Thursday, September 27, 2012

11th SPANISH FILM FESTIVAL



This year, Instituto Cervantes’ PELÍCULA Spanish Film Festival celebrates its 11th year.  

From October 4 - 14, 2012,  film aficionados will once again enjoy brilliant line-up of selected films from Spain and Latin America.

Price is 65 pesos.    

Venue is Greenbelt 3 Cinemas.

PELÍCULA is organized by Instituto Cervantes de Manila, in cooperation with ICAA, Ministerio de Cultura of Spain, the Spanish Embassy in the Philippines, Spanish Agency International Cooperation for Development (AECID), Spanish Program for Cultural Cooperation, and the Greenbelt and Ayala Malls Cinemas.

For details, check out their official website at Pelicula.ph.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

VINCERE




This Italian movie with English subtitles is shown from the perspective of Ida Dalser. Apparently, she's the woman who claimed to be Benito Mussolini's first wife.  The mother of his first born son named Benito Albino Mussolini.  For those not familiar with the political history of Italy, Benito Mussolini also known as Il Duce is the Fascist dictator who ruled the boot shaped nation from 1922 to 1943.

Their story starts in Trent in the year 1914 when the wealthy Ida first met the idealistic Benito. Their brief affair is very passionate with Ida being totally devoted to his principles and his ideals. She even sells everything she owes to finance a newspaper company for him. He was the fiery editor of the Socialist paper, Il Popolo D'Italia.  They were allegedly married although there are no existing documents to validate their union.  A year later, he got involved with a waitress named Rachele Guidi.  December 1915 he married Rachele and shunned Ida and the baby she bore him.

Totally ostracized, Ida was persecuted and incarcerated in numerous psychiatric hospitals. It seems that she and her son were erased from history by Mussolini's regime.  She became an inconvenience and had to kept out of sight from the public while he continued his reign of tyranny joining forces with the Nazis in 2nd World War.

This biopic was filmed with quick cuts and juxtapositions of actual black and white footage from the historical archives. Sometimes jarring segues with blaring operatic music, most scenes were quite dark both literally and figuratively.  The series of mental asylums and hospitals sequences were very difficult to watch. It was quite tragic and depressing to witness the cruelty bestowed on both Ida and her son.   But on the other hand, certain scenes were visually beautiful and neatly angled with sharp precision.  Earth toned palette and spot color were used for good effect.

Kudos to Giovanna Mezzogiorno, who plays Ida.  Present in almost every frame, she completely owned the character. A very challenging role that conveyed every nuance of  Ida's anguish with a single phrase or gesture. Her excellent performance is more than enough reason to endure this almost 2 hours biopic. 

"Vincere" is a tragic tale that boldly deserves to be told and not hidden away in some warehouse of dusty archives. As for the jerky way it was filmed, in essence I believe it does mirror the miserable life of the tormented Ida.  A woman that was unfairly punished for falling in love with a man whose lofty ideals were much bigger than anyone or any nation for that matter could handle.  

Quite sad, really.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

A Date with Italian Cinema @ The Shang


In May 2012, The Philippine Italian Association launched Un appuntamento con il Cinema Italiano (A Date with Italian Cinema) @ The Shang as part of their 50th Anniversary celebrations. Once a month an Italian film with English subtitles will be shown for free at the Shang Cineplex for the general public to enjoy.

On September 25,  the featured film is renowned auteur Marco Belocchio’s Vincere.  The film is roughly based on the books "Mussolini’s Marriage" by Marco Zeni and "Mussolini’s Secret Child" by Alfredo Pieroni, as well as the documentary "Mussolini’s Secret".  It is a compelling drama about the little known story of Benito Mussolini’s first wife. 

Screening times are at 12:30pm, 3:00pm, 5:30pm and 8:00pm at the Shang Cineplex. 

Admission is free but seats are on a first-come, first-served basis. 

So come early to experience an Italian viewing pleasure.
 

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Brazil Film Festival 2012




 The UPFI Film Center in UP Diliman presents the Brazil Film Festival 2012 from September 20 - October 5, 2012.   

Admission is free.

For the synopses of the featured films as well as the schedule, please visit the UP Film Institute website.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

W.E.


