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NOW SCREENING AT THE EMBASSY, 10 KENT TCE. Welcome to the second issue of CINEPHILE for 2018. What a fantastic start to the year we’ve had, both in terms of film programming and our fantastic new venue at the Embassy Theatre. What a treat it’s been to watch some new and classic films on the wonderful big screen. We also hope you’re enjoying other new improvements such as our streamlined membership desk in the downstairs foyer and our new accessiblity seating in Row F. We’re always trying to improve the way we do things to make your Monday nights better, and are always open to any comments or suggestions you might have. You can recognise members of our committee by our branded t-shirts and name badges. Don’t hesitate to come and chat to us at screenings. LINKS OF INTEREST: We’re taking advantage of delivering Cinephile digitally and adding links on each film page to interesting interviews, trailers and indepth essays – they’re all just a click away for those who like to dig deep.

GILDA BLACK TIE EVENT: We’re planning to do something special for the Gilda screening on 25 June. We’d love you to come in your finest attire for this, the second film in our Rita! programme. There’ll be prizes for best dressed and special themed drinks afterwards at the Black Sparrow. Watch this space! MOVIE SWAP NIGHT: It’s been a while since we’ve run a Movie Swap Night, so it’s time to unearth those DVDs that have been gathering dust on your shelves and share them around! For those who have joined recently, we’ll have fliers on the desk to explain how it all works. Our next swap night will be on 16 July after Fidelio: Alice’s Journey. SOCIAL MEDIA: Did you know you can find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram? Keep up with news, competitions, film information and lots more by following us on your favourite social media channel and join in the conversation.


121 mins | Howard Hawks | USA | 1939 | HD | PG cert 28 MAY


99 mins | Jean-Luc Godard | France/Italy | 1965 | HD | G cert 4 JUNE No Screening - Queen’s Birthday 11 JUNE


106 mins | John Frankenheimer | USA | 1966 | HD | M nudity 18 JUNE


78 mins | Benedikt Erlinsson | Iceland | 2013 | DCP | R13 sex scenes, offensive language, content may disturb 25 JUNE


110 mins | Charles Vidor | USA | 1946 | HD | PG cert 2 JULY


110 mins | Thomas Bidegain | France | 2015 | HD | M violence, offensive language, drug use 9 JULY


86 mins | Volker Schlondorff | West Germany | 1966 | HD | R18 16 JULY


97 mins | Lucie Borleteau | France | 2014 | R16 offensive language, sex scenes, sexual references 23 JULY


122 mins | Marcel L’Herbier | France | 1924 | DCP | PG adult themes JULY 29 – AUG 14 NZ INTERNATIONAL FILM FESTIVAL 20 AUG


CINEPHILE is published by Wellington Film Society Inc, PO Box 1584, Wellington 6140. This issue of CINEPHILE was edited by Rose Miller, Caroline Garratt and Bronwyn Bannister. wellingtonfilmsociety @wgtnfilmsoc @wgtnfilmsoc

104 mins | Rachel Lang | Belgium/France | 2016 | HD | M sex scenes, offensive language, nudity 27 AUG


125 mins | Lino Brocka | Philipines | 1975 | DCP | R16 violence, sex scenes, sexual abuse scenes and cruelty All Members Only except *films screened in cooperation with the Goethe-Institut, which are also open to the public with admission by donation at the door (notes only) and ** French Film Festival co-screening (limited seating available to WFS members)



ONLY ANGELS HAVE WINGS 121 mins | USA | 1939 | B&W | HD | PG cert Director: Howard Hawks Production co: Columbia Screenplay: Jules Furthman Photography: Joseph Walker Editor: Viola Lawrence Music: Dimitri Tiomkin With: Cary Grant (Geoff Carter), Jean Arthur (Bonnie Lee), Richard Barthelmess (Bat McPherson), Rita Hayworth (Judy McPherson), Thomas Mitchell (Kid Dabb), Allyn Joslyn (Les Peters), Sig Rimann (Dutchy), Victor Kilian (Sparks), John Carroll (Gent Shelton), Donald Barry (Tex), Noah Beery Jr (Joe Souther), Maciste (the Singer), Milissa Sierra (Lily), Lucio Villegas (doctor), Pat Flaherty (Mike), Pedro Regas (Pancho)

LINKS OF INTEREST Howard Hawks profile: Essay: Existentialism, Howard Hawks, and “Only Angels Have Wings” existentialism-howard-hawks-and-onlyangels-have-wings/#.Wv1g09OFPUI

“Viewed through an auteurist lens, 1939’s Only Angels Have Wings may be Hawks’ most quintessential feature.”

HOWARD HAWKS is revered for his ability to work across a number of unrelated genres and to link them all with a web of connective tissue. His pictures share among them a love for professionalism, the presence of self-sufficient women, and both the surfeit and dearth of talk to circumvent the confession of actual feelings. Viewed through an auteurist lens, 1939’s Only Angels Have Wings may be Hawks’ most quintessential feature, yet no other film of his looks like it, not even his handful of aviation movies. Gone are the unobtrusive frames of simple, focused blocking in natural interior and landscape settings, replaced instead by crowded, cluttered images that situate everything in a confined space where everything outside the line of sight may as well be mapped with nothing but “here there be dragons”. The film takes place in Barranca, a fictional South American hamlet turned into a thriving port town by the banana trade. Establishing shots of the town are drenched in shadow, with only the palest light to illuminate the sleepless bustle of a city that seems permanently cloaked in night. A trading vessel arrives out of the blackness in a shroud of fog, yet this is no ghost ship. The mist belongs to the town, masking sea on one side and mountains on another. It’s like Brigadoon set from the perspective of the townsfolk, forever peering out at the limits of their world’s perimeter as some come and go in locked round trips. So abstract are the spatial dimensions of the location that the buildings and interiors on land feel incomplete as well, nearly every frame disappearing into shadow at the edges, even inside a well-lit saloon. The setting induces dread on its face, but it becomes even more terrifying when the plot centers on an airmail company where pilots must regularly fly out of and back into the fog. Only the best bush pilots can accomplish this task, and even they must rely on a primitive radio tandem of one man on the ground guiding them using nothing but the sound of their plane engines to triangulate positions. This is Hawksian professionalism distilled to its most basic components, of the best of the best completely dependent on each other for everyday survival. Life itself seems cheap among these men, however, as the sheer number of fatalities have stacked to the point that any death merely adds another notch to a long-forgotten count. Joseph Walker’s cinematography casts everyone in pale glows, high overhead lighting giving them the


appearance of phantasms. Isolated out of space, the characters seem equally isolated out of time; one of the pilots says that nearly everyone in town works for “The Dutchman”, and though he means the kindly saloon owner Dutchy (Sig Ruman), this almost sounds like an allusion to Age of Exploration trading ventures like the Dutch East India Company. The transportation may be modern, but the feat of heading into the unknown for the sake of capital is centuries old. The irony, of course, is that there is nothing in the area on which to even spend money. It’s a town that exists as a pit stop for those actually making money and a permanent residence for those who merely help such people to get their fortunes. Into this world of dead-eyed, perfunctorily working men comes Bonnie Lee (Jean Arthur), who stands out less for being, for a while, the only woman in sight (though that certainly stirs the men) than for the feeling that she is the only one among them who is truly alive. The lighting that drains the men infuses her with life, and her checkered past with airmail manager Geoff (Cary Grant) and the excitement she causes among some of the younger pilots produces vague echoes of Hawks’s screwball comedies, if only for a few minutes. Compared to the more rugged heroines of other Hawks movies, Bonnie is a more traditional, redeeming figure, but in the context of this purgatorial nightmare, her brightness is a necessary jolt of personality, and it makes her seem more rounded by differing from those around her. Even so, the prevailing mood of the film is one of muted trauma, of ghostly listlessness anchored to capitalistic duty. Early on, one hotshot refuses to call off his landing in a heavy fog and ignores Geoff ’s commands to pull up and circle until the weather clears. “It’s all right, Geoff,” he says in a curiously flat voice, “I see the lights.” This is a film of the dead, and though the flying itself involves intricate cooperation, everyone exists on autopilot. Only a double coda of moral and romantic absolution can return anyone to the realm of the living, and the belated recognition of meaning in human interactions has rarely been felt so resoundingly in film. Without it, the characters are revenants, but with it, they truly animate. — Jake Cole, Movie Mezzanine



