Sunday, February 15, 2015

Notes on Dhanak (Rainbow), by Nagesh Kukunoor, India: 2014-Berlinale 2015- X.-Generation Kplus




Dhanak, one of the very few Indian films shown at this year´s Berlin Film Festival is a wonderful mixture of Road Movie and Fairy Tale. It is not only a film for and about children but has also the lightness but incredible inspired kind of a child´s play.
Tow orphans are on the move to meet in a far distant city in Rajastan Sha Rukh Khan. Pari, the girl is ten, her little brother Chotu is blind. On a poster, Pari saw that Sha Rukh Khan promised to recover eyesight for blind children.
The journey goes through the real desert landscape and they encounter a lot of curious, funny, sad and often very dangerous people like kidnapper. Kukunoor´s approach to make a film for children is one thing. On another level this film offers a correspondence between reality and play, the harsh reality of social and geographic environment and fairy tale between the children´s struggle for surviving and their fairy tale -like inspiration. If there is any Indian cinematic pendant to Grimm´s famous fairy tale Hansel and Grete, we have got it with this film, in Cinema Scope and in colours which are always stronger than in reality. Sha Rukh Khan as a Bollywood myth is only a hint. The film celebrate itself literally as a cinematic rainbow. And the film offers two option to enjoy it: the first is to enjoy it like you enjoy the first film you saw on the big screen in your life. The second option is to reflect about this everlasting relationship between cinema and reality.
One of the most unforgettable and moving character, the children encounter is a former truck driver who has lost his wife and his children during a car accident. After that he became crazy and now he walks with a steering wheel and a horn like “driving a truck”. That reminds me at the same time in the crazy boy who imitates a tram in Akira Kurosawa´s heartbreaking sad Dodeskaden and in the incredible beauty and poetry of a film by Hiroshi Shimizu.
This dynamic between sadness and comedy, between drama and fun is extremely well balanced and reflected very well in this “elder sister-Little brother” -constellation. The film is moving on a very thin line between playfulness and earnestness of two very poor children. Deeply rooted in the geographic and social reality of this part of the world with several hints to the problems the children are confronted with. Dhanak remains at the same time cinema embedded in the poetry of a fairy tale-like storytelling.

From time to time a film like Dhanak is really an essential healing after seeing so much film and after knowing so much about film. For children, Dhanak might be another introduction into the wonder of cinema, for us aging ones it should be welcomed as a rediscovery of where our love to cinema really comes from.
Rüdiger Tomczak


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Notes On Coming Of Age, by Teboho Edkins, South Africa/Germany: 2015-Berlinale 2015-IX.-Generation14plus



A documentary which takes place in the Highlands of South Africa and which is an observation of two young brothers and two teenage girls. It is an inhospitable place to live and it is winter. But again we have impressive images of a geographic and a human landscape. The female leader of this community pleads for progress and for education of the young people. Beside this we still see traditional rituals like initiation rites for young men, in this film the elder brother.
And we can almost feel the freezing air of this winterly mountain landscape.
The film remains a fragmented look to this piece of world. But suddenly we see glimpses of beauty.
Two teenage girls try to maintain their friendship when one of them goes to another school. Like in the finest film by German documentary filmmaker, we always feel that the protagonists know that they are filmed. As we are making our image of them, they seem to react in establishing their own image of themselves.
The film this observation of certain people in certain situations caused by the environment they have to live in comes close to Wim Wenders´s ideal defined in his film Tokyo-Ga” to film without the pressure to have to proof something”. In Rainer Gansera´s film on André Bazin, Eric Rohmer says, that the things we see in a film have to unfold and speak for themselves. In the case of Coming Of Age, we do not see a film which is beautiful made but a film where beauty arises in front of our eyes.
The distance, reduction and even discretion can be in cinema often an overblown attitude. In Coming Of Age the people, the landscape and the things unfold themselves in a natural way. The camera and the whole apparatus of cinema seem to have only one purpose the encourage this self unfolding of the things happening in front of the camera. And such a distant discreet attitude does not exclude a certain tenderness.
The shy smile of these girls who know that they are filmed, stays in my memory. The separation of this two girls, the 15 years old boy who can´t go to school because he has to bring the flock of sheep through the winter – are elements, small hints for a drama which will develop further in our imagination. Coming Of Age reminds me in another kind than Nikolaus Geyrhalter´s wonderful Über die Jahre (Over The Years, Forum) in the finest film by one of Germany´s greatest documentary film maker Peter Nestler.
What makes the joy to watch this film even greater (especially during a film festival) is the simple and undoubtedly fact that the most sophisticated and most cinephile audience of the Berlin Film festival you find exclusively and only during screenings of the Children-and youth films.
Rüdiger Tomczak

screenings:
Sat, Feb 14, Zoo-Palast  12.30
Sun, Feb15,Cinemaxx 1 14.30


Friday, February 13, 2015

Notes On Viaggio nella dopo-storia (Journey Into Post History) by Vincent Dieutre, France: 2015-Berlinale2015-VIII.-Forum




