We’re all loving Vincent

[polish version below]

A single second of painting animation consists of twelve paintings – that’s the number of movement phases it contains. This, what we’re watching on the screen in the form of an almost two-hour movie, the film team together with an arsenal of painters has been creating for ten years. Tedious work seems to be a good brace for eight years of Van Gogh’s output, of whom only one painting out of eight hundred has been sold during his lifetime.

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Most of the already created movies that oscillate around Vincent’s life story and the controversies related to it could be called model biographies. Their action takes place during the painter’s lifetime and unfortunately, practically each of them perpetuates stereotypes. However, the plot of Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman’s movie is based almost entirely on the mystery of his death. This way, the authors seem to make an attempt at portraying him not – as it’s usually done – as an artist, but as a human being.

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Dorota Kobiela herself doesn’t conceal that the idea for the movie has been born out of her deep fascination in painter’s biography; of the lecture of his letters, as a matter of fact. Van Gogh’s correspondence is a pillar of her movie, delivering cues but also outlining the emotional states, which are the key to understanding the poetics of his expressive paintings. The main character is the son of a local postman, which convinces him to deliver a lost Vincent’s letter to the addressee. Armand, of whom we don’t know much as he is only a guide in a travel through Van Gogh’s life, wanders around France with a letter in his hand, neglecting his own duties and we, together with him, are following mostly well-known events – we observe Vincent’s stormy friendship with Paul Gaughin, a relationship with his brother Theo and the rest of the family – to finally reach a little town in French province, where Van Gogh mysteriously died. It turns out quickly that’s what we’re having to do with is a pure anticrime story; the questions multiply, the people who saw Vincent during his last days, present contrary versions, and, despite the passage of time, we don’t get any closer to a solution of the mystery.

 

This kind of narration allows stuffing the movie with anecdotes, which form rather a kaleidoscope instead of a cause-and-effect chain. It seems like the film crew is trying to show us as many faces of  Vincent, as possible, to finally capture an impartial image based on all of them. However, the formula totally runs out in three-quarters of the film; the initial tension is replaced by irritation.

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The choice of the classic narration is justified by a director in the interview with Filmweb:  she says it corresponds with the visual richness of “Yours, Vincent”. The uncomplicated plot, of which a number of uncertainties are rather a pretext for retrospections of Van Gogh’s life, is supposed to help the spectator focus fully on a formal aspect of the movie.

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And, indeed, a form is a star here. Every cadre makes a separate piece of art, created in accordance with the vibrant style of the painter. Everything spins, blinks and swirls, resulting in a visual vertigo. In between the cadres, there have been implicated many unknown Van Gogh’s paintings. The only objection is brought by retrospectives in a black-and-white aesthetics. which seem a simplification when we look at the amount of work put into the movie – especially that they become key elements of the plot.

 

Kobiela has managed to fulfill her mission. The screening displaces a vision of Van Gogh as an earless madman, in its place putting a melancholic introvert, which doesn’t really know how to deal with the society, as well as his own feelings. “Loving, Vincent” is a film which will be watched mostly because of its visual layer and that’s why the plot’s setbacks will surely be forgiven. Even if the content has been sacrificed for the form, it’s difficult to not undergo the paintings brought to life, especially if their details are explored on a big screen.

tekst w języku polskim:

WSZYSCY KOCHAMY VINCENTA

 

Na jedną sekundę animacji malarskiej przypada dwanaście obrazów – tyle faz ruchu w sobie zawiera. Stworzenie tego, co oglądamy na ekranie w postaci niespełna dwugodzinnego filmu, zajęło zespołowi filmowemu wraz z arsenałem malarzy  aż dziesięć lat. Żmudna praca ekipy wydaje się stanowić godną klamrę dla ośmiu lat twórczości Van Gogha, z którego ponad ośmiuset dzieł, tylko jedno zdołano sprzedać za jego życia.

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Większość powstałych do tej pory filmów, oscylujących wokół historii życia Vincenta i związanych z nim kontrowersji, można by ochrzcić mianem “wzorowych biografii”. Ich akcja rozgrywa się jeszcze za życia malarza, i, niestety, niemal każdy z nich utrwala stereotypy. Fabuła filmu Doroty Kobieli i Hugh Welchmana opiera się natomiast w całości na zagadce jego śmierci. W ten sposób twórcy wydają się podejmować próbę sportretowania Vincenta jako człowieka, a nie, jak to ma się w zwyczaju, jako artysty.

 

Sama Dorota Kobiela nie ukrywa, że pomysł na film zrodził się z jej głębokiej fascynacji biografią malarza, a właściwie z lektury jego listów. Korespondencja Van Gogha stanowi filar filmu, dostarczając kolejnych wskazówek, ale też zarysowując emocjonalne stany, kluczowe dla zrozumienia poetyki jego ekspresyjnych obrazów. Głównym bohaterem uczyniono syna naczelnika miejscowej poczty, który, za namową ojca, usiłuje dostarczyć zagubiony list Vincenta adresatowi. Armand, o którym niewiele wiemy, bo jest tylko przewodnikiem w odkrywaniu kolejnych kart z życia malarza, błąka się po Francji z listem w dłoni, zaniedbując własne obowiązki, a my wraz z nim podążamy kolejnymi tropami, w większości powszechnie znanymi – przyglądamy się burzliwej przyjaźni Vincenta z Paulem Gaughinem, relacji z bratem Theo, z resztą rodziny – by w końcu dotrzeć do miasteczka na francuskiej prowincji, w której Van Gogh zginął tajemniczą śmiercią. Szybko okazuje się, że mamy do czynienia z antykryminałem; pytania mnożą się, osoby, które miały styczność z Vincentem w ostatnich dniach jego życia, przedstawiają sprzeczne wersje zdarzeń, a mimo upływu czasu, nie zbliżamy się w najmniejszym stopniu do rozwiązania zagadki.

 

Taki sposób opowiadania pozwala film naszpikować anegdotami, które, w miejscu ciągu przyczynowo-skutkowego, formują raczej kalejdoskop. Wydaje się, że twórcy chcą pokazać nam jak najwięcej oblicz Vincenta, by w końcu wyłonił się z nich obiektywny obraz, którego dotychczas nikomu nie udało się uchwycić, albo wręcz go splamiono. Jednak formuła gdzieś w okolicach trzech czwartych filmu zupełnie się wyczerpuje; początkowe napięcie zastępuje irytacja.

 

Reżyserka w wywiadzie dla Filmwebu argumentuje wybór klasycznej narracji korespondencją z wizualnym bogactwem “Twojego Vincenta”. Nieskomplikowana fabuła, której szereg niewiadomych stanowi raczej pretekst do retrospekcji z życia Van Gogha, ma pomóc widzowi skupić się w pełni na aspekcie formalnym filmu.

I w istocie, forma jest tu gwiazdą. Każdy kadr stanowi osobne dzieło sztuki, stworzone w zgodzie z rozedrganym stylem malarza. Wszystko się kręci, mruga i wiruje, wywołując wizualny zawrót głowy. Pomiędzy kadry wpleciono wiele mało znanych obrazów Van Gogha, co stanowi nie lada gratkę dla bardziej wtajemniczonych w jego twórczość widzów. Jedyny zarzut wzbudzają retrospektywy w czarno- białej, odstającej od reszty estetyce, które wydają się zbytnim uproszczeniem przy nakładzie pracy włożonym w film, szczególnie, że stanowią kluczowe elementy fabuły.

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Kobieli udało się spełnić wyznaczoną sobie misję. Seans wypiera z głowy wizję Van Gogha – bezuchego szaleńca, a w jej miejsce wkłada malarza melancholijnego, introwertyka, który nie bardzo wie, jak radzić sobie z otoczeniem i własnymi emocjami. “Twój Vincent” jest filmem, po który widzowie sięgną przede wszystkim z uwagi na warstwę wizualną i, z tego względu, zapewne wybaczą mu fabularne potknięcia. Nawet, jeśli dla formy poświęcono treść, trudno nie ulec urokowi ożywionych obrazów, szczególnie, jeśli eksploruje się ich detale na wielkim ekranie.

