Thursday, February 4, 2010

Film Space schedule

At Film Space on Saturdays at 7 pm

At Film Space on Saturdays at 7 pm


February is “The Month of Hard-pressed Women” 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, February 6:  Marie Antoinette (2006) by Sofia Coppola – 123 mins – US/ France/ Japan, Biography/Drama/History. Starring Kirsten Dunst, Jason Schwartzman, Judy Davis, Rip Torn, Rose Byrne, Asia Argento, Molly Shannon, Shirley Henderson, Danny Huston, and Steve Coogan. Generally favorable reviews: 65/61 out of 100.

Rotten Tomatoes: Lavish imagery and a daring soundtrack set this film apart from most period dramas; in fact, style completely takes precedence over plot and character development in Coppola's vision of the doomed queen.


Philadelphia Inquirer Steven Rea: A gorgeous confection, packed with gargantuan gowns and pornographic displays of pastrystuffs, Sofia Coppola's Marie Antoinette is also a sharp, smart look at the isolation, ennui, and supercilious affairs of the rich, famous and famously pampered.  


Artmusicfilmwhatever, Misael Soto: Ever since it's release, I've touted Sofia Coppola's third film, Marie Antoinette, as a misunderstood modern masterpiece. Many viewed the film as her worst film to date, an indulgent mess that only an overconfident young filmmaker could produce (the fact that she's the Francis Coppola's daughter didn't help any either). If I'm not mistaken, it was even booed at Cannes. The unorthodox, modern American dialogue, MTV-styled cinematography, and sheer lack of respect for the original subject matter turned many critics, and even more moviegoers, off. That is, if the candy-bright colors, young and popular actors, and hip 80s-inspired soundtrack didn't steal their attention first. There's even a pair of Converse sneakers in one of the shots! However, all this was done in good fun and, what's more, in the name of good art.


Below is my (edited) review of the film from when it was released...


Nothing matters more than the present, something Sofia Coppola is well aware of, regardless of whether she's making a period piece set in the 18th century or a romantic drama set in the 21st. Via Marie Antoinette's short and tragic life, Sofia (she is “Sofia” as there is only one “Coppola”) has produced a humorous and cleverly conceived film, a sumptuous and visually stunning indictment on our society and its ever diminishing treatment of the “lesser sex." She presents Antoinette, not as the arrogant beast so many have come to learn and read about, but rather as a girl (and eventually a woman) caught in a world of ridiculous protocol and overbearing monotony. A girl that attains every material possession she’s been taught to desire and eventually, a woman who learns to live it up and enjoy her time as best as she can within her depressingly mundane circumstances. We all know how Marie Antoinette dies. We might know why. This film doesn’t care about any of that, not even caring enough to show her death. Sofia is much more interested in making a remarkably introspective film that’s as much about our times as it is about 18th century France (which isn’t completely due to it’s killer soundtrack).

Kirsten Dunst’s Antoinette is purposefully too modern in a role she was born to play. Essentially a girl of the 21st century stuck in the 18th century, Antoinette is torn between what she wants to do and what she is told she must do. To cement the Franco-Austrian alliance, she is sent off to Versailles at age 14 to be married to the Dauphin of France (Jason Schwartzman), the hilariously sexually uninterested next king of France (his hobby, an obvious and hilariously clever innuendo, is the study of locks and keys). Her purpose as his wife is to produce an heir, more importantly a male heir, and when this proves difficult she feels backed into a corner and helpless. Simultaneously she finds herself confounded by endless monotony and predictable routine, and amongst some of the most heartless and gossipy people in her or any other court. There is nothing left for her to do but use the power she has, once settled in, to live her life far away from the consuming cares of the court and enjoy it the best way she knows how: first through the avid possession of material things and eventually through physical pleasure.


The entire film is cunningly told from Antoinette's perspective alone, only telling us what she would know in her sheltered existence. The film is lost in her world and thus we only get bits and pieces of the “real world” outside of Versailles. We learn of French aid to the Americans fighting the Revolutionary War, and it’s suggested this is the actual culprit for France’s growing debt and not Antoinette’s horrific amount of spending. Sofia suggests Antoinette was merely the scapegoat, a role women have been playing since antiquity. Towards the end we are given a glimpse perhaps at her true feelings towards the people of her country and thus further sympathize with the unfortunate situation she’s been placed in.


