; movieschocolatebooks: October 2015


Saturday, October 31

Any Other Day

Marysela Zamora is a beautiful, talented woman whom I met last year during a mutual fellowship in US. She is a journalist, a movie maker, and a civil society supporter in her interest to connect social media and digital resources and the people. She also writes poetry and blogs here: http://elblogdemarama.ticoblogger.com. During the orientation week, 50 people or so from all over the world had to mingle and make friends. In the middle of such a lovely crowd, we had to find people of similar experience and interests. Without any explanation, we found each other sharing about our mutual passions: writing, reading, movies, blogging, among other things. Four months later, we got reunited on a night cruise down the Potomac River, full of stories and already missing Boise and San Antonio.

Any Other Day, directed by my friend Marysela Zamora, is a short movie that captures the very idea of innocence. In a world that grows chaotically apart, where genuine feelings and emotions are filtered through different media channels that amputate the human spirit, two children live for the excitement of being alive. In the middle of nature, surrounded by long lost sounds and sensations, Fabiana and Sebastian embark on a new adventure every day. On this day, as usual as any other, they go into the wilderness to find Tutti's mother. Tutti is a bird Fabiana keeps in her tree house and whom Sebastian sees as the orphan in need of a mother. By the river, Fabiana starts playing among the stones, while Sebastian goes looking for any sign of childless bird. Time flows slowly, rain comes after sun, earth breathes along life, children dwell in their silences. When the quiet becomes too intense, they turn into roaring wolf-children, shouting their lungs out at all surrounding things. Tired, they spend moments on a row on the porch and before parting, they decide upon the part they are to play on the following day. They might be taking turns or Sebastian simply wants to be graceful and has the girl pick the word of the day: Superheros!

Cualquier Dia flows like a breath of fresh air, softly getting you inside the story. You marvel at the scenery, at the slowness of such a simple and rewarding existence, as if taking a peek into some long-lost paradise. The children's faces and movements speak more than their own voices: they are pure, unaltered by outside perils and temptations. They live to play alongside nature and you get this feeling of balance and unspoiled heaven. Yet, at the back of pretty images, civilization slowly crawls into this least explored place - a piece of cardboard, a cap, a modern word. Fabiana nurtures Tutti and tells it stories -a Little Red Riding Hood innocent version of how the hunter chased way the wolf which ran and ran and never returned to grandma's house. No dark side, a nice tale for a nice birdie. Yet, there is a scene in the movie where Fabiana burries something- we are left to guess. Is it Tutti that left the secured space inside Sebastian's cap and flew into danger? Is simply a child's play in the mud? It might be a grown-up's way of seeing or assuming danger when it is not even visible. Experience or lack of blind faith make the viewer somehow wary about how things unfold.

The movie made me think of the mysterious vanishing of Pobby and Dingan, a novel by Ben Rice in terms of innocence and make believe, the ardent need to feel that there is hope and candor in people and places. Also, there is a trace of a Momo, character in the book Mr. Ibrahim and the flowers of the Coran, breaking free from the prison of different institutions and beliefs, of tales we are told and stories we build inside and outside ourselves to survive.  Fabiana and Sebastian make their own little world, following their own little rituals and habits, games and pretense. The movie is either to be seen as a rite of passage or as the unseen pressure and ugly breath of the outside world, the mighty civilization that is bound to flaw and sour both Fabiana and Sebastian and their secluded little paradise. It is perhaps our own inner struggle to preserve any shred of authenticity against the uniformity of an outsiderness that strives to turn us into conventional beings. It is our little way of making our own pretty happy thespian ending to a rather heartless, cruel Grimmslike version of life. Either way, Any Other Day will give you a suspended moment of pondering upon the two-sided beauty of life. As for Marysela Zamora, I am certain her name is bound to stay with us in the challenging, expressive display of her talent.

Sunday, October 11

Third person or the butterfly effect in reserve

Paul Haggis's Third person is a movie that purposefully intends to reveal nothing by pointing to everything. White roses, a flying note, a bike, a painting, a line are recurring liaison moments that puncture the multi-stranded narrative. It is leading the viewer towards some great denouement only to leave him puzzled.

Third person feels as if Paul Haggis had three movie ideas in his mind but got too lazy to spin off each separately so he went for this unfortunate melange. It remotely reminded me of other films of the same structure and similar stories that had the same hard time selling, talking, walking themselves into the minds of the viewer: 360, Hereafter or Movie 43. It has some clear ideas in mind about fate, betrayal, loss or pain, yet it fails to render the stories fluid as if they wanted to keep rewriting themselves constantly.

The writer, rich and a Pulitzer winner (Liam Neeson) leaves his wife (Kim Basinger) to go to Paris and write his next book. His protégé and lover, young journalist Anna (Olivia Wilde) joins him for a passionate and chaotic affair. In the next story set in Rome, a sleazy business man named Sean (Adrien Brody) falls for a Romanian gypsy girl with an agenda to rip him off the money she needs to save her eight-year-old daughter from the hands of a trafficker. Back in New York, an instable former actress (Mila Kunis) is fighting her artist ex-husband (James Franco) for the custody of their eight-year-old boy. Children or parents are the objects of aching in this movie, rather in their absence, death or alleged existence or in the way they inflict pain on their offsprings. White roses are a pledge of beauty rather than a sign of trust. They fail to express the sincerity of the sender and mirror back on his own lack of trust in his own abilities and the people in his life, There are also some lines in the movie that synthesize some of the main ideas of the movie: “It’s supposed to be about a man who can only feel through the characters he creates.” (the writer tells his editor), “You have random characters making various excuses for your life,” (the latter complains to the former) “Women have the gift of being able to deny any reality.”

It is interesting how the movie suggests that writers are not only disturbed but also vain and lacking any principles. The writer in this movie copies down every bit of conversation he has, gets inspired by his girlfriend's misery and makes his latest novel a hit by revealing the raw, painful truths in his life and the life of others. Is this a way of unfolding bad emotions and shaking off trauma? Does the attire of writing make the writer invisible or grant him the right to stand above others? It makes you wonder about the price one pays to win at all costs or about the fact that every act of creation merely relies on destruction. It is also frustrating how all the men in this movie crave to be in control and how all female characters lack drive and strength.

In Havana, Robert Redford, the gambler, tells Lena Olin, "A butterfly can flutter its wings over a flower in China and cause a hurricane in the Caribbean. They can even calculate the odds." This comes out as an attractive piece of truths on the lips of the seductive man, yet it bears little scientific proof. The idea of the butterfly effect as it is perceived by the pop culture -a single occurrence, no matter how small, can change the course of the universe forever - insinuates itself in the layers of the movie, suggesting a kind of boomerang effect in the way relationships get shattered. Every time a third person comes along, the initial balance is disrupted, suggesting a kind of fatalistic approach to the misfortunes and accidents of life. Nevertheless, despite the range of actors and some good performances, Third person reads itself like the 50 cent coin that the writer drops in the sparkling water glass -it stirs a bubble or two but it never rises above water, rather ebb flowing in its little glass-like universe.