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May 31, 2006

Tintin and I, 2003

tintin.gifIn 1971, a young journalist, Numa Sadoul conducted a series of interviews over the course of four days with Hergé, the introverted, but genial and widely beloved creator of The Adventures of Tintin serial comic strip and pioneer of the ligne claire style of animation for a proposed biography in what would turn out to be an unusually candid, introspective, and insightful conversation with the legendary Belgian animator. However, by the end of these recorded conversations, what would emerge was not only the image of a curious, perennial boy scout brought into animated life through his ageless alter ego, but rather, a complex portrait of a man who, already well into his sixties at the time of the interview, was only beginning to feel comfortable in his own skin - an insecure artist who adopted the pseudonym Hergé from his initials (R.G.) and continued to use it throughout his career in order to reserve the distinction of signing his real name, Georges Remi, for when he would become a "real" artist - a haunted soul still struggling to reconcile his deep Catholic convictions with his misguided, youthful ideology long after coming to the painful realization that Abbé Norbert Wallez, his spiritual and vocational mentor during his formative years between the two world wars, had led him down a repressive, insular, and soul-crushing path of religious conservatism and right-wing politics. Having lived though a self-described mediocre childhood, Remi's fateful association with the charismatic Wallez would resonate throughout every aspect of the young advertisement illustrator's life, from his promotion to create his own serial comic strips for the Catholic right publication Le Vingtième Siècle (and subsequently, its children's supplement Le Petit Vingtième) for which Wallez served as editor, to the personal suggestion that he marry Wallez's own secretary, Germaine Kieckens. Rather than leading a life of adventure as a veritable newspaperman that his alter ego, the intrepid young reporter Tintin would embark on, Remi instead found himself further isolated from a rapidly transforming broader world of pre-World War II Europe, working long hours at his studio where his first completed serials safely and neatly toed the line of church doctrine - or at least, Wallez's version of it - as it extolled the virtues of colonialism and the evils of communism (Wallez was a supporter of fascism).

Fortunately, Remi's cultural naïveté and cursory treatment of social stereotypes would soon come to an end with The Blue Lotus, a serial that ushered a more refreshingly mature phase of creativity, technical fluency, and cultural sensitivity in the Tintin series. A remarkably accurate, painstakingly researched, and culturally attuned adventure, Remi's art was elevated by his collaboration with a Chinese sculptor and university student named Chang Chong-jen whom he had befriended at the instigation of advisor and University of Louvain professor, Abbé Gosset. Although short lived, the collaboration would profoundly mark the rest of Remi's life, as he continued for the next few decades to re-contact Chang in vain, until an astute journalist, sensing tremendous public interest for such a human interest story, tracked down the repatriated Chang in China and arranged for a reunion (and thus, conveniently positioned himself for an exclusive on the story). As filmmaker Anders Østergaard subsequently suggests, Remi's obsession towards finding Chang was perhaps driven more by his own (understandable) need for the continuity of an enduring, idealized friendship than in the actual substance of their association - a means of connecting with his past even as he felt increasingly estranged from the people who represented the rigid institutions and ideologies of his youth.

With the occupation of Belgium by the Germans during World War II came the inevitable closure of Le Vingtième Siècle, and Remi then accepted an offer to continue the Tintin series under a similar arrangement for the rival newspaper Le Soir (dubbed Le Petit Soir), a publication that would subsequently fall under the direct control of the Nazis for propaganda purposes, and ultimately result in Remi's postwar imprisonment and blacklisting for collaborating with the Germans. In an attempt to circumvent their political scrutiny, Remi would shift the focus of his stories from history-based destinations to fantasy adventures, a more pragmatic, if not pessimistic view of the occupation that can also be seen in Remi's shift in character identification from the idealistic Tintin to the world weary and mercurial (and often drunken) Captain Haddock. As the film subsequently illustrates, it is this change in perspective that proves particularly insightful with respect to two subsequent Tintin serials as they chronicled personal turmoil within Remi's increasingly aimless and emotionally uncertain life.

