Tag Archives: News

Berlinale FILM CAPSULE: Joaquim (Gomes, 2017) Brazil

Posted by Larry Gleeson.

Wanda Films and Writer/Director Marcelo Gomes bring forth Joaquim, a loosely based account of Brazilian henchman turned revolutionary, Joaquim de Silva Xavier, at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival in Competition. Set in eighteenth century Brazil, Joaquim, seemingly, is a dichotomy between historical realism for mise-en-scene and a North American hit job to seal its commitment to the past and to a revolutionary future. Utilizing a hand-held, point-of-view frame, Gomez adeptly draws in the viewer to this world out of time (and world out of place with its diagetic sounds) to achieve his objective.

Surprisingly, he portrays the film’s protagonist, Joaquim, as weak, uninspiring and without a backbone. He positions Joaquim as a whiny, Second Lieutenant who is seen lusting after a beautiful, black, female slave, Preta, portrayed very well by Isabél Zuaa. Unable to have her for himself, he stands by while the regional Administrator fornicates with her. As the grunts and groans grow louder, Joaquim stomps off and is shown finding relief by galloping hard upon his horse.

Julio Machado, portrays Joaquim. Director of Photography, Pierre de Kerchove, illustrates the film’s characters with a plethora of tightly framed shots inundating the viewer with intimate and personal details of the characters costuming and facial features. Rô Nascimento created semi-realistic costuming with an accent on the luxurious – probably not the quality of clothing adorned by slaves, low-ranking military officers and peasants. Anna Van Steen and Evelyn Barbieri are credited with Make-up.

After introducing the film’s main characters and establishing its theme, Gomes moves the film’s narrative into the outback. With a growing fear among the colony’s corrupt Portuguese officials that gold production is declining, Joaquim is sent off to find gold having made a name for himself earlier as a hunter of gold smugglers – an unusual change of duty assignment for a military officer.

For his expedition, Joaquim picks a known prospector and another purported soldier along with a few natives to comprise a team. Off they go into the rugged territory where Joaquim believes the gold is waiting. Here, the character, Joaquim seems a little confused as he believes finding gold will give him Preta. Using Chinese-wok shaped sifters (without any sifting capacity). the men scoop stones and dump them on nearby rocks sorting through the worthless rocks with bare hands. The men grow weary and tell Joaquim they are leaving. Joaquim watches them go with hardly an utterance.

Only after Joaquim is captured by  looting, indigenous black bandits does he show emotion – seemingly because one of the bandits’ members was his former black girlfriend and she thwarts his new advances. Rejected, Joaquim is shown meeting and feasting with another group of corrupt, well-to-do officials representing the religious sector under the guise of revolution as the film closes..

In my opinion, the film never quite finds its feet. Overt attempts to create an artistic portrait of Joaquim  de Silva Xavier would have apparently been better served creating a figure the Brazilians could understand, emulate or identify with. Instead, Gomes and Wanda films hand them a useless tidbit full of innuendo and disparaging satire. Not recommended.

*Featured photo credit: © REC Produtores & Ukbar Filmes/Berlinale.de

 

 

Advertisements

#SBIFF Announces 3rd Weekend

Posted by Larry Gleeson.

sbiff_app_updateThe Santa Barbara International Film Festival (SBIFF) announced its 3rd Weekend featuring Festival highlights for FREE!

All screenings this year will be at the Fiesta Theatre at 916 State Street.
Seating is first-come first served.

Info on each film is available at schedule.sbiff.org and on the new SBIFF app available on iOS and Android.

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 17

5:00PM “DOCUMENTARY SHORTS: REFUGEES”
Including “REFUGE” and “REFUGEE” – Winners of the Best Documentary Short Film Award

7:30PM “THE CONSTITUTION”
Winner of the Jeffrey C. Barbakow Award – Best International Feature Film

9:30PM “GAVIOTA: THE END OF SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA”

SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 18

11:00AM “REBELS ON POINTE”

2:00PM “THE GOOD CATHOLIC”
Winner of the Panavision Spirit Award for Independent Cinema
Preceded by “IT’S BEEN LIKE A YEAR” – winner of the Bruce Corwin Award for Best Live Action Short Film

