…and the quest to see everything

Posts tagged “Germany

Movie Association Game: Pina


Oh Pina, you esoterically creative movie you. You adequately use 3D. You let old people dance. I thought you were going to be just one dance piece after another but you also show the titular Pina Bausch teaching her company and those dancers whose lives she has touched. Here’s a media-heavy, pretentious are the movies/ dances/songs that I remember when I watched you.

Sacre du Printemps

1940: Fantasia – Walt Disney uses the end of the Jurassic period to accompany the music as opposed to the original subject matter. Speaking of which, how old was I when I knew about human sacrifices. I couldn’t have been that old. Also, my high school put together a performance of Printemps.

2009: Coco and Igor – Director Jan Kounen takes us to the first performance of Vaslav Nijinski‘s vision. We mostly see the the blackness that envelopes the dancers as the wait for the audience’s reactions while having to go on like professionals should. Nijinsky and Igor Stravinsky later fight about the piece’s reaction.

2009: Mao’s Last Dancer (Bruce Beresford. ch. Graeme Murphy) – Instead of a woman, the company’s star is a man, Li Cunxin. I’m not sure what the story is here, whether he’s the sacrifice or the one doing the sacrificing but this athletic, daring and exposing choreography looks enthralling.

2011: Pina (Wim Wenders) – Bausch’s interpretation of the dance is more arm-y although it incorporates the jumps in Nijinsky’s original choreography. The story is more coherent and shows how death randomly chooses its young victims as the multinational company pass along the chosen virgin’s ironic red dress.

Cafe Mueller

2002: Hable con ella – This movie’s Cafe Mueller scene is probably many movie lovers’ introduction to Bausch. Her gaunt face and slenderness complements the piece’s theme of yearning, even in an adult, contemporary setting where those kind of emotions should be eliminated by civilization and choice. The movie ends with Bausch’s piece Mascura Fogo, which is so simple and physically expressive that only someone like Bausch can invent it.

2011: Pina – The movie both shows Bausch’s rendition of her own choreography with the equally moving tribute by one of her company’s dancers. They also take bits of Café Mueller to different environments, making its lines look natural and transcendent. Oh and her pieces mostly seem to be about mating, barriers and behaviours about love.

Kontakthof

1946: It’s a Wonderful Life – Kontakthof strikes me as a very American piece with the multipurpose dance hall setting. It’s if its context would be relatable on both sides of the Atlantic, the dance hall a place for people to reacquaint with each other. I’d also make the same association with They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? if I saw that movie.

2011: Pina – Unlike the two movies I stated above, Kontakthof uses the setting to play around with age and dancing traditions. A ‘senior’ troupe performed this piece in Britain. The Wuppertals mix the ages around, the seasoned veterans sharing the floor with the new blood. The pieces have their different purposes, Printemps showing what Bausch is famous for, Mueller retraces her steps, Kontakthof passes her legacy to new generations.

Vollmond

2002: “The Private Press” -Contemporary dance seems like the medium’s Wild West in a way that despite of the dominant use of (contemporary) classical and baroque music used in the pieces, any company can use whatever music they like. My favourite scene is when I’m sure that are the performers dancing to a song from the first half of DJ Shadow’s second album.

2010: Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky. ch. Benjamin Millepied?) – It’s taken me this long and this piece to revisit that movie’s histrionics. The set here is just a full moon at the background, one of James Wolcott’s points against the movie in his scathing review. I can only compare Black Swan‘s sets to Wuppertals’ big rock and flooded stage as apples and oranges. There’s an air to their approach to how both stage dance as minimalist if not for the ornamental details, like the translucent curtains that both movies share.


20:10: The imitators edition


I stole this idea from Nathaniel Rogers. These are screen caps of the twentieth minute and tenth second of movies, many of which I can’t really expand on as he eloquently does. But really, this is posted because My VLC shuffle played The Kids are All Right and Shutter Island, which are already taken. [ETA; Also, I have not and will not put the names of the movies where these screen capscome from, for guessing reasons]

A rival painter observes, praises master yet talking behind the protagonist’s back.

“Excusez moi, numero two!” “HEY!”

“What happened?” “Oh, you didn’t hear…”

It’s not high school anymore. Friends dirty dancing in public…

He feels the pains of ‘adult sizing’ in a self-aware amusement park.

“…children, heaven bless them, they will look up to me and mind me…”

Los Angeles, night-time. The vandals rise and fall.

Traffic. No dialogue, obviously.

“Yeah, well, where is he? How come he takes a lousy stinkin’ job?”

At 3AM, a careless nursemaid tells the truth to a budding actor.


Reductive Reviews: White Ribbon


ph. SPC/Magnolia

Spoilers ahead.

Six million Jews had to die because a father sexually violated his own daughter? Because a twelve-year-old son of a preacher man had his hands tied to his bedpost for masturbating? Michael Haneke’s “White Ribbon” and his divisive worldview is putting me on the fence. (The Blu Ray and DVD of this movie just came out. Omar Moore came out with his review, it will be only a matter of time when Nathaniel Rogers’s DVD review will be out. I hope what I say will just be as good as theirs)

An old man (Ernst Jacobi) narrates the story of a small German town where he used to teach. His rendition of the story, in unproven fragments, might ‘clarify some things that happened in this country.’ I might as well put the bit of historical context that I know that may give to this review. Since the movie brings up national metaphor, the movie, therefore, can’t just stand for itself now.