ALPHAVILLE ALPHAVILLE, UNE ÉTRANGE AVENTURE DE LEMMY CAUTION 99 mins | France/Italy | 1965 | B&W | HD | G cert In French with English subtitles Director/Screenplay: Jean-Luc Godard Producer: André Michelin Production co: Chaumiane, Filmstudio Photography: Raoul Coutard Editor: Agnès Guillemot Music: Paul Misraki With: Eddie Constantine (Lemmy Caution), Anna Karina (Natacha von Braun), Akim Tamirof (Henri Dickson), Howard Vernon (Professor von Braun), Laszlo Szabo (engineer), Jean-André Fieschi (Professor Eckel), Jean-Louis Comolli (Professor Jeckel)

LINKS OF INTEREST Video: Jean-Luc Godard as Architect watch?v=Zf9BXTinifM

“…from satirically tongue-in-cheek futurism, to a parody of privateeye mannerisms, to a wildly romantic allegory depicting a computercontrolled society at war with artists, thinkers, and lovers.”

WHEN JEAN-LUC GODARD’S Alphaville opened the 1965 New York Film Festival, the American Civil Liberties Union Benefit audience seemed genuinely baffled by the abrupt shifts in tone: from satirically tongue-in-cheek futurism, to a parody of private-eye mannerisms, to a wildly romantic allegory depicting a computercontrolled society at war with artists, thinkers, and lovers. Alphaville is science fiction without special effects. Godard couldn’t afford them in 1965 or ever, but he probably wouldn’t have wanted them even if he’d had unlimited financing. His whole theme, imagination versus logic, is consistent with his deployment of Paris as it was in the ’60s – or at least, those portions of Paris which struck Godard as architectural nightmares of impersonality. Sub-Nabokovian jokes on brand names abound. There is much talk of societies in other galaxies, but their only manifestation is the Ford Galaxy that Eddie Constantine’s Lemmy Caution (a low-rent French version of Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe) moves about in. Most of Alphaville is nocturnal or claustrophobically indoors. Yet there is an exhilarating release in many of the images and camera movements because of Godard’s uncanny ability to evoke privileged moments from many movies of the past. Alphaville was never meant to shock, depress, or disgust, and thus it seems as decorous and decent in 1998 as it did in 1965. And it is the work of one man, one recognizable man, not the work of a cynical, calculating committee. Indeed, the computer-controlled villains in Alphaville bear more than a passing resemblance to the bottom-line driven villains in the motion picture industry. To understand and appreciate Alphaville is to understand Godard, and vice versa. The shapely girl swimmers with knives for teeth and shark-like instincts for souls are an expanded version of Alexandra Stewart’s bikini-clad shark in the Godard episode of RoGoPag, the episode Lincoln Center audiences hissed violently in 1963. Also from RoGoPag are the pills the population of Alphaville gobbles up like peanuts to retain tranquility in the absence of recollection. The Welles influence, particularly from Mr. Arkadin, is reflected in the free-wheeling performance of Akim Tamiroff amid the swinging light bulbs of Wellesian expressionism. The references to Dick Tracy and Flash Gordon are pure comic-strip pop, and the reference to relativity and the SS pure comic angst.


Godard, the celebrated enfant terrible of the nouvelle vague, shamelessly parades Anna Karina, the greatest love of his life among his several Galateas (Jean Seberg in Breathless had been one of the first). Karina plays Natasha Vonbraun, the daughter of Professor Vonbraun (the whimsical fusion of a Tolstoyan first name and a Nazi rocket-scientist last name is typical of Godard’s irreverent plague-on-both-your-houses attitude toward the Cold War). This love of Karina is on display with Godard’s love of movies. Cameo appearances by Jean-André Fieschi, as Professor Eckel, and Jean-Louis Commoli, as Jeckel, represent a combination of two of Godard’s successors on the staff of Cahiers du Cinéma with two Hollywood animated cartoon figures. One may quibble over the fallacy of expressive form in illustrating computer control through the rasping-gurgling sounds of a man who has lost his voice box. Technological totalitarianism could certainly have come up with a morebeguiling tone with which to seduce its subjects. Nonetheless, I am more moved today than I was in 1965 by Godard’s temerity in having Karina sum up the moral of the film with a deliberately intoned reading of the line, “Je vous aime”. There is a moment of weary acceptance in Alphaville when Eddie Constantine, his face fading into the shadows, acknowledges that it is fate to become a legend. It is an image of intellectual heroism and self-recognition such as I have seldom seen on the screen. And in one flash, Godard illuminates one of Constantine’s most memorable responses to one of the computer’s questions in an earlier sequence. “What transforms darkness into light?” Constantine is asked. “La poèsie,” he replies. That a semihoodlum should be capable of such articulated sensitivity seems unlikely, but no more unlikely really than the ability to join comic strips and love sonnets with a single sensibility. You don’t have to be French to enjoy Alphaville. But you have to love movies with high-minded seriousness. — Andrew Sarris, Criterion, Oct 20, 1998



SECONDS 106 mins | USA | 1966 | B&W | HD | M nudity Director: John Frankenheimer Producer: Edward Lewis Production co: Joel Productions, John Frankenheimer Film, Gibraltar Productions Screenplay: Lewis John Carlino. Based on the novel by David Ely Photography: James Wong Howe Editors: David Newhouse, Ferris Webster Music: Jerry Goldsmith With: Rock Hudson (Antiochus Wilson), Salome Jens (Nora Marcus), John Randolph (Arthur Hamilton), Will Geer (old man), Jeff Corey (Mr Ruby), Richard Anderson (Dr Innes), Murray Hamilton (Charlie), Karl Swenson (Dr Morris), Khigh Dhiegh (Davalo), Frances Reid (Emily Hamilton), Wesley Addy (John), John Lawrence (Texan), Elisabeth Fraser (plump blonde), Dody Heath (Sue Bushman), Robert Brubaker (Mayberry), Dorothy Morris (Mrs Filter), Barbara Werle (secretary)

LINKS OF INTEREST Deep Focus Review: seconds/

“Seconds mangles and distends the windows of perception until viewers get immersed in his sweatsoaked nightmare.”

