Archive

Monthly Archives: April 2014

“During World War II, a Lithuanian farmer finds three dead soldiers near his house. Fearing reprisals, he buries them secretly in a ravine and plants a tree in their memory. 70 years on, his son begins an archaeological dig to find their remains and give them a dignified burial. This is where the film begins…”

Only one today. Only you. Like the song.

10 am, after a little queuing with some impatient people who cannot wait for the subtitles to be fixed and that anyway leave the theater after 30 min, there am I sitting on my favorite spot since yesterday. I found a very calm, peaceful away from the dark chatters seat in one of the venues. This morning’s movie, and the only on my today’s to watch list is called Kenotafas. No need to explain you what it is about, you just read the synopsis.

Clearly a movie where you can easily miss the point if making out of it something spectacular or if that bit of History doesn’t have en echo in you. Here, the director made a very interesting choice by being involved in this dig , and at the same time he ‘s a spectator of the plot as he multiplies the cinematographer’s effects by shooting the forest and the nature in a pretty awesome National Geographic IMAX sort of esthetic. Truly, it is impressive and captivating. So are the bits, more prosaic, where those sons of war survivors try to fix a bit of the great History by changing their families fortune. The son tries to fix what the father did. The young ones try to bring justice to the troubles of the ancients. But it is said that the son won’t carry the burden of the father…in litterature only.

If the movie is truly respectful and follows a very natural rhythm (finally a non real tv sort of editing) that goes along the hard work of looking for those burried ones, it does as well show on how much the choices of mise en scene can be tricky, in a world where a steadicam is as available as a disposable lighter. If it is pleasant to watch those admirable scenes where we fly behind the characters (specially one in some German military archives room), the soundtrack used is reducing the quality of the shots. Too many times those long waves of sounds, those bass effects on ants close ups are ruining the visual choices.

Last little thing that, well is it needed or not ? big debate….concerns the quoting inside the movie that…a movie is being shot ?! In a scene that clearly doesn’t bring anything but sort of an excuse for not finding a end to the story ? As I say…to show it or not to show it…?

 

So for today, only one. Monogamic day as actually I didn’t feel as staying for any other movies, the first one giving me enough food for thoughts. It brought me even more thoughts, as once the movie was over, I decided to read the synpopsis. And if the lines here above totally matched what was on screen…tha last one…made me…pretty doubtful about where I was :

“Stonys [the movie director] transforms the real into visionary vertigo”

WTF ?!!! (sorry for it)

I am less and less a fan of all those emphasised verses chosen by producers or even movie makers in presenting their work. A code exists since long time where a need for giving a richer version of reality is predominant and if you stick to what you see, your work isn’t worth being shared by not being clever enough. I remember my days in major corporations where we simply called this marketing. And the idea of it, to sell your stuff, is to state the right message into the right way so that the consumer will buy it. Well same applies here, despite all the positionning of calling it culture ; it doesn’t serve as an excuse or a magic shield that protects you from recognizing that this is the same sort of claim that in other context makes people buy shampoo. Here it makes you feel like there is something more that just a movie and directs your personal effort of digging into what it could mean by making you as lazy as in front of a shelf. On top, the strength of the words that are used still mean something to me. But if these festivals are mainly visited by an audience that has everything in life, indeed the only way to bring them along is to sell them the beyond life utility of the art pieces…Can’t they recognize it anymore ?

This brings me as well, after seing a multiplication of such sort of synposis that if we say, in economy, that there is a 1% vs the 99% others, I think this kind of verbal trick is as well targeting a sort of 1% population. I ll let this though mature and one of these days I ll come back to it.

But after my grumpy bit…

it has been a nice morning, where reality on screen was more than enough, so thanks to the movie director. Tomorrow some more movies – a big day with 7 or 8 I believe ; and definitely the choice to not read what the synopsis wants to sell me. Why ? Because I’m worth it…

 

 

 

The Movie :

Today has been a great day for filmmaking. If yesterday I felt a sort of lack of commitment, today 2 out of 3 movies were on the opposite side.

