Archive for the ‘2007’ Category

Getting a Netflix account will make up for not traveling far this winter! No need to re-visit Salvador do Bahia if you got movies like Ó Paí, Ó on your tv. Not sure what other ‘world cinema is available on the streaming network, but that’s to find out in the near future.

This movie is very confusing though. It starts of as a musical comedy, but it ends as a drama with a message. The confusing part is what that message is. Throughout the movie you get to see Salvador the way no other travel documentary has shown it. It’s a beautiful and exciting city. A lot of the sights that tourists want to see are shown in this feature. The stories are set in the famous Pelourinho area with its colorful houses and the charming cobblestoned streets. If you’ve been to the place, you want to go back as soon as you see it on screen. However, the reality of the city is harsh and it’s like this whole advertising clip ends with the message: don’t go there!

The first characters to appear on-screen are played by Lazaro Ramos and Emanuelle Araujo, both from Bahia. They immediately have a sexy scene together in which he paints on her naked body after he just showed off dancing to a samba beat. Within ten minutes you’re thinking: wow, a movie about gorgeous Salvador with even more gorgeous Brazilians making out. However, half an hour later or so, twenty more characters are introduced and they all represent a stereotype. An hour into the movie, the list of clichés is so long that you can’t take it anymore. But then drama sets in and there are some strong scenes with social commentary. It’s like the parody becomes a political manifest.

The clichés are confronting though. If someone else makes a movie about Brazil and adds too many clichés, they get burned. If a local makes a movie about Brazil and fills it with even more clichés, they get heralded. A Brazilian friend told me the movie was well perceived and quite important for the local community, but for a Western European this movie feels awkward. Sure, everyone in Brazil or who has visited Brazil can relate to some of those stereotypes. But to see them all in one movie is confronting.

The hypocritical evangelist who worships the bible, but loves the gossip of sexual adventures by others. The white trash drug dealing nut-head, who blurts out racist insults to feel better about himself. The cheating husband of a pregnant wife, who fucks the ‘mandatory’ transgender. The emigrant who lies about her successful life in Europe. The rascal kids who find it amusing to rip off tourists. The promiscuous girl who get another abortion because she always forgets to use a condom. The corrupt police officer who needs to keep an eye on the store of his landlord in order to postpone paying for last month’s rent. And then there’s the candomblé (Bahia’s spiritual religion), acarajé (great street food), the music from Olodum (Salavador’s famous carnaval drum band), flirtatious behavious by all, the shouting when communicating, etc…

It’s an interesting movie to watch. But it’s a tough one to sit through. Most of the acting is terrible. It’s just over the top. Wagner Moura for instance is so ridiculous that it’s not even funny. And he’s a good actor! Lazaro Ramos however is excellent. That one scene where he replies to a racist insult is quite powerful. The story though, that’s another weak point. It’s a collection of stories happening during the days before Carnaval. They do intertwine, but it’s nothing like Crash or Short Cuts where they merge.

Again, it’s not really clear what the director wanted to tell. It’s both a lot and nothing at all.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0895777/

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Yawn….

Gave up after an hour and a half (with another hour to go).

What a drag!

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0443680

Some series are worthy of binge watching. Others aren’t. Forbrydelsen isn’t. Of course, once you start watching this 20 episode Danish crime series, you do want to know how it will end. But you do want to know it as soon as possible.

However, this is a 20 episode series! 20 episodes of an hour each. 20 hours to find out who killed a 19y old girl. 20 hours to dig into the secrets of the girl’s family. 20 hours to look into the troubled life of the female detective in charge. 20 hours to figure out what the link is between this girl’s death and the mayoral election campaign. 20 hours of interesting and exciting, but often irrelevant plot twists. 20 hours of chasing and clearing the wrong suspects. 20 hours of listening to Danish. 20 hours of watching pretty incompetent police detectives make mistakes over and over again. 20 hours of watching politicians and their staff talk and talk and talk about clearing their names in the campaign. 20 hours of people changing their story all the time. 20 hours of thinking: why the f*** can people not just tell the truth from the start? (really, it would make everything so much easier, especially for the suspects!) 20 hours of trying to be a detective yourself and shouting at the detectives on screen to stop making mistakes! 20 hours of often thinking: this just doesn’t make sense ! (for instance: when – on two occasions – a character asks the identity of the main mayoral rival, who is in the news all the time as the potential new mayor and as a suspect to the murder.  20 hours of hoping for a surprising end. 20 hours not entirely wasted.

