São Paulo International Film Festival – Part 2

Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets

Versão em portugues
Part 1
Part 3
Part 4

Second post with commentary on films seen at the São Paulo Film Festival betwen Monday, 26 and Wednesday, 28.

#Eagoraoque (Jean-Claude Bernardet e Rubens Rewald)
If film critic/historian Jean-Claude Bernardet is a co-auteur who dominates all the movies by Young São Paulo filmmakers he colaborate ons ince 2008 Filmefobia, it makes sense that he eventually moved to a co-director chair. Bernardet’s fetishism is the interest and limitation of almost all those movies, filmmakers giving na openingso the critic-performer works, on this #Eagoraoque Bernardet and Rewald start from a dialogue/discourse failure of contemporary Brazil to arrive into yet another exercise-performance from Bernardet. At first one might think it will be some sort of extension of Intervenção, a film made of You Tube videos of extreme right wingers that Rewald co-directed a few years ago, this time focusing on matters relating to thr left and there’s a suggestion of that when the filmmakers throw a few challenges for leftist philosopher/newspaper columnist Vladimir Safatle who “plays” one of the main characters, but #Eagoraoque is little more than a symptom of what it a diagnoses. A halted film that at best reproduces the failures of dialogue at its center and at worst exploits them for some very sterile performative games. The mirror is broken and what is left is everyone’s narcissism. 

17 Blocks (Davy Rothbart)
Filmmaker Davy Rothbart  befriended two Black youths from Washington in the late 90s and then proceed to film their family lives for the next two decades (often giving them cameras to register themselves). The material used for 17 Blocks is fascinating, covering a large terrain of violence, contradictions and changes. If the images are strong by themselves, the manner Rothbart decide to organize them is far more suspect with a determinist desire from the title (the live 17 blocks from the Capitol) to editing that often weakens the power contained in the material.

Bloody Noose, Empty Pockets (Turner Ross, Bill Ross IV)
Bloody Noose, Empty Pockets is at first a documentary about the last night of a Las Vegas bar with its usual costumers and the expected melancholia about the end of utopia of place. It is a film notable by the authenticity with which Bill Ross IV and Turner Ross imagine this moment of passage and the place it represents. The bar actually doesn’t exist was made exclusively for the film, it is a privileged place of cinema, it exists while Ross’ camera stage its end. What is strong here is less the suggestion of documentary surface, which is certainly very credible, but the power of the feelings expressed. The mix of elegy for a place and the weight it brings with it. The figure of the bar patron through film history is recognized, bohemian life as freedom, but also its neurotic charge. The film crafts through those contrasts a very rich image pushed by the way the Ross manage to suggest truth in its fictional portrait. The film only weakens in those moments the directors seem to lose trust in their own work and search for the topical in the talks and contrasts that risk trivializes their movie. Bloody Noose, Empty Pockets certainly benefits of current context, the eye and ear for late drunk nights and the melancholy of its elegy hits hard.

Glauber, Claro (César Meneghetti)
What does it mean Glauber Rocha going to the old world? Glauber, Claro is sort of a reverse of Antena da Raça, a documentary co-directed by his daughter Paloma about his return to Brazil in the late 70s that debut a couple of weeks ago. On this one, there’s the memories of filming Claro by Rocha’s still living European collaborators and friends. The exiled Glauber this time, so, if Claro seems to me one of his more intriguing works it is exactly for this direct confrontation with the old world, Glauber in a blow by blow combat with what he saw as his enemy. Meneghetti’s film remains on this ambiguity, there’s the radical invasion of Rome streets by the Latin American genius that the images stage and there’s the memories from European survivors that suggest the nostalgia for a vanguard utopia, of art and living, that Glauber days on the Italