Monday, February 9, 2015

Notes on a masterpiece called Knight Of Cups by Terrence Malick, USA: 2015-Berlinale 2015-IV.-Competition

For Patricio Guzman

It might have been pure accidental but the programming of Malick´s Knight Of Cups and Guzman´s El Botón de Nacár was a very lucky one. Both directors have go a nearly legendary reputation when they were in their Thirties and both filmmakers are hunted by grieve and losses of their personal biography.

Like expected Knight Of Cups is like Malick´s two previous films autobiographic inspired. Even though made with proper Hollywood budgets, his last films are rather radical manifestations of the french term “Caméra Stylo” in the sense of Truffaut as radical personal films. For all those who wonder how I can love Ozu, Ford, Naruse, Hou Hsiao Hsien and Terrenca Malick at the same time, I suggest there are two kind of great film maker. The first kind was able to make an effort finding their place in cinema where they can make the films they want. The second kind are filmmaker who are Looking for their place in the (film)-world. Terrence Malick, Ritwik Ghatak and Hiroshi Shimizu belong for my side to this second group whom I call “searchers”. Their creative energy is mostly absorbed by this search-movement. Christian Bale´s Rick is like Jack in The Tree of Life and Neil in To The Wonder )whom I will suggest as Malick´s Egos) a driven person looking for his place in the world. Interestingly this searching aspect of Malick is also reflected in his most impressive female characters played ny Linda Manz, Q´Orianka Kilcher or Olga Kurylenko. Most of Malick´s characters are uprooted. If they have a home, they will loose it.
After To The Wonder, Knight Of Cups takes place even more in urbane and contemporary landscapes. In both films we see a lot of homeless people whose misfortune correspondents with the mental situation of the main protagonists.

In all carefulness in stressing the term of “autobiographic elements" too much I have the strong feeling that sometimes more and sometimes less encrypted Malick embeds very personal confessions related to a more global vision of the world. If we follow Niles Schwartz in his definition of The Tree of Life as a requiem for his late brother and if we follow Rob Turner who interpreted To The Wonder as among other aspect as well as an elegy on Malick´s second wife, Rick in Knight of Cups is script writer and as a creative person most close to Malick. If we see them all as reflections of Malick himself, we have to notice they are rather traveled and failed and at best looking for their place in the world.
The film begins with a recitation of Rick´s father. It is a story of a prince from the East sent from his father to look in Egypt for a pearl. But the prince drinks the wine of forgetfulness. Even though his father sent him signs, the prince remains lost. In strange way the introduction is an echo of the tragedy of Pocahontas uprooting from her tribe in The New World.
Since Malick´s collaboration with Emanuel Lubezki and his fluid mostly handheld camera movements became one dominant element in Malicks films since The New World, this stylistic element became an adequate physical transmission of the mental conditions of its protagonists.
In several shots we see Rick alone and lost in a desert like the adult Jack in The Tree of Life. We do not just see Rick searching for a way out of the desert, the camera movements make this inner search traceable in a concrete physical way cinema can offer.
The apartment he lives in seems to big for him and he often seems as lost as in the desert. The thin and fragile illusion of a home and protection is shattered by an earthquake. As natural and physical affecting phenomenon it reflects also the mental quakes of a disturbed life, the loss of his younger brother who probably committed suicide and the very difficult relationship to his father. Later Rick will be attacked by armed robber in his apartment. They are angry because there is not much to rob in this apartment. The kind Malick´s characters live in his last two films are provisional arrangements.
The film is structured in several chapters all called after Tarot-cards. Well for some critics who are blind enough to call Malick´s films are esoteric they will find another pseudo-proof. For me it is just another proof for Malick´s refreshing inspirations and his daring playfulness. And there is also again talk about the non-existence of a proper script. And if it is so, than it is another proof for Malick as one of the most inspired filmmaker of our time and last but not least he might follow the tradition of a Chaplin or a Shimizu, who often worked with not more than some pages of vague notes.

