Thursday, October 12, 2006

Manufactured Landscapes

Manufactured Landscapes is an art film, no not that kind, that follows Canadian landscape photographer Edward Burtynsky as he travels in China photographing factories, waste recycling, demolition, real estate devolopment, and the 3 Gorges Dam. Many of the photos in the movie have been published in his recent book Manufactured Landscapes.

The movie begins with a long dolly shot in a factory. The factory, World Factory is divided int number of bays clustered around slow moving conveyor belts with 50 or 250 working at each. The dolly shot looks down each of bays, then another one, then another one, then another one, then another one, then another one, then another one. Every bay has production and manufacture going on quietly anbd steadily. But not alot of mechanization or automation. The value added and productivity is low per worker with the cheapness of life of labor/life making up the difference. Later as we watch an iron on the assembly line we watch another iron being sorted out of a scrap metal pile by hand. Piles of scrap metal, toys, plastic, and electronic components being carefully sifted by hand.

There is some ambuguity of these images. There can be read both as evidence of the criminal abuse of our planet's delicate ecology. That other way is to view as the socialist realism (or capitalist realism, advertising) paegns to the productivity and growth and economy and other great things. I am sure that in order shoot in China they didn't emphasis the negative. In fact there is a discussion/agruement in the film between Burtynsky, the film crew and Chinese authorities over shooting pictures at a coal shipping depot. The agruement is only captured with stills and recordings, the main cameras turned off maybe. The images even of this stygian locale show both destruction and production, hope and despair.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Life on Mars

Have not many of us been one step away from being permemently esconced in rubber rooms. I know in my last period of mental derangement I looked at corkboards for entertainment. It has been described as walking dreams, difficulty as always in dreams is separate the "real" reality and reality your mind has constructed.

Sam Tyler is a cop, a DCI in Manchester. He is a on the murder squad. He the very model of the modern policeman. He is a stiff. He is by the book following ever tittle and jot of regulations. He suspends his girlfriend from an investigation because she is beginning to "lose her objectivity" That is now. Then Sam Tyler ends up in the past in the '70's, where he also has a identity of a cop. He is back working in the same building as a DI. He back in the past filled with violent, racist cops. The series is a stranger in a strange land working as a cop.

We forget how CSI would be science-fiction not that far in the past. In CSI the one part of a city police departmant is able to do things that only well funded national organizations. At one point in the first episode Sam is told that the it will take two weeks to get a fingerprint match back from London. Without computerization fingerprint matching is long, tedious and expensive in money and manpower. DNA may have been known but DNA matching as a diognostic or forensic tool took a long time to develop.

There is a question about where is Sam. Is the entire series taking place in the past. Is the everythimg just a figment of a brian in shutdown. In the recent Sopranos series Tony was in an alternative timeline where he was a computer salesman. In those episodes there was no doubt that Tony was in a coma. In Mars there is enough doubt that either places, 2006 or 1973 is in some ways a figment of imagination. This was similarly handled in Star Trek DS9 in Far Beyond The Stars, where Benjamin Sisko ended up in the past as Benny Russel who's only connection to "reality" is the sci fi stories he writes about a space station. In the end he believes so fervently in his DS9 life that he is commited. As Benny/Benjamin is taken away on the disoriented express he is told that he is the dreamer and dream. After watching the entire first series I am still unclear what is the reality and what is the dream.

Saturday, September 23, 2006


Princess is a disturbing movie that looks at the porn business and child abuse. It is the story of a man, August, who becomes the guardian of his niece, Mia, after his sister dies. The sister had the stage name of Princess. It begins with disturbing a scene and continues with many disturbing scenes and images. Take a look at the image above. It is the memorial for Princess, August's sister and Mia 's mother. The columns may have the right proprotions that Vitruvius specified but are a little too anatomical.

It begins with a man in a dogcollar, a priest, waking into a suburban bungalow. There the priest is confronted by a pregnant woman being being filmed having sex with multiple partners. The priest we later learn is August, the woman is his sister Princess. When the movie starts again after the credits it is 6 years later and Princess has died. After becoming the guardian of Mia his niece, August becomes aware of how Mia as a child has been sexualized by being around her mother and her friends. She has also been abused. August has picked up Mia from a brothel, he can't be too surprised.

Mia increasing exhibits evidence of abuse. Mia sees some kids playing outside the apartmant building and joins them. It is a group of 4 children who already have a Mommy a Daddy, a baby, a dog. Mia asks what see can play, the little girl playing the Mommy, the bossy one, says you can't have more then one dog or baby. Mia says great I'll be the family whore and starts undressing. The little girl playing the mother says may you can be a dog or a cat. Mia continues to disrobe as some boys watch. August notices this runs down to the square and breaks a little boy's arm. This is not the last time August is violent.

