Sunday, July 29, 2012

Violeta ***

Director: Andrés Wood
Cast: Francisca Gavilán, Thomas Durand, Christian Quevedo
Gabriela Aguilera, Roberto Farías

"I will sing wherever there is someone who will listen" says Violeta Parra (Gavilán) when asked about her venues of choice and through Andrés Wood's stunning Violeta (in Spanish poetically titled Violeta se fue a los cielos) we are exposed not to a "biopic" character, but to a woman whose desire to create was stronger than her ties to family or societal norms.
Framed within a TV interview Parra gave in Argentina, the film uses this relatively traditional structure to then travel back and forward in time to tell us her life story. Done with the impressionistic style Olivier Dahan only wishes he'd achieved with his chaotic La vie en rose, this movie transcends biopic-ness to enter something much more profound, it is both poetry and psychological analysis turned into film.
While it obviously intends to paint a portrait of who this woman was, it does so not merely by listing chronological highlights, but by wondering what they meant to her, how they affected her creative process. "Creation is a bird without a flight plan" exclaims Parra, portrayed by the seductive Gavilán as an explosive creature, often overflowing with passions. Where a less talented performer would've turned Parra into an exercise of mimicry, Gavilán infuses her with impressive energy, creating little moments in the performance that can not be considered anything other than brilliant. She gives herself to this character and has no problem exploring Parra's body issues (the scene where she grabs her stomach as if asking god why can't she be young again is chilling and heartbreaking). For those unfamiliar with Parra, she will display a range of emotions that will undoubtedly send them looking for her work, wondering if she was this vibrant and powerful.
The answer will of course be yes, since not only did she establish a revolutionary folk movement in South America, but she also became an example of creation that went beyond the laws of men. The movie has no issue in showing Parra was no angel, audiences might leave the film wondering why she abandoned her children for so long, why she didn't become more of a martyr and why doesn't she fit the characteristics of artists whose lives become movies?
Wood chose an atypical style to craft his film and makes it become a magical realist musical. There are never moments of sudden epiphany where we see how Parra came to create this and that, instead he uses her legacy to trace back the emotional and psychological states that she was in when she made them. It might sound ironic to bring this up, but the movie could have no sound or dialogues and still be powerful, because Wood's images speak just as loudly as Parra's music (that he chooses not to use her most famous song during any key scenes is truly admirable).
Violeta is an homage to a great artist, which at the same time seems to be competing with her work. This doesn't mean that Wood undermines Parra's music (or her graphic arts) but that he loves film with the same intensity that Parra loved her own devices, and would by no means let external factors deter his own creation.

Style Sunday.

Queen Cate stunned NYC audiences with her seemingly delicious turn in Uncle Vanya and those of us who can't see her, still get to be stunned by her amazing style. She rocked the post-show red carpet in this pencil skirt and lovely top by Givenchy. Notice how she's practically wearing no makeup! Ugh, this woman constantly shows us how it's done...

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Group Hug.

I once saw a documentary on F.W. Murnau which explained how much he worried about creating universes that went beyond the confines of the filmstrip and what it recorded. This is why in movies like Sunrise he came up with elaborate set pieces which showed constant movement. Therefore we see people appearing from the sides, below and all possible places that made it seem as if the story being filmed was taking place not only to service the camera, but as an actual slice of life.

This is something that has never worried Wes Anderson. His movies are miniatures that take place in half-recognizable settings that we're supposed to think of as universal. The New York City of his The Royal Tenenbaums instantly springs to mind, particularly because its artifice never highlights the town that other artists obsess about. Anderson's obsession with perfect framing and symmetry often give his movies an unavoidable touch of whimsy and despite the fact that his work is extremely self indulgent, my favorite shot in this movie seems to add a bit of heart to this insularity.

I love how even if he's placed Margot and particularly Richie in cherubic positions next to their mother, he has cut off Chas' head, not only representing his need to cut off from any sort of Tenenbaum curse, but also to highlight how his intrusion to ask for money seems to disrupt the almost pastoral shot he had established. That Chas then proceeds to leave the frame, reminding us of a larger world outside the Tenenbaum house, is absolutely brilliant.

- This post is part of Nat's Hit Me With Your Best Shot series.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Queering in the Rain.

If someone "inceptioned" the wet dreams of Rainer Werner Fassbender and Jean Cocteau, and asked a young Todd Haynes to make a movie out of them, the result would be Pink Narcissus. This avant garde gay landmark is often more conservative and forced than it wants to be, its lyrical qualities only subverted under the fact that despite its subject matter, it's r(b)arely erotic.

