Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Indochina, 1992

 I like to cultivate things, start from a scratch and built an entity as one does a film. When watching films there are different things to observe like acting, cinematography, sound, editing and the rhythm they create. Often there are films that have one of these pieces functioning in a great way but others lagging behind. And unfortunately that tends to destroy the whole film. Yet one has to give recognition to the good work done. Indochine is a controversial film in many ways, but I think the atmosphere of late 30's in the country has been well captured in those many details carefully included on the set.

Actually I did not mean to watch Indochine but Il Conformista. I just could not find the tape! Now I have a new tape recorder and I am able to see all my hundreds of films on tape, and then I can't find the one I want. But I found the Indochine and settled for that. I should go through them all, I know, but it is quite a job... Indochina is not a great film, not even a particularly good film but it has been realized with piety and esthetic touch. The communist would have considered it thoroughly a petit bourgeois product, but as that is only one opinion...

 The French colonial administration in Indochina started to crack in the late 30's with communism infiltrating to the lower levels of population and creating a growing opposition to the French regime.  The real war broke at 1946 after the WW 2 and raged almost 30 years first with France and then becoming the so called Vietnam war between USA and communist North Vietnam. Indochina tells of the final days of the French colonialism and the birth of revolution in the country later to become Vietnam. The French Devries family, at present father and daughter, own a caoutchouc plantation. The father is an old man and Eliane runs the plantation in practice to witch have also been added the land of 'the princes of Annam', the daughter of her friends who died accidentally. The plantation is one of the biggest in the country and Eliane, Lili is an important figure. The gathering of caoutchouc in twilight, the processing in the workshop or factory, discipline and safety are vividly portrayed. As an additional branch there is the smuggling of opium, officially strictly forbidden, but secretly covered by Lili, who herself has found relief of worries and sorrows in opium dens.

As a plantation owner Lili is part of the creme de la creme of the society and well connected to the chief of securite as well as the ruling Asian merchants and mandarins. The composed elegance of Carherine Deneuve creates to Lili a diplomatic glamour, that begins to crumble along the seductive closeness of Jean Babtiste. The strict obedience to rules of the young officer leads to the burning of a sampan, guilt and the fact that Lili has covered the smuggling and also saved the people from the sampan, the emotional outburst in the auction, later apology as he comes to her... And finally the night in the Devries' old house in Saigon when Lili accepts him as her lover. Vincent Perez acting Jean Babtiste does not get enough passion and burning emotion - he is nice, but that is not enough, and he has a sensual mouth but in a soldier that means weakness, yet the phlegmatic conduct is the greatest fault. It may be caused by the director or the part written to him, who knows, but the role of Jean Babtiste as a lover to both Lili and Camille, mother and daughter is ambivalent in many ways and in the film there is no burning emotion or passion in neither relationship. In a drama spanning years and changing lives one would expect such.

 To Lili the story is similar to her previous affairs along many years: a lover for a moment. When trouble starts to evolve she keeps her distance. The dominance of reason  is unwavering. Her intimate and personal disappointments Lili  drowns in the opium den's darkness. Even in this she keeps her cool reason and does not drown. Her deep rooted sense of duty and manners along the factory keep her going.

Her adopted daughter Camille is engaged to Tanh, a rich merchants son, by their respective parents. Tanh is studying in Paris but is returned, deported home because of taking part in a political provocation. In Indochina he is clearly one of the potential leaders of the revolution. The marriage seems unavoidable. Camille and Jean Babtiste meet when she is coincidentally involved in a conflict and loses her consciousness. Regarding Jean Babtiste as her saviour she falls in love with him - her fantasy like a young one does. The infatuation on the french soldier helps her to run from home and the threatening marriage. Tanh help her to elope.

Jean Babtiste is deported to a distant Dragon Island as a disciplinary action. The desolate outpost on Dragon Island is a center of slave trade, and after some bends in the plot also Camille arrives to the island to be sold there. Jean Babtiste sees her and takes her in his care, protection with an intention to get her out of there. Her traveling companions have crudely been murdered and seeing their bodies she  grabs a gun and shoots the other officer. Camille and Jean Babtiste fly on a sampan to the labyrinth of islands.    Thirst and hunger almost get them - again so very phlegmatic - before some people find them and take them to a secret island. There they stay hiding apparently for a year, because in the next scene Camille is pregnant and near her time. She is wanted for murder. Also Jean Babtiste is wanted for detection. A wandering theatre group takes them with and they hide among the actors intending to get over the border to Yunnan, China.

The child is born. Jean Babtiste is christening the baby when soldiers take them. The actors and Camille escape. The baby is fed by many women on their way to Saigon. This walk, and the romance of Camille and Jean Babtiste grows to a legend played by theatre groups as revolutionary propaganda.

