Friday, April 25, 2008


As far as I am concerned, cinema exists primarily to watch films like Tony Gatlif’s Transylvania. It is full of life, love and loss, pain and sorrow, music and dance, culture and superstition. No-one with a heart can help but be moved by this ode to life and the Romany way.

Gatlif has made a career of showcasing the Romany, the culture of the gypsies. Credited with writing, co-writing and arranging virtually all the music in Transylvania, he clearly has a love of music that is infused within his films. This latest effort depicts a woman (Asia Argento) who leaves France and travels to Romania in search of her boyfriend, a gypsy musician.

The infusion of music and dance into the story is pure cinema magic. The cinematography, use of light and use of imagery are all magnificent. The choice of actors, both professional and non-professional, is excellent. Their comings and goings within the film are unpredictable, adding to the believability of the story, as crazy as it gets at times.

Asia Argento really is the star of the film. Her passion, strength and intensity are at the core of the story. Her rendition of gypsy womanhood as Zingarina is for me a landmark performance.

Transylvania is a French, Romanian, English, Hungarian and Italian co-production, which is reflected in the use of a number of languages used in the film (French, Romanian, English and others).

Gatlif showcases the bleak yet beautiful countryside and rural decay of forgotten lands, depicting a way of life that is slowly dying. His love for this culture and respect for those who are part of it is evident, and his depictions of it are electric, exhilarating and moving. The film’s ending is amazing.

I’m on a good run at the moment. This is the third film in less than a week that has brought tears to my eyes. Sharing some themes with the excellent, The Edge of Heaven, which I saw last weekend, this is a superior and more eclectic film. For me, this is close to as good as a film gets and is my equal favourite for the year so far, along with Paranoid Park. There is so much to like about it and I can’t use enough superlatives. This is must-see cinema.

For a number of reasons, the Kino Dendy cinema is my favourite cinema in Melbourne, though I see many more films at ACMI. The quality of Kino’s programming has declined in recent years, screening more and more middle-of-the-road French and other films. But then, this is pretty much true across the whole spectrum of current cinema. Gatlif’s films typically screened at the Lumiere before it disappeared a few years ago, and it’s reassuring to see Dendy pick up this more eclectic film.


John B said...

Hi Paul, interesting to read you were a Lumiere fan. Must admit I did like the location and perhaps the foyer. But the cinema itself was not really my cup of tea... it always felt a bit grungy to me. But some interesting films seen there... the Belgium one starting with an R..... Rosalie? And an all time favourite Baise Moi.

I'm suprised perhaps somewhere lke the Westgarth Palace in one of its smaller upstairs cinema hasn't taken this market.

Paul Martin said...

John, I grew to love the grunge of the Lumiere. It kind of suited the offbeat, obscure and challenging films they screened. I often lament its closure.

I think the film you're referring to is Rosetta, by the Dardenne brothers. A very bleak film that I found impressive. Personally, I hated Baise-moi, and is my equal worst film of all time (the other being Hard Candy).

I'd have thought the Kino could have taken up some of the market that Lumiere covered, but alas, it hasn't been the case. You'd think ACMI could have also, especially as it is not a commercial cinema, but there is little challenging or transgressive cinema screened there.

As for Westgarth, it is now part of the Palace Chain, which is fairly middle-of-the-road arthouse to mainstream.

I think part of the problem is we don't have a strong culture within our media of supporting arthouse cinema. Programming has becoming increasingly mediocre over recent years and too much oxygen is given by reviewers to the same old repetitive films that have been done to death, and not enough coverage is given to smaller foreign films. And much of that is due to reviews being closely tied to advertising revenue.

John B said...

Hi Paul... yes Rosetta was probably it and very very bleak. We beg to differ on Baise Moi..that's fine. As a genre my personal "hate" is any film that runs backwards. Irreversible would be top of the list closely followed by the Guy Pearce film "Memento". I just cannot understand the format. The violence at the start of Irreversible was sickenng but perhaps in context and running from start to finish it may have been more bearable.

2 out of 2 at the German FF. Look forward to your report. Not a big Jorgen Vogel fan so that ruled 6 out. Nor a fan of all the East v West more Lives of Others type movies.

But Special Escort and Runaway Horse more so were enjoyable and never a bad thing at a festival to finish when you've just backed (or seen) a winner!

Glenn said...

I remember seeing Gerry at the Lumiere. I liked that cinema. It was like an old fashioned cinema that didn't update with the times, which I love, and how they played the really arthouse stuff. I remember seeing Kill Bill, Vol 1 there too (I'd already seen it, but my best friend had just turned 18 and it was literally the last cinema in Victoria screening it) and I ducked out to buy some maltesers and I walked back into the wrong cinema and I walked into the sight of, of course, the infamous underground tunnel rape scene in Irreversible on the screen. Needless to say, I was a bit taken aback.

I also really like Kino, but I routinely have to go out to Nova in Carlton to see movies that I have no idea why Kino doesn't get. Especially if I want to see two/three movies in one day (which I regularly do considering I come up from Geelong) because they just show more. I know that's partly because they have more cinemas, but they just seem to show movies that Kino doesn't get (yet Dendy cinemas in other states do yet). Recent example being Gone Baby Gone.

Glenn said...

ignore that "yet" towards the end. not sure why i typed it. :)

Anonymous said...

hi paul,

apparently the kino dendy is now just the kino cinemas again, operating as an independent cinema. They may start screening some of that transgressive cinema that you love, seeing that they have some more freedom now that dendy is out the picture. When i went in there the other day, the dendy part on most things has been blackened out.


Paul Martin said...

Many thanks for that interesting piece of information, Jim. I can confirm that while Dendy has sold its film distribution and screening businesses to Icon Films (that was recently in the news), Kino is NOT part of the deal and has reverted to independent ownership.

I don't think we'll see transgressive cinema anytime soon, but here's hoping. If I had the backing, I'd buy into the Kino myself and turn it into everything the Lumiere was good for, plus everything the Kino used to be good for (and in many respects, still is), and then some more.