For all its use of phallic imagery, blowjobs and ejaculations, the film results rather tame and more often than not seems to wander too much into its own self indulgent qualities. Being about the fantasies of a hustler (Bobby Kendall) and having them play out like a Pasolini-meets-Fellini version of Skinemax soft porn seems to subtract queer out of the equation more often than not. The one thing that pervades in the film and makes it an interesting experience however, is how director James Bidgood shows off his cinematic influences throughout.

Director Bidgood famously removed his name from the film after he felt that the editors had butchered his work, when the truth is that it's the editing that gives the film a dreamlike quality. See for example how the editor juxtaposes "random" body parts, in this case the belly button and an eye, so that we're transported to Un Chien Andalou and Psycho in a second. The film may not really tap into the real sexual desires of a gay man, but it explores how films themselves can evoke the sensual world.

This feeling continues when on the Times Square fantasy, the director relies to neon (as well as inventive sight gags) to remind us of the overwhelming experience that can be NYC, something audiences had seen years before in the playful Singing in the Rain.

"Gotta dance!"

The references to the classic musical continue in further scenes, as Pink Narcissus seems to explore the same color palettes and borrows from the movie's musical structure.

"Singing and dancing in the rain..."

Notice the similarity between the painted skies, which not only relish in their obvious staginess but also never fail to inspire the romantic in us.

"You were meant for me..."

All of these cinematic winks bring us to my favorite shot:

Remember that scene in An American in Paris where Gene performs the famous ballet? I have never truly loved that movie, but I'm endlessly fascinated by how Gene recreated the most famous moments in French art.

And what is the shot above, if not an homage to the simple beauty of impressionistic painting? You're almost half expecting Bobby to put on a tutu and pose for Degas. Gotta love how the shot makes a superb use of the gorgeous male figure without taking away from the rest of the scene's beauty. The clothes rack could very well be out of a Matisse painting and it's only during this scene where Pink Narcissus manages to combine painting, cinema and classic humanism to remind us that beyond the confines of our testes, art can usually help us achieve the most glorious kind of orgasm.

- This post is part of Nat's Hit Me With Your Best Shot series.

Put the Blame on Gilda.

Head over to The Film Experience and read my piece on sexy Rita's striptease.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Style Sunday.

Leave it to Diane Kruger to wear pajamas somewhere and look like a gazillion bucks. This sleep attire-inspired ensemble by Louis Vuitton certainly wouldn't do such wonders for someone without Diane's risky couture choices. The gorgeous golden bag and simple makeup give the look the crowning touches.

As much as Annie rocks the long wavy hair, this pixie cut is highlighting her face in an astonishing way. See how the bright sunglasses and pink lips give her an Audrey Hepburn air, while her stunning Erdem sheath is to die for with its understated print.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Sheet-y Saturday.

Where we take a look at posters for upcoming features.

May Tim Burton redeem the last decade or so with Frankenweenie...this lovely one sheet holds the promise of some of his most iconic work and the fact that a non-cadaverous Johnny Depp is featured anywhere should be a good sign. Gotta love the folds and scratches that make it seem as if they just ran into a B sci-fi movie and are releasing it for the first time.

Magic Mike still has the best poster campaign of any movie this year. This 4th of July offering is truly delicious and not just for the obvious reasons. Just look how they completely avoided the peen to remind us that independence is all about freedom of expression.

When i first saw this poster for the last (bless you Lord) Twilight movie, I honestly thought it was a teaser for the next season of America's Next Top Model. Whoever this actress is, she's surely channeling Tyra's fierce "you go bitch" look.


Thursday, July 12, 2012

Today would've been Eiko Ishioka's birthday. What a better way to celebrate her genius than by heading to PopMatters and reading my review for Mirror, Mirror

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Sheet-y Saturday.

Where we take a look at posters for upcoming features.

The last time we had a sumptuous, lose your life and cry your eyes out, epic melodrama was probably around the time when Joe Wright delivered his astonishing - and despite all the awards, seriously underrated - Atonement. His take on Tolstoy not only looks astonishingly lavish and gorgeous, it also shows how playful he can be as a director. What sounds like a Brech-meets-Visconti take could very well be the most mesmerizing movie of the year and judging from this absolutely gorgeous poster this is one movie that might just blow us all away.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Style Sunday.

This is a weekend of bests. After yesterday's fantastic one sheet, today we have the absolute best red carpet look we've had so far in 2012. The always stunning Blake Lively just outdid herself in this stunning Zuhair Murad siren gown. The nude fabric is gorgeous but what results even more fantastic is the complex beading that forms a sort of shield around the actress. It's like Metropolis meets Rita Hayworth and I can not get enough of it.

Do you love it or think she could've done better? Please share your opinion in the comments!