Monday, July 27, 2009

MIFF 2009 Day 3 - 26/7/09

  • Les plages d'Agnès (The Beaches of Agnès, Agnès Varda, France, 2008)
  • Alphaville, une étrange aventure de Lemmy Caution (Alphaville, Jean-Luc Godard, France/Italy, 1965)
  • Amintiri din epoca de aur (Tales from the Golden Age, Hanno Höfer/Razvan Marculescu/Cristian Mungiu/Constantin Popescu/Ioana Uricaru, Romania/France, 2009)
The Beaches of Agnès
While I'm generally not big on documentaries on the big screen, I do like to catch one or two during MIFF if, for no other reason than variety. With this film, I was also keen to see it because of my recently seeing Varda's sublime Clèo from 5 to 7 and also because of the film's positive reception at Sydney Film Festival.

The film is a truly sweet recollection by an aging artist on her life's work and of those who are and were dear to her. It traces the path of her life's work beginning with photography - a life-long passion, theatre and film. She recalls her life with Jacques Demy with great affection and sadness (at his AIDS-related death in 1991) and describes the Dardennes as her spiritual brothers. There is a very personal way in which Varda depicts her legacy as she sees it and I found it very moving. Highly recommended.

Fabulous new print, shit sub-titles. I can't believe that in this day and age we still have to suffer white sub-titles that disappear on light backgrounds. That's about a third of the film - very frustrating. Aside from that, the film is enjoyable enough. The noir aspect mixed up with low-budget sci-fi with political and social elements make for intriguing viewing. I enjoyed it, but like most Godard films, find it a somewhat impenetrable from an emotional level. Maybe that's what Godard intends. Godard isn't high on my list of priorities, but I do want to catch the three titles of his screening as part of the Karina retrospective. And I would like to see this film again, once I've read a little about its political meanings. There's clearly a message there that I didn't get. FWIW, the film looks great and the two protagonists, Eddie Constantine and Anna Karina, look fabulous.

Tales from the Golden Age
Mungiu's 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days was my favourite cinema release of a couple of years ago so I was pretty keen to catch this omnibus film which he wrote but had different directors work on. There's six stories, all about the difficulty of life under the crazy bureaucracy of communism. Of course, we popularly consider it communism, but those Eastern bloc regimes were just dictatorships in the name of communism or socialism, which gives those ideologies a bad rap.

The film starts and ends with communist-era music, patriotic or nationalistic rally calls that accompanied the propaganda of the superiority of the communist way. It kinda sets the scene for the ludicrousness of the reality, which the film's various stories set out depict. The film is more accessible to audiences than Mungiu's Palme d'Or winning film, structured largely as black comedy and works well in that form. The film is beautifully photographed and there's a consistency to the stories that makes it seem more like an episodic single-film rather than multiple short films. Ultimately, the film underlines the difficulty of life under the old regime and makes fun to the concept of a "golden age". Well-worth seeing.


David O'Connell said...

The Varda doco sounds interesting Paul. I've seen too little of her work. I've been meaning to track down Vagabond which has one of my favourite French actresses, Sandrine Bonnaire, in it. Apparently Criterion released it at some stage. Have you ever seen it?

My first two sessions at MIFF where contrasting experiences (except the crowds which were mad at both!). I'm really hoping the Turkish film Two Lines will be the weakest film I see at the Festival, whilst the Norwegian black comedy/road movie North was hilarious, an inspired work, bordering on genius at times. I can't believe it isn't currently listed amongst the films getting a release of some sort down the track.

Paul Martin said...

David, Clèo is the only Varda film I've seen and I highly recommend it. Bonnaire is a fascinating actress and there's clips of Vagabond in the doco that make it seem worth looking up. I want to get Criterion's Clèo which comes bundled with Vagabond.

Someone else told me today he didn't like Two Lines.

eyeswiredopen said...

Vagabond is well worth seeking out, Paul

eyeswiredopen said...

Vagabond is well worth seeking out, Paul

Paul Martin said...

It's now on my Amazon wish list.

Anonymous said...

Check out her husbands work,Jacques Demy,especially his 60's films.

Paul Martin said...

Anon, I have a couple of Demy titles on DVD that I'll watch one day. Umbrella have released them and they can often be picked up from Dirt Cheap for $5 or $10.

Glenn Dunks said...

I wasn't a fan of Alphaville when I caught it on DVD earlier this year. Felt lifeless and for a movie that is apparently science-fiction it wasn't engaging.

I saw the Russian film Yuri's Day last week and being set in Russia there are a lot of scenes with snow in them and yet all the subtitles were in white as well. Especially throughout the early portions of the films (a lot of exteriors) it was hard to watch.

Paul Martin said...

Thanks for the warning about Yuri's Day, Glenn. It's on my list and now I'm not sure if I want to see it. Did you otherwise enjoy it? Recommend it? How's your MIFF experience going?

I think the thing with Godard is you can't expect to appreciate his films by normal standards or criteria. He demands that you get into his space and he's highly intellectual. I've tried and tried to understand his films by my own intuition and it hasn't worked. I've got to read the book I've bought, Godard on Godard.