No One Knows About Persian Cats (2009) (Kasi az gorbehaye irani khabar nadareh) Film. Director : Bahman Ghobadi

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As they are being released from prison, a young woman and a young man, both musicians, decide to assemble a band. They travel Tehran meeting with other underground musicians and try to convince them to leave Iran. Not having any chance to play in Tehran, they dream of leaving to play music in Europe. But that’s hard to make happen without money and a passport…(Mubi)

After being released from jail, Negar and Ashkan, two young Iranian songwriters, decide to set up an underground band and look for other musicians to join them. But the authorities keep putting a spanner in the works. Fed up with being hindered from expressing themselves the two young people try to get documents to leave the country for Europe… (Imdb)

No One Knows About Persian Cats Review

Catchy indie rock and affronts to theocracy make Bahman Ghobadi’s No One Knows About Persian Cats a captivating treat

WRITTEN BY NICOLAS RAPOLD

Musicians on the move crop up throughout the work of Bahman Ghobadi. In his last feature, Half Moon (06), a generously mustachioed Kurdish family band attempts to make its way to a concert in Iraq, and Ghobadi nudges their road-movie travels and travails into the realm of the kind of mystical fantasy that could one day be put into song. In No One Knows About Persian Cats, the would-be travelers are a couple of Tehran indie-rockers looking to emigrate to somewhere that doesn’t demand endless permits or frown upon women singing solo. After ordering travel documents from a black-market dealer, they spend the nebulous waiting-period hooking up with other bands, providing the pretext for a multiple-performance sampler of their city’s Western-flavored underground music scene. While it’s less informative than a straight-up documentary survey like Fatih Akin’s Crossing the Bridge, the enthusiasm of Ghobadi and his various young co-conspirators is infectious, and the music is generally catchy and occasionally excellent. But what really distinguishes the film—banned in Iran, it goes without saying—is the enormous risks these musicians take, which Ghobadi ultimately drives home with legitimate dramatic license.

The indie duo, Negar and Ashkan, are “played” by a subdued Negar Shaghaghi and Ashkan Koshanejad, aka Take It Easy Hospital—and like other bands on display, they are left unnamed. Their sometime guide throughout the city’s secret byways is a cheerful culture hustler named Nader (Hamed Behdad), who, though less frequently on screen, ties together the film’s sense of musical solidarity, within and across genres (traditional, pop, fusion). Ghobadi records the performers this trio drop in on either in situ (tiny lounges and clubs) or in a music-video variety of settings: Farsi-singing heavy-metalheads on a farm, a balladeer in the classroom where he teaches Afghan and Iraqi orphans, clunky rappers in a skeletal construction site, a sister act rendering transcendent classical Persian song before an intimate living-room audience (nonetheless forbidden because they are women performing for mixed company). The sequences are often edited to the music’s rhythms, with mixed results: one zippy montage of cutaways to the urban homeless feels too much like a cut-rate video to have much impact.

Ghobadi himself appears briefly in the background of the story’s recording studio-set prologue: he’s referred to as someone trying to unwind by laying down a few tracks since his last movie is now being sold on the street by bootleggers instead of being shown in theaters. And of course the Kurdish-Iranian Ghobadi’s making of the film is part of the drama behind the energetic music performances on display: shooting for 17 days without permission, getting arrested twice, and on top of everything dodging potshots from huffy elder statesman Abbas Kiarostami (who might do better to re-focus his energies on filmmaking). Again, Nader becomes an effective proxy for the resilience of suppressed artists: in a riveting scene shot through a cracked-open door, he alternately begs, cajoles, and rages at an off-screen government official who has penalized him for selling DVDs by imposing heavy fines—and then, having secured a settlement, encourages him to watch the artistic films again, more closely, with an open mind.

Negar and Ashkan gain a spotlight for their peppy, diligently cribbing English-language song “Human Jungle.” Like some of the film’s other Westernized numbers, the tune underlines the shifting disjunctions between their competent but standard-issue vintage, the outsized repression bearing down on them, and the novelty of pop clichés about rebellion suddenly being imbued with real meaning. But Ghobadi has other, more sober plans in store for the duo’s screen alter egos, foreshadowed by a shocking, incongruous episode involving their dog and the cops. As in so many of his other films, the freedom accorded the furthest reaches of artistic fancy inexorably collides with earthly realities.

http://www.filmcomment.com/article/no-one-knows-about-persian-cats-review

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No One Knows About Persian Cats (2009)

CrPick

Mijfilm/IFC Films

A scene from the Iranian director Bahman Ghobadi’s new film, “No One Knows About Persian Cats,” which Mr. Ghobadi wrote with his fiancée, the journalist Roxana Saberi.

Band on the Run, Filmed on the Fly

Negar and Ashkan are two young people — it’s possible that they’re a couple, but you can’t quite be sure — who want to start a band. The style they favor is what they call indie rock, an apt enough designation for the sweet, moody songs they perform together, which would not sound out of place on the soundtrack of a movie at theSundance Film Festival.

Negar (Negar Shaghaghi) and Ashkan (Ashkan Koshanejad) are part of a vibrant and varied music scene. In their search for other musicians who will help them fulfill their dream of playing some gigs in Europe, they encounter kindred spirits devoted to other familiar genres: metalheads, female folk singers and a rapper who rhymes about the tough streets of his hometown.

These earnest, impetuous young artists, scrambling to find space and time for rehearsal, may seem familiar to American and other Western audiences. You encounter their kind in Austin, Brooklyn, Amsterdam and beyond. In this case, beyond is Tehran.

