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

Norteado [2009)

This may be the hardest film I’ve ever had to review.

And that’s the beauty of cinema.

Movies can challenge the way we think.

They can show us a perspective we’ve never seen.

This particular masterpiece (and I mean it) comes from my neighbors to the south.

Mexico.

Director Rigoberto Perezcano strikes all the right chords here.

In these days of division, we must humble ourselves before God.

That is my direction to myself.

I must humble myself.

Because there are struggles I cannot realistically imagine.

Could you cross a desert?

Me…I don’t think so.

Humble before God.

It must be the Sonoran Desert.

Harold Torres.

All the way from Oaxaca.

The acting is perfect.

In the bus station.

But things get real in the desert.

The Tijuana moods of Mingus.

Loneliness of Alicia Laguna.

Desperation of Sonia Couoh.

And every day the trabajo of Harold Torres.

La frontera.

Border fence.

Dreams.

But mostly misery.

This could have been a very bad film, but director Perezcano knows exactly when Debussy must enter and exit.

Perhaps he saw Atonement.

But it doesn’t matter.

Because Northless (its title on Netflix) is twice as good as Joe Wright’s 2007 effort.

But don’t underestimate the presence of Luis Cárdenas.

That mustache…

It is really hard to sum up this film.

Perhaps:  if you think you have it bad, walk a mile in Harold Torres’ shoes.

I’m simply at a loss for words.

Never before has a La-Z-Boy made me cry.

And so I salute my neighbors to the south.

Mexico.

May we all prosper with love in each interaction.

May God’s grace and mercy be upon us.

-PD

#8 Mr. Bean in Room 426 [1993)

First, a short list of Hulu failings:

-Pootie Tang (shite)

-Mordecai (shite)

-Lars and the Real Girl (epically shite)

-The Voices (shite)

-Mystery Team (shite)

-Hot Tub Time Machine 2 (shite squared) [catalog dilemma]

-Anchorman 2 (shite to the second power)

-Beverly Hills Cop II (repetitive shiteness) [catalog dilemma]

-Cannonball Run II (must see first episode to appreciate this shite)

-Teen Wolf Too (now with word shite!)

-The Naked Gun 2 1/2 (quasi-decimal shite)

-The Naked Gun 33 1/3 (LP shite)

-My Best Friend’s Wedding (shite)

-Cashback (shite)

-Dear White People (shite)

-Everything Must Go (shite)

-Jerry Maguire (shite)

-The Skeleton Twins (shite)

-Trailer Park Boys (shite)

-16-Love (shite)

-Novocaine (sic shite)

-Dark Horse (Judeo-Nepotistic shite)

-Little Paradise (shite)

-Frances Ha (epically shite)

-Stranger Than Fiction (shite)

-8 Heads in a Duffel Bag (shite)

-C.S.A.:  The Confederate States of America (ambitious shite)

-Trees Lounge (depressing attempt at shite)

-King of California (total shite)

-Dead Hooker in a Trunk (go-back-to-film-school shite)

-Are You Joking? (more Judeo-Nepotistic shite)

-And Now a Word From Our Sponsors (shite)

-Falling Star (Kosher Casino shite)

-Jewtopia (no comment)

-The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Swedish shite)

-Heathers (cruel shite)

-Sleeping Beauty (barely shite)

-Gold (Irish shite)

-The Hunger Games:  Catching Fire (quintessential shite)

-Jack Ryan:  Shadow Recruit (lazy shite)

-Mission:  Impossible (a colon-full of Scientologist shite)

-Space Milkshake (actually, not too bad…)

[I hate to say it, but the number of films by mediocre directors named Schwarz is really astonishing.]

Now, you might reason:  these are just the rantings of an anti-Semitic film snob.

I admit I don’t laugh easily.

It takes a lot to laugh, it takes a train to cry.

Mostly I don’t like waste.

Entitled filmmakers are more likely to make shite.

They didn’t earn their stripes.

They have an uncle who works for Sony Pictures.

Actually, the film school rubbish on Hulu is astonishing.

It is completely venal in nature.

I just happen to have had some bad experiences with unfunny Jewish films.

What do I mean, “Jewish films”?

I mean exactly what Brandon Tartikoff was referring to when he first saw the Seinfeld pilot.

