Director / producer
|UMARETE WA MITA KEREDO
|Histoire(s) du Cinéma
|News from Home
|Agarrando pueblo (The Vampires of Poverty)
|Carlos Mayolo / Luis Ospina
UMARETE WA MITA KEREDO
This is what true comedy is about: a way to cope with the cruelty of life. The scene where the children confront their father after seeing he is not the important man they thought, is the most heart-wrenching piece of cinema I have seen. This film is a precise learning of the main dramas in life: confronting your father, power, money, the bittersweetness of existence, the disappointment of life, and the need to live with them. It is a very dialectical film: there are no easy solutions, one must coexist with the problems, anguishes and contradictions. Everything is told within the ordinary everyday life of two kids, with no need of grandiloquent or epic elements. It is well known that Ozu's gravestone is marked with the word "Mu" which could be translated as Nothingness. Perhaps the enigmatic title of the film points to the vital search for the nothingness after one is born. The search will live throughout all Ozu's cinema, but it all started here.
Histoire(s) du Cinéma
I have to admit that I always struggle with this film. It is far from being an enjoyable experience. At least it is not at first. But every time I need some inspiration or something that challenges my beliefs in cinema, this film is there to take down everything I thought was certain, and gives elements to start again. Somehow It is a perfect interpassive object, as it is a film that is there thinking for you. A film that thinks you. Godard said in his early years: “Cinema is a form that thinks and thought that forms”. With Histoire(s) du Cinema he takes this view to the highest level. Because cinema can't think without involving sensitive matter. So he didn't choose to make a film explaining, he instead used images and sounds of cinema to illuminate the world. This is probably the Ulysses of Cinema. It a is film that is like a huge city, you can never say you have seen everything it has to offer. Perhaps you stay in a small fragment of it, and it can give you all you need.
I'm interested in films that never dissociate thinking from the body. Films that understand that thought involves matter and sensations. Also the other way around: the body thinks. That is what Cronenberg's cinema is all about and Videodrome does it at its best. Cronenberg always turn the symbolic issues into body formations. This is a film that certainly foresaw what was coming. It gave shape to the info-sphere as an extension of human existence. And even though it is a highly disturbing film, it doesn't falls into Luddism (which is commonplace in horror and sci-fi). Cronenberg sees that we are going through an anthropological mutation in which images, technology and information meet the flesh. This could bring many dangers but it is also open to the unknown. It is sexy and appealing, just as it could be disgusting and terrifying. In the end it is one idea: humans can't be separated from the rest of entities in the world, doesn't matter if they are symbolic or objective.
Usually Costa's works are seen exclusively as cinema of the real; however, I feel that vision reduce the richness of his films. Costa is one of cinema's finest narrators and Cavalo Dinheiro is a masterful work of fiction that, of course, deals with the real, but no less appeals to fantasy. This is like high modernist literature. It tells a phantasmagoric story, but it has a very unusual relation with the dramatic form. In this film the boundaries of past, present, virtual, real, sanity and madness are collapsed. It is structured as a maze, where its protagonist, Ventura, goes through his difficult life, which has been crossed by violence and many postcolonial syndromes, confronting his assigned place in reality. And it is a political film indeed, but not in the usual fashion; its politics are in the way Costa rebuilds the story of an ill-fated life with a lot of dignity and poetic sense. Costa has given new life to cinema as a narrative art.
News from Home
Chantal Akerman definitely invented something new with this precise and emotive work. With her (and some others such as Hans Richter and Warhol) cinema turned open to the influences of fine arts. That encounter renewed cinema history and gave birth to unusual forms of storytelling, previously seen as strange.
News from Home is such an austere film; but also very complex. By reducing its means to the strictly necessary, it finds pure cinema within the clash of images, words and sounds. It is built with mostly three elements: the city landscapes of New York, letters read by Akerman and the growing noises of the city. The three elements tell you a different story. Slowly you discover they all are hiding something. You can tell how talented a filmmaker is by seeing what she chooses to tell (or show) and what not. The core of this film is the relationship between mother and daughter told in a very unusual way, but after watching the film you feel this was the only right way.
