Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Week in Review - 17/5/09

  • Zabriskie Point (Michelangelo Antonioni, USA, 1970)
  • Der Stand der Dinge (The State of Things, Wim Wenders, West Germany/Portugal/USA, 1982)
  • Samson and Delilah (Warwick Thornton, Australia, 2009)
  • Rudi y Cursi (Rudi and Cursi, Carlos Cuarón, Mexico/USA, 2008)
  • Sita Sings the Blues (Nina Paley, USA, 2008)

Zabriskie Point

Wow! After the disappointment that was The Passenger, this was surprisingly good. Antonioni wears his political leanings on his sleeve (something I'm prone to myself) and really captures the zeitgeist. Sometimes a film is too close to the bone; this film seems to be have been too confrontational for American audiences at the time of its release. Often a film can be appreciated for what it captures long after the emotions of the time have dissipated. This is certainly true of many Australian films that were not acknowledged on first release, such as some of the so-called Ozploitation films or Pure Shit, which (like Zabriskie Point) has elements that are almost documentary-like now.

The lack of expository narrative in Zabriskie Point really adds to its mystique. Antonioni's camera gradually covers various, seemingly unconnected scenarios and we, the audience, have to work a little to make sense of it. Or, not so much make sense as try to connect the dots. By covering a student meeting calling for revolt, police brutality, riots and capitalism in action, it's not too hard to see where Antonioni is going.

The film has an unmistakable 70's feel to it, though it was made at the start of the decade. The themes are clearly related to the aftermath of the political turbulence that swept the globe in 1968, most strongly recalling Haskell Wexler's Medium Cool (1969). The final explosion, while literally a blast, is not the film's biggest drawcard for me, though clearly a delight for the film's fans.

The State of Things
There's been a lot of films made about making films. For me, this one directly recalls Catherine Breillat's Sex is Comedy. Both films are about the struggles of making the respective director's previous trouble-prone film. The self-reflexive nature of this Wenders film is quite funny, especially when the film is shot on black and white film and the script has a producer slamming the use of just that. There are a number of moments like that. I don't think the film is brilliant, but certainly very enjoyable.

Rudi and Cursi
After the very sublime Y tu mamá también (my favourite Mexican film), directed by Alfonso Cuarón and starring Gael García Bernal and Diego Luna, I figured a comedy by Alfonso's brother with the same duo of actors couldn't be too bad. Alas, it came in at the low end of my expectations.

It screened as part of the Spanish Film Festival at the Kino. I'm not accustomed to full-houses at the Kino, so I was pleased for their sake to see them doing good business. Rudi and Cursi is really a populist film and I suppose it certainly got bums on seats. I just found it all a bit tiresome. Here's two very luminous and intelligent actors (Luna played the Michael Jackson look-alike in Mister Lonely), and it was obviously some kind of joke to have them playing dumbass country hicks who hit the big-time when they're scouted for rival Mexico City football clubs.

Don't get me wrong, I don't have a problem with intelligent actors playing dumbasses; that's what actors do. But the gags were all fairly puerile and predictable. The film did nothing for me whatsoever.

Sita Sings the Blues
I'm more than familiar with the Ramayana, having spent some part of my youth exploring Hinduism and Indian culture - I've been there six times. I'd heard good things about this film, especially from Lynden Barber of Eyes Wired Open, so took the opportunity to take my eight-year old son to see it. The Ramayana recounts the story of Rama, an incarnation of Vishnu (God), and his consort Sita who is abducted by Ravana and taken to Lanka. The monkey-king Hanuman finds Sita who is rescued by Rama but ultimately banished to the forest over doubts of her purity.

The film is visually stunning, with Sita singing love songs that are actually 1920's jazz songs by Annette Hanshaw. And cleverly, director Nina Paley weaves her own real-life heartbreak story into a parallel narrative. What most are not aware of is that Star Wars is almost a direct rip-off of the Ramayana. I don't think as highly of the film as Lynden obviously does, but it is entertaining and original nonetheless. And the kid's verdict? Like me, he liked it, but nothing special.


dMk said...


Which did you like more - Palermo Shooting, or The State of Things?

Paul Martin said...

dMk, have you seen both? Palermo Shooting affected me much more, so I'd have to say I preferred it. I can understand others not liking it, but I think very highly of it.

dMk said...

Yeah, I've seen both.

I absolutely *LOVED* The State of Things. Other than it's gorgeous black and white, and hypnotic pace, I found it very funny. It doesn't take itself too seriously, like Palermo Shooting did.

Cinema Autopsy said...

I was really enjoying The State of Things right up until the point when the action moved to Los Angeles. Maybe I was tired and it was a long night, but I really wish that entire last half an hour wasn't there.