new wave, old wave – MY FRENCH FILM FESTIVAL

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Until 13th of February, we can become the part of an audience of My French Film- an online festival dedicated to francophone movies, offering a wide range of long and short metrage; all while remaining comfy in our own bedrooms.

The selection of festival movies reflects perfectly the direction that the contemporary french cinema has taken in last passed years : a turn into an individual, raw realism, social engagement, which we could see in Louise Wimmer, Desintegration or Tomboy. Filmmakers refer to the hot topics: racial discrimination, terrorism and its genesis, but especially to the condition of modern french family. This tendency is perfectly illustrated with the words of director Alain Guiraudie, speaking about his own newest film in the interview with Polish Dwutygodnik:

My film reflects the debates commonly present in french media and still inducing a lot of contoversy. Everytime you turn on a TV, they talk about the institution of mariage, homosexual relationships, families in which the woman raises the child independently.

My French Festival dedicates all its section to the woman and the role model that predominates within the featured characters is a figure of mother, observed from a different perspectives: of a pregnant teenager, trying to keep her child against the will of bourgoise parents or senegal wife forced to live with her husband’s new woman and their common child under the same roof.( more about the mother in the cinema in another post)

MUST SEE: La violence en reunion starring Vincent Cassel, which shines as usually in a role of a harsh excentric. Short movie, sneaking a heavy social issue theme in an intelligent way, weaving a big dose of black humour into the plot and ended with a razor- sharp punch line.

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New wave in its pure form has gone with the sixties , but its tradition still stays present in the french modern cinema. The young creators draw inspiration from the techniques of Godard and Truffaut, manifesting in subtle references but, more often, too obviously, putting form before the content. In the formal matter, in most of presented movies a camera follows the main character, observes him from a close distance. Off camera narration is still a frequent choice when it comes to the way of leading a story.

Assuming, however films are unequal, it’s worth to see them all in order to get an overview of a francophone cinema condition, especially that we can do it from any part of the globe at any hour we choose. I guarantee it’s worth to give up on Xavier Dolan and Dardennes for a while and give the other filmmakers a try.

http://www.myfrenchfilmfestival.com

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LISBON REVISITED : the mariage of picture and sound in Wender’s Lisbon Story and Jakimowski’s Imagine

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Philip Winter is invited by his filmmaker friend, trying to realise a silent movie uncontaminated by the history of cinema. The sound specialist is supposed to save the picture. When he arrives, it turns out that Fredrich Monroe has dissapeared, leaving the appartament filled with a bunch of photographing kids and the unfinished film only.
The dissappearance of the friend turns out to be salutary for Winter as it pushes him to discovering the hidden alleys of Lisbon under the pretext of searching Monroe.

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Friedrich Monroe seems to be an incarnation of Fernando Pessoa, iconic Lisbon poet who has spent his life wandering through the meanders of his own personality, so diverse- he used the heteronimes of Alberto Caeiro, Ricardo Reis and Alvaro the Campos, each one having their own story and writing style – that providing him a sufficent excuse, to cut off from the outside world.

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The isolation however doesn’t carry the expected relief and the same goes with sacryfing the sensuality in favor of objectivity – Monroe doesn’t find a desired truth. What turns out to be a rescue is the return to the sound. Old friends bring back the noises of Lisbon to the condemned material and thereby they regress the interference, restoring the initial truth.
This way, Lisbon Story practically becomes a document about the formation of document.
It’s also a love letter to a city frozen in time, which atmosphere is extracted at the end with an inseparable mariage of picture and sound. It’s an ode to Fellini and other neorealism masters and a tribute to these ones which we cannot see but we can hear. But first of all it’s an attempt to answer the question: what is cinema and what is it for? In the climax scene  legendary Portugese director Manoel de Oliveira tries to define it:  [scene]

In background memory, I mean in the cinema, the camera in film may set a time but that time has already passed. In the bottom of what makes the film is to revive the ghost of that time. And are we sure that the moment existed outside the film? Or the film is the guarantee of existence of that time? I do not know.

 

 

Imagine takes the thesis further – the sound is not only an essential component of reality but it can create it by itself.

