Stranger Things – Seconda stagione

Stranger Things 2 (2017) – Matt & Ross Duffer

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Se pensiamo al panorama offertoci di questi tempi dalle serie televisive, sempre più spesso riflessi di una forma d’Arte prettamente cinematografica, non è semplice raccapezzarsi, tanto meno stupirsi. Eppure ‘Stranger Things’, soprattutto questa seconda stagione (trasmessa su Netflix a partire dall’Ottobre 2017), in gran parte ci riesce. Sarà la nostalgia per un decennio, gli eighties, e per il Cinema sci-fi tanto in voga in quegli stessi tempi; sarà la varietà, la validità del cast, l’autenticità e la spontaneità dei suoi componenti, personaggi originali e molto ben approfonditi; sarà il fascino di accettare l’esistenza di una dimensione parallela alla nostra, un mondo sotterraneo tanto spaventoso quanto di fatto ben protetto da un’eroina tra le più genuine che la televisione ci abbia mai offerto. Fatto sta che ST è un prodotto sui generis, assolutamente valido, capace fin da subito di far propri i segreti del successo. Qui la serie riprende in mano ogni discorso precedentemente abbandonato, ogni mistero fino ad allora celato o solo accennato, sfruttando – e in un certo senso anche approfittando – le aspettative spettatoriali ben mirate. Undici, pur sempre personaggio centrale, cede leggermente il passo in favore di un quadro più generale di Hawkins e dei suoi abitanti, dai quattro ragazzi (Mike, Will, Dustin e Lucas) fino allo sceriffo Hopper. E, per quanto la struttura rimanga la stessa osservata nel corso della scorsa stagione, cambiano i tempi, cambia la mentalità. Se inizialmente si ricercava un approccio più accademico, cauto e succube dei troppi stereotipi del caso (e.g. minacce difficilmente scongiurabili), qui si spinge decisamente oltre, in particolare superato il quinto episodio, dove improvvisamente da blando e pacato, il ritmo si fa frenetico e incalzante senza per questo perdere in spettacolarità e sentimento.

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Matt e Ross Duffer realizzano un prodotto di fantascienza quasi snobbando la componente scientifica, privandola del peso prevedibilmente suo. Costruiscono personaggi comuni, piccoli supereroi senza poteri o, come Undici, parsimoniosi e umili nell’uso degli stessi: permeano la loro creatura di un’atmosfera familiare, malinconica, musicalmente, visivamente e mentalmente immersa in quel 1984 che è poi l’anno stesso in cui sono ambientate le vicende. Abbandonando l’esibizionismo fine a se stesso, i cliché del genere e le semplificazioni (il facile ricondursi ai paradigmi del buono e del cattivo), i due ideatori sono consci dell’importanza e della necessità di creare qualcosa di visivamente impressionante, qualcosa che riesca a coinvolgere non solo lo spettatore più ingenuo, più giovane – compito del resto sempre più arduo di anno in anno – ma altresì un pubblico più vasto ed eterogeneo.

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Ecco che da questo punto di vista ST2 regala episodi mozzafiato, sequenze spettacolari e un epilogo tra i più impressionanti degli ultimi anni assieme alla terza stagione di ‘Bojack Horseman’ e al finale di prima targato ‘True Detective’. Ma ancora pochi, ben dosati i colpi di scena e gli intermezzi prettamente sentimentali (qui privi di frammenti di carattere sessuale); l’impatto emotivo, condensato nel finale, viene concesso in dosi uguali nei tre capitoli conclusivi. Equilibrato, epico e stranamente generoso nei confronti del suo pubblico (lusso che ben poche serie si permettono di accordare) è il caso di dire che ST2 convince soprattutto per la chimica che i protagonisti si e ci trasmettono, creando un gruppo unito, che combatte il Male con le armi del semplice coraggio e della forza d’animo. E, se da un lato si apprezza la raffinatezza di prodotti che come ‘Mindhunter’ riescono a spiccare per stile, impegno ed eleganza nonostante la sostanziale mediocrità dell’intreccio, dall’altro non si può che gradire la spensieratezza di un oggetto che commuove al contempo per la leggerezza e per il grande, autentico valore. Non è l’evento sconvolgente, nemmeno l’irripetibile eccezione, soltanto una nota molto ben gradita in un panorama, quello televisivo (almeno sulla carta), che dimostra di poter compiere imprese sempre più grandi, prima su tutte il trionfo sulle classiche due orette del grande schermo.

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The Unknown Craftsman

Agyat Shilpi (2017) – Amit Dutta / India

Si parla di un oggetto arcano, lontano dal tempo e dallo spazio sovente intesi, qualcosa che si muove cheto sondando i rapporti che legano l’uomo all’ambiente, al proprio Dio, ai propri mezzi e alle proprie capacità. In un indefinito varco storico, un interminabile Eden si staglia tra distese boscose, promontori e picchi rocciosi pronto ad accogliere il tempio perfetto, ciò che misurerà la grandezza dell’uomo-artigiano e le sue doti (i quaranta giorni che il Signore si preparò ad affrontare nel deserto). Dutta si confronta nuovamente con la pura e semplice materia, con tutto ciò che definisce la grandezza dell’uomo. L’architettura in questo caso diventa il mezzo ideale; essa, o meglio i suoi semi (parola spesso ricorrente nell’opera), rispecchiano lo stesso, in un certo senso lo dominano, lo determinano. Ma, prima di confrontarsi con sé, l’uomo-artigiano deve superare terrori, insidie, tentazioni ed ostacoli che il suo Dio gli porrà sul cammino. Mancando d’orientamento, l’obiettivo stesso si capovolge, i tempi si dilatano, i gesti si perdono nel vuoto echeggiando tra le pareti scavate nella roccia del tempio di Masrur, immensa opera d’arte mai completata. Ciò che pare statico però si rinnova nel tempo, non si deteriora, si inserisce all’interno di uno scenario sempre più vasto.