August asks that the Princess's videos and other products be recalled. Luckily he knows the the head of Paradise Lust. His initial requests are ignored so August goes on a bombing compaign. The police are not cooperative, even after ears are ripped off. After August finds out that Mia was abused by a Paradise Lust manager he brings her along to interogate the molester. Mia uses a lead pipe to the crotch to get answers. The subject becomes cooperative, however Mia decides to do smash his brains in again, again, again. There is another meeting with the big boss of the of Paradise Lust. The meeting is an ambush and August turns into commando priest leaving the restaurant a bloody mess. Now the police care.

The source for all the crazy anger of August is eventually revealed through the flashbacks of videotape. Spoiler: August was friends with the big boss of Paradise Lust. The company was built with the Princess tapes. August was his sister's first cameraman. He was responsible.

The design of this film is a combination of live action and animation. The humans are stylized with a slight anime edge. Many of the backgrounds are drafted with an architectural rigor. Sometimes the buildings appeared to based on real locations. The remenisces of August are in the form of videotape. The live action is always a videotape memory. The opening sequence is consists of words and images, then the camera zooms way out, and the words appear to part of the pixelation you see in four-color printing. When the camera pulls all the back the printing is commercial porn.

What I learned: Videotape is forever so don't do porn.

Seraphim Falls

Seraphim Falls is a story that illustrates the phrase "I'll hunt you down to the ends of the earth." It is a revenge story. A man is hunted by another man intent on murder, revenge? Along the way the hunted and the hunter(s) come accross a wide variety of humanity. The chance met fellow travelers becomes more and more metaphorical as the trip continues. They ride around groups concerned with the now and the hereafter. They both meet the three thieves. On the edge of the desert is the keeper of the water. Deep in the desert is the professional liar.

The reason for the vendetta is that SPOILER the hunted, union officer Gideon, led a company to scour the farm of a the chief hunter, rebel officer Col Craver. In the process of chastising the reb the barn is fired, this catches the farmhouse on fire. The burning farmhouse consumes Craver's family, wife, son and baby. This causes a degree of resentment and anger.

This is a traditional western in the wide open spaces. There is an important art direction change. Many westerns are set in the same landscape. Many westerns have been filmed in Monument Valley. Even though the images of this area is spectactual so many movies filmed in the same area adds to much history and context to each shot. This film allows the landscape to tell the story. The story begins in the up in the mountains is chased down to foothills to the the plains and finallly to the salt flats of the dead desert..

There is a historical inconsistancy at the heart of the film. There was a lot destruction in Georgia but much of was done during the war not afterwards in the mopping up. This damage was part of a legal assault on the slave state. When Sherman was famously Marching Accross Georgia there was a wholesale wreckage of property and infrastructure. Not just the destruction of tranportation links like railroads and bridges but also the agriculture infrastructue of farms, barns and farmhouses were all, after being looted, burned. All this ruination was not the result of outlaw actions by uncontrolled(able) troops a but a legal method of denying resources to the enemy.

What I learned: It is better to wipe out a family or clan then leave someone alive to take vengence on you.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

This is England

This is England is an story of a little kid who ends up hanging around with much older skinheads. We first see the Shaun trying to fit in at school. He is at the ackward stage of not being a little kid and not being a teenager. He has not being having a happy time of it generally. His father was just killed in the Falklands War and he and his mother is grieving. After being picked on all day he is wandering home and reacts badly to a group of skinheads questioning him. His grit impresses them and soon he hanging out with them. Dressing like them. He gets his head shaved. He has a wonderful hanging out with his new friends. He gets a girlfriend. His mother does meet with the her son's friends and finds them , lead by Woody essentially good natured and postive. She leaves Shaun with them. Shaun's mother buys him boots. He has heart set on Doc Martins the shoe salleswoman convinces the ones she has in stock and that fits Shaun are evener better because they come from London. "All the best boots come from London". So far so happy, unfortunately a little too much reality begins to intrude. Combo a friend of Woody and the other skinheads arrives back after doing time. Combo iss accompanied by an other ex-con and a violent racist agenda.

The happy group of skin heads now fractures as Combo wants to go down a more political route of surporting the National Front as street fighters. Most of the group leaves with Woody. Shaun stays. The group goes on a road trip to see a National Front speaker, the politician pulls up in a much nicer car than any one else. Eventually Combo perpetuates violence that alienates Shaun. Shaun returns to merely being a kid.

Even through Combo is an violent ex-con his accent kept convincing me of his postive intentions. He sounded like Dave Lister, he even looked a little him. Depite all the creepy weird things that Combo was saying or the violence he still seen a little charismatic because of the voice. There is also something attractive about extremism and easy answers of slogans.