COMPARING A TWISTY PIECE of science fiction to an episode of The Twilight Zone has become akin to comparing a melodrama to an ABC Afterschool Special episode – lazy critical shorthand for a particular strain of tacky and awful. But just as The Twilight Zone could be an excellent show, worthy of its ironic stingers, John Frankenheimer’s chilling 1966 science fiction Seconds could, with minimal sculpting, be an all-time great episode. “Portrait of a Scarsdale banker,” Rod Serling’s intro might begin, “stuck in a loveless marriage and marinating in middle-aged ennui. On a commuter train from Grand Central, Arthur Hamilton gets handed a ticket to a new life. But the tracks to paradise pass through the shadowland called… The Twilight Zone.” Bum bum bum. Or something to that effect. Based on David Ely’s book, Seconds has a moral dimension and big twist ending that would have fit beautifully into the Serling universe, but Frankenheimer, working with cinematographer James Wong Howe and composer Jerry Goldsmith, presses an atmosphere of severe disorientation that wouldn’t have a place on television. At times, Howe’s black-and-white photography emphasizes the drab grays of Arthur’s suburban manse, but from the opening-credits sequence (by Saul Bass), Seconds mangles and distends the windows of perception until viewers get immersed in his sweat-soaked nightmare. The film tells the story of a man who tries to change his identity, but the elasticity of science isn’t matched by the elasticity of consciousness. For an individual to truly change, without leaving any psychological residue behind, is impossible – to quote Confucius via The Adventures Of Buckaroo Banzai, “No matter where you go, there you are.” Our journey begins with Arthur (John Randolph), a man best described as “nondescript”, getting a card with nothing but a New York street address pressed into his palm. Encouraged later that night by a phone call from an old tennis buddy, Arthur follows the address to a meat-packing plant, and gets escorted to an underground facility that specializes in giving men like him a second life. After extensive reconstructive surgery – and some unsavory arrangements (“I’ve been assigned to go over the circumstances of your death with you”) – he emerges 20 years younger as Tony Wilson (Rock Hudson), a dashing painter who resides in a beachside home in California. With a faithful servant (Wesley Addy) to help acclimate him to his new life, Tony immediately finds a free-spirited, sexy companion in Nora Marcus (Salome Jens), but his happiness proves surprisingly short-lived. His conscience seems to reject its new host just as


a body rejects a mismatched donor organ, but with the old Arthur Hamilton dead in a hotel fire, where does that leave him? Seconds has a diabolical answer to that question, but getting there is a compelling lesson in the prison of consciousness and a culture in the midst of dramatic change. Considering the year the film was released, 1966, before the sexual revolution reached full flower, Frankenheimer had a strong feeling for the divide that was about to grip the country, separating liberated youths from their square, conservative parents. Arthur Hamilton from Scarsdale fantasizes about art and available women, but the reality of it makes him uncomfortable, even when he’s in Tony Wilson’s body. In the film’s most aggressive sequence, Tony and Nora involve themselves in a grape-stomping bacchanal that turns into a frenzy of discordant music and naked bodies. Tony eventually relents, but Frankenheimer and Howe turn the unfettered lushness and sensuality of the scene into a torment for their hero, who’s a terrible fit for his new clothes. Then again, maybe Arthur Hamilton is a terrible fit for his old clothes, too. His wife (Frances Reid) seems to understand him as a nice man, reliable enough as a breadwinner and father, but even she is plainly puzzled by his silences – and he also seems at a loss to understand what kind of man Tony Wilson is replacing. Only for the briefest flicker of time at the wine orgy does Arthur/Tony let himself go and experience joy, but the dark truth of Seconds is that Arthur suffers constantly in his own fantasy. His doctors marvel over this “masterpiece” of a man (indeed, he’s Rock Hudson), but he isn’t happy. He lives in a well-appointed beach house where he can paint all day, but he isn’t happy. He meets a young, affectionate, sexually voracious woman, but he isn’t happy. It may be that he just fundamentally isn’t built for it, like a man perpetually stuck in midlife crisis. Seconds ends with a kick of paranoia and diabolical goings-on, all driven home to maximum effect by Howe’s canted camera angles and fisheye lenses. It’s a worthy, well-planted twist that makes sense of the whole identity-swapping operation, but the film ultimately isn’t about the genre business of rug-pulling and shadowy subcultures. It’s more about the dilemma of being human, particularly for a restless soul that cannot find corporeal purchase. In another life, Arthur Hamilton could be the suggestible blank played by Laurence Harvey in Frankenheimer’s 1962 classic The Manchurian Candidate – but, then again, viewers know what happens to “seconds”. — Scott Tobias, The Dissolve



OF HORSES AND MEN HROSS Í OSS 78 mins | Iceland | 2013 | DCP | R13 sex scenes, offensive language, content may disturb In Icelandic with English subtitles Director/Screenplay: Benedikt Erlingsson Producers: Friðrik Þór Friðriksson Production co: Leiknar Myndir, Gulldrengurinn, Mogador Film, Hughrif, Filmhuset Fiction Photography: Bergsteinn Björgúlfsson Editor: David Alexander Corno Music: Davíd Þór Jónsson With: Ingvar E. Sigurðsson (Kolbeinn), Charlotte Bøving (Solveig), Steinn Ármann Magnússon (Vernhardur), Helgi Björnsson (Egill), Kristbjörg Kjeld (Hildur), Sigríður María Egilsdóttir (Jóhanna), Juan Camillo Roman Estrada (Juan Camillo)

LINKS OF INTEREST Director interview: interview-benedikt-erlingsson-on-his-filmof-horses-and-men-168870/

“It is a love story about horses, with horses, almost like a silent movie with words. Horses are the language that allow the human characters to speak to each other. This film deserves its cult status.”

RONALD REAGAN used to say: “There is nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse.” I wonder what the Gipper would have made of this short, sharp, startling little movie from Iceland: a rather bracing film in which the insides of humans interact with the outsides of horses. Humans’ outsides feel the benefit of horses’ insides, too. It is a drama in which horse and human meet on equal terms. The original Icelandic title is Hross í oss: that is, Horse in Us. There is something very significant in its human-equine relations. The inter-penetration is largely spiritual, although interspecies sexual congress could be said to have taken place by proxy when a stallion unselfconsciously mounts a mare, on which a man is already, as it were, mounted. In many ways Of Horses and Men puts me in mind of the subversive erotic tales filmed by the Polish director Walerian Borowczyk who, in 1975, got into big trouble here for a glimpsed horse erection in his robustly conceived film The Beast. Almost everything in Of Horses and Men happens in the great Icelandic outdoors: a colossal and wildly beautiful valley plain that is, in effect, one single unbroken location. It is like a giant natural stage. The human inhabitants are smallholders and horse breeders who take a certain curtaintwitching interest in each other’s business. This means patient surveillance using binoculars. The director is Benedikt Erlingsson, an actor-turnedfilm-maker who performed in Lars von Trier’s Gervaisesque comedy The Boss of It All in 2006. He brings something of Von Trier’s deadpan humour to this film. The story is a Venn diagram of overlapping lives: at the approximate centre is Kolbeinn, played by Ingvar Eggert Sigurðsson, an actor who – not counting Björk – could be the nearest thing we have to a famous Icelandic movie star; he was the grizzled cop in Baltasar Kormákur’s tremendous procedural thriller Jar City in 2006. Kolbeinn is courting Solveig, a widow (or conceivably divorcee) played by Charlotte Bøving; she lives a short horse-ride away with her elderly mother and small son. Kolbeinn is a tense, fastidious character who lavishes a great deal of unwholesome and possessive emotion on his dainty little white mare. The way he finally gets a bridle on it looks like seduction and conquest – and coercion. He looks faintly absurd, trotting over to see the object of his affections; she happens to be the owner of a black stallion that takes a very great shine to this gentleman’s mare. The result is farce,