Quest’ultimo a sua volta si nutre della spettacolare spiritualità che lo distingue. In un tripudio di gesti sacri, pose meticolosamente studiate per confondersi con l’ambiente, AD scolpisce forme e tonalità applicandovi allo stesso tempo schemi cromatici, accostamenti, dicotomie e giochi visivi illusori. Tali formule a loro volta si sposano col concetto di vita ascetica, di pratica religiosa come portale verso il divino (la perfezione del cerchio si ripete svariate volte), un po’ come la ricerca del Boccadoro di HH indagava, tra le tante cose, la natura dell’uomo e l’armonia col proprio spirito – “la conoscenza va dimenticata” viene sentenziato ad un certo punto – (in questo senso – e in questo soltanto – l’induismo cui tra poco accenneremo non si distacca molto dall’idea di fede che concepì Hesse). Il protagonista, qui, aspira alla più intima interiorizzazione dei principi di Shiva, segue il cammino prestabilito con estrema serietà. Nello stesso tempo AD lo accompagna scandendo senza sosta brani chiave della letteratura vedica, incontri epici, così da rendere l’andamento dell’opera difficoltoso.

Ma l’edificazione del tempio ha altri connotati, primo su tutti quello legato all’idea di arte che l’autore stesso ha cercato di rendere, con modalità via via differenti, durante tutta la sua carriera. Essa infatti tende alla perfezione, è alla ricerca di un qualcosa che le sfugge, qualcosa di anonimo, un ideale, un volto, una causa prima. Gli sforzi profusi nell’arco di una vita, perseguendo detto ideale, sono il cammino dell’uomo-artigiano, rappresentano la fatica dell’artista (in questo caso il cineasta) nell’adempiere a tale, tacito precetto.  Un discorso dunque che, più che religioso, trova una soluzione nella metafisica come interrogativo puro. ‘The Unknown Craftsman’ allora si pone al culmine di un intervento filosofico che trascende la realtà cinematografica e quella sensibile esistendo unicamente in quanto ricerca o meglio assenza.

Voto: ★★★★/★★★★★

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Lamaland (Part I)

Lamaland (Teil I) (2018) – Pablo Sigg / Messico

La Nuova Germania è un modesto distretto dell’entroterra paraguaiano fondato dalla sorella del filosofo Friedrich Nietzsche, Elisabeth, e dal marito Bernhard. Il film racconta gli ultimi giorni dei sopravvissuti della colonia originalmente capeggiata da Elisabeth, due fratelli piuttosto anziani; dell’ordinarietà della loro esistenza e delle misteriose forze che prenderanno progressivamente il sopravvento su di loro. ‘Lamaland (Part I)’ – il titolo si rifà all’ironico nomignolo, ‘Llama’, che il filosofo affibbiò alla sorella – è un film che ben ricorda fin da subito i folgoranti canoni estetici imposti nell’ultimo decennio dal Cinema sudamericano e soprattutto da quello messicano. Conserva infatti il presente, per tutta la sua durata, una forza ed un rigore stilistico sorprendenti, rifuggendo addirittura da improvvisi sbalzi, ritmici, cromatici, verbali o sceneggiativi che siano ed imponendo anzi una regolarità che, lungi dall’annoiare, non svaluta il giudizio finale dell’opera. La forza di questa sembra infatti risiedere maggiormente nel non detto, un tacito accordo tra autore e spettatore basato sulla convinzione che quanto di peggio possa essere immaginato alberghi nell’animo di quella folta foresta, in quella misera capanna, in quelle stesse tombe disadorne. Incuriosito, invogliato a sciogliere il mistero, persino l’osservatore attento scorgerà ben pochi, radi appigli; un ragno, una carta (forse un jolly) ai piedi del letto, una parola, quasi un sussurro, che sfugge ad uno dei due uomini: ‘Satana’. E se di certo qualcosa avviene, pare presentarsi con tanta umiltà, in un silenzio così poco teatrale e sconvolgente, da lasciare quasi insoddisfatti.

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Pablo Sigg, qui al suo terzo lungometraggio nonché primo approdo al film di finzione, costruisce un film lento, intelligente nell’orchestrare musiche e regia in modo tale da lavorare sulla percezione del momento da parte di chi osserva. Immagini che rimandano alle elegie sokuroviane, attimi quasi kubrickiani per l’originale, spiazzante intesa tra musica classica e presente filmico, macchina da presa che ricorda molto in quanto a movimenti e sguardo il Cinema di Nicolàs Pereda, da ‘The Absent’ a ‘Minotaur’. Nonostante questo, il regista messicano sembra convergere con decisione verso una concezione di Cinema tutta propria, una dimensione propensa a sottolineare e anzi avvalorare tutto quando risiede all’interno dell’inquadratura, come un quadro dove un volto non vanti però maggiori cure di un particolare. In questo modo andiamo a formarci un’idea sempre più precisa di quello che poi è l’ambiente predominante nell’opera, la casa dei protagonisti. Dal tavolo, mestamente allestito, ai letti fino alle calzature devastate. Un ambiente che finisce col prendere vita quasi, vantare una propria personalità.

Piuttosto lineare, l’opera non si dilunga mai troppo lasciando ad ogni sequenza quasi la medesima durata (o perlomeno l’impressione immediata di ciò); scorre per frammenti di vita, banalissimi stralci di tempo senza un fine preciso. È la quotidianità dei due uomini quella che in ultima istanza riveste maggior importanza, l’abitudinarietà della loro esistenza ed il suo lento, graduale eclissarsi, venir meno. Spossati, stremati, entrambi cederanno al loro destino, alla scomparsa di un mondo inteso probabilmente parimenti allo stesso Nietzsche se pensiamo al pensiero filosofico di quest’ultimo, alla sua idea di tempo e a quella che Sigg suggerisce (i ticchettii dell’orologio a muro, il frequente riproporsi di quest’ultimo etc). Si ricerca un’impronta visiva di grande effetto dunque nell’impersonalità, nella creazione di geometrie che racchiudono e svelano il soggetto predominante. L’illogicità che permea il trascorrere del tempo, il verificarsi di certi eventi, è la stessa che non vuole rendere coerenza e razionalità al Male, conferirgli una qualsiasi traccia di comprensibilità, una chiave di lettura o ancora incarnarlo in un determinato (s)oggetto. Eppure una chiave di lettura c’è, pare infatti che ogni elemento, naturale e non, collabori alla fine di un’era. Il destino forse, la spontanea decadenza di un sito ormai fuori dal tempo, vecchio, persino per esso.

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Voto:  ★★★/★★★★★

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Interviews #4 – Paul Clipson

ITALIAN VERSION

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Paul Clipson (UK, 1965), english independent filmmaker naturalized american. His career begins in 2004, now has more than sixty works shot (always in experimental field), including about ten video installations and only one feature film: ‘Hypnosis Display’.


