Hey folks, hope you are all well. I survived the Berlinale , and the Ennio Morricone concert in Koln, and have been slowly working my way around Europe for a holiday. And I have been squeezing in a few films as well. I know that is a big surprise ūüôā

I ended up in Poland in the old city of Wroclaw for a few days before heading to Bratislava in Slovakia. It was a surprisingly beautiful town,and I had met some folks from the Slovakia Film Centre in Berlin so I thought I would pop in for a few days.

I did manage to get to the very nice Slovak Film Centre where they do restoration and preservation of Slovak films. They are also involved in promoting films from the region  and have a nice  complex of cinemas and a very great Kino-Cafe as well:)

Here I was able to attend a screening of Eva Nova,which I had missed at the Berlinale. It is a new film by Martin Skop that revolves around an aging actress (Emilia Vasayova) who is down on her heels and battling alcoholism. She embarks on a mission to¬†make amends with those she has let down in her life-primarily her son. And he has troubles of his own, and isn’t very receptive to having his long absent mother involved in his life.

A very gritty and hard-hitting story about the search for redemption for past sins, and the struggle to live an honest life. Down-beat but with a glimmer of hope at the end perhaps. This played at TIFF in 2015 before Berlinale and it may end up on the rep circuit in Canada this year. Here are some links:

http://www.sfu.sk/#

I also had a chance to  take in a screening of Alphaville in Bratislava. The very cool 1966 Jean-Luc Godard is a poetic homage to the era of Film Noir starring Eddie Constantine as Lemmy Caution and Anna Karina as Natasha Von Braun. Short on special effects, the film makes up for it with a cool mix of an inventive script,stark photography, strange locations, great editing, and black humour. To name a few. The closing scene is worth the price of admission itself, even with a choppy 35mm film print and Slovak subtitles which were beyond this viewers comprehension.

Leaving Bratislava, I headed to Budapest in Hungary-the Paris of Central Europe it has been called. And the city did not disappoint-I would highly recommend a visit here. And I was able to check out a few films at a collection of 5 different rep cinemas all located in central Pest.

The first film I screened was Pasolini at the Toldi Puskin cinema- a new film about the edgy Italian ¬†Italian film director whos’career was tragically ended at the hands of a violent youth in 1970’s Rome. The film comes with high expectations-directed by Abel Ferrer and starring a well cast Willian Dafoe in the lead role-the film concerns itself with the last 24 hours of the filmmakers life.

Luckily I knew something about Pasolini and his films ,but even so I was at a loss to really understand anything about the filmmaker and his history. Maybe that was beyond the reach of this screenplay;but it made for an uneven, choppy ,and unfulfilled viewing experience-the film never really finds any coherent style or rythm and fails to really place the filmmaker and the politics in a real context other than verbal platitudes mouthed by actors in some of the more annoyingly shot  interior group scenes-all shot with a roaming camera panning from close-up to close-up and repeated in 3 or 4 scenes. However the exterior night shooting and interior travelling shots in autos where beautifully executed by cinematographer Stefano Falevene.

Overall a missed opportunity of a film-if only Pasolini had been alive to make it himself-now that would have been a movie…

Later in the week I caught up with the new film by Todd Haynes called: Carol. Based on a novel by Patricia Highsmith the movie stars Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchet in a story of two women reaching across social conventions and class differences to consummate the love they feel for each other. Slow, meditative, and beautifully shot-the film evokes some of the earlier work  of the director-most notably his 2002 homage to the films of Douglas Sirk : Far From Heaven ,and the excellent 2011 HBO mini-series: Mildred Pierce.

I had a third movie to see in Budapest, the new Cohen Brothers film: Hail Caesar. I had been in Berlin when the movie had opened the Berlinale,but settled into the very friendly confines of Toldi Mozi to check out the film. A comedy with some deeper metaphors for the contemporary political climate in America, Hail Ceasar stars Josh Brolin as a hard-working Hollywood studio executive Eddie Mannix. Eddie has to keep the troubled studio he works at afloat amid series of escalating problems- the¬†central crisis being the kidnapping of film star Baird Whitlock (George Clooney) in the middle of the filming of a late 1950’s biblical epic.