While we see Rick trying to fill his emptiness and his depressions with parties and Sex as a replacements for his failed relationships to women, he seems for a while totally absorbed be the neon lights of a pseudo reality, the mask of the modern neoliberal American capitalism Almost literally when he leaves this illusory world he stumbles over homeless people in the real streets of Los Angeles. Also reality and the illusory world are here dramatized through the contrast of artificial and natural light.

Like in The Tree Of Life the father-son conflict has here a lot of weight. Rick´s rebellion against his father is also a rebellion against the definition of a grim god , Job had to deal with. This goes with Malick´s gentle definition of God as pure love. Rick´s “pilgrimage” goes through excesses and very concrete physical desires. But in Malick´s world, these physical desires often distorted by drug-like excesses are part of this pilgrimage. To find the meaning of our existence, it is a crime to ignore the body as the most important evidence of the creation. There is hardly any film director alive with such a deep love and admiration for the bodies of living creatures. Rick´s addiction to women is his problem. The prostitutes he meets are both, reflections of his desires but at the same time persons with a soul. The definition slut or whore do not exist in Malick´s cinematic world at all. He is a poet and not a judge.
In Knight of Cups we see a lot of devices, machines, men-made things. Very often we see Helicopters flying. Artificial lights in the streets at night, in bars or at parties. Especially these devices , I see as metaphors for the device of cinema, the image-making apparatus. As a contrast to this world of machines, the technical aspect of cinema included we see as well the nakedness of the existence of living creatures. Christian Bales´face is mostly stuck in despair, depression as a lost soul.
There are many car rides in this film in a total synchrony with the fluid camera movement. The more this film reveals all these devices which are part of our civilization, the more his fluid camera reveals a cultivation of the cinematic apparatus, paradoxically we feel more and more our own nakedness. We are not too far away from the several homeless people in the streets of Los Angeles.
A woman saves with her bare hand a wasp against drowning in a swimming pool. A caressing gesture which moved me (who really hates wasps) to the bones. Despite all his use of the devices modern film technology has to offer, Knight of Cups is first of all symptomatic for the Cinema of Terrence Malick as an act of grace. I am not blind for the eloquence in his use of this apparatus of cinema and its cultivation. But what always moves me to tears and what finally was the key in my attraction to his films are these incredible gestures of tenderness, evidences of a deep love for the living creatures. Terrence Malick is not only like Ritwik Ghatak an important searcher and cultivator of cinema, he is also one of the most compassionate director cinema has ever originated.

Rüdiger Tomczak
a German version which is almost identical with the English original text is on my website

Thurs, Feb 11, Friederichstadtpalast 9.30 and 15.00
Sun, Feb 15, Friedrichstadtpalsst, 13.00

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Chorus by François Delisle, Canada: 2015, Berlinale 2015-II.-Panorama

Part I.

After their son was missing a couple Irene and Christophe got separated. Ten years later when the police finally finds the mortal remains of the boy, the have to come together again. He lives in Mexico and she is singing in a choir medieval polyphone songs.

Loneliness and Alienation

A film in Black and White that evokes at the first glance in me two famous names from film history: Carl Theodor Dreyer and Yasujiro Ozu. And from Ozu especially his bleakest among his masterpieces Tokyo Boshoku (Tokyo Twilight, 1957). his drama about urbane life in Post War Japan.
While the Over voice monologues in Chorus reveals how the protagonists try to deal with their grieve and their loss the dialogues between Irene and Christophe, Christophe and his father or Irene with her mother are punctuated by pauses of silence. The dialogues have almost the character of a recitation. Talking is in Chorus a difficult work, every word is an effort. As a contrast to that, there is the beautiful and fluid choral music, a music where different human voices are in harmony with each other. These moments are like a distant echo of a harmony of life which is lost. The film moves often between the longing of its characters for being part of the world and their isolation from their environment.

The film opens with the confession of a pedophile prison inmate who has killed their son. It is a long scene where we see the murderer exposed to the camera and our view. Right at the end of the frame we see the police investigator. This confession is the last action of the perpetrator in the film. Later he will commit suicide. What we see at the beginning of the film is a person who is totally disconnected from the world.

