21 Nov 2017

Antiporno (Sion Sono, 2016)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼

When Nikkatsu studio (the very same one that once orchestrated the expulsion of the recently deceased maestro Seijun Suzuki) asked Sion Sono to contribute to their revived Roman Porno series, it must have slipped their minds he is considered the norm-breaking enfant terrible of the Japanese cinema. Or maybe it didn't? Maybe they got what they deserved... pardon, wished for?

The rules of the abovementioned sub-genre dictate less than eighty minutes of length and a softcore sex scene every ten minutes. Indeed, Antiporno does not exceed the canonic time-frame (which makes it Sono's shortest feature to date) and there are sex scenes now and then, but they are conceived as anti-voyeuristic rather than titillating acts solely to serve the author's deconstructive agenda (think Ming-liang Tsai's The Wayward Cloud).

Speaking of deconstruction, what initially appears to be pretty close to a filmed stage play (and what a gorgeous one at that!) soon turns out to be (a mild spoiler ahead!) a film within a film within a heroine's mind or something along these lines. As the story (of a woman's emancipation, sexual awareness and repression, as well as position in Japanese movie industry and society) progresses, the viewer falls deeper and deeper through the rabbit hole of an incessantly altering reality.

The first time we meet our protagonist, Kyōko (Ami Tomite, who has lately become Sono's regular star), she lies on her bed, almost naked, as if she has just awaken after a wild night of sweaty fun. Pulling her panties up, she lazily gets up, as her chic minimalist pop-art apartment screams in primary colors (mostly yellow). Her morning routine involves peeing and talking to herself in a broken mirror, some prancing around in a fluttering tulle dress and conversing to her (imaginary?) sister about butterflies and a lizard trapped in a bottle which are clear metaphors for her virgin-whore 'condition'.

Following the arrival of her assistant, Noriko (the outstanding Mariko Tsutsui of Harmonium fame), is the no-holds-barred portrayal of their sadomasochistic relationship and Kyoko's spiraling into madness which requires both actresses baring their all, not only physical, but emotional as well. With their commitment unwavering and the eccentric, over-the-top performances by supporting (mostly female) cast, Sono delivers the most feminist work of his career which is a great accomplishment for someone who has been frequently accused of misogyny.

And make no mistake - his inner fighter for women's rights doesn't shy away from using any tool and strategy to make her point, and not to mention she couldn't care less if you call her a cruel bitch. On top of that, he has a lot to say about art in general, whether his peers and the potential audience will like it or not, and he pulls you into a relentless, somewhat absurd and highly critical game of guessing and shame. All the while, you are treated to the astonishing imagery ranging from dreamy to lucid, but always uncomfortably sensual (kudos to Takeshi Matsuzuka for the superb art direction), with the cathartic (or rather, hysterical) finale redefining the term 'eye-candy'.

16 Nov 2017

The Night I Dance With Death (Vincent Gibaud, 2017)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼
The 80s psychedelia meets Masaaki Yuasa at his most experimental (has it ever been the other way around?) in Vincent Gibaud's crowdfunded short animated film which happens to be his first post-graduation work. The Night I Dance With Death (originally, La Nuit Je Danse avec la Mort) is built around the experience, rather than the story of our protagonist - a dispirited young man, Jack, who does not hesitate too long before trying a glowing hallucinogenic substance at a party.

Initially visceral and seemingly pleasurable, Jack's trip suddenly takes a disturbingly dark turn of growing anxieties, only to transform into an electrifying wet dream (akin to Jérémy Clapin's music video for DyE's Fantasy) during the final act. Opening to 'a new field of perception and feeling', he embarks on a mind-blowing adventure which transforms his disillusionment into an orgasmic catharsis.

Gibaud couldn't have chosen a better medium to bring his extravagant vision to pulsating life. Drug-fuelled inner mechanisms are represented in grainy and constantly fidgeting kaleidoscopic imagery of neon lights, vibrant colors and abstract transitions. At times extremely violent (as in head exploding and body distorting), his restless, hyper-stylized visuals provide plenty of altered states eye-candy accompanied by throbbing electronica inspired by the retro new wave music of Perturbator and Carpenter Brut. This powerful, highly memorable fantasy which plunges us into the uncharted dimension of human subconscious is available on the author's official Vimeo channel, HERE.