The film is a try of a remake of Rossellini´s masterpiece Viaggio In Italia, it is a homage to this film, a personal interpretation or how Dieutre calls it in his over voice commentary, an exercise of appreciation.
The couple Ingrid Bergman and George Sanders are here replaced by the homosexual couple Tom and Alex.
The film is always interwoven with personal reflections and thoughts by the filmmaker. Often we see him talking with a lawyer specialized in copyrights and all the legal affairs related to make a remake.
Rossellini´s masterpiece is always present, obviously in excerpts and often projected on huge screens as the background. In these moments it does not look anymore like a projected film, but like a memory of a film or even like a memory of an event which had a big impact on one´s life. The film is present in the dialogue of this gay couple which is only slightly modified. Even in the images of the Naples in the 21.century, you still feel the shadow of Rossellini´s film.

Between all the options how to define this film, I would choose rather the term “audiovisual essay” In one scene the lawyer explains to the filmmaker that adapting, remaking or even quoting an existing work becomes a problem “if you discourage the people to watch the original work”. As a matter of fact Viaggio nelle dopo-storia makes one watching the Rossellini film again and it does not matter if one already knows this film or not.

The film is a sounding of this huge resonance space between a film we love and admire, its impact on our subjective experience and our view to the world.
The actual “remake” does not really take place, it remains fragmented if caused by legal copyright-issue, technical or financial problems or finally caused by the filmmaker´ hesitation.
What makes this film to such an inspiring experience is the dynamic relationship between the film by Rossellini (and Dieutre´ for it) and the echo it leaves in the contemporary Naples and literally in the whole film by Dieutre.
After all Viaggio nella dopo-storia is probably an appreciation of a famous film, an appreciation of cinema, only a French cinephile can approach.
It is a film with many layers each of them are corresponding with each other and these layers are in the images and in the soundtrack.
Adapted and modified dialogues between Alex and Tom have sometimes a character of an evocation of the time, space and also the concrete part of history connected with Viaggio In Italia. And again the projected excerpts on a huge screen. Sometimes Tom and Alex are acting in front of it. The screen is indefinable big. We see only fragments from Rossellini´s images. In its many layers Dieutre´s film reminds me sometimes in Stanley Kwan´s masterpiece Ruan Ling Yu on the Chinese actress Ruan Ling yu and sometimes in Anup Singh´s mesmerizing cinematic dance through the world of Bengali master Ritwik Ghatak, The Name Of A River. If Anup Singh´s appreciation (which is not fixed on a certain film by Ghatak) is closer to Terrence Malick and Stanley Kwan´s bio pic closer to Orson Welles, they have nevertheless something in common with Viaggio nella dopo-jistoria. These films are more like a homage, these are films by people who really lived in and with their admired subjects. These films are great inspirations for all those who love films, who write about films - but also for those who make films.

I always loved Viaggio in Italia. Vincent Dieutre make me love it now even more. And after all, this film is a wonderful example how to talk, think, feel and how to express our love for cinema.
If film criticism and film making ever comes together, than Viaggio nella dopo-storia is a kind of la ove match between both of them.

Rüdiger Tomczak

Screening:

Sunday, Febr 15, Arsenal 1 17.30

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Notes on Gtsngbo (River) by Sonthar Gyal, China (Tibet): 2015-Berlinale 2015-VII.-Generation Kplus



In the program brochure the film is defined as a documentary, which is hard for me to believe, unless I recall the wonderful films by one of the key figures of the New Wave of Hong Kong cinema, Allen Fong, narrative films based on true biographies and mostly casted with the real protagonists. The borders of documentary and narrative cinema were suspended.

This film takes place in Tibet, a country occupied by China. First of all this film represents cinema as the “art of seeing” which evokes not only the early films by Wim Wenders but also the masterpieces by Hou Hsiao Hsien from the 1980s and 1990s. Gyals film is also an invitation to dive for 94 minutes into another world, another culture and another geography. The story is quick told. We have a man, his wife and their little daughter Yangchan. They are farmers with a small flock of sheep. They move to their summer camp for cultivate grain from what their live is depending on. The grandfather is a monk, now near the end of his life and now living like an hermit. Yangchan´s father has a bad reputation in the village because he refuses to visit his old and sick father. Later the film reveals the father´s motivation: years before the old man refuses to fulfill the last wish of his dying wife, Yangchans grandmother.
One of the most important protagonists is here the land scape, a sparse solitude. The film uses often extreme panorama shots where the few people either nearly disappear or where they seem like nothing more than beings almost grown from it.
The flock of sheep is often endangered by wolves, the summer camp mostly exposed to this climate of snow, rain and thunderstorms. The people are not talking very much – or in better words, the gestures and their faces are talking a lot. Men, animals and this incredible land scape seem to belong together, different branches from the matter of the world. Nature is slightly interpreted by the believe of men.
Yangchan is often teased by other kids. This one of these films where seemingly very few happens but as the film proceeds it turns into an amazing experience. We get a taste of a human life so concrete planted in this piece of the world – an experience only cinema can evoke.
Gtsngbo is a film which does not impose itself to be more than an image of the world and we are only temporary guests in this world which seems to exists independent from our view. That is exactly a hint to the greatness of this film. The film offers hardly any drama but in its consequence it offers the matter dramas are made of.
Yangchan feels abandoned, the parents can´t spend much time with her. The mother is pregnant again and has to wean Yangchan. One night a wolf kills a sheep. Yangchan gets friendly with the orphaned lamb. Later we witness again thunderstorms and the death of the lamb caused again by the wolves which remain invisible in this film like an uncanny power of nature. The film´s point of view seems to be in accordance with this landscape and the stoicism of its characters. In the last shot this beautiful piece of a film becomes almost an unmoved frame which tells a lot about the relationship of the characters. On the left side we see the father in some distance to his father and the girl at the right edge of the frame. The father-son conflict remains unsolved – in other words – it is not our business anymore, because we are dismissed into the black of the credits.