 

First and probably my favorite of the day : The Optimist, or a team of 15 old ladies – aged from 68 to 98 years old – that move from a weekly fun practice of volleyball on a tennis court into planning a match against another elderly team. We follow their adventures, the adventures of retired people trying to keep on with an acceptable shape and slowly getting ready to the end of the journey. It actually shows what our European continent is facing more and more and will have to deal with in the coming years : ageing population and what will be his role, entertainment and duties in the society. A very touching movie where the characters and their issues are dignified by the movie director. As a result an amazingly well-balanced movie that touched me a lot, probably as in On location most of my interviews involve that same generation. Totally apart from the movie itself, the cinema room was overcrowded by seniors ! A lot of laughs occurred and I believe it was more often nervously done, as the average audience member was lacking a simple decade to be part of those wonderful sporty grandmas. So if you can watch it anywhere, go for it !

Second of day was selected as it is about a trans-siberian train. On the printscreen a table with pickles and tea. All what I love and a part of the mixed culture of our family. So just the time to change location and here we are : Quelques jours ensemble. French movie, french director…and back to the ” I found an amazing spot that is so exotic to what we have in our country that only by shooting whatever will happen stories will emerge and the set is so unbelievable that it becomes a character and etc etc…”. Overall nothing to say about the movie and nothing keep silent. Dont criticize, don’t celebrate. It could me the motto. Indeed it seemed that , once again, the fascination worked as a strong inhibitor and all the feelings of the experience of the shooting were translated and shown via the usual  “french touch” of the voice over, while having scenes shot from the train’s window on the move. Already seen ? No worries there ‘s a great audience for such movies. Overall a bit disappointed despite the very interesting stories of the travellers, even if very close to the stereotype of what we think Russia and its citizens are. Nevertheless I asked myself, after a man told his memories from the USSR’s Afghanistan war, what should the average hipster with his Freitag bag thinks or feels on such a moment ?

Last of the day, and perfect to conclude it : Territoire de la Liberté. A russian movie about the free community of Stolbyst, proud and free mountaineers that live upstream in current Russia’s melt. The movie, made by a Russian that was educated in such community embraces the reality of what freedom could be in the modern Russia. Never being idealistic but rather showing the complexity and pragmatism of the slavic mind-set, we follow generations of “Stolbysts” and their way of living. Some might say it looked like a movie about mountain vacations camp or some wild scouts unofficial jamboree. To me it looked exactly the same as what some people have here as well : huts in the mountains with primary comfort, sanctuaries away from everyday’s routine’s dictatorship (yes the joke here is stands in one letter…). Formally, the movie works around a non sophisticated binary rhythm, where Kremlin’s gatherings and official schedule faces the way those free thinkers adapt it. At the end it gives you a nice feeling of wanting to know more and the thought that yes you were invited to be a guest of a secret way of life, but it is a private club only. And its code might not be yours, unless you are Russian. To me, nothing wrong about it, rather the opposite : it shows you from deep inside a way of recognizing your own philosophy of life. In that sense a teaching and a true gift : this is the way it works for us, be sure there is one for you too.

 

Amazing day, with a little more sun than yesterday. Is it a sign ? At least my learning today is multiple : first of all, I understand why Swiss (or wealthy / educated ) audience can be satisfied with a movie that focuses only on a shiny mesmerizing object : it is already enough exotic to make you think (in the best case) or feel some emotions as quite often we tend to hide them in these latitudes. I understand as well why movie makers having that education have a hard time going over the fascination of their subject and avoid to enter where it hurts and gives you a scar as a shooting memory. It might jeopardize the outcome, maybe having a less perfect movie but what are we looking for ? A direct connection with the topic ; what is offered on-screen can only be passed through a human experience, a feeling. I know that’s my latino – southern hemisphere me – talking, but to me movie director is like a guide, that takes you, unexperienced person, into a world where he’ll be always there for you. He makes you discover places and things by standing next to you, by sharing the secret of his own experience and beloved world.