14 Nov 2017

Više od stvarnosti

"Film je danas za nas isto što i poezija. Da bismo imali istinsku sponu sa tim, mi moramo ići u koliziju sa razumom. Razum je uvek, ma koliko bio razložan, prilično indiferentan. On je hladan, a ovde se radi o toplim stvarima." (Đorđe Kadijević)
Niška promocija knjige Više od istine: Kadijević o Kadijeviću koja je nastala u saradnji pisca, filmskog i književnog kritičara, prevodioca i esejiste Dejana Ognjanovića i Đorđa Kadijevića, istoričara umetnosti, likovnog kritičara, reditelja, scenariste i odnedavno književnika, spada u domen nadrealnih kulturnih događaja, ma koliko to pretenciozno i/ili čudno zvučalo. Održana juče, 13. XI 2017, pred manje od dvadeset ljudi, na mene je ostavila toliko snažan utisak, da sam delo zavoleo i pre nego što sam zavirio u tekst između korica. (A kada sam zavirio, otkrio sam i zabeležio obilje vrednih citata već na prvih pedeset strana!)

Kadijevićevi opširni odgovori, protkani smislenim digresijama, izneseni su sa takvom sugestivnošću, da je čitavo veče (prikladno) delovalo kao filmsko, sasvim nalik na gledanje kakvog autobiografskog dokumentarca u "realnom vremenu", sa primesama pravog horora, suptilne komedije i dirljive drame. Pri opisivanju jedne halucinogene, nažalost nesnimljene scene za seriju Vuk Karadžić, osetio sam istinsku jezu; iskreno sam se osmehivao duhovitim opaskama, a malo je falilo da pustim suzu na priču o usamljenosti i tragičnim gubicima. Bio je to emotivni rolerkoster na šinama od čiste poezije koju "u hodu" stvara jedan erudita, ali nadasve veliki čovek iza koga su decenije znanja i iskustva. Nema tih reči koje bi precizno oslikale moju opčinjenost i onaj lucidan san...

9 Nov 2017

The Limehouse Golem (Juan Carlos Medina, 2016)

☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼
Karl Marx, as well as two other historical figures (Dan Leno and George Gissing) are murder suspects in Juan Carlos Medina's highly watchable, if 'slightly' predictable, sophomore offering - a Victorian whodunit thriller based on Peter Ackroyd's 1994 novel and starring the veteran Bill Nighy as the inspector John Kildare in charge of the titular case, featuring theatrical performances from the up-and-coming cast (including Olivia Cooke and Douglas Booth) and boasting great production values, with 'Bava-esque' lighting of certain scenes, the befittingly ominous score by Johan Söderqvist (of Let the Right One In fame) and the eye-pleasing cinematography being the most commendable aspects.

5 Nov 2017

#Beings (Andrei Stefanescu, 2015)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

Philippe Grandrieux meets Šarūnas Bartas under a leaden sky in Andrei Stefanescu's sophomore feature - a lyrical, genre-defying meditation on love, guilt, distress, solitude, friendship, madness and the irreversible loss of oneself during the unstoppable decent into nothingness.

A spiritual sequel to an off-kilter, nihilistic, (anti)romantic 'drama' Sleep Awake (Dormi Trezeste-te), #Beings is a highly unconventional piece of (no-budget) cinema; an almost wordless, unapologetically gloomy poem which plunges you into the innermost depths of human soul.

It focuses on three young people who seem to have been stripped of their very essence and turned into somnambulists, completely unaware of the unforgiving reality. Teo (Catalin Jugravu) is a photographer who is so enamored with his job, he barely notices his girlfriend Eva (Doro Höhn) and their mutual friend Ana (Andrea Christina Furrer). They look for affection, yet they ostracize each other in times of need, isolating themselves in the suffocating cocoons of despair.

Although we know nothing about them, their pain is almost tangible, materialized in the air surrounding both them and us, the viewers. It is hardly a pleasant experience, but it is deeply felt, especially if you are prone to fits of melancholy. And the moody atmosphere - supported by ominous humming and occasionally bordering psychological horror - is so thick you can taste its bitterness.

In order to capture the protagonists' tortured mental and emotional states reflected on their faces - in subtle microexpressions and/or eyes gazing into foggy distance - Stefanescu mostly employs close-ups and mid-shots to great effect. His portraiture is simultaneously intimate and cold, his film immersive and alienating, set in the world of eternal grays.

