Week Two of the 58th New York Film Festival

The haunting In the Mood for Love, which received its 4K restoration for its 20th anniversary

Night of the Kings (La nuit des rois)

Image from the Harvard Crimson

He’s arrived to a prison for a crime we are not privy to, and even before he gets there, his fate is sealed. From inside, a behemoth of a man watches, waits, and plans to turn this boy into his successor whether he wants to or not. Philippe Lacoste’s movie takes place in MACA, an overcrowded prison in the Ivory Coast, where guards have no power and the system is run by the inmates. MACA’s leader, Black Beard (Steve Teintchieu), is sick — dying, actually — and wants to secure that his power continues since there are several inmates at the wait to their claim. When he spots Roman (the aforementioned boy, played by Bakery Koné), Black Beard has made his choice. Roman will extend Black Beard’s rule for a short while longer by telling them story after story in order to cause a distraction from the immediacy.

Philippe Lacote creates two distinct worlds with this film. One is the oppressive MACA facility which, already overrun with inmates, seems to be teetering on the edge of explosive violence. The other one comes from Roman’s stories. At first Roman, unfamiliar with his own role, fumbles and doesn’t quite know how to make his way around oral fiction, but as the night progresses, he becomes more confident, spinning tales of a war between a princess (Laetitia Kye) and her brother which mirrors the conflict at MACA and Roman’s own. can take viagra angina viagra online portugal fake online levitra business plan nigeria cialis for women forum critical thinking examples at work DIN # for viagra levitra belleair beach buy liquid viagra 213 follow site var kpa viagra flashback https://ramapoforchildren.org/youth/the-merchant-of-venice-essay-notes/47/ fitting in essay diversity essay sample viagra con esteroides cheapwritingservice cialis bellville http://mechajournal.com/alumni/economic-essays-for-sale/12/ https://tffa.org/businessplan/essay-prompts-toefl/70/ free short and simple business plan viagra sample uk ethical dilemma in nursing essay what is an abstract in a term paper essay on punjabi dress reviews on essay writing services https://nebraskaortho.com/docmed/consumo-viagra-colombia/73/ order prednisone online https://childbirthsolutions.com/sildenafil/flomax-cialis-interactions/20/ https://cwstat.org/termpaper/essay-editor-forum/50/ https://sugarpinedrivein.com/treatment/400-mg-doxycycline/10/ follow url generic viagra ratings Night of the Kings is a thoroughly intricate story of adventure and politics that doesn’t exactly make any reference to actual events but manages to mirror that of countries under oppression searching for a savior. [B]

The Chess Game of the Wind

Image courtesy from The Guardian

Pity the poor family at the center of Mohammed Resa Aslani’s chamber drama about the class struggle between members of a wealthy family. Even if you didn’t know of the historical events framing The Chess Game of the Wind, you would understand what the power of greed does to corrupt a family from the inside out.

Following the death of the family matriarch (off-screen), the paraplegic daughter Ashdgas (Fakri Korvash) finds herself pitted against her stepfather, his sons, and her own fiancee to see who will stand to inherit the property. The only sympathetic person who Ashgdas has any support from comes under her own maid (a young Shorhesh Ashgladoo) with whom she has an intimate relationship with. Tensions reach an ugly high and Asgdhas is forced to commit an act of violence to preserve her own self and interests… but destiny has something else up its sleeve.

Resa Aslani’s movie seems to film everything under a constant sense of dread. The house, which is huge offers no sense of security for anyone under its roof. The camera films its scenes with tones of gold and brown reminiscent of The Garden of the Finzi-Continis but adding elements of deep shadows and discomfort. The only moments of levity occur every so often when the action moves outside to show washer-women commenting on the family’s corrupt past, but this only augments the tragedy that is to come. [A]

Isabella

Image from Cineuropa

It’s safe to say that Matias Piñeiro is not the most accessible of storytellers. His work, which often (always?) relies on the works of Shakespeare (to be exact, in the Shakespearean comedic heroines), doesn’t seem to really add much to what those female characters were all about unless I am missing something crucial hidden in plain sight in his narratives. I just find that his dramas seem devoid of real conflict and dilute any tension to the point that I wonder if perhaps maybe his version of conflict is something verging on the abstract, to be read on paper, like a transcript, or the art installation that figures prominently in his latest, Isabella. Isabella tells the story of an actress trying to get her life together who uses an audition for a Shakespearean play to get financial help from her brother. At the same time, she meets a friend, who it turns out, is also auditioning for the part. The meeting of these two women would indicate some type of tension but all they do is have conversations that really don’t add up to much more but suggest competitiveness and maybe, subtle hints of professional envy. It just doesn’t feel like a movie I would want to watch and the jumping back and forth in time, an arbitrary choice, reveals nothing spectacular. Perhaps it’s time to throw in the towel and move on to another, more interesting pool of inspiration, or make a movie that has no jumping-off point riddled with abstractions. [D]

Nomadland

If you were to call Fern homeless she’d immediately, with a wry smile, correct you and state she’s not homeless but “houseless”, and you’d believe her, because something in the deeply lived performance that Frances McDormand delivers conveys a message of living the moment, taking every chance, pause in between flight.

Chloe Zhao is truly a revelation and quite simply, the best thing this year’s festival has offered. Take a cue to develop narratives along with the book of the same name, Zhao and McDormand create something truly brilliant and poignant in Nomadland, a movie that delves into the topic of those who have been left behind to fend for themselves due to choice or circumstance and equally, those who have decided that possessions are a hamper to live a fully lived life in which the entire world was a home full of marvels to see, sense, experience, taste, and finally, leave behind to spin on its own.

A victim of the housing crash of 2008, Fern (McDormand) travels the country in her camper van she names Vanguard, working odd jobs here and there if there is a need for a person like her, and she is okay with it. In the interim, she befriends a group of people who for their own reasons also decided to leave it all behind and search. One of these turns out to be a potential romance for Fern (played quietly by David Strathairn), but Fern, whom McDormand inhabits as a woman unyielding to tragedy and to old age itself, is an unstoppable force to be reckoned with. Simply perfect. [A+]

Days

If I were to describe Tsai Ming-Liang’s new movie Days, I would have to say that it is essentially an art installation comprised of stills that through its images tells a story of loneliness, alienation, and the need for human contact.