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Jakimowski takes us for an unusual trip to the world of sound. Not without a reason; we discover Lisbon with the ‘eyes’ of blind people.
The teacher using controversial methods (excellent Edward Hoggs) appears in the rehabilitation center and shakes the calm world of isolated mentees of the instituton. Until some moment the spectactor doesn’t even realise that he is disabled; he moves without a cane and hides the glass eyes behind the dark glasses. Also the children living in the center are doubting in his blindness and at every step they do their little tricks, trying to overthrow his declarations.

 

I stumbled across this movie randomly during some lazy Sunday afternoon, switching the TV channels in search of anything valuable. The screenshot sinking in southern sun drew my attention; rapidly I soaked into the story. What’s interesting, the movie was emited with audiodescrition which at the begginning seemed only a stylistic device.

Eva makes a first step out of the center’s zone. She checks the surface of the pavement with her foot. She paces carefully, one, second, third step, until she gets to the edge.

I closed my eyes to discover the world as the blind character does it; to feel her insecurity when confronting the noisy silence and the salvation she finds in the sounds with a little help from the teacher.
Even without audiodescription, the film is a refreshing contra for the majority of productions focused on the picture, at the same time remaining breathtaking at the visual side. Lisbon is supposed to talk to us with sounds as it was before in Lisbon Story. The main characters of both movies are coming out across the traditional sense of perception. Intentional limitation of the featured world to a couple of streets and rooms brings the perception of the blind people closer to the audience. Manipulation of the elipses and the off screen space helps. Many things, as the characters, we are forced to imagine.

5 AMAZING SINGLE MOTHER CHARACTERS

“It´s not easy to be authentic.  The closer woman is to her image of herself, the more authentic she is.”

TODO SOBRE MI MADRE
life-and-death mother

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Everything was written on the Almodovar´s cult movie. There is one thing I am m sure about- either you love Almodrama or you hate it. It doesn´t have to be an instant crush- sometimes it takes some time to get there. I´ve put some effort alter the first vague impression on Habla Con Ella and it was worth it.
Almodovar with  his specific  exagerration serves us a hardly-probable history wrapped up with a thick layer of absurd, with a bit of magical realism and somehow it works. Like in the majority of his films, the plot of Todo Sobre Mi Madre becomes an excuse for breaking the subtle relations in between woman down. We have here an adorable transsexualist Agrado, young pregnant social worker, furious drug addicted young actress and the star of  the play Sidecar Named Desire, which has marked main character´s life.
Finaly, we have Manuela – the mother. She´s experienced a tragedy and by going to Barcelona, she decides to finally face it. For her, the travel is inevitable- there she can find the father of her dead son, who never knew about his existence.

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Manuela doesn´t accuse anyone, doesn´t try to make anyone feel guilty; proud and steadfast, she sneaks into the world of her former lover and builds up the relationships with the people he used to be close to- initially, to find him. Little by little, as the bonds are tightening, the aim dissolves.
The essence of Almodovar’s view on mother and woman in general is captured in Agrado´s monologue (actually, strongly inspired by the real event).

It´s not easy to be authentic- he says- The closer woman is to her image of herself, the more authentic she is.

We rarely take off the masks, however, there are some roles that come straight from the heart- like the role of mother. Manuela is the absolute one, at first following the transplanted heart of her son, then his unfinished story. She´s able to instantly abandon her current life to finish the previous chapter.

ROMA
the lenient mother

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If you feel bad, if you’re sad, look for a river and sit down on the bank. Say it as if you were throwing it to the river. The water will carry it all away. The grief, the sadness, all the bad stuff…into the river.

These are the words said by the father to his son at one of the first sequences of the main character´s childhood retrospection. The advice will follow him in the future years, persistently repeated by his mother.
The opening shot-a flowing river- already suggests the laid back tempo of Aristarian’s movie. The river motive runs through the entire picture and becomes a framing device for the process of reconstructing the memories. The spectacor slowly delves into the life of Joao, starting with the happy childhood filled with music, through the youth in the centre of exciting 60s Buenos Aires.

