Tuesday, September 25, 2007

CIFF Notes, Days 3, 4 & 5

The Mosquito Problem and Other Stories

2007, Bulgaria, Director Andrey Paounov

As the title suggests, the documentary is about a town's problems with mosquitos. And the town in question is Belene, located in Northern Bulgaria by the Danube river. Andrey Paounov does an excellent job in capturing the essence of the town just by starting off from the mosquitos and expanding it to document fascinating stories of extraordinary people. The first hour of the documentary is made up of stunning abstract shots of everyday objects mixed with multiple stories. We don't spend too much time on each person or story to begin with and that makes for an engaging film as we get to sample the vibrant personality of the people in Belene. Also, Paounov lets the camera linger on a person a few extra seconds after they have finished their story -- this has a powerful effect of etching more realism to each person, sort of like what is done at the end of The Motorcycle Diaries with the black and white photo portraits. The story does drift off slightly after the hour mark but the film manages to end on a poetic and graceful note.

Overall, jut a wonderful film with some stunning visuals.

Rating 9/10


2007, France, Directors/writers: Vincent Paronnaud & Marjane Satrapi

This award winning graphic novel film does a great job of presenting a tale of darkness in a light hearted manner that makes it a very accessible watch. No complaints with any of the wonderful voices (Chiara Mastroianni) and technical aspects of the film but I feel the story might have been more eye-opening 10 years ago. But nowadays with plenty of books and articles in circulation about life in Iran after the revolution, Persepolis ends up just confirming those other repressive stories and adding a few more personal touches about the change of life from the Shah's period to post-revolution.

Rating 8/10

Two in One

2007, Ukraine/Russia, Director Kira Muratova

One of the wonders of any film festival is discovering a hidden gem or a new director. Even a few hours before its screening time of 8:45 pm, Two in One was not on my radar. I was debating between either Guy Maddin's Brand Upon The Brain or the Norwegian film Sons . But as chance turned out, I decided to look up the film Two in One. And I found this article where Jonathan Rosenbaum called Kira Muratova "the greatest living Russian filmmaker". Wow! How on earth did I never hear of her? After that it was an easy decision to take the effort for watching this film!!

Going into the movie, I knew that this would be a challenge. And so it turned out to be. Two different stories (in structure) but related together. The first 40 minutes hover around the confusion and discussions which take place when a corpse is discovered on stage a day before a play is to open. The actors decide that the sold out show must go on and the police should not be informed lest their play gets halted. This leads to plenty of absurd situations and brings out the true personalities of some eccentric characters.

After the 40 minute mark, the actual play starts. First the camera shows the narrator introducing the audience to the play. The camera then goes behind the set to show the story that the theatrical audience can't see but we the cinematic audience can observe. The camera does return to the stage on a few occasions before fully diving into the story of an interesting love triangle involving a father, his daughter and her friend. Incest is implied but the father has his heart set on his daughter's friend. What follows is unique and bizarre and the only cinematic equivalent I can think of the father may occupy the same time-space as characters in the Czech film Lunacy.

The digitally shot film captures the rich set and characters sharply. And the set design is beautiful. But this film does appear to be an acquired taste. The slow pace with the choice of some bold shots will either repulse completely or it might soak in enough slow pleasure.

Rating: 6.5/10

Fresh Air

2006, Hungary, Directors/writers: Ágnes Kocsis & Andrea Roberti

A charming dead-pan comedy about a single mother and her teenage daughter. The film starts off by looking at the mother's life and her efforts to find a date. But after the first 20 minutes or so, the story focuses on the daughter and her turbulent relationship with the mother. The film manages to show plenty of complex issues (first love, loneliness, coming-of-age, poverty) in such a cool and relaxed manner with the character's actions and expressions carrying the story in an effortless manner.

Rating 8/10

No comments: