Saturday, February 24, 2024


Makbul Mubarak: Autobiography (Indonesia 2022) starring Kevin Ardilova (Muhammad Rakib) and Arswendy Bening Swara (Purnawinata).

Le Pion du général / Autobiography [Swedish title].
    2022. Country: Indonesia, France, Germany, Poland, Singapore, Philippines, Qatar. Production: KawanKawan Media (Yulia Evina Bhara), In Vivo Films, Potocol, Staron Film, Cinematografica Philippines, NiKo Film, FOCUSED equipment, Partisipasi Indonesia
    Director: Makbul Mubarak
Screenplay: Makbul Mubarak
Cinematographer: Wojciech Staroń
Production Designer: Sigit D. Pratama
Music: Bani Haykal
Sound: L. H. Aim Adinegara, Waldir Xavier, Rémi Crouzet, Jean-Guy Veran, Hadrianus Eko
Editor: Carlo Francisco Manatad
    Cast / Pemeran (Indonesian Wikipedia):
Kevin Ardilova / sebagai Muhammad Rakib
Arswendy Bening Swara / sebagai Purnawinata
Yusuf Mahardika / sebagai Agus Muwardi
Lukman Sardi / sebagai Soewito
Yudi Ahmad Tajudin / sebagai Nala
Rukman Rosadi / sebagai Amir
Haru Sandra / sebagai Andri
Mardiko Agus Nugroho / sebagai Sersan
Kun Baehaqi Almas / sebagai pegawai pemerintahan
Achmad Agus Budi / sebagai Haris
Gondo Lifenya Kusuma Dewi / sebagai Irma
Ibnu Widodo / sebagai Galih
Gunawan Maryanto / sebagai kuli bangunan 1
Reza Fahri / sebagai kuli bangunan 2
Arya Sweta / sebagai kuli bangunan 3
Ganesya / sebagai kuli bangunan 4
Iwan Siswoyo / sebagai Hendrik
Dewi Qurrota'ayun / sebagai perawat
Doris Khoirum Sasna Bakhtiar / sebagai Juan
Muhammad Fauzi / sebagai Imam
Watie Wibowo / sebagai istri Purna
Siti Fauziah / sebagai penjual kartu ponsel
    Loc: Bojonegoro, East Java, Indonesia.
    Language: Indonesian.
    The original title of the film is in English. The opening and final credits are only in English, the main title card only in French.
    115 min
    Festival premiere: Venice, Horizons program, 2 Sep 2022 - FIPRESCI Award for Best Film in sections outside main competition. World sales: Alpha Violet.
    Indonesian premiere: 19 Jan 2023.
    Finnish festival premiere: Helsinki Cine Aasia, 17 March 2023.
    Indonesian entry for Best International Feature Film at the 96th Academy Awards (2024).
    French premiere: 21 Feb 2024, distributed by Alpha Violet, sous-titres francais Mimi Bonnetto, Anouk --- (name flashed by too fast).
    Viewed at Arlequin, Salle 3, 76 rue de Rennes, 75006 Paris, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Métro Saint-Sulpice, 24 Feb 2024.
" Le jeune Rakib travaille comme seul employé de maison dans le manoir de Purna, un général à la retraite, aussi craint que respecté, et dont la famille est servie par celle de Rakib depuis des générations. Lorsque Purna se présente aux élections de la mairie locale, Rakib découvre un mentor et un père de substitution qu’il défendra à tout prix, jusqu’à ce qu’il soit déchiré entre la loyauté et la justice… "

" With his father in prison and his brother abroad for work, young Rakib works as the lone housekeeper in an empty mansion belonging to Purna, a retired general whose family Rakib’s clan have served for centuries in a rural Indonesian town. After Purna returns home to start his mayoral election campaign, Rakib bonds with the older man, who becomes a close mentor and father figure, and finds his calling as Purna’s assistant in work and life. When Purna’s election poster is found vandalised one day, Rakib doesn’t hesitate to track down the culprit, kicking off an escalating chain of violence... "

" Throughout three decades of Indonesia’s military dictatorship from the mid-Sixties to the late-Nineties, my father worked as a civil servant under the regime. I grew up discerning his loyalty to the state as something that seemed inherent to my family’s life. I learnt, by observing him, that loyalty is what makes a person honorable: a principle that I considered to be very true and, at that point in time, satisfyingly rewarding. However, as I grew up, a question began to haunt me: is loyalty still honorable if and when it is pledged to something monstrous? If we annul our loyalty to them, would this be considered a betrayal? Or a fight for justice? And therefore, would this make us a good or a bad person? Autobiography is an emotional inquiry into my adolescence, my country, and to the values that I was raised with—which are still being taught everywhere even to this day, twenty-four years after the collapse of the dictatorship. In a society with such a repressed history, what does it take to be able to call oneself ‘a good person’? "

Motto: "How far does loyalty go?"

AA: In his debut feature film, Makbul Mubarak starts gently observing everyday life on East Java, Indonesia, and from seemingly small pieces we figure out key issues of the society in general. Better access to electricity is needed, therefore a power plant would be essential, but issues of land ownership are controversial. 

Upon retirement, Purna, a general, returns to his childhood home. He commands respect and cuts a towering figure in the upcoming elections where hydropower will be the greatest issue.

The teenager Rakib becomes his housekeeper and assistant, and Purna becomes his mentor and father figure since the real father sits in prison. Purna teaches Rakib to shoot, and they play chess together.

Purna is touchy about his election campaign posters, and when he over-reacts in the most horrible way to a transgression of Agib, Rakib's friend, Rakib wants to distance himself, resign and even escape, but Purna does not let him go. Purna's vicinity turns oppressive, and Rakib reaches the limit. The outcome is unorthodox and gives food for thought.

Symbolically, Autobiography is a Vatermord saga, told in an original way. The story is illuminating about the history of violence in Indonesia. Indonesia is famous as the site of one of the most brutal massacres of the 20th century, when the Free World toppled Sukarno, the leader of the fight for Indonesian independence against Dutch colonialism, and we murdered maybe millions of his followers to protect our financial interests. The story has been covered in films ranging from The Year of Living Dangerously to Joshua Oppenheimer (The Act of Killing and The Look of Silence).

The sense of place is quietly compelling and essential to the fabula. The final funeral sequence is unexpected and unsettling, and the final song is deeply moving. I would love to find the soundtrack.


Die Theorie von Allem / The Universal Theory

Timm Kröger: Die Theorie von Allem / The Universal Theory (DE/AT/CH 2023). 