Even in a historical period piece there is no time like the present. This would explain the film’s various connections to the present: it’s mostly post-punk and New-Wave filled soundtrack, the actor’s modern accents and dialogue, the seemingly random inclusion of a pair of Converse All-Stars amid more common shoes of the time in a particular scene. Many, if not most, will complain about this film’s superficiality, claiming it’s without purpose or true meaning. But when a society promotes and sells the shallow and superficial more than anything else what do you expect most women will end up becoming? Today there are more “Marie Antoinettes” than ever before. This film is not about one woman’s life as much as it is about the frivolous female masses our world has, and continues, to produce. The trick is to break away from the convention. This is where Sofia’s daring cinematic achievement and Marie Antoinette herself find redemption and practical meaning.


We feel sorry for Antoinette, as much as we feel sorry for those pageant girls at the finale of Little Miss Sunshine. But more than that, we like her, or at least I did, and encourage and understand her actions however superficially misguided they might be, eventually envying the small but rich slice of life she enjoyed before her death. What would you do if you were in her Chucks?



At Film Space Saturday, February 13: Strawberry Shortcakes (2006) by Yazaki Hitoshi – 127 mins – Japan, Drama.


New York Asian Film Festival 2008: Strawberry Shortcakes tells the story of the intersecting lives of four different women in Tokyo: an office worker, a prostitute, an artist, and a receptionist for an escort service. Each of the women is miserable and unfulfilled to varying degrees. The office worker has a boyfriend who won’t commit to her, and is stuck with an unfulfilling job with coworkers who despise her. The prostitute engages in dangerous, unprotected sex with her clients and pines after a college buddy who spurns her affections. The artist suffers from bulimia, and the receptionist is not only deeply lonely, but also is trying to avoid the advances of her skeezy, married boss.


As the plot description suggests, Strawberry Shortcakes is a troubling film. All of the women in the film are rather weak-willed. Most, if not all, of them believe that they will never be happy or fulfilled until they are married. On the other hand, the men in the film are portrayed as uncaring, lecherous, two-timing sleazeballs. Is the film critiquing how members of both sexes destroy their lives by falling into stereotypical patterns of behavior? Or is the film merely reinforcing those stereotypes? The answer is not clear, given that the story is presented in a naturalistic style without an explicit point of view.


Although the film’s politics may be questionable, the film’s aesthetics are unimpeachable. Although the film is shot in avérité fashion, with long takes and minimal non-diegetic music, its imagery is far from rough-hewn. Most of the film’s shots are remarkably beautiful; the filmmakers have truly managed to find poetry in unexpected places such as back-alleys and grungy rooftops. Notwithstanding their eye for visual beauty, the filmmakers do not shy away from ugliness; scenes in which the women engage in degrading sex are particularly tough to watch. As a final note, all four of the lead actresses should be commended for their fine, fearless performances. The actresses are extremely convincing in their roles, even when they have to pull off tough dialogue, such as conversations with God.



At Film Space Saturday, February 20:  Day Night Day Night / Jour nuit, jour nuit (2006) by Julia Loktev – 94 mins – US/ Germany/ France, Crime/Drama/Thriller. StarringLuisa Williams, Josh Phillip Weinstein, Gareth Saxe, Nyambi Nyambi. Generally favorable reviews: 61/66 out of 100.


Rotten Tomatoes: Consensus: Day Night Day Night is a minimalist drama that refuses to indulge in stereotypes, making it all the more realistic and chilling.


Studio description: A 19-year-old girl prepares to become a suicide bomber in Times Square. She speaks with no accent; it's impossible to pinpoint her ethnicity. We never learn why she made her decision -- she has made it already. We don't know whom she represents, what she believes in - we only know she believes it absolutely. The film strips the story down to its existential core. It focuses on microscopic movements, the smallest gestures, an economy of banal details. Inspired in part by a story in a Russian newspaper and playing off a history of Joan of Arc films, the film transpires on the girl's face. The minimalism of the face is confronted with the visual and aural noise of the city. Faith comes face-to-face with the possibility of failure. -- © IFC Films, Andrew O'Hehir: Day Night Day Night has captured viewers' attention around the world for its remarkable craftsmanship, technical command, and distinctive vision.


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