; movieschocolatebooks: October 2013

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Sunday, October 27

Polish Plums in Chocolate

I am no drinker, I am no dark chocolate fan, I am not into dried fruit, yet some things simply catch you unprepared in life. Not only am I ashamed by my limited perspective in chocolate combinations, but I am also powerless to the divine, addictive taste of plums in chocolate. Now, what would a sophisticated, biased, pretentious, huge Lindt lover, like myself, would say to a plain box of prunes in dark chocolate? I AM SAD IT IS ALL GONE.


In case this is not enough, let me elaborate a little. This is a popular Polish treat for sliwka lovers that does not instantly melt in your mouth. It simply compels you to chew it to the last bit and then reach for more. The chocolate is not too dark, the prunes are not too sweet; it feels a bit sour and refreshing, at the same time. Addictive to the last of them and anxious to eat more. They are Poland's pride and joy: candied plums in cocoa filling, covered in dessert chocolate. Now, how can you not love this people of crafted chocolate makers? And they aren't just good at coating little dried prunes in chocolate; they also make pastry, candies, chocolate candies, pralines, chocolates, fruit jelly candy, dragees, filled chocolates, cakes, ice cream.

They are hand-packed and as the name -Solidarity- suggests, they are sensitive to needs of alcohol lovers; they are also made with vodka. This traditional Polish sweet called Sliwka Naleczowska w Czekoladzie can also shelter little almonds under the prune and chocolate coating. I know some brave and really crafty girls might adventure to making them themselves, but why bother if the exquisite product is right in front of you? Keep in mind that, as it is often the case, they may contain traces of sesame, wheat protein, peanuts or other nuts. In a word, they are so very tasty and make great gifts for chocolate lovers! Enjoy!

My taste buds are forever thankful to Mr. Jacek Klapkowski!


Saturday, October 26

Have an easy 50 shades of Mr. Grey by Cheltuitus Banus

Cat de feminista esti? Iti este bine fiind foarte avantata in aceasta ipostaza de amazoana luptatoare, cuceritoare de teritorii masculine? Cohorte de femei ar spune: noi putem, noi facem, noi vrem, noi...barbatii nu mai sunt egali noua...but mind your words, pentru ca aparentele sunt inselatoare. Cincizeci de umbre ale lui Grey a explorat si a dat de pamant cu amazoanele. Le-a demonstrat ca ele se vor amazoane doar pentru a-si demonstra lor insesi ca pot. Misteriosul, rigidul, bogatul si represivul domn Grey si ingenua, desteapta, muncitoarea si devreme acasa domnisoara Anastasia sunt aici pentru a ne demonstra acestea. Poveste siropoasa, sexoasa si sandra-brownista adaptata secolului in care traim, momentului ''descopera-ce-iti-place-si-astfel-te-definesti-ca-persoana''.



O povestioara telenovelista alcatuita din trei volume destul de stufoase, din care, dupa parerea mea, doar primul este citibil, restul sunt copaci taiati aiurea. Daca ar fi fost doar primul, as fi spus: uite o poveste gen Romeo si Julieta sau orice alta faimoasa poveste de dragoste si as fi ramas cu un sentiment dragut, citind-o. As fi ramas cu parerea mea, conform careia marile iubiri, au ajuns mari si arhicunoscute pentru ca implicatii nu au trait happily ever after si de aceea le plangem si acum de mila si de tristete- daca erau impliniti nu am fi auzit de dansii, ar fi avut si ei placeri si certuri ca noi toti. Dar asa...sunt trei volume. Aleg sa discut in mare despre primul, citibil, sexos, incitant, ridicator de valuri, anormal de atragator, rece si hot in acelasi timp. Dar de unde atat de multa vana si popularitate? Poate, datorita dorintei fiecaruia de mai mult, de nou, de deosebit, de barbat-mascul-rezolva-tot-vorbeste putin-sexeaza-mult-si-bine, poate datorita femeii ce se vrea dominata cu argumente, nu cu pumni si cu cu: ''de'aia'', ''asa vreau eu'', ''eu sunt capul familiei''- acum nu mai dominam cu forta, dominam cu cuvintele, cu intelesurile si subintelesurile, cu respectul cucerit nu impus, cu puterea si siguranta emanata nu ''elefanti in magazine de portelan''...



