Film Fest 2006: Post 4

More, more, still more

The Lost Hum

The creative brains behind last year's The Soup One Morning return with this nasty little tale, brilliantly conceived and executed. One of those shot-on-video productions that is BETTER for its limitations; shooting this on film would only reduce the impact. I don't think it's too much to say that Hirosue and Takahashi are inventing a new kind of cinema. Their understanding of what they are doing, their fearless approach to low-budget storytelling and their unflinching eye give their films an entirely original feel. It's almost anti-cinema: the lack of spectacle and narrative energy becomes absorbing in itself. You watch, compelled as it were by the ABSENCE of what you expect in film.

I don't quite know what to make of this film, to tell you the truth, other than that I loved it and will never forget it. Very highly recommended.

The Lives of Others

Inexplicably, this film won for Most Popular Film at the festival this year. Make no mistake: it's tripe. Sentimental and demeaning to its subject matter, this film is a poorly-veiled apology for state oppression.

Where The Page Turner used Hitchcockian means to original and thrilling purpose, this film plods along in its sententious fashion, invoking one cliche after another, milking its trivial little moments for far more than they're worth, and ultimately building up to a sappy ending that does nothing to dispel the unsavoury nature of the film's subject matter (State Security in East Germany).

Don't listen to the masses in this case. The Lives of Others isn't worth your time.

The Riddle

There is clearly insufficient Bollywood in my life, but bless the organizers of this year's festival that they sought to correct that gap with this puff pastry of a film.

Is there such a thing as too many gorgeous Indian women dancing to bubbly rhythms? I can't imagine, and The Riddle certainly does take a stab at overloading one. This is one damn cheerful film. You could have sawed off my right arm and I'd still be tapping my toes and drumming my fingers (at least, on my left hand). Serious cheer.

People who aren't happy when they walk out of this film are DEAD.

Sure, there's a plot and stuff. Things happen. Shah Rukh Khan is charming. Rani Mukherjee is gorgeous and everyone sings and dances. Usually with ginormous grins on their faces the whole time.

Just THINKING about this movie is making me smile.

Heaven's Doors

Interesting noir from Morocco. Young kids run afoul of necessity, and mothers and sons all suffer. It's too long, and the unfortunate actress playing the French art professor started to grate with the ceaseless whining the script demanded of her, but the ending is solid and the construction of the film lends itself to contemplations of all sorts.

It's really a triptych, but one in which certain figures appear again and again, each time in a different context -- as a rival, a relative, a burden. Washed-out images and blurry camerawork reveal rather than confuse, and two powerful performances from Rabie Kati and Hakim Noury anchor the beginning and the ending of the film. Put it all together and you get a portrait of three men, or one man in three stages of his life, and a weighty demonstration of how those choices keep erupting within our efforts to do what's right.

Worth seeing, should it come available on DVD (which I wouldn't give odds on but hope to see).

A Letter of Fire

If you're going to make a movie about kids, it's important that the kids in your movie can act. Even a little bit.

We walked out after 45 minutes. No acting, a shrill and plodding script and listless direction. Pass.


Three hours of silent Italian goodness in beautiful black and white. Cabiria is an epic film from 1914 that tells the story of its title character, a young girl kidnapped by pirates from her Roman parents, and subjected to rescue attempts, wars, imperious princess mistresses and other thrills.

Lots of thrills. This is some great film-making here. Any movie that features a daring rescue in the midst of a dark and fire-lit temple where screaming children are being sacrificed to a terrible ancient god can't be all bad. And that's just one of many delights in this film: elephants in the Alps (Hannibal, natch), beautiful and psychotic women (with leopards!), armies storming castles, death-defying leaps, exploding volcanoes, entire fleets bursting into flame, the aforementioned pirates, Roman cities collapsing, angry mobs -- holy crap. It's all in this film, a three-hour epic that feels like twenty minutes, it's so packed full of craziness.

Apparently Criterion are bringing out a DVD version -- not to be missed. Unfortunately, that DVD can't possibly include one of the coolest aspects of this screening -- a live pianist improvising the background music for us as the film played. Awesome. Stomp-down awesome.