Lili is unhappy until she gets the baby, Etienne to take care of. Her friend the chief of Securite is after Camille and destroys theatre groups, in vain. Jean Babtiste is to be send to France to be sentenced in order to avoid political disturbances, but as he is sleeping with Etienne in the Devries' Saigon house  his last night in Indochine he is shot in the head. The execution is framed as suicide and removes one problem.

The boy grows and Lili enjoys him while the plantation gets neglected. The chief of Securite gets to know that Camille is on a prison camp, 'a regular communist factory' as he puts it. Finally France yields and the camps are opened: Camille is free after five years! Lili goes to meet her, but Camille is committed to the revolution and not returning to her previous life. Lili and Etienne leave for Paris, where he grows up. The frame of story closes - Lili has been telling the story to Etienne and now Camille is in Paris... but Etienne does not want to meet her. Eliane is his mother.

A lot of substance, maybe a bit too much, and a lot of dramatic, intensive scenes, but on the whole the realization is miserably slack and phlegmatic. There are no feelings, not even in close-ups. Camille is vacant and lacks expression and nuance, downright lifeless - how on earth has she got pregnant - ? Jean Babtiste is like a wooden doll in pretty uniform both in his relationship with Lili and later with Camille. The funny thing is that I have seen Vincent Perez quite capable to expressing feelings and fire for example in 'La Reine Margot' so it is not his fault that Jean Babtiste is anemic... - sticky and weak. The only believable burst of rage is Camille's violence at seeing her friends tortured to death in the water cages. Maybe it is intentional because also the strongest reaction of Jean Babtiste is sparked by moral resentment to the murder of a child. The old regime is formal and lacks humaneness, ok, but the main characters should be alive and feeling, and not only in words but in facial expressions too. I don't like theatrical acting a'la Jim Carrey on film but... So if phlegmatic is intentional it just does not work.

Also the cinematography is 'wide', general views, few close-ups, pleasant though, but one would love some intensity in tracking and camera movements, a little more faces close and emotion on them. Pity. Why has this film been done? More emotion would make it a drama, less emotion and it would be a historical documentary, but as such lukewarm it makes one sorry for the work lost... And it is done with care and piety.

23.10.2012 tt

It won an Oscar - best foreign language film, and Deneuve was also nominated as best actress in leading role.... surprise, surprise...


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Innocent Lies by Patrick Dewolf

I'm sorry but I have found no trailers or pictures of any kind of this film...
Innocent Lies


I spotted it coming from Showtime the previous day just by coincidence while sorting through the program tables. Didn't even stop at first but returned to check. Yes, it was it! I have seen it maybe twice before, just as coincidentally. Innocent lies. One and a half hours. Not a big film. Cinematic. Intriguing and beautiful in a simple yet very twisted way. Like Finzi-Continis. Laconic even. Just lovely!

1938 on an island along French coast a British policeman shots himself. His 'adopted' son Alan (Adrian Dunbar) comes with a young daughter to find out if it really was a suicide. Airplane, boat, lighthouse, dunes, cafes... trés idyllic, and the music is like a caress.  It all just covers something deep and black, souls grown to each other so they never would stand free.

She, Celia, (Gabrielle Anwar) is silently beautiful - reminds me of Dominique Sanda, a little disturbed animal, high wired and excitable. And she draws men like a casino gamblers. The young police is caught immediately - just watching her delicate body and trembling lips. Her wedding to an American young man is due in a week yet no-one is enthusiastic. And she knows something... perhaps dangerous.

The house of her family has a weird atmosphere: nazi mother (Joanna Lumley), a brother, Jeremy (Stephen Dorf),  who shot his twin with an arrow as child - accident was ruled - and his make-do wife, a jewish whore married just to annoy mother. Celia's former fiance was killed in a car crash just days before the wedding. And the relationship of Celia and Jeremy is full of strange tension, sensual and twisted. All this is presented in small clues of gesticulation and somewhat shady fragments of conversation, and it is both fascinating and intriguing to follow the transparent net of past deeds and feelings to become visible.  This demands a lot from the audience, knowledge of human behaviour and psychology as well as understanding of the way this film takes shape, not as a tight plot with certain steps but as a spectrum of possibilities and how they drop dead by the path. Only the inevitable, necessary is followed, as Celia puts it: Fate.

Everything clings wrong and broken, no pure sound exists. Celia seduces Alan easily as needing protection. She comes to him in his lodgings and the scene is broken by his daughter waking up. The same night the mother is strangled. The investigation turns to this violent act. Jeremy is detained but released, and Celia's fiance leaves for NY. Alan is deeply entwined with Celia, and confused by her reaction to the sound of a clicker used to train dogs, that was found in her mothers belongings. Celia dreams flashes from the arrow-incident...