An initial glimpse of this sense of crisis is manifested in the eerily prescient, apocalyptic scenario of The Shooting Star, as the threat of a meteorite hurtling on a direct trajectory towards Earth (and subsequently, the ominous discovery of the mysterious matter with strange, radioactive-like properties that mutate organic life) reflects Remi's struggle with the demoralizing pressures of occupation, creative censorship, and a protracted - and perhaps annihilating - world war that was being fought with increasingly sophisticated weapons made possible by rapid advancement in nuclear fission technology during the early 1940s. Another manifestation can be seen in what is perhaps his magnum opus, Tintin in Tibet, an adventure destination that had been inspired by Remi's tormented, recurring nightmares of enveloping whiteness. Created during a time of profound spiritual crisis caused by his long-term separation from his estranged wife and his increasing attraction to an Hergé Studios illustrator, Fanny Vlaminck, Remi's identification with the character Captain Haddock proves especially metaphoric within the context of Haddock's thoughts of self-sacrifice in order to save his friend, as he hangs precariously from the end of Tintin's tether at the edge of a cliff: a self-resigned albatross determined to cut himself free and plunge inexorably into the white abyss so that the other can survive.

With his personal demons exorcised upon the finalization of his divorce from Kieckens (which also represented his symbolic, final break with Wallez's early influence), Remi would settle into a comfortable married life with Vlaminck and the full creative autonomy of the Hergé Studios. However, the orchestrated media circus of the Chang reunion also publicly revealed a gaunt Remi visibly weakened by complications stemming from a long-term blood disorder, an ailment that he sought to treat with meditation. It was, therefore, perhaps inevitable that with his failing health and the absence of motivational conflict in his life that Remi would increasingly indulge in peripheral self-distractions (that may have included, as Sadoul muses, his entertainment of a young journalist's request for an exhaustive series of interviews), resulting in fewer and fewer published Tintin adventures over the years. By the time of Remi's death in 1983, his friends would describe a certain clarity in his demeanor that they would attribute to his frequent meditation during the final years of his life, a sense of peace that had been denied him by the fateful tide of history and naïve alliances that silenced his moral compass. But within the consciousness of his own insecurity and intrinsic sense of Catholic guilt, his newfound inner peace can also be seen as a sign of acceptance and self-forgiveness that he had, throughout much of his adult life, denied himself.

Posted by acquarello on May 31, 2006 | | Comments (9) | Filed under 2006

May 29, 2006

In Search of Famine, 1980

famine.gifNearly a decade after the release of his three-part magnum opus Calcutta 71, Mrinal Sen would rekindle the specter of famine, exploitation, and poverty within the collective consciousness of contemporary society to create an equally haunting and introspective exposition into the nature of human suffering in In Search of Famine. Structured as a film within a film on a Calcutta-based film crew as they converge on the rural village of Hatui in order to shoot a film set during the Bengali Famine of 1943 (a wartime, man-made famine caused by the diversion of food supplies by the British colonial government to support the military campaign in Asia), In Search of Famine is also a trenchant examination into the universality - and perpetualization - of class division, ignorance, cultural arrogance, and economic polarization.