Universal Theory (French title) / Universalteorin.
    Germany, Austria, Switzerland 2023. Production: Fiction (Heino Deckert, Tina Börner), The Barricades (Viktoria Stolpe, Timm Kröger), Panama Film (Lixi Frank, David Bohun), Catpics (Sarah Born, Rajko Jazbec, Dario Schoch)
    Director: Timm Kröger
Screenplay: Roderick Warich, Timm Kröger
Cinematographer: Roland Stuprich - black and white in scope
Production Designer: Cosima Vellenzer
Costume Designer: Pola Kardum
Visual Effects: Kariem Saleh, Adrian Meyer
Music: Diego Ramos Rodríguez
Sound: Johannes Schmelzer-Ziringer, Dominik Leube
Editor: Jann Anderegg
    Cast (from Wikipedia):
Jan Bülow as Johannes Leinert
Olivia Ross as Karin Hönig
Hanns Zischler as Dr. Julius Strathen
Gottfried Breitfuss as Professor Blumberg
David Bennent as Kommissar Arnold
Philippe Graber as Kommissar Amrein
Ladina Carla von Frisching as Susi (adult)
Imogen Kogge as Anna Leinert
Emanuel Waldburg-Zeil as Johnny
Vivienne Bayley as Susi (child)
Dirk Böhling as Moderator
Paul Wolff-Plottegg as Dr. Martin Koch
Peter Hottinger as Empfangschef
Dana Herfurth as Minna
Joey Zimmermann as Polizeibeamter
Eva Maria Jost as Anna Leinert (child)
Jonathan Wirtz as Johannes (child)
    Loc: the ski resort of St. Jakob in Defereggen - Österreich (Osttirol und Niederösterreich) und Deutschland (Thüringen, Sachsen-Anhalt, Berlin-Brandenburg). Drehort war unter anderem das Südbahnhotel. - 10.1. - 21.2.2022.
    Language: German, French, Schweizerdeutsch, Italian
    Festival premiere: 3 September 2023 Venice
    German premiere: 26 October 2023
    Sortie en France: le 21 février 2024
    Viewed at UGC Danton, Salle 3, 99 bd Saint-Germain, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Métro Odéon, 75006 Paris, 24 Feb 2024

UGC synopsis: " 1962 : lors d’un congrès de physique dans les Alpes suisses, le jeune Johannes défend une théorie sur l’existence de mondes parallèles. Mais personne n’y croit, pas même son tuteur. Les mystères s'accumulent pourtant... "

" 1962. Johannes Leinert, together with his doctoral advisor, travels to a physics congress in the Swiss Alps, where an Iranian scientist is set to reveal a “groundbreaking theory of quantum mechanics”. But when the physicists arrive at the five star hotel, the Iranian guest is nowhere to be found. In the absence of a new theory to be discussed, the physics community patiently turns to skiing. Johannes, however, remains at the hotel to work on his doctor’s thesis, but soon finds himself distracted, developing a special fascination with Karin, a young jazz pianist. Something about her seems strange, elusive. She seems to know things about him—things that he thought only he knew about. When one of the German physicists is found dead one morning, two inspectors arrive on the scene, investigating a homicide case. As increasingly bizarre cloud formations appear in the sky, the pianist disappears without a trace—and Johannes finds himself dragged into a sinister story of false memories, real nightmares, impossible love and a dark, roaring mystery hidden beneath the mountain. "

" What attracted me was an amalgamated memory-image of cinema, by turns strange and entertaining—sort of as if Hitchcock and Lynch, and many others, known or forgotten, made love on the carpet of an old hotel lobby—where “utility music”, like Bernard Herrmann’s, somehow plays both to dramatic irony and genuine, heartfelt emotion. Is this the tragic tale of an undiscovered genius, or are we observing the paranoid delusions of an obsessed fool? This film invariably does both. Here, Schrödinger’s Cat is both brilliant and brain-dead at the same time. The story seems deeply rooted in the 20th century, that long, weird century which has still not managed to obliterate the old idea of the individual genius “guided by fate”. The opposing idea—to inhabit an indifferent, chaotic universe—remains unbearable until today. Which one is more accurate? The most productive thing resembling an answer, to me, can be found in the multiverse of cinema—and its ongoing ability to synthesize our collective dreams with the trappings of reality, to “shuffle the old cards in new ways”. Just like Johannes, we don’t know who wrote the strange music coming down the hall, but we sure recognize the melody. "

Plot (Wikipedia): " In 1962, physicist Johannes travels with his doctoral supervisor to a scientific congress in the Swiss Alps. It is there that he meets Karin, a jazz pianist, who is suspiciously knowledgeable about Johannes. A series of mysterious deaths occur at the mountainous site, and the two venture to uncover the secrets hidden below. The story includes an Iranian guest, a strange cloud formation in the sky and quantum mechanics. "

Timm Kröger (Presseheft): „Auch die ‚alte‘ Form des Films, die Pasticheartigkeit, dieses Gefühl und diese etwas eigenwillige Textur irgendwo zwischen Zauberberg, Erich Kästner, Hitchcock und Tarkovsky“. „Abenteuerfilm trifft Film Noir trifft auf deutschen Bergfilm trifft auf etwas Nouvelle Vague. Ich wollte das Gefühl von basaler Kino-Vertrautheit, von etwas ‚Uraltem‘, das zuerst unmerklich, dann spürbar von etwas Unheimlicheren, Modernerem unterwandert wird.“

AA: I was entertained by this oddball mix of influences, from Thomas Mann's Magic Mountain to Arnold Fanck's alpine cinema. Timm Kröger has a wide range of passions, and he puts everything into a power blender. The end result does not make sense, and there is a tinge of parody: is this about what generative IT might produce?

There is a strangely exhilarating mood in the movie, but it is also about dark secrets. Inside the mountain is an abandoned Nazi era uranium mine with secret shafts, entrances and elevators. Werner Heisenberg, the father of the Nazi nuclear weapon project, is a presence in the epoch depicted.

The film fails to meet expectations for an interesting mystery thriller relevant to quantum physics. It is as lightweight as can be, and the film itself shares the Schlemiel quality of its protagonist Johannes Leinert, lost in the world of science as well as romance.

But a curious charm is undeniable. We are left figuring out which mysteries are real. And might we be witnessing a descent into madness. Not only of the protagonist, but the world.


One Life

James Hawes: One Life (GB 2023) with Anthony Hopkins as Nicholas Winton.

Une vie / One Life (Finnish title) / One Life (Swedish title).
    GB © 2023 Willow Road Films / BBC Film. PC: See-Saw Films / BBC Film / MBK Productions / Cross City Films / FilmNation Entertainment / LipSync. P: Joanna Laurie, Iain Canning, Emile Sherman, Guy Heeley.
    D: James Hawes. SC: Lucinda Coxon, Nick Drake - based on the book If It's Not Impossible…The Life of Sir Nicholas Winton (2014) by Barbara Winton [his daughter]. Cin: Zac Nicholson. PD: Christina Moore. AD: Aline Leonello. Set Dec: Philippa Hart, Petra Vendelidesova, Klara Zimova. Cost: Joanna Eatwell. SFX: Chris Reynolds. M: Volker Bertelmann. S: Stephen Griffiths. ED: Lucia Zucchetti.
Anthony Hopkins as Nicholas Winton [Sir]
Johnny Flynn as young Nicholas Winton
Helena Bonham Carter as Babi Winton
Lena Olin as Grete Winton
Jonathan Pryce as Martin Blake
Ziggy Heath as young Martin Blake
Romola Garai as Doreen Warriner
Alex Sharp as Trevor Chadwick
Samantha Spiro as Esther Rantzen
    Soundtrack: W. A. Mozart: "Donne mie, la fate a tanti" from Così fan tutte (1790), K. 588, act II.
    In English, also German, Czech, French.
    Loc: Prague, London, Aug-Oct 2022.
    In memory of Barbara Winton (1953-2022).
    109 min, [Finnish duration announced 102 min]
    Festival premiere: 9 Sep 2023 Toronto
    UK premiere: 1 Jan 2024.
    Sortie en France: 21 février 2024, released by SND Films, sous-titres francais Maï Boiron.
    Finnish premiere: 22 March 2024, released by Nordisk Film.
    Viewed at UGC Danton, Salle 1, 99 bd Saint-Germain, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Métro Odéon, 75006 Paris, 24 Feb 2024

