At Film Space on Saturdays at 7 pm
September is “The Month of World Smash” at Film Space.
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. Showings are in a classroom on the second floor or on the roof, weather permitting. A contribution is requested in the donation box at the entrance – you should leave 20 baht. Well worth supporting.
At Film Space Saturday, September 12: Come and See / Idi i smotri / Иди и смотри (1985) by ElemKlimov– 142 mins – Soviet Union, Drama/ War. In Belarusian/ Russian/ German. Not rated, but most viewers agree it has more strong disturbing and violent content than any other film ever made. Generally favorable reviews: 80 out of 100.
A boy is unwillingly thrust into the atrocities of war in WWII Byelorussia, fighting for a hopelessly unequipped resistance movement against the ruthless German forces. Witnessing scenes of abject terror and accidentally surviving horrifying situations he loses his innocence and then his mind.
IMDb viewer: One of the greatest war films ever made.
A.V. Club, Scott Tobias: Produced to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Russia's triumph over the Germans in WWII, ElemKlimov's searing Come and See paints a real historical event as an expressionist nightmare, full of abstract horrors and heightened surrealism. In this way and others, it's the Russian cousin to Apocalypse Now, but Klimov's episodic journey of the soul is framed instead as a coming-of-age story, told through the widened eyes of a teenage boy who wakes to the existence of evil in the world. Aleksei Kravchenko (whose frozen, stunned visage was reportedly induced in part by on-set hypnotic suggestion) plays the only son of a peasant family in the border province of Byelorussia, where Nazi soldiers burned more than 600 villages and massacred their inhabitants.
After digging out an old rifle from a sandy gravesite, Kravchenko joins a motley resistance force in the forest, but the other soldiers, recognizing his youthful inexperience, leave him behind when they go off to fight. His wanderings lead him to a teenage girl (Olga Mironova) who seems almost imagined, but their quiet, playful moments together are broken by an onslaught of German paratroopers and bombs descending from the skies. When he returns to his village the next day, he finds his family and neighbors slaughtered, and he joins the survivors as they're shepherded to another village, where most are to be burned alive in an emptied church.
Cheered on by sadistic Nazi soldiers, some of whom take pictures for posterity, the mass slaughters captured unblinkingly in Come and See serve as a blunt reminder of the recent past. But this documentary-like realism is made all the more powerful by the boldly poetic depiction of war that precedes it. Klimov's dazzling visions from the boy's point of view owe a debt to the first-person camera in Andrei Tarkovsky's classic debut My Name Is Ivan (a.k.a. Ivan's Childhood). His impressions are unforgettable: the screaming cacophony of a bombing run broken up by the faint sound of a Mozart fugue, a dark, arid field suddenly lit up by eerily beautiful orange flares, German troops appearing like ghosts out of the heavy morning fog. A product of the glasnost era, Come and See is far from a patriotic memorial of Russia's hard-won victory. Instead, it's a chilling reminder of that victory's terrible costs.
IMDb viewer: Hallucinatory, heartrending, traumatic and uncompromising, such a movie will not to be all tastes. It certainly does not make for relaxing viewing, although those who see it often say it remains with them for years after. This was Klimov's last film for, as he said afterwards "I lost interest in making films. Everything that was possible I felt had already been done," no doubt referring to the emotional intensity of his masterpiece, which would be hard to top. By the end of their own viewing, any audience ought to be shocked enough to pick up a rifle themselves and vengefully join the home army setting out to fight the Great Patriotic War …
DVD available from Amazon.com.
At Film Space Saturday, September 19: Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience (2007) by Richard E. Robbins – 81 mins – US, Documentary. Generally favorable reviews: 71/78 out of 100.
IMDb viewer: "Operation Homecoming: Writing the Wartime Experience" is an Oscar-nominated documentary made up almost entirely of journal entries and poems written by soldiers and marines in combat. Operation Homecoming was a program developed by the National Endowment For the Arts in which distinguished authors were sent to military bases in Iraq and Afghanistan to teach soldiers and their families how to capture their experiences of war on paper. Ultimately, thousands of pages worth of personal reflections, in the form of essays, anecdotes and poems, were submitted to the project, only a very small handful of which could, by necessity, find their way into this film.