Femeile s-au desteptat sau mai bine zis, s-au ridicat din coltul unde erau puse- vorba aceea ''nobody puts baby in the corner'' si vor sa fie dominate, dar destept, abil, ...chiar vor. Sub toata lupta aceasta de cucerit tot ce este barbatesc, ele chiar vor sa fie langa un barbat- masculin, puternic, impunator, viril, abil, hotarat si perseverent. Vor intalnirea de gradul trei...de aici si : there's always words that undress us sau great minds fuck each other...Da, am spus-o. Conteaza! Conteaza sa ai un barbat care sa te faca sa te simti feminina, sa te inspire si sa deveniti creativi impreuna. Barbatii au nevoie de femei supuse, dar si abil de impunatoare, care sa stie sa aiba un punct de vedere coerent, clar, argumentat, frumos. Femeile au nevoie sa stie ca langa el se pot lasa duse de val, facand orice nebunie, stiind ca EL are o limita si el le protejeaza dincolo de toate rautatile si duritatile lumii. Ca el are limite cu ea, chiar daca ei, cu restul lumii sunt fiorosi si de neoprit. Ea este exceptia lui, iar el este lumea ei, dincolo de lume.




Eu cred ca aceasta carte este ca o scuturare a normalului aparent. Toti suntem aparent normali. Toti afisam zambetul normal, nu radem prea tare sa nu deranjam, facem sex in casele noastre, mergem la cumparaturi la sfarsit de saptamana, bem laptele dimineata, ceai seara sa dormim bine bla, bla, bla...chestii normale, dar, de fapt, nu este asa...ne ascundem, toti sub o patura de normal, suntem diferiti, ne plac diferite chestii, facem shopping luni dimieata sau in alte zile, nu doar intr-o anumita zi, mancam chestii cat mai ciudate dimineata, pentru ca incercam sa fim diferiti si pentru ca noi stim mai bine ce ne place si ce este bun, suntem atotcunoscatori cu toata lumea, seara bem vin sau un digestiv, ne imbracam sa atragem ochiul privitorului, ne hranim cu admiratia celorlalti dar si cu cea proprie, facem sex si vrem sex sa ne pierdem in, din si prin noi. Noi doar ne credem normali, nu suntem...Si daca suntem cuminti, suntem doar pentru ca nu am gasit acel declic care sa ne faca ''diferiti'', ''unici'' si reali pentru noi...sa nu ne mai ascundem de noi insine.

50 shades of Grey este Sandra Brown a acestei generatii. Este sexualitatea si caracteristica anilor ce ii traim.Cartea ar fi rezumata la: sex, noutate in sex, dominare prin sex si reprimarea trairilor adevarate, tot prin sex. Adica este o carte despre si cu sex, in caz ca nu v-ati prins. Nu stiu cum sa spun, dar nu pot lua in serios aceasta carte; am incercat, m-am straduit sa fiu un pic artista a literelor...scuze, dar nu pot! Cum sa fiu rationala si sa discut aceasta carte cand, in secolul XXI, ea ne prezinta o fata desteapta peste medie, dar nu orice fel de desteptaciune, o desteptaciune pragmatica si adaptabila, cu hobby-uri si indeletniciri mai mult decat cuminti, care nu bea, nu fumeaza si care ce credeti? Este virgina si devreme acasa, la cei 22 de ani ai ei! Nu spun ca nu ar fi posibil, dar come on! Traim in secolul in care noutatile nu mai sunt noutati, virginitatea nu mai este o virtute, ci o ciudatetie, in care sexul este o forma de a spune imi placi, nu te iubesc, in care sa fii destept nu este decat o forma de a fi izolat, nu apreciat, in care feminitatea se confunda cu barbatia, in care femeile au uitat sa fie femei si fac tot ce se poate face, pentru a-si dovedi lor insesi ca pot. Traim in vremuri agitate, incarcate, competitive, in care Anastasia Steel nu este veridica. (nu spun ca sunt chestii pe care le apreciez si le admir aici- da! sexul ar trebui sa fie o incununare a unui 'te plac atat de mult incat as vrea sa te simt cu totul, as vrea sa fiu in rasuflarea ta in creierul tau', hai sa bem un ceai sau un pahar de vin si sa vorbim despre ce ne face sa ne simtim ca traim').


