Here’s a quick sampling of my week’s watches. You can find more of my reviews at Always Watch Good Movies.
Sound City (2013)
Directed by: Dave Grohl
Sound City is a rockumentary that follows the first steps, golden years, and posterior decline of one of the most emblematic music studios in US. Dave Grohl, Nirvana’s former drummer and mentor of Foo Fighters, directed the film. He became a big fan of Sound City Studios while recording Nirvana’s cult album ‘Nevermind’, in 1991. Amazed with the sound that was being produced, Grohl would come to buy some of the iconic gear to outfit his private studio, which included the famous Neve 8028 mixing console. Without great filmmaking skills, the presentation ran in good rhythm, almost boosted by the sound of great songs that were being presented. Big names of rock music, such as: Neil Young, Fleetwood Mac, Tom Petty, Trent Reznor, Paul McCartney or Rick Springfield, have participated by telling their stories or performing songs. Ably, the film also makes reference to the crucial turning point on musical technology, when the analog gave place to digital, an easier way to manage recordings, though less human. Staunch rock fans should be pleased with the vitality and intensity evinced in Sound City, while the others probably will remain indifferent.
Directed by: Alejandro Landes
Country: Colombia / others
Porfirio shows the real life of Porfirio Ramirez, a 55 year-old Colombian man who was shot in the spine by a police officer, becoming paraplegic. The film centers in his day-to-day life, showing not only the constant physical struggle to accomplish the most basic tasks, but also the dependence from his son’s help, as well as some intimate moments with his girlfriend. Porfirio is trying to sue the state without success; he wasn’t even granted with any type of rehab, and his compensation never arrived. In order to call the attention for his case, he tried to hijack a plane with two grenades concealed in his diaper. This docudrama represents his last hope for justice, after having been sentenced with eight years of house arrest. Alejandro Landes adopted the same slow pace and rawness that characterize the style of Mexican Carlos Reygadas, although with diminished doses of abstraction. The images are colorful, the humor is subtle and the heat can almost be felt from outside the screen. Without any shame or complex, Porfirio says a lot about humanity and justice, at the same time that points a finger at the incompetent Colombian state.
Directed by: Michael Winterbottom
Filmed in England for a five-year period, Michael Winterbottom’s Everyday adopts a realistic approach to depict the struggle of Karen (Shirley Henderson) whose husband Ian (John Simm) was arrested for smuggling drugs. The plot consists on the every day’s routine for this woman, who has to work hard but at the same time tries to give the best education to her four children, even if she has to leave them with neighbors for considerable periods of time. The frequent visits to prison to see her husband in addition with the specific days that he gets authorization to leave in parole, represent brief moments of joy and caring for all the family. But Karen often feels lonely and vulnerable, assuming a new love affair. With natural performances and a way of filmmaking that refuses to be standardized, Everyday feels authentic, mixing moments of intensity and pain, with other of tenderness and beauty. Just a remark: despite its short duration, I sensed that the film needed to be trimmed a little more, especially before its final moments. A well worthy film, anyway.
Mea Maxima Culpa (2012)
Directed by:Alex Gibney
Dedicated to the students of St.John’s School for the Deaf in Wisconsin, this documentary unveils the sexual abuses committed by Father Lawrence Murphy, who molested more than 200 minor deaf boys before 1975. Four former students describe in detail what happened, comparing the pedophile priest to a sly wolf, a predator who entered every night into the dormitory to pick one of the silent lambs. It didn’t stick only with this individual case and many other priests’ names were mentioned, not just in US, but also in Ireland and Italy. It also discloses the stratagems of the Vatican to conceal the facts and protect the pedophiles from being properly tried, as criminals that they are. Not even the popes John Paul II or Benedict XVI were spared to criticism. The savvy director Alex Gibney, made the interviewees show their anger and indignation without exploiting them emotionally. Sufficiently explanatory to show the world the demonic crimes hidden by Catholic Church.
For Ellen (2012)
Directed by: So Yong Kim
Korean filmmaker raised in L.A., So Yong Kim (Treeless Mountain), returns with another minimalist independent film. For Ellen tells the story of Joby Taylor, a long time traveling musician who drives into a small, snowy town to gather in court with his estranged wife, in order to sign the divorce papers. For a couple of hours, he is allowed to meet with his six-year-old daughter for the first time. This incident will change his life forever and nothing will be the same after that. Paul Dano has a terrific performance as a wobbly and repentant father, whose life has changed completely in a short period of time. The conversation with his daughter conveys a touching honesty that stayed with me for a while. There is also a strenuous scene that marks this film, when Dano dances completely drunk in a bar, at the sound of a Whitesnake’s rock song, leaving his lawyer perplexed. With a loose, nearly dreamlike cadence, For Ellen feels credible and genuine. Its leisurely pace might drive off many viewers, but actually, it manages to show sensitivity without being corny.