A seemingly informal tour of the crew's guest accommodations and the surrounding estate grounds of the impressive, but deteriorating, near empty zamindari that will also serve as a setting for one of the film's more lavish sequences incisively captures the economic reality of the entire village, as the crew's travel manager explains his difficulty in obtaining several sets of keys from their respective owners in order to gain access into all of the rooms of the estate after the individual heirs inevitably shuttered their inherited spaces over the years and moved away in search of a better life elsewhere. With the zamindari now singularly tended by the sole remaining heir still living on the premises, an elderly woman (Gita Sen) unable to leave because of the constant attention demanded by the care of her paralyzed, ailing husband, the estate has fallen into a state of disrepair and neglect (note the theme of paralysis and entrapment that Sen similarly captures in his subsequent film, Khandahar. Watching the crew's activities from the balcony with equal measures of curiosity, estrangement, longing, and despair, the landlady's only interaction comes from the daily visits of a poor young woman from the village named Durga (Sreela Majumdar) who works a series of odd jobs for several households (and subsequently, the film crew) in order to make ends meet after the amputation of her husband's arm in a work-related accident. In still another fateful encounter, a weaver and former theatrical actor named Haren (Rajen Tarafder) attempts to curry favor (or more likely, employment) by insinuating himself into the elaborate production, acting as an ineffective, self-appointed liaison between the alternately bemused and skeptical villagers and the presumptuous film crew. Through their figurative subservience to the film crew, Sen creates an implicit correlation with the desperate prostitution of women during the 1943 famine (as suggested in the film project by the heroine's association with construction workers from Calcutta).

Perhaps the most implicit reflection of the theme of pervasive, metaphoric famine is through a series of pictorial guessing games that the film crew engages in order to pass the time. Through randomly selected research photographs that the director (Dhritiman Chatterjee) has brought on location to study the "face of famine" - a sketch depicting the second century Gandgar statue entitled The Starving Buddha, a 1959 mini famine that ravaged Bengal, a 1971 humanitarian crisis brought about by the Bangladesh War - Sen refutes the notion that famine is an isolated historical incident brought about by the specific intersection of war, colonialism, social division, and food shortage, but rather, results from the conscious, socially motivated, symptomatic aftermath of man-made human suffering.

it is interesting to note that the symbolic sound of roaring machinery that is used to indicate the presence of (unseen) airplanes flying over the village during the film project (a motif that also evokes Satyajit Ray's film on the 1943 famine Distant Thunder) is also repeated in the din of portable generators brought by the crew to power film equipment in the electricity-less estate, and further reinforces the idea of the cosmopolitan film crew as intrusive noise-makers within the rural (and essentially backward) village. Within this context, the interrupted conversation between the leading actress (Smita Patil) and the landlady as she shares her memories of life during the famine that is abruptly truncated by the sound of activated generators can be seen as a broader metaphor for the film crew's delusive pursuit of capturing realism through aesthetic manipulation and artificial construction. In essence, the villagers' disparate, but interrelated circumstances of abject poverty, misguided pride, and emotional compromise reflect the intrinsic dichotomy between the myopia of the film crew's elusive quest to capture the authenticity of the 1943 human tragedy in their "search for famine" from the perspective of a privileged outsider's gaze, and the economic, spiritual, and emotional impoverishment - the inescapable famine - that continues to define the everyday reality of the marginalized living in the periphery of their well-intentioned, but insulated gaze.

Posted by acquarello on May 29, 2006 | | Comments (7) | Filed under 2006, Mrinal Sen

