Kind of ruins the Atlanta Film Festival to take a break from their offerings and watch a movie this good.

I don’t know much about Ireland vs. England but it looks like a bad scene. Bros Cillian and Teddy turn to rebellion after being terrorized by brits, then when their guy signs a peace agreement, Teddy joins the new government while Cillian keeps fighting. ‘ventually Ted kills his own brother.

Family vs. country / neighbor vs. neighbor thing plays out very effectively. Movie leaves me with my stomach burning. All shots of countryside are heartbreakingly wonderful. No death is taken lightly. Loach takes his “socialist realism” to a Serious Historical Topic and succeeds hilariously. Best picture at Cannes no duh. I’m only writing so little because I waited too long and have lost some details.

Harsh, harsh film. Three soldiers (Zack, Mike and Steve) get cameras to take on their tour in Iraq, filming daily activity and keeping sort of video journals. Meanwhile, camera crew in U.S. interviews their family, loved ones, and records their safe return home at the end. Tightly edited together to give an excellent, horrifying look at the war.

Cameras can be helmet-mounted or gun-mounted, giving a disturbingly video-game-like feel to the fighting (and there IS fighting). We see IEDs go off, civilians get hurt, US soldiers get hurt, dead rebels, grieving families. Brings home the reality of things I’d only vaguely read/heard about that are still going on (this was shot 2004). Very glad I watched, even if I felt terrible throughout.

Zach is from Lebanon, speaks Arabic, is one of the few US soldiers who can communicate with the locals, until he gets tired of having to repeat the company line to them. Mike is a pro-war go-get-em guy who signed up because of 9/11 and ended up disgusted by the experience, back at his difficult job at home. Steve is a lightweight joker reading The Nation, goes through a lot in Iraq, comes home probably with post-traumatic disorders, all a ball of bottled rage. These guys have gone to war and been messed up by it. They’re worse off, both countries are worse off. A real-life horror movie.

An IED going off:

Night-Vision Zack:

Starts with the end. All movies start with the end now.

Kind of a disappointment. Not just that expectations were high, just that they were so high for so long and movie kept playing and finally I saw it in closing week and by then I knew it’d be a depressing fascist struggle film with metaphorical special effects and had already seen the monster with eyes in its hands a million times in promo photos. Had few delightful surprises to offer, just a good movie.

Let’s see… fascist Spain 1944, little Ofelia’s dad is dead and mom is marrying a psycho captain who moves them into the country to fight rebel forces who camp in the woods. Housekeeper Mercedes is in love with lead rebel and smuggles out food, supplies and information. A showdown ensues, rebels win the battle but not the war.

Oh also Ofelia finds an underground fantasyland where she tries to escape the pain of reality and eventually succeeds by getting shot to death by the captain and reuniting with her dead parents, now king and queen of Pan’s realm. A happy ending, not really.

Katy liked it I think.

Resnais at the Venice Film Festival described the movie as “recording the anger of a so-called happy civilization. A new world is shaping. My characters are scared of it and can’t deal with it. We witness a real impregnation of the world. Muriel invites us. The movie grows like a plant. The characters start to live away from us. Imagine a letter on a piece of blotting paper. The movie is this blotting paper. The audience is that mirror that allows the image to be seen. Muriel appeared in the middle of the ink stains.”

Helene to Alphonse: “Well, did we love each other or not?”

Bernard is the nephew, Marie-do is his girlfriend, Robert is his war buddy.

Italian movie Hands Over The City beat this one at Venice, along with Marker’s Le Joli Mai, Kurosawa’s High & Low, a Louis Malle, Billy Liar and Hud.




Postcolonial Wednesday, part two. Katy loved it because of the important story it tells, but I didn’t like it because it tells the story in the most predictably hollywood manner possible.

When the Hutus (largest group in Rwanda) decide to kill all the Tutsis (rich group that the colonialists put in charge), hotel manager Don Cheadle saves the day! Calls in all his favors from the Belgians and the UN and other Rwandans to protect his family and hotel guests. Goes pretty well for him (with some thrilling close-calls of course)… manages to save 1,000 people from horrible genocide.

Nick Nolte plays the disempowered UN captain who wants to help but can barely protect his own men since he’s not allowed to shoot. Joe Quinn Phoenix is a journalist who’s sent home with all the other non-UN foreigners halfway through the movie.