There is not even a glimmer of hope on the horizon, which is aptly emphasized by the poignant, disturbingly calm finale playing out against the backdrop of sunset over Teufelsberg...

3 Nov 2017

Yesterday I Was Wonder (Gabriel Mariño, 2017)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼

Filmed in awe-inspiring B&W, with virtually every shot worthy of being framed and hanged in a gallery, Yesterday I Was Wonder (Ayer Maravilla Fui) initially appears as a depressing meditation on old age, only to turn into a melancholia-fueled lesbian love story after an aged man with a bad case of Parkinson's, Emilio (Rubén Cristiany), wakes up as a young and pretty healthy woman, Ana (Sonia Franco).

Both Emilio and Ana gravitate towards a hair salon in which a beautiful, sad-eyed hairdresser, Luisa (Siouzana Melikian), earns her crust. Their loneliness is the main course here and it is served in an intimate and hypnotizing atmosphere of profound silence occasionally pierced by the second movement of Schubert's Piano Sonata in A Minor, D. 959. When Ana turns into Pedro (Hoze Meléndez), the sense of isolation becomes heightened and we realize that the side dish comes along with many questions regarding human essence and emotional involvement.

Who or what 'invades' the bodies of Mexico City denizens, earning the film a place in the pantheon of arthouse sci-fi, remains a puzzle, though he/she/it doesn't seem to be malevolent, considering that its physical inconstancy does not affect his/her/its feelings. This mysterious entity means no harm, but some harm is done nonetheless or maybe, it's the other side (Luisa) who is to blame for not recognizing the soul, looking for the face instead.

Not bothering with explaining the uncontrollable transmigration of his protagonist, Gabriel Mariño creates a sincere, contemplative chamber drama with great tranquilizing powers stemming from its deliberate pace, mostly static takes and the sparseness of dialogue. Supporting his efforts is the considerable chemistry between the actors, simmering beneath the sleepy surface of their characters' insipid existence.
Yesterday I Was Wonder could be described as Momir Milošević's Open Wound meets Sion Sono's The Whispering Star meets Philip Kaufman's The Invasion of the Body Snatchers with horror replaced by elegiac poetry. It is available for FREE viewing on Festival Scope, as a part of the Morelia IFF selection, until the 9th of November.

1 Nov 2017

Three Crowns of the Sailor (Raúl Ruiz, 1983)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

"If all the jerks spread their wings, we’d never see the Sun."

Under the purple skies, an infinite number of doorways (do not) exist and each entrance leads into a labyrinth which has no end, myriad of cul-de-sacs and unattainable possibilities forged in a bottomless dream. Once you find yourself inside of it, your only companion is N (as in Nihil) who is not to be trusted even though everything he says seems to be truer than truth. Hear him whisper poisonous secrets into your ear, as the river of Styx turns into a vast sea.

His stories always begin, but they never reach their epilogues and why should they? His characters are phantoms, because he is a phantom as well; a butterfly that has been trapped in the chrysalis state forever, alone in its pain, in life that's nothing but an absurd wound. But still, let him guide you further and further, let him show you the old, fading portraits of a nameless mariner sailing with the (un)dead; the double-tongued Blindman and a virgin courtesan, Maria; an immortal child of Singapore and two brothers from Tangier; a beautiful, yet mean exotic dancer, Mathilda, and the black doctor who knows Bible by heart.

Forget the past, the present and the future, as they merge into One that simultaneously was (not), is (not) and will (not) be inscribed in the absence of time buried in deep waters. Abandon the language of reality and embrace the cryptic symbols of a sublime, transcendental fantasy in which there is a place that is both no place and all places - a whole new Universe worth exploring and getting yourself lost in.

Tell your inner philosopher to keep silent and behold his/her glorious, wordless tirade transforming into La Poesía, singular and rebelliously surreal. Only three Danish crowns to repel the shadows, but be careful - Enigma must not die...

27 Oct 2017

Lastman (Jérémie Périn, 2016)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

Lastman is the prequel to the comic book series of the same name co-authored by Bastien Vivès, Michaël Sanlaville and Yves Bigerel aka Balak, the last of whom is also credited as one of the screenwriters. According to its creators, it is the result of attempting the impossible - daring to make an adult animated TV show despite the unfavorable situation at home. Thanks to a successful crowdfunding campaign (with more than 3000 backers), the impossible is made possible and now we have this ultimate smorgasbord of ideas and genres to enjoy and admire.