The two men in the movie, frequent collaborator Kang-sheng Lee and newcomer Anong Houngheunagsy are presented back to back as they move about in solitude, separate from each other. It gets revealed that Kang-sheng’s nameless character suffers from chronic back pain for which he goes to an acupuncturist. The scene, in which Kang-sheng sits in stoic silence, enduring what must be an excruciating session as his body tenses against the wires and steam emanating from them, is long and tortuous.

Equally long, and the crux of the movie is the sequence in which Kang-sheng and Anong, who we learn is a sexual masseuse, meet in a sterile hotel. The scene is the sole occasion in which both men wordlessly open up to each other and where Kang-sheng experiences the magic of human touch which in turn releases him from his pain which hints at his loneliness. And then, Days turns into something purely magical. Once the two men resort to a less sensual, more businesslike demeanor, Kang-sheng gifts Anong a music box. In a world in which these kinds of situations would start and end as mechanical as the needs propelling them, Ming-Liang takes this encounter and turns it into one of connection and sharing. Even when the men leave for a night on the town, the camera remains in the now dark room, lingering over the restrained moment of sexual release that continues to float, unacknowledged, in darkness.

For newcomers to Ming-Liang’s cinema Days may take a while to warm up to. This is not a director interested in the more familiar aspects of the narrative. His shots, minimalistic to a fault, express merely what is happening at a bare-bones level. An opening scene in which Kang-sheng sits in silence gazing out into his yard while the rain pours (and reflects onto his body) suggests a lifetime of living like a monk. Another, rather late in the film, where Anong sits by himself listening to this wonderful little gift he has received — such a payment for a moment’s service! — you can almost sense the excitement, the private joy, that he experiences in such a moment. Ming-Liang’s movie Days is like that –a living still life, in which the essence of a scene is delicately played out on screen, delivering its filtered emotion through the wordlessly visual. [B]

The Human Voice

Here we have a miniature by Spain’s Almodovar, a director who has devoted his entire body of work to the female psyche, light or dark, fragile or steely. In his Human Voice, all the elements of his previous work find themselves reduced to their bare essentials: female desire, the horror of abandonment, the abuse they have received, the tragedy of a love that has died, the ultimate need to perform an act of exorcism in order to move on. Who better would embody these characteristics for his English-language debut than Tilda Swinton, an actress severely underused in a starring role, who often gets the smaller part where gives her no other option than to steal the picture by proxy alone.

For Almodovar’s third incursion into Jean Cocteau’s The Human Voice, he focuses solely on the play itself. [Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown begins in almost the same manner but from the moment the call ends, the story becomes a wild farce with a spectacular ending.] From the moment the Bernard Hermanesque score opens and we see a rain of tools over a background of sea-green that then segues into two shots of Tilda, dressed in fire engine red and ashy black, we have entered the unleashed emotions that Almodovar loves to navigate through, Buckle up.

The Woman receives the foreboding call from her narcissistic boyfriend who’s been breadcrumbing her, holding her hostage emotionally and physically for four years. He will not be making an appearance to collect his items and his dog (who also has noticed his absence).

This final act of cowardice sends the Woman right over the edge. During her conversations she will resort to a dramatic attempt at self-destruction, every note of exaggerated emotion not devoid of manipulation, and fire, all in the name of both getting her unattainable man to pay attention to her or else. Tilda’s Woman is a primal scream that she carries along from the moment her character steps onto the stage to when she abandons it with her ex-lover’s masterless dog, a woman dressed in tones of equal parts mourning and healing.

The Human Voice is, for anyone still not yet familiar with Almodovar, a way to get a glimpse of his universe, his women, and their complicated desires. [A-]

In the Mood for Love

“Feelings can creep up like that. I thought I was in control.” This is the line that can basically summarize the subtle events that transpire during a short stay within cramped quarters in a Hong Kong apartment.

The time is 1963, a time when Hong Kong society was much more conservative. A man and a woman (Tony Leung and Maggie Cheung), both married to other people, move in next door to each other, and other than making diurnal polite exchanges, neither of them would have any need to meet. Due to the fact that their spouses are almost always absent on business trips, this leaves them by themselves. A pattern of loneliness starts to emerge within the two, a thing that leads them to venture out to eat alone, sometimes passing each other by without acknowledgment, and on other occasions, a slight, polite but strained hello.

It soon becomes apparent that both of them are victims of infidelity, and the movie is extremely clever in the way it drops clues. Eventually, their paths intersect, and this begins a tentative, restrained approach to a friendship that starts to take shape between both Mrs, Chan and Mr. Chow. From here on, In the Mood for Love starts developing an intoxicating scent that like the Nat King Cole song that continually teases in the background, threatens to push the both of them to the moment we, the audience, are waiting for.

Any director might have taken a less impressive turn, or might have even delved into slight overtones of predictable romance. Wong Kar-wai’s In the Mood for Love takes a different road while sticking to the “will they won’t they” formula. It is all about anticipation and voyeurism draped in gorgeous, pregnant sensuality aching for release. His camera moves stealthily, sometimes from a distance, or behind lush curtains, maintaining a sense of the clandestine that could still be uncovered at any time. A sense of fragile privacy is always present, keeping them together within the frame, longing, and yearning. It is a potent approach because we as an audience are already hoping for someone to crack the ice.

When I saw In the Mood for Love 20 years ago I was not ready for this level of eroticism playing out where the actors never once show more skin than what is already visible. Kar-wai lets us into a world of narcotic but safe greens in the first part and then lets red explode over as if dressing both his characters with the feelings they themselves cannot confess. And then there is Maggie Cheung’s doll-like face, luminous like no one ever, her eyes speaking volumes even when her posture remains poised. She is the perfect foil to Tony Leung’s restrained yet smoldering desire that hints at intensity (and will color his stories which he writes in room 2046, a hotel room that will become the basis of the sequel).

In the Mood for Love boasts some of the most pristine restorations I have seen and it shows: a copy of the movie that came out 20 years ago is still sharp, but the 4K restoration must be seen, sensed, experienced. If there ever was a movie that I would call essential for anyone venturing into film, it would be this one.