Cinepaxy: We would like to start with a general question about the way your work is being felt. Your films seem to represent an idea of present extremely melancholic, as if landscapes and metropolis were hiding below reality layer, an escape from reality sort of foisted by its own. So, how do you reflect on the present? And why live this relation through Cinema?

Paul Clipson: I think there are many impositions. One on all is history of cinema itself but also personal taste, as well as obsessive pursuit of beauty in the image. The research process on these images is weird, it works on time. When I reflect on the word “melancholy” I think it is present relative to an emotional register. My films do not come out from an idea. What you feel is the response to an emotional impulse: a light, an object, a space, a landscape. Now, I’m actually attracted to landscapes and probably what drives me to film is being able to feel the space to understand it, its perspective on environment, being able to capture the essence through film, through camera.

CP: So there is a strong link with the surroundings and indeed most of your works are shot on urban background. Then streets, semaphores and lampposts acquire a primary role. We can say camera focus on them, or rather, on the vibe they give off.

PC: I’m very fascinated by urban landscape. I’ve worked many times close to limitations such as buildings. In those cases, I’d rather more not to focus on physical subjects, indeed I appreciate a lot Antonioni’s work as well as that of other artists who analyze space and its entity. It’s important to be aware of objects since space is composed by many factors: society, institutions, medias, environment itself. The city has a great importance in my movies, I live in a city and shooting in the absence of people make people more present. I am very interested to architecture (Giorgio De Chirico influenced a lot myself) maybe that’s why I’m so attracted by the city. I feel also very close to Chris Marker, his idea of film as journey, film-diary, I’m very fascinated by this intimacy with camera. In a certain way camera is director’s eye and director is camera’s eye: it’s a wonderful means of analyzing space.

CP: Analyzing space in order to perceive it, underline all the emotions connected to it.

PC: Experiencing space involves a certain predisposition, there’s a complex impact and describing the place where you leave in leads to a critic question. Filming allows to reappropriate of space, simple gestures are enough: a walk (I think about Guy Debord, his idea of free space). If you don’t walk normally through a city, this won’t ever be  normal. Narrative Cinema lives off production’s logics and this subverts everything around it since a shot of a city, in a narrative film, is functional to the storytelling but the way you live the city is different: actually, a film that lives the space where it’s immersed in is ‘Zabriskie Point’, another one can be Christopher MacLaine’s ‘The end’.

CP: And how does that make possible, how do you realise the abstract?

PC: I start with the principle of images, I try to recognize myself in what I do and I care a lot about this, that’s why I shoot everyday: I’ll shoot tonight, tomorrow and again the day after. While I’m doing that, I have some ideas in mind but I try not to start from them to allow the unforeseen to interpose and let images communicate. It is necessary to start from a blank page. I’m not interested in subjects, screenplays, I try to get the natural response and let the subconscious work. I never think about a meaning, this is very important to me, whatever it is I don’t wish to give one, I’d rather to stimulate a purely subjective reaction.

CP: About the implementation of this process, perhaps it’s not proper to speak of representation of reality, rather than projection of the same with a distorted perception, intensified and often schizophrenic. Where is this act coming from?

PC: Good question. I always felt obliged to work on camera’s mechanic, sometimes I feel like I’m doing a sort of documentary on it. I’m very fascinated by the latter, it encourages me to experience on the means, analyze it and discover its limits, that’s where my camera’s choices come from. The effects’ intensity is due to my fondness for macro photography whereby I can shoot tiny little details like eye surface or an insect, that’s how I started to find out camera’s properties; in this way it establishes every conduct. A plot can be totally abstract in experimental field, it’s not a commercial film storytelling; I’ve always thought camera could help study the mind, so I started to get means consciousness. You know, when you focus on the eye by way of macro photography distances are canceled, infinite comes true. Earlier I’ve talked about surface, in many of my films I wanted to shot the surface, of the sun as well as the ocean, so to summon emotions giving an honest reaction. There is never a precise meaning inherent to the scene. I like a lot the idea of performance during the work, my movies are this, a set of mistakes and randomness, this means the acceptance of the act. That’s the notion of camera’s metabolism how Brakhage has tought: images come from thought but at the same time they precede it.

CP: Cinema as a go-between for living the reality.

PC: Yes, exactly.

Made of air (2014)

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CP: Regarding macro photography, what spurs you to apply such technique on insects?

PC: I’m interested in many things. Through this technique I can feel the whole dimension and my proximity with the subject. On one side it directs the gaze but on the other it returns strong dynamism, which is what I look for; insects are very dynamic and thanks to this means I can focus on details very difficult to notice. Georges Franju, one of the directors I appreciate the most, he is able to represent well the dynamism of emotions: aesthetically fascinating movies that at the same time strike fear. His is a very sensitive approach, and mine tries to be too. I film insects because they are in a sense invisible. When we go to the park we kill thousands of them without even knowing, we look at the city but not to the insect, that’s why they interest me.

CP: We can say you had to undergo influences from other settings apart from the experimental one.

PC: I take inspiration from a certain kind of Cinema but I reinterpret it with a different style. I think it’s possible from an author to take something from narrative Cinema without  transforming his movie at an expressive level. Godard, for example, loves very much ‘Scarface’: this movie has inspired him a lot.

CP: It seems to transpire a sort of ascendancy with the image of the woman, often seen in your works, for example ‘Union’ and ‘Love after love’. In such cases it’s prominent a keen emotional fervency.

PC: In those cases the subject is my stepdaughter, Anya: I never film people I don’t know. I decided to shoot ‘Union’ without people, only figures, inspired by Eadweard Muybridge’s work on moving images. Then I studied the figures in a landscape, a greenwood. The feeling of love is perceivable as you say but it is not enforced, is there because of reality. Concerning ‘Another void’ and ‘Other states’ I also wanted to shoot the heart of San Francisco at two a.m. and I considered necessary to work with friends, with people I get to know quite well. Capturing common places such as brasseries, banks and luxury stores I intended to catch city lights, explore it and create a final paste-up to form a new one.

CP: Colors and light hold a significant role, almost a primary role, in your movies. So, how do you suggest the sensory perception process of the movie through them?

