Thursday, 5 September 2013
The most important time of the year is nigh, and the Helsinki International Film Festival is almost upon us. There are more than 300 films on display there, so many readers might have a hard time choosing what to see. I did a short list on Twitter, but since Tweets tend to get lost in the waves of the sea of information, I got requests to do more. So, blogging is a bit more substantial. Here's my top 10 tips.
1. The Life of Adélé, parts 1 & 2 (a.k.a. Blue Is The Warmest Color)
Dir. Abdellatif Kechiche
Ever since this film debuted in Cannes to the ecstatic reactions of French film aficionados, there's been little doubt that this comic book adaptation about a girl's first love (that happens to be another woman) would be perhaps THE biggest event movie of the year. The fact that this 3-hour mammoth was chosen as the opening film of the festival seems to confirm this notion. I simply cannot wait.
At the moment, the official Finnish premiere date of the film is 13th December.
Dir. Alexander Payne
Payne is back to doing what he does best, so this is another tragi-comical road trip through America, starring a curmudgeonly old man (Bruce Dern), and his estranged, clueless middle-aged son (Will Forte). Maybe this is Payne going through the motions, but he hasn't failed me yet, so I won't miss this.
3. Stories We Tell
Dir. Sarah Polley
After seeing the brilliant Take This Waltz last year, I became convinced that the future belongs to Sarah Polley. The biggest young hope American cinema has, has directed a documentary about her own family, about her actress mother who died at an early age, and her foster parents. Reports have so far said the film is sufficiently warm without being schmaltzy, so I'm in.
Dir. Pablo Larraín
Mark Kermode has been raving about this story, based on true facts, about an ad executive running a campaign against the Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet. An exciting political thriller, with a story almost too weird to be true. Yes.
Dir. Park Chan-Wook
This was almost a DVD premiere here, but luckily we also get a cinema screening or few of the Korean mastermind Park's first English language film. And a good thing too, since Park's slow-moving films are always best screened at a theatre, not at home. This twisted, dry horror-comedy seems very intriguing, but I've been avoiding reading too much about the plot.
6. Sightseers / A Field In England
Dir. Ben Wheatley
Two new films from the genre-bashing English director have generated plenty of positive buzz. I liked Kill List plenty, although did not hail it as good as many others. But from what I've heard, the director has just gotten more unpredictable, twisted and skillful since. These are also films I figure it's best not to know too much beforehand.
7. The Act Of Killing - Director's Cut
Dirs. Joshua Oppenheimer, Christine Cynn, Anonymous
In what's surely to be the most talked-about documentary of the year, we get a chance to look the closest appromination of human evil straight in the eye. Indonesian death squad leaders talk about their past homicides and cruelties open, as if there was nothing wrong with it.
The TV version of the film will be shown in Finland in YLE TV2's Docventures series on 6th of November. The version at Love & Anarchy is the longer Director's Cut, and director Joshua Oppenheimer will also be present at several screenings.
8. Monsoon Shootout
Dir. Amit Kumar
HIFF doesn't really offer as many groovy exotic action movies these days as it did in its heyday. But from this year's crop, it's easy to pick this Indian cop thriller as the most promising one. This is no Bollywood song-and-dance number. It's based on true brutal police shootings, but doesn't spare on the guns, bullets and chase scenes. Yeah!
9. Bastards (Les salauds)
Dir. Claire Denis
This French movie won the audience award at Midnight Sun Film Festival this year. This is another depressing crime flick, but those thrillers seem to be the most interesting when all of its main characters are several levels of assholes. Morally grey is the way to go, and I trust Denis's experience as a director.
10. The Past / The Future
Dir. Asghar Farhadi / Alicia Scherson
Here's a bit of a cheat, but considering the names of these two films, I couldn't resist putting them to the same slot. The Past is A Separation's director Farhadi's latest film. It's a Mystery film about a runaway Iranian man to return home after a long absence to find his wife remarried. It seems Farhadi has another story of the difficulty of maintaining a nuclear family, even in a state that officially warrants it. If you liked Farhadi's previous film, it seems you can't go wrong with this one.