UGC synopsis: " Prague, 1938. Alors que la ville est sur le point de tomber aux mains des nazis, Nicholas Winton organise des convois vers l’Angleterre, où 669 enfants juifs trouveront refuge. Cette histoire vraie, restée méconnue pendant des décennies, est dévoilée au monde entier en 1988. "

Wikipedia synopsis: " When 29-year-old London stockbroker Nicholas Winton visits Czechoslovakia in 1938, just weeks after the Munich Agreement was signed, he encounters families in Prague who had fled the rise of the Nazis in Germany and Austria. They are living in poor conditions, with little or no shelter or food and in fear of the invasion of the Nazis. Winton is introduced to Doreen Warriner, head of the Prague office of the British Committee for Refugees from Czechoslovakia (BCRC). Horrified by the conditions in the refugee camps, Winton decides to save Jewish children himself. Actively supported by his mother Babette, herself a German-Jewish migrant who has since converted to the Church of England, he overcomes bureaucratic hurdles, collects donations and looks for foster families for the children brought to England. Many of them are Jews who are at imminent risk of deportation. A race against time begins as it is unclear how long the borders will remain open before the inevitable Nazi invasion. "

" Fifty years later, in 1988, Winton, now in his 70s, cleans up some of the clutter in his office, which his wife Grete asked him to do. He finds his old documents in which he recorded his work for the BCRC, with photos and lists of the children they wanted to bring to safety. Winton still blames himself for not being able to save more. At lunch with his old friend Martin, Winton thinks about what he should do with all the documents. He is considering donating them to a Holocaust museum, but at the same time he wants to draw some attention to the current plight of refugees, so he does not do it. "

" The documents end up in the hands of the That's Life! production team, a TV show produced by the BBC with presenter Esther Rantzen. Winton is invited onto the show and asked to sit in the audience. That's Life surprises Winton by inviting some of the children he helped save onto the show to meet him. "

"Save one life, save the world" (motto).

AA: The story of Kindertransport, a historical drama, a period play, a true story, more than a thriller, another great performance by Anthony Hopkins.

Nicholas Winton (1909-2015 - he died at age 106) does not want to be celebrated as a hero because in his own eyes he is not one and because everything is teamwork. He did save lives, but more should have been done. In the world he sees around him 50 years later, even more should be saved, and he devotes his life to humanitarian aid. His disappointment is profound.

A sense of understated but overwhelming regret lifts One Life above the regular trend of "Shoah business".

The fabula starts in the year 1938, the year of the Munich Agreement. I saw recently the brilliant American documentary film Crisis, released in March 1939, about this. Western powers wash their hands and let Hitler have his way with Czechoslovakia and later Poland. 

I am also thinking about two of the greatest films I have seen in recent years: The U.S. and the Holocaust (by Ken Burns, Lynn Novick and Sarah Botstein), and its "sequel", The Corridors of Power (by Dror Moreh). Today I am thinking about the terrorized children of Gaza in a cruel and disgraceful twist of history.

James Hawes is not a master of suspense. One Life is laid back, conventional, powerfully emotional in its restraint, despite a syrupy score, I cried through the later part of the picture, together with Anthony Hopkins as Nicholas Winton.


PS 27 Feb 2024. Lingering image: the photo of the little girl Lenka Weiss with eyes that have seen too much, holding an orphan baby with no name. Both lost forever in the Prague turmoil.

Another lingering image: the "Ein Volk - ein Reich - ein Führer" travel plan for 1938-1948 - the whole Europe in Nazi domination. 

Friday, February 23, 2024

Judith Godrèche: "I speak, I speak, but you are not listening" (her speech at the 2024 César Awards)

Judith Godrèche accepts the standing ovation of the French film world at the Césars ceremony on Friday, 23 February 2024. Since December 2023, Godrèche has been speaking out, not for the first time, but with a new sense of urgency that brings the French Me Too process to the next level. Her speech is one of the greatest in (film) history. My screenshot from the official Canal+ video on YouTube.

C’est compliqué de me retrouver devant vous tous ce soir.
Vous êtes si nombreux.
Mais, dans le fond, j’imagine qu’il fallait que ça arrive.
Nos visages face à face, les yeux dans les yeux.
Beaucoup d’entre vous m’ont vue grandir.
C’est impressionnant, ça marque.
Dans le fond, je n’ai rien connu d’autre que le cinéma.

Alors, pour me rassurer, en chemin, je me suis inventé une petite berceuse.

« Mes bras serrés, c’est vous, toutes les petites filles dans le silence,
Mon cou, ma nuque penchée, c’est vous, tous les enfants dans le silence,
Mes jambes bancales, c’est vous, les jeunes hommes qui n’ont pas pu se défendre.
Ma bouche tremblante mais qui sourit aussi, c’est vous, mes sœurs inconnues. »

Après tout, moi aussi, je suis une foule.
Une foule face à vous.
Une foule qui vous regarde dans les yeux ce soir.
C’est un drôle de moment pour nous, non ?

Une revenante des Amériques vient donner des coups de pied dans la porte blindée.
Qui l’eût cru ?

Depuis quelque temps, la parole se délie, l’image de nos pères idéalisés s’écorche, le pouvoir semble presque tanguer, serait-il possible que nous puissions regarder la vérité en face ?
Prendre nos responsabilités ? Etre les acteurs, les actrices d’un univers qui se remet en question ?
Depuis quelque temps, je parle, je parle, mais je ne vous entends pas, ou à peine. Où êtes-vous ? Que dites-vous ? Un chuchotement. Un demi-mot.

« Ça serait déjà ça », dit le Petit Chaperon rouge.

Je sais que ça fait peur.
Perdre des subventions.
Perdre des rôles.
Perdre son travail.
Moi aussi.
Moi aussi, j’ai peur.

J’ai arrêté l’école à 15 ans, j’ai pas le bac, rien.
Ça serait compliqué d’être blacklistée de tout.
Ça serait pas drôle.
Errer dans les rues de Paris dans mon costume de hamster.
Me rêvant une Icon of French Cinema…

Dans ma rébellion, je pensais à ces termes qu’on utilise sur un plateau. Silence.
Moteur demandé.
Ça fait maintenant trente ans que le silence est mon moteur.
J’imagine pourtant l’incroyable mélodie que nous pourrions composer ensemble.
Faite de vérité.
Ça ne ferait pas si mal. Je vous promets.
Juste une égratignure sur la carcasse de notre curieuse famille.
C’est tellement rien comparé à un coup de poing dans le nez.

A une enfant prise d’assaut comme une ville assiégée par un adulte tout-puissant, sous le regard silencieux d’une équipe.
A un réalisateur qui, tout en chuchotant, m’entraîne sur son lit sous prétexte de devoir comprendre qui je suis vraiment.
C’est tellement rien comparé à quarante-cinq prises, avec deux mains dégueulasses sur mes seins de 15 ans.

Le cinéma est fait de notre désir de vérité.
Les films nous regardent autant que nous les regardons.
Il est également fait de notre besoin d’humanité. Non ?
Alors, pourquoi ?

Pourquoi accepter que cet art que nous aimons tant, cet art qui nous lie soit utilisé comme une couverture pour un trafic illicite de jeunes filles ?