And of course circumstances for iconoclastic, bohemian young people in Iran are not what they are elsewhere. Both the pathos and the buoyant energy of “No One Knows About Persian Cats,” Bahman Ghobadi’s bouncy, seething new film, come from the sense that Negar, Ashkan and their friends are bravely laying claim to creativity, idealism and free expression in defiance of an authoritarian state that seeks to deny them those universal birthrights of modern youth.

Not that any of them indulge in self-pity, even though some of the song lyrics in “Persian Cats” throb with anger and disillusionment. The musicians — essentially playing themselves in re-enactments of events that more or less really happened — are focused much of the time on practical matters. They need to arrange visas for foreign travel or permits allowing them to perform in Iran. They have to audition new talent and work on their material. Above all, they must avoid the police, who are a constant, mostly unseen menace — a minor inconvenience, a source of absurd frustration and also, sometimes, a serious, even mortal threat.

Stubborn, high-spirited and carefully calculated rebellion is Mr. Ghobadi’s subject, and also the prevailing ethic of his film. An Iranian Kurd whose previous films (including “A Time for Drunken Horses” and “Turtles Can Fly”) have been set in the rural villages of his native region, he approaches Negar, Ashkan and the other younger, urban characters in this film with sympathetic curiosity.

Mr. Ghobadi, who wrote the screenplay with his fiancée, the Iranian-American journalist Roxana Saberi, also appears on camera from time to time, a bookish, worried-looking presence in the midst of the hipsters and hip-hoppers. His solidarity with them percolates through the film, most concretely in the simple fact that he made it, shooting quickly and clandestinely with a lightweight digital camera, always ready to pack up and flee the unwanted attention of the authorities.

This method creates some jumpy narrative rhythms, but it also gives “Persian Cats” a nervous, freewheeling dynamism. Negar, a pretty, nerdy young woman with a plaintive manner and a delicate singing voice, and the gentle Ashkan are fairly diffident, as if searching for the Persian word for mumblecore.

But Nadar (Hamed Behdad), their manager, fixer and all-purpose rock ’n’ roll Svengali, is another matter. A nonstop talker with six solutions for every problem and a mental Rolodex that contains everyone who’s anyone in the Tehran cultural underground, he zips around the city on his motorbike with both of his protégés squeezed onto the seat behind him, hatching plans and dodging scrapes with the law.

Mr. Ghobadi punctuates these excursions with what are, in effect, music videos, in which songs in various styles by local groups (Take It Easy Hospital is the name of Negar and Ashkan’s nascent act) are accompanied by montages of daily life in Iran’s sprawling capital. The images evoke extremes of wealth and poverty, the heavy hand of the government and also the defiance and beauty of children, teenagers and university students.

“Persian Cats” was shown in Cannes last May, just a few weeks before the Iranian presidential election, the aftermath of which demonstrated to the world how serious and brave the young people of Iran could be.

The film is careful to avoid explicit political statement, but its reticence makes its critique of the Iranian regime all the more devastating. It will also make anyone who had grown cynical about the transformative, galvanizing power of popular music — an idea that might seem quaint in Western democracies, though less so in the former police states of the Warsaw Pact — think, and possibly believe, again.

http://movies.nytimes.com/2010/04/16/movies/16noone.html

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A Separation (Jodaeiye Nader az Simin) (2011) Film. Director : Asghar Farhadi

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Simin wants to leave Iran with her husband Nader and daughter Termeh. She has already made all the necessary arrangements. Nader, however, is having second thoughts. He is worried about leaving behind his father, who is suffering from Alzheimer’s. For this reason he decides to call off the trip altogether.

As a result of Nader’s decision, Simin decides to sue for divorce at the family court. When her request is rejected, however, she refuses to live with Nader, moving instead into her parents’ home. Termeh decides to stay with her father, hoping that her mother will soon come back to live with them.

Nader finds it difficult to cope with the new situation – not least because it turns out to be so time-consuming. And so he hires a young woman named Razieh to look after his father. This young woman is pregnant and has accepted the job without her husband’s knowledge. One day, Nader arrives home to find that not only has his father been left alone, he has also been tied to a table! When Razieh returns, a blazing row ensues, the tragic consequences of which not only shatter Nader’s life, but also the image his daughter Termeh has of her father. (Mubi)

“A Separation” and “The Hunter.”

BANTHONY LANEJANUARY 9, 2012

Leila Hatami and Peyman Moadi play an Iranian couple, in “A Separation.”

Who is being addressed, at the start of “A Separation”? We see two people, middle-class Iranians named Nader (Peyman Moadi) and his wife, Simin (Leila Hatami), facing the camera and discussing their possible divorce. Simin plans to leave the country and make a life abroad, but Nader wants to stay and raise their only child, an eleven-year-old girl called Termeh (Sarina Farhadi), in Iran. He has no wish to split; he wants to preserve things as they are. The couple do not hate one another, and Simin describes her husband as a “good, decent person,” but for some profound reason—a reason that is never spelled out in the movie, but that we gradually come to grasp all too well—she desires another existence. That is why, in the beginning, they look in our direction; notionally, they are pleading with a magistrate, because we hear his voice as he quizzes them, but they are speaking, with equal fervor, to us. I felt like answering back, “You talkin’ to me?”