In that instance, Tartikoff (himself Jewish) was wrong.

Seinfeld was genius!

Seinfeld is a funny show.

Yes, it exists in a Jewish milieu.

Tartikoff thought the show was “too Jewish” to appeal to Americans in general.

He was wrong.

But, sadly, now we have a gaggle of filmmakers who think they are Woody Allen or Mel Brooks.

Status update:  those two guys actually have talent!

Which is not to say they didn’t make some clunkers.

Hulu happens to have picked up two of those clunkers:  Bananas and Life Stinks.

No one’s perfect.

But please…dear world Jewry,

Please tell your precocious sons and daughters that they aren’t all geniuses.

Who’s funding this shit?

Hulu:  who the fuck is in charge over there!?!

Your catalog indicates that you enjoy wasting the monthly fees people pay for your woeful service.

Ok, ok…

A short list of Hulu successes:

-the Criterion collection

THE END.

And so…what part of the Hulu catalog presently needs the most work?

Answer:  the comedy genre of movies.

Second most problematic lack of imaginative curation?

Answer:  the drama genre of movies.

[If you think that Hulu’s selection of movies might be lacking (based on my first two points of emphasis), then you are right:  it is!]

Third crappiest category on Hulu?

Answer:  the “action & adventure” genre of movies.

Even Hulu’s genres are ass-backwards compared to the pinpoint precision of iTunes.

Korean Drama?  Really???  Ok.  I guess Hulu is really killing it in Seoul (and Pyongyang).

CEO Mike Hopkins needs to take a long look in the mirror.

Whoever got the Criterion catalog, give that person an infinite raise.

The rest of them?  Fire their sorry asses.

Beth Comstock needs to overturn the moneychangers’ tables.

Destroy YOUR business, Ms. Comstock.

Jason Kilar…you know what doesn’t work?  Faux-dreams.

Faux-tographs.

A catalog of shite.

Make a call.  Do lunch.

“Anywhere, Anytime:  Shite”

“For the Love of shite”

“Come Shite with Us”

Lot of people drawing a check at Hulu and turning out a subpar service.

The name Hulu comes from two Mandarin Chinese words…both of which translate roughly to “shite”.

Now, just to be fair…I wouldn’t sign up for Netflix if my life depended on it.

iTunes is a horribly antiquated business model (and offers very little value for consumers).

Amazon Prime Video was petty to disallow MacBooks (as incompatible devices) as late as last year.  Not to mention that Jeff Bezos is just a wannabe Rupert Murdoch who bans books like Nobody Died at Sandy Hook.  [And yes, Virginia, Murdoch is the great Satan.]

And so, with such a paltry selection of movies on Hulu, I’ve been forced to examine its television offerings.  The prospects are not much better.

But I will give credit where credit is due.

Mr. Bean was an excellent pickup.

If you want a tight, seamless work of art (unlike this rambling, frothing review), then check out the episode under consideration.

You know, not even the childlike Rowan Atkinson was above making fun of old people (in this episode) or suggesting that continental Europeans be purposefully killed by British drivers (tourists).  Check out his standup comedy album from 1995 for the latter bit.

Which just goes to show…we all lose our heads.

We all exercise poor judgment.  We all have poor taste now and then.

You may not believe it, but I have put my own sorry butt on the line to stand up for world Jewry.

I will be the first to admit that my term “Judeo-Nepotistic” is incredibly crass and insensitive.

And still, I would ask that Jews (who are no doubt hard-pressed on all sides) please exercise some judgment of their own.  Transparent nepotism is really tasteless.  It goes against our better Jeffersonian principles.

So there you have it.  Bobby Fischer was a jerk.  The Holocaust really happened.  Not so sure about the gas chambers.  You’re welcome Faurisson.  The Earth is not flat.  9/11 was an inside job (and therefore not an Israeli job).  Insofar as it was an Israeli job, the U.S. government was at least half-responsible.  It was much more likely an Israeli job than a Saudi job.  Much more likely a purely self-inflicted inside job (no substantial Israeli involvement) than an Israeli job.  And finally, Israel is a criminal country oppressing the Palestinians in a most disgusting manner.

And for good measure, yes Donald Trump is a bigot.  And he’s horribly wrong about immigration (both in regards to our Mexican brothers and sisters and our Islamic brothers and sisters).  But he’s still the only real choice for President.

