Archive for the Events Category

SITGES FILM FESTIVAL 2012

Posted in Directors, Events, Horror, Sci-Fi, Thriller with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on October 15, 2012 by Toi Brownstone

I woke up this morning with my body still stiff after my first film marathon at Sitges Film Festival yesterday, trying to put things in order so I can tell you about my experience this year.

First of all I have to admit Sitges is the perfect festival for me. There’s too much trash, as it compiles horror, sci-fi, Asiatic films… this is, mostly those non suitable films for standard festivals, but in essence the concept is as if tailor made.

This year I’m unemployed but unfortunately money matters here, and no press registration was available, thus I planned Tuesday evening to watch Chained and The Lords of Salem, and a morning to enjoy Antiviral and The Tall Man. That morning I added one more title, Grabbers, and in the last minute, I could attend this marathon featuring Aurora, Sightseers, Maniac and Johnny Dies at the End.

I still don’t know how to approach the 9 films I saw, because there were great ones I’d like to talk about individually in order to extend the review in depth, and others which, frankly, don’t deserve more than just a few lines. I think I’ll update these minor titles first, to go on with the good stuff.

What I can confirm is that there are several conclusions I reached this time. On one hand, talent and taste for the twisted are hereditary, as Jennifer Lynch and Brandon Cronenberg showed in their visions, and on the other, that great names are not guarantee of nothing anymore, as in the cases of Rob Zombie and Don Coscarelli. And yes, one more remark, there’s still redemption for Alexandre Aja, responsible for the script of the remake of William Lustig’s Maniac, together with his horrorsoulmate Grégory Lavasseur,  one of the best movies I saw last week.

Sitges 2012 has come to an end, but I still have lots of things to tell about, and of course, I’m counting the days already for October 2013.

SITGES FILM FESTIVAL 2011 (PT. II)

Posted in Events, Fantasy, Horror with tags , , , , , , on November 29, 2011 by Toi Brownstone

After the success of the morning sessions, and finishing with a nice lunch time at a Jap restaurant outdoors, my friends suggested I could try to find tickets for this film. They were available , so were for the last Livide projection, thus I bought tickets for the two of them. I felt really pleased for this unexpected possibility of extending my festival experience. Unfortunately marathons for the day after were sold out.

After a couple of carajillos and a beer this is what we swallowed.

THE DAY HE ARRIVES, Book chon ban hyang (2011)

Asian cinema is a still pending subject for me. I’ve enjoyed some of these already modern but already  horror movies, even their western remakes, from The Ring to The Audition, Zatoichi, Dolls or Battle Royale

Regarding classics, I’ve seen some of Kurosawa’s but it wasn’t the right time. The slow rhythm of the stories require me to be in the mood, and I wasn’t, in fact I was imposed to see some of them, thus I didn’t get to enjoy them.

I’m an objective and positive person, otherwise, after the experience lived with The Day He Arrives, I’d give up on Asian films.

During the projection I passed though all kind of mental states. From concentration and interest, to astonishment, flipping with part of the audience passionately clapping, and eventually wondering whether I’m so stupid I didn’t get the message. Well, apparently I’m not, two of my friends took a nap, and I was exchanging glances with another friend who was in same state as I was. Total disaster, poor people, they even apologized for such crap.

A film teacher and temporarily retired filmmaker, Sang-Joon, is spending few days in Seoul, mainly to enjoy his old friend and mentor, Young-Ho. Basically the film recovers his encounters with students who recognize him and try to approach him, and the nights plenty of booze and deep thinking conversations with his friend, and a close acquaintance of his, all this put aside when the beautiful owner of one of the taverns turns up into scene.

Somehow it reminds me of the brilliant Groundhog Day, in the sense that each day Sang-Joon spends in Seoul is a repetition, with slight changes. High spirits get low, the barmaid and he get close up to physical contact, and everybody around him seems to get tired of him. Apart from that, nothing else happens.

Thus, there I was, flipping for around 80 minutes, without understanding much, giggling due to extreme zooms, weird takes, and uncomfortable silence. Really, it was a waste of time, and my feelings were awkward. If you get to see this film, and understand something else, please, let me know.

LIVIDE (LIVID), Alexandre Bustillo & Julien Maury (2011)

After such crap, the group divided, some attending the remake of The Thing premiere, and we heading to shit in our pants with a dose of French horror.

After the wild A L’Interieur, commented a couple of years ago in this blog, the expectations were quite high. Truth is we didn’t get disappointed, but Livide doesn’t reach that level of insane brutality. Still, it was worth seeing.

In a French town by the sea, lately disturbed by the increasing rate of children disappearances, today’s Lucie’s first day as social worker trainee. Her boss, madame  Wilson, a rough woman, guides her in the route to follow, introducing her to the old people barely able to take care of themselves, she’ll have to take care on a daily basis. Basically her duties are visiting the patients and supply them with medicine.  But she’s asked to wait outside in one of the stops, at a very old mansion almost in ruins. Wilson comments Lucie is still not ready for such challenge, immediately awakening the young girl’s curiosity, who will cross the fence and get into the house, to discover the horrible picture of a very old woman, Mrs Jessel, in a deep coma.

Wilson explains Lucie, Madame Jessel used to be a very established and strict ballet teacher who amassed a vast fortune hidden somewhere in the mansion.

When telling her boyfriend about this shocking experience to her boyfriend, frustrated for working as a fisherman and sick of his boring life, he quickly convinces her and another friend of breaking in the house and look for a treasure which will allow them to have the good life they deserve.

As you can imagine, the apparent static house will immediately react against the breakage, with surprising and horrible consequences for the three of them.

I did like Livide, although many people got really disappointed. It’s easy to set comparisons with A L’Interieur considering both are tagged as horror films, however they are completely opposed. The greatness of the first one was perhaps the fact that the crazy and brutal story was focused on an act of revenge by an insane woman, but keeping close to what we could call reality. I mean, not likely, but something like that could ever happen. We all know world is falling apart and everything can be possible.

Livide is totally different. A haunted house and its hidden secrets are the main protagonists in this story, opening a door to a series of brutal and supernatural events. We’ve seen many stories of haunted houses, and evil powers acting against people unlucky to be there at that time. It’s a repeated pattern, and probably that’s why great part of the audience got upset.

In such way, I must admit Livide is not so original, and the fantastic element is a bit forced. There are still some details I’d rather not reveal, which I still don’t comprehend, and in my opinion, are completely unnecessary.

As a horror movie, it’s pretty enjoyable, anyway. Plenty of disgusting and brutal moments for your pleasure.

The roughness and spontaneity is lost in Livide, on behalf of a more twisted story, combining horror with fantasy, but not being totally consistent nor shocking as A L’Interieur.

I dig it, honestly, but sometimes when your starting register is so powerful and remarkable, audience will become very demanding, and reaching such level is not something easy.

SITGES FILM FESTIVAL 2011 (PT. I)

Posted in Action!, Events, Just Fun, Uncategorized with tags , , , , , , , on November 8, 2011 by Toi Brownstone

What a mess! Once again, it’s taken me longer than expected to update on this festival I attended a month ago already. My apologies!

Wish I could talk about more films from Sitges Film Festival 2011 edition, but unfortunately, not press registration, bad planning, and lack of time and money, only allowed me enjoy a wonderful Saturday in town. Can’t complain though, for I had tickets for just two films, and ended up attending 4,with a result of 3 positive and worth seeing, and one a total joke.

I’ve not too much experience regarding film festivals, but I’m starting to think they’re as worth attending as music festivals, especially if contents are related to genres you love.

I’ve come to the conclusion I’m trying to get more involved in the future, in order to discover new proposals, and opening to new stuff. And of course, the possibility of meeting friends and share interesting conversations regarding all this marvelous world is simply priceless, and helps you realize how much you still can learn, and set new targets you to focus on.

So here it is my Sitges experience I want to share with you. Hope you enjoy.

DRIVE, Nicolas Winding Refn (2011)

There are many components in this explosive cocktail as not to fail: Ryan Gosling, cars, pink neon credits, 80s inspired soundtrack, violence and blood…  Nothing could be wrong, and in fact it didn’t, Drive is gonna be the hype of the year, but it’s worth it, believe me.

The Driver, by Walter Hill, as a strong source of inspiration comes to mind immediately. And of course, memories of Bullit or Vanishing Point also spark underneath.