PC: The only reason I make movies is to live for the stimulants of everything around me. An infinite series of impulses act in the environment, so that sometimes is the camera itself to pick the subject. I love to work on colors because is something honest and pleasing, in particular the red one: when you see it in the background you think of a sort of pervasive depth. When I let the movie itself speak the language of colors I feel like I’m a painter who’s working on a white canvas and lets his hand just flow and flow.

Light year (2014)

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Phantom Islands

Phantom Islands (2018) – Rouzbeh Rashidi / Irlanda

Fare Cinema per Rashidi significa anzitutto parlare di Cinema, di come esso possa rapportarsi con quanto definiamo reale: come, insomma, un cineasta moderno possa sviluppare determinati concetti, insinuandosi in quella piega che fa da confine tra un approccio documentaristico ed uno, al contrario, prettamente di finzione.

“A Pictorial Film”

Così cita l’introduzione nella press-kit promozionale dell’ultima opera di Rouzbeh Rashidi. Ed è proprio il caso di confermarlo: pittorica, appunto. In quanto l’immagine rappresentativa del paesaggio irlandese e delle sue isole (ritratte in un continuo (dif)fondersi, tra emergere e svanire), già di per sé ammaliante, sembra acquisire ulteriore fascino sotto l’originale tratteggio artistico dipinto dal cineasta originario di Teheran. Potremmo quindi definire le opere dell’autore quadri e la struttura utilizzata tipicamente trittica. ‘Phantom Islands’ riapre dunque un discorso che, dopo le conclusioni volutamente definitive (parliamo di ‘Trailers’ e dell’apocalisse inscenata) fornite in precedenza, pareva decisamente concluso. Ma, del resto, RR mette in chiaro fin da subito che l’analisi svolta verterà su quesiti leggermente differenti dai soliti. In questo caso, infatti, viene preso in considerazione e approfondito, in rapporto a quanto detto finora, un soggetto molto simile a quello dell’‘Inside’ del duo Langan – Le Cain (membri dell’EFS), ovverosia l’instabilità psicologica, le sue cause e i suoi sviluppi all’interno di una coppia isolata, smarrita nel tempo e nello spazio. Qui, però, il tutto non si riduce al mero proporre una circostanza, bensì sfrutta la stessa proiettando i soggetti all’interno di uno spazio ben definito, di un’ambientazione precisa (che non nasconde una certa nostalgia verso gli ameni sfondi nel Cinema di Jean Epstein, rimando ancor più chiaro se pensiamo al suo ‘Finis Terrae’): cercando di capire quanto il criterio registico influisca sull’effettiva natura del soggetto stesso.

Ad impressione di chi scrive, giunti verso le ultime inquadrature di ‘Phantom Islands’, dove l’occhio si perde cercando di seguire il dispersivo vagare della coppia protagonista (due amanti alla deriva, spinti in un ritiro elaborativo/esistenziale a probabile seguito di una crisi) verso un orizzonte del quale, oramai, non si ha più percezione, la mente non può che ricorrere al primo Philippe Garrel. Quasi una riformulazione in chiave contemporanea de ‘La cicatrice intérieure’, dove, “figure in colluttazione o al contrario in armonia le une con le altre”* si perdono tra l’incanto e la sopraffazione; visivamente scolpite al centro di uno spazio, la cui alterazione della cornice ottica tende ad allontanare la realtà tangibile, producendo un effetto simile a quanto già sperimentato da Carlos Reygadas in Post Tenebras Lux’. Da un lato, quindi, abbiamo l’estatica austerità di un ambiente esposto ad un’iridescenza che ne sospende le deformanti geografie tra immaginario onirico e ancestrale luogo di “origini”. Dall’altro, la sovrastante influenza che esso può esercitare sull’essere umano, fino ad assorbirne corpo e anima, facendolo proprio: complementandolo alla propria Natura. Al contempo però, appare già chiaro dopo qualche minuto come risalti anche l’importanza del linguaggio gestuale e della sua enfatizzazione melodrammatica (a tratti, portata ad un’estremizzazione della rappresentazione) in un film che, proprio come nel garreliano ‘Le Révélateur’, opera sostanzialmente sull’assenza della parola delineando il proprio percorso sui binari strutturali del Cinema degli albori. “Il tentativo di regressione ad un linguaggio delle origini”, appunto, spogliato di qualsiasi dialogo e punteggiato oltremodo da frequenti schermate nere che scandiscono la visione – con la stessa modalità delle diapositive – agisce alla stregua di un otturatore fotografico.

Lo stesso mezzo che, azionato nelle mani della protagonista, sembra cercare in qualsiasi modo (e frangente) di imprimere in sé un’immagine di quel paesaggio sfuggente, della stessa materia filmica nel momento in cui l’obiettivo si rivolge diritto verso il nostro sguardo (da qui, il concetto alla base dell’opera descritta da Rashidi: riflettere sulle possibilità del mezzo nell’affrontare quel confine, spesso indistinguibile, tra documentario e Cinema di finzione). Ma di fatto – e in definitiva – si potrebbe anche parlare di immagine trattenuta in quanto inevitabilmente legata al tempo (tornando al discorso sull’origine) e della necessità di preservare, attraverso l’utilizzo del piano fisso, la scultorea plasticità di quei corpi alla deriva: ora disorientati e insonni, ora cullati dalle soffuse conformità di quel paesaggio evanescente, come in una sorta di abbandono letargico.

* Il corpo e l’immagine (il primo cinema di Philippe Garrel) – 2008 – Valentina Domenici
** Gilles Deleuze

Articolo scritto in collaborazione con Visione Sospesa

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Interviews #3 – Denis Côté

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Denis Côté (Perth-Andover, 1973), canadian filmmaker and producer. Mainly famous for his attitude towards experimentation and his artistic versatility, after founding his own production company and directing several shorts, in 2005 he starts directing his first feature film ‘Drifting Cities’ for which he gains Pardo d’oro at Locarno Film Festival. Three years later he writes and directs ‘All that she wants’, an impressing movie with a solid stylistic and directorial implant and he wins his first Pardo d’argento for Best director, won again in 2010 with ‘Curling’. From now on we can say it begins his golden era, made of movies such as dazzling ‘Vic + Flo saw a Bear’ and documentaries ‘Bestiaire’ and ‘Joy of man’s desiring’. He’s currently working on his last work ‘Boris without Beatrice’, arriving on the big screen in 2016.


