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ICMF-FF5: Main Slate

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outdoorcats
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#41

Post by outdoorcats »

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Aniara (Pella Kagerman and Hugo Lilja - 2018)

An exasperating, bleak existential clunker, Aniara might appeal to some Bergman fans or viewers who can get something cathartic out of misery porn. I checked out less than 10 minutes in, unable to take it's drama seriously. Up to that point, we have a compelling sci-fi premise: Earth is dying and cruise-ship like spaceships are shuttling the wealthiest people to Mars, where humanity will start over. One of the ship's employees is a "Mimaroben," whose job is to maintain an AI, the "Mima Host," that can relax distressed and traumatized passengers by taking them back into memories of a peaceful, happy Earth (a lot of the Mima Host imagery is inspired by Tarkovsky's Solaris, which is cool). The ship is filmed in a gritty, documentary-like way, suggesting we're in for a hard sci-fi or something adjacent.

And then a piece of debris ends up in an engine, causing an explosion that forces the ship to jettison all its fuel (?) and hurtling in the wrong direction. The film already started to lose me with its wide VFX shot of the accident which unfortunately depicts it as if the ship suddenly falls through space before righting itself, like it was dropped from a string. :facepalm: Then the subsequent explanations as to how it's simply impossible for them to do anything but drift into space for eternity are either nonsensical or not given at all. They can create their own food for passengers for years, but they can't make enough fuel of some kind to give the ship a push in the right direction? There are no shuttles? It's matter of factly stated that they have no communication with anyone else during the journey. What? Why? How? Throughout the film we see the ship's scientists and physicists figure out and build some complicated stuff, but apparently no one attempts to engineer a solution to the relatively simple problem of decelerating the ship and pushing it back towards Mars.

Look, I get it. The ship's a metaphor for Earth, the passengers a metaphor for humanity. I'm also aware this is an adaptation of a literary work from the 1950s. But Aniara has a fundamental problem in that it wants to be this philosophical allegory and it also wants to have the aesthetic and story beats of a grittier, more realistic sci-fi. And it just doesn't work. I can't buy into the story beats when the basic premise just loses me. Not to mention, as philosophy goes, it doesn't have much more going than, "everything is misery and despair, the end." At least it is not overall badly made.

4/10

CONTROVERSY! :circle: Tell me why I'm wrong! What did I miss? (the discussion here has been a little dead the past couple days)

P.S. the good news is that I've at least really liked all the other Main Slate films I've seen so far. :cheers:

A lie ain't a 'side of the story.' It's just a lie.
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#42

Post by St. Gloede »

outdoorcats wrote: November 22nd, 2021, 8:39 am CONTROVERSY! :circle: Tell me why I'm wrong! What did I miss? (the discussion here has been a little dead the past couple days)
I think the one thing I really loved about it, and which you did not talk about, is the dark comedy of manners (which may be too Scandinavian and not appreciated by all). As the ship goes of course you have go through a long set of stages where people in different ways try to maintain a civil society, politeness, normalcy, etc. The type of acceptance and mundanity that they all practice, even in the face of devastation. The presentations by the Captain, how everyone keeps doing their job, how their facades start to strip away. The coupling of mundanity in face of extreme circumstances and how all try to maintain responsible and proper behaviour is a key element here, is borderline absurd, yet recognizable and biting, bringing in a dark existential comedy very specific to Scandinavia. You can see it in many other key films as well (take the Norwegian comedy A Bothersome Man for instance, where the afterlife is the same as the real world just slightly colder and more driven by commercialism). Commercialism is also present throughout this work, again with a darkly comedic sting.

You are absolutely right that the film is attempting to set up the ship as a microcosm of human society, and the elements of minimalism, simply stripping away time and showing decay was very effective to me. As were the many standout characters who brought a surprising amount of emotional debt into a film which could run the risk of just being a cold exercise. I was personally quite grabbed by the human drama, especially the core romance and family element - while the stages of societal decay - and dark existential comedy further created a kind of trinity of interest points that I felt were kept strong throughout - complete with heartbreaks and utter bleakness.
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#43

Post by beavis »

outdoorcats wrote: November 22nd, 2021, 8:39 am CONTROVERSY! :circle: Tell me why I'm wrong! What did I miss? (the discussion here has been a little dead the past couple days)
Not much controversy here, it is the only film in the main slate I did not give my support to :)
I was surprised to learn afterwards that it is based on an old poem. This might excuse some of the lapses in science, but the form the film presents itself in is indeed regular commercial scifi as we know it from Star Trek and the like, so it is hard to ignore that. And on a philosophical note the dilemma's presented are also not very deep or handeled well... so it was unsatisying and weak on all counts for me.
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#44

Post by beavis »

There were 2 movies from the Main slate I hadn't seen myself yet. There Is No Evil will be released in my local cinema soon. I had waited on that release, and it is fun that through all the Covid circumstances, our festival and its Dutch release coincides!

Yesterday I watched "S he"
What a find zzzorf made there!!! (where did you find it?!?) It seems this one really went under everybody's radar, and of all the experimental animation I watched recently and in preparation for the festival, this one easily shoots to the top echelon (I also watched Marona which is equally great!! I had missed that one in local cinema's before, so at least I had heard about it). I love the surreal ecology they created for this film. There is some allegory expressed with it that might adress sexism but ultimately goes into more classic/party politics it seems. It lost me a bit in the final twists and turns... I might need to see it again, or it might just be that I did not care for where it went... so it is not a home run, but the originality, the design, the animation skills... al that deserves the highest praise and makes this film a joy to watch.
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#45

Post by zzzorf »

beavis wrote: November 22nd, 2021, 11:30 am There were 2 movies from the Main slate I hadn't seen myself yet. There Is No Evil will be released in my local cinema soon. I had waited on that release, and it is fun that through all the Covid circumstances, our festival and its Dutch release coincides!

Yesterday I watched "S he"
What a find zzzorf made there!!! (where did you find it?!?) It seems this one really went under everybody's radar, and of all the experimental animation I watched recently and in preparation for the festival, this one easily shoots to the top echelon (I also watched Marona which is equally great!! I had missed that one in local cinema's before, so at least I had heard about it). I love the surreal ecology they created for this film. There is some allegory expressed with it that might adress sexism but ultimately goes into more classic/party politics it seems. It lost me a bit in the final twists and turns... I might need to see it again, or it might just be that I did not care for where it went... so it is not a home run, but the originality, the design, the animation skills... al that deserves the highest praise and makes this film a joy to watch.
It was just a freeleach on PTP that caught my interest right at the time I thought our animation noms were looking low so basically it just fell into my lap at the right time and after watching it I felt that this forum was the exact right place for it.
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#46

Post by St. Gloede »

beavis wrote: November 22nd, 2021, 11:30 am There were 2 movies from the Main slate I hadn't seen myself yet. There Is No Evil will be released in my local cinema soon. I had waited on that release, and it is fun that through all the Covid circumstances, our festival and its Dutch release coincides!

Yesterday I watched "S he"
What a find zzzorf made there!!! (where did you find it?!?) It seems this one really went under everybody's radar, and of all the experimental animation I watched recently and in preparation for the festival, this one easily shoots to the top echelon (I also watched Marona which is equally great!! I had missed that one in local cinema's before, so at least I had heard about it). I love the surreal ecology they created for this film. There is some allegory expressed with it that might adress sexism but ultimately goes into more classic/party politics it seems. It lost me a bit in the final twists and turns... I might need to see it again, or it might just be that I did not care for where it went... so it is not a home run, but the originality, the design, the animation skills... al that deserves the highest praise and makes this film a joy to watch.
Yes, I could not agree more. This is really the find of the year as far as I am concerned. I think it is really interesting that the two most underseen films on the main slate this year are both from 2018 - the other being La ciudad oculta - which has 7 less votes on IMDb and 31 more watches on Letterboxd - though here, with S he - we have a film that has much greater universal appeal. It may not hit the general animation fan market, but it certainly hits both the stop motion fans (not to mention Jan Svankmajer fans) and the "Asian Weird" fans. It is visually explosive, vibrant, weird, entertaining. This should be one of those big "cult" hits with a string of festival accolades, critics lists and a genuine broad international audience, even outside hardcore film buffs - but that's not happening. I think the reason is solely that it has gone under the radar and has not had those chances - perhaps in part due to China not having an established way to export/market this type of project (i.e. either pushing big-budget blockbusters, genre films or more traditional contemplative arthouse works).

I do hope it is not too late for it to get international exposure as a newish film, and if it is, I hope there is a rediscovery process.

Anyways, here's what I wrote about it.


S He (2018, Shengwei Zhou)

Image

S He takes us into a viscerally unnerving, past borderline grotesque experience of metal, leather and cloth, where each everyday item can be as off-putting and disturbing as the next. There is an elusive power in stop motion to render everyday objects sinister and this is a perfect case study in all its nightmarish splendour.

In case there was any doubt from hearing this is a film about shoes, I brush away any fantasy that this might be something akin Disney or Pixar. If anything it is closer to Svankmajer.

This is a world with rigid gender-conformity and oppression. The male leather shoes, where anything feminine must be killed a replaced with paint and metal - and frankly, this is ideal by comparison. The women shoes are kept imprisoned, locked away within layers of clothes - their only allowed use being reproduction - and this despite the vibrancy living within them.

There is not a line of dialogue in the film. Everything is done through sound - and the sounds ape is unsettling in and off itself. The visceral euphoric expression of nature vs. metal - here represented by the metallic contraption acting as an artificial form of domination for the men - and the literal plants/flowers growing from the women - and the clashes that occur when one woman's shoe breaks free is both sublime and horrifying.

This is however not a film with easy points about gender roles, but a horrifying trip into an extended nightmare with increasingly twisted turns, embodiments and expressions. It may require many more viewings to interpret and pick apart what it actually means - and even what certain scenes actually depict - but as a sensory experience it is unlike almost anything else.

Honestly, this feels like the kind of film festivals like ours are meant to show and help people discover. One of the greatest discoveries of the festival, and an incredible visual style. Filmbantha sold it to be as comparable to Svankmajer's style, and that is a great and fairly accurate way to sell it - though it is entirely a beast of its own.
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#47

Post by hurluberlu »

Aniara (Hugo Lilja, Pella Kagerman, 2018) 6-
So yes, it had a lot of potential with its lost-in-space story line and a diverse cast but does not fulfill it, neither as a suspenseful thriller nor a metaphysical tale. It gradually depletes the capital of its strong, early built-up with casual scenes and seems to shy away from any opportunity to shift gear. The drop of MIMA dream machine story arc is the more regrettable as it could have propulsed the film high there with Solaris if handled differently. It does show some consistency in its low-key tone though, that at least gives the feeling of a genuine journey in cosmic boredom.
ranking
There Is No Evil / Sheytan vojud nadarad (Mohammad Rasoulof, 2020) 8
This Is Not a Burial, It's a Resurrection (Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, 2019) 8-
Beanpole / Dylda (Kantemir Balagov, 2019) 7-
Echo / Bergmál (Rúnar Rúnarsson, 2019) 7-
The Twentieth Century (Matthew Rankin, 2019) 6+
Aniara (Hugo Lilja, Pella Kagerman, 2018) 6-
The Hidden City / La ciudad oculta (Víctor Moreno, 2018) 5+
Promare (Hiroyuki Imaishi, 2019) 4+
reviews
The Hidden City / La ciudad oculta (Víctor Moreno, 2018) 5+
Maybe an underground Leviathan indeed, for its raw take of in situ sounds, but where there was life, or death, in every shot of Leviathan, we are left with too many bland shots and long inexpressive travelling here, especially near the end. There is only so much you can get out of lights in a tunnel, even less a sewage tunnel. First mesmerized by the beauty of composition and space analogy, it gradually vanishes as less meaningful settings succeeed before falling into the mundane without much left to care for.

The Twentieth Century (Matthew Rankin, 2019) 6+
Asking Terry Gilliam, Wes Anderson and Bertrand Mandico to make a film together with a predefined theme (Canada's politics at the turn of the 20th century) and style (revisiting Expressionism in Cinema) would have likely produced the same result. In other words, there is a huge talent at play here although it looks a little forced. And where any of these directors would typically pull you in a complete cinematic experience, I felt a distanced observer all along: the grotesque humor mixed with Canada insider cultural, political and historical references flew well over my head for the most, let alone the cryptic ending. I am going to assume it is all clear (and fun) for citizens of the Commonwealth. But otherwise it is really a feast for the cinephile eyes and Rankin is now high on my watch list of promising directors I will look forward to the next film.

Echo / Bergmál (Rúnar Rúnarsson, 2019) 7-
A series of 56 single shots carefully crafted to tell each a small story on Iceland society during Christmas holiday. Visually it is always interesting to see what choices of setting and framing were made. Some of the saynettes are intense enough to make you curious on how a longer scene or a full film would have develop. It just lacks a stronger denominator to connect and elevate the something more than a bitter sweet travel book.

This Is Not a Burial, It's a Resurrection (Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, 2019) 8-
Splending cinematography in 4/3 format which was seemingly the winning ratio of 2019 for auteur cinema, looking at First Cow, Sin, The Lighthouse, Enormous... We dont get to see a film from Lesotho too often so when it manages to give us a hint of what life and customs look like and on top connect a local drama with universal matters such as mourning, transmission and cultural values vs modernity, lovers of world cinema should exult. Mosese skills with a camera certainly serve the multiple layers of the story as he is excelling in close, intimate shots as well as deep space compositions and other techniques. It sometimes looks a little too self-aware but this really the only grief I have and this is a great find !

Aniara (Hugo Lilja, Pella Kagerman, 2018) 6-
So yes it had a lot of potential with its lost-in-space story line and a diverse cast but does not fulfill it neither has a suspenseful thriller nor a metaphysical tale. It gradually depletes the capital of its strong, early built-up with casual scenes and seems to shy away from any opportunity to shift gear. The drop of MIMA dream machine story arc is the more regrettable as it could have propulsed the film high there with Solaris if handled differently. It does show some consistency in its low-key tone though that at least gives the feeling of a genuine journey in cosmic boredom.
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#48

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La ciudad oculta (2018) 6/10
Quite liked this for the most part but it probably would've been more effective as a 30-40 minute short film. An exploration of train tunnels, sewers, pipes it is almost like it takes place in the innards of a spaceship or some unknown world. It's dark and disorienting with a moody and spacey soundtrack and often haunting. Some of the visuals are beautiful, others are creepy and cool, others just plain nice and some are mundane. While there are segments that are captivating, there's also a lot of filler that makes it hard to immerse yourself in the world. The last twenty minutes seemed irrelevant and I felt it would've been better without seeing so many human faces.
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#49

Post by filmbantha »

It's great to see all the feedback on our festival programme, I'm pleased to see that the majority of the reactions are positive and lots of people are participating!

I wanted to highlight an aspect of our festival that we haven't yet mentioned, which is to bring attention to the films in the programme that are helmed by a female Director, as I know some of our forum members may be interested in prioritising these films:

Main Slate:
Aniara (co-directed with a male director)

African Slate
Youth

Animation Slate
The Swallows of Kabul
Marona's fantastic tale

Arthouse Slate
Obscuro Barroco

Documentary Slate
Our blood is Wine

Euro Slate
Crystal Swan

Latin America Slate
Song without a name

My personal favourite from the above selection would be The Swallows of Kabul but all of these films have something great to offer :thumbsup:
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#50

Post by flavo5000 »

This Is Not a Burial, It's a Resurrection (2019) 7.5/10
This was a gorgeously shot film with an excellent score. The narrative itself felt a little too slippery and I was constantly in a state of losing my grasp on it. Mary Twala was absolutely entrancing though.
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#51

Post by maxwelldeux »

filmbantha wrote: November 23rd, 2021, 11:46 am I wanted to highlight an aspect of our festival that we haven't yet mentioned, which is to bring attention to the films in the programme that are helmed by a female Director, as I know some of our forum members may be interested in prioritising these films:

Documentary Slate
Our blood is Wine
Which is hilariously and frustratingly ironic that "This Changes Everything" was not actually directed by a woman. I remember thinking last year "great points, but c'mon..." :facepalm:
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#52

Post by zzzorf »

maxwelldeux wrote: November 24th, 2021, 12:38 am
filmbantha wrote: November 23rd, 2021, 11:46 am I wanted to highlight an aspect of our festival that we haven't yet mentioned, which is to bring attention to the films in the programme that are helmed by a female Director, as I know some of our forum members may be interested in prioritising these films:

Documentary Slate
Our blood is Wine
Which is hilariously and frustratingly ironic that "This Changes Everything" was not actually directed by a woman. I remember thinking last year "great points, but c'mon..." :facepalm:
Yeah that was really a big mistake in my eyes and is the only reason it got a 9/10 for me, it would have got a 10 if they actually were made according to what they were striving to achieve.
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#53

Post by filmbantha »

maxwelldeux wrote: November 24th, 2021, 12:38 am
filmbantha wrote: November 23rd, 2021, 11:46 am I wanted to highlight an aspect of our festival that we haven't yet mentioned, which is to bring attention to the films in the programme that are helmed by a female Director, as I know some of our forum members may be interested in prioritising these films:

Documentary Slate
Our blood is Wine
Which is hilariously and frustratingly ironic that "This Changes Everything" was not actually directed by a woman. I remember thinking last year "great points, but c'mon..." :facepalm:
I haven't seen it yet but knowing what the film is about I agree that this feels like a big miss. Definitely deserving of a facepalm! :facepalm: :lol:
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#54

Post by beavis »

it doesn't disqualify the content (or the quality) of the movie though...
not everything has to be polarized in life... cancelled without a single glance... let's keep an open mind and celebrate all the male feminists out there ;)
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#55

Post by Onderhond »

I can certainly see how having a man as a director could've been beneficial to getting some pivotal people to open up in front of the camera? I mean, if there's institutional sexism you want to cover, being a woman in charge instantly means you're being disadvantaged? Not the best position to make a doc about the subject maybe?
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#56

Post by hurluberlu »

S He (Shengwei Zhou, 2018) 5-
It is original and the stop-motion is top-notch but it is also an excruciable bore to sit through: I found it ugly (never got modern China taste for flashy colors) and the gender fight metaphore left me unconvinced. As a short it could have been much more impactful. I am not hitting too hard on the rating for its technical qualities but it is a dislike.
NB: with the 20th Century and this, are there shoe fetishist among the programmers ?
ranking
There Is No Evil / Sheytan vojud nadarad (Mohammad Rasoulof, 2020) 8
This Is Not a Burial, It's a Resurrection (Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, 2019) 8-
Beanpole / Dylda (Kantemir Balagov, 2019) 7-
Echo / Bergmál (Rúnar Rúnarsson, 2019) 7-
The Twentieth Century (Matthew Rankin, 2019) 6+
Aniara (Hugo Lilja, Pella Kagerman, 2018) 6-
The Hidden City / La ciudad oculta (Víctor Moreno, 2018) 5+
S He (Shengwei Zhou, 2018) 5-
Promare (Hiroyuki Imaishi, 2019) 4+
reviews
The Hidden City / La ciudad oculta (Víctor Moreno, 2018) 5+
Maybe an underground Leviathan indeed, for its raw take of in situ sounds, but where there was life, or death, in every shot of Leviathan, we are left with too many bland shots and long inexpressive travelling here, especially near the end. There is only so much you can get out of lights in a tunnel, even less a sewage tunnel. First mesmerized by the beauty of composition and space analogy, it gradually vanishes as less meaningful settings succeeed before falling into the mundane without much left to care for.

The Twentieth Century (Matthew Rankin, 2019) 6+
Asking Terry Gilliam, Wes Anderson and Bertrand Mandico to make a film together with a predefined theme (Canada's politics at the turn of the 20th century) and style (revisiting Expressionism in Cinema) would have likely produced the same result. In other words, there is a huge talent at play here although it looks a little forced. And where any of these directors would typically pull you in a complete cinematic experience, I felt a distanced observer all along: the grotesque humor mixed with Canada insider cultural, political and historical references flew well over my head for the most, let alone the cryptic ending. I am going to assume it is all clear (and fun) for citizens of the Commonwealth. But otherwise it is really a feast for the cinephile eyes and Rankin is now high on my watch list of promising directors I will look forward to the next film.

Echo / Bergmál (Rúnar Rúnarsson, 2019) 7-
A series of 56 single shots carefully crafted to tell each a small story on Iceland society during Christmas holiday. Visually it is always interesting to see what choices of setting and framing were made. Some of the saynettes are intense enough to make you curious on how a longer scene or a full film would have develop. It just lacks a stronger denominator to connect and elevate the something more than a bitter sweet travel book.

This Is Not a Burial, It's a Resurrection (Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, 2019) 8-
Splending cinematography in 4/3 format which was seemingly the winning ratio of 2019 for auteur cinema, looking at First Cow, Sin, The Lighthouse, Enormous... We dont get to see a film from Lesotho too often so when it manages to give us a hint of what life and customs look like and on top connect a local drama with universal matters such as mourning, transmission and cultural values vs modernity, lovers of world cinema should exult. Mosese skills with a camera certainly serve the multiple layers of the story as he is excelling in close, intimate shots as well as deep space compositions and other techniques. It sometimes looks a little too self-aware but this really the only grief I have and this is a great find !

Aniara (Hugo Lilja, Pella Kagerman, 2018) 6-
So yes it had a lot of potential with its lost-in-space story line and a diverse cast but does not fulfill it neither has a suspenseful thriller nor a metaphysical tale. It gradually depletes the capital of its strong, early built-up with casual scenes and seems to shy away from any opportunity to shift gear. The drop of MIMA dream machine story arc is the more regrettable as it could have propulsed the film high there with Solaris if handled differently. It does show some consistency in its low-key tone though that at least gives the feeling of a genuine journey in cosmic boredom.

S He (Shengwei Zhou, 2018) 5-
It is original and the stop-motion is top-notch but it is also an excruciable bore to sit through: I found it ugly and the gender fight metaphore left me unconvinced. As a short it could have been much more impactful. I am not hitting too hard on the rating for its technical qualities but it is a dislike.
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#57

Post by xianjiro »

filmbantha wrote: November 24th, 2021, 1:08 pm
maxwelldeux wrote: November 24th, 2021, 12:38 am
filmbantha wrote: November 23rd, 2021, 11:46 am I wanted to highlight an aspect of our festival that we haven't yet mentioned, which is to bring attention to the films in the programme that are helmed by a female Director, as I know some of our forum members may be interested in prioritising these films:

Documentary Slate
Our blood is Wine
Which is hilariously and frustratingly ironic that "This Changes Everything" was not actually directed by a woman. I remember thinking last year "great points, but c'mon..." :facepalm:
I haven't seen it yet but knowing what the film is about I agree that this feels like a big miss. Definitely deserving of a facepalm! :facepalm: :lol:
While I share the disappointment, I'm also willing to concede there might be a valid reason why this happened, for example, maybe the force behind the project was the director or funding was contingent on his directing (in other words, the project wouldn't have been made at all). Variety's review states, "Before the #MeToo movement began, director Tom Donahue began assembling a documentary about gender inequality in Hollywood. He could hardly have timed it better." If nothing else, he could have co-directed it with any of a number of capable female documentary directors if they were available.
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#58

Post by maxwelldeux »

beavis wrote: November 24th, 2021, 1:21 pm it doesn't disqualify the content (or the quality) of the movie though...
not everything has to be polarized in life... cancelled without a single glance... let's keep an open mind and celebrate all the male feminists out there ;)
Totally agree - I really did love everything about the film. The gender of the director says absolutely nothing about the content or quality of the film - but I'll stick with "hilariously and frustratingly ironic" that a film with one (of many) points being that "more women need to get the opportunity to direct" did not actually have a woman direct.

I'll parallel this with Disclosure (a film I have not seen yet, but plan to as soon as December hits), also on the documentary slate. Imagine how "hilariously and frustratingly ironic" it would be if a film about trans representation in cinema didn't actually interview trans people. Totally hypothetical scenario - I've looked up enough to know that's not the case. It's just... a thing I've become increasingly aware of over the years and like to point out occasionally.
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#59

Post by maxwelldeux »

xianjiro wrote: November 24th, 2021, 8:04 pm While I share the disappointment, I'm also willing to concede there might be a valid reason why this happened, for example, maybe the force behind the project was the director or funding was contingent on his directing (in other words, the project wouldn't have been made at all). Variety's review states, "Before the #MeToo movement began, director Tom Donahue began assembling a documentary about gender inequality in Hollywood. He could hardly have timed it better." If nothing else, he could have co-directed it with any of a number of capable female documentary directors if they were available.
That's a cool piece you linked to - I enjoyed that read.

When I watched it, I was actually expecting that Geena Davis directed it - she was so instrumental to the film that it seemed like a given. But... it is what it is. A really good film that makes a lot of great points. Like you said - I'm sure there are reasons for it. Weird shit is weird. I've been around the block enough to know there are weirdly contingent thousands of questions and decisions along the way to a finished thing.
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#60

Post by Teproc »

I've been watching the films, but haven't made the time to give my thoughts, so here we go. First with one I'd seen before the festival:

This Is Not a Burial, It's a Resurrection (Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, 2011)
Spoiler
Puzzled by the title, as I'm seeing a lot of grief and not much in the way of rebirth here, but an interesting and evocative exploration of the way humanity constantly steps over its own graves and leaves its dead behind, though perhaps slightly too enigmatic for my taste.

This is where the "review" I wrote after seeing it ends. I guess I remember it having some stunning shots and an interesting mood of inevitable decay, but I feel like there's a part of the film that I didn't quite connect with, though I did enjoy it for the most part.

6/10

The Twentieth Century (Matthew Rankin, 2019)

Spoiler
A confusing film in many ways, mostly good though. I'm not entirely sure what the end goal is here, if there's something specific being pastiched, or if rankin is just incorporating elements of German Expressionism in some scenes while shooting other scenes like he's doing a 1940s Technicolor melodrama just because he can. If it's the latter, that's all well and good and it all looks pretty great, but I do wonder if there's something more to be gleaned there. I feel smiliarly about the choice to make this about an actual historical figure - obviously Rankin is having fun with Canada's self-representation - the "Great Disappointment" and the queueing, but also clubbing baby seals and the colonial dictatorship, with the common theme seemingly being repression, sexual or otherwise. There's a real darkness underneath the silliness here, but - and this is where I struggle a bit - also kind of an earnest romanticism? Rankin is doing a lot here and he's clearly having a lot of fun, which I'm here for, but in the end I'm left with the feeling that while I appreciate a lot of the individual elements, the whole doesn't quite feel coherent to me. That being said, I'm very intrigued to see where he goes from there, since this was his debut feature. Loved the music, kinda reminiscent of Desplat's scores for Wes Anderson.

6/10

Aniara (Pella Kagerman & Hugo Lilja, 2018)

Spoiler
Including an hommage to one of my favorite visuals from Solyaris (this one) in the first twenty minutes of your sci-fi film is a good way to get me in your good graces, and it was an initial indication that, contrary to what its intiail hard sci-fi trappings might indicate, Aniara was more interested in a psychological and metaphysical approach rather than asking practical questions about what would happen to a space airliner drifting into space for years on end. That is perhaps the main issue that this film has, in that it raises many questions as to how its society functions and never seems able to really deal with them - we get a few scenes with the captain struggling with certain decisions, but we never get any sense of the political reality on the ship, and in fact I'd say a lot of what we do see strikes me as a bit undercooked. But again, that's not what the film is mostly about, and learning that it was an adaptation of an epic poem from the 50s afterwards made a lot of sense, because this is a more internal, psychological tale about the two main characters and about what it's like to be forced to face our place in the universe - that of a speck o[ dust, essentially.

There are a lot of brilliant sci-fi ideas in there (presumably from the poem) - mainly the Mima and the invention by our main character later on that essentially attempts to put humanity back in Plato's cavern, what an evocative idea! Because the film goes more and more episodic as it goes along, I'm left with individual scenes, like the arrival of the long-awaited unidentified object and of course the ending, which really left a strong impression on me and made the film work despite all of its unexplored strains of thoughts (the cult sequence particularly struck me as misplaced if you're not going to look more seriously as to how society evolves with regards to spirituality - in the end it feels like a narrative device to provide this lesbian couple with a child). That ending really has all that the film should have perhaps emphasized more with regards to the smallness and futility that one is inevitably filled by when having to face the universe. This is a film that suffers a bit for not sticking to its core idea more, but those core ideas are so strong that I think it still ends up a pretty interesting work, one I enjoyed quite a bit anyway.

7/10

As a sidenote, anyone frustrated this didn't explore societal issues related to this kind of sci-fi more deeply should really read Liu Cixin's Remembrance of Earth's Past trilogy. Likely to be adapted into a disappointing Amazon TV show at some point, but the books are great.
Dylda / Beanpole (Kantemir Balagov, 2019)
Spoiler
Miserabilism is a trend in a certain kind of "arthouse" cinema that I get annoyed with pretty quickly. Films which have no other purpose than to highlight the terribleness of a given situation, piling misfortune upon misfortune over a set of characters, which all add up to nothing but misery. It's difficult to say why I feel differently about Beanpole, which on its face is exactly that, and even the general idea that I got from it, its depiction of characters so ravaged by war that they have entirely reverted to an emotional state that allows them to survive and endure by focusing on the most basic of necessities (physical survival) and a singular goal (mental survival), be it having a child (any child) or grasping on to another person like a rock in a storm - that all could be trite and uninspiring, but somehow it isn't. Part of it, I think, is the cinematography and production design. When I hear a film is set in post-war Leningrad, I first think there's a 50/50 shot it'll be in black and white, because the past is always in black and white when it's bleak, duh, and if it isn't it's going to be as drab as possible, grey tones all over. That's what we get in the exterior scenes, but the interiors are so colorful, shot in such a warm light that I see another idea that sounds trite writing it but felt grand watching it, that the exteriors (read: the world outside the characters) is that bleak, but that they retain a sliver of humanity buried deep inside their protective apparel (mental or physical), that even when we see them shrugging off the death of a child or mercilessly using each other, there's that color (often green, traditionally the color of hope) in the background reminding us that there is vitality there, just a kind of vitality that most of us will thankfully never have to experience, because it's buried under all of that trauma.

The other factor is the performances of course, especially that of Vasilisa Perelygina, as she's the most active character in the whole thing, the one most of the plot is activated by at any time, and also the one that breaks through the miserabilist form in the most obvious way, since she inflicts as much as she suffers, unlike our protagonist. She's the key to the film, and the scenes that others have highlighted (the dinner scene and the final scene between the two main characters) rely on her more than on the eponymous character (who's quite good too, don't get me wrong), and she brings the complexity and the depth to her character, able to show her inherent vulnerability after having been such a driving force throughout.

8/10
Zhuang si le yi shi yang / Jinpa (Pema Tseden, 2018)
Spoiler
This film really hinges on one scene (well, you might argue it's really two scenes), the one in the restaurant. Everything about that is great, but especially the shot composition, it's perfect. The rest of the film is evocative enough, and I found this moral fable intriguing and held together by a winning... performance? Maybe it's more the presence of the main actor (interestingly credited as Jinpa himself, hinting at a blurred line between fiction and documentary, though this very much plays as fiction on screen), always seeming out of place and out of time in the film, something that is very much purposeful on Tseden's part of course. It all looks lovely too, and though I don't have that much to say about its somewhat familiar exploration of a man facing his past/potential alternative version of himself (as I understood it anyway, maybe there's something else there), I enjoyed being in this story, which is sometimes all you need.

7/10
La ciudad oculta / The Hidden City (Victor Moreno, 2018)
Spoiler
An intriguing concept that falls flat. Lifeless might be the word because the few times this film started grabbing my attention again were when it went into the sewers and showed the animals living there - now that's a "hidden city" I could see being worthy of attention, but endless shot of metro tunnels... not so much. It's all shot very prettily, but I found it to be a bore unfortunately.

3/10
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#61

Post by cinewest »

@ Teproc

I've been meaning to write more about This is not a Burial..., and other films I have seen in the main slate, but I have just been too busy up to now.

I, too, have given the ending some thought in terms of the title, and would say that the "resurrection" has to do with the old lady coming back to life and fighting for her homeland after reaching a point where she only wanted to die.

Absolutely loved the opening, with the Griot introducing the story, and the filmmaker capturing me immediately in that cinematic soundscape.
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#62

Post by St. Gloede »

I think a large part of the power of the title is how many potential interpretations it can have and how it affects the way we see the film. The title is looming over us throughout, and we try to do just what Matthieu is doing here, looking for the potential resurrection.

One of the clearest and most literal ways it does this is asking us if the submergion of the village and relocation of the people could be the resurrection in question - but as the people start to gather to fight this "progress" the referenced resurrection may be far closer to home. Then of course, we have the very literal Burial, and the grieving process which carries through the entire film, before our lead is reawakened to a different fight and calling.

I think there are at least three ways to look at the title and its fulfillment. The first is indeed our lead coming out of her trance and fighting for her village, the second is the extended reawakening of the people of the village itself and the third, and perhaps more melancholy - given the note the film ends on - that this spirit can not die down and will resurrect even if they lose their land and are relocated.
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#63

Post by cinewest »

St. Gloede wrote: November 25th, 2021, 8:42 pm I think a large part of the power of the title is how many potential interpretations it can have and how it affects the way we see the film. The title is looming over us throughout, and we try to do just what Matthieu is doing here, looking for the potential resurrection.

One of the clearest and most literal ways it does this is asking us if the submergion of the village and relocation of the people could be the resurrection in question - but as the people start to gather to fight this "progress" the referenced resurrection may be far closer to home. Then of course, we have the very literal Burial, and the grieving process which carries through the entire film, before our lead is reawakened to a different fight and calling.

I think there are at least three ways to look at the title and its fulfillment. The first is indeed our lead coming out of her trance and fighting for her village, the second is the extended reawakening of the people of the village itself and the third, and perhaps more melancholy - given the note the film ends on - that this spirit can not die down and will resurrect even if they lose their land and are relocated.
Yes, I think she as an individual, and elder, becomes a catalyst for her people and the title refers to the village and it’s people as much as her in the end.
At one point, earlier on, she is considered to be “going mad,” and then wants to bury herself before resurrecting.

It is a Christian village, and so biblical themes are also present throughout.

I have a few minor complaints, like I think it might have resonated more had the girl at the end been used as more of a witness throughout, but overall, this is still my favorite film at the festival, so far.
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#64

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Dylda (2019) 6/10
Taking place in the aftermath of a war, we see how this 'unseen' war has left everyone and the world with many traumas. It doesn't feel like a typical war film and is more quiet and observant for the most part. A tragic early scene involving one of Iya's episodes is a good example of how the film deals with events in this world: we aren't shown every little detail but the effects of these tragedies and traumas are apparent in those who have lived them. Also the 'amusing' moment when a character's first question regarding the photo of someone's children is 'are they alive?'. The world of the film is bleak and miserable but never feels like misery porn. It almost felt like the world of Eraserhead with the look of The Wizard of Oz. The first half did a good job at setting all this up. And then comes along Masha, the most pointless, generic villain who is only interested in manipulating people and having a child. The film seemed to have some sympathy for her for some reason but she was just so awful--not just as a person but the character wasn't very interesting either and the way the plot went after her appearance was stupid and got more ridiculous. I struggled to understand many actions of either of these characters and the deeper we went into them the less interested I became.
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#65

Post by St. Gloede »

Great notes in these reviews btw, Matthieu, wanted to pick up on a few of them.
Teproc wrote: November 25th, 2021, 5:01 pm The Twentieth Century (Matthew Rankin, 2019)[/b]

A confusing film in many ways, mostly good though. I'm not entirely sure what the end goal is here, if there's something specific being pastiched, or if rankin is just incorporating elements of German Expressionism in some scenes while shooting other scenes like he's doing a 1940s Technicolor melodrama just because he can. If it's the latter, that's all well and good and it all looks pretty great, but I do wonder if there's something more to be gleaned there.
My thought while watching it was that it was a pastiche of 20th Century (early to mid-20th century) filmmaking techniques, strengths and limitations - though I do
I feel smiliarly about the choice to make this about an actual historical figure - obviously Rankin is having fun with Canada's self-representation - the "Great Disappointment" and the queueing, but also clubbing baby seals and the colonial dictatorship, with the common theme seemingly being repression, sexual or otherwise. There's a real darkness underneath the silliness here, but - and this is where I struggle a bit - also kind of an earnest romanticism? Rankin is doing a lot here and he's clearly having a lot of fun, which I'm here for, but in the end I'm left with the feeling that while I appreciate a lot of the individual elements, the whole doesn't quite feel coherent to me. That being said, I'm very intrigued to see where he goes from there, since this was his debut feature.
I agree that I'm not sure how "deep" it runs, though I agree the darkness is there. The reason why I fell in love with it was broadly speaking the style and comedy rather than messaging, though I do think centering the style and comedy around something tentatively real - and playing with authoritarianism, ideas of freedom, submission and just riffing on Canada's history under the UK and their identity is a large part of why it is my favourite film of 2019 - but that's more about the unifying vision and the experience this causes more than any overarching deep-cutting commentary. I don't think that is the kind of film it is meant to be or needs to be to succeed - though expectations for what films that do in one way or another engage with the real world and especially politics, will obviously vary.

Aniara (Pella Kagerman & Hugo Lilja, 2018)

Aniara was more interested in a psychological and metaphysical approach rather than asking practical questions about what would happen to a space airliner drifting into space for years on end. That is perhaps the main issue that this film has, in that it raises many questions as to how its society functions and never seems able to really deal with them - we get a few scenes with the captain struggling with certain decisions, but we never get any sense of the political reality on the ship, and in fact I'd say a lot of what we do see strikes me as a bit undercooked. But again, that's not what the film is mostly about, and learning that it was an adaptation of an epic poem from the 50s afterwards made a lot of sense, because this is a more internal, psychological tale about the two main characters and about what it's like to be forced to face our place in the universe - that of a speck o[ dust, essentially.
I think this is actually a strength, rather than a weakness - and is likely part of the reason why I enjoyed it more. As you say, it is not that concerned with the more in-depth factors of how society works - but it gives reference points and moments where we can infer a lot about the characters, the dynamics, thought processes, etc. I think Aniara has a much more overarching theme of humanity, that dwelling too much in this arena would have made it a different film - and the lack of clarity on each situation - especially in the later stages of the film, specifically invites thoughts and inferences of how we got to X point - making us more actively invested and involved.
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#66

Post by outdoorcats »

St. Gloede wrote: November 22nd, 2021, 9:11 am
outdoorcats wrote: November 22nd, 2021, 8:39 am CONTROVERSY! :circle: Tell me why I'm wrong! What did I miss? (the discussion here has been a little dead the past couple days)
I think the one thing I really loved about it, and which you did not talk about, is the dark comedy of manners (which may be too Scandinavian and not appreciated by all). As the ship goes of course you have go through a long set of stages where people in different ways try to maintain a civil society, politeness, normalcy, etc. The type of acceptance and mundanity that they all practice, even in the face of devastation. The presentations by the Captain, how everyone keeps doing their job, how their facades start to strip away. The coupling of mundanity in face of extreme circumstances and how all try to maintain responsible and proper behaviour is a key element here, is borderline absurd, yet recognizable and biting, bringing in a dark existential comedy very specific to Scandinavia. You can see it in many other key films as well (take the Norwegian comedy A Bothersome Man for instance, where the afterlife is the same as the real world just slightly colder and more driven by commercialism). Commercialism is also present throughout this work, again with a darkly comedic sting.

You are absolutely right that the film is attempting to set up the ship as a microcosm of human society, and the elements of minimalism, simply stripping away time and showing decay was very effective to me. As were the many standout characters who brought a surprising amount of emotional debt into a film which could run the risk of just being a cold exercise. I was personally quite grabbed by the human drama, especially the core romance and family element - while the stages of societal decay - and dark existential comedy further created a kind of trinity of interest points that I felt were kept strong throughout - complete with heartbreaks and utter bleakness.
Nice thoughts! Indeed, it's not something I very much focused on. I dunno, isn't 'everyone keep a stiff upper lip in the middle of disaster' satirical stuff at least semi-common? For example my mind jumps straight to A Night to Remember/Titanic. I definitely missed out on a lot by not seeing it through a Scandinavian lens.

Some open-ended questions (for anyone):

1. What feelings did the film stir for you, and how did you connect it to your own feelings on human nature?
2. How did you interpret the role of Mima in the story?
3. How did you interpret the ending?
Spoiler
(I wasn't sure if the ship somehow returned to Earth eventually, or found another Earth like planet. And, whether it will enter that planet's orbit to eventually be discovered as an ancient artifact, like perhaps the "cylinder," or whether is just keeps going. But also, how do you interpret the philosophy of this ending? As in, does becoming this floating museum bring some kind of meaning to our existence, or is it just more bitter irony?

A lie ain't a 'side of the story.' It's just a lie.
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#67

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The 20th Century (Matthew Rankin - 2019)

Here's a challenge. As someone who has viewed some of Guy Maddin's films, write a review of The 20th Century where you don't say "Guy Maddin." Rankin's surreal, absurdist satire on Canadian values doesn't feel so much like an extended Guy Maddin homage as it just does like a new film from the Canadian auteur. And while it's not a wholly original work, that's still a significant achievement. Perhaps Maddin and Rankin are creating a new sub-genre of retro-pastiches of 1920s-1940s media rife with comically exaggerated Freudian imagery and symbolism. Perhaps 10 years from now we'll pinpoint 2019 as the year "Maddinism" took off on the film festival circuit.

So as a "Maddinist" film...how is it? Is it aesthetically beautiful and impressive? Is it funny? Is it entertaining? Hugely so, yes, and...mostly.

1. Like any great Maddin - erm, Maddinist film - it's beautiful and aesthetically striking throughout. None more so than in the film's ice-skating climax that is just a symphony of shapes and light that would put Arnold Fanck to shame.

2 .The 20th Century isn't a political film per se, as it takes real-life figures, dates, and historical events and remixes them into a fantasy alternate history. Indeed, its riffs on Canadian stereotypes (competitive seal clubbing being the funniest) feel more like an SNL sketch than a political satire. And that's fine. But some viewers might feel a sort of whiplash between the hyper-cerebral aesthetic and the sillier, more "lowbrow" nature of the script and story. The actors do a great job committing to the ridiculousness of everything with extreme deadpan earnestness.

3. I felt my attention slipping at times, as I do in most Maddin films (The Forbidden Room being the only one I truly love). Depending on your affinity with Maddinism, this may be a bigger factor or a non-factor.

I give it a very impressed 7.5/10. I'm not a convert to Maddinism, but I can certainly admire its best works.
Arguments we'll be having in 2029: Are Bergfilms proto-Maddinist????

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#68

Post by cinewest »

outdoorcats wrote: November 27th, 2021, 2:08 am Image

The 20th Century (Matthew Rankin - 2019)

Here's a challenge. As someone who has viewed some of Guy Maddin's films, write a review of The 20th Century where you don't say "Guy Maddin." Rankin's surreal, absurdist satire on Canadian values doesn't feel so much like an extended Guy Maddin homage as it just does like a new film from the Canadian auteur. And while it's not a wholly original work, that's still a significant achievement. Perhaps Maddin and Rankin are creating a new sub-genre of retro-pastiches of 1920s-1940s media rife with comically exaggerated Freudian imagery and symbolism. Perhaps 10 years from now we'll pinpoint 2019 as the year "Maddinism" took off on the film festival circuit.

So as a "Maddinist" film...how is it? Is it aesthetically beautiful and impressive? Is it funny? Is it entertaining? Hugely so, yes, and...mostly.

1. Like any great Maddin - erm, Maddinist film - it's beautiful and aesthetically striking throughout. None more so than in the film's ice-skating climax that is just a symphony of shapes and light that would put Arnold Fanck to shame.

2 .The 20th Century isn't a political film per se, as it takes real-life figures, dates, and historical events and remixes them into a fantasy alternate history. Indeed, its riffs on Canadian stereotypes (competitive seal clubbing being the funniest) feel more like an SNL sketch than a political satire. And that's fine. But some viewers might feel a sort of whiplash between the hyper-cerebral aesthetic and the sillier, more "lowbrow" nature of the script and story. The actors do a great job committing to the ridiculousness of everything with extreme deadpan earnestness.

3. I felt my attention slipping at times, as I do in most Maddin films (The Forbidden Room being the only one I truly love). Depending on your affinity with Maddinism, this may be a bigger factor or a non-factor.

I give it a very impressed 7.5/10. I'm not a convert to Maddinism, but I can certainly admire its best works.
Arguments we'll be having in 2029: Are Bergfilms proto-Maddinist????
Loving your write ups, Outdoorcats.

Though I am not really one for gender-bending camp, I thought this one deftly mixed in social satire and film history and think it was very well done in terms of what it set out to do. So while not a personal favorite, I think I liked it a little better than you did. I’d call it an 8-
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#69

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cinewest wrote: November 27th, 2021, 7:56 am Loving your write ups, Outdoorcats.

Though I am not really one for gender-bending camp, I thought this one deftly mixed in social satire and film history and think it was very well done in terms of what it set out to do. So while not a personal favorite, I think I liked it a little better than you did. I’d call it an 8-
Thanks! :cheers:

My 7.5 might be equivalent to your 8. A 7.5 could crack my top 20 for that year if it's a weaker year for me (not 2019, just too many great films).

As someone who knows little about Canadian history, the film certainly inspired some Googling. Among things referenced in the film that are actually real (or satirized on real things): the Boer War was Canada's first foreign war.
The war was significant because it marked the first time Canadian troops distinguished themselves in battle overseas. At home, it fuelled a sense that Canada could stand apart from the British Empire, and it highlighted the French-English divide over Canada's role in world affairs — two factors that would soon appear again in the First World War...

...Britain's pretext for war was the denial of political rights by the Boers to the growing population of foreigners, or Uitlanders as they were known in the Afrikaans language — mostly immigrants from Britain and its colonies — who worked the Transvaal gold mines. The British government rallied public sympathy for the Uitlander cause throughout the Empire, including in Canada where Parliament passed a resolution of Uitlander support...

...Canadian opinion was sharply divided on the question of sending troops to aid the British. French Canadians led by Henri Bourassa, seeing growing British imperialism as a threat to their own survival, sympathized with the Boers, whereas most English Canadians rallied to the British cause. English Canada was a staunchly British society at the time; Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee had been celebrated in lavish fashion across the country in 1897. Two years later, if the mother country was going to war, most English Canadians were keen to help her. Dozens of English-speaking newspapers took up the patriotic, jingoistic spirit of the time, demanding Canada's participation in the war...

The war was prophetic in many ways — foreshadowing what was to come in the First World War: the success of Canada's soldiers in South Africa, and their criticism of British leadership and social values, fed a new sense of Canadian self-confidence, which loosened rather than cemented the ties of empire. The war also damaged relations between French and English Canadians, setting the stage for the larger crisis over conscription that would consume the country from 1914 to 1918.
-The Canadian Encyclopedia website (https://www.thecanadianencyclopedia.ca/ ... frican-war)

I've highlighted the parts which seem most relevant to The 20th Century, but the whole article is a good read.

A lie ain't a 'side of the story.' It's just a lie.
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#70

Post by cinewest »

@outdoorcats,
Yeah, I think our rating system sounds pretty similar. I rarely give 9’s or 10’s (which would all be top 5’s for me in just about any given year, with mostly 8’s filling out the rest of my top 20’s (I sometimes use a decimal system to differentiate, or add a plus or minus to the whole or half number, like 7.5 +, or 8-, as in the case of The 20th Century, which should wind up in my top 20, as well, but not in my top 10.
As for the icm festival, I just saw Beanpole last night, which edged above This is Not a Burial as my favorite film so far, with a 9- i will try add some short reviews when I have time, but I thought the filmmaking was lush and exquisite, and the performances not only intimate but authentic, which is a rare combination
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#71

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@cinewest - sounds similar. Though a 10 for me is reserved for my top 120 or so films, and is also a rating I typically wait a year after seeing a film before I assign it, to test its staying power. An 8/10 or above is excellent/great, 9 and 10 are more best of the best of all time.

---------------------------

A quick review:

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S He (Zhou Shengwei - 2018)

Fans of early David Lynch shorts, Svankmajer, the Brothers Quay, or the films Blood Tea and Red String or La casa lobo should make a beeline for this surreal stop-motion art project. Similar in particular to the latter two films, it's a silent animated feature that animates found objects (in what must have been a slow, painstaking, massive undertaking) into an eerie, metaphorically resonant nightmare.

A female shoe looks on in horror as the literal fruits of her peers (actual fruits) are taken, mutilated, and sent away by a male shoe. When it's her turn, she kills the male shoe in self defense, disguises herself as him, and escapes with her baby shoe, who she needs to feed socks. Pretending to be a male shoe, she works in a cigarette factory where she is exploited, ostracized and mistreated. When her identity is uncovered, things get really dark, and weird. Then exciting, then chaotic, then surprisingly emotional, then dark and weird again.

Zhou, like the aforementioned artists, is an extremely talented outsider artist who pours tons of detail into each of his elaborately staged tableaus. Some of the animation is rough, perhaps intentionally, but aided by eerie sound design and strong cinematography, he always finds his intended tone. That's important in a silent 90 minute feature with no intertitles. While not every beat of the plot, or what it all means, is 100% clear, clear story beats still manage to stand out, and compared to La casa lobo, the film flies by surprisingly quickly.

Some of the freaky imagery seems to imply sexual violence (metaphorically, but still in its way disturbing) or just violence/oppression/sexism towards women in general in a patriarchal society. Capitalism and power structures in general are taken to task as well. In the film's finale, the shoe is very much on the other foot - sorry, couldn't resist - but it's no utopia. Some of the players have changed, but the cruel game remains the same.

8/10

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#72

Post by klaus78 »

This Is Not a Burial, It's a Resurrection (2019) 9/10
Bergmál (2019) 8/10
Dylda (2019) 8/10
There Is No Evil (2020) 8/10
The 20th Century (2019) 8/10
Jinpa (2018) 7/10
La ciudad oculta (2018) 6/10
Promare (2019) 6/10
S He (2018) 6/10
Aniara (2018) 5/10
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#73

Post by cinewest »

outdoorcats wrote: November 28th, 2021, 6:37 am @cinewest - sounds similar. Though a 10 for me is reserved for my top 120 or so films, and is also a rating I typically wait a year after seeing a film before I assign it, to test its staying power. An 8/10 or above is excellent/great, 9 and 10 are more best of the best of all time.

8/10
Once again, we are pretty much in alignment as far as ratings go, and my own can pick up or lose up to a point upon further consideration (in rare cases more for mere radical reassessments usually prompted by second viewings). I've assigned less than 100 tens (out of more than 3000 ratings, and close to 300 nines. Eights are very good, and sevens are just less so, whereas my 6's are worth seeing, but somehow diminished due to problems or because they didn't rise to a level of real satisfaction (which begins at 7).
Last edited by cinewest on November 28th, 2021, 9:29 am, edited 1 time in total.
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#74

Post by hurluberlu »

outdoorcats wrote: November 28th, 2021, 6:37 am Fans of early David Lynch shorts, Svankmajer, the Brothers Quay, or the films Blood Tea and Red String or La casa lobo should make a beeline for this
To manage expectations... I am one of them ans S He did not work for me, at any level.
outdoorcats wrote: November 28th, 2021, 6:37 am [...$] compared to La casa lobo, the film flies by surprisingly quickly.
I also felt the other way around.
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#75

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Jinpa (Pema Tseden, 2018) 7+
Balloon from the same director was already quite a feast for the eyes while also a chronicle on Tibetan life with strong sociological subtext. Jinpa is more lyrical, sometimes lacking a little bit of focus on story telling but you leave with the amazing impression that you did travel and feel next to the lead. Cinematography is really the highlight with a precision in composing the shots and some work on light that are reminiscent of Flemish painters like Vermeer for the indoor scenes. Another true gem of world cinema !

With that I am done with the main Slate ! I enjoyed a lot it was very diversed in style, themas and origins and ultimately an intense cinematic experience: thanks again to the programmers for their hard work pulling this together !
ranking
There Is No Evil / Sheytan vojud nadarad (Mohammad Rasoulof, 2020) 8
This Is Not a Burial, It's a Resurrection (Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, 2019) 8-
Jinpa (Pema Tseden, 2018) 7+
Beanpole / Dylda (Kantemir Balagov, 2019) 7-
Echo / Bergmál (Rúnar Rúnarsson, 2019) 7-
The Twentieth Century (Matthew Rankin, 2019) 6+
Aniara (Hugo Lilja, Pella Kagerman, 2018) 6-
The Hidden City / La ciudad oculta (Víctor Moreno, 2018) 5+
S He (Shengwei Zhou, 2018) 5-
Promare (Hiroyuki Imaishi, 2019) 4+
reviews
The Hidden City / La ciudad oculta (Víctor Moreno, 2018) 5+
Maybe an underground Leviathan indeed, for its raw take of in situ sounds, but where there was life, or death, in every shot of Leviathan, we are left with too many bland shots and long inexpressive travelling here, especially near the end. There is only so much you can get out of lights in a tunnel, even less a sewage tunnel. First mesmerized by the beauty of composition and space analogy, it gradually vanishes as less meaningful settings succeeed before falling into the mundane without much left to care for.

The Twentieth Century (Matthew Rankin, 2019) 6+
Asking Terry Gilliam, Wes Anderson and Bertrand Mandico to make a film together with a predefined theme (Canada's politics at the turn of the 20th century) and style (revisiting Expressionism in Cinema) would have likely produced the same result. In other words, there is a huge talent at play here although it looks a little forced. And where any of these directors would typically pull you in a complete cinematic experience, I felt a distanced observer all along: the grotesque humor mixed with Canada insider cultural, political and historical references flew well over my head for the most, let alone the cryptic ending. I am going to assume it is all clear (and fun) for citizens of the Commonwealth. But otherwise it is really a feast for the cinephile eyes and Rankin is now high on my watch list of promising directors I will look forward to the next film.

Echo / Bergmál (Rúnar Rúnarsson, 2019) 7-
A series of 56 single shots carefully crafted to tell each a small story on Iceland society during Christmas holiday. Visually it is always interesting to see what choices of setting and framing were made. Some of the saynettes are intense enough to make you curious on how a longer scene or a full film would have develop. It just lacks a stronger denominator to connect and elevate the something more than a bitter sweet travel book.

This Is Not a Burial, It's a Resurrection (Lemohang Jeremiah Mosese, 2019) 8-
Splending cinematography in 4/3 format which was seemingly the winning ratio of 2019 for auteur cinema, looking at First Cow, Sin, The Lighthouse, Enormous... We dont get to see a film from Lesotho too often so when it manages to give us a hint of what life and customs look like and on top connect a local drama with universal matters such as mourning, transmission and cultural values vs modernity, lovers of world cinema should exult. Mosese skills with a camera certainly serve the multiple layers of the story as he is excelling in close, intimate shots as well as deep space compositions and other techniques. It sometimes looks a little too self-aware but this really the only grief I have and this is a great find !

Aniara (Hugo Lilja, Pella Kagerman, 2018) 6-
So yes it had a lot of potential with its lost-in-space story line and a diverse cast but does not fulfill it neither has a suspenseful thriller nor a metaphysical tale. It gradually depletes the capital of its strong, early built-up with casual scenes and seems to shy away from any opportunity to shift gear. The drop of MIMA dream machine story arc is the more regrettable as it could have propulsed the film high there with Solaris if handled differently. It does show some consistency in its low-key tone though that at least gives the feeling of a genuine journey in cosmic boredom.

S He (Shengwei Zhou, 2018) 5-
It is original and the stop-motion is top-notch but it is also an excruciable bore to sit through: I found it ugly and the gender fight metaphore left me unconvinced. As a short it could have been much more impactful. I am not hitting too hard on the rating for its technical qualities but it is a dislike.
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#76

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Jinpa (Pema Tseden - 2018)

Like many users here, it seems I'm not really sure what to make of Jinpa. What does the ending mean? It is one of the more intriguingly mysterious endings I've seen in a while. Though it is possible that it's far more straightforward than I'm interpreting it, if it is the "twist" ending I guessed from the film's opening sequence. Yet at least as far as I can tell there are a few details that don't line up, and the vagueness of this ending as well as the blurring of past and present suggest the ending could be more symbolic than literal. Reading reviews, it seems most critics aren't sure what to make of it as well. One pointed out that when Jinpa (the truck driver) talks to the waitress in the cafe, in the background we hear old men having the exact same conversation when Jinpa (the would-be assassin) talks to the waitress in the flashback. The fact that they are both named Jinpa further reinforces the themes of karmic wheels, turning and repeating.

Jinpa the truck driver is an interesting protagonist. At the end of the film we still know little about him. We don't meet his daughter, his past and his odd taste in music remain unexplained. Yet Jinpa (also the name of the actor) makes a memorable symbol for flawed, human people trying in their way to live a holy life.

The choice of academy ratio for the huge expanses of the Kekexili plains seems perverse, but works very well, and this is one of those films where every frame could be hung on a wall. Combined with the ambient sounds of wind and creaking machinery, it has an intoxicating atmosphere, an essential quality in any half-decent "slow cinema" offering.

I'm glad I waited a week to review and rate this one, as it's already grown in my memory a bit. I can't quite shake the odd mystery of this film.

8/10

A lie ain't a 'side of the story.' It's just a lie.
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#77

Post by St. Gloede »

outdoorcats wrote: November 27th, 2021, 1:13 am
St. Gloede wrote: November 22nd, 2021, 9:11 am
outdoorcats wrote: November 22nd, 2021, 8:39 am CONTROVERSY! :circle: Tell me why I'm wrong! What did I miss? (the discussion here has been a little dead the past couple days)
I think the one thing I really loved about it, and which you did not talk about, is the dark comedy of manners (which may be too Scandinavian and not appreciated by all). As the ship goes of course you have go through a long set of stages where people in different ways try to maintain a civil society, politeness, normalcy, etc. The type of acceptance and mundanity that they all practice, even in the face of devastation. The presentations by the Captain, how everyone keeps doing their job, how their facades start to strip away. The coupling of mundanity in face of extreme circumstances and how all try to maintain responsible and proper behaviour is a key element here, is borderline absurd, yet recognizable and biting, bringing in a dark existential comedy very specific to Scandinavia. You can see it in many other key films as well (take the Norwegian comedy A Bothersome Man for instance, where the afterlife is the same as the real world just slightly colder and more driven by commercialism). Commercialism is also present throughout this work, again with a darkly comedic sting.

You are absolutely right that the film is attempting to set up the ship as a microcosm of human society, and the elements of minimalism, simply stripping away time and showing decay was very effective to me. As were the many standout characters who brought a surprising amount of emotional debt into a film which could run the risk of just being a cold exercise. I was personally quite grabbed by the human drama, especially the core romance and family element - while the stages of societal decay - and dark existential comedy further created a kind of trinity of interest points that I felt were kept strong throughout - complete with heartbreaks and utter bleakness.
Nice thoughts! Indeed, it's not something I very much focused on. I dunno, isn't 'everyone keep a stiff upper lip in the middle of disaster' satirical stuff at least semi-common? For example my mind jumps straight to A Night to Remember/Titanic. I definitely missed out on a lot by not seeing it through a Scandinavian lens.
That's a great question.

I would say that the chief difference between how the British and the Scandinavians look at facades/these kinds of Social experiences is that what is being examined and explored is different.

If we look at the idea of "stiff upper lip" in itself, this is not something that is part of the Scandinavian culture - so it is not a question of "strength" - nor is it fully a question of personal facades in terms of status - which is often the case with British satire - at least not the same way. What these kinds of darkly comedic examinations tend to do is rather poke under the hood of personal and projected happiness as well as an unwillingness to offend or confront others and/or what you deem to be appropriate or rational behaviour.
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#78

Post by beavis »

with the festival being over the half-way mark here I'm going to share my ratings for what I've seen

The 20th Century (2019) - 9
Zhuang si le yi zhi yang (2018) - 8,5
Bergmál (2019) - 8,5
Promare: Puromea (2019) - 8,5
Dylda (2019) - 8,5
La ciudad oculta (2018) - 8,5
S He (2018) - 8,5
This Is Not a Burial, It's a Resurrection (2019) - 8
Aniara (2018) - 6,5

Last sunday a partial lock-down came into effect here resulting in some cinema releases being moved forward... not sure if I'll manage to see There is no Evil now...
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#79

Post by outdoorcats »

St. Gloede wrote: November 30th, 2021, 1:14 pm I would say that the chief difference between how the British and the Scandinavians look at facades/these kinds of Social experiences is that what is being examined and explored is different.

If we look at the idea of "stiff upper lip" in itself, this is not something that is part of the Scandinavian culture - so it is not a question of "strength" - nor is it fully a question of personal facades in terms of status - which is often the case with British satire - at least not the same way. What these kinds of darkly comedic examinations tend to do is rather poke under the hood of personal and projected happiness as well as an unwillingness to offend or confront others and/or what you deem to be appropriate or rational behaviour.
OK, so what I think I'm hearing is that the Scandinavian version of this has more to do with passive-aggressiveness or perhaps just passiveness - just a general discomfort with discussing confrontational topics out in the open (and utilizing this tension for dark comedy). The first director I went to when I thought of that is Ruben Östlund, and I wasn't even intentionally trying to think of anyone Scandinavian!

A lie ain't a 'side of the story.' It's just a lie.
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#80

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S He (Zhou Shengwei, 2018)
Spoiler
I don't necessarily subscribe to the idea that animated films should be stories that can only be told in animation, but I must admit that there is something particularly satisfying in seeing filmmakers use the possibilities animation offers for portraying an unstable reality or things transforming, metamorphosing. This is an endlessly inventive work exploring gender relations through thje dialetic lens of the opressor and the opressed in a cyclical allegory that ends up feeling relatively familiar in theory, but never feels that way when watching it. Stop-motion animation allows for such dense, rich storytelling that I thought we might be nearing the end of the film 40 minutes in and was delighted to discover we were only halfway through. To some it may be exhausting, to me it was an exhilarating, visceral experience that plays with the notion of gender in transgressive and exciting ways, not to mention it's often laugh-out-loud funny too. A true hidden gem.

8/10
Promare: Puromea (Hiroyuki Imaishi, 2019)
Spoiler
I'm not familiar with Imaishi's work, but this was quite a disappointment for me given what I'd heard. His actions scenes certainly use animation's potential for kinetic, dynamic storytelling, and they are undeniably the highlight of the film - I could even forgive the shoddy and clichéd narrative if the majority of our time was spent on those and we were operating in a genre exercise where the characters and story are mere excuses for stylized fun, but this is clearly not the case here. Imaishi wants us to be invested in these characters and in the vaguely environmental message of this allegory, but the writing is truly atrocious and none of the characters stick to mind - their best moment is invariably their introduction in big, bright letters. It was all so uninspired that even the action-packed climax ended up suffering like the MCU films do, even though this is much shorter and punchier than those, but taht's what happens when any time the virtual camera settles down, you fill like you're at risk of lsoing braincells. Ok, that's a bit harsh, but most of the dialogue feels like it's been written for a parody, but this is quite obviously intended to be pretty earnest albeit fun entertainment rather than commenting on any of its awkardly-used tropes.

4/10 (pretty generous really, but I can't say I quite disliked it, the virtual camerawork really was quite good)
Bergmal (Runar Runarsson, 2019)
Spoiler
If this is meant to be the Icelandic response to, say, Roy Andersson, I think Scandinavians can rest assured that they won't be outshined by their maritime brethrens anytime soon. It truly feels like what a Roy Andersson film would feel like if someone had none of the patience, inventivity, sense of humour or even anything in mind at all. A smug, self-satisfied piece of comfortably cynical takes of Christmas in Iceland, this feels like a glib exercise in misanthropy that takes itself for trenchant satire, some sort of an American Beauty for the festival audience. Even the composition (which would seem to be the primarily mode of expression here, given that this is a series of static shots with very little narrative coherence) is unimaginative, though it's all nicely shot I suppose, and with so many different setups there are a couple that rise to the level of pretty good. Still, this is mostly just a bore.

2/10
Which leaves me only with There is no Evil, which conveniently just came out in theaters this Wednesday. I should see it tomorrow.
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