A 2016 restoration is available on Criterion Channel for subscribers. [A+]

Week One of the 58th New York Film Festival

Image from IONCinema

Malmkrog

It never disappoints: one movie will somehow not make it through translation and will probably be seen as a director’s incursion into creating work only meant for a few instead of a larger audience. Cristi Puiu’s latest movie Malmkrog, which made its debut at the very beginning of the 58th New York Film Festival, is that movie. A 200-minute conversation, Malmkrog takes place mainly indoors and with the confines of an elegant manor house for which the movie is titled. In that manor, five upper crust individuals drag their thoughts and opinions on everything from Christianity’s stance on war to the Antichrist, all in the favor of some intellectual exercise. In this conversation, we see subtle animosities flare up, talkers attempting to one-up the other in order to dominate the table, and the possibility that the tea prepared for them might have been poisoned by an unknown servant. Progressively, as one conversation segues into another, and yet another, we do start to observe a pattern emerging. One of the women (there are three), Olga (Marina Palii), who comes across as the least intellectual of them all, tends to get prodded by her guests. Even her husband Nikolai (Frederic Schulz-Richard) at the movie’s climactic moment actively squares off with Olga, almost as if attempting to silence her simple rationale. What I was able to surmise is that in every party there is always a need to perform, to show one’s position on a topic, and that no matter how refined we may be as individuals, that need to demonstrate cultural superiority becomes unleashed at the face of a modest stance. Olga, in that respect, becomes a form of Saint Sebastian, or for the less religious, the Tess in Shirley Jackson’s The Lottery. The verbal stoning she essentially buries her until she is barely in the background, merely accepting her fate and position amongst these pseudointellectuals. Still, Malmkrog will only be for strict admirers of Puiu’s work, or those familiar with the original source material… not anyone else. [C]

Fauna

Nicolas Pereda is a newcomer to me, and like most newcomers, to the art-house scene, his work announces a director who is willing to play with the very concept of narrative and what is real as opposed to what is performed. It’s an extremely short piece (although not by much; Hong Sang-too often makes 60-minute movies) but even in its brief running time, it manages to deliver some interesting scenes. Spit into two, Fauna concerns Luisa and Paco (Luisa Prado and Francisco Barreiro) en route to see her parents.

Not much happens along the way. Once there, Luisa has a conversation with her mother about a part she is rehearsing, leading to both women acting out the part in different, yet poignant ways. Paco gets invited by Luisa’s deadbeat brother Gabinio (Gabino Rodriguez) to Luisa’s father’s bar. Once there they ask Paco to reenact a scene from Narcos, a series where Paco plays out a small part. As it happens with people coming into contact with celebrities, they then ask him to pull out a part from thin air and act around it. It’s that scene that ends the sequence with a slight but plausible punchline.

The second part sees Gabino coming into the forefront the following day. He’s been reading a book, and his narration of that book builds the fantasy section of Fauna in which he, Luisa, and Paco play out the roles assigned to them in the book. Fauna, if it ever gets released in the US, might find its way into a small niche of arthouse movie lovers who upon giving Pereda’s movie a view will want to dissect it down to details. I personally see Fauna as an exercise in performance and role-play that somehow gets connected by a barely-there plot and a slight hint of sadness. [B]

Time

It’s not an ovrerreaching statement that prison has become a modern conceptualization of slavery and does not and will not ever benefit African Americans, Garrett Bradley’s documentary focuses on Sibyl Fox Richardson, a Louisiana native who, back when she started a hih-hop clothing line with her husband Rob, made the unfortunate mistake of staging a robbery in order to support her business. The reason is never revealed, but we get the idea that the Richardsons were struggling and just didn’t know another way out. Keep in mind that this is not a country made for the struggling poor, especially those of color or a “non-White ethnicity.”

While she Sibyl took the plea, Rob did not and was sentenced to a 60-year term. During that time we meet Sibyl, who now goes by Fox Rich (as a form of honoring Rob) we get to meet her as she raises her six children and slowly rebuilds her life back together, always waiting for that day that Rob would be let out. She is allotted two visits a month, which takes a toll on her and her growing sons. Through it all, it is her strength and her faith not in the system but in her own will that keep Fox on her feet, and Bradley’s film, beat by beat, starts to reveal that what’s needed here is social justice.

Time is available on Amazon Prime and is a must-see. [A-]

Smooth Talk

If there ever was an analogy to a snake coming into the garden (and mind you, I don’t read or care for the Bible), Joyce Chopra’s Smooth Talk, based on the Joyce Carol Oates short story “Where Are you Going, Where Have You Been?” is it. It tells the story of Connie (Laura Dern), a bored, privileged, and maybe mean girl living out her days in Small Town, California. Her interests are as simple as they are pedestrian: boys, and looking pretty. Her home life is a bit more problematic as she has a rather contentious relationship with her mother (Mary Kay Place) who constantly berates Connie. In a nutshell, Connie is anxious to grow up, and her mother would rather she not (and take care of their house).

Connie will get a chance at getting her first glimpse at the real world when a stranger, Arnold Friend (Treat Williams) crosses her path. His entrance in the film comes rather late although he can be seen at the fringes of the story early on, simply observing her. When he finally arrives, he oozes a menacing sexuality that is so pregnant with the personality of a psychopath that Smooth Talk morphs into something more Gothic — closer to David Lynch’s sensibilities as a matter of fact. Arnold’s dance of anti-seduction with Connie is as tense as anything I’ve ever seen and continues for a full half an hour before it fades into the distance with Connie in tow. I can see why both writer and director chose to leave it this way; when you see Williams and Dern, both about thirty feet apart with him at the door in a suggestive pose, you realize what will have to occur so Connie can wake up. It is a devastating reality only hinted at but never shown; however, that scene alone is enough. This is a deceptive little movie that will linger on with its bad aftertaste for days, but it is worth a view for its presentation and both Dern and Williams.

Smooth Talk will come back to virtual cinemas in November, 2020. [B+]

El tango del viudo y su espejo deformante (The Tango of the Widower and its Distorting Mirror)

Valeria Sarmiento’s restoration of her husband Raul Ruiz’s experimental movie The Tango of the Widower and its Distorting Mirror is one of the strangest films I have seen this festival. The backstory of this movie goes back to when it was completed as a short in 1967 but left without a soundtrack. An exhausting procedure of voice restoration that led to the transcription of the actors’ lines then led to the hiring of voice-over actors to play the parts out. Even then, Sarmiento was left with too short a movie. However, due to having been aware that Ruiz had often wanted to make a film in reverse in order to play with the fabric of time, she made the decision to, at the film’s exact center, unspool it shot by shot, adding snippets of voice over to the existing sound, and the result is this: a movie about a haunting that doubles in on itself and reflects its haunting back to the haunted person. Much like Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass, we first encounter Clemente Iriarte, the widower in question, tormented by his spectral dead wife who seems to believe she is still alive and very much in his personal space. Her haunting reaches a fever pitch until Clemente commits an act of violence against himself… from which a second Clemente emerges, one who knows the ending, but has now come with the omniscient power of self-erase it. One could easily state that the wife who emerges from the mirror could be embodied by the ghost-Clemente, but the film doesn’t give you any concise answers. The Tango of the Widower, thus, remains an interesting, intriguing incursion into surrealism in which whatever was on the other side of the looking glass was always observing the observer, and that ghost could be death itself. [B-]

MLK/FBI

Prepare to be outraged. Sam Pollard’s blistering documentary MLK/FBI paints a vivid snapshot of where we were as a nation when Martin Luther King was then considered the nation’s prime enemy, one that the FBI, headed by then J. Edgar Hoover needed to be destroyed by any means necessary.