violence and tragedy and the template is set down for the rest for the picture. This is a world of roiling emotions that are natural and dignified in horses, but clenched and unhappy for their human masters. The horses, of course, are candid about what they feel: so honest, so calm, so unaffected, so unencumbered with any need to pretend, that they don’t appear to be feeling anything at all. The humans are quite different. One alcoholic, desperate for the kind of strong liquor that seems to be unavailable, uses a strongswimming horse to ferry him out to a Russian trawler where he might be able to buy vodka: a purchase that ends in disaster. A neighbour dispute over a barbed wire fence leads to a similar catastrophe and two funerals produce two widows who compete with Solveig for Kolbeinn’s affections. A Spanish horse-enthusiast falls in love with a Swedish woman: he can’t keep up with her, in many different senses, and another calamity seems to be in the offing. The horses assume a tragic, almost sacrificial bearing. Of Horses and Men is a hugely enjoyable film from the wild side of the wild side; it comes with an excellent musical score by David Thor Jonsson, and it really resembles nothing else around. I found myself thinking of Peter Schaffer’s once shocking play Equus, about dysfunctional sexuality displaced into an obsession with horses. But actually this film makes that play’s solemnity and shock value look self-conscious and silly. Erlingsson gets up close and personal with horses in a way that is earnest and romantic rather than erotic or ironic; in particular, he has a montage of horseflesh surfaces, close-up shots that allow you to appreciate the texture and feel of a horse’s hide – clearly the work of a connoisseur. It is a love story about horses, with horses, almost like a silent movie with words. Horses are the language that allow the human characters to speak to each other. This film deserves its cult status. ­— Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian



GILDA 110 mins | USA | 1946 | B&W | HD | PG cert Director: Charles Vidor Producer: Virginia Van Upp Production co: Columbia Screenplay: Marion Parsonnet, Jo Eisinger. Based on a story by E.A. Ellington Photography: Rudolph Maté Editor: Charles Nelson With: Rita Hayworth (Gilda Mundson Farrell), Glenn Ford (Johnny Farrell), George Macready (Ballin Mundson), Joseph Calleia (Detective Maurice Obregon), Steven Geray (Uncle Pio), Joe Sawyer (Casey), Gerald Mohr (Captain Delgado), Robert Scott (Gabe Evans), Ludwig Donath (German cartel member), Don Douglas (Thomas Langford)

LINKS OF INTEREST Criterion essay: posts/3878-the-long-shadow-of-gilda Trailer: watch?v=a4l2o1MEUyY

“A real 1940s Hollywood treat.”

A HARDBITTEN AMERICAN EXPATRIATE who turns out to have had some history with the beautiful woman who’s just made an entrance. A nightclub. A crooked casino. Sinister Germans who act as if they own the joint. A getaway by plane … More than ever, Charles Vidor’s classic melonoir Gilda from 1946 looks like the crazy evil twin of Michael Curtiz’s Casablanca. But Gilda has a streak of irrational panic and hysteria alien to Bergman and Bogart. Glenn Ford plays Johnny, a wastrel who fetches up in a quaintly imagined Buenos Aires just before the end of the war. A perennial card-sharp and gambling cheat, he gets a poacher-turnedgamekeeper job in a casino, as indispensable assistant to its hardfaced owner Mundson (George Macready) who has just got married to the head-spinningly beautiful and mercurial Gilda, played by Rita Hayworth. But Gilda got hitched on the rebound from some American guy who broke her heart … and that guy just happened to be Johnny. Their terrible secret festers and itches, and the erotic tension escalates. Gilda is satirically woozy with the strange mood of the time: Argentina is preparing to normalise its de facto cordial relations with Germany and its many German emigres; German businessmen are in bed with Mundson, who sports a livid Germanic scar, and nurses a bizarrely fascistic plan to “rule the world” with a tungsten-mine monopoly cunningly using his dodgy roulette wheel itself, covertly to pay off competitors. A real 1940s Hollywood treat. — Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian PART OF GILDA’S FASCINATION is the way that it complicates the idea of the femme fatale. (Bear in mind that terms like femme fatale and film noir were coined decades later; nobody at the time was conscious that they were creating a genre.) Hayworth plays Gilda with a layer of bravado that masks deep insecurity; the character as written is something of a monster, but it’s strongly implied that Johnny’s behavior in their prior relationship is largely responsible for her twisted psyche. Ford, for his part, doesn’t shy away from making Johnny flat-out repugnant, especially when he manages to turn the tables on Gilda in the film’s third act. Indeed, all three of the main characters are fairly despicable. If one’s sympathy gravitates toward Ballin, it’s because he at least demonstrates some self-awareness. When Gilda assures him that she hates Johnny now, Ballin


thoughtfully replies, “Hate can be a very exciting emotion. Very exciting. Haven’t you noticed that? There’s a heat in it that one can feel. Didn’t you feel it tonight? I did. It warmed me. Hate is the only thing that has ever warmed me.” Gilda’s director, Charles Vidor, isn’t generally considered much of a stylist, but the way he shoots this creepy exchange, which begins as a close-up of Gilda on the left side of the frame and then shifts to place her horizontally on the right side, with Ballin out of focus in the foreground as he speaks, is extraordinary in the way that it visually mirrors the viewer’s shifting loyalty. Given the degree of noxiousness and perversity on display, it’s genuinely bizarre that Gilda ultimately turns out to be the rare film noir with a happy ending. In no way does this sudden spasm of righteousness feel earned or appropriate; only the ending of L.A. Confidential rivals it for seeming wildly out of place, to the point where it threatens to retroactively ruin the entire movie. In part, it comes across like a desperate effort to disguise the unmistakable homoerotic subtext of Johnny and Ballin’s relationship, since the former’s devotion to the latter feels more tender and romantic than does anything involving either of the two men and Gilda. (Gilda’s sexuality, while blatant, is generally directed toward the audience, most notably in the famous “Put The Blame On Mame” number that she performs while wearing a gravity-defying strapless black satin dress that has its own Wikipedia page.) While the forced optimism prevents Gilda from having the same gut-wrenching impact as, say, Double Indemnity or The Postman Always Rings Twice, however, it also inadvertently serves as a reminder that things aren’t always as cut-and-dried as they appear. Gilda’s unforgettable entrance is more complex than most people remember, and so, too, despite its lapse in courage at the final buzzer, is this remarkable movie. — Mike D’Angelo, AV Club



LES COWBOYS 110 mins | France | 2015 | HD | M violence, offensive language, drug use I​n English, French and Urdu, with English subtitles Director: Thomas Bidegain Producer: Alain Attal Production co: Les Productions du Trésor, Pathé, France 2 Cinéma, Les Films du Fleuve, Lunanime, VOO, BeTV, RTBF Screenplay: Thomas Bidegain, Noé Debré Photography: Arnaud Potier Editor: Geraldine Mangenot Music: Raphael Haroche With: François Damiens (Alain Balland), Finnegan Oldfield (Georges Balland, “Kid”), Agathe Dronne (Nicole Balland), Ellora Torchia (Shazhana), John C. Reilly (the American), Antonia Campbell Hughes (Emma)

LINKS OF INTEREST Director interview: interview-les-cowboys-thomas-bidegainfinnegan-oldfield/

“Les Cowboys repurposes the narrative codes of the classic western to explore the complexities of a disrupted world.”