Cinema Scope

Once invented for spectacular period dramas in competition to the rising television, this format was soon acquired by masters like Ophüls, several Japanese directors and and also the upcoming auteurs of the New European Cinema in the late 1950s. In a film by François Delisle, this mighty format is used very flexible. It can give in one scene an idea of the range of the world (Christophe on the beach in Mexico, his view in to the night heaven full of stars) or the mighty space of a church where the choir´s rehearsals take place) and in the next scene it can evoke a loneliness and a total isolation of the characters from the rest of the world. People seem captured with themselves and their own reflections. The images have often very soft contrasts but a lot of gray shades.
It is winter in Quebec and if there is one film beside Ozu´s Tokyo Boshoku which evokes the physical temperature of this season than it is Chorus. Sometimes it seems the people are only talking and moving to avoid freezing to death.
Iréne and Christophe are seen through the front window of a car which is nearly identical with the cinema scope frame of the film. I think there was a likely moment in Deslisle´s Toi from 2007. And like here and even if the couple shares the same space they almost look more lost than ever. There is only an echo of the close relationship they once had.


 Iréne and Christophe try to keep the memories of their late son alive and sometimes this holding of memories seems to keep themselves alive. The murderer of their son releases a memory which has poisoned his soul. Irene´s mother refuses to cultivate memories at all. She tries to forget the death of her husband (who committed suicide), the death of her grandson and her daughter´s marriage she never agreed to.
Later Iréne visits a nursery for old people to meet the mother of the son´s murderer. But the old woman is dement and her memory is already in the process of decay. One last time the couple looks at their son´s possessions storaged in a locker before they finally give them away. When Christophe returns to Montreal, he lives at his father´s place. In the background we see often shelves full of books. Books are as well a storage of memories, the collective memories of a civilization like the sheet music of the medieval choral music and finally as well like chemical or digital recorded  images. Near the end they meet the class mate of their son who is 18 years now and for a moment memory becomes literally a living being.

The Visible and the Invisible

As cinema can´t visualize mental conditions, it needs the detour of bodies to give an idea about mental conditions.The face of Fanny Mallette´s Irene is close to Dreyer´s definition of the human face as a landscape. What she might feel can only be read in her face in sudden changes of expressions. That reminds me that Delisle´s women portraits are the most impressive ones I have seen in the last 20 years. 
Sébastien Ricard´s Christophe reveals his vulnerability often through his whole body. There is a remarkable strong moment when we see him lying on the beach exposed to the tides of the ocean. Hoe the ocean waves move his almost passive body is a moment which stays in my memory. While Irene and Christophe are at any moment close to a breakdown, Genevieve Bujod´s (Irene´s mother) face is almost unmoved like Chishu Ryu´s in Tokyo Boshoku. All what she might feel, her grieve and loss is totally hidden behind her face and all her life energy seems to be consumed by the effort to forget all the pain in her life. The film has as well the character of a painting set in a cold winter landscape where each of its characters seem to be fight for surviving. Through the very banal fact that winter (and especially in Québec) is a physical very demanding climate situation we got more ideas about the mental condition of the characters.

The Concert

At the end, the couple joins with their son´s class mate a Rock concert. Delisle is always very economic in using music in his films but when he does it creates often very strong moments of catharsis. They dance and for this moments they enjoy themselves. One almost can feel the heat as a comfortable contrast to the winter outside. Among the moving characters and the hard Rock rhythms it evokes also this certain tenderness Delisle´s towards his protagonists which was also evident in 2 Fois Une Femme from 2010. Delisle traces the smallest moments of hope for his desperate characters. Some of them become magical cinematic moments. If the characters rediscover their bodies they find back their souls.

Part II.

