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Jirô monogatari (1987)
Beautiful tale of childhood
I saw this film last night at the Weekly Japanese Cinema screenings held at the Chifley Towers in Sydney, held by The Japan Foundation. It is a film about a boy who lives with his nanny while his mother is sick. His life is happy, but he has to return home, and here is where the film becomes very moving and touching. Sentimental, yes, but not sickly or forcedly. It does drag out towards the end, but the ending itself was quite moving, and although my friend fell asleep occasionally during the film (it was an evening showing), he still liked it. Very much like an Ozu film, and interesting the filmmaker seems to have made few films (if you go by the IMDb).
Oyster Farmer (2004)
Empty, empty, empty
A debut film from an AFTRS student. A typical, empty, superficial piece of work that displays no effort at trying to get inside the minds of these characters, indeed, it rather pretends to know and is so convinced that these are 'good blokes and Sheila's' it doesn't even bother to try any harder. The story lumbered from point to point with holes in between the size of the Hawkesbury River, and the acting does no more than try and cover over these. In the end, none of it comes together in any sensible way, and there is no attempt to show what the hell this whole mess of a film is about anyway. Is it about oyster farming, or is it about life of a Sydney sider living in the country?Or is it neither? A confusion. (Spoiler) It ends with the main male and female characters in a bath together, having somehow successfully fallen in love, with no attempt on the part of the filmmaker to convincingly portray the two falling in love. It's almost as if we are expected to believe this relationship based on the mythology or formula seen in other films, a concession that this is poorly written but telling us at the same time we should go along with it for the sake of pleasing the ego of some filmmaker far far away with nothing to say and all the power to say nothing. Another film from our abysmal industry, and why? Just ask where the filmmakers learned their craft.
A Constant Forge (2000)
I give it three for showing some archival footage of him at work on set. But everything else, all the interviews, the music, the sentimentality, is way too much and over the top. Even when they show photos they are only to help serve this image of an 'angel' who could do no wrong.
Everything Falk, Rowlands, and the other actors he worked with is nothing but comments on 'how great he was', or how touching, or how much of a 'genius' he was. But we get this in every other documentary about filmmakers! The best ones do their best to avoid it. This one indulges in it. Even the people who we know to have smart things to say (like Ray Carney) have their words spun to fit into the context of this 'great' man.
Am I to believe this man was so flawless? If someone made a documentary about me or one of my friends like this I'd burn every copy I saw.
Rien que les heures (1926)
Strange, poetic and beautiful
At times rather slow and yet all the time it gives you details of a time forgotten and lost, when there were no washing machines, no computers, television, the streets were quieter, and life was a little bit slower... My goodness have we lost a lot. The copy I saw had no music whatever, and I'm not sure if that was intentional. But it was lovely, as if it were made to be sent into outer space for people of another world to see what life is like on Earth. Maybe it was meant for us modern day people, for whom life has become like meat on a hotplate, so we can see what life was like in a time when, even if it was still difficult (for when is life ever easy?), it wasn't so destructive to our inner lives. As you can't seem to be able to get a copy of this anywhere, I'd try scouring libraries for it.
A stunning and simple short film by a La Femis graduate, all done in a single shot. It slowly and surely pulls you into this single moment, of a boat entering a a port to bring in - I won't spoil it, even though it's very simple, it is very powerful and memorable.
I don't know how anyone will be able to see it, though I suppose you could contact La Femis. I wonder if this Russian director is one to look out for?
For me this is proof the short film can be very powerful and utterly evocative, my opinion was always a short film is too short to be immersing, but I think this film very powerfully immerses the viewer.
A forgotten gem
Sergei Bondarchuk's (War and Peace) film of Ten Days that Shook the World, about the October Revolution in 1917, depicts, from the point of the view of two foreign journalists in Petrograd, the events which would shape Russia for the 20th century. The film has a dryness to it which may bore viewers (it certainly bored me a little on first viewing) but give it your patience - this is a very well crafted and impartial look at the revolution, and it has more power than the lackeys to audience taste at Hollywood would ever fit into a motion picture. It's not available on VHS or DVD, so scour the rental world for a copy - it's where I got mine.