I would love to claim that, almost two hours later, and after hearing the rights and wrongs of the case, I was able to offer sound and impartial advice, but “A Separation,” though in many respects a cramped domestic drama, yanks us to and fro with a fierce and spacious energy. You feel for almost everyone involved, yet you don’t quite know what to think, and there is something strangely exhausting in watching the most minor events—a tetchy gesture, a chance remark—set off what should be a ripple but turns out to be a shock wave. The writer and director, Asghar Farhadi, has thus created the perfect antithesis of a crunching disaster flick, such as “2012,” which was all boom and no ripple.

The initial impact, in “A Separation,” comes when Simin goes to stay with her family, either for good or by way of a trial run. Termeh remains with Nader, an arrangement that would work fine if it were not for his father, who lives with them and suffers from Alzheimer’s. Nader arranges for a carer named Razieh (Sareh Bayat) to spend the day with the old man; Razieh has a two-and-a-half-hour commute just to reach them, and she needs to bring her young daughter, Somayeh (Kimia Hosseini), with her. Oh, and Razieh is pregnant, although whether Nader has noticed her condition is open to debate. Inviting Americans to give up their winter nights for the sake of Islamic marital disputes is a tough sell, but, if audiences can be press-ganged into this movie, what they will find is a nourishing blend of the distant and the utterly familiar; anyone struggling to cope with parents in failing health, or with the guilty pressure of hiring others to look after them, will know exactly what this movie is about, while gazing in perplexity as Razieh, alarmed by the fact that the elderly father has soiled his pants, makes a phone call in search of religious advice. “If I change him, will it count as a sin?” she asks. Gravely, her little girl looks on. “I won’t tell Dad,” she says.

One day, the old fellow, left unattended, wanders into the street. Razieh locates him, to her relief, and we cut to a merry scene of adults and children, safe at home, playing a game of table football. Panic over. The next day, though, when Nader returns from work, he finds his father tied to a bedstead and Razieh nowhere to be seen. Panic back on, and this time there is no respite; when she appears, there is a scuffle, which concludes with Razieh being pushed out of the apartment, falling, and miscarrying. Nader is charged with the murder of an unborn child, and is briefly imprisoned before being bailed; he countercharges, citing his father’s maltreatment at Razieh’s hands, and, before we know it, the air is thick with wounded pride, demands for blood money, and lives on the brink of collapse. Accusations are levelled not in the ceremonious rigor of a court but in a dingy office, with the irate plaintiffs standing up and leaning over the desk of a judge, the better to hammer home their case. The judge is too harassed to be grand, and I liked the sight of him wearily dipping a lump of sugar into his glass of tea, and clearly thinking, Spare me these folk.

The miracle of “A Separation” is that it doesn’t spare any of its characters, nor does it seek to indict them. It is a democratic portrait of a theocratic world. Farhadi’s evenhanded tone recalls the approach of the great Maurice Pialat, in France, but there are strains of piety and patriarchy here with which Pialat seldom had to grapple. What frightens Razieh, for example, who is fully garbed in the chador, is that her husband, an unemployed hothead by the name of Hodjat (Shahab Hosseini), will discover what kind of job she has taken, and her fear is well founded. “I should sue you for working for a single man we don’t even know,” he says, not joking, once her secret is revealed, and we are forced to tilt our assumptions away from the egalitarian and toward a world where seemliness and modesty, virtues long lost to us, trump what we read as natural rights. Western instincts should steer us onto the side of Simin, whose head is lightly scarved but who also wears bluejeans, and yet there is something no less compelling in the calm, bespectacled mien of Termeh, who chides her mother with an essentially conservative truth: “If you hadn’t left, Dad wouldn’t be in jail.”

Not yet in her teens, Termeh—played by the director’s daughter—is the most studious presence in the film, and the least flappable by far. In a more progressive society (and here is a further irony to savor), she would make a terrific judge. During the climactic showdown, in a room filled with older men, she exchanges glances with Somayeh, who is half her age, and in that exchange there simmers, already, a well of bewilderment and exasperation at adult folly. Farhadi—unlike his compatriot and fellow-director Jafar Panahi, who is currently serving six years in prison, and is banned from making films for two decades—may be tolerated by the Iranian regime, but, if I were one of the country’s cultural commissars, the look that passes between those two young females might easily trouble my conscience, or my sleep. Grownups, in “A Separation,” are forever observing each other through open doorways, or panes of glass—a hint of permanent blockage that is rounded off by the final, heartbreaking shot of the movie, with both parents screened by partitions and their daughter walking heedlessly between them. Youth is a clearer witness of the world; through Somayeh’s eyes, we glimpse the bare and motionless legs of the sick old man, and, later, the shackled feet of a nameless prisoner, seated in the corridor outside the courtrooms, awaiting God knows what justice. If man is everywhere in chains, does it really matter, to a child, that he was born free?

http://www.newyorker.com/arts/critics/cinema/2012/01/09/120109crci_cinema_lane

 

 

 

 

Melancholia (2011) Film. Director : Lars von Trier

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Melancholia – review

Lars von Trier’s would-be apocalyptic take on the end of the world is a narcissistic and humourless exercise

  Philip French

The Observer, Sunday 2 October 2011

 

The end is nigh: (l-r) Kirsten Dunst, Alexander Skarsgård, Kiefer Sutherland and Charlotte Gainsbourg in Melancholia.

