Friday, November 12, 2010
Note: Times have been revised to reflect the EU’s current thinking, but based on past experience you might be wise to get there an additional ten minutes earlier for the second film of the evening, and twenty minutes for the third. The authorities are saying the sound of the movies is too loud and runs too late into the night.
Title/Original Title/Country/Category/Director/Length/Festival Synopsis/My Comments
Draft Dodgers / Réfractaire (2009)
Original Title: Réfractaire
Category: Historical drama
Director: Nicolas Steil
Principle Cast: Grégoire Leprince-Ringuet, Thierry van Werveke, Marianne Basler, Swann Arlaud, Carlo Brandt
Length: 100 mins
François is 21 years old and lives in Luxembourg, which has just been annexed by Nazi Germany. His father, who has collaborated with the Nazi regime, forces him to attend a German university. François decides to commit his first act of disobedience, however, and leaves the institution that teaches racial hatred. But now he faces a fateful decision: should he allow himself to be pressed into the army in order to fight the Allies on the Russian front, or should he hide as a deserter in a mine, where he will spend long months in the cold and damp without light or sun?
IMDb synopsis: May 1944. A young man just out of college returns to his hometown in Luxembourg. Refusing to fight on the German side, he chooses a clandestine life and joins other deserters in an abandoned mine.
Luxembourg's official submission to 82nd Academy Award's Foreign Language film in 2010.
Lisbon Story (1994)
Original Title: Lisbon Story
Director: Wim Wenders
Principal Cast : Rüdiger Vogler, Patrick Bauchau, Teresa Salgueiro, Manuel de Oliveira, Vasco Sequeira, Ricardo Colares.
Length : 105 mins
The director Friedrich Monroe has trouble with finishing a silent black and white movie about the Portuguese capital, Lisbon. He calls his friend, the sound engineer Phillip Winter, for help. As Winter arrives in Lisbon weeks later, Monroe has disappeared but has left the unfinished film behind. Winter decides to stay because he is fascinated by the city and the Portuguese singer Teresa, and he starts to record the sound for the film. At the same time Monroe cruises through the city with a camcorder and tries to catch unseen pictures. Later they meet and Winter convinces Monroe to finish the film.
Wikipedia: Lisbon Story is partially a sequel to Wenders' 1982 film, The State of Things. The fictitious movie director in the previous film, Friedrich Munro, reappears, again played by Patrick Bauchau. In Lisbon Story Friedrich has moved to Lisbon, Portugal (the country in which The State of Things was set). The principal character, Philip Winter (Rüdiger Vogler), a sound engineer, receives a postcard invitation from Friedrich to come to Lisbon to record sounds of the capital city for one of his films. This sets in motion a mysterious Wendersian quest. Lisbon Story features performance of Madredeus, an internationally famous Portuguese folk music group, and a cameo by Manoel de Oliveira, who by this point was already the oldest living active film director.
Under the Stars (2007)
Original Title: Bajo las estrellas
Category : Drama
Director: Félix Viscarret
Principal Cast: Alberto San Juan, Julián Villagrán, Violeta Rodríguez, Emma Suárez, Amparo Valle.
Awards: 2008 – Goya Awards, Best Actor, Best Adapted Screenplay,
2008 – Fotogramas de Plata: Best Movie Actor
2007 – Málaga Spanish Film Festival: Best First Screenplay, Golden Biznaga, Silver Biznaga – Best Actor, Best Director
2008 – Sant Jordi Awards: Sant Jordi; Best First Work
2008 – Toulouse Cinespaña: Audience Award
Length: 108 mins
The film features the selfish, opportunistic Benito, a professional trumpet player barely surviving in Madrid, who returns to his home in Navarre when he learns that his father is dying. Benito reconnects with his younger brother, Lalo who is emotionally needy. Benito also develops a surprising bond with Ainara, the young daughter of his brother's girlfriend, Nines. Later a family tragedy provokes the suicide of Lalo. Benito chooses to abandon his music career in the big city and insists that Nines and Ainara move in with him.