The movie begins with a montage from 1982. The scenes of destruction and war in the Falklands are prominent. There is also footage of popular music, tv and other newstories. All of the war news is important to Shaun the kid. We only see 2 pictures of Shaun's dad. The one we see most often is the father in his uniform with his face shadowed. Once we see a picture of Shaun and his dad at the seashore, a happy, less grim image.

What I learned: There are worst things than growing up in a small town.


Alatriste is a movie that is based on a series of novels set in Spain's Golden Century. The movie spawls accross 23 years. According to Wikipedia the first 5 novels spawl over 4 or 5 years. There is too much plot dealt with, more than can fit in 2 1/2 hours. The movie spawls so much as to cut off the possibility of any more movies with the same character. As it is combines the plots of several of the books are stirred together with extra time. The movie begins with Alatriste and his comrades wading through chest high water, a canal, to assault a Dutch field battery. Then Alatriste is back in Madrid recieving a contract with a Sicilian, hmm hiring a Sicilian hitman, to do a whacking. The targets turnout to be the Duke of Buckingham and the Prince of Wales, later the idiot king Charles I. Alatriste refuses to complete the contract thereby earning the enemity of his employer, an inquisitor. For the rest of the movie Alatriste is either at war, being successful, or in Madrid constantly being schemed against by his enemies. The movie finally ends in a glorious defeat that prevents any hope of a sequel.

Spain's Golden Century was a time when the Spanish empire, because of incompetent accounting, would go bankrupt every couple of years. It was a not a especially happy time. The easy money of the Americas was creating inflation and discouraging industry, agriculture and commerce. Extra cash was going into the coffers of the rich, the Church and to fund a long pointless war against Holland. Holland, the enemy nation, benefited more from the treasure fleets because it had a fuctioning banking sector. Let us not forget the Spanish Inquistion, as an arm of the state, discourged intellectual talent and inquiry. Spain's Golden Century was the high point that justified the stupidity, incompetence and religious bigotry that continued in Spain down almost to our time.

This is the story of a professional soldier who is as skilled in the arts of wars as he is unsuited to peace. Alatriste is talented and deadly. A leader who can inspire on the battlefield and make men do great things. Never an officer, not a nobleman, at best he is a senior NCO obeyed by soldiers, deferred to by officers. This type of character can easily become kind of literary bully boy, the boring winner. The trick about this kind of character, as Bernard Cornwell the Sharpe writer has writen is to give him enemies on his own side. At war he is safe, the other army may only shoot in his general direction. While peace endangers him, allows his enemies to plot and hire knives. The other techinique in this type of story is to keep the Hero broke and wounded.

The art direction of this movies owes alot to the painters and paintings of the period. The Dutch scenes have the kind of of misty half light as in the Night Watch. The Spanish scenes are replete with stagings and setting dirrectly out of Velázquez. There are paintings that are adorn the walls of nobles at court that are of its time. And in one notable sequence the the painting The Surrender of Breda is used as a basis of a scene, we later also see the painting as well.

What I learned from this film: The knife in the back is more deadly than the frontal assault.

The Fountain

I was supposed to go to this film this afternoon. I missed it because the ticket was printed wrong and even through I recieved the email below I still forget to exchange the ticket or to note on the ticket the correct day. Instead I went home and slept.
Dear Sir/Madam:

You may have received a ticket for the film The Fountain screening on September 14th which incorrectly stated the screening date. Please note that correct screening date and time are as follows:

Thursday, September 14th, 2006 at 3:00pm at the Ryerson Theatre.

If you have received a misprinted ticket then your ticket will still be honoured at the Ryerson Theatre on the day of the screening. If you wish you may have your ticket re-printed with the correct information at either the Festival Box Office at College Park or the Year Round Box Office at the Manulife Centre.

We apologize for the inconvenience.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Abandoned

One of the writers of the film before the screening told his own personal horror story. The writer was/is staying at the Delta Chelsea a few doors down from where some people were murdered. At 5 am he was woken up by ETF cops banging on his door. the ETF cops in full gear with assault rifles. He was questioned if he heard anything and told to stay in his room. He stuck his head a while later and asked a cop what was going on and was told to watch TV. After flipping around he found the story about 2 Germans and one Switzer killed in the room next door. When the writer was escorted off the floor to a new room, the hallway is filled with policemen. On the walls of the hallway was smeared blood. This is the appropriate introduction to a horror film.

The Abandoned is a ghost story. An American film executive is lured to small town where she is told she has inherited a house. And if she isn't interested ine house,there she will information about her mother. The house is isolated deep in the countryside. She hires a truck to get there. Things then go bad.