 

 

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on hautingly beautiful David Lowery’s “Ghost Story”

(polish version below)

 

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The Film industry made us used to a realistic image of the ghost. Even if it’s marked with some features straight from the netherworld, usually its human shape is kept. David Lowery turns the cliché upside down, dressing up the ghost in the sheet straight out from Halloween party.

 

Although his expression consists only of head turns, the static figure evokes more empathy than its cousins gifted with a human face. The ghost, just as the living ones, keeps things bottled up – even though, as we could assume, death should have freed him from the yoke of our mundane worries. He happens to be jealous, becomes depressed, breaks the plates in an act of frustration; he experiences mourning as intensively as his lover left alive. He, however, doesn’t receive a chance to verbalize these feelings to anybody – not even to the spectator, which is forced to guess what’s hidden behind the white material. Ghost, even in its grotesque costume, has quite material existence; that’s why that seemingly absurd trick not only defends itself but also helps us to commiserate. He’s also strangely photogenic – ascetic blueish frames wonderfully expose a figure in the sheet, staying for long in the memory. His disguise is also a clue, that we’re confronting a totally different genre than those that usually come to mind when we think about ghosts. Afterlife embodiment of C becomes rather a pretext for philosophical contemplation.

 

Before we get there, the test awaits us. A few minutes’ scene of cake consumption picturing a need to compulsively fill the void after a loss, becomes a capstone of all experiments conducted on an audience. Previously, during not even a quarter of an hour, the director confuses us; he opens a film with dreamy sequences in the spirit of slow cinema, then he deceives us with a thriller motive, keeping a lazy sundance aesthetics. This pawky move could look as if Lowery was showing off. The length of the mentioned scene ( straining the nerves of the audience almost as much famous as Chantal Akerman’s “Jeanne Dielman…”) finds its later substantiation in the context of the freshman ghost. Just after the scene, narration speeds up, gaining quickly a huge velocity, as the ghost breaks up with understanding a time in the way living humans do. As a result, the infinity becomes a while, and a while – all eternity.

 

The title suggests an obvious analogy; in some sense, the narrative is still a love story, even though the lover of the ghost won’t get a chance to believe in him. Most of the fundamental questions about the meaning of life, which have been weaved into the plot, end up open; maybe because all the attempts of answering end up with a return to the start. That happens all over again to our constantly lost C. The motive of a loop sneaks through the story, mostly under the shape of little things left by the following inhabitants of the house, until it’s summed up in a thrilling monologue of one of the guests on the party, which is observed by the ghost.

 

If we look at “A Ghost Story” through the prism of an essay on evanescence, a simple ( sometimes even boring) story seems to be a legitimate choice. A couple of unexpected tricks turns quite a hackneyed plot concept into a fresh movie. Undoubtedly, what helps is an almost total abridgment of dialogue – it leaves a wider space for interpretation. It’s fair, because this film helps with introspection, messing up with our heads with quite a sad question: what means anything or does anything mean something?

 

 

 

 

 

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Z duchem czasu

 

Przemysł filmowy przyzwyczaił nas do realistycznego wizerunku ducha. Nawet jeśli naznacza się go jakimiś cechami rodem z zaświatów, zwykle jego ludzkie oblicze zostaje oszczędzone. David Lowery wywraca utarty schemat do góry nogami, ubierając ducha w prześcieradło rodem z Halloween party.

 

Mimo, że jedyne źródło jej ekspresji stanowią obroty głowy, statyczna postać wzbudza w nas więcej empatii niż jej kuzyni, obdarzeni ludzką twarzą. W duchu drzemią bowiem wszystkie emocje, które towarzyszą człowiekowi za życia – choć śmierć, jak można by przypuszczać, powinna zdjąć z niego jarzmo przyziemnych zmartwień. Bywa zazdrosny, popada w depresję; w przypływie frustracji tłucze talerze. Przeżywa żałobę tak intensywnie, jak jego żyjąca partnerka. Nie ma jednak szansy, by komukolwiek uczucia te zwerbalizować – nawet widzowi, który jest zmuszony się domyślać, co kryje się za białym materiałem. Jest też, o dziwo, fotogeniczny – ascetyczne błękitnawe kadry pięknie eksponują postać w prześcieradle, na długo zapadając w pamięć. Jego przebranie stanowi przesłankę, że mamy tu do czynienia z zupełnie innym gatunkiem, niż te, z którymi kojarzy się obecność duchów. Pośmiertne wcielenie C stanowi raczej pretekst do filozoficznych rozważań.