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Roma– the name of main character´s mother and at the same time the title of his biography- is the key personage, determining her son´s choices and fueling his creativity. Assertive but gentle, lifewise,  she teaches his son the resistance to adversities of fate and living  in accordance with his own nature. Staying at the second plan for most of the time, she speaks exactly as much as she needs to, and there, in her simple words , lay the universal truths, about which we often forget in everyday rush. In oposittion to other´s advices she lets him take the girls home and chase his dreams of being a writer  She allows her son to make the bad decisions, aware of the upcoming consequences, but assuming that this is the only way to learn.

MOMMY
the fighting mother

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Mommy is the movie, which stays with you for long thanks to the rich blossoming characters, as well as the breathaking visual side. Dolan mastered here his music video- like sequences and the selection of music- Dido’s or Celine Dion’s evergreeens take on new significance here. But what stays the longest in the memory is the relationship of mother and son- painfully strong, ressembling the addiction, by times surging with erotism.
The 4×4 format perfectly reflects a sultry ambiance in the triangle Steve-Diana-Kyla and moreover, the constant akwardness that the teeenager suffering with ADHD has to face in the world of rigid rules.

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As in J’ai Tue ma Mere Dolan with his teenage inexorability utterly gives an account to his mother, Mommy is a peculiar statement of submission. Diana is way far from the ideal- excentric at times, vulgar, drinking hidden wine in the laundry room- but her independence and power, with which she fights with the controversial law act, with the system and often even with her own son, blows the spectactor’s mind.

PLAC ZBAWICIELA
the toxic mother

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The young marriage  has been roughly cheated- the developer which was taking care of their unfinished apartament disappears, leaving them with a mortgage  to pay off. The couple, together with children, is  forced to move into the Bartek´s mother appartament. That´s when the real drama starts slowly accumulating. In the narrow oppressive relation in between the son, his wife and the mother there is no space for the indulgence. The spiral of mutual  reproaches and anger initiates the decisions leading to tragic consequences.
The polish predisposition for martyrology is holding strong, in this case, however, the real-events based history defends itself fully, leaving a splinter in the eye.
The daughter in law, Beata, becomes a scapegoat. She is living off the mother- that´s why she is constantly on a thin ice, conscious of the risk of ending up on the street.

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Mother, a toxic elderly woman, makes the spectactor feel ambivalent- at one hand she is obviously a tyrant, taking advantage of the whole situation giving her a chance to release her hidden frustrations, at the other, she supports financially the son’s family, feeds them and provides them a shelter. Can she be that bad then? The woman glorifies the sissy Bartek, who earns money and devaluates the role of Beata, which gradually immerses into deep depression. However, she helps, sacryfing her privacy and peace, which she could expect after raising her own children. At the same time, her violence-emanating monologues make the audience feel repulsive. Masterfully created by Ewa Wencel, Teresa drips the venom, slowly killing herself and the others. Her relation with Bartek hits the the sensitive point, as it mirrors the crisis of mascunility in modern times.

GAS, FOOD LODGING
the adamant mother

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90s, when the histories were soaking slowly, stripped of unnecessary realism. In the American movies teenagers were dreaming, falling in love, life-and-death, making love with clothes on and children were building fortresses on the trees. I remember the warm lazy scenes running through the screen after Sunday lunch: My Girlfiend, Fried Green Tomatoes, Forrest Gump, the King’s adaptations. Maybe it’s only the childhood sentiment; either way, Gas, Food Lodging brought these memories back.
New Mexico, a single mother raising two teenage daughters, manifesting their rebellion in two opposite ways- the older, giving away her body to anyone interested, the younger-  immersing in the parallel world filled with old movies. In sleepy Larame not much happens. Nora lives with her daughters in a camper; trying hard to make the ends meet, she is spending all days working. She tries to protect them against taking the same decisions that determined her youth, however, not by all means.

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Nora refuses to take the Mother Theresa’s role and forgive everything. She treats her daughters as adults and teaches them how to be responsible for their actions- often, at the expense of mother-daughter relationship. She has her weak point- she melts surrounded by men. Trudi and Shade do too. Nora’s mistake lies in belief that she can create the full image of herself, hiding the dirty parts. The problem is, daughters are smarter than she thinks.