1.30pm: Off To The Revolution By 2CV
One of the joys of a festival such as this one is the opportunity to see loads of films without any real preconceptions as to what they'll be like. In many cases, you could go into a movie here knowing nothing about it apart from the one-paragraph summary in the LFF programme. The downside of that is that when you're seeing as many films as I am back to back, you end up comparing them against each other: and some movies can suffer unnecessarily as a result.
Off To The Revolution By 2CV is a case in point. We're in France in 1974. Exiled student Victor (Andoni Gracia) has just heard the news that the revolution has finally started in his home country of Portugal. Gathering up his flatmate Marco (Adriano Giannini) and former girlfriend Claire (Gwenaëlle Simon), the three of them pile into a battered yellow 2CV and drive through France and Spain in an attempt to get to Portugal to join in the excitement. In true Wonder Years style, following this trip Things Will Never Be The Same Again.
So, two guys and a girl in a road movie. Sound familiar? It should do if you read yesterday's review of And Your Mother Too. Although the two movies have very different aims, it's impossible to avoid comparing them: and today's film (directed by Maurizio Sciarra) suffers in the comparison. Revolution is, admittedly, rather good at capturing the way that the political ideals of people in their twenties can suffer a severe battering when they're forced to engage with life in the real world: Marco's enthusiasm for revolution fades somewhat when he starts to realise what it actually entails. But considering the amount of time we spend cooped up inside a tiny car with the three leads, it's surprising how little we get to know them: the characters are ciphers, they end up being merely the audience's route to the people and places they encounter on their journey. This may not have been such a problem if I hadn't been so taken with their Mexican counterparts yesterday, but it's difficult to say for sure.
Still, there's a lot to enjoy here. The trip has a lot of lovely scenery along the way, and it's accompanied by a source music soundtrack that sounds like the ultimate 1970's driving mix tape. (There's a great bit where the riff from Layla roars out to accompany a shot of the knackered 2CV limping out of its garage.) The politics of the piece are handled with a light touch, and the anti-climactic final scene is rather sweet. But it could have been a lot more. Fans of massively unwieldy internet addresses are invited to check out the film's official site at http://www.allarivoluzionesulladuecavalli.it/. [dead link]
4.00pm: Good Romance 4.30pm: Teenage Hooker Became Killing Machine In Daehakno
4.30pm: Teenage Hooker Became Killing Machine In Daehakno
A double bill of shortish films from South Korea, both shot on widescreen video and playing here at the LFF as part of its Experimenta strand. Leesung Hee-Il's Good Romance is technically the supporting film here, but actually turns out to be the better of the two. It starts with a schoolboy meeting an older woman for an afternoon date: over the period of half an hour, the exact nature of their relationship is revealed tantalisingly slowly. It's nicely played, written and shot: the photography of the winter locations looks particularly fine considering it's on video.
But it's obvious that the second film - Teenage Hooker Became Killing Machine In Daehakno - is the reason why NFT2 is completely full for a Wednesday afternoon screening: primarily because it has the sort of title that's designed to suck in paying customers like a DustBuster. Unfortunately, 'suck' is the operative word. It's one of those Ronseal-type titles - you know, it does exactly what it says on the tin - but it doesn't leave anything for the film to surprise us with, apart from who she actually kills.
With that title, and the fact that the movie's only an hour long, you'd expect director Nam Gee-Woong to deliver an admittedly tawdry-sounding plot with a certain level of energy and pace. Unfortunately, that doesn't happen: this is an incredibly long 60 minutes, even though ten minutes are taken up with credits (the end title scroll runs at the beginning and the end), another ten minutes is taken up with shots of characters laughing maniacally, and five minutes more is used up by a line-by-line remake of the first assassination sequence from Nikita. The little that's left once you take all that away is criminally slow, and alternatively so underlit or overlit that it's impossible to tell what's going on. Even the body horror elements are so botched as to be wholly ineffective: although again, it may just be that after seeing Ichi The Killer yesterday, mere dismembered prostitutes just don't do it for me any more.
6.15pm: My Voyage To Italy
In 1995, as part of the whole Century Of Cinema thing, Martin Scorsese made a four hour documentary called A Personal Journey Through American Movies. Another one of those Ronseal titles: it featured Scorsese talking to camera about the American films that had influenced his life and work most strongly, illustrated with a comprehensive collection of clips. My Voyage To Italy sees him taking an identical approach to Italian cinema. A few hints in the narration imply that this is meant to be watched as a TV miniseries, rather than in a single 245 minute lump in a cinema as we did here. But the opportunity to see these clips on a big screen totally justifies the documentary's place in a festival such as this.
As before, Scorsese's approach is to make this personal. In a lengthy introductory section, he describes the New York Italian-American community he grew up in, and in particular the time he spent with his Sicilian grandparents, whose only remaining links to their homeland were the badly-dubbed, scratched-up Italian movies that a local TV station played every Friday night. Young Marty came to appreciate both the work of the Neo-realists (film-makers driven by a compulsion to explain to the world what was happening in their country after the war) and the big sword 'n' sandal historical epics (made by a country that had thousands more years worth of history to draw on than America ever could). These were key influences on his life: most kids draw comic books when they can lay their hands on some paper and crayons, Scorsese was drawing storyboards (we even get to see a couple of them in the film).