The story is set in a fictional city of Paxtown brimming with dangers. Getting into trouble more often than anyone else is Richard Aldana - a cheeky, stubborn, impulsive, hotheaded and incredibly gifted bruiser with a heart of gold who would rather idle than put on a satin outfit to compete in the UFC-esque Fist Fight Funeral Cup. When his best friend and owner of a boxing club, Dave McKenzie, gets murdered, status quo begins to crack and all of the sudden, mobsters' threat seems like 'a walk in the park' compared to the mysterious 'Order of the Lion'. These guys mean serious paranormal business and they're after Dave's adopted daughter Siri whose nightmares indicate that she is an integral part of the narrative. With a possible apocalypse at hand, Richard reluctantly accepts the role of Siri's protector and they are both plunged into an adventure that will challenge their perception of reality...

Pulling you in instantly, Lastman puts a firm grip on you and keeps it all the way to the last episode, and throws 'everything but the kitchen sink' at you without ever feeling overstuffed or unfocused. It proudly wears all of its influences on its sleeve, including action, horror and blaxploitation movies, mixed mythology, bandes dessinées, dark fantasy anime and fighting video games (speaking of which, there is a 3D arena brawler inspired by the same source material, developed and published by Piranaking) and yet, it is its own animal, wild-spirited and pretty peculiar. Initially puzzling and 'retrograde' in its nostalgic approach, it gradually reveals the answers regarding the abovementioned order, Siri and the so-called Valley of Kings (briefly introduced in the prologue), while lacing the dynamic proceedings with tongue-in-cheek humor and half-serious social commentary to great effect. Add to that a good deal of twists, homages and references and you're in for loads of fun.

But the amusement doesn't end there, as Lastman comes with involving or, at worst, slightly intriguing characters - a motley crew of neatly developed, if a bit archetypal protagonists, bad guys who turn out to be not-so-bad after all (and vice versa), as well as 'disposable', broadly sketched villains whose outlandish powers are linked to their true (and not to mention monstrous) forms. The focus is set on Richard and Siri, so it is no surprise the two of them get the largest portions of screen time, but there are some memorable, scene-stealing side-players, such as the aspiring singer and Aldana's love interest Tomie Katana, the fiery Grace Jones look-alike boxing coach or the obese Godfather-like figure accompanied by a couple of twin gangsters at all times. Regarding the otherworldly creatures dubbed Kinglets, watch for a representative of 'abstract neo-formalist' who holds a terrifying many-headed secret.

And 'watch' is the keyword here, as the most inviting aspect of Lastman is the crisp and clean artwork which remains très cool and 'gritty' all throughout the series, whether it's the noirish urban mise-en-scène or the freaky supernatural menace at display. Jérémie Périn is no stranger to the latter, given that he has already proven his penchant for bizarre or rather, grotesque imagery in the provocative, 'teen erotica meets Lovecraftian dread' music video for DyE's Fantasy. Supported by a stellar team of artists - Baptiste 'Gobi' Gaubert as the character designer and studio Tchak of April and the Extraordinary World fame creating the backgrounds, among the others - he delivers stylish visuals and doesn't shy away from the graphic depiction of violence.

Also commendable is the score by Fred Avril and Philippe Monthaye who go for an '80s rock and synth sound mixed with modern electronica - a befitting choice for a show immersed in pulp sensibilities. Encore, s'il vous plaît!

23 Oct 2017

Subimago (Christophe Leclaire, 2017)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

An old bridge hangs in the midst of the woods. Its rusted, ramshackle construction is repaired by an engineer (Frantz Herman) who lives in a small nearby cabin. The vague images emerging in his recurring dream reveal a body submerged in the river, as well as an enigmatic light. 

One night, he encounters a wounded woman (Cindy Rodrigues) on the bridge and helps her, only to find her gone the next morning. Doubts in what he has been doing so far begin to rise...

