Japan isn’t hopeless. IT’S YOU!

- Zenji Sakai, telling his daughter Tamako as to why she keeps on muttering that Japan is hopeless (everytime she sees the evening news and shuts off the TV) when she wasn’t looking around for employment after graduation. (via sunog-baga)

achuuru48:

Expectation vs. Reality XD

achuuru48:

Expectation vs. Reality XD

La Vénus à la Fourrure / “Venus in Fur” (2013)

The Paradox of Pain and Pleasure

Director: Roman Polanski
Writers: David Ives (play), Roman Polanski (screenplay)
Stars: Emmanuelle Seigner, Mathieu Amalric

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Not knowing that this was a Roman Polanski film, I spent at least 5 minutes waiting in line at the New York Fries stand as the film was already playing. I thought that while a 2-person stage movie is by all means interesting, my brother who was my film buddy that day at the French Film Fest might not like it. We regretted this assumption the minute we stepped into the theatre. Everyone was bursting in laughter.

La Vénus à la Fourrure is an excellent example of everything falling into place. Every aspect of the film I could think of just worked perfectly with each other that I could hardly notice them. I could only see the film as a whole - a piece of work that is fully alive and bursting with spirit. From the lighting and the sounds to the set, the film is truly theatrical. It is grand even in the simplicity of the set. It builds its tension upon an atmosphere that is unique to the theatre - one that is tight and compact as a stage and boxed as a theatre is. But the formality and claustrophobia of the stage is toned down by the cinematography and editing that freely and playfully maximize the limited space. They make the film energetic and natural through fluid visual movement and bring the actors much closer to the audience. The film eliminates the distance between a stage performance and its audience. It places us right on the stage, allowing us to watch the drama unfold very closely and the see actors face to face. This tension between restriction and freedom is maintained throughout the film, rising and falling as the actors slip in and out of their characters, shifting back and forth from reality to fiction in a matter of seconds until the two become one.

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Polanski pits polar opposites against each other throughout the film. First of all, the characters could not have been more different. Aspiring actress Vanda is a manic, insistent, self-assured, and charmingly-annoying woman who, in her hooker-ish attire, exudes confidence and sex appeal. On the other hand, the director Thomas is a plain-looking fellow who is hesitant, reserved and passive. For a playwright, he displays an unbelievable ignorance of his own characters’ desires (and his own). He is also in a stubborn state of self-denial and self-righteousness. Their personalities mirror the characters of the stage play whom Vanda claims to be the epitome of sadism and masochism (whether which is one or the other is debatable). The ambience of the theatre is not without contradictions either. It is both formal and intimate. The set is of course staged, and in-character, Vanda and Thomas have to move in a restricted manner. But as Vanda enchantingly delivers dialogues (surprisingly, like a professional), then suddenly spews out the most hilarious questions and painful criticisms at Thomas, and as Thomas defends himself and retaliates, the atmosphere becomes uncomfortably comfortable. As the events take surprising twists and the characters struggle for domination, the line between acting and being begins to blur. In the emptiness of the theatre, Vanda and Thomas might as well be lovers in a sexually-charged, power-driven, and unpredictable courtship ritual. 

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La Vénus à la Fourrure is a film that provokes discussion on sex, sexism and gender politics. It could be a criticism of “Venus in Furs” by Leopold von Sacher-Masoch after whom the words sadism and masochism were named (trivia!), but since I’m not familiar with the work I cannot say how the original text paints the roles of the male and female

but I will not delve into that matter anymore. I believe I still need to see it a second time so I can confidently put my finger on what exactly it is trying to say. But besides the roars of laughter, the great respect for Emmanuelle Siegner and Mathieu Amalric’s magnetic performances, and the awe for Polanski’s boldness and cunning, I came home that day even more astounded with the intricate relationship of opposites and the paradox of human desire. “Sado-machism.” The force that pulls opposing energies together into one extremely volatile state of being. 