Cinepaxy: Before beginning the interview we would like to thank you for accepting, we know you generally are not so disposed to such sort of things, so we thank you even more; we are honored to have this opportunity. Well, let’s start with a general question. Comparing your movies is not simple to extract a real connection. How can you describe this change of attitude, for example from ‘All that she wants’ to ‘Joy of man’s desiring’? In other words, with the passing of time have you felt a sort of maturation in your approach towards Cinema or do you think all your movies simply reflect on a single concept you wanted to express, outside of an increasing growth?

Denis Côté: It’s a very interesting question which is very difficult to answer. There is a strong attention towards the aesthetic aspect in my first two low-budget works, but I completely departed from this approach with ‘All that she wants’ in 2008; probably this used to concern my past knowledge as a cinephile. I have been influenced by so many directors and genres that I can safely say I had to release all my style in one way or another during that period. Then, with maturity, every project have been connected to a budget reality and a different level of ambition. If you take “laboratory films” like ‘Carcasses’, ‘Bestiaire’ or ‘QTJD’, it’s clear my attitude for experimentation rather than than for a straight-forward narrative. I realized those films on very small budgets and resources and without a script. We are usually only three-four collaborators and we don’t have any pressure from distributions or sales agents. These films are made by a very free Denis Côté, working on the edge of fiction and documentary. I had no fixed recipes for them, we just tried and experimented on language. Regarding bigger narrative films like ‘Curling’ and ‘Vic+Flo’, I felt it was time to direct actors, write dialogues and reflect on plot structure. Even though those films are still arthouse or demanding, I had to think about a larger audience. Recent ones look more polished or conventional, I need both qualities to be sure I can work in any conditions. Of course it’s a great satisfaction when someone feels QTJD and Curling are made by the same director but it doesn’t happen often. Perhaps I’d say my signature is a bit schizophrenic considering from one film to another but honestly one of my aims is to surprise people and make it impossible for them to say they like all my films equally. That would be really sad, it would be the sign of being unable to reinvent myself.

CP: Your way of filming is really addictive, you own the extraordinary power of arousing sensations from simple or forgotten situations, as the zoo in ‘Bestiaire’, the singular car deposit in ‘Carcasses’ or the factory in ‘Joy of man’s desiring’.

DC: Yes, my goal is to always find an original perspective on which realize these projects. I always try to keep my works short, fortunately they turn out to be surprising thanks to my way of seeing at certain situations. I like to transcend conventionality of my subjects, moreover I believe you have to be both humble and, at the same time, pretentious for getting into a zoo and start shooting a movie. The question which is pretty difficult to respond is: “How can I realise an original work starting from the most conventional subject?”.

CP: In this respect, what do you think is  the most efficient way to communicate to the mass nowadays? What do you think is the role of means of spread such as film festivals?

DC: I feel a bit confused when I hear people say things like: “Cinema is dead”, or when I see cynical/bored people thinking film festival is always the same as if commercial cinema couldn’t reinvent itself. If people and cinephiles say this, it’s because there are signs out there. I don’t think it’s very original feeling the need to make a conventional documentary about a car deposit, a zoo or generally about 21st century. Masterpieces have been made and I don’t pretend to add my own little work to an already famous list of superior films.

CP: Reflecting more from a purely thematic point of view, in particular on movies like ‘Vic + Flo’ and ‘All that she wants’ we can see the substantial part given to life negative influences, seen as ordinary part of a cruel and foolish, but also society as another monster that threats people in their everyday life. Those two concepts seem to have an important part on your Cinema. Is that it?

DC: Absolutely. Both in life and movies I am very touched by characters who think they can organise their own world and live far away from the ordinary one. Usually, it can’t stay that way for a very long time: society and its rules will either come and ruin what you achieved or they will reorganise the fragile system you created. Society is not evil unless you decide it is. Rules are not evil unless you decide they are. I never tried to show an evil world, I’d rather believe in the man, be on his side and accompany my characters in what they think is best for them, for their comfort and their survival. Sometimes they are right (like the romantic man in ‘Carcasses’), sometimes they are not (like the father in ‘Curling’), sometimes faith is stronger and more cruel than any good intention (like in ‘Vic+Flo’).

All that she wants (2008)

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CP: Therefore, the coexistence of man and the ecosystem surrounding turnes out to be unstable, but not because of an ontological issue. In this respect, we would like to ask you a question we think it is crucial for every director: do you believe in Cinema as a means to change world and people? Do you believe in Cinema as a perfect association of form and content?

DC: I don’t make films to change the world, I’m a very bad citizen and I am unable to carry any social or political messages in my films. I prefer ambiguity and the fact that it might exist a spectator which rejects a film of mine and another one which, on the contrary, appreciates it. Cinema is a very private thing for me: it’s between viewer and film. I get a bit uncomfortable when one exploits the film language to reach the masses with a message since Cinema shouldn’t be used for change the world. Our lives should rather change because of films. That’s different.

CP: This implies more an effort from spectator than from artist, an assumption well explained in analyzing Joy of man desiring’: here work communicates only via static images. Have you planned to carry on this stylistic trend in the future?

DC: I think ‘Bestiaire’ and ‘QTJD’ are closely linked and they achieve – or they try to achieve – what you are explaining. I will always be in favour of this approach but on a personal level I think I’ll stay away from it for a while. Once you’ve proved that you can make that sort of contemplative Cinema, it’s not long until people see a recipe behind it so that all this become overly systematic. Hopefully people will always see something new in my future films. I’m getting old and I won’t imprison myself in one specific signature or style.

CP:  Lastly, we would like to focus on a movie that, in our view, is essential part of nowaday’s cinema: we’re talking about ‘Bestiaire’. Your brutal approach, your immediate entrance in a world apparently uninteresting and uncommon: what was the main purpose that moved or convinced you to capture this kind of reality and what did you mean to disclose with a so peculiar direction?

