Posts Tagged ‘WE ARE ONE’

The Epic of Everest (1924)

Wri/Dir/Prod: Captain John Noel | UK Doc, 87min

George Mallory and Andrew Irvine’s failed attempt to climb Everest in 1924

There’s a moment during The Epic of Everest that really reflects the powerless of human endeavour when faced with the magnitude of nature: As three tiny insect-like creatures totter over a snow-caked precipice of solid ice and gradually disappear from view, the total insignificance of man versus the mountain finally dawns. What sheer folly to think that these men could conquer a force of nature dressed flimsily in tweed jackets and plus fours almost 100 years ago but, of course, North Face puffas didn’t exist then.

1924_Everest_expedition_group_photo copy

Captain John Noel accompanied Mallory and Irvine on this third attempt to conquer the magnificent Himalayan peak using the most powerful lenses of the day to produce jaw-dropping photos and ethereal time-lapse sequences that are testament not only to the dangers of the snowscape but also the spiritual splendour of this deeply spiritual part of the world. To add context, Noel captures footage of the megalith of Rongbuk monastery (where they are told that the expedition is fated not to succeed) and the local people of the world’s highest town: Phari-Dzong, who never wash from birth to the day they die, when they are ‘hacked to pieces’ on a slab of stone. They seem cheerful enough.

Despite restoration by the BFI National Archive, the photography naturally feels dated in comparison with recent mountaineering films such as Chasing Ice and The Summit but what Captain John Noel has captured here is the extreme sense of loneliness and isolation of the vast expanses. Filming the lead party up to two miles away, thanks to the clarity of visibility, they look like tiny dots on a hostile landscape often shrouded in swirling mists and eerie legends of local Tibetan folklore.

Heights mean nothing to those of us who stay happily at sea level, but when we hear that sherpas carved up to 2,000 steps in the ice on some of the ascents, the extreme arduous nature of the expedition finally hits home. On the day of his birth, a tiny donkey was forced to walk 22 miles and collapsed in sheer, sleepy exhaustion after his first day of life. These bare facts really put this extraordinary venture into human context that can be appreciated.

The Epic of Everest is accompanied by Simon Fisher Turner’s atmospheric ambient soundtrack featuring cowbells, Tibetan music and vocals gradually turning more sinister and haunting as the expedition unfolds. A moving and peaceful tribute to our courageous men. MT


Journey across the planet’s most challenging terrain in this ode to exploration and endurance on film, accompanying TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH: EXPLORATION AND ENDURANCE ON FILM, season at BFI Southbank continuing throughout January.

On 5 January 1922 the ‘heroic age’ of Antarctic exploration drew to a symbolic close with the death of Anglo-Irish explorer Sir Ernest Shackleton. Marking this centenary and that of Britain’s first attempt to summit Mount Everest, this collection tells a connected story about human endurance, our relationship with and impact on the natural world. The birth of film collided with exploration’s heyday as a competitive sport, source of national pride and beacon of scientific discovery. This free curated archive collection includes early film records of expeditions to Everest and the Arctic and beyond to remote regions of South America and South Asia. Many of the films are part of the extraordinary Royal Geographical Society collection, preserved by the BFI National Archive.


Ticket of No Return | Bildnis Einer Trinkerin (1979) *** We Are One Fest

Dir.: Ulrike Ottinger; Cast: Tabea Blumenschein, Lutze, Magdalena Montezuma, Orpha Termin, Monika von Cube, Nina Hagen; W. Germany 1979,108 min.

Filmmaker, painter and photographer Ulrike Ottinger (1942-) was one of the most important German filmmakers of the 1970s and awarded the Berlinale Camera at this year’s 70th festival which also premiered her latest autobiographical feature Paris Caligrammes.

She is probably best known for her drama Freak Orlando (1981) a potted history of the world in five episodes with a focus on man’s incompetence, cruelty and thirst of power. Ticket of No Return chronicles the West Berlin punk scene, a decade before the wall came down. It would be the first part of her Berlin trilogy. Actor, producer and costume designer Tabea Blumenschein, who died in Berlin this March at the age of 67 influenced the film.  She works as a designer (for Andy Warhol) and chanteuse in many of the capital’s nightclubs.

The drama follows She (Blumenschein), an elegant woman from the posh 16th Paris arrondissement of Auteuil, who flies Berlin/Tegel on a single ticket where her only aim is to drink herself to death in style. Designed during the 1960s Tegel Airport was a highly efficient modern hob of transport and shopping in contrast to Tempelhof, with its traditional implications of the Third Reich. She lands there as if from another universe, and will cause mayhem wherever she goes. At the Zoo station She comes across the local Zoo alcoholic (Lutze), and the drinking competition kicks off, to minimal dialogue, voiced by Montezuma Meanwhile ‘the down-to-earth-earth approach’ is handed to von Cube. Nina Hagen features as a chanteuse in a pub frequented by taxi drivers.

A woman’s voice from the informs us that She represents every woman: Medea, Madonna or Beatrice. Not that it matters: these two suicidal lushes are really just terribly loneliness, their drinking bringing thetogether in an act of vacuous solidarity. There are some hair-raising incidents: the two of them are tied to the front of a car that speeds through burning walls, and their stiletto heels destroy the illusion of anything that could be termed voyeuristic. Ottinger is not interested in reality, or even rational – drinking is a serious occupation, to be treated with respect. What takes centre stage here is not West Berlin’s new Economic miracle,  but a shadowy world lowlifes, drinking themselves to oblivious as they singing away the troubles of the past.

