Sunday, 25 October 2009

man on wire - (labri)

Here is a breath-taking film to stagger out of. Here is subversion of Babel. Here is a picture of the fine line between madness and genius. Here is a fearlessness in death. Here the gift of wire-walking is married perfectly to the gift of faith, faith, that passionate drive to do it, that infectious zest for the unpragmatic. If a faith such as his bears this fruit, offers this message, and moves people to imagine another way, what then of your faith, what then of mine. At every new combing of this spectacle, my own small minded submission to a life less adventurous is convicted. All the fearful ways I move from day to day, ensuring bread is on the table, that no one gets offended and that decency and propriety retain their place in my line of worship.

And there is a temptation to worship this man, and yet this heist deflates as our proud but still compelling hero allows himself the moral failure, the model failure of abandoning the love of his youth. The honest and untriumphant conclusion allows the art to stand as the gift it should be. That he would want such an honest biopic to be made is a certain repentance.

Do the dishonest means by which the team achieved their beautiful end detract from its vitality, or does the beauty of the act pour scorn on our petty morals? In what ways might or ought our lives demand a why to be asked by passing pedestrians?

tsotsi - (labri)

The rolled dice which open the film are lots cast by the silent oppressor HIV. The baby here is Post-Apartheid South Africa and Tsotsi would be its mother (this, Ellis ventures, is evidenced in dialogue, in lighting the illusion of breasts, and in the powdered milk for mothers without milk). Fathers here are dog-crippling, culprit mine-owners, Mothers are the HIV victims, maybe. So we look for a way out of a cycle of violence and blame. Set against the backdrop of “HIV/AIDs affects everyone” billboards, we see this truth played out but Tsotsi moves in the film from a victim to one who takes responsibility.

'Decency', a notion the character Boston espouses, is illustrated in those characters who are most aware of beauty where they are, the cripple who likes to feel the warmth of the sun on his skin, Miriam who delights in the colour and light of broken glass and who allows herself to be moved to expression of joy and sadness – rather than bottled into the violence of gang crime. Decency is to be found in something fragile beyond ourself, in this way love and beauty save us?

The baby is Moses in his basket. Here Moses happens into the camp of the oppressing force of gang violence and is there cared for by a certain Miriam and this helpless babe by his vulnerability is the bringer of some measure of peace. The baby of a new South Africa demands to be nurtured both by the rich and the poor, the guns must be put down, rightful ownership restored.

Something limited about the production and design might better have suited a theatre, compared perhaps to Slumdog, which takes better advantage of the fabric of sprawl, with its high contrast and hand-held sprints under and over. There is much to love in the film but I never really felt the film was necessary, essentially why did he pick up the baby?

If we adopted children would Generation Y live with more decency?

trois couleurs: bleu - (labri)

Where to start with a film such as this? Freedom, with which this first of the trilogy is concerned, as a fundamental tension of humanness is a theme that could be examined in every film, artwork and bus stop ever made. I enjoyed to note in re-watching this week that the two in Heaven make their escape from the gates of judgement in a Blue milk float. Freedom, freedom vs autonomy, freedom to chose, free will, true freedom, where is it found, what is it for?

Preisner and autobiography. The music in this film is a central character, and it was a bold task to write for the script that supposes the soundtrack to be of the greatest composer of a generation. The picture of creativity, of urgency and cooperation draws you in. The heroism of a music so full of life grabs you as Philippe Petit on a wire.

It is pointed that Kieslowski should use a scriptural passage as the crescendo to a piece celebrating a united Europe, a Europe that hopes so much to find a unity to its community without religion, without God.

At a stretch there is an Israel (Rom11:17?) in this in that both the illegitimate mistress and the original bride both come into an inheritance. Where the first child is killed by a car crash a new hope is born at the close. There are relentless allusions to new birth, the terrifying risk and fussy inconvenience of children. Children are the ruin of our myth of independence.

kitchen stories - (labri)

Here, like Gran Torino and Bleu, we have a cold solitary character thawed by an unwelcome intrusion. Here, like Mon Oncle we have humour at the expense of positivistic science. Here like Persepolis we have colliding cultures making a home together.

The cast is, bar periphery appearances, exclusively male. The male professor sends his male supervisor with male driver to oversee male scientists, who are inspecting single men, who visit their male doctor and drink coffee with male friends. The film does not announce itself as one commenting on gender, but in later conversation: would it have expressed the same thing with a woman in any (or all) of the roles? Perhaps we knew this, that positivism is a masculine thing, but that this is nodded to so unblinkingly suggests we are resigned either to the inevitability of one-dimensional masculinity or to the inevitability of positivism.

We continue to speculatively build houses on these presuppositions of the efficient genericness of the typical kitchen. There is an informationism at work privileging observation over intimacy, and it is a critique of any who would elevate fact over meaning, this film was made for Jim's delight, and mine in the infectious draw of conviviality, the saving power of a meal shared. In their drawing together, as with Grant visiting the doctor, we are offered a meditation on the importance of proximity and the affirming power of touch.

persepolis - (labri)

Oh that we all might be animators for the catharsis of such story telling, and the joy. Perhaps by its personal effect it deflects certain criticisms levelled at a film more visually sophisticated - I mean that in the sense, not that Persepolis is a crude expression, but rather, the more conventional production of live action film disguises, indeed altogether conceals, the voice of its story telling and the personality of its author inside both the whirring complexities of the photographic process and the industry of coordinating at such a scale. Expression in animation has neither the burden nor mask of the personalities of a cast, the fog of digital post-production nor accident of location. Did I express that at all well?

