Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Film Space schedule

At Film Space: on Saturdays at 7 pm

Film Space in December is presenting “A Month of Krzysztof Kieslowski” featuring the Three Colors Trilogy, films of which I am very fond, plus his The Double Life of Veronique. In January they present simply a series of films by some directors they like.

Film Space is to the right and in the back of the CMU Art Museum, in the Media Arts and Design building across from the ballet school. Now that the weather is cool, they are resuming their rooftop showings, weather permitting. You might want to bring something to sit on or lie on. A contribution is requested in the donation box at the entrance. Well worth supporting.

Saturday, December 20: Trois Couleurs: Rouge / Three Colors: Red (1994) by Krzysztof Kieslowski – 99 mins – France, Drama. English subtitles. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 84 out of 100.

With Irène Jacob, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Frédérique Feder, Jean-Pierre Lorit, Samuel Le Bihan, Marion Stalens.

Third and last part of Kieslowski's trilogy . . . Valentine is a young model living in Geneva. Because of a dog she ran over, she meets a retired judge who spies his neighbors' phone calls, not for money but to feed his cynicism…”

Alliance Française description

This is my favoriete of the three Color films. The craftsmanship astounds me, and I am deeply moved by the story. Sometimes it seems very strange to me how films end up in their final shape, much of it due not to artistic design, but as a result of accident and coincidence, and things that have very little to do with the original impetus of the film. The ending of White, for example, was an afterthought, and while filming this film, Red, Kieslowski called back the actors of White to hurriedly film what seems to me an essential closure scene that I find amazing wasn’t a part of the original plan.

And in Red, much of the background of the protagonist played by Irène Jacob – the ever-absent boyfriend who only talks on the telephone, continually berating her, bossing her about, demanding she perorms certain actions, and in general being thoroughly disagreable; the mother in England; the brother with his picture in a newspaper after a drug bust – all of this was not even in the script when it was first given to Ms. Jacob, according to what she said in an interiew on the DVD disk of the film. She says she complained to Kieslowski that in the part of the old judge he seemed to pour a great deal of himself and he was thus a vital complete character, while her character was unformed. She said Kieslowski listened to her, and then went off and rewrote her part. I find it hard to believe all that wasn’t a part of the original conception, but apparently not.

However it happened, it did turn out to be a masterpiece in my view, and nicely rounds off and completes the trilogy. I’m amazed at how powerful the work is and how much we care about the character of the judge after having thorughly put us off of him when we first encounter him. We think he is a dispicable human being, and really don’t want to have anything to do with him.

James Berardinelli, Reel Views: Red, the final chapter of Krzysztof Kieslowski's Three Colors trilogy, is a subtle masterpiece. With its satisfying exploration of such complex and diverse themes as destiny and platonic love, Red is not only a self-contained motion picture, but a fitting conclusion to the series. Through one brief-but-important scene, this movie adds closure to both Blue and White, tying both to each other and to Red, and thereby reinforcing the commonality of ideas threaded through all three.

Saturday, December 27: La Double vie de Véronique / The Double Life of Veronique (1991) by Krzysztof Kieslowski – 98 mins – France/ Poland, Drama/ Fantasy/ Romance. In French and Polish, with English subtitles. Generally favorable reviews: 77 out of 100.

With Irène Jacob, Wladyslaw Kowalski, Sandrine Dumas, Guillaume de Tonquedec, Aleksander Bardini.

I will have more to say about this film next week, because though I appreciate the mastery of its filmmaking, I think it is a mess – a very flawed masterpiece. Nevertheless, it was Krzysztof Kieslowski’s international breakthrough, and it remains one of his most beloved films, and is to be sure a ravishing, mysterious rumination on identity, love, and human intuition. Irène Jacob is incandescent as both Weronika, a Polish choir soprano, and her double, Véronique, a French music teacher. Though unknown to each other, the two women share an enigmatic, purely emotional bond, which Kieslowski details in gorgeous reflections, colors, and movements, aided by Slawomir Idziak’s shimmering cinematography and Zbigniew Preisner’s haunting, operatic score. Just before he began work on his stunning film trilogy Blue, Red, and White, Polish writer/director Krzysztof Kieslowski made a film that could easily have been part of the same series, and probably should have been called Yellow, but was titled The Double Life of Veronique instead. Like the three color films, Veronique is a meditation on the interconnectedness of people, told in poetic style with a visual language that repeats itself with the comforting cadence of a nursery rhyme. It's a film experience, in other words, in which the sensuous nature of the medium takes over, and the plot matters less and less as the film goes on.

The Double Life of Veronique is propelled by an idea, and by the excellent performance of Irène Jacob in dual lead roles—as Weronika, a young woman in Poland, and Vèronique, her identical counterpart in France. Weronika receives the shocking news first: She learns about her double when she spies Vèronique in a busload of picture-snapping French tourists on a plaza in Krakow. Vèronique finds out later, when she develops her snapshots from the trip, and is equally devastated. A doppelganger, in this case, is not a pal who knows what you're going to say before you say it; it means that feelings of loneliness and isolation are passed back and forth between the characters, doubling their despair.

Saturday, January 3: Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden? (2008) by Morgan Spurlock – 93 mins – France/ US Documentary. In English. Mixed or average reviews: 45 out of 100.

A Nutshell Review: Of course it will be silly to presume that this film can find the answers to the multi-million dollar question, or even come close to it, so just what was the intention?

Director Morgan Spurlock isn't new to controversy, having burst onto the documentary scene with his real life gorging on MacDonald's for every meal in order to drive home the point that junk food really does junk your well being. So for this new film of his, it stems from his desire to seek out the world's #1 wanted man, and ask him just what floats his boat. He may be putting on his jester cap with his somewhat hilarious introduction, but looking at the preparation with vaccination and even attending some terrorism survival course, he's quite dead set in his mission to find that elusive man.

Until of course you realize that he's hitting all the relative safe havens for the most part, before venturing into the more likely places in Afghanistan and Pakistan. But what he seeks to unearth is the Middle East's attitudes towards Americans, and it seems that the common consensus is that while they have nothing against the people, almost everyone that Spurlock chose to showcase, has issues with the foreign policies. And from interviews with the average Joes, they sure have issues with politics at home more than those that are from abroad. Spurlock also takes opportunity to slam the US foreign policy, and does so through a hilarious animated sequence involving Uncle Sam and the Statue of Liberty herself, in what would be a realistic case of sleeping with the wrong bedfellows.

Bringing the camera from Morocco to Saudi Arabia, and interview people from the state of Palestine and Israel, what he had presented were compelling arguments for and against, as well as plenty of moderate views that seek to debunk the bulk of western media who find delight in demonizing those in the Middle East. Through the looking glass peering at their everyday lives, the film comes to present the basic need for survival and providing for one's family, no matter one's geography, country, religion, and culture. Naturally there were some feathers ruffled, especially when dealing with closed cultures who clam up, or intolerant folks who have no qualms in using violence, but in general, this documentary serves to be rather tame.

Yes it's gimmicky in its title, and half the time you're not sure whether Spurlock will take that plunge and really head to where he will likely find some inkling of positive leads, but what it has presented instead is something more powerful: that this world really needs to reach out and have everyone take a more tolerant attitude, and to understand one another a lot more, to avoid conflict. This should be a world without strangers, and this documentary manages to show just a glimmer of that hope.

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