The miracle of Gtsngbo is that we got a glimpse of this strange world but we also leave this world with the strange sensation that it will go on to exist long after the film is finished and even long after the film becomes a fleeting memory for us.
Gtsnbo is a wonderful introduction to the wonder of cinema.
Rüdiger Tomczak

Screenings:
Thur, Feb 12, Haus Der Kulturen der Welt, 13.00
Sun, Feb 15, Cinemaxx 3                            14.00


Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Notes on Über Die Jahre (Over The Years) by Nikolaus Geyrhalter, Austria: 2015-Berlinale 2015 VI.-Forum




For Erika Richter

The greatness of cinema is primarily its diversity. And a film festival makes only sense if you get a taste of the whole range of this diversity.
My mind is still full from last Sunday and these two masterpieces by Patricio Guzman and Terrence Malick but also from  François Delisle´s wonderful Chorus. Yesterday evening, I saw this 188 min long documentary Über die Jahre by Austrian Nikolaus Geyrhalter. It is a long time observation of some clerks and workers in an old-fashioned textile factory which had to be closed. It is in a part of Austria close to the Czech border. We see these people whose life we witness in fragments aging. The more we learn about these people the more we feel the tenderness and compassion of Geyrhalter´s point of view rising. In the sens of Barbara and Winfried Junge and their legendary long time observation of “The Children of Golzow”, we get an idea about identities who are not at all bigger than life but who are shining for a moment as living beings of history. Cold and soulless statistics become body and soul. One of these persons is a book keeper, a shy man who spends hours in his free time to catalog his music collection. That provoked some laughter during the screening, which made me nearly as upset as the dumb reactions during a screening of a film by Malick. For me it was an insult against the confidence these people have in us and the filmmaker.
This “life without Ups and Downs (Ozu) passes by in front of our eyes, of us sitting in relative comfortable seats of a film theatre. If we do not see the longing in this steady human lives – we have seen nothing and we have not understood cinema at all.

In the best documentary tradition of the finest films by Peter Nestler, the film is shot almost entirely in static and quite sequences. In front of our eyes piece by piece we got a sense for the gigantic dimensions of human biographies. Geyrhalters perspective remains discrete but a discretion which does not exclude tenderness and compassion. Geyrhalters gentle and respectful view on ordinary people depending their whole life on other-directed work reveals a stronger resistance against the ruling disease called Neo-liberalism than too much ideological predetermined smart arses.

Über die Jahre demands attention and patience. I had no idea that this film will be over 3 hours long. I was tired and I have to admit, it took all my patience. I went home and had no idea what to do with this film I just saw or if I will write about it. But during this night, the film must have worked in me like yesterday´s screening was just a “recording” and the night an “inner editing” I waked up and there the film was still in my mind. The long span of life Geyrhalter recorded and spent from this life compressed to 188 minutes of film must have been unpacked in all its dimensions during this night. This morning I felt the whole weight of the human biographies revealed in this film. 12 hours after I left this film theatre I am sure I have seen a very special and very moving film. Über die Jahre might come from another corner of the universe cinema than Terrence Malick and Patricio Guzman but in its intensity and in its consequence it reveals the same movement towards the center of cinema.

Rüdiger Tomczak

Screenings:
Wed, Febr 11, Delphi           14.00
Thurs, Feb 12, Cinemaxx 4, 19.00

Fri, Feb 13, Cinestar 8,         12.00

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Notes on a masterpiece called El Botón de Nacár (The pearl Button) by Patricio Guzman, Chile/Spain/France: 2015-Berlinale V.-Competition)




For Terrence Malick


At first I have discovered the films by Guzman and Malick independent from each other. Guzman is as well the chronicler of this short-lived but probably one of the most important movement for social justice in the history, the Undidad Popular Movement in Chile. His La Batalle de Chile is one of the exemplary political documentaries in the history of cinema and like Malick, also Guzman was in his late Thirties already a living legend of cinema. When Guzman connects later his personal history, the history of his country (he had to leave for a long time) and the history of the universe in his wonderful Nostalgia De La Luz, he created something like the documentary pendant to Malick´s The Tree of Life. I have to admit again that it was this groundbreaking essay “Great Events and Ordinary People” on The Tree of Life, published on the Fipresci website which inspired me to have a different look on these two filmmaker.