From the Freedom of Information Act we can now get a clearer glimpse at the tactics the FBI as an agency held up to a higher standard got involved in. [Of course, they as a whole practically had a file on anyone and everyone deemed an enemy or a Communist, and Dr. King is not the only victim here but he is one of the most salient.] From Dr. King’s association with Stanley Levinson, a known Communist, Hoover’s focus on King progresses into truly frightening and frankly, disturbing territories.

Perhaps because Hoover, born and raised in the South, had never experienced a Black man who was this verbose and eloquent, and it certainly didn’t matter that King was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1963. It speaks glaringly at the attitude of the times in which Blacks had still no rights other than to barely exist, so King as an icon of peace now became an icon of anarchy for the White majority who feared a revolution. This attitude was just the type of environment that Hoover and Wiliam Sullivan needed to exploit in order to disclose anything that could besmirch (assassinate) Dr. King’s character and reputation, and the lows that they stooped to will make anyone’s book boil.

Pollard’s documentary wisely treads some familiar terrain in keeping an objective point of view. It would be problematic to present Dr. King as a saint. Instead Pollard also dives into the ugly rape allegations that Dr. King participated in, but of course also adds that the agents conducting surveillance and listening in to Dr. King living his pwn life came with massive biases against blacks (a bias that still exists even today if you just turn on the news).

Suggestions are made by retired agent Charles Knox, who turns in late in the documentary, that nothing good would come of having access to these files, set to be released in seven years. I disagree: we are owed an explanation of what exactly a prestigious agency was up to. For a nation to heal it must look at its wound. To deny the infliction of such a wound — which incidentally, continued to be inflicted upon Coretta Scott King even after King’s murder in 1967, is to give in to the perpetuation of a culture that continues to glorify a police state that does nothing to protect its own and needlessly diminish those not deemed “white enough” (and by that I also include all other non-Anglo races, LGBTQ people, etc.). [A]

Damnation

Bela Tarr’s Damnation should have been a noir film. The movie’s esthetics, so drenched in noir sensibilities, practically demands it. Picture this: a man lives in the middle of nowhere. His view is of buckets of coal being pulled alongside a cable, the sound they make is purely industrial. This man, hopelessly in love with a woman that does not love him although she says she does. This man is so enamored by this woman that, when offered a smuggling job in which there is money, he would rather give that opportunity to the woman’s husband in order to get him out of the way. The woman, only because there is a promise of money (and a way out of this overwhelming desolation), offers to give the man a little bit of sex. The sex, mind you, is passionless. When the husband returns with cash in hand, things go back to where they were, and the man, now alone, realizes he’s been used in the worst imaginable way. Something has to give.

If Damnation were to get the Hollywood treatment it could possibly be something straight out of Jacques Tourneur or James Cain, with gritty femme fatales betraying the poor schmoes drawn to them. Damnation, however, goes well past the narrative limitations of noir and sends Tarr’s antihero Karrer (Miklós Székely) straight into the bowels of insanity. It is a powerful glimpse into a life wasted by alcohol and despair and the lack of love, magnified by the constant presence of rain and gloom that grabs onto the narrative and never lets anyone breathe. [A]

Ballon is a Deflated Escape from Oppression

It’s a shame that a movie based on actual events in which a pair of families living in oppression in the German Democratic Republic who decide to make their escape via a balloon would wind up being so un-involving. Even the plight of the von Trapps in The Sound of Music, a musical so light and feathery you fear it might escape you at any time, feels more authentic, and their final scene singing Edelweiss resonates even now as a tribute to victory against oppression. Had this movie had a stronger hand — one well versed in the genre of suspense — perhaps Ballon would have fared better and not wind up deflated and forlorn.

As it is, the story of the Wetzels and the Strelzyk families, friends living near the border with West Germany evolves at a rather formulaic pace. We see them going through the motions while a neighbor, Erik Hausmann (Ronald Kukulies) keeps friendly tabs on the comings and goings of the Stryzeks. It’s never really seen as though the families are in great danger — yes, they live in a police state complete with ultra surveillance and the ever-present Stasi — but there isn’t enough to really send the message that they don’t really belong in such a state of repression. However, Herbig flips the pages almost in a perfunctory way, advancing the story of the German escape with detachment, never really giving into paranoia or real suspense. The first attempt which only involves the Strelzyzk family goes wrong, landing them barely within the border where Doris Strelzyk loses her prescription medication. It sets off an investigation led by Oberstleutnant Seidel (Thomas Krestchmann) to find out who exacly is attempting escape.

The stakes become higher, and a sense of urgency begins to permeate both families as an arrest is imminent. Even then, it seems that Herbig decides to keep the tension at bare minimum. Instead, Herbig creates some artificial (and sorely overdone) drama by having one of the younger Wetzels make a rather obvious disclosure and the Strelzyk son develop a romance with the Hausmann daughter, which begs the question, how careless could these people really be? At least, in the end, Ballon delivers, but it does so in a manner that really leaves you wishing for more, happy that the families are now safe, but wondering what was the fuss all about.

The Platform

Image from Polygon

A spiritual cousin to Ben Wheatley’s adaptation of J. G. Ballard’s novel High-Rise, Galder Gaztelu-Urrutia’s movie The Platform takes the concept described in the previous movie and strips it to its bare bones. Here we have not a skyscraper in which the wealthy live near or at the top while the less fortunate live on or around the bottom but something else even more sinister. The Administration, which could very well be a stand-in for the government of an undisclosed country, has created what we come to realize is a tower dug into the ground. In that hole, called the “Vertical Self-Management Center”, criminals of all shapes and sizes are kept two per floor while a huge platform filled to the brim with delicious food travels from top to bottom and then back again, stopping for a few critical minutes on each floor. In that time inmates must be able to feed themselves or risk going that day without a meal, at least until the next round of delivery. The catch to this is that the lower you are in this hole, the less food you will get.

