August 9, 2012
Stanley Kubrick’s The Shining carried a tagline: The Wave of Terror That Swept Across America. Interrogating just what that wave of terror might be, Room 237 consists of a series of off-camera interviews offering a number of focused readings of Kubrick’s film. Unfortunately, Room 237 is unkind to its contributors in its clumsy assemblage and presentation of their ideas.
The disembodied voices whose observations are told are never seen, leaving the viewer with no association for the words that spring forth. But worse than that, there is no presentation – not even a quick title onscreen – as to who these voices belong to at all. No names or credentials are ever given which further undermines and betrays their readings by asking the viewer to take a huge leap of faith and trust the opinions given, irregardless of their origins.
There is also little innovation in the visual style with many of the clips from The Shining, and indeed other Kubrick films, shown ad nauseum when one clear example from the text ought to suffice in illustrating the point. Coupled with the fact that the quality of the footage itself is visually poor, makes it difficult to become immersed in the analysis. Interesting and provocative readings aside, Room 237 is like a first year film student attempting to give a third year lecture. Messy.
August 8, 2012
Killer Joe Cooper suffers psychopathy. He is a manipulative, egocentric, unempathetic, guiltless symbol for the patriarch and the Name of the Law – penal, and later, familial. His character commands control and receives submission from both on-screen characters and viewers alike. Therein is the problematic in “enjoying” Killer Joe.
There are five central characters; after Joe there is Ansel, the endearing but incompetent patriarch before Joe enters and assumes the throne in their domestic domain, and Chris, Ansel’s rogue, harebrained son who comes up with central plot device of killing his own mother to collect on the life insurance. Whilst Ansel and Chris are depicted as unintelligent, foolish and are often the subject of some particularly base jokes, they are kept just barely on the right side of audience alignment by the film’s further and more persecuting jokes aimed at the female characters. Of whom there is Adele – the absent mother mostly referred to as a bitch and only shown once where we see her dead – or at least near-dead – body during the patriarch’s removal of her impotent reign. Then there is Sharla, the deceitful, scheming, unfaithful woman who represents whore. Joining these two already glowing representations of women is Dottie, the virginal, naive, slightly affected and potentially mentally challenged daughter and ultimately little more than the retainer following a contract transaction between aforementioned patriarchal figures Joe, Ansel and Chris. After the film removes the impotent, it condemns the whore and finally rapes and damages its virgin. Dottie is almost the film’s innocent charmer until the final scene where she too forgoes any previous sense of morality, ethics, empathy, compassion – heck, humanity, and callously kills the only people she supposedly loves and cares for. The final sting being that all the concern for the weak and seemingly innocent version of the feminine was still a waste of male time and energy as she, like all women, was only to turn on the males in the end.
But what’s most concerning about Killer Joe is the guise that it is a “Black Comedy”. The entire Smith family are depicted as pathetic and parasitic to society. Although the focus is never on Joe as an officer of the law, we are always aware that he represents the penal code, societal structure and of course the Name of the Law. Here, with a family that are willing and eager to turn upon themselves, leaving one another out to dry, Joe is the only character with whom the audience are even close to aligned. Are we to take then that psychopathy is preferable to those who are depicted here as the economic dregs of society?
Certainly it is possible to take controversial, uncomfortable subject matter and satirise it in a way that is bleak and comedic; depictions of depravity that leave the viewer with feelings of uncomfortable self reflection on their ability to find such material amusing or films that expose their protagonists as weak, unstable – Happiness is a great example of such an achievement; but Killer Joe does none of these things. It may well be true that Matthew McConaughey’s performance is brilliant and even that the character of Joe captures onscreen the displays of psychopathy to perfection, but enabling that character control over the audience and their responses is a curious and pivotal choice for the film’s ultimate success. The result, unfortunately, is a room full of laughter – not at the suggestion of a misogynist act – but at the humiliation of the act carried out.
