Sunday, July 01, 2007

The Week in Review

[Edit: Huppert posts moved to Isabelle Huppert at ACMI - 2]

This week has been crazy, crazy, CRAZY! I'm resolving to get more sleep this week, though I've seen some really amazing cinema on the big screen. The highlights were films by Kieslowski, Claude Goretta and Christian Vincent. And at short notice I was interviewed for half an hour on 3RRR. Today is eventful as it marks the first day that smoking in pubs is no longer allowed. As the café outside the building where I work was able to wrangle indoor smoking by having a bar, I will now be able to go there for a coffee and breathe a little easier starting tomorrow.

  • Mest kinematograficheskogo operatora (Cameraman's Revenge, 12 min, Wladyslaw Starewicz)
  • The Jammed (Dee McLachlan, 2007)
  • Interviewed by on Paul Harris on 3RRR's Film Buffs' Forecast
Evenings on a Farm Near Dikanka
I didn't enjoy this Melbourne Cinémathèque screening (though the short silent film preceding it was excellent). This Russian film is based on a Nikolai Gogol novel. This wouldn't have meant much to me had I not seen Mira Nair's recent The Namesake in which the name Gogol featured heavily. The film reminded me of some of the children's pantomime-type films that screened on Channel 9 Sunday mornings when I was a child in the 1960's. It has some historic and cultural appeal, but it's the type of film I go to the cinema for.

The Jammed
This interesting Australian film screened at the Sydney Film Festival. Hearing the buzz about it (it depicts the human trafficking trade in Melbourne and Sydney) and learning that it does not yet have a distributor, prompted me to contact the publicist for a DVD screener. I've now viewed that and will post something in the next few days.

Cameraman's Revenge
This film is quite an amazing achievement even by modern standards. It's a 1912 Russian silent film that depicts a family (of beetles) using stop-animation techniques. The miniature sets are very good and the humour and irony are terrific. Basically, it's about a husband who goes to the city to escape family life, gets up to stuff while he's away, but there's surprises upon his return.

Check out the YouTube clip below (I think it must be an edited version, as I believe the print screened at Melbourne Cinémathèque was 12 minutes long).

Film Buff's Forecast
Paul Harris invited me on the program (though I had earlier emailed him with the suggestion) to talk about film blogging and how it could be used by people to cultivate a strong local film culture. I knew we couldn't cover much in the time (30 minutes), so I left him with a print out of some useful information. The time went quickly and it was fairly laid-back. I brought in some of my favourite soundtracks (Lost Highway, Donnie Darko and Twin Peaks) which all got a track played on air. They were David Bowie's I'm Deranged, Tears For Fears' Mad World covered by Gary Jules, and Julee Cruise's Into The Night with the sublime music of Angelo Badalamenti. It was good fun, and I'd be happy to do it again.


Y Kant Goran Rite said...

I've seen very little of Godard's post-1967 output and none of it has been worth my time. My friend put it best when she said Godard is one of those people who should have died young. Because based on his work up until and including 1967, I'd probably rank him among my four or five favourite filmmakers. If you want to convert to the Godard cult, check out Vivre sa vie, Pierrot le fou, Weekend, Les Carabiniers, A Woman Is a Woman and Breathless (and other people also worship Bande a part, which has some iconic sequences).

trent said...

Paul, I just listened to the podcast of the show--you did a fantastic job! Good work man, I'm very impressed:)

Paul Martin said...

Goran: I have much to discover, thanks for the input.

Trent: Oh, I wasn't expecting it to be up so quick; I'll have to listen to it tonight. Thanks for the kind words, but maybe you're being too generous. I don't think I conveyed as effectively what I meant to, and will post about this in the next few days. I got to plug quite a few different interests: ACMI, Focus on Isabelle Huppert, Alliance Francaise, and others I can't think of at the moment.

trent said...

You plugged me and Mister Lonely! hehe. Honestly I thought you were articulate and achieved what you set out to do. It must have been pretty nerve-wracking in the studio tho, you handled it very well.

trent said...

PS I just rented Em 4 Jay from Blockbuster of all places. The DVD has Larry Clark's quote on the cover. The tragedy is my TV is still broken so I'll have to watch it on my laptop. The essence will still come through I'm sure.

Paul Martin said...

Actually, Trent, it was pretty laid-back and casual. I'm not really used to the environment, and it's strange in that in a one-on-one you can stumble around with your words, but on air you're pretty conscious that there's an audience who may not have the patience for your idiosyncrasies and incohesiveness.

We didn't rehearse anything or have time to discuss much before-hand (just a little chat while the tracks were playing). That made it more spontaneous, though I think it would be good to pursue it further with a more defined agenda. Something like a step-by-step guide to setting up a blog and/or subscribing to blogs.

Alkinos Tsilimidos told me a few months ago that Em 4 Jay was coming out on DVD, so I'm glad to hear it's out there. I'll have to hit him up for a copy (which he previously offered me) so I can do a more detailed review. Have you seen my review of it on IMDB? I should post it on here.

I've been so crazily busy that I haven't had the opportunity to follow up on an interview he agreed to do for me. It's something I've been mentally planning since the end of last year.

I think it should look OK on a computer, but of course it would look better on a bigger screen. Just make sure the sound is OK (it's got a great soundtrack).

trent said...

Paul, blogging is a simple concept and a blog can be set up very easily--there's nothing more to add to what you said on air. If people can't grasp it from that info they most likely aren't the type of people to blog anyway. If someone still finds it bewildering after checking out your blog and others, abandon all hope or just direct them to wikipedia. Your point was that blogging about film is the ideal way of generating discussion about film and creating a community, and you expressed it well.