Quite  an irony – a Berlin film critic called Guzman´s El Botón de Nacár “esoteric”, one of my most hated terms when it comes to critic´s reactions on films by Terrence Malick. First of all, the last films by Guzman and Malick are love letters to the matter we are all made of. As poetic as it sounds it is since a long time an undoubted fact that we are made of stardust.
El Botón de Nacár is among so much a film about water, as a source of life but also as a source of what we call civilization. Water is everywhere, even in far distant galaxies or in comets which pass by our planet. But this film offers also an ethnographic look on a native tribe from Patagonia which had once – and ages before the invention of any optical devices – a profound knowledge and understanding of the universe they saw reflected in water. Those were astronomers from a far distant past where a telescope was not even dreamt of but as well about people with an understanding of cinema long before a photo camera was even dream of.

If Nostalgia De La Luz looks like the documentary pendant to Malick´s The Tree of Life than El Botón de Nacár could be seen partly as a non-fiction pendant to The New World. Guzman looks at the traces of these disappeared Natives with boundless admiration. These natives were also famous for their body paintings only recorded on old drawings and photographs which also reflected their astonishing understanding of the universe without no device but their eyes opposite to the devices Guzman as a filmmaker and the astronomers can benefit from today. It is the same look of admiration we have in The New World in this Ophüls-like dance between the perfect apparatus of cinema and the native girl Pocahontas – and here Malick´s and Lubezki´s look to a past of cinema long before the apparatus of cinema was even dreamt of.
The disappearance of the natives in El Botón de Nacár and the disappearance of the natives in The New World caused by economical and political motivated colonialism is for both filmmaker a tragedy because mankind deleted a big part of its own collective memory full of knowledge.
Martin Scorsese once mentioned that cinema is often a look into the past and it is often a look into the past to a world we have lost but where we still can learn from.

It is interesting and also daring that Guzman uses beside astronomic film footage, his own recorded images also animated footage. For some purists a tabu is broken, for me this is nothing less than the evidence that Guzman is both a chronicler and a poet.

We have in Berlin an impressive Holocaust-monument. As impossible it is to imagine the worst genocide in the history of mankind, these empty and silent stones give you at least an idea about the loss of millions of identities deleted from the collective memory like through a Black Hole, a metaphor Guzman will use later in his film when he reveals the victims of the Pinochet´s dictatorship which are tortured, killed and thrown into the ocean, bound on steel from demolished railways. After 40 years there only small traces of human remains left on this steel.
The artificial devices of cinema and astronomy is not necessary to see what is but to regain what we have lost or forgotten.

The water, the stars, the old photographs, the steel of demolished railways, the pearl button as the last witness of a murdered victim are images which are burnt into my memory. The look into the past of the universe, the past of the history of Chile or the past of disappeared natives is like a look at an infinite screen. El Botón De Nacár is a film often hard to bear. Moments of great beauty alternate with moments of horror and grieve.

I remember the third part of La Batalle de Chile which is also a look into the past. While part 2 ends with the decline of the Unidad Popular and with the suicide of Salvador Allende, the third part is a long elegy of loss. His most recent films Nostalgia De La Luz and El Botón de Nacár leave a very likely echo in me.
On this very Sunday during this Berlin Film festival I have seen these two unforgettable films by Terrence Malick and Patricio Guzman. Two days later when I write these lines on Guzman´s wise, beautiful and very sad masterpiece – I have the strong and rare feeling that I witnessed film history on this very day.

Rüdiger Tomczak


 Screening:
Sun, Febr 15, Haus der Berliner Festspiele, 10.00

Monday, February 9, 2015

Notes on a masterpiece called Knight Of Cups by Terrence Malick, USA: 2015-Berlinale 2015-IV.-Competition




For Patricio Guzman


It might have been pure accidental but the programming of Malick´s Knight Of Cups and Guzman´s El Botón de Nacár was a very lucky one. Both directors have go a nearly legendary reputation when they were in their Thirties and both filmmakers are hunted by grieve and losses of their personal biography.

