Archiv der Kategorie: Film

All Is Art. All Is Life.

Film review: Dolor y Gloria (Director: Pedro Almodóvar)

By Sascha Krieger

Water. The pale bluish twilight of a swimming pool reveals a scar, real and symbolic, a trace of decades of liefe, loss and suffering. Eyes closed, the scar’s wearer travels back, to a childhood memory, the stagnant pool transformed into a lively river drenched in sunlight, an almost unnatural lightness, a child smiling at his mother and her friends as they wash clothes among the dancing fishes. and sing. As he will, years later, becoming the solo choirboy at his Catholic school, before finding a different voice, that of a writer and film maker, a voice destroyed by pain and regret and self-pity before it re-emerges. Dolor y Gloria is Pedro Almodóvar’s most autobiographical film to date, an homage to the transformative and healing power of art and the necessity for it to correspond with life, in more than one direction. In it, Almodóvar goes back to an old companion, Antonio Banderas. Working together, they launched each other’s careers, now the director trusts his former star with his own alter ego. It’s a perfect choice for a film in which things often come full circle, the present takes up the threads of the past, art fills in the holes of life and coincidence acts as an agent of almost god-like benevolence.

Image: Studiocanal/ El Deseo / Manolo Pavón

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Out of Time

Film review: Nuestro Tiempo (Director: Carlos Reygadas)

By Sascha Krieger

A muddy lake. The camera moves across until it encounters a group of girls on a raft. Lying, chatting, lazily. Then they’re attacked by a group of boys, thrown off, playfully. The camera moves on. On the shore, it finds a group of teenagers, engaged in the gossip and banter and awkwardness of blossoming sexuality. The camera-eye’s journey continues. It finds farmers, farm workers, engaged in work, post-work encounters, the small talk of tender, playful, awkward, cautious sexual politics, the innocence of the children, the curiosity of the adolescents lost. Nuestro Tiempo, meaning „Our Time“, doesn’t just take its time, it creates its own. It’s non-linear, circular, a cirvle of attraction, holding back, resentment, blossoming in the young, poisoning the older. A time that doesn’t get off the ground, that gets stuck, in the desired and the unsaid, the reckless and the considerate, both equally inadequate to what is not and will never be rational. As the bright hope of summer, tinged with a hint of paleness, makes way to the confusion of an almost constant, often misty, somewhat opaque twilight, the film sets out, slowly, in suspended time, to explore the murky, unbridgeable gap that lies between humans, even and particularly those that claim to be „together“.

Image: Grandfilm / Les Films du Losange

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The Masked Singer

Film review: Rocketman (Director: Dexter Fletcher)

By Sascha Krieger

Not only is Elton John, pardon, Sir Elton John, one of the planet’s greatest pop and rock stars of the past four decades, he is also ultimate showman, the supreme master of masquerade, the undisputed champion of the world in (re-)inventing himself. Director Dexter Fletcher, who recently stepped in to finish a film about another unrivalled show beast specialized in re-imagining himself constantly in Freddie Mercury, does well to – unlike Bohemian Rhapsody – eschew the limitations of the biopic and throw himself and his brilliant star Taron Egerton, who recently in Eddie the Eagle proved himself to be a master of disguise, into a variety show of a film, a carnival of sorts, a two-hour long exercise in role play and imagination. It starts with a bang: A wildly costumed Elton John, dressed in a spectacular orang and red winged devil’s outfit, storms into a building, pushes doors open and ends up – in a therapy session for alcoholics and other addicts. A place to reflect on his life and its choices – but also yet another stage for the impeccable showman.

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Fading

Film review: Burning (Director: Lee Chang-dong)

By Sascha Krieger

If nothing else remains from the almost two and a half hours of this film remains, some small, easy-to-miss images will: the flicker of light on the wall, the only fleeting moment of sunlight in the tiny one room apartment, the protagonist focuses on during the sex with a childhood acquaintance; the closeness, breathing distance, of the young man crouching behind a car, to the object of his observation, watched across the distance that separates their lives; the very ending, a panicked confused face on a naked body driving through the pale semi-darkness, observed through a dirty windscreen. Lee Jongsu is an observer. An observer of life. An aspiring writer who we only see writing in the film’s last few minutes, a man working odd jobs who we only see doing so in the opening, a city dweller hiding away at his father’s defunct farm where the only remnant of farm life is a sole calf that gets picked up at some point. Lee, a university graduate, is waiting for a life that is not likely to come. Early on, director Lee Chang-dong inserts news snippets reporting on the scourge of youth unemployment in South Korea. His protagonist is a member as well as a symbol of a lost generation, a by-product of Korea’s fiercely competitive turbo capitalism, but also a universal lost young man, played by Yoo Ah-in with an open-mouthed emptiness that half conceals a longing slowly dying as all objects it can hang on to slip away or are revealed as meaningless right away.

