Friday, November 14, 2003

The Rest Of CIFF
Forgoing the day by day thing, I'm just going to put the rest of this out there. The Monday after seeing The Time Of The Wolf was probably the best of the festival. First on the day was Reconstruction, a film from Denmark that won the Golden Camera at Cannes this year. Its a very fractured and manufactured love story, bopping through time and space with a sort of Kieslowski influenced sense of fate. Gorgeous cinematography by Manuel Alberto Claro in a variety of stocks and formats. I really enjoyed this a lot while it was going on, and even though I realize now that its a little much, I would probably still enjoy it quite a bit if I watched it again. Despite all its film-making trickery (and this is a film which at some level is very much about film-making) it is very much alive. I can see how some people would hate this and I would understand perfectly. If this gets a release I can see it getting a lot of play.

Second film of this day was Tasi Ming-Liang's Goodbye, Dragon Inn. A small story set in an old run down film house, focusing on the events surrounding its last day in business as it shows King Hu's Dragon Inn. There is not a lot going on here - a young man cruises for gay sex, the theatre's ticket taker struggles through her duties, an older man watches with his child. Yet this had me totally sold and I really enjoyed it. Tsai even actually moves the camera once in a while and in one section has some cuts that are mere seconds long. And people are saying this is boring! I fail to see how anyone who loves movies could not like this, especially during the scene where the two old men meet in the lobby after the film is over. I never thought I would be able to describe a Tsai film as touching. Many people already dislike this, but I don't understand them at all.


Posted by gdd @ 06:48 AM CST [Link]

Monday, November 3, 2003

CIFF Day Eight and Ten
So lets see, at this rate I will be done with the CIFF coverage around the time of next year's festival. Before I go on I should point out I just watched Ratcatcher and it is awesome.

OK. On Day 8 I had tickets for three films, but work-related issues forced me to cancel two. The one I saw is called Hush! Its basically footage a St. Petersburg resident shot out his window over the span of a year spliced together into a movie. Much of it revolves around a section of road that kind of becomes its own entity as it goes from a minor repair to a sinkhole flooded with water after a main breaks. When I first read the festival description I thought it there was a lot that could be done with a film like this, and only some of it is. What I really would have liked to see is two or three residents of the street in various situations, interacting, doing the whole "oh what a tangled web we weave" thing. Unfortunately outside of the road construction there is very little to tie the whole thing together. It is all somewhat random. There were a lot of Koyaanisqatsi-esque environmental shots which were pretty nice but I can't say they added much to anything. Disappointing, although it made me think about the various ways you could do something like this well. The two films I missed were Maria and All Tomorrow's Parties. Reports I heard about ATP ranged from mediocre to outright bad, so I didn't mind missing that. I didn't really hear anything about Maria, so I don't know what I missed there.

Day Nine had no film viewing, a totally packed Saturday. Sunday I snuck out to see The Time Of The Wolf, the new Michael Haneke film. This was not originally scheduled, but they brought it in at the last minute as a replacement for something else. The first 40 minutes or so of this are outright stunning, and make the whole thing worth the price of admission. There is a slow reveal of a situation that grows in scope even as the environment and mood around the participants shrinks. This all comes to a head in a series of scenes shot in a darkened forest which are about as effective a use of photography in film as I've ever seen. My mouth was literally hanging open. Unfortunately I have to agree with most of the other reports I've read which say that after this the film kind of flies off the tracks. There are various effective scenes, most of them revolving around the three children, but as a whole it kind of meanders and wanders. Still this is well worth the price of admission, if for no other reason than to bask in Haneke's formal mastery. The two closing shots are stunners. The whole thing kept reminding me of Tarkovsky's Stalker in a variety of ways - theme, mood, use of sound and space. Great watching, even if it doesn't completely work. Last I heard this has no distribution which is a fucking shame, however I can't imagine it will stay that way for long given that Haneke's last two films were pretty well received from what I know.

Coming Soon - lots of shorts.

Posted by gdd @ 09:25 PM CST [Link]

Wednesday, October 22, 2003

CIFF Day Seven
As I write this, the festival has been over for almost a week, but no matter. I saw some interesting films on this day. The first was Father And Son by Aleksandr Sokurov. Russian Ark was the only Sokurov I had seen up to this point, and I understood that it was an anomaly. Father And Son was supposed to be more true to form. The film is beautiful, with exquisite cinemtography. However the tale of a bond between father and son did not grab me in any way. It is very open, with very little plot to speak of, and some pretty flowery dialogue in spots. This falls into the category of "This guy is obviously a very talented film maker, but what he's doing here isn't my thing." However I was still intrigued enough to want to check out some more of his work.