Secondly, I must admit that If I was shocked on the audience age couple of years ago, it doesn’t get better as even being a not that young adult anymore, I am surprised on how many old spices groomed arty people are around. A vast majority actually. And how much all is becoming more and more standardized on how most of the audience looks like, talks like, breathes like and no matter the age. Diversity at its lowest level. The more the industry claims to be a non industry, the more everyone looks alike…and protects its little capital…

Thirdly, and despite my critics, there’s a lot of work put into the movies, and I would even say maybe too much. Perfection, years of theories and guidance on how to be free of contingencies are now having the opposite effect : we find the ultimate quality (on the aspect, not always the content) in every type of movie. They seem less and less made by humans and more and more made by the legacy of discourse. And I truly believe that editing suffers more and more from the real TV influence. I am sure.

So tomorrow again another session, other discoveries and as everyday thanks to the people who made those movies , for their dedication and …gosh I badly miss a little mountain hike ! So take me there with your movies !!

 

 

The movies :

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After a year of diet, here I am again at the Visions du Reel movie festival in Nyon. The main focus of the festival are documentaries somehow linked to direct cinema theories (to make it simple and quick…if more check http://www.visionsdureel.ch)

Today was my first day at the Festival that actually started last week. But due to Easter and the usual Polish trip linked to it, I missed the first days…and so far I would say for good. Indeed Recently I am wondering on how to move on with the editing of the movie On Location, as 98% of the shooting is completed. And after a lot of mountaineering and that family trip, I am now more than opened for advice and ideas.

So perfect timing to go back to a movie festival, to get inspired by what is being screened to find solutions to this usual  tricky bit I am having now as the post production begins.

Today it was rainy and cloudy. Cold and windy. It starts to be the standard for the Nyon’s festival. Indoors a packed cinema room – probably the weather’s effect – and the first movie of the day was Modulations, a short movie about a hip hop crew’s studio recording session. I am a fan of hip hop and the movie brought me back some…well 25 years ago , days of my life when I was deeply immersed into the freshly growing hip hop culture in Switzerland. So on the screen the entire process on how to set up a beat, adapt it to the lyrics and then the recording / mastering in what has become more than familiar to anyone since “we are the world” video clip and more recently all the home studios happily sold by Avid, M-Audio, Steinberg, etc etc have been heavily promoted.

Unfortunately to me, I think the movie was a nice high quality capture of a moment in life…and nothing more. I could feel the director being overwhelmed not by the emotions of the topic but by the fact of being fascinated by it. Sort of “let me show you the WOW” instead of “let me share with you the WOW that is happening on-screen. A lot of images of mixing devices, peak meters close-ups, tweek switches being processed, headset and mic covers just for the sake of the nice picture. A feeling that the movie director rediscovered what MTV broadcasted widely in the 80’s. Maybe is she too young to know it ?

Following it was another medium length documentary called Maximum Pleasure. A polish movie about five retired woman in a Polish town that are getting crazy buying every possible expensive household gadget that the TV Shopping channel has to offer. And indeed the weakness of the ladies is that all seems to be an offer : special expensive prices but with discount on supposed high quality life lasting products. The official synopsis defines the movie as a cruel documentary comedy about a widespread phenomenon in Central Europe…and it is true. And so does the point of view. There is very little empathy with the 5 characters. We are stuck in the showing of  how they are trapped into this craving for buying themselves a living and an eternity via selfishly spending the money they don’t have. Obviously it is hard to build and show the true complexity of the characters, specially if we consider how much History , from WW II to Communist Times, had a strong impact on people’s lives and perspectives. Some scenes are truly hilarious and are worth watching the movie. But if the main joke of such scenes are blowing you off on their first appearance, they become as well like gadgets when being repeated later on. Again hard to understand what the movie director wanted to share there. And this is why it becomes cruel and unfortunately to me reduces the “plot” to some people who run no matter what after fulfilling their egos. Some melancholic bits and general background locations (their houses, their partners) help in giving clues on how stretched they could be. But nothing apart from money seems to be the stretch. At the end the feeling that the director is pointing a finger towards them and this irrational race they embarked in.