Like expected Knight Of Cups is like Malick´s two previous films autobiographic inspired. Even though made with proper Hollywood budgets, his last films are rather radical manifestations of the french term “Caméra Stylo” in the sense of Truffaut as radical personal films. For all those who wonder how I can love Ozu, Ford, Naruse, Hou Hsiao Hsien and Terrenca Malick at the same time, I suggest there are two kind of great film maker. The first kind was able to make an effort finding their place in cinema where they can make the films they want. The second kind are filmmaker who are Looking for their place in the (film)-world. Terrence Malick, Ritwik Ghatak and Hiroshi Shimizu belong for my side to this second group whom I call “searchers”. Their creative energy is mostly absorbed by this search-movement. Christian Bale´s Rick is like Jack in The Tree of Life and Neil in To The Wonder )whom I will suggest as Malick´s Egos) a driven person looking for his place in the world. Interestingly this searching aspect of Malick is also reflected in his most impressive female characters played ny Linda Manz, Q´Orianka Kilcher or Olga Kurylenko. Most of Malick´s characters are uprooted. If they have a home, they will loose it.
After To The Wonder, Knight Of Cups takes place even more in urbane and contemporary landscapes. In both films we see a lot of homeless people whose misfortune correspondents with the mental situation of the main protagonists.

In all carefulness in stressing the term of “autobiographic elements" too much I have the strong feeling that sometimes more and sometimes less encrypted Malick embeds very personal confessions related to a more global vision of the world. If we follow Niles Schwartz in his definition of The Tree of Life as a requiem for his late brother and if we follow Rob Turner who interpreted To The Wonder as among other aspect as well as an elegy on Malick´s second wife, Rick in Knight of Cups is script writer and as a creative person most close to Malick. If we see them all as reflections of Malick himself, we have to notice they are rather traveled and failed and at best looking for their place in the world.
The film begins with a recitation of Rick´s father. It is a story of a prince from the East sent from his father to look in Egypt for a pearl. But the prince drinks the wine of forgetfulness. Even though his father sent him signs, the prince remains lost. In strange way the introduction is an echo of the tragedy of Pocahontas uprooting from her tribe in The New World.
Since Malick´s collaboration with Emanuel Lubezki and his fluid mostly handheld camera movements became one dominant element in Malicks films since The New World, this stylistic element became an adequate physical transmission of the mental conditions of its protagonists.
In several shots we see Rick alone and lost in a desert like the adult Jack in The Tree of Life. We do not just see Rick searching for a way out of the desert, the camera movements make this inner search traceable in a concrete physical way cinema can offer.
The apartment he lives in seems to big for him and he often seems as lost as in the desert. The thin and fragile illusion of a home and protection is shattered by an earthquake. As natural and physical affecting phenomenon it reflects also the mental quakes of a disturbed life, the loss of his younger brother who probably committed suicide and the very difficult relationship to his father. Later Rick will be attacked by armed robber in his apartment. They are angry because there is not much to rob in this apartment. The kind Malick´s characters live in his last two films are provisional arrangements.
The film is structured in several chapters all called after Tarot-cards. Well for some critics who are blind enough to call Malick´s films are esoteric they will find another pseudo-proof. For me it is just another proof for Malick´s refreshing inspirations and his daring playfulness. And there is also again talk about the non-existence of a proper script. And if it is so, than it is another proof for Malick as one of the most inspired filmmaker of our time and last but not least he might follow the tradition of a Chaplin or a Shimizu, who often worked with not more than some pages of vague notes.

While we see Rick trying to fill his emptiness and his depressions with parties and Sex as a replacements for his failed relationships to women, he seems for a while totally absorbed be the neon lights of a pseudo reality, the mask of the modern neoliberal American capitalism Almost literally when he leaves this illusory world he stumbles over homeless people in the real streets of Los Angeles. Also reality and the illusory world are here dramatized through the contrast of artificial and natural light.

Like in The Tree Of Life the father-son conflict has here a lot of weight. Rick´s rebellion against his father is also a rebellion against the definition of a grim god , Job had to deal with. This goes with Malick´s gentle definition of God as pure love. Rick´s “pilgrimage” goes through excesses and very concrete physical desires. But in Malick´s world, these physical desires often distorted by drug-like excesses are part of this pilgrimage. To find the meaning of our existence, it is a crime to ignore the body as the most important evidence of the creation. There is hardly any film director alive with such a deep love and admiration for the bodies of living creatures. Rick´s addiction to women is his problem. The prostitutes he meets are both, reflections of his desires but at the same time persons with a soul. The definition slut or whore do not exist in Malick´s cinematic world at all. He is a poet and not a judge.
In Knight of Cups we see a lot of devices, machines, men-made things. Very often we see Helicopters flying. Artificial lights in the streets at night, in bars or at parties. Especially these devices , I see as metaphors for the device of cinema, the image-making apparatus. As a contrast to this world of machines, the technical aspect of cinema included we see as well the nakedness of the existence of living creatures. Christian Bales´face is mostly stuck in despair, depression as a lost soul.
There are many car rides in this film in a total synchrony with the fluid camera movement. The more this film reveals all these devices which are part of our civilization, the more his fluid camera reveals a cultivation of the cinematic apparatus, paradoxically we feel more and more our own nakedness. We are not too far away from the several homeless people in the streets of Los Angeles.
A woman saves with her bare hand a wasp against drowning in a swimming pool. A caressing gesture which moved me (who really hates wasps) to the bones. Despite all his use of the devices modern film technology has to offer, Knight of Cups is first of all symptomatic for the Cinema of Terrence Malick as an act of grace. I am not blind for the eloquence in his use of this apparatus of cinema and its cultivation. But what always moves me to tears and what finally was the key in my attraction to his films are these incredible gestures of tenderness, evidences of a deep love for the living creatures. Terrence Malick is not only like Ritwik Ghatak an important searcher and cultivator of cinema, he is also one of the most compassionate director cinema has ever originated.

