The Philm Club cordially invites you to this week’s film screening – a fantastic (and somewhat gruesome) portrayal of privation:
Little Otik (2000)
Directed by Jan Svankmajer
in Czech, with English subtitles
Feb 24 Friday, at 18.00
Zrinyi 14, Room 412
Bozena and Karel are a married couple who cannot have a child. One day Karel gives a tree root the form of a child and presents this to his wife, with the hope of cheering her up. Bozena does get happy, indeed — in fact, to her husband’s surprise, takes the root to be their real baby, stubbornly standing against the obvious invalidating facts.
Time proves her right, however, when the root is animated after 9 months. The couple have already deceived the neighbours, making them think that they’d have a baby. But how are they going to carry this on now, just as the kid starts to feed on everything and grow rapidly?
British filmmakers Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger once again deliberately courted controversy and censorship with their 1947 adaptation of Rumer Godden’s novel. Deborah Kerr and Kathleen Byron play the head nuns at an Anglican hospital/school high in the Himalayas. The nuns’ well-ordered existence is disturbed by the presence of a handsome British government agent (David Farrar), whose attractiveness gives certain sisters the wrong ideas. Meanwhile, an Indian girl (Jean Simmons) is lured down the road to perdition by a sensuous general (Sabu). While Kerr would seem most susceptible to fall from grace –we are given hints of her earlier love life in a long flashback–she proves to have more stamina than Byron, who delivers one of moviedom’s classic interpretations of all-stops-out, sex-starved insanity. The aforementioned flashback was removed from the US release version of Black Narcissus so as not to offend the Catholic Legion of Decency. While the dramatic content of the film hasn’t stood the test of time all that well, the individual performances, production values, and especially the Oscar-winning Technicolor photography of Jack Cardiff are still as impressive as ever.
Taken from Allmovie.Com .
The third film in the series Children’s Morality, Sensibility and Sentiments will be an animation by Henry Selick: Coraline (2009). Well-known for directing the Tim Burton film The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), Selick welcomes the audience again with an astonishing 3D stop-motion animation based on the graphic novel written by Neil Gaiman and illustrated by Dave McKean.
We’ll watch this film on February 3rd, friday (18:OO). Zrinyi 14, Room 412, as usual.
“The movie tells the story of a blue-haired young girl by the name of Coraline Jones (voice of Dakota Fanning), who has moved to an out-of-the-way, 150-year old mansion in Oregon. Unlike the usual animated heroine, she’s not sugar and spice and everything nice; Coraline has a nasty side that peeks through at times (most notably in her treatment of others). Her mother (Teri Hatcher) and father (John Hodgman) are writers with little time for their daughter, so Coraline is left on her own to explore the house and its grounds. […] One day, Coraline discovers a hidden door that appears to lead nowhere; the opening has been bricked up. That night, however, a portal opens behind the door that transports Coraline to a strange world of unsuspected wonders, where her ‘Other Mother’ and ‘Other Father’ are interested in only pleasing her and things are warm, beautiful, and colorful. But the time-honored cliché applies: If it looks too good to be true, it probably is.” (James Berardinelli, ReelViews.net)
“Like [Tim Burton, Guillermo del Toro, David Lynch] Mr. Selick is interested in childhood not as a condition of sentimentalized, passive innocence but rather as an active, seething state of receptivity in which consciousness itself is a site of wondrous, at times unbearable drama.” (A. O. Scott, NY Times)
Not that there’ll be only one series this term!
But we’ll watch 4-5 films in sequence, films which focus on children’s morality, perspective and feelings. We start (on Jan 20, friday, at 18h) )with a simple, almost minimalistic film from Mongolia, directed by Byambasuren Davaa: The Cave of the Yellow Dog (2005).
“A Mongolian nomad family find themselves in disagreement when the oldest daughter, Nansal, finds a dog and brings it home. Believing that it is responsible for attacking his sheep, her father refuses to allow her to keep it. When it’s time for the family to move on, Nansal must decide whether to defy her father and take her new friend with them.