Lunch break – fast one and back to the cinema where…well…I must say that both short movies of the morning are definitely worth being watched and my comments could be seen as picky…but the one I had at 12.00 GMT+1….I still can’t believe I’ve seen such. It was Les Tourmentes.

I actually chose to go to it as it was being presented as some magic, mystical outdoors mountains, Shepard, animals and voices mashed movie. A must see. Yes a must see in the 70’s with all the artificial voice over, shaky frames, super loud deep bass sounds (btw thanks Mr David Lynch…..if in your movies all the suction sounds effect are great, it actually polluted the mind of generations and generations of movie directors…I am joking of course but such cool effect is being used over and over and over in whatever situation…). So or I became sort of sensitive about what the experience of the outdoors is, or the movie has been mixing to many things…and only in someones brain. A true lack of content from the heart. It was an essay , again fascination first and power of the topic much after and hidden in a rigid copy/paste form, where every 10 min the same was happening with pretty similar images and sounds effects. A lot of work definitely, but not touching me. For sure other people have been, as this is the beauty of the world : all tastes are equally available and good.

Half sleepy I got out of the cinema to move to another location where I would enjoy the two last movies of the day : again shorter ones. The first , Autofocus, is a great little Croatian movie where you spend your time watching, from a couple of yards away , one of the most visited touristic attraction that is located on a small hill. Worldwide languages, comedy situations : tourists being spied by a sort of sniper hidden far away from his victims. We laugh, sometimes too much if I consider the content and the audience’s reaction ( I ll explain it later), and at the end we feel like having had a nice time. Nothing more. A true candid camera moment that makes you feel some kind of better than the average tourist. And this is a true discomfort to me. Sounds like I haven’t enjoyed a lot my day…

Last movie of the day : Hotel and a Ball. A movie bravely crafted in Latvia , presented as ” The film is about wondering why the world is the place it is”…”A masterful quiet dialogue of worlds and points of view”. To put it back into the context, imagine an old sport resort, you know the communist times jewel of the 50’s. Fine. You’re there ? Ok so imagine nothing has been refurbished since and still every type of young sports people use it for football, athletics, strong men preparation contest. The employes on the fields have made their careers there too. So have the equipment. A hotel is still opened and welcomes all those brave sportsmen and women. Interesting topic. Interesting movie. And again just a camera that , thanks to close-ups makes some normal, everyday’s details appear like the ultimate poetry. A very normal things that I remembered happening in a small swiss village’s football field in the 80’s were so attractive to an overcrowded cinema as all is happening now in Latvia… I am still puzzled. But nice movie, specially if you don’t read or consider the synopsis.

All in all a nice start with a lot of work in every movie. But an overall feeling, and not the first time, that there is a trend taking us on the shore of a risk free movie making. I hardly felt anything else but the fascination of the movie makers in their proposals. Most of the time I felt like empathy and the translation into images of the personal experience was missing. As if we got too well-trained in being “objective” when shooting the movie, which leads to similar objects at the end. No space for little mistakes of the heart. Those little imperfections where you melt as it is the fragility of the person behind the camera sharing a moment of brotherhood with what is being recorded. I believe as well that editing is being very much influenced by a 15 years of real tv shows : as long as it serves the plot, let’s forget the deep emotional coherence for a cheaper superficial action/reaction principle. Maybe are we getting lazy on sharing the true hard to grasp feelings and we replace it by the most exquisite verbal lies ?

So tomorrow another day in the dark rooms, where an audience of 50+, hipster style and loving the exotic of a non perfect swiss-like reality and I would again have this great experience of watching the hard work of passionate people.

The movies :

http://www.visionsdureel.ch/festival/programme/jour/s/2014/4/28/

PS:

Some weeks ago a schoolmate contacted me as a student she’s in charge of was planning a movie about the university we went to. In our days there, I made a little documentary (26min) about our class and what we were facing those days of hard work and learn. So here is the movie for those who are interested in it – the others can share it !. It was in 2007 – all the guys there have now found their successful path into the cinema industry !