DC: People reacted very positively to ‘Bestiaire’. The equation is simple Animal + Cage = Outrage. It’s as old as the world. If people liked the film it’s because of that simple hunch, I may agree with them but that’s not why I made it. I wanted to carry out an exercise in objectivity and observation. ‘Bestiaire’ doesn’t tell you what to think about zoos and it wasn’t made with any special intellectual or emotional purposes. It’s not an activist film. We edited the film like a picture book, without truly knowing whether it was targeted at a big screen, at some museums or if it was going to be just a collage of shots. We showed the zoo as an absurd place where people pay money to watch animals. For me it was an experiment on absurd. Later, we have discovered we couldn’t handle the power of our images: we couldn’t be objective or control the message. In the end the film leads to a sense of anguish and dread that we never expected.

Bestiaire (2012)

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Classifiche #5 – Top 20 Migliori Film del 2017

  1. Paris est une fête – Sylvain George
  2. Unrest – Philippe Grandrieux
  3. The Unknown Craftsman – Amit Dutta
  4. Happy End – Michael Haneke
  5. Still the earth moves – Pablo Chavarría Gutiérrez
  6. El mar la mar – Joshua Bonnetta, J.P. Sniadecki
  7. A yangtze landscape – Xu Xin
  8. Inside – Vicky Langan, Maximilian Le Cain
  9. The passing of a psychopath – Eli Hayes
  10. Taming the horse – Tao Gu
  11. Caniba – Verena Paravel, Lucien Castaing-Taylor
  12. Drifting cities – Michael Higgins
  13. Turtle rock – Xiao Xiao
  14. Song to song – Terrence Malick
  15. Kreatura – Viki Aleksandrovich
  16. Mrs. Fang – Wang Bing
  17. On the Beach at Night Alone – Hong Sang-soo
  18. The Killing of a Sacred Deer – Yorgos Lanthimos
  19. Blade Runner 2049 – Denis Villeneuve
  20. Radiance – Naomi Kawase

 

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Interviews #2 – Roberto Minervini

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Roberto Minervini (Fermo, 1970), italian film director and screenwriter, one of the most honorable eye in the american contemporary panorama. His career begins in 2005 with the independent productions of some shorts but his first feature film takes shape six years later (‘The Passage’). One year later he presents the up-and-coming ‘Low tide’ in the Orizzonti section of Venice Film Festival but it’s only in 2013 that arise his most mature work ‘Stop the pounding heart’. This year the author has presented his last feature film for the section Un Certain Regard of the Cannes Film Festival: ‘Louisiana (The Other Side)’.


Cinepaxy: Firstly we are grateful for your willingness and for your time. Well, on 28 May your film ‘The Other Side’ got a theatrical release in Italy, it is very interesting but overall revolutionary in staging an awkward reality rarely shown on the big screen. How did the project start out? Which kind of need involved you to display this face of United States?

Roberto Minervini: The draft came to life as continuation of my artistic path. All my movies are linked one to another, relationships, friendships, among all the characters of my four feature films and ‘Louisiana’ is not an exception. The need to tell all these stories has a strictly politic nature. The fact is that I live in USA since 15 years and I have followed a common route I mean, from the East Coast of NY, where I also studied and continued my political commitment – that started years ago in Italy – to Texas, where I began to experience ones that were the most important American policy’s issues: the great rift between institution and public opinion besides informative manipulation of the media (an important task to progressive authors of the left wing as, for example, Noah Chomsky). I found myself in an ambiguous situation ‘cause, having been part of this intellectual élite, once I changed level, I had to take the fall and sense the political isolation of the same level I used to support. The same applies to Obama: even though he implemented some major political calculus as the Welfare one, he hardened public opinion with controversial choices about foreign policies and the Meaddle East situation. So I’ve always sensed the need to voice those who hate institutions, for example Obama, and I considered a relevant commitment to understand the reasons of a discontent deeply rooted here in the South.

CP: A topic that you felt you had to deal with, as an american citizen…

RM: Absolutely yes, it is similarly close the army issue, the control one, and all those themes that deeply interest me. My cinematic approach is like the ideological one, I mean I try to attach importance to the transparency, to play with an open hand, so it was very important to shed light on problems hidden from mass media.

CP: In this respect we can say that ‘Louisiana’ has been your first political film, the first one to face these issues, contrary to previous works where that led to a more than social political interest.

RM: Of course much more social. Then again, a political issue occurs in ‘Stop the Pounding Heart’ too, not in the film rather in the footage that was the starting point of my political research about the discontent of the South. The intention was also to call into question Lincoln’s reputation and all controversies surrounding him: the abolition of racial segregation, the general dissatisfaction, the alienation from central institutions.

CP: Regarding the production of the movie, have you noticed any particular problem during the shootings?

RM: To be honest I had many logistic problems, mainly because I had to film, as well as live, in illegality and, moreover, contribute to such illegal actions. What most of all attached me to my characters has been the fear: fear not to succeed in all senses, not to be able to accomplish my duty ‘cause of the dread of some terrible event.

CP: Let’s change topic. ‘Louisiana’ is a work that both in its classification (a documentary) and in its original title (‘The Other Side’) clarifies every purpose. Can we deduce some different feature, apart from the one regarding the social inquiry, for example from the couple of protagonists, their drug addiction, their inability to disconnect from reality?

RM: In some ways it surely subsists another intent apart from the one regarding the carrying out of a politic painting of the South, in fact I can say that there is a common denominator in all my movies, and it is the human aspect, the need to set love as condition either of life or death. Love as selfish necessity, as primaeval need, but not necessarily in a positive way, accordingly as the only one possible solution to fear, the inevitability of fear, of dying in those fields, something strictly pre-adolescent. Dread that our loss of love could become death, the loss about not being capable of finding the right path to God. We could say I was interested in religion, faith, something blind and childish, instinctive, blind faith against primordial fear of dying. In this sense we could find all those things in the characters’s instinct of protecting one another: this strong, foolish feeling between Mark and Lisa arises from the fear of living and I’ve always been interested in this lack of love as a matter of life and death, the real essence of life.

CP: In which terms would you define the so evident growing maturation from one film to another?

RM: I see a lot of perpetuity in my authorial and human routes. At the beginning I felt a sort of hesitancy toward the real world, which I knew very little. Then I started to perceive the will to dive in my own social web, the Texan sub-proletariat. Despite that, at first I did it through the eyes of a child, with one main character, without going straight ahead to the social issue. Starting from the protagonist, in this last movie I have reached my purpose, I have extended the matter to a familiar and social issue.

CP: So, compared to your other works, do you think ‘Louisiana’ could be defined as your best achievement?