Rüdiger Tomczak
a German version which is almost identical with the English original text is on my website




Thurs, Feb 11, Friederichstadtpalast 9.30 and 15.00
Sun, Feb 15, Friedrichstadtpalsst, 13.00



Saturday, February 7, 2015

Chorus by François Delisle, Canada: 2015, Berlinale 2015-II.-Panorama






Part I.

After their son was missing a couple Irene and Christophe got separated. Ten years later when the police finally finds the mortal remains of the boy, the have to come together again. He lives in Mexico and she is singing in a choir medieval polyphone songs.

Loneliness and Alienation

A film in Black and White that evokes at the first glance in me two famous names from film history: Carl Theodor Dreyer and Yasujiro Ozu. And from Ozu especially his bleakest among his masterpieces Tokyo Boshoku (Tokyo Twilight, 1957). his drama about urbane life in Post War Japan.
While the Over voice monologues in Chorus reveals how the protagonists try to deal with their grieve and their loss the dialogues between Irene and Christophe, Christophe and his father or Irene with her mother are punctuated by pauses of silence. The dialogues have almost the character of a recitation. Talking is in Chorus a difficult work, every word is an effort. As a contrast to that, there is the beautiful and fluid choral music, a music where different human voices are in harmony with each other. These moments are like a distant echo of a harmony of life which is lost. The film moves often between the longing of its characters for being part of the world and their isolation from their environment.

The film opens with the confession of a pedophile prison inmate who has killed their son. It is a long scene where we see the murderer exposed to the camera and our view. Right at the end of the frame we see the police investigator. This confession is the last action of the perpetrator in the film. Later he will commit suicide. What we see at the beginning of the film is a person who is totally disconnected from the world.

Cinema Scope

Once invented for spectacular period dramas in competition to the rising television, this format was soon acquired by masters like Ophüls, several Japanese directors and and also the upcoming auteurs of the New European Cinema in the late 1950s. In a film by François Delisle, this mighty format is used very flexible. It can give in one scene an idea of the range of the world (Christophe on the beach in Mexico, his view in to the night heaven full of stars) or the mighty space of a church where the choir´s rehearsals take place) and in the next scene it can evoke a loneliness and a total isolation of the characters from the rest of the world. People seem captured with themselves and their own reflections. The images have often very soft contrasts but a lot of gray shades.
It is winter in Quebec and if there is one film beside Ozu´s Tokyo Boshoku which evokes the physical temperature of this season than it is Chorus. Sometimes it seems the people are only talking and moving to avoid freezing to death.
Iréne and Christophe are seen through the front window of a car which is nearly identical with the cinema scope frame of the film. I think there was a likely moment in Deslisle´s Toi from 2007. And like here and even if the couple shares the same space they almost look more lost than ever. There is only an echo of the close relationship they once had.

Memories.

 Iréne and Christophe try to keep the memories of their late son alive and sometimes this holding of memories seems to keep themselves alive. The murderer of their son releases a memory which has poisoned his soul. Irene´s mother refuses to cultivate memories at all. She tries to forget the death of her husband (who committed suicide), the death of her grandson and her daughter´s marriage she never agreed to.
Later Iréne visits a nursery for old people to meet the mother of the son´s murderer. But the old woman is dement and her memory is already in the process of decay. One last time the couple looks at their son´s possessions storaged in a locker before they finally give them away. When Christophe returns to Montreal, he lives at his father´s place. In the background we see often shelves full of books. Books are as well a storage of memories, the collective memories of a civilization like the sheet music of the medieval choral music and finally as well like chemical or digital recorded  images. Near the end they meet the class mate of their son who is 18 years now and for a moment memory becomes literally a living being.

The Visible and the Invisible

As cinema can´t visualize mental conditions, it needs the detour of bodies to give an idea about mental conditions.The face of Fanny Mallette´s Irene is close to Dreyer´s definition of the human face as a landscape. What she might feel can only be read in her face in sudden changes of expressions. That reminds me that Delisle´s women portraits are the most impressive ones I have seen in the last 20 years. 
Sébastien Ricard´s Christophe reveals his vulnerability often through his whole body. There is a remarkable strong moment when we see him lying on the beach exposed to the tides of the ocean. Hoe the ocean waves move his almost passive body is a moment which stays in my memory. While Irene and Christophe are at any moment close to a breakdown, Genevieve Bujod´s (Irene´s mother) face is almost unmoved like Chishu Ryu´s in Tokyo Boshoku. All what she might feel, her grieve and loss is totally hidden behind her face and all her life energy seems to be consumed by the effort to forget all the pain in her life. The film has as well the character of a painting set in a cold winter landscape where each of its characters seem to be fight for surviving. Through the very banal fact that winter (and especially in Québec) is a physical very demanding climate situation we got more ideas about the mental condition of the characters.