When I discovered the first film by François Delisle, Ruth in 1994 during the World film Festival of Montreal, I was in a very dogmatic phase of appreciating mostly films which tends to minimalism. Ruth seemed to fit very good in this. Today and especially after his last three films, I am sure there is no formula which fits for Delisle´s work and even my mentions and comparisons between Chorus and Ozu´s film have its limits. Even though his last three films are interesting experiments with this mighty apparatus of film making like  his playfullness with narrative forms there is a very strong relationship between what his films reveal and finally how they approach it. Even more than his previous films, Chorus seems to be tight composed in almost each frame. But what these frames finally evoke especially about the film´s protagonists goes far beyond any formal experiment. To use again my favorite definition of the German word Einstellung (shot) by Wim Wenders: This German word includes not only the technical term of film making but also the attitude you have towards the things which are revealed it. Remember the opening sequence with the perpetrator confessing his murder to a police investigator. We see him first from the point of view of the investigator and after a cut we see the police officer from his perspective. The same scene is reveled much later in the film and this time as a video recording for  Iréne and Christophe after the murderer has committed suicide. The “spectators”  Iréne and Christophe are more affected like us at the film opening long before we learn anything about their tragedy. In this repetition of a scene we remember we have to deal with the mourning, loss and bitterness of the couple and at the same time with the miserable fate of the perpetrator at the same time.Just alone this idea reveals what I would like to call "cinematic intelligence.
The following breakdown of the couple turns the inner tremors to the surface of the physical world. This is almost like an explosion in this subtle and slow paced film, a moment when almost the mightyCinema Scope frame (an obvious tool of the cinematic apparatus) seems to tremble. That is what I mean with this relationship in Delisle´s films between the apparatus of image making and the naked truthfulness it disclosed. It is not only a film about the vulnerability of a mourning couple who has to deal with a big loss, the film itself – or better the cinematic point of view (lets use the German word Einstellung again) seems to be a precise interface between between what we see and how we see it. I know – there is much more to say about Chorus (which is for my side with 2 Fois Une Femme Delisle´s finest film). François Delisles films and especially his new film Chorus represent an art of empathy.

Rüdiger Tomczak


Sat, Feb 7,  14.00 Kino International
Mon, Feb 9, 20.00 Cinemaxx 7
Tues, Feb 10, 17.45 Cinestar 3
Wed, Feb 10, 20.30 Cubix 7
Wed, Feb 9, 20. 30 Cubix 8

Notes on The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses Over The Hills by Marcin Malaszcak, Poland/Germany: 2015-Berlin Filmfestival III.Forum

A film which does not really turn into a narration. I remember during one of these great lectures on “Dramaturgy of films" by Ernst Schreckenberg from “Komunales Kino”, Dortmund once said that our memory works selective. What remains of a film in the memory are often moments. Truffaut once wrote that he had difficulties to reconstruct the story of a film he just saw. His enthusiasm as a young cinephile also was often caused by single moments.
The Days Run Away Like Horses Over The Hills presents every day fragments of women, from a very cute toddler called Elise to old women.
Only at the first sight we have the illusion that the film just films how life is without “ups and downs” like Ozu once defined his ideal of a Cinema on every day life. More or less the fragments we see in this film and which finally will be part of our memory, are exactly the pendant to parts of our life we probably forget very soon. That makes each moment very fleeting and we forget for a moment that this film can be watched again if on the screen or on  DVD.
There is for example a young woman taking care of our Elise as a day nanny. While Elise is walking around opening cup boards, the young woman is resting on the floor. This scene is filmed in a very Ozu-like Low position and as this film is made in the classic Academy format, it accentuates more the verticals in this frame. Through this low position, a toddler which we usually see from above we now look up to the child. One can enjoy this moment not only because of this cute toddler Elise but Elise is also a very good introduction to this film, her curiosity inspirers our own.