May 25, 2006

Illustrious Corpses, 1976

illustrious.gifPerhaps Francesco Rosi's most pointed and incisive social examination of the widespread instability, scandal, injustice, and corruption of (then) contemporary postwar politics, Illustrious Corpses opens to the image of a somber, elderly judge named Varga (Charles Vanel) as he walks pensively through the catacombs of a church, observing in painstaking detail the recesses and contours of the rows and rows of mummified corpses that curiously line the eerie, dimly lit passageways before emerging from the church entrance into the sunlight to continue his leisurely, routine morning walk. This silent communion between the judge and the ominous, seemingly endless succession of scattered, mummified corpses appropriately prefigures the evolution of the film's dark tale of conspiracy and murder as well when, only moments later, Varga is felled by a single rifle shot to the head as he reaches up to pluck a flower from an overgrown courtyard tree. No sooner has Inspector Rogas (Lino Ventura) installed himself within the cadre of pall bearers for Varga's funeral in order to conduct a low-key surveillance of potential suspects when he learns that a second assassination of a federal judge bearing a similar signature of calculated precision has taken place in another city, an implicit, high profile connection that immediately brings the country teetering ever closer to the brink of instability as word of a serial political assassin working to disrupt the justice system - and ultimately, the very fabric of society's sense of law and order - begin to grip the nation with inconclusive, often conflicting news of the victims and the progress of the investigation. Operating under a theory that the murders may not be politically motivated, but instead, connected by a personal vendetta carried out by someone who had been jointly prosecuted - perhaps unjustly - by the judges in the same court, Rogas begins to follow a tortuous, often unpredictable trail culled from a list of wrongfully convicted former defendants and exonerated prisoners that would inevitably bring him into the nebulous company of a genial, but politically savvy Security Minister (Fernando Rey) whose insinuation into the company of left-wing political leaders betrays his own unscrupulous ambitions to retain power and weather any potential shifts in the political tide, a potential third target named Judge Rasto (Alain Cuny) who had transcribed some of the proceedings of the trials and now shutters himself in his home in constant fear of the faceless assassin, an enigmatic socialite named Madame Cres (Maria Carta) who may have planted incriminating evidence in order to frame her own husband for her attempted murder, Rogas' trusted friend and scientist (Paolo Bonacelli) who begins to question the simple motive of vengeance for the murders as the logical realization of a sophisticated, ever widening (and deepening) level of conspiracy becomes increasingly inescapable, an ideologically rigid magistrate (Max von Sydow) who summarily rejects the intrusion of humanity or compassion into the dispensation of the law, even as he arbitrarily breaches it with illegal wiretaps and surveillance of those whom he deems to be a threat to social order. Incorporating familiar elements that have come to define Rosi's cinema - elliptical narrative, estranged perspective, and illuminating dream sequences - Illustrious Corpses encapsulates the volatile, often incestuous relationships between the government, organized crime, political opposition, religious authorities, radicals, terrorists, and the media that have irreparably shaped the murky, turbulent landscape of 1970s Italian politics, a climate of protracted instability that would culminate with the kidnapping and murder of Italian Prime Minister Aldo Moro by the Red Brigade in 1978 (the subject of Marco Bellocchio's penetrating docu-fiction, Good Morning Night). In its unflinching depiction of the abuse of power, heavy-handed governance, egregious alliances, and Machiavellian sense of justice and privilege, the film serves as a trenchant, contemporary, and relevant exposition into the ingrained political culture of corruption, arrogance, tenuous ideology, and delusive righteousness.

Posted by acquarello on May 25, 2006 | | Filed under 2006, Francesco Rosi

May 18, 2006

Casa de Lava, 1995

casadelava.gifThe real-life eruption of the Pico volcano in the island of Fogo and the outbreak of cholera in the Cape Verde Islands provide a dense and ingeniously metaphoric contemporary backdrop to Pedro Costa's exposition on isolation, entrapment, moral inertia, and longing in Casa de Lava. Once an uninhabited Portuguese colony situated off the coast of northwest Africa, Cape Verde's geographic location was ideally suited to serve as a logistics center for merchant ships traveling westward to America for the slave trade. In Costa's cinema, this complex history of the islands as a place of involuntary settlement and captivity, as well a waystation for people embarking on journeys into distant lands never to return again, has continued to seep into the present day consciousness of the local population, and is reflected in an introductory montage of the ruggedly impassive residents - composed primarily of women - framed against the austere landscape in the early sequences of the film. The image of repressed violence surfacing through the juxtaposition of the ominous, fluorescent glow of slowly churning lava and the opaque gaze of the villagers is immediately repeated in two connecting episodes to otherwise seemingly unrelated scenes in the Portuguese city of Lisbon: first, in the shot of a somber Cape Verdean migrant worker Leão looking down from the framed opening of an unfinished building that cuts to the shot of the construction office where news of his "accident" sets the worksite into a chaotic scramble for help; the second, in the shot of hospital nurse Mariana (Inês de Medeiros) curiously dowsing her face with a bracing quantity of isopropyl alcohol at the end of her exhausting shift at a coma ward where the gravely injured Leão has been admitted after slipping out of consciousness. A few months later, an anonymously written payment has been dispatched to the hospital in order to cover the cost of sending the still comatose Leão back to Cape Verde after he is inexplicably discharged, and Mariana agrees to accompany her patient as well as facilitate the transfer of medical supplies to the island hospital where an outbreak of cholera has reached epidemic proportions. But the circumstances of Leão's homecoming prove to be even more complicated. Deposited at a desolate open field by a military transport plane en route to deliver military equipment to a distant war (with an equally nebulous arrangement for a scheduled return date), no one has arrived to welcome Leão home (except for an aging violinist who approaches the abandoned couple with the demeanor of a curious onlooker, but will not verify his actual relationship with the patient), and Mariana is compelled to bring Leão to the hospital for shelter, along with the medical staff's far more anticipated delivery of medical supplies.