RM: Doubtless it can be defined as my most complex work and that because of its paucity of storytelling; but it’s also simple in his intents and again complex in his production. In the meantime the various stories are very sheer and intelligible. There is a macrocosm composed by many microcosms and each one is linked to another: the anthropological one, the primaeval one, made of feelings and emotions, the political and the ideological one. I think I’ve reached some kind of apex or finish line, something that satisfies me. Now I need a break.

CP: A sort of structural, stylistic evolution, I mean compared to your previous work ‘Stop the pounding heart’

RM: I consider ‘Louisiana’ a fulfilling film. Unfortunately, ‘Stop the pounding heart’ left an open door to a compliant, paternalistic eye (considering the main female character). Indeed, the movie was positively considered also by people who pitied Sara and I didn’t intend to do the same thing again, no compassion or pity. Here I paid attention to my intent of breaking everyday narrative and I concentrated on a conceptual plan, that’s why I consider that work my best one.

Stop the Pounding Heart (2013)

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CP: In fact, during the movie, while the first part of it follows Mark and Lisa, the second one proceeds according to a conceptual scheme, forsaking the single character in favor of a wider view.

RM: That’s true. I found necessary to get away from every sort of intimacy. If this were a literary talk it could be read as a preface (the first part) and an afterword (the second part), in accordance to the outlook of the reader. The first part is certainly more intimate, veristic (in literary terms), proustian in a certain way, not so different from a journey to memory’s meanderings. In reverse, in the second part of the movie it subsists a completely different talk, more austere, distant and essayist.

CP: Regarding reminiscences, aside from the literary ones you told us just before, do you have some about Cinema? Can you consider yourself debtor toward some director or cinematic stream?

RM: Not properly debtor since I have no direct inspirations; I feel more debtor with regard to cinematographers or technicians. There are definitely directors whom I have a great admire because of their human path and their integrity, I mean their independent soul. Inside brazilian cinema there are many authors which I appreciate a lot, from Ruy Guerra up to Nelson Pereira dos Santos: they adopt a experimental approach in a very complicated political context, I hold in great esteem their courage. Anyway, a part from that I think that it is fundamental their authorial perspective. Among the modern directors I of course appreciate a lot Carlos Reygadas, my great friend. All his work take form from an independent disposition, he is the only real author – among the relatively young ones – considering he began in the early ’00s with a film like ‘Japón’.

CP: How do you look at the role of author towards the public? Do you think this one has actual moral obligations? In this case, should he disregard from economic aspects as well as from the production industry?

RM: It’s hard to tell, I’m not really fond of the kind of Cinema you find in the movie. I guess film industry it’s full of dangerous, manipulative people, and when manipulation reaches a so high standard it becomes really dangerous, it becomes politics; media strategy is one of the most serious disease of our times. Another problem is that, when mass media begin to affect Cinema, some directors acquire a huge responsibility as manipulative. Then, to answer you, yes, there is a sort of social importance in their role of counterfeiters. When you make some kind of decisions in order to sell a product you can’t pretend to maintain moral fiber, especially when you try to dialogue with your audience.

CP: Therefore, would you conclude that it exists a background contrast between the practice you consider as manipulative and the achieving of a communication through the filmic object? Do you look at the first one as a failing approach?

RM: I think so. I don’t believe you can straddle both worlds, I mean think about the audience whilst clearly considering the sale of the product. But nevertheless, there are works I consider very important for other aspects (I am thinking for example of the form, I mean great narrative innovations or great screenplay’s performances). For my part, I am not particularly concerned with Cinema in this sense, it would mean putting such a spin on this art.

Louisiana (The Other Side) (2015)

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Interviews #1 – Frederico Machado

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Frederico Machado (São Luis, 1972), film critic, screenwriter, producer and director. In 2006 he founded Lume Filmes production company then become distribution service; he’s also the director of Lume International Film Festival. After directing various short movies, in 2013 he writes and directs his first feature film ‘The Exercise of Chaos’, one of the most remarkable first-time film ever as well as first part of his Dante Trinity Trilogy continued a year after with ‘The Road of Milk’, a work equally astonishing but more experimental that maintains the stylistic fingerprint of the author. The last part of the trilogy has been announced but is still in working: ‘The Fisherman’.


Cinepaxy: Well, first off we would like to thank you for accepting this interview. Let’s start with a general question: how is born your approach to the cinematic art? Who or what have especially imparted you this passion? 

Frederico Machado: I thank you for your interest. I come from a family of artists, my parents were both writers. My father was an alcoholic man and my mother used to work all the day. Since I was 8/9 years old, I used to watch Bergman, De Sica, Ozu, I didn’t have brothers so I have always been lonely and cinema was such an escape from the outside world. More, my neighbour was a member of the Cineclub in Rio Estação Botafogo. I was born in São Luis, a little village, and I got much lucky for having the possibility of study in Rio de Janeiro when I was a child. At the cinema there was just author movies, so I used to spend a lot of time watching films. I think that my passion is the result of my difficulties about socializing.

CP: As well as you’re a director, you’re also a film producer and president of the Lume Filmes, it’s very honorable the promotion of underground brazilian cinema. So how was your career path? What did you encourage to promote a movie instead of another one? You have some yardstick or you promote simply the movies you liked?

FM: When I was 17/18 I founded an amateur independent magazine to talk about cinema, so I knew many UFF (Fluminense Federal University) directors and I started writing some short scripts for  them. In 1996 I was awarded for best screenplay from MINC (Ministry of Culture) and I shot my first short film, then released in São Luis. All my life have been involved with movies, my CV can prove it. Once shooted my first short, I create a cineclub, than a film festival, than a videoclub and more after a film production and a distribution company. I have always been independent and lonely in my work, my city didn’t have a real tradition of cinema.

CP: Now let’s talk about your “Dante Trinity Trilogy”. How did it come to form? In which way have you adapted this trilogy to modernity? How have you transferred old concepts into today’s world?

FM: The trilogy is based on my father’s poetics. There are many topics covered: sex, religion, existentialism… I tried to express through images both depth and density inside his words. Dantesque trilogy is related in the sense that it has three books with very similar themes, the titles themselves are from it: ‘The Exercise of Chaos’, ‘The Road of Milk’ and ‘The Fisherman’.

The Exercise of Chaos (2013)

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CP: Can you tell us something more about your father’s poetry? 

