Τετάρτη, 26 Νοεμβρίου 2014

Stories We Tell (2012)

Director: Sarah Polley
Writers: Sarah Polley, Michael Polley (narration)
Stars: Michael Polley, John Buchan, Mark Polley, Harry Gulkin
Production: Canada
Duration: 108'

This is a story of a family and their mother, whose personal life affected everyone around her. She is the mother of the director, Sarah Colley, an acclaimed Canadian filmmaker who decided to dive into her own past, her family's history in order to create one of the most breathtaking and deepest documentaries of our times. 

"Stories We Tell" talks about Diane, a young ambitious actress whose energy and vitality is contagious to the people who know her. One day, at a play she was participating, she met a young guy named Micheal who was meant to be her husband. With him she lived a happy shared life, along with their four children - two from a previous failed marriage of Diane - when Sarah was born. Their life didn't change that much, not until Diane passed away from cancer, when Sarah was still quite young. 

The youngest and most different of all, the director herself, gives the necessary space to her interviewees to unfold their own side of their family story, revealing - what started as a joke in the beginning - the possibility that Sarah might be the result of an short affair her mother had. After searching, Sarah will discover that her mother had indeed an affair when she played in a play years ago. What will she come across after this revelation that changed everybody's life? Who is the father and what will happen to Micheal if he finds out?

The unfolding of the many stories is not necessarily narrated with that order. What starts as a portrait of Diane and a family, slowly turns into a deeper and stronger story. Nothing is what it seems in the beginning and Sarah knows that. The interviews she held with her brothers and sisters, her father and friends of Diane, are revealing, through the powerful effect of the editing, a magnificent story about family bonding and love. 

The main story is being narrated by Micheal, Sarah's father, as a monologue that he wrote himself. He talks about his life and his relationship with Diane with pure honesty, displaying only particles of the stories we are being told. Sarah takes over the narration at times, leaving many of the protagonists to tell their own. Along with the interviews we see real footage of Diane through the years, but also reconstruction of her life with actors. Those glimpses of memory lost in time provide a melancholic and nostalgic tone to the film, like all these are happening to somebody else, anyone in this world, like those images are part of anyone's life. 

The way this personal documentary is filmed and edited is the main core of its importance. How she put the fragments together and how she managed to build this tension and this depth - without even trying to be sentimental - it is remarkable. Pieces of personal stories come together and create a mosaic that talks further from the obvious. It is not just a personal story anymore. Because the stories of each and everyone's lives are a mere reflection of our own current self. 

Sarah manages to talk about her own life with such an objectivity. She magnificently unfolds the stories of her own life without even intervening. It is like she is letting us do the judgment on either what is being told or the characters and their actions. The fact that we don't really see her clear point of view shows only the artistic and cinematic magnitude of her existence. Nobody could ever do this more successfully than Sarah Polley. 

While the stories unfold, we see how Sarah gives equal narration space to both of her fathers - the biological and the one who raised her. This decision does not minimize the importance of the story and it exalts the director even more. Michael is the father who raised her and loved her. A man who put his family first, neglecting at times his wife, is a lonely person with immense wit and humor. The biological father, a drifter who stares now at the past and the life he could have had, is someone quite different and yet a bit the same. The sure is they have one thing in common: their daughter. 

"Stories We Tell" is an immense proof of pure cinematic art and human influence. It changed the way personal stories are told by making the "my story" into an "our story", by making it universal. This documentary talks bravely about true love and life itself. How the course of our lives is so closely connected with the one of our families and our friends. This documentary is about us all, and not Sarah alone. It is about our own stories and the way they influence our very own future. This humanity and universality you discover here is and will be beyond comparison. 

Δευτέρα, 17 Νοεμβρίου 2014

Gone Girl (2014)

Director: David Fincher
Writers: Gillian Flynn (screenplay), Gillian Flynn (novel)
Stars: Ben Affleck, Rosamund Pike, Neil Patrick Harris, Carrie Coon, Kim Dickens
Production: USA
Duration: 149'

It's been three whole years since Fincher's last (average for my taste) film "The girl with the dragon tattoo", but we had the pleasure to see him work for television in the addictive "House of Cards" Netflix series, unfortunately only in two episodes! Well, he is an executive producer, so we guess he soon will be joining the directors chair again. 

David Fincher has returned to his good old ways with some slight changes - towards perfection, let me add - in the way he sees human relationships and the evil that surrounds them. The story comes from the novel of Gillian Flynn - who also wrote the screenplay - and talks about Nick, an average guy, who wakes up one morning only to discover his wife Amy missing. 

Nick is supposed to be in distress, instead he is acting detached like an observer and while he is trying to figure out what the heck is going on, the basic narrative splits up in two revealing Amy's voice, who talks like a ghost from the past through the diaries she left behind. We suddenly witness two different lines of narrative that build up the story with great drama and suspense. You have Nick's side of the story and Amy-from-the-past story. Nick is frustrated and has to deal with both the police, who intensively suspect him, the parents - famous snobby writers - and the media - hungry for indecency. 

Nick is in the spotlight and he hates it. What has he done to deserve this? He lingers in memories and good  old feelings from when they met, when they married and when they both imagined a happy shared life. Amy is helping on that with her narrative. But something went wrong during those years. Or perhaps something was already wrong from the beginning. 