If nothing else, "Operation Homecoming" serves as an invaluable tool documenting what life is like for the common fighting man toiling in the trenches of not only these two specific wars but of any armed conflict. Notably absent from the film are statements and speeches made by military strategists, politicians and world leaders whose views we hear expressed ad infinitum and ad nauseam throughout the course of any military action. In their place are the thoughts and words of the men and women on the front lines, who day after day confront the actual face of war.
Through their essays and poems, these authors convey, with tremendous eloquence and insight, just what it means to live in near-constant fear of being injured or killed; or to see one's friends and comrades fall under a hail of bullets or be blown to smithereens by a detonated explosive; or to wrestle with the guilt of having snuffed out a fellow human being's life despite the fact that you've been raised from infancy to believe killing is wrong. As have many authors before them (Stephen Crane in "The Red Badge of Courage" comes first to mind), some of these writers show how the heroic idealism of a pre-war mindset can be instantly shattered when confronted with the brutal reality of life on the battlefield. For some, the writing has become almost a form of therapy, allowing them to process the experience in the hopes of eventually coming to terms with it all - if that's even possible.
The movie provides battle footage, still photos, staged reenactments and animation sequences, along with interviews with the actual writers and other authors on the subject (i.e., Anthony Swofford, Tobias Wolff) to visually complement and supplement the readings, which are delivered respectfully and movingly by such trained actors as Robert Duvall, Beau Bridges and Aaron Eckhart.
DVD available from Amazon.com.
At Film Space Saturday, September 26: Children of Men (2006) by Alfonso Cuarón – 109 mins – Japan/ UK/ US, Adventure/ Mystery/ Sci-Fi/ Thriller. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 84/80 out of 100. Rated R in the US for strong violence, language, some drug use, and brief nudity.
Starring Clive Owen, Julianne Moore, Michael Caine, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Charlie Hunnam, Claire-Hope Ashitey, Pam Ferris, and Danny Huston
Children of Men envisages a world one generation from now that has fallen into anarchy on the heels of an infertility defect in the population. The world's youngest citizen has just died at 18, and humankind is facing the likelihood of its own extinction. Set against the backdrop of London torn apart by violence and nationalistic sects, the film follows disillusioned bureaucrat Theo (Owen) as he becomes an unlikely champion of Earth's survival.
Rotten Tomatoes: Children of Men works on every level: as a violent chase thriller, a fantastical cautionary tale, and a sophisticated human drama about societies struggling to live. This taut and thought-provoking tale may not have the showy special effects normally found in movies of this genre, but you won't care one bit after the story kicks in, about a dystopic future where women can no longer conceive and hope lies within one woman who holds the key to humanity's survival. It will have you riveted.
Children of Men is not a popcorn movie. With its almost relentlessly bleak perspective on the future, Alfonso Cuarón's film doesn't make for pleasant viewing. But it's an exhilarating experience because the picture is an amazing dystopian drama that lacks all the typical trappings of the genre. Set uncomfortably close to the present, it paints a frighteningly realistic picture of the future. In 2027, every woman on earth is infertile. With the loss of the ability to have children, the world has also lost hope. Clive Owen (Closer) plays Theo, an Englishman attempting to make a life in a hellish world. His estranged wife (Julianne Moore) convinces him to help transport a young woman to safety. When Theo learns that the woman is pregnant, their journey takes on a significance--and a danger--he never imagined. This is Cuarón's best film to date, a strong statement considering his wonderful Harry Potter And The Prisoner Of Azkaban and Y Tu Mama También. Filmed using a handheld camera, the action draws the audience close, making the horror that much more real. In addition to its remarkable car-chase scenes, the film features impressive acting. With his expressive face and voice, Owen gives a nuanced performance that ranks with the best of his career. As a reclusive hippie, Michael Caine shares a charming counterculture view of the crumbling world. Chiwetel Ejiofor (Dirty Pretty Things) brings gravitas to the role of a terrorist. Just when the film threatens to overwhelm with its sense of dread, small moments of comedy show through in Owen's wry sense of humor and Caine's perfect delivery. When the credits roll, Children of Men leaves the audience feeling shell-shocked, not only because of its brutal prophecy, but also because of its brilliance.
DVD available from Amazon.com.