Cochochi [2009)

Long ago.

When I went to Spain.

I was amazed to find.

Not everyone speaks Spanish.

Primarily.

In Catalunya, with Barcelona, they speak Catalan.

In the Basque Country, with Bilbao, they speak the fascinating Euskara (or Basque language).

And in Galicia, where clothing giant Inditex (Zara) is located, they speak Galego (or Galician).

[Even Google Translate recognizes Galician now.]

And that’s all in Spain!

But how was I to know this?

Being a boy from Texas.

Well, I did my research…

Let me tell you:  it’s not easy finding a Basque language guide here.

Even in a diverse city such as Austin!

But now I am in San Antonio.

And here we have another Mexican film.

But it’s not in Spanish.

Yes, Mexico is linguistically rich too.

This film is in Tarahumara.

Yes.

That’s a language.

Spoken by about 85,000 people.

AND…it’s one of 63 “national languages” of Mexico!!

Other sources count 69 languages in the country (including Spanish).

Tarahumara is one of four languages in Mexico which fall under the Taracahita branch of Uto-Aztecan languages.

And when you watch this wonderful film (currently available on Netflix in the U.S.), you will see the distinctive, beautiful faces of the child actors who carry on this “Aztec” heritage.

But don’t be confused.

The Uto-Aztecan languages stretch as far north as Idaho (Uto, as in Ute language, as in Utah).

And as far south as El Salvador.

But suffice it to say.

Even Mexicans might be hard-pressed to understand the dialogue of Cochochi.

Thank God for subtitles!

Our film is directed by Israel Cardenas and Laura Amelia Guzmán.

And they do a fantastic job.

The film is sparse.

Quiet.

The child actors evoke the magic of Víctor Erice’s masterpiece El espíritu de la colmena.

And while Cochochi seems to emanate from another planet (kind of like that “Martian” language Basque…[or, for that matter, Welsh]), there are faint glimmers of cinematic quotation here and there.

Perhaps a sudden splash of color…some sunflowers…in an otherwise bleak, earth-tone color palette…à la Kiarostami’s Taste of Cherry.

Or even the delicacy of time passing…perhaps what Deleuze meant by the “time-image” all those years ago…but what I instinctively associate with Ingmar Bergman–that eerie silence which characterizes nature in its most remote regions.

The Rarámuri people depicted in this film (our Tarahumara speakers) live (in this case) in the state of Chihuahua.

Northwestern Mexico.

[The Rarámuri people are also found in the states of Durango and Sonora]

Our actors have the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains as their backdrop.

Places like Copper Canyon.

But this is no Bogart film.

Each and every movement and bit of dialogue which our directors elicit from their players is an act of loving capture.

Priceless moments which convey a multitude of new thoughts to those unfamiliar with the Rarámuri people.

Our main actors play themselves in the movie.

Yes, in much the way you would expect Robert Flaherty to make a film.

But keep in mind that the French title of Blue is the Warmest Color is La Vie d’Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2.

As in Adèle Exarchopoulos.

As in, the actress (Exarchopoulos) was playing a character which bore her name:  Adèle.

[at least her first name]

But the stars of our film are two young actors who don’t even have Spanish Wikipedia pages.

Luis Antonio Lerma Torres plays Tony (short for Antonio).

His full name is utilized for that of his character.

Tony is great in this film.

But the real star is Evaristo Corpus Lerma Torres.

Evaristo gives a performance which is unforgettable.

Quiet.  Understated.  Real.

But don’t be fooled…

These two film brothers (real life as well?) need each other.

Their personalities play off one another.

To call this a road film would be slightly inaccurate.

There aren’t really roads here.

At least with paving.

And while there are a couple of rusty pickup trucks which transport members of various communities around…creeping along the dirt roads (gratis, of course)…the real drama involves a horse.

Indeed, there are horses about.

Donkeys.

Sheep.

But this one horse is very important.

Because Tony and Evaristo have “borrowed” it…from their grandfather.

This is really a transcendent story of mercy and love…of patience…and of the brilliance of nature.

Animals are smart.

And miracles can be in the wise words of grandfathers…

Forgiveness.

And wonder.

-PD

Puppylove [2013)

Everybody likes sex, right?

Well, maybe not priests, but…

Ok.  Bad joke.

But sex is not a subject I’ve ever written about specifically in any of my film reviews.

And perhaps it is only fitting that Puppylove be the movie under the aegis of which I first do so.