Three young women having a party in an almost empty apartment, talking and dancing. Nothing important seems to happen  - we think for now. The idea filming every day moments which seem banal and which we realize later as condensed like a Haiku is very familiar to me because of Ozu and his incredible masterpiece Bakushu.
We see a young woman taking a shower hidden by a shower curtain, protected against any voyeurism. Later she puts her face on which is shown in close up. We see an image of her and at the same moment she established an own image of herself. The Black and White image turns colored.
The film moves to old women in Poland. Even though the film remains recording every day moments, we see the difference. These old women are in the middle or near the end of their life. There is a long dialogue during an afternoon coffee where an old women tells about a beloved person she has lost.
What I did n´t know during seeing this film and what I read some days later in the press text in the director´s statement that all persons who appeared were the director´s former girlfriend, other friends, hist mother, grandmother and their friends. Like in an Ozu-film these different generations of women and this different living environments are different approaches to find a place in life. The Days Run Away Like Horse Over The Hills by Marcin Malaszcak is not a film you just watch, it is a film which work in the memory days after you have seen it. Watching is here to acquire what you have seen and finally edit in your memory. And like in this film it happens often in cinema that through fragmentation of the things revealed in the film the scope of the world is the more imaginable

Rüdiger Tomczak

Feb 7, Sat Kino Arsenal 22.45
Feb, 13, Fri,        Delphi 22.30
Feb, 14, Sat  Zoo-Palast 2, 14.30

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Notes on Alice in den Städten (Alice In The Cities) by Wim Wenders, Germany: 1973, Berlinale 2015 -I.- Homage Wim Wenders

for T and M

Alice In The Cities is still my favorite film by Wim Wenders. I remember having seen this film on a Sunday afternoon on Television, I think it was 1974. The film was quite young and the things revealed in it were at that time contemporary. As the film takes place most of its length in the region where I was born and grew up, it offered me both. First of all it was probably one if not the first film I saw which I identified as a film on my time, not to mention the locations in the second half. The fictive part of the film, its Road Movie aspect made me dream when I was a teen at that time.
It is a film where the real world and Cinema came together and with reality I mean the real places and things I was familiar with. At this time I did n´t know Ozu yet. Many years later I discovered Wenders films for myself via the detour Ozu.
When I think about Alice In The Cities more than 40 years later, I try to imagine how a Japanese who was a contemporary of Ozu has looked at the things and the places in the films of the great Japanese film director.
A lot of buildings you see in this film do not exist anymore. A coal miner settlement we see in one scene was close after this scene was filmed demolished.
I remember a scene in one of these ice-cafés which you could find in the region “Ruhrgebiet” in the 1960s and 1970s (Eisdielen) which were installed mostly by Italian immigrants.
When I saw this film on this boring Sunday afternoon, the reality the film evoked began just in front of my door. Today the film is like a history book which supports my personal memories in that time.
The film is like a monument which has to replace the buildings and all the things which were specific for the Western Germany of the 1970s and which are gone forever. I remember a very short excerpt from the Rolling Stones-song Angie which was exactly my favorite song in this very year. In these 40 years something happened with this film which could not have been the intention of a very young Wim Wenders in the year 1973. The amber which captured the things we see in the film was probably almost fluid and transparent in 1974 and this feeling I had for this “Now and Here” became a memory.
Nearly the first half of the film takes place in America which was for me in 1974 quite an abstract dream but for me hard to reach at this time. America was a landscape which existed at this time for me almost entirely through cinema.
One of the movements of this film is the failed journey of a German writer. When his America excursion fails he has to return to Germany. Before he can return to his sad every day life he will be involved with a young mother and her daughter. Back in Germany he has to care for a while for the girl, because the mother´s return from America is delayed. Bugged at the beginning by his father like duty for this child forced on him, his actually journey just begins.
I am not sure but I can´t imagine to have seen in 1974 this odyssey through a region very familiar to me as engrossed as I see it now. I am only sure about one thing the whole film as a resolution of Cinema and reality must have impressed me a lot – or at least I felt comfortable with it.

Like we know today the two homages to John Ford in this film were pure accidental: The excerpt of Young Mr. Lincoln in Rüdiger Vogler´s hotel television set and the big article in the newspaper on the death of John Ford “Versunkene Welt” (Sunken World).
Wenders once said that the death of John Ford just happened when he shot this scene. This shot became over the years much more weight for me, because in these 40 years John Ford became one of my favorite directors.