Abbie Cornish, Andrea Riseborough, Oscar Isaac
James D'Arcy, Richard Coyle


"Their affair ignited a scandal.
Their passion brought down an empire"





W. E. are the combined initials of Wallis and Edward.  Wallis Simpson was the American divorcee for whom King Edward VIII abdicated his throne.  They used to sign their eloquently written letters to each other with W.E. Their affair is now known as one of the greatest love stories of modern times. Imagine giving up an empire for the woman he loved.  But as seen in this film directed by Madonna, their romance wasn't really a fairy tale.

But this movie isn't merely about Wallis (Andrea Riseborough) and Edward (James D'Arcy) as Madonna chose to intertwine it with the story of a wealthy married woman named Wally Winthrop (Abbie Cornish)  who is trapped in an unhappy marriage to a renowned psychiatrist set in Manhattan in the year 1998. Wally who was named after Wallis Simpson used to work at Sotheby's and was totally  obsessed with any memorabilia of her namesake.

The film is well edited as the scenes between the two periods flows by easily. Yet sadly, there is a disconnect as neither story is allowed to flourish.  It is due largely to the fact that it never stops long enough to let them.  The Wallis and Edward part were more interesting as they led fascinating lives.  Scenes of the high society parties with lively music and stunning fashion reminiscent of the era was quite elegantly filmed.

Andrea Riseborough gave an exquisite performance. She really fleshed out Wallis Simpson portraying her as a much maligned soul who was quite tormented and lonely about being ostracized from the world. In a poignant scene, she laments "Every one seems to focus on what he gave up, what about what I gave up?" 

In contrast, the story line featuring Wally Winthrop as portrayed by Abbie Cornish didn't grab me to the core. Everyone in her circle of 'friends' kept uttering "how lucky" she was to be married to a renowned psychiatrist but we, the viewers were privy to just how horrible the marriage was. Then after a while, we didn't really care if she stayed married or not.  I believe it also took way too long for Wally's pursuit of her own happiness.

In conclusion, "W.E." felt like an elegant version of  the film "Julie and Julia" but without the recipes.  Although the movie was quite stylishly filmed, I would have been more satisfied if the entire movie was a biopic of Wallis Simpson featuring the hand written letters she wrote about her tumultuous life with Edward in exile. But I believe that premise is currently explored in a History Channel show which I didn't pay much attention to, unfortunately.


Sunday, September 16, 2012

BREATHING (AUSTRIA)


Cine Europa 2012
Cinema 2, Shang Cineplex





 This Austrian film explores the life of a juvenile delinquent named Roman Kogler. He is an inmate at a juvenile detention facility where offenders are allowed to work outside as a form of community service.  His case worker believes he has a better chance of getting a parole if he was gainfully employed. The quiet, unassuming 19-year-old chooses to work as an assistant at a Viennese mortuary. 

The film shows how he adapts to his strange job. At first he is unable to handle the corpses but eventually he gets the hang of it.  He also was able to track down his biological mother who gave him up for adoption. Their first meeting is fraught with an understated awkwardness. A prevailing sense of trying to know her as a person and at the same time trying to understand why she gave him away.

"Breathing" is an intimate peek into Roman Kogler's life. At first glance, it is a seemingly simple existence yet slowly we are shown the different layers of his personality.  Thomas Schubert as Roman is quite effective at fleshing him out.   His rare displays of emotions and his quiet demeanor masks how deeply conflicted he is about being abandoned as a child.  Soon enough, his quirky job serves as his refuge.

Although it doesn't delve into the nitty gritty details of preparing a corpse for burial like the Japanese film "Departures", this Austrian film is an affecting, sentimental tale about a young's man redemption and his second chance to lead a meaningful life and once again be part of a society that would welcome him back into its folds.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

KOREAN FILM FESTIVAL 2012



This year's Korean Film Festival has "Family Time" as its central theme.

The Manila leg is scheduled on September 18 to 23 at SM Megamall, and will head to SM City Baguio on September 26 to 30.  Final leg at SM City Cebu from October 3 to 7, 2012.


Admission is free and is on a first-come, first-served basis. 

For the full festival schedule as well as the synopses of the featured movies, please visit the Korean Cultural Center website.