 

Zanim do nich dobrniemy, czeka nas próba. Kilkuminutowa scena konsumpcji ciasta, obrazująca potrzebę kompulsywnego zapełnienia pustki po stracie, jest zwieńczeniem eksperymentów, jakim poddaje nas reżyser. Wcześniej, w ciągu niespełna kwadransa, wprawia nas w konsternację; gdy otwiera film sennymi sekwencjami z życia zwyczajnej bezimiennej pary, by następnie niepokojącym akcentem zapowiedzieć kino grozy, jednocześnie zachowując niespieszną, sundance’ową stylistykę. Z pozoru taka przewrotność może wydawać się tanim popisem reżysera. Długość wspomnianej wyżej sceny znajduje jednak późniejsze uzasadnienie w kontekście ducha – nowicjusza. Tuż po niej, narracja przyspiesza, nabierając wkrótce zawrotnego rozpędu, bo duch rozstaje się z pojęciem czasu w dotychczas znanej mu formie i tym samym wieczność staje się dla niego chwilą, a chwila – całą wiecznością.

 

Sam tytuł sugeruje oczywistą analogię; w pewnym sensie historia jest nadal love story, mimo, że bohaterka nie otrzyma szansy, by w ducha choćby uwierzyć. Większość fundamentalnych pytań o istotę życia, które wpleciono w fabułę, pozostaje otwartych; być może dlatego, że wszelkie próby odpowiedzi kończą się powrotem do punktu wyjścia. To właśnie przydarza się nieustannie zagubionemu C. Motyw zapętlenia historii przewija się w opowieści, głównie w postaci drobnych przedmiotów pozostawianych przez mieszkańców domu, by znaleźć objaśnienie w porywającym monologu jednego z uczestników imprezy, którą duch obserwuje.

 

Jeśli spojrzymy na “ A Ghost Story” przez pryzmat eseju o przemijaniu, prosta, czasem wręcz nudna historia wydaje się słusznym wyborem. Zastosowanie kilku przewrotnych trików sprawia, że dość oklepany zamysł zaskakuje świeżością. Bez wątpienia pomaga w tym niemal całkowite pozbawienie filmu dialogu, pozostawiające widzowi szerszą przestrzeń do interpretacji. I słusznie, bo to film sprzyjający introspekcji, mącący w głowie dość ponurym pytaniem: co ma znaczenie, lub, czy cokolwiek je ma?

 

JT LEROY – this story’s based of fake events.

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The Guardian has called it ¨perhaps the most succesful and sustained of any of the hoaxes¨. Laura Albert says: It was not a hoax.

It wasn´t a well-considered plan, or, rather, it wasn´t a plan at all. Laura Albert has adopted the identity of teenage prostitute´s son in purely therapeutical purposes, at least that´s what she claims- she wouldn´t be able to write as a woman about painfull things engraved in her own memory

Everyone knew him. JT Leroy, teenager with vague sexual identity who managed to get away from the hell of Southern truck-stop prostitution world into which his own mother immersed him and who has put his terrible experiences into writing thanks to the suggestion of psychologist dr. Terrence Owens- as it turned out, in suprisingly sophisticated form.  The doctor shared his discovert with his neighbour, editor, Eric Willinski, that one has contacted JT with his favourite poet, Sharon Odds. That´s how the first collection of short stories written under the name ¨Terminator¨has seen the light if the day and thereby the legend was born, soon growing on such a large scale that the author couldn´t disentangle herself from it.

Celebrities have fallen in love with Jeremiah ¨Terminator¨ Leroy at first reading, declairing emotional catharsis they have been experiencing with every chapter. Winona Ryder was thanking ¨from the bottom of her heart¨, Courtney Love, Bono, Tom Waits, everyone was bombarding JT´s voicemail with thank-you messages and he, morbidly shy, hidden behind huge glasses, was trying to deal with unexpected fame. Since the begining, particular voices have been defending the thesis that Terminator could never have existed, being an alter-ego of Gus Van Sant or other art world figures. The legend was swelling, the stars were swelling with pride and Albert, as british social worker called ´Speedie´who rescued JT from the streets, was appearing incognito on public readings.