FM: My father is a humble man and his art is so intense and strong. I tried to bring to light this man and this artist to the whole world, but at the same time translate his concepts into nowadays contest. About your previous question, I think to have adapted his books according to my personal point of view.

CP: Of course a personal view so speaking of the elaboration of this personality which have been the directors who have inspired you the most? Have you pulled anything from any fellow countryman such as Glauber Rocha or Julio Bressane? Is there any artist you admire in particular?

FM: I’m glad to answer your question. Well, my passions: regarding my favourite directors it would be too hard to name them all, but I’ll try to summarize my opinion. In Cinema history there are doubtless many essential names. For the composition of the image I’ll mention Yasujiro Ozu, who’d been my main inspiration; for the mise-en-scène and for a decent, conscious Cinema, Robert Bresson; for the frame and construction, Carl Theodor Dreyer; for deepness and psychological stratified, Ingmar Bergman; freedom and ingenuity, Jean-Luc Godard; sensibility, Francois Truffaut; for odness, beauty and aesthetics, Sergej Paradjanov. For having created a symbolic language and for his greatness in telling through images, Andrej Tarkovskij, but they are really too many… I appreciate a lot Free Cinema movement of the sixties, experimental and revolutionary Cinema of the seventies, the iranian one of the nineties, italian Neorealism of the forties, but most of all I love to discover new talents, movies that can show new sights on Cinema itself and new introspections inside this Art. From brazilian Cinema I took the powerful expressions of Glauber Rocha and Nelson Pereira Dos Santos in movies like ‘Rio 40 Graus’ and ‘Vidas Secas’. I try to put into practice and internalize all these all these teaching with my work not only as director but also as president of Lume Filmes so I just promote movies I appreciate. I never think about financial gain or film potential success.

CP: Same principle verifiable in ‘The Exercise of Chaos’, it’s quite evident indeed it’s indipendent nature. There is a sort of uncommon expressive freedom in the representation of a maddeningly chaotic universe, nearly caricatural, metaphoric. What conclusions would you take observing by spectator your movies?

FM: That the world is a lonely place. Disintegration, sadness, difficulty. I hope to be able to find the light through today’s chaos, I look at my two daughters and I think this is possible.

CP: How do you apply these ideals to the concrete realization of your works?

FM: I’ve seen more than ten miles of movies in my whole life. When I was a child I used to watch more than six film a day, it’s a habit.

CP: With a so rich background aren’t you worried that this could affect adversely on your work?

FM: Through my movies I try to escape from memory and realize a genuine Cinema. Film critics have often claimed to notice many similarities to Tarkovskij, Tarr, Malick, Polanski, Bresson e Weerasethakul in my works. So many references to make me believe in the originality of my approach. I tried to do it, I think to be by now a director with his own language. Cinema is the greatest expression of life, it is what allows me to put a face to all my doubts and fears.

CP: Just out of curiosity: what can we expect from the last chapter of your trilogy?

FM: The next and last part of the trilogy is about a fisherman who lives alone with his wife in a magic village.

The Road of Milk (2014)

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Inside

Inside (2017) – Vicky Langan, Maximilian Le Cain / Irlanda

Crisi di coppia come crisi interiore, conseguenze di un processo psicologico che prende vita nella ricerca di risposte. Segue lo stravolgimento dell’ordine che dapprima andava a mitigare la routine, sedava in qualche modo quella sete di risposte. Allora la crisi come presa di coscienza definitiva, fatalità di un dolore mortale che trova guarigione solamente nella propria negazione. Non più un’evoluzione interna, piuttosto l’effetto naturale di un’accettazione che si rivela patologia: la mente prevale sul corpo, ormai svuotato di significato, e dello sviluppo poderoso di questo fenomeno psicosomatico l’immagine si fa specchio (distorsioni, primissimi piani, messe a fuoco anomale, colori caldi). L’assenza di nitidezza imprime la prevalsa dell’ossessione sulla maniera, la cognizione di un’oppressione che è schiavitù ancor più profonda, a tutti gli effetti esiziale.

D’altro canto la forma non fa che esaltare i corpi, i lineamenti, inscrivendoli all’interno di una precisa cornice architettonica. Colpisce l’attenzione con la quale gli stessi vengono assoggettati ad una staticità che ne controlla le sagome, convertendole in opere astratte che assumono al contempo il dinamismo fallace del futurismo e l’aggressività dell’iperrealismo. Viene così valorizzato il minimo movimento, allentati i tempi; l’attimo presente si dilata in un unico grido, insonorizzato e smorzato. Il suono, del resto, anticipa o segue l’atto, lo accompagna asincrono conferendogli vigore, quasi rispondesse ad una dimensione estranea a quella presente, sfuggendo alle dinamiche in atto.

La coppia Langan-Le Cain, già autrice di svariati cortometraggi, approda ad una sorta di traguardo, si mette alla prova attraverso un’opera che rispecchia pienamente gli standard primari (stilistici e sostanziali) dell’EFS, ne segue i quesiti proseguendo la ricerca già cominciata dal collega Rouzbeh Rashidi, ma dichiara, anche palesemente, la ricerca di una soluzione personale a tali questioni, sviluppando temi onerosi con grande audacia.

Inquietudine, abbandono spirituale solo dopo corporeo, vittime ed assieme strascichi di una solitudine viscerale. Così, la distanza fra i due coniugi mette in risalto quella che poi sarà l’emarginazione della figura femminile, chiusa in un’apatia cronica dai risvolti sempre più evidenti. Status che fa da perno all’intero scheletro strutturale dell’opera, la sua incidenza, difatti, è tale da condizionare e stravolgere andamento ritmico e risvolti pratici della vicenda, dall’improvvisa scomparsa di uno dei due protagonisti all’isolamento dell’altro: sguardi persi nel vuoto, silenzi prolungati, ogni azione si esaurisce nel vuoto perdendo di significato. È quel mal di vivere tanto professato dal Cinema d’autore agli albori degli anni sessanta, pur se rivisto e reinterpretato stilisticamente. Segno dell’attualità e della rilevanza di certe tematiche, ma anche e soprattutto dell’attualità e della rilevanza di un operato, quello del gruppo di neo-registi irlandesi, sempre più imponente, piacevolmente impressionante.

Voto: ★★★★/★★★★★

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