There are further issues in the film and certainly this is a gloss in terms of examples but what’s problematic about Killer Joe isn’t that its lead character suffers psychopathy, nor that it employs humour in a tale of such subject matter, but that it uses the psychopathy as a tool for seduction through which it repeatedly revels in the successful delivering of dangerous ideology.
August 6, 2012
From silent credits to abrasively intruding through the front doors of an affluent French home, Haneke immediately instructs his audience that their position is one of outsider intruding upon a personal space and by beginning with the film’s end allows the viewer an uncharacteristically kind act of mercy by letting us know from the outset that this will not be a film of causal narrative structure, negating any possibility of a sublime experience by removing the potential anticipation of ‘when will it happen’? Then Haneke allows the audience one more opportunity to choose to leave should our disposition be too weak to take on what he is about to uncover – a seemingly lengthy view of an audience sat in a theatre waiting for a performance to begin announces that we are about to look very much at ourselves through someone else’s story. The camera is stationary, unflinching in its observation.
Long takes and carefully composed, often still frames, with real-time movement ensure there is no escape for the audience from the film’s steady pace or the at times painfully tedious details of the story. Surmising ‘plot’ is a fruitless exercise here as Haneke’s voices tells us that we don’t recall the reaction or the film, but the emotion, that the vehicle and response don’t matter, it is the feeling that remains. This is his own synopsis of Amour. He further lets us know that “imagination and reality have very little in common” and gives us only Eva (a minor role here for Isabelle Huppert) as a possible stand in for the failed viewer’s anticipated insolent response, “What happens now?”, a question met with simplicity, “What’s happened up until now.”
Another achievement in truly affecting and intellectual cinema, Haneke’s Amour is confronting, inescapable; devastatingly brilliant.
August 6, 2012
Jonas Mekas, regarded as the godfather of the American Avant-Garde, and José Luis Guerín, an accomplished documentary and narrative filmmaker, embark upon a series of film correspondence as part of an ongoing project funded by Barcelona’s Centre of Contemporary Culture. Though commissioned rather than ‘found’, the correspondence between the two is clearly the result of genuine friendship and a very earnest passion for visual representations of the moments and thoughts that construct life.
The two styles are almost polar opposites and as such compliment one another by creating an almost natural wave-like ebbing to and fro - Guerín’s videos to Mekas in black and white, perceiving the cities, people and spaces with the eye of an auteur expressing a reflective world view, filming never ‘taping’, whilst Mekas’ videos to Guerin are like home videos up from the underground blending the public and the personal with innocent ease. From revolving doors with stunning reflections in Guerín’s examination of the people he records and their supposed inability to put down roots in expansive public spaces to Mekas’ following an unaware Ken Jacobs down the street and occasionally filming his own feet in the wake of stopping to speak and smell lavendar - Correspondence is paced naturally with an intuitive rhythm that carries the viewer safely between a personal conversation and filmic endeavour from beginning to end.
The natural passing of time through recording of seasons gives the film its temporal structure effortlessly as our narrators release their perspectives on the world through honest nuggets; “I react to life”, and gentle reassurances that we are not intruding on their personal diaries; “It’s only part of a game”. An experience akin to being a very welcome guest in someone else’s home, Correspondence is a citric delight in a varied feast of a festival.
August 6, 2012
Questioning the societal infrastructure built to dispense ‘justice’ and ‘morality’ is not restricted to any single nation. Headshot, a Thai/French co-production concerned with these themes does so predominantly through perspective and physicality. Opening with striking POV cinematography, introducing its protagonist through first person perspective and then a mirrored image sets up the film’s intent to explore interiority. Positing then the viewer as existing somewhere between aligned with and yet distanced from protagonist Tul, Headshot continues to play brain against braun in what is essentially a decent enough but far from innovative dramatic thriller.