5:00PM “SÁMI BLOOD”
Winner of the Valhalla Award for Best Nordic Film

7:30PM “MY HERO BROTHER”
Winner of the Audience Choice Award and Best Documentary Award

9:30PM “GIVEN”

SUNDAY, FEBRUARY 19

11:00AM “TAMARA”
Winner of the Nueva Vision Award for Spain/Latin America Cinema

2:00PM “ANGRY INUK”
Winner of the Social Justice Award for Documentary Film

5:00PM “STRAWBERRY DAYS”
Winner of the ADL Stand Up Award
Preceded by “CONFINO” – Winner of the Bruce Corwin Award for Best Animated Short Film

7:30PM “JERICO, THE INFINITE FLIGHT OF DAYS”

(Source: sbiff.org)

HELPING FILMS GET MADE AT THE BERLINALE CO-PRODUCTION MARKET

Posted by Larry Gleeson.

THREE PRIZES AND 1,200 MEETINGS

Three monetary prizes were awarded to selected narrative film projects at the Berlinale Co-Production Market (February 12 to 15).

On Sunday evening, the Eurimages Co-Production Development Award, with an endowment of 20,000 euros, was awarded to The Wife of the Pilot (director: Anne Zohra Berrached), which Razor Film Produktion from Germany presented here. The prize money is intended as a development grant from the European film fund Eurimages.

The three members of this year’s jury were renowned industry professionals Pablo Pérez de Lema (Spain), Leontine Petit (The Netherlands) and Manfred Schmidt (Germany).

Two additional prestige prizes were also awarded. The VFF – Verwertungsgesellschaft der Film und Fernsehproduzenten from Munich awarded its VFF Talent Highlight Award, with an endowment of 10,000 euros, to the project The Bus to Amerika, presented at the market by producer Nefes Polat from Turkey and director Derya Durmaz. Since 2004, the VFF has each year honoured a promising project by up-and-coming filmmakers from the “Talent Project Market”, organised by the Berlinale Co-Production Market in cooperation with Berlinale Talents. Nominated for the VFF Talent Highlight Award this year in addition to Nefes Polat were Cuban producer Maria Carla del Rio, with her project Shock Labor, and producer Jeremy Chua from Singapore, with Tomorrow is a Long Time. Each project received a recognition of 1,000 euros as well as the opportunity to pitch their projects to participants of the Berlinale Co-Production Market.

This year, the renowned ARTE International Prize, which has been presented since 2011, was awarded to the project Lost Country by Serbian director Vladimir Perišić, which is represented by KinoElektron (France), MPM Film (France) and Trilema Films (Serbia). ARTE bestows the 6,000 euro prize on an artistically outstanding project drawn from the entire Berlinale Co-Production Market.

The 14th Berlinale Co-Production Market, which runs until February 15, is a place where the producers of the 36 selected narrative film projects can also meet with potential co-producers and funding partners. Over the four days, some 600 participants take a total of more than 1,200 individual meetings. In the coming days, this Berlinale partner hub will also focus on “Books at the Berlinale”, the presentation of books that could be adapted into films, and “CoPro Series” for TV series. The platform received more than 2,000 requests for meetings this year. More than 240 films that came to the market looking for partners have since become completed films, and seven of those are screening this year alone in the film festival programme.

The main partners of the Berlinale Co-Production Market are MDM – Mitteldeutsche Medienförderung and the European Union Creative Europe MEDIA programme.
Another partner, and also the market venue, is Berlin’s House of Representatives (Abgeordnetenhaus).

The Berlinale Co-Production Market is part of the European Film Market.

Logo-Berlinale-Facebook

(Source: Berlinale Press Office Release)

Berlinale FILM CAPSULE: The Other Side of Hope (Kaurismaki, 2017): Finland

Posted by Larry Gleeson.

Writer/Director Aki Kaurismaki served up a full platter of entertainment with Toivon tuolla puolen (The Other Side of Hope) during the 67th Berlin International Film Festival at the Berlinale Palast Theater. Tackling the migration and asylum bureaucratic processing issues of the day, Kaurismaki serves up quite a treat with The Other Side of Hope.

The film opens in the dark of night in a shipping harbor complete with fog horn blasts and heavy equipment operating including a dock loader transferring coal from ship to shore. The black, glistening bituminous coal shimmering in the light as it is being piled is magical this night. Emerging from the center of the pile a rounded shape with two spherical orbs projecting light are visible. Soon a human form emerges.