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Talking with Vice, Jeff Feuerzeig, an director of the documentary Author: The JT Leroy Story stumbled across the book ¨Sarah¨ by accident. Refering to his binge read on a long plane travel, he says:

¨Laura Albert had left the clues that she wanted to tell, that she had a secret but she wasn´t ready¨

She had her reasons. During her speech recorded couple years after the true has came to light, she points out the group home where she has been living as a teenager as a place where she´s started soaking up with stories and looking for a way to express her own.

I´m on this writing classes and everyone´s looking at this one cool guy…[…] and I´m in group home, and I´m looking at him and I wanted to be him because he matches the voice and I don´t want him to know it´s me cause it´s gonna ruin it¨

Feuerzeig´s documentary features the story as unbelievable as famous Searching for a Sugar Man. However, instead of holding out on us, he puts his cards on the table, letting Albert admit: I am JT. The story is carried by her and in opposite to copybook docs her voice is not really confronted with the others. This choice of narration exposes the strongest and weakest part of all the legend created- Albert´s personality. It becomes a confession but with no regret. Albert never says sorry and never will- she’s strongly convinced she did the right thing letting the show go on.

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The books gained amazing success mostly because of one factor- their value is corelated with emotional resonance of author´s authentic  experiences. Almost every review before exposing the hoax reffered to the fact that the story is based on life of JT. As says Susan Vega, quoted in the introduction to Sarah- ¨JT Leroy has a gift ti be able to articulate his world so dearly[…] without glossing over the pain and brutality of it¨. Another quote, from Jerry Stahl, sounds a bit ironic in the new context ¨Whatever young LeRoy had to live through to write a book like this, we´re lucky he´s here.¨ Basically, Sarah and ¨The Heart…¨ lacking the root of authenticity, in the eyes of critics turn out to be a cheap story using shortcuts and threadbare archetypes: fanatic Southern Christians, degenerated truck drivers and drug- addicted hookers.

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The story of adaptation starts the same way as it did with the documentary. Asia Argento has read the book and became so attached to the character of JT that she decided to put it to the screen. Asia’ s second film as a director is filled with grotesque, brutally bombarding the spectactor with uncomfortable scenes of abuse; it lacks any ornamentations, in certain parts being simply ugly and repulsive.  Looking at her most recent “Misunderstood”, glamorous adult fairytale, it’s hard not to notice the lift at the level of aesthetics. The acting of Asia featuring title role- Sarah, abusive irresponsible mother of Jeremiah, overwhelmes as she seems to constantly fight for the foreground. New York Times has crushed the movie after the truth came out; not only ms. Argento’s skills as a filmmaker have been criticised, but the movie itself was called “well-high unwatchable” partiallly thanks to the quality of source material.

‘ They called me fake fiction writer’ she laughs in her speech.  People were angry, offended and craving for revenge for making the fools out of themselves. But at the end, how does it matter if JT exists if these devastating child stories have and will exist and Albert has put the light on it.

Moloch! Poetry on the screen.

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We all remember that scene: Robin Williams a.k.a John Keating cleaning his tutor desk and his students standing to attention, saying goodbye with ´´oh captain, my captain´´, famous Walt Whitman´s verse. Dead Poets Society, however gloppy it was, remains one of the most famous movie on poetry and poets. Poetry is fotogenic, but dangerous too- it´s easy to fall into all these corny schemes. These are the ones that didn´t.