Through a physical metamorphosis we see Tul transform from rogue individual to a modest monk. Performing the physical attributes of a monk however has no bearing on saving his ‘soul’. Just as it becomes apparent that Tul is an assassin carrying out a hit, he is shot in the head, falling into a three-month coma only to awake with a literally inverted view of the world. His now altered perspective is 180 degrees opposing his previous belief system as he views the world upside down. A series of temporal interruptions to the narrative fill in the past alongside the present preferencing neither as a true or correct path, leaving final judgement to the viewer.
Juxtaposed against one another are the presentations of intellect and physical strength; Tul reads about the conception of evil as originating from genetics and then works out whilst contemplating the merits of scholars and education. Unable to side with either and struggling with each as the narrative unfolds – adopting again the physical life of a monk but never truly able to submit to its ideology and repeatedly theorising his life without killing whilst running, fighting and shooting at his pursuers – Tul has reached an impasse between his body and his mind. His perspective unable to shift despite the rupture to linear progression and his body constantly trying to heal despite repeated affronts upon it, Tul cannot locate ethics within the moral minefield of Bangkok’s underworld.
Interesting though the themes may well be, the film covers well trampled ground and ultimately fails to tread on anything fresh enough to be innovative or truly provocative. Its absence of ethical questioning is difficult to ignore as it contemplates morality only as far as the system’s effect on the individual is concerned without ever really contemplating the Encounter with the Other. A decent if somewhat standard crime thriller.
August 6, 2012
It’s been almost a year and a half since my last blog post. For shame. The lack of words appearing on/in this cyber spatiality is less a reflection of my disinterest in writing however and more of a symptom of my finally becoming employed in February 2011. Lost to a timelessness that is reminiscent of many an experimental piece of cinema, I return with similarly sublime ambiguity; stating neither that this will be a permanent return to form, nor that my blogging days are necessarily an occurrence specific only to the past. If my subject matter is free to play with time and space, why not I? With that in mind, what I do wish to do is attempt to cover the Melbourne International Film Festival 2012 as best I can (time and energy permitting) here again at Liminal Vision.
Should you however hold a grudge toward my reckless abandon and failure to commit myself to the blogosphere then you can always listen in to Melbourne radio station 3RRR 102.7FM on Thursday August 9th 7pm to hear me speaking my reviews with esteemed colleagues both Josh Nelson and Cerise Howard in our Max Headroom MIFF Special.
September 1, 2010
It is rare to come across a film festival so honest in intent that it charges nothing in admission and wants nothing from its audience other than their attention. But Australians are lucky; Message Sticks Indigenous Film Festival, now in its 11th year, would rather focus on exhibiting and communicating the stories of a people than just making money. It is “the only festival in the country that is solely committed to presenting films made by and about Indigenous people and all screenings are free.”
Having visited most of its Australian city destinations already, Message Sticks concludes its 2010 tour at Carlton’s Melbourne Museum with screenings showing this Saturday 4 – Tuesday 7 September. Showcasing mostly shorts, the program are well framed by two feature documentary sessions that offer a contrasting real life and reel life context for the recurring themes within the festival program.
Lani’s Story: Followed by a Q&A with Lani Brennan, Lani’s Story is a documentary about a woman who suffered an horrific spate of repression and self-loathing due to the persistent combination of substance abuse, small community, extreme domestic violence and a failed justice system. Experimenting with alcohol as early as eleven, Lani was a self-professed “daily drunk” at just thirteen. Having grown up with alcoholism and domestic violence as something that just occurred but wasn’t openly talked about, Lani quickly fell into a destructive pattern that continued to feed on her personal shame. It was only after sobering up and meeting someone else, a man who finally showed her the kindness and support she deserved, that Lani was able to throw off the shackles of her own fear and speak out against her perpetrator.
