Lost Childhood Illusions

Posted: January 26, 2013 by antoniobunt in Uncategorized

Last Saturday I found this Playmobil figurine on a Mexico City street, the neighbourhood is called Narvarte. I took this figure home since I felt such nostalgia and I couldn’t help thinking about the illusions and dreams the kid has now. But now, this Playmobil has a new home.Imagen

The End of the World?: The Year in Review

Posted: January 1, 2012 by antoniobunt in Angry Man, Neglected Sundays

My natural predisposition to the sense that bad things will happen is again acting. Maybe it’s a survival instinct to be detached from everything… except for the cinema: my only commitment now that I renewed my film-going vows in late 2010.

Anyway, politicians and economists have declared that this year will be worse than 2011 when they always tell us everything will be fine. Now I am really worried and I will not hold my breath waiting for things to be better. I’m not optimistic. But if we have a fistful of good films in the movie theatres, things can’t be that bad!

Unfortunately, my unemployment situation at the beggining of 2011 prevented me from going to see good films I have knowledge of so I can only make my list to a Top 5 of 2011. These are all films that were released comercially in Mexican movie theatres so I’m not including special features or forums.

Although The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick) is good, I think it more of an experimental film. Check my review in the Neglected Sundays page. True Grit was another remarkable film by the Coen Brothers but it’s still a remake. The cast is great and their performances make us forget the original one but it shows how weak the industry is by turning back to the old days in a “New Classicism” that is a reflection of that creative crisis Hollywood is living.

So, in no particular order (except the last one) here it goes:

5. Black Swan: Indeed a great film by Darren Arronofsky, top-of-the-line performances, the presence of Natalie Portman in one of those duality roles I like a lot, an exquisite camera work by Matthew Libatique makes this one of my instant favourites. With reminiscence of German Expressionism (the duality), this story is a great example of different states of mind and that we are very human and our dark side can emerge anytime.

4. In a Better World: Danish filmmaker Susanne Bier’s new film is a great example of a very human story. It questions if indeed Denmark (or other Developed Country) for that mater is really a haven or if it’s that different from the undefined country in Africa the character Anton works in as a doctor. Bier’s subjects are always present: pain, past, love, redemption, the eternal return. A remarkable film that touches the heart. No viewer will remain indifferent after seeing this film.

3. Beginners: What else can I say about this film? It’s incredible and if you don’t believe me, just click on my review on the Neglected Sundays page.

2. Midnight in Paris: It seems Woody Allen reinvents himself in every film and I guess this makes him the youngest filmmaker around even though he’s been active for mre that forty years now. He is one of my favourite filmmakers. This film is one of the most sad and nostalgic films he’s ever made and it has great values: Owen Wilson is a great Allen’s alter-ego, the roaring 1920’s atmosphere is remarkable, the love testament to Paris is very heart-felt and yet it feels melancholy oozing out the screen.

1. Alamar: I have never thought, even in my wildest dreams, to declare a Mexican film the best of 2011. This film breaks the boundaries between documentary and fiction creating a clear trend in filmmaking today: a true story told to Pedro González-Rubio (the director of this film) that he later transformed it into a script to be later played in the film by non-professional actors that keeps the documentary feeling. A painful yet heartwarming story. If it plays in your country, don’t miss it! For me, the best film of 2011.

This was it for now. Hopefully, this year we’ll keep reviewing films and better yet: making them!

I don’t have my high hopes other than making my own projects and continue to support my filmmaking fellas in their own and leave Mexico for good. Fear, murder and uncertainty are the common denominators in this country that will keep for sure its old structures as this is an electoral year. The situation never changes and it goes for the worse.

Yet again, if we have movies, things can’t be that bad, after all, cinema has saved me in the past from my darkest times.

Anyway, I wish you a great 2012 (even though I begin to sound like Sam the Eagle from The Muppets lines above) because 2011 is now over and everything that passed is now like lost tears in the rain, like a flow of memories that melt:

and pay attention to the captions at the end of this clip:

I do wish for the best for my country, but history always corrects me.

Mexicans, wake up!!!

Have a nice week and remember: in the cinema, the man who always has the final word, is the guy who sells you the pop-corn!

Ho… Ho… Home Alone?

Posted: December 25, 2011 by antoniobunt in Angry Man, Neglected Sundays

Please, don’t freak out! I am by no means refering to the hideous Macaulay Culkin’s horrible films. I am indeed home alone enjoying myself after a bike ride in my empty neighbourhood. I wish everyday was Christmas!