Sure, solving a crime isn’t as easy as what shows like C.S.I. want to make you believe. It takes a while. And cops can fail. Situations can be deceiving. Politics and pressure can play a part. It’s nice to add dept to the story and the characters. It’s nice to show realism. It’s nice to show failure. It makes it all the more believable. The acting is great. That Sofie Gråbøl is phenomenal. But a lot of questions remain unanswered. A lot of plot lines fade away and seem forgotten after a few episodes. Several scenes don’t make sense. And the end is disappointing. If only the series would have been 10 hours. But no. 20 hours. Twenty hours!

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0826760/

A divorced couple get together for dinner a few times to discuss the weird behavior of their teenage son. That’s it basically.

There are intriguing scenes of dialogue. Some are repeated from a different camera angle. The technique is quite fascinating. You let two actors improvise and re-do the same scene a few times and then edit everything as if it’s the same scene from a different angle. It’s weird because the dialogue is different, but it’s fascinating.

However, that’s the only good thing about it.

The scenes of the boy acting seclusively weird are tedious. The adult acting is quite impressive, but the story just doesn’t lead to anywhere in particular. It’s all improvisation. Not that there needs to be a concluding end. But a series of intriguing conversations doesn’t make for a good story. Nor a good movie.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1100908

Die Fälscher has been on my dvd shelf and in my travel dvd holder for years (some 50 other movies share the same fate), but for some reason it took me until today to finally watch it. It was worth the wait ! What an excellent movie.

Much has to do with the character of Sally Sorowitsch, a most intriguing Jewish counterfeiter who’s arrested by the Nazis and later placed as head of their own money forging business. His will to survive is enormous and if that includes collaborating with the nazis, than so be it. Soon after he’s been placed in a concentration camp he makes it known what his talents are in order to get a (slightly) better treatment than the others. And it works.

Both Karl Markovics (the actor) and Stefan Ruzowitzky (the director) are to be complimented for depicting a believable anti-hero. In fact, the whole cast and production team should be given kudos. The story is interesting, the characters aren’t one-dimensional, the script is well written, a lot of the background information is told with clever images, both explicit and suggestive…

Yeah, nothing to complain about at all. Apart from the soundtrack maybe and the Monte Carlo scenes in the beginning and at the end, which don’t add anything interesting to the story.

Great watch ! A must.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0813547/

It took a bit longer to finish Season 12 after having re-started watching E.R. Some story lines really suck, several new characters are incredibly annoying (Dr Clemente for instance) and it just often feels like the producers have no idea which direction they want to head with this show. There isn’t one single episode that really captivates. And there are plenty that are just less than mediocre.

It’s not all bad though. It’s quite daring to focus an entire episode on Dr Pratt and Dr Carter working at some refuge camp in Darfur. There seems to be more humor than in the previous season, which is a relief. There are still enough moral dilemmas that are brought to the mainstream’s attention. And the cliffhanger finale is quite shocking.

But most of the stories are boring and futile. And a lot of the acting is superficial and stereotypical. Maybe Season 13 is better again.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0108757/episodes?season=12

Set in Hong Kong and Shanghai before and during the Second World War, this daunting espionage thriller by Ang Lee doesn’t get you hooked until you witness a very brutal murder scene. The first half hour just introduces the characters and the setting. Japan has occupied China and at the university of unoccupied Hong Kong there’s a growing awareness of resistance. Enter a group of students who first try to raise awareness by acting in a patriotic theatre play and later decide to take their acting skills further by introducing themselves with fake identities to a powerful Chinese collaborator. The plan is easy: one of the girls in the group has to become the collaborator’s mistress and once she’s alone with him they will strike.

Two actors stand out. One is newcomer Tang Wei who plays the seducer and movie superstar Tony Leung Chiu-Wai as the collaborator. Every scene they are in together is mesmerizing and is filled with feelings of Lust and Caution as the title promises. Especially during the daring sex scenes. Movies like these can easily fall subject to stereotyping by focussing on a villain and a good whore. But Ang Lee just makes both very human in their moments together. He did an excellent casting job. Both actors and both characters fascinate until the very end. You’re never quite sure if they enjoy the lust more than the fear of getting caught.

The soundtrack is outstanding, a movie element which often is underrated. It helps create the atmosphere. The cinematography however looks very fake. The recreated Hong Kong and Shanghai from the late thirties and early forties doesn’t come across as realistic. Even though they spend millions on creating the historical set. It looks too much like a movie set.

http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0808357