Mustang

At first there is a tendency to see Mustang in a light tone, but our minds change as the film progresses. Mustang is dead serious. It concerns five teenage sisters living a simple life in a small coastal village near the Black sea. Coming back from school, they go to the beach and play in the water with boys from schools. This is completely innocent, the girls and boys are fully dressed in their school uniforms, the girls sit on boys’ shoulders and try to knock each other off. Later, they learn that someone saw them and have complained to their grandmother. This is when everything changed, says our narrator, Lale (Güneş Şensoy). The orphaned sisters are raised by their grandmother (Nihal Koldaş), and pretty soon they are prevented from going to school, locked inside the house. According to Deniz Gamze Ergüven, since the election of the Justice and development party in 2003, women’s right have gotten worse in Turkey. In 2014, the Prime Minister declared that women should not laugh loud in public. Things are better in bigger cities like Istanbul, but in smaller communities, it’s almost impossible for young girls to get out of the family’s control. The grandmother force them wear new dresses that will hide their bodies. Other women come in to teach the girls how to cook. This all done under the supervision of the stern uncle Erol (Ayberk Pekcan). The idea is to get the girl ready for marriage. The girls are increasingly locked in the house as a gate is put at the entrance. Later on, the windows are fitted with bars. The sisters are going to get married even if they don’t want to. But Lale is stubborn. She first escapes with her sisters to go to a football match. Later, Lale is worried because she knows that uncle Erol is sexually abusing her sisters, and that her grandmother is unwilling to stop him. She plans to escape to Istanbul. The reason why Mustang is so powerful, beside the gripping topic, is the appeal of the five young actresses. The realist acting makes it look like it was all improvised, and I think it may have been. First time director Deniz Gamze Ergüven keeps it all fresh and new, driven by the hopeful energy of those young ladies. To see.

And the Oscar went to… Son of Saul (Hungary) won the Oscar for Best foreign language film.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Mustang

Directed by:
Deniz Gamze Ergüven

Screenplay by:
Deniz Gamze Ergüven
Alice Winocour

Starring:
Günes Sensoy
Doga Zeynep Doguslu
Elit Iscan
Tugba Sunguroglu
Ilayda Akdogan

97 min.
Rated Parental Guidance

In Turkish with English subtitles.

Son of Saul (Saul fia)

It is difficult to like Son of Saul. But, once you’ve seen it, you can’t forget it. Maybe I should say “if you see it”. The main character is Saul Ausländer (Géza Röhrig), a Hungarian-Jewish prisoner at the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp and a member of the Sonderkommando, a group of prisoners forced to aid the Nazis with the disposal of gas chamber victims. Almost the entire film is a series close up on Saul. The camera rigorously follows him as he drags naked dead bodies, wash the floors or shovels coals. Saul is in the foreground, his surroundings are in the background are out of focus. To hear the muffled screams and cries coming from the gas chamber is unbearable. This is what death sounds like. One day, Saul finds the body of a boy. The boy is still breathing and he’s brought to the infirmary, and Saul watch as the Nazis doctor kills the boy. Saul becomes obsessed with giving the boy a proper Jewish burial. He has to find a rabbi. To those who asks why, he claims the boy is his son. The other Sonderkommandos are busy planning a revolt against the Nazis and don’t care to help him. Son of Saul is actor Géza Röhrig’s first film in 15 years. He is practically in every shot, with very little dialogue. You could say this is a cinematic monologue, but what impresses us more is the difficult physical and emotional performance. This is a first feature film from Hungarian László Nemes and so early in his career he has made such a powerful and unique film. Son of Saul is a stunning, gutsy, hard and desperate film. Not for everyone and difficult to like, yes. But I think Son of Saul is a must see film.

And the Oscar went to… László Nemes received the Oscar for Best foreign language film. He thanked actor Géza Röhrig for his amazing performance.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Son of Saul (Saul fia)

Directed by:
László Nemes

Screenplay by:
László Nemes
Clara Royer

Starring:
Géza Röhrig
Levente Molnár
Urs Rechn
Sándor Zsótér

107 min.

Rated 14A

In Hungarian with English subtitles.

Peggy Guggenheim: Art addict

One of the great thing about documentaries, is that you sometimes get to meet interesting people. Peggy Guggenheim: Art addict is such a film. American art collector Peggy Guggenheim is today considered the most influential patron of modern art. It si obvious that director Lisa Immordino Vreeland finds Guggenheim fascinating. Peggy was born into a wealthy, eccentric family. Her father, Benjamin Guggenheim, went down with the Titanic in 1912. In 1938, Peggy Guggenheim opened a first gallery for modern art in London. Called Guggenheim Jeune, it featured Jean Cocteau drawings, then Wassily Kandinsky’s paintings and other abstract and surrealist artists. In 1943, she becomes Jackson Pollock’s patron (Amy Madigan plays her in the film Pollock). In New York she opens the gallery Art Of This Century. She had a voracious sexual appetite, married twice and had countless lovers. We can hear her talking to a biographer in taped interviews. Robert de Niro is interviewed. His parents, Robert De Niro, Sr. and Virginia Admiral were both artists and friends with Ms. Guggenheim. Actress Mecedes Ruehl played Guggenheim on stage and offers small cues that helps us understand who she was. The Peggy Guggenheim collection is a modern art museum on the Grand Canal in Venice, Italy. It is one of the most visited attractions in Venice.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Peggy Guggenheim: Art addict

Directed by:
Lisa Immordino Vreeland

Screenplay by:
Bernadine Colish
Lisa Immordino Vreeland

97 min.