The driver (Ryan Gosling) is a workaholic. He devotes his life to work with cars, as a mechanic in a repairing shop owned by his mentor, Shannon (Bryan Cranston), who also introduced him into Hollywood as a stuntman for car action scenes. Moreover, he performs occasional driving for robberies requiring a professional driver for the getaways.

He’s a guy with no identity, no attachments, not relatives known, and not a very talkative person or emotional either. Until he gets acquainted with his neighbors. A young woman, Irene (Carey Mulligan) and her kid, Benicio. A kind of platonic story starts, with the shadow of Irene’s husband, serving prison for armed robbery.

In the meantime, Shannon is making business with dangerous people, in order to get enough money to develop a car prototype the driver would race with, involving lots of money. The associates, Nino (Ron Perlman) and Bernie Rose, are the kind of guys you don’t mess around with, and they accept to invest, supervising and nosing on the preparations as to ensure their money is safe.

Eventually Standard, Irene’s wife, is released from prison, which means the friendship among neighbors should logically come to an end, for obvious reasons. But nothing was said to be that easy, and Standard is attacked and beaten for unfinished business, up to a point if he doesn’t carry out a robbery at a pawn shop, his family will suffer the consequences. And who will do the driving? Easy to guess.

What seems to be a non risky job, turns out to be a trap, and the driver will be forced to apply all his skills and cold blood to get Irene, Benicio and himself out of danger.

The way the plot is developed is perfect. Opening with a robbery as a way of introducing the driver to the audience, as cold, calculating, and professional, is enough as to catch the bait.

Although the start of the film is powerful, according to the typical pattern of the action movies, with the first 5 minutes creating tension, the following change as to introduce us to the actual plot is radical in its rhythm, focusing on the strong attachment among the driver and his neighbors, Irene in special. There are some moments you can think of another cakey love story, as the tone is very evocative, takings are very artistic, and the whole thing is kind of bucolic. But it’s a good technique, to enhance the super blow to come.

Really, Drive is the perfect shot of action. It’s violent, dynamic, surprising, bloody and mean. Beware! It’s not to be related to last year’s major action releases, such as Expendables or Machete, better considered as just entertainment and a great laugh. Drive is serious in its story, not aiming to be taken as a joke. Characters are not super heroes but just the opposite. Standard is a vulgar robber, the driver is a mechanic and Irene is just a waitress. If you think of the mob side, involving Albanian mafia, believe me, there’s no glamour or attractive in that.

The cast is something to take serious. With Ryan Gosling, absolutely brilliant, confirming, not only he’s the most wanted man in the world, but also a great actor, with a promising future ahead, but also featuring one of the current hottest goddess Christina Hendricks, a rough Ron Perlman, and the innocent but seed of the whole mess, Carey Mulligan (truth is her performance is not so consistent).

Release date in Spain is due to the end of this month. Sure I will repeat and will go to the cinema to watch it for the second time. Believe me, this hype is worth seeing, and most likely is to be one of the films of the year. hope you like it!

KILLER JOE, William Friedkin (2011)

After an extense career as director, featuring more than 20 films, including classics such as The Exorcist, The Cruising or The French Connection, Friedkin is not expected to prove anything. Perhaps, because he can do whatever he wants, he’s delivered this shocking black redneck comedy this year, away from social politeness.

The Smiths are pure white trash. Dumped from his mother’s house, Chris (Emil Hirsh) asks his father for money and shelter. He’s in debt with Digger Soames, the kind of big guy you cannot play with, and his life is in risk. Ansel has no money and if he had, he wouldn’t spend a dime on his stupid boy, his wife Sharla (Gina Gershon) would not allow it.

The only solution is contracting Joe Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) to kill Chris’ mother, so they’d be able to claim for her life insurance policy money, pay the killer, clean the debts and share the money among the family.

Problem is that Joe Cooper only accepts prepaid jobs. But he finds a way to ensure the payment. Dottie, Ansel’s 12 year old daughter, a night walker and a very special girl, still virgin, will be the pledge.

As soon as the agreement is done, Chris will regret having ruined his sister’s life in the hands of the killer and will try to put things into order.

Killer Joe is an excessive story. The protection of the underage is not valid here. Dottie is to fulfill Joe’s requirements and is a grant for payment. Everything is unacceptable and morally wrong. But who cares? Anything goes.