And again in the evening she arrives to Alan's lodgings. This time they copulate ferociously while Celia reveals all to him in her sexual frenzy. Her fiance committed suicide after seeing her and Jeremy have sex and it was deeply satisfying... They also killed the mother together, sister and brother. Again she begs his protection. He denies it as situation is so condemning and she is arrested. But later he comes to her and takes her to the railway station so she can catch the train to freedom. From hiding he observes wether she'll go.

She is still on the platform when the train leaves and then phones her brother. Jeremy arrives and they go inside the railway station hall to an empty office room. The staff is having a birthday party in the room next. Jeremy wants her and she submits as she always has done. The clicker perhaps used by her mother or Jeremy or both. In her mind memoirs we see it was she that shop the brother, not Jeremy, who just said where to shoot. She was the guilty one and he knew it. She can not deny him. During the act he starts to strangle her and she panics grabbing the long scissors from the table and...   When Alan brakes in Jeremy is dead and she has crumbled to a corner sobbing and sucking her thumb, the little mindless dog without owner. The regression is complete.

Of course it is unreal. These strains between persons in closed circles are evident, but usually dismissed by categorical  refusal. Children left alone... yes, children are so vivid and close to everything. They don't stamp acts as 'good' and 'bad' but rather 'dull' and 'exciting'. And they have no inhibitions regarding relationships - a brother is very like any other boy, just present more often... and so these tragedies evolve from little innocent lies through the years until everything is corrupt and comes crashing down.

All this is told with impeccable pictures containing just the necessary, nothing more nor less in perfect light and composure - a real pleasure to watch! No exaggeration, no distortion, just simple straight lines. The cinematography is almost classic. Straight lines, slow thoughtful movements and tracking. Mornings in soft haze, -no direct hard sunlight at all - and nights with the sea dark, lamps giving little light and the rain splashing down. The beam of the lighthouse turns and turns cutting the darkness.

Interiors are simple and detailed by the era convincingly. And the clothes, wonderful tweeds and knits hand embroidered, nothing over worked and pretentious. The little girl Angela playing and the red haired French boy at the beach, her cardigan and the seashells on sand... The music was soft piano tunes lingering in the air, some cello perhaps as dramatic, nothing discerning.

The film is a delight - and the end always comes to everything. The war is closing upon the little islands and jews are escaping. There are ominous lists of people... Idylles fade to be reborn again somewhere else in some other time. Just a little excerpt of time. Very strong and enchanting in it's simple European beauty. Yes, it had something, a touch of real cinema, real innocence and very real amorality - a refreshing experience...

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Ancient Interrail

Piccadilly Circus 


Thomas Cook, London - there I bought me first interrail ticket for european railroads , one month free riding in trains all over! I had been living in London and thus started my way home... On the whole it took almost three months and two interrail tickets! This was in spring 1974, might have been April... don't remember so well and too lazy to check... Anyway, with the ticket I bought Cook's Continental - all european trains and busses, a timetable. I saw it sometime ago somewhere, a brick red book with pages dog's-eared! Drawings and short notes all over pages... 

So that was the start, and I was traveling alone. I had friends all over Europe though, and the world is not dangerous, at least if you keep eyes open and use some common sense. During the whole time there was just one incident: in a train in northern Italy the conductor came to my compartment while I slept and tried to grope - cut it short by kicking his balls. A girl has to be prepared! And I did hitch-hike from Marbella to Torremolinos in the middle of night, past midnight, and a guy took me on - he spoke just spanish so it was a quiet ride. Nice boy, shy... nothing happened. But that was much later, after Morocco...

I went to Dover, and the ferry to Calais had some wind and sunshine. Paris - my friend was meeting me at the station and we had supper with some more friends in a midtown restaurant. Saw Notre Dame in moonlight! Some days there walking the streets and to next friends in Clermont-Ferrand. And again some days there and on I went to Lyon. One of my friends in Clermont was studying in Lyon Polytechnic and he smuggled me for a couple of nights to the dormitory - guys only!! I shared a room with a nice and shy young man, Jean-Luc, and we had supper at Paul Bocuse's restaurant - the boys had a band and they plays there in a wedding. Google Bocuse, if you don't know... There was also excellent cock-au-vin in a small place near the car museum! Gosh I miss the feeling of adventure!

Roofs of Clermont

And the rails go on south to Marseilles, where the hostel was across the city and it was night, but I managed to find the place! Then to San Remo, no, first was Monaco and Montecarlo and the Oseanic museum of Cousteau, yes. It was such an expensive city that after the fishes I just continued to San Remo. I must forget something, but then I was in Munich with other friends - frightened to death by a ride in a red Porche on the Bavarian autobahn by a young man, 150 miles! And Schwabing in the night with some wine and beer.

