Sunday, 24 November 2013

(32) Short Film Sunday #17: White Noise (2012)

White Noise (2012).
This Short Film Sunday will be a little step aside from traditional cinema and shorts, that are usually posted here, nevertheless, it will offer you the same enjoyment and satisfaction. White Noise is more of a documentary/adventure type of film, so enjoy the scenic views and get inspired.
Winter is just around the corner or might be already in your backyard or on top of the mountain. Well, I heard that in Snowdonia, Wales, winter is already at hand, might be a destination for the Christmas trip. While I am planning my winter mountaineering trip to Scotland, to Cairngorms mountain range, thanks to Conville Memorial Trust (I will get to use ice axe! All excited and giddy.), I would suggest you, my dear readers, to plan something amazing for your winter. So this Short Film Sunday is for your inspiration and I challenge you all to do something this winter, that you have not done before.
White Noise (2012) from TimeLine films, featuring talented, admirable and regarded as the best big mountain rider, Xavier De La Rue, is a fantastic starting point in the search of inspiration. It will take you through snow, on top of the mountains, deep down in valleys and out in the sun, it is a fantastic trip to start your winter with. So wrap up, grab a glass of hot whiskey and enjoy the film! See you all out in the snow!

Sunday, 17 November 2013

(31) Short Film Sunday #16: Castello Cavalcanti (2013)

Castello Cavalcanti (2013).
Take one part Hollywood, one part fashion house, pick a European city, add some colour and... ACTION! A second collaboration between Prada and Wes Anderson (the first collaboration was advertisements for the fragrance Candy L'Eau, watch it here)  has resulted into a peculiar, quirky, colourful and charming  short film Castello Cavalcanti, which was released earlier this week. If it seems too long of a wait for The Grand Budapest Hotel (watch the trailer here), which will be released in March next year, or you just want to add some spice and colour to your otherwise bland and wet autumn evening, then this is for you.
Castello Cavalcanti is a short film indicatively set in Molte Miglia (translation: Many Miles), Italy in September, 1955, where an idyllic evening in the town is disturbed, when a race car crashes into a town center. Jed Cavalcanti, played by none other than Jason Schwartzman, emerges from the wrecked car and smoke. After his anger about the crash has reduced, he soon finds out that he has returned home, and friendly villagers actually are his ancestors.
The short film is vivid, performances are great and filming technique lets you stare right into the turmoil of adventure. Enjoy!

Monday, 11 November 2013

(30) Riddles of the Sphinx (1977)

Riddles of the Sphinx (1977).

Three years after working on their first film Panthesilea: Queen of the Amazons in 1974, Laura Mulvey and Peter Wollen decided to join forces once again and film what is now known as one of the most significant examples of British avant-garde cinema, Riddles of the Sphinx.

Mulvey and Wollen, before their collaboration in filmmaking, were distinguished film critics and theorists. They not only collaborated creatively, but they were also husband and wife. Both of their theoretical backgrounds influenced their filmmaking, Wollen has written several essays on Jean-Luc Godard and avant-garde cinema, Mulvey’s essay “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” discussed film theory in combination with psychoanalysis and feminism. Mulvey in her essay, that is a special feature of BFI’s Riddles of the Sphinx edition, notes that Panthesilea: Queen of the Amazons works in some way as a prologue to Riddles of the Sphinx. Furthermore, both films question and discuss women’s place within society, and the politics of motherhood and womanhood, and both films put down their roots in Greek mythology. After Riddles of the Sphinx they continued their collaboration on four more films, their final collaborative feature was The Bad Sister (1983). It is worthy of note that the cinematographer involved with Riddles of the Sphinx was Diane Tammes, whose innovative approach made it possible to deliver Riddles of the Sphinx in the expected aesthetic strategy. In addition, Tammes was the first woman cinematographer in the UK, who got accredited by the Union, the ACTT.