In hindsight, the absence of men in the establishing sequence of Cape Verdean villagers foretells the underlying reality of the elliptical, opening images, a sentiment articulated by the island doctor that soberingly echoes the haunted memory of the country's slave trading past - that everyone leaves Cape Verde, but no one ever comes back. Indeed, inasmuch as impoverishment has upended the social fabric of the community as able-bodied men leave - and never return - in search of economic opportunity, it has also rended the very idea of family and sense of responsibility. Children are born out of wedlock and neglected by disconnected, self-absorbed, fractured families, emotionally abandoned like the domestic animals that roam the streets (the violinist boasts of 30 children, but cannot even remember the name of his first child), and flagrant transgressions are carried out against each other with virtual impunity from prosecution (a police officer is never seen, even after the theft of medicine in the hospital dispensary and Mariana's attempted assault at the beach).

Within this environment of perpetual estrangement and isolation, Mariana's arrival at Cape Verde can also be seen as an existential waystation between life and death, a recurring theme that is reflected in Edith's (Edith Scob) perpetual mourning of her dead lover, the outbreak of a cholera epidemic in the village, and Leão's reluctant (if not resentful) awakening from his coma - a state of waiting for inevitable passage that seemingly continues to fulfill a centuries-old predestiny that had been sealed with the settlement of the village on the abandoned ruins of a slave port and former leper colony. Visually, Costa reflects this sense of metaphysical transience through recurring murky, crepuscular, and eerily otherworldly images of volcanic activity, clandestine encounters, and waves violently crashing against the shore (most notably, during Mariana's thwarted rape and in Edith's subsequent tearful discovery of the brutally killed dog that had protected her).

Moreover, through the role of the French émigré and local benefactress Edith - a still grieving woman who once followed her politically exiled lover to Cape Verde and decided to remain on the islands with her aimless son (Pedro Hestnes) long after her lover's death - Costa also confronts the issues of lawlessness and socio-economic stagnation that continue to plague many contemporary post-colonial African countries towards the end of the twentieth century. Doling out her lover's pension to ungracious supplicants who swarm around her each month as she retrieves her checks from town in order to plead their case for a handout (not surprisingly, often for a one-way ticket out of the islands), their lopsided relationship is one of disempowerment and parasitic dependency (a sentiment that is also reflected through the villagers' collective reference to Mariana as their savior when she first arrives to the island with a supply of vaccines to help stem the epidemic). Within this context of a culturally perpetuated neediness, Casa de Lava becomes a trenchant reflection of the broader geopolitical issue of continued post-colonial economic dependence endemic within many third world nations - a situation that is exacerbated by an intrinsic dependency on foreign aid and external charity, coupled with a systematic exodus of the very population who can provide the appropriate skills, innovation, and resources necessary to frame the structure for a self-sustaining economy and provide the social stability to - if not transform - their increasingly fragmented, isolated, and dispossessed communities.