From here the documentary focusses on five key Italian directors - Rosselini, De Sica, Visconti, Antonioni and Fellini. In each case we get summaries of their major films, brilliantly boiled down by Scorsese's regular editor Thelma Schoonmaker Powell. Scorsese puts them into the context of history and of each other, whilst still maintaining an infectious level of excitement and love for these films which keeps you enthralled throughout. There are so many great sequences on display here, it seems unfair to single one out: but I was particularly impressed by the extraordinary analysis of the final reel of Antonioni's Eclipse, where Scorsese points out that nearly eight minutes of film is taken up with showing how two people aren't in shot.
I've no idea if there are any plans for My Voyage To Italy to get another outing in a cinema, but anyone who loves film should cancel all appointments on the nights when this eventually gets shown on TV. Scorsese's closing remarks should be all the justification you need: "I saw these movies. I didn't read about them in books, or hear about them at film school: I saw them. They had a huge impact on me. You should see them too."
Notes From Spank's Pals
Off To The Revolution By 2CV
The Cineaste - This is a heart-warming and uncomplicated road movie. It starts in the Paris flat of two student friends, Victor, Portuguese, and Marco, Italian. Early one morning Victor receives a phone-call from his uncle informing him that the revolution in Lisbon has started, in an attempt to overthrow the Fascist regime. With the spontaneity and decisiveness that only students can muster, the two lads decide to drive to Lisbon in Marco’s 2CV. On the way, they call in at Victor’s ex-girlfriend, now married with a child, and enjoy a dinner with her family. Unprompted by either of the two, she decides to join them on their trip. The film proceeds quite light-heartedly over the course of their journey, during which arise revelations about their past relations, one or two dangers and problems, the occasional argument, and an amusing encounter with a Spanish count. The film doesn’t engage at a particularly meaningful level, although it’s no less enjoyable for that. The factors like the revolution are really only mentioned insofar as they are necessary to give a reason for the road trip. A pleasant little number. Star rating: three.
Teenage Hooker Became Killing Machine In Daehakno
The Cineaste - Bloody Nora! What was this stuff? Some dark, macabre fetishes being played out to a background of some striking choices of music in the dead of night.
With all the pre-publicity given to this film, it was pretty impossible not to know its genre/content, so I was intrigued to see exactly what kind of pervs, psychos and deviants came to watch. And yes sirree, make sure you count me in amongst that lot. Perhaps we should have had some sense of foreboding from the full title in Korean, The high-school student who got chopped up while selling herself in Daehakno is still in Daehakno. I mean, why stop there? Why not some details about what she eats for breakfast, or her favourite pop star?
Teenage hooker has a client, who just happens to be one of her schoolmasters. He hits, rapes and kills her, then, obviously an adherent to the philosophy that a job’s not worth doing unless it’s done properly (he’s a teacher, after all), goes the whole hog and dismembers her body. As if that isn’t beyond the realms of fantasy, somebody comes along and finds the “bits”. So does this witness act like a responsible citizen, and go to the police and report this, to rid society of this evil monster? Does he hell. Instead he gathers up the limbs, and assorted bits and pieces of this former human, to create a kind of teenage cyber-freak. Who just happens to go on a killing spree in Daehakno. I mean, come on, even down here in Streatham we don’t get stuff like that (well, not all that often, anyway). I suppose if you do like this sort of stuff, then it’s probably highly masturbatory, but the overall mood was very grim and nihilistic, and it left me cold. The film was not without some commendable artistic talent though, and there’s some highly creative and impressive use of music (both rock and classical). Star rating: two.
My Voyage To Italy
The Cineaste - This was a must for anyone at all interested in the historical heritage of Italian film-making. Basically it consisted of Martin Scorsese guiding us through all the influences Italian films have been on his own film-making, with his interpretations of the various films. It was wonderful to watch. It started out with Scorsese explaining a little about his family background, and how his grandparents had come over from Sicily in 1909. He put this into context by saying that many early Italian films were a reflection of the times in the country, and therefore when he watched them they enabled him to understand the poverty and society his grandparents had left behind. He then took us on a wonderful Odyssey through Italian cinematographic heritage. Cabiria, Paisa, Bicycle Thieves, Rome Open City, Stromboli, Europa 51, Shoeshine, La Dolce Vita, Eight-and-a-Half, and L’Avventura were just some of the films he covered. He talked about the directors, factors which influenced them, their own particular styles, the evolution in general of film oeuvres, and talked authoritatively about his interpretation of particular scenes or shots. That the whole film was over four hours long is a reflection of the wealth of material. And he didn’t even mention Pasolini or Bertolucci. Star-rating irrelevant.
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