Monday, October 08, 2007

Cinema Festival of Athens: 1. Show some love you losers, 2. The Voyeurs, 3. Lola Montes

Every year I swear that I will try to make the most of the film festival watching even two films per night. Unfortunately reality caches up with me and I manage to see only few. To make things worse this year I manage to get a cold which means that I caught even fewer films than usual. Anyway, I still managed to see three very different films. Firstly the Show some love, you losers! - Daihachi Yoshida, secondly The Voyeurs- Buddhadev Dasgupta and finally Lola Montes-Max Ophüls.

Show some love, you losers! - Daihachi Yoshida
Daihachi Yoshida describes the complex relationships of a Japanese country family. When the parents die in a car accident the elder sister returns to the village for the funeral. The film describes the relationships focuses mostly on the relationship of the two sisters. The elder in her aspiration in becoming a actress even if is completely untalented has manage to blackmail and torture all the family. The younger one has found inspiration in her sister to crate an extremely violent comic. When her comic becomes famous her sister blames her for her failure claiming that the comic has undermined her confidence. When she returns to her ancestral home she spends her time torturing her younger sister. The more she tortures her the more inspiration her sister gets. In the end the younger sister undermines her efforts for acting career in order to get more material for her comic. As the film evolves the spectator gets the whole extension of the dependence and hate that both the sisters share. As their battle gets stronger and stronger the casualties increase. Their brother dies in a fire accident.
And his wife is left alone without a family. Both victims and aggressors damned by their family connections leave the village for Tokyo.
The film is not very ambitious. Low key directing without many impressive shots and scenes manages to serve efficiently well a strong script. Even if the situation that is described is rather bleak everything is described with a strong sense of humor and irony that makes differentiates the film from a typical melodrama and elevates it. Even if it couldn’t be said that the Daihachi Yoshida has created a masterpiece, his film is a good and interesting example of what an independent film industry can offer with its modest means.

The Voyeurs- Buddhadev Dasgupta
Buddhadev Dasgupta admits that for this movie he was influenced by two real incidents that were on the news in his country. The first was the arrest and the conviction of two young men who through a secret surveillance camera ware watching a woman in her apartment. The second was the assassination of the Brazilian man Mentes in the metro by the British Police.
Truly in this film Buddhadev Dasgupta attempts two political commends. The first one refers to the police brutality and mistreatment with the justification of the fear of terrorism. In the second one he declares that we live in a voyeuristic society where everyone has a voyeuristic role to play. As a beautiful young woman goes into the big city in her attempt to become an actress she becomes the theme of the voyeuristic pleasure of everyone around her. Her neighbors try to get glimpses of her in her apartment from the windows, people stare at her on the street, the policeman fantasize seeing her naked through x-vision cameras at the train station and so on. Her next door guy who fells in love with her places a camera in her room and starts watching her. In the end he gets arrested tortured and imprisoned for a crime that as Buddhadev Dasgupta claims everyone in a modern society commits. The character of the young woman is surprisingly self conscious and dynamic. Even if she wants to become an actress and thus she seems to want to be looked at she never accepts her role as the theme of a gaze pathetically. Contrary to many western supposedly emancipated woman characters of fiction she battles to control the way in which she will be looked at and returns earnestly and equally energetically the gaze. When she finds out that someone has been secretly watching her, she refuses to feel shame and be victimized. She refuses to feel ashamed of herself and feel less about herself. Instead of that she returns the gaze at the camera and leaves a message for those watching her.
The voyeuristic act of the men is presented almost as a misbehavior of a young boy that even id it is not commendable still does not such a severe punishment as torture, death and imprisonment. There is a sharp contrast between this little crime and the crimes the police does in her effort to find and convict the terrorists who blew up the train.
Unfortunately Buddhadev Dasgupta tries to make a solid and serious comment on political reality using rather naive and simplistic means. As a result both the comment and the film loose some of their worth and gravity. On the other hand naiveté has its own attractions. There are many scenes with a feeling of magic realism manage to describe the sheer pleasure of living even in a country like India where life conditions are harsh. The scene where an old friend, bus driver, who offers the heroes a lift after the bus service abandoning his bus on the streets of the poor neighborhood and all the inhabitants come to enter a bus probably for the first time in their lives is a scene of beauty and nostalgia. The scenes of the men transferring a sofa on their heads with a small boy sleeping on the sofa have a surreal magic in it. There are many small details that little to the script but make all the difference to the atmosphere of the film. Maybe to someone who knows well India and the way of living there these scenes are banal and have nothing special to offer but in the eyes of a western there is a romance here and a magic that make this film worth seeing.

Lola Montes-Max Ophüls.
The films best finding is that the life of the protagonist “Lola Montes” is re-enacted and narrated in a circus act. In this circus Lola has ended up as a special freak show, a woman of scandal. While the circus is actually a metaphor for life’s irrationality, ups and downs. In the same time he takes advantage of the graphic potentials of the circus in order to create a luxurious and colorful mise an scene.
Lola Monters is a film of a specific era and shouldn’t be judged with today’s criteria. Made in the 1955 it is a film created on the sunup of the color cinema. If someone considers that, one will be able to fully appreciate the boldness of the director who manages to make film based on the orchestration of colors and costumes. To be truthful the copy of the film makes it difficult to appreciate the intensity of the colors and their balance. Still one behind the patina of time can still see the effort that was made to create a luxurious mise an scene.
As a script Lola Montes is a typical melodrama of the era. It describes the file of an unconventional woman who chooses to be true to herself rather than being respected. She leaves her husband, who is unfaithful to her and ends up the mistress of a king. When the king faces rebellion and destruction she saves him by leaving him and abandoning also her only chance of happiness and security.
The film has not much to offer to a modern viewer. It remains however an important piece of film history and as such it was an experience to have seen it in a big screen

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