This is a movie that is representive of international cinema. The dicrector is Catalan, the writers are English and Spanish, it is filmed in English and Russian set in Russia and shot in Bulgaria andon a Spanish soundstage.

If there is one disappointment for me is that the horror, the horror movie could have been set in almost any country or culture. Spoiler: The core of the horror is family murder, which could happen every where. I want to see a film that focuses on some the horrors spawned by the Czars, Lenin and especially Stalin. I have seen one horror film that directly dwells on Soviet horror, The Chekist. The Chekist is about the work of the secret policemen. So 90% of the film is executions.

There is an odd inconsistency at the heart of the film. Because of the policies of collectivization , the liquidation of the Kulaks and the general official attitude towards inherited wealth there is very little likelyhood that an estate, or farm would be held in probate for forty years. Or would be allowed to become heritable property. The set up is almost like those Nigerian scams that show up in your mailbox. "You have won, inherited, given, something large and valuable there is only a few fees and technicalities to go through before you recieve your stuff. And by way please sign some legal documents in language you don't understand."

What I learned: Always bring your own lawyer.

Mon Colonel

The Algerian War of Independence was a messy protracted affair with a bad reputation of being not only a lost cause but a bad cause. The idea of a "liberation struggle" failed to understand the reasons that the French was in North Africa in the first place. They were there in order to prevent jihad. Before they went in there Algiers was center of a cesspool of piracy and slavery, murder and rape, or jihad, that threatened the entire Mediterranean. It was only after Muslim pirates were put down did the Mediterranean become as safe as it was in Roman times. However, there were and are elements of French society that oppose France's civilizing mission in North Africa. This segment has become culturally dominent after the defeatism of WWII. On another aside I saw the Battle of Algiers at the festival some years back. It convinced me that the French were right to resist the tyranny of muslim rule in North Africa in particular and generally anywhere in the world. We should all resist it. This film also convinced me that the French were doing the right thing by being in North Africa.

The movie is about overly sensitive young lawyer who volenteers after a failed love affair. He ends up in the small algerian town of Saint Etienne as a Lt. Lt Guy Rossi is assigned by his new CO Col Duplan to set out a legal way that the army can act with extra police powers in the pursuit of the terrorists. Initial investigations are successful eventually the hunt for the terrorists expands over much more of the town. And the fight is against terrorist, there are numerous terror incidents depicted. A public square is grenaded, an informer murdered and a cafe bombed. Practices that are commonly seen today. Only the suicide bombers are missing.

The torture and intergation was handed much more professionally than as depicted in The Wind That Shakes The Barley. Every thing was legal. The interogations were preformed calmly with the "absence of malice". A doctor is called afterwards to give a clean bill of health. The torture techniques are mainly electroshock and inmersion. Some other more routine police techniques are used such as obtaining confessions by saying that a prisoner's comrade has already confessed. There is also a reference to a book writen by parachute chaplain that the Spanish Inquistion help protect Christianity from schism. There were no Spanish Protestants or any other variety of free thinker for that matter until Napoleanic times.

The are a two Pieds-Noir in the film. Both are depicted badly. There is the local police chief in Saint Etienne who is joyously corrupy and brutal. There is the school teacher who is befriended by Rossi. The school teacher is a traitor who collaborates with the terrorists, and continues to do so even after he loses an arm in a grenade atttack. The Pieds-Noir are not mainly of French extraction by also come from a variety of Christian Mediterranean backgrounds. After the French abandoned Algeria nearly all of the non-muslim population left within months.

Question I didn't ask: If the French had to get out of Algeria isn't it reasonable that a some point the Algerians should get out of France. I didn't ask this question because I could sense a lot of "anti-colonialism" in the audinence. Also I was wearing a trench coat and a beret. I did not people to assume I was farther right than I am.

What I learned: Even legality doesn't make it feel right.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Falkenberg Farewell

The world is urbanizing and greying like no other time in history. In the past the limit on city growth was the higher death than birthrate. Cities had to recruit from towns and villages or fall status of towns or villages. In our time cities are recruiting and because of the birth rate has fallen towns and villages have a smaller part. The other problem for small towns is that a lot less people are needed for the various extractive industries then in the past.

The small town depicted in this film, Falkenberg, is a beautiful place. It has plenty of room. It has beaches. It is a wonderful place to raise children in, live in or retire to. However there is not enough to keep young people there. The characters that we follow are thirty. They are still stuck post-adolesence adolesence. They mouch/mope around. They sleep too much or not enough they spend a lot of time playing computer games. It sounds a little bit like my life. The aimless hanging out continues for most of the film until a character eats a shotgun blast.

However after looking at the wiki entry for this town I see that town is more of a small city at 38K in size. It is about 3 hours from Copenhagen and 90 minutes from Göteborg, Sweden's 2nd largest city.

