Thursday 28 May 2015

Notebook's Fantasy Double Feature of 2010

NEW: Certified Copy [Copie conforme] (Abbas Kiarostami, Italy/France)
Hallelujah I’m a Bum (Lewis Milestone, 1933)

WHY: It’s true that my guilty conscious had some effect on picking Copie conforme, though it was an outstanding film itself, needless of any guilty conscious to be the criteria of a choice. I had some rough, and probably unfair, judgments on Kiarostami’s films, after The Wind Will Carry Us, and in the shadow of post-June-2009 happenings in Iran these judgments became harsher. But now, I can read the filmmaker’s thoughts more clearly, because I know if he had made any film the way that people of his country wanted he would now have his own share of 26 years. Of course,  the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance has considered Copie unscreenable in Iran. But that doesn’t affect Kiarostami’s reputation, in or out of his homeland. Inside, the usual bunch of opponents call him a coward and a fake, and on the other side, many more find him one of the few who can give them back a part of the lost honor of a nation. He has his followers and protégés; not so strangely, none of them working in Iran anymore, and of course some of them, like Jafar Panahi, do not and will not work at all. But Kiarostami continues his cinematic journey, this time in Italy, and makes organic films like they are part of a change of the weather or any other natural occurrence. He is coming from a country full of frustration, a country facing its biggest troubles ever, but he is still focused on details (a kid’s notebook, a hobo’s marriage proposition after a demolishing earthquake, drivers driving Tehran street without showing any real life on those streets), details that are not related clearly and directly to the problems. Does he have any message for his own people?  The answer is hardly a yes, but maybe his continuity is the message. Wouldn’t he be forgotten, like many filmmakers with clear telegram-like messages before and after the 1979 revolution, if he had stopped being Kiarostami?
To fill the gap, to have another perspective rather than pleasant landscape of Tuscany, to remember people are losing jobs, and to not forget that not very far from now, after recent political/economical changes in Kiarostami’s homeland, a new wave of poverty will sweep up the nation, let’s watch Lewis Milestone’s masterpiece of the American left, Hallelujah I'm a Bum, about central park hobos and their hopes and dreams during the big depression; a Milestone that shows us (and Kiarostami) how can fantasy explain bitter reality. Juliette Binoche is much like Al Jolson. In the end, they both are left alone with undying hopes in hand, and tears in their eyes. Binoche and Jolson are the integral of people in Iran, today.

Wednesday 27 May 2015

Notebook's Fantasy Double Feature of 2012

NEW: Museum Hours (Jem Cohen, USA/Austria)
OLD: Chartres (Jean Grémillon, 1923) + Bonjour Tristesse (Otto Preminger, 1958)

WHY: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to our special double bill. Tonight, first of all, in Museum Hours, you will see Jem Cohen’s camera getting into paintings and exploring the mysteries and humors of space in this cinematic encounter of recently deceased Chris Marker and Brueghel. During our 10 minute interval, if nature is not calling you, please, stay seated and watch a short film, by the greatest revived director of the year, Jean Grémillon. In Chartres, Grémillon displays more possibilities of spatial representation on film and that “universal anguish transmitted by figurative representation.” He also shows some angels crowning the columns of the Chartres cathedral. In the second half of the program, screening newly restored Bonjour Tristesse, one of those angels, Jean Seberg, will descend from column to embody the story in which each scene is treated like a dense architecture/painting composition. While Cohen sees the essential pleasure in the careful observation of ordinary life, put next to the solidness of art and architecture, Preminger’s world is built on the lives of characters whose being is defined by arts, as if they are elements of the space or brush strokes in motion. I hope you enjoy tonight’s show and my final recommendation is listening to Bill Evans’ You Must Believe in Spring album, on your way back home, so your elation of being in the presence of great art be completed. Bonne projection!