REACHING ACROSS 15 YEARS and multiple countries, Les Cowboys repurposes the narrative codes of the classic western to explore the complexities of a disrupted world. The story opens in 1994 at a country-andwestern fair in rural France, where cowboy-hatted families have gathered to enjoy line dancing and a rodeo. The scene, photographed in lovely, woozy close-ups by Arnaud Potier, is disorienting and metaphoric, a microcosm of one culture mushrooming in the heart of another. And when Alain (François Damiens), a local businessman, is cajoled into singing the Patti Page classic “Tennessee Waltz”, it’s no surprise when the lyrics turn out to have been a foreshadowing. He’s about to lose his “little darling.” That loss – of his 16-year-old daughter, Kelly (Iliana Zabeth), who disappears during the festivities – is the match that ignites the film’s fuse, the event that will rend a family and rip another young woman from her homeland. But we know none of that yet as Alain, believing his daughter kidnapped, rails at the police and the parents of Kelly’s newly discovered Muslim boyfriend, who has also disappeared. A note from Kelly saying that she has chosen a different life only pushes Alain’s search into overdrive; and Mr. Damiens, in a performance as fierce as it is precise, winds his character into a knot of fury and despair. Directing for the first time, the prolific screenwriter Thomas Bidegain creates an oblique yet mesmerizing drama, his economical script (written with Noé Debré) allowing the movie’s observant camera and sprawling locations to tell their own story. Visual bread crumbs – like a red neckerchief and silently watchful shots of Kid, Kelly’s little brother – lead us like clues to a mystery stretching from a document forger in Antwerp to Yemen and beyond. And as time passes and the twin towers of the World Trade Center fall, Alain’s bitter fixation transfers to Kid, now known as Georges (Finnegan Oldfield) and doing medical relief work in Pakistan. Unfolding with a reticence that’s occasionally confusing, Les Cowboys presents a suggestive, almost abstract take on terror and the generational toxicity of bigotry. John C. Reilly adds punch to the movie’s middle section as a shady trader of money for hostages; and Agathe Dronne, in a beautifully generous performance that’s somewhat muffled by the testosteroneheavy plot, is quietly heartbreaking as Kelly’s mother.


Yet even as the story slides from hatred and obsession to compassion and a kind of peace, it’s clear that Mr. Bidegain isn’t schooling us in social justice. Rather, in his unfussy, irresolute way, he’s merely reminding us that fear of the other didn’t start with those tumbling towers. Like the heroes of John Ford’s 1956 masterwork, The Searchers (one of the director’s inspirations), Georges and his father are seeking a woman taken by a man of another race. The problem is that the woman they find might no longer be the one they lost. — Jeannette Catsoulis, NY Times DAMIENS IS BETTER KNOWN for his comic roles in the Francophone world, including in The Belier Family, last year’s biggest local hit in France that Bidegain co-wrote. But he’s slowly building a reputation as a first-rate dramatic actor as well, with roles in films such as in Katell Quillevere’s Suzanne, in which he also played a father with a rebellious daughter, and Axelle Ropert’s The Wolberg Family. He’s again exceptional here, suggesting how the disappearance of his daughter is slowly eating away at his sanity and how giving up is not an option, as then he’d be forced to confront the idea of what this might suggest about him as a paterfamilias. Unfortunately, with Damiens taking a backseat in part two, the intensity of the film comes crashing back to earth, as relative newcomer Oldfield – also in Cannes Critics’ Week title The Wakhan Front – is too inscrutable a performer to carry the film in much the same way, though thankfully Reilly is by his side to provide the necessary energy and some moments of humor. The supporting cast is generally strong. Except for a late-into-the-proceedings confrontation involving two men and a gun, which is staged in a way that’s both not credible and lacking in tension, Bidegain’s mise-en-scene is strongly suggestive. Arnaud Potier’s widescreen images don’t simply ape iconic Western images but allow the French, Belgian and Pakistani (shot in India) landscapes to be themselves, while Raphael’s musical score helps sustain the drama and tension. — Boyd van Hoeij, Hollywood Reporter



YOUNG TORLESS DER JUNGE TÖRLESS 86 mins | West Germany | 1966 | B&W | HD | R18 In German with English subtitles Director: Volker Schlöndorff Producers: Franz Seitz Production co: Franz Seitz Filmproduktion, NEF Screenplay: Volker Schlöndorff. Based on the novel by Robert Musil Photography: Franz Rath Editor: Claus von Boro Music: Hans Werner Henze With: Mathieu Carrière (Törless), Marian Seidowsky (Basini), Bernd Tischer (Beineberg), Fred Dietz (Reiting), Lotte Ledl (innkeeper), Jean Laubay (maths teacher), Barbara Steele (Bozena)


“This is a film about the ugly fascination of violence, and the moral justifications of people who go along with and ignore violence and cruelty...” Presented in co-operation with the Goethe Institut. Open to the public: non-members are welcome by koha

VOLKER SCHLÖNDORFF’S first feature Young Törless is a scathing, uncompromising parable, not only for its most obvious reference point, World World II era Germany, but for the moral acquiescence of people everywhere when confronted with violence, brutality and unspeakable cruelty. At a boys’ boarding school in the country, the military discipline and regimen of the schedule is matched only by the increasingly outrageous behavior of the students whenever they manage to free themselves of the school’s supervision. The boys are bound to utter silence in class, and meals and bedtime are conducted with a brisk, orderly quality, like a military drill. After hours, however, the boys drink, gamble and visit prostitutes, hiding away in a secret room in the attic, which they’ve turned into a private den of decadence. Young Thomas Törless (Mathieu Carrière) is a new student here, and his sensitive temperament is at first stunned and offended by the loose, freewheeling attitudes of the other boys, their casual amorality and lack of boundaries … The whole thing holds a strange fascination for the innocent Törless, whose baby face – like Basini’s – nakedly expresses his unworldly nature. He has never experienced such brutality before, and he watches from a clinical distance, like a scientist observing a specimen on a slide. The irony of Törless’s position is that he possesses a deeply ingrained moral sense, a sensitivity to morality that causes him to be shocked, in a very overpowering way, by the moral lapses of his fellow students. And yet his moralist nature, his aversion to brutality, leads him not to turn in the offenders and end the torture, but to sit by idly, watching, attempting to understand how formerly ordinary young boys have been transformed into, on the one hand, inhuman torturers, and on the other, a dehumanized animal sniveling before his tormentors. There is something chilly and distant in Törless, something nasty, and in many ways he is a more frightening monster than either Reiting or Beineberg – his two friends are simply cruel and unthinking, the kind of brutish thugs who hold a mouse above a fire to watch it squirm, but Törless understands exactly what’s going on and yet does nothing to stop it. The allegory here is of course patently obvious, so much so that it probably doesn’t need to be spelled out. Törless, like the German people during the Holocaust, sits silently by while people are tortured, while casual brutality becomes the norm. This is a film about the ugly fascination of violence,


and the moral justifications of people who go along with and ignore violence and cruelty... — ALTHOUGH CRITICS OF THE FILM sometimes misread Törless’s passive and intellectual response to brutality as the message of the film, there is too much dark historical irony in this drama to be denied. Seen from Schlöndorff’s perspective in postwar Germany, this prewar tale of the Austrian upper class becomes a chilling anticipation of a culture stifled by authoritarian regimes and attitudes and secreted in the violent obsessions and weaknesses of individuals supporting those regimes. Like other films with similar boarding-school plots, such as Jean Vigo’s Zéro de Conduite (1933) and Lindsay Anderson’s if.... (1968), Young Törless investigates the social rituals that shape and repress adolescents in a rite-of-passage drama. But unlike those other two films, there is no rebellion against the institution in this German drama but instead a frighteningly stoic withdrawal. Following the critical success of Young Törless in 1966, and with Schlöndorff as a major creative and business force, German cinema would grow over the next two decades through three stages, from short films to feature-length films with wide international appeal and success: the Young German Cinema (describing films like Young Törless that clearly announced the first wave of this latest new wave), New German Cinema (the diverse and expanding body of films made after 1971), and New German Film (referring to those films that attained international acclaim in the 1970s and early 1980s). The same year as Young Törless appeared, one of the signers of the Oberhausen Manifesto and leaders of this new cinema, Alexander Kluge, released Yesterday Girl, a film that, with a more confrontational style than Young Törless, would also argue that there is no escape from Germany’s past and that its twentieth-century history is more about continuities than discontinuities. From Young Törless through Fassbinder’s 1979 The Marriage of Maria Braun and Helma Sanders-Brahms’s 1980 Germany, Pale Mother, this motif would define a diverse group of films and filmmakers who would profoundly influence world cinema, in a way that no national cinema has done since the equally symbolic end of the New German Cinema with the death of Fassbinder in 1982. As a key film in the opening act of this movement, Young Törless would announce a remarkably vibrant future for contemporary German cinema through its unnerving look at a darkened past. — Timothy Corrigan,