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Argentinian movie seems to be a bit otherworldly. The director hasn’t been afraid of the kitsch, with different results: sometimes we’ll be amazed by the poet’s monologues, sometimes we’ll look away with embarassment. Here the poet talks with his poems, lives his poems and absolutely believes in his mission which turns out to be enlightening the society about the misery of life. His chase for a perfect muse and his walks with death portrayed as a black dressed, reasonable, 90s dressed woman (sic!) are at the same time a journey through the misty side streets of Buenos Aires . The poet declaims his verses from behind the windows of the cars waiting on the red light and to confused cashiers in the bank. The film captures the thing that suprised me travelling through South America- the art meets the everyday life, as on every bus there is someone singing, rapping or turning their life failures into slam-like monologues. The main character, like a modern Werter, wanders around gin mills of la Boca shady port neighbourhood with an anguished face and a cigarette in his mouth, being very much reminiscent of an intersection of Wojaczek and L’homme qui dort.

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A little dose of kitsch never harmed anyone; even if a talking cow and the flying couple cumming together is a fatal overdose, I’d still recommend the movie as an insight to Argentina’s culture.

WOJACZEK

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Speaking of Wojaczek, the polish movie named after the poet is one of the most extraordinary biographies of my homeland literature figures. Rafał Wojaczek, the representative of postwar generation of poets, has been living shortly and intensively; quarrelsome lifestyle filled with alcohol and meds has led him to few suicide attemps- the last one, at the age of 27, has ended his life. The movie features his evolution as an artist starting from the teenage years at his silesian postindustrial town Mikołów, where he has been constantly agitating a provincial community with his vanguard behaviour, to life in Wrocław- the last german stronghold reattached to Poland after hundreds of years and total demolition at the end of second world war. Paradoxically it flourished as a place of artistic initiatives, gathering the most outstanding personages of literature and other fields of art.

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The use of black and white suprisingly adds a subtle elegance to the grey reality of early communist period. The artists get wasted in honky-tonks and declaim their pieces on the tables and it´s not fun anymore, it´s a cry for help. Picturing the sad but important episode in polish history, the movie is at the same time an introduction to the fascinating poetry of Wojaczek, often compared to Rimbaud and Lautréamont- vibrant and vanguard, using the body metaphores with all its hideous sheath to reflect the emotional states.

PATERSON

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Paterson, named after the town where he was born, where he is living and working as a coach driver, writes poetry. In typically Jarmush style we observe seven days of his life, day after day, repetitive as Groundhog Dog’s. As director claims, this repetitiveness comes from his fascination for duality starting from when he was a child.

¨I love the repetitive verses in poetry, he says in an interview with Wyborcza, the structure of Bach´s compositions, multiplied canvas of Andy Warhol, he says. That´s why I wanted to do a movie in which every upcoming day is a copy of the last one- with one different element.¨

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In contrary to majority of movies on the subject of artists, neither anyone discovers Paterson nor his life changes anyhow- his poetry stays safe and sound in his closely guarded notebook, to the great dissatisfaction of his girlfriend hungry for his and hers success, convinced that his voice has to be heard. Instead climbing to the top, Paterson just craves for his own peace. Poetry here is rather a tool for a contestation of reality and observation of casual occurences. It also may be perceived as a terapeutical tool. Paterson´s past lingers through the film, mostly locked in photographs;  as we can see, before moving back to his hometown and starting his driver´s jobs, he had been an apprecciated solider. The instictive reaction of taking the plastic gun away from the actor in one of the bar scenes and the way he organises the life itself- without suprises, with an unshakable routine might be a veiled clue to PTSD syndrome, which is self- treaded with writing, especially if locked in the sock drawer.

YONA

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We constantly follow her on the screen, her fuzzy hair and wandering eye, she leads us through following stages of her unstable life- Yona Wallach, Israeli poet who became famous because of her adamant work stuffed with sexual metaphors. The people she meets on her way are portrayed taking her into account, dimmed with her authoritarian personality and although it could generate opinions that it´s hard to identify with her story, that goes well with her poetry- written in first person, often seditious ( her poem Tefillin published in 1982 combined sex and religious artefacts and was widely commented by media and governement figures). The only typically biographical movie in my compilation has been nentioned here mainly because of a stunning performance of Naomi Levov. Yona herself has been a ready-made material for a movie as her life filled with sexual experiments and creative crisises has driven her to the brink of insanity. The poems reflect it- complex but formally negligent, they hadn´t convinced me at the first glance. This movie is a proof to the power of interpretation. The passion that Naomi has put into Yona´s work made me discover a new quality.

