Thursday, December 16, 2010

DIFF 7 – Day 4 Roundup

15th December 2010 (Day #4)

It is only at the Dubai International Film Festival where you get to watch a Cannes’ Palm d’Or winner, Berlin’s Golden and Silver Bear winners on the same day. And what an experience this day was. More on the four movies of the day below.

Honey (Bal)
Semih Kaplanoglu | Turkey | 2010
103 min

Director Semih Kaplano?lu's Honey, this year's Golden Bear winner at the Berlin Film Festival, is the art-form of cinema at its best. A fantastic pre-credit scene, good enough to be a short film in itself, sets the tone for this beautiful movie that, from within the confines of a dark cinema hall, transports you into the lush green mountains of Turkey. A harmonious soundtrack of incidental sounds from nature lends depth to the visual artistry that the movie is composed of. Some single-take shots are simply breathtaking, elevating the movie over mere performance and story-telling. The final installment of the director’s “Yusuf Trilogy”, Honey is a portrayal of the early childhood days of Yusuf (Bora Alta?), a six year old boy and the son of a bee-keeper, focusing specifically on the days before and after his father Yakup’s death. Much like honey, the movie flows slowly but smoothly as we discover life with Yusuf: alone, when with both or either parent and some exceptional moments of Yusuf at school. Yearning for that elusive badge to make his father proud, Yusuf works hard to impress his teacher with his reading skills, feeling much embarrassed when he fails. Through the movie, and especially in these scenes, Bora Alta? shines as the little Yusuf. His unassuming and honest performance may very well be one of the best of the year. Combined with the movie’s brilliant aesthetics, it contributes towards making Honey one of the best movies of the year.

End of Animal (Jimseung Ui Kkut)
Jo Sung-Hee | South Korea | 2010
114 min

End of Animal is a post-apocalyptic movie like few others. A pregnant woman is in a cab going through a rural landscape to get to her mother's house to deliver her baby. On the way, a blinding white light leaves her (and everyone else) unconscious, and also disables everything electronic. Unfortunately, like the movie's lead character, the director just wanders lost around this setting not knowing where to go with it. Random references to religion and humanity aside, the movie neither offers an explanation for the cause of the event, nor uses the setting in any meaningful way. Scenes just seem to randomly unfold without merit. Showing God (or was it Satan?) in a baseball cap may be an acceptable artistic decision, but him having to physically carry a bicycle out of the way to drive by in a car seems just too limiting for someone who brought about the “End”.

If I Want To Whistle, I Whistle (Eu Când Vreau S? Fluier, Fluier)
Florin ?erban | Romania | 2010
94 min

If I Want To Whistle, I Whistle is set in a Romanian youth prison. Silviu (George Pi?tereanu) has two weeks left for his release when he learns that his mother has returned from Italy to take his younger brother back with her, something which Silviu will not allow. The movie depends on and primarily succeeds due to the performance of Pi?tereanu as the troubled youth. From suffering physical intimidation silently to retaliation at emotional pressure, Pi?tereanu conveys a realistic performance in Silviu. Although little physical violence is depicted on-screen, If I Want To Whistle… uses the constant presence of threat to its various characters to keep the movie’s tone aggressive. The movie breaks no new ground nor improves what has already been done, but possess a realistic and emotionally strong story, an efficient use of running time and a formidable central performance.

Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (Lung Bunmi Raluek Chat)
Apichatpong Weerasethakul | Thailand | 2010
114 min

Uncle Boonmee... is, for its most part, an abstract movie. It is the final part of a multi-platform art project that includes seven-part video installations and two short videos. As a stand-alone movie, Uncle Boonmee... is incoherent, aimless and beyond comprehension. It holds little merit in story, theme, performance or production within the confines of its 114 minutes – you need extra media to make any sense of it. It does not present any complete ideas, leaving this task to the audience to search for their own interpretations. While Auteurism may be used to defend or praise the movie, it by no means justifies the ineptitude of the work itself. Watch it if you have seen the director’s other works or the other attachments of the project this movie is a part of. Else, you may do well to stay clear.

While day#4 was about movies awarded at other Film Festivals, we kick into the high gear with day#5, which includes the most commercial movie I will see at this year’s Dubai International Film Festival, Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours, and a violent action movie from Japan, along with another Japanese movie and an Italian-Arabic feature. My report tomorrow!

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