Ben Affleck manages to convey both the detachment and the fear of the character, but also to create a purely doubtful profile. Rosamund Pike has this delicate face and performs as she was waiting to play this character all her life. Raw and dark performances, just how we like it in Fincher's universe. 

The media of the country hunt him down and Nick becomes suddenly part of a media frenzy he can't avoid. A criticism on today's media for the continuous crave for the obscene is one of Fincher's points in this film. It is the obvious one. The other one is much more disturbing. How all of this attraction to obscenity derives from human nature. This is what he claims here. He puts our nature in the spot and acknowledges how drawn we are by the deepest and darkest parts of it.

Through the split narrative and the flashbacks in time, a mosaic of baffled circumstances is created about Amy's disappearance and possible murder, making the whole story even more intriguing, even more complicated. Multiple questions ran through your brain and you are struggling to find the answers that might reveal the reasons of those people's actions. 

This slow-boiling thriller displays an intense and raw direction from Fincher, who is considered the master of twisted turns in the stories he deals with and who knows very well how to deal with his characters. Amy knows all of Nick's secrets, thoughts, moves. He is exposed. Nick understands very deeply his wife. Do they really know  each other? Do they trust each other? The depth of their disturbed relationship emerges to the surface with amazing perplexity. 

Fincher knows extremely well how to manipulate a story and how to create real feelings for the characters. How their behavior is so contagiously affecting and how you as a viewer enter so deep into their reality. You get lost and confused by the ardent actions of those people. You become part of their story whether you like it or not. You can't escape. This is what Fincher does to you. 

One of the greatest things of this movie, in which you don't expect anything less than an absolute mind-fuck, is the fact of misconception and how in a glimpse of an eye, everything changes. Nothing is what it seems. Unfortunately I can't say more, because I will ruin the film experience for you, but one thing I can say is the  supreme greatness with which Fincher deals with his material and how he achieves this deep connection with the characters, so at the end you actually like those bastards, those sociopaths, those weirdos, those nasty nasty people. 

When you see this movie, be prepared to dive into a world of mischief and games. Games that can reveal more than you ever thought about the people around you, but mostly about yourself. 

Δευτέρα, 3 Νοεμβρίου 2014

Reality (2014) by Quentin Dupieux

71st Venice Film Festival 

(first published in the e-book of Nisimazine

REVIEW: Reality by Quentin Dupieux (France, Belgium) – Orrizonti

Quentin Dupieux, director of the infamous Rubber (2010), has come to Venice with luggage full of distorted realities or better to say a strange need to explore the idea of mixing everybody's dreams, making us wonder if anything of what we saw was part of a twisted game. “Reality” struggles hard to find the necessary balance between its real purpose – if there is any - and the overachieved surrealism it inevitably shares.

Jason is a peaceful cameraman living in California. He is dreaming of making his own film, where television sets are the most dangerous thing in the whole planet. They produce those weird kind of waves that slowly make humans more stupid, while their ultimate goal is to extinguish them. He approaches Bob Marshal, a film producer, who gets overexcited with his crazy idea. He will sign the deal as soon as Jason gets the perfect groan in 48 hours.

But Jason's is not the only story we discover. A young man working as a TV presenter on a food program has an unstoppable need to scratch himself, thinking there is something terribly wrong with him, while everyone else thinks he is overreacting. A young girl witnesses a videotape coming out of the insides of an animal, while her father cleans it in order to embalm it. Nobody believes her, but we will come to know that this videotape somehow is the answer to loads of questions. All of those stories, as distant as they might seem with each other, they share something in common; the same confusing connection that leads to nothing more than a dead-end.

In the world Dupieux has created, parallel dreams stream like parades of surrealistic thoughts and acts on one's self and the perception of reality. While the first scenes seem indifferent, you do get hooked on the way the story evolves. The head-exploding music makes sure to achieve that in a conscious but also a deep subconscious level, while the physical effect of it can be disturbing for some time after you watch the film. You too immerse in a deep dream along with the characters. You too step by step lose the sense of reality presented to you.

Dreams lost in dreams in an endless maze with no exit signs. A surreal world where nothing makes sense and somehow everything fits in a distorted kind of way. This is what is being achieved through Dupieux's direction and the narrative he has chosen. His images betray his blurry vision though and the fact that none of these has any clear purpose, only to throw us into the endless world of dreaming.

The moments in the film that are meant to be humorous, fail to communicate any connection with the content. This constant attempt to revive the plot with funny moments is not enough to explain any of what is being shown. While Dupieux can't stop mixing his narrative, we keep wondering how such a promising idea of dreaming in a dream got stuck in all those flat characters and their tiresome realities. This flatness is probably used on purpose in order to intensify the hollowness they carry or probably the fact that they are just plain visitors in those dreary dreams.

There are many questions raised about the definition of our dreams as much as the perception that we have for the realities that surround us. For some of us it is complicated – or intentionally complicated - like in Dupieux's mind and for some others is simpler or indifferent. Those questions only meant to be left unanswered in a film that flirts with the vastness of the subconscious and manages at the same time to convey a frustrating self-conscious feeling. If you have never been lost in a dream, this is your chance to discover how that might feel. Are you ready?