Monday, October 29, 2007

Cinema paradiso / inferno

The Cine Europa film festival is currently winding down at the Shangri-la Plaza Cineplex. This year's edition, its 10th, is probably the biggest, with 22 films from 17 countries being shown (for free as usual). It is a good mix of classics from some of the best directors ever, as well as quirky, little-known movies that the festival is known to showcase.

Here are the films I've seen so far:

Fanny and Alexander - Truly a classic from the late Swedish master director Ingmar Bergman. This was officially Bergman's last film intended for theatrical screening (Saraband, from 2003, the sort-of sequel to Scenes From a Marriage, was a TV mini-series shortened for the cinema, just like Marriage). Bergman was known for movies that dealt with existentialism, religion, art, and family, in a unique and distinctive metaphorical and almost impenetrable style that could only be called Bergmanesque. The last line from Alexander, a quote from a play, perfectly sums up the movie, and indeed, as well as Bergman's entire career and body of work:"everything can happen...everything is possible and likely...time and space do not exist...on an insignificant basis of reality the imagination spins and weaves new patterns." Beautiful beautiful beautiful.

The Leopard - Luchino Visconti's sumptuous three-hour opus depicts the end of an era for a Sicilian prince as war and a new generation take over. The film, which I admit is a bit slow for today's audiences, was the winner of the 1963 Palme d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Fact: This movie was one of the main influences to Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather. That trilogy's sepia-toned chiaroscuro look came straight from The Leopard. Nino Rota also scored all films.

La Mome (La Vie En Rose) - an excellent biopic of legendary French chanteuse Edith Piaf. Marion Cotillard deserves attention come Oscar season for portraying Piaf with such intensity and conviction.

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg - the 1964 movie musical (tunes and score by Michel Legrand) hailed as the most romantic film that came out of France in the 60s and which starred a young Catherine Deneuve. It doesn't work that well today but romantics will find plenty to swoon about.

Closely Watched Trains - the naughty but tragic Oscar winner for Best Foreign Language film for 1966 from the Czech Republic when it was still behind the Iron Curtain

Jalla! Jalla!
- an engaging Swedish romantic comedy ripe for a frat pack remake

Kolya - another Oscar winner (1997). It probably won because it has a kid in it trying to teach the world a valuable lesson (see Life Is Beautiful)

Carol's Journey - an ok film from Spain wherein a girl who grew up in New York goes to her mother's hometown and learns valuable lessons...

Shooting Dogs - two words: Hotel Rwanda.

Summer With Ghosts - done in English, this Austrian movie reeks of the Disney Channel

Dead Man's Hand - a Belgian comedy about shopping and maxing out

I have been attending these film festivals since I was in college and though I've had numerous memorable experiences watching classic films from all over the world, there are some things in the film fest experience that I can certainly live without. Presenting...

The five most annoying things that people do in film festivals:

1. There are these people who laugh or giggle at the slightest hint of or vain attempt at humor, even if it's not even remotely funny. I'm not sure if they're just mababaw or if they just want other people to know that they "get" the movie. Reminds me of some Filipinos when they are with foreigners: they do this thing that is one part feeling elated and honored that they are in their company (therefore sosyal at kailangang magpasikat) and another being too accommodating that they would laugh at all the jokes to show that they are at the "same level" as the foreigners (vis-a-vis the other Filipinos around who in their mind are not on the "same level" as them just because they don't have foreigners as acquaintances).

2. Laughing at the wrong parts. I remember this particularly dreadful screening of Mike Leigh's Secrets and Lies many years ago. Most of the audience were laughing all throughout the movie at scenes that were supposed to be touching and sad. I wanted to scream.

3. Sometimes they would even have a running commentary on the movie, and would react to anything quirky (for European films, that's every other scene). The worst is the stupid girlfriend who would always ask what's going on in the movie, with the windbag boyfriend giving an explanation totally alien from what everybody is seeing.

4. Then there are these pretentious freaks who probably feel that they are insiders at the festival that while queuing and without prompting would tell you background info on the festival (which you already read from the press releases) and will even tell you the synopsis and the meaning of each film. They would even refer to the movies using their original titles even if the movies are more popularly known by their English titles. Example: "Did you already watch Festen? I watched Festen twice already and it was very good." (Festen is Lars Von Trier's movie more popularly known and publicized as Celebration).

5. Once inside the theater, there are these creeps who would repeat lines from the movie kuntodo foreign accent. Aaaargh!

Just one more thing: Can Shangri-la do something about its present system of giving out tickets to the free screenings one or two hours prior to each screening? The problem is when a movie finishes and you want to watch the next movie, when you reach the ticket booth there are zero tickets left. So what many wise festival goers do is even before the movie ends, they would already make for the exit to be able to score tickets, and then go back to their seats if the movie is still on. This not only disturbs the movie going experience, but many viewers have missed the ending of the film they're watching because they had to be outside to score a seat. And why are small children being allowed to enter even in movies like Closely Watched Trains (sex) and Shooting Dogs (murders and decapitations).

Happy watching!

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