Tuesday, September 11, 2012

IN A BETTER WORLD (DENMARK)


Cine Europa 2012
Cinema 2, Shang Cineplex




The opening scenes of this film from Denmark is in a remote African refugee camp.  Anton is a doctor and he treats villagers who are mostly the victims of a brutal warlord known simply as the "Big Man."    A vicious gang leader who hacks open the bellies of pregnant women as he places bets on them by guessing the gender of their unborn babies.   The setting of the vast African land laden with orange sands is quite rustic but quite vivid with the colorful attires of the villagers.  Life is quite dire both for the villagers as well as for the lone Caucasian surgeon.

But Anton does on occasion return to Denmark for some R & R.  A place you like to believe is a better world but we soon find out, it isn't exactly the case. Anton's marriage is on the rocks as his wife is seeking a divorce while his son Elias is constantly bullied in school.   Enter Christian, a new student in Elias' school. He  along with his father recently relocated to Denmark from London after Christian's mother died of cancer.

The young boys soon become friends after Christian rescues Elias from the school bully.  The two boys have contrasting personalities.  Elias is meek and mostly keeps to himself while Christian is a fighter who likes to stand up for people who cannot defend themselves.  In their idyllic Danish town, their odd friendship thrives but soon enough a conflict arises which will test the true mantle of their friendship. 

"In a Better World" is a realistic portrayal of the tribulations that  plague modern society. Bullying, the use of violence as retribution for revenge, the widening communication gap, and the effects of divorce on young children. It also clearly exposes the estranged relationship that develops between parents who work too much and their children who grow up with an aching sense of isolation and in some rare cases, a sense of abandonment. These very troubling ills of society lead to a gamut of problems both for the parents and the kids. 

The film tackles all these sensitive issues well within its range that spans for almost 2 hours. An ideal cinematography aids in the narration of the inner conflicts faced by the young boys as well as their distant parents. Desperate parents who try their best to reach out to their kids but much to their chagrin, they fail with every feeble step. Their anguish is gut wrenching as the children cannot seem to properly communicate what really troubles them without coming across as failures. 

Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier specializes in melodramas that manifest profound depths of emotion. She gets the audience to identify with her ordinary characters who are suddenly thrust into moral quandaries from everyday occurrences.  She also has a penchant to depict international stories in 3rd world countries such as her other noteworthy film "After the Wedding" which featured an orphanage in India.

No wonder "In a Better World" won the Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film in 2010, it has all the key elements of a high quality film.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

2 DAYS IN PARIS (FRANCE)

Julie Delpy, Adam Goldberg 
 
Cine Europa 2012
Cinema 2, Shang Cineplex
 

"He knew that Paris was for lovers.
He just didn't think they were all hers"

***   "2 Days in Paris" is one of the films included in this year's Cine Europa line up.  I am reposting my edited review of this delightful rom-com.  ***
Marion (Julie Delpy) and Jack (Adam Goldberg) are a couple who have been together for 2 years. Theirs is a cross cultural relationship. She is French and a photographer, he is an American interior designer and they live together in New York. After their vacation in Venice, Italy they spend 2 days in Paris at her place before they head back to the US. It just so happens that her goofy parents live below them.

It is in Paris, the city of love where their relationship is put to the test. It slowly begins to unravel and frays at the seams. Despite being a couple for 2 years, it seems Jack and Marion don’t really know each other all that well. Both of them are equally neurotic and eccentric in their own ways. Marion has an eye defect which affects her vision yet she takes pictures for a living. Jack is a hypochondriac yet he is covered with tattoos. Yet their romantic chemistry is clearly evident, never mind if they bicker all the time. 
For 2 days, as Marion reacquaints herself with her city, her friends and her family, she drags Jack along for the ride. Jack, a paranoid Jewish American in Paris is overwhelmed with culture shock. But it is his view of Marion who is in her elements in her familiar surroundings which suddenly changes in each frame as the film progresses. He turns into this jealously insecure in his own skin boyfriend who suspects everything bad about Marion. These instances are manifested in funny situational scenarios which elicit chuckles and even loud laughter. 
Yet if we analyze it down to the core, it is a seriously rude awakening for Jack. It is painful to watch a relationship which seemed solid in the beginning of the film suddenly begin to fall apart. The ironic part is that it happens in Paris of all places. So while it is Marion who guides the audience through an on and off again narration, it is clearly Jack’s point of view about the relationship that sustains the entire film.
The insertion of catchy French tunes liven some scenes and the plot is pretty concise and coherently executed. Typical Parisian scenes like going to the market on weekends, attending art shows, even the different encounters with all sort of taxi drivers are authentically depicted.