Together with Mr. And Mrs. Iyer by Aparna Sen and Arigato-San by Hiroshi Shimizu, Alice In The Cities is not just one of my most beloved Road Movie but a journey itself.
As I wrote once on Cambodian Cinema before the genocide or on a Korean Silent film screened two years ago in the Forum, sometimes one can sense the ghosts of the people who have seen and lived with these films. And when my generation gone and when it will be forgotten, this film will still give in 30 or more years an idea of how and where we have grown up in this very concrete piece of German geography.

Rüdiger Tomczak

Tue, Feb, 10, Cinemaxx 8, 22.00
Thurs, Feb 12, Zeughauskino, 19.00

Monday, January 5, 2015

Kanchanjangha (Kanchenjungha) by Satyajit Ray, India: 1962

The film is about 100 minutes long and about as long as a walk of a family near the mountain Kanchenjungha The family spends here their last holiday. In the background we see always the mighty mountain landscape whose existence seems to be everlasting compared with the span of a human life. Paths delimited by walls and balustrades are leading through this landscape – and behind this demarcations one forebodes dizzying abyss. The free moving space of the people (who walk through this landscape are reduced on the limited space of man-made paths.

Kanchanjangha is a film about limitations. That concerns the limitation of the film´s length its frames and the very concrete and visible demarcations of the paths. One even does not dare to think about deviating from this demarcations because they are the border between the part of the landscape which is accessible for men and the dangerous and inaccessible part.

The father Indranath Roy represents the societal power, a big industrialist who even considers the planned arranged marriage of his barely 20 years old daughter as an important economical business. He is someone who knows how to establishes power if under the colonial rule of the British or under the rule of an independent India. The brother of Roy´s wife is only interested in the beauty of the birds and he has no interest in being involved in the intrigues of men and their power which makes him to a close relative of Manmohan Mitra in Rays last film Agantuk. The daughter Roy's, Manisha is supposed to subordinate all her wishes for the benefit of her father´s plans. They expect from her what Roy's wife and an elder daughter already did.

During this walk all characters will go through a transformation or they will find a new cognition about themselves.
The youngest son of this family flirts randomly with female tourists. During these excursions, the film jumps from one person to another or from one constellation of persons to the next. In one scene we see the daughter Manisha walking with the man which is chosen by her father as her prospective husband on these narrow paths. Later she meets Anil, a young man whose uncle once worked as a tutor family.
The eldest daughter tries during this walk to discuss the problems of her relationship with her husband while their child who finally will be the reason that the couple stays together) is riding a pony. They talk about divorce and finally find a compromise. The woman (an actress) tears the love letters of a lover and the husband promises to give up his guilty pleasures.
These characters who are close to a primal landscape which begins just right behind the road side are far away from their urbane home. It seems that for moments some of the characters are getting rid of the constraints of an urbane upper class culture.
Labanga , the mother has objections in the plan to marry her daughter with a stranger and as his wife she suffers most under the power of the patriarch Roy. In a very moving moment, she sits on a bank and sings a song by Tagore. The only person who listens to her is the brother who loves birds.

Anil, the young man who is looking for work rejects a job offered by Indranath Roy because he is disgusted by the arrogance of this rich man.Later he will admit to Manisha that he never had dared to reject such an offering in his home town Kolkata. But here in this wild landscape he felt enabled to do so.

The man who is chosen as the wedding candidate for Manisha separates himself from Manisha. During the walk with her he realized that she never will marry him by her own choice. They separate almost amicable. He just takes another path and he won´t appear anymore in this film.
Later the young woman will bid farewell to Anil and expresses her hope to see him again in Kolkata. The film ends where sympathies develop between the young people. Just the notion that both of them came closer to each other seems here almost like a Happy End.

Kanchanjangha is not a very long film and though it seems paradoxically like an eternity from which see just a few more than 100 minutes which seem to be visible just by accident.
In a strange way the contrast between the mighty mountain landscape and the people moving on strict demarcated ways appears nearly dramatic. There is the landscape in and beyond the demarcations of the paths and the inner world of the characters who act in conventions - and seldom beyond it.The landscape beyond human actions is always visible but it seems as something engrossed from human concepts
It has been told that the film was shot in 28 days but sometimes it evokes the illusion that it is shot just during a walk.
At the very end we see the patriarch Roy alone on a path. The day is going to end. He calls his family. Nobody answers. In this moment the old man seems to sense for the first time that his power is neither unlimited nor infinite. Now, he is not more than a mortal being surrounded by this mighty landscape.