Parce que vous savez que cette solitude, c’est la mienne mais également celle de milliers dans notre société.
Elle est entre vos mains.
Nous sommes sur le devant de la scène.
A l’aube d’un jour nouveau.

Nous pouvons décider que des hommes accusés de viol ne puissent pas faire la pluie et le beau temps dans le cinéma.
Ça, ça donne le ton, comme on dit.
On ne peut pas ignorer la vérité parce qu’il ne s’agit pas de notre enfant, de notre fils, notre fille.

On ne peut pas être à un tel niveau d’impunité, de déni et de privilège qui fait que la morale nous passe par-dessus la tête.
Nous devons donner l’exemple.
Nous aussi.

Ne croyez pas que je vous parle de mon passé, de mon passé qui ne passe pas.
Mon passé, c’est aussi le présent des deux mille personnes qui m’ont envoyé leur témoignage en quatre jours… C’est aussi l’avenir de tous ceux qui n’ont pas encore eu la force de devenir leur propre témoin.

Vous savez, pour se croire, faut-il encore être cru.
Le monde nous regarde, nous voyageons avec nos films, nous avons la chance d’être dans un pays où il paraît que la liberté existe.
Alors, avec la même force morale que nous utilisons pour créer,
Ayons le courage de dire tout haut ce que nous savons tout bas.

N’incarnons pas des héroïnes à l’écran, pour nous retrouver cachées dans les bois dans la vraie vie ; n’incarnons pas des héros révolutionnaires ou humanistes, pour nous lever le matin en sachant qu’un réalisateur a abusé une jeune actrice, et ne rien dire.

Merci de m’avoir donné la possibilité de mettre ma cape ce soir et de vous envahir un peu.

Il faut se méfier des petites filles.
Elles touchent le fond de la piscine, se cognent, se blessent, mais rebondissent.
Les petites filles sont des punks qui reviennent déguisées en hamster.
Et, pour rêver à une possible révolution,
Elles aiment se repasser ce dialogue de Céline et Julie vont en bateau :

Céline : « Il était une fois.
Julie : Il était deux fois. Il était trois fois.
Céline : Il était que, cette fois, ça ne se passera pas comme ça, pas comme les autres fois. »

Transcription from Le Monde, 23 Feb 2024.

Saturday, February 17, 2024

All of Us Strangers

Andrew Haigh: All of Us Strangers (GB/US 2023) starring Paul Mescal (Harry) and Andrew Scott (Adam).

All of Us Strangers [Finnish and Swedish title] / Sans jamais nous connaître.
    GB/US 2023. PC: Blueprint Pictures / Film4 / Searchlight Pictures / TSG Entertainment. P: Graham Broadbent, Peter Czernin, Sarah Harvey.
    D+SC: Andrew Haigh - based on the novel Ijintachi to no natsu / Strangers (1987) by Taichi Yamada. Cin: Jamie Ramsay - Super 35 mm - colour - 1:2,39 - master format: 4K - release format: D-Cinema. PD: Sarah Finlay. AD: Bill Brown, Luke Deering. Set dec: Lauren Doss, Marian Murray. Cost: Sarah Blenkinsop. Makeup: Zoe Clare Brown, Nicola Buck. SFX: Scott McIntyre. VFX: Simon Hughes - Goldcrest VFX - Union VFX. M: Emilie Levienaise-Farrouch. S: Joakim Sundström - Dolby Digital. ED: Jonathan Alberts. Casting: Kahleen Crawford.
    Soundtrack: Frankie Goes to Hollywood: "The Power of Love" (Holly Johnson, Peter Gill, Mark O'Toole, Brian Nash, 1984) ; Pet Shop Boys: "Always on My Mind" (1987) originally written by Wayne Carson, Mark James, Johnny Christopher (1972) ; The Housemartins: "Build" (Paul Heaton, San Cullimore, 1987).
    C: Andrew Scott (Adam), Paul Mescal (Harry), Carter John Grout (Young Adam), Jamie Bell (Dad), Claire Foy (Mum), Ami Tredrea (Waitress).
    Loc: London ; Sanderstead, South Croydon ; Insignia Point, Stratford, Newham ; The Vauxhall Tavern
    105 min
    Festival premiere: 31 Aug 2023 Telluride.
    US premiere: 22 Dec 2023.
    UK premiere: 26 Jan 2024.
    French premiere: 14 Feb 2024, released by Walt Disney Company France, sous-titres francais: Sylvestre Melninger.
    Finnish premiere: 8 March 2024, released by Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Finland.
    Viewed at MK2 Odéon côté St Germain, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Métro Odéon, 113 bd Saint-Germain, 75006 Paris, 17 Feb 2024.

Bilge Ebiri (Telluride Film Festival 2023): " Adam (Andrew Scott) and Harry (Paul Mescal), the sole inhabitants of a large, brand new apartment building, meet one night after a fire alarm echoes through the halls. Adam is a struggling screenwriter attempting to work on a story about his suburban childhood, and his encounter with Harry sends him back to his hometown, where he finds his parents (Jamie Bell and Claire Foy)—preserved at the age they were when he saw them last. Is this a ghost story, or a dream, or something else? Andrew Haigh (LEAN ON PETE, 45 YEARS) has created a quietly expressive and affecting story, plunging us into the tactile and sensuous pleasures of an intoxicating world, one caught between memory and the present, between regret and possibility. –BE (U.K., 2023, 105m) In person: Andrew Haigh "

Synopsis from the production notes. " One night in his near-empty tower block in contemporary London, Adam (Andrew Scott) has a chance encounter with a mysterious neighbor Harry (Paul Mescal), which punctures the rhythm of his everyday life. As a relationship develops between them, Adam is preoccupied with memories of the past and finds himself drawn back to the suburban town where he grew up, and the childhood home where his parents (Claire Foy and Jamie Bell), appear to be living, just as they were on the day they died, 30 years before. "

AA: Andrew Haigh's intensely lyrical vision of urban solitude, contrasting London's tower brutalism with Croydon's suburban hometown nostalgia. Train ride passages between them emerge as refrains in this surprising poetic journey into memory and imagination.

Based on a Japanese ghost story by Taichi Yamada, Haigh explores a homosexual romance in the present, while processing the trauma of becoming orphaned in the 1980s. Revenants from the past and the present appear as contemporary reality in the world of the lonesome Adam (Andrew Scott). 

Jamie Ramsay shoots the film impressively, drawing advantage from the refined warmth and nuance of photochemical 35 mm film and the grandeur of vision of the scope frame. There is a cosmic sense in the movie, a celestial presence of the stars in the sky and the red moon. The general ambience is warm and tender.

Adam's relationships with his parents and his lover Harry appear as real during the film, and only afterwards do we understand that they were ghosts. Everything in the movie is subjective. The whole thing takes place in Adam's consciousness. It is a voyage in his inner world.

It is a tale of a double healing process from profound shocks: the death of Adam's parents in a car accident, and the death of Harry in a drug-and-alcohol overdose. In dreams, Adam walks with them until he is able to come to terms with overwhelming loss and grief.

Music from the 1980s in all-important. The main theme tune is Frankie Goes To Hollywood's "The Power Of Love". "Always On My Mind" is the song that connects Adam with his parents. Adam is playing the Pet Shop Boys interpretation, but the parents sing along, familiar with the original versions of Brenda Lee and Elvis Presley.


La Bête / The Beast (2024)

Bertrand Bonello: La Bête / The Beast (FR/CA 2024) avec Léa Seydoux (Gabrielle Monnier).