Woody Allen once said: “If I had to live my life again I’d do everything the same, except that I wouldn’t see The Magus.” By the same token, if I was told that the end of the world was nigh, I wouldn’t waste my time seeingMelancholiaLars von Trier‘s celebration of the imminent extinction of planet Earth. I’d do something more pleasurable like taking an axe to a cigarette machine and smoking my first fag for 40 years, an activity I still associate with movie-going.

However, I did nearly end my own life last Tuesday by the exertion entailed in walking from the eastern side of Covent Garden to the western end of Soho in 10 minutes, due to the distributors’ bad planning of the press viewings. Breathing what seemed like my last, I slumped down a couple of minutes into the apocalyptic prologue of Melancholia. Fortunately I’d read that this highly stylised pre-credit sequence introduced the principal characters and presented a collision between the wandering planet Melancholia and our own, resulting in a one-nil victory for the visitors. A younger critic kindly stayed behind to describe in some detail what I might have missed, even telling me that there was a reference he knew I’d have noticed to Last Year at Marienbad.

What then followed was two chapters named “Justine” and “Claire” after the sisters at its centre, who view each other with mutual loathing. Like most of von Trier’s films since he burst on the international scene at the 1984 Cannes festival with The Element of CrimeMelancholia is in English rather than his native Danish, though it doesn’t seem remotely like a British or American picture, despite the appearance of familiar English-speaking actors among the assorted Scandinavians.

Moreover, like his oeuvre as a whole, it is, to quote the most famous, most melancholy of Danes, “sicklied o’er with the pale cast of thought”. Indeed like Hamlet, von Trier is a depressed, attention-seeking malcontent, forever insulting and playing malevolent games with those around him and inventing dramas such as Hamlet’s “The Mousetrap”, designed to disturb and expose the audience and leave it in a state of disarray.

The film is set in an unnamed country at a remote chateau where Justine (Kirsten Dunst) and her husband arrive two hours late for their elegant wedding reception, hosted by sister Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg) and her rich, tight-fisted husband John (Kiefer Sutherland).

This blighted event, where everyone is at each other’s throats, backbiting and bloodletting, is clearly reminiscent of Thomas Vinterberg’sFesten, the most celebrated of movies to come out of the much publicised Dogme movement that von Trier launched in the 1990s and imposed upon his Danish contemporaries. There are also echoes of Elsinore, of Marienbad, of a Sadean orgy (through the name Justine), and of the wedding reception in The Philadelphia Story (Justine’s father, played by John Hurt, is called Dexter after CK Dexter Haven, the charming philanderer impersonated by Cary Grant in George Cukor’s film).

In an amusing and diverting way, the wilful, depressed Justine behaves appallingly, leaving and rejoining the party as she pleases. She urinates on a green on the surrounding golf course, has sex with a young stranger in a bunker, insults the best man (Stellan Skarsgård) who is both her new father-in-law and her employer at an advertising agency. But the carefully orchestrated festivities continue unabashed. Like the partygoers in Buñuel’s The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie, the wedding guests refuse to acknowledge the impending catastrophe. Meanwhile, the soaring romantic strains of Wagner’s Tristan und Isoldeon the soundtrack direct us to Eliot’s The Waste Land and to thoughts of luxuriant death.

The film’s second half is much more like a conventional disaster movie, both of the art-house (eg Tarkovsky’s The Sacrifice) and Hollywood (eg Stanley Kramer’s On the Beach) variety. Now alone and isolated on the grand country estate, Claire, John, their young son, Leo, and Justine confront, affect to confront or merely witness the approaching Melancholia which from once being a distant speck is now emerging over the horizon like some beautiful leviathan.

Claire lays into suicide pills. The rational amateur astronomer John assures everyone that the danger will pass. Leo views the planet as another marvel of nature. Justine, however, emerging from her torpor to discover a new composure, seems to welcome the collision as bringing a fitting end to an evil, isolated, unnecessary world. At one eloquent point she rearranges a display of art books in the chateau’s library to give prominence to reproductions of Edward Burne-Jones’s Death of Opheliaand several Bruegel paintings, among them the chilly Hunters in the Snow.

There are a few striking images here, especially of the sisters out riding on fine horses, observed from a high angle through an early-morning mist. But the movie is heavy, though without weight or gravitas – a solipsistic, narcissistic, inhuman affair. And it is wholly devoid of humour, except perhaps for the meeting towards the end of Claire and Justine: the game is over and they’re at a golf hole bearing a flag apocalyptically marked “19”.

Superficially, Melancholia resembles Terrence Malick’s The Tree of Life in its apparent engagement with big spiritual issues and matters eschatological, but it lacks Malick’s emotional generosity.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2011/oct/02/melancholia-lars-von-trier-review

Melancholia (2011)

 Bride’s Mind Is on Another Planet

By A. O. SCOTT
Published: November 10, 2011

Bang or whimper? Ice or fire? Divine plan or cosmic accident? Alien invaders or genetically enhanced apes? The end of the world is painful to contemplate but also hard to resist thinking about, partly because there are so many wild and scary imaginative possibilities.

In “Melancholia,” an excursion from the sad to the sublime by way of the preposterous, the always controversial Danish director Lars von Trier offers his own, highly personal version of apocalypse: a celestial collision rendered in surprisingly lovely digital effects and accompanied by mighty blasts of Wagner. The film takes its title from a rogue planet that appears suddenly in the night sky and seems to be heading straight for Earth.

The word also, not coincidentally, names an emotional disorder described by Freud as “a profoundly painful dejection, cessation of interest in the outside world, loss of the capacity to love, inhibition of all activity, and a lowering of the self-regarding feelings to a degree that finds utterance in self-reproaches and self-revilings, and culminates in a delusional expectation of punishment.”

