Here's Latauro with another report from the Melbourne International Film Festival (MIFF). You can read part one of his coverage HERE!
LATAURO @ MIFF #2: TAKESHIS', AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH, THE SUN, TIDELAND
You know what's weird? The best film I've seen during MIFF wasn't even playing in MIFF. The other night I caught a screening of BRICK, which I'd been anticipating for what-felt-like years. Yes, it's as good as everyone has been saying (those people who have been saying it's good, that is). Yes, it's currently sitting atop my best films of the year list. Yes, I can't wait to see it again.
But lo and behold, other films are also crying out for their greatness to be recognised! The details of four truly incredibly cinematic experiences wait below...
I'm not sure what's confusing me more: what the hell just happened in this film, or why there's an apostrophe in the title. It may only be a minor piece of grammar, but it got me wondering what it was both Takeshis had ownership of, and whether that thing was the point of the entire exercise.
Working in collusion with a friend, I managed to come up with a a description that would put you in just the right frame of mind: Wes Anderson and David Lynch write 8 1/2 in Japanese and give it to Takeshi Kitano. If that's the sort of film you'd like to see, then this is the film for you. Beat Takeshi is a slightly arseholey movie star/film director who comes across a man that looks exactly like him and has the same name. That's about as much linear plot as I can give you, as the film then descends (or ascends, if you prefer) into complete chaos. Actually, that's completely untrue. A lot of the supposedly-random stuff that crops up over the film actually ends up having some sort of point at later (or earlier) parts of the film.
I don't really know how to dissect this film at all. I get the impression you need to have more than a passing knowledge of Kitano's earlier films (I've only seen HANA-BI and KIKUJIRO) to fully understand much of the film. Or maybe I'm wrong about that.
This is certainly a film that will appeal to a specific audience, and I'm torn as to whether this is his most-accessible or least-accessible film. At very least, it's quite entertaining, and contains a high quote of laugh-out-loud moments. Having only seen what appears to be his two most serious films, I wasn't expecting the film to be quite so funny. Oddly enough, the biggest laughs I've had at the cinema in recent times have been from this film and two documentaries. Wonder what that says? Very little, probably. Latauro recommends TAKESHIS'.
AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH
If there was one thing I wasn't expecting this film to be, it was mainly concerned with beastiality. If there was a second thing, it was entertaining.
Unexpectedly, Al Gore manages to be funny, interesting, engaging and passionate for an entire hour-and-a-half, which is quite impressive for anyone let alone a politician. I don't know a whole lot about the guy beyond his guest appearances on "Futurama", the odd mention in a Michael Moore book, and the basic stuff that those of us outside the US all seem to know. It's a pity he is who he is (a high ranking member of one of the major US political parties), because it almost certainly means that everyone on the opposing side will dismiss this film as propaganda for the Other Side.
The problem with this is that it's a strangely apolitical film. Sure, there's the unavoidable mention of his 2000 election loss, and his simmering frustration at the current administration is obvious if not directly addressed, but his biggest passion seems to be losing the party colours and getting his message out to everybody he can. And what a message it is. Global Warming is one of those theories the way that gravity or clouds or non-impartial World Cup referees are theories. Every bit of opposition you've heard to Global Warming comes from someone with a political agenda; every bit of evidence you've heard of supporting Global Warming comes from actual scientific study.
The argument is presented in what I would argue is the most convincing way possible: via a slideshow lecture. I know, it sounds positively coma-inducing, but it's not. Gore keeps us glued throughout the whole thing, and even when we take regular breaks from the lecture to look at his history and what drives him to do what he does, it remains nothing short of compelling.
This is the sort of film that should be compulsory viewing for everybody. Only someone whose mind was completely and utterly made up before the lights go down could fail to be convinced by what is presented. And here I was thinking THE HOST would be the only horror film I'd see at MIFF...
There are many films that you know you should love, but you don't. The biggest factor is typically (in my experience) the conditions of your first viewing. This was a problem I had when I saw BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN the first time, so I did my best to push the negative thoughts out of my head, and I gave it a second try. RUSSIAN ARK is, conversely, a film I feel I might -- under normal circumstances -- loathe, but the conditions under which I saw it the first time were so perfect, and my mind was so primed for what the film had to offer, I couldn't help but fall completely in love with it. I think the biggest factor in my primed mindset was that I was tired but not sleepy. This allowed me to melt into my seat, but keep my eyes completely open the whole time.
ARK director Aleksandr Sokurov's film THE SUN was in the unfortunate position of greeting my a reversed state: I was sleepy, but not tired. The struggle to keep my eyes open whilst standing in line for the film was difficult enough, but when it came time to watch the slow-moving character piece, I was almost a lost cause. Amazing, then, that halfway through the film I "got" what this film was all about, and found myself almost completely won over by it.
