Nov 21, 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'.

Nov 16, 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.

Nov 14, 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...

Nov 9, 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.

Nov 5, 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...

Nov 3, 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.

Nov 1, 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...