Monday, October 29, 2007

DAS LEBEN DER ANDEREN (THE LIVES OF OTHERS)

DAS LEBEN DER ANDEREN
(THE LIVES OF OTHERS)

Cine Europa
Cinema 1, Shang Cineplex

"Before the Fall of the Berlin Wall, East Germany's Secret Police Listened to Your Secrets"


This German film won the Best Foreign Language Film of the Year at the 2007 Oscar Awards and quite rightfully so! An intriguing tale of espionage set in the former East Germany, it has all the right elements of a good gripping thriller!

To be continued

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

CINE EUROPA

CINE EUROPA


October 18 - 31, 2007
Shang Cineplex, Shangri-la Plaza Mall
Free admission!
First come, first served basis

Click here for the screening schedule.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

TU VIDA EN 65'

TU VIDA EN 65'
(YOUR LIFE IN 65')

6th Spanish Film Festival
Cinema 2, Greenbelt 3

3 young men attend the funeral of someone they knew back in their college days. It turns out they made a mistake, it wasn't him. He just had the same name as their classmate.

It is this event though which bonds them together in discovering more about themselves. In the process, they become more reflective about their lives, their achievements and their failures. Secrets are revealed, past memories are unearthed, regrets are expressed and their hopes and desires have more purpose. Each one reveling in the experience of finally being true to themselves.

This Spanish film doesn't aim to preach nor does it hold the answers to life's questions. It simply tells the story of three well developed yet contrasting characters. There are funny moments as well as sad emotional sequences. It also dares to stir up some thought provoking issues towards the end. Yet it is all presented in a light comedic manner. Bravely hiding the fact that it does deal with some serious issues like suicide, homosexuality and romantic relationships.

Except for some disjointed scenes of psychedelic fillers, the film succeeds in getting the audience tuned to the characters. It shows authentic sights and sounds of the city of Barcelona like a football (soccer) game and frolicking at the beach. Basically the main premise of the film is "would you be able to describe your life in 65 words or less?" Now that's the tricky part!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

LA VIDA SECRETA DE LAS PALABRAS (THE SECRET LIFE OF WORDS)

LA VIDA SECRETA DE LAS PALABRAS
(THE SECRET LIFE OF WORDS)

Tim Robbins, Sarah Polley, Julie Christie

6th Spanish Film Festival
Cinema 2, Greenbelt 3

It has been a while since I've been touched by such a simple yet thought provoking film. It was mind blowing. A highly emotional forage into the souls of the two main characters who at first glance seem like ordinary people. Yet they both bear such painful anguish within themselves that are too explosive to reveal.

Hanna is a hearing impaired (but wears a hearing aid) factory worker who during her vacation, decides to take a job as a nurse in an oil rig in the middle of the vast ocean. She is a quiet and inconspicuous person who takes her 'duty' seriously. Preferring to keep to herself, she doesn't open up easily. Her patient is Josef, an American who is blinded temporarily after suffering severe burns during a mishap on the oil rig. A talkative guy who likes to quote poetry. He is constantly teasing Hanna to reveal more about herself. As the days go by, they develop a close bond mostly peppered with Josef's interesting narratives about life. While Hanna still continues to shield herself from divulging more about her troubled life.

Despite the presence of 5 other people (all men) on the rig, this film is mostly about special bond which develops between Hanna and Josef. Set on a drilling station in the middle of a vast ocean, you hardly feel sick sea since most of the scenes unfold in the room where Josef is bedridden. An eerie voice narrates some parts of the film and the interesting part is figuring out the symbolism of that voice.
The slow pace of the film was essential in gripping the hearts of the viewer. So much so that towards the end when secrets are revealed and the characters are finally exposed and reveal themselves, a deep silence takes over the theater as you try to absorb the details. It was a very poignant scene and for me the best part of the film. The film is entirely in English even though it was directed by a Spanish director, Isabel Coixet.