A cut is made to a businessman, Wikstrom, played by Sakari Kuosmanen primping himself for what appears to be another day. Yet, on this day, Wikstrom has decided to leave his wife, who comes into frame with a full head of curlers, a cigarette dangling from her mouth, attired in a cheaply-made, tropical floral robe. Wikstrom places his wedding ban on the table and exits. The woman reached for a gin bottle pouring herself a double taking a mouthful to wrap up the scene.

Using these two main protagonists, Kaurismaki embarks on a story showcasing two very different lives. Wikstrom, a haberdasher of sorts peddling ties and men’s shirts, drives a black luxury sedan listening to Western music while the coal refugee, Khaled, a Syrian asylum seeker, portrayed by Sherwan Haji, takes a coin-fed shower releasing the black soot from his skin’s pores. These men are on different trajectories. Khaled tries to do the right thing by finding the nearest police station in Helsinki to seek political sanctuary status from Aleppo. Despite his best efforts Khaled is denied sanctuary and decides to stay in the country illegally as many in his predicament seem to be doing. Wikstrom is hustling at a private, high-stakes poker game winning enough money to purchase outright an old, seemingly well-established restaurant in one of the remotest areas of Helsinki.

The restaurant undergoes several incarnations – each one bringing more laughs from the audience than the previous one. Wikstrom has developed very solid rapport with the chef and head waiter and takes to heart almost every one of their suggestions. Khaled, on the other hand, has been living on the streets and has made friends with a hip and funky group of rock-n-rollers. As luck would have it, or, maybe it was a form of divine Providence, the Wikstrom finds Khaled sleeping in the back of his restaurant and winds up giving him a bed and a job. With the help of the Wikstrom’s connections, Khaled is reunited with his sister and manages to find a way to stay in the country.

Hats off to Kaurismak. He wields quite a powerful wand in The Other Side of Hope. Bringing the main protagonists together after nearly forty minutes and having the story and its characters gel in a believable manner is no easy task. Quite the opposite. Tiina Kaukanen rapid fire costume changes aids immensely in the humorous attempts to find a working restaurant motif. I would be amiss not to mention the uber strong production design managed by Mark Lwoff and Misha Jaari. Director of Photography, Timo Salminen, captures the telling mise-en-scene with various lighting sets ranging from very low-key sets to more traditional tungsten indoor lighting set ups.

An interesting note: Eevi Kareinen handled the casting while serving as the Assistant Director.

In the end, Kaurismaki brings these two characters together – the practical businessman and a refugee seeking a life free from Syrian war for him and his sister. Along the way, he provides plenty of comic relief in this heart-warming and life-affirming tale of pragmatism and redemption. An exceptional film in light of the present migration dilemma and one I recommend highly without reservation.

*Featured photo credit: Malla Hukkanen © Sputnik Oy

Berlinale FILM CAPSULE: The Party (Potter, 2017): Great Britain

Posted by Larry Gleeson.

Director Sally Potter and her new dark comedy, The Party, found a receptive audience at the Berlin International Film Festival with a near-capacity crowd at the spacious Berlinale Palast Theater. Filmgoers were abuzz after the screening. Potter is most well-known for films Orlando (1992), Tango Lesson (1997),The Man Who Cried (2000) and Ginger & Rosa (2012). She is also an accomplished writer and performance artist.

Potter artfully chooses to portray The Party feature in black and white over color. The film opens with an unusual dutch angle-style frame of Bill, portrayed by Timothy Spall, the drunkard husband to Janet, played by Kristen Scott Thomas,  a recent ministerial appointment in the British government. The two have decided to celebrate her appointment with a few close friends.

Without much adieu, the film’s other characters are adeptly brought into the fold with revealing details as they begin arriving one-by-one. Janet, the aforementioned appointee and wife of Bill, is having a clandestine affair. Gottfried, played by Bruno Ganz, is the husband of Janet’s most ardent admirer, April, played by Patricia Clarkson. Gottfried has taken up with meditation in public spaces and is a practicing life coach. Tom, portrayed by Cillian Murphy is a high financier – emphasis on high as after he makes a grand entrance he retreats to Janet and Bill bathroom to ingest a fair amount of cocaine and to get a grip on a semi-automatic pistol complete with a hidden body holster.