Anastasia Steel este o virgina de conditie medie spre saraca, indragostita de un barbat bogat, destept, rece, creativ, atragator. Este atat de indragostita incat se lasa prada jocului lui si mai apoi, practicilor sale, sperand la o schimbare din partea lui. Subiectul e simplu si cenusaresc, gen pretty woman: din greseala, se intalnesc. El o place mai mult decat recunoaste. Ea, asemenea. El o vrea drept sex toy. Ea, virgina, nu crede in contracte, ci in feti-frumosi. intr-un final, accepta ceea ce el vrea. Amandoi indragostiti. El nu cedeaza in a-si arata sentimentele. Ea arata sentimentele. El intrece masura incercand sa o domine si sa o faca sa se prosteasca, ea joaca tare si pleaca. Acesta este primul volum. the rest is water unde the bridge... nu este literatura, nu este calitate si cu toate astea, ridica sprancene, atata, trezeste femeia si dorinta in femeie. O trezeste si o face kinky, o face sa se intrebe cum ar fi daca... ar vrea sa incerce si altceva, o face sa zambeasca intr-o zi de luni dimineata, o face sa ia pauza de la treburi serioase, pentru ca in viata este obositor sa fii serios mereu, ai nevoie de un moment de nebunie, ai nevoie sa zici: fuck it! no rules! vreau sa fac baie dezbracat noaptea, sa urlu din toti rarunchii pe un song care imi place, sa vorbesc si sa imi privesc partenerul in timp ce facem dragoste, sa ma sarute dar, sa imi si de-a o palma la fund, sa fiu sexi, chiar daca am o eticheta de pastrat, sa iubesc tocurile si sa raman cu ele toata noaptea, sa fim in public si iubitul sa imi dea un sarut pasional si apoi sa continuam ca si cum nu s-a intamplat nimic, sa dau mesaj sexos in miez de zi sau dimineata dupa ce a plecat. In lumea aceasta a regulilor, etichetelor, catalogarilor si jurizarilor publice...vrem sa sarim peste reguli. Cincizeci de umbre ale lui Grey o face, sare peste regulile normale.

Outside Satan

Can violence lack motivation and consequence? Can violence simply occur because it is something that can be accomplished regardless of moral concerns? Bruno Dumont certainly thinks so. Outside Satan/Hors Satan (2011) is the most weightless picture I have ever laid my eyes upon. It feels as if it came from a realm in-between heaven or hell, let alone our mundane existence. Watching it compels you to scrutinise your moral, filmic or religious beliefs and shed your usual coat of comfort.





A local Girl (Alexandra Lematre) with Gothic looks, abused by her stepfather, feeds, accepts and seeks the company of a nameless drifter, the Guy (David Dewaele). Lost in the bountiful fields of the Côte d’Opale, the two wander around silently, part of the nature around them, to which they pray and bow. The landscape is rich and throbs with life, a true character itself in Dumont's picture. Noises and movements are very present and water, land , marshes, sea, forest blend together in harmony, accompanying the sparse dialogues of the characters. The Guy and the Girl share many silent, intimate moments, yet her every attempt to get sexually involved is at once rejected, as if his purpose at that very moment and exact place would be of higher significance. He lacks emotions and his face remains inexpressive at all times. He shots down the Girl's abuser, clubs to death an innocent pursuer and stones a deer.  

Salvation and punishment are granted with the same easiness and the Guy glides between the saviour image and the devil itself. His eyes are empty, his voice is coarse, as if words and the habit of speaking were futile and desolate to him. His moves like a dreamlike vision, coming from nowhere and going everywhere, bestowing his gift of life upon the Girl and saving her from her darkness. His Jesuslike face hides an endless void where there is no light, no hell, no expectations. There is a thin line between good and evil and it is a matter of perspective that Dumont offers to the viewer; things may seem abominable or graceful, depending on your point of view. Good and bad are simply shades of our personal gray.When things seem blurred or simply fading, a number of bordering events restore the balance.

The Girl (a newcomer of much promise) has an androgenic look that shatters any feminine image and serves its purpose; that of being a faceless, nameless victim of morality, religion, mentalities, life itself. Her expressionless face, silent movements and fast breathing make her look like a haunted animal with nothing to lose and nothing to gain. The Guy's gift to her is a purpose, a connection with her mother, a new beginning. As for the Devil/Jesus himself, Dumont made an inspired choice: David Dewaele has the face of a thousand words and the acting of a great performer.

This is a WTF movie that will leave you wondering about life as it is, questioning your limitations, lingering in doubt; the title itself is misleading. Is the Guy a protector of the world against Satan -and if this is the way the world is shaped, we dread to think about the Devil's playground- or is he the embodiment of sheer evil, a cruel, heartless creature that shares divine justice at his own pace and will? In whose hands do you place your faith and to whom do you give your soul? Our own gray larks in the darkness forcing us to acknowledge its presence and allowing it to rise every now and then. Comfort is our shrine and prefabricated truths are our garments; cinema is the exit door that sets us free.