Venezia 80 Competition
FR/CA 2024. 
Production: Arte France Cinéma, Les Films du Bélier (Justin Taurand), My New Picture (Bertrand Bonello), Sons Of Manual (Nancy Grant, Xavier Dolan)
Director: Bertrand Bonello
Screenplay: Bertrand Bonello - d'après un traitement de Bertrand Bonello, Benjamin Charbit et Guillaume Bréaud - librement adapté de "La Bête dans la jungle" d' Henry James - the short story "The Beast in the Jungle" (1903).
Cinematographer: Josée Deshaies - the Paris 1910 story shot on 35 mm - 1,85 and 1,37 - colour - released on DCP
Production Designer: Katia Wyszkop
Costume Designer: Pauline Jacquard
Music: Bertrand Bonello, Anna Bonello
Sound: Nicolas Cantin, Clément Laforce, Jean-Pierre Laforce
Editor: Anita Roth
Main Cast: Léa Seydoux (Gabrielle Monnier), George MacKay (Louis Lewanski).
Xavier Dolan (système intelligence artificielle) voice
Bertrand Bonello (réalisateur fond vert) voice
Language: French, English
Running Time: 146'
    Dédié à Gaspard Ulliel.
    À la place du générique de fin, un QR code à scanner avec son smartphone est affiché à l'écran pendant une minute. Il renvoie sur une vidéo MP4 de huit minutes et demie contenant le générique de fin avec une scène d'une trentaine de secondes. (As formulated in Wikipédia).
    Festival premiere: 3 Sep 2023 Venice 
    French premiere: 7 Feb 2024, released by Ad Vitam, sous-titres par Hiventy.
    Viewed at UGC Odéon 5, Saint-Germain-des-Prés,  Métro Odéon,124 bd St-Germain, 75006 Paris, 17 Feb 2024.

" In a near future where artificial intelligence8 reigns supreme, human emotions have become a threat. To get rid of them, Gabrielle must purify her DNA by going back into her past lives. There, she reunites with Louis, her great love. But she’s overcome by fear, a premonition that catastrophe is on the way. "

" First, I wanted to paint a portrait of a woman and deal head-on with love and melodrama. Then to confront it with genre cinema, since to me romance and genre seem to respond to each other. My desire was to interweave the intimate and the spectacular, classicism and modernity, the known and the unknown, the visible and the invisible. To speak, perhaps, of the most heartbreaking of feelings, the fear of love. It’s also a portrait of a woman that almost becomes a documentary about an actress. "

AA: The Beast is Bertrand Bonello's dystopian time play, a time machine voyage in three time periods: the past (Paris in 1910), the present (Los Angeles in 2014), and the future (2044).

Featuring two protagonists in each story, all interpreted by Léa Seydoux and George MacKay. They are different persons, yet connected in a way that has affinities with the Buddhist sense of reincarnation familiar from Celine Song's Past Lives.

Only the Paris 1910 story is directly based on Henry James's story "The Beast in the Jungle". But its concept of a premonition of some future catastrophe reverberates throughout: the Great Flood of Paris in 1910, an earthquake in Los Angeles, and Artificial Intelligence in the future.

Also Henry James's deepest subject, that the hidden beast is our fear of love, is present in all stories.

The Beast is a Léa Seydoux vehicle, evoking Josef Sternberg's Marlene Dietrich cycle. Sternberg's Galatea finally took over and left Pygmalion behind. Nothing of the kind happens here, but The Beast sometimes looks like a Léa Seydoux showcase and vanity project. Her fabulous beauty is revealed in numerous avatara (incarnations of star divinity).

The Beast is star-driven to an extent that brings to mind another film in today's repertory: Poor Things, in which Yorgos Lanthimos lets Emma Stone go wild in a rip-roaring rampage of Victorian / timeless emancipation.

Yet one more point of comparison might be Orlando.

Bertrand Bonello has switched the roles in Henry James's story. In it, the male is the one with the hidden fear, and the female the one with the deep understanding. Bonello must know what he is doing, but in the original the female has supreme gravity.

Like Léa Seydoux, also George MacKay displays extreme versatility in the film, ranging from a distinguished flâneur in Belle Époque Paris to a marginalized incel lost in darkest social media jungle - the dark internet - in nocturnal Los Angeles. From reverence to rape. Femicide belongs to Bonello's dystopian themes.

The Beast is very heterogenous. A smörgåsbord. Another fine mess? It gives a lot to think about.

I'm grateful that it made me to read for the first time Henry James's short story "The Beast in the Jungle" from 1903. It is among his greatest and most personal works. 

In 1897, a great change took place in the work of Henry James. He started to dictate, and his books grew in volume. Many find that the quality suffered, but for me, it only became different. I read much of "The Beast in the Jungle" aloud, and it was more powerful that way. It was a revelation for me to listen on Yle Radio 1 Erja Manto reading Marcel Proust's complete In Search of Lost Time and discover that those page-long meandering sentences felt more alive and made more sense.

I don't mind that Bonello's film has so little to do with Henry James. His way is the right way, because I find Henry James essentially unfilmable. What matters most in his work is inseparable from language. His work is language-driven.

Robin Wood wrote for the BFI Modern Classics series a great monograph on Iain Softley's The Wings of the Dove and had royal fun with critics raving about it as an adaptation without obviously ever having read the novel.

Of course James Ivory and Jane Campion have made quality films based on Henry James... but they are not necessary. For me, there is one masterpiece in the cinematic Henry James legacy: William Wyler's The Heiress. Also Martin Gabel's The Lost Moment, based on The Aspern Papers, has true cinematic energy. I have not yet seen Francois Truffaut's The Green Room, partly also influenced by "The Beast in the Jungle".

Don't believe anything you can find in the internet about the Henry James story. It is a multi-layered, complex hall of reflections. It is about a life-long friendship that is more meaningful than many love affairs. It is about meeting someone who is not quite the significant other, yet even more clairvoyant. A tender challenger for a lifetime. It is a tantalizing story about passing by. About the mystery of life, of self-knowledge inseparable from dialogue. The indeterminate, searching quality is the essence. 

The word "queer" appears four times. The meaning is different from today's, yet the modern sense is not necessarily wrong. The point is that it does not matter. It is not about a love that does not dare speak its name. It is about a true affinity of spirits that can be greater than love.


Henry James: The Beast in the Jungle (1903) short story

Benoît Jacquot: La Bête dans le jungle (FR 1990) avec Sami Frey (John Marcher) et Delphine Seyrig (Catherine Bartram), enregistrant le spectacle d'Alfredo Arias d'après Henry James.



Originally published as part of the collection The Better Sort. London: Methuen / New York City: Charles Scribner's Sons, GB/US 1903.
From The Project Gutenberg ebook, 1997.
Project Gutenberg™ terms: please see at the end of this file.