Rapid witty dialogue reigns as the two main characters have very good chemistry.  Julie Delpy and Adam Goldberg act effortlessly and convincingly that you forget they are actors. Most of the amusing part of the film occurs when Marion’s parents are in the scenes. They are portrayed by Julie Delpy’s real parents (Albert Delpy and Marie Pillet) who happen to be talented French actors in their own right.

The best part for me though is in the last few minutes of the film. The conflict is at its peak, an emotional confrontation ensues. Jack and Marion’s faces are expressively fraught with emotions as they desperately try to resolve the different issues - it all unfolds as Marion’s voiceover narrates the muted yet poignant scene. Brilliantly executed and well acted scene, I’d say!

Yes obviously, I loved this directorial debut film of Julie Delpy. It was realistically honest, very straightforward, a refreshing departure from the usual ‘love story’ angle and downright hilarious too!

Friday, September 7, 2012

15TH CINE EUROPA





The 15th edition of Cine Europa Film Festival opened September 5 at the Shangri-la Plaza Cineplex. A performance by the Manila String Quartet, a painting exhibition by local artists and the screening of the movie "Upperdog" were the main events during opening night. It will run until the 16th of September, 2012.

Free Admission on a first come, first served basis.

Screening Schedule:
September 6 (Thursday)
1:00pm - Wedding in Barasabia (Romania)
3:10pm - Turquaze (Belgium)
6:00pm - Atmen Breathing (Austria)
8:00pm - The Last Emperor (Italy)

September 7 (Friday)
1:00pm - Upperdog (Norway)
3:10pm - Koko Flanel (Belgium)
5:30pm - Turquaze (Belgium)
7:45pm - Sonny Boy (Netherlands)

September 8 (Saturday)
1:00pm - Turquaze (Belgium)
3:10pm - Kozelat the Goat (Bulgaria)
5:30pm - Koko Flanel (Belgium)
7:45pm - Wedding in Barasabia (Romania)

September 9 (Sunday)
1:00pm - The Rest is Silence (Romania)
3:30pm - Lidice (Czech Republic)
6:00pm - Kozelat the Goat (Bulgaria)
8:30pm - Wedding in Barasabia (Romania)

September 10 (Monday)
1:00pm - Flying Cyprian (Slovakia)
3:30pm - In a Better World (Denmark)
6:00pm - Lidice (Czech Republic)
8:30pm - The Rest is Silence (Romania)

September 11 (Tuesday)
1:00pm - Plans for Tomorrow (Spain)
3:30pm - Lapland Odyssey (Finland)
5:30pm - In a Better World (Denmark)
7:45pm - Flying Cyprian (Slovakia)

September 12 (Wednesday)
1:00pm - Everlasting Moments (Sweden)
3:45pm - 2 Days in Paris (France)
6:00pm - Lapland Odyssey (Finland)
8:00pm - Plans for Tomorrow (Spain)

September 13 (Thursday)
1:00pm - Will You Marry Us (Switzerland)
3:00pm - Father of my Children (France)
6:00pm - 2 Days in Paris (France)
8:10pm - Everlasting Moments (Sweden)

September 14 (Friday)
1:00pm - Senna (United Kingdom)
3:15pm - Poll (Germany)
6:00pm - Father of My Children (France)
8:30pm - Will You Marry Us (Switzerland)

September 15 (Saturday)
1:00pm - Atmen Breathing (Austria)
3:00pm - We Can Do That (Italy)
5:30pm - Poll (Germany)
8:30pm - Senna (United Kingdom)

September 16 (Sunday)
12:30pm - Turquaze (Belgium)
2:40pm - The Last Emperor (Italy)
6:00pm - We Can Do That (Italy)
8:30pm - Atmen Breathing (Austria)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

NEVER LET ME GO

Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield, Kiera Knightley

Star Movies




Star Movies had the distracting Sweet Flicks 'logo' on the upper top left side of the screen. But this interesting, haunting and affecting film, in my opinion could hardly qualify as a sweet flick.  It was more a bittersweet dark story of love and jealousy set in an creepy alternate universe.  A  place that mercifully just thrives within the pages of a science fiction novel.  