FIDELIO: ALICE’S JOURNEY FIDELIO, L’ODYSSEÉ D’ALICE 97 mins | France | 2014 | R16 offensive language, sex scenes, sexual references In French, Romanian, English, Tagalog and Norwegian, with English subtitles Director: Lucie Borleteau Producers: Marine Arrighi De Casanova, Pascal Caucheteux Production co: Why Not Productions, Apsara Films, Arte France Cinéma Screenplay: Lucie Borleteau, Clara Bourreau, Mathilde Boisseleau Photography: Simon Beaufils Editor: Guy Lecorne ​Music: Thomas De Pourquery With: Ariane Labed (Alice), Melvil Poupaud (Gaël), Anders Danielsen Lie (Felix), Pascal Tagnati (Antoine), Jean-Louis Coulloc’h (Barbereau), Nathanael Maini (Fred), Bogdan Zamfir (Vali), Corneliu Dragomierescu (Constantin), Manuel Ramirez (Felizardo), Thomas Scimeca (Steph)

LINKS OF INTEREST Director interview interview-lucie-borleteau/

“Here’s a sexy film of enormous sexiness set in the sexy world of, erm, container ships.”

HERE’S A SEXY FILM of enormous sexiness set in the sexy world of, erm, container ships. Ariane Labed plays Alice, an engineer on a freighter ironically named the Fidelio. She wears blue overalls and is sometimes fetchingly smudged with engine-y oil on her face. Alice has a boyfriend when ashore: a Norwegian graphic novel artist Felix (Anders Danielsen Lie). But onboard she’s having an affair with her captain and old flame Gaël (Melvil Poupaud) and also boinking a Romanian crewmember called Vali (Bogdan Zamfir). When not working or indeed shagging, Alice is reading the thoughtful diary of a engineer who died of a heart attack on board, a death that the captain is oddly covering up, pretending it was a man-overboardtype accident, for reasons never properly explained. The sheer physical beauty of Labed and Poupaud in these surroundings is odd, and the whole thing is contrived and just a little preposterous: it reminded me, not unpleasantly, of the BBC’s eccentric 1980s soap Triangle, about steamy goings-on aboard a North Sea passenger ferry which travelled between Amsterdam, Gothenburg and Felixstowe. — Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian EASILY THE MOST FASCINATING FILM to come along and challenge traditional gender roles in the past year, Fidelio: Alice’s Journey chronicles a sexually liberated female sailor’s voyage of self-discovery aboard an old freighter, where she fights for respect among the randy crew – including the handsome captain, with whom she shares a romantic past – while her faithful partner anxiously awaits her return. Anchored by a courageous lead performance and steered by a fresh-voiced distaff helmer showing impressive command of both atmosphere and subtext, Lucie Borleteau’s emotionally complex, logistically daunting debut should find receptive berth among discriminating fests and specialty venues. Likened by her landlocked lover, Felix (Anders Danielsen Lie), to a mermaid at several points, Alice (Ariane Labed) seems to become a different person when at sea. The Alice he knows is passionate and attentive, almost girlishly smitten with her man. Then duty calls, intruding upon their idyll as Alice is drawn to the ocean, where she must toughen her skin in order to survive for weeks at a time as the lone female assigned to a vast cargo ship called the Fidelio – whose none-too-subtle allusions to faithfulness are not only central to Borleteau’s examination, but also echoed by a diary she finds in her cabin. The journal belongs to the aging vessel’s previous engineer, whom Alice has been called in to replace. Reading her predecessor’s most


intimate (and frequently carnal) confessions, she takes her post as a marine mechanic amid so many sex-starved men, fending off their snide jokes and inappropriate advances from the moment she steps aboard. And yet, being a mature, 30-year-old woman, and French, she reserves the right to engage with her colleagues without that meaning they are suddenly entitled to objectify her. Naturally, this makes for a complex work environment – especially since the Fidelio’s captain, Gael (Melvil Poupaud), is someone she hooked up with years earlier as a cadet. Inviting an air of mystery into this foreign, bluecollar world, where human characters are dwarfed by massive machinery and accidents can have fatal consequences, Borleteau constructs the film’s interpersonal dynamics more from body language than from explicitly spoken dialogue. Besides, both the boat and the ocean supply commotion enough, from the constant white-noise churn of waves below to the low, steady rumble of the engines, faithfully reproduced in the robust sound design, which completes the almost documentary illusion that this elegantly lensed widescreen pic was shot at sea. The film itself was launched at the Locarno Film Festival, which favors projects whose artistic sensibilities tend to flounder in the commercial marketplace. Fidelio happens to be more accessible than most, but could still prove challenging beyond its native France, where it was released to generally positive reviews the day before Christmas. In the absence of eloquent interpersonal interactions (complicated enough by the conflicting languages spoken by the ship’s crew), audiences must pay careful attention to subtle cues: Alice is outgoing and openly flirtatious with her colleagues, but icy at first toward Gael. In short order, however, that awkwardness melts to reveal a vulnerable woman still quite conflicted about the memory of the attraction they once shared – and rightfully wary of how it could threaten the good thing she has back home. Like her male colleagues, she’s susceptible to loneliness when away from port for too long – more than that, for the film unabashedly acknowledges that her yearning is sexual. Watching Fidelio, it’s hard not to remark how seldom contemporary filmmakers allow women to be the proactive agents of desire. As a narrative creation, Alice doesn’t exist merely to excite male characters. We experience the movie through her eyes, juggling the temptations put before her, pining for the partner she left behind and dealing with the consequences of her actions, all running parallel to her unique professional activities. It’s a refreshing depiction set in a truly unique setting. While the demands of shooting aboard a ship were no doubt great, so, too, are its rewards. — Peter Debruge, Variety



L’INHUMAINE 122 mins | France | 1924 | Silent, tinted | DCP | PG adult themes French intertitles with English subtitles Director: Marcel L’Herbier Production co: Cinégraphic Screenplay: Pierre MacOrlan, Georgette Leblanc Photography: Georges Specht With: Georgette Leblanc (Claire Lescot), Jaque Catelain (Einar Norsen), Léonid Walter de Malte (Waldimir Kranine), Fred Kellerman (Frank Mahler), Philippe Hériat (Djorah de Nopur), Marcelle Pradot (the simpleton)

LINKS OF INTEREST On the set design: blog/2016/04/09/linhumaine-modern-artmodern-cinema/ MARCEL L’HERBIER: DOSSIER (PDF) uploads/2014/06/doss-16-sept-2014-lowerres.pdf

“…no other silent film, perhaps, could match its sheer stylistic and imaginative daring.”

