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Monday, August 18, 2008

Chacun son cinéma (To Each His Own Cinema)

Chacun son cinéma

I was originally planning to see SKY CRAWLERS or anything offered at the Shinjuku cinemas after meeting up with Maiko the producer regarding the status of our short film, YUKI (she's going to Kyoto end of this month for a 2-month internship at Toei, so had to see what to do next). But then she mentioned about her watching 'Chacun son cinéma' sometime ago at Shibuya. 'Chacun son cinéma' is an omnibus film commissioned last year to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the Cannes Film Festival.

I've heard of this, of course, but have only seen Wong Kar Wai's segment online. I immediately decided that it's better to catch this as soon as possible, so Maiko brought me to the only cinema in Tokyo where this film is showing.

There were supposed to be 34 short films by 36 directors (there were two pairs of siblings: Coen brothers and Dardenne brothers). But the segment by the Coens wasn't included in the one I saw.

Like my review of Paris Je'Taime, another omnibus film, I will go through each segment one by one instead of reviewing the whole thing in general, cos' it's hard.

One very challenging thing about this was that the subtitles were completely in Japanese, and I had to (TRY to) read the subtitles of a language I had barely learnt just to understand some of the segments. I can say that I wasn't entirely successful.

Due to the amount of segments in the omnibus film, I have also forgotten a few. So if anyone had seen it as well, please jog my memory.

A number of these segments had been uploaded online, but I don't know how long will they stay there. Most of them are pretty low in quality, so I think they definitely do not match the experience of watching the segments on the big screen like I did.

Oh, there will be spoilers.

Raymond Depardon – Cinéma d'été (Open-Air Cinema)

French filmmaker Raymond Depardon illustrates the communal experience of watching a film at an open-air cinema. A theme that will be revisited by numerous other filmmakers.

Takeshi Kitano – One Fine Day

The only entry by a Japanese filmmaker. It's understandable that there were some gasps of joy and surprises when the other audiences saw Beat Takeshi playing the projectionist. I think it's pretty funny. Self-referential too, since the films the guy was watching are old films directed by Beat Takeshi. Opening and ending shots are beautiful. Nothing more.

Theo Angelopoulos – Trois minutes (Three Minutes)

Done in a single take. A tribute to Marcello Mastroianni starring Jeanne Moreau. Moreau gave an intense monologue, but unfortunately, I didn't understand what was going on. Couldn't keep up with the Japanese subtitles.

Andréï Kontchalovsky - In the Dark

Quite comical. Two contrasting examples of people finding passion in a cinema. One middle-aged woman is watching Fellini's 8 1/2, mesmerized, while a young couple make noisy lovemaking sounds at the back row, totally ignoring whatever was onscreen. Perhaps an allegory of modern people's relationship with films and cinemas.

Nanni Moretti – Diario di uno spettatore (Diary of a Moviegoer)

Kinda like a video diary. Director himself reminisces about certain film experiences in cinemas, some he shares with his kids. Ends with him humming Rocky theme (he made reference to Matrix 2, the latest Rocky Balboa etc). Dialogue heavy, so I couldn't follow either.

Hou Hsiao-hsien - The Electric Princess House

Very beautiful to look at, with Hou showing us a glimpse of the old movie-watching experience in a cinema. The feeling when buying the tickets and making your way into those old cinemas is definitely much more majestic and exciting than what you get at the multiplexes now. Reminds me a little of my childhood when there were still these old-school cinemas around, before they were all demolished and replaced by multiplexes. It wasn't just about watching a movie.

Ending shot of Mouchette playing at dilapidated theater is strangely haunting. Nice tribute to Bresson, who represented the sort of filmmaking Hou does now.

Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne – Dans l'obscurité (Darkness)

I like this one. A guy crawls through the seats of a dark cinema, arrives near a young woman's seat, tries to steal her stuff. But finds a brief connection with her as she is weeping at what is playing the screen (apparently the ending of Bresson's 'Au hasard, Balthazar'). Cute.

