - Don't play with fire / Dangerous Encounter - First Kind" (1980), this Wu Xia Pian (sword fight movie) put scene in the middle of the China country side, in a verry special village. A inspector is looking after the notorious bandit "Rolex" and he is about to find more of what is looking for.
    A cannibal village.
    Mixture of comedy, gore and kung-fu fights, this o.v.n.i. (u.f.o.),
    offers wonderful ludacris fight scenes.
    At one point, the agent 999 rolling a cigaret on the head of a cannibal trying to kill him with a butcher knife, epic s***.
    The actoring is a little over-played, but bearable in this movie genre. The cannibal's scenes are pretty soft for present time, but noticing some animal cruelty moments, like in all three movies of the trilogy. Butterfly are smuched in the first, chicken cooked alive in the second and mouses pined alive in the third, (and i forget the "flying cat"). Remains of a time where killing animals for a motion picture was "ok".
    Just finished watchind the trilogy, no need to watched' em in a special order. This "Cannibals Stories" is my personnal favorite, perfect balance of fighting, (not too acrobatic), humor, and soft gore action for a precious spectator like myself.
    Noticing a heart-beatting scene 4 years before Indiana Jones... coincidence? Tin... tin... tin. (Dramatic suspens sound)
    I recommand it for all movie fans, not only for this genre fans. Some action is worthy of your time, 85' of fun and absurdity.

    I hope this review was readable, sorry for the bad grammar and misspeling, this was my first... be gentle.

  • Written by lezard on 23.04.2020

    Spain in the 30's. The world seen by a little girl.
    It starts like in cinema. It starts with cinema. And of course with the light which is linked to it. There are secrets and silence and cinema lights the lantern of the world, casting fascinating, scaring shadows. Plato's cave.
    It starts like childhood. It starts with childhood. You won't forget Ana Torrent's
    eyes, riveted to Frankenstein's creature on the screen.
    In Erice's movies, light renders time (and weather) palpable. The light of the projector splits the night and reveals the marvels and torments of the world. It reveals the truth behind appearances. The creature's killing spur behind its innocence.
    The world of the adults is full of lies and hidden things. Revelation and deception. Families are full of secrets. The mother lies awake, listening to the howling of the passing trains that take away her dreams and her letters in the night. Rather than lies, the family is an arrangement with desire. As to love, it can kill, like monsters or war.
    Death is lurking, the parents' death, the soldier's death. The childen who pretend to be dead to tame their fear and fascination.
    There is silence, secrets. The silence of the family, again, with cheating and disappointment, the things you never speak of. The silence about the war and its atrocities, the deadly silence of history about the crimes of franquism (Franco was not dead when the movie was shot).
    Faced with the cruelty of the world, there is escape. The adults' escape. They flee their responsabilities and bury their hopes and dreams. There is the children's escape, the fantastic power of their imagination., the summoning of the spirits. Fantastic theatre of childhood. In the cold and high-ceilinged bedrooms, near the railroad tracks, on the great plain, their plays, challenges and tales unfold.
    In the wells sleep the monsters. A watch given as a gift, tries to stop time. The bees weaves in the light the honey of childhood, that will melt with the lies of adulthood.
    Ana stands in front of the window, fragile and almighty, facing the sunrise and storms to come. Eventually, Erice doesn't forget the magical loneliness of this childhood. With it, he has shaped a gem in the night of cinema.
    Spain in the 30's, a little girl confronted to monsters and the harshness of the world. Guillermo Del Toro will remember it 33 years later.