Dialogues and situations are so way out of line, so absurd, while watching the film I was totally shocked, so astonished, I found myself laughing nonstop. The way all things are messed around, how situation is getting more and more twisted is insane.

Such extreme the contents are, don’t think this film is being released at any cinema. Positive Friedkin wasn’t looking to be acclaimed nor praised, he just doesn’t care.

Therefore, if you are sensitive to certain subjects or morally concerned as not to understand this film as a joke, don’t waste your time watching it, otherwise you’ll get angry and disappointed. I had fun though.

DONOSTIA ZINEMALDIA 2011

Posted in Documentary, Drama, Events, Music with tags , , , , , on October 7, 2011 by aratouille

Right, let me tell you how I started attending San Sebastian Film Festival. It’ll be short, I promise. For me it started four years ago, two years after my family. My younger sister, Paula, started thanks to some friends of hers and then she sort of passed it on to us!

During the year, the organisation sends updates on movies taking part in the festival, new sections, awards, people attending, retrospectives, etc. Two weeks before the opening, the film schedule is published online so you can plan your own programme. It’s like juggling three or more balls: films, venues, hours. You don’t want your films to overlap, the venues to be far away from each other or to have so many films listed that you won’t have a moment to go to the loo, eat something or have a cigarette! Now comes the tricky part. The Sunday previous to the opening day tickets come out for online shopping and this is the jungle, every man for himself! I’ve been quite lucky and have managed to get tickets for the screenings I wanted. However, sometimes you have a change a complete day in order to watch that one film you’ve been longing to watch because it turns out the director/actor/writer is coming and, of course, you just have to see them!

Once you have purchased all your tickets you have to get to the city. As for accommodation (in our case a rented apartment), hotels, hostels and such types need to be booked very early, sometimes, two months in advance. So, get yourself to the beautiful San Sebastian and head to the Kursaal, one of the main venues of the festival and one of the most impressive sights of the city. Find a machine, swipe your card(s) and there you have all your tickets! Now, something you should know is that the organisation keeps a 15-20% of the tickets to be sold on the day of the screening. So, this is another chance to catch some film you forgot, some other someone told you is great or the sleeper of the festival.

The festival is totally integrated in the city. Everybody, and I mean everybody, lives it. Shops, bars, restaurants, people. Decorations in shop windows, exhibitions in museums, events in shops and such. Many people come to the city for the festival, but no only from the film industry; journalists, bloggers, cinema students, film fans, curious people, tourists. The atmosphere engulfs you and drifts you away from everything else. For example, when I am there for the festival the only newspaper I tend to read is the festival newspaper (free and available everyday in shops, festival venues, cinemas and some bars), written in Basque, Spanish and English. I forget there is a completely different world outside the city limits and I just go to the cinema, go for walks, pintxos, ice creams and sweet things and start all over again. I always discover new actors, directors, places, stories and people, above all people. It is frequent to see Hollywood stars buying fruit or having pintxos in the old part of the city or getting to the hotel by limo or sometimes even their own motorbike!!People wait for the film stars outside their hotels or the cinemas but once that is over, fans don’t crowd their idols and they can go out for walks and enjoy the city.

For me it is a wonderful experience every year, moving, enriching, exciting and sometimes, pricey but something I wouldn’t like to miss for the world.

 

Et maintenant on va oú? (Where do we go now?) directed by Lebanese film director Nadine Labaki, tells the story of a village where Lebanese Muslims and Christians live in community. This coexistence sometimes is peaceful and other times is not. We never know the name of this village that is connected to the world by means of a quite rudimentary bridge and where land mines were once planted but have not been removed. They do not even have a TV signal until some of the young villagers manage to set up a TV set for the whole town to watch at night. The people of the village are also religiously separated, the church and the mosque are separated by just one house. And, whereas they live happily most of the time, the men of the village tend to argue and sometimes get to the point of fighting. When these violent episodes start to take place, the women of the village decide it is time for them to act. Thus, they come up with plans and schemes so the men forget about violence and differences in religion. These schemes come to show the unwavering commitment of these women to protect their community from violence and religious war. The director, Nadine Labaki, is also the main character of the film and through whose eyes we see the action developing. She is alluring and, for me, a captivating presence on the screen. The music, composed by Nadine’s husband, is gorgeous and memorable. It has the capacity of turning beautiful moments into unforgettable ones. This is Labaki’s second film as a director. Caramel (2007) also took part in San Sebastian Film Festival and won three awards on that occasion.

