Thursday, July 24, 2014

2014 Movie World Cup: Round 3

Film #3 match-ups of the 8 groups concludes the viewing of all 96 films of the 2014 Movie World Cup.

Group A

Brazil (Entranced Earth) 1-0 Cameroon (Quartier Mozart)

This turned out to be an energetic match-up as both films depicted plenty of rapid movement and pace to leave one scratching their head. Glauber Rocha’s Entranced Earth makes up a lot of ground depicting politics from grassroots all the way up to the presidential level. Jean-Pierre Bekolo’s Quartier Mozart tackles witchcraft in quite a creative way, which is appropriate considering witchcraft is mentioned every time Cameroon’s soccer team plays at the World Cup. In the end, the Brazilian film is able to sustain its energy throughout its entire duration, resulting in a comfortable 1-0 win.

Croatia (Witnesses) 1-0 Mexico (Presagio)

A lackluster contest doesn’t provide the creative spark that was expected. The Mexican film, based on a short story by Gabriel García Márquez, has an engaging apocalyptic end-of-world premise but the production values let it down. The Croatian film uses multiple viewpoints to show a murder and has plenty of potential but runs out of steam over its 90 minutes duration. Still, Croatia registers a 1-0 win.

Group B

Spain (The Red Squirrel) 0-1 Australia (The Last Wave)

Time plays a big part in weakening the Spanish film’s chances while strengthening the Australian film. Julio Medem’s The Red Squirrel shows all the traits of a Pedro Almodóvar film, from the mystery to the heightened music and as a result feels unoriginal. The film might have been a welcome sight in 1993 but after seeing Almodóvar perfect his style over the last two decades, Medem’s film doesn’t stand a chance. On the other hand, Peter Weir’s The Last Wave manages to anticipate the end-of-world signs that Take Shelter showed or the Biblical path that Magnolia took. However, Weir’s film is rooted firmly in Australian territory as the film centers around Aboriginals and their rituals contrasted against the larger Australian society.

Holland (The Northerners) 0-1 Chile (The Battle of Chile, part I)

Going all the way back to 1992 proved to be helpful to experience Alex van Warmerdam’s developmental arc with regards to his dark comedies about urban middle-class Dutch society. One can see the origins of his sharp and relevant observations which he perfects in his subsequent films. However, the Dutch film does not offer much resistance to Patricio Guzmán’s remarkable verite documentary The Battle of Chile which shows the ground view in the aftermath of the 1973 military coup.

Group C

Colombia (Oedipus Mayor) 0-1 Japan (When a Woman Ascends the Stairs)

The Colombian film is an intriguing work based on a story by Gabriel García Márquez, the second film based on one of his stories in this Movie World Cup. Oedipus Mayor transports the Greek tale of Oedipus Rex to a Colombian town setting and unfolds a mythical tale of murder one layer at a time. However, the Colombian film easily falls to Mikio Naruse’s excellent Japanese film. When a Woman Ascends the Stairs depicts one woman’s attempts to carve out a respectable living by wanting to buy her own bar in a male dominated world. Despite being made in 1960, the film is timeless in showing the perceptions society puts on women compared to men.

Greece (Ghost of a Chance) 0-1 Ivory Coast (Burn it up Djassa)

In the Soccer World Cup, Greece stole a last minute win over Ivory Coast to advance to the round of 16. It was one of the most unfair decisions at the 2014 Soccer World Cup as there was no foul for which Greece was awarded a gift of a penalty. However, no such gift takes place in the Movie World Cup as the Ivorian film easily wins this contest.

Burn it up Djassa tells the story of three siblings, two brothers and one sister, in the dangerous Wassakara neighborhood of Abidjan. One of the brother is a cop but the other brother sells cigarettes and fancies making a quick buck by playing cards. The sister secretly works as a prostitute. Given their choices, it is a not a surprise that fate ends up setting them on a collision course. That is not before the film gives a good look at the neighborhood life, aided by a narrator, with long takes that allows one to get a feel for life on the streets. An engaging effort made on a low budget but with plenty of talent and heart.

