Tuesday, June 08, 2010

2010 Movie World Cup, Group A

Group A: South Africa, Mexico, Uruguay, France

Films: U-Carmen e-Khayelitsha, In the Pit, Gigante, Sans Soleil

South Africa: U-Carmen e-Khayelitsha (2005, Mark Dornford-May)

A creative interpretation of the Spanish opera Carmen set in a South African setting. The opera is moving at times but the real gems are the African music/dance sequences which are uplifting and a joy to watch. Besides these dance sequences, my other favorite moments are some of dialogue-less scenes where the memorable music forms a perfect companion to the beautiful images.

Mexico: In the Pit (2006, Juan Carlos Rulfo)

Cars. Gridlock. Congestion. Solution? Freeways. Congestion on Freeways. Solution? Building more freeways or adding another level to existing freeways.

Mexico City. Teeming with people. And the location of one of the world's longest and highest 2nd level freeway. The film starts on a tiny portion of the freeway construction site where we meet some of the people doing the hard work and the day to day physically grueling tasks. We learn about these people's beliefs, attitudes and even myths regarding the construction and Mexican life in general.

The film's true beauty shines through in the final overhead shot of the construction site which gives a glimpse into the enormous task. The extended view of the partially completed freeway puts the whole project into context and gives a magnitude of the thousands of people who toil in the sun to get the project completed on time. And then there the millions that will benefit once the construction is done.

We meet only a few people working on a small portion of the bridge but as the mesmerizing final shot shows there are many more stories waiting to be told.

A truly amazing documentary!!

Uruguay: Gigante (2009, Adrián Biniez)

Gigante is quite a treat and presents its pleasures in quietly developed moments. The film artfully mixes dry humour, beauty with a pinch of simplicity.

Jara is a lonely security guard who falls for a cleaning girl named Julia while working night shifts observing the supermarket monitors. His gazes gradually become obsessive and he starts stalking Julia. He believes she is flirting with another co-worker and follows her to a restaurant. But instead Jara finds her on a date with another man. So he then follows that man only to rescue him from a bunch of thugs. The two return back to the resturant to have some drinks and chat. Through their conversation, Jara learns that the man found Julia through an internet dating site and that she loves heavy metal. So naturally Jara goes about learning to love heavy metal in his bid to win over Julia.

There are plenty of charming humorous moments sprinkled throughout the film. Two interesting moments come in a restaurant and involve a soccer game on tv. When Jara follows Julia to the restaurant, he sits across the restaurant while looking over to observe her. In the meantime, the man next to Jara is busy watching the soccer game and chats about the game but Jara only looks on blankly.

Later in the night when Jara returns to the restaurant with Julia's date, they make small talk. Jara is only interested in getting some info on Julia whereas her date is busy watching the game. This time around, the waiter also chips in with his view about how the ref ruined the game.

It is interesting that everyone around Jara is interested in the soccer game but he shows no emotion whatsoever. The game on tv is a local league game but even if the match was a world cup game, you be sure that Jara would not pay attention. Unless someone told him that Julia liked watching soccer. Then Jara would become the biggest soccer fan in Uruguay.

France: Sans soleil (1983, Chris Marker)

A perfect choice for the movie world cup because this film does not set up roots in one place and is a travelogue that jumps in between Tokyo and Guinea-Bissau with a brief touch down in San Francisco. The film touches 3 continents and has ties to the current world cup and three of the past 4 world cups -- the film travels to USA & Japan, host/co-host nation of the 1994 & 2002 respectively; Chris Marker is French and France hosted the 1998 World Cup; the current world cup is in Africa which gets a decent viewing time courtesy of Guinea-Bissau.

The film features a series of letters read by a woman about a man's journey from the crowded streets of Tokyo to Guinnea. A memorable moment arrives in an African market when Marker's camera captures a woman's smile and beauty.

Ofcourse, the woman knows a pair of eyes (and a lens) are on her, so we see her look away yet she is still aware of the presence fixated on her face.

There are many other images which stay long in the memory.

Standings and Points (Maximum out of 9)

In the Pit: 8
Gigante: 8
Sans Soleil: 7
U-Carmen e-Khayelitsha: 6

It was a very tough decision deciding who got top spot as there is very little to seperate In the Pit from Gigante. My choice was made more difficult by the fact that I saw both films almost 6 months apart -- I saw In the Pit back in December and recently saw Gigante in May. In the end, I have to give a narrow nod to the Mexican documentary.

Soccer Group Prediction

I would not be surprized if like the film results both Mexico and Uruguay advance to the second round. On paper, Uruguay are the most capable team in changing their tactical formations with Mexico not too far behind in adapting to different styles. As is often repeated, no host team has failed to advance from its group. South Africa is not a very strong tactical team and a noisy home crowd may not be enough to power them through to the next phase. On the other hand, if South Africa can get an early goal, then there is a chance their spirits might be lifted by the home crowd. Also, South Africa's opener against Mexico presents them with a good chance of nabbing a win or atleast a draw.

As for France, I have no hope. France have been mostly inept, dull and uninspired under Raymond Domenech. Domenech is not entirely at fault though because he did inherit a pretty weak team after Euro 2004 but he has done nothing to improve the French game. The ultimate blame for France's failure should not rest on the players or Domenech but should be put on the French Federation's shoulders. They had a chance to put things right after a disastrous Euro 2008 but they did nothing. The French Federation know the team will fail which is why they were quick to name Laurent Blanc as Domenech's replacement well before the World Cup. The Federation did this to take away some of the anger that will be directed towards them once France stumbles and fails. The biggest surprize for me will be if France advances from this group. And I will be even more surprized if France manages to score more than 1 goal in any of the three group games.

For now, I am going to go with Uruguay and Mexico to finish 1st and 2nd in the group.

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