What determined the speech that startled him in the course of their encounter scarcely matters, being probably but some words spoken by himself quite without intention--spoken as they lingered and slowly moved together after their renewal of acquaintance.  He had been conveyed by friends an hour or two before to the house at which she was staying; the party of visitors at the other house, of whom he was one, and thanks to whom it was his theory, as always, that he was lost in the crowd, had been invited over to luncheon.  There had been after luncheon much dispersal, all in the interest of the original motive, a view of Weatherend itself and the fine things, intrinsic features, pictures, heirlooms, treasures of all the arts, that made the place almost famous; and the great rooms were so numerous that guests could wander at their will, hang back from the principal group and in cases where they took such matters with the last seriousness give themselves up to mysterious appreciations and measurements.  There were persons to be observed, singly or in couples, bending toward objects in out-of-the-way corners with their hands on their knees and their heads nodding quite as with the emphasis of an excited sense of smell.  When they were two they either mingled their sounds of ecstasy or melted into silences of even deeper import, so that there were aspects of the occasion that gave it for Marcher much the air of the "look round," previous to a sale highly advertised, that excites or quenches, as may be, the dream of acquisition.  The dream of acquisition at Weatherend would have had to be wild indeed, and John Marcher found himself, among such suggestions, disconcerted almost equally by the presence of those who knew too much and by that of those who knew nothing.  The great rooms caused so much poetry and history to press upon him that he needed some straying apart to feel in a proper relation with them, though this impulse was not, as happened, like the gloating of some of his companions, to be compared to the movements of a dog sniffing a cupboard.  It had an issue promptly enough in a direction that was not to have been calculated.


Anatomie d'une chûte / Anatomy of a Fall

Justine Triet: Anatomie d'une chûte / Anatomy of a Fall (FR 2023).

Putoamisen anatomia / Fritt fall.
    FR 2023. PC: Les Films Pelléas, Les Films de Pierre. Co-PC: France 2 Cinéma, Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes Cinéma. P: Marie-Ange Luciani and David Thion. Ass. P: Philippe Martin.
    D: Justine Triet. SC: Justine Triet and Arthur Harari. DP: Simon Beaufils - colour - 1.85. PD: Emmanuelle Duplay. Cost: Isabelle Pannetier. S: Julien Sicart, Fanny Martin, Jeanne Delplancq, Olivier Goinard - 5.1. ED: Laurent Sénéchal.
    Ass D: Benjamin Papin. Assoc P: Philippe Martin. Prod. Manager: Julien Flick. Continuity supervisor: Clémentine Schaeffer. Casting : Cynthia Arra. Loc. Manager: Benjamin Goumard.
Sandra Hüller / Sandra Voyter
Swann Arlaud / Maître Vincent Renzi, lawyer, Sandra's ex
Milo Machado Graner / Daniel Maleski, the son of Sandra and Samuel
Antoine Reinartz / l'avocat général / the prosecutor
Samuel Theis / Samuel Maleski
Jehnny Beth / Marge Berger, Daniel's companion
Saadia Bentaïeb / Maître Nour Boudaoud, Sandra's second lawyer
Camille Rutherford / Zoé Solidor, student
Anne Rotger / la présidente du tribunal / the judge
Sophie Fillières / Monica 
    Messi / Snoop, Daniel's guardian dog
Nesrine Slaoui : la journaliste de BFM TV
Antoine Buéno : Balard, un expert
Wajdi Mouawad : Jammal, le psychiatre
Sacha Wolff : le chef de l'enquête
Kareen Guiock : la présentatrice de télévision
Arthur Harari : le critique littéraire
    Loc (France): Wikipédia: Le tournage a lieu en mars et avril 2022 en Savoie dans la vallée de la Maurienne (à Villarembert, à Fontcouverte-la-Toussuire, Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne et Saint-Léger), en Isère (à Montbonnot-Saint-Martin et Grenoble) et en Charente-Maritime, notamment au palais de justice de Saintes en avril-mai 2022. - IMDb: Les Crevasses, Villarembert, Savoie, France. - Saintes, Charente-Maritime - Grenoble, Isère. 3 March - 26 April 2022.
    In French, also in English, and additionally in German.
    Sous-titres francais: Anaïs Duchert.
    151 min
    Festival premiere: 21 May 2023 Cannes. International Sales: mk2 films 
    Paris premiere: 14 June 2023
    French premiere (wide): 23 Aug 2023. Visa number : 155.638. French Distribution: Le Pacte
    Finnish premiere: 9 Feb 2023.
    Viewed at MK2 Odéon Côté St Michel, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Métro Odéon, 7 rue Hautefeuille, 75006 Paris, 17 Feb 2024

Press kit: " For the past year, Sandra, a German writer, her French husband Samuel, and their eleven-year-old son Daniel have lived a secluded life in a remote town in the French Alps. When Samuel is found dead in the snow below their chalet, the police question whether he committed suicide or was killed. Samuel's death is treated as suspicious, presumed murder, and Sandra becomes the main suspect. Little by little the trial becomes not just an investigation of the circumstances of Samuel's death, but an unsettling psychological journey into the depths of Sandra and Samuel's conflicted relationship. "

AA: The Shining in the French Alps.

Anatomy of a Fall is another great French courtroom drama within a year, following Alice Diop's Saint Omer.

It also belongs to the cinema's all-time best courtroom dramas. The title evokes an eminent predecessor, Otto Preminger's Anatomy of a Murder, but Justine Triet is not following models. One of the rewards of the movie is the account of the French practice of law and justice, different from the American one.

Anatomy of a Fall is a good trial drama and police procedural. Most profoundly, it is an anatomy of a marriage. At the heart of the mystery is the fact that an outsider can never truly understand what goes on in a relationship.

It is also a good thriller, suspenseful to the end about finding out who is guilty. For Justine Triet, in the tradition of F. M. Dostoevsky, the question "who is guilty?" has two levels. If the name of the guilty one is known, the true question still remains.

Exceptional performances, by Sandra Hüller and Milo Machado Graner especially, keep growing in memory. The sense of place in the location shooting in Savoie is essential to the fabula in many ways. 

I am thinking about The Shining, another unhappy family trio in a fabulous snowbound mountain landscape. The male protagonist's hellish writer's block is the main link. Otherwise it's as different as can be. 

The husband is French, the wife is German, and their main language - "the middle ground" - is English. Both are writers, professionals of language. Language is all important, especially the mother tongue, the original language of love. My personal conviction is that in a love affair across language barriers, both should learn the other's native language. It comes from beyond consciousness. It is beyond words. In today's world, all of us who are not native speakers, speak bad / mediocre English that fails to convey our true self, including me here. We are different beings, our true self is only revealed in our native language. Anatomy of a Fall is also about the fall of language.


Monday, February 12, 2024

Somewhere in the Night

Joseph L. Mankiewicz: Somewhere in the Night (US 1949) avec John Hodiak, Nancy Guild, Lloyd Nolan.

Quelque part dans la nuit / Takaa-ajettuna yössä / Jagad i natten.
De Mankiewicz, Joseph L.
Avec: John Hodiak, Nancy Guild, Lloyd Nolan.
    UK premiere 19 May 1946.
    Finnish premiere 7 Nov 1947.
    French premiere 2 June 1948, re-release 22 May 2013.
    Viewed at Cinéma Le Champo 1, 51 rue des Écoles, Quartier latin, Métro Cluny-La Sorbonne, 75005 Paris, version originale avec sous-titres français (n.c.), 12 Feb 2024.

Cinéma Le Champo: " Au lendemain de la Seconde Guerre mondiale, George Taylor, soldat amnésique, tente de reconstituer son passé. Pour tout indice, il dispose de deux lettres : l'une signée par une femme, l'autre par un certain Larry Cravat. Aidé dans sa quête par Christy, une chanteuse, et Kendall, un policier, il apprend que Cravat est un détective véreux accusé de meurtre et part à sa recherche. "

AA: Joseph L. Mankiewicz debuts as a film director in the year 1946 with two films: Dragonwyck (10 April 1946) and Somewhere in the Night (19 May 1946). He is a Hollywood veteran, screenwriter for Paramount since 1929 and producer for MGM since 1934. At Fox, Mankiewicz starts as a writer in 1944 and makes 11 films as director in 1946-1952, including the masterpieces The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, All About Eve and 5 Fingers.

