Month: July 2011

Ni à Vendre, ni à Louer

Pascal Rabaté :: France :: 2010 :: 1h20

Behind this peculiar title (“Not for sale, not for hire”) hides a light-spirited comedy about a weekend away at an unpretentious coastal town. Humour takes the central stage, following a motley group of tourists and locals at the seaside in the style of Jacques Tati, with very little -if any- dialogue. This is Pascal Rabaté’s third film, after last year’s original and touching Les Petits Ruisseaux, where comedy was a sideline to his central storyline. Things are different this time round.

We see an elderly couple of regulars take up residence in a postcard sized cabin, we follow two fraudsters making people’s lives difficult, we watch a man and a woman meet as his kite flies off with her necklace, we see a shop-owner draw barcodes onto his products to be up-to-date… As light as some of the scenes are, some of the subjects are not -death, infidelity- but they are treated with care and a taste for light absurdity.

The film has its weakness as well, with a burlesque role for an SM couple on an escapade which does not really take off. But as the film progresses, the blemish fades into the background of the panoply of characters and attentively choreographed visuals. Prepare to be amused, to laugh and to wet your appetite for some vacation yourself, and hope that director Rabaté has not run out of ideas for more comedy. Let us be absolutely clear about this: we want more!

Pourquoi tu Pleures?

Katia Lewkowicz :: France :: 2010 :: 1h39

A few days before his marriage, Arnaud finds himself alone surrounded by his future family-in-law with who speak another language, decisions to take for the wedding, his friends who want to help, his apartment in the middle of a serious renovation, perhaps in love with a girl he just met, a sister who has too much on her plate, a mother who has lost it a while ago and a bride-to-be who has gone missing. Everyone needs answers, but most of all him. Arnaud holds his head to keep it from exploding.

As you can imagine, there is a lot of talking going on. The lack of conviction on the part of Arnaud towards his future keeps you wondering all the way through to the end will-he-or-won’t-he. Either way, there is not too much happiness to go around in this glum look at modern life, with unattractive characters, dirty streets, messy apartments, a million things to do and mobile phones ringing in peoples heads. There is certainly enough of a reason to cry.

Balada Triste

Alex de la Iglesia :: Spain, France :: 2010 :: 1h47

(UK: The Last Circus)

While still a boy, Sergio sees his father -a clown in a circus- taken away to fight the fascists in the Spanish civil war. Years later, growing up in the unpleasant world under dictator Franco, the boy, appropriately, takes on the role of a “Sad Clown” at a circus. But there it hits him like a human cannonball: the beautiful trapeze artist Natalia. Unfortunately, she is already entangled in a love-hate relationship with the cruel and violent head-clown Javier. Perhaps even more unfortunately, she has a desperate taste for danger. Through the turbulent and dark world in which they find themselves, the two rival clowns battle it out.

Let me be absolutely clear about this: this movie is captivating from the first scene to the end. If you have seen Dia de la Bestia, you know what the director is capable of. Well, here the dark humour is possibly even darker, the images even more outrageous and the story takes you places you would not believe if you were not there to see it for yourself. When a movie opens with a clown slashing through fascist soldiers with a machete, you know you are in for a ride! Expect no visual mercy from this perfectly crafted downward spiral of killer clowns into the depths of the imagination where anything can happen.

Staring at the rich

Last night, I had the pleasure of watching the Korean film The Housemaid (2010) by Im Sang-Soo. In the film, a young girl is hired into the home of a wealthy and powerful family. Besides the fact that the house is somewhat creepy (to add flair to the film, no doubt), what is remarkable is how the high ranking family is presented. It is not at all obvious how to present an upper class family, because on the one hand they are just people and on the other you want them to look (and be?) superior. Let us see what they did here to show that superiority.

The woman is a stunningly beautiful and ruthless lady Macbeth and her husband plays piano as a concert pianist, has the manners and charm of a diplomate, the taste in food and wine of an enologist, the immaculate sense of dress of a top designer and has the trained body of an athlete all while having a demanding and time-consuming career. Now everyone understands that the point of this is to create a difference between the common girl and the high ranking family, but they clearly went overboard with it. Of course, in film or literature they often do, for the effect, but let us look at the underlying thought.

The thought behind such a presentation must be that people who are so high up on the social ladder can only possibly be there by devious means, so they must be corrupt in one way or another. Secondly, with an unlimited budget, people can become sophisticated in all fields (athletics, music, food and wine, etc). I think we can assume that the latter is an artistic trick to differentiate the characters. To become an expert in wine, sports or music one must dedicate years of study into the field. Money helps buy good teachers and free up time for study, but it remains limited – we can not do “everything”. But what about the former?

Power corrupts, they are powerful hence they must be corrupt. This fallacy is at the heart of the image people have of those above them, perhaps to mask jealousy. The image is reinforced by the press, as the sole times we hear details about the lives of those above us are when they are caught up in a scandal of sorts. When they out themselves voluntarily, it is to show themselves in a good light, so doing something they are good at or showing flattering pictures of themselves. If they would be wholly exposed, the illusion would be gone. That is why, in the movie, we follow the new maid as she discovers the family, to have the external eye. And then, by overdoing it on the particularities of the family and their lack of moral scruples, the audience, who we can safely assume are al the lesser to them, can find satisfaction in the thought that they at least have more moral integrity. I am feeling very happy. You?

What is so great about free Wifi anyway?

When I hear that the hotel, library or the café I am going to has a free unlimited wifi, a tingling sensation goes through me. Oooooh. Free Wifi! However silly that may sound, it is surprising that a technology which is so immensely popular can still bring about a feeling. But why?

You would think that we got used to it now. The first laptops with Wifi (iBooks) came into existence more than a decade ago now. Wifi had spread like wildfire, mostly as a means to connect to the internet, appearing in libraries, stations, cafés and hotels. With time, more and more people started setting up wireless networks at home too, to connect to the internet but also to connect printers or sending movies to TV sets. It is everywhere!

But only a few weeks ago, when Steve Jobs presented Apple’s project for new offices in Cupertino to the City Council, an excited council member asked if they could get free wifi in exchange for their approval. They did not get it, the company considering it the job of the city to install free wifi if they wanted it, but it is humorous that the request pops up. Why does it still get people’s heart racing? People who want their emails and Google Maps on the go generally have smart-phones, which work just find without Wifi. Offices and homes with computers generally already have their own Wifi networks. So what good is wifi elsewhere really?

I do not think it is what it actually does is that important anymore. Wifi has become a feeling, just like climate control. Just the idea that I could open up my laptop and send an email, or look something up in wikipedia, or book a flight for our holiday makes me feel happy. It is the accessibility of the outside world right then and there. Of course the mobile phone can do a lot, and we are very impressed, but It is not the same thing. What makes Wifi so special, is that we are used to computers being on desks with a spaghetti of cables hanging out the back and with wifi we are receiving an email or a Facebook message right then and there, lying in the grass if we feel like it. It is still amazing.

Of course this should all have become a mobile thing, and it is, but it is the snags which keeps the shine on wifi. The mobile phone still has a stigma to it that we might get ripped off (because we crossed a border somewhere) or that it won’t work (too far out of town, there is no reception in the carpark, on that metro-line, or you are with Bouygues…). Wifi does not have that stigma (despite not being parachute solid), when it works it just works. Like the perfect temperature, it is all around us, and we can feel at home. Even if we do not use it.