Next to join the group are Jinny, played by Emily Mortimer and Martha, played by Cherry Jones, a same-sex couple expecting a child. Jinny is three months pregnant fresh off an overwhelmingly successful ultrasound while Martha is a drab, pseudo-intellectual, college professor. Quite an eclectic set of characters to celebrate with!

Imaginatively, Potter intertwines innuendo, double entendre and some wickedly pointed dialogue exchanges in setting the stage for the ensuing drama hiding in The Party’s underbelly. Meanwhile, Director of Photography, Alexey Rodionov is utilizing deep focus and ultra low angle framing, ala Gregg Toland in Citizen Kane, with satirical affect. Editors Anders Refn and Emilie Orsini keep the viewer’s eye moving from frame to frame matching pace with the characters’ rapid-fire bantering.

Expertly, Potter leads the viewer to the precipice where it’s all about to implode into a dark chasm as tempers are starting to flare when Bill flips the entire scenario inside out. The drunkard declares he is terminally ill and then collapses unconscious! The fury seething beneath the surface has found a fissure for its release as the characters all come rushing to aid Bill in his time of need.

The film’s narrative notches up a warp here with some philosophical musings, snarky female comments and Gottfried’s Eastern meditative point-of-view insights. Gottfried’s comments bring some resounding comic relief while also beginning to make sense now in the teetering moments of crisis. As the characters begin revealing their innermost sacrosanct feelings and beliefs, the situation comes to a climax.

Thanks to the casting of Irene Lamb and Heidi Levitt, Potter has considerable talent to work with and she does a nice job of  providing ample space for character development. She uses the intellectual bantering very effectively to tap into the charatcer’s emotional reserves revealing some serious sensibilities while keeping the viewer guessing at what is coming next.

And, Potter’s efficiency is remarkable. One character action leads right into another as the plot advances in whirlwind fashion. It is lean and mean and before you can say Jack Robinson, it’s over and and it’s complete.

Very nimbly and quite adeptly Potter and The Party make a seamless, nearly compass accurate, full circle narrative from opening to close with nary a dull moment in between. A highly recommended film.

The Party was a bonafide 2017 Golden Bear contender and was Potter’s eighth feature film. Potter previously took part in the Berlinale Competition in 2009 with Rage.

 

*Featured photo credit: Adventure Pictures Limited 2017

BERLIN UNDER THE SIGN OF THE BEAR

Posted by Larry Gleeson.

MID FESTIVAL RESULTS LOOKING GOOD FOR THE 2017 BERLINALE

Audience crowds at the 67th Berlin International Film Festival have once again been overwhelming. Halfway through the festival, again more than 250,000 tickets have been sold.

Berlinale_Director“We’re very happy that the Berlinale has drawn so many people into cinemas again this year. The passion for film shown by curious audiences who spend eleven days on a cinematic voyage of discovery, is really impressive. And the response to the new EFM initiatives and events is extremely positive”, says Festival Director Dieter Kosslik.

The Open House program at the Audi Berlinale Lounge gives the public an additional opportunity to experience the festival up-close and personal and see Berlinale guests in the flesh. Open events are held there every day, such as talks with celebrity filmmakers, discussions, and lounge nights with a DJ or live music.

The 2017 European Film Market (EFM) has drawn more participants than last year (9,640). The popular “EFM Industry Debates” segment celebrated its ten-year anniversary this weekend. This year, Gropius Park also played host for the first time to the “Berlinale Africa Hub”, a platform for innovative projects and ideas from the African film industry.

Over at Berlinale Talents, Jury President Paul Verhoeven and juror of the International Jury Maggie Gyllenhaal, as well as the artist Christo, have been among the distinguished guests at the panel discussions. The coming days will see more exciting events, with Agnieszka Holland, Isabel Coixet, Sally Potter, David OReilly, Raoul Peck and juror Olafur Eliasson on the program.

The Berlinale Publikumstag on Sunday, February 19, 2017, provides an encore chance for audiences. That day, numerous festival films from various sections will have repeat screenings at the Berlinale venues.