The Future is the story of two idling teenagers, off to a criminal path, until they come across the former muscle movie hero Maciste. The latter is played by Rutger Hauer himself. It seems the film has plenty of Neo Noir influences, but it appears to be hard to grasp, which always makes for an intriguing experience.
So are you Traditional or a Futurist? Never mind, I'm sure you'll find plenty to see at Love & Anarchy. The entire programme is now open at the official web site.
Monday, 2 September 2013
Last week saw the 70th birthday of Underground Comix legend Robert Crumb, master of hilarious, perverted, crazy, borderline insane, subtle, life-like and musical comics - using often many of these stylistic choices in the same strip. That's why I thought it would be kind of cool to pay tribute by taking a look at two comic book movies about underground artists - one a documentary, one fictional, that's still a part documentary. Crumb is of course featured in both of them.
I got to say, I'd like to see more underground comic book movies. Let's hope someday the Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers stop motion animation movie Grass Roots will be completed.
Dir. Terry Zwigoff
Terry Zwigoff's extensive R. Crumb doc is held in high esteem, and for a good reason. Not only does it provide insight on the mind of an artist, it also features characters colorful enough that the feel like they would've jumped out of Crumb's own comix. The most interesting ones are Robert's two eccentric brothers, Charles and Maxon, reclusive and tragic figures who resemble some aspects of their brother and his neuroses, but whose life took to entirely different paths. The film is called Crumb and it certainly doesn't just refer to the famous one, but the whole family.
The movie is dedicated to the memory of Charles Crumb, who died prior the release, but is interviewed here. He had immense artistic talent as a young boy, maybe even moreso than his brother. His odd obsessions with Treasure Island are dealt with, as well as his more and more obsessive behavior, which results to his art getting too experimental for its own good. Interviewed here, Charles is a husk of a man, a mama's boy who never managed to become his own man. It's tragic that a promising artist never takes off, and doubly so if it results in bitterness and melancholy for the rest of his life.
The film was not an easy shoot, and took six years to make. Zwigoff had stress about funding, but his friendship with the main character helped to pull him through. It also shows on the screen. R. Crumb himself is also a bit of an introvert, and probably wouldn't have been as open with another director. But here he is frank and honest about his work, process and life in general.
|And also that time he posed with women for a porn magazine shoot.|
Dirs. Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini
Crumb also does collaborations from time to time, and the most famous of these is illustrating the scripts written by his friend, the bitter file clerk Harvey Pekar. His comics always tell about one thing and one thing only: Harvey Pekar. Pekar is a complete contrast to your superheroes or high adventurers of typical comics, as he lives a somewhat mundane life and just does observations and musings on that. He does manage to make good humor out of that, and make his ordeals feel identifiable. The title American Splendor may be ironic, but in some ways, it is also perfectly apt.
Pekar is the furthest from being a sell-out cartoonist this side of Bill Watterson. The film feels like his story, in that it's your regular A-B-C life story. The basics are there, but in addition to that, there are small skits from the pages of the comic, animated sequences, the viewpoint goes over to his nerdy friend Toby for a while, and most confusingly, there are documentary bits with the real-life Harvey Pekar and his wife. These scenes have some retrospective views on the things just shown in the main storyline. Most of the movie Harvey's being played by Paul Giamatti.
The comics in this film are an outlet for the neurotic Giamatti to let off some steam and come to terms with things. A key scene features Harvey and Toby (Judah Friedlander) arguing over the merits of the college comedy Revenge of the Nerds. Do the downtrodden need a story which allows them to be the heroes for one day, even if the movie is by-the-numbers lint? Is the need to identify oneself so strong? (For the record, I like Revenge of the Nerds)
This gives an idea of a chaotic film, but there is weird synchronicity here. The grumpy Pekar just does his thing, bit by bit. That's why he wouldn't want to have a moral on his story, but the film does make one. Even though life may seem boring, chaotic, unobtainable and hard, looking at the long run, all the various patches and places do form some sort of a story. It may not be a grand, adventurous story of making a change or doing something spectacular, but then most of us are everymen. It is interesting to hear about another one once in a while. Particularly if the movie is funny to boot. Which this is.