Riddles of the Sphinx is broken into seven chapters to break up continuity, long 360 degree pan shots to create a sense of continuity, Mulvey and Wollen use various techniques to create a de-dramatized drama and a riddle of womanhood, motherhood and its representation and role within society. As noted, Riddles of the Sphinx puts down its roots in Greek mythology, and discusses the role of the Sphinx/female in the story about Oedipus from the facet of psychoanalysis; moreover, Freud’s Oedipus complex. The exclusion of women is already portrayed in the aforementioned story about Oedipus and the Sphinx, where the Sphinx is standing outside the Greek city gates of Thebes, not inside. The Sphinx was guarding the city gates, and every traveller needed to answer a riddle to gain access into the city. However, Oedipus was the only one who answered the Sphinx or the monster’s riddle correctly, in that way defeating her. In the same way, as the Sphinx was asking riddles to the travellers, Riddles of the Sphinx is asking riddles to the viewer about the origins of women’s oppression. Moreover, in its narrative the film itself becomes a riddle.
The film’s story evolves from Gertrude Stein’s lines: “A narrative of what wishes what it wishes it to be.” Stein was an established American modernist writer, who broke the forms of traditional and conventional writing. In the same way as Mulvey and Wollen have replaced conventional narrative of the film and have broken it up into seven chapters, so creating intermittent narrative. Seven chapters give the film a certain pattern and builds up symmetry. Accordingly, the first chapter echoes the seventh, whereas, in the second chapter Mulvey reads a piece about the Sphinx, which is written by Wollen, and then in the sixth chapter she rewinds the tape recorder and listens to its playback. In the third chapter grainy photographs of the Sphinx and close ups of its lips are shown, even more, close ups of the celluloid film are portrayed, which emphasises that the film itself is aware of it being a film, it echoes with the fifth chapter, which portrays female acrobats on tinted film. Hence, the pattern is 1-7, 2-6, 3-5, where the middle chapter, chapter 4, tells a story of the protagonist, Louise, it represents inequalities and problems which Louise needs to face after the separation from her husband. Louise is left alone to take care of her daughter, while working as a telephone operator. Each section of chapter four, altogether thirteen, represents a scene from her life, underlining the main changes in her life.
The end of the 1960s and the beginning of the 1970s was an important time for women’s liberation movements, second wave feminism, upspring of psychoanalysis and in general it was a time when various disciplines, especially the arts, tried to break away from old and dusted established norms, forms and views, in order to create it all anew. 1974 was the height of women’s movement, also in the same year British psychoanalyst and socialist feminist, Juliet Mitchell, published her seminal work “Psychoanalysis and Feminism”, in which she notes, that in order to understand oppression and domestication of women one must first understand psychoanalysis. Even more, rejection of phallic and patriarchal psychiatry can end fatalistic for feminism. During the 1970s, Mulvey herself was attending women’s liberation movements meetings, which has also influenced Riddles of the Sphinx.
Moreover, on May 4, 1979, Margaret Thatcher became Britain’s first female prime minister. Hence, by the end of the 1970s, there was a noticeable wind of change regarding women’s rights. In much the same way as in the last three sequences of chapter four in Riddles of the Sphinx, pan shots change direction, instead of going from left to right, they move from right to left, to signal the change of mood in the film, as noted by Mulvey in the director’s commentary. The same change and progression of Louise’s life is marked by the use of colours in different sections during chapter four. Take for example, the first section in chapter four – kitchen – the main colours used are blues and yellows, no reds, whereas in the section – at Maxine’s – the set is infused with redness. Also Louise’s questions during the film changes, starting from domestic life in the kitchen section to asking questions about women’s oppression and rights in the playground section. Riddles of the Sphinx may be seen as a documentation of the women’s liberation movement, thus it could be categorized as an essay film. By including the story of Louise, Mulvey and Wollen takes the essay film form and fictionalises it, as noted by Mulvey in director’s the commentary, they did that to bring emotions into the film.
To conclude, the main change in Louise’s life is marked by her relationship with her daughter, by the end of chapter four, Louise isn’t anymore carrying her child, but is walking in the museum holding Anna by her hand. Riddles of the Sphinx starts with shots of the Sphinx, excluded woman, but ends with women as acrobats, the old idea of the woman juxtaposed to the new. The film ends with a spatial riddle, the maze, leading to the suggestion that the problems and riddles that the film tried to answer and solve are just a tip of the iceberg in the women’s liberation movements.

This review was originally written for

Sunday, 10 November 2013

(29) Short Film Sunday #15: Out of a Forest (2010)

Out of a Forest (2010).

Out of a Forest (2010) is a little stop motion animated gem masterfully directed by Tobias Gundorff Boesen as his Bachelor degree film from  The Animation Workshop, it has deservedly won several awards and has been screened in quite a few film festivals.
Set in the woods surrounding Viborg (that makes me want to return to Denmark), Denmark and accompanied The National's song "Slow Show", it is a fantastic combination of a dark dreamlike story with a twist and happy out of a hat ending. The little hare family reminds me of bed time stories from my childhood, as well as, of my stuffed toy hare.
Have a nice cup of tea, sit back, enjoy and see for yourself what happens with the hare family!

P.S. Also give a listen to the new The National album "Trouble Will Find Me", a superb album.

Sunday, 3 November 2013

(28) Short Film Sunday #14: I'm Here (2010)

I'm Here (2010).

Spike Jonze is better known for such films as, Being John Malkovich (1999), Adaptation (2002), Where the Wild Thing Are (2009) or Scenes from the Suburbs (2011), which is a short film inspired by Arcade Fire's Grammy award winning album "The Suburbs", and is available as part of "The Suburbs" deluxe release. (Watch it, if you can hunt it down, whether you are Arcade Fire fan or not. I strongly recommend.)
The short film I'm Here is a nontraditional, poignant and heart-breaking love story. As bizarre as it may seem, it is about robots, only machines... Yet, Jonze has made it so, that you fall in love with the protagonist Sheldon in the first minutes of the film. One of the reasons for that could be that his voice belongs to none other than Amazing Spider-man, Andrew Garfield. Or it could be also because, be it machine or not, once human created, it may arise humane feelings, and if you have heart you will warm to Sheldon. All in all, why would we think that humans are the only ones capable of loving someone? Sheldon falls in love with music, a girl and a starry night. With that he opens a door to a different world, a world more fulfilled, a world of emotions and dreams.
Jonze in his short portrays a world, which is cohabited by humans and robots. A sci-fi love story, where combination of numbers (binary code) is equated to humans, their identities and feelings. However, it is not portrayed in a negative way, instead, the short portrays Sheldon and Francesca's (played by Sienna Guillory) love in a very intimate way, where outer image or money don't play any part. Their love will endure anything, even falling apart...
In some ways it gives hope, if the two man-made machines can fall in love in a fictional world, then I would like to think that human civilisation isn't completely lost to consumerism, yet.
Enjoy, my dear readers.

Good night!