The Concert

At the end, the couple joins with their son´s class mate a Rock concert. Delisle is always very economic in using music in his films but when he does it creates often very strong moments of catharsis. They dance and for this moments they enjoy themselves. One almost can feel the heat as a comfortable contrast to the winter outside. Among the moving characters and the hard Rock rhythms it evokes also this certain tenderness Delisle´s towards his protagonists which was also evident in 2 Fois Une Femme from 2010. Delisle traces the smallest moments of hope for his desperate characters. Some of them become magical cinematic moments. If the characters rediscover their bodies they find back their souls.

Part II.

When I discovered the first film by François Delisle, Ruth in 1994 during the World film Festival of Montreal, I was in a very dogmatic phase of appreciating mostly films which tends to minimalism. Ruth seemed to fit very good in this. Today and especially after his last three films, I am sure there is no formula which fits for Delisle´s work and even my mentions and comparisons between Chorus and Ozu´s film have its limits. Even though his last three films are interesting experiments with this mighty apparatus of film making like  his playfullness with narrative forms there is a very strong relationship between what his films reveal and finally how they approach it. Even more than his previous films, Chorus seems to be tight composed in almost each frame. But what these frames finally evoke especially about the film´s protagonists goes far beyond any formal experiment. To use again my favorite definition of the German word Einstellung (shot) by Wim Wenders: This German word includes not only the technical term of film making but also the attitude you have towards the things which are revealed it. Remember the opening sequence with the perpetrator confessing his murder to a police investigator. We see him first from the point of view of the investigator and after a cut we see the police officer from his perspective. The same scene is reveled much later in the film and this time as a video recording for  Iréne and Christophe after the murderer has committed suicide. The “spectators”  Iréne and Christophe are more affected like us at the film opening long before we learn anything about their tragedy. In this repetition of a scene we remember we have to deal with the mourning, loss and bitterness of the couple and at the same time with the miserable fate of the perpetrator at the same time.Just alone this idea reveals what I would like to call "cinematic intelligence.
The following breakdown of the couple turns the inner tremors to the surface of the physical world. This is almost like an explosion in this subtle and slow paced film, a moment when almost the mightyCinema Scope frame (an obvious tool of the cinematic apparatus) seems to tremble. That is what I mean with this relationship in Delisle´s films between the apparatus of image making and the naked truthfulness it disclosed. It is not only a film about the vulnerability of a mourning couple who has to deal with a big loss, the film itself – or better the cinematic point of view (lets use the German word Einstellung again) seems to be a precise interface between between what we see and how we see it. I know – there is much more to say about Chorus (which is for my side with 2 Fois Une Femme Delisle´s finest film). François Delisles films and especially his new film Chorus represent an art of empathy.


Rüdiger Tomczak





Screenings:

Sat, Feb 7,  14.00 Kino International
Mon, Feb 9, 20.00 Cinemaxx 7
Tues, Feb 10, 17.45 Cinestar 3
Wed, Feb 10, 20.30 Cubix 7
Wed, Feb 9, 20. 30 Cubix 8

Notes on The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses Over The Hills by Marcin Malaszcak, Poland/Germany: 2015-Berlin Filmfestival III.Forum




A film which does not really turn into a narration. I remember during one of these great lectures on “Dramaturgy of films" by Ernst Schreckenberg from “Komunales Kino”, Dortmund once said that our memory works selective. What remains of a film in the memory are often moments. Truffaut once wrote that he had difficulties to reconstruct the story of a film he just saw. His enthusiasm as a young cinephile also was often caused by single moments.
The Days Run Away Like Horses Over The Hills presents every day fragments of women, from a very cute toddler called Elise to old women.
Only at the first sight we have the illusion that the film just films how life is without “ups and downs” like Ozu once defined his ideal of a Cinema on every day life. More or less the fragments we see in this film and which finally will be part of our memory, are exactly the pendant to parts of our life we probably forget very soon. That makes each moment very fleeting and we forget for a moment that this film can be watched again if on the screen or on  DVD.
There is for example a young woman taking care of our Elise as a day nanny. While Elise is walking around opening cup boards, the young woman is resting on the floor. This scene is filmed in a very Ozu-like Low position and as this film is made in the classic Academy format, it accentuates more the verticals in this frame. Through this low position, a toddler which we usually see from above we now look up to the child. One can enjoy this moment not only because of this cute toddler Elise but Elise is also a very good introduction to this film, her curiosity inspirers our own.