L’Ecume des Jours / “Mood Indigo” (2013)

Life is (not) a Daydream

Director: Michel Gondry
Writers: Michel Gondry, Luc Bossi
Stars: Romain Duris, Audrey Tautou, Omar Sy, Gad Elmaleh

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Adorably absurd, though at times a bit too weird for my taste. Michel Gondry brings back the nostalgic quirkiness of “The Science of Sleep” and takes it up a notch, throwing in as much “retro-ism” as possible and re-imagined them in a way only Michel Gondry can. From a writing factory where employees type on one constantly moving typewriter to the next, to bone-warping jazz music, a cocktail-making piano called a “pianocktail,” and a half-man, half-mouse housekeeper that brings to mind Cinderella’s little friends, there is no end to the eccentricity of this film. But unlike “The Science of Sleep” and “Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”, there is no need for a separation between reality and fantasy. The film is a wonderful piece of surrealism, and it has the freedom to tell its story as metaphorically as possible.

A tale of youth, young love and consequences, L’Ecume des Jours follows a group of friends who live a lavish lifestyle, living off great wealth without having to work and paying no mind to tomorrow. At the heart of the group is Colin (Romain Duris), a wealthy bachelor who never had to work a day in his life. With his faithful lawyer/butler Nicolas (Omar Sy), and his book-addict, borderline pseudo-intellectual friend Chick (Gad Elmaleh), Colin spends his days partying, drinking, dining and throwing his money away. When he learns that he’s the only one who hasn’t found a girl, he ‘demands’ to fall in love. In a party where everybody dances the ‘biglemoi’ (with the really crazy bone-defying moves) to Duke Ellington’s “Chloe,” Colin meets a girl of the same name and they quickly hit it off. But falling in love and getting married was the easy part. On their honeymoon, Chloe (Audrey Tautou) contracts a strange illness caused by a waterlily growing in her lung. Suddenly, Colin has to reassess his priorities, change his lifestyle, and make ends meet to keep Chloe alive.

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The fantastic visuals of the film may have been a bit too exaggerated in the beginning but this exaggeration becomes significant once things go awry. The typewriter factory in the beginning starts to speak volumes when Colin is shown desperately trying to keep his hands on a moving typewriter and writing lines that depict his and Chloe’s happiness. But the typewriter keeps moving and it suddenly illustrates how life is fleeting and that much of it is beyond our control. The scenes where Colin works as a human incubator for proton guns - where he has to lie naked on a mound of soil - becomes a demonstration of how the work environment of certain blue-collar jobs can render desperate workers helpless and rob them of their dignity.

The visual absurdity of the film thus allows it to become poetic. The film is basically a representation of a live-fast-die-young story seen through a more innocent and dreamy perspective. But while other stories of the same theme are usually told through the self-destructive character’s reflections or actions, in L’Ecume des Jours, its the imagery that speaks. Of course, this doesn’t mean that the actors’s performances are not satisfactory. Audrey Tautou is glorious as always. Romain Duris and Omar Sy are also easy to love with the former’s boyish persona and the latter’s charisma. But the characters are not self-aware. They are either lost in their illusions or are overwhelmed by the grave consequences they suddenly have to face. Thus, the environment becomes a character, someone that is there with the rest of the characters but whose presence is either being ignored or misinterpreted. And in their inability to come to terms with their own fears and accept reality for what it is, it’s the environment that acts out the continuous instability and decay of their lives.

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However, it would’ve been interesting to see the film suddenly stripped of all its visual metaphors to show a disillusioned Colin, having to face the bitterness of life on his own, outside the bubble that sheltered him. Somewhere near the end of the film, I was expecting to see things become more realistic. To be honest, I was hoping they would. I think the part when Colin and Chloe visit the “dull” part of Paris where her doctor lives - they both take note of how dull the place is - is the turning point of the story. It’s the most realistic part of the movie and the change of scene signals the impending doom that is reality. Gondry could’ve started removing the surreal elements and showed their real-world counterparts.  I think this would’ve made for a more shocking ending since from the time  Chloe gets sick, everything was pretty much predictable already. But Gondry ends the film in monochrome, thus sticking to his surrealist approach. Nevertheless, the gloomy ending serves its purpose of breaking the illusion built by the first two acts. In a way, Michel Gondry does deconstruct the whole whimsical theme-park world he created and leaves us, like Colin, depressed and disillusioned. With its visually childlike storytelling, L’Ecume des Jours is a cautionary tale for the youth who refuse to see the world through a realistic lens and would rather live in a dream. As a pianocktail-playing Duke Ellington puts it, “smoking, drinking, never thinking of tomorrow, nonchalant….is that all you really want?” 