Rotten Tomatoes Synopsis: When Benito Lacunza, a shiftless waiter cum aspiring jazz musician, has to return to his hometown Estella for a few days, he is surprised to learn... When Benito Lacunza, a shiftless waiter cum aspiring jazz musician, has to return to his hometown Estella for a few days, he is surprised to learn that his goody-good brother Lalo, who makes sculptures out of scrap metal, is about to marry. Benito remembers the bride all too well from his oat-sowing adolescence: she is Nines, a single mom who's seen her share of hard times. Benito decides to save his brother from such a fate, but unexpectedly finds himself up against a formidable foe in the person of Nine's daughter, Ainara, an introverted, rebellious and precocious smoker who Benito ends up forging a one-of-a-kind friendship with. When things take a turn for the worst in this peculiar family, Benito decides for the first time in his life to take control and offer his assistance--albeit, his way--to all those persons that he genuinely cares for.
Draft Dodger / Réfractaire (2009)
Luxembourg/ Switzerland, Drama
When the Nazis annex Luxembourg, François must make a choice: either be conscripted and fight the Allies on the Russian front, or become a draft dodger living underground. This gritty psychological drama depicts a world in which his fascist father and shackled nation are weapons in a war for his identity.
The Director, Nicholas Steil: I have often asked myself what choices I would have made in wartime.
It is more comfortable to see oneself as a hero than as a collaborator or even as a torturer. I think you have to answer this question with a lot of humility and that a good part of it depends on the aforementioned equation.
I happen to be from a small, young country not even 2 centuries old, where the Second World War triggered a lot of dilemmas. Luxembourg was annexed by Germany and became an integral part of the Reich. This dark period of history nearly generated a depersonalization of Luxembourg.
The Resistance in Luxembourg became really effective and efficient from the moment where the Nazis made the mistake to attack its youth and thus any sign of hope. A large number of young Luxembourgers were 'forcibly enrolled' and sent to the Russian front. They only had two choices: shoot the Allies or desert at their own risk, hiding until the end of the war. Those who chose the latter option became 'draft dodgers' by the established order, accepting the underlying risks.
The Resistance organized hideouts that varied from dropped ceilings to church towers and especially parts of iron-mines that weren't worked in anymore. Another concern was that the close family of draft dodgers were systematically deported.... A real dilemma where they were stuck between the devil and the deep blue sea without any hope of getting out.
So this is the question that is put to the audience: what would you have done if you were this young man whose basic equation is admittedly complex but unites negative as well as positive elements. Coming from a difficult family background, the main character is looking for his identity as he is at risk of being objectified, just like the whole country. The choices that he will make are going to enable his change and what you could call a heroic behavior, using this tarnished word in the most cautious way possible.
I would like the audience to join young François on this initiatory trip so they can follow his emotions and his evolution very closely. In this context, the mise-en-scène will give priority to a mix of subjective vistas (i.e. the camera sees through the eyes of François) and vistas that are in perspective, which will allow us to 'elevate' ourselves enough to analyze the course of things.
The symbolism of the imprisonment which represents this troubled time and the need for the characters to choose between two evils is embodied here by the following:
• the mine that will be organic, the tunnels that run through it, being the blood vessels that carry or shelter the human beings who are fighting for their future;
• the cellar of the old distillery, a magical haven of pleasure but also a hellhole where fear is taking over;
• the night that reflects the Manichean forces at work through the expressionist aspect it confers on human beings and on things.
It is not only an imprisonment of the body but also of the spirit. Unfortunately, in François' case, he will only be able to free his spirit and his body will be sacrificed to war and its madness.
Lisbon Story (1994)
Germany/ Portugal, Drama/ Music.
Deep Focus, Bryant Frazer: "Film soundman travels to Portugal to add soundtrack to silent film, finds director has vanished, wanders streets with mic and tape deck, chases mosquito, listens to music, talks to children, expounds on the nature of cinema."
And that, in a nutshell, is Lisbon Story, the 1994 film from director Wim Wenders, who cut his teeth as one standard bearer of the "new German cinema" that flourished in the 1970s and early 1980s. The film is so low-key that in an arid summer of things that go pop, bang, rumble and woosh, it's absolutely refreshing on its own terms.
Wenders regular Rudiger Vogler plays Philip Winter, seen in the first reel driving across Europe to help salvage a film that his director friend Friedrich has been shooting in Lisbon with an old hand-cranked silent film camera. On his arrival at Friedrich's house, Philip finds not the director but instead a passle of children carrying video cameras everywhere they go. He also stumbles across a recording session by Portuguese group Madredeus (playing themselves), who are also contributing to the unfinished film. Philip spends much of his time hunched over a Movieola looking at Friedrich's raw footage and then hitting the streets to record ambient sound on location. Back at the house, he sleeps in Friedrich's bed and reads animatedly to himself from the director's library of books (notably poetry by Lisbon native Fernando Pessoa).
