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Film Festival Day 6, 31/07/2013

 Film #25: The Missing Picture

This was an interesting contrast to The Act of Killing. It was made from the point of view of the victims, rather than the perpetrator; and the violence wasn’t just an extension of gangsterism, but an exercise in ideology, which often seems to mean that the suffering is more pervasive, and the defence of the actions at the time is more eloquent. But there were similarities, too – the narrator talked about how the village head who terrorised them under the Khmer Rouge never suffered any consequences for his actions, and still lives in his village with many children.

It’s weird to think that all of this was happening as I was growing up; that I could have starved to death on a collective farm if I had just been born not so far away. It didn’t have as much of an impact on me as The Act of Killing, but I’m still glad I saw it.

Film # 26: The Broken Circle Breakdown

He’s a bluegrass banjo player; she’s a free-spirited tattoo artist. (Obligatory “They Fight Crime!” reference.) They live in Belgium, and their six year-old daughter is dying of cancer. We jump back and forth in time, watching their relationship both evolve and disintegrate, intercut with songs from his (and eventually, their) bluegrass band. However, there’s a basic contradiction in the religious faith embodied in some of the songs, and the man’s strong atheist convictions, which ends up causing problems when they’re both dealing with grief.

I enjoyed the music, and both the interactions of the leads (who sing, and sing well), and the interactions of the background characters (and everyone but the couple and the daughter is firmly in the background). Unfortunately, I was sitting next to someone who couldn’t manage not to make little derisory noises whenever George W. Bush appeared on their television or said anything. But then again, that was another key element – the attraction of the idealised America of dreamers, as opposed to the actions of the U.S. as a modern state.

Very sad, but I might enjoy watching it again.

Film #27: Utu

We started with an introduction full of interesting detail from the director and the DoP. For example, the severed head prop used in the movie was brought from Sydney to New Zealand in hand luggage, leading to an interesting conversation when Customs spotted on the X-ray. Another anecdote involved the director being told, after the blessing, that he’d get whatever weather he pull on the call-sheet for the next day… and that’s exactly what happened for the rest of the shoot.

I was a bit nervous that I wouldn’t like the film. After all, many dramatic films made in the 80s come off a bit naff. And there were a few bits that brought me out of the film – when a character strikes a dramatic pose, and get a cheesy musical sting, for example. And a few of the performances were a bit awkward.

But for each problem, there were plenty of cool things – for example, the few clumsy bits in the commanding officer’s characterization were contrasted with him blazing away with his pistol, rather than cowering in his room. The humour hit more than it missed, and I liked many of the female roles… though I’m not sure it passes the Bechdel test.

So, all in all, I liked it.

Film #28: Camille Claudel 1915

Not as slow as Gebo and the Shadow, but still very meditative. Basically, the artist of the title does appear to have paranoia and mood swings, but she’s also obviously better able to cope than most of the others in the asylum in which her family has immured her. She talks constantly about how it is like a prison (which suggests that she has no idea what a real prison is like), and begs to be taken back home. Her brother, who is a Catholic in the mystic tradition, visits her during the period of the movie; it is hinted that there are parallels between the intensity of his religious experience and her obsessive thinking (though he is definitely more functional than her).

It was well made, and an interesting historical situation… but I’m not sure it gripped me.

Film #29: The Spectatular Now

The class clown, who may be a high-functioning alcoholic, is dumped by his long-term girlfriend; he ends up, more-or-less by accident, going out with a shy, bright, dutiful, geeky girl who is into manga and is preparing to give up her dream of going to university because of her perceived duty to her mum. He, being a teenager, does his best to mess this up by being as caught up in his own life as a teenager usually is.

This manifests by him obsessing over an absent father who he is sure was driven away by his mother (who he is sometimes actually horrible to), a father who is not the person he has been built up to be. Luckily, he compensates by actually being a genuinely nice guy, who seems to be genuinely glad to help those around him – even the guy who ends up dating his ex. It managed to shock me, and make me dislike things he did without, in the end, disliking him; that’s a fairly major feat.

I liked it.

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