…and the quest to see everything

Posts tagged “concrete jungle

Post-SNAM Movie: Georgy Girl


This is going to sound mean, and I’m trying to be nice, but the titular Georgy Girl (Lynn Redgrave) looks like what would happen if Kim Novak was loud and had an awkward phase – really 1960’s you call this overweight? But I like this awkward phase because she still has this full liveliness, running around to or being chased around London by the equally crazy people in her life, like her godfather Mr. Leamington (also Academy Award-nominated James Mason), roommate Meredith (Charlotte Rampling) and the latter’s boyfriend, Jos (Alan Bates). Without context it’s a good thing if you’re being chased around the most happening city in the world by a younger Alan Bates – I’ve had a crush on this bushy-haired man since seeing Far from the Madding Crowd. But I changed my mind because his character is a underemployed flake and married his pregnant girlfriend. And that Georgy is contractually Mr. Leamington’s mostly platonic mistress and the latter, despite the creepiness, makes for a great situation that she shouldn’t abuse.

The movie shows the seeds of the Sexual Revolution through these relationships and uncertainties, characters lusting on each other strangely enough because of cabin fever like Georgy and Jos do. Georgy lands her place with Leamington because of a parody of a cabaret number, becoming a part of the mini-trend of leading women who are also awkward and make fun of female sexuality because their faces, body types or age don’t fit beauty standard. She’s an archetype, the supporting character in her own life, altruistically wrestling their problems and making her friends help her other friends. But she turns from having to watching people make love to this still-unfashionable woman being courted by two different men, getting accepted into the fold and her man being her best revenge. The Revolution also manifests itself through Georgy’s foil and object of jealousy, Meredith. This movie is very frank about this generation’s good and bad sides, poking fun at marriage with a scene showing Meredith and Jos’ civil wedding, Georgy trying her best to keep with other couples’ tradition and throwing rice at two people who don’t belong together. This honest is especially  shown when Meredith proudly tells Jos about aborting the fetuses he’s sired – she asks Jos why he should have a say on keeping it or aborting, which is a valid argument although we don’t like the character making it. Despite her first optimism towards being a mum, she eventually screams about Georgy ‘babying’ up her flat and eventually shocking her ward mates and their visitors by playing one of movies’ worst mothers, calling “it” “that hideous thing,” shunning her child into Georgy’s care.

This movie is director Silvio Narizzano‘s one hit wonder but I’ll include it with Repulsion and John Schleisinger’s Darling and yes, I’m using the comparison on a superficial level – because all three are in black and white. There are diverse approaches and tones among these movies and directors but what I like about this movie is its energy. The other two who have mature-looking actors, the younger members of the cast are baby-faced people who can make babies despite their immaturity. Even Mason’s higher voice is like that of a child’s, making his rapport with Redgrave easier. Rampling, despite her sculpted features and bitch virtuosity, still has this smoothness to her and thus we can easily perceive her as one of the three youngsters whose  generation probably conceived the ‘trying to figure it all out’ thing that hordes of future twentysomethings will stumble into. They’re into awkward phase between education and ‘real,’ financially stable adulthood. They still want to play like kids do – the movie having that tone of playtime, really – but are ushered into marriage and baby rearing and all that. All three movies, in dealing with young urbanites, also cross shaky class lines. But unlike Repulsion and Darling‘s snazzily dressed, partying working class, Georgy Girl‘s characters are part of the grubby quasi-intelligent class. It’s not necessarily clear whether they are moving up or down, their adulthood marked by their independence from both parents and the class system. It’s also not easy to dismiss Jos as an idiot despite of his actions because of his vigour, he just seems like a slacker with too much squandered potential. Meredith, a great beauty, is surrounded by classical music through her work as a violinist and the one with the most constant brushes with high culture and is the highest paid. Georgy has connections through Leamington but she’s still the kind of girl who, on a violently rainy day, needs to be checked up by a child welfare inspector. And all three have to, for most of the movie, go home to the same shitty, overcrowded apartment or ‘flat,’ and that I like the complexities among these kids’ class statuses.

Georgy Girl is part of a double bill for the late night program for TV Ontario’s Saturday Night at the Movies. I know that what I say in the previous paragraphs and the terrible behaviour in which supporting cast uses to react to their situations, this movie is light thanks to Redgrave’s tone setting performance, earning that Academy Award nomination. And despite her perma-jovialness, she contrasts it because her face carries the same gravitas for which her sister is known. The movie rewards this constantly joyful character with happiness. I’ll write about the movie featured in the second half of that bill, another movie released in 1966 but with much better critical/awards reception, when I feel like it.


2011: Waste Land


Lucy Walker’s Waste Land, portraying Gramacho, also reminded me of ars povera or ‘poor’ or ‘trash’ art, unconventionally and subversively creating beauty with cheap materials. One of the contemporary movement’s practitioners include Vik Muniz, the documentary’s subject. His social project, which he began in 2007, involves returning to his home city of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to create art out of the city’s trash, the latter mostly in a landfill called Jardim Gramacho, the name being ironic because this place is no blossoming garden. Muniz’ entrance to Gramacho, the part of the journey with which he has some reservations, is filmed to remind us of dystopic movies like Franci Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, except that this place is real and a necessary evil to our civilization. Walker uses Muniz both as our narrator and stand-in, explaining the landfill’s organized chaos and just as what he says about the smell, we start to get used to it.

Waste Land is an interesting look within an artist and his collaborators, as Muniz works with unlikely extra pairs of hands. The magic of shaping and the documenting of the product doesn’t happen until the movie’s last thirty-five minutes. So basically the first hour is preparation, talking to the one of the leaders of the worker’s association that represents them, taking pictures of the selected few workers who will end up being his models and apprentices. This is part of Muniz’ goal, to expose the workers into another world instead of he assumes is their sad routines.

The movie shows Muniz and his pieces as both poignant and kitschy, using materials like peanut butter to recreate canonized paintings like da Vinci’s Mona Lisa. He finds this complementary spirit through working with the garbage pickers/recyclists/catadores. For example the union leader Tiao who, with an improvised set consisted of a bathtub, is photographed as Marat. This is telling of his and the workers’ elevated self-image and unorthodox experience with intellectualism, heightened by Muniz’ presence. Tiao, Zumba and the other workers have literally created a library out of discarded books, a comment on the middle class indifference to the experiences for which the workers would strive. This unlikely mixture of mindsets and class evokes ars povera’s manifesto, but the realism within depicting these workers’ lives adds a social and emotional aspects of a creative process.


Seminal Video: The Cool Kids


My music taste isn’t just made up of crappy diva pop music, it’s also made up of hip hop. I have no idea what’s going on with music, much less rap. I’ve liked The Cool Kids since I was in college, a hip hop duo who somehow makes sense with the white hipsters who’ve appropriated them as their own. And I really thought that old school was a Toronto thing as opposed to something that the Midwest also did. What is Toronto doing now? How do I verbalize or describe the sound of what Drake is doing? Anyway, I wanted to catch up on what they’re doing recently, which is apparently lending their music to “Entourage.” I actually wanted to post some of their new stuff, but that’s not as good. “Pennies” isn’t their best song neither. I don’t even like the two-note hook in the chorus, I prefer my beats low, which their other, greater sons like “Popcorn,” “Bassment Party,”  or “Hammer Bros,” have. But I found myself rapping whatever words I knew from that song. Yes, rapping. Enjoy.


FFF: “Der Himmel uber Berlin”


The angels look down upon Berlin. In Wim WendersDer Himmel uber Berlin, they listen to the poetry and grumblings of its different citizens. They hear mostly in German but occasionally in English, like the voices of Peter Falk (Falk), visiting to shoot a movie. They try to comfort people despite their limited powers to send their messages across. When they meet they compare notes. Today is a normal day but they talk glowingly, their excitement towards humans is legitimate in a way, every life a miracle full of climactic emotions and insights.

Claire Denis is Wenders’ assistant direction and it does feel like a Denis film at times, as the camera sweeps to follow the angels and the Berliners in their natural environment. There’s also some impressionistic touches, with the first shot of a child’s eye or many others, like a wing, the inside of a sewer, the angels and their shadows, sequences showing high angle zooms, fast subway cars and the people inside them and an angel reacting to these people in a dark space. The occasional violin in the film score also gives that impression of a continuing German film making tradition.

Among the Berliners are Turkish families, black students and Asian rockers. Colourful graffiti plasters itself unto the Berlin Wall. But it inevitably shows reel footage of the city after the war. The angel Cassiel guides an old man within the obliterated Potsdam district, the latter shocked that the can’t find it in its original bustling form. The movie has its own concepts of statehood, as if Germany has existed before the landmass rose out of the water. The angels crossing the wall feels like a statement although most of the film doesn’t have the preachy tone of every political film. Instead it has the spiritual aura, thus showing a fractured yet evolving country.

It wouldn’t be long until one of the angels, Damiel (Bruno Ganz) envies the tactile nature of human experience although his colleague tells him to distance himself from such thoughts. He’s partly motivated to become human because of a Barbara Stanwyck lookalike of a trapeze artist named Marion (Solveig Dommartin). Ganz’s benevolent face shines throughout Damiel’s angelhood that naturally gets stripped when he transforms. He, with the movie, negotiates this premise, the human Damiel having the childlike giddiness brought on by a schoolboy crush. He still embodies the spirit of the city he used to watch.