Sanders has been right about one thing:  Snowden.  Snowden’s a hero.  But America is not a socialist country.  Sanders would actually be a bigger step backwards than Trump.

The other candidates (Clinton and Cruz) are worthless.

So there you go, Hulu…I need some better circuses here!

To keep me out of the political arena!!

I could use some bread as well 🙂

In any case, I’m sorry for my vile ranting.

But film is my religion.  Through film, omnism.

Stop defiling my religion, Hulu.  Your thoughtlessness is ghastly.

Hire some people who love cinema.

Get your shit together.

 

-PD

 

 

El ángel exterminador [1962)

Dear friends…it has been awhile.  And I have been stuck inside a nightmare.

A party, but a nightmare all the same.

On this New Year’s Eve when so many rush to their engagements…I have thanks to give…yet it all seems so surreal.

For many of us we battle mental demons.  Usually, we don’t mean demons literally.  And I certainly don’t.

Yet, the world is so strange that we can’t help wondering whether there is something beyond science which is driving certain events.

These sentiments…these questions, are the stuff of El ángel exterminador.  This is not a relaxing film, but it is absolutely essential.

It is a work of art which is irreplaceable in the global canon of creative thought and philosophy.

Luis Buñuel had immense courage to make this film.  And yet, he was an old hand by this point.

His first film (made in collaboration with fellow-Spaniard Salvador Dalí) was 16 minutes which shook the world:  Un Chien Andalou.  That was 1929.  The slicing of the donkey’s eyeball.  Before the stock market crash.  And verily, the cinematic parallel of Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du printemps.

Outrageous surrealism.  Think of his collaborator’s La persistència de la memòria.  The same fount of Freudian cess.  From the pool of the taxed mind comes melting clocks…(and in the case of Un Chien Andalou those familiar ants).  We will always see Dalí as ants…as ants on James Joyce’s egg-yolk universe…Humpty Dumpty having represented the fall of man (“…sat on the wall/…had a great fall”).  [Or as Joyce so singularly put it:  bababadalgharaghtakamminarronnkonnbronntonner-ronntuonnthunntrovarrhounawnskawntoohoohoordenenthurnuk!]

Luis Buñuel had the mad genius of Joyce.  In 1930, he followed upon his famous 16 minutes with 60 minutes in L’Âge d’Or.

I had the privilege of knowing Buñuel by way of his first two films and (in bookend fashion) two of his last three films:  Le Charme discret de la bourgeoisie (1972) and Cet obscur objet du désir (1977) [his final creation].

But none of this could have prepared me for the devastating, scathing critique of Western civilization that is El ángel exterminador.

The genre known as “comedy of manners” becomes a grotesque apocalypse the hands of Buñuel.  In that sense, El ángel exterminador is closest in spirit (or subject matter) to Le Charme discret de la bourgeoisie.

But it is very important to note that El ángel exterminador is operating on multiple levels.

Is it a damnation of the rich?  Sure.

Is it a mockery of polite culture?  Of course.

But the lethargy and incapacitation we see in El ángel exterminador are the result of very mannerly people being reduced to complete inaction because routine convention has been circumvented.  We see the short-circuiting of well-meaning people who do not know how to cope with change.

And on that level, this film is universal.  It just so happens that the overly-precious manners of the bourgeoisie serve best the filmmaker’s purpose.

Not to disappoint the more visually-stimulated among you, but there is no swooping angel of death in this film.  There is, however, a tense, suffocating masterpiece which makes Hitchcock gems like Lifeboat and even Rope look like the products of lazy philosophy in comparison.

One last thought…  For those who think that the wonderfully-bizarre Alejandro Jodorowsky appeared out of nowhere, El ángel exterminador sets the record straight.  Buñuel was taking aim at the impotence of religion before Jodorowsky was in short pants.  In this film we see the kernel of imagery (lambs, a smashed cello, bits of debris…) which would make La montaña sagrada the beautifully freakish creation it is.  Both were, incidentally, shot in Mexico.

Though Buñuel (a Spaniard) and Jodorowsky (a Chilean) came from different corners of the Spanish-speaking world, their lives would both include important time spent in Mexico and France.  Jodorowsky is, in some ways, still the future.  But to know the future, we must first know the past.

 

-PD