1 Apr 2020

Cinematic Favorites 03/20

The first (and probably not the last) quarantine edition of Cinematic Favorites will be marked by short films which have been ruling internet during these days of pandemic lockdown, primarily thanks to independent artists and many festivals switching to live online streaming or offering their entire programs from the past years. (And not to mention that having numerous cinephiles as Facebook friends equals a continuous influx of recommendations.) But, before focusing on these small, yet valuable pieces of cinema, the easier part - ten of the most memorable recent features, ranging from weird arthouse to commercial flicks which I found immensely enjoyable despite low expectations.


1. The Bottomless Bag (Rustam Khamdamov, 2017)
2. Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway (Miguel Llansó, 2019) 
3. Diner (Mika Ninagawa, 2019)
4. The Gangster, The Cop, The Devil (Won Tae-Lee, 2019)
5. Altered Carbon: Resleeved (Takeru Nakajima & Yoshiyuki Okada, 2020)
6. Birds of Prey and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn (Cathy Yan, 2020)
7. The Manslayer/The Virgin/The Shadow (Sulev Keedus, 2017)
8. To Your Last Death (Jason Axinn, 2019)
9. Swallow (Carlo Mirabella-Davis, 2019)
10. Underwater (William Eubank, 2020)

And now, arranged in four categories, top 40 out 100+ shorts watched in March.

MUSICAL INTERLUDE


1. Never Forever (Lily X. Wahrman, 2013)
2. Coma (Pedro Cornetta, 2013)
3. El Búho - Aguas Claras (Víctor Hugo Espejo & Jessica Lopez, 2018)
4. Spiritbox - Blessed Be (Versa Films, 2020)

NOT ALL TOONS ARE FOR KIDS


1. Two Grim Ravens (Mihajlo Dragaš, 2019)
2. The Past Inside the Present (James Siewert, 2016)
3. The External World (David O’Reilly, 2011)
4. The Burden (Niki Lindroth von Bahr, 2017)
5. There Were Four of Us (Cassie Shao, 2019) (trailer)
6. How to Disappear (Merlin Flügel, 2011)
7. Flut (Malte Stein, 2018)
8. Schirkoa (Ishan Shukla, 2016)
9. Shehr e Tabassum (Arafat Mazhar, 2020)
10. The Ride (Huh Hyunjung, 2019) (trailer)
11. Symbiosis (Nádja Andrasev, 2019) (official page)
12. Familiar Strangers (Murat Sayginer, 2020)
13. Granny (Sandro Katamashvili, 2013)

CINE-LAB REVERIES


1. Witches Walk (Daniel & Clara, 2012)
2. Me the Seagull and the Sky (Chris O’Neill, 2012)
3. }Oo( (A.J. Gomez, 2016)
4. Soul Cages (Phillip Barker, 2000)
5. Zang Tumb Tumb (Tias Banerjee, 2018)
6. Night People (Daniel Fawcett, 2000)
7. 3 Dreams of Horses (Mike Hoolboom, 2018)
8. The Walking Ink (Thomas Barndt, 2006)
9. Image of Myself as Act (Wolfgang Lehmann, 2002)
10. Sightings (Kent Tate, 2013)
11. Mindscapes (Muriel Paraboni, 2018)
12. Astrology (Brittany Gravely, 2018)
13. Cassette (Péter Lichter, 2011)

MELANCHOLIA / ANTI-UTOPIA


1. The Process (Vallo Toomla, 2010)
2. 2045 (Maja Prelog & Blaž Murn, 2016)
3. The Day the Beans Ran Out (Guðný Rós Þórhallsdóttir, 2018)
4. Parachutes (Wendy Pillonel, 2012)
5. The Forest (Lia Tsalta, 2017) (trailer)
6. Jana (Freddie Favar, 2018)
7. Habana (Edouard Salier, 2014)
8. Submarine (Mounia Akl, 2016)
9. Bon Appétit (Erenik Beqiri, 2017)
10. Nation Estate (Larissa Sansour, 2013)

30 Mar 2020

Smrt majke Jugovića / Two Grim Ravens (Mihajlo Dragaš, 2019)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼


Borrowing motifs from the Serbian epic poem Smrt majke Jugovića (lit. The Death of the Mother of Jugovitch), Mihajlo Dragaš delivers a hyper-stylized animated short which bridges the gap between tradition and modernity with great ease. Meticulous in its execution, Two Grim Ravens boasts extraordinarily rendered imagery whose bleakness, grittiness and mythological grandeur are befitting of the (heartbreaking) written source.

The titular heroine's unimaginable pain and sorrow caused by the death of her nine sons and their father, but suppressed deep within her, behind the deceptive facade of a strong and stoic woman, are depicted as a surreal emotional journey comparable to a heavy dream. A wordless affair (apart from the opening epigraph), this tragic fantasy or rather, a harrowing ode to all mothers struggling with the loss of their children relies on the power of stark visuals which blend the designs inspired by the medieval Orthodox icons with desaturated color palette and dense shadows of pointillist-like quality. Perfectly complementing them and establishing the immersive, melancholic atmosphere is the solemn, evocative score composed by the author himself. 

The film is available on the official YouTube channel of Film Center Serbia.

