Tuesday, 22 March 2011

Getting Fixed Part Two - More short films

Once again I find myself trawling for fresh (and much-loved) cinema finds out there on the world wide interweb. Here's some more little nuggets of experimental cinematic bliss, to cleanse the head when you're in need of a cine-fix and you have no time for a fully-fledged journey. Bite-sized morsels of filmic joy. (Bloody hell, so far I've likened cinema to drugs, travel, and food. How many more obvious metaphors can I come up with?)

1. IN TITAN'S GOBLET (Peter Hutton; USA; 1991)

2. YANTRA (James Whitney; USA; 1957)

3. INHABITANTS (Artavazd Pelechian; Armenia; 1970)

4. BLACK IS (Aldo Tambellini; Italy; 1965)

5. OFFON (Scott Bartlett; USA; 1967)


7. VERY NICE, VERY NICE (Arthur Lipsett; Canada; 1961)

8. OUR LADY OF THE SPHERE (Lawrence Jordan; USA; 1969)

9. HOLYWOODS (Cecile Fontaine; France; 2008)

10. HAPPY END (Peter Tscherkassky; Austria; 1980)

11. 7362 (Pat O'Neill; USA; 1965-67)

12. RUMPELSTILZCHEN (J├╝rgen Reble; Germany; 1989)
13. WHITE LITE (Jeff Keen; UK; 1968)

14. NECROLOGY (Standish Lawder; USA; 1970)

15. SYNCHROMY NO. 4; ESCAPE (Mary Ellen Bute and Ted Nemeth; USA; 1938)

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Quick Rocket-fire Reviews (playing catch-up on 2010, part one of possible recurring story)

I'm currently in cinema catch-up mode, although this is beginning to feel like a constant state of being. Still, this past week or so has been a decent attempt at getting back into the race, having viewed three 2010 flicks, The Black Swan, Inside Job, and Exit Through The Gift Shop. Quick rocket-fire reviews at the ready!

THE BLACK SWAN (Darren Aronofsky; USA; 2010)

I am at a total loss as to how this film has garnered the critical attention it has. This is, as has no doubt been stated before, some kind of mutated distant relative to Powell & Pressburger's 1948 classic The Red Shoes, and the story of a tortured fragile female performer going mad through utter immersion into a role feels overdone and hackneyed. Sure, its visually compelling, with the fracturing of Natalie Portman's psyche yielding occasionally disquieting and eerie moments, but this is essentially a bit of a perv-fest. My partner kinda hit it on the head after we saw the film together.
I asked her what she thought, and she replied “well, you can tell it was written and directed by men.” And with that idea in the head, one can't help but start to make up the conversations going on during the creation of this film. 'Hey, let's get Natalie to masturbate.' 'Hey, let's get her to have some full-on hot lesbo rumpy-pumpy with Mila Kunis.' Give. Me. A. Break.

INSIDE JOB (Charles Ferguson; USA; 2010)

You can trust a name like Charles Ferguson. It sounds so avuncular. Or professorial. A name clothed in a tweed jacket. With elbow patches.
And trust this film I did, because it takes away the 'documentarian-as-personality' effect that Michael Moore eventually bored us to tears with, and leaves us with a chaptered narrative that deftly spells out just what the fuck the global financial crisis (or the GFC, for all the cool abbreviationists out there) was all about. Evokes the kind of “bloody hell!”, “well I never”, and “grrrr” responses that were evoked by other white-collar dirty-rotten-scoundrel docos, like Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room and The Corporation. There's only one slight hurdle with this kind of film though – it's so super-densely packed with information that it's easy to leave the theatre with your head on fire, trying to remember all the pieces of the story. Still, only a minor hurdle, that head-on-fire sensation.


It's kind of boring to dwell on whether the film is a hoax or whether it's 'real', and I'm presuming that this line of enquiry has already been speculated to death. Watching the slow exchange of roles, as film-maker becomes street artist and street artist becomes filmmaker, is both remarkable and hilarious. Watching the arc of transformation of the obsessive amateur filmmaker Thierry Guetta is both wince-inducing AND jaw-dropping in the same moment. If Thierry Guetta/ Mr Brainwash is the real deal, then seeing him unintentionally out-prank the arch-prankster Banksy himself has to be the funniest thing I've seen in ages.
Ultimately the film is most interesting for its active interrogation of authorship, the recording of memory, and the intense and almost tragic desire to never forget. But sometimes it's so important to forget. Just like I've forgotten that film I just saw, what was it again, The Black Pigeon? The Slack Swan? Aronofsky Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest?

Saturday, 5 March 2011

sleep, furiously

SLEEP, FURIOUSLY (Gideon Koppel; UK; 2009)

Is this superb, quiet piece of slice-of-life cinema melancholic or uplifting? A bit of both, really. There's a sense of something nostalgic and archaic in many of the scenes shown in this meditation on a small Welsh community. The slow and gentle accumulation of simple images and simple tasks builds an incremental sensation of a certain rural essence incrementally disappearing. Vocations are shown that appear to belong to a bygone time, most notably a mobile librarian, who meanders his van steadily and purposely through the Welsh hillsides. Humans are often framed in landscapes that dwarf them, consume them. For two or three minutes we watch a cake being made, but the cake is a simple jam-filled sponge-cake, something that evokes grandmotherly memories. These scenes provoke childhood memories, of pre-internet trips to the library to get my knowledge fix, of walks in the country, of eating a home-made cake that I probably haven't tasted since I was a kid.

But it's a little too easy to get caught up in a melancholic reverie of ways of life disappearing. Because this film is really an indication that these things that are easily pigeonholed as 'nostalgic' are actually intrinsic aspects of the inhabitants of this Welsh hillside community. The mobile librarian is a recurring motif that attests to this. In an age of absolute accessibility, it is defiantly wonderful to see a mobile library bopping about the countryside, providing residents with a regular fix of literature. The familiar chats that the librarian has with his regular clients allude to a kind of interlocutory warmth that is missing from most consumer/provider exchanges these days. This is perhaps a not about capturing a way of life before it disappears altogether, but about recording the determined existence of this community in an era that is predicated on speed and immediacy.