Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Temptation Of St Tony - Veiko Õunpuu (2009 Estonia)

A mid-level manager who develops an aversion to being ''good'' finds himself confronting the mysteries of middle-age and morality as he loses grasp of what was once his quiet life.

BAM! A surrealist, black & white, existential, mid-life crisis gone mad. It's actually quite restrained in many ways, getting darker and darker towards the end. The film follows one man, a middle level manager and his outward-projected existential crisis in a series of revolving doors. Class guilt bubbles to the surface and this is truly original stuff, it even has a stage excerpt from Uncle Vanya. Superb photography and mesmerising sound design too. 4.5 stars


Saturday, May 14, 2011

Ovsyanki (Silent Souls) - Aleksei Fedorchenko (2010 Russia)

Present days. A man and his companion go o
n a journey to cremate the dead body of the former beloved wife, on a riverbank in the area where they spent their honeymoon.

The film follows two close friends delivering the recently deceased wife of one to the afterlife. A great, brooding, haunting and meditative look at tradition, ritual, grief and the passing of time in one particular part of Russia. Perfect cinematography and a solid, complimentary score that sounded like it would be right at home in the Melbourne music scene. Great stuff. 4 stars


Thursday, April 14, 2011

Un Homme Qui Crie (A Screaming Man) - Mahamat-Saleh Haroun (2010 France)

Present-day Chad. Adam, sixty something, a former swimming champion, is pool attendant at a smart N'Djamena hotel. When the hotel gets taken over by new Chinese owners, he is forced to give up his job to his son Abdel. Terribly resentful, he feels socially humiliated. The country is in the throes of a civil war. Rebel forces are attacking the government. The authorities demand that the population contribute to the "war effort", giving money or volunteers old enough to fight off the assailants. The District Chief constantly harasses Adam for his contribution. But Adam is penniless; he only has his son

I watched this one a while ago now but it's been resurfacing in my mind regularly. I can't quite put my finger on it, it's in the mood and tone. Quite an emotional story this one about a father and son pair working at a hotel as pool attendants in modern-day, corrupt and politically unstable Chad. The film deals with the frustration of getting old and the power shifts that occur in that process. It does this by reflecting on the shifts of power in the larger context of the country itself. I was a little unsatisfied by the end but incredibly moved in the middle and just loved the way it was shot. Virtually no sound scoring throughout as well. 4 stars


Saturday, February 26, 2011

Smukke mennesker (Nothings All Bad) - Mikkel Munch-Fals (2010 Denmark)

Follows the lives of four longing souls. Ingeborg who feels unattractive and young Jonas who is so attractive that he can literally sell some of what he's got. Anna, a young beautiful woman with a physical disability, and Anders, a tender man with a psychological disability. Four people yearning for love, four people, each hoping for a better tomorrow.

Kind of a Denmarkian take on the twisted world of Todd Solondz. This is a 4-way, intersecting tale about sexuality and loneliness. The recently widowed, the compulsive public masturbator who's wife abandoned him, the good looking kid turning tricks for fun and the isolated, recent recipient of a mastectomy. Quite a mix. The direction is a little off in parts, and the film certainly traverses some paths less travelled, but there are also some genuinely insightful moments.


Sunday, January 9, 2011

Bibliothèque Pascal - Szabolcs Hajdu (2010 Hungary)

In order to regain custody of her daughter, whom she left in the care of her fortune-telling aunt, Mona must tell a social worker her story.

Wow!! this is one of most gorgeous looking films I've seen in ages. The attention given to every shot and camera move is perfect. Impeccable art direction on a story that exists in that messed-up magical, realist realm. Essentially a film about the slave trade and the power of imagination to overcome. Great work!!


Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Des Hommes et des Dieux (Of Gods and Men) - Xavier Beauvois (2010 France)

Under threat by fundamentalist terrorists, a group of Trappist monks stationed with an impoverished Algerian community must decide whether to leave or stay.

wow! winner of the grand prix at Cannes 2010, this is a really unique film. Not everyone's cup of tea however. The film concerns a group of French, Christian monks in Algiers during the 90's and their confrontation with Islamic militants who try to force them out. Heavy in parts, sparse in others, deeply religious yet completely human. At times it almost feels like an old western from the 50's yet managed to keep me riveted throughout.


Friday, December 10, 2010

Last Train Home - Lixin Fan (2009 Canada)

A family embarks on an annual tormenting journey along with 200 other million peasant workers to reunite with their distant family, and to revive their love and dignity as China soars as the world's next super power.

Excellent new documentary following the annual Chinese new year journey embarked on by millions of migrant workers as they leave the mega-cities to visit their families. Using this as a framework the doco paints a vivid canvas of wealth, poverty, west/east and forces us to take a hard look at what we value as quality of life.