Goreng (Iván Massagué) awakens to find himself in such a predicament on the 48th floor, his neighbor Trimagasi (Zorion Egiuileor), an older and clearly insane man who is never seen without a knife. A tentative friendship starts, but of course, in an atmosphere of survival, this is tenuous: when Goreng and Trimagasi get changed to the 171st floor, Goreng realizes what that knife’s purpose is. A struggle ensues, someone winds up on the wrong end of the knife, and director Gaztelu-Urrutia’s movie starts to reveal a darker presence within its own hole, something unbelievably cold and merciless even when in the service of “the order”.

Within the heart of The Platform is an allegory of how society has continued to treat its citizens, even the ones who serve it with commitment and pride. One character, Imoguiri (Antonia San Juan, known here for her participation in Almodovar’s All About My Mother as Agrado), the administrative officer who processed Goreng upon his entry into the hole, talks about seeing with her own eyes the abuses committed by the administration, and deciding, against her own best interests, to be of greater assistance to those jailed in this concrete hell. Goreng might be the hole’s one survivor, but Imiguiri represents a fallen angel trying to bring light to those who have been forgotten by the natural light of the Sun.

For a movie this bleak, The Platform has a wealth of gallows humor. It often finds a way to sneak in moments of the ridiculous in ways you might not grasp unless you either knew Spanish humor or had a dark streak. Even so, The Platform‘s relentless concrete wasteland begins to reveal a gradual light at the end of its tunnel. It could be that despite the meaningless of this social experiment there is a chance those caught within the hole’s teeth may have a chance at redemption. However, this is a final assessment that the director only implies, leaving us only with a slight improvement to its characters’ predicament.

The Platform is available on Netflix streaming.

Fifty Years and Several Æons Later: Fellini’s Satyricon

Image from Criterion.

It doesn’t matter what critics tell you about what they consider the masters; you may acknowledge that they indeed continue to exist via their body of work, but if their body does not call to you right away, then what’s the purpose of engaging in what would be two hours of your precious time in a tenuous affair with a man or woman you will never meet?

I’ve been enamored with the art of cinema since I saw (a rather truncated version of) Fritz Lang’s 1927 movie Metropolis in 1977 at the tender age of seven. I felt that a movie such as that, which depicted a strange world where the mighty few consume the Earth of its pleasures and the millions of slaves toiled, unseen, in the Underbelly, serving the voracious God of Industry, Moloch, had a striking, haunting appeal that lingers on almost 100 years later and has actually come to represent today’s world of the one-percenters and the masses who — including yours truly — have not.

Fellini has always been on my radar. I will openly say that I admire him wholly and unabashedly — the way he is able to construe sublime energy out of a ball of what is, essentially, his chaotic mind. However, in a world that throws so many new releases, film festivals, and the occasional big-budget independent feature, his body of work, which I have in my queue, continues to elude me even now with the exception of 8 1/2 and Amarcord, a film that I have a personal attachment to for its loving depiction of memory. The rest, Fellini’s body if you will, is waiting for the moment when I finally acknowledge it and like the characters in Satyricon, come to feast and dance and have sex and be merry.

Fellini Satyricon precluded Amarcord by a few years but it follows on the same theme initiated in 8 1/2: The persistence of memory, funneled through a chaotic mind. Loosely based on an ancient tome believed to have been written by Gaius Petronius, Fellini’s version follows its own logic, keeping some of the basic plot threads alive but preferring to present his own vision of what may have happened to these characters. Dear Reader, even if you see this twice (as I did; I usually do this when a movie presents itself a bit obscure or saturated with details and Fellini falls under the latter), you probably won’t get it all. Don’t.

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This is a world that exists only in fantasy. Satyricon is as close to a fever dream borne from hallucinogens as a written document. Even when the document presents actual characters of all sorts of social standing, they blend together into a pastiche of color, pomp & circumstance, and essentially become more part of the background than semblances of people.

At the core, there are two gladiators: Encolpius (Martin Potter) and Ascyltus (Hiram Keller), and the underage boy Giton (Max Born) caught in between them, less a person than a cipher for pleasure. Their misadventures, which also includes Encolpius having to prove his manhood by both bedding a woman and battling a Minotaur, is the only thread that gets any prominence during the movie. I wish more time had been devoted to what made these two men tick, but this is, of course, wishful thinking, and Fellini had his own logic. Never would he have been able to zoom into one single character. If he could have told something called “Il Mundo” he would have.

Waving in and out are a multitude of them, in which beggars get their hands chopped off and replaced by a gold one. Noblemen perv on younger boys who are invited to the feast of debauchery for one purpose only. Stories within the narrative get told to a rapt audience feasting voraciously on the delights presented. Magic, sex, death, and little love converge into one giant melting pot in which everything whirls, and nothing exists as a whole.

It takes a keen vision to present this layered of a movie. Could Satyricon — complete with its incursions into the risque — have been done by an American? I would say not. Not in the daring 70s, in which the anti-hero rose to prominence, the glum ending became almost necessary, and Woody Allen introduced us to neuroses on camera. Satyricon is a deeply reverent Italian movie that honors its Ancient story, warts and all, and isn’t afraid to present it to the world in a feverish tornado, untethered to any conventions, any resolutions, and even a proper ending.

The Death of Innocence: Elem Klimov’s Devastating Come and See

There probably will never be a war movie quite like Elem Klimov’s traumatizing Come and See. No amount of hero-worship, no amount of action set pieces, pyrotechnics, or simple wartime nostalgia will replicate the horror of innocence lost to time and devastation. I saw Come and See through the suggestion of a friend and while I don’t shy from difficult pictures I almost wish I hadn’t seen this. That is a compliment, not a complaint. This is not a movie for beginners or people with weak stomachs. This is the movie Spielberg saw before filming his own Schindler’s List and even that movie had a few moments where the audience could breathe before the horror would pick up again.

I’m not sure I want to write anything too detailed because at one point I was so disturbed by what I saw that I had to stop the movie — thank goodness for DVD remotes — take a break, get settled, and tackle the rest of it, even when I knew that the worst was yet to come.