A Hijacking (2012)
Directed by: Tobias Lindholm
A Hijacking has a simple but effective plot regarding the capture of a Danish cargo ship by Somali pirates along the African coast. The story centers in two different fronts: on the ship, where the cook Mikkel struggles with fear and despair, and inside the naval-company premises in Copenhagen, where negotiations will take place in order to find a viable solution for both parts. The script rejected the usual violence or stirring situations, opting instead for a more psychological approach with proper doses of claustrophobia and impatience. Do not expect an electrifying film, since the negotiation process is slow, with ups and downs, and includes constant threats and bluffs. Whenever something atypical occurred, I expected some fierceness to arise. But that never happened. Hostile moments were scarce, only leading to stressful behaviors by the hijacked. The same cannot be said about the unexpected and shocking ending, which gave the final blow on the psychological study aimed by writer/director Tobias Lindholm. Despite the coldness and low profile maintained, A Hijacking cannot be disregarded, avoiding being manipulative and conveying a sensation of truthfulness.
Corpo Celeste (2011)
Directed by: Alice Rohrwacher
Country: Italy / Switzerland / France
Corpo Celeste is contemplative and observant in its attempt to conjugate coming-of-age issues with religious deception. Marta is a 13 year-old girl who moved to a small village in Italy with her mother and older sister, after spending her childhood in Switzerland. Undergoing tough transformations, and feeling misplaced, Marta only socializes in catechism, where she is preparing for the Confirmation rite. Unfamiliar with religious matters, she becomes curious about the meaning of prayers, as well as attentive to the behaviors from those who were connected to Church. Her vision about the religious community will quickly become blurred. Many happenings contributed to increase her perplexity and frustration: the ambition showed by the village priest, the catechist’s fanaticism, a brief conversation with an embittered man of God, and the witnessing of brutal animal killings. The final moments express a search for something alive and pure, a return to innocence, refusing the ungenerous ideas and rotten procedures that were associated with the Catholic Church. The restrained tension worked strikingly well, whereas minor flaws didn’t have significant expression in the final result. Rohrwacher and Yle Vianello, are to be congratulated in their debut direction and acting, respectively.
Directed by: Gustavo Taretto
Country: Argentina / Spain / others
Sidewalls starts by making an interesting parallel between the deficient architecture of Buenos Aires and states of mind on people. It depicts the long paths taken by two soul mates, before they finally meet. Martin is a phobic web designer, who is predestined to love Mariana, a depressed girl who’s facing a four-year relationship rupture. Before they find each other, other amorous experiences will occur. The unhappiness and frustration that came out from those experiences were well conjugated with common issues of nowadays, such as: technology dependence, sedentary behaviors, and isolation. Debutant filmmaker Gustavo Taretto uses an immutable, unhurried ambiance, to depict loneliness and a bunch of psychological disorders. The dialogues weren’t so interesting, yet the film discoursed elaborated monologues, which tried to help us understand better the characters, the architecture, or the impact of technology on our lives. This particular aspect went through an over-explanatory tone that didn’t always work successfully. Despite its strangled spirit and implausible ending, Sidewalls still has its enjoyable moments, intercalated with riveting images of concrete, steel and glass.
Directed by: Vicente Alves do Ó
Florbela was loosely based in the life of Portuguese poet Florbela Espanca, whose writings became symbols of love, eroticism and feminism. Filmed in Vila Viçosa, her hometown, and Lisbon, the film depicts the Portuguese 20’s by making use of an interesting cinematography that contrasts shadowy images with colorful tones of blue and yellow. The script just slightly mentions Florbela’s doubtful past, centering mostly on the peculiar relationship with her brother Apeles, for whom she had a special love, and with her patient husband Mário Lage. This trio of characters was very well performed by Dalila Carmo, Albano Jerónimo, and Ivo Canelas, who were capable to pass all the devouring jealousy and discomfort, on every interaction. The poet’s constant struggle was shown with clarity, when confronted with feelings, insecurity on writing, and in her search for recognition. I liked how the light was used to create intimate, warm images, along with the spirited, wordy dialogues. A couple of scenes, however, seemed utterly misplaced, as if coming from nowhere. Nothing really serious, in a movie that was never boring.