WHAT TO SAY ABOUT A FILM that, ninety years on from its release, is still so far ahead of most of what passes for cinema today? L’Inhumaine was made by Marcel L’Herbier in 1924; no other silent film, perhaps, could match its sheer stylistic and imaginative daring. Since the coming of sound, only a few directors have even attempted what L’Herbier pulled off with such flair: Alain Resnais with Last Year in Marienbad (L’Année Dernière á Marienbad, 1961), or maybe Marguerite Duras with India Song (1975), perhaps? Films whose hypnotic, languorous surface are not just a matter of style but also the very substance of the works themselves. Of course, L’Inhumaine must be one of the most absurd Great Movies ever made. The ludicrous plot by L’Herbier and the best-selling author Pierre Mac Orlan concerns a femme fatale and her four suitors. A crass American showman wants her to become the world’s greatest star. A crazed Russian mystic wants her to inspire a new revolution. A sinister Hindu maharajah wants her to take the throne as his queen. An idealistic young scientist (played by L’Herbier’s close friend and protégé Jaque-Catelain) loves her purely and poetically, for herself. None of these relationships is at all convincing, least of all that of the lady and the scientist (which wins out). Georgette Leblanc stars in L’Inhumaine and also financed it. She was not a film actress but an opera diva, famous for creating the lead role in Claude Debussy’s tuneless but atmospheric opera Pelléas et Mélisande in 1902. She was, for two decades, the wife and muse of the Belgian Symbolist poet Maurice Maeterlinck, on whose play that opera was based. She had no inkling of how to act for the camera and her performance is predictably stilted and ‘operatic’. Moreover, she was 55 years old, almost thirty years older than her delicate and androgynous leading man. L’Inhumaine seems designed to give the term ‘vanity project’ a bad name. Granted that L’Inhumaine ought not – by any sane standards – to be a great film, our wonder lies in discovering how and why it is one. It is essential that cinema, for L’Herbier and his team, was not about narrative. Writing of L’Herbier and his more famous and bombastic contemporary Abel Gance, Dudley Andrew points out how “their real concern all along was with style, visual tempo, subjective states, delicate textures and private sensibility.” The aim was less to tell a story than to evoke a subjective and profoundly interior world through objective visual means. Film historians have labelled this style ‘Impressionist’ but the term is lazy and misleading. L’Herbier’s films in no way resemble the work of the Impressionist painters in the way those of a Realist


filmmaker like Jean Renoir so often do. The prevailing mood as L’Inhumaine opens is closer to Surrealism or even Abstraction. The diva’s coterie of admirers gathers for a banquet in her mansion (a set designed by the future directors Claude Autant-Lara and Alberto Cavalcanti). The dining table stands on a pontoon floating in a pool, with a family of geese swimming happily in and out of shot. An army of footmen wear painted masks so they can remain ‘deaf and always smiling’, say the inter-titles. The ideal audience, perhaps, for the film we are about to behold? After dinner, an acrobat lies on his back amid the undulating black-and-white lines of the floor. He juggles, with his legs, a drum shape painted in elongated black-and-white diamond patterns. Seen in an overhead shot, the ever-shifting clash of one geometric form with another is compulsive, almost hypnotic. (Far more so than the question of which man the diva may or may not agree to marry!) Viewers new to L’Inhumaine should be warned that much of it is given over to languid atmospherics of this kind: an Italian VHS copy, in which I first saw the film, runs a full hour shorter than the official restored print. The continuity is a bit awkward, but at no point does it ever feel rushed. The juggling ends. A muscular hunk wanders in and runs a flaming torch sensuously over his bare skin. In extreme close-up, he pushes this distinctly phallic object repeatedly in and out of his mouth in an image that would not go amiss in Jean Genet’s oneiric and erotic Un chant d’amour (1950). Frankly, anyone who is not hooked by this point is unlikely to enjoy L’Inhumaine. The rest is a dreamlike succession of one feverishly extreme décor after another. It culminates in the young scientist’s gleaming abstract laboratory (designed by Fernand Léger) where the dying diva is saved by a miracle of science. As Alan Williams rightly warns: For the coherence of a stable fictional world with suitably “round” characters … L’Inhumaine substitutes a fundamentally incoherent world of pastiche, parody and quotation. Its flat characters provide no stability; they are but puppets in the hands in the hands of an unpredictable, perhaps even mad storyteller. That may or may not be what we want from cinema. The fascination of L’Inhumaine does not lie in anything its characters say or do, but in the worlds they inhabit, the way those worlds are created for us and – most important, perhaps – the way in which we as an audience choose to observe them. For Oscar Wilde, “it is the spectator, and not life, that art really mirrors.” Wilde died a quarter of a century too early to see L’Inhumaine, but his ghost would definitely have approved. — David Melville, Senses of Cinema



BADEN BADEN 104 mins | Belgium/France | 2016 | HD | M sex scenes, offensive language, nudity In English, German and French, with English subtitles Director/Screenplay: Rachel Lang Producers: Valérie Bournonville, Pierre-Louis Cassou, Jeremy Forni, Joseph Rouschop Production co: Tarantula, ChevalDeuxTrois, RTBF Photography: Fiona Braillon Editor: Sophie Vercruysse With: Salomé Richard (Ana), Claude Gensac (grandmother), Lazare Gousseau (Grégoire) Swann Arlaud (Simon), Olivier Chantreau (Boris), Jorijn Vriesendorp (Mira), Noémie Rosset (Meriem), Zabou Breitman (Ana’s mother)

LINKS OF INTEREST Director interview: Trailer: watch?v=wkWBhmaNw5I

“…the film brims with social and cultural immediacy, and with natural and nuanced performances.”

DESCRIBED AS THE MOST DARING SECTION of the Berlinale, Forum aims to straddle art and cinema. Launched in the late ’60s to diversify the festival, Forum still showcases perhaps the most progressive and experimental films of the 400 total that are slated in Berlin’s beast of a festival. There were 44 titles selected for Berlinale’s Forum program this year, and of the 34 world premieres and 9 international premieres, several played at Berlin’s arthouse Arsenal cinema in the festival’s wake. Though this year’s program was focused on the Arab region, Forum is known for its dissidence and commitment to presenting unpredictable and unconventional lineups. This year, the slate also included Baden Baden, a lighthearted FrancoBelgian co-production that recently opened in New York at the Anthology Film Archives. Written and directed by Rachel Lang, the film follows a young woman struggling to make sense of her life when she returns home to the GermanFrench border town of Strasbourg. Other than the existential overtones, the film brims with social and cultural immediacy, and with natural and nuanced performances. As a follow-up to her previous short films (For You I will Fight won the Silver Leopard at Locarno in 2010), Baden Baden is Lang’s first feature, as well as the end of a trilogy. After her world premiere at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival, Lang discussed her debut feature and what she’s planning next. Baden Baden’s premiere theatrical U.S. release at the Anthology Film Archives runs until December 1st. Salomé Richard stars in both your previous shorts, and is also the lead in your first feature. What about her do you find striking? What is so special with Salomé is that she never plays; she is. She is specific but at the same time communicates something universal, so I think all kinds of people can relate to her. She’s not like a lot of French actors, who are aware of being looked at. She’s free to just be and to play, so it’s really easy to work with her. How do you think audiences will most relate to her? Well, I hope people from very different cultures and places around the world can relate to her character and to the story. But there is something specific in the movie that speaks to young people in Europe today who have difficulty finding their place, finding jobs, finding something important to do in life. I don’t know if it’s the same in the States. In Brazil, for example, it’s not – there seems to be places for everyone