What I learned: Don't commit suicide or people will make fun of you, or I will.


Macbeth is a gangster story. Every gangster story I have seen is the story about the rise and fall of one criminal / murderer. The collapse of hope is necessary because the gangster story is trying to teach us about human frailty, we are all gonna die. The loss at the end of the story is a neccessary conterpoint to fleeting joy earlier. The other message is that treachery is in all our hearts. Trust no one.

The other great Shakespearian gangster story is Richard III. A guy whacks his brother, "protects" his nephews, marries his sister-in-law, has success, finally falls to another thug. The thing about Shakespear's plays is that most of the histories and tragedies that deal with the struggle for power could easily be described as "gangster stories". This movie is at least the fifth movie version of "mafia Macbeth".

This is an adaption. The director defended his process of cutting and pasting by explaining that much of the play, as written, is made to fit the requirements and standards of The Lord Chamberlain's Men. Shakespear wrote for a large company that all needed the work. Most of the lords except for Banquo and Malcolm have been merged into two or three characters. The re arranging is justified as something that the bard, as a working stage director as well as playwright would understand. The words themselves remain. There is no rewritting of the actual words, unlike in some other adaptations.

This is a pleasantly gory Macbeth. Sometimes gun battles can be staged to be more antiseptic than the hacking glory of sword work. The blood does need to be spilled in this story. The final gory battle between Malcolm and Macbeth is knockdown fight with guns, fists and knives. Cool.

What I learned: The police can be usefull allies in a gangland war.

Away from Her

There was a report last night that Gordon Pinsett collapsed at a party after the gala. At this time in the morning, 7 am, I have no infromation about the state of his health. I have expectations of this film. Sarah Polley has been a great actor, Pinsett is a legend. Normally when actors make the switch to behind the camera they make humam centered "actor movies", not over-produced special effects products extruded like playdoh from the crap factory.

The movie takes place in Alice Munro country, south western Ontario. We see Grant (Gordon Pinsett) and Fiona (Julie Christie) cross country skiing accross a lake to their cottage/home. For the past twenty years thay have had a marvelous Freedom 55 life with a beautiful home and great health and fitness. Then Fiona's mind starts going. She forgets, she misplaces things, she wanders. She has to be institutionalized. At this Grant is more resistant than Fiona. She accepts the end of her life in a beautiful lakeside cottage. She is moves to the facility. According to the rules Grant can see her, or contact her for thirty days.

When Grant returns after thirty days Fiona has forgotten him and has focused her attention on Aubrey, a mute in a wheelchair. Grant is hurt and continues to come everyday nourished by the small still voice of hope. All Fiona can sayis, "You are persistent".

There is a retired hockey play-by-play man in the home. He narrates everything. One time while Grant is visiting hoping that Fiona will remember him he is watching a hockey game a nd the resident play-by-play guy is better than the one on the broadcast. So he mutes the TV. Sarah Polley siad she inserted this character as a tribute to an uncle who was the play-by-play announcer for the Buffalo Sabres.

What I learned: I rather lose my body than my mind.

Monday, September 11, 2006


This movie was made by a combination marine biologist and underwater photographer Rob Stweart. He is what George Costanza pretended to be. The movie as originally concieved was going to be a typical nature documentry, or more ambitiously Baraka underwater. Unfortunately the reality intervened. Rob caught a ride south with one the Sea Shepherd Society and they come accross crimes on the sea.

The Sea Shepherd Society was founded by Paul Watson, one of the founders of Green Peace. This society operates sort of like pirates for the sea, look at their flag, with cooperation with local authorities if the locals are cooperative and not owned by criminal groups. In the Q&A afterward Watson had little good say about many countries, Canada, he described the marine biologists at DFO prostictists, because who give the results the dept, and industry, asks for.

Instead of making the cool underwater movie about sharks, fate intervened. Off the coast of Costa Rica the Sea Shepherd ship, The Ocean Warrior, comes accross a Guatemalan fishing boat taking shark fins. The Ocean Warrior calls the Costa Rican coast guard and is authorized to arrest the ship. The Guatemalan fishermen are uncooperative. The long lines are cut. A ramming attempted. A water cannon swamps the fishing until it agress to be towed. Unfortunately when the Ocean Warrior gets to San Jose, it is arrested, ship searched and crew put on ship arrest. Pay offs have been made by somebody some where. The rest of documentry is more a primer on eco politics and direct action.

What I learned: Sharks are not dangerous.