Logo-Berlinale-Facebook

(Source: Berlinale Press Office)

The First Edition of Asian Brilliant Stars launched

Posted by Larry Gleeson.

Press Release – 12 Feburary 2017

The first edition of Asian Brilliant Stars launched on February 12th in Berlin. Three influential Chinese Talents received recognition for their recent works i : Xu Haofeng won the Best Director Award for The Final Master, Jerry Ye won the Best Producer Award for The Wasted Times and Liu Zhenyun was awarded the Best Screenwriter for Someone to talk to. Numerous guests were present on the red carpet, including representatives of Berlinale (Kathrin Schafroth), European Film Market (Jana Wolff), European Film Promotion (MartinSchweighofer), Beijing Film Academy (Hou Guangming), 2017 European Shooting Stars Winners and Asian Talents (Yan Geling, Nansun Shi, Ouyang Baoping etc.).

Asian Brilliant Stars is organized by Asian Film & Television Promotion (AFTP), Beijing Film Academy and Actor Committee of the China Radio and Television Association (CRTA). Modeled on the longstanding European Shooting Stars, the program aims to bring international exposure to Asian emerging and established talents, including directors, actors producers and screenwriters.

 

bestdirectoe_asianstarsXu Haofeng is one of the most influential wuxia (martial arts) author, screenwriter and director in China. He wrote Wong Kar-wai’s The Grandmaster and directed The SwordIdentity, Judge Archer and The Final Master. In these films, Xu Haofeng develops a unique and personal aesthetics of martial arts. Xu Haofeng new film The Hidden Sword is expected in 2017. Xu Haofeng said while handing his award : “I started making films at the adult age, an age to do responsible things. That’s why I do  wuxia  films, a genre I can master.”

 

Jerry Ye is the CEO of Huayi Brothers, one of China’s leading film companies. Ye was previously VP of Wanda Culture. Ye’s credits as a producer include blockbusters The Taking of Tiger Mountain (2014), Mojin: the Lost Legend (2015) and critically acclaimed Go Away Mr. Tumor (2015) and The Wasted Times (2016). Jerry Ye deliverd a speech in fluent English: “I hope we can create bridges between Europe and Asia, work with the European Shooting Stars to do films in Chinese for the Chinese movi(e)goers.”

Liu Zhenyun is one of the most popular novelists in China. His first success Cellphone was adapted for a film directed by Feng Xiaogang. His recent I am not Madam Bovary was also adapted for a film directed by Feng Xiaogang. The film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival and won the Best Film and Best Film Awards at San Sebastian International Film Festival in 2016. Liu Zhenyun expressed his hope for Chinese cinema, “We can’t do films as pure financial products, we need to tell stories about ordinary lives.That’s what we did in I am not Madam Bovary, the story of a woman who stands 20 years to assert one phrase, “I am not Madam Bovary.”

 

AsianStars.jpg
Richard Shen, winners of 2017 Asian Brilliant Stars and European Shooting Stars

 

As well as the awards, Asian Brilliant Stars is also co-organizing a panel on Casting Chinese Actors for Co-productions with the European Film Market (EFM) and Bridging the Dragon on February 15 during the Sino-European Production Seminar. Richard Shen, Secretary-General of the AFTP, said during the ceremony : “It’s a great honor to be a strategic partner of the Berlinale and to host the first Asian Brilliant Stars awards ceremony during this year’s Berlinale. The quick development of Asian economies has brought increasing opportunities for Asian films, and the European market has shown a growing interest in Asian Film markets. In the future, Asian Brilliant Stars will collaborate with more Asian countries such as South Korea, Japan, and Thailand.”

(Source: Press materials courtesy of Yang Pei, Go Global)

Berlinale FILM CAPSULE: Spoor (Holland, 2017): Poland

Posted by Larry Gleeson.

Agnieszka Holland screened her film, Spoor (Pokor), at the 67th Berlinale, February 12th, 2017. The film is centered around a Stephen King, Misery Chastain-like character, Duszejko, a supposed retired civil engineer. Duszejko is a vigilante at heart who professes to be an astrologist. Holland gives little evidence to Duszejko’s proficiency in either of these areas. Nevertheless, Spoor is a film that catches the eye and attacks the viewer’s sensibilities of right and wrong.