to build something for themselves. In Europe now, everything feels so closed. And in France specifically? There is something existential in the meta-physical sense that is the same for everybody, everywhere. I feel that there is a state of thinking for all young people to cross in order to find the meaning of life, their place in the world, their connections with other people, and to try and make change. I hope there isn’t too much cultural French-ness in the film that prevents anyone from relating to these existential questions. I would like to see how the film speaks to people in different countries and in different generations, not just to young people. The story from your two shorts has culminated now with the feature. With a completed trilogy behind you, what would you say you’ve learned most? What’s important for a young or first-time filmmaker is to have your identity, to believe in it and to stick with it. And then of course, it’s important to find the right people to build the team because that’s the most important thing – the communication between people. I’m very lucky to have made the feature with the same people I made the shorts with, including my French producer Chevaldeuxtrois, who believed in me from the beginning. It was very easy to be connected. We were like a family, always sharing good energy. The only big stress was getting Salomé a driver’s license two weeks before she had to drive the Porsche. Your next film is about the French Foreign Legion. What inspired the military interest? I was a soldier in the French Army when I was 18, and I’ve been an officer now for one year. But I’m not active every day. I’m at the base once every month, and the rest of the time, I’m reachable, but off the base. After you were a soldier, you went to film school in Belgium for five years. Now you are simultaneously serving and making films. How do you find the transition between the two mentalities? It’s a good balance for me to be in two different mindsets — military and artistic. The army is a micro society that mixes people from very different social standings, which is fascinating to me. But for me, it’s much easier to make films. Being a solider is easier in terms of day-to-day existence. You just obey. In many ways the military system and a movie set are similar in that everybody has a precise mission to fulfill a goal bigger than the group. But during my officer schooling, I was responsible for 30 people who could die, so it was a huge responsibility. In comparison, a film is no responsibility. If the film is bad, who cares? — Taylor Hess, Filmmaker Magazine




125 mins | Philipines | 1975 | DCP | R16 violence, sex scenes, sexual abuse scenes and cruelty In Tagalog and English, with English subtitles Director: Lino Brocka Producers: Miguel De Leon, Severino Manotook Production co: Cinema Artists Screenplay: Clodualdo Del Mundo. Based on the novel by Edgardo Reyes Photography: Miguel De Leon Editors: Edgardo Jarlego, Ike Jarlego ​Music: Max Jocson With: Bembel Roco (Julio Madiaga), Hilda Koronel (Ligaya Paraiso), Lou Salbador Jr (Atong), Tommy Abuel (Pol), Jojo Abella (Bobby), Juling Badabaldo (Misis Cruz)

LINKS OF INTEREST Three films by Lino Brocka:

“It’s a story of struggle, survival, endurance and defeat that Brocka… filmed down and dirty in Manila when the Philippines was still in the grip of the dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos.”

WHEN LINO BROCKA’S Maynila: Sa mga Kuko ng Liwanag screens at the Museum of Modern Art this week, it will play under the English title Manila in the Claws of Light. Since the film was released in its native Philippines 39 years ago, however, it’s been translated into English as Manila: In the Claws of Darkness and Manila in the Claws of Neon. This uncertainty of translation reflects the uncertainty of the film’s characters, for whom Manila is a maze of dark corners and bright neon signs; throughout, there’s no way of telling whether life is more dangerous in the light or the dark. A friend of society’s outsiders and misfits, Brocka found only stupidity, not meaning, in the subjugation of the slum-dwellers, prostitutes, callboys, and undocumented workers who make up the underclass of the Philippines’s largest city. For Brocka and his characters, Manila is a libertarian dystopia, where poverty breeds its own predators and victims as the city’s poor grasp for the little wealth that hasn’t yet been distributed. Every cop is on the dole and every public official is for sale. When Julio (Bembol Roco), a young man from the country, arrives in Manila to search for a lover, Ligaya, who has likely been kidnapped and sold into sex slavery, he’s robbed of what little cash he has. Forced to work so he can afford the bare necessities of life, Julio finds a job on an unsafe construction site where he makes two-and-a-half pesos a day, but four pesos according to the books. It’s “the foreman’s scam”, Julio calls it, in which the workers allow their employer to pocket a chunk of their pay for fear of losing their only job. Soon, Julio finds himself working as a male prostitute, which pays better than construction even if it requires a different kind of sacrifice. Brocka’s Manila is ambivalent to Julio’s pain, and in its indifference, the city stamps out every glimmer of hope in his life. There’s a deep undercurrent of anger and frustration to Julio’s journey. In the first scene of the film, a conversation between construction workers is followed by a fatal accident when a rope holding a bucket of water is accidentally released and the bucket falls from the height of a few stories. At this moment, the smooth, neorealistinfluenced camerawork is traded for a quickly edited shot/reverse-shot montage between the bucket and the face of the man standing below it. The bucket hits him and he dies – stupid, meaningless, and avoidable. This harsh, stylized moment of violence, one of several, contrasts with the more subdued tone of the rest of the film. It’s a signal to the audience that no matter how hard


the characters struggle, this world is indifferent to their pain. Even as Julio scours the city, building relationships with people he meets and getting closer to his goal of finding Ligaya, these short fits of violence and emotion disrupt the complacency of the characters to their situation, suggesting that there’s tragedy to be found in their acceptance of such a fate. Manila can even be seen as a precursor to Jia Zhang-ke’s recent A Touch of Sin, with its extended scenes of working-class struggle punctuated by moments of harrowing, highly stylized violence. Like Jia, Brocka suggests that violent reactions should be expected from a society that preys on its vulnerable. By the time Julio reaches his final confrontation with Ligaya’s pimp, an act of stupid, violent catharsis feels like his only possible course of action. When it first screened at Cannes in 1978, the word around the festival had it that Manila was a “dirty” movie, perhaps because it’s characters were criminals, homosexuals, and the homeless, but also, perhaps, because it had the gall to treat poverty as an ignoble tragedy for which violence is a rational response. — Alan Jones, Slant Magazine LINO BROCKA’S Manila in the Claws of Light begins with a whisper and ends with a howl. In between, there are grace notes, escalating horrors and the peripatetic journey of a country mouse, Julio (Rafael Roco Jr., later known as Bembol Roco), in the big city. It’s a story of struggle, survival, endurance and defeat that Brocka, perhaps the most celebrated of Filipino directors, filmed down and dirty in Manila when the Philippines was still in the grip of the dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos. Brocka, a political activist as well as a prolific filmmaker, died in a car accident in 1991 at 52, and is ready for rediscovery… Classical in its emotional texture and unmistakably modern on both a formal and political level, the film opens with a credit sequence and a series of short takes of ordinary men and women milling around the city’s humbler corners just as the day is beginning. There’s a rough, grab-and-go immediacy to the black-and-white images, which seem at once random and carefully chosen: A few men sweep the streets, another opens a storefront gate and yet another expels an impressively long, rubbery stream of spittle, an act that feels decidedly editorial and almost like punctuation. Shortly after, the black and white switches to color, inaugurating the fictional part of the film. From that moment, everything is in color, yet the strong sense of life – and the sense that you’re watching real people in real situations – remains. — Manohla Dargis, NY Times

Cinephile 2018 Issue 2  
Cinephile 2018 Issue 2