Rated 14A

2015 Cannes international advertising festival

Judging from the 2015 Cannes international advertising festival, last year was a good year for commercials. Every year, a month after the Cannes film festival, there is the Cannes international festival of creativity where more than 4000 commercials from all over the world compete against each other for a coveted “Lion”. These are like the Olympics of advertising films as the prizes come in bronze, silver and gold. I’ve been coming to see those commercials for a very long time, and I thought they were fun. But, for the last few years, the quality and fun was just not there. Commercials have changed a lot in the last twenty years. Commercials used to be shown exclusively on TV where most of them were 30 seconds. Then we started seeing them in a cinema before a movie. Now, we get ads almost on every website we visit or when we watch a Youtube video. When companies and organism can produce commercials to be shown on their websites, they can be very long. The longest we get this year is from the web based show Between two ferns with Zach Galifianakis. His guest is President Barack Obama coming to joke around with the comedian, but also to promote Obamacare. The President’s charisma and sence of humor is very appealing. As always, I find there are too many ads about cars, and they are dreadful. One of the problem I have is that I sometimes remember the content of the commersials more than the product they were selling. The funniest one has actors pretending a to be in a freeze frame of a nice family having dinner, while the dog jumps on the table and eats what’s on their plates. There is a cute one with a boy who has a penguin as an imagenary friend. He notices that his friend is getting lonely. There are three ads that had the strongest impacts. The first one is from Quebec. It shows a drunk man pick up his car keys to drive home. A rope is attached to his wrist, and the rope is also attached to a policeman with a breathalyzer, the zipper of a body bag, a judge’s gavel, his prison cell bars, ect. In one commercial set in the US, a store employee tells a teen he can’t skasteboard, then a mom is told she can’t bring a bottle of water in the store. Yet, a man freely walks to the cash register with a semi-automatic gun strapped to his back. The best ad is also about gun control. Hidden cameras filmed people entering a fake Mahattan gun store. Every guns sold there killed someone, either on purpose or accidentally, like the semi-automatic used in Sandy Hook. I’ve read that the clients in that commercial are played by actors. Even so, it works and this ad is the most effective. And I think this collection of commercials is very good.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Cannes international ad festival

Directed by:
Various directors

107 min.
Rated 14A

 

Meet the Patels

When Indian American actor Ravi Patel goes to India with his father Vasant, and his mother Champa, one word keeps coming back again and again. And that word is “married”, as in “Why aren’t you married yet?”, or “You’re 29? You know, you should get married.” Every distant family member Ravi meets say the same things: “Get married!” We know this because his sister and co-director Geeta filmed the whole thing. Ravi’s parents want a traditional Indian wedding. First you find a nice Indian girl from a nice Indian family. And, a small minor detail, the girl should also be a Patel, just as long as she is not from the same branch of Patels. There are lots of Patel families in India, so it should easy for a nice Patel boy like Ravi to find a nice Patel girl. But Ravi was born in America and he wants to marry a modern, American Patel girl. His parents agree with him, so they organize a system called “bio-dating”. Ravi’s resume is sent to other Patel families in America. And then, Ravi receives resumes from interested Patel girls, and he then has to choose which ones he will date. What Ravi did not tell mom and dad is that before filming started, he broke up with his non-Indian, red-haired girlfriend. Actually, he still thinks about Audrey a lot, and they are still in touch. Meet the Patels is filmed casually, without any pretensions. And it is fun. But mom and dad are the best part of the film. After more than 30 years of marriage, Champa and Vasant are still the best of friends, having fun together. And they are still in love. And that’s what it’s all about: Love.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Meet the Patels

Directed by:
Geeta Patel
Ravi Patel

Screenplay by:
Matthew Hamachek
Billy McMillin
Geeta Patel
Ravi Patel

88 min.