The film opens with a narrative voiceover espousing a person’s date of birth points to a person’s day of death. Somber non-diagetic music accompanies character Duszejko’s enlightening epiphany. The camera, meanwhile reveals a pre-dawn mountain landscape with fog billowing up and the diagetic sounds of birds chirping and dogs barking. A

screen-shot-2017-02-12-at-9-53-42-pm
Photo credit: Robert Paeka

transition is made revealing jeeps rolling up into a small glen where a group of hunters are meeting. A lone jeep is seen leaving as another transition takes the viewer inside a sleeping Duszejko’s home via an extended tracking point-of-view take. Frantic dogs bark rousing Duszejko from a slumbering sleep. Duszejko’s rises, quickly dresses and sets out into the pasture with her beloved dogs. She stretches and raises her arms skyward in a back shot as a new day is dawning. A cut is made to a hen house full of abused, caged foxes and a brute of a man cursing and racking the cages with a metal bar.

Admittedly, Holland sets the tone for what is a wild and wily ride. After her dogs have gone missing, Duszejko sets out to correct a world gone mad (albeit her world). Spoor is set in a rugged region with hunting seasons corresponding with nature’s cyclical seasons. Despite her best attempts to thwart the hunting of living creatures including a consultation with the local priest who tells to Duszejko to pray not for the animals or for the hunters but for herself.Spoor is set in a rugged region with hunting seasons corresponding with nature’s cyclical seasons and the priest proselytizes man is meant to subdue the animals of the earth At wits end, Duszejko takes matters into her own hands finding a vindication in her supposed astrological indicators and support from an unlikely network like-minded sympathizers. Utilizing flashbacks the truth is revealed in the film’s denouement.

At its core, Spoor is a semi-stylistic film advocating vigilantism to protect the inherent sacredness of our planet’s ecological system from a microcosmic perspective. In my opinion, Holland delivers an important message in a very dark manner pitting formal religion and community against purported astrological insight and personal vendetta. Not recommended!

*Featured photo credit: Robert Paeka

Berlinale FILM CAPSULE: Viceroy’s House (Chadha, 2017): Great Britain

Posted by Larry Gleeson.

Kenyan born and British-reared Gurinder Chadha, best known for Bend It Like Beckham (2002),  presented Viceroy’s House at the Berlinale Palast as part of the 67th Berlin International Film Festival. Chadha stated in the press conference immediately following the screening, she felt compelled to make the film in memory of her aunt and grandmother.

Viceroy’s House is set in 1947 India. India had been under British rule for nearly 90 years form 1858 when the East India Company transferred rule to the Royal Crown. In 1947 amid growing tensions and strife, Britain acquiesced authority. Viceroy’s House is Chadha’s truth regarding the political background surrounding the transfer of authority and the ensuing transition to independence.

Chadha’s agenda is a heady one as she attempts to present how the transfer was negotiated among Jawaharial Nehru, Mohammad Jinnah, and Mahatma Ghandi while speculating on the role of the viceroy and his wife. Seemingly, to keep the audience intrigued and to help move the narrative forward, Chadha tosses in a love story between Jeet (Manish Dayal), a handsome young Hindu servant and Aalia (Huma Qureshi), a stunningly beautiful Muslim woman working in the Viceroy’s House.

The film opens with non-diagetic music playing while an establishing wide-angle pan reveals the setting. The musical beat picks up in tempo as a transition is made revealing a multitude of uniformed Indian servants cleaning and dusting. Two servants in a sidebar conversation have heard the British have announced plans to leave India after a presence of almost two centuries due to the high cost World War II inflicted on the treasury. A viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, Queen Victoria’s great grandson, is coming with his wife and daughter to carry out the transfer of authority and to oversee the country’s transition to independence. Mountbatten is to be the last viceroy.

As simple as that may sound, it isn’t. India had three differing groups in the Hindus, the Muslims, and the Sikhs. Mahatma Ghandi implored all the people to stay united as one nation. However, according to Chadha, the British had a private agenda to partition the country into a Muslim Pakistan and a smaller secular India to secure oil futures for the British economy. Repeatedly, the spun phrase “divide and rule,” was proclamated throughout the film.