There are several ways of situating this film “historically” in the medium of cinema.

One would be to take a recent frame of reference.

Blue.

In a strange example of Zeitgeist, Blue is the Warmest Color beat Puppylove to market by about six months.

Indeed, La Vie d’Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2 might be the best comparison.

But it is not a very historical one.

Which is to say, the two films are more or less contemporaneous.

Were the creators of the latter film influenced by the earlier release?

Because the connection is strong.

From the astounding Adèle Exarchopoulos, we can draw an easy line to the equally-sublime Solène Rigot.

Their characters, Adèle and Diane, are extremely similar.

But let’s take director Delphine Lehericey’s wonderful film back to an actual previous point in film development.

 American Beauty.

1999.

Solène Rigot is an easy comparison to Thora Birch (my favorite actress ever) in that film.

Likewise, Audrey Bastien is an exact overlay (no pun intended) on Mena Suvari’s character Angela Hayes.

[At this point I would like to quote Neil Young (“I fell in love with the actress/She was playing a part that I could understand”) and admit that Solène Rigot really stole my heart with this one.  It took me awhile to fully comprehend…who she looked like…someone who broke my heart…a Beatrice in my Dantean darkness upon a time.]

Back to film criticism, and sticking with 1999’s “Best Picture”, we should also note that Kevin Spacey is well signified by signifier Vincent Perez in Puppylove.

To paraphrase Godard, ever image in every film is a quote.

Which brings us to the fountainhead.

To wit, where does this style of filmmaking which Lehericey is practicing originate?

For me, there is no better answer than Monsieur Godard’s perfect film Je vous salue, Marie.

1985.

Hail Mary‘s most jaw-dropping asset was the inimitable Myriem Roussel.

Solène Rigot is a reincarnation of Roussel’s magic.

Instead of basketball, it’s field hockey.

But Puppylove goes on to quote delicately and successfully.

Roman Polanski’s Knife in the Water.

Perhaps even Kubrick’s Lolita (equally applicable to American Beauty…at least in theory).

But I’m the schmuck who wins the prize.

I didn’t care how “hot” Mena Suvari was.

And I don’t give a shit about Audrey Bastien’s skinny little frame either.

[Though Bastien is a much better actress than Suvari.]

I fall for the outcasts.

Jane Burnham (Thora Birch).

And, here, Diane (Solène Rigot).

Puppylove is not as earth-shattering a film as Abdellatif Kechiche’s Blue is the Warmest Color.

But Delphine Lehericey is an extremely gifted director.

And she had the secret weapon to pull it off.

Solène Rigot.

Puppylove will endure because Rigot is the real thing.

I’ve hardly talked about sex yet (like, not at all).

But that’s the way the master of understatement Hitchcock would have done it.

The most sublime moments in highly-sexualized European cinema are when the sex isn’t happening.

Exarchopoulos proved this.

And Rigot confirms it.

-PD

Brooklyn [2015)

I do believe my tear ducts are sore on account of this film.

Some writing will be meaningful, and some meaningless (depending on the audience).

Don’t you keep anything for yourself?

Very little…

Because I believe in the beauty of people…out there…in the vast world…the goodness of people…in heart and in soul.

It’s like Titanic without the shipwreck.

((lachrymal vases))

Ireland should be very proud of Saoirse Ronan.

And so should The Bronx.

From Howth and environs to Jerzy Kosiński’s 1982 masterpiece novel Pinball.

I have written a great deal about Saoirse in the past.

She is my favorite actress working in film.

[Thora Birch needs some gigs.  Kat Dennings needs to ditch 2 Broke Girls or CBS needs to enter the Hulu joint venture.  Anamaria Marinca and Dorotheea Petre need gigs.  Myriem Roussel:  where are you?  And finally Adèle Exarchopoulos:  you are on the right track!]

But Saoirse Ronan is unique among my favorite actresses for a variety of reasons.

Brooklyn gives her a chance to employ her Irish accent–to accentuate rather than mask it.

Quite frankly, this is a brilliant film!

John Crowley did a masterful job as director.

Emory Cohen is really good herein.

Julie Walters is hilarious!

Fiona Glascott is darn-near perfect.

But this whole thing is really about Saoirse Ronan.

John Crowley surrounded her with an older style of filmmaking.

It fits the story snugly.

Saoirse shines through like no other actress.

She is a ruby with the hardness of a diamond.