  • Written by vepro on 19.03.2020

    A discussion about The Parasite with a friend, which was abruptly aborted, led me to seek out traces of Kafka's work and philosophy in Bong Joon Ho's film and its characters and themes. Apart from the immediate parallel between the film’s title and Kafka's novella Metamorphosis, there seem to be more similarities in these two works of fiction, which unfortunately share an uncanny resemblance to our everyday life and the condition of our society.
    Let's get the obvious one out of the way. Gregor Samsa's degradation from a human being to a vermin is caused, at least among other things, by his inability to provide for himself and to help his family financially. As soon the metamorphosis starts, his immediate family and friends abandon him, as he is now less than human, cease to take care for him and, basically, leave him to die. We find the Park family in a similar situation. Slowly slipping down the society’s ladder of success, the Parks live in a kind of semi-world, not among other 'proper' employed humans, but, at the same time, not so far from the very bottom where other vermin reside. Their metamorphosis isn't finished yet and still we see some indication of their final form. Living in a damp, poorly lit and narrow space, they act like bugs, working jointly on projects, always together, cramped, and sharing their prey, which is the only immediate thing they care about. How to get something to eat.
    The Parks’ situation at the beginning of the film is similar to the situation K. finds himself in Kafka's The Castle. In constant fight between employment and imminent downfall, K. is stuck in place, unable to make sense of the world and his surroundings. He is, it seems, invisible, and more important, he seems unimportant, not an agent of any kind in the world or his own fate. Park family is also mostly invisible to the 'real' world. Only those in the same circumstances communicate with them, but not without a healthy dose of malice and distrust which works both ways. Until the deus ex machina moment, the Parks are unable to make a move to improve their situation. However, as in most Kafka's works, this isn't really their fault. The world is fixed in a way that the individual cannot take agency over their fate, and the absurdity of society and relations within it keep him in place.
    The Parks, however, possess an uncanny life force and will to survive. At the beginning, this seems like a positive and praiseworthy quality of a down-on-their-luck family. Reading a little bit deeper in the film’s body of text, sadly it is clear this isn't the case. The fear of not slipping furthermore in the gutter of society is the real instigator of the Parks’ false hope. The same fear is central to Kafka's characters. First and foremost, there is the fear of insecurity and finality in the face of the infinity of space and society. Second, there is a fear of the bizarre nature of society and interpersonal relations. And, third, there is a fear of insignificance of the individual in the grand scheme of things. In the case of the Park family, and so many more families across the globe, the fear is more about surviving, but nevertheless, fear is what keeps them imagining a better future for themselves.
    As so many characters in Kafka's work, the Parks seem to try to make most of their situation and keep the optimistic attitude with an idea of resolution of their problems being just around the corner. For a while it seems to be working, and they liberate themselves from their semi-underground position, basically living their dream lives, leastwise as servants. However, it all slips away fairly soon, as Parks see they are vermin to the people on the top of the food chain, and they dislike that denotation. Also, they become aware of their nauseating appearance, mainly linked to the smell, which they couldn't distinct while living among others like them. As Josef K. puts it in his dying breath: " 'Like a dog!' he said, it was as if the shame of it should outlive him." The pride and the rage of Ki-taek is the breaking point of the Parks’ new life. Only in relation to the rich, and consequently, the clean, can they see who they really are. It's not dissimilar to Gregor's situation, where he can assess his repulsion and unimportance only in the relation with the rest of his 'normal' and healthy family. “The animal wrests the whip from its master and whips itself in order to become master, not knowing that this is only a fantasy produced by a new knot in the master’s whiplash.” The quote by Kafka reads like it's cut right out of the page of The Parasite screenplay. The downfall of the Parks leaves them where Ki-taek always knew all their plans and non-plans will leave them. At the bottom. Only this time, they all know how strict and impenetrable the boundaries between two worlds are.
    The final theme of the film, which is also profusely present in Kafka's work, is the theme of alienation. And, as it is pretty easy to spot the alienation between the classes in these works, as it is in real world, the alienation between people in all other spheres of life is what's truly depressing. Even before Marx's theses of capitalism alienating working class from itself, the product, and the working process, the world is divided on those who have and those who don't. It is sad, though, that in this day and age if you are born as a have-not, it is almost impossible to become a have, which ties back to the theme of futility and submission. You would think that this kind of economic segregation would unite the have-nots in some kind of mutual struggle and solidarity, but as we see in the film, it is really an all-out war for the crumbs which fall of the table of the rich. So, in reality it is a parasitic circle of life, with two highly separated types of vermin, one a true parasite, and the other perceived as one by the parasite.

  • Written by lezard on 04.03.2020

    Early 60's, Italy. A countryside girl dreams of stardom. Like a butterfly she is attracted by the city lights. We've seen this before. Or haven't we?

    We first discover Adriana (S. Sandrelli in an outstanding performance) on the beach, sunbathing. Pietrangelli heralds what is to come. He shows us what everybody will see whan when they look at her: a body.

    Adriana is young, beautiful and joyful. Bored with her humdrum life, she craves for fun, fame, luxury, parties. She encounters agents, managers, directors, would-be artists. She radiates with «joie de vivre». She ripples with sex and has some easily and happily. She is obviously gifted for the pleasures of life.

    But from one encounter to another, we watch her being used, misused, abused, shattered. The film well depicts this ruthless world of predation that so many other movies have described as well, but the point of view is different. At that time, a female look on the world of cinema (or any other world) was rare. Pietrangelli here joins directors like Mizoguchi in their love, respect and defense of women.

    Eventually, we find out that Adriana, first presented as a nice, delightful bimbo, is a really moving and unexpected woman, and we come to understand the bitter irony of the original title. Nobody knew her well because nobody really cared to.
    Thus the movie is also a «lesson» of cinema. What do we see, what do we want to see when we watch actresses, and women? What do we miss?

    This movie is a rare gem with a great b&w photography.

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