Posted by acquarello on May 18, 2006 | | Comments (1) | Filed under 2006, Pedro Costa

May 13, 2006

The Mask, 1989

mask.gifSet against the bicentennial commemoration of the French Revolution and the drafting of the Declaration of the Rights of Man, Johan van der Keuken's The Mask is a relevant, provocative, and bracing exposition on the contemporary social representation of the ideals of the 1789 revolution - liberty, equality, and fraternity - at a particularly transformative time in globalism and international politics when Eastern Europe was gradually emerging from the crumbling economy of a disintegrating Soviet bloc, and thus liberating itself from a state of "equality without freedom", and the nascent steps towards the formation of a European economic union were being vigorously debated through the media by political leaders (most notably, right-wing ultranationalist Jean-Marie Le Pen's racially inflammatory comments) seeking to sway public sentiment towards their cause on such confrontational issues as immigration and national identity, financial independence and common market leverage. The film opens to an image of understated, but trenchant irony as a pair of street musicians from Madagascar attempts to engage the captive (and largely disinterested) commuters into their guitar and saxophone performance by equating the sentiment expressed in their native folk song with the hopeful ideals of the revolution. The estranged image of these marginalized, panhandling immigrants searching for a receptive audience as they vainly chase their illusory dreams of a better life in the transitory platforms of an adoptive promised land is brought closer to the consciousness of the common man - in this case, the native Frenchman - through an equally incisive isolated shot of van der Keuken's seemingly atypical subject, a genial and unassuming 23 year old part-time waiter named Philippe, traveling in the opposite direction of a crowd on a set of escalators at a train station.

Comely, free from substance abuse, articulate, and presentably dressed in a dark, neutral colored suit, Philippe defies the stereotype of a vagrant. Uprooted from a fairly stable home life by the untimely death of his long ailing mother, as well as an unfortunate series of self-admitted youthful indiscretions (which included such rash, but seemingly innocuous decisions as resigning from a job without immediate prospects for a new one on hand), Philippe now walks aimlessly throughout the city to pass the long, empty hours on an all-too familiar routine (an evicted immigrant couple at a social services office similarly articulate this round the clock ambulatory ritual as a means of passing time) that includes stowing away in the waiting areas of train stations while dodging patrol officers making their rounds on the nights when he is unable to secure a bed space at the overfilled Salvation Army. His ambition, he muses, is to have a wardrobe of finely tailored suits with which he could present himself during job interviews and professional meetings that would serve as a mask of trustworthiness and dependability and conceal his instability.

As celebrations for the bicentennial reach a crescendo, Philippe, too, gets caught up in the politics of the moment, spending time with a pair of homeless, alcoholic military veterans who bristle at François Mitterand's public gesture of extolling the virtues of a national open immigration policy (arguing instead that such liberal immigration embraced by Mitterand robs the native French citizens from opportunities and social services), even as they equate Le Pen's heavy-handedness with the brutality of World War II death squads. However, van der Keuken preempts their alcohol-fueled specious argument (a generalization subsequently echoed by Philippe) with earlier scenes of struggling musicians and evicted immigrant families to create a pervasive atmosphere, not of the insidious nature of racism, but of the intrinsic psychology of disenfranchisement and marginalization, where fears of personal failure and human frailty are perverted into scapegoat absolutions of xenophobia and sense of unmerited, entitled privilege that inevitably lead to inertia and complacency. It is within these underlying paradoxes of homelessness and freedom, social status and equality, racism and fraternity that van der Keuken presents, not only an incisive portrait of the untenability of revolutionary ideals, but also a pensive, everyman cautionary tale on the alienating, self-defeating cycle of poverty, dependence, and social entrapment.