Oscar-nominated director Byambasuren Davaa’s follow up to the hugely successful The Story of the Weeping Camel is a thought-provoking mix of documentary and drama that tells the story of the age-old bond between man and dog, a bond which experiences a new twist through the eternal cycle of reincarnation in Mongolia.” (*)
And then, on January 27 Friday (at 17:50), we’ll have a film from Japan: Nobody Knows, by Hirokazu Kore-eda. (2004)
“Keiko is a single mother who moves with her 12-year-old son, Akira, into a small flat in a large city; however, what the building management doesn’t know is that Keiko also has three other children, all fathered by different men. One day, Akira finds a note from his mother, saying that she’ll be away for a while and that he’s in charge while she’s gone; the message is accompanied by an envelope full of money. Akira takes this news in stride, since it isn’t the first time this has happened; he sees to it that the bills are paid, Kyoko takes care of the housework, and the youngest kids look after one another. But days stretch into weeks and it becomes clear that Kieko may not be coming back for a while. At first, the children try to keep up appearances as if their mother were still around, but as time goes on and money gets low, things become increasingly chaotic, and Keiko starts running out of ways to dodge the landlord and keep their problem a secret.” (Rottentomatoes.Com)
“Shooting chronologically over the course of 12 months, Kore-eda crafts this real-life story into a moving docu-drama about the loss of childhood innocence. With just one principal location – a tiny apartment – and four non-professional child actors sharing the burden of the film’s focus, it’s a dazzling technical achievement: instead of producing a conventional script for the children, Kore-eda simply explained their lines to them on-set each morning and let them improvise.” (BBC.co.uk)
After all these grim films on voyeurism and surveillance, let us finish this very series with a light-weight Hollywood comedy: Little Black Book (2004). Acknowledging the numerous negative reviews of the film, we shall not do injustice to the natural flow of its story and the original approach to spying on/intervening people’s personal matters.
Stacy clumsily pursues a life without much self-involvement. She starts a new job in the TV, becoming the assistant of an associate producer (Barb) of a wicked talk show, where any controversial or personal matter can be abused for the sake of reckless spectacle. One day she gets curious about her boyfriend’s past with other women. Barb tempts Stacy to take advantage of the available resources, namely the boyfriend’s palm handheld and the status of working for the TV itself. So Stacy begins to find the ex-girlfriends and pretends that she’s interviewing them for the show.
December 16, Friday, at 18:00, Zrinyi 14/Room 412
And, as I said before, we’re giving a break after this, meeting again on Jan 20.
What we’re having today (at 18h, Zrinyi 14, Room 412) is one of these films that first comes to mind when you utter the word “voyeur”: Blow-Up (1966), by Antonioni.
The first English language film by the Italian director is loosely based on a short story by Julio Cortazar. (*) The unnamed protagonist of the film is a professional photographer, apparently making a living in the fashion world. He also relishes taking spontaneous pictures of people. In one of these occasions, he captures a romantic couple by spying on them from a distance. He gets caught by the woman, who insists on his giving the negatives. Upon this he first thinks that an illegitimate affair is the issue, yet a very detailed observation of the photos suggests him that something more dreadful is involved.
[Blow-Up] is an influential, stylish study of paranoid intrigue and disorientation. It is also a time capsule of mod London, a mindscape of the era’s fashions, free love parties, music (Herbie Hancock wrote the score and The Yardbirds riff at a club) and hip langour.
— from the backcover of the DVD relased by Warner Bros.
(*) The story can be found in this edition. After reading it you may want to take a look at this analysis of the story.
Today we’re watching a Russian classic, which is
CHELOVEK’S KINO-APPARATOM (1929)
The Man With a Movie Camera
by Dziga Vertov
Silent film, with added music by The Cinematic Orchestra
Chelovek’s Kino-Apparatom starts with this warning:
“ATTENTION VIEWERS! This film is an experiment in cinematic communication of real events without the help of intertitles, the help of a story or the help of theatre. This experimental work aims at creating a truly international language of cinema based on its absolute separation from the language of theatre and literature.”
“Cinema-Eyes” were a group of Soviet filmmakers in the 1920’s, who held that the camera was superior to the human eye with regards to (re)producing the dynamic visual motley — that is, the world before us. Dziga Vertov was the central figure of Cinema-Eyes in terms of both theory and practice, and in this highly-acclaimed exemplar of the group’s manifesto we are presented the ordinary yet chaotic life in the Soviet Russia back in those days: or, the amazement in virtue of recording and editing, the fascination with being able to give an order to the jumble of imageries.
*The next film (Dec 9) in the series is going to be Blow-Up by Michelangelo Antonioni. One more will be screened on December 16, then the Club will give a break for a month.