Archive for June 24, 2012

The Sunday Intertitle: A Girl Called Bruce

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , on June 24, 2012 by dcairns

“The Magical Kingdom of Shortened Fingers.” I think that’s part of what the above says.

The Shinji Somai retrospective began with an appropriate rainstorm outside — Somai’s characters are always getting soaked to the skin. In this one, PP RIDER (aka SHONBEN RAIDA) three kids (Jishu, in his waistcoat and tie, Jojo Kawasaki in his sleeveless T-shirt, and the tomboy girl named Bruce in her male drag) set out to rescue the school bully from kidnappers — so they can get their revenge on him for a scuffle at the start of the film.

The subject is sort of John Hughes meets The Hardy Boys, but the style is HIGH — practically every scene is an elaborate single take, with the camera crabbing through the scene, while voices from further ahead filter though onto the soundtrack — what’s going on up ahead? We’ll find out soon! In one scene, galaxies of soap bubbles serve this purpose, drifting into frame from the shot’s future. (At the end of MOVING, Shomei’s child protagonist is asked where she’s going: “The future!” is her forthright reply.)

Plus, I can’t think of a John Hughes film with so many bags of white powder figuring in it.

Bruce seeks the cathartic effects of water.

Festival director Chris Fujiwara has been inviting some of the Japanese filmmakers in town to help introduce the films, which gives an insight into how important Somei is in his homeland, and here the Hughes analogy does seem somewhat apt — his films encapsulated the pangs of adolescence for a generation (though he also made purely adult films in a way Hughes never quite managed). Atsushi Funahashi (NUCLEAR NATION) talked about Shomei’s love of water, and how his characters are always throwing things back and forth — he traced this tendency into the work of Kiyoshi Kurosawa, a former Somei assistant. And Toshi Fujiwara (NO MAN’S ZONE) talked about Somei’s gradually emerging mythical side, and those trademark sequence shots, which have a unique flavour in Somei, different from Mizoguchi, Tarr, Welles. Since Somei shoots almost every scene in a one-er, I’m particularly intrigued by his occasional decisions to cut within a scene…

And everybody is always bursting into song, but not as in a musical — these are naturalistic singalongs and recitals, except they’re not quite naturalistic at all.

Definitely a unique sensibility already apparent.


The EIFF towers

Posted in FILM with tags , , , , , , , , , , on June 24, 2012 by dcairns

A scattering of things seen at the 66th Edinburgh International Film festival —

Had the pleasure of meeting Nathan Silver (above left), whose EXIT ELENA was one of the films I spotted as a submission and recommended to the festival director, Chris Fujiwara. My original notes said something about it being an odd film where one couldn’t work out just WHY it was so damned compelling. It was also the first really good film I saw. For the catalogue, I wrote —

“Elena, a newly qualified live-in nurse, takes up residence with the affluent Akermans, to care for Mrs Akerman’s elderly mother. In contrast with the garrulous middle-aged couple, Elena is quiet and reserved, and it’s hard to know what she’s thinking. This quality somehow imbues Nathan Silver’s latest film with a simmering dramatic tension, where the low-key, docu-style events unfolding seem like they might at any moment erupt into tragedy or melodrama.”

The movie screens Sunday and Monday.

AND IF WE ALL LIVED TOGETHER? is a typically French comedy-drama about a group of retirees, long-term friends, who all move in together. The cast includes Jane Fonda and Geraldine Chaplin, which adds intrigue — it’s probably the best opportunity la Fonda has had in some time, and she seizes it. I don’t think the movie extends the reach of cinema or anything like that, but its heart is in the right place and the cast are all great. Screening Sunday and Tuesday.

EITHER WAY is a droll Icelandic comedy about two men painting lines on an endless road amid spectacular yet desolate landscapes. Much more situation comedy than Waiting for Godot, but funny, humane, and endearing. Director Hafsteinn Gunnar Siguròsson adds greatly to the humour and impact with his steely framing. I think you’ve missed it but maybe it’ll come back.

BRAKE plays Friday and Saturday. It’s Stephen Dorff stuck in the trunk of a car, and as we all know that spells EXCITEMENT. Genuinely tense and inventive terrorism-paranoia thriller, it’s another one I recommended. You’ll become very familiar with the edge of your seat.

DEMAIN? showed today but is on again Saturday 30th. Director Christine Laurent has often worked as scriptwriter with Jacques Rivette. She’s a brilliant director in her own right, imaginative, skilled and sensitive. I wrote in the programme, ”

All the performances are convincing and effecting, and integrated into fully realized filmic world with a wonderfully bright, summery sparkle: if Edinburgh’s weather is bad, you can disappear into this movie and get the summer that reality is failing to provide; conversely, even if the sun should shine outside, the movie is so radiant you won’t feel you’re missing anything.”

The weather has mainly been APPALLING.