Tag Archives: adventure

German Cinema: Fassbinder and herzog

Kurt Raab in Why Does Heer R. Run Amok? (Image by MUBI)

Courtesy of MUBI and Criterion Channel, here are two German movies you can stream from the comfort of your own home:

Why Does Herr R. Run Amok?

It’s safe to say that Fassbinder will never be a walk in the park when sitting down to watch his work. It’s been a while since I saw any of his work and almost 15 years since I last saw writeing paper thesis unit trust management source custom essay professional https://teleroo.com/pharm/healthy-loss-viagra-weight-20/67/ custom research paper for sale philosophy essays online generics med indian click go here database assignment http://www.cresthavenacademy.org/chapter/outline-in-research/26/ how do i reply to an email on my iphone boy doing his homework cartoon enter site go here see writing elites https://medpsychmd.com/nurse/purchase-metformin-without-a-prescription/63/ family nurse practitioner essay go sildenafil gh 100mg vintage christmas wrapping paper 1970s soccer research paper here write argumentative essay get link levitra timmonsville examples of substitute teacher cover letter https://teleroo.com/pharm/side-effects-from-viagra-email-joke/67/ buy papers online http://www.trinitypr.edu/admission/the-canadian-writers-world-essays/53/ Water Drops on Burning Rocks, which was directed by François Ozon, based on a play written by Fassbinder. I can’t say that the viewing was comfortable, but again, I don’t always go to the movies to see an easy film and in that respect, Fassbinder is the master of difficult cinema. His 1970 movie Why Does Herr FR. Run Amok? could be interpreted today as the Angry White Man’s Rage. During its slim run — the movie proper is only 84 minutes long from start to finish, we become privy to the unremarkable (and ultimately tragic) life of a man only known as Herr R. (Kurt Raab). Raab works as a draughtsman for a design firm. Nothing in Raab’s life points at anything wrong per se — he is married to a lovely wife (Lilith Ungerer) and has a young son. He seems to live in an up and coming neighborhood. His wife, however, pushes Raab to ask for a promotion. Adding to that, Raab’s parents stop by for a visit and his mother proceeds to, later on, criticize Raab’s wife when their boy plays hide and seek and freaks the parents out. Friends, ex-classmates, and Raab’s demanding boss add to a pressure cooker of frustration that seems to be boiling inside the otherwise calm and unassuming Raab until he is pushed to the very limit. When the floodgates open, they do so in a matter of fact style that is chilling. Fassbinder films it dead on, unflinching, no music nothing. It brings to mind when men of all ages have gone on killing sprees — it often has signaled a cumulus of frustrations and petty disappointments that build up throughout a lifetime and I won’t even get into toxic masculinity and its poisonous fruit. The resulting fury bursts forwards from an inability to fulfill all the requirements that is an ideal husband/employee signifies. Fassbinder’s film, then, represents an inversion of the family nucleus and had it been an American movie, a perversion to the extreme of the American Family.

Klaus Kinski in Werner Herzog’s Aguirre, the Wrath of God (image from Criterion Channel)

Aguirre, the Wrath of God

Greed has been the great corruptor of mankind. For every legend of a treasure, there has always been a sucker born every minute. And who doesn’t want to arrive at a mythical place, conquer it, and reap its rewards? A hard life is only for those who don’t have ambition, tenacity, and a certain mad streak capable of taking them and everyone else within their party down the dangerous path of deception. Werner Herzog tackles the theme of greed and megalomania in Aguirre, the Wrath of God, a historical adventure based on the exploits of Lope de Aguirre (1510 – 1561), a Spanish conquistador most notable for his pursuit of the elusive city of El Dorado.

From the film’s opening shot of a caravan, as it seems to head down into a hellish jungle, we are in for a surreal ride as the expedition to El Dorado starts with a rather portentous foot but promptly loses its way not just to Aguirre’s megalomaniac ambitions but to hubris and disorder within the group. Aguirre must have been a raging, malignant narcissist who cared for no one but himself (and the resulting glory), because right from the get-go he offs his superior, declares himself the king of all things (hence the title “the Wrath of God”), and drives his party right into the ground, taking everyone with him until no one but himself stands alone, blabbering in tongues to an unforgiving sky in the middle of nowhere while monkeys overtake his cargo and feast at the spoils.