Etching her name into film history at the young age of 22.

Hollywood is not dead as long as she continues to get the starring roles she deserves.

 

-PD

خمس كاميرات محطمة‎ [2011)

[5 BROKEN CAMERAS (2011)]

Israel is the most shameful country on Earth.

But America is not far behind.

Israeli soldiers are cowardly, repugnant beasts.

With their high-tech weapons.

It is the same for America.

The Jews of Israel who occupy the Palestinian West Bank are disgusting semblances of human life.

They need their walls.

They need to steal land.

Oh, sounds very progressive for the cause of Zion.

So very brave that these automata in their yarmulkes move in to the olive fields of Arabs.

They set the olive trees on fire.

That sounds like an outrageous claim.

But it is nothing compared to kidnapping children.

The Israeli military kidnaps children in West Bank villages.

Why?

To try and terrorize these subsistence farmers into ceasing their protests.

And why are these farmers from small villages protesting?

Because their land is being gobbled up little by little.

“Hey, I was using that land…by the way.”

Picking olives.

So the Israeli Humvees roll in at night.

Spielberg’s pathetic imagination could never conjure what documentary filmmaker Emad Burnat captured on film.

Israelis should be puking in the streets and smearing themselves with their own shit…in shame for what their military does in their name.

And America is not far behind.

Israeli soldiers with weak faces knocking on the doors in a West Bank village.

If there are children inside, the children are taken.

It is shock and awe…Stockholm syndrome…terroristic tactics of which Goebbels would have approved.

The weak Jews who move into settlements (concrete apartment blocks) on stolen land.

All they can yell is, “I’ll sue you.  I’ll sue you.”

How dare you film me as I move into my new patriotic Israeli home?

How dare you film the scramble of settlers eager to establish false legitimacy?

What kind sick people allow their military to shoot at children?

In this film.

Never a single gun among the Palestinians.

The only rocks they throw are when the Israeli stormtroopers roll through their village in an arrogant convoy.

But the children who are shot…

The incessant tear gas…

The stun grenades thrown at people…

These every day occurrences…rather, every Friday.

The villagers of Bil’in protesting a wall.

A nonviolent protest.

And every time (every fucking time) the Israelis disperse the crowd by means of violence.

People die.

People holding nothing but Palestinian flags.

Unarmed.

In the middle of fucking nowhere.

But it’s THEIR nowhere!

It’s where the olives grow.

“Hey…your wall has cut us off from the trees.  Our trees are now on your side of the wall.”

This film, 5 Broken Cameras, shows the struggle of a filmmaker who suffered more in making this film over five years than Jean-Luc Godard suffered making films over a lifetime.

And yet, Godard is the best of the Westerners.

The only one with a conscience.

He was in Palestine in the 70s.

No other filmmaker comes close to the integrity of Godard.

Except for Emad “The Real Deal” Burnat.

Immense credit is due to the Israelis who joined the struggle with their Palestinian brothers and sisters.

Co-director Guy Davidi was one.

Immense credit is due to Kino Lorber for releasing this film.

Immense credit is due to Hulu for currently streaming this film.

Last I checked, it was also available on Apple iTunes.  Great work, Apple!

Emad Burnat threatens to unseat Abbas Kiarostami as the most relevant Middle Eastern director.

Emad Burnat lays his cards on the table in a metaphorical game of poker with Abdellatif Kechiche.

There are real tears to be cried, do you understand?

I like a good lesbian fuckfest as much as the next bloke, but these are real tears, do you understand, Adèle Exarchopoulos?

We want to see beauty.  We want to see stories which mirror our pathetic little lives.

But 5 Broken Cameras shows you hell on Earth.

Palestine.

Norman Finkelstein is a two-face Janus (which is to say, a Janus).

And so am I.

But I am so out of fear.

I am human.

[Finkelstein attacked BDS for not boycotting 5 Broken Cameras.  That’s an intel op move.  Princeton.  Princeton.]

If you’re not afraid to post something, then it’s probably not important.

 

-PD

Les Visiteurs du soir [1942)

I don’t know what I’m doing.

But I’m happy.

For once.

Quarante-deux.

She could slow down time with her Aeolian harp.

Silk strings.  So tired.  Suddenly…

Arletty.  Femme fatale.

And Alain Cuny.  Homme fatal.

The first punk rock band.

A duo.

The Devil’s Envoys.

Yeah…look at us!  In chain…  With the dogs!