In a nutshell, Come and See is about a young Belarussian boy of fifteen, Flyora Gaishun (Aleksei Kravchenko), who wants to join the partisans during the Nazi occupation of Russia in 1943. The event that seals his conscription is the finding of a rifle buried in the sand, but once he joins the partisans he is left behind due to an unfair exchange of footwear. He encounters a young girl named Glasha (Olga Mironova) and becomes smitten with her, not before they undergo a blitz attack from German bombers that leaves them both disoriented. Once they arrive home Glasha realizes Flyora’s family — indeed, the entire village — has been killed. Flyora, convinced they are still alive, states he knows where they are located and attempts to walk through a bog while a terrified Glasha follows. The actions result in Flyora reconnecting with villagers who now see him as the cause of their miseries, a thing that basically makes Flyora lose the last of his mind.

However, survival still remains, and hunger sends Flyora and a small group of partisans in search of food. In a scene that has to be experienced to be believed, there is an exchange of machine guns that basically leaves Flyora again, alone and destitute. If you thought that things are about to get better, think again. Come and See dives into the abyss and right into the face of the Fuhrer himself in an agonizing shot of reverse chronology that pulls the rug off of you and leaves you speechless.

Last year I saw a Romanian movie called I Do Not Care if We Go Down in History as Barbarians, and while that film was mostly comedic, its finale and that of Come and See are inextricably linked through the massacre of a people by the hands of the military. Come and See has a much longer and cringing sequence, and itself was the moment I had to stop viewing the movie due to the sheer level of horror that leaped from the visuals. All the anguish, all the agony gets carried out in a young boy’s face as it morphs from that of a teenager with dreams to a rictus of pain and fear. This is not Empire of the Sun. This almost qualifies as a documentary — it’s that horrifying. Klimov, if he wished to make a commentary on how barbarous this event was in which 628 Belarussian were slaughtered by the Nazis needn’t worry.

THE GROUND BENEATH MY FEET is caught between tWO SCHIZOPHRENIC STORYLINES THAT NEVER MEET.

Valerie Pachner, caught between her personal and professional life in Marie Kreutzer’s psychodrama The Ground Beneath my Feet. [image from The Hollywood Reporter]

THE GROUND BENEATH MY FEET. Country, Austria. Director, Marie Kreutzer. Screenwriter, Marie Kreutzer. Language, German, English. Cast: Valerie Pachner, Pia Hierzegger, Mavie Horbiger, Michelle Barthel, Marc Benjamin. Runtime, 108 minute. Venue: IFC Cinema. Mostly Indies: D

Here we have a movie that boasts a trailer that makes it look and feel like we are going to walk into a thriller filled with dread and portent. Marie Kreutzer’s The Ground Beneath my Feet announces itself as a story about a woman haunted by the almost omniscient presence of her sister who may be closer than she would like it, and points at this woman potentially losing her mind as a result. So imagine my surprise when expectations turned to disappointment when the movie failed to deliver on all accounts, settling on a tepid psychodrama so cold, so devoid of life, it may as well been stillborn.

[Image from Cinema Austriaco]

This is what pains me when I see feature films like this. I respect the intent and the artistry behind the final product because it’s clear the director has something to say. I also respect a story that seems to point at something, only to unfold into something completely unexpected. The problem I have here is simple: movies that become festival darlings and then go on to get released all over the world, and film critics who throw caution to the wind and hail praise and accolades and announce a “strong new voice” when, frankly, and maybe I’m missing something, there isn’t.

The Ground Beneath My Feet is a massive disappointment at all levels. It tells the story of Lola Wegenstein (Valerie Pachner), a rising young business consultant who is so committed to her job, so stoic about her emotions, and so minimalist in her personal space she makes Diana Christensen from Network seem like an Earth mother you would gladly confide your darkest secrets to. Often framed maniacally jogging, often before dawn, or riding stationary bikes, pushing her body to the extreme, Lola is an example of the workaholic at the most extreme. Barely ever in her own apartment, she is often seen at work in hotels, her own office, and even airports, constantly discussing business with robotic zeal. The fact that we find out that she’s romantically involved with the company’s owner — her boss Elise (Mavie Horbiger) brings next to no warmth even when the couple exchange gestures of affection. Dressed in perpetual black and both looking like ice princesses, this is not a relationship borne out of love but mutual, financial interest.

The point of interest in the story occurs when Lola’s sister Conny (Pia Hirzegger) attempts suicide (off camera), and has to be committed to a mental hospital. Lola, who serves as her caregiver, continually expresses almost no affection towards her sister, and keeps this piece of information solely to herself. When Conny starts calling Lola at all times, complaining of staff mistreatment, Lola does not make this own to Elise who demands that personal affairs not intrude into the workforce.

[image from Another Gaze]

So far, so good. This I could completely understand and buy into. However, for some unexplained reason, Marie Kreutzer veers the story into some strange territory. For almost the entire first half we are slowly and inexorably drawn into a feeling of uncertainty, where nothing seems to be what it is. Lola gets informed that her sister cannot be calling anyone as she doesn’t even have access to any phones. However, the calls continue, and in one scene, Conny appears to have followed Lola all the way to Rostock. In another sequence, an elevator malfunctions (in a more restrained fashion than the insane elevator sequence from Neil Jordan’s Greta). She spies Elise doing research on schizophrenia on her laptop upon learning her family secret (and getting bumped off a project). Lola has a confrontation with a homeless woman who accosts her at the airport and raises her own paranoia. At another point, Lola gets informed that she is supposed to be at a meeting, and had completely forgotten about what day it was.

What is happening here? Is Lola living a parallel life? Could this woman, who keeps everything bottled and under control, be on the verge of losing it? Could madness, then, be inherited? Will her sister’s illness, now that it’s been discovered, be the cause of her failure as a power exec?

Marie Kreutzer answers none of these questions since this thread gets dropped midway and the movie then turns into a more straightforward drama of a woman attempting to micromanage every aspect of her life and succeed at all costs while her sister collapses, mostly off-screen. In return from the initial suspense we get a half-baked story of sexual politics at work in which one colleague comes onto Lola at dinner (which could be in her head), and another exposes himself to “show her who’s in charge). Meetings with Conny become more typical of estranged sisters, and seem a bit repetitive and bring none of the pregnant tension from the movie’s promising start. It’s as if the movie had forgotten where to go, and decided to turn around and seek for the blandest resolution.