A really really good story told in straightforward, cliche hollywood movie format. Maybe I’m being too hard on the thing… it’s clearly a must-see movie because of the subject matter, and it’s well acted and well told… but it’s the kind of movie that doesn’t have to be great because it’s a true story about a great man who saved people from death, and how dare you criticize it? I’m just not the target audience for this… with my twin Joe Dante and Jacques Rivette obsessions, this one wasn’t very exciting. It’s probably better than Last King of Scotland, and definitely better than Amazing Grace and Sometimes In April (other rwandan genocide movie katy watched), which are the other new historical hollywood movies watched recently, so I’m feeling pretty good about this one overall. Maybe a 7/10.

Oscar® nominated Don Cheadle:

Oscar® nominated Sophie Okonedo:

Oscar® nominated Joe Quinn Phoenix (left):

Oscar® nominated Nick Nolte:

Sad Rwandan orphans:

Black Book (2006, Paul Verhoeven)
Nice, twisty little nazi suspense drama. Watched on the plane, a little drowsy, so IMDB will help remember the plot details: “When the hiding place of the beautiful Jewish singer Rachel Steinn is destroyed by a stray bomb, she decides with a group of other Jews to cross the Biesbosch to the already liberated south of the Netherlands. However, their boat is intercepted by a German patrol and all the refugees are massacred. Only Rachel survives. She joins the resistance, and under the alias Ellis de Vries manages to get friendly with the German SS officer Müntze. He is very taken with her and offers her a job. Meanwhile, the resistance devise a plan to free a group of imprisoned resistance fighters with Ellis’ help. The plan is betrayed and fails miserably. Both the Resistance and the Germans blame her. She goes into hiding once more, with Müntze in tow. Together they wait for the war to end. Liberation does not bring Ellis freedom; not even when she manages to expose the real traitor. ‘Every survivor is guilty in some way.'” Edit April ’07: saw again in theaters – a real interesting movie. I definitely like it, glad Verhoeven is directing his talents away from stuff like The Hollow Man these days. Awesome final shot, with Rachel living in Israel, having moved from one besieged state to another. I don’t think Jimmy or George liked it much.

Jackass Number Two (2006, Jeff Tremaine)
Watched in the plane right after Black Book, when everyone around us was going to sleep. KLM didn’t censor it as far as I know. Completely awesome, hilarious movie. A masterpiece in its own way. Katy says I laughed too much/loud and annoyed my fellow passengers. Most other people watched that Kevin Costner movie with Ashton Kutcher for some reason.

Badlands (1973, Terrence Malick)
After a few days at the World Social Forum, finally one evening Katy and I were both awake enough to sit through a movie. I suggested Badlands, which we both ended up enjoying. Sheen kills Spacek’s father (Warren Oates) and they go on a little shooting spree before getting captured. Another quiet and beautiful movie by Terrence Malick. EDIT: JUNE 2007: after reading a great Adrian Martin article in Rouge, I realized that Malick is the only director I’ve seen whose EVERY film I would consider great… Charles Laughton excepted.

My Migrant Soul (2004, Yasmine Kabir)
On the last day at the Forum, I found the movie tent. Watched this half hour doc about a guy from Bangladesh who got a job in Malaysia in order to send money home to his family. But the guy who sends him gives him a forged passport, and he gets hard work for short periods of time, then sits idle the rest of his weeks, unable to find other work or complain to anyone without a legitimate ID, finally gets sick and dies. Sad.

Words on Water (2003, Sanjay Kak)
They’re building dams in India that destroy small towns, I guess. I fell asleep in the first ten minutes, then left the movie to wander the Forum and listen to the drumming, so I can’t tell you much more than that. Got back just before the credits when some protestors from the village are being arrested. Sad.

7 Islands and a Metro (2006, Madhusree Dutta)
I was drowsy and it didn’t make a strong impression. Some overlong shots (because the longer you hold a shot, the artsier it becomes) and some disconnected stories about Mumbai/Bombay. The director came out and said the movie reflects how people from all over got together to form this big city, and now the city is splintering into smaller communities again, without a firm focus or center (which of course reminded me of Atlanta), and told many stories of displacement, of trying to make a home in an overcrowded metropolis. I was disappointed that so many of the stories were made-up, and some of the actors were really overdoing it, as if in a soap opera. Decent enough movie I guess. Sad.

Early in the Morning (2006, Gahité Fofana)
The next day we went to the Alliance Francaise, checked out an excellent photo exhibit and saw some free movies. This one retells the true story about two kids from Mali who froze to death in the landing gear of a plane to Europe, having written a letter to Europe’s heads of state explaining that they’ve got it bad in Guinea and need some help. A well done movie, underplayed, not sensationalistic, quietly calling attention to the country’s problems without setting up some overbearing horror of war. The kids don’t even experience the war firsthand, so we don’t see it either, just hear about it in a single scene. Sad.