Shame is the story of a women who is gang raped to settle a dispute between her clan and a rival clan. When Mukhtaran Mai was raped, dishonored in her, her family, her town and her atttackers she was expected to commit suicide. This was the goal, a clan is dishonored and shrunk. She did attempt suicide but resolved to fight back. She went to the nearby city to the nearest police and attempted to lay charges. I have not been unfamilar with this case.

The documentry has been continiously filmed over the last 4 years. The huge stock of footage has allowed the director/editor flexibility.

What I found most interesting is the depiction of politics in a country after army coup. To me even through there has been no elections the Pakistani governemnt behaves in a normal politic manner. The documentry starts after Musharraf's coup. We see the government officials warning, praising, canjoling, orating, talking about new policies and inititives, all normal behavior. They also spin, spin, spin. There is one news conference that could be right out Yes, Minister. The government official is spinning the official line. At the same table Mukhtaran Mai is contrdicting every one of her statements. That scene gave me hope that despite Pakistan regular intervals of milltary rule and despotism there a converstaion between the governed and the governors.

Mukhtaran Mai was given some criminal victum compensation by the government. She used it start a school for girls in the village. She never got a chance to go to school. Her funds have since been suplemented by funding from goverments, NGO's and private individuals. there was coverage of a speech day at boys and girls schools. Several of the students feature belong to enemy clan that raped her. She able help all the children in her villiage even the ones she, like many people, would hate in association.

What I learned: Politics in a army run country is still politics.

What I forgot when I saw this movie: Pakistan is a country where many want to see rape as a form of adultery, for the victum, see news from this summer.

All the King's Men

I never saw or heard of the 1949 movie with the same name. I am more familar with the history of the Huey Long. A populist who gained power until whacked by a doctor. When the movie/novel of All the King's Men is a roman à clef about Huey Long. A roman à clef is neccessary when you need to disguise the subject, either because it is the author's own story or because of a depiction of power, influential people with power, influential lawyers. However at this point who truely cares about protecting the good name of Long. Normally the long dead, no pun, have no ranks of surporters to resist any libel, slander or truth that would damage a hero's reputation. Althrough a certain 7th century Arabian bandit still is defended by fans and followers.

Often movies are filmed to flatter the eye and make the world and its people in it more alive, handsome and beautiful. This film takes a different emphasis. Everybody in the film are shot with an ugly lens to emphasize the replusive human characteristics. Even the various poppies that governor tarries with are filmed this way. We see a figure skater at her "audition", she has a mustache, or noticable hair on upper lip.

Most of the upper class characters are played by Brits. They leve a more grander life than the hard scrabble existance of the countryside, where Willie Stark Fuller Brush salesman comes from. We see houses and apartments of the elite. The reporter Jack Burden and his childhood friend live in huge shabby genteel apartments filled with expensive leatherbound books. The two plantations houses we see, Jack's mother's and his godfather are lush and extensive. This is one the few American movies that accepts that upper class might not the same interests and prioities as every body else. Increased government spending is negatively for 2 reasons higher standards of living make labour costs more expensive and some of the new spending comes from individuals and business who don't want to pay. There is awareness that underneath the comtempt that the elite has for Willie Stark there is no little fear.

What I learned: Stay away from Lousianna, it is too class ridden.

Depressing Reality Day

Today was my day to be depressed by reality. Every thing I saw reflected the ugliness of the world as it is. The only light of hope was in a more about a women who judically raped. The other movies had happy messages about the futility of politics and impending extinction of Sharks.

The no joy day.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Jade Warrior

A confused barbarian movie that also tries to be philosophical.
Can't think right now. Full review latter.

The Ugly Duckling and Me

This movie is the story The Ugly Duckling crossed with the movie Midnight Cowboy. Both movies have a character named Ratso who has dreams of breaking into the big time by managing talent. Of course this is a kids movie and Midnight Cowboy was the only XRated film to win an oscar

The movie starts with Ratso the rat being chased through the streets of Copenhagen by some gangsters. Some kind of debt collection is in order. What the two heavies and their purple wig wearing leader is not revealed until the end. Spoiler: the Ratress in the purple wig is angry at Ratso because Ratso left her at the altar. She doesn't what him physically damaged but to so through with the wedding and thereafter inflict decades of phychological torture on Ratso. She backs out when she learns that Ratso is a parent, adopted.

The movie takes 3 different areas, Copenhagen, the duck farm and the carnival. There also the wilderness between all the areas. There are months of wandering around in a wilderness that in the end is not that large at all. Copenhagen is where ratso has problems. He falls off a train gets an egg and lands in a duck farm. He has to convince the birds of the farm that is so egg sucking predator. This part is like the great escape as he tunnels daily for freedom. The last part of the movie Ratso finally gets to Miami, sorry I mean the carnival. Ratso stages his third show of the movie, there is a chase scene, fight scene until final little heartwarming conclusion.