Like Alan Vega and Martin Rev.

Except Arletty’s in drag, see?

So she’s taping her breasts down like a fashion model.

Which is exactly what she was.

Reified.

But Marie Déa breaks my heart the most.

You want to know where Adèle Exarchopoulos comes from?

Well, here you go.

No doubt.  Kechiche.

Quarante-et-un.  Quarante-deux.

A perfect film from Marcel Carné.

Existentialism is a Humanism.

And Bob Marley.

But never a more convincing devil than Jules Berry.

No doubt.  Rolling Stones.

Master is a Margarita.

Same death-rattle laugh as Keith Richards.

As flaming a devil as Elmyr de Hory.

Raffinato!

Like Sergio Marchionne after 11 espressos.

And all while a love shines through which you might find in the quiet thoughts of Clayton Christensen.

As you might expect:  the devil is all business.

A harsh exterior.

Nay…merely forbidding.  Yes.

Only the highest level of French society.

True censorship would have forbidden a villain altogether.

In occupied France.

Glorious, glorious.  Never let on your form!

Complete your poésies.

From Peshawar to Prussia.

From Barvikha to Batman, Turkey.

 

-PD

La Vie d’Adèle – Chapitres 1 & 2 [2013)

Sometimes we wonder whether the sadness is worth it.

In our epic lives which seem unbearable.

We only wanted a laugh for a second.

But we’ve felt too much.  Seen too much.  Too knowing.

All week long.

Misery.

And I have a letter in my heart.

But she won’t read it.

Won’t respond.

I am too sad to live.

Like Poe.  Like Baudelaire.  Especially.

Sitting for long hours in the café which really isn’t a café.

It’s a class struggle.

I can’t afford to be sad.

And I can’t afford not to love you.

This is Blue is the Warmest Color by Abdellatif Kechiche.

He.

Takes his time unwinding this story.

So delicate.  As lovers with mangoes.

Nobody’s listening.

Praise be to God!

I can’t.

Reveal myself to the world like that.

For it is Adèle Exarchopoulos and Léa Seydoux who have made the perfect film.

Real blood and real tears.

Cinema demands it.

From under the shadows of Godard, Kechiche.

Don’t let it scare you away.

Persevere!

Because this film was wholly deserving of the Palme d’Or.

It’s not a lesbian love story.

It’s not even really a love story.

It’s loss.

Walking away.

Lonely like Anna Karina or Louise Brooks.

Heels clicking pavement.

She couldn’t get close to anybody.

And when she finally does?

It’s devastating.

Devastatingly beautiful.

But devastating.

So many tears in this orgy of Frenchness.

Like Verlaine and Rimbaud.

“You’re gonna make me lonesome when you go”

I’ve seen one actress do it (Anamaria Marinca).

But I’ve never seen two actresses do it.

Together.  Like Ginsberg and Corso.

Perhaps.

Ouroboros.

Really, it’s just Exarchopoulos.

I could say the name a million times.

Thank you.

Typically French.

Untypically thorough.

Kechiche.

Tunisia.

France.

Greece.

There’s joy in those tears.

Because acting doesn’t permit this.

Cinema doesn’t permit this.

It’s not The Brown Bunny blue.

Blue is the coldest color.

Timing.

Pacing.

Nothing.

And beingness.

What?

Exarchopoulos.  Exarchopoulos.  Exarchopoulos.

And [poof!] she appears 🙂

Teach me something I don’t know.

The birth of the world.

The middle movement Mozart clarinet concerto like Breathless.

I’m too tired and my French isn’t good.

I’m literally at the end of breath.

But don’t go…

Stay a moment longer.

And linger.

Stay with me with the damned.

What can I offer them?

When my troubles have been so mundane.

No.

Love vastly, hurt immensely.

Learn the real life.

Of Arabic and real estate and dreams destroyed.

I will never be a movie star.

God damn it.

We just want our spark in a bottle to be found.

Our quark.  Her quirk.

Hair all down in her face.

Don’t get me started…

It’s not the Bond girl who fascinates.

It’s the girl of the winding arcades…

Straight and narrow.

Zaftig.  Not the svelte punk.

Lots of spaghetti like Gummo and a chocolate bar through the tears.

My God…

What did I just witness?

Sex is the least important aspect of this film.

Titillation misses the point.

It’s that connection that she so dearly wanted.

This is the loneliest job.

 

-PD