28 Mar 2020

Night People (Daniel Fawcett, 2000)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼


Appearing as a lost (and cursed?) artifact of the 80s underground cinema, Night People is a fascinating early experiment by one half of the creative duo Daniel & Clara (In Search of the Exile, The Kingdom of Shadows). Mostly shot in the dark, it makes great use of VHS fuzzy textures and gradually pulls the viewer into a fading and mysterious world of vampiric shadows and pareidolia-inducing mindscapes. As the gritty, opaque imagery trembles before your eyes, dissolving into the stuff that half-remembered nightmares are made of, the haunting, uncanny score burrows deep into your subconscious, and captures the essence of the unperceivable along the way. Largely experiential and undoubtedly extremely personal, this piece of 'glitch gothic' could also be seen as a cine-alchemical ritual through which the inner demons are invoked to be faced and purified...

26 Mar 2020

Altered Carbon: Resleeved (Takeru Nakajima & Yoshiyuki Okada, 2020)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼


A spin-off of Netflix's Altered Carbon TV series (which this writer is not familiar with), Nakajima and Okada's feature debut is a brilliantly cheesy throwback to both action and cyberpunk anime of the last century's final two decades, with the emphasis being on violent, impressively choreographed clashes between the heroes and the baddies. Taking you into a neon-lit, Blade Runner-like world of the terraformed planet Latimer where physical death is almost impossible thanks to the 'resleeving' technology, it follows a burly ex-Envoy, Takeshi Kovacs, on his mission of protecting a young tattooist, Holly, while investigating a yakuza organization (and their fishy succession ritual), alongside an agent of the UN's Colonial Tactical Assault Corps, Reileen (whose looks seem to be a loving homage to the Ghost in the Shell heroine).


The simple story and characters don't come any more B-movie-esque, so if you expect something along the lines of a serious meditation on consciousness moving from one body to another, you're likely to be disappointed. Although the human longing for immortality is the major theme here, it's the blood-letting hacking and bone-crunching brawling where this anime truly shines, as previously mentioned. Yes, the CG-animation tends to be a bit rough and video-gamey around the edges, but that's excusable, considering the directors' backgrounds, and I won't add 'inexperience', because they must've seen a good share of old-school actioners. On the other hand, the characters and backgrounds are beautifully designed, and the linework of cel-shaded models lends a retro, comic-book feel to the otherwise glossy visuals. Also praiseworthy is the propelling, yet unobtrusive music score by Keigo Hoashi and Kuniyuki Takahashi who add some Japanese traditional vibes to the neo-classical mix, entering into the Kenji Kawai mode during the closing credits.

25 Mar 2020

Seven 77 (Nikola Gocić, 2020)


Dark and elliptical, my third 'motion picture book' Seven 77 borrows motifs from the Snow White fairy tale, and injects them into a lyrical (non)narrative. Veiled in melancholic drones of Tearpalm's brilliant ambient track Gorka krv (lit. Bitter Blood), it depicts a strange, fragile world inside the mirror. Available on my official Vimeo channel.

Кафена кашичица ДАДА-раствора на дан

О, Мистеријо Мозга, изађи из кухиње
у касно подне је обрачун испред гнезда гнева

кх, кх, кх, љљљ,

а изнад неба, изнад неба у три потеза
трин'ест лицемера играју коло

прво поп, па поп, па поп, и на крају трт

ко узме птицу из бурета без дна
и (р)еволуцију за реп
и кашику меда наште

а фискални рачун у ђубре! 

20 Mar 2020

Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway (Miguel Llansó, 2019)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼


Inspired by the 70s kung fu films and tokusatsu shows, B-actioners of the Cold War era and arcade video games of the 80s, as well as by whatnots of anyone who was growing up during the final two decades of the 20th century, Jesus Shows You the Way to the Highway is just as bonkers as its title sounds. Oh, it's also one of the most hilariously brilliant pieces of genre-subverting, borderline experimental cinema!


Directed by Miguel Llansó (Crumbs) who must've had a whale of a time filming it, this Afrofuturistic smörgåsbord takes the world within world concept and twists it to the point where suspension of disbelief is stretched so much that you just surrender yourself to the frequently surprising flow and drift far away. It's impossible to tell where the VR network called Psychobook (now, this sounds familiar) ends, and where the reality of CIA agents based in Tallinn, Estonia, begins... or if that reality is real at all.


And the story goes something like this - a computer virus, 'Soviet Union', represented by an avatar wearing a paper Stalin mask threatens to destroy Psychobook (where everybody moves as if in a Švanmajer's stop-motion fantasy), so agents D.T. Gagano (Daniel Tadesse) and Palmer Eldritch (Agustín Mateo) have to jump into the matrix, so to say, and disinfect it. While there, they wear the faces of Richard Pryor and Robert Redford, respectively, but posing as celebrities won't help them in completing the mission which turns into a trap involving Batman's evil doppelgänger Batfro who rules Beta Ethiopia and whose (Italian) right-hand man goes by the moniker of Mr. Sofistication...


But wait until you meet the messiah in one of numerous subplots that unexpectedly and unapologetically break or rather, expand the film's inner logic, plunging the viewer ever deeper into the arcane, everything but the kitchen sink dimension of Llansó's wild and weird creation. (Did I mention a transvestite captain and a Shaolin monk guarding the Ark of the Covenant?) Simultaneously poker-faced and with his tongue concealed in his cheek, he tackles a wide range of topics, from fascist governments to virtual escapism to pizza mastery, and demonstrates an enviable skill in lending gravitas to campy, pop culture-infused shenanigans that his sophomore feature brims with. Paying homage to the abovementioned influences, his delightfully grainy 16mm visuals and quaint special effects are flawlessly complemented by dubbed voices and discordant jazz score which doesn't shy away from going me(n)tal once Jesus enters the scene.

At the end, one is left wondering what possibly could be the next step in the author's artistic evolution...