It's sort of a sequel to Wenders' 1983 The State of Things (which starred Bauchau as a director named Friedrich who traveled to Los Angeles to hunt down his producer), but it shares thematic elements with 1991's Until the End of the World (in which Vogler portrayed a private investigator also named Philip Winter). Like The State of Things, Lisbon Story is a personal examination of the filmmaking process. And like Until the End of the World, it's an affirmation of the power of the film image (equated, I believe, with imagination, or "dreams") and a refutation of the seductive idea that video images -- the ultimate "verite," perhaps -- can somehow show us truth. When Winter catches up with Friedrich, he finds that his director friend has lost the faith, discarding his movie camera in favor of a fleet of video cameras that record candid pictures of the city at nominal cost, and that can therefore be deployed at random to capture a "pure" image, unspoiled from being looked upon by human eyes. It then falls on Winter to mount an amiable defense of the act of filmmaking itself, lest Friedrich be forever lost to the world of cinema.
Wenders' wide-eyed fascination with locations continues -- Lisbon Story is a mesmerizing portrait of the Portuguese capital, just as Wings of Desire memorialized a divided Berlin, or Paris, Texas showed us the American west through a European's eyes. There's something hypnotic about Wenders' directorial style, and especially his way with imagery. No matter how trite his dialogue, or how strained his situations, it's enough to simply gaze upon a Wenders film, and I can gaze over and over again.
The script, however, could have used some work. Wenders had the help of a poet, Peter Handke, when crafting his still-gorgeous Wings of Desire. (The less said about purported non-sequel Faraway, So Close, the better.) Australian novelist Peter Carey was on-hand to help make something resembling a narrative out of the sprawling and problematic Until the End of the World. But on Lisbon Story, Wenders is the sole credited screenwriter, and it seems that his dialogue suffers accordingly. For example, when Philip takes a house key from the lovely singer from Madredeus, he asks her, "Is this the key to your heart, as well?" It's charming in part because it's clumsy, but it's unbecoming of a film that's mostly assured in its imagery and purpose. A certain heavy-handedness is on display in long scenes where Philip stretches out in bed, leafing through Friedrich's books and carrying on an imaginary conversation with him. Later, his characters embark on an all-too-literal discussion of the nature of moving images. All in all, Lisbon Story too often violates the cherished literary rule of "show, don't tell." Wenders could hardly be more sincere, or more likable, but the dime-store film theory is unnecessary in a movie that works best when it's least aware of itself.
Under the Stars / Bajo las estrellas (2007)
By Félix Viscarret
IMDb viewer, JSantiag: I really love this movie! This movie is sad and funny at the same time the language that the main character uses,.Benito, is brilliant.
IMDb viewer, Desman31 from France: Good movie about a beautiful friendship! A good and original story, with characters you won't forget soon. The movie tells a piece of life about two brothers whose father just died. This causes one of the sons, a poor musician in a small club in the big city, to come back to the small town where he grew up. For the first time in years he will look at his life from a distance and understand a lot of things... But he never says it, everything is implicit. But the best reason to see this movie is the unexpected and yet beautiful friendship between the main character and a little girl. It has some magic...
Under The Stars (Bajo las estrellas) is Felix Viscarret’s first feature film. Written for the screen and directed by Felix Viscarret, it’s the adaptation of the novel El trompetista del Utopia (The Trumpeter From Utopia) by Fernando Aramburu. Spanish stars Alberto San Juan and Emma Suárez played the leading roles.
Under The Stars received two Spanish Film Academy Awards in: - BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY (Felix Viscarret) - BEST ACTOR (Alberto San Juan)
Before the release of Under The Stars, Felix Viscarret, was “one of the best-known Spanish directors of short films” (Variety, USA). After studying film at William Paterson University (New Jersey), he directed the short Dreamers, winner of several awards.: His short films were awarded at international film festivals such as Lausanne (Switzerland), Alcala and Malaga, amongst others.
Felix Viscarret has been a Master Class Lecturer in Film Direction at several universities. Other works directed by Felix Viscarret range from documentaries to music videos and TV commercials.