Herzog’s film is a fever dream, never completely grounded in reality but drowning in denial and indulgence that the white man could tame the jungle and reap its rewards. In a way, it seems that through Klaus Kinski’s committed, near-insane performance, he is pointing the finger at many a power-hungry explorer/businessman attempting to rape an existing culture of its riches without understanding its essence. Meanwhile, at every turn, it seems as though the jungle itself was laughing at the poor men who are simply obeying orders from a man who has no logic. Herzog’s is a merciless film that spares no one — not the taciturn former African slave who was once a prince — can’t react at the attack of the indigenous people and die almost in bliss, or the two women in the caravan, Ines de Atienza (Mexican actress Helena Rojo) and Flores de Aguirre (Cecilia de Rivera in her only acting role), who surrender themselves to the unforgiving country.

The sad part of this is that despite the manner that Aguirre’s expedition ended, he has not been the last one seeking a mythical pot of gold. Greed and madness was the center of The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, The Lost City of Z, Embrace of the Serpent, and influenced even Apocalypse Now. In the end, the craving for the high life showered by a bevy of honors and a harem have been the sirens’ song for many an adventurer seeking thrills without measuring the consequences. Herzog simply melts into the background and lets the movie speak for itself and mankind’s folly.

Jennifer Kent’s THE NIGHTINGALE brings shared trauma from both sides of Australian colonialism.

Aisling Franciosi plays Clare, a woman bent on tracking the man who ruined her life in Jennifer Kent’s second movie The Nightingale. Baykali Ganambarr is Billy, the man she employs as her tracker.

THE NIGHTINGALE. Country, Australia. Canada, US. Director, Jennifer Kent. Screenwriter, Jennifer Kent. Cast: Aisling Franciosi, Baykali Ganambarr, Sam Claflin, Damon Herriman, Harry Greenwood, Michael Sheasby. Language, English, Scottish Gaelic, Palawa Kani. Runtime, 136 minutes. Venue: IFC Center. Mostly Indies rating: A

I’m a bit thrown off by the way that this, Jennifer Kent’s second film following her massive breakthrough The Babadook, is being marketed as a revenge film. Let me explain. Revenge does drive much of the story, but after the credits rolled, and the Q & A ended, I was left with a much bigger understanding about the tapestry woven in The Nightingale.

The events of Kent’s powerful story involve Clare (Aisling Franciosi), a young Irish convict living a hardscrabble life in 1820s Tasmania (then known as Van Diemen’s Land) with her husband and infant baby. Clare owes her freedom — and her fate — to Lieutenant Hawkins (Sam Claflin, who takes his character to the very edge of psychopathy), who takes delight in abusing Clare and forcing her to sing for his gang of alcoholic soldiers. After an incident in which Hawkins goes overboard in his mistreatment of her — a thing that has not gone unnoticed by his superior — Clare’s husband Aidan (Michael Sheasby), who’s had enough of this no-win situation, decides it’s time for he, Clare, and their young baby, to leave. However, a confrontation with Hawkins escalates into a terrible act of violence that leaves the family completely destroyed in the most literal sense, and Clare is left for dead.

When she revives, her personality is completely changed. No longer the submissive young woman of the start of the film, Clare seeks justice with the determination of a warrior. However, being a convict (and a woman against a man’s word), justice does not happen. So she burns her home, enlists Billy (Baykali Ganambarr), a local Aboriginal male to help her track Hawkins and his gang with the promise of payment. Hawkins, in the meantime, has left in search of a promotion he expects to receive.