The expectation of punishment is, of course, one reason people go to a Lars von Trier movie in the first place. Suffering — predominantly, though not exclusively, the suffering of women — is both his favorite subject and his preferred method. He is a crafty sadist, but also, for all his tricks and provocations, a sincere one.

So “Melancholia” is emphatically not what anyone would call a feel-good movie, and yet it nonetheless leaves behind a glow of aesthetic satisfaction. Total obliteration happens on an intimate scale, and the all-encompassing, metaphysical nature of the drama leaves room for gentleness as well as operatic cruelty. The machinery of mass panic and media frenzy that juices up most films on this subject is notably absent. Instead, difficult emotions are registered in close-ups of individual human faces, and a perverse, persuasive idea rises to the surface. The end of the world as we know it might just turn out to be beautiful.

Freud’s diagnosis pretty much captures the mental state of Justine (Kirsten Dunst), a young woman whose history of crippling depression overshadows her lavish wedding party and threatens to blight her chances at future happiness. In the course of a long, hectic night she comes increasingly undone, to the bewilderment of her new husband, Michael (Alexander Skarsgard), and the exasperation of her sister, Claire (Charlotte Gainsbourg). Compared with the humorless, grimly responsible Claire, Justine is impulsive, self-indulgent and charming: the flighty grasshopper to her sister’s responsible, dutiful ant.

The arrival of Melancholia — the planet, that is — reverses the traditional moral of that fable. In the second half of the movie Justine’s fatalism will prove a more viable (or at least a more graceful) response to the prospect of global annihilation than Claire’s anxious practicality. During the wedding, though, the catastrophe, which has been foretold in a gorgeous, dreamlike overture, full of dark clouds and nightmarish images of doom, is not something the guests seem to be aware of. Rather, the imminence of an all-obliterating big bang is a piece of information the audience possesses in advance of the characters on screen, an open secret that makes their earnest, trivial doings all the more dreadful and absurd.

On its own, the spectacle of matrimony provides a rich, inexhaustible vein of comic and melodramatic potential — chance encounters, simmering grudges, sexual intrigue, dysfunctional outbursts — and Mr. von Trier is hardly the first filmmaker to use a wedding as a kind of controlled experiment in human waywardness. Robert Altman, Noah Baumbach and Jonathan Demme might come to mind during the first hour of “Melancholia,” to say nothing of the houses of Windsor and Kardashian.

The setting is a grand estate on the edge of the water, complete with stables, a golf course and manicured expanses of lawn. English is the language, and dollars are the currency, but this is less a specific America (a place Mr. von Trier has never visited and the theoretical location of most of his recent films) than an abstract space of moneyed entitlement. The aggressive opulence of 21st-century capital coexists, somewhat awkwardly, with an older, aristocratic elegance. You might have seen some of the wedding guests last year at Marienbad, while others, more recently, might have sneered at you from their seats in the first-class cabin as you pushed your way back to coach. Claire’s pompous husband, John (Kiefer Sutherland), owns the property, which seems to be both a high-end resort and his own private family retreat.

Unlike other von Trier victim-heroines — including those played by Emily Watson in“Breaking the Waves”; Nicole Kidman in “Dogville”; and Bjork in “Dancer in the Dark” — Justine is not assailed and humiliated by other people. The element of male aggression that was such a powerful force in those films, and an integral aspect of Mr. von Trier’s creative personality, has been neutralized here. The men who hover around the wedding, including the clueless Michael and the officious John, are not menacing, just useless.

Justine’s boss (and Michael’s best man) is an obnoxious advertising executive played by Stellan Skarsgard (Alexander’s father), who gives his prized employee a promotion and a deadline on what is supposed to be the happiest night of her life. Justine’s parents are the pathologically bitter Charlotte Rampling and the pathologically whimsical John Hurt, and the ensemble (also including Udo Kier as the imperious wedding planner, and Brady Corbet as a newly hired colleague of Justine’s) proceeds through the expected rituals. There are loud arguments, awkward toasts, bad sex, confrontations with the help and a few moments of serene and luminous bliss. 

All of which, of course, amounts to nothing, since everything and everyone will be ashes soon enough. That is Justine’s state of mind, and Ms. Dunst is remarkably effective at conveying both the acute anguish and the paralyzing hollowness of depression. To the extent that the destructive potential of Melancholia is a metaphor for her private melancholia, it is perfectly apt. One of the chief torments of serious depression is how disproportionate and all-consuming the internal, personal sorrow can feel.

There is a grim vindication — and also an obvious, effective existential joke — in Justine’s discovery that her hyperbolic despair may turn out to be rooted in an accurate and objective assessment of the state of the universe. Mr. von Trier, inspired (if that’s the word) to make this movie by his own experience of depression, gleefully turns a psychological drama inside out. The world, Justine declares in her darkest moment of clarity, deserves its awful fate. The perverse achievement of “Melancholia” is how difficult it is to argue with her conclusion.