Sarah Polley's characterization of Hanna is so believable I thought she was really from Eastern Europe. Speaking with a Serbian accent yet perfectly enunciating her words, it was gripping to watch Hanna battle with her inner demons. Her subtle and very expressive style did justice to such a simple yet very difficult role to play. She really internalized it with conviction. Tim Robbins although seen mostly lying in bed managed to deliver his lines quite well. Sometimes he was funny other times he was very serious but over all his dialogue was spot on. He managed to show his wide range simply by the use of his voice. The chemistry between Polley and Robbins was in perfect harmony.

I really recommend this beautiful movie. A poignant story about two emotionally drained characters who found love with each other and in the process found their true selves.

Friday, October 12, 2007

EVENING

EVENING

Claire Danes, Hugh Dancy, Patrick Wilson, Vanessa Redgrave, Natasha Richardson, Toni Collette, Mamie Gummer, Glenn Close

"Her greatest secret was her greatest gift"



Ann Lord (Vanessa Redgrave) is dying but as her daughters dutifully watch over her, she keeps calling out for "Harris". Someone from her distant past who still haunts her thoughts. As an air of mystery lingers over the death bed, the director takes us back to the 50s. In picturesque Newport, a young Ann (Claire Danes) meets Harris (Patrick Wilson) for the first time, one weekend. She is in town to be the one of the bridesmaids of her best friend Lila (Mamie Gummer).

The scenes jump effortlessly from Ann's deathbed to that enchanting weekend in Newport in the 50s. Relevant subplots involve Ann's two adult daughters (Toni Collette and Natasha Richardson) coming to grip with the impending death of their mother. And at the same time, they are trying to make sense of their own lives.

Acting wise, naturally the mature actresses far outshone the younger ones portrayed by the very plain Claire Danes, the miscast Hugh Dancy, the I.cannot.act Mamie Gummer (Meryl Streep's real daughter) and the very rigid Patrick Wilson. So every time the director drifted into the Newport scenes, I wished they had chosen better actors to portray the characters. It is a pity because those Newport scenes provide the main backbone of the entire film.

I figure since it is based on a novel ("Evening" by Susan Minot), there are certain elements which cannot be interpreted on screen. Or it could be the rather rigid way that Patrick Wilson acted out his role as Harris, supposedly the love of Ann's life. The one person from her past whom she cannot forget after all these years. I had trouble understanding just what exactly it was about Harris that got Ann to fall madly in love with him. I mean sure he is a very attractive person but beyond that we don't really get a sense of his personality. There is a line where Hugh Dancy says "Everyone is in love with Harris" and I couldn't help but ask "Why???"

This film had all the right ingredients for a sappy family drama. A good ensemble cast consisting of the finest mature actresses in the film industry (Vanessa Redgrave, Meryl Street, Glenn Close, Toni Collette, Natasha Richardson), a solid mother daughters bonding plot with good cinematography yet sadly it fails be an evocative movie.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

ILLUMINADOS POR EL FUEGO (BLESSED BY FIRE)

ILLUMINADOS POR EL FUEGO
(BLESSED BY FIRE)

6th Spanish Film Festival
Cinema 2, Greenbelt 3


Movies about both World Wars, the Vietnam War and now the Iraq war abound but it is rare that we see one about the Falkland War. The film focuses on this war which was fought in 1982 between Britain and Argentina who battled for possession of this tiny island (known as Malvinas) off the shores of Argentina.
It is seen through the eyes of Esteban, a Falkland war veteran who suddenly had to relive his war memories. The wife of Vargas (his fellow combatant) informs Esteban that Vargas committed suicide and was comatose in a hospital. In fact at the beginning of the film, they report that the suicide rate among Falkland war veterans was almost as much as the actual casualties during the war. Quite alarming! Esteban now a journalist is still haunted by the war so he decides to visit the island for some closure.

