Sunday, November 14, 2010
Note: Times have been revised to reflect the EU’s current thinking, but based on past experience, you might be wise to give each time after the first film of the evening an additional 10 or 20 minutes earlier starting time.
Title/Original Title/Country/Category/Director/Length/Festival Synopsis/My Comments
Eccentricities of a Blonde-haired Girl (2009)
Original Title: Singularidades de uma Rapariga Loura
Category: Comedy drama
Director: Manoel de Oliveira
Principle Cast: Ricardo trepa, Catarina Wallenstein, Díogo Dória, Júlia Buísel, Leonor Silveira, Filipe Vargas, Miguel Seabra, Rogério Samora.
Length: 64 mins
Portuguese elder statesman Manoel de Oliveira has been making films since 1931. The 101-year-old’s latest is a comic miniature on the perils of old-fashioned courtship. Delivered as an irate remembrance from the seat of a train, the story describes the lengths to which pretty boy Marcário goes to woo the sultry maiden who throws him come-hither looks from a window opposite his office. Devoting himself to winning her, in the face of obstacles financial, familial, and practical, he finally achieves his goal, only to discover an unexpected "singularity" of his fiancée’s character.
UK Telegraph, Time Robey: You’ve got to admire the sheer stamina of the 101-year-old Portuguese auteur Manoel de Oliveira, here adapting a short story by his compatriot Eça de Queiroz.
This is very visibly an old man’s film — the camera barely moves, and conversations unfold with characters sitting right next to each other, to minimise shooting and editing. The effect is disconcerting, sometimes intentionally so.
Ricardo Trêpa stars as a young accountant whose infatuation with the girl across the street (Catarina Wallenstein) brings about his ruin.
It’s a curious, elliptical little film about people cocooned in their own romantic notions: at barely over an hour, the lethargic pace is easy to live with.
Original Title: Il Maestro Degli Error
Category: Drama/ History
Director: Pietro Maria Benfatti
Principal Cast: Tobias Moretti, Remo Girone, Robert Stadlober, Lino Capolicchio, Melanie Berton, Gianni Musy, Luigi Maria Burruano, Ernesto Mahieux.
Length: 105 mins
The Heretic is a story of the life of Cecco d'Ascoli, who lived between the end of the 1200s and the beginning of the following century. A man of science, teacher of medicine at the Bologna University, he was forced to stop teaching in 1325 after he held lectures on the ‘commento alla Sfera del Sacrobosco'. Accused of heresy by the Inquisition, he was condemned to death in 1327.
Maestro Degli Errori (The Master Of Errors), by Pietro Maria Benfatti, transplants courtroom drama to 14th-century Florence, where it follows the travails of heretical Bolognese court astrologer Maestro Cecco while making debate over the finer points of Catholic doctrine seem somehow sexy.
Manila Bulletin: “Il Maestro Degli Errori,” which also goes by the English title, “The Heretic,” revolves around Cecco d’Ascoli, a scientist, poet and teacher of medicine who stood firmly by his beliefs even if it meant being convicted of heresy, thus, his death at the stake in 1327.
Director Pietro Maria Benfatti captured the era of Inquisition when personal agenda and connections could seal the fate of a suspected heretic. This way, the viewer understands why despite Cecco’s sound defense of astrology and predestination, he was still convicted of practicing witchcraft and 2010.
Original Title: Loft
Director: Erik Van Looy
Length: 118 mins
Five married men share a secret: a spacious loft, in which they can quietly receive and entertain their lovers and latest conquests. It’s a great deal until, one winter morning, they discover the body of a young woman. No one knows who she is or how she got there. When the men try to find out what happened and why, they soon begin to suspect one another. It also becomes clear that they know far less about each other than they initially thought.
Loft, from Belgium, is one of the highest grossing Flemish films in Belgian history.
A thriller directed by Erik Van Looy, starring an ensemble cast of notable Flemish actors. The script was written by Bart De Pauw.