The second film on the day was The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, an Irish documentary about the rise of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela, and his subsequent coup. The Irish crew was simply making a film about Chavez, when they got caught up right smack dab in the middle of the coup as it took place. Certainly, much of the reason the film is so gripping is because the crew was in the right place at the right time (although it is arguable whether being inside a palace that is under the threat of being obliterated by air strikes is ever the "right place") but the film is really well made all around. It provides a good education of who Chavez is and what he stands for, as well as the necessary context for what his election meant to the people and the political structure of Venezuela. They also got an extremely interesting interview with one of the technicians for a Venezuelan TV station, describing all the ways they manipulated footage and news in order to make Chavez and his supporters look bad. Extremely well done and quite educational to us U.S. morons who have no idea what is going on in the outside world except for the countries we are bombing. This film has picked up distribution and should be appearing at the arthouse theatre of your choice soon. Don't miss it.

Posted by gdd @ 08:14 AM CST [Link]

Monday, October 13, 2003

CIFF Day Six
So for those of you who don't live in Chicago, one of the greatest theatres here is the Music Box. It generally shows the upper-tier arthouse stuff and big revivals, and on weekends they have 11:30 am matinees where they show old movies. Its a gorgeous old place, holding 800 people in its main room, and 100 in the cursed second room. Their website has a nice page about the theatre's history. One thing the website doesn't mention is that The Music Box also sits in one of the most densely populated areas of the city, where parking and just getting around can be a total disaster. What it ALSO doesn't mention is that it is about a tenth of a mile away from Wrigley Field. Now, when The Cubs are playing Game 3 of the NLCS at home and you want to go to The Music Box, you're in for an adventure. Really, it wasn't all THAT bad. Thankfully the theatre has dedicated parking for a price ($7) and the streets weren't too crowded. Plus I got there really early.


Posted by gdd @ 06:59 AM CST [Link]

Wednesday, October 8, 2003

CIFF Days Four And Five
On Monday I arrived at Landmark to see Manoel de Oliveira's A Talking Picture, only to discover it sold out. It seems like a lot more screenings are selling out this year, last year I bought almost nothing in advance and I don't think I got sold out of anything. This year I've already been bummered twice. I think I have tickets for everything else I want to see going forward, so I should be good from here on out. Oh, except upon my arrival Monday I discovered that one of the weekend's films had been bumped in order to show Michael Haneke's Time Of The Wolf. I'm going to attempt to get to this on Sunday, but it seems unlikely. My Sunday is already pretty full and I'm going to a wedding on Saturday. Freaking wedding during the film festival. Where are people's priorities?

I ended up instead going to see Twilight Samurai, a film from Japan about an aging samurai named Iguchi fallen on hard times in a changing era. This film evoked The Seven Samurai in its presentation of the samurai as heroes whose time has passed, but otherwise it was a very different film. It really focused more on Iguchi's personal troubles as a single father supporting two daughters and an aging mother, while attempting to defend the honor of his childhood sweetheart. Very little action or swordplay, this plays more like a film about a samurai than as a samurai film. I have to say it was really quite lovely. The cinematography was beautiful, and the actors heartfelt and believable. Twilight Samurai won several Japanese "Oscars" and it is well worth seeing, although the last couple minutes were a little bit too much. There are also some nods to Apocalypse Now in the last reel which were kind of surreal in a way. Not what I expected at that particular juncture. This is out on Region 2 DVD with English subtitles, and well worth checking out.


Posted by gdd @ 08:15 AM CST [Link]

Monday, October 6, 2003

Chicago International Film Festival
The Stroll - Aleksei Uchitel (2003)

So the Chicago International Film Festival is underway, and I have seen my first film The Stroll from Russia. A young woman goes out for a stroll, is picked up by a young man and later joined by their friend. As the three make their way through the streets of St Petersburg, hints appears that imply that all is not quite as it seems with the girl, and while this ends up being true, the ending is far different than one might think. I enjoyed this immensely largely because of the fresh and energetic camerawork and cinematography. The film is shot handheld on DV, and as the three friends wander the streets the camera bobs and weaves after them, gliding behind windows, observing from across the street, and largely shot so as to suggest a continuous shot, although there are some cuts here and there. The jerky motion is perfect for a busy city street, sort of the antithesis of the smooth gliding camera from Russian Ark. There are some really great scenes where the trio are just running around enjoying themselves, and the camera just rides along with them. As the story wears on the two men begin to spar for the girl's attention, and the emotional focus moves back and forth between them in a way vaguely reminiscient of Jules And Jim. I enjoyed the ending although I can see where some might be frustrated by it. Overall I was pretty pleased with this film, especially since it was a last minute filler as the film I had originall intended to see (My Architect) was sold out.


Posted by gdd @ 08:35 AM CST [Link]

Thursday, September 4, 2003

The Return Of Cineblog
OK, look. The last few months really really sucked. I mean, seriously. However it seems likely that with the Chicago International Film Festival coming up, Cineblog will stage a return. In the meantime, here are some brief thoughts on some recent viewings


Posted by gdd @ 10:56 PM CST [Link]


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