HOWL

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The movie, instead of portraying the life of the artist with the poetry in the background lets us look deeper into his personality  put in the perspective by deconstructing his most famous artwork- Howl. Three-level narration allows us to simultaneously observe the obscenity trial launched 1957, the series of interviews with Ginsberg and the poem illustrated with a breathtaking animation echoing his chaotic style of writing. This uncommon construction, at the beginning a bit confusing, helps to fully understand one of the most influential American poems and the flag work of the Beat Generation. With all due respect to Daniel Radcliffe, Franco becomes a Ginsberg, playing with his specific mimics and voice modulation. The animation turns out to be a great formal choice when it comes to the dense language and the context of the epoque captured in the poet. Mary Louise Parker is another highlight.

There is no Beat Generation- claims Ginsberg in the interview. Apparently, there was and the lecture of the poem is the cherry on the top, when it flows and hits- with the beat. Obligatory movie for everyone fascinated with the beat culture.

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FUTURE STARTS SLOW: over L´Avenir by Mia Hansen-Løve

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When two years ago I was about to choose the courses for my upcoming erasmus semester, what drew my attention first was the cinema one. I was even more interested considering the fact, that the course tutor, during the opening day, refering to my forever-love-France-and -french-culture-and-people declaration, has foretelled: You´ll hate it. I hate it.

I hadn´t known yet, that instead of cinema, the course will focus on the society captured with a watchfull eye of the camera. Until then I associated french cinema with poster screenshots from A Bout de souflle, fringes and over-the-top monologues recited by grumpy characters with cigarettes held in mouth. However, watching the profesor´s selection of movies, the society issues was an important, but still, background. In raw, sometimes lazy narration I´ve found the rightest approach to the human being itself.

Human and mechanisms of his winding thoughts have always been the center of interest for the seventh muse, especially for the french one, and that´s why it´s so easy to hate it or love it- the action has been given up for the dialogue and the prosaic pictures of everyday life, where outwardly insignificant element can ruin the fragile equilibrium. In all that plot simplicity there comes a real challenge; put yourself in the boots of other ordinary person, with all her or his spectrum of imperfections and try to assimilate his emotions in its purest form.

This is what Mia Hansen-Løve does in her newest film, aprecciated at the festivals all over the world. The true-born woman portrayed with unearthly naturality by one of one of the best living actresses Isabelle Huppert, has to deal with the series of unfortunate events- her husband leaving her for another woman after 25 years of marriage, pschycotic episodes of her ill- balanced mother and unprofitable changes including her own publication. Being used to associating the maturity rather with looking back, we can´t help but feel a sting of resentment when discovering that for the teacher, catastrophical changes are a prelude to liberty. The future hides in a loss and lack of certainity, as her beloved Descartes used to emphasize.

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Mulitlevelness of this simple story allows everyone to find their important lesson. Talking with her ex student, she refers to the marriage breakdown. It´s not easy, she says, but fortunately I have a rich intelectual life. For me, what´s brought to the fore in the movie, is passion. As in previous Hansen´s-Løve movie, Eden, we can observe the evolution of it; this time, instead of young dj, the mature teacher sheds some different light on it. Philosophy pushes Nathalie to reorganise her life without an unnecessary drama, becoming her magnifying glass. With a cartesian rationality she observes how her former life collapses into pieces and doesn’t try to put it back in the same order. It doesn´t mean that she hasn´t her moments of weakness. However, she  gets up and embraces what future brings. Some would call Nathalie cold. But seeing in everyday life all these woman imprisoned in their airless relationships, where partner is the main point of interest, I find her rather a free person. As Mia Hansen-Løve claims in the interview with Indie Wire, that was her objective:

I am telling a story about a
character who is free, in all ways in which she can be free. It’s really about
freedom, about a woman who loses everything, and at the point when she’s lost
everything, she finds herself. It is about how inner freedom can help you
through the hard times in life. It’s about faith, strength and it all depends
on freedom. Philosophy is really about that, too.