Thursday, October 24

Chaotic Ana

Again, a movie that you are either going to hate or definitely love; Chaotic Ana is hard to ignore and impossible to forget. Spain's most unique filmmaker, Julio Medem, embarks on a sensitive journey to explore the chaos of one woman and the history of all others. It is a deep, personal, intriguing picture that glides between the director's desire to loudly state his view and his indulgence in the dreamy world of his own fantasies. There are directors, such as Wong Kar-wai, who follow no script and film away until the movie takes shape and there is Julio Medem who set aside the poetic thread of his previous movies -Los Amantes del Círculo Polar, Tierra and Lucía y el sexo- in favour of a movie for the senses and instincts.


The movie's chaotic vision flows smoothly with the music of Jocelyn Pook, a well-known artist who often works as a a film composer. It is as if the music itself runs through Ana's veins, paintings and many tormented lives she shelters. A thousand women inhabit Ana's mind, body and spirit; a painter herself, Ana (Manuela Valles) starts having overwhelming visions of past lives that take the movie and its characters from the Arabian desert to the New York streets, from a cave in Ibitza to the Indian Reservation. Innocent, talented Ana is taken under the protective wing of an art patron, Justine (Charlotte Rampling), who runs an artist workshop for talented young people. Ana leaves her father and their doored cave in Ibiza and goes to Madrid to find friendship in a video artist named Linda (Bebe) and love in the arms of Saïd (Nicolas Cazalé). Friendship grows stronger whereas love vanishes into thin air after Ana has a vision in a restaurant and is collapses. Loveless and frail, Ana is left to the skillful mind of Michael (Asier Newman) who, with the help of hypnosis, triggers memories of past lives of young women who suffered violent deaths and cannot find peace. All these unsettled creatures use Ana's creativity, sensitivity and receptive mind to tell their stories and unravel their secrets.






Our spirit is a vessel of stories, both past and present, that echoes into our heart and embodies our flesh. We are walking stories from the moment we open our newborn eyes onto the world until the moment our flickering light becomes pale, only to inhabit other bodies and unfold other stories. It is shocking and painful for Ana to acknowledge her gift and curse and to let herself to the will of the powerful spirits that live in her. Apart from being the embodiment of women's abused history, Ana is also used to point at male violence and wars and the tenth chapter of the movie -presented in 11 parts- is a scatological, violent sex scene meant to empower Ana and praise once again the living legacy of all the ill-treated women. Men are seen as violent rapists who use their power to make war and women as whores; yet, Medem believes in love and its redeeming power. His own love for his dead sister inspired him to create this love manifesto that is both unsettling and delivering.






Movies never leave us in between; we either fall for them forever or hate them dearly. It is the emotion they trigger in us that matters. Chaotic Ana is a powerful movie whose imagery lingers on your mind long after you finished watching it; long enough to make you want to see it again. It is full of metaphors -the painted doors, it has a perfect round structure -the pigeon shits on the eyes of the falcon, the mighty predator, the same way Ana defecates on the politician's face- and it has incredible music. It throbs with life, although it is more about death, and it feels more alive than many other lively pictures I've seen. It is a farewell song to a loved, powerful, frail, talented artist who left this world too soon, only to inhabit the worlds of other women. The women we hide in ourselves!

Wednesday, October 23

Fat Girl (À ma soeur!)

We spend our life journey striving for significance and craving for validation since there is no greater way to set a person at ease. Our battle begins within our cradles when competition is instilled into our minds and thus, sibling rivalry is born. This is a common theme in movies that feature child characters such as Fat Girl (À ma soeur!). This is a film which makes a strong impression due to its famous sex scene and the shocking ending that simply gets stuck with the viewer. Yet, Fat Girl (2001) is much more than meets the eye.


 



Two sisters, 15 year-old Elena (Roxane Mesquida) and 13 year-old Anaïs (Anaïs Reboux) share a difficult relationship and the infamous sibling rivalry. Elena is pretty, slim and anxious to lose her virginity to love; Anaïs is fat, sensitive and willing to lose it to a total stranger who will make things easier and less complicated. Opportunity arises and Fernando (Libero de Rienzo), an Italian college student sweeps Elena off her feet into the sexual experience she has been waiting for. He is a smooth operator who cunningly worms his way into her body and mind, tricking her into believing he is in love with her. Since the two girls share the same bedroom, Anaïs is a silent witness to the penetrating moments and she is so tender in weeping her sister's loss of innocence. 