Leaving many 'whos', 'whys' and 'whats' unanswered, Christophe Leclaire tells or rather, shows an elliptical, metaphorical story (presumably) of transformation (if its title is any indication) with utmost economy. As methodical as his unnamed hero, he eschews dialogue in favor of the beautifully crafted visuals and hauntingly minimalist score, establishing a contemplative atmosphere so dense you can cut it with a knife.

Driven by the feelings of despair, loneliness, absurdity and existential dread, his promising (and puzzling) feature debut hypnotizes with both its refined aesthetics and measured pace that makes the time seem to stand still. With great meticulousness, Leclaire renders the most banal of actions as utterly enthralling and always finds a new angle to shoot the Sisyphean chores, alleviating their repetitiveness in the process.

In the dimly lit, sepia-toned interior adorned with various notes and blueprints, he creates a claustrophobic realm of deep, almost tangible melancholia that also spreads over the natural and somewhat mystical surroundings of lush greenery. And yet, the bleakness of the engineer's situation comes off as calming, rather than stifling.

Although little to no information is given about this character (for all we know, he could be the embodiment of some abstract concept), we are able to connect with him, at least on a subconscious level. Paired with his ambiguity, the film's spatial and temporal indeterminacy adds another layer of mystery to the whole proceedings which might turn away the viewers who expect explanation(s).

Subimago is available for rent or purchase at Vimeo on Demand

20 Oct 2017

Taste of 30 Cinematic Obscurities

Three of my latest articles for Taste of Cinema focus on the last six decades and include thirty lesser-known feature and short films from all around the world: artist biopics, satirical dramas, sumptuous fantasies, arthouse experiments and more!

Still shot from La ville des pirates (Raúl Ruiz, 1983)

To spice things up, let's stretch the timeline to the last 100 years and add another 20 recommendations that might pique your interest:

1. Rapsodia Satanica (Nino Oxilia, 1917)
3. House of Cards (Joseph Vogel, 1947) (S)
4. Érase una vez (Alexandre Cirici Pellicer, 1950) (A)
5. Wienerinnen (Kurt Steinwendner, 1952)
6. Hakujutsumu (Tetsuji Takechi, 1964)
7. Incubus (Leslie Stevens, 1966)
8. Kureopatora (Osamu Tezuka & Eiichi Yamamoto, 1970) (A)
9. Čudo (Đorđe Kadijević, 1971)
11. A Princesinha das Rosas (Noémia Delgado, 1981)
12. El Sur (Victor Erice, 1983)
13. Macskafogó (Béla Ternovszky, 1986) (A)
14. To athoo soma (Nikos Kornilios, 1997)
15. Le temps retrouvé (Raúl Ruiz, 1999)
16. Titus (Julie Taymour, 1999)
17. Tian bian yi duo yun (Ming-liang Tsai, 2005)
18. El cielo, la tierra, y la lluvia (José Luis Torres Leiva, 2008)
20. Window Horses (Ann Marie Fleming, 2016) (A)

(A) stands for Animated, (S) for Short.

Still shot from Rapsodia Satanica (Nino Oxilia, 1917)

18 Oct 2017

Chemia (Bartosz Prokopowicz, 2015)

(1. Festival poljskog filma Visla, Niš, 17. 10. 2017)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

Nakon svlačenja "poslovnog kostima" i oblačenja haljine koja, kako kasnije saznajemo, predstavlja odraz njenog karaktera, ali i gorućeg "unutrašnjeg problema", naizgled optimistična Lena (Agnješka Zulevska) daje otkaz u pisanoj formi - karminom po staklu sale za sastanke. U paralelnoj montaži, depresivni fotograf Benek (Tomaš Šuhard) dobija otkaz zbog kreativnih nesuglasica (šifra: beživotni nokti), prethodno pretvarajući svoju radnu sobu u otelovljenje naslova čuvene, višestruko obrađivane pesme Paint it Black.

