Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Quote of the Day

"The concept of “obscenity” is tested when we dare to look at something that we desire to see but have forbidden ourselves to look at. When we feel that everything has been revealed, “obscenity” disappears and there is a certain liberation"

“ cutting and obscuring, you have made my pure film dirty”

-Nagisa Oshima as quoted in "In the Realm of the Senses: Some Notes on Oshima and Pornography" by Donald Richie

Monday, November 14, 2011

My BIFF in Lists

Lists are such a terribly reductive, unnuanced way to reflect on films but seeing as I've written 15 reasonably substantial reviews over the course of BIFF I feel like I've earned the right to indulge in every film lover's guilty pleasure. I'm not even going to attempt to add meaning to my list as Brad Nguyen did with his themed MIFF breakdown. Instead I'm simply going to rank them using Nick Davis' patented system of brackets headed by song titles, enhanced (or debased) by the addition of numbered rankings. Unlike Mr Davis I'm not much of a fan of pop divas so I'm going with the delightfully wonky titles of one of my favourite bratty indie bands. After the break the rankings are:

BIFF Reviews: Who Said Class Was Dead?

Even the Rain: This film can best be likened to using a blunt instrument: it gets the job done but using a finer tool might have resulted in a better finish. This problem is compounded by its over-ambitious set-up, in which a film crew arrives to tell the story of Columbus’s oppression of the Indians and the priest who set himself against this colonialism. The historical context of the story is established as a parallel, not only to the film crews’ heedless exploitation of the present day Indians, but also to the government’s privatisation of the water supply.*

Sunday, November 13, 2011

BIFF Reviews: The Running Away Edition

Good Bye: People often say they’d pay to watch their favourite comedians read the phonebook. Well it turns out that I’ll gladly pay one of my favourite auteurs to make a political thriller comprised largely of people sitting around in waiting rooms. I had been afraid that, without an Iron Island or the White Meadows to lean on, Rasolouf might struggle to create the breathtaking and pointed pictorial beauty of his earlier films. This is not at all the case, in fact in he has, without changing his master shot style at all, made the most powerful images of his career.*

Saturday, November 12, 2011

BIFF Reviews: Kawaii Edition

I Wish:

“What does “Indie” mean?”
“I think it means you have to try harder.”

Fans of Kore-eda may fear that his latest, a narrative about kids attempting to reunite their split family by the power of a wish granted by a bullet train, may represent an avowal of the above sentiment. It has, after all, been payed for largely by a bullet train company and both the tone of the advertising and its early reception have hinted that it might be something of a “sell out” film.

Friday, November 11, 2011

BIFF Reviews: My Persona is a Tyrannosaur

Tyrannosaur: This is the kind of film which I quite enjoy while watching it but which doesn’t tend to stick with me or demand that I write about it. It’s a well observed, superbly acted slice of lower class, kitchen sink drama. The kind of film that tugs relentlessly at your heartstrings but, despite a surfeit of anguish and hard won deliverance shot in close-up, is well enough balanced by a believable milieu and rounded characters to avoid being shamelessly manipulative. Still, one can’t help but feel that while all three stories in Tyrannosaur might be believable enough on their own they feel a little forced when taken together.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

BIFF Reviews: Policing Israel

Policeman: Hot on the heels of my current festival low point comes a new contender for my BIFF favourite. Policeman, structured like a diptych­­­­, contains my two favourite things in film: bold, nuanced politics and strong direction tailored to the subject matter at hand.

Monday, November 7, 2011

BIFF Reviews: Taking Shelter under Las Acacias

Take Shelter: Serious spoilers to follow; you really don’t want to read this if you have any intention whatsoever of seeing Take Shelter. Spoilers can really suck, I know, but this is one of those films which is simply impossible to discuss without talking about the ending.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

BIFF Reviews: The New Batch

Mysteries of Lisbon: I went into Mysteries excitedly anticipating a gorgeously mounted, twist-filled melodrama and that’s exactly what I got. Yet even as you cheer for me – you are cheering for me, right? – shed a few tears for the poor soul who didn’t realise he was making a four hour commitment. Still he didn’t have it so bad: Mysteries is an entrancing film.

Thursday, November 3, 2011

15 Films, 7 Days and 1 Boy

1. Mysteries of Lisbon dir: Raoul Ruiz
2. Le Havre dir: Aki Kaurismaeki
3. Mystery Fantastic Film!
4. Take Shelter dir: Jeff Nichols
5. Las Acacias dir: Pablo Giorgelli & Blue dir: Stephen Kang
6. Policeman dir: Nadav Lapid
7. Tyrannosaur dir: Paddy Considine
8. Persona dir: Ingmar Bergman
9. I Wish dir: Hirokazu Kore-eda
10. Good Bye dir: Mohammad Rasoulof
11. Another Earth dir: Mike Cahill
12. The Kid with a Bike dir: Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne
13. Even the Rain dir: Iciar Bollain
14. Elena dir: Andrei Zvyagintsev
15. The Yelllow Sea dir: Hong-jin Na

Notes: While I'm not going to be able to catch 25 films this time around I'm still insanely excited about this year's festival. Particularly given that I've received a late breaking reprieve from some work I was expecting to have to do which has allowed me to expand from 7 films to 15, and include the much anticipated Mysteries of Lisbon.

Aside from what promises to be 4 and 1/2 hours of twisty, fluidly directed period drama I'm also looking forward to Kore-eda's latest (I'm a pretty rabid fan of the Japanese master of low key, gentle character studies) even if its premise seems to be less ambitious than usual. Andrei Zvyagintsev has had my attention too, ever since I saw his gorgeously lensed, genuinely haunting The Return and by all accounts this one could be even better. Ingmar Bergman completes the top tier of my most anticipated films - I've never seen anything by him before (I know!) so seeing one projected in all its glory seems to be the right way to investigate.

My prospective list this time around is probably less adventurous then last time as I'd heard of, and had been anticipating, most of these films for quite a while now - although Policeman was a late breaking addition based on some emerging buzz out of NYFF. Still, the only thing that's causing me any trepidation this time around is the secret screening but that's mixed with equal parts excitement at seeing a real mystery film (ie one where you have no idea what the thing is until it begins to unspool rather than one where you find out a couple of days before). To some extent this is a bit of a shame - it's not good to feel safe with every film you walk into and Caterpillar turned out to be a really nice, albeit bracing, surprise last year.