Valley of Flowers
Nalin Pan :: France, Germany, India :: 2004 :: 2h
A mystic love story which originates high in the Himalayas amongst the 19 century silk routes. When Jalan (played by the beautiful and enigmatic Mylène Jampanoï) lays her eyes on a bandit leader Ushna, who is working through a personal vendetta against the world, she falls crazy in love. Her determination to win over the renegade Ushna, who is still rough along the edges, pays off. Their love story takes on epic proportions as they are lunged through a Buddhist inspired reality.
If you are expecting a tale like the director’s previous film Samsara, then think again. Where the first movie traced buddhism in the real world, as you might expect from a cosmopolitan director sharing his life’s time between France and India, this second tale is completely anchored in mythology. It deviates from the rational norm to explore with a poetic license and beauty.
The Valley of Flowers in the movie is presented as the Nirvana they aspire to reach through their love, but their progress through space and time works out differently to their expectations. A rebellious recklessness and denial of the temporal mortal life leads them into a pain and suffering for their love. The movie becomes too cryptic for my Western eyes, unfortunately, but that did not dispel the pleasure of implication in their ordeal.
It is curious and uncustomary to watch a tale which seems fit for an epic poem. The temptation to interpret the film alternates with just enjoying the sheer stunning beauty of the film. There are ‘imperfections’ scattered around which could have been worked away with a little more editing, but never mind that. Do not hesitate to enroll in this escapade if you have a chance, it is worth it.
NB Book in advance – playing in too few cinema’s in Paris to match the public demand.
Das Leben der Anderen
Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck :: Germany :: 2006 :: 2h17
In the early eighties, the DDR’s secret police are operating in full swing to keep the nation together within its repressive regime. Any person with any intellectual tendencies is suspect of potentially stirring up trouble, and tracked. Wiesler works for the Stasi. His rigorous unscrupulous nature is set to work to protect the interests of the state to the detriment of the individual. He is rewarded for his loyalty by being assigned the task of tracking the famous playwright Dreyman and his actress girlfriend. As time passes he realizes that he is not serving the interests of any higher ideal but rather the ambitions of a select few.
The noble but largely unconfrontational writer and his ambitious girlfriend Christa-Maria Sieland deal with the world around them in different ways of submission. Some level of collaboration in an oppressive state is seen as a near prerequisite for success by Christa-Maria, while Dreyman opts for the sideline route, but still rebels using the tools of his trade. The level of state interference runs deep into the lives of the characters who become conscious of their every move.
The subtlety of living in a ‘stable’ but profoundly uncomfortable state contrasts with the World War II movies which are usually presented to the audience to remind them of the perils of authoritarianism, where the awful choices presented to the individuals in the face of the authority risk the soldier’s knock on the door. Here we are not far away from the same dilemmas although the lack of Nazi uniforms and the contemporary setting increases the intimacy level. The high quality of the script and immaculate acting shine through this captivating work.
A darkly depressing reminder of the eternal danger of sacrificing liberty for a misconceived vision of social order. The German recent past is so close that it must be hard for the public not to realize that this social risk haunts all political choice and action. In a French election year, may it help to steer us as clear as possible from an interfering, manipulate state. But for that, the public will need the courage to go in to watch an upsetting dis-utopia in action, which is a painful exercise in nerves.
Pars vite et reviens tard
Régis Wargnier :: France :: 2006 :: 1h55
Police inspector Adamsberg feels a mounting discomfort with the onset of spring, his relationship breaks down and someone is tagging doors in the Beaubourg area. His bad presentiment is confirmed, as a body is found. The bad news does not end there, with cryptic predictions of dark clouds ahead echoing through the streets by the town crier.
As far a thrillers go, the movie holds your attention, although you should be ready to compromise on the ending. Where the movie excels, is in its portrayal of Paris. Both realistic and dark at the same time, the city is shown as a timeless middle-age city lunged into the 21st century, with a cosmopolitan village-like heart. It is well filmed making it a pleasure to watch. The ending needs some re-working and the credibility level is not always as high as it should be, but that does not have to stop you from going in. Just do not expect too much, and you should be pleasantly surprised.