Bamako (2006, Abderrahmane Sissako)
Next up at the French Alliance was this awesome movie, which we wanted to see all week and surprisingly made it out to. Good thing the Alliance was walking distance from our hotel. A (mock?) trial is being held in the center of town and broadcast on the radio, with the people of Africa (Mali in particular) versus the European powers (the IMF and World Bank). A plea for debt forgiveness, for Africa to maintain its identity and stop to think how it wants to deal with foreign countries without getting exploited. Meanwhile small-town life carries on around the trial, the central story being about a family with a husband who can’t work, a wife who sings at a nightclub and their sick child. Wonderfully and humorously shot, with strange collisions of culture and a much talked-about bit where a TV movie starring Danny Glover suddenly takes over the screen. Must see again.

Garden State (2004, Zach Braff)
Katy watched on our last night in Nairobi, after the safari. I was just listening to the dialogue and music, and finally watched the second half with her. It’s an easy movie to make fun of after the fact, but while it’s playing, it’s very convincing.

Fighting Elegy (1966, Seijun Suzuki)
An action/comedy from Suzuki! Extreeeeme sexual tension leads Kiroku (lead actor from Tattooed Life) to join a fight club, and finally form his own gang and have huge fights with other groups of kids. IMDB guy says “a satire of the militaristic attitude that eventually lead Japan into WWII”. Wonderful. Watched this and 39 Steps on the portable DVD player on the flight home.

The 39 Steps (1935, Alfred Hitchcock)
Watched twice in a row, the second time with commentary. Robert Donat, a very capable leading man, gets caught up in a plot to smuggle government defense secrets out of the country when a woman he meets at a show is murdered in his apartment. He runs all over, never believed or trusted, Hitchcock’s original “wrong man”, predicting North By Northwest in structure and the final theater scene of the Man Who Knew Too Much remake during the great ending when, about to be captured again, he shouts to Mr. Memory onstage “what are the 39 steps”, revealing the plot to everyone. Very easy to watch… one of the better Hitchcocks I’ve seen, even if completely unbelievable.

The Royal Tenenbaums (2001, Wes Anderson)
For some reason, I thought about this one during the whole safari. Is it the boar’s head that Royal rehangs on the wall? I don’t know, but I was itching to see this again, and watched it as soon as we got home. One of my favorite movies ever.

The Lion King (1994, Allers & Minkoff)
Of course we thought about this one too, and watched it the next night. Didn’t finish it, though. Best not to.

A horrifying look at nuclear war. Should’ve been required viewing, but was instead banned from the airwaves for decades. Ho-hum.

image missing

Short and to the point. Not only tells what might happen during a nuclear attack on Britain, but shows it, enacting the attack documentary-style.

Below: a homeowner discusses self-defense.

image missing

A powerfully convincing movie against the bomb. Unfortunately also harshly critical of Britain and its policies, which I’m sure contributed to the film being banned for so long.

image missing

Of course, Watkins’ own notes on the film are essential:

image missing

Katy didn’t watch it, but probably should.

More straightforward and less poetic than it usually gets credit for, pretty much a straight half-hour documentary about the holocaust.

More educational, more heartbreaking, more shocking, more horrible and a far better movie than any of the 60-minute PBS documentaries I’ve seen on the subject, any two-hour fictionalized concentration-camp movie, any three-plus-hour Steven Spielberg feature.

The poetic parts are mostly at the start and end, and in the juxtaposition between the 50’s color film and the 30’s-40’s b/w stock footage. Must be hard to craft an artistic film against this sort of imagery. Jean Cayrol (Muriel ou Le temps d’un retour) wrote the commentary and Chris Marker was assistant director.

Katy, if I seemed a little depressed on Sunday night, this is why.



Gone with the Wind! Currently sits at #170 in the IMDB Top 250. Strangelove is #19.

Agreed it’s a damn good movie, with lots and lots and lots of nice scenery and nice costumes and quotable lines and expensive-looking business all over. I found the first half (Scarlett O’Hara’s family plantation is slow to adjust to the losing Civil War) much more interesting and easier to sit through than the second (her relationship to Rhett Butler, reclaiming her Tara estate and worrying about her crush Ashley and his pregnant wife Melanie).

Lotta talk about Atlanta and Georgia. Mammy was fun, always talking to herself. I liked the fiddle-dee-dees.

IMDB trivia quotes a memo written by producer David Selznick about the firing of George Cukor as director of Gone With The Wind: “I think the biggest black mark against our management to date is the Cukor situation and we can no longer be sentimental about it… We are a business concern and not patrons of the arts.”