Not because I love the holidays, au contraire, I hate them! Not because my father dressed up as Santa died in the chimney (Remember Gremlins?). It’s just I don’t like holidays. OK, I must confess I don’t like people very much and I’m not a festive man.

For me, the best celebration is going to the cinema, even if it’s by myself. (Believe it of not, I DO have friends who like me!!!) Yesterday I went to see Susanne Bier’s Hævnen and at night, three ghosts visited me: the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present & Future and they all were full of nostalgic memories.

I didn’t want to review all those corny Christmas movies. C’mon!!! It’s a Wonderful Life again????? So I remembered the end scenes of two very different films and I decided to share them with you. The first is from Fellini’s La Strada (a beautiful film filled with very tender and human moments) and the second from Truffaut’s The 400 Blows (do I need to say more?)

For me both represent loneliness but at the same time, that loneliness is needed to be felt in order to improve yourself and think profoundly to achieve freedom and be good to oneself. Both endings are at the sea shore so it’s interesting how, for me,  the sea represents that freedom but at the same time the uncertainty of the limitless possibilites of the future. Humankind is facing this uncertainty.

It’s indeed thrilling to think about what will happen, what fate has for us now that a new year is around the corner. Indeed the calendar is still a random measurement for us humans but it’s a pretext to evalute what happened in the past.

Next week will be the dawn of a new year and I’ll make a small tribute to the year in review in cinematic terms.

For all of you cinephiles, I wish you have a great 2012 with great films in your life that uplift your spirits and for all filmmakers I wish you a year filled with creativity and the guts to make interesting projects. Bear in mind that cinema is life and to film is to live!!!

Have a great week and remember: in the cinema, the guy who has the final word is always the one who sells the pop-corn!

Indeed these last two Sundays were really neglected but even partially neglected since I was helping a friend shoot a documentary about one of the most traditional neighbourhoods in Mexico City called Colonia Doctores. The shooting was exhausting and we are merely in the beginning. The documentary is of course still in production but you can have a look at my friend Andrés Villela’s previous work and yours truly’s behind the camera at: http://vimeo.com/nod

I couldn’t even tell my readers I was out since the schedule was really tight but I’m here!

I had the chance to see several other movies in the Cineteca showcase and here is a brief review of them.

Aleksandr Sokurov‘s version of Faust is indeed interesting although a little bit heavy. Considering that the source text by Johann Wolfgang Goethe can no longer be understood even by German-speakers, this film is another version, this time by the Russian filmmaker. The camera work is excellent since it looks like an enormous tableau vivant, the choice of using a 4:3 frame creates a more claustrophobic environment and the deformed eerie images in certain takes also gives the film and interesting look. This is a fine interpretation of Goethe’s text that becomes at times overwhelming.

I was not familiar with Tony Kaye‘s work. He is indeed a very interesting character by himself. By doing research to write this collaboration I found out he directed American History X, a film I didn’t get to see, but this time he made one of the best films I’ve seen in ages. Detachment is a film about the education system. It hasn’t been released in the States and I am not really surprised. It is a great film but it shows another America: the Amercia of the shattered dreams where people are just average and ordinary. Adrien Brody is a fine actor, one of the best, and in this film he gives one of his best performances as Mr. Barthes, an enigmatic substitute teacher who inspires his students but in the anti-Dead Poets Society dimension (and of course without the obnoxious presence of Robin Williams) where it questions if it’s worth the effort teachers do. It really moved me since I’m a teacher myself, it made me writhe in my seat, I felt this film in my guts as a good film should do to viewers. Apart from certain predictability in one of the characters and a little over-the-top madness of Marcia Gay Harden’s character, several great performers appear as they’ve never been seen before: CSI‘s William Petersen, James Caan, Blythe Danner and even Lucy Liu (an actress I’m not particularly keen on) and joined by a non-pro cast who give a great retort to their famous and experienced counterparts. Magnificent acting, magnificent script, a film that every teacher must see since it gets to be a universal topic.

Another Russian filmmaker present in this showcase is Andrei Zvyaginstev whose 2003 debut film The Return is a remarkable piece. This time, Elena is a film about a middle aged couple and their dynamics: Elena is the house wife, Vladimir a welthy man. They come from different backgrounds and have offsprings from their previous marriages. The relationship starts to crumble until it gets to an abrupt end. This film echoes Fiodor Dostoievsky and Robert Bresson. The mise-en-scène tends to the latter’s minimalism.