Njih dvoje se sreću na parkingu, pod protivpožarnim prskalicama (a možda je u pitanju i pravi pljusak, tj. prva u nizu magično-realističnih upadica?) i rađa se neobična romansa nad kojom sve vreme bdi Tanatos. U Beneku se ponovo budi želja za životom, ali ostaje zatečen Leninim odgovorom na pitanje: "Želiš li da se udaš za mene?" Ona tvrdi da ima nekog drugog, a taj neko je već zapečatio njenu sudbinu, kao što je nagovešteno "apstraktnim" animiranim pasažima Nadije Majkol...
Govoreći iz (neprijatnog) ličnog iskustva, direktor fotografije i reditelj-debitant Bartoš Prokopovič stvara, kako sam kaže, "pozitivan vodič ka smrti" (ako je tako nešto uopšte moguće), te u svojoj priči o ljubavi jačoj od straha poručuje da je "više hrabrosti potrebno za patnju nego za umiranje". Borbu protiv opake bolesti koju je vodio sa tragično preminulom suprugom Magdom Prokopovič, inače inicijatorkom filma i osnivačicom fondacije Rak'n'Roll, prikazuje iz neznatno iščašenog ugla glavne junakinje koja se odlučuje na rizičan potez da postane majka uprkos dvostrukoj masektomiji i hemoterapiji (otud i naslov Hemija).

U njegovom tretmanu, smrtna zaljubljenost dobija novo značenje, a drama koja je lako mogla da sklizne u patetiku zadržava zavidan nivo dostojanstva, prevashodno zahvaljujući (crnom) humoru koji je nešto suptilniji nego baratnje simbolima. Značajan doprinos pruža i dvojac Zulevska-Šuhard u odličnom tumačenju kapricioznih likova koji, uprkos prolasku kroz pakao, odnosno suočavanju sa surovom neminovnošću, uspevaju da sačuvaju prisebnost i izazovu empatiju čak i u trenucima kada iz njih pokulja ono najgore.

Svet u kojem oni žive bliži je imaginarnom nego stvarnom, posebno u prvoj polovini filma, što je i razumljivo, budući da su opsednuti jedno drugim. Daleko je to od fantazije u The Duke of Burgundy, ali dobro funkcioniše. A ta njihova "bajka", iako nema srećan kraj (i ne, nije u pitanju nikakav spojler), oslikana je "mlečnim" bojama i neretko po estetici bliska video spotovima, naročito kada se pojavi Lenin raspevani alter ego u tumačenju poljske kantautorke Natalije Grošak.
Saundtrek kojim dominiraju pop melodije možda je i najdiskutabilniji aspekt Hemije, pošto donekle kompromituje rediteljevo nastojanje da ne manipuliše gledaočevim osećanjima. Međutim, čudna hemija između glumaca i prelepa fotografija Prokopovičevog brata Jeremijaša dovoljno su moćni da sve nedostatke učine podnošljivijim.

13 Oct 2017

Polina, danser sa vie (Valérie Müller & Angelin Preljocaj, 2016)

(Francuski filmski karavan, 12.10.2017, Niš)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼

Kada pomislite na balet, prvo što vam padne na pamet su verovatno tutu haljine na gracioznim devojkama, Labudovo jezero i Boljšoj teatar. Ukoliko ste filmofil, onda je vrlo moguće da ste upoznati sa imenom Pine Bauš posredstvom Vendersovog dokumentarca iz 2011, a sasvim sigurno ste gledali i psihološku dramu Crni labud Darena Aronofskog. 

Za scenaristkinju i ko-rediteljku Valeri Miler, kao i čuvenog francuskog koreografa Anželina Preljokaža, balet ili, šire posmatrano, (savremeni) ples priziva različite asocijacije.

Debi u tradicionalnoj školi kojom upravlja strogi penzionisani igrač sa burnom sovjetskom prošlošću (Aleksej Guskov kao strah i trepet ruske akademije tancovanja Božinski). Postavljanje pitanja koje učitelj naziva glupim. Skakutanje po parku nadomak nuklarnih reaktora na putu do kuće. Odlazak u lov sa ocem i (imaginarni?) susret sa irvasom. Vođenje ljubavi u garderobi Boljšoj teatra. Traganje za sopstvenim izrazom koje podrazumeva odricanje od karijere primabalerine. Posmatranje sveta koji nas okružuje, od ljudi u zadimljenom noćnom klubu do beskućnika koji se grčevito savija na stanici podzemne železnice...