The animals in the film may have animal characteristics they may have tools and equipment but are still essentially animals in appearance and behavior.

What this movie wants to teach me: Families can be chosen not just made.

7 Ans

A disclaimer, OZ was such an amzing TV series that it made all other movies/tv in the same setting. A couple of years ago I saw a prison movie. It was okay but all the characters and situation I had recently seen in OZ. 7 Ans secedes by also by mixing it with another genre, the French Erotic Thriller. In a FET everybody gets lucky and remain unhappy.

Everybody in this movie works long and harder at achiving a sustainable state of misery. Vincent is in jail, he is not happy. Vincent's wife Maïté is not happy having to do all the various domestic chores, washing and ironing clothes, food preparation for a jailed husband she can visit but not touch. The prison guard Jean starts a creepy relationship with Maïté. Even the small boy, Pablo, that Maïté babysits begins acting prosessive and dabbles in low level pyromania while scowling at any man looking at his Maïté.

The director of the movie had previous done a documentry for fench tv about prisons. If you take his expertise on french prisons there are a details in the prison depicted that are curious. The prisoners are locked up in individual cells and are delivered food. Family and friends provide the prisoners with clothing. The occaisonal shots of Vincent's cell show lots of things that can be weaponized. His mirroe, he has a mirror, is attached to the wall the same way as in your house. The mirror could be easily broken and turned in shivs. Clothes can be easily disassembled to create ropes and choking weapons. I was shocked by the relative freedom that Vincent the criminal had. Or maybe I try to look for the worst in all of us.

The US versus John Lennon

The early 1990's saw a number of prominent assassination attempts by lone gunman or in the case of Pope John Paul II a lone gunman with logistical surport. El Presidente Raygun was shot and lived. John Lennon was shot and died. Big disappointment.

The documentry is a combination of archival material, John Lennon's songs and interviews filmed in the present day. (When G.Gordon Liddy was interviewed against a green screen, like the other subjects, he asked if a picture of satan would be put behind his head. When told that a picture of Nixon would be behind Liddy was happy). The movie covers John Lennon's years in New York and the attempts by elements within the American Government to have Lennon deported as an unwanted foreigner. When Chaplin had similar anger focused on him he was not deported by was denied reentry after leaving. John's immigration lawyer probably advised against leaving the US while the case was in dispute. The immigration lawyer was able to continously reappeal so that John Lennon's 60 day deportation order extended 6 years until the case was won.

As is typical of many American histories too much is made of the exceptional nature of the Sixties and other periods of American history. Not only you had to be there, man, but had to be the States. The American student protests are regularly examined without looking at similar examples of insurrection that also occured around the same time. French students nearly took over the govenrment in May 1968. Quebec was awash in low level "revolutionary activity" leading up to the October Crisis. The Japanese Red Army was founded in the early 1970's. There were numerous violent revoltionary groups in countries as disparate and bourgeois as West German and Uraguay. In these other cases there was no war to be anti about. Instead groups took the violent sleeze of the PLO as a model to "change the world" and started their own wars.

The screening was graced by the presence of Michael Moore and Yoko Ono. There were pamphlets and buttons given out that either revivied or expanded on earlier conceptual art pieces of John and Yoko. I got a button with IMAGINE PEACE in small black letters on a white background. There was also a brochure alsmost like an artist's statement that revives some of John and Yoko greatest conceptual art hits. The brochure has the words, The war is over, if you want it. There is also a link to join Nutopia, an invented country whose flag is the white flag . Go here for more conceptual art thing. In fact nearly everything connected to this documentry has neato conceptual art. From Nutopia I followed a link supposely to the movie site and came to the Grudge Report. Here is the official site for the movie.

Wind that Shakes the Barley

I talked to some one in who has seen this movie who found it very violent. Any movie about combating Irish terrorists is going to be violent. Considering Ken Loach's political sympathies the bogeyman will probably the tyranical British army that oppresses the Irish freedom fighters. Freedom fighter is the term you use will you approve either of the terrorist or his ideal.

My argument with the woman who was struck by the grimness of WTSTB yesterday was that many Brittish versions of pop culture are much grimmer and nastier. Judge Dredd is British comicbook "hero". He is not a lone super hero who fights for justice but a police that enforces law. Superman doesn't execute perps for crimes and misdemeanors, Judge Dredd does. Dungeons and Dragons and Warhammer are both roleplaying games with a magic and medieval setting. Warhammer is sadder game played by people who know that bad things can and do happen. D&D is played in happy, sunlit suburbs devoid of even cartoon nihilism.