Image from The Film Stage

Clare’s and Billy’s journey, which at times reminded me somewhat of the Hepburn – Bogart adventure in The African Queen (with the obvious difference that Clare’s and Billy’s takes place on land), comes with its own share of difficulties. The relationship between Clare and Billy is appropriately prickly, so much that it risks losing the audience who might momentarily stop caring for Clare. However, the times do indicate that neither Clare nor Billy would have been on good terms to begin with due to their racial differences alone and that Billy’s kind would have been seen as less than human. However, Clare is keenly aware that she needs Billy’s expert knowledge of the land to fulfill her plan. As a lone woman in the 1820s, Clare would be, by proxy, subject to rape or even murder by men in the wilderness who live beyond the law. Adding to her troubles is her own rash behavior. Throughout the film she forgoes safety and ventures into questionable behavior. Billy, on the other hand, has no beef in this situation, and once he witnesses Clare go into a maniacal fury against one of the men responsible for her tragedy — a premature climax — he almost turns away.

However, by this point, there is an indefinable link between the two of them, and his sense of duty as well as her own realization that she is lost without him keep them firmly together as they advance to whatever awaits them at the end of this chase.

This is where The Nightingale begins to morph into something else. Anyone seeking the flat revenge picture offered through the trailer will be disappointed. Anyone wanting to see a deeply moving story about shared grief which renders us the same at the hands of fate will truly be moved by Kent’s story. While we, as the audience, demand that Hawkins pay for his atrocities — mind you, he doesn’t stop at Clare but moves on to casually destroy the defenseless –, and indeed we will get there, Kent keeps a firm focus on Clare and Billy moving steadily behind, always within grasp of their objective. By the use of their own native languages — Clare’s Gaelic as a furious soundboard to Billy’s own Palawa Kani — we hear two people railing against the horrors of colonialism. Billy realizes that Clare and he share much more, even when it takes her a bit longer to reach this point of understanding, so focused is she in her mission. These are two haunted people that learn to stick together. Their scenes together form passages of enormous beauty in which Clare will sing softly into the night, or towards the end, when all is said and done, the two face a brilliant Sun and Billy, clothed in the garments of his people, performs a dance of defiance, daring the world to erase him.

The Nightingale is not an easy film to see. This is a movie marked by acts of incredible violence against women and Aborigines alike, and after Clare’s own horrific sequence, there will be one more that happens twice, almost daring the audience to look away. Kent, however, will not do that, and instead keeps the camera on its grim, awful story because the near eradication of the native people at the heart of the historical drama demand it so. This is a far, far stronger piece than The Babadook because this one is rooted in a bleak part of Australian history, whereas horror is often trapped in its own genre limitations. That Kent tackles this topic with so much elegance and compassion speaks of her commitment to telling the truth, even when the result might not be satisfying at all levels.

55TH NY FILM FESTIVAL: ZAMA

ZAMA
Argentina
Director: Lucrecia Martel
Runtime: 115 minutes
Language: Spanish
Mostlyindies.com grading: C —
Argentina usually produces strong dramas that engage you right from the onset, so it confuses me as to why Lucrecia Martel’s film, Zama, based on an obscure novel by Antonio di Benedetto, winds up looking austerely beautiful with hints of the Colombian Embrace of the Serpent and Argentina’s own Jauja. Now, looking at the sheer lever of the producers involved – which include giants like the Almodovars alongside Gael Garcia Bernal, Danny Glover, Julia Solomonoff (who’s own picture Nadie Nos Mira won Best Actor at the 2017 Tribeca Film Festival and just enjoyed its run at the Film Forum; do seek this film out on DVD please) – I can perhaps see a reason. Twenty-seven producers thought adapting di Benedetto’s novel would be a great idea and perhaps on paper, it does look like it. But the film version never takes off unless we take into account a burgeoning relationship between the lead character (Daniel Jimenez Cacho) and the treasurer’s flirtatious wife (Lola Duenas).

 

To wit, this is the synopsis of the movie: Don Diego de Zama, a Spanish officer stationed in Asuncion, awaits his transfer to Buenos Aires. As it reads, this synopsis doesn’t exactly translate into compelling or engrossing and the picture itself remains unwilling to truly introduce us into Diego de Zama the man, how he arrived, who he is as a person, and his almost paralyzing fear of the mostly unseen super-villain Vicuña Porto who does make a late appearance in a rather surprising way. There is precious little that engrosses you to want to know what transpired in Asuncion. Yes, we wait for Zama’s transfer, while he parades himself as though he were a statue in movement, and it slowly becomes clear that this might not happen.  Zama, at first seen proud and authoritarian, begins to age and crumble by the sheer force of time imposed in exile. Meanwhile, we fail to truly connect because the movie’s own dense nature makes it nearly impossible to understand only at a marginal level. If at least the film had a hint of humor at what seems to be an absurd situation, perhaps it would be more engrossing, Sadly, we are left with a movie that slogs forward at a pace some art cinema snobs aficionados would like to identify as deliberate. To me, it’s as fast moving as the waters of those nearly still rivers covered in moss pictured at the end in what could be the film’s most dreamlike and serene sequence.