 

Take This Waltz directed by Sarah Polley is the story of Margot (a sweet Michelle Williams) who is married to Lou (a fantastic Seth Rogen), a cookbook writer. They have a comfortable marriage when suddenly Margot meets Daniel (Luke Kirby), a neighbour from across the street, and sparks fly. She is looking for some affection from this guy as well as some kind of excitement in her everyday life. The chemistry between them is revealed through some racy scenes and other tender moments. So, she is torn between her loving and nerdish husband and the sexy neighbour that excites her and shows her a peek of the unknown. I found Margot and Lou quite believable but Daniel lacked some emotion sometimes. Michelle Williams gives a wonderful performance of a woman who does not know what she wants and does not want to hurt people in the process of getting it. She shows very well a reluctance to fall in love with Daniel; it does not matter what she does or thinks, eventually she falls in love with him. I think the film portrays very well the lack determination and decisiveness in Margot and how what she does affects everybody around her and not only her husband, even though that was not what she wanted.

 

 Shame (Steve McQueen). Right, the word shame can have different meanings. For example, it could be disgrace or embarrassment, displeasure or even sorrow and regret. Taking all of these meanings into account, when one finishes watching Shame, they could choose their own meaning of the word. The film shows the life of Brandon (Michael Fassbender), a thirty something-year-old man living in New York. He has difficulty managing his sex life; he likes sex, he likes dirty sex, he even pays for it. Out of the blue, his sister Sissy (Carey Mulligan) moves into his apartment and into his life. Their relationship does not seem very brotherly, him being distant and cold and Sissy carefree and sometimes careless. Brandon’s life gets out of control in both personal and professional aspects. From my point of view, I think there is something hidden, unknown for the audience in the relationship between Brandon and Sissy; something that greatly affects Brandon and makes him behave the way he does. I have to admit that my opinion is quite divided. On the one hand, the story, although sombre and saddening, does not help me find out why the title of shame. Is it disgrace, displeasure or regret? Maybe all of them at the same time? Perhaps I have to choose as I suggested? I don’t know. On the other hand, Michael Fassbender gives a poignant, intense performance, sometimes perturbing. His eyes and the way he looks at people are distressing at times. He manages to go from sexy, interesting, professional and caring to bitter, troubled, miserable and remorseful. His performance here is awesome, it literally left me in awe, speechless.

 

Neil Young Journeys (Jonathan Demme) follows Neil Young in May early this year while touring in Toronto’s Massey Hall. Just like that Demme completes a documentary trilogy that started in 2006 with Neil Young: Heart of Gold and later in 2009 followed Neil Young Trunk Show. Young played two nights in this iconic venue and Demme captured these moments. He combines songs from the concert and excerpts from a sort of a road trip with Neil Young in a gorgeous 1956 Ford Crown Victoria through the rural town of Omemee, where the singer and composer spent some of his younger years. We can hear Neil telling anecdotes about people in the village, about his childhood, reminiscing about the past. The songs in the film belong to the album “Le Noise” but we could also hear some classics like “Ohio” and “I Believe in You”. On stage there was an acoustic and an electric guitar along with a keyboard. It was a great way of spending an afternoon and of starting to know Neil Young. When you see Neil driving that beauty and just telling stories, you feel like you have always known him somehow. He looks like an honest guy, someone you would like to have a drink with, someone who has lived a lot.

 

Albert Nobbs (Rodrigo García). Glenn Close plays this butler in 19th century Ireland who works in one of the best hotels of Dublin. One day, Albert meets Hubert Page (fantastic Janet McTeer), a painter temporarily working at the hotel who shows her there is a way of escaping the lie she has been living. Albert Nobbs is actually a woman disguised for years as a man. She walks like a man, talks like a man and dresses like one too. The hotel hosts different people and different stories take place there. For me, Albert’s story is a story of self-discovery and loving yourself. There are many other stories in this film, the most important of them being the one with one of the maids of the hotel and the handyman (played by Mia Wasikowska and Aaron Johnson). It reminded me of those old English films with many stories to be told, shot in a charming and cosy place. It was sweet, tender and funny at moments, warm and suddenly sad.