19 Jan 2018

Phantom Islands (Rouzbeh Rashidi, 2018)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼



Set to the piercing sound of roaring thunder that lights the night sky in the most hypnotic way, the striking opening of Rouzbeh Rashidi's latest - and if you ask this writer, most riveting - offering acts as a portal into the world of altered (cinematic) reality. But, it also stands for a sublime announcement of a mysterious Couple (a committed, boldly uninhibited and highly performative portrayal by Daniel Fawcett and Clara Pais) that is the film's magnetic focal point.


Appearing as if they descended from the sky or another realm for that matter, the twosome wander, disoriented and yet sharing the common (spiritual?) purpose, through the breathtaking landscapes of Irish islands turned into the third, equally alluring protagonist. Who are they and what exactly do they seek? This question is surely not easy to answer and unsurprisingly so, considering the director's previous opus. They could be  benevolent (?) cousins of Jonathan Glazer's alien Female from Under the Skin or some supreme, unidentifiable entities working under human cover in an exile, whether it's forced or self-imposed.


Always walking away (as everybody else does) or strolling far from our sight, they keep us on a distance that is paradoxically closer than any closeness; they pull our thoughts into unexpected directions, lulling us into a meditative state. Even when their gazes are transfixed on us in an attempt to communicate whatever is beyond the inherent truth, we are left with nothing but another riddle. Both mystified and somewhat enlightened, we may resort to stripping them away of their otherness and viewing them as down-to-earth lovers who are just as confused as we are. In that regard, we are offered an assistance from the author himself who, now and then, lifts the veil of the abovementioned reality by blurring the lines between 'behind the scenes' and a finished piece of art. However, the fourth wall phrase does not apply here, for that 'trick' is the integral part of Rashidi's peculiar language.


Also indistinguishable are the boundaries between documentary and (science) fiction, just like it is noted in the director's statement. This illusion is simultaneously dispelled and consolidated by embedding the duo's staged romance into the islanders' everyday and vice versa, under the watchful eye of the invisible forces inhabiting gorgeous and not to mention gorgeously captured locations. As calm as they are maddening, the greenest of meadows, the stoniest of beaches and the thickest of mists destroy the blue, tumultuous love of our heroes and then rebuild it from the ashes, time and again. They have the very same effect on a lyrical (non)narrative which - made porous by black screen punctuations - explores the hidden nature of cinema, inter alia.


What's most astonishing about Phantom Islands are its dreamy visuals and ingenious music score, as well as the pitch-perfect sound design that more than compensate for the lack of dialogue. Virtually each shot is exquisitely composed, each tone being a worthy accompaniment. A masterwork of the (re)modern avant-garde.

18 Jan 2018

A Hellenistic Travesty

A neo-Dadaist phantasy which acts as a meeting point of hyper-dreams, Greek mythology, Brutalist edifices, homoerotic provocations and fairy tale leftovers. It is 19 degrees of freedom, 71 squares of subconscious and 10 beats per (un)holy moonlight.




(click to enlarge)

Original size: 4 x A3 (29,7 x 42cm)

14 Jan 2018

O (of Lights and Parasites)

Only nothing has the shape of truth,
an amorphous dream of falling through.

Only shadows sing of the divine
- an endless sorrow and a flying swine.

Only the Unborn will eat these nights,
as I sell my soul to lights and parasites.
 
© Nikola Gocić
 



(click to enlarge)

Original size: 4 x A3 (29,7 x 42cm)

11 Jan 2018

Loving Vincent (Dorota Kobiela & Hugh Welchman, 2017)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼
 
A letter delivery by one of Vincent van Gogh's models (Armand Roulin portrayed by Douglas Booth) turns into a detective-like investigation of the tortured artist's final days at Auvers-sur-Oise, with all the events in a (bit corny) story vividly, breathtakingly represented in thousands of oil paintings that pay a loving, inspired homage to the prominent Post-Impressionist's instantly recognizable style (and prolific opus), boldly pushing the boundaries of the animated film medium (especially the rotoscoping technique) in varied brushstrokes and in a similar fashion as Aleksandr Petrov and Irina Evteeva.
 

10 Jan 2018

Cinderella the Cat (Alessandro Rak, Ivan Cappiello, Marino Guarnieri & Dario Sansone, 2017)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼


From the team that thought us The Art of Happiness (L'arte della felicità, 2013), comes one of the boldest deconstructions of Cinderella variants. The 17th century text written by Giambattista Basile (whose work was recently adapted by Matteo Garrone, in Tale of Tales) is turned head over heels and reimagined as a retro-futuristic neo-noir thriller which satirizes a certain Italian politician in jazzy, as well as the traditional Neapolitan rhythms.