Eccentricities of a Blonde-haired Girl / Singularidades de uma Rapariga Loura (2009)
By Manoel de Oliviera
Portugal/ Spain/ France, Drama/ Romance. Generally favorable reviews: 72 out of 100
Parallax View: At over one hundred years old, Portuguese filmmaker Manoel de Oliviera is the world’s oldest active filmmaker, and the last twenty years have not only been his most prolific period, but his most artistically satisfying. This miniature of a feature film, based on a short story by Eça de Queirós, is an almost abstract tale of obsessive love, enormous personal sacrifice and an almost capricious twist of irrational emotional reflex. Ricardo Trêpa stars as the young man who tells his story to a stranger on a train: the odyssey of an unambitious accountant smitten with a young beauty (Catarina Wallenstein) who lives across the street from his office window. Forbidden by his uncle to marry, he sets out to make his fortune and win her hand. It’s kind of like a grown-up fairy tale with a deadpan humor and a wry irony.
For all the dialogue (it’s framed as a kind of confession told to a stranger on a train) it has the patience of a silent film, with long, still shots observing the characters until they reveal themselves through the smallest of telling action or the slightest emotional reaction to ripple across their face. Cinema’s grand old director has become a master of miniatures and this is a perfectly executed short story, slight yet delightfully told with minimalist direction and imagery and a very European sensibility.
Ozus’ World, Dennis Schwartz: The 100-year-old prolific Portuguese director Manoel de Oliveira ("Oporto of my Childhood"/"The Uncertainty Principle"/"A Talking Picture") latest is a bizarre arty film that like a Buñuel film plays with our sensibilities in odd ways. In this case, the playful director tells us to be wary of blind love. It's based on a story by Portugal's great 19th century realist writer Eça de Queiroz, who died in 1900.
A nervous, well-dressed, handsome young man from Lisbon, Marcário (Ricardo Trêpa, de Oliveira's grandson), is on a long train ride to the coastal town of Algarve and decides to pass the time by telling the obliging stranger sitting next to him (Leonor Silveira, the director's longtime muse) his tale of woe and why he's in such an agitated state that his haughty benefactor Uncle Francisco (Diogo Doria) sent him away on a vacation. In flashback we hear that Marcário works in his Uncle Francisco's downtown upscale fabric store as an accountant. While working in the upstairs office one day, Marcário spots by the open window from an apartment building across the street a sultry young blonde named Luisa (Catarina Wallenstein). She is fanning herself with an exotic Chinese fan, which excites his imagination. The accountant manages to get a mutual acquaintance to introduce him to Luisa at the salon of a wealthy notary. Marcário courts the enigmatic beauty and asks his uncle permission to marry her. Permission is not granted and the suitor is angrily told that if he marries her he will lose his job and be disinherited.
The earnest but foolish lad chooses to ask the temptress to marry him anyway, but can't get work and therefore holds off the wedding until he gets out of his financial mess. Desperate to get money, Marcário takes some kind of unnamed risky business proposition to fly to the volcanic islands in faraway Cape Verde in the hopes of raising enough money to be on his own. When after a series of adventures that has Marcário lose the fortune he gained in Cape Verde, the uncle softens his position towards his nephew and the marriage is about to take place. But the couple go shopping for a wedding ring, and Marcário discovers his bride-to-be is a compulsive shoplifter and ditches her.
It's a mesmerizing, charming and disturbing morality tale of doomed love, where the pompous romantic protagonist is longing for love with a beautiful woman he does not know at all and will suffer dearly from unrequited love because his passions blind him to reality.
Oliveira throws out warnings about love at first sight, as he shows the inexperienced young man has no clue on how to distinguish lust from love.
It's a beautifully crafted visual film that for the sake of art throws in a harp recital of a Debussy arabesque (courtesy of Ana Paula Miranda) and the reading of the Portuguese poet Pessoa's poem by the actor Luís Miguel Cintra at the notary's salon, along with the symbolic meanings of a lost poker chip during a poker game and someone upset about losing their hat. Oliveira playfully blends together art and commerce, showing how the world is driven by money-making, theft and foolish notions (as the eccentricities of the title comes about from society, as well as from the blonde-haired girl). It's a timeless film that's grounded in the formalities of the past and its bustling modern times seem oddly archaic, giving the film an out of this world look. It strangely takes us on a voyeuristic ride through the director's rarefied world and shows us a stark Lisbon that could be framed like a Georges de La Tour painting.