Rated Parental Guidance

 

In Jackson Heights

For his latest film, American documentarian Frederick Wiseman points his camera on one of the most diverse neighborhood in New York: Jackson Heights, Queens. Wiseman is famous for his observational documentaries on the human condition. There is no narrators, no comments and no interviews. Instead, In Jackson Heights has a narrative and a rhythm of his own. What you get is a typical day in the life of the neighborhood. From morning to nighttime, then, the next morning a new day starts, with more places to visit and more people to meet. Wiseman films a series of storefronts or buildings, until he decides to go in to see what’s happening inside. The film starts at the Jackson Heights Jewish center where openly gay 25th district council member Daniel Dromm speaks about Gay Pride and the openness of the whole neighborhood. Then we go to a mosque during prayer. In one store called “Artîculos Católicos”, you can buy statues of the Virgin Mary and other articles of Catholic worship. A protest is organized by a Latino transgender woman, who claims a restaurant waitress refused to serve her. We attend several meetings of Latino businessmen worried that a corporate take over is threatening their stores. Percussionists are giving a concert in a laundromat, a group of female Mariachi play in a park or a trumpet player on the street corner. At over 3 hours, there is too many things to mention here. At times, Frederick Wiseman’s camera lingers a tad too long in the same place. But Jackson Heights seems to be a nice place to live where every one seems to get along. And when racism and Islamophobia rears their ugly heads, the person is soon put in his place. What is sure is that Frederick Wiseman loves the people of Jackson Heights. And indeed, they are lovely.

Rémi-Serge Gratton

In Jackson Heights

Directed by:
Frederick Wiseman

190 min.

Rated Parental Guidance.

In English, Spanish, Arabic, and Hindi and other languages with English subtitles.

 

Hitchcock/Truffaut

“Hitchcock not only intensified life; he intensified cinema.”
François Truffaut, Hitchcock/Truffaut (revised edition, 1980)

In 1962, young “nouvelle vague” co-founder François Truffaut sat down for a week of interviews with Alfred Hitchcock. And the rest, as they say, is history. These interviews were published in book form as Hitchcock/Truffaut (in french Le cinéma selon Hitchcock), and is today considered the ultimate book on cinema. At the time Truffaut was also a film commentator for the famed Cahiers du cinéma magazine. Truffaut and his Cahiers du cinéma colleagues were frustrated by the general snobbism towards Hitchcock, John Ford, Howard Hawks and other Hollywood filmmakers. The first edition of Hitchcock/Truffaut changed the world’s perceptions about Alfred Hitchcock. Truffaut showed that Hitchcock was not merely an artist, but a cinema genius. This documentary is mostly about the book and how it has influenced several generations of filmmakers. But it is also about François Truffaut, his passion for cinema and the common ground he shared with the”Master of suspense”. Director Kent Jones interviewed mostly American directors. Among them: Wes Anderson, Peter Bogdanovich, David Fincher, Richard Linklater, Paul Schrader and Martin Scorsese. But there are also France’s Olivier Assayas and Arnaud Desplechin, and Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa (not related to Akira Kurosawa). These directors are so passionate about their love for Hitchcock’s films that we share their attachments, their emotions and trepidations. And we get to listen to the tapes of the original interviews, with Truffaut’s questions in French, Hitchcock’s answers in English and collaborator Helen Scott translating. Throughout the film we are reminded of that exchange they have about dreams:

François Truffaut: But would you say that dreams have a bearing on your work?
Alfred Hitchcock: Daydreams, probably.

Scorsese talks about the dreamlike quality in Hitchcock’s films. Vertigo is of particular note to him. Others mention the perverse nature of the film, or the sensuality of Kim Novak coming out of the bathroom. Of Psycho, Martin Scorsese mentions the casual way Hitchcock directs at first, and then surprise his audience by sudden bursts of violence and by killing Janet Leigh, the lead, early in the film. “A film that changed everything”, is what he says about Psycho. What is undeniable after watching Hitchcock/Truffaut is the intensity of Hitchcock’s images. And how beautiful that intensity is. Is 80 minutes too short? In my opinion, 10 hours would not be enough.

Quote: “I had never heard that Mr. Hitchcock drew everything and then shot it. And you have to remember that I was from the ’70s, where at that particular point in the history of film people were throwing up a lot in films, and they were sweating and drooling and improvising and walking off camera, and if things were blurry, that was okay, and they were using at lot of zooms. So, his style was very different from what I was used to. To pre-edit a scene, and then shoot it the way you want to edit it… and then edit it is… insane, because it’s not possible. You’ll never get a good scene that way. But Hitchcock got a great scene every time. What’s exceptional, really, isn’t that he was so adamant and such a perfectionist. What’s amazing is that it worked! Usually, you have in your mind a notion of how this scene is going to look, how it’s going to run, how it’s going to feel. And then you put it there like you imagine it… it doesn’t work!! So, you have to re-edit, and then you have to re-edit that. Then you have to re-edit that. But what he did was almost supernatural when you think about it. He pre-thought it so thoroughly and with such an accurate imagination that when you cut it, it worked just the way he thought it would… every time, every scene, every movie!” Actress Karen Black (1939 – 2013), on filming Family plot (1976)

Rémi-Serge Gratton

Hitchcock/Truffaut

Directed by:
Kent Jones

Screenplay by:
Kent Jones
Serge Toubiana

80 min.

Rated Parental Guidance

In English, French, and Japanese with English subtitles