 

Zama, a curious movie without a start and an ending,  has been selected as the Argentinian entry for the Best Foreign Language movie at the 90th Academy Awards. Its release date will be sometime in 2018.

 






ON DVD: MOANA and BEAUTY AND THE BEAST

MOANA
USA
Director: Ron Clements, John Musker
Co-director: Don Hall, Chris Williams
Runtime: 107 minutes
Language: English

Mostlyindies grading:

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

If there ever were a studio capable of capturing the essence of myth and magic and distilling inspirational images of heroism and victory in the face of certain adversity while also enhancing the human experience down to minutiae, that would have to be Disney and its sister studios. Drawing elements of the real, where for a period of almost time Polynesian people did not seem to communicate with one another or sail to open waters to explore, directors Clements, Musker, Hall, and Williams create a tale from pure scratch that is in equal parts a coming-of-age, retribution, and pure movie magic. The theme of Moana is the return of the heart of Mother Earth, a glowing stone  dressed as an emerald-green crystal (which believers of New Age teachings could identify as the heart chakra). In presenting the action through the two main characters — the human Moana and the fallen demigod Maui, you have here a tale of redemption. Moana’s brave trip to the ocean — a trip that which looks preordained due to the fact that since Moana was an infant, the ocean would call out to her as if knowing her part already — literally redeems her people from certain death and establishes her position in society as a worthy successor to her father’s rule. Maui, who has the heavier responsibility to bear, resists during most of the movie until he has no other option than to support Moana in her quest and confront the goddess Te Ka/Te Fiti in order to receive his own powers and absolution. Both Lilui’i Cravahlo and Dwayne Johnson play out their parts to near perfection; both seem to have been born to play these roles and in turn also pay their respects to their own culture. A wonderful, instant classic from Disney and one that now features a feminist heroine completely independent from the limitations of plot development — she doesn’t have a prince who in turn has to save her — and also doesn’t conform to the look and feel of older Disney heroines. Don’t be surprised if either Heihei (Alan Tudyk) and Tamatoa (Jemaine Clements) appear in other films. The post-credits sequence seems to suggest so that at least one of them will do so.

Moana is available on all DVD/VOD formats.

 

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST
USA
Director: Bill Condon
Runtime: 129 minutes
Language: English

Mostlyindies grading:

5 out of 5 stars (5 / 5)

It’s safe to say that Beauty and the Beast is one of those rare stories that seems to be impermeable to remakes. However, it might be the reason the French live action film from 2014, which barely made a dent in US Cinemas, was a dismal failure despite gorgeous production values (although nothing close to Condon’s version, I will say). The irony of the 2014 version, which starred Lea Seydoux, Vincent Cassel, and veteran actor Andre Dussolier, is that their version is more or less closer to the original although it adds a subplot of a mercenary rogue played by Eduardo Noriega. Perhaps audiences are too entrenched with the Disney animated musical, and in my theory, they should be: Condon pulls out all the visual stops almost from the word go, and he raises the bar until he (and we) reach the showstopping musical sequence “Be Our Guest” and follows it up rather swiftly with the crucial dance/romantic sequence where Belle dances with the Beast. The ghost of Busby Berkeley hovers over heavily over the first sequence, in which everyone animated and inanimate performs as though they’d been waiting a lifetime just for this moment. However, the dance sequence that follows shortly after is probably one of the most romantic pieces ever made and while it might not dethrone the 1991 version it comes extremely close to in lighting and mood alone. Whether you are a fan of the 1991 version, I’m pretty sure you won’t be disappointed with this one.