A melancholic film intertwined with flashbacks of battle scenes which are violent, bleak and heart wrenching as expected from most war movies. The jarring hand held camera effect of those gory scenes can make you dizzy but it was an authentic way to portray them. It also exposes the harsh conditions the soldiers had to face in that damp cold island. Lack of proper uniform, nutritional meals and exposed to the cold weather, the soldiers were mostly young men recruited from the poorest sector of society. Fighting in a war perpetrated by the dictatorial regime present in Argentina during that period, a war they fought ill equipped in every sense of the word.

The 3 friends who were only 18 years old during the war develop a special bond and share each other's fears as well as their future plans. Well developed characters who tug at your heartstrings. You also get a sense of what happened to Vargas after the war as narrated by his wife who laments the fact that it pretty much altered Vargas' state of mind. Their coping mechanism is very weak and they succumb to alcoholism, gambling even mental illnesses. I guess it is common among veterans of any war but it is still alarming to find out these pieces of information.

The film in my opinion doesn't so much as condemn the government for involving their citizens in a war they were bound to lose but aims to present the fact that war in itself isn't the solution. It was interesting to watch a film about a war which history has forgotten. A film which pays homage to the young men who risked their lives to fight for their country even though most of them didn't grasp the very concept of war.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

SALVADOR (PUIG ANTICH)

SALVADOR (PUIG ANTICH)

6th Spanish Film Festival
Cinema 1, Greenbelt 3



The true story of Salvador Puig Antich, the last political prisoner executed during the Franco regime on March 2, 1974. It traces his life from the time he became a part of the MIL Movimiento Iberico de Liberacion (Iberian Liberation Movement), a group of politically active anarchists who robbed banks to fund the rebels against the Fascist government to his execution by garrote in a Barcelona prison.

The movie begins with Salvador being caught by the authorities in an entrapment operation. Then it evolves back to the part where they present his life in the movement. Actually the movie progresses in a non linear manner with flashbacks neatly embedded in the scenes. We see how as a student he got involved in mostly clandestine operations in the organization like plotting political rallies in the streets, robbing banks as well as publishing subversive documents. The second half of the movie concentrates on his incarceration. Several poignant scenes when his lawyer and his family try desperately to get a stay of his execution from the government. The section where they overemphasized on the sappy, weepy factor. The tearjerker portion where they relied heavily on emotional scenes. It seemed a bit long if you ask me but then I believe the director wanted to portray him as the victim who just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time and so he didn't deserve to be executed. The most vital scene though is when they show his final moments as he is being garroted by the executioner. It was shocking yet at the same time you can't help but stay glued to the screen as it unfolded.

The wardrobe authentically depicted the era (the 70s). The film has this sepia/grainy tone with several bleak prison scenes. Except for the dragging weepy parts, it was clearly edited and it didn't seem like it was 134 minutes. It is filmed entirely in Spanish as well as in Catalan with English subtitles.

Salvador Puig Antich is portrayed by German actor Daniel Bruhl (Goodbye Lenin, 2 Days in Paris) who is fluent in the Catalan language. It being his mother's tongue, literally. His mother is Spanish. His expressive facial gestures does justice to this very significant role in his young acting career. Despite having a boyish charm to his appearance, Bruhl came across as very mature and quite confident as Salvador Puig Antich. Great acting talent!

A highly politized film that aims to expose the then Franco regime as being ruthless and wanting to use the young militant as a pawn in their fight against the anarchists. But most importantly, it is the story of a young rebel who simply fought for what he believed in and didn't give up till the very end. It was his death which triggered the downfall of the Franco regime. People rallied and protested in the streets every single day to overthrow the government. So I guess he didn't die in vain, he did succeed, after all!