Does animation make war more palatable? Does animation make us more forgiving of visual cliches and graphic hyperbole? Does an infant narrator/protagonist allow us an assumed distance of maturity from mistakes of history? I confess these questions didn't trouble me any great deal from this film's pleasure, might they, ought they?

The film glories in poking fun at a slew of isms, we see Marx and God sharing a joke on their clouds. Ideologies, nationality, family, modernity, sex and gender, all vie to define the young Marjane's identity. What does “Be True to Yourself” mean and is it helpful advice?

The formation of character and beauty through suffering and discipline find a metaphor in her grandmother's breasts which bookend the narrative. And we, like these, if we are to stand firm, we might do well to face the ice cold of suffering, and if we are to finish well, we would do well to find those jasmine petals daily which will preserve beauty in the last days.

mon oncle - (labri)

The French have a curious relationship with Modernity. Here is Monsieur Hulot, the Holy Fool addressed to the sitting duck Modernity. Jokes are largely at the expense of a fabulously self-conscious modern couple, garish, impatient and people-pleasing. Similar slapstick provocation is needed now as then to temper our confected needs and architectural pretensions.

The scene of light reflected into the singing birds cage was strong, and as a whole the film charms as a splendid caper through visual puns, the fish in carrying case and eye-ball windows..

gran torino - (labri)

The car which is that inheritance we would seize by violence under the corrupting influence of the powers of this age, that inheritance finally given in grace in spite of our desert. Slowly unveiled from the garage through the film this car is a now and not yet glory, seen through a glass darkly, it is the final freeway for which we are set free. Oh that the Kingdom here is a car lays bare a deep held conviction of the audience this is fashioned for, they have received their inheritance in full.

Eastwood, by weight of his type, is cast perfectly into a role which subverts the redemptive violence of previous films through a plot of sacrificial atonement. Dabbling in a spread of Christian themes Gran Torino is sufficiently allusive to demand and profit enquiry of the Bri kind, although there is nothing like an overt reference to Catholicism to get L'Abri's reformed colours flying - “Did it all go wrong for Walt because of his Catholic doctrine?” was ventured.

The sacred use of profanities, that is, using obscenities as a bond of trust was another brief consideration. How should we then swear? Others: Is redemption not undoing damage done but rather learning to chose a different path? What is the difference between those things for which we might confess regret (absent fathering, an affair) those things which formed us (Korea)?

Monday, 12 October 2009

sleep furiously

Slow shot and sumptuous, studied photography savouring grace in the mundane, while grieving with a desaturated melancholy the end of a Way. This is a long rural heart breaking, and from the school closing follows a sense in its scene and soundtrack of dissipating energy inescapable and deeply moving.

Each vehicle is allowed its full course to track out of frame in a powerful picture of quitting the landscape to leave us static in the windswept grey green. There is care in the geometry of the photography and the blurring of timescale and timelapse as the world rushes on and away past this year in a little nook of a rural past.

There is a drawing into the small things as happens in grief, obsessing and retracing with hands over familiar paths. And there is such a beauty in the shots here that linger on the hand at task, old hands greasing baking tins, carving and such. The baking scene was dance, deft, measured, fastidious and musical, the elegance of work done as it has long been done. Watch this film for the skip of a sheared lamb, for the grand stretch blur billowing over lake, here are visual riches. Further, there is expressed in these Welsh a sense of unselfconsciousness and trust, a mark both of the brilliance of the directing and something trusting in the spirit of such community. I have never felt so immersed.

Did the use of the same Aphex Twin hooks create a meaningful theme to the characters and to what end were the unexplained cuts to plain colour? Perhaps a familiarity with Chomsky and Dylan Thomas would have given this viewer something more from the presentation. Neither question however keeps this from being the most moving, most urgent and most beautiful social documentary I have seen, a slam in the Modern's chest, angry in its silence.

"It is only when I sense the end of things that I find the courage to speak. The courage, but not the words." So we were given cinema and the gift of tongues.

black balloon

Likeable with profound moments of beauty, Black Balloon was for the most part an unengaging meander appropriately compared to similarly suburban and teenage Aussie soaps. The potential of the device of an autistic character was wasted, seemingly content to not to make commentary beyond a one dimensional issue, with its inconvenience, shame and eventual twee reconciliation.

If I can express this without being callous, the gift of the disabled is to challenge and thereby enrich notions of the value of the human person, beyond the utilitarian. Here this was advanced some way but the selfishness of the brother, Thomas, alters so little and unconvincingly for the stiffness of his expression and the shallow narrative arch he plays through. And the sentimentality of the conclusion failed to satisfy that frustration of a chronic condition like autism in a family - much as Little Miss Sunshine provoked a “So What?!” from JvH last year.

Toni Collette does strikingly portray the energy sapping myth of independence, in her eyes, strong, determined, tired. She was a joy to watch.

Colour in Australia is different. I suppose physically, there is a dry redness to the landscape and depth of blue to the sky, but I wonder also if socially colour is different, as in the photography and architecture journals, I wonder that the colours aspired to are subtly different.