Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Si le vent te fait peur

A rare beauty that explores romantic and sexual tension between two beings without being sensual, a feat difficult to achieve (Rohmer has done that in an attempt to banalize desire; Emile Degelin does it here in a better way, by using an interpretation of love wider than mere desire), Si le vent te fait peur (English title: If the Wind Frightens You) is on apparent looking a story of incest, or rather one of incestuous thoughts. However, on getting lost in the story, you find you are confronted with Adam and Eve. Not the Adam and Eve. Because the beautiful Elisabeth Dulac and the modern, a bit intellectual Guy Lesire only represent Adam and Eve for being alone not in a world, but in a civilization: this is a land where they cannot desire each other, where every thought is marked by a fear of condemnation, and more importantly the fear of what will happen to their love in the fallout. It is that that they fear, more than the condemnation, they who know each other so well, whose love for each other is so pure, who are the first born, the first couple, since the other lovers will only later, suddenly emerge from the waves, nymph-like. But they have always known each other and loved each other’s company, and yet they are not to love each other.

Degelin has selected and used the Belgian coastal landscape wonderfully: it is as if the land has given birth to this story, these monstrous two human beings, monstrous in their capability of laughing, of cocking a snook at others, of daring to think of love each other, and it is as if in these shimmering sands, they are the only two living, the only two loving. The two who think what will the other’s lot be when they will be condemned, not that they will be condemned, the two together alone in this vast world of sun and youth. There are others who will make occasional appearances: the thief, the lover, the debonair, and the two sisters. But they all seem dead, they have forgotten what loving is, what desiring is: they are too ready with their tongues and yet laughter has forsaken them, and only little intrigues and desires to be quenched in a moment engulf them. It is apt that it is the debonair with his mock-play of love who rouses the slumbering passion in Dulac for her brother: confronted with the lover from outside who could have been equal to his brother, she prefers the known rather than the unknown who will vanish like the wind.

This is not a story that talks of the tortures of desire, like most literature or film does; rather, love here is companionship, mental and physical, love here is ease, and love here is fidelity that will be everlasting. Fidelity to self, for the other is the complementary self of myself here. It goes beyond what Melville's Les enfants terribles could. The cinematography is beautiful, and unlike a Polanski or most modern directors, instead of a continuous building up of tension, here we have a more natural flow with spurts and ebbs throughout, a film closer to life and the story it tells. Most importantly, both Dulac and Lesire, the former in particular, have been wonderfully captured, and the film is like an ode to their beauty, something which is fitting to the story the film tells. As if it is but natural that both should fall in love with one another, slowly but inexorably.

Csend és kiáltás

Miklós Jancsó’s Csend és kiáltás (int’l title: Silence and Cry) is a film that takes some time to warm to: even if you knew the Hungarian history. However, more than the Hungarian history, if you knew the Hungarian landscape, you will eventually not only appreciate the film but also love it: watching the film brought to me several memories of little scenes I had almost forgotten, even if my memories of Hungary are not too old by any means. Nature plays a large role in this film: the desolate-looking land also reflects the country’s hopeless political climate, and the sterile lives of all the protagonists of the film.
The Hungary of today is not so very different: even if there are not secret police everywhere, life is still marked by the same barrenness, and the same bleak landscape foretells everything.

There is hardly anything left for me to say after this fine entry here: http://filmjournal.net/kinoblog/2008/03/18/silence-and-cry/

However, I do wonder whether Jancsó has left lots of untied ends in his film as a deliberate measure, in a way of saying that tying or untying them does not matter, or is it a matter of loose direction; it’s difficult to say this for me, especially since I don’t have access to all Jancsó’s films preceding and succeeding this particular film. I did dislike the ending of the film, however: it was difficult to imagine for me that István did not know about the poisoning before. I would have also liked to see some kind of exchange between István and Károly, the former being the adored one of the two women and the latter the scorned one. Probably there is no exchange worth a name, since István is completely indifferent about Károly: but why should an idealist who prides himself over being one be so utterly heartless to all that Károly has to go through because of him? And if he’s not an idealist in the real sense, then why would he go and do the final act? Or is István merely a tool in the hands of the two women, who exploit his need to hide, while István in turn also sees them in the same light and hence feels a latent brotherhood with the farmer Károly, even if feeling him not enough a rebel? In that case, why does István not kill the women in the final act, which would also inevitably lead to his denunciation?

These are questions that are not really resolved satisfactorily in this ménage-à-quatre story (or should I say cinq, considering that Kémeri does get some sort of satisfaction by knowing he has the women - and István, since the possibility of Kémeri and István being former lovers cannot be ruled out - in his power), a story of power struggles all round; however, the cinematography and the overall fluidity of the story bound in a rigid plot make anyway for an enriching viewing.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Le mani sulla città

One of the best films I’ve ever seen, Le mani sulla città (the insipidly translated UK title being Hands Over the City) goes into the uncharted territory of a film not having any representative characters: instead of characters that one could love or hate, instead of the rise and fall of one man or family or group, this brilliant film explores the nexus between politicians, law-makers and builders on a broader scale but constructing its gripping story around one particular incident: the collapse of a residential building in a poor, crowded area, coveted by those for whom deaths and misery are calculated in terms of profits and losses. While watching the film, there were times when floated through my mind certain scenes, subplots or ways of filming particularly from Z, La battaglia di Algeri, and Dilip Kumar’s Mashaal, and yet it is a testimony to this extraordinarily tight (but not sparse) film, that it stands head and shoulders above the three cited ones, gems in their own right.

One of the surprising and best things that director Rosi does is not to let have Rod Steiger, in whom the corruption is seen to be invested ultimately, a lot of screen time; neither does Steiger have many dialogues or even much acting to do, except keeping moping his brow all the time and looking tense. In many ways, he reminds me of Richard Burton here, who used to have a very similar acting method. The film is rather kept on the edge by a bunch of non-professionals, with Carlo Fermariello playing the stellar role of De Vita - the leftist politician who rejects (or who doesn’t see any profit in supporting) Steiger till the end. Interestingly, it is not De Vita’s character but Balsamo’s, who also happens to be a doctor, that seems the only disinterested one amid a stinking bevy of dignitaries, who only serve to fatten themselves and their art collections at the expense of people.

The discordant music, recurring throughout the film whenever the city “buildscape” is presented to the viewer, reinforces the double image of a residential complex, crucial to the film’s understanding: profits for Steiger and his like apparently, but what we have to imagine is that there are people living and growing there. Even in the case of the building collapse, there is no focus on the human suffering or fear in the aftermath: Rosi leaves that for us to imagine, since similarly for all his political characters, except that of Balsamo, the living beings there are no more than votes - to be used at the time of elections, but otherwise to be disposed of as profitably as possible.

The film is also something very relatable for people from countries like Italy and India, with their high amount of civic corruption. Both countries also have a strong presence of mafia, an area which this film chooses not to explore (on the contrary, Mashaal does that but in doing so, forgets the politicans; Z has all the bases covered, but instead of mafia, it is just local hitmen who are used to “silence” a political opponent). Le mani sulla città is one of the rare flawless films, not least for its clear-headedness about what to include and what to exclude.