Alejandro González Iñárritu - Anna

Also done in a single take. It's a little over-the-top dramatic, but I think the actual filmmaking itself is really beautiful. Good soulful acting from Luisa Williams and of course, great cinematography from Emmanuel Lubezki. There are other 'blind people at the movies' segments after this one.

Zhang Yimou – En regardant le film (Movie Night)

I've seen many films from China recently about those makeshift theaters. They normally play with nostalgia and the beautiful magic of movies, and will often throw in wide-eyed innocent kids into it (see: ELECTRIC SHADOWS, or NOSTALGIA, a short film I saw at the SHORT SHORTS FESTIVAL in June).

Zhang Yimou's deft and snappy execution made this funny and effective, avoiding the pitfall of becoming too overly sentimental (see: Cheng Kaige's segment).

Amos Gitai – Le Dibbouk de Haifa (The Dybbuk of Haifa)

I'll quote The Academic Hack's review for this because he sums up what I thought:

An incoherent mishmash of shoddy superimpositions, this short blends 1936 Warsaw with 2006 Haifa, two movie houses under attack. The film concludes with the bombing of the Haifa cinema, Gitai's mannered reenactment of an actual terrorist attack. He moves his camera ever so gently to gawk at the bloody cheek of a young blonde girl. (Paging Mr. Daney.) Arguing against Gitai's political opportunism is pointless; his filmmaking doesn't merit serious discussion.

Jane Campion – The Lady Bug

Jane's Campion's obvious allegory of female directors' limited role in the film industry, and also her being the only female contributor to the omnibus. A male janitor tries to get rid of a carefree ladybug (it's a woman dressed up as a bug) who lives in one of the theater speakers. Some might embrace it gleefully for what it represents, or for its message, but there's really not much here.

Atom Egoyan – Artaud Double Bill

Very atmospheric and cool. Egoyan brings in new technology into his film and shows how they shift and affect a moviegoer's attention when a movie's playing. One is watching The Passion of Joan of Arc (or The Passion of Joan of Arc playing as a film within a film in Godard's My Life To Live), the other watching Egoyan's own The Adjuster. They exchange text message, and later screen captures of the films they are watching. Reinforces Egoyan's idea that people can still enjoy films with new technology, albeit in a different way.

Aki Kaurismäki – La Fonderie (The Foundry)

I like the quirky and giggle-inducing camera set-ups. Factory workers in jumpsuits trot off from their work to watch to watch the classic Lumière short of workers leaving the factory. Here's the short (Lumiere's, not Kaurismaki's):

Olivier Assayas – Recrudescence (Upsurge)

Recognized immediately that the film is from Assayas when main actor is the same one in his segment at PARIS JE'TAIME. Not much to say. Also about thievery in a cinema like Dardennes segment, but doesn't make that much sense.

Youssef Chahine – 47 ans après (47 Years Later)

I don't want to speak ill of the recently deceased. But this one is quite self-serving. Imagine how bad it would be if my next short film is autobiographical and begins with my disappointment at my uni's film festival two years ago when my student film 'Girl Disconnected' was greeted by mixed reactions and zero wins from the two nominations it received. Then there's also a following text message from a girl I liked telling me not to make any long-distance calls to her anymore cos she's seeing someone else, and then I flashforward to two years later, where I put in a fictional scene of myself receiving my award for 'Chicken Rice Mystery' and then deliver one hell of an acceptance speech like characters in Ron Howard films do, prompting a slow 'hero' clap, then a standing ovation.

... okay, my idea is even worse than Chahine's.

Tsai Ming Liang - It's A Dream

I like this. I've only started watching Tsai Ming Liang films last month (I went through WHAT TIME IS IT OVER THERE?, GOODBYE DRAGON INN and WAYWARD CLOUD) so memories of his films are still fresh. And this one is like GOODBYE DRAGON INN, but infinitely more effective and heartfelt. Love the last shot.