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Signing Off

Film review – Avengers: Endgame (Directors: Joe and Anthony Russo)

By Sascha Krieger

It all ends here. In a new beginning. 11 years, 22 films: from its first outing with Iron Man, the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) has become one of the most powerful and successful franchises in film history. And while it will continue – the next instalment will follow in about two months time – an era ends here. With the double punch of Avengers: Infinity War and  Avengers: Endgame, the franchise and the Russo brothers as directors have put the superhero genre on a whole new playing field. But while the devastatingly apocalyptic first instalment took all the storytelling freedoms a first part can take, knowing that all the necessary continuations and conclusions can be dealt with in the second part, the latter’s task was significantly harder. It had to keep up the storytelling level and still find a way to serve the franchise and find that happy ending. A task it solves masterfully in three hours that feel much shorter. It starts with a domestic scene of such tenderness, it feels light years removed from the usual superhero tropes – and it ends there, too. The MCU franchise has managed over the years to emphasize the humanity of its heroes and the authenticity of the world they operate in. This essentially is and feels like our world – with the addition of a few heroes we could truly need. And that, nonetheless, never feel too different from us.

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Family Love Triumphant

Film review: Boy Erased (Director: Joel Edgerton)

Von Sascha Krieger

When a film opens with amateur footage of a small boy filmed by his family, you know a shattered idyll family drama will follow. Accomplished Australian actor Joel Edgerton chooses this beginning for his directorial debut just like he ends it with another set piece: a young man driving and holding his hand out of the car window – still apparently Hollywood’s go-to image for closing out a coming of age story and symbolising a new, free life beginning. What comes between is, as far as its topic is concerned, less Hollywood standard fare. Boy Erased, based on an autobiographical book by New York writer Garrard Conley leads the viewer into a world far removed from what most of us understand as civilised modern society: gay conversion therapies. Still allowed in more than 30 U. S. states even for minors, young men and women, boys and girls are still subjected to this kind of comprehensive mistreatment, particularly rampant in the so-called Bible Belt, the ultra-religious American south. Boy Erased tells the story of 18-year-old Jared, son of an Arkansas preacher, who after going to college is outed to his parents and persuaded to undergo this kind of pseudo-therapy.

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I Is All the Others

Film review: Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Director: Marielle Heller)

Von Sascha Krieger

What does it mean to speak with your own voice? Is it possible to find it through impersonating others? Telling the story of mildly successful writer Lee Israel who had specialised in biographies and who turned into a forger of literary letters, Marielle Heller’s film poses questions of identity, authenticity and the truth that may be at the heart of a lie. She places her protagonist into the half-forgotten Manhattan of the early 1990s, a decrepit inner city full of dirty, dark interiors, a rotting metropolis. Painted in patina-covered browns, the film’s setting is lightyears away from the glamour we associate with today’s version of the place. Only once does it foray into the lusher richer universe normally closed to the likes of Israel. Melissa McCarthy plays her as a caustic misanthropist, who loves her cat but tends to be hostile around people. A dark whiskey-coloured office – from which Israel is instantly fired – is the film’s starting point and will be mirrored in the faintly lit pub she frequents, her own crammed and dirty apartment, the old-fashioned book store she will sell to, themselves cave-like remnants of a once thought-filled world now more resembling drug dens than cathedrals of poetry.