Somewhere in the Night is far from Mankiewicz's best work, not a good film, but an intriguing and rewarding one. It belongs to Mankiewicz's film noir cycle, with House of Strangers (US 1949) and No Way Out (1950) and arguably Escape (GB 1948).

The script is full of holes and feels like an amateur job despite the presence of talent such as Lee Strasberg and Mankiewicz himself. Major story elements remain unexplored.

The film is not well cast. The performers of the leading roles could be replaced with puppets. But there are unforgettable presences among the supporting cast, especially Houseley Stevenson as the dockworker Michael Conroy who has been locked up in a mental hospital. The great Austrian man of the theatre in Hollywood exile, Fritz Kortner (1892-1970), creates a disturbing performance as Anzelmo aka Dr. Oracle, a fortune teller near Terminal Dock. Stevenson and Kortner convey a sense of existential agony otherwise missing from the performances.

Despite all the drawbacks, and despite not being a good film, Somewhere in the Night is essential film noir.

Somewhere in the Night could be a good title for a study on film noir. The opening credit image is of the night sky.

It is a story of amnesia, loss of identity, loss of memory and loss of language so thorough that in the beginning, George Taylor does not know what a tree is. The beginning of the movie is largely conveyed via inner monologue. The oneiric ambience of the subjective recitative is fuelled with ample doses of morphine to alleviate Taylor's unbearable pain.

George Taylor is a convalescing U.S. Marine war invalid, a victim of a grenade detonated under him in the South Pacific, his body shattered and his face burned to oblivion. With plastic surgery, he has got a new face. He does not recognize himself in the mirror. Nobody recognizes him. This key theme remains underexplored.

Like a somnambulist, George Taylor follows tiny clues remaining of his life, leading him into the middle of a criminal network in Los Angeles. We visit a dubious nightclub, meet a torch singer with a heart of gold, a femme fatale, a fake psychoanalyst-fortune teller, brutal thugs and other film noir cornerstones. Everyone seems to know something fatal about George, while he is reduced to playing blind man's bluff. His true identity, finally, is a surprise to everybody, including himself.

A pioneering feature is an experimental use of first person camera, soon reused by Delmer Daves in Dark Passage (produced Oct 1946 - Jan 1947, premiere 6 Sep 1947) and made famous by Robert Montgomery in Lady in the Lake (US 1947). 

Fritz Lang in Ministry of Fear (US 1944) had shown that poetry could be created from material such as this, but the dialogue-bound Mankiewicz does not dare let the images fly like in a dream. In Dark Passage, the pairing of Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall demonstrated how much the cast can transform such a film.

Still and all, Somewhere in the Night has its share of nightmare imagery. Norbert Brodine was one of Hollywood's great cinematographer veterans, and he found an approach of his own to film noir. He had already shot The House on 92nd Street and continued in noir with the unforgettable 13 Rue Madeleine, as well as Boomerang!, Kiss of Death, Road House and Thieves' Highway.

Brodine was especially good in noir location shooting, inspired by neorealism. In Somewhere in the Night, IMDb lists the following Los Angeles locations: Union Station, Bunker Hill and Chinatown. I don't know whether Terminal Dock was shot on location. But it becomes real enough in the world of the movie.

"The streets were dark with something more than night", wrote Raymond Chandler, and Mankiewicz and Brodine succeed in conveying that. Three years ago I participated in Gerald Peary's American Film Noir Poll on Facebook. The definition of film noir is a matter of argument. Elated by the platform created by Peary, I was able to figure out my own view for the first time, based on a philosophy of history. The distinction of film noir for me is that it was powered by the Second World War, different from all other wars because of the Holocaust and Hiroshima. Film noir is a disturbing oneiric expression of its cosmic agony and existential fear.

Saturday, February 10, 2024

Zielona granica / Green Border

Agnieszka Holland: Zielona granica / Green Border (PL/FR/CZ/BE 2023).

Venezia 80 Competition
Director: Agnieszka Holland
Production: Metro Films (Marcin Wierzchosławski), Astute Films (Fred Bernstein), Metro Lato (Agnieszka Holland), Blick Productions (Maria Blicharska-Lacroix, Damien McDonald), Marlene Film Production (Šárka Cimbalová), Beluga Tree (Diana Elbaum, David Ragonig), dFlights (Dominika Kulczyk), Downey Ink. (Mike Downey)
Languages: Polish, Arabic, English, French
Countries: Poland, France, Czech Republic, Belgium
Cast: Jalal Altawil, Maja Ostaszewska, Tomasz Włosok, Behi Djanati Atai, Mohamad Al Rashi, Dalia Naous
Screenplay: Maciej Pisuk, Gabriela Łazarkiewicz-Sieczko, Agnieszka Holland
Cinematographer: Tomasz Naumiuk
Editor: Pavel Hrdlička
Production Designer: Katarzyna Jędrzejczyk
Costume Designer: Katarzyna Lewińska
Music: Frédéric Vercheval
Sound: Roman Dymny
In collaboration with (Direction): Kamila Tarabura, Katarzyna Warzecha
    Song: "Mourir mille fois" (Youssoupha).
    Sous-titres francais Isabelle Warolin (tbc).
    Viewed at UGC Danton, 99, bd Saint-Germain, Saint-Germain-des-Prés, Métro Odéon, 75006 Paris, 10 Feb 2024

SYNOPSIS (Venice Film Festival)
" In the treacherous and swampy forests that make up the so called “green border” between Belarus and Poland, refugees from the Middle East and Africa trying to reach the European Union are trapped in a geopolitical crisis cynically engineered by Belarusian dictator Alexander Lukashenko. In an attempt to provoke Europe, refugees are lured to the border by propaganda promising easy passage to the EU. Pawns in this hidden war, the lives of Julia, a newly minted activist who has given up her comfortable life, Jan, a young border guard, and a Syrian family intertwine. 30 years after Europa Europa, three-time Oscar Nominee Agnieszka Holland’s poignant new feature Zielona granica opens our eyes, speaks to the heart, and challenges us to reflect on the moral choices that fall to ordinary people every day. "

" We live in a world where it takes great imagination and courage to face all the challenges of modern times. The social media revolution and artificial intelligence have made it increasingly difficult for genuine voices to be heard. In my opinion, there is no point in engaging in art if one doesn’t fight for that voice, if one doesn’t fight to ask questions about important, painful, sometimes unsolvable issues that put us before dramatic choices. This is exactly the situation that’s happening on the Polish-Belarusian border. "

UGC opening announcements: 

- Sa place
- Ses voisins
- L'oeuvre
- L'environment

Vous êtes loin d'avoir tout vu.

AA: Having become a key director in prestige television drama including The Wire, Treme, and House of Cards, Agnieszka Holland continues directing high profile theatrical films. After major historical dramas about Stalinian imperialism (Mr. Jones / L'Ombre de Staline and Šarlatán / Le Procès de l'herboriste) she turns to the contemporary Putin-Lukashenko imperialism in Green Border, a devastating epic about the weaponization of the Syrian refugee crisis against the European Union.

