jueves, 20 de diciembre de 2007

Mare Nostrum

Respiro (2003 DVD)
Directed by Emanuele Crialese
Italy, 2002
In Italian with English subtitles

Although my wife and I are visiting my parents in California as I type this, the obsessive compulsive in me couldn't resist bringing you this quick movie review about an Italian woman and mother of three suffering from some sort of bipolar disorder on her otherwise idyllic Mediterranean island. While Crialese lays the death/freedom ocean imagery on a little thick at times, the film's an otherwise watchable meditation on the fine line between sickness and health set in the unusual--for me--context of a small Italian fishing village. A decent enough flick to be sure, but I couldn't help thinking that Io non ho paura would have been a better choice to watch with my folks instead (alas, I will have to look for that one for them at some point). (http://www.sonyclassics.com/)

viernes, 14 de diciembre de 2007

40 Go-Go Dancers Can't Be Wrong

While goofing off online recently, I stumbled upon a classic '60s French pop song that I haven't been able to get out of my head (video on top). A week or two later, a good friend of mine turned me on to another clip from the same era that was even better (video at the bottom). Coincidentally or not, both of these songs were penned by Serge Gainsbourg. Hope you enjoy these two chansons pour un vendredi soir!

FRANCE GALL-"Poupée de Cire, Poupée de Son"


miércoles, 12 de diciembre de 2007

Romanian Film Festival

12:08 East of Bucharest (2007 DVD)
Directed by Corneliu Porumboiu
Romania, 2006
In Romanian with English and Spanish subtitles

I probably know less about Romanian cinema than I could fit on a Post-It note, but I really enjoyed this mordant black comedy from first-time feature film director Corneliu Porumboiu. As the movie unfolds, a provincial televison show commemorates the 16th anniversary of Nicolae Ceausescu's fall from power by asking two locals, an alcoholic teacher and a septuagenarian Santa, what they did on the fateful day in question: was there or was there not a revolution in the town similar to the one that forced Ceausescu to flee Bucharest in a helicopter? While the answers poke fun at the holes in the characters' memories as well as at the concept of journalistic integrity itself, some of them also question whether there was really any revolution at all. From there, it is just a short hop, skip and a jump to asking if life has actually improved since the dictator was executed, a question that Porumboiu touches on but slyly evades answering. Bleak? Kind of. But a lyrical sequence of snow falling near the end of the movie is worthy of Kieslowski. (http://www.tartanvideousa.com/)

viernes, 7 de diciembre de 2007

Ritmos negros del Perú

I never even knew there was such a thing as Afro-Peruvian music until a few years ago when I was introduced to it in a Latin American studies class. But what I heard was great, something like raw '60s soul but with different rhythms and percussion instruments unique to Peru. A couple of US compilation CD releases later, I now know a smattering of the more-famous artists; however, the music's not the easiest thing to come by in the States. Luckily, one of the more celebrated movers and shakers in the field, Nicomedes Santa Cruz (1925-1992), now has a handful of videos on YouTube. Although Santa Cruz was probably more of a poet and a musicologist than a musician per se, below you will find one of his many fine songs ("Zamba Malató") and one of his poems set to music ("Ritmos negros del Perú"). Both are worth checking out, and "Ritmos negros" was actually one of the works in my reading packet in that great class from the summer of 2005!

"Zamba Malató"

"Ritmos negros del Perú"

"Ritmos negros del Perú"
por Nicomedes Santa Cruz

Ritmos negros del Perú
ritmos de la esclavitú
contra amarguras y penas
al compás de las cadenas
ritmos negros del Perú

De África llegó mi abuela
vesti'a con caracoles
la trajeron lo' españoles
en un barco carabela
la marcaron con candela
la carimba fue su crú
y en América del Sú
al golpe de sus dolores
dieron los negros tambores
ritmos de la esclavitú

Por una mone'a sola
la revendieron en Lima
y en la hacienda 'e La Molina
sirvió a la gente española
con otros negros de Angola
ganaron por su faena
zancudos para sus venas
para dormir duro suelo
y na'ita de consuelo
contra amarguras y penas

En la plantación de caña
nació el triste socavón
en el trapiche de ron
el negro bailó la saña
el machete y la guadaña
curtió sus manos morenas
y los indios con sus quenas
y el negro con tamborete
cantaron su triste sue'te
al compás de las cadenas

Murieron los negros viejos
pero entre la caña seca
se escucha su zamacueca
y el panalivio muy lejos
y se escuchan los festejos
que cantó en su juventú
de Cañete a Tombuctú
de Chancay a Mozambique
llevan sus claros repique'
ritmos negros del Perú.

miércoles, 5 de diciembre de 2007


Madeinusa (2006 DVD)
Directed by Claudia Llosa
Peru, 2006
In Spanish with English subtitles

Knockout debut film from Lima to Barcelona transplant Claudia Llosa. While nominally a retrato of what happens when worldly limeño Salvador walks into the life of a sheltered Andean teenager who's desperate to escape her village life, the plot's unexpected twists and turns toy with conventions while eventually leading somewhere else entirely. Magaly Solier, a first-time actress who had never even been to a movie theater in her life before being discovered by Llosa, is completely captivating as the title character; others among the largely non-professional cast are similarly convincing as the villagers inhabiting their own cultural twilight zone in the three days between Good Friday and Easter when it's believed that there is no sin.

While the film's Andean setting, extraordinarily lush visuals and folkloric music give it an otherworldly quality most city slickers should enjoy, others have attacked the film's representation of indigenous life as something of an ethnographic hatchet job. In fact, one newspaper's readers even voted Madeinusa the best and worst Peruvian film of 2006. I find this criticism misguided on many levels. Far from presenting one-dimensional characters on any side of the city-country divide, for example, Madeinusa instead offers "real people" in a carnivalesque dream world of its own creation: a dark fable that looks like Amélie but feels like something out of Juan Carlos Onetti. Best Spanish-language largometraje I've seen in quite some time. (http://www.filmmovement.com/)

*For more on Madeinusa, see the US (top) and international (bottom) trailers below.*