Shorts: From the nine shorts (ranging in duration from between 5 min to 52 min) at the heart of the festival, Message Sticks brings disparate filmmakers (from New Zealand, Canada, the USA and, of course, Australia) and diverse subject matter to create an overarching narrative of untold Indigenous tales. Nin’s Brother sees one young woman search for a connection to and the truth surrounding suspicious events in her family’s past; Big Fella documents one man’s struggle to overcome mental illness and its symptomatic morbid obesity; Nundhirribala’s Dream is a gentle rendering of subconscious spiritual connection; Shimasani is the beautifully shot story of a young woman who wants more from the world; The Cave quite literally shows the proximity between the living world and the spirit world; Barngngrnn Marrangu Story gives a heart wrenching view of the confines of the reserve; Redemption is a sad, prophetic tale about the bleak future for a young, apathetic generation; Daniel’s 21st reveals a desperation that spurs denial; and Boxing for Palm Island is a tale about fight and survival. Each of these shorts do, in the first instance, the same two essential things; 1) they tell an untold story 2) they communicate just how important it is that the untold story gets told.
Reel Injun: “Hollywood has made over 4000 films about Native people; over 100 years of movies defining how Indians are seen by the world.” Whilst a vast majority of film-goers will already know, Hollywood is, to some relative degree, responsible for the construction of what’s often known as “collective memory” or “social memory” and, moreover, that a considerable proportion of it is either undesirable or just plain untrue. Certainly their representations of Indigenous people have always been misrepresentative in their stereotyping as a result of their being driven by greater social/political agendas that in turn continue to perpetuate prejudice.
Reel Injun is the film that takes the time to sift through these representations and talk about them – openly and honestly. Holding nothing back; from the “great American plains” as backdrop, to altered historical accounts turning battle into myth to the ludicrous US summer camps that keep the Hollywood notion of a “noble savage” “alive and well”; this documentary tells it like it is – and how it’s always been. With commentary from the likes of Clint Eastwood and Jim Jarmusch, the taking to task of iconic westerns such as Stagecoach (1939), and with some pretty damn sarcastic comedy, “Chuck Conners as Geronimo – it’s like Adam Sandler as Malcolm X”, Reel Injun is the film of the festival – and if you do only have the time to go see one thing, make sure it’s this – because it’s absolutely brilliant.
Written by Tara Judah for Liminal Vision.
August 20, 2010
The question of ethics and the way in which we understand “the Other” through visual media, and more specifically through film, is something that is often touched upon (though not always in as much depth as I’d like) in the writing here at Liminal Vision. The idea that when we sit down to view a film we enter into an unspoken “contract” whereby we agree to substitute reality for spectacle for the duration of the film is a fundamental in spectatorship theory and a kind of “given” that possibly isn’t contested as often as it ought to be. There is one text I’d like to mention in which earlier models of spectatorship theory are brought into question through a theoretical discourse concerned with ethics, as expressed through both the content of any given film and also through the ethics that inform the act of viewing any given film: Michele Aaron’s Spectatorship: The Power of Looking On. The most significant phraseology, for me, to come from Aaron’s writing is “responsive responsibility”.
Although Aaron’s writing is applicable to and engages with all modes of visual media, it bears particular relevance to two films I wish to discuss here and that are featured in the upcoming program for The Other Film Festival; a festival of “New cinema by, with and about people with a disability.” What It’s Like To Be My Mother (2007) and Blind Loves (2008), both focus – though in remarkably different ways – on the question of assuming responsibility, in equal measure, for the content of that which we do and do not see.
What It’s Like To Be My Mother: More than just raising an awareness surrounding what it is like to live with disability, What It’s Like To Be My Mother actually asks the viewer to think about what it is like to live being seen by Others as disabled. Featuring a film within a film, What It’s Like is knowing in its express implication of the viewers’ role in constructing a notion of “otherness”.
When Julia’s film about her disabled mother Monika qualifies for a Warsaw festival of “disability and art” she soon learns that the ownership of the film is not entirely her own; the subject, her mother, claiming equal if not primary concern for its exhibition, tells her daughter that exhibiting the film is not her decision to own “because you’re not disabled.” Being made to feel “naked” as viewers look on but importantly do not experience her disability it becomes clear that whilst Monika attributes the ownership of film as object to her daughter, “It’s her masterpiece, not mine”, she is painfully aware even before Julia verbalises the sentiment, that the film only exists in lieu of Monika’s indomitable spirit, “But you’re the masterpiece.”