What is there to be said about a legendary band like The Doors? Aparently not much. Tom DiCillo is responsible for great 1990’s films like Living in Oblivion or The Real Blonde, banners for the American independent cinema. That’s why a film like When You’re Strange: The Doors is a bit of a disappointment since it doesn’t offer new insights or even a new documentary language. In short, it doesn’t contribute with something new to the genre. Johnny Depp is the narrator and it has great stock footage but it’s all the same. A film I could have watched on The History Channel, VH1 or something like that. Indeed it is a film with great intentions but remember what they say: the path to Hell is paved with good intentions. The good thing about it is that I got to see it with my 12-year old son, the Angry Young Man, who is also keen on great music and wants to be a filmmaker. To sum it all up, this is a film for the die-hard fans and whoever wants to be introduced to The Doors’ music.

And that’s it, those were the films I got to see during this great cinematic feast in Mexico City. December is a good month to be in the cinemas with a fistful of interesting releases and the fact that it’s cold out there makes me want to be in the safest haven of them all: the movie theatre.

Even the omnipresent new Muppets movie gives an interesting message: no matter what you do, what you love to do eventually will get you, so I am a filmmaker, I’m no longer in the filmmaking closet so I’m out!

Hanukkah is just around the corner and my best present will be to continue making films. I really wish that. To film is to live!

If you have no idea what to get your friends and relatives a great Hanukkah present just remember a sweater is a lousy gift. Give people the best present of the all: a film or better yet, a gift that will pass the test of time: a book!

Besides, let’s all cheer up for the Bald Guy since his birthday is also around the corner! I’ll have a cold one in his honour and hopefully you will too!

Have a great week and remember: in the cinema, the guy who has the final word is always the one who sells the pop-corn!

Zach Braff is coming to Israel

Posted: December 14, 2011 by Two Dope Boyz in 2 Dope Botz, Videos
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Ok, not yet, but hey, he might. And if he will, we’ll make a video together.

Here’s the story – a while back I made two videos for Zach Braff’s competition. For those of you who don’t know Zach Braff, he’s the actor of Scrubs and director/writer/actor of Garden State. I am a big fan of both, and I decided to apply for the competition.

While one of them got great feedback, but didn’t make it, the other made it to the finals, with 9 other videos. It’s the only one from Israel, and it’s out of hundreds of videos.

Please do me a favor, go on this link: https://apps.facebook.com/zachbraffmillionfan/show/10150920480120576 and like it. Then share it with everyone you know, and ask them to like it and share it and so on. If Zach will come here we’ll do a video of our day together and I’ll try to do another video with him as well. We’ll see.

We have till December 18th, midnight- LA time.

Thank you!!!

So the annual showcase at the Cineteca Nacional is over and that usually leaves me with an emotional void from the lack of that photogramme orgy that a bunch of films represent to my eyes. So it’s sad that yesterday I was watching Hannah Montana: The Movie with my dad on tv. Really REALLY sad.

I had the chance to see great films over the last weeks, films that are usually awarded in top European festivals and that may have a very slight chance to be distributed comercially.

Miss Kodak and I went to see the new Aki Kaurismäki film, Le Havre. After six years in hiatus, the most international Finn after Nokia brings us his classic Scandinavian cold humour, the almost unexpressive faces of the actors and a heart warming story without being corny. Kaurismäki’s fans (like me) will not be disappointed. In this film, shot in the harbour city of its title, an old shoe polisher helps a young illegal immigrant to reunite with his mother.

Argentinian and Brazilian cinemas are the best in Latinamerican. In general, their great quality is not only technical but also in the stories they depict and it is produced under very difficult conditions since budgets are not normally huge. This time, the Argentinian film El Hombre de al Lado (The Man Next Door) by Mariano Cohn and Gastón Duprat is about how a small neighbours’ incident grows and grows like a snow ball with a great and surprising twist in the end that will leave viewers thinking. It is a film that will not leave anyone indifferent. It is a great balance between the macabre and a very black sense of humour. The weight of the film lies on the two neighbours in dispute played by Daniel Aráoz and Rafael Spregelburd, a light-minded redneck and an obnoxious architect, respectively. In short: a remarkable film! Mexican cinema has still a LOT to learn from its Latinamerican neighbours.