We first see Kathy, Tommy and Ruth as kids in Hailsham, an English boarding school in the early 1950s.  Eventually, the audience as well as the children learn they are being groomed as donors. Once they reach adulthood, their vital organs will be 'harvested'.  After their 3rd or 4th donation, their short life will be completed.  In short, they won't make it to middle age, they won't marry or raise a family.  Their eerie destiny has been sealed and they have no choice but to accept their doomed fate.


The pacing of the movie is really slow. I was astonished the twist was revealed early on in the film, but it certainly set the bleak tone. It also presented the characters in an entirely different light.  Set in an overcast English countryside, it was nevertheless a lyrical and visually beautiful production. The melancholic musical score was appropriate to a sad and heartbreaking story.

Carey Mulligan, Andrew Garfield (before he became the Amazing Spider Man) and Keira Knightley give cinematic life to the central characters developed in a novel by acclaimed author, Kazuo Ishiguro (who also wrote "Remains of the Day").  I've never read any of his books because from browsing at book stores, I noticed his style of writing doesn't capture my interest.


Keira Knightley and Andrew Garfield are excellent in their roles, but Carey Mulligan definitely stands out  as Kathy. Her sublime restraint and subtlety makes her tragic character all the more poignant. The way her character handled an emotional set back as well as major upheavals is gut wrenching.  Her stoic demeanor belies the inner turmoil she endured during her childhood.  And it also prodded her to face her fate with peaceful serenity.

"Never let me go" is one of the saddest films I've watched in my lifetime yet it was also very thought provoking.  It made me realize just how valuable life is.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

THE HELP

Viola Davis, Octavia Spencer, Bryce Dallas Howard
Jessica Chastain,  Emma Stone, Allison Janney,
Sissy Spacek, Cicely Tyson

"Change begins with a whisper"

Star Movies





For some reason, this award winning film was not shown in local cinemas. So I marked my calendar when I learned it would be the Sunday night feature on Star Movies.

Based on a best selling novel by Kathryn Stockett, it follows a young woman named Eugenia "Skeeter" Phelan (Emma Stone) who upon her graduation from college returns to her Southern home town. She wants to be a writer/journalist so she takes up a job in the local paper replying to letters sent in for good housekeeping tips.  

She comes up with the idea of publishing a book that chronicles the lives of the African American maids in their community.  But she faces two major obstacles - it is the 1960s (the era when the Civil Rights movement was still at its birthing stage) and it is set in the South where 'colored' people have no rights at all.  There is even a guide book that enumerates the rules governing the minority members of the community.

The film is narrated by Aibileen (Viola Davis) the help of one of Skeeter's haughty friends, Elizabeth Leefolt. She is first 'interviewed' under the pretense of helping Ms Skeeter in her weekly advice giving column for the Jackson Journal. Eventually, Aibileen is persuaded to collaborate and tell her stories about being a black maid for southern families.  Done under the radar and amidst the growing unrest during the Civil Rights movement, soon enough more black maids find their 'voices' by opening up about their fates. Their woeful  tales all valuable contribution in the controversial book.

The bright cinematography set in a typical southern town is a refreshing take on a heavy subject (discrimination). The plot unfolds at a steady pace with various side plots all contributing to the main storyline. Running at 146 minutes long, I believe certain scenes could have been edited out to maintain its flow.

The cast is composed of  young, talented, and dare I say the 'whitest' actresses (Bryce Dallas Howard, Emma Stone, Jessica Chastain)  as the Southern belles. Their portrayals are so convincing you can't help but loathe the 'mean' characters and  cheer for the good ones.

On the other hand, the uniformed and highly structured lives of the maids are given justice by Octavia Spencer and Viola Davis who are remarkable in their very unglamorous roles.  The two actresses are the very heart and soul of this movie.  They truly deserved the Best Actress (Viola Davis) and Best Supporting Actress (Octavia Spencer) awards they reaped at most if not all of the major awards giving shows.

They provided the drama, as well as the humor in this poignant and sometimes gut wrenching tale of deep friendships forged against the backdrop of inequality and grave injustice during the turbulent 60s in the Southern states of the US of A.
 

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