Germany isn’t a small town. I’m reading Steven Bach’s biography of Leni Riefenstahl, and he paints Germany as this nation of pluralism and there’s an impression that it’s been like that ten years before the time frame of the  movie. The country’s a literate, Protestant nation, so anyone had access to any information and opinion in the spectrum. It would possibly be more conservative in the rural areas, but they couldn’t have had a bigger influence on urban politics. What ‘happened in this country,’ in my understanding, was that somebody eliminated diversity and unified the national voice. I feel as if Michael Haneke’s film doesn’t really allow for this difference and therefore misses the bigger picture. If you don’t agree with me on that, at least agree with me that dictatorships don’t all happen because of a country’s citizens. The movie certainly gives that notion that everyone willingly lets someone pull their strings that makes them do horrific crimes.

Besides, Western critics and audiences overuse ‘film as national metaphor’ as the measuring stick in watching foreign films that it’s a bit infuriating that Haneke will actually take that bait and make a movie for that purpose.

However, I can’t say that Haneke’s worldview is totally wrong. No matter what you think of it, he makes his argument as effective in first screening. Individuals have awful pasts, and the contemporary understanding of what’s ‘good’ is to not let past injuries affect us and be nice to other people. Besides, a criminal gets more derision as he reveals either say, a bad upbringing or racial persecution. However, ironically, we’re human.

Cruelty is a virus, in the words of David Edelstein, and its effects can manifest in different ways. First, that the victim will treat their parents’ cruelty as a badge of discipline, proudly handed down like an heirloom. I get the ‘you kids get it easy’ thing, those adults dissociate themselves with the abuse they received. We see that in the movie too, with the typical ‘this hurts me more than it hurts you’ punishments.

The second possibility is that some of the younger characters might forget about what’s been down to them and will do acts of cruelty without knowing its source. The children don’t know what they’re capable of and they’re bettering their parents in the worst way possible. This period piece shows the horrific and hints at its effect. “Code Inconnu,” set in contemporary Europe, shows the same soupcons of cruelty inflicted from one person to the other. “Funny Games” and “Cache” prove how terrible acts are already being performed in the contemporary era. But if the children 1910’s Germany would bring what they brought decades later, who knows what our generation is capable of?

Lastly, why is the teacher as a young man (Christian Friedel) not in on what’s going on?

I’m probably one of the few people who likes the pacing and narrative arc of the film. Plot point, another plot point, then nothing happens, then another plot point. Coming into the film I was expecting a big denouement but Haneke didn’t give that to his audience. It’s the same thing with history. We, I believe, try to shape a series of events into narrative. The books teach us of a big war and the peace that’s supposed to come after. However, events in any given time are just as horrific, climactic or anticlimactic as the next. Look at the 1970’s, 9/11, G20. In a time of gimmicky endings, the most shocking and refreshing ending is revealing that the movie is simply a documentation of certain events that happen to a person or group. The best narrative arc is no arc.

The acting in the film is marvelous. When the doctor confronts Frau Wagner (Sussana Lothar), she fights back. Any other actress would have said her speech with a tinge of meanness, or would even bellow it out. Haneke’s always been a man of simplicity and lets the actions and words out as fast as it needs to. Lothar, in her performance, tells the truth. The Academy isn’t creative enough to give her an Oscar nomination. If there’s gonna be that abortion of a remake for “Wizard of Oz,” Lothar is a dead-on lookalike of Margaret Hamilton and she should play the Wicked Witch of the West.

Of course, is the cinematography. Roger Ebert suggested that colour would have ruined the movie. I disagreed at first, but then the titular white ribbons wouldn’t have been as menacing. And B-roll has never been so beautiful.

Lastly, I see the same anemic Christmas tree in every German movie I’ve seen (“I Shot My Love“). I don’t know if it’s my decadent superstitious hypocritical Spanish Catholicism is creating this culture clash, but next time, pick a leafy tree. You Germans gotta stop punishing yourselves, that’s the problem all along.


Hot Docs – I Shot My Love


(Liebestraum. ph. HotDocs)

I met these male Lufthansa flight attendants at Woody’s the weekend of the volcano eruption. They were stuck here, they decided to go out. One of them is Swiss, can speak German, lives in Germany, but hated it when I asked if he’s German. This either involved the shaming of Germany or because he didn’t like some North American ditz who can’t tell the difference between one European country from another.

Tomer Heymann, director of “I Shot My Love,” also directed the award-winning “Paper Dolls” about Filipino drag queens, so I already like this guy. “I Shot My Love” is a Don De Lillo-esque pun, the movie being about the documentation of the pains of the two most important people in Heymann’s life. One is his mother and the other is his boyfriend Andreas – both of whom get along by the way. She likes it when he sings her beautiful German folk songs. The pain of said persons are connected to Nazi Germany – his mother a Jew whose parents are exiled Berliners and Andreas burdened by his family and country’s history.

Interestingly, there’s this over documentation of both his mother and his boyfriend’s bodies and much as he’s capturing their back stories.

Heymann, mostly invisible in the film, plays the caregiver to his mother. As presumably the youngest of five boys, he’s the only one left in Israel to take care of her as she goes through one surgery after another. He’s also the man who encourages Andreas to live in the present. Heymann, however, is your traditional documentarian in his objective stance towards the lives he’s capturing on film. Despite of what I’ve said above, the people who are weeping in front of the camera are ones personally closest to him while he mostly doesn’t react to them, or at least we don’t often see that in the frame. I’ll accept it if you think Heymann isn’t directly emotionally involved towards the ones he’s documenting.

Despite that flaw, the movie still pulls on the heartstrings. And this is my first HotDocs screening so maybe that’s why I like it more. And among other things, the movie goes to show that if an Israeli and a German can founder a functioning three-year relationship by meeting in a gay club in a city they’re both visiting, the rest of us have no excuse.

p.s “I Shot My Love” just won the Best Mid-Length Documentary Award.


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