Viceroy’s House is a large scale, big budgeted production with many extras, extravagant costuming and exquisite production design, and has the feel of a propagandized melodramatic revisionist film. Visually, the film has much to offer with physically attractive characters and strong production values. The acting is solid with Hugh Bonneville and Gillian Anderson as Lord and Lady Mountbatten, the Viceroys appointed to carry out the peaceful transfer. Cinematographer Ben Smithard (My Week With Marilyn) presents nothing short of a visual feast as part of an alluring mise-en-scene. The musical score by A. R. Rahman enhances the narrative nicely evoking the period.

All in all, Viceroy’s House works on the surface. Beware, however, of its dark-sewn agenda. Warmly recommended.

 

*featured photo credit:Kerry Monteen Photography)

Final Portrait (Tucci, 2017): Great Britain

Posted by Larry Gleeson.

Stanley Tucci’s newest film, Final Portrait, is set in Paris, France, 1964, and is based on James Lord’s biography, “A Giacometti Portrait.”

The film opens in slow motion with voice over narration provided by Armie Hammer. Hammer plays James Lord. Geoffrey Rush turns in a stellar performance as the quirky Alberto Giacometti at the height of his fame having received Grand Prize at the Venice Biennale for Sculpture in 1962. Lots of grays, whites, and a touch of navy blue dominates the film’s studio and cemetery scenes while the cafe scenes allow for color variety.

Lord has come to see Giacometti to have his portrait done and soon discovers no portrait is ever complete. In an agonizingly slow scene with non-diagetic violins and strings, Lord rigidly sits while Giacometti begins his brushwork making comments toward Lord in often side-splitting dead-pan. For example at the first sitting, Giacometti tells Lord he has the “head of a brute.” Later as Giacometi moves in close to gain a greater perspective, he declares Lord has the profile “of a degenerate’ despite Hammer brahmin-like portrayal of Lord.

Soon, Lord realizes the three days he originally scheduled won’t suffice and begins what becomes a pattern of cancelling and rescheduling flights to accommodate Giacometti’s process. And, what a process it is.

Screen Shot 2017-02-11 at 10.32.25 PM.png
Left, Clemencey Poesy, as prostitute Caroline enjoys the amiance of an evening with artist Alberto Giacometti, right, played by Geoffrey Rush in Stanley Tucci’s biopic Final Portrait. (Photo credit; Parisa Taghizadeh)

Giacometti has a passion and large appetitite for women, food and wine. His women range from a high-end prostitute, Caroline, played by the soft French actress, Clémence Poésy, to the “house maid,” Annette, played by character actress Sylvie Testud.

Finally after nearly three weeks, Lord has realized he needs to take matters into his own hands if the portrait is ever to be completed as Giacometti has a recurring tendency to paint the negative, i.e., whitewash the canvas. However, along the way, the men, including Giacometti’s brother, Diego, an artist as well, and played by Tony Shalhoub engage in some philosophical meanderings and in some male bonding. Giacometti likes control and continually keeps Lord off balance with dialogues on suicide which he thinks about daily, and meaningful death experiences like burning oneself to death or slicing oneself from ear-to-ear. Sadly, Giacometti laments he can only die but once.

screen-shot-2017-02-11-at-10-21-00-pm
Photo credit: @Parisa Taghizadeh

Tucci has cast a fairly uninhibited look into Giacometti as an artist. Tastefully shot with most frames qualifying as portraits unto themselves. Some repetition detracts form the work as we see the mundane nature of Giacometti’s studio life one time too many. Yet, overall, Tucci tackles Giacometti in fine fashion. The film is entertaining with the strong, masculinity Hammer portrays as James Lord. Rush is very good with emoting and his physicalities are quite excellent. While the women appear as adornments both Poesy and Testud provide significant feminine wiles bringing to fruition Giacometti’s studio confession to Lord that as a young man he had difficulty sleeping until he imagined murdering two women…after raping them.

Fortunately, this episodic scenario is not carried out on screen Instead, Giacometti high-handedly pays off Caroline’s two pimps in a fashion and manner that they can’t refuse.

Final Portrait is a broad stroke for Tucci. With over 122 acting credits and only six directorial credits on imdb.com, Tucci churns out a fairly sophisticated piece of cinema reminiscent of earlier Wood Allen works including the Oscar-winning Annie Hall, as he brings Alberto Giacometti to light. Warmly Recommended.