The director, Catherine Breillat, is very cynical about love as it is; Elena's sexual awakening is deprived of any shred of faith in the possibility of a relationship past the vacation framework. It is as if she wanted to convince us that there is no such thing as romance or pure love; the world is built of formal stages we need to pass in order to reach maturity. Reality and romance simply do not mix and the sooner young girls learn this, the better. As it is in life, beauty seems to have become much of a trivial concern and pretty girls usually get so wrapped up in their own looks that eventually fail to see beyond appearance. The details of beauty elude Anaïs who replaces every sexual urge with food. Though younger, she is more mature than her sister and less likely to fall for shallow guys like Fernando; however, both sisters are fastly entering their sexual age. So, while Elena and Fernando are passionately kissing, Anaïs gazes into their soft tongue movements while slowly eating a creamy banana split. 

Food is the substitute for sex and mental comfort; when Elena meanly hits her, Anaïs goes swimming in the pool. Her insensitive, self-centred parents simply acknowledge her absence while at the breakfast table and after she joins them, Elena tries to comfort her by stuffing bread into her mouth. Her sister eats away her tears as chewing and swallowing are closer to her body and spirit than her own family. The love-hate relationship between the girls sounds so natural and their honesty glides between sheer meanness and hearty hugging. They look in the mirror and Elena says: 'No one would think we're sisters'. Yet their similarities are the ones that bound them: they are both trying to be significant in their own eyes and in the eyes of others. Elena catches the eye of people with her looks, whereas her sister's delicate features get easily overlooked because of her plump figure.

The tension and competitiveness between the two sisters die out when Elena's fling is no longer a secret. The mother fears more her husband's reaction than bothers to get closer to her daughter. On the way back to Paris, she stops the car to get some sleep and Anaïs gets her wish granted. The last image of the movie is Catherine Breillat's way of empowering the fat girl; in a world where people get so easily labelled and so deeply judged, every now and then, wishes do come true. It is unexpected, a bit shocking, yet it is simple and cruel. It is the fat girl's chance to live more than she's experienced through her sister's eyes and more than she's ever eaten. Life is bigger than anything else.

Sunday, October 20

Gravity by Cheltuitus Banus

Nu voi fi un spoiler, nu voi povesti filmul...e prea frumos pentru a fi povestit...de fapt nu ai ce povesti, trebuie sa il vezi si sa il traiesti...este o traire acest film... nu voi spune nici macar numele personajelor filmului. Ai avut vreodata sentimentul ca adult, ca viata ta de grown-up este prea complicata si redundata, prea mult si prea obositoare? Ca ai vrea sa fii iar copil? Ca intradevar Peter-Pan avea dreptate sa nu isi doreasca sa creasca? Ai avut sentimentul ca ti-ai dori sa fii iar copil, fara griji, fara ''inflorituri'', sa fie viata mai simpla, sa fie basics? Exact asa este ''Gravity''...este intoarcere la simplitate, la sentimente fara ocolisuri, la viata necomplicata a copilariei, este intoarcerea la ''daca faci asta, patesti cealalta'', daca vrei nu stiu ce rezultat, trebuie sa faci nu stiu ce pas''...

Gravity este atat de frumos incat te rupi de lumea ta, reala si traiesti prin el, 90 minute. Traiesti in lumea lui simplu, a lui extraordinar de frumos, a sentimentelor de abandon intr-un imens eter-spatiu, in lumea lui sunt mic si ma pot pierde oricand- sentimentul de frica al copilului care se simte abandonat de mama... Te transporta intr-un alt spatiu...plutesti, traiesti, razi, plangi, urli precum un caine, te feresti... exact ca personajele. George Clooney si Sandra Bullock sunt de acolo, sunt part and parcel cu filmul, cu povestea. Sunt acolo pentru ca altii nu ar fi avut cum sa fie. George face ceea ce face dintotdeauna, este americanul practic, tehnic, pragmatic, glumet, parca il si vedeam la bar cu ''his chicks'' la un whiskey. Este acel american glumet si curajos, calculat si altruist, este cel ce imbarbateaza si spune povestioare amuzante in situatii stresante, pentru a calma, este tipul de american visat si creat, model de americani, este starul de film clasic, parca este starul filmelor vechi, alb negru...deja a intrat in categoria lui Clark Gable, Kirk Douglas, Cary Grant ...este tipul actorului american, creat dupa visul lor...si isi indeplineste rolul magnific.



