Thursday, September 25, 2008

CIFF Notes -- Days 5-7

Day 5, Sept 23

Paraiso Travel (2007, Colombia/USA, Simon Brand)
Gomorra (2008, Italy, Matteo Garrone): 10/10

Border hopping

The Colombian co-production Paraiso Travel depicts the journey and struggles of a love struck couple (Marlon & Reina) who illegally cross the border into the USA. The film is divided into two portions starting off with the couple already in the USA and interleaved with their journey in flashbacks. Their journey takes them from Medellin to Panama to Guatemala via air followed by a river crossing and bus into Mexico. From Mexico, the duo make their way into Texas trapped in hollowed out tree logs along with a group of other Colombians. Once they get to New York, their troubles truly begin. After the duo get separated, Marlon is left to fend for himself on the streets of NY. The film has a good heart and tries to sprinkle hope, humour and even love into a story that could easily have headed towards complete darkness.

The wait is finally over!!!

Back in May after I finished Roberto Saviano’s well researched and written book Gomorrah, I found out that the book was going to be made into a movie by Matteo Garrone. I had no idea when the movie was going to be completed so I was completely shocked when I found out 3 days later that the movie was playing in competition at Cannes. Since then, I had looked forward to the movie. I figured even if the film tackled less than half of the book’s contents, then it would be a gripping and stellar flick.

Very rarely do sky high expectations translate into a satisfying film experience. But Gomorra did just that for me. The film dives straight into the world of mafia killings in Naples and continues to explore other areas touched by the Gomorra such as drug trade, fashion and even waste disposal. Reading the book is not essential for watching the film but the one benefit of reading the book is that it puts the different scenes and characters in context even before the film describes the situation. For example, in the film when you see two men scoping out a quarry, one can immediately decipher that the two men are looking for empty land for waste disposal as the final chapter in the book describes the operation in great detail. Also, one can pick out the subtle differences in between the book and film. Saviano talks about the incident where a dress that Angelina Jolie wore for the Academy Awards was stitched by a tailor with ties to the fashion underground. In the film, Scarlett Johansson is the one who wears such a dress.

The one aspect that stands out from the film is the use of guns to control power and commit crime. Two teenagers running up a sand-dune with guns in their hands while struggling to pull their jeans up. Two older fat men, wearing shorts and flip-fops, with guns in hand. It is hard to imagine the mafia operation existing without the hand-gun because any kid can be recruited off the street, given a gun to carry out a ‘job’ and initiated into ‘manhood’.

Day 6, Sept 24

Sleep. Zzzzzz. Skipped watching any films.

Day 7, Sept 25

Alice’s House (2007, Brazil, Chico Teixeira)

It came down to a choice between Brazil and Argentina. On one side was Alice’s House from Brazil and on the other XXY from Argentina. Normally, in terms of soccer and film, I prefer Brazil slightly over Argentina even though there are many excellent soccer players and films from Argentina. So continuing that trend, I once again opted for the Brazilian film, but I believe this time, I got it wrong. Even though I am not sure how XXY compares but I didn’t enjoy Alice’s House as the film is essentially a soap opera (affairs, romance, domestic issues) with some hair salon gossip and sexual urges thrown in the mix.

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