At Film Space on Saturdays at 7 pm
April is “The Month of Feel Out of Place” 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 at least 20 baht. Well worth supporting.
At Film Space Saturday, April 17, 7 pm: Red Desert / Il deserto rosso (1964) by Michelangelo Antonioni– 120 mins – Italy/ France, Drama. Starring: Monica Vitti, Richard Harris. Cold, rain, and fog surround a plant in Ravenna. Factory waste pollutes local lakes; hulking anonymous ships pass or dock and raise quarantine flags. Giuliana, a housewife married to the plant manager, Ugo, is mentally ill, hiding it from her husband as best she can. She meets Zeller, an engineer en route to Patagonia to set up a factory. He pursues her, they join friends for a dinner party of sexual play, then, while Ugo is away on business, she fears that her son has polio. When she discovers the boy is faking, she goes to Zeller, panicked that no one needs her. He takes advantage of her distress, and she is again alone and ill. Reviews: Universal acclaim: 84 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: A post-industrialist masterpiece from director Michelangelo Antonioni, his first film in color, stars Monica Vitti as Giuliana, the disturbed wife of a factory owner, Ugo (Carlo Chionetti). Antonioni creates a bleak environment of the Italian countryside, where the natural landscape surrounding Ugo's factory is clouded in fog and covered in black pollution. The low scratching and churning sound of the factory machines is a constant throughout the film, set off by the electronic beeps and strange female singing that Giuliana--who is losing her mind--hears in her head. Supposedly recovering from shock after a minor car accident, Giuliana's dementia isn't getting any better; new developments in technology, production, and industry, which fascinate Ugo and his business associate, Corrado (Richard Harris), are foreign and threatening to Giuliana. However, Ugo is gentle and loving to Giuliana, giving her the freedom to wander wherever her fragile psyche leads her. Corrado is inexplicably drawn to Giuliana, and he develops a desperate, awkward friendship with her that eventually leads to a small affair. In the end, the dank monotony of the port where they live only alienates Giuliana further, sending her deeper into her delirium. A cold and haunting film with grating sound effects and odd visuals that illustrate Giuliana's psychosis, Red Desert is an Antonioni standout that stays in the viewer's mind long after the movie ends.
Chiang Mai Mail, Mark Whitman: See Antonioni’s Red Desert. Made in 1964 this is the oldest film in the season and still one of the most intriguing and ‘modern’.
Movie Mail, Michael Brooke: Embarking upon his first color feature, Michelangelo Antonioni said “I want to paint the film as one paints the canvas”. And he was true to his word, literally painting trees, grass and even a fruit stall’s contents dull grey while highlighting other objects in vivid reds, the better to render the disturbed mental state of Giuliana (Monica Vitti) in visually tangible form.
Aside from a fantasy interlude in a shockingly azure sea, the film is largely set against the decaying industrial landscape of Ravenna, yellow flames belching from chimneys that tower over greenish-grey polluted lakes. Cargo ships pass in the distance, often emerging out of thick fog, and images are often deliberately blurred, reduced to shapeless blobs of color, with natural sounds subjected to electronic distortion. “There’s something terrible in reality, and I don’t know what it is”, says Giuliana, and it’s her lack of this knowledge and growing awareness of the impermanence of life that gives the film its constant psychological tension. She’s been hospitalized after a car crash, and her husband doesn’t understand that this has left her with as many lasting mental scars as physical ones, her suicide attempt notwithstanding. However, a brief liaison with her husband’s industrialist colleague Corrado (Richard Harris) proves just as unfulfilling, as does what must be the least erotic ‘orgy’ ever committed to film: Giuliana’s problems are too deep-seated for that kind of easy release. Vitti’s extraordinary performance in an almost impossibly difficult part prevents the film from becoming a mere aesthetic exercise, though even on this score the film is riveting. No-one has ever looked at the world quite like this, and it’s easy to believe Antonioni when he denied that Red Desert was a condemnation of industrial decay and its dehumanizing side-effects: his images have a weird beauty that’s quite at odds with their content.
At Film Space Saturday, April 24, 7 pm: All About Lily Chou-Chou / Riri Shushu no subete /リリイ・シュシュのすべて,(2001) by Shunji Iwai– 146 mins – Japan/ Crime/ Drama/ Music/ Thriller. The film follows two childhood friends from the end of their junior high school run until the beginning of high school. The film has a discontinuous storyline, starting midway through the story, just after high school begins, then flashes back to junior high and summer vacation, and then skips back to the present. In junior high, Hoshino was the best student in school, but was picked on by his classmates. He was skilled at kendo, and had a good-looking young mom. Yuichi, on the other hand, was a quieter boy who fell in love with the music of the odd musician Lily Chou-Chou. During a group trip to Okinawa, Hoshino had a traumatic near-death experience and his personality changed from good-natured to dangerous and manipulative. In high school, he takes his place as class bully and shows his newfound power by ruining the lives of his classmates. Generally favorable reviews: 65 out of 100.
Rotten Tomatoes: Ah, to be young again and experience anew the horror show that is youth. In Shunji Iwai's All About Lily Chou-Chou there is nothing redeeming about the adolescent years. It's an out-and-out war among teen peers. If viewers were shocked at the frank depiction of sexuality and violence in Larry Clark's Kids, then they'll flip over All About Lily Chou-Chou, which is just as gritty and twice as rough. Yuichi Hasumi (Hayato Ichihara), Shusuke Hoshino (Shugo Oshinari), and their cohorts artfully dodge a string of life-threatening nightmares and seek release through overactive involvement in cyber culture, pop music, and celebrity. Hasumi plods through junior high school guarded and mostly mute, but in the soft cocoon of cyberspace he proves to be ravenous for joyful expression. He and his classmates abide by an unwritten code that these impulses are voiced only in the stunted dialogue of a chat room dedicated to the fictitious pop star, Lily Chou-Chou. Meanwhile, the same kids spend their days sitting in classrooms run by bullies and are fed a regular diet of public humiliation, petty thievery, and straight violence. Iwai has established himself in Japan with such films as April Story, Swallowtail Butterfly, and Picnic, and is known for "cool" subject matter. It’s obvious in seeing All About Lily Chou-Chou that he is a clear barometer of pop trends. The ecstatic compositions and ample palette of shockingly lush colors provide a unique, private, happy ending.