Thursday, December 13, 2007
Sunday, November 04, 2007
Whether you came to the walk of fame as a tourist to snap a picture of The Hof’s star or to haunt clubs on Hollywood blvd, chances are that you ran into Superman, the Hulk, Wonder-Woman, Batman or one of the multiple incarnations of Jake Sparrow. I’m of course not talking about the real ones – because guess what, they don’t exist – but about those “actors” who pose in superhero suits with tourists in front of the Chinese theater, in exchange for a tip. Part of the Hollywood tourist trap that is the walk of fame, these characters are the subject of Confessions of a Superhero, a hilarious and not-to-be-missed documentary that explores the lives and journeys of the people behind the masks, from actors making a living to more obsessive persona's. Superman, Wonder-Woman, the Hulk and the filmmakers were present for a Q&A afterwards.
After fighting through the mess to enter the screening – thanks to AFI’s absurd & unexpected change regarding passes and total disdain for the press – actor-turned-producer Diego Luna introduced the screening of his friend Gael Garcia Bernal’s directing debut, Deficit, which followed a group of rich kids partying at a house for a weekend. Despite some light comments on social classes and racism in the background, Deficit proved to be disappointing, a somewhat pointless work that didn’t bring anymore drama than most parties I’ve attended…but don’t get me started on this. Luna and another producer came back for a Q&A while Bernal was MIA.
(MEJOR ES QUE GABRIELA NO SE MUERA)
Directed by Sergio Umansky
Saturday night we entered the world of a telenovela writer (Mauricio Isaac) and his twisted relationship with a policeman(Dagoberto Gama) in Mexico City. After a not-so-routine stop one night in the city, writer Miguel escapes policie harassment when he reveals that he writes for a very popular telenovela. The policeman Bracho, a fan, feels he has a special link to the inside world of his favorite soap. From there, a cat and mouse game ensues as plot details change and Bracho becomes violent.
The film is hilarious in it's portrayal of the ridiculous telenovela world and in the policeman's increasing frustration when the plotline doesn't go his way. It's also a meditation on police harassment in Latin America and the fact that the bad guys don't always get caught; more often than not they're rewarded.
The film could have been edited down about 40 minutes to be a bit more taut and the ending is not very punchy but it's still a fun ride for anyone who ridicules the genre.
4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days, directed by Cristian Mungiu and winner of this year's Palme d'Or at Cannes, proved to be a brilliant study of two women arranging an illegal abortion during the final years of Ceaucescu's dictatorship in Romania. Repression, both political and sociological, comes in the form of an illegal abortion, of the difficulty of doing simple things like renting a hotel room or buying cigarettes. Anyone who lived or traveled to Eastern Europe during this time and remembers the absolutely awful service and gray atmosphere will find this familiar.
From arranging for an illegal abortion, to rape and having to dispose of the fetus somewhere in the streets, the actions here are almost in real time and shocking. While there has been controversy over whether or not the fetus should have been shown at the end (given that many other actions take place offscreen), Mungiu explained that since the whole movie centered on this abortion, it seemed implausible not to show it. I agree--anyone who agrees with the idea that abortion should be legal and safe absolutely and those who seek to have it made illegal must see this film.
Check out the review at: http://www.plume-noire.com/movies/reviews/4months3weeks.html
Saturday, November 03, 2007
Venturing into new cinematic territories, Catherine Breillat offers with The Last Mistress, a period piece starring Asia Argento, probably her most classical works, where sex is this time in the background rather than forefront, used only for a metaphoric purpose. Built on great dialogues, this elegant production keeps a constant emotional edge, hope and fate battling until the end – and with Miss Argento as the mistress, you can expect things to be complicated.
Israeli entry The Band’s Visit, the tale of an Egyptian police band that gets lost in Israel on its way to a show, used a humoristic angle to tackle loneliness and a rapprochement of politically-opposed cultures. With spare dialogues, a simple setting and a great cast, this is no surprise that this film has become a fave on the internation film circuit.
It is kinda funny that AFI Fest screened Searchers 2.0, a film which plot centers around kicking the butt of some evil screenwriter the same weekend as the writers’ strike in LA kicks off. A satirical journey into movie nerdiness with political tones in the background, the latest from Alex Cox – who attended the screening with his cast – is a treat if you’re familiar with genre films such as spaghetti westerns, vigilante movies and if you’re a Hollywood insider – otherwise you might get lost in dialogues that refer to many b-movies and to the industry behind-the-scenes. The only regret, which is linked to a lack of budget, is that the film would have gained to be shot in film – or even in cinemascope – to emphasize the homage it was paying.
Friday, November 02, 2007
Only faux pas here, I kicked off the festival with the screening of Southland Tales, Richard Kelly’s notorious sci-fi political epic, which has been missing in action since it’s panned representation at the Cannes film festival two years ago.
The director who was present with his troops – from The Rock to Kevin Smith with whom I shared an elevator ride – announced before the film that he was finally done with post-production. While I haven’t seen the earlier cut of the film, this final version proved to be a bloated and confused piece of work, which is all over the map and takes itself too seriously despite its satirical format. If that was up to me I would classify Southland Tales as Torture Porn, for how painful this 140mn film was to me – fortunately I was able to sleep through parts of that mess, courtesy of the Absolut bar on the rooftop. I’m not sure how Kelly went from the subtle Donny Darko to that failed attempt at being Alex Cox but he certainly lost a lot of credibility in the process.
The second half of the evening offered an unexpected treat, an intimate show from Iceland fave Sigur Ros, which preceded the screening of their live show documentary with an acoustic set of new material. If you’re a fan of the band, you will certainly enjoy that documentary but one can regret the filmmaker went for clichéd shots of Iceland instead of going for an artistic approach that would have matched the visual identity of the band. The band came back for a Q&A afterwards, those 4 nerdy guys offering welcome sarcastic answers to some of the lame questions coming from the audience.
Thursday, October 25, 2007
AFI FEST 2007
November 1-11, 2007
Arclight Cinemas, Hollywood
The 21st anniversary of AFI Los Angeles International Film Festival features more than 100 films from around the world. And this year’s selection is truly diverse and top notch.
Lions for Lambs, directed by Robert Redford and starring Tom Cruise and Meryl Streep, kicks off the festival on November 1st.
From Cannes to Los Angeles
Several films that premiered at Cannes earlier in the year will have their moment in the California sun, including Persepolis, Southland Tales directed by Richard Kelly and starring Sarah Michelle Gellar and Jason Lee, Julian Schnabel’s The Diving Bell and the Butterfly, Carlos Reygadas’ Silent Light and the Romanian Palme D’Or winner 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days. The Last Mistress, starring the versatile Asia Argento and helmed by the always controversial Catherine Breillat will be screened.
Special Screenings include Honeydripper directed by the great John Sayles, Margot at the Wedding directed by Noah Baumbach and starring Nicole Kidman and Jennifer Jason Leigh.
AFI’s documentary selection is always stellar and this year’s selection is of special note.
Fans of music take note. The documentaries Sigur Ros: Heima and Public Enemy: Welcome to the Terrordome will screen, along with surprise special guests.
Atenco: A Crime of State takes a look at government brutality in Mexico against a group of florists and Lynch is a glimpse into the mind of visionary director David Lynch.
Big Rig is a journey through America and Confessions of a Superhero takes a look at those who embody the famous on the streets of Hollywood Boulevard.
Quirky American Films include Look, American Fork, Expired, In Search of A Midnight Kiss and Searchers 2.0.
Women, women and more women. The Lebanese film Caramel is centered on the stories of five women in a beauty salon while Irina Palm stars Marianne Faithful as a sex worker in her 50’s. The Chinese film Night Train features a femail executioner. This year’s African showcase looks promising, with several films from the continent: Faro- Goddess of the Waters (Mali), Nosaltres (Senegal), Clouds Over Conakry (Guinea).
Films from Latin America
The finest selection of films from and about Latin America. This year’s top picks include:
Argentina’s black and white surrealist The Aerial, Cyrano Fernandez- a modern Venezuelan take on Cyrano de Bergerac, Deficit- directed by Gael Garcia Bernal and starring Diego Luna, The Year of the Nail- directed by Jonas Cuarón (Alfonso’s son), the Puerto Rican comedy Manuela Y Manuel and Carol Reygada’s Silent Light.
Two tributes will honor the work of Laura Linney and the spectacular Catherine Deneuve. On November 10, the French-Iranian film Persepolis (voiced in part by Catherine Deneuve) will be screened and a tribute in her honor will follow.
TALK/SHOW at the festival Rooftop Village is free to the public and features a series of conversations on an array of topics that includes FROM CHARLIE CHAN TO PANCHO VILLA: MOVIE STEREOTYPES AND AMERICAN POPULAR CULTURE on Saturday, November 3, 12:00 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. and one we’re really excited about: WHOSE REALITY IS THIS? A CONVERSATION WITH WERNER HERZOG on Sunday, November 4, 12:00 p.m. - 1:30 p.m. And on Saturday, November 10, from 2:30 p.m. - 4 p.m. authors James Ellroy and Bruce Wagner will read from their works.
The centerpiece gala is Jason Reitman’s Juno. The closing night gala is Love in the Time of Cholera starring Javier Bardem.
Monday, October 15, 2007
Best Film - Rita Award
Winner: El Corazón de la Tierra
Director: Antonio Cuadri
Country: Spain / Portugal / UK
Director: Fernando Pérez
Screenwriters: Fernando Pérez, Eduardo del Llano, Susana María
Winner: El Cobrador (In God we Trust)
Director: Paul Leduc
OPERA PRIMA CATEGORY: Best Opera Prima
Director: Jaime Marques Olarreaga
Special Jury Award: Opera Prima
Malos Hábitos (Bad Habits)
Director: Simón Bross
Special Jury Award: Opera Prima
Director: Santiago Otheguy
Directors: Fernando León de Aranoa, Javier Corcuera, Mariano Barroso, Wim Wenders, Isabel Coixet.
Directors: Federico León and Marcos Martínez
Special Mention: Documentaries
Directors: Elizabeth Massie, Mathew Buzzell
Winner: The Grass Grows Green: Life and Death From Behind the Recruiting Office Desk
Director: Jesús Beltrán
Special Mention: Shorts
Juanito Bajo el Naranjo (Juanito Under The Orange Tree)
Director: Juan Carlos VillamizarCountry: Colombia
Sunday, October 14, 2007
Los Angeles absolutely deserves and must have a top notch Latino Film Festival in 2007. The explosion of films from Latin America, the U.S. and Spain means there is no lack of films. And there is competition: for years AFI and the Los Angeles Film Festival have bolstered their Latino selections and what they feature is what should be at LALIFF in terms of quality and diversity.
In the end though, it's about the movies, and the week at Arclight did provide a chance to catch something engaging that might not end up on a screen somewhere near you sometime soon.
Giroud's film is a bittersweet coming-of-age tale set in Havana in 1958 on the eve of the Cuban Revolution. Samuel and his somewhat slutty mother, on the heels of yet another divorce, end up not entirely welcome his grandmother Violeta's well to do home in Havana. While his mother looks for work and men, Samuel finds himself on the frustrating cusp of his teenage years as he navigates his own sexuality and love. His anachronistic relationshop with his grandmother, a sometime "blue" photographer changes over time.
Beautifully shot in vibrant colors, La Edad de la Peseta has a Sirkian quality to it mixed with deep, modern sarcasm.
Saturday, October 13, 2007
While on paper, the Cuban entry Madrigal looked like the kind of weird Lynchian-type film that makes my day, this is probably one of the most painful experience I had in theaters for a long time. Pretentious and cheesy at the same time, Madrigal is one of these projects that aim at being art but end up being a ridiculous piece of fluff -- to give you an idea, it was so bad that I couldn't help myself laughing during the supposedely soap-style sad scenes.
As for Radio Corazon, a movie based on stories heard on a popular radio show in Chile, after a first hilarious and original story, it all went downhill, falling into soap territory and loosing its sense of humor.
On the nightlife front, while I skipped the party, there was not shortage of stars at the festival, from the Sean & Robin Wright Penn couple to Javier Bardem.
Friday, October 12, 2007
A couple who looks like they've hated every moment they've lived together is come undone by the appearance of an old family friend with a secret to tell. She's the wife's best friend and she's come to tell her that her son was born out of a fling she had with her husband 27 years ago. Instead of getting angry, Rosa is happy since she couldn't have kids of her own. Enter the son, who is also gay and has just found out he has AIDS. Enter his ex-boyfriend, who doesn't want to leave him. Enter the father, who won't accept a gay son.
Enter a thousand cliches of every bad telenovela you will find yourself in the middle of La Buena Voz, trying too hard to be a hip meditation on life in the 21st century.
The one and only saving grace to this film is the cinematography, which is excellent and the opportunity to see Bilbao, where the film was shot.
Thursday, October 11, 2007
This doc could easily be turned into a feature film and the hope is that a larger audience would see it.
Wednesday, October 10, 2007
Since they were short on tickets for the premiere of Adrift in Manhattan, I instead decided to go see Madres, a pretty sad documentary about the mothers of young Argentineans who were kidnapped and executed by the military, back in the 70's. While the film was touching and this story deserves to be hears, the documentary did suffer from a few flaws -- more to come in my review.
After the screening, I decided to go check out the premiere party for Adrift in Manhattan, which I'm sad to say was not short on posers and b-celebrities such as one of the Baldwin brothers -- don't ask me which one, I just know it wasn't Alec!
Monday, October 08, 2007
Cocalero takes a meandering look at his life in the months before he won the presidency, the cocaleros of Bolivia and a glimpse of life in a country that isn't really in the news that often. We see Evo jump into a river in his tighty-whities with his campaign staff and a little about a nascent class conscious democracy (watching one of his female staffers/union leaders give workshops on voting to people who can't read or write is particularly stirring) but the film isn't as substantive as it could be and leaves a lot to be desired-Morales isn't asked the tough questions and there's too much of a tribute feel to this documentary.
Note: the film is in Spanish and subtitled in Spanish, which doesn't help anyone who can't read or listen to Spanish fluently.
Thursday, June 28, 2007
Wednesday, June 27, 2007
But, except for Hawke's film, tonight will remain in my mind as the all-time low of the LA film festival since I've been covering it. Not only had Michael Bay and his stupid car-robots taken center stage for the premiere of Transformers but Hottest State was followed by a musical version of Buffy the Vampire Slayer. What's next? A Steven Seagal retrospective?
Tuesday, June 26, 2007
Monday, June 25, 2007
Sunday, June 24, 2007
While highly intriguing and addicting, The Last Winter would have gained in strength by avoiding some cliches of the genres - do we really need to see scenes already featured prominently in 28 Days, Resident Evil and The Thing?
Saturday, June 23, 2007
Monday, May 21, 2007
Monday, May 14, 2007
- Sicko review
- 4 months, 3 weeks and 2 days review
- Tehilim review
Sunday, April 22, 2007
Saturday, April 21, 2007
Hunting & Gathering, a comedy by Claude Berry starring Audrey Tautou & Guillaume Canet was certainly enjoyable but suffered at times from its mainstream cheesiness.
Flanders was certainly the roughest moment of the festival. Built on naturalism, Bruno Dumont's film was both a haunting and difficult experience, which bordered on autistic art. The film was followed by a Q&A with the filmmaker, which turned into the most excruciating and interesting discussion of the week From the beginning, it was clear that the director wasn't comfortable being there -- there was actually the same feeling with Olivier Dahan. While giving some great insights about his film, the director was at times pompous, at times somewhat autistic -- in an artistic way of expression -- which he actually admitted as being his method of work.
Filmmakers, like most real artists, use their media to express themselves and they shouldn't have to give away the meaning of their work to their audience. More disturbing were the questions -- or would I say vapid comments -- from an audience over-intellectuazing everything, turning this Q&A into a pretentious, grotesque and ridiculous freak show.
Talking about Q&A's, I was pretty surprised to see that most interviewers this week had absolutely nothing interesting to say, beside endlessly praising the filmmakers. It looks like most of them hadn't done their homework and either used praises or questions from audience to mask their lack of inspiration.
I started the day with the screening of Antoine De Caune's Twice A Upon a Time, a bitter romantic comedy starring Charlotte Rampling & Jean Rochefort. Seeing a love story between senior citizens is pretty rare, at least here in an industry only focusing on youth faces, but writer/director Antoine De Caune (below, on the left, with his brand new cowboy boots) created an entertaining and amusing work, mostly thanks to great dialogues and a strong cast. The screening was followed by a Q&A with the director and producer of the film.
A pretty intense and sharp thriller, Eric Barbier's The Snake did however suffer from a lack of originality, looking too much like an American film -- this is an example of a new trend in French cinema -- and TV -- where French filmmakers try to emulate their Hollywood counterparts.
But the most disappointing moment was undoubtedly Paris, je t'aime. How can you screw up a project with such a beautiful setting? It's easy, just gather a group of filmmakers whose vision is reduced to the touristic cliche of the American in Paris, instead of hiring filmmakers who live in Paris and know the real city of lights. Not that there wasn't some great moments. The Coen brothers and Alexander Payne actually found the right contrast between the American Parisian experience and real Parisians. The short about the mimes was another highlight, but most of the time, Paris, je t'aime was a waste of resources and talents, with even some ridiculous moments such as Vincenzo Natali's Sin City-like vampire sequence (I've been saying for years that this director should have been locked in his cube) as well as the short with Nathalie Portman and her blind boyfriend. Even local master, Olivier Assayas couldn't breath life into the project. The screening was followed by a Q&A with directors Wes Craven and Oliver Assayas.
Wednesday, April 18, 2007
Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Monday, April 16, 2007
To be frank, I don’t think there could have been a better film to kick of the festivities than La Vie en Rose, a Oliver Dahan film about the life of singer Edith Piaf, played here by Marion Cotillard (photo below). A solid work avoiding the traps of biopic-type melodrama, La Vie en Rose not only perfectly embodies what France is about – art and decadence – but it also appeals to both fans and haters of Piaf – shouldn’t be too hard to guess I belong to the latter category.
The screening was followed by a Q&A with Cotillard, Dahan and their producer, a moment so bizarre that it looked like a sequence from a David Lynch movie. Not only did the people from the film seemed to have drunk as much as I did, but most questions from the audience didn’t make any sense, even including some insults.
Beside the drunkenness and the film, other highlights included meeting actress Marion Cotillard as well as directors Antoine de Caune and Olivier Dahan - photos coming soon.