Most egregiously, is Lola’s own character development. For the most part she is supposed to be cold, restrained, but not inhuman. Her fears seem real, her need to succeed feel like filling the void left by her familial failure. So, when Lola encounters the same homeless woman and callously throws her a bill, what are we supposed to feel then for her? That she’s somehow better than the poor woman asking for money? It comes at odds when at a key moment, Lola faces her worst fear this is a well-crafted character study, and its inability to define itself as a psychological thriller or a psychodrama only accentuate its flaws. Because of this, The Ground Beneath my Feet comes as a colossal misfire at all angles.

LUZ: Film Review

LUZ. Country, Germany. Director: Tilman Singer. Screenwriter: Tilman Singer. Cast: Luana Velis, Jan Bluthardt, Julia Riedler, Nadja Stubiger, Johannes Benecke, Lili Lorenz. Language: German, Spanish. Runtime: 70 minutes. Venue: IFC Center, NYC, NY. Rating: B

The ironically titled Luz opens with a wide shot of a police precinct. A woman practically drags herself in, serves herself a soda, and is about to leave when she blurts out an incomprehensible question to the clerk in the lobby. When he doesn’t reply, she repeats the question in an ear-splitting shriek. And that sets the tone for Tilman Singer’s college project-turned movie Luz, which hit its (very) limited release last week in NYC, LA, and other cities around the country for its one to two week engagement.

The woman in question is Luz, a cab driver, but we’ll get back to her in a bit. The movie cuts to a scene in a bar where a blond woman named Nora (Julia Riedler) is eyeballing a man (Jan Bluthardt) nursing a drink. She aggressively hits on him, but her intentions are a bit murky at best. She proceeds to tell the man, who we learn is Dr. Rossini, a story of a woman she knew back in Chile named Luz. Both she and Luz performed some Satanic ritual to summon up a demon, and now it wants Luz. Dr. Rossini seems completely hypnotized by Nora’s gaze (hypnosis will figure prominently from here on), and allows her to lead him to the bathroom, where some weird exchange takes place. [It sure seems like she’s masturbating him, but we don’t get to see that — only his shaking body after she kisses him and sends in a bright light into his horrified, gaping mouth.

Weird enough? Don’t worry; it gets better. Back at the precinct, Dr. Rossini is about to commence a regression therapy to extract a confession from Luz. Luz, who has been up to now incoherently babbling some reverse prayer in Spanish, begins to recount how it is that she got to this place. And then. Singer lets whatever was hinted in the background take center stage, and we’re in the middle of a hazy nightmare shot in thick shades of grey fog that continue to suggest something evil is in the midst, more felt than seen, seconds from announcing itself.

Singer never lets Luz go off the rails like most other possession horror movies do because of a need to raise the body count and produce shock after shock for shock purposes alone. There is a thick pulse running through the film, and it reaches an early peak before plateauing somewhere in the middle, then building again until the movie reaches its nightmarish conclusion. I don’t think that it could have been scarier than it was, though. This is exactly the type of fucked up shit our minds and subconscious throws at us while we dive deep into sleep, and when we wake up, we can’t quite place the pieces together. In that sense, Luz “makes sense” and illuminates a dark event reaching its natural conclusion. It will produce shivers and a sense of unreality. And frankly, this is all I need for a movie like Luz to take effect. It’s sparse set, minimal players, and brief running time give it the right amount of dread needed to make Singer’s film be a memorable entry into both the cinematic world and the horror genre.

Picking at the scab to reveal festering wounds in “I Do Not Care if We Go Down in History as Barbarians.”

I DO NOT CARE IF WE GO DOWN IN HISTORY AS BARBARIANS. Country: Romania. Director: Radu Jude. Screenwriter: Radu Jude. Cast: Ioana Jacob, Alex Bogdan, Alexandru Dabija. Language: Romanian, English. Runtime: 140 minutes. Venue: IFC Center, NYC, NY. Rating: B–

I’ve come to realize that every country not only has its skeletons well hidden (or perhaps preserved in formaldehyde) in certain parts of the psychic closet, forgotten… but not really, right? The powers that be, those who control information, what gets released, what is suitable, would rather no one ever touch the topic of the more unsavory aspects of what transpired in past generations (especially if anyone from that time, particularly the guilty, could face judgement). and the scars that still haven’t healed properly, that haven’t even scabbed proper. Radu Jude, two years or so after his period piece Aferim!, returns to the theaters with I Do Not Care if We Go Down in History a Barbarians, an examination of Romanian history, and his topic of choice, heralded under the guise of Mariana (Ioana Jacob), who stands in for himself, is the reenactment of a historic event in 1941 in Odessa, Romania, where the Romanian Army, headed by Marshall Ion Antonescu, allied to Nazi Germany, carried out the ethnic cleansing of Jews, managing to kill by hanging, execution, or plain fire, a total of 25,000 – 34,000 Jews between October 22 – 24, 1941, and ultimately, over 100,000 civilians — among them Roma, Jews, and other ethnic groups — in total.

Mariana (Iona Jacob, in a committed, brazen performance) isn’t having it. She may have, it seems, have access to Jude’s short documentary The Dead Nation. (I digress; some of the pictures and one shocking short clip from the era seem to nod at its inclusion.) Mariana, from the word go in which she breaks the fourth wall, talks to the camera, and introduces herself as Mariana (not the poet, a thing she repeats several times) announces to the invisible camera operator she is preparing a reenactment of the events of the Odessa Massacre of 1941. So far, all looks good. She talks to potential cast members auditioning for parts, asks them how they would react to, let’s say, being burned in fire, or pleading for their lives. She reads passages of obscure books to a man she’s dating on Skype, and continually banters away at Romanian complicity during the War. A scene from the movie The Mirror makes its way into the movie as Mariana and others criticize Antonescu. Oh, and it seems that she might have missed her period, but tells her pilot boyfriend not to worry.

It’s when rehearsals commence that things begin to get contentious. A crew mate refuses to do a scene the way Mariana wants it, and this one leads to other crew mates not wanting to participate alongside Romas. Most contentious of all is the appearance of Movila, the government official (played by Alexandru Dabija) who has concerns with Mariana’s vision and would rather she place focus — and more blame — onto the Russians and Germans. Mariana, however, remains staunchly committed to filming her piece her way, and you can see tensions rising among her and her crew as many refuse to even participate in her show, in one case leading to a fistfight. Even now, Jude points out with his deadpan calm, there is a complacency afoot in Romania, who would rather negate than confront, deny than acknowledge, wash their hands instead of holding itself accountable for such a tragic event. Movila’s continues to throw the famous “Never again!” slogan from the Jewish Defense League onto the audience, not as a cry of progress, but with a heavy dose of cynicism. It made me think of the way Hannibal Lecter addressed the screaming of the lambs to Clarice after she had prevented another murder. Would Mariana’s reenactment do the same?

