Thursday, March 07, 2013

The Current Cinema 17


Giving some type of emotional complexity to the German point of view immediately following the Allied invasion and subsequent end to World War 2, initially, seems like a frivolous effort. Yet, that’s exactly what Australian filmmaker Cate Shortland achieves in “Lore”, a dizzying and harrowing account of five children and their trek across country when good German mother and father are dispatched of in the opening moments. As the eldest, Saskia Rosendahl as Lore is magnificent, leading her younger siblings and baby into the recesses of hell, otherwise known as occupied Germany and its scattered, scarred and confused population. The idea of Lore’s forced adulthood, complicated by national pride and sexual confusion when she meets a local boy who helps in their journey, is always at the forefront and handled magnificently. As she did in her previous film “Somersault”, Shortland is a filmmaker attracted to the tactile. While her handheld camera breathlessly darts around her characters, giving prominence to the edges of dresses, dirty feet and blowing fields of flowers rather than eyes and voices, “Lore” is an extremely ‘arty’ film that still manages to dispense narrative and feeling with authority. Like few other current filmmakers- namely female peers such as Andrea Arnold and Claire Denis- Shortland’s bouncing camera is not a detriment to the process, but a voyeur that catches kinetic atmosphere and images. Consistently challenging and terrifying in its family-in-the-war-torn-wilderness-adventure genre, “Lore” is a great sophomore effort and a hopeful bar for the rest of the art house crowd this year.


During the first few minutes of Ric Roman Waugh’s “Snitch”, my heart sank into my chest when a foot chase between juvenile Jason (Ravfi Gavron) and local DEA agents devolved into a herky-jerky affair with an illogical sense of time or place. Thankfully, “Snitch” recovers from that initial bout of amateurishness and settles into a modest if not surprising character study of a father (Dwayne Johnson) turning informant to reduce his son’s prison sentence. As an actor, I’ve seen plenty of Johnson films, but he really nails the performance here, shrinking his bulky presence to reveal a motivated and real persona. For the most part, “Snitch” rarely amps up the action side of its running time (one quick car chase at the end and a few bullets here and there) and relies on old fashioned tension and personal conflict to propel the story along. A nice surprise.

Like Someone In Love

Abbas Kiarostami’s “Like Someone In Love” is an introspective look at the connection made between prostitute Akiko (Rin Takanashi) and elderly Takashi (Tadashi Okuno) over the course of a day. She is quietly stewing over the status of her current life and he just wants conversation and company. And once Akiko’s jealously violent boyfriend enters the picture, Takashi turns from client to protector. Like his previous film, “Certified Copy”, “Like Someone In Love” excels in the imaginary curtains of playacting between two strangers and the relationships they devise for comfort. The delicate asides this film makes- an elderly neighbor, an old student of Takashi and the bustling city of Tokyo itself seen through cab and car windows- are impressive even when they’re static and pregnant with wordless stretches between Akiko and Takashi. Kiarostami has made a lifetime of movies from the hood of a car, and “Like Someone In Love” is no exception, slicing the frame up brilliantly through rear view mirrors, car doors and television set reflections. Even if the overall effect of “Like Someone In Love” is a bit muted through its oblique characters (I’d love to see more about Akiko herself), this is the cinema of Kiarostami… where nothing is overtly spelled out and even the slightest action, such as a rock shattering a window, seems groundbreaking.

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