Seminal Video: with Ryan Gosling


Via Jezebel. So this place has degraded itself to writing about videos while I’m doing my real writing everywhere else and I have six reviews to write (including four here) and I owe Queen Video a DVD and I have to finish a book and read parts of another and a preview for a Kate Winslet film (She and her kids escaped a fire is Richard Branson’s house, by the way. Yesterday just kept giving me strange emotions.). It’s so weird knowing that Gosling lives in the Lower East Side – I got of the wrong stops off the F train then. What entertains me more in this clip are the New Yorker narrators, who are proof that even if Gosling can stop rough New York fights, he can never stop The Notebook. Enjoy!


Rewatching Cache, eerie as ever


This film was part of the Cinematheque Ontario’s Best of the Decade, a series that started last year, a list that I believe no longer appears on the actual Cinematheque website and I can’t remember exactly when the eff I saw it, but for narrative’s sake, we’ll pretend I rewatched it exactly a year after seeing it for the first time. And since I already saw it, I’m not gonna give it a real review, not that I’ve ever done that ever.

ph. SPC

Parts of Cache include surveillance tapes capturing George Laurent’s (Daniel Auteuil) Parisian house or long takes showing car rides to his mother’s (Annie Girardot) estate or his adopted brother Majid’s (Maurice Bénichou) apartment building, and then I remembered this is the probably the first movie I liked that partially uses digital cameras, a technical filmmaking method that’s widespread now with at least four Best Picture nominees partially or fully using digital. Despite being printed in 35, the rest of the film feels like it has a digital finish when watched on television, especially with its white and gray colour palette. Cache doesn’t feel like a manicured film, through its form scarier as it captures lives of ordinary people just like those watching it.

Speaking of ordinary people, I understand the de-glam that comes with the ‘art of cinema,’ but this is the dumpiest Juliette Binoche ever looked. Of the two Haneke Paris film’s I’ve seen, he de-glams and modernizes the city. The most ‘Parisian’ thing about it is the salad with red wine, and I’m pretty sure white wine is better for salad. Anyway, I already talked about the colour palette. There’s also the contemporary architecture and interior design.

Thank God for close-ups though, when Binoche’s character Anne gets angry or teary eyed at Georges for hiding Majid from her. In revealing his dark childhood secrets, they share a secret, and she surprisingly doesn’t condemn him.

But Haneke is, and if you’re his kind of audience, you are too. At first I couldn’t buy it because of its in-your-face metaphors. Why are Majid and his son (Walid Afkir) so passive? Why doesn’t Majid think of his son in his last act in disturbing Georges’ conscience? However, Georges becomes such an unsympathetic figure because of his meanness towards Majid and his indifference towards the latter’s son’s declarations. His carelessness in telling lies about Majid is the first and most effective way to ruin the latter’s life.

Think about a scene in the middle of the film during his visit to his mother. He has a terrible dream, his childhood accusations against Majid becoming true, he wakes up and is haunted. Would some of us in the audience be satisfied to see that in the end instead of a jaded Georges sleeping as if nothing has happened? Majid’s son wants to see a man haunted by the latter’s decisions, and we still see that. Rest assured, Georges will be haunted from time to time. And as his mother warns, those dreams will be more frequent as he ages.


Jafar Panahi: The Mirror


Mina (Mina Mohammed-Khani), a little Persian girl with a broken arm, isn’t one of the school girls running across the pedestrians, on their way home. She’s left alone, waiting for her pregnant mother in front of her school gate. The Mirror doesn’t tell us how long she’s been waiting, the child’s anxiety of being left alone in a city warps her and the audience’s understanding of time. She clings on to an unknown woman’s black burqa to cross a street without stop lights. She tries to use a payphone and succeeds by having to climb the phone booth’s sides. This is just the first of her challenges, and when she goes out further into the city to go back home, the film proves how inhospitable Tehran could be especially to a second class citizen like her.


Then, while riding a bus, a man off-screen tells Mina to stop looking at the camera, making Mina react and yell that she doesn’t wanna act anymore, leaves the set, and crosses through Tehran to go home. She eventually runs into an old woman who was an extra in the film, telling the latter that she didn’t like her character, that she doesn’t like the crying because her classmates might think she’s too whiny. She doesn’t like the arm cast making her look clumsy. She doesn’t want being cast as a first grader. The camera then follows her as she asks for directions home, while trucks occasionally blocking our view of her.


In a way, Mina’s escape from the film set is her disavowal of limiting third world stereotypes. Her critiques of the crying, the arm cast and her youth are symbols of a supposedly debilitated Iran. It’s like Margo Channing fighting with Lloyd Richards. Of course, I still think this is all planned out, remembering that I did hear the director’s off-camera voice as the first break from the original storyline. The rest of the film can thus be seen as a set of disavowals and unintentional acknowledgments. The camera following her, latently to make sure she’s safely home, feels like a safety net to acknowledge that a person might not really be safe. Mina’s no longer acting but she’s performing independence. You can hear her voice through the mike attached to her body, but she might be far away, She no longer wants to be an actress, but she’s nonetheless a part of Iranian cinema.