The film follows Japanese Emperor Hirohito (Issei Ogata) in the final days of World War II as he admits defeat and surrenders to the US forces. It plays a little like Visconti's THE LEOPARD, only instead of a noble and dignified Burt Lancaster, we get a child-like leader who seems completely unable to grasp what's going on around him. Hirohito is seen to be protected from the world around him by his servants, and concerns himself with hobbies like the study of marine biology as his country starves. It's very easy to draw comparisons to current world leaders, and it's a comparison that Sokurov manages to avoid.
It's interesting watching this after RUSSIAN ARK, particularly given the editing style of the opening. The cuts appear to be fast dissolves, almost as if he was just getting the hang of editing for the first time ever. Although there's every chance that I just imagined this effect, as it didn't appear at any other point in the film. The colours and light levels are strangely muted; not in a sepier-esque way, but like someone turned on a light in the back of the theatre. The blacks aren't quite black and the whites aren't quite white. It's a haunting effect that makes you feel as if all is not right. Or maybe the projectionist was asleep. Either way, it worked.
If RUSSIAN ARK is the history of Russia as dreamt by someone whose vast knowledge was being distorted and merged as he slept, then THE SUN is a look at one of the most important moments in Japanese history through the eyes of the only person who seems unaware of the situation's gravity. It will strike many people as a boring film, but others will come away with images and moments burned into their brain.
A day or two back, I swapped some emails with an AICN-D reader by the name of Matt. We were discussing the forthcoming screening of TIDELAND, and Matt commented that, having missed BROTHERS GRIMM, it'll have been seven years since he saw Gilliam on the big screen. I pointed out that, having seen BROTHERS GRIMM, it'll have been seven years since I, too, saw Gilliam on the big screen.
TIDELAND isn't just a return to form for Gilliam; he's going into uncharted waters here. He's going places I never thought he'd go, and there's no denying he's made a powerful piece of cinema. Whether you like it or not is going to be a big factor in your film geek status, as this will polarise the community something fierce. I will understand if you say it's his worst film, and I will understand if you say it's his best. I'm still trying to figure out my own stance, but it's safe to say I'm leaning towards the latter.
For starters, the entire film is told through the eyes of Jeliza-Rose (Jodelle Ferland), a girl of roughly ten years. Given Jeliza is in every single scene, you'd want her to have a decent amount of talent. Jodelle Ferland is possibly the best child actor I've ever seen. I don't know where the hell they found her, but she must have been Grace Kelly or someone in a previous life, because no one that old can act that well. It just doesn't happen. They should erect a plaque for the casting director who first uncovered her. Yes, she's that good.
The rest of the cast is just as impressive. Jeff Bridges proves that as great as he is, he's never as good as when he's working with Gilliam (or the Coens). Janet McTeer (who I thought was Jessica Lange for most of the film) goes further than I think any "name" actress would, as does Dylan Taylor, who appears in what must have been one of the most uncomfortable roles of all time. After reading about some of the actor-related headaches Gilliam suffered on BROTHERS GRIMM (in Bob McCabe's "Dreams and Nightmares"), it must have been a joy for him to get so many actors willing to push themselves so far.
If it sounds like I'm doing all I can to avoid discussing the plot of the film, it's because I am. Part of me feels I have a responsibility to warn people about what they're going into; the rest of me feels a larger responsibility to let you all experience it on your own terms. Even if you want to walk out (as the people in front of me chose to, about ten minutes before the end), you need to discover this film on your own. Avoid spoilers, avoid reviews (once you've done with this one), and just see it.
Gilliam's directing style -- by far, the most important part of any Gilliam film -- is on its highest notch here. I'd like to say that he's forging new territory for other directors, but it's just not the case. People like Scorsese or Antonioni or Altman; they're the guys who forge ahead and bring other directors with them. No, Gilliam is so far ahead of everyone else, the areas he's forging are only there for him. That's because he was so far ahead when he begun, nobody knows how to find his trail. Every one of his frames, every glimpse of colour, every bit of set, every camera movement, every line of dialogue in every shot in this film carries more meaning and depth in it than the entire running time of most films made by even a half-way good director. There's so much going on here, I'm not 100% sure I understood what I was seeing. I know that any understanding I have of the film is barely scratching the surface, and I can't wait to go back and immerse myself into it until I comprehend Jeliza-Rose's world as much as Gilliam does.
One of the most important filmmakers of all time is back on form after the worst part of a decade, and we are the richer for it. Get ready to be part of one of the more interesting cinematic debates of recent history, and book your ticket as soon as possible.