Lars von Trier – Occupations

This is really funny. But I felt strange when I was the only one among the prim and proper Japanese audience in the cinema who giggled throughout the violence. Oops.

Raoul Ruiz – Le Don (The Gift)

Strange. I can't seem to remember this at all.

Claude Lelouch – Cinéma de boulevard (The Cinema Around the Corner)

Autobiographical as well, but focuses more on his parents' love story than his own achievements (I think... it's voiceover heavy, so I couldn't keep up with the subtitles either). I think it has something to do with how his achievements and passion for film were inspired by his parents. Started cutely with his dad singing along with Fred Astaire and serenading his mom with the song 'Cheek To Cheek' while they're watching Top Hat. (it's the film Tom Hanks brought Michael Clarke Duncan to watch in The Green Mile before the latter got zapped)

I was recently addicted to Francis Lai's A WOMAN AND A MAN (still Lelouch's most famous film) theme music.

Gus Van Sant – First Kiss

Projectionist gets into film Last Action Hero-style and kisses the woman in it. Allegory of film lovers like me who will only get the girl in movie world conjured by my fantasies.

David Cronenberg – At the Suicide of the Last Jew in the World in the Last Cinema in the World

Watch it here

David Cronenberg plays the last Jew in the world who wants to commit suicide in a toilet at the last cinema in the world. Done in a single take as well. Condemnation of reality TV and lamenting cinema's ever diminishing role in everyday life?

Roman Polanski – Cinéma érotique

A gag that doesn't really say much. A couple went to see one of those softcore classic Emmanuele films. A guy sitting a few rows behind them makes loud moaning and groaning sounds. Last year during the release of Chacun son cinema, Polanski condemned the reporters for not asking better questions and stormed out as well, he also got into a heated argument with Egoyan and Cronenberg about the Internet causing the death of the cinema. Months later Polanski would have a cameo role in the cinematic masterpiece, RUSH HOUR 3, which I'm sure was his attempt to preserve cinema.

Michael Cimino – No Translation Needed

Er, sorry, I can't remember this one?

Abbas Kiarostami – Where Is My Romeo?

Shots of beautiful women crying while watching the climatic scene in Romeo and Juliet.

Wong Kar Wai – I Travelled 9000 km To Give It To You

Very atmospheric and visually awesome. Sensual and minimalistic in WKW's patented way. Purists of conventional narrative cinema will be outraged.

David Lynch – Absurda

Er. Haha?

Bille August – The Last Dating Show

A fluffy piece that's supposed to speak about the Islamic controversies in Denmark. In the end everyone decide they love one another and are united by films.

Elia Suleiman – Irtebak (Awkward)

Palestinian-Israeli film director/ actor whose style is compared to Buster Keaton and Jacques Tati. There are numerous funny moments here. But I agree with The Academic Hack's review that 3 minutes is too short for his style to work at its best.

Manoel de Oliveira – Rencontre unique (Sole Meeting)

Dialogue-heavy, I couldn't keep up with the subs again. So I didn't understand this, sorry.

Walter Salles – À 8 944 km de Cannes (5,557 Miles From Cannes)

I had no idea what they were singing at first, but thought their performance was awesome. But after seeing the subtitles in above Youtube clip, it adds a lot to it. Funny stuff.

Chen Kaige – Zhanxiou Village

Tried to do what Zhang Yimou did, but with much less successful results. Got way too mawkish by tossing a blind kid in the end.

Wim Wenders – War in Peace

This is like a gender reversal version of Abbas Kiarostami's Where Is My Romeo? segment. Men in Congo gathering for a film screening, one of the first few after civil unrest. They're watching BLACK HAWK DOWN.

Ken Loach – Happy Ending

Simple message. Maiko's personal favourite. Most commercial films of today suck balls. But The Academy Hack (who is really far from a hack) posed this question:

Loach hammers home a deeper truth. The movies began as a working class entertainment. (Bourgeois "respectability" came a bit later, via Griffith's Victorian moralism.) What do the movies have to say to working people today?