Sonata (2013)

Directors: Peque Gallaga, Lore Reyes
Writer: Wanggo Gallaga (story)
Stars: Cherie Gil, Chart Motus, Joshua Pineda, Chino Jalandoni

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If the things we love make us who we are, what happens to us when we lose them? For an artist, this can be a death sentence. Imagine a photographer going blind, a writer having dementia, or a singer losing her voice. Losing everything you’ve ever been makes who you are rather vague and unrecognizable. Your existence becomes futile.

This is the crisis Regina (Cherie Gil) struggles with, or rather, has given into. An opera singer for several years, she started losing her voice and, in a humiliating stage failure, has become a fallen star. She has since placed herself in exile, leaving Paris and shutting herself away in her ancestral home in Negros. She locks herself in her bedroom, cluttered with the opera posters that featured her beauty during her glory days. She occupies herself by putting on makeup, drinking vodka, while wrapped in the robe she wore in her last performance. She remains disinterested in the outside world and she pretends to forget the people who are closest to her. Until Jonjon (Chino Jalandoni), the young son of her secretary and childhood friend (Chart Motus), comes snooping in her bedroom. The boy is frightened at first, but as children are, he follows his instincts and tries to befriend the “nega-star.” Together, they explore the countryside of Negros, learning how to look at the world from eyes full of innocence and love.

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“Sonata” is a poem of moving images and sound. It is a visual folk song. From the very beginning, we see the virgin beauty of Negros. We get to look intimately at the mysterious face of nature with close-ups of country life, from newly-harvested sugarcanes to leaping frogs in the night. Most of all, we get to know the voice of the countryside. The film lets us listen to the omnipresent music of nature. Like Regina, we may say that “the silence is deafening” but along with her, we learn how to listen to nature like a child would. From the balcony of the old country home, the child teaches the broken singer how to find music again. They close their eyes and allow themselves to be immersed in the music of the night and, we, the audience bear witness to a wonderful performance as we become enveloped in a magnificently-orchestrated sonata of croaking frogs, creaking insects, hooting owls, and the whispering night breeze. Indeed, when people sleep, nature awakens, and she sings a song like no other.

Like a song, “Sonata” puts us in a comforting state. It is ambient, immersive. It does not shove or push itself onto the audience. It keeps us relaxed with its melody, even during its saddest moments. It is in tune all throughout, never becoming melodramatic even if it speaks about depression. It never becomes uncomfortable as it shows the contrast between age and youth, regret and eagerness without any friction. It balances the opposing themes perfectly and becomes a perfect example of the harmony between and the inseparableness of love and misery.

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Cherie Gil gives a breathtaking performance as an almost manic-depressive, self-destructive woman — a lover whose passion is left unrequited by both man and music. She is captivating in both her glory and her pain. But she enchants more in the latter — just as tragedies make the most powerful operas — drawing us in with her pitch-perfect portrayal of a depressed person’s inner struggle.

Despite the unnecessary subplot and its persistent foreshadowing, Sonata is powerful in its subtlety. I know I use this word a lot, but the film has a natural softness, an unforced melodic quality. Sonata lets us rediscover the world through the eyes and ears of a child. It shows how the fallen can find the courage to live in the present by opening herself to art and nature and embracing the world with curiosity and fascination. But it is also aware that youth does not last and innocence can only shelter us for so long from the pains of reality. It’s the coexistence of happiness and sadness, of life and death, of innocence and experience that make up reality. And it is in embracing this reality that one begins to forgive herself, heal, and cope with life.

ginobambino:

Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

Start the year right. Sineng Pambansa 2013 at UP Film Institute. 

Start the year right. Sineng Pambansa 2013 at UP Film Institute. 

nevver:

An Alfred Hitchcock Christmas

Celebrating Hitchcock this season. :)

Source: nevver

I'm Aia, and I love

I love movies that make me think or simply make me feel.

They appeal to the senses and they recreate experiences that life alone can give.

I want to make films someday and, no matter what the odds,

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