The Heretic / Il Maestro Degli Errori (2005)
By Pietro Maria Benfatti
Manila Film Festival: Il Maestro Degli Errori (The Heretic, Pietro Maria Benfatti, 2005) goes back all the way the 14th century. The movie is essentially a courtroom drama, the case being tried the alleged heresy of one Cacco d’Ascoli, a court astrologer who dared to teach things that went against Church doctrine.
The story is concerned with the life of Cecco d'Ascoli, who lived between the end of the 1200s and the beginning of the following century. A man of science, poet and astrologer, professor of medicine at the Bologna University , he was forced to stop teaching in 1325 after he held lectures on the "Commento alla Sfera del Sacrobosco". Accused of heresy by the Inquisition, he was condemned to death in 1327.
The director, Pietro Maria Benfatti, was born in 1954. In the 80s, he worked as Pupi Avati's assistant director in a number of films and attended directing and screenplay workshops . He worked as Giuseppe Piccioni's assistant director in 'L'elisir d'amore" and directed the play "La Diana Schernita" with Maurizio Di Mattia. He carried out research on a famous astronomer who was persecuted by the Inquisition in the 14th century, and drew a screenplay from it titled Leretico Il maestro degli errori, which was awarded by the Prime Minister's Office - Department of the Performing Arts. However, the resulting movie was only shown abroad and never in movie theaters in Italy because of economic/legal problems linked to production.
By Erik Van Looy
Belgium, Crime/ Drama/ Mystery/ Romance
A Belgian thriller directed by Erik Van Looy, starring an ensemble cast of notable Flemish actors. The script was written by Bart De Pauw. “Five married men share a secret: a spacious loft, in which they can quietly receive and entertain their lovers and latest conquests. It’s a great deal until, one winter morning, they discover the body of a young woman. No one knows who she is or how she got there. When the men try to find out what happened and why, they soon begin to suspect one another. It also becomes clear that they know far less about each other than they initially thought.” (EU description)
Variety, Boyd van Hoeij: The secret hideout of a group of Flemish horndogs comes under threat of exposure in Loft, a tightly drawn, atmospheric thriller that has one false bottom too many to qualify as great. High-concept suspenser, from the team behind 2003's The Memory of a Killer (aka The Alzheimer Affair), has racked up north of 500,000 admissions in three weeks (in a language-area of only 6 million).
At the wedding of loose cannon Filip silver-fox architect Vincent distributes keys to a loft in a swanky riverside apartment building he's designed. Besides Vincent and the groom, keys are also offered to three of their friends: Marnix, who loves a drink and anything in a dress; Luc, a silent-waters-run-deep type; and Filip's elder half-brother, Chris, a psychiatrist.
All are married and need little convincing that a centrally located getaway unknown to their spouses could come in handy. Even Chris, the most principled of the bunch, says yes after meeting mysterious beauty Ann at the wedding.
A year later, with the chums carelessly sharing the loft, things turn ugly when a female corpse turns up chained to the bed. The quintet is afraid to go to the police because it would reveal the existence of the loft to their better halves, though early interrogation scenes -- the film is narrated in flashback -- show that's exactly where they'll end up.
The film is well-plotted, if not always well-written, and the flashback structure puts the protagonists under pressure from scene one and never lets up. Actor-turned-screenwriter Bart De Pauw, aided by Erik Van Looy's able direction of his cast, sketches a large number of characters in shorthand without resorting to cliché. Even the five wives and other family members feel real, and ensemble acting is strong.
While the murder plot is always front and center, themes such as the hollowness of friendship, and the destructive force of sex and the male libido, brew just beneath the surface. Film convincingly paints self-sanctioned infidelity as the ultimate illness of our egocentric age.