This is a very funny and smart film, with good casting and some very nice recreations of the style and  production values of the so called: Golden Age Of Hollywood.

Heading to Paris via Salzburg I stopped for a look at the famous Cinematheque Francais-the brainchild of Henri Langois. Unfortunately the screenings available for viewing didn’t accomadate my limited language skills so I had to content myself with a visit to the onsite museum and cafe.

The museum is small but effective,with many displays of historic cinema cameras and projection devices. There is a nice homage to George Melies, and a recreation of his original studio. As well a costume from La Voyage De La Lune is on display.

The highlight was a section devoted to the German Exspessionist movement ,as well as the Russian cinema of Sergei Eisenstein. Original drawings and watercolours were on display from Fritz Langs film Metropolis as well as from F. W. Murnaus film Faust and The Cabinet of Dr Caligari. A full size model of the robot Maria was an added bonus, as well as the prop head of Norman Bates mother from Psycho-donated by Alfred Hitchcock. Unfortunately no camera were allowed no hence no pics…

Downstairs is the nice Les 400 Coups cafe-named after the famous film by Francois Truffaut. Here you can enjoy light or hearty fare in a casual environment, surrounded by some great cinema posters:)

I did get to a couple movies in Paris however at the Publiciscinemas on the Champ de Ulysses.

The first film is a brand new British/French,comedy/action directed by Antoine Bardou-Jacquet called: Moon Walkers. It stars Ron Perlman as a CIA operative with a bad case of PTSD, who is enlisted to contact Stanley Kubrick in 1969 London to commission him to film a fake moon landing. The American government is concerned that the upcoming Apollo mission will not succeed in landing a man on the moon , so they want this fake footage as back-up. Things go wrong for Perlman from the beginning as he gets mixed up with a failed band manager (Rupert Grint), and his drugged out hippie roommate ( Robert Sheehan) .Then things get really strange.

Cleverly playing on the modern conspiracy theory about Kubrik having filmed a fake moon landing, the film is an entertaining mix of comedy and action ,and a nice homage and satire of the late 60’s era as well.

I also checked out a showing of Sunrise. This is a new neo-noir film by director Partho Sen-Gupta. It concerns Police Inspector Joshi who is haunted by the kidnapping of his daughter Aruna 10 years earlier, and how it ties into a current cases of dissapearances that seem to centre around a local dancehall and brothel.

Beautiful nourish night photography is further enhanced by the directors setting the action in the claustrophobic streets is Mumbai at the height of Monsoon season. What is real and what is fantasy meld together, as do past and present storylines in this work of almost pure cinema; with little assistance from dialogue.The films  epilogue states 100,00 children go missing in India every year-a heartbreaking situation grounding is film in its social setting. Recommended. Check out the trailer:

I am off the Rotterdam this week so will try and update in a couple weeks before coming back to Canada

And  speaking of Canada, my friend Stephanie Swift in Ottawa participated in a very cool concert ,and film screening ,of the classic silent film Ben Hur.

Starring silver screen heartthrob Roman Navarro in the title role,the show consisted of¬†Kevin Reeves directing the Seventeen Voyces chamber choir, the 100+ voices of the Ottawa Choral Society, exciting soloists, the children’s choirs of St. Matthew’s Church, organ virtuoso, Matthew Larkin, and a battery of percussionists.

Steph sent a picture along from the show, and I will attach a link to more info on then silent film programmes in Ottawa:

http://www.seventeenvoyces.ca

image

So long for now, and a reminder Soundtrack continues to broadcast in my absence on 93.3 CFMU-Wednesday’s from 10-12 EST on http://cfmu.mcmaster.ca

thanks to Robyn Edgar for filling in!!

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