ph. Jonathan Loek for BlogTO
Ah, the Carlton. You have given me fond memories. Seeing “Ballast” by myself, Seeing “The Damned United” by myself. To clarify, ‘by myself’ doesn’t mean I didn’t go with someone, it means I was the only one in the room. I could text people, move seats. I’m gonna rephrase Norman Wilner that the Carlton was where short run art movies stayed for months. Watching the movies I listed above felt like discovering it, and yes, it’s a little sad that the movies I’ve listed above weren’t seen by more people despite the greatest performances and visual uniqueness packed in those films. The setting and circumstances might have helped that feeling of discovery.
There’s also seeing “House of Sand,” the first movie I saw in that theatre, and “Road to Guantanamo,” both were pieces of crap. I watched one after the other with my family. It made me realize that not all foreign films are good and that Showcase lied to me. My sister and I decided that the movie theatre is cursed with bad foreign films, vowed to never come. However, the Carlton kept luring me in and I kept coming.
There’s also seeing either “Son of Rambow” and “How My Parents Went on Vacation,” both great movies by the way, and losing my glasses in watching either of those movies – I never found them and never got them replaced. Don’t tell mom. I also saw “Bright Star” there which is one of the best movies I’ve seen.
Tonight my schedule should have been “Away From Her” and “Julie and Julia” but knowing that Atom Egoyan will be there and I haven’t seen him at the Cinematheque, this is my chance to bother him about “Chloe.”
Tonight will also be my first time downtown since the weekend. Although I tweeted about last weekend furiously I haven’t said a word about it here. I don’t know how sad I’ll feel seeing my city’s scars but I still wanna see it and I feel like a coward not being there for her at her worst.
This entry is also the first one I’ve written since the weekend and planning to back to the Carlton got my energy back. The next entry will be one on “Mean Girls.”
The Robin Wood retrospective offered a film by my second favourite director, Michael Haneke. He directs like a painter. In “Code inconnu,” Anne’s (Juliette Binoche) boyfriend’s teenage brother Jean throws food wrapping at a beggar named Maria (Luminata Gheorgiu), angering Amadou, a young bystander.
Wood said of the first eight minutes of the film as “among the most astonishing instances of virtuosity in the entire history of mise-en-scène.” It’s not showy, and subtlety must be part of the criteria for a great long take. Haneke makes the conversations as the star instead of his own camerawork, and the events in the background are unmistakably authentic. The scene shows the experience of new Paris like any other city, with unrelated events and shops strung together in a street. When something happens like a confrontation between two teenagers, it feels more like a steady fire than an explosion.
This film uses Binoche in her best capabilities, and it’s a sadness as a latent actress lover that I haven’t had a chance to watch all of her films, especially the ones in French. That said, I’m ambivalent about Anne. She’s an inconsistent actress – she delivers one of the intentionally worst readings of Shakespeare on film – she’s passionate about the people in her life, and she’s probably racist. I do have a few problems with her character. Why does she have the worst wardrobe in Paris? Why would she be grumpy to a boyfriend that hot? Why wouldn’t she complain about her neighbours?
The same questions arise with the other characters. Why is Jean unhappy about both the city and the country? Why does Maria go back to Paris after being deported, as the film shows how happy she is in Romania? Why is Amadou so nice all of a sudden? And does Anne’s boyfriend Georges realize how creepy it is to take people’s pictures on the subway?
The man who introduced the film also said that the film encapsulates the capitalist lifestyle that continuously exploits. Another way of looking at the film is that terrible things happen to four people and more terrible things happen to them while they go on their separate ways. It doesn’t stop. It’s an onslaught on anomie and cruelty coming from strangers, yet they’re not more angry as they should.
This film’s one of the greatest movie about cities, perfectly capturing the meanness and cadence of urban streets. It shows multiculturalism as tense yet not in an aggressive way. It lets people meet and meet again in different places and circumstances, and one seeing another like a different person than before. And it shows people being alone in a densely populated area. This is also surprisingly one of Haneke’s most accessible films, neither sprawl-y nor thesis-y like his other, more acclaimed films. Also, if you’re a fan on colour blind casting or acting, this movie might be for you. The names Luminata Gheorgiu and Maurice Benichou - the latter merely has a bit part, but I care not – are now in my mind. I hope so will be yours when you watch this.
And I will never forget that ending.