Even though the persons, things and the landscape appear just as what they are, the whole film seems to be as engrossed like a dream And even though this film takes place on demarcated paths the landscape beyond of this mighty Kanchenjungha appears as a strange world of its own. Also present is the abyss just a few metres behind the paths. There is a remarkable moment when we see Manisha standing on one of this narrow roads. A horseman passes by. One is scared that he will hit Manisha. He passes by a hair. And at all – the characters move with an almost somnambulistic precision like the abyss beyond the man made paths are no risk for them.
Kanchanjangha is made during a period where Ray made one wonderful film after the other. The fact that this film remained relatively unknown and that it was mostly shown on retrospectives in the last decades is for me hard to believe. Among Ray admirers it is a kind of insider tip. If the film might be one of Rays most beautiful films (what I believe) or if it is one of Rays most daring experiments is of no consequence. My visions of Rays complete work has changed enduring since I have seen this film. I like to see the work of a filmmaker as a versatile and complex landscape. Some paths through this landscape are well known and proven, others are abandoned and forgotten but lead through a part of a landscape which a like an exciting discovery.

Rüdiger Tomczak
(translated from a German text in shomingeki No. 23, March 2011.)

Thursday, December 25, 2014

My films of the year 2014

Top 10 2014 (releases)

1. Kaze Tachinu (The Wind is Rising), Hayao Miyazaki, Japan: 2013

2.Chiisai Ouchi (The Little House), Yoji Yamada, Japan: 2014

3. L´Image Manquante (The Missing Picture), Rithy Panh, Cambodia/France: 2013

4.Lajwanti (The Honour Keeper) , Pushpendra Singh, India: 2014

5. Quissa, Anup Singh, India/Germany/Netherland: 2013

6. Boyhood, Richard Linklater, USA: 2014
7.Die Geliebten Schwestern (The Beloved Sisters), Dominik Graf, Germany: 2014
8.Le Beau Danger, Rene Frölke, Germany: 2014
9. Interstellar, Christopher Nolan, USA: 2014
10. Das Salz der Erde (Salt of the Earth), Wim Wenders, Juliano Rebeira Salgado, Germany/Brazil: 2014
ex aequo with
10. Prabhad Pehri,Jessica Sadhana and Samarth Dixit, India: 2014
10. Grand Budapest Hotel, Wes Anderson, USA: 2014

special mention:
Gone Girl, David Fincher, USA: 2014
Noc (2030), Vo Nghiem-Minh, Vietnam: 2014
The Better Angels, A.J. Edwards, USA: 2014

great discoveries this year:
Wild And Precious, Bill Mousoulis, Greece/Italy/Australia: 2012
Luv´ In The Black Country, Mathew Carter, England: 2010

The Wounded Brick, Sue-Alice Okukubo and Eduard Zorzenoni, Austria/Germany: 2013

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Notes on Wild And Precious by Bill Mousoulis, Greece/Australia/Italy: 2012

At the beginning, an aging Italian cinematographer called Giulio is introduced. Even though a fictive character, he talks directly to the camera. This opening takes place in Athens during the strikes and protest manifestations of the Greek people. It is the time of the social and economic crisis of Greece when the government brutally attacked the social existence of its own people for a crisis the people haven´t caused. Giulio is a chronicler and his monologue introduces his long experience in observing social protest movements, his opinion about the failure of the neoliberal order and ideology but also his loneliness. He calls himself a “Nowhere Man”. He is disgusted by his own country but is attracted in the Greek movement which is indeed a symbol for an awakening in Europe.

One reason for the vitality of the film is the playful reflection of arranged images and fiction and on the other side the facts like the protests and manifestations which happened at the time the film was shot. Giulio is working on a project on the protest movement in Greece. He is a chronicler between resignation and hope.