It was not disapointing but Le Gamin au Vélo is not the best film by the Dardenne brothers. As usual, in the almost documentary style that characterises the Belgian fraternal duo of filmmakers, Cyril, a kid is abandoned by his father in a youth farm where he can have the chance to get a new family. A kindhearted hairdresser welcomes Cyril to her life to stay over the weekend where they will start to develop a mother-son bond that goes beyond the blood links. For the first time in their fiction work, they include music and a famous actress (Cécile de France) but the characters feel a little dumb whereas in their other films they are naïve and almost fighting in the wild to survive, most notably in Rosetta, 1999 Palme d’Or winner. As I told before, not their best film but still a good one.

Once upon a time in Anatolia is Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan‘s new film. Long takes inside cars with equally long conversations that reminded me of Abbas Kiarostami‘s certain film, this is like a CSI episode Turkish-style since an heterogenous group of policemen, a district attorney, militars, crime scene technicians and a mysterious doctor is lead by a couple of criminals who do not seem to remember where they buried another man after a drunk quarrel. This film reaches poetic heights with beatiful images and a stroy that needs the viewer’s commitment through his/her interpretation. Indeed an interesting film full with lyrical imagery, bucholical landscapes, nostalgic rainy weather and subtleties. Highly recommended.

Next Sunday, I’ll finish the review of the films seen last week and a reflection about the state of filmmaking in the world. Hey! iCarly is on! Oh my, how sad! Really sad!

Have a nice week and remember: in the cinema, the man who always has the final word is the guy who selles you pop-corn!

Mike Mills’ Beginners

Posted: November 21, 2011 by antoniobunt in Angry Man, Neglected Sundays
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Without a doubt, Mike Mills’ Beginners is one of the best films of this 2011 that is going straight to its end in some weeks.

Since I have only three students in one class at one of  the universities I teach at and they are not very participative and since the subject I “teach” them is Camera and Lighting II where we get to watch movies, I told them to get films for the class and later comment about their image attributes (something they’ve never done so far and I lost hope to see this in my lifetime), besides, Miss Dawn‘s clon attends that class and it’s really disturbing and uncanny.

Anyway, one of my students took a bootleg copy of the film he downloaded overnight and it was this neglected jewel. Last week, I went to see it again to the National Film Archives in Mexico City since it was the only venue that still screened it. It was released commercially in theatres but it soon was taken out as I guess audiences realised it was an intelligent (BRILLIANT!) film and it was not a Farelly Brothers idiotic film or 30 minutes or less.

To my surprise, this little film (and I say little not in a pejorative way what so ever!) has appealed to some people as the theatre was packed and I guess word-of-mouth has been crucial to keep this movie alive as Saint Georges Mélies intended.

In this film, Ewan McGregor plays Oliver, a thirtysomething illustrator who, remembers his dying aging father Hal (played magnifently by Christopher Plummer) who reveals he is gay soon after his wife dies. Oliver then meets Anna, a French actress (played by French actress Mélanie Laurent) who also has to deal with her own demons from the past as they become more committed as a couple.

This film is a great mix of great acting that gives birth to great and enduring characters even Arthur, Hal’s “orphan” dog, the houses, cars, objects (Finnish filmmaker Aki Kaurismäki states that objects speak for themselves) and Oliver’s illustrations by Mills himself are well designed characters and that comes from an intelligent script that is structured through flashbacks.

Mike Mills,  known for his illustration cover art for artists such as the Beastie Boys, Beck or Sonic Youth, is a self-taught filmmaker who made commercials and music videos (most notably Air’s Sexy Boy), was first interested in documentary work, inspired by the Maysles brothers and Errol Morris. Afterwards, he shot narrative shorts and was a founding member of The Director’s Bureau with fellow director Roman Coppola (another filmmaker with a neglected jewel: CQ)

Mills brings us a remarkable film, a combination of melodramatic comedy with a romantic one, without ever falling into the corny side of Meg Ryan’s films in the mid-1990’s, sentimental but always with a self-contained acting anchored to reality. In short, this film leaves you a great flavour, that life can be indeed painful at times and that we all carry the burden of the past in our shoulders but it shows that love can be present in different states and stages.

It is an optimistic human tale that achieves an intensity seldom seen in big-budget films, this is a great film that also speaks about the nostalgia of memories and how they define us. I really can’t praise enough this film.

Have a great week and remember: in the cinema, the guy who always has the final word, is the one you sells you the pop-corn!

(Mike Mills’ biographic lines come from the extint RES magazine issue Volume 4 Number 4 from July/August 2001)

Christopher Plummer and Ewan McGregor star in Beginners