I have read your review of Em 4 Jay previously but I'm not going to read it again until after I watch it tonight. You should definitely interview Tsimilidos--do you plan to do it in person? If you're busy you could conduct it via phone or IM. I've got pretty good sound system connected to my laptop so it will be fine.

trent said...

Here are just some jumbled thoughts straight after seeing it:

It's definitely the best Australian film for many years. I disagree with what most people have said about the characters, I actually liked them. It might help to have known people like this. The doof guy dealing E is perfect, the way he just stares, very very real. I don't like the Black Keys at all and thought it ruined the mood. Their criminial activities were the least interesting aspect as I don't think they pulled it off very well, especially the attention given to seeing themselves on the news. The meeting with Em's sister is the most memorable part, it hits deep emotions on a very personal level. Sometimes I thought there were too many cuts, the camera just needed to follow them walking in my opinion, just flow, insteading of cutting to selection of scenes with the music that just didn't fit. I wish I saw it on the big screen. The ending for me was a too conevenient way of wrapping it up, I think it would have been more effective if they survived and continued struggling. If you have time one day watch this documentary called Black Tar Heroin for an idea of what it's really like to be a junkie. The 2 main actors were brilliant and I like the pig masks. I liked the camera work and how it zoomed in erratic tiny ways sometimes. I note your comparison to L'enfant but think it's a superior film--do I have issues with seeing Australian films because of their familiarity of location and accent etc? Yes I believe that has something to do with it but that's something to discuss in depth one day. There's commentary from Tsilimidos and Gordon and Barkla on the DVD will I'll try to listen to later on tonight.

Paul Martin said...

Trent, for me Em 4 Jay, along with Rowan Woods’ The Boys are my all-time favourite Australian films. Both are of a quality that I really enjoy about gritty European films. If the film reeked of realism, there is good reason. Some of the actors were non-professionals, some had real-life experience, and the leads spent some weeks in the gutters of Fitzroy St. St.Kilda researching their roles and meeting the types of people they were to depict. I spoke to the director, and both leads at the official opening at the George cinema last year. Nick Barkla described his role as ‘dead man walking’. This type of character ends up dead or in jail. Not too many options. The transformation of both of the actors was amazing, particularly Laura Gordon who seemed very small, gentle and feminine in real life. Mind you, Nick Barkla is very well-spoken and gentle himself.

The scenes with Em and her sister Janie were the heart of the film and I went out of my way to see a theatre performance with Kat Stewart at the Red Stitch Theatre. I loved the music, and thought it really added to the crazy ambience. As for cuts, maybe it was more noticeable on a small screen; I didn’t even notice it.

The comparison with L’enfant was in relation to the gritty depiction of the lower end of the food scale. Style (especially) and subjects were of course very different.

I’m hoping to interview Alkinos Tsilimidos next month, though if it’s during MIFF, it might take me a while to transcribe and post an article.

I’ve also suggested to one of the programmers at ACMI that they do a small Tsilimidos retrospective. And I learnt last night that Everynight... Everynight is being re-released in September. That’s the only piece by Tsilimidos that I haven’t seen.

As for the film you've suggested, I really don't like this genre of film. I went into the cinema to see Em 4 Jay with a sense of dread, because I was a bit tired of the genre. That's one of the reasons I was surprised out how much it affected me and how much I liked the film. But the opportunity presents itself, I'll see that title on your recommendation. When I first left home, I lived in a share-house and one of the guys was a junkie, so I can relate to aspects of the 'junkie lifestyle'.

trent said...

I'll be interested to see how you feel about the film when you next see it, considering the amount of time that has passed and the amount and quality of movies you've seen since.

After thinking about Em 4 Jay all night and today I have a lot of problems with it. I have a lot of problems with The Boys too. Having just listened to the commentary, Tsilimidos comes across as a typical director from film school, talking about 'plot points' and 'emotional range' and even referring to 'the audience' which really hit a sour note with me. I believe I shouldn't have listened to the commentary at all, but watching the movie again while the commentary was ambling along made me appreciate certain scenes and dialogue more than I did the first time, but there is no way it can compare - and I was apprehensive about comparison but since you have likened it to "European film" (I won't use gritty, that word is bullshit) - to the transcendent realism of films by Bresson, the Dardennes, Moodysson, Bergman, or if we were to go to other continents, Reygadas, Cassavetes.

I am still glad that films like this are being made here because like I said it is above and beyond anything made in this country in a long time, despite its inadequacies. I feel like I am being overly critical of the film instead of just absorbing it and letting it flow, but that's the difference between a good film and a masterpiece, there were too many inadequacies to allow me to just let it wash over me.

I couldn't give a shit about Candy or any of those other heroin movies that came out around the same time, I didn't watch any of them. This story is about 2 people who are struggling to survive and failing, 2 people I have a great deal of empathy for, but where it falls down as a film is the director attempting to blur stylization and realism--he simply doesn't have the ability to due to his film school approach and constant thinking of who his audience is. Fuck that, it's the biggest problem with Australian filmmakers, they all have a film/theatre school background and approach film the same as they would a theatre performance. Em 4 Jay does feel like a theatre performance at times and theatre is dead.

Paul Martin said...

Trent, I don't have the issues with the film that you do. Whether it's taste, or you know something that I don't... we might just have to disagree on this one.

Phillip said...

But aren't all grasshoppers cameramen? Silly Mr. Beetle. Now I'll have to hunt down the remaining 9 minutes...thanks for providing another thing to waste my time doing today!

Paul Martin said...

I'm not sure, Phil, but it could be shorter because it's playing faster.