Stavljajući sebe u poziciju naslovne junakinje (u izvrsnom tumačenju ljupke debitantkinje Anastasije Ševcove iz trupe Marinski), ali neretko i publike, Milerova i Preljokaž ispredaju priču o životu koji se pleše i plesu koji se živi, o strasti koja tinja čak i onda kada izgleda kao da se sasvim ugasila i padovima koji ne vode nužno do uspeha. Njih dvoje razmišljaju kao jedno, u pokretima koji mogu biti kruti ili gipki, iz srca ili iz glave, elegantni ili eksplozivni, naučeni ili improvizovani, a kojima sporadični dijalozi služe tek kao dopuna. Njihova režija je sigurna, čak i onda kada im se potkrade poneki kliše u deglamurizaciji baleta.

Polinu Šanjidze, koja se rodila 2010. u grafičkoj noveli Bastiena Vivesa, portretišu kao devojku na čije sazrevanje i stav utiču mnogi faktori, počev od gruzijsko-sibirskog porekla, preko kontradiktornih saveta, pa sve do težnje za otkrivanjem (nedokučive) osobenosti koja će je učiniti kompletnom. Od ogromnog je značaja i to što kamera Žorža Lešaptoe (Maryland, aka Disorder) obožava Ševcovu, bilo da snima njeno milo lice u krupnom planu ili je iz gornjeg rakursa posmatra na audiciji, mada ne smemo zanemariti ni hemiju koja postoji između nje i ostalih glumaca (Nils Šnajder, Žilijet Binoš) ili kolega naturščika (Žeremi Belangar).

Na putu od Istoka ka Zapadu, Polina se iz devojčice koja misli da ples "dolazi sam po sebi" preobražava u mladu ženu koja ples vidi na svakom koraku, a njen umetnički razvoj se ne završava (upečatljivim) krajem filma koji obeležava moćni, hipnotišući, gotovo nadrealni pas de deux na veštačkom snegu.

11 Oct 2017

Blade Runner 2049 (Denis Velleneuve, 2017)

☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼

An ornate, resplendent mask that is this (overlong) film's mind-blowing, yet hardly groundbreaking aural and visual design conceals a thin story populated by uninvolving characters, muddled with underdeveloped subplots and deprived of deeper meanings by virtue of the 'spelling out' approach, as well as oft pretending to be more clever than it is.

Its unnecessarily lackadaisical pace is just another attempt to lull the viewers into thinking that what they are watching is a grand, highly poetic, even 'Tarkovskian' piece of cinema and not a money-grabbing spectacle with a bit more (albeit replicated) soul and intelligence than your run-of-the-mill Hollywood flick.

If it's any consolation, we get numerous (loving) homages reminding us of the original's immeasurable influence, plenty of relentless eye-candy whose sweetness looks sweeter on a big screen and some sort of an apology from Villeneuve, via the opening lines spoken by the puppy-eyed (and not to mention miscast) Ryan Gosling.

So, 'I hope you don't mind me taking a liberty' of being generous with the rating and recommending Michael Almereyda's Marjorie Prime - a quiet, dignified and sophisticated meditation on the relation between humans and technology, since it makes a much better use of sentient holograms and features the compelling performances by Lois Smith, Jon Hamm, Geena Davis and Tim Robbins.

9 Oct 2017

2 x Asian Animated Film (L.O.R.D: Legend of Ravaging Dynasties / In This Corner of the World)

L.O.R.D: Legend of Ravaging Dynasties
(Jingming Guo, 2016)

☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼
Set in a magical world replete with the enigmatic High Lords, powerful Dukes (with disciples of their own) and Spirit Beasts, both wild and domesticated, this Chinese-Cambodian co-production tells a convoluted story of power struggle and features strong homoerotic undertones (a precedent in the wuxia cinema of mainland China), alliances forged and broken in a blink of an eye, the gorgeous if a bit video game-esque mo-cap animation, European gothic architecture, dramatic symphonic score and plenty of pretty poster-boy and poster-girl faces owned by way too many characters for a 2-hour long film built on the complex mythology and best described as a cross between Fate/Stay Night anime and Final Fantasy by the way of Zemeckis's Beowulf.
In This Corner of the World
(Sunao Katabuchi, 2016)
☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼
Centered around an admirable female protagonist, Suzu (wonderfully voiced by Rena Nōnen aka Non), In This Corner of the World (Kono sekai no katasumi ni) provides us with the off-kilter amalgamation of lighthearted slice-of-life comedy and soul-wrenching war drama told from the perspective of the abovementioned heroine whose talents for drawing and painting are reflected in the warm and gentle, frequently stylized imagery complemented by the evocative score and exquisite performances by the entire cast who make you forget you are watching a 'cartoon', turning you into a tearful emotional wreck in the superior second half of this highly recommendable film.