We meet a number of dramatis personae: smugglers, refugees, the border guard, the activists, and bystanders, some of which are committed to help (Julia), and others who refuse engagement.

The movie starts in green with a view of the forest borderland, only to be reduced to black and white for the rest of the duration. This is fiction, but the often handheld cinematography aspires to the condition of candid camera.

This is a tale of immense complexity. To help the asylum seeker is a fundamental humanitarian duty, known since Hesiod as philoxenia. But the weaponization of refugees is a cruel trap designed by Putin and Lukashenko to destabilize the European Union.

Holland tells the epic tale in unflinching scenes. Her approach is that of a matter-of-fact statement. Refugees being shuffled from Belarus to Poland and back again fifteen times, suffering from hunger and hypothermia in the forest. Children drowning in the mud. An old man beaten to death. The attitude of the border guards on both sides: callous, cynical, vicious and murderous. There is an absence of dignity.

A light of hope emerges in the work of the activists, who cannot interfere but can provide humanitarian aid (food, drink, medication, clothing), documentation and support in asylum applications. Towards the end there is also a hopeful sequence with refugees joining Polish youngsters in singing "Mourir mille fois".

In the end credits we learn that 30.000 refugees have died trying to reach Europe since the Syrian refugee crisis began in 2014. Two million Ukrainian refugees have been let to Poland without harassment. Putin is responsible for the Ukrainian crisis and has a major responsibility in the Syrian crisis. Since 2023, Putin is weaponizing refugees on the Finnish border, too.

Agnieszka Holland conveys unforgettably the humanitarian catastrophe that is about to grow tenfold and hundredfold.

Friday, February 02, 2024

Van Gogh à Auvers-sur-Oise : Les derniers mois / The Last Months (exposition au Musée d'Orsay)

Vincent Van Gogh: Champ de blé aux corbeaux / Wheatfield with Crows. FR 1890. Plaine d'Auvers-sur-Oise. Mardi 8 juillet 1890. Huile sur toile, 50,5 x 103 cm. Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum (Vincent Van Gogh Stichting). Cat. rais.: F779; JH2117. Please do click on the image to enlarge it to the full screen. Photo: Google Art Project.

Vincent Van Gogh: Champ de blé sous des nuages d'orage / Wheatfield Under Thunderclouds. FR 1890. Plaine d'Auvers-sur-Oise. Mercredi 9 juillet 1890. Huile sur toile, 50,4 x 101,3 cm. Amsterdam, Van Gogh Museum (Vincent van Gogh Stichting). Cat. rais.: F778; JH2097. Please do click on the image to enlarge it to the full screen. Photo: Musée d'Orsay.

Exposition au Musée d'Orsay
Van Gogh à Auvers-sur-Oise : Les derniers mois
Du 3 octobre 2023 au 4 février 2024
Visited on Friday, 2 February 2024.

AA: There is a discouraging warning on the museum website: "l'exposition Van Gogh est complète jusqu'à sa fermeture le dimanche 4 février". Determined to make every effort, I come early, equip myself with morning papers from the Invalides newsstand and get ready to wait all day. The queue is very long, but I do get in in an hour.

The exhibition is crowded. The experience is epic and reverential. Patience is needed.

Artists have no use for labels. They only exist to be challenged. But critics and historians need them. Van Gogh started in the inspiration of the realism and naturalism of Courbet and Millet. He was passionate about the earth, the sky, the water and the people whose life was all hard work. When Van Gogh moved to France, impressionists and pointillists revealed new dimensions of colour and form. Beyond realism: a faithful rendition of external reality was heightened with an awareness of its perception. The creation transformed into a simultaneous quest of reflection and self-reflection.

This unique exhibition is devoted solely to the last two months in Van Gogh's life. It evokes many thoughts and feelings, and it is a showcase of versatility in many of the artist's favourite subjects including portraits, self-portraits, peasants, flowers, gardens, orchards, wheat fields, stacks of grain, trees, night skies and thunderclouds.

A change takes place towards the end of the chronology. Van Gogh elongates his paintings horizontally, starting to prefer the double square (double carré) format. Cineastes call this format CinemaScope. (See illustrations above).

But a change even more profound takes place. If I would have to choose one word to describe the meaning of this show for me, it would be expressionism. Having started in realism and having upgraded his approach with impressionism, Van Gogh finally moves towards expressionism.

He sees the world increasingly as an inner vision. His passion, his fury, his love, his agony. Portraits turn into self-portraits. Even landscapes become self-portraits. Van Gogh paints his inner world in the mirror of the outer world.

His images are never purely subjective. Van Gogh keeps developing a double narrative. A passionate dialogue between the self and the world.

Even from the realistic viewpoint he gets deeper. Beyond the appearances he sees more. In the age of nuclear physics and quantum physics we sense in Van Gogh's art an awareness of infinities both in the macrocosmos and the microcosmos. There is nothing solid in his vibrant brushstrokes. They express a universe full of life, electricity, particles and cosmic charges. Even in Van Gogh's flowers and still lives everything is in motion. Panta rhei.



" Présentée au musée d’Orsay à l’automne 2023, cette exposition est la première consacrée aux œuvres produites par Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890) durant les deux derniers mois de sa vie, à Auvers-sur-Oise, près de Paris. L’exposition constitue l’aboutissement d’années de recherches sur cette phase cruciale de la vie de l’artiste, et permettra au public de l’apprécier enfin à sa juste dimension. "

" Arrivé à Auvers-sur-Oise le 20 mai 1890, Vincent van Gogh y décède le 29 juillet à la suite d’une tentative de suicide. Bien que le peintre n’ait passé qu’un peu plus de deux mois à Auvers, cette période voit un renouveau artistique, avec un style et un développement propres, marqués par la tension psychique née de la nouvelle situation mais aussi par la création de quelques-uns de ses plus grands chefs-d’œuvre. "

" Durement éprouvé par les différentes crises subies à Arles puis dans l’asile de Saint-Rémy, Van Gogh se rapproche de Paris et de son frère Theo pour trouver un nouvel élan créatif. Le choix d’Auvers tient à la présence du Dr Gachet, médecin spécialisé dans le traitement de la mélancolie, et par ailleurs ami des impressionnistes, collectionneur et peintre amateur. Van Gogh s’installe au centre du village, dans l’auberge Ravoux, et explore tous les aspects du nouveau monde qui s’offre à lui, tout en luttant contre des inquiétudes multiples liées à ses crises, sa santé, ses relations avec son frère, sa place dans le monde de l’art. "

" Aucune exposition n’a encore été consacrée exclusivement à ce stade final, pourtant crucial, de sa carrière. En deux mois, le peintre a produit 74 tableaux et 33 dessins, parmi lesquels des œuvres iconiques : Le Docteur Paul Gachet, L’église d’Auvers-sur-Oise, ou encore Champ de blé aux corbeaux. Riche d’une quarantaine de tableaux et d’une vingtaine de dessins, l’exposition mettra en lumière cette période dans un propos thématique : premiers paysages figurant le village, portraits, natures mortes, paysages de la campagne environnante. Elle présentera aussi une série, unique dans l’œuvre de Van Gogh, de tableaux d’un format allongé en double carré. "

" Cette exposition est organisée par l’Établissement public des musées d’Orsay et de l’Orangerie de Paris et le musée Van Gogh d’Amsterdam qui la présentera du 12 mai au 3 septembre 2023, pour marquer son 50e anniversaire. "