miércoles, 27 de febrero de 2008

"It's a Beautiful Day to Be a Chicano"

Walkout (2006 DVD)
Directed by Edward James Olmos
USA, 2006
In English and Spanish

Uneven but moving made-for-cable TV movie about the 1968 East L.A. Chicano student walkouts aimed at protesting Mexican-American kids' marginalization at the hands of their own school system. While this overlooked moment in US civil rights history was a real eye-opener for me, I can't help but think that it would have been much richer as a documentary rather than a dramatization. As it is, the work's weaknesses (a slightly formulaic nature at times, a major character whose "secret" identity as a police informant/infiltrator is fairly obvious from the get-go) ultimately succumb to its strengths as an inspirational story based on people and events you'd like to learn more about. A commentary track with director Olmos and executive producer Moctesuma Esparza, himself one of the real-life leaders of the walkouts portrayed in the film, is exceptional at fleshing out the period detail and providing a you-are-there immediacy cargada de emoción. In spite of a few flaws, an impressive achievement. (www.hbo.com/films/walkout)

martes, 26 de febrero de 2008

Iran en français

Directed by Marjane Satrapi and Vincent Paronnaud
France, 2007
In French with English subtitles

I'm not a huge fan of graphic novels or animated movies, but this excellent graphic novel-turned-animated movie just might make me reconsider that. Suffice it to say that Marjane Satrapi's autobiographical account of her transformation from an innocent little girl into a troubled teenager in the years between the fall of the Shah and the aftermath of the Islamic Revolution in Iran is both giddy and poignant in equal measure. Although her story focuses more on the personal than the political side of things in terms of its grand themes (not that the two don't frequently overlap), this peek into Persian culture from an expat now living in Paris offers up some priceless revelations along the way--not the least of which is that owning up to life as an outsider anywhere is surprisingly universal, it would seem. Told with verve thanks to some of France's greatest actors and actresses and some "simple" black and white drawings that come to life before your eyes.

The Persepolis Trailer

miércoles, 20 de febrero de 2008

Fado on Film

Lisbon Story (2007 DVD)
Directed by Wim Wenders
Germany and Portugal, 1994
In English, German and Portuguese with English subtitles

A humble, unconventional love story set in Portugal's capital. While I've never been there except in my mind, it's easy to fall in love with Wenders' Lisboa. In fact, you could even argue that the city is offered up as one of three elusive love interests in the film the way the camera lavishes attention on it. The other poles of attraction include both the equally unexpected (the art of moviemaking itself) and the much more traditional (Madredeus singer Teresa Salgueiro, playing herself in a role that must have inspired hundreds of crushes), all told from the genial POV of a nerdy German sound engineer (Rüdiger Vogler) who's in the process of discovering that the best way to get to know the city is to surrender to it. Sweet and almost totally unaffected. (http://www.lionsgate.com/)

lunes, 18 de febrero de 2008

The Diving Bell and the Butterfly

The French poster

Le Scaphandre et le papillon
(The Diving Bell and the Butterfly)
Directed by Julian Schnabel
France and USA, 2007
In French with English subtitles

Watching this from the front row of the Coolidge Corner Theatre's 45-seat video screening room a few weeks back probably wasn't the ideal way to take in the thing, but boy did it heighten the film's sense of claustrophobia...biography of former Elle magazine editor Jean-Dominique Bauby's journey from speechless stroke victim to best-selling memoirist--painfully "dictating" sentences with a blink of the eye whenever his assistant lands on the appropriate letter of the alphabet--alternates the suffocating point of view of a man literally trapped in his own body with gorgeous visuals suggesting the victory of imagination over physical decrepitude...not sure how this emotionally murky memento mori will transfer to DVD, but for now this is one art house smash that deserves all its downer accolades.

domingo, 17 de febrero de 2008

The Miracle Worker

No soy Virgen Pero hago MILAGROS
(t-shirt worn by an employee at the Porter Square Anna's Taquería tonight).

miércoles, 13 de febrero de 2008

Ennui with a Backbeat

Masculin Féminin (2005 DVD)
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard
France and Sweden, 1966
In French with English subtitles

I finally got around to watching this celebrated study of mid-'60s Parisian youth culture and was so blown away that I watched it twice in the last couple of weeks to see what I might have missed. Although Chantal Goya's lovely pop songs might make you think things are all fun and games here, they serve as an excellent foil to what is essentially a dark and pessimistic take on the banalities of modern consumerism. Thinking about Godard's work 4o+ years after it was made, I'd have to say that this is one of the most "punk rock" directing efforts I've ever seen. Most scenes mix a certain anthropological distance with an in-your-face interrogatory style, and the intertitles and allusions to random violence sprinkled throughout also sport a rather aggressive spraypaint belligerence. Confrontational? Yeah. However, the artistry of the film lies in scenes like the one titled "Dialogue avec un produit de consommation" (Dialogue with a Consumer Product) where a 19-year old beauty queen--wholesome, fetching, more or less totally apathetic--practically gets crucified with a series of uncomfortable questions about politics and sex. If there's no pleasure in watching her get her comeuppance, maybe it's because moments this brutal and seemingly spontaneous reveal characters less "cinematic" than we're used to dealing with on the screen. Superb. (http://www.criterion.com/)

lunes, 11 de febrero de 2008

Bob Dylan Wrote Propaganda Songs

STELLA-"Cauchemar auto-protestateur"

I've fallen hard for the '60s French pop stuff of late, and this 1966 video is yet another reason why "protest songs" will never go out of style whether you're for the Viet or for the Cong. Cinq étoiles, etc.

miércoles, 6 de febrero de 2008

El enigma de París

El enigma de París
Pablo De Santis
Planeta, 2007

"En las funciones de la ópera o en cualquier obra teatral, sea esta ligera o profunda, se observa siempre el mismo fenómeno: los primeros espectadores dejan la sala entre charlas y risas, y están apurados por abandonar el mundo de la ficción y reencontrarse con el mundo verdadero, con el que se sienten en armonía. Los últimos, en cambio, necesitan ser expulsados por los acomodadores o las luces de la sala o el silencio que sucede a los aplausos; si fuera por ellos, se quedarían a vivir en el mundo imaginario que se les propone la función".

Aunque yo pertenezco a esta segunda clase de espectadores, tengo que confesar que este libro me decepcionó un poco. Mientras que el argentino de Santis es un buen cuentista capaz de hacer comentarios maravillosos como los de arriba, el "enigma" central de su argumento no es nada particularmente excepcional--un problema dado que el libro se presenta como una novela de intrigas. La trama tiene que ver con una serie de asesinatos en París y en Buenos Aires en 1889, el año de la famosa Exposición Universal y del debú de la Tour Eiffel, pero no hay una sensación realista de las ciudades bajo consideración. Si sólo buscas una novela de detectives para leer en los cafés, supongo que vale la pena de pasar tiempo con este Enigma. Si quieres más, cuidado. Me agradó, pero no fue espectacular. (Editorial Planeta, S.A./Diagonal, 662-664, 08034 Barcelona [España] y/o Editorial Planeta Colombiana, S.A./Calle 73, #7-60/Bogotá [Colombia])

martes, 5 de febrero de 2008

Cat Power

PUSSY CAT-"Ce n'est pas une vie"

You gotta love that cat microphone!