Posts Tagged ‘orizzonti’

Genus Plan | Lahi, Hayop (2020)

Dir.: Lav Diaz; Cast: Bart Guingona, DMs Boongaling, Nading Josef, Hazel Orencio, Joel Saracho, Noel Sto. Domingo, Lolita Carbon, Popo Diaz; Philippines 2020, 150 min.

Philippine filmmaker Lav Diaz (*1958) is known for his valuable contribution to the “Slow Cinema” Movement with features often lasting between 225 minutes (his 2016 Venice winner The Woman Who Left) and roughly eleven hours (Evolution of a Filipino Family (2004). His most popular film Norte – or the End of History (2013), a re-working of Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment, coming in with a middling 250 minutes.

So it is quite remarkable that Genus Pan lasts a mere 150 minutes – truly a short film project for Diaz, who for the first time found international producers for his Locarno 2020 project When the Waves are Gone, a Dumas re-setting of the Count of Monte Christo, interrupted by the Covid19 pandemic. 

Genus Pan is set on the island of Hugaw, known as ‘dirt island’ because of its history. During the Japanese occupation (one of many colonial powers who have invaded the Philippines) Japanese soldiers kidnapped and raped indigenous women, using them as sex slaves. Today the Vargas family rules the island with help of a para-military army, led by the Captain (Popo Diaz, who acts as PD).

The story follows a trio of miners, the young Andres (Boongaling) and the older Baldo (Josef) and ex-circus worker Paulo (Guingona), who have decided to seek work on the pier of the nearby city. Their journey across the jungle is an eventful one fraught with memories of their time at the Circus, Andres being angry with Baldo for taking a “placement fee” from the younger man, as did the exploitative bosses and soldiers back at the mine. Paulo, a devout Christian believer, smooths things over by paying Baldo the fee so he can give the money to Andres who needs it for his sister’s medical treatment. Under the influence of alcohol, the old men remember how they murdered the ‘Clown’, before killing each other. Meanwhile Andres blacks out.

Without revealing the entire plot suffice to say this is a another colourful human story involving murder and mayhem in a tight-knit community of divided loyalties and fierce family allegiances, the colonial past colliding with future hopes and dreams.

Once again the themes of Diaz’ work resurface retracing his homeland’s fractured history, the present still caught up with the repressive regime of President Marcos and today’s President Duterte. Strong mysticism also plays its part particularly in rural areas, adding a vibrant spirituality shaped by the Catholic faith and the Easter processions with traditional  rituals of self-flagellation and dedication to the Virgin Mary. 

But Diaz’ overriding strength is his potent visual aesthetic that helps us to live in the film and be completely enveloped by the experience. There are no dramatic arcs: Diaz’ films mimic life itself: there are no chapters or “artificial new beginnings”, everything flows on as a unit. A scene often begins with an empty frame showing the opulence of the jungle where Diaz’ characters will live out their experiences. Leaves flutter in the wind, clouds wander, and water ripples by. “I am trying to unify space and time” he says. The audience joins the protagonists in a daily experience that mirrors their own Cinema is “an engagement with life” for Diaz, just as it was for Tarkovsky, who is quoted: “Time becomes tangible when you sense something significant, truthful, going on beyond the events on the screen; when you realise, quite consciously, that what you see in the frame is not limited by its visual depiction, but is a pointer to something stretching out beyond the frame and to infinity, a point to life”.

Diaz’ cinema follows the flow of dreams and ideas. It takes us back to our childhood reflecting loss, joy, remorse and the harshness of everyday life. We can find a new home for our memories in his flowing images. AS




Careless Crime | Jenayat-e Bi Deghat (2020) **** Venice Horizons 2020

Dir.: Shahram Mokri; Cast: Babak Karami, Razieh Mansouri, Abolfazl Kahani, Mohammad Sareban, Adel Yaraghi, Mahmoud Behraznia, Behzad Dorani; Iran, 139 min.

Iran’s Shahram Mokri won a Special Prize in the Venice Horizon Section in 2013 for Fish & Cat. His latest is another welcome surprise, Rivette-like in structure its repetitions coming together like a love letter to Cinema, connecting the past to the present, Mokri shows how history repeats itself. the McGuffins are all over the pace and the director works hard on his labyrinthine narrative, the past meeting the present in mirrors, the only reality being the film within the film.

In late August of 1979, six months before the Iranian Revolution, four men entered the Cinema Rex in Abadan (south-west Iran) and set fire to it with petrol. 478 People died whilst watching The Deer, directed by Masud Kimiai and starring the popular actor Behrouz Vosoughi, with the feature having a clear anti-Shah message. The arsonists had locked and removed the door handles to the only locked exits which opened inwardly so many people were crushed to death. Furthermore, the projection booth had been doused with petrol, and burst into flames. None of the cinema employees was present during the blaze. The fire engine arrived late, its water tank was empty. Only eight people managed to escape, among them one of the arsonists, Hossein Takbalizadh, who was later hanged. To make matters even more opaque, an interview in the Iranian News Update in August 2020 claimed the real arsonists now sit as MPs in the Iranian Parliament.

We meet Takbali (Kahani) who is desperately trying to get hold of his anti-anxiety medication, finally tracking down a man who might be able to provide the drugs. Ironically he works at the National Cinema Museum. Excerpts of The Crime of Carelessness, a 1912 silent movie by Harold M. Shaw, are interwoven into the narrative. Shaw had a big phobia about fire and his film centres on an arsonist.

Meanwhile Takbali meets his contact, a man in a costume, walking on stilts. He gives him the medicine, asking him to deliver a book to a friend. This leads Takbali to another cinema in the capital where The Deer is being shown, mainly to an audience of film students. Here Takbali meets Fallah (Dorani), Yadollah (Behraznia) and Faraj (Sareban), the modern day arsonists who he helps to douse the cinema in turpentine. But that doesn’t do the job, so Takbali buys gasoline to have another go later on.

DoP Alireza Barazandeh makes use of long tracking shots for his crowd scenes in the city, reserving a handheld camera for the countryside. If you’re looking for something different Careless Crime is highly recommended. AS



L’EnKas (2018) *** Venice Film Festival 2018 | Orizzonti

Dir: Sarah Marx | Cast: Sandrine Bonnaire | Sandor Funtek | Drama | 85′

L’EnKas is a lucidly imagined slice of contemporary social realism described by its director Sarah Marx as “socially aware”. Her intention was to make a film about “ordinary people who weren’t born bad but who have had to follow illegal paths”. In other words, these are not natural born criminals but those who commit crime when the going gets tough. And although she takes no moral stand with her well-paced observational feature debut, its premise departs from a cock-eyed moral standpoint although its subject matter is as old as the hills. And her main character Ulysse (an impressively convincing Funtek) certainly gets off on the wrong footing, when he arrives home fresh out of prison for a minor offence. His main concern is to make as much money as possible but he is confronted by a stack of unpaid bills and a mother (Sandrine Bonnaire as you’ve never seen her before) who suffers from depression and needs treatment. So he comes up with a plan with his best friend, David. Selling a mixture of water and Ketamine, obtained from a contact who works in a Veterinary surgery, the two travel from rave to rave selling the drug mixture from their food truck.

And it’s a short-sighted idea that naturally sees the pair in trouble as their dreams crash and burn and their world comes toppling down. Meanwhile troubled mother Gabrielle is having private psychiatric care. Fresh and full of naturalistic performances L’EnKas is a strong debut that gets inside the simplistic minds of naive people, who fall, get hurt, get back up again, contradict themselves and have their own reasons for doing so. MT


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