Three young women having a party in an almost empty apartment, talking and dancing. Nothing important seems to happen  - we think for now. The idea filming every day moments which seem banal and which we realize later as condensed like a Haiku is very familiar to me because of Ozu and his incredible masterpiece Bakushu.
We see a young woman taking a shower hidden by a shower curtain, protected against any voyeurism. Later she puts her face on which is shown in close up. We see an image of her and at the same moment she established an own image of herself. The Black and White image turns colored.
The film moves to old women in Poland. Even though the film remains recording every day moments, we see the difference. These old women are in the middle or near the end of their life. There is a long dialogue during an afternoon coffee where an old women tells about a beloved person she has lost.
What I did n´t know during seeing this film and what I read some days later in the press text in the director´s statement that all persons who appeared were the director´s former girlfriend, other friends, hist mother, grandmother and their friends. Like in an Ozu-film these different generations of women and this different living environments are different approaches to find a place in life. The Days Run Away Like Horse Over The Hills by Marcin Malaszcak is not a film you just watch, it is a film which work in the memory days after you have seen it. Watching is here to acquire what you have seen and finally edit in your memory. And like in this film it happens often in cinema that through fragmentation of the things revealed in the film the scope of the world is the more imaginable

Rüdiger Tomczak

Screenings:
Feb 7, Sat Kino Arsenal 22.45
Feb, 13, Fri,        Delphi 22.30
Feb, 14, Sat  Zoo-Palast 2, 14.30


Thursday, February 5, 2015

Notes on Alice in den Städten (Alice In The Cities) by Wim Wenders, Germany: 1973, Berlinale 2015 -I.- Homage Wim Wenders




for T and M

Alice In The Cities is still my favorite film by Wim Wenders. I remember having seen this film on a Sunday afternoon on Television, I think it was 1974. The film was quite young and the things revealed in it were at that time contemporary. As the film takes place most of its length in the region where I was born and grew up, it offered me both. First of all it was probably one if not the first film I saw which I identified as a film on my time, not to mention the locations in the second half. The fictive part of the film, its Road Movie aspect made me dream when I was a teen at that time.
It is a film where the real world and Cinema came together and with reality I mean the real places and things I was familiar with. At this time I did n´t know Ozu yet. Many years later I discovered Wenders films for myself via the detour Ozu.
When I think about Alice In The Cities more than 40 years later, I try to imagine how a Japanese who was a contemporary of Ozu has looked at the things and the places in the films of the great Japanese film director.
A lot of buildings you see in this film do not exist anymore. A coal miner settlement we see in one scene was close after this scene was filmed demolished.
I remember a scene in one of these ice-cafés which you could find in the region “Ruhrgebiet” in the 1960s and 1970s (Eisdielen) which were installed mostly by Italian immigrants.
When I saw this film on this boring Sunday afternoon, the reality the film evoked began just in front of my door. Today the film is like a history book which supports my personal memories in that time.
The film is like a monument which has to replace the buildings and all the things which were specific for the Western Germany of the 1970s and which are gone forever. I remember a very short excerpt from the Rolling Stones-song Angie which was exactly my favorite song in this very year. In these 40 years something happened with this film which could not have been the intention of a very young Wim Wenders in the year 1973. The amber which captured the things we see in the film was probably almost fluid and transparent in 1974 and this feeling I had for this “Now and Here” became a memory.
Nearly the first half of the film takes place in America which was for me in 1974 quite an abstract dream but for me hard to reach at this time. America was a landscape which existed at this time for me almost entirely through cinema.
One of the movements of this film is the failed journey of a German writer. When his America excursion fails he has to return to Germany. Before he can return to his sad every day life he will be involved with a young mother and her daughter. Back in Germany he has to care for a while for the girl, because the mother´s return from America is delayed. Bugged at the beginning by his father like duty for this child forced on him, his actually journey just begins.
I am not sure but I can´t imagine to have seen in 1974 this odyssey through a region very familiar to me as engrossed as I see it now. I am only sure about one thing the whole film as a resolution of Cinema and reality must have impressed me a lot – or at least I felt comfortable with it.

Like we know today the two homages to John Ford in this film were pure accidental: The excerpt of Young Mr. Lincoln in Rüdiger Vogler´s hotel television set and the big article in the newspaper on the death of John Ford “Versunkene Welt” (Sunken World).
Wenders once said that the death of John Ford just happened when he shot this scene. This shot became over the years much more weight for me, because in these 40 years John Ford became one of my favorite directors.

Together with Mr. And Mrs. Iyer by Aparna Sen and Arigato-San by Hiroshi Shimizu, Alice In The Cities is not just one of my most beloved Road Movie but a journey itself.
As I wrote once on Cambodian Cinema before the genocide or on a Korean Silent film screened two years ago in the Forum, sometimes one can sense the ghosts of the people who have seen and lived with these films. And when my generation gone and when it will be forgotten, this film will still give in 30 or more years an idea of how and where we have grown up in this very concrete piece of German geography.

Rüdiger Tomczak


Screenings:
Tue, Feb, 10, Cinemaxx 8, 22.00
Thurs, Feb 12, Zeughauskino, 19.00