Apoi este Sandra Bullock, una dintre actritele mele preferate. Ea in realitate nu este wow, precum o Charlize Theron sau o Scarlet Johhanson, este genul care este acolo pentru a construi ceva, cu ea pui o baza, are acel ceva ce iti da o siguranta, te face sa te imprietenesti cu ea nu pentru ca visai o scena fierbinte cu ea, ci pentru ca erai in cautare de un om pe care sa te bazezi, de un om cu care sa vorbesti ceva frumos de destept si relaxat ...bine, fierbinteala poate veni dupa ce ai vazut ca mai si gandeste si ca femeia are si creier, sa revenim. Sandra Bullock este ea, este Sandra cu ochii precum semilunele si cu pielea ei alba. Este omul lor de stiinta rupt de realitatea inconjuratoare si pragmatica, este femeia un pic derutata, un pic slaba, dar este femeia care gaseste resurse in momentele ce par aproape pierdute, este femeia pasare phoenix....Sandra Bullock este o femeie ca toate femeiele ce se ridica si merg mai departe, ce gasesc puterea sa zambeasca in momente de tensiune maxima, sa se amuze de sine, se abandoneze pentru moment situatiei apoi sa devina rationala si luptatoare...



Alfonso Cuarón, regizorul, este fenomenal. A folosit tot ce putea folosi, in cantitati ce dau eleganta filmului, chiar si mici clisee, s-a folosit de dorintele, refularile si ascunzisurile omului cerebral si normal, s-a folosit de inima, amintirile si esenta ''omului''. Aceste film este un film elegant, simplu in aparenta, este ca o little back dress. Are atat cat ii trebuie sa fie wow...Nu ai nevoie de mult ca sa fii extraordinar, ai nevoie de putin, dar in locurile si in situatile esentiale. Foloseste lumina si linistea pentru a creea personaje...de fapt, linistea si lumina sunt personaje in acest film. Sunt totul si nimic (in aparenta). Daca nu intelegi linistea si lumina filmului, nu l-ai trait. Aceste doua elemente genereaza sentimentele personajelor, genereaza veselia, panica, recunostinta momentului prezent, trecut si viitor, tristetea, dezamagirea, curajul, surprinderea, resemnarea, lupta, calmul, surpriza, panica...TOT. Acest film este tot ceea ce lipsea momentului nostru, este intoarcerea la eleganta si calitate, este intoarcerea si selectarea frumosului simplu, de sofisticatul sclipicios si obositor prin abundenta ... Este pentru cautatorii de liniste si frumos. Este ca vacanta departe de realitate...

Thursday, October 17

All the invisible children

What makes us invisible? The fact that others fail to take notice or our decision to wrap ourselves into less evident garment? Are we merely details of a bigger picture or simply too eager to be overlooked? Of all the unseen creatures walking the earth, children allow themselves to be ignored or veiled in a world that builds itself in gaudy, violent, vulgar, mean, shocking, short-lived images. This movie project is a bullhorn for all those innocent, torn, little hearts that glide past our grown-up world.

"The title says it all: ‘All the Invisible Children’; our aim is to bring ignored children’s issues into public awareness and consciousness, if nothing else, to make them more visible. Cinema, like music and other art forms, is a perfect medium to raise the bar of awareness, empathy, compassion and understanding. We all felt that this was an opportunity that needed to be seized. I am so glad we did, and I thank all our participants very sincerely.” confessed Chiara Tilesi, producer of the movie.

This is a portmanteau movie of seven short pictures tied by the same theme: child exploitation. Famous directors- Mehdi Charef, Emir Kusturica, Spike Lee, Katia Lund, Jordan & Ridley Scott, Stefano Veneruso, John Woo- joined their vision and empathy to render their painful message to the world: Stop ignoring the invisible children around you! From soldier children to little thieves, from scavengers to broken souls, this movie is about those kids deprived of normal, happy lives, victims of other adults or their own parents.


Childhood problems are shaped through the eyes of seven directors, some stories being more emotional than others. Poverty, disease, prejudice, abuse, exploitation are all depicted in the little glimpses into the unfortunate existences of children from Africa, Brazil, Yugoslavia, Japan and other places scattered all over the globe. Regardless of colour of the skin, race or age, all children are victim to adult exploitation and pain. Some of them will make it to mature life, others are bound to perish along the way; nevertheless, they are the future grown-ups that will shape the fate of other children and the face of humanity.

My favourite is TANZA directed by Mehdi Charef and set in Africa. During a civil war, children are as ruthless as adults; they don't go to school or play childhood games,; instead, they are forced to spill others' blood in the name of the country or misunderstood principles. Machine guns and bombs are their toys and they are good at killing without any remorse. Tanza is a little boy longing for playful school days, trapped in the body of an insensitive weaponlike creature. The futility of war and the tiredness that comes from the ceaseless running are beautifully portrayed in Tanza's taking off his shoes, head resting on a desk, in a classroom that brings back fond memories, bomb set off, future deleted. 