Mariana’s idealism and sheer force of feminist rage would tell you that yes, it would, and by the scorching finale, which is its own feat of direction and is presented in crisp images that contrast the home movies feel of the previous scenes, she’s practically got you by the balls. In her and Movila’s first and longest scene together, Mariana and Movila lock horns in an intellectual battle, throwing out names like Hannah Arendt, Wittgenstein, Hitler, and Spielberg, and then including their current iterations under the terrors of ISIS, or the destruction of Syria, which serve as another picture that even now it’s still happening because sadly, that is the nature of humanity.

There is so much history both analyzed, acted, or presented in film that it felt a bit like information overload. There were times when I felt I was being waterboarded into submission by the sheer force of history and current events. It doesn’t help that Jude extends his narrative into 140 minutes, which for a movie like this, seems a bit excessive. However, like Mariana, every director has a precise vision. Between arguments, he places a camera in static mode to point at the approximate location where Jews were hanged… and then does so, after the reenactment, now with mannequins posing as murdered Jews. It’s one of many striking visuals, which will disturb the audience with their sheer savagery. And all the time, the echo of “Never Again” continues to resonate after the credits have appeared. They’ve just now been punctuated by a question mark.

ROJO pictures an Argentina with its eyes wide shut against the climate of political corruption during the 70s.

Dario Grandinetti in Benjamin Naishtat’s Rojo.

ROJO. Countries, Argentina/Brazil/France/Belgium/Germany/Netherlands, Switzerland. Director: Benjamin Naishtat. Cast: Dario Grandinetti, Alfredo Castro, Diego Cremoesi, Rafael Federman, Laura Grandinetti, Andrea Frigerio. Screenweiters: Benjamin Naishtat. Language: Spanish, English. Runtime 108 minutes. Venue: Quad Cinema. Grading: B

From the opening shot, Benjamin Naishtat’s Rojo establishes a world where the normal order of thing has been replaced with something darker and deadly, unseen, but heard of through the grapevine in coded conversations. We see a house,and our eyes inform us, this is just another Spanish-styled house sitting placidly, its doors and windows shut, nothing out of the ordinary. Moments later, someone comes out with items that we understand were up to that moment inside the house. More people come out, each one carrying objects. A man (Diego Cremonesi) appears, this time facing the house, his back to us, as if in calm observation. Meanwhile, several more exit the front door, each one carrying an artifact. A pregnant moment later, the man who’d been silently observing become a participant and goes inside.

Diego Cremonesi interrupts Grandinetti’s world in Rojo.

We then cut to a scene in a restaurant. Sitting quietly, reading the news, Claudio (Dario Grandinetti) who we come to learn is a respected lawyer in this unnamed city. Conversation weaves in and out, indistinct and hushed. With almost no warning but without announcing himself the man who’d been observing the looting of the house at the opening scene is at the restaurant, again observing, but this time with rising indignation. A scene follows: the man would like to be seated at a table, and Claudio, who is clearly not having any dinner because his wife (Andrea Frigerio) has not arrived, is occupying one that the man would like. A confrontation develops between the two, escalating from the mildly annoyed to flat out contentious. Claudio relinquishes the table, gives it to the man… but not before unleashing a tirade of well-modulated insults as a final stab at the man who broke into his bubble of privilege and dethroned him. Violence suddenly explodes, the man is ejected from the restaurant, and Claudio once again returns to the table that was his, where he sits back to smugly wait for his wife who finally arrives, completely unaware of what just happened.

However, the night isn’t over — it’s just begun. On their way home Claudio and his wife are approached by the same man who now shows a gun. What happens next is shocking enough, but it’s Claudio’s reaction that sets the tone for the movie. You see, this is the Argentina of the 1970s, which was then under control of a dictatorship and was on the brink of a coup d’etat. There is a palpable sense of paranoia running through the entire narrative, and while we won’t see the man who opens the movie after his fateful encounter with Claudio, he will actually pretty much dominate the events to unfold much like the dead who do not rest in peace.

All of Naishtat’s movie evolves in ellipticals. It’s really the only way I could express it, because when you live under such repression and even daylight sequences are marred with the fear of being watched and heard, every word, every action carries the huge burden of code, side glances, and innuendoes. Claudio, safely detached for now from his encounter that starts the movie proper, learns that a neighbor has not been seen for a while. Perhaps he is on vacation, a woman says. A colleague approaches him to pitch the purchase of a house — the same house seen at the prologue of the movie — and that purchase comes with a wall of shady undertones. Does Claudio relent? Not really. What importance could that house have? We never know. Like a commercial from the period, where a well-dressed man eating some chocolates blithely shoots another, off-screen, who wanted a piece, and returns to his thoughts without as much as batting an eye, we are in a place where the hand does not connect to the heart; where actions do not think of consequences.

Rojo is a reflective, albeit disturbing look into Argentina’s past that attempts not to pass judgement but to simply observe how people, both from the old and new regime, lived and reacted through that dark period of oppression. When another boy goes missing — missing being the mode of operation in which those who were seen or even suspected of being dissident were dealt with — the reality of fascism comes home and reveals only repetition into the future. Tellingly, the story occurs in the months before the coup; Argentina would be walking dark waters until the early 80s, and finally acknowledge — though, not fully — its participation into controlling its populace through the Triple A.

The great Alfredo Castro, in Rojo’ climactic sequence.

So, it is a bit of irony that we finally see a glimmer of poetic justice arriving under the presence of Detective Sinclair (Alfredo Castro). From the word go he’s set his eye on Claudio, and circles him like a vulture, gathering bits and pieces of information. When we realize his true purpose, but that his knowledge and position prevents him from taking action against the unjust, it is a powerful scene that happens in the middle of nowhere and resonates well past its run, bleeding right into the foreboding ending where Claudio appears to have embraced his own hand in suppression, but now moves about under a mask of normalcy, while his daughter (Laura Grandinetti) will have to contend with the next generation of abusers of power.

in the meantime, all we can do is sit back and watch a nation bathe in the blood of the innocent and walk around with eyes firmly shut. Because when you live in such countries, ignorance is bliss, and knowledge means to carry a load too heavy to bear. Rojo is Naishtat looking at Argentina with a mirror, and what a haunted mirror it is.