Bernese Oberland, Interlaken and small village Murren high in the Alps - funny little train going up the slope... And those beautiful days walking the mountains meadows full of crocuses, and Jungfrau there gleaming huge in the evening sun. But it was not idylle I was looking for so back to the coast and over the border to Spain. Night train from rainy Barcelona with the shocking Gaudi monument Sagrada Famiglia to Malaga - it was a wonderful trip: we were a bunch of young people, two german, four canadian, a couple spanish guys and me... somewhere there is a photograph taken on some station pier of us all. Yes, it was wine and song all night long. And in Malaga everything was closed. Patiently we waited some hours for a buss to Torremolinos, me and the canadians, two girls and two guys, and the german boys Wollf and Raf. 

Torremolinos - it was a meeting place for young from all over the world. I got stuck there for some weeks. There was a bar Figaro in the Carihuela beach owned by a swedish woman living in Rhonda, and run by three canadian guys. Oh those paellas... They had an apartment rented and they made occasional trips to Marrakesh... I still have my thick moroccan kaftan... 

Torremolinos means 'the land of windmills' and there on the top of the cliff is the old windmill.

Then one morning I had a glass in my hand and opened the tap to drink water, and the water came with such force that the glass dropped and went straight through the washbasin... Somehow that made me think of leaving... and in the next evening the boy I had shared the bed with saw me to the buss, that went to Malaga. I took a train to Madrid and from there the Talgo to north. I remember staying in Burgos for a day just walking alone the streets - it was still Franco's regime and militia was everywhere, a bit unnerving if not frightening...

Then I was in Bordeaux and back to Clermont. I saw Jean-Luc standing by his Citroen 2CV on the street and he took me to their house in the mountains. Old farmhouse it was with massive fireplaces and delicious food. Some days there and some in the town, and then to Leiden, Netherlands, to see one of my best friends, who was working there in the local hospital. I stayed with her, went to Katwijk-an-See for a few days, then back and we went to Amsterdam together for the weekend. I do remember visiting the van Gogh museum... and Dam and walking the streets by those canals... and Keukenhof, all those flowers, and there were some kind of greasy things one got from the street kitchens, yummy...

She went back to Leiden and I knew I was bound to go home... but no, I did not want, not yet - so I took the train to Paris... but my friends had left - just an empty house, and the neighbors said they were in Egypt... So I was all alone... I went to one of the stations not knowing what to do, and there was the Orient Express just leaving! On board and there I was on my way again! Through northern Italy - in Trieste some fat ladies came to my compartment talking an unfamiliar language and when we had passed the yugoslavian border - passports, please! - and well our way towards the city of Moshtar, the ladies started to strip: off came several skirts and blouses, maybe a dozen tights... And they just laughed at my surprise!  It was smuggling in small scale, yes, quite usual in those days.  

Then there was the old man with bread, ham and fresh onions. He invited me to share his breakfast and I still remember how we dipped those onions in salt and how delicious it was. And Neretva was turquoise and the bridge, ancient stone bridge over it in Moshtar was beautiful - the bridge was then blown in the war... On and on all the way to Belgrad, where I felt so fed up I left the train. I was plain dirty and needed a shower. Belgrad is a big city with wide streets and I was so tired... I went to the reception of a big hotel and asked for a shower for an hour or so. Lucky me the receptionist had a great sense of humour! I had an empty room for an hour and had a wonderful warm shower, washed my slimy hair and was ever so grateful!

Zagreb - some students curious about west... A buss to Ploce and from there to Dubrovnik - oh it was raining all the way heavily!  In Dubrovnik there was an info just near the buss station, and there the guy said there was not a single bed available in the whole town! I was wet and depression began to lurk in my mind. There was this other guy, his friend I dare say, standing near, and he said, that I could come to stay with him. I must have looked funny because he hurried to explain that he lived with his parents in their house and his sister was studying somewhere else so her room was available! And so I was cared for by these unknown friendly people for a week so well... It was just great! 

In the old Dubrovnik (they have used it to film the Game of Thrones city King's Landing) I one day bumped literally to a big man in a street corner and  he cried 'well if it is not my little friend Teri!!' He was one of us in Torremolinos, small world, and he was going to Afghanistan and then to Katmandu - it was just so close I did not join him... 

But I did not. Back to western capitalism and Venice in the moonlight... and then slowly towards north, home, studies...  Must have forgotten a lot but remembered some spicy bits... oh and then there was the Salzburg episode: here

And then one day I was home again... 

me in those days...

Sunday, May 06, 2012

"I Am Fishead" Are Corporate Leaders Egotistical Psychopaths ?

Critical thinking and emotions should not be banned in organizations and business - the alternative too often is fascism...