Agarrando pueblo (The Vampires of Poverty)
An audacious film. It tore apart, furiously, all the solemnity, imposture and rigid forms of the political cinema of its time. It did it with a sense of humour and with the right dose of meta-reflection. Using the forms of documentary films, it points to the mechanisms by which cinema builds an image of social issues, poverty and misery to satisfy a colonial consciousness that only want to reaffirm its views of the world and wash some guilt. It mocks the demand for despicable images from spectators in the main countries. Along with this film came a manifesto against "pornomiseria" (misery porn), one of the brightest elaborations to reflect on the colonial gaze (still in force) that sustains the relations between Europe/USA and the so-called third world countries' cinema.
With a script written by Borges and Bioy Casares, this film was an encounter between traditions: the fantastic literature of Rio de la Plata, Modernist Cinema and Classic Genres. It features an exemplary use of the off screen, telling the story of a besieged city by an invisible force. It is another proof that B film aesthetics fit better with science fiction and speculative narratives. A highly political and metaphysical film that finds all its power in its very opacity, with an eerie approach: evil is not embodied; it is not a matter of individual actions, it is more an invisible force that overtakes the structure of reality, threatening the understanding of the world. Once this force is here we won't be able to tell, we ourselves will be another. The struggle is ideological. it is a fight to control reality. Never was cinema capable of such effective abstraction in storytelling.
I would say this is a tropical gothic film. It features all the elements: a decadent family with a vampiric bond to the workers, an old house that is starting to collapse, the incestuous libido that moves the interactions, the constant feeling that an unstoppable tragedy will happen, and the vicious and sensual violence of nature. All framed in a hot and wet tropical forest mountain landscape. It is a drama that somehow sublimates elements of horror films in a new naturalism, where the conflicts are in how to contain the drives. It is a highly sophisticated film in narrative terms. Martel always cut the scenes before the outcome, this has the effect to displace the tension to the underground of the plot. It is also a revolution in terms of the sound treatment. It creates a submerged experience that articulates the sticky and uncanny humidity that is everywhere.
Wandering has never been such an amazing cinematic experience as it is in Antonioni's films. Walking with no direction is an existential mood expressed in the form of movement across the city landscape. The walks are Antonioni's way to express the inner struggle of his characters. After his tetralogy walking in cinema is not the same. It is as if he reinvented such a mundane action within the moving image. This particular film is the highest Antonioni got in his aim to narrate through subtraction. The film sits on a very delicate boundary in order to make the story disappear. That has a splendid effect. The void becomes a feature, a presence. It is a film that portrays depression precisely. It is a disease of time. Monica Vitti's character is haunted by time itself. Not memory, not sadness: just time.
Usually when people think about poetic cinema, they think about a sort of visual lyricism. At least for me, if such a thing as poetic cinema exists it is this film; showing us that poetry has more to do with the essay genre than with aestheticizing reality.
The analyses of Close-up tend to focus on its so called hybrid nature. On how it mixes documentary and fiction. And of course it uses both traditions of cinema, but nothing of that matters to me. This film shows a cinephile who pretends to be a filmmaker. A cinema lover whose love is a malaise. What great form to come to terms with Cinema History through its spectatorship. The love for cinema finally ends up invading reality, because in Close-Up a man pretends to be the filmmaker he loves, and by doing so he turns into an actor that stars in a film about he himself.The poetry is in its deep indirect reflection on how cinema deals with reality, not just by representing it, but more by being an important part of it.
I'm sure that I've ignored most of the cinema that has been made in the world. So my list only reflects my take on its history. I had no intention to privilege a sort of importance of films over what they meant to me. I based my choices entirely on the exemplary effect the films have had in my life, how they shaped my views of the world and my desire to make films. For me, an individual list has no meaning if it is not grounded in how cinema affects us and how it has played an importan role in our lives. I chose films that helped me understand how to be more free.