Later we see him returned to Italy in a town called Gorgonzola. He visits a woman with an 8 years old daughter. Finally we learn that the woman Irene is his wife and the girl Andrea his daughter. He abandoned them many years ago. If the couple is quite alienated from each other, the girl is almost a stranger to him. The dialogues between the couple suggests for now that they have arranged themselves with this separation. As the film proceeds it looks rather like the futile try to preserve a relationship which is already vanishing. The expression in face of Emanuela Zoccos Irene reminds me in its mixture of stoicism and vulnerability in Lisa Kreuzers lonely and abandoned women in some early films by Wim Wenders.

Back in Athens, Giulio is hired by an Australian TV-team. They want to make a film on the protest movement.Giulio is supposed to find place and finally images which are not shown in any conventional TV-report. While the TV team begins to look systematic for images, Giulio uses the focus lens of his camera sometimes like an extended eye for recognizing things he can not see with his naked eye. He always discover things nobody else sees.
This just recording images and the looking for details reminds me in André Bazins unfinished but still fresh questions of reality and cinema. It seems for me that Bill Mousoulis´ arranged images, the fictive element and the use of the cinematic apparatus have not other purpose than open our eyes and sharpen our perception for a reality which always exists as well beyond the frame.

The borders between document and fiction in Wild And Precious seem to be thin, sometimes even suspended. During the film we see a lot of cats and often a dog (called “Riot dog” in the credits). The animals enter and leave the frames and also the arranged fiction or the documented moments. Their appearances give an idea that even just an image of reality has always many layers. When we see Greek policemen with their gas masks and armed with gas munition we are also aware that they are eager to use them at the smallest sign of riot, an aspect almost deleted in most of news reports on Greece in 2012.

Wild And Precious is also a reflection on image making, recording images and what happens beyond. We see the TV team editing their first footage very focused. What happens at the same time in Italy with Irene, Andrea and their social environment seems to happen totally outside of consciousness of the image making Giulio - like in another dimension. Literally it happens out of Giulios framing the world.
As his life seems to split in two strings there are some small but very important links to these “two lives”.These moments evoke in me an undefinable melancholy like a bitter taste of homelessness. There is a wonderful moment when Giulio shoots footage in another Greek town. The first thing we see is a beautiful white cat passing by. While Giulio is looking through his camera, a teenage girl addresses him. She is shy and feels like she is disturbing him. For a moment Giulio turns his eyes from the camera and says to her “that she reminds him in his daughter." The weight of this short but intense moment is how he looks at the girl after tuning his eyes almost reluctant from his camera. Leaving for a brief moment his safety in "framing the world" in images” makes him suddenly vulnerable. The strange teenage girl becomes almost to a vision of his daughter some years later and she will probably a stranger to him like this Greek girl. A short moment like a Haiku poem.

Back in Italy for a few days, Giulio tries to restore the bound to his family he abandoned but his head is probably still occupied by the footage he still is supposed to shoot in Greece. He is talking to Irene about a place in Milan where he hopes to meet more often his family. It is amazing how Bill Mousoulis moved his focus from the protests in Greece, a concrete datable historic event to the reflection on image making and finally to the intimate sphere of Giulio, Irene and Andrea. Mousoulis creates a dynamic relationship between these elements.

As each image might be a choice, the result offers much more. Bill Mousoulis always opens the attention for the unexpected accidental moments of life which invade and leave the arranged frame. These moments have often a Haiku-like poetry. There is for example a sick looking very skinny cat. Later we learn that Andrea is very depressed because this cat is going to die. A neighbour is crying because her cat has disappeared.

At the end, Giulio is on his way back to Greece. The “Nowhere Man” disappears in the “Nowhere Place” airport like the film this fragment of the world disappears into the credits.
Wild And Precious is a rich and wonderful film experience. Even though I was very aware of the apparatus of image making, I almost can feel how the recorded film , a kind of artificial descends into my own biological one where it gets a life on its own. Suddenly small moments come to my mind like the film has a life of its own in my memory- and there is nothing I can do about it.

Rüdiger Tomczak

After its festival circulation the film is available optional with English, Italian or Greek subtitles under this web address.