Image: © 2018 Twentieth Century Fox

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Berlinale 2019: Day 11

By Sascha Krieger

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (Berlinale Special / United Kingdom / Director: Chiwetel Ejiofor)

In his directorial debut, Oscar-nominated actor Chiwetel Ejiofor tells the real story of William Kamkwamba, a teenage boy from Malawi who saved his family and village by building a windmill to irrigate the fields during a famine. Ejiofor himself plays the boy’s father but it is Maxwell Simba as William whose quiet persistence and optimism carry the film. Drenched in yellow and brownish colours and a somewhat gentler sunlight, the film accentuates the hostility of the land, zooms in on the flooding and later the cracked earth of dry season, features corrupt politicians and bookends the story with rituals of rebirth. It is full of tableau-style compositions taken from the textbook of Hollywood drama, with picturesque confrontations and embraces and moments of unity. Everything is nicely spelt out and explained, every look, every word, every gesture meaningful. A rather pervasive score makes sure that emotional attachment never breaks. Ejiofor proves to be a skillful catalyst of emotions and does a good job in helping bring the characters to life. He makes the human roots of the issues portrayed quite clear and while not mentioning climate change, the film can serve as a reminder of what’s to come if humanity doesn’t change course. This is its greatest strength: bringing a part of the world close where hunger means an existential threat and can wipe out whole communities. As a film, it’s too conventional, too much relying on clichéd set pieces, piling one disaster on the other in all obviousness, too routinely executed to be completely convincing. Its timing, too, is somewhat off, feeling artificially rushed near the ending after taking a lot of time early on to establish the height from which these characters fall, making the first 30 minutes or so feel quite slow to move off the ground. A decent first effort that needs to be watched if only for its story.

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (Image: © Ilze Kitshoff / Netflix)

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Berlinale 2019: Day 10

By Sascha Krieger

The most common feeling to be encountered at the end of the 69th Berlinale is relief. The last festival of longtime director Dieter Kosslick  remindes everyone why it was time for a change. While the motto „The private is political“ was well enough executed, the Competition was even more lacklustre that in previous years. artistically, the festival has long been far removed from Cannes and Venice – this year, even the relevance and an insight into global cinema, long the festival’s strong points, took a plunge. While the winners, the Golden Bear for Synonymes, Silver Bears for Di jiu tian changIch war zuhause, aber or Systemsprenger (two major awards for German films were a good send-off for a director who made the festival a platform for local cinema again) were well-deserved and the one for Grâce à dieu re-inforced Berlinale’s understanding of having a role in current social discourse, a feeling of fatigue and helplessness was inescapable. While declared as a female festival one year on from #MeToo, the Berlinale also hosted Casey Affleck’s new film despite several serious allegations against him. The champion of queer cinema had an awful year in this field, with hardly any queer film standing out positively. And the indecision with which the festival tackled the issue of how to deal with the threat (or promise) of Netflix & Co. was symptomatic: Where Cannes and Venice took strong (and Contrary) stands, the Berlinale wavered.

Skin (Image: © Berlinale)

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Berlinale 2019: Day 9

By Sascha Krieger

Amazing Grace (Out of Competition / United States)

In 1972, famed singer Aretha Franklin decided to record an album of the music of her youth as a preacher’s daughter: gospel. She did so at a Los Angeles baptist church over two nights in a live setting. Director Sydney Pollack was brought in to film the recordings but the film was never finished. Now, after 47 years, it finally sees the light of day. The released version focuses on the two concert sessions with just a very short intro and little interest in the process. There is just one abrupted take, everything else are complete versions. This is basically a concert film but with a twist: for this is not just a concert, the church setting not a coincidence, the religious roots and nature of these songs always obvious. The fervour of the musicians and the choir infects the audience who turn this into a communal experience, a service, a celebration. Franklin is at the height of her skills, she might never have performed in a more passionate, no-holds-barred way. The footage well captures the raw energy on the room as it’s far removed from the slick perfection concert films have since required. The cameras‘ wild zooms and movements combined with rhythmic, fast-paced editing, transports the atmosphere well into the present-day cinema, with an immediacy that astonishes and makes this feel incredibly fresh. In the beginning, band leader James Cleveland directly addressed the audience – and it seems he’s talking to us. Franklin doesn’t talk, she thinks, humbly, powerfully, with a hint of the little girl who sang in her father’s church. The power of this music and its deep connection with things way beyond it is palpable at all moments. The sweat, the laughter, the rapture, the ecstasy, the joy: the cameras capture it all, with a sense of wonder the viewer shares.

Woo Sang (Image: © VILL LEE FILM)

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