“Melancholia” is rated R (Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian). Profanity, nudity, hopelessness.

http://movies.nytimes.com/2011/11/11/movies/lars-von-triers-melancholia-review.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elena (2011) Film. Director : Andrei Zvyagintsev

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Elena and Vladimir are an older couple, they come from different backgrounds. Vladimir is a wealthy and cold man, Elena comes from a modest milieu and is a docile wife. They have met late in life and each one has children from previous marriages. Elena’s son is unemployed, unable to support his own family and he is constantly asking Elena for money. Vladimir’s daughter is a careless young woman who has a distant relationship with her father. A heart attack puts Vladimir in hospital, where he realizes that his remaining time is limited. A brief but somehow tender reunion with his daughter leads him to make an important decision: she will be the only heiress of his wealth. Back home he announces it to Elena. Her hopes to financially help her son suddenly vanish. The shy and submissive housewife then comes up with a plan to give her son and grandchildren a real chance in life. (Imdb)

Elena and Vladimir are an older couple, they come from different backgrounds. Vladimir is a wealthy and cold man, Elena comes from a modest milieu and is a docile wife. They have met late in life and each one has children from previous marriages. Elena’s son is unemployed, unable to support his own family and he is constantly asking Elena for money. Vladimir’s daughter is a careless young woman who has a distant relationship with her father.

A heart attack puts Vladimir in hospital, where he realizes that his remaining time is limited. A brief but somehow tender reunion with his daughter leads him to make an important decision: she will be the only heiress of his wealth. Back home he announces it to Elena. Her hopes to financially help her son suddenly vanish. The shy and submissive housewife then comes up with a plan to give her son and grandchildren a real chance in life. (Mubi)

Morgen (Yarin) 2010 Film. Director : Marian Crisan

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NELU, a man in his forties, works as a security guard at a supermarket in Salonta, a small town on the Romanian-Hungarian border. This is the place where many illegal emigrants try to cross, by any means possible, to Hungary and then further to Western Europe. For NELU, days go by the same. Fishing at dawn, then work, and finally home with his wife-FLORICA. They live alone at an isolated farmhouse on the fields outside Salonta. Their problem these days is repairing the old roof of the farmhouse. One morning, NELU will fish something different out of the river: a Turkish man trying to cross the border. Not able to communicate verbally, the two men will somehow understand each other. NELU takes the stranger to the farmhouse, gives him some dry clothes, food and shelter. He doesnt really know how to help this stranger. The Turkish man gives NELU all the money he has on him so he will help him cross the border. Eventually, NELU takes the money and promises he will help him cross the border tomorrow, MORGEN (Imdb)

A slice of life in Romania and a warning not to take freedom for granted.

“Morgen,” directed and written by Romanian uber-film maker Marian Crisan, is Romania’s submission for Best Foreign Language Film for the 2011 Oscars. From the producer of the Romanian indie hit “The Death of Mr. Lazarescue,” the film screened at the gala opening night festival of the Romanian Film Festival in New York City.

Now in its 6th year, the festival has seen a remarkable maturation of its countries film industry. Both the actors and directors alike seem more relaxed and in sync with the film making process, as compared to with their performances screened in the first RFF in 2007.

András Hatházi  stars as Nelu, a man celebrating what appears to be the prevailing lifestyle in Romania. He is taciturn to the point of being comatose. He has learned to deal with the inane activities of the incredibly stupid ruling bureaucracy with mute acceptance.

In fact, he has learned to deal with everything, including a roof with a hole large enough to pass a man, with mute acceptance. The one thing he can deal with is the suffering of his fellow human being.

This theme runs through many Romanian stories. The wise, thoughtful and kind country folk are contrasted with the corrupt and uncaring “educated” government functionaries. Although citizens around the world have been known to grouse about their leadership, Romanian films seem to take the crucifixion of leaders as a mandatory cinematic prerequisite.

Unfortunately, in too many cases this singular theme seems to carry too much of the load in telling a story. “Morgen” falls into that category.

After a brief introduction showing the local customs officials practically opening fire when NELU tries to take a carp across the border, the film meanders here and there for fifteen minutes before cutting to the chase. Illegally immigrating Turkish refugee Morgen stumbles onto Nelu while he is fishing in a local creek.

Although Morgen is on his way to Germany Nelu takes the illegal alien under his wing at the risk of severe sanctions at the hands of the local officers of the federal government. Against the wishes of his wife (Florica, played by Elvira Rimbu), Nelu takes Morgen into his house and then employs him in helping to replace the dilapidated roof.

At this point, the film becomes vaguely reminiscent of the Arlo Guthrie’s “Alice’s Restaurant.” There is a crime being committed here, but it is impossible to point out how the perpetrator is benefitting. Everything about feeding and housing the feckless Morgen appears to be a lose-lose proposition.

Slowly, the law turns the heat up on Nelu. He must turn Morgen out, before the feds get deeply involved. Characteristically, the hotter the heat, the more stubborn is Nelu in his irrational defense of the right of the Turk to live in Romania.

Although this is a touching sentiment, it turns out to be lacking in bulk. Simply stated, there is not enough action, acting or plot to fill the one hundred minutes of this film. Nelu drives an ancient, puttering motorcycle with an ancient, shaky sidecar. We see this vehicle crossing back and forth across the screen until we are ready to scream for mercy. It becomes Chinese water torture.

In the end, Nelu is able to reconcile his love of his newfound friend with the factual realities of the situation. However, based on conversations with several of those attending this screening (the Walter Reade theatre at Lincoln Center was packed), there is no consistent opinion as to whether the ending was happy or sad.

Therefore, no spoilers here. You will have to see for yourself and draw your own conclusions.

The film is shot and produced according to the finest dogme principles, whether Romanian Marian Crisan planned it that way or not. The shots are exteriors and interiors, mostly the former, in real towns, houses and highways.

