Sunday, June 15, 2014

2014 Movie World Cup: Groups B, C and D

Group B: Spain (In the City of Sylvia) vs Holland (Borgman)

The Spanish and Dutch films end up following the current footballing philosophy of both national teams. In the City of Sylvia can be classified as tiki-taka, a film characterized by patient build up, slow movements leading up to a satisfying finish. On the other hand, Borgman contains some of the Total Football flexibility where people swap roles which leads to a flurry of movements and emotions. At times, it is hard to keep track of which character is good or which is evil as traditional good characters look to be taking an evil position, while the villains are made to look like decent human beings. Gradually, the line between good and evil blurs.

Although, in this film contest, tiki-taka easily prevails. There is a singular focus and beauty to In the City of Sylvia that is far more appealing the constantly switching gears of Borgman.

Spain wins 1-0 over Holland.

Group B: Chile (Tony Manero) vs Australia (Snowtown)

Through a complete coincidence, films from two different parts of the world end up sharing a common bond as both films can be observed as portrait of a serial killer. Of course, Tony Manero is a subset of Snowtown as the Chilean film features a singular character. Whereas, Snowtown shows how a single person can start a cult group of killers. The Australian film is based on true events while Tony Manero places a fictional character against the real background of Pinochet’s dictatorship and tries to explain the character’s behavior as a symptom of the dictatorship.

Both films are dark and feature a cold framework which prevents any rays of compassion to creep in. The larger scope of Snowtown ensures a multi-layered case study but Tony Manero is impressive in the mood it creates.

Too close to call. That means, the first draw of the 2014 Movie World Cup.

Chile 1-1 Australia.

Group C: Colombia (Crab Trap) vs Greece (Unfair World)

Both films try to outdo each other in terms of rhythm and pacing. Crab Trap and Unfair World borrow some elements from the Contemporary Contemplative Cinema playbook but use it for completely different purposes. Crab Trap shows a slice of life in a part of Colombia rarely seen on screen and illustrates how even a remote segment of the country can be impacted by struggles taking place across the nation. The Greek film ends up going the deadpan route akin to the cinema of Aki Kaurismäki.

Crab Trap and Unfair World are both very good films and a draw would be a fair result. However, the Greek film narrowly edges out for a win.

Colombia 0-1 Greece.

Group C: Ivory Coast (Adanggaman) vs Japan (Like Father, Like Son)

The two films embody some of the characteristics that were on display when the two nations met in the 2014 Soccer World Cup. Japan jumped to an early lead and displayed plenty of heart and patience while Ivory Coast used their aerial ability and strength to power home for a win.

Adanggaman Ossei

Adanggaman is about the slave trade that took place generations ago in West Africa and shows how the physical attributes of the individuals played a big part in their selection. The film features fights where the strength of the main character is essential in survival.

Like Father, Like Son is all about emotions and is a tender film that warms up one’s heart. The film easily wins this contest.

Ivory Coast 0 - 1 Japan

Group D: Uruguay (A Useful Life) vs Costa Rica (Cold Water of the Sea)

Both films are about age, an aspect that can explain the result of the soccer match between both nations.

Even though A Useful Life is fiction, it touches upon the reality where cinemas are closing all across the world and many arthouses/cinematheques are becoming a thing of the past. The film shows how the main character Jorge spent most of his life working in the cinematheque but is now forced out in a world that does not respect films like the past did. When Jorge is forced to see a world without his beloved cinematheque, the film crosses the fourth wall into our present reality where flashy multiplexes are being built that carry only commercial movies which show no respect of cinematic history. In fact, the commercial movies remake films from a few years ago, in a race to constantly stay young and never age. Jorge has aged like cinema has and he is forced to live in a world where only new movies and weekend box-office totals matter.

Cold Water of the Sea is a coming of age film which shows that aspects of one's youth end up shaping their adult behavior. In order to understand the character's adult behavior, we have to examine their youth to understand how they ended up in a particular place.

Interestingly, the Uruguayan film deals with a topic that can explain the Uruguayan soccer team’s 1-3 loss to Costa Rica. The Uruguayan team is no longer young and therefore can’t press or attack with purpose like they did in the 2011 Copa America win. Instead, the younger Costa Rican team showed more energy and drive in the 2nd half to overturn a 1-0 deficit. Costa Rica’s best player in the match, Joel Campbell (an Arsenal player), is only 21 while Uruguay’s Diego Forlan is 35.

However, in the film contest, age is not a factor as A Useful Life easily wins over Cold Water of the Sea.

Uruguay 1-0 Costa Rica

Group D: England (Trishna) vs Italy (Le Quattro Volte)

Quite the exciting film match-up as both films have plenty of visual richness. Trishna infuses the frame with plenty of color as the film is set in India while Le Quattro Volte is mostly devoid of color given the Italian town’s surrounding and change of seasons. In contrast to many films shot in India, Trishna does not go through a check-list of sights/elements to show which is a welcome relief. Instead, at moments the camera just lets us observe events and understand the behavior of the characters. Both leads (Freida Pinto and Riz Ahmed) are excellent and their body language is enough to understand their character’s emotions.

Le Quattro Volte is not an acting driven film and is about nature and progression of the soul through four different stages. It still manages to feature plenty of emotion even though humans are largely absent.

A tough film contest to call but in the end, the Italian film narrowly wins 1-0.

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