Often using humour to distract attention from herself as a “disabled woman” in the first instance, Monika opens up to her daughter and, vicariously to us. Through her honestly we might begin to understand the complexity and contradiction within the limitations of what we see, “I would be happier if people didn’t notice me…You see when you look, but you don’t look.” Through Monika filmmaker Norah McGettigan successfully conveys the complex ethical implications involved in seeing an Other, specifically as it pertains to the way in which they are conveyed or shown on film; Monika’s honest answer to the question, “Did losing your legs change your life?” being that it is “a feeling”, and moreover, “one you won’t capture on your camera.”
Blind Loves: Broken up into four vignettes each focussing on an interpretation of love and “blindness” (both as a physical and metaphorical affliction), Blind Loves interpolates the space between screen and viewer, providing an acute awareness of the act of watching individuals who themselves cannot see.
Peter is a music teacher who is blind to obstacle and whose love for music allows him to create his own liminal space between fantasy and reality. Miro is passionately in love with Monika but he is blind to her parents’ concerns for their interracial relationship in a small village where people talk. Elena is blind to the power of how much love she is capable of giving to the life she has created, questioning her own ability to mother and afraid her newborn will be taken away from her. Zuzana loves being a regular teenage girl but her kindness is a form of naiveté and she is blind to the prejudice of Others.
In simultaneously highlighting “sameness” and “otherness” as it exists in individuals with disability, these films ask something significant of their audience, something far more piercing than “acceptance” or “awareness”. What these films are asking is The Ethical Question. Not just our responsibility to the Other, but also in viewing, our responsive responsibility to the images we have just seen.
“An ethics of spectatorship requires us to think about how we are positioned, and interpellated, with regard to the morality, immorality and amorality of film. It does not just acknowledge how we consent to our submission to the spectacle, but asks us to consider how we are rendered accountable or not to what we have consented to, and part of the contract of spectatorship, of course, is that we do not renege on the deal.” – Michele Aaron, Spectatorship: The Power of Looking On (2007)
The Other Film Festival runs Wednesday August 25 to Sunday August 29 at the Melbourne Museum. The festival is in association with Arts Access Victoria and as such all films screened during the festival will be captioned or subtitled and audio described and all public areas are wheelchair accessible.
Written by Tara Judah for Liminal Vision
August 16, 2010
Now in its 7th year, the AICE Israeli Film Festival returns to Melbourne and Sydney to showcase a selection of the country’s past year’s achievements in filmmaking and, from what I’ve seen, it’s definitely worth clearing the time in your schedule to attend. For a country such as Israel, with such complexity and controversy informing its political climate, the anxiety over inheriting the burden of its past and assuming responsibility for its future is not only grave material for a generation of filmmakers but an impending reality for a generation. Both Phobidilia (2009) and The Loners (2009) show how pressures of this enormity can push individuals beyond breaking point.
Phobidilia: The question surrounding what it is we as individuals need from life can take more than a lifetime allows to determine. And yet, the young man telling his story in Phobidilia seems to think he already had it all; food, sex and twenty-four hour televisual entertainment; a selection of consumables he could “enjoy” without even leaving the house; “I had everything a person needs to be happy.” But moving from soap opera to internet porn is only so fulfilling. When the vivacious young Daniela appears at his door one afternoon, it slowly becomes apparent that the value of connecting with another human being has not entirely escaped him. There are however two problems that threaten to destroy his newfound happiness and connection with Daniela: 1) “Grumps”, an old man acting on behalf of his landlord and who thinks he is doing our protagonist a service in attempting to coerce and then in forcibly evicting him from the confines of his home, and 2) his own inability to know what is “real” anymore.