They always take advantage of natural lighting and sets. The costumes of the actors appear to be exactly what they would normally wear around the house. In fact, the costumes may well have been what they were wearing before they showed up on the set.

Although this is very Bohemian and bears an undeniable stamp of honesty and transparency, it does not make for an exciting movie. If this is the one-trick pony upon which the future of Romanian cinema is riding, it would be well advised to find another mount.

http://www.monstersandcritics.com/movies/reviews/article_1681322.php/Morgen-Romanian-Film-Festival-NYC-Movie-Review

The Future (2011) Film. Director : Miranda July

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The Future begins one afternoon on a sofa. Sophie and Jason, a 30-something couple in Los Angeles, realize that in one month, their lives will change radically when they pick up a stray cat they’re adopting. Wanting to take advantage of their fleeting freedom, they quit their jobs, disconnect their Internet, and pursue new interests, all of which literally alter the course of time and space and test their faith in each other and themselves.

Miranda July’s work slips and slides whenever you try to pin it down. A truly original voice, she has an uncanny intuition for playful, figurative storytelling.The Future is narrated by a cat. One night Jason freezes time and talks with the moon. Sophie decides to settle with an older man in suburbia as if she were shopping for a potential future: trying it on to see if it fits. An exhilarating, funny, and wildly inventive second feature, The Future reflects a profound understanding of the existential fears that accompany relationships. –Sundance Film Festival

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Is That All There Is? Milking Life for More

By A. O. SCOTT
Published: July 28, 2011

o appreciate “The Future,” Miranda July’s ingeniously constructed wonder cabinet of a movie, you may first have to pass through a stage of mild annoyance or even something more intense. A recentprofile in The New York Times Magazine depicted Ms. July — a quiet figure on the screen and a thoughtful, witty presence on the page — as an improbably polarizing filmmaker, as likely to be scorned for her supposed preciosity as celebrated for her ingenuity. And the first part of “The Future” seems, quite deliberately, to test the spectrum of audience response. Are you curious? Enchanted? Frustrated? All of the above?

 

Miranda July Is Totally Not Kidding (July 17, 2011)

 

Miranda July and Hamish Linklater as a couple in crisis in “The Future,” a film tinged with whimsy and difficult emotion.

The two main characters, Sophie and Jason, a Los Angeles couple played by Ms. July and Hamish Linklater, are sweet and sincere, but also maddeningly passive, and their tentative, timid approach to their own lives might inspire equal measures of protectiveness and impatience. We first see them on the couch of their modest, bohemian apartment, each with a laptop, looking more like twins or a shaggy, bony, two-headed creature than like romantic cohabitants.

Sophie and Jason dwell in a state of becalmed, bemused anxiety. Though they are well into their 30s and measure the span of their relationship in years, they seem as shy and unworldly as children, passive-aggressively resisting the demands and enticements of adulthood. Sophie teaches dance classes for toddlers, Jason has a low-level tech job helping confused consumers troubleshoot over the phone, and the two of them, individually and as a pair, occasionally glance at a vague and receding horizon of ambition, artistic and otherwise.

“I thought by now I would have done more,” Jason says. “I thought I’d be a world leader.” There is enough ironic self-awareness in this observation to make it funny, and enough sincere, self-deluded disappointment to make it sad and a bit irritating.

Ms. July subjects her characters — which is to say herself — to tactful satire without denying them sympathy. Sophie and Jason’s gentle, melancholy, cautious engagement with each other and with their own experience is self-conscious, but it also feels like an authentic response to the confusion and anomie that run like invisible threads through so much of American life.

Their scruffy, comfortable home, decorated with hippopotamus figurines and Escher prints, stocked with vintage-y clothes and rescued furniture, is a shrine to fading ideals of specialness. Their need to find and nurture a sense of uniqueness has led them into a state of quiet panic and paralysis — and also, perhaps, to the Etsy Web site, where you can purchase the handmade or handed-down accouterments of eccentric individuality.

But “The Future” is much more than a precise, deadpan portrait of a sensibility likely to be recognizable to the Sophies and the Jasons in the audience (or to anyone who has run into them at the local coffee shop, organic bakery or artisanal ice cream truck). Ms. July’s gift as a filmmaker, very much evident in her first feature, “Me and You and Everyone We Know,” lies in her ability to will the prosaic facts of the world into a condition of wonder. The anti-literal aspects of “The Future” might be described as surrealism, magic realism or Jabberwockian nonsense, but none of these terms quite capture her ability to blend whimsy and difficult emotion.

“The Future” begins with narration supplied in the scratchy, high-pitched voice of a cat. This creature, a wounded, sickly stray known as Paw-Paw, is in an animal shelter, waiting for Jason and Sophie to adopt him. He represents their long-deferred acceptance of adult responsibility, and a chance to break out of the malaise of waiting around for something to happen. In the month before they take their new pet home — where they will provide him, above all, with a comfortable place to die — Jason and Sophie set out to make up for lost time. They quit their jobs, and Jason volunteers for an environmental organization, while Sophie sets out to record a series of dances that she hopes will bring her recognition on the Internet.

Their forays into art and activism have mixed results, but “The Future” itself blossoms into something affecting and peculiar. In addition to the talking cat, there is a talking moon, a T-shirt that moves on its own and Jason’s sudden discovery of the power to stop time. These phenomena coexist with a more mundane story of betrayal and disappointment: a funny-sad relationship drama about love gone astray. Sophie, drifting away from Jason (and perhaps feeling the stirrings of a buried maternal instinct awakened by Paw-Paw), stumbles into an affair with Marshall (David Warshofsky), a suburban dad whose main virtue seems to be his easy tolerance of eccentricity.