A startling score competes with the visual overload of this extraordinary collage that echoes Fellini and Schroeter. That said, the symbolism of glass, mirrors and lights sometimes overreaches itself. Clearly Ottinger is still feeling her way forward in this sophomore drama at a time when the mood in the Federal was rather pleased with itself and its economic miracle, Ticket was a radical rejection of everything that could be construed as a success. AS


Shiraz (1928) ***** We Are One Festival

Dir: Franz Osten | Writer: W Burton based on a play by Niranjan Pal | Cast: Himansu Rai, Enakshi Rama Rau, Charu Roy, Seeta Devi | 97′ | Silent | Drama

SHIRAZ: A ROMANCE OF INDIA is a rare marvel of silent film. This dazzling pre-talkies spectacle was directed by Franz Osten and stars Bengali actor Himansu Rai who also produced the film from an original play by Niranjan Pal. Shot entirely in India with a cast of 50,000 and in natural light, the parable imagines the events leading to the creation of one of India’s most iconic buildings The Taj Mahal, a monument to a Moghul Empire to honour a dead queen.

Shiraz is a fictitious character, the son of a local potter who rescues a baby girl from the wreckage of a caravan laden with treasures, ambushed while transporting her mother, a princess. Shiraz is unaware of Selima’s royal blood and he falls madly in love with her as the two grow up in their simple surroundings, until she is kidnapped and sold to Prince Khurram of Agra (a sultry Charu Roy). Shiraz then risks his life to be near her in Agra as the Prince also falls for her charms.

SHIRAZ forms part of a trilogy of surviving films all made on location in India by Rai and his director Osten. Light of Asia (Prem Sanyas, 1926) and A Throw of Dice (Prapancha Pash, 1929) complete the trio intended to launch an east/west partnership bringing quality films to India, all based on Indian classical legend or history, and featuring an all-Indian cast in magnificent locations. Apart from the gripping storyline, there is the rarity value of a sophisticated silent feature made outside the major producing nations in an era where Indian cinema was not yet the powerhouse it would become. Rai makes for a convincing central character as the modest Shiraz, with a gently shimmering Enakshi Rama Rau as Selima. Seeta Devi stars in all three films, and here plays the beguiling but scheming courtesan Dalia, determined to get her revenge on Selima’s charms.

Apart from being gorgeously sensual (there is a highly avantgarde kissing scene ) and gripping throughout, SHIRAZ is also an important film in that it united the expertise of three countries: Rai’s Great Eastern Indian Corporation; UK’s British Instructional Films (who also produced Anthony Asquith’s Shooting Stars and Underground in 1928) and the German Emelka Film company. Contemporary sources tell of “a serious attempt to bring India to the screen”. Attention to detail was paramount with an historical expert overseeing the sumptuous costumes, furnishings and priceless jewels that sparkle within the Fort of Agra and its palatial surroundings. Glowing in silky black and white SHIRAZ is one of the truly magical films in recent memory. MT




Eeb Allay Ooo (2020) **** We Are One Fest

Dir.: Prateek Vats; Cast: Mahinder Nath, Shardul Bhardwaj, Nutana Sinha, Sahsi Bhusan, Nitin Goel, Naina Sarffin; India 2019, 98 min.

That well worn phrase “I don’t know whether to laugh or cry” best describes Indian filmmaker Prateek Vats’ feelings about the current state of his homeland. Monkeys have holy status in Delhi, just like the cows, and the local authorities certainly know how to handle their growing  population with kid gloves, as we find out in this impressive and whimsical comedy.

Eeb Allay Ooo follows Vats’ 2017 documentary A Very Old Man with Enormous Wings (about a hundred-year old bodybuilder), which won him a Special National Film award. And he uses his documentary background to great effect in this story about a young migrant in Delhi.

Anjani (Bhardwaj) has recently arrived in the capital and is living with his pregnant sister Didi (Sinha) and her policeman husband Shasti (Bhusan) in a ramshackle flat on the outskirts. Anjani is one of the many unskilled workers looking for a job. But soon Shasti finds him work keeping the herds of monkeys away from government buildings. All this requires training, and this comes from expert monkey handler Mahinder (Nath) who teaches Anjani how impersonate the monkeys’ arch enemy the langur, by shouting “eeb-allay-ooo” which scares them away. But Anjani is actually quite scared of the monkeys, and on the quiet, he uses a sling shot to chase them away. He also dresses up as a langur, but this doesn’t go down well with his boss and he nearly loses his job as a result. Tragically, locals don’t respect Mahinder’s methods either, despite her gentleness, and she is killed by a mob defending the monkeys..

Meanwhile things are not going well for the family. Shasti has been given a rifle in a promotion at work, but is afraid to use it, hiding it under his clothes when he cycles around on patrol. It comes in handy during a major row with one of Didi’s contractors Narayan, and he chases the guy away. Depressed about his work situation Anjani sinks into a clinical depression, and gives Shasti’s gun away. The last sequence sums up everything that has taken place before: there is something fundamentally wrong in a society where monkeys roam free and are protected due to their holy status, while humans are trapped by economic circumstances.    

DoP Saumyanda Sahi’s impressive camerawork creates a fabulous sense of place, particularly his long shots showing Anjani’s arduous journey home. The majestic elegance of the government palaces, contrasts starkly with the poverty in the outer suburbs. The social realism here is poetic rather than didactic, always keeping a fine balance between comedy and social commentary, making Eeb Allay Ooo an enjoyable but bittersweet satire. AS




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