Posted by acquarello on May 13, 2006 | | Filed under 2006, Johan van der Keuken

May 9, 2006

Ticket of No Return, 1979

ticket.gifInvoking Rainer Werner Fassbinder's irreverent, artful kitsch, Federico Fellini's carnivalesque grotesquerie, and Werner Schroeter's impenetrable, autobiographical self-evidence, Ticket of No Return encapsulates the highly stylized, funny, frustrating, offbeat, decadent, intoxicating, and fevered delirium that is Ulrike Ottinger's cinema. A chronicle of an archetypally beautiful, impeccably dressed woman "of antique grace and raphaelic harmony" eponymously called 'She' (Tabea Blumenschein) who, as the film begins, decides to withdraw from her privileged life in La Rotunda and books a one-way ticket to Berlin-Tegel in order to follow her one true desire - to embark on a sightseeing drinking binge through the city - the film subverts the iconic images of Hollywood glamour queens and skid row drunkards with a parodic and egalitarian view of substance abuse through the perspective of an unapologetic, jet-setting, merry-making alcoholic and, in the process, confronts the hypocrisy of cultural attitudes towards the social consumption of alcohol. Occasionally crossing paths with a trio of uptight and judgmental, yet passive and unobtrusive public service matrons appropriately named Social Question (played by Schroeter's muse, Magdalena Montezuma), Accurate Statistics (Orpha Termin), and Common Sense (Monika von Cube) who provide a peripheral, Greek chorus-like commentary on the demographic research, anecdotal information, and physical and societal repercussions of alcohol abuse, the heroine defies all their impotent attempts at instilling the virtues of moderation and rehabilitation, and instead befriends a bag lady (Lutze) and subsequently molds her into her own image as a fashionable drunk, complete with haute couture clothing and a penchant for getting plastered on cognac and fine vintage wine. Wandering through the off-the-beaten-path streets of Berlin at dusk on a series of increasingly bizarre, surreal, and dissociative alcohol-infused, somnambulistic encounters - that include a gregarious chanteuse (played by German punk icon Nina Hagen), actor Eddie Constantine, and a performance artist (Wolf Vostell) wearing a bread-laden suit who slowly devours his own clothing - she begins to tempt fate with acts of recklessness (most notably, in a Felliniesque high-wire balancing act and a harrowing ride on the hood of a stunt car rushing headlong towards a fire-engulfed wall). But beyond these tongue-in-cheek acts of self-destruction is also the image of transparent division and distorted perception, illustrated through recurring visuals of liquid splashed onto glass walls and mirrors (note the heroine's face to face encounter with a window washer in the airport that is repeated in her encounter with the bag lady in a taxi as she attempts to clean the windows to solicit a handout, then subsequently, in their chance meeting at a café). It is this notion of shattered images and breakdown of illusion that is reflected in the corollary bookending shots (and distinctive shoe taps) of the heroine's disembodied high heeled legs walking away from the foreground of the frame - first, through the high gloss, marble floors of the travel agency foyer, and subsequently, the parting image of a glass-tiled floor crushing under the weight of her deliberate passage - the profound isolation and ironic lucidity of a free spirit in a society of cosmetic masks and conformist rituals.

Posted by acquarello on May 09, 2006 | | Comments (2) | Filed under 2006, Ulrike Ottinger

2006 NY Human Rights Watch Schedule

Human Rights Watch International Film Festival has posted their New York schedule. There seems to be far fewer Latin American-themed films this year compared to their strong showing last year, but the film description for Rosita alone seems to indicate the quality of films from this region remains impeccable. The winner of the Nestor Almendros Prize this year is James Longley's Iraq in Fragments, so the quick temptation is to attend the festival on the opening weekend. That said, Shari Robertson and Michael Camerini's work in progress documentary, My American Dream: How Democracy Works sounds right up my alley, so I may opt for that weekend instead.

Posted by acquarello on May 09, 2006 | | Filed under 2006, Quick Notes