Monday, September 17, 2012

Cine Europa 2012: Oui! Si! Belissimo! Nein! (and other random European words)

One of the reasons I like going to Shang, aside from the quiet and space due to the lack of crowds other malls normally have, is that they play host to different film festivals in which, for the sad unawares, admission is free. These past two weeks, Cine Europa, which showcased films from (surprise, surprise!) different European countries, was held. Compared to film fests in the past, the crowd of attendees this year has grown much bigger. It unsettled me that most who were there had no other reason in watching aside from the fact that it’s free. It made me feel bad that the movies were playing for the wrong audience who, being used to watching visually-arresting but mindless blockbusters, might not appreciate them. But, as my sister wisely pointed out, it can also serve as an avenue to educate people that there also films of substance out there that they can enjoy.

Out of the many films on schedule, I had the chance to watch three films, which was plenty enough for me. These three were all different from their country of origin, decade where they belonged, the storyline, of course, and the general atmosphere of the movie.

The first movie I was able to see was “Lidice” from Czech Republic. Because we had decided at the last minute to watch due to its convenience of time, we lined up, utterly clueless of what we were about to see. Had I known what was coming, I would have a very different reaction altogether.

From the first few seconds of the film, it was apparent that there would be no laughing involved. What we did not expect, was that it was a Nazi movie. Lidice, as it turns out, was an actual town, which took the fall for the assassination of a high-ranking official. Frantic to find a scapegoat, an innocent letter from Lidice was purposely misinterpreted and used as evidence for the shooting. The result was a town genocide of horrendous proportions. I will no longer describe the details beyond the words death by weighing scale and gas chamber trucks. The protagonist was the only male survivor of the town because he was in prison when the whole thing happened. He had no knowledge of the incident until he, as a free man, found himself standing on a wide patch of snow where the town used to be. The story has more to it, with its sub-plots, but you get the drift. Although I should do more than tell the story and at least give a reaction to the film other than exclaiming my horror, I cannot get past the lifeless faces of the dead and the anguished cries of the mothers to see it as a movie and not as history unfolding itself.  If I have learned anything from this film, it’s that one Nazi movie is enough to watch for a lifetime and in my case, I had two (“Life is Beautiful”). So much for including “Schinder’s List” on my bucket list.

Determined not to make the same mistake of watching unknowingly, I read the synopsis of “The Rest is Silence” (Romania) before heading out. Because it was a labeled as a comedy and as one review puts it, “an intelligent crowd-pleaser”, I was all set to watch. And I was not disappointed. The film is about the making of the first full-length feature film about the war in Romania. In a time where the theatre is watched in throngs, short silent films are a big joke to the arts. And so, it was a huge feat, that a two-hour long film, ambitious as it was, was completed. It highly contrasts the two performance arts. “Hamlet” in theatre is a four-hour long show of colourful and elaborate costumes and poignant poetry uttered with the grace and eloquence that can only be perfected by years of study. Whereas, in film, it is only a ten-minute sequence of black and white images, with the actors gesturing wildly as they have to convey emotions without any audible dialogue and assisted with short intertitles instead.

Carol I: A "director"...?... So what the 
hell does this child do?
Grig:  Me, I reign, Sire!     
The film is ridden with hapless but comical situations brought to life by characters with their flamboyant personas. The chubby young director, determined to break film grounds despite the objections of his father, who happened to be a renowned comic theatre actor. The investor, albeit his reservations, upon watching his first short film cracked up the most long after the laughters have ended.  And the mysterious, beautiful lady, who after the director’s first encounter with her, which was seeing her posing with her breasts au naturale for a painting, keeps popping up in his life. But true to the movie’s promise of a tragedy-comedy, the characters took the turn for the worst, as they faced their dreadful and lonely endings. Still, the somber ending did not taint the post-movie glow I have whenever I enjoyed watching. And as to the title “The Rest is Silence”, aside from the reference to silent films, it was drawn from the last line uttered in “Hamlet” right before he died, which also pertained to the death of the movie characters.

Being second is to be the first 
of the ones who lose.  
The film I am most excited about is “Senna” (UK). It is a actually, a documentary of Ayrton Senna, a racing driver legend. He is the Manny Pacquaio of Brazil, only handsome. He has three Formula One World Championships under his belt and numerous podium finishes. In every win, he never hesitates to wave his Brazilian flag up high (literally), a testament that he is proud of his roots.
The documentary captures the very first time he raced in Europe, up to that faithful day of his untimely death. It features footages from the races, including his in-car camera, interviews, and closed-door meetings. We are given front row seats to the highs and lows of his career, which I never imagined to be ridden with so much controversy and drama. It was as if his life was made for television.  I never knew of his existence before I sat down and watched him on the screen but his death affected me so even though I am 18 years too late. I guess that’s our general reaction whenever someone still young and at the peak of his career dies.

In the first few minutes upon realizing that the film was nothing more than a documentary of some race car driver, a number of people made their way out of the theatre. Some tried to hold their ground but eventually followed suit. It was a documentary and not a biopic because despite the lack of glitz and glamour one could in add in films, it would be hard to capture the raw intensity, uproars of the spectators, and the breathless anticipation of every turn in the tracks from watching the real thing. I myself don’t really watch documentaries but this one was able to get me to hold on to my seat. It took some strategic emphasis, camera angles, and the right commentaries to make it as exciting as it can get. I don’t know if it was intentional but the bromance relationship between Senna and his doctor was a happy departure from the grim scenes presented. It got me laughing when the doctor said that “His (Senna’s) face lights up whenever he sees me.”  

I’ve written more than I intended to and I have to stop myself from gushing about Senna’s cute smile or his endearing Portuguese accent. I should just end by saying that I hope people should take advantage of the various film fests malls, like Shang, have to offer. There are plenty of others film festivals aside from this one to choose from. With so much black hole-sucking movies right in front of our faces, it’s nice to use our brains once in a while. 

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