7 Oct 2017

Dreaming in Exile: The Alchemical Cinema of Daniel Fawcett and Clara Pais

Recently, I've been approached by the talented avant-garde directorial duo Daniel Fawcett and Clara Pais of The Underground Film Studios to write an article on six of their delightful films for a publication titled Microcinema: Artist Moving Image Then and Now (Cambridge Film Trust 2017), expected to be released mid-October. Considering that I've immensely enjoyed their inspiring works, I've gladly accepted their offer and the result of this cooperation is the essay Dreaming in Exile: The Alchemical Cinema of Daniel Fawcett and Clara Pais which you can now find and read online on their official page, HERE.

Five features and one short film included are Savage Witches (2012), Sacrificium Intellectus (2012), Splendor Solis (2015), In Search of the Exile (2016), The Kingdom of Shadows (2016) and The Quest for the Cine-Rebis (2016).

Still shot from The Quest for the Cine-Rebis

6 Oct 2017

The Girl behind the White Picket Fence (Stefanie Schneider, 2013)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼

"... she is more interested with what the chance-directed appearances in her photographs portend. Schneider’s works are concerned with the opaque and porous contents of human relations and events, the material means are largely the mechanism to achieving and exposing the "ridiculous sublime" that has come increasingly to dominate the contemporary affect(s) of our world." (from Mark Gisbourne's essay The Personal World of Stefanie Schneider)

Decidedly and oh so delightfully retro, Stefanie Schneider's feature-length debut scores the highest points for its visual uniqueness. In the best tradition of cinematic photo-novels, Chris Marker's La Jetée being the most prominent example, this oneiric "suburban fantasy" (for the lack of a better term) is almost entirely composed of exposed Polaroid photos, with a few Super 8 sequences as some sort of its old-fashioned charm intensifiers.

Providing a "cryptic analysis of love back-dropped by a feeling that our future is hopeless but that it relentlessly continues", it depicts an unusual romantic triangle between the titular girl, Heather (Heather Megan Christie), a local garbage man, Hank (Kyle Larson), and a Lonely Hearts Radio DJ (Steve Marshall). Broken-hearted from a failed first relationship with an unnamed guy (Jeff Leaf), Heather returns to her late parents' travel trailer in a Californian desert, embracing solitary life, with a pet-goat as her only companion.

After finding a radio station that "speaks her language", she makes a few anonymous calls and thus, attracts the attention of Hank and the DJ, both faced with their own demons and/or ghosts from the past. Unable to continue on her own and to decide between the two men competing for her affection, she seeks help from a mysterious shaman portrayed by none other than the living legend Udo Kier.

Infused with surreal quirks, such as the laundry turning into fish (not to mention a zany dream-sequence in the finale), and peppered with slice of life nuggets, Heather's story eschews cheap sentimentality in favor of a melancholic and, to a certain extent, ironic meditation on our Sisyphean chores and pursuit of happiness. Subverting the notion of the American Dream, it seems fragmented and yet, it flows freely like a river of sunlit reveries in which the phantom-like protagonists - all of them wrapped up in their own thoughts - bathe. Their freedom is only illusory - the fence sets not only physical, but also psychological borders for Heather; Hank clings to the memories of his dead wife and is a slave to his daily routines, whereby Radio DJ hides behind his gravely voice and imitation of self-confidence.

The monologues written by the performers themselves and "improv of the first love argument" by Christie and Leaf add a personal note to Schneider's screenplay which is centered around her heroine's foibles, inexperience and uncertainties. However, the film's most fascinating aspect is its quaint aesthetics - a dreamy kaleidoscope of ethereal, feathery pictures brought to life by the low-key voice-overs, as well as the soothing "diegetic sounds" and acoustic, lullaby-esque rock. Bright and often distorted by the chemical mutations, the analogue tableaux vivants pass before your eyes like some light-bearing apparitions and guide you into a hypnotic state. And what makes them so mesmerizing and inspiring are their very imperfections.

Stefanie Scheider's uncompromising approach to achieving her vision really does wonders, so we are left with a remarkable work of exotic beauty. The Girl behind the White Picket Fence is available for rent or purchase at Vimeo on Demand.