Philosophy, as it often happens, could be an obstacle for the general perception of the movie, but here it´s rather an integral element of Nathalie large-scale portrait. Confronted with the dillemas of her former favourite student and other young anarchists, building an alternative little community on the province of Rhone-Alpes region, she says: I´ve been there, but doesn´t get involved in a further conversation. She avoids giving a statement on the student´s protest against the reform. Just let me work, she repeats all over again. She loves philosophy, but until her world tears apart, she does not really have time to apply it in real life.

 

The main reason why Things to Come amazed me, is the fact, that you choose your own punch line.

BARCELONA : BOSTIK FILM FEST 24-26/02

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WHEN: 24, 25, 26 of February 2017

WHERE: Carrer Ferran Turné, 11, 08027 Barcelona (metro station: La Sagrera)

The last week of February there is a chance to take part in a little film festival- BOSTIK FILM FESTIVAL– organised in the heart of vibrant artistic postindustrial barrio of Barcelona. Some of you might have visited the place already, as monthly event of EAT STREET is settled in the bostik´s warehouse area. This time, it will transform into the temple of short-metrage.

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Besides the official selection screenings, you can expect the cinematographic karaoke, carnival party, discussions and meeting, including one with the representants of Barcelona´s ZUMZEIG, which will explain the new cooperative model of management, sneaking into the world of cinema. Another debate will focus on the development of Northern American cinema of last decades, its influences and conotations with politics.

you will find official blog of the festival here.

 

ode to LA LA LAND

 

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“Well, yeah, it was a pretty movie” my Mamma-Mia loving mother said.
“Pretty?” I repeated with disbelief.
I feel obliged to confess – La La Land simply stole my heart, and I don’t think it’s simple.
Thankfully, Damien Chazelle hasn´t become a drummer as he pursued, and he keeps on sharing his fresh viewpoint on music with us. Thankfully Whiplash, the writer´s block side effect, the reflect of director´s own experience kept for long in the drawer has been created, paving a way for his newest La La Land.
This time Chazelle, instead of making a movie about music, has directed a musical. My first thought was, why? – no one makes musicals anymore (Well, that’s not true- check out recent polish the Lure, horror-musical-drama about two sirens in the world of cabaret. I still remember the faces of elderly couples coming out from the cinema, expecting a communist-era themed comedy..).  What is undeniable is the fact, that no one makes this kind of movies anymore. As he pictured his intentions in the interview for firstshowing.net:

I guess that was the hope that would be the thing that we hadn’t seen before. That obviously we’d seen elements of this stuff in other movies, but we hadn’t seen it wedded together in this way. And in a contemporary setting. At least that was the hope.

In La La Land, in spite of all the fashion for naturalism, and drama, and pain, Chazelle embroils a hint of the naïve magic of old Hollywood, and when we finally immerse ourselves into the alternative, ethereal world, the sound of smartphone pulls us brutally out of the dream. The other time, it´s just life. The director is not afraid to draw from the masters; La La Land is larded with references to iconic musicals, but contrary to the lion’s share of critics’ opinions, it’s a deliberate tribute rather than a calque. With all of them, Chazelle seems to respond to his own character’s question” How can you be revolutionary when you’re a traditionalist?” as he manages to get away from the trap of the derivative thank-you- card, creating something fresh and one of its kind.

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Looking more attentively, we can spot the scenes inspired with The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, Singin’ in the rain, Grease and many more. This fan video captures it perfectly:

In this context, we cannot but notice the reference to Casablanca in the piano motive running through the whole movie and how it builds a beautiful framing device, becoming a symbol of two characters’ passionate experiences. Chazelle winks to the fans of Whiplash as well ( Simmons’ and Gosling’s conversation in the restaurant scene). And like his debut, La La Land enraptures with the way of framing the musicians and their instruments. Dynamic camera overlaps and impressive master shots stratificate the songs, giving a moment of grace to every instrumental part.

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As the first part pulls the wool over our eyes, giving a promise of classic love story, the second becomes rather a bitter-sweet essay on how making one dream come true may require giving up on another. It also states a question – is it reasonable to keep up with your own vision, when you need to survive somehow? In the touching scene of an audition, Emma Stone sings “Here’s to the ones who dream, foolish as they may seem“.  The final message is simple in its naivety – don’t give up on dreaming, even though it may turn out that the dream you pursued is not yours anymore.