Reviewer Ed Farolan
18th Annual European Union Film Festival
Dates and Venue November 27 - December 9, 2015 | The Cinematheque, 1131 Howe Street
Estonia/Finland/Germany 2015. Dir: Klaus Haro
Everybody loves an underdog film. This film replicates the David and Goliath story as does a lot of Hollywood films like Karate Kid where the underdog ends up on top. A finely-crafted, well-acted suspense drama set against the backdrop of Soviet-era fear and paranoia, This Vancouver premiere is Finland’s official submission to the upcoming 88th Academy Awards. Bon chance! I'd rate it 9/10.
Spain 2013. Dir: Marcelo Piñeyro
A bit too mushy for me. But what else to expect from Spaniards? They're a sentimental lot. This family drama is a tale of a runaway boy, 8-year-old Ismael (Larsson do Amaral) who takes a train from Madrid to Barcelona in search of his biological father, Félix (Mario Casas). It's an interesting plot with a happy ending as all the characters including Felix's mom, Ismael's mom and her husband, take a positive approach towards the problems and resolve them quite well at the finish line. 7/10.
Liza, the Fox-Fairy (Liza, a rókatündér)
Hungary 2015. Dir: Károly Ujj Mészáros
This is a charming, funny film, and it did get a warm applause after its screening last November 28th. It's a pity that the Festival screens the EU entries only once, but I guess that's expected because there are 25 EU participants. But the theatre was jampacked, with, naturally, a lot of Hungarians. I like the dark humour ande the satirical potshots in this film. A shot at McDonald with the restaurant called "Mekke Burger" in the centre of Budapest was hilarious. Satirizing Japanese pop stars is another target of the film. The accident-prone detective got a lot of laughs. We need more films like this! My rating: 9/10.
Gangs of Wasseypur (Part One)
India 2012. Dir: Anurag Kashyap. 159 min.
Dates and Venue 1 -5 Jul | Cinematheque, 1131 Howe St., Vancouver
Filmmaker Anurag Kashyap comes up with a Godfather saga in two parts, almost as long as Coppola's saga, full of violence but still maintaining some dance/song Bollywood routines in some segments. But the violence is there, even more bloody sometimes than the original Mafia movie.This film is about two rival criminal mafioso clans, the Khans and the Singhs, a reflection on the never-ending Muslim/Hindu conflict. It spans seven decades of Indian history and politics, from the 1940s to the present day. It's a long film, but I enjoyed it because it was as interesting as the Godfather series. Sometimes, the scenes were too long, as in the last scene of this part where the Muslim godfather gets shot. There were all these artsy slow-motion shots, and he kept falling and standing, all bloody, shot in the head and other vital parts of his body, not knowing whether he was going to live or die. The first part ends that way: is he dead or alive? I couldn't bear to stay another two and a half hours for the second part, but I hope it'll be screened again so I can complete my review.
Confidential Report aka Mr Arkadin
USA/France/Spain/Switzerland 1955. Dir: Orson Welles. 93 min.
Date and Venue 3 June | Cinematheque, 1131 Howe St., Vancouver
This film premiered in Spain in 1955 and in the USA in 1962. Its history is convoluted. The story was based on several episodes of the radio series The Lives of Harry Lime, which in turn was based on the character Welles portrayed in The Third Man.The main inspiration for the plot was the episode Man of Mystery. Most of the key elements for Arkadin's character come from real life arms dealer, Basil Zaharoff, the mysterious birthplace, the French Riviera property and the Spanish castle, for example.
Murder, mystery, film noir-- all are elements in this film production which show the eccentricity and genius of Orson Welles. To celebrate his 100th Birthday,The Cinematheque is doing a 12-film retrospective (Arkadin aka Confidential Report, Othello, Chimes at Midnight aka Falstaff, Citizen Kane, Magnificent Ambersons, Lady from Shanghai, Touch of Evil, The Trial, Macbeth, F for Fake, The Immortal Story, The Stranger) all throughout the month of June. Check out this link for more details http://thecinematheque.ca/orson-welles-100.
The Draughtsman’s Contract
Great Britain 1982. Dir: Peter Greenaway. 108 min. 35mm
Dates and Venue 27 - 30 April 2015 | Cinematheque, 1131 Howe St., Vancouver
Murder mystery, exaggerated costumes set during England's Restoration Period, and dark comedy all in this tale of Mr. Neville (Anthony Higgins), a draughtsman hired to make a series of drawings of a country estate and in return, he receives sexual favours from the lady of the manor (Janet Suzman). But then, his hubris is getting involved with her daughter and thus, his tragic ending.
The visuals are interesting, so also the music by Michael Nyman reflecting the period, but the dialogues didn't come out quite clearly. There were moments when the sound was loud and clear and then, it dissipates to almost inaudible mumblings. I also didn't quite understand the role of a naked man painted in grey, acting like a statue. Was he a spy, the eyes and ears of the manor?
I'd give this film 7 out of 10.
Last Year at Marienbad
(L'année dernière à Marienbad)
France/Italy 1961. Dir: Alain Resnais. 94 min. DCP
Dates and Venue 17 - 19 April 2015 | Cinematheque, 1131 Howe St., Vancouver
Based on nouveau roman novelist Alain Robbe-Grillet's work, Hiroshima Mon Amour director Resnais comes up with another of Cinematheque's "Cinema of Stillness" where a cross between a "moving" and a "still" picture is expressed. It won the 1961 Golden Lion award in Venice, and at that time, it was considered noveau. Obviously, these days, after more than 50 years, I'd consider it passe. Black and white filming was normal in those days, but today, it's considered artsy. If it were to be restored, I think colour would make it more attractive and more visually acceptable. The story is about a man who tries to convince a sceptical woman that he met her, or someone like her, "last year at Marienbad."
Aguirre, the Wrath of God
(Aguirre, der Zorn Gottes)
West Germany 1972. Dir: Werner Herzog. 95 min. DCP
Dates and Venue 10-12 April 2015 | Cinematheque, 1131 Howe St., Vancouver
Critics have have hailed this film as Herzog's greatest achievement, and his first film with Klaus Kinski (Aguirre) almost a reflection of Richard III's character. It is beautifully shot by Thomas Mauch in the Peruvian jungle in 1560, with costumes faithful to this period. It recounts Pizarro's exploration of the Amazon, where a small reconnaissance party sets off in search of El Dorado, the legendary Inca city of gold. Leading the doomed mission is mutinous, maniacal Aguirre , who proclaims himself the “Wrath of God” and resolves to breed a new, purer race. Herzog's epic is- an allegory for Nazism, potraying the arrogance of “civilized” society.
Kinski's acting is amazing as he portrays a Hitlerlike personality only to be doomed at the end. The cinematography is excellent, and we can see Ingmar Bergman in Herzog's style of still picture shots of the characters, slow moving images in his visuals.
This film opened the series Painting with Film: the Cinema of Stillness last April 10th and was introduced by film critic Donald Brackett.
© 2015 Ed Farolan