Ghost of a Chance is set around a casino with two characters who dream of beating the system and making money. The complication comes in the face of a dealer in the casino, who happens to be the daughter of one of the men and wants nothing to do with her father. As chance would have it, the father’s partner falls for the dealer. There are some moments which inject life into the film but not enough to overtake the Ivorian film.

Group D

Uruguay (Whisky) 0-1 Italy (Il Posto)

No repeat of the Soccer World Cup result in this movie match as Il Posto overpowers the wonderful Whisky. The Italian film abstracts fears of exams and job interviews in such a manner that the 1961 feature is still applicable. The Italian film is a strong contender for the 2014 Movie World Cup title.

Costa Rica (Caribe) 1-0 England (If...)

On paper, this appeared to be a mismatch as a relatively unknown film from Costa Rica was pitted against such a well known English film that has gotten a Criterion DVD release. But as the Soccer World Cup showed, Costa Rica should not be underestimated. Even though this Movie World has not been a happy ground for Costa Rica, Caribe is full worth for its 3 point victory. Caribe highlights the important issue of how oil drilling and explorations can impact a paradise. On the other hand, If... (1968) feels dated as many other college films have superseded its impact such as Dead Poets Society over the last few decades.

Group E

Switzerland (Signer’s Suitcase) 1-0 Honduras (Mi Amigo Angel)

Sami Kafati’s Mi Amigo Angel is regarded as the first Honduras film and is quite an achievement. The black and white film falls under the neo-realist category and can be easily seen as a cousin to Luis Buñuel’s early Mexican films. Unfortunately, Peter Liechti’s Swiss film is an enthralling road film packed with thought-provoking ideas and memorable images garnished with some deadpan humor. As a result, the Swiss film takes all 3 points.

Ecuador (A Titan in the Ring) 0-1 France (L’Argent)

France have gotten a third straight mismatch as Robert Bresson’s L’Argent easily prevails over Viviana Cordero’s A Titan in the Ring.

Group F

Argentina (Invasion) 1-0 Nigeria (Last Flight to Abuja)

Hugo Santiago’s Invasion is a remarkable film, written by Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy Casares, that meshes Orwell’s 1984, Godard’s Alphaville and Latin American revolutionary ideas with noirish visuals. It is even more remarkable that this film is not that well known and has not gotten a wider English release DVD that it deserves.

Last Flight to Abuja is a Nigerian co-production that is much more polished than the average Nollywood film. It incorporates many elements from Nollywood movies such as romance and an affair but bases its drama in an airplane thereby drawing attention to a real life plane incident in Nigeria. Despite all the positive work by the Nigerian entry, the Argentine film is too strong in every department.

Bosnia and Herzegovina (No Man’s Land) 0-1 Iran (Taste of Cherry)

Abbas Kiarostami’s film easily overcomes Danis Tanovic’s worthy award winning No Man’s Land.

Group G

Germany (World on a Wire) 1-0 USA (Faces)

This was the closest contest of all the Film #3 match-ups and brought a clash of two film giants, Rainer Werner Fassbinder and John Cassavetes. But by a narrow margin, the German film edges for a win, repeating the same score as their 2014 Soccer World Cup encounter.

Portugal (Ossos) 1-0 Ghana (A Sting in a Tale)

A complete mismatch as Pedro Costa’s film easily walks away with all the points. However, A Sting in a Tale is the best of the three Shirley Frimpong-Manso films I have seen to date and would have fared much better against another film.

Group H

Belgium (La Promesse) 1-0 South Korea (The Housemaid)

Kim Ki-young’s 1960 film The Housemaid is an excellent film that is ahead of its time in many ways, especially regarding the twist ending and a character addressing the camera. But unfortunately, it cannot overcome the Dardennes.

Algeria (Daughters of Keltoum) 0-1 Russia (Stalker)

Tarkovsky’s Stalker is one of the best films to have been viewed in this Movie World Cup. An instant classic which defeats a very good Algerian entry.

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