Sunday, March 24, 2013

Close-Up (Abbas Kiarostami, 1990)

This article is part of a year-long feature - watching and blogging about twenty acclaimed, cult, challenging and rare films over the course of 2013. The full list of films can be found here. Hitting a quarter of the way through with the formal complexities of Abbas Kiarostami's Close-Up.

I confess to being a latecomer to the filmography of Iranian master Abbas Kiarostami. Indeed, until viewing Close-Up I'd only seen his two most recent (and excellent) works Certified Copy and Like Someone In Love. One thing that has struck me on these early encounters is Kiarostami's unique sense of cinematic time. Scenes regularly take place in a sort of real-time - whether that's the extended taxi trip of LSIN or the lengthy, flowing philosophical conversations of both films. Of course, all of this is heavily compressed to fit the remit of a standard feature film, and traditional editing techniques are adapted to jump in space and time as required. But Kiarostami is a wonderful illusionist, persuading us that we're watching things play out in a 'reality' similar to our own. His ability to allow sequences play out at their own dreamy pace is one hallmark of a director whose films I have thus far found completely bewitching.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Oz: The Great and Powerful

Return to Oz... again

One phrase I resist using when it comes to writing and talking about film: they don't make 'em like they used to. Of course, there is truth in that statement - they literally do not make films like they used to. It's the negative inflection that I take slight umbrage with. Film is still a rich and healthy medium, and both complements and contrasts with the vastness of cinema history. Alas, this Wizard of Oz prequel doesn't really do modern film any favours, especially mainstream cinema. In almost every way it is inferior to a seventy-three year old predecessor, despite having access to resources Victor Fleming could only dream of. And whoever directed that weird ass Return to Oz. That shit was crazy.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The Land of Hope (Kibô no Kuni)

After the Disaster

Film Ha Ha turned two the other day (wahey!). The site was actually started less than 48 hours before the 2011 Japan tsunami. You have likely seen the anniversary of the disaster being marked in the media over the last few days, with a particular focus on how the repercussions of the Fukushima nuclear incident are still being felt. Meanwhile, Japanese director Sion Sono has become the most regularly reviewed auteur on this site - I'd reviewed three of his new releases in barely a year (Cold Fish, Guilty of Romance and Himizu). With all that in mind, I can't think of any more appropriate time to discuss The Land of Hope, Sono's second reflection on the aftermath of the March 2011 disaster.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

This Is Not a Film

Rebel With a Cause

At the risk of gross simplification, there are two types of successful films, both being a pivotal part of a healthy cinematic landscape. There's the frivolous type - that may be wonderfully crafted but don't really have anything new or of note to say. That's not a criticism or anything. But there is another, albeit rarer, type - the important film. A work that genuinely advances the medium or has something of real worth to express.  This Is Not a Film fits snugly into type B, although as the title helpfully suggests 'film' might be too inaccurate a descriptor.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

La Jetée / Sans Soleil

This article is part of a year-long feature - watching and blogging about twenty acclaimed, cult, challenging and rare films over the course of 2013. The full list of films can be found here. Part four: a double-bill from the late Chris Marker with Sans Soleil and the short La Jetée.

La Jetée is perhaps best known as the inspiration for Terry Gilliam's manic time-jumping thriller Twelve Monkeys - not so much a traditional remake but rather an affectionate re-appropriation of the general concepts, themes and iconography. Twelve Monkeys is a perfectly likeable and unusual film, but the original in this case is very much superior. The film's loose, drifty narrative concerns a survivor of a near apocalyptic third World War whose nuclear fallout has driven the remaining humans underground. A Parisian prisoner (Davos Hanich) - obsessed with the memory of a vague, witnessed tragedy from his past - is sent back (and ultimately forward) in time to prevent the collapse of society. In the past he meets a woman (Hélène Chatelain), who featured in that formative memory of his. The two form a romantic, almost philosophical bond, which is ultimately interrupted by the demands of the prisoner's future 'mission'.