It takes great courage to shift from invisibility to being seen and valued. Resting in the shadow, repeating the same pattern feels more reassuring than any other alternative and children either never give up their habits or follow the same path. It takes courage to watch the film from the adult perspective and not feel somehow having turned a blind eye to the ugly truth around you. It takes more than courage to voice your shame and wonder how many little people you have turned invisible in less atrocious ways. Human lives, yours included, are worthed more than we are willing to grant them.


Monday, October 14

Silent Souls

Loss of ethnic identity, role engulfment and seeking solace are elements that define Aleksei Fedorchenko’s movie, Silent Souls (2010). It is a simple yet emotional movie that speaks in an undertone of the intricate patterns of pain and how we come to embrace it. So let me "smoke" your senses in a brutal manner by asking you to take off any unnecessary garment and plunge into Ovsyanki -the original name of the film.




Some movies require a certain mental state of mind, a sharpness of the senses and a wounded heart; for pain is not to be grasped unless it has been largely embraced. How can you speak of loss, of lost love when your soul has never touched the nether world? Miron (Yuri Tsurilo) has lost his wife Tanya (Yuliya Aug) and taking care of her body requires the understanding and assistance of his best friend, Aist (Igor Sergeev). Only a friend who has secretly coveted the prospect of loving the welcoming flesh of a red-haired Tanya can share the grief of the mourning husband. Friend and bereaved friend carefully follow the tradition of the Merja community, tributary to past Finnish tribal customs, by washing the body of the wife and then adorning her pubic hair with colourful threads as if preparing her for the wedding night. Except, there is no anxious, loving husband to take them off and hung them on an Alder tree. Marital bliss and death share the same mystery and love towards soul accomplishment. And what better proof of love than to wash the body of your beloved? 


A road trip begins to the watery burial ground -the former honeymoon location- on which Miron, Aist and the pair of buntings in the cage make the most unusual companions. It is a land of long-lost traditions, rituals, ghosts, where nature, man and magic share the same coordinates. Miron goes himself through the "smoke" ritual, sharing intimate, sexual details about his dead wife with the silent friend. Tanya's alive image travels in time and her plentiful body and eyes fill the heart of the loving husband and secret admirer. Miron loved her completely, covering her body with lustful gazes and cold vodka, turning her innocence into an assumed sexuality. In a land deprived of sunny, greenery days, love is warm and promising. Buntings trill away, taking Tanya's spirit to her resting place. Buntings also choose Aist to fulfill his destiny and reunite him with his beloved father, the aspiring poet who buried his most-precious object - the typewriter- along with his lost love.  

Saddening as the story might be, it almost makes you wish to know that magical town of Neya, "the great Meryan river" (The Volga), or those simple people, unique in their way of loving and grieving. Are traditions and customs bound to die with people or will they continue to outlive them? Are we more our own people or are we merely branches of the same community? The identity of Aist's father, the poet, is torn between the love for his wife that defines his feelings and his poems and his love for the land he sings in his writings. Loss of love translates into loss of inspiration and drive. 
After the cremation ritual is fulfilled, the two friends take a short detour, get lost in the welcoming wombs of two generous women, only to close the circle in their majestic river, buntings flying wildly around them, reunited with their loved ones.

Is it our sense of belonging that defines our journey in life, our sense of identity that shapes our being? Is this our legacy? Speaking from elsewhere, Aist's voice shatters all doubts and reclaims the eternal gift of life: Only love has no ending. 
Silent Souls is a beautifully shot, highly emotional movie that builds itself into pure poetry, a promising voyage through the vast Russian land where only two gods rule: love and water.  


Thursday, October 10

The Woodsman

Our hidden sexual desires sometimes challenge our sense of morality and the way we accept our flaws and embrace our limitations makes us the better people we strive to be. Much sensitive and uncomfortable as the subject is, The Woodsman is the chance Kevin Bacon has been looking for, all his life, to prove he is an exceptional, talented performer. Every now and then - Sleepers, Mystic River- we are reminded of his ability to shape powerful, remarkable characters and today's movie is a display of good directing and marvelous performing.

Disturbing, emotional subjects make a difficult choice, yet young Nicole Kassell was fearless, delicately drawing Walter's character. He is a man who spent his last 12 years in prison for molesting young girls. Now he is out, a parole officer breathing down his neck, a nosey co-worker spreading rumors about him, a warm-hearted woman in his bed, an apartment facing a playing ground and his own lack of trust. Can you find in yourselves to watch the movie in a non-judgemental way, in a non-biased manner? How much empathy can you feel in your hearts? Apart from watching a well-directed movie and some incredible actors at work, this is the challenge: to question your own sympathy towards such a delicate matter and ask yourself whether such people are beyond retrieval. Are human enough if you forgive or if you condemn?