The story goes like this: The shipping magnate Vittorio Basile prepares the inauguration of his 'Science and Memory Hub' project, as we learn via zippy 'Giornale Luce' newsreel parody. A mastermind behind the 'photosweep' technology that 'enables the recording and reproduction of reality itself' (think holograms), he is also about to get married to a beautiful mother of six (five daughters and an openly gay son), Angelica Carannante. However, his only child, Mia, will be left fatherless and his plans thwarted by Angelica's cabaret singer and mafioso lover, Salvatore Lo Giusto, whose name, ironically, translates as Saviour the Just and who has a different vision of the Naples harbor's future...


Fifteen years forward, Vittorio's cruise ship 'Megaride' is a dilapidated shadow of its former self, with Angelica having become a madame to her vain offspring and Salvatore having been promoted to 'Il Re' - the king of shoes made from, believe it or not, soluble cocaine. Dressed in rags, mute by choice and still clinging to the traumatic past, the soon-to-be-adult Mia is viciously exploited by her step-family, unaware that an old acquaintance - her dad's most trusted associate Primo Gemito - is on Salvatore's drug-dealing tail, coming to the rescue.


While Vesuvius ashes fall on criminalized Naples, portending (the city's) apocalypse and reminding us that we're watching a Cinderella story, Rak and his co-directors have a blast making the very same story almost unrecognizable, subtly peppering it with witty and occasionally 'dirty' references. Their narrative is as intense as the barrages of rapid-fire dialogue, galloping at a breathtaking pace towards the explosive end. The world they create is certainly not the one of fairy tales, with the silenced, seemingly helpless heroine taking justice into her own hands, after eventually learning the truth from her father's holographic ghosts.


The battle between the kind spirits and self-centered ones (or rather, progressive dreams and regressive nightmares) which the tale rests on is rendered in angular CGI with a mellow, watercolor-like feel to the textures, so the visuals might take some time to get accustomed to. But, once you adopt to the unique aesthetics, you're in for a pretty enjoyable ride, further made more appealing by virtue of excellent voice-work, especially by Massimiliano Gallo as the cunning Salvatore, as well as the groovy, eclectic score.

9 Jan 2018

Real (Sa-Rang Lee, 2017)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼

Boasting handsome production values, huge, sparsely decorated spaces, an identity theft (crisis?) story that reaches new levels of mind-boggling irrationality, as well as the exuberant, 'super-neonized' cinematography that gives Nicolas Winding Refn a good run for his money, Sa-Rang Lee's extremely ambitious debut feature - a sexy and pulpy neo-noir action thriller peppered with hints of science fiction - could be described as The Face of Another meets Lost Highway through Only God Forgives, perfume/Schweppes commercial and The Matrix - a Frankenstein-ish, yet effective amalgam which mostly works despite its excessive running time, primarily thanks to Soo-hyun Kim's magnetic presence and subtly cool dual-role performance.

At psychotherapist's office

Casino grand, Cirque du Soleil-esque opening

Contempo architecture

A room with a view

The masque of glittering death

The cathedral of gambling

The most kaleidoscopic bar in the dreamland of crime

Dance, dance, dance...

8 Jan 2018

Tri prpošna srca

... jer ja, sebičan som,
sećanja u masnu hartiju
umotavam
i tri prpošna srca gutam,
jedno za nju, drugo za Kunst,
a treće za Traum(u)
širom zatvorenih očiju.

Možda ples
koji odvaja stopala od tla
bude kao zec plav,
kao riba plav,
kao dan grimizan.

I opet sam, betonski anđeo,
plivam sa 2.5 sekire
u rukama...

Mesec će noćas
urlati u pikselima
- ako, kad vatra
ima treće oko.

Kompozicija sa Skeletorom

6 Jan 2018

Lucky (John Carroll Lynch, 2017)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼ out of 10☼
 
Adorned with nothing but distilled sincerity, restrained pathos, subtle simplicities and bittersweet wisdom, John Carroll Lynch's assured and immersive directorial debut is a charming little film with a huge heart of gold, a decidedly unpretentious rumination on life and death, as well as a highly perceptive character study that is precisely written, beautifully lensed, tightly edited and outstandingly well-acted, especially on the part of the swan-singing nonagenarian Harry Dean Stanton who will be sorely missed in the years ahead of us, wretched mortals.