1) “Grumps” is a Holocaust Survivor but instead of standing in as a reminder of the horrors of the past, his role in the film is to act as the beacon for the horrors to come. “Get out before it gets worse” he tells the young man, his survival teaching him that a situation can always worsen and a statement that reinforces the contention that opting out and waiting in hiding is no way to resolve a situation, no matter how grave it may be.
2) “When you’re alone for too long, nothing seems real.” Our protagonist has locked himself away from the “real” world, preferencing a mediated experience of it, shut off for such a time that he can no longer distinguish between the two. Answering “Bill Cosby” when asked who raised him and reeling off popular film dialogue when confronted with his phobia, our protagonist actively annihilates the Other through his passive unwillingness to acknowledge that “they” too “exist”; “I can see you on my screen but it doesn’t mean you’re real.”
But his great revelation comes: “It’s not what I saw, it’s what I didn’t see.” A generation turning their backs on the responsibilities they are to inherit – no matter how understandable – is not the appropriate course of action because in not seeing what is really there, ignoring so crucial a problem is in itself a form of political attack.
The Loners: When young naive soldier Sasha Blokhim loses his rifle under embarrassing circumstances he becomes too scared to tell the truth at his military “hearing”. Failing to admit to the crimes of foolishness and improper conduct he finds himself, along with the friend who “helped” him out of the whole mess, placed in a Northern Israeli military prison, sentenced to four years incarceration, for the somewhat more heinous crime of selling arms to Hamas. Unable to persuade officials to give them a re-trial, or even to convince their own welfare officer of their innocence, the two young men are repeatedly beaten and persecuted for their alleged betrayal. Unable to accept the shame he is now burdened with, Sasha becomes so desperate that he allows his friend Glori to once again take “control” of the situation in what is yet another foolish attempt to have themselves absolved of their treasonous crime and released from the emotional oppression they experience at the hands of their own militia, “They keep calling you traitor, you’ll start believing it.”
There is something of an inevitability to the siege they stage, and when the elder generation do intervene with force and conviction it feels truly fatalistic: as if it really couldn’t have played out any other way. Persecuted for being imperfect soldiers despite their commitment to and blind faith in the system they were defending, it is only after it is too late that the two come to realise their anomalous presence in a compulsory military service that will never truly change, “That’s the problem. It’ll always be the way you people see it.”
Phobidilia and The Loners are both highly engaging dramas that each represent an aspect of the greater contemporary political angst existing amongst a new generation of Israeli filmmakers. A far cry from the apathetic Gen X & Gen Ys of the western world, these films speak to the very real problems facing the future of a conflicted nation.
August 15, 2010
This will be my final post on what was a joyous two weeks of MIFF related mania. A few frustrating projection issues aside (I never once saw a film at the Forum where the masking was properly set) and after a near full recovery from entertaining if not embarrassing closing night exploits, it has to be said that the festival as a whole was rip-roaring success.
After one or two hiccups over the opening weekend, sessions almost always ran as scheduled and with little exception (The Ghost Writer) accurately reflected the advertised run times. Again, although it took a couple of days, details of director Q&As and other festival guests scheduled were eventually added to the website so that punters would know in advance if the session was likely to overrun. The box office staff and especially the volunteers were commendably always pleasant and helpful, my only real gripe was having to pay another additional booking fee on top of the alteration fee when changing a session over the phone or online (as I live a long way from the city I couldn’t always manage to do it in person at the Box Office.) The daily e-mailout of Widescreen was a welcome effort for both informative last-minute updates and also for the opportunity to win tickets to additional screenings (thanks to which I was able to fill a festival gap with the incredibly entertaining Innerspace.)
I must give a shout out to the two poor bastards who spent the festival running around town dressed as the oversized and overzealous Choc Top and Popcorn mascots from the festival promo vid, “It’s a Matter of Taste”. I particularly enjoyed the mockumentary short played at closing night ahead of Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll and sincerely hold out hope for it being a legitimate documentary in next year’s official program. The contemplation of which brings me to the advertisements – I do wish we could either have the ads play when the doors are opened for admittance (after thirty odd sessions they become a little tiresome) or perhaps MIFF could run a competition for filmmakers’ 30 second shorts ads on festival sponsors?