This movie is about the hard men of the IRA who rob, maim and murder in pursuit of a "Free Ireland". These are the only terrorists Americans have consistantly loved. I was Talking To a man from Scranton who said that IRA fundraisers still regularly visit. The movie is set between years after WW1 and the establishment of Irish Free State. The fighting in the movie as such is actually two wars. The first war is fought against the "forces of oppression" and the secound war is a civil war to control the new country. The story open with an Irish field hockey game , or hurling. The game violates the state emergency.After the game ends sides a squad of Black&Tans arrive annoyed at lawless disorder. One teenage idiot athlete mouths off and is beaten to death. This happy tone prevades the rest of the movie.

The movie was as violent as I was lead to believe. Many people in my immediate vicinity left not be able to take the gore. The actual amounts of violence is not that much when compared with war or slasher films. But what makes it grevious for the viewer is the emotional connection we feel. The murdered/killed/executed in the movie are not random mooks but characters that have been in many scenes before. Both executions are, at least in part, the IRA killing their own. The first IRA murder/execution is of teenager IRA terrorist who accidently blabed some tiny bit of tactical intelligence. He is whacked along with a local lord. The last execution is one our heroes, Damien, with his brother, Teddy, leading the execution squad. Shed no tears for Damien because earlier he follows orders and whacks his childhood friend.

There is also a torture scene after one where our friendly lads, the murdering scum, are arrested. This bothered me more because the torture was amateur then the pain being inflicted. The torture /interogration was done in an angry way tahat lead the questioner to miss some cruical questions. The torture focussed merely on the pain that physical injury can cause. Amateur hour. The problem with this sort of torture is the body eventually adjusts to the level of pain. The other problem with pulling out fingernails is that the exercise is not endless repeatable as the perp adjusts to new pain level and he runs out of fingernails, toenails and other easily damaged body parts. A better and repeaterable technique is the deprevation of oxygen or drowning. This is the submarine method, there is also the dry submarine where a plastic bag is placed over a perp head, but plastic bags were not readily available in 1920's Ireland. With the submarine you force the subject's head underwater to near point of drowning and repeat as neccessary until the subject is cooperative. You must also be careful not accidently drown the subject as this wastes time already invested.

What I learned: You can always find reasons to execute.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

The Best of Norman Mclaren

The Film Festival is showing a program of The Best of Norman Mclaren. Frustrating the festival doesn't list this collection of shorts on the website the same way as in the book. Instead each individual movie is listed separately. Norman Mclaren is one of those filmmakers who put the NFB on the map. His wiki entry has a weird error, its lists him as being Scottish. He was an ethnic Scot born in Scotland. However he spent the last 2/3 of last life in Canada at the NFB.

This was the oldest screeening audience I have ever been to at TIFF. Big chunks of the audience were invitees and special guests resplendant in warm suits and formal wear, the theatre was painfully cold. There was a red carpet, the area was aswarm with special duty NCO's and plainclothes mounties. The Governor-General introduced the film with some very general remarks. Her husband had more particular comments about Mclaren and he spoke for continued existence of the NFB and other noncomercial havens for filmmakers. The head of TIFF, Piers Handling was also on hand. The other films I saw today were introduced by underlings. Underlings important enough not to be their own roadies.

I was going to write something insightful and informative unfortunately/fortunately I was blown away. I have seen everyone of these shorts before. However seeing as in an unbroken stream at the end of a long day made the whole experience a little overwhelming. Each successive animation added to the enjoyment of the next as different themes and techniques were developed and explored.

What I learned: Jazz, classical and Indian music can all have a place in animation.

Lights in the Dusk

I have enjoyed previous films from Aki Kaurismäki. He has a stony faced humor that enlivens all his films.

Lights in The Dusk is some kind of of homage to Russian films and landscapes. I talked to someone who had both seen this film and been to Helsinki. Lights in the Dusk makes helsinki look like some sort siberian hellhole filled with a miasama of despair. All the vehicles have the same ugly soviet boxiness. Even the limo of the crime boss is merely a high end Lada. Our "hero" lives in a cement block basement apartment shabby and utilatarian. A bunch a drunks/russians wander by discussing the prole friendliness of different writers. A grim world.

It is grimmer for our hero Koistinen a night watchman/security guard. His boss doesn't remember his name after 3 years. His workmates pointed avoid his company. He applies for a business loan,and is laughed out of the bank. His sad sack life improves when a beautiful woman introduces herself to him in a coffee shop, €2 for a coffee is a little expensive. They go out and soon she wants to visit him on his security rounds. Hmmm. If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.

The story is ultimately about the misplaced loyalty we feel for those wrong us. everyone in the film is loyal to the wrong person for the wrong reason. For Koistinen there finally is some sort of hope/despair after all the pain that fate has ladled on him.

What I learned from this film: Finns will eventually smile if they are jailed.