The movie is great in the way it takes no sides, neither blaming nor finding excuses for Walter. It does not try to embellish reality or turn him into a new man. He is constantly under the fear of having his past exposed, being taken by surprise by the promise of love and scared by probably the first relationship with a woman. The police officer pays him countless visits, reminding him of how easy it is to relapse and how anxious he is to watch Walter fail. The movie points at how offenders are likely to follow the same pattern since there are no second chances for them. In real life, kind women do not wait around the corner to save them from the wicked path and deliver their tormented souls. In real life, redemption does not come freely and mentalities are hard to change. In a way, it is understandable since pedophilia is perceived as being worse than murder; it's the absolute sin of depriving an innocent child of his future. 


The Woodsman is a bold movie for pushing our humane limits and compelling us to mirror ourselves and question the world around us. Kevin Bacon is acting his pores out, embracing the character with every fibre in his body, totally immersed in coping with himself, his deed, his guilt, his life. He is an anti-hero, pitiful and humble, fear exulting from his every move and word. He is honest to his girlfriend about his past -Kyra Sedgewick plays the abused woman who grew up and overcame her past- and honest in the way he is fighting his urges. We don't know if he is going to make it although his reaction towards another molester he catches red-handed proves us to be wrong. He rejects the kind woman besides him for fear of being himself rejected because he feels like a haunted animal. In one of the most excruciating scenes of the movie, Walter meets Robin, an innocent little girl who likes to watch birds. It is the key to the movie. It is about our frailty as human beings, about our vulnerability and hope for a betterment. Painful as it might be, The Woodsman is a movie to be watched; it is our chance to find a bit of our lost humanity in it.



Wednesday, October 9

Incendies

Secrets build themselves into burdens across geography and time, yet they never vanish until they are uttered. This is a movie about the healing power of brutal secrets that save people from beyond death and help survivors move on. Based on Wajdi Mouawad's play of the same name, Incendies (2010) is a drama that revolves around a mysterious voyage a brother and a sister take to the end of the world to fulfill their dead mother's wish and their destinies.
 


Nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in 2011, the movie lost to In a Better Worldanother exquisite drama about violence, families and the withering power of secrets. The poster above is inspired from one of the most excruciating scenes in the movie, where a bus full of slaughtered Muslims -men, women and children- is burnt to the ground. This savage gesture reflects upon the burning fate of humanity and the brutality somehow shapes the destiny of the movie's main character, Narwal Marwan. She is a Lebanese woman, who, upon dying of a stroke, asks her twin children not to properly bury her body until they find their husband and their brother. Her dying wish is imparted upon them by their mother's former employer, Jean Lebel, a notary for whom she had worked in Canada, for the last 18 years, before her sudden death.

Director Denis Villeneuve tells an honest and intelligent story which, despite its predictability, doesn't fail the viewer. Present and past intermingle in an atrocious account of war practises and the way history is violently imprinted on people's memory. The performances are remarkable, excellent acting of talented people who look, act and feel as average folks, yet manage to render a wide range of emotions. The one that sticks to you is the character superbly played by the Belgian-Moroccan actress Lubna Azabal. Narwal is a victim of war, of history, of life itself. Deprived of her maternal rights, the love of her man, the right to education, her humane needs, subject to violence and brutality, she is an innocent young woman turned into a heartless criminal, a devoted believer turned into a raped Prisoner No. 72, "the woman who sings" herself out of misery, broken dreams and back into despair. 

Her humanity prevails and she finds it in her heart to forgive her wrong-doers and herself the past that haunted her through the love for her children and the truth. Is truth liberating in death as it is in life? Some would argue. The notary Lebel, who takes his mission almost too seriously, is the voice of reason who persuades the twins to pursue the mystery. As any other life-changing quest, Jeanne and Simon's voyage across the world brings them no joy or healing, yet it is a road that needs to be taken to close a circle. Gaining a sense of identity and belonging for themselves, much painful as it might be, feels like walking into a Greek tragedy where all mortals are at the hand of the merciless fate.

There is a painful song at the beginning of the movie that feels like tearing your limbs apart; it opens on a room full of young boys getting ready to become little soldiers and having their heads shaved, one of whom pierces your heart with his fearless eyes. The eyes of humanity on the loose.