Finally, to the festival lounge. I can’t stress enough how incredibly useful it was having the Macs set up in the lounge when faced with excess time between screenings, the only issue being the actual opening & closing hours of the venue itself: almost always closed before the final sessions ended during the week and sometimes closed off for invitation only events, preventing festival goers from catching up over a cold beer between screenings. Speaking of beer, Coopers were the official festival sponsors this year, a beer that doesn’t phase me either way, I’ll happily admit that I’m hardly picky when it comes to beer and so long as there’s a lager or a pilsner of some variety in the mix I’m a happy camper, and the Coopers 62 sufficed.
Obviously I didn’t see even anywhere near half of the films shown in the festival so clearly whatever I write here has to be taken with a proportionate viewing pinch of salt. That said, I thought the program was successfully diverse and catered to a healthy balance of mainstream and art house cinema. I would however have liked to have seen more experimental works showcased beyond the one screening there was. And in lieu of that one screening, perhaps the programming staff might consider not scheduling the sole festival screening of experimental film for exactly the same time as the sole retrospective session of Bresson’s Au Hasard Balthazar? It seems likely to me that fans of a mode of short cinema often theorised and popularly thought of as ‘art’ might also be fans of the mode of feature cinema that is also theorised and popularly thought of as ‘art’. My other complaint is one that I don’t imagine will ever be resolved due to the understandable economic implications for festival organisers, BUT, I would like to put in a request for lengthy sessions – namely The Movie Orgy (280 mins duration) - being scheduled a little earlier in the evening so that one isn’t expected to stay awake till four thirty in the morning mid-festival. Of course, I do understand that this would mean the film would take up more than one slot during the regular programming thus meaning the festival would lose money having one instead of two or three sessions’ admission fees. In my defense though, they managed to do it for World on a Wire and a lot more people turned up to that in comparison to the too late screening of once in a lifetime opportunity screening The Movie Orgy.
There seemed to be a fair few films that I thought would have worked really well as shorts rather than features; Air Doll, Rubber and Catfish spring to mind and even more that were “good” but not “great”; The Killer Inside Me, Paju, The Tree, Uninhabited, Splice… that one truly outstanding film in the festival seemed to evade me this year (it was from what I hear either I Love you Philip Morris, Lebanon, Nostalgia for the Light or Winter’s Bone.) But, overall and my final impression of the festival was positive and inspirational nonetheless. Instead of heading to the GU to see Scott Pilgrim vs the World, I headed for one last stint at the Forum where Apichatpong Weerasethakul commandeered my senses with his latest in stunning slow cinema: Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives.
Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives:
“My past lives as an animal and other beings rise up above me.” A tethered bull sheds his ties and wanders off into the forest only to be re-called by a human being. Such is the nature of our lives as we are all recalled by Others, our individual subjectivity second to our connectedness to all other “life” on earth.
“Aren’t you afraid of illegal immigrants?” We often fear that which is Other when really we ought to accept and embrace difference as being a minority player in the concept of our existence as a whole.
“Heaven is overrated.” Instead of searching for a life beyond this one we ought to make connections and act sincerely now as the way in which we go on living is through the memory, affect and effect we have on Others during our lifetimes.
“I was born in a life I can’t recall.” We move easily between one life and another and forget at whim the events of what has come before. We are intrinsically linked to our histories and are responsible for the actions of all humans.
There is a great deal of provocative ethical questioning in Uncle Boonmee and Weerasethakul is on top form in creating a beautiful and contemplative reflection upon the way in which we conduct ourselves individually within a greater, philosophical understanding of “life”. There is a complex ease with which we move between worlds and cultures that he is interrogating in the latest of his masterful and meditative feature films. An instant classic amongst his oeuvre, Weerasethakul once again asserts himself as one of the most poignant and insightful filmmakers of our time.