Sunday, October 7, 2007

DERECHO DE FAMILIA

DERECHO DE FAMILIA (FAMILY LAW)

6th Spanish Film Festival
Cinema 2, Greenbelt 3

"In order to be a good father, he'll have to learn how to be a good son"


This Argentinian film explores the complexities involved in a father - son relationship. The Perelmans are both practicing lawyers in Buenos Aires. The film unfolds through the eyes of Ariel Perelman (the son) who narrates his story through a voice over. A young laid back person who courses through his life aimlessly, he also teaches law at a local university. He falls in love with his student, Sandra a Pilates instructor. He eventually marries her and they have a son. Throughout his life, the younger Perelman has been in awe of his more established, achiever type father. An energetic lawyer who is at ease with people from all walks of life. Father and son are opposites in character and style and if you didn't know any better, you wouldn't think they were related.

This film doesn't have any major conflicts in its plot nor does it aim to preach about how to live one's life. The true conflict lies within the younger Perelman who aims to find some purpose in his life yet at the same time he feels pretty satisfied with how his life is progressing along. When he becomes a father himself to Gaston, his outlook becomes more reflective. He can't help but compare his fathering techniques with the older Perelman who was somewhat an emotionally distant father.

A simple straight to the point film with a few funny scenes and prodded on mostly by a narrative in voice over form. The dialogue is entirely in Spanish with English subtitles. A good introspective about the awakening of one's man true self through the subtle guidance of his own father just as he becomes a father himself.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

NO RESERVATIONS

NO RESERVATIONS
Catherine Zeta Jones, Aaron Eckhart, Abigail Breslin

"Life isn't always made to order"

Cinema 2, Rockwell

No reservations

The first time I saw the trailer of this film I thought hmmm the plot isn't really original, it has been presented in movies like "Raising Helen". The single career oriented woman who suddenly 'inherits' a young relative to raise as her own when tragedy strikes. In the process she discovers more about herself, bonds with her young ward and by the end of the film she gets a guy as well. By the time the end credits roll, upbeat music is played and everyone is happy and cheerful. It is pretty predictable, so you just sit back, relax and leave your thinking cap at home.

Catherine Zeta Jones is very pretty. It is a bit difficult to think that someone who looks that pleasant would be mopping in her kitchen hiding behind pots and pans. The script doesn't really give much background information about her character except that she is really devoted to her job as a chef in a fancy restaurant. Although there are hints of some past relationship which caused her grief so she shuns dating guys which she divulges and analyzes during her therapy sessions. It is interesting to note that Abigail Breslin was also in "Raising Helen" as one of the 3 children who is orphaned and gets to live with her aunt Helen (Kate Hudson). In "No Reservations" she is an only child and in my opinion too well composed for someone who lost her mother in an accident. Aaron Eckhart who is mostly cast in serious drama roles in the supporting actor category is more animated and goofier in this film. He is Nick, a bohemian type of chef who loves listening to opera arias when he whips up delicious meals.

So expect alot of scenes in the kitchen where the two chefs give us a feast of mouth watering dishes. As well as an equal amount of loud operatic arias to nudge your senses from falling asleep. Yet despite the flavorful burst of gastronomic delights and the blaring of loud music, the film also manages to silently essay a story about grief. The ability to move on despite tragedy and personal setbacks we encounter in life. All these subtly emanating from an otherwise predictable plot. In short, this movie isn't merely about food, food and more food but it sure can make you hungry watching them cook those delectable dishes!

Monday, October 1, 2007

PELICULA, THE 6TH SPANISH FILM FESTIVAL

PELICULA, THE 6TH SPANISH FILM FESTIVAL
21 films, 14 days, more than 14,000 viewers last year … Pelikula, the Spanish Film Festival brought to you by Instituto Cervantes de Manila, is currently the biggest Spanish Film Festival in South East Asia.

Dates: October 1 to 14, 2007

Venue: Greenbelt 3, Cinema 2

Price: 65 Php

For the screening schedule, please click here.

For further information on the films of PELÍCULA, log on to Instituto Cervantes de Manila.

See you at PELICULA!!!
 

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