Tuesday, August 05, 2008

MIFF Day 11

Mon 4 August
Boogie (Radu Muntean, Romania, 2008)
Leonera (Lion's Den, Pablo Trapero, Argentina, 2008)
Kong bu fen zi (The Terrorizer, Edward Yang, Taiwan, 1986)

This film is screening as part of the Romanian Wave stream at MIFF. I liked it quite a lot. I felt it wasn't as powerful as it could have been, perhaps due to a lack of dramatic tension, or perhaps the characters were hard to empathise with. There were other elements that worked well. Like most of the Romanian films I have seen, there is a unified aesthetic, in films by various directors. And Australian film-makers could really learn a thing or two from these, as they are clearly made on shoe-string budgets (probably much less than our own productions).

Boogie uses very long takes of naturalistic dialogue - it fits clearly into the social realist genre that I'm fond of. It depicts the everyday in a very typical relationship, the sparring, the conflict. A couple are on vacation with their young son. The husband's meeting up with a couple of old friends and going out to drink with them while the wife (played byAnamaria Marinca, the central character in 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days) stays behind is the central plot. It's not an earth-shattering film but is quietly satisfying, showing confidence by the director, using subtlety and understatement to tell his story.

Lion's Den
I didn't like this film at all. There's a sense one gets right from the start of some films that it's trying too hard to be cool and stylish, but treats the audience's intelligence with, if not contempt, then indifference. Maybe that's a bit harsh, but that's how I felt with Lion's Den. A supermodel-looking babe finds herself accused of murdering her boyfriend and we never find out for sure. The movie is so caught up in its own sense of cool to bother with resolving little details like those. As implausible as every step is, we're taken on a silly ride through the nursery section of an Argentinian women's prison, where our babe goes when she's found to be pregnant.

The film tries hard to wring our emotions, but at every point where I felt I should be crying or feeling some gut-wrenching emotion, I felt nothing. Everything looked staged. I could have walked out of this film at any point from two minutes into it.

The Terrorizer
This is my favourite Edward Yang film yet. It's an ensemble piece that connects people from different social standings within Taiwanese society. The connections are clearly contrived, yet it works quite well because of the film's visual and narrative austerity. There is a sparseness that has a very attractive aesthetic. The circular structure that reminds me of Jafar Panahi's The Circle.

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