Another filmmaker might have told the tale of this love triangle in a straightforward fashion, putting together yet another mild, mopey movie about a young couple in crisis. But the magical, metaphorical strain in “The Future” is what makes it powerful, unsettling and strange, as well as charming. The everyday fears and frustrations that shadow us on our awkward trip through the life cycle often feel enormous, even cosmic, and Ms. July has the audacity to find images and situations that give form to those metaphysical inklings. (“Another Earth,” Mike Cahill and Brit Marling’s new film, does something similar, using the speculative motifs of science fiction to illuminate earthbound human emotions.)

The complexity of “The Future” is contained in its title, which refers simultaneously to a terrifying abstraction — an unknowable territory bounded by death, eternity, the end of time — and to a concrete, trivial fact. What are you going to do next? It’s a huge, scary question, but the answer is usually to be small and specific. Use your imagination. Go see this movie.

http://movies.nytimes.com/2011/07/29/movies/the-future-directed-by-miranda-july-review.html

Peter Bradshaw

The Guardian, Thursday 3 November 2011

 The Future

 There are some film-makers who are infuriated by the Teflon sensibility of modern cinema audiences and go all out for something that will stick, or get a reaction: astonishment, outrage, a seat-bang, a walkout, anything. Gaspar Noé described how, in his legendary shocker Irréversible, he deliberately used a droning frequency that causes nausea for background white noise. Artist-turned-film-maker Miranda July, renowned for her fey and quirky style, may be part of this tradition, simply by being 20 times more irritating than any normal person can stand.

 

There is an extraordinary fingernails-down-the-blackboard-up-to-11 quality here, especially in the massively cutesy opening moments of her new film, The Future. But I admit to seeing a deliberate point to it: partly satirical, partly an exercise in pop art amplification. What Jeff Koons does to banal objects, Miranda July does to banal situations, feelings, conversations. It’s a kind of affectless sentimentalism, and a commentary on the nature of coupledom, its secular theology. What happens when people in a relationship catch each other’s eye and wonder: what is the point of our lives? If what you believe in is the primacy of relationships, then what happens to your belief system when your relationship dies – or, worse, when you can see that your relationship is going dead but that staying inside it is safer and more comforting than being alone?

July and Hamish Linklater play Sophie and Jason, a couple of low-key urban hipsters who live in Los Angeles. They are educated and smart, but intensely aware that in their mid-30s, they are still in jobs that do not satisfy them. She teaches dance to toddlers, and he works from home, giving tech support to computer users: a dedicated landline rings in their shared apartment, and he takes the call with a special headset. If these are just stopgap jobs, then it isn’t at all clear what their overall career game-plan is. Our very first view of Sophie and Jason shows them on a couch, staring at their respective laptops, and then going into some excruciatingly sweet shared joke about being able to “stop time”.

They are a little like Burt and Verona, the couple in the Sam Mendes comedy Away We Go, co-scripted by Dave Eggers: their conversation, their very mode of being, appears to have a throwaway lightness to it. But Sophie and Jason are experiencing a crisis about their life choices and about the future itself. They have impulsively decided to “adopt” a cat from a nearby animal hospital, a cat with an injured paw that is not ready to be released from medical care for another month – a period of grace that allows the couple to reflect on the implications of their commitment. They will have to look after the animal, to stay home a lot, for about five years, at which time they will be around 40 and their lives will be over. Quietly, but distinctly, they start to panic about what it all means. This shiver of existential anxiety causes the pair to ricochet off in various directions: Jason becomes a desultory environmental campaigner and forms an unlikely friendship with an old man; Sophie finds a phone number written on the back of the sentimental drawing the couple bought at the animal centre, and a dangerous liaison follows from that. And their cat provides an eerie, creepy, miaowy narration on it all, provided off-camera by July herself.

The elephant in the living room would appear to be children: Jason and Sophie don’t have any, and perhaps the cat is a substitute. What becomes clear is that they themselves are childlike, in a way that is not necessarily connected with not having children themselves. They have each formed relationships with people who are considerably older, but this throws into perspective the fact that they themselves are distinctly, weirdly un-adult. And there are some very adult life-events coming their way.

The Future reminded me of Douglas Coupland’s novel Miss Wyoming, in which one character says he is 37 years old, and at this age “you’ve pretty much felt all the emotions you’re ever likely to feel, and from here on it’s reruns. And that totally scares me.” It’s flippantly phrased, and yet it touches a raw nerve of fear, perhaps because it is true. Jason and Sophie face what they think is a future of reruns, presided over by this absurd cat – a preposterous domestic idol – in which they have, almost accidentally, invested every penny of their emotional capital.

It is a very bizarre and pessimistic film, in many ways, whose cutesy idiom deliberately cloys, an idiom that refocuses your attention on our emotions and feelings, and questions their banality. If we live our lives as intelligent, 21st-century consumers, without religion, or high culture, or a great cause – all things about which we have a well-founded and highly developed scepticism – then what do our lives look like? Like a sugary Woolworths picture of a sweet little cat with an injured paw? July’s film-making is a taste I have yet fully to acquire, but she has a distinctive vision, a style, placed before you on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. I took it.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2011/nov/03/the-future-film-review