Monday 18 May 2015

A Simple Event: the Birth of Iranian New Wave Cinema

A Simple Event
A Simple Event: the Birth of Iranian New Wave Cinema
Il Cinema Ritrovato, Bologna, Italy
June 27-July 4, 2015
Curated by Ehsan Khoshbakht, in collaboration with the Iranian National Film Archive

At the end of the Iranian Revolution of 1979 the country found itself, somewhat unexpectedly, marginalized. The upheaval also forced into obscurity and inaccessibility many Iranian films from the 1960s and 1970s, whose contemporary politics were condemned by the revolution.

Now, thanks to certain shifts in the cultural climate, the doors of The National Film Archive of Iran are open. We have grabbed this opportunity to review four key films made between 1965 and 1973 – a period later dubbed the Iranian New Wave. It is a happy coincidence that the oldest film of the bunch, Night of the Hunchback, was made by one of the founders of the National Film Archive, Farrokh Ghaffari.
Representing some of the key filmmakers of the New Wave – Kamran Shirdel (The Night It Rained), Darius Mehrjui (The Cow) and Sohrab Shahid Saless (A Simple Event) – this selection not only reveals some of the early signposts of an Iranian cinematic revolution, it also hints at those social and political changes that were to reshape the country a decade later.

  • Shab-e Ghuzi (Night of the Hunchback), Farrokh Ghaffari, 1965. [New print]
  • Oon shab ke baroon oomad ya hemase-ye roosta zade-ye gorgani (The Night It Rained or the Epic of the Gorgan Village Boy), Kamran Shirdel, 1967. [2K restoration]
  • Gaav (The Cow), Dariush Mehrjui, 1969. [2K restoration]
  • Yek ettefagh-e sadeh (A Simple Event), Sohrab Shahid Saless, 1973. [New print]

Monday 4 May 2015

Notebook's Fantasy Double Feature of 2013

NEW: My Name Is Negahdar Jamali and I Make Westerns (Kamran Heidari, Iran)
OLD: Ride Lonesome (Budd Boetticher, 1959)

WHY: In recent years, some of the best films coming out of the most unlikely parts of Iran (this one from Shiraz, the city of great grapes and poets) have rethought cinematic genres in different ways, and, occasionally, have managed to bring to the centre the marginalized, unsung heroes of Cinephilia in the country. It is in such context that My Name Is Negahdar Jamali and I Make Westerns shines; it hilariously recreates many familiar western settings while focusing on the life of a simple, poor worker/farmer who loves making westerns. Heidari’s film shows Negahdar trying to make a new western with local friends and reveals how in the process he loses his house and family and eventually, like a traditional cowboy, is left on his own to vanish into a horizon.  The film, in its dry, hopeless feeling and its landscape of decadence, is much closer to Budd Boetticher than John Ford (whose legendary introductory line has inspired the title of this film). Negahdar is more or less a synthesis of both Boetticher and Randolph Scott. His minimalism and no-budget, semi- experimental films, like a crossover between the poorest of B westerns and Jack Smith, stands out as ultra primitive drafts of Boetticher’s westerns, and, on the other hand, his individualism puts him is the same category as Randolph Scott’s laconic avengers. In Negahdar’s guileless, unsophisticated westerns (that we see within this film), as much as this bittersweet portrait of the man at work, a burning passion for cinema, unprecedented to anything else I’ve seen this year, keeps stunning me.

Sunday 3 May 2015

Notebook's Fantasy Double Feature of 2014

NEW: The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese, USA)
OLD: Twentieth Century (Howard Hawks, 1934)

Aside from featuring two of the most obsessive characters in film history whose quest for keeping the show going on gives a new dimension to American Madness, they’re both narrated in the way bodies move in closed spaces, where work space continuously metamorphoses into stage and performance space. One can effortlessly be charmed in their sheer lunacy, their staccato choreography of bodies, and in the cocaine/booze eyes and stiff jaws of their leading stars. If it takes 4 ½ hours to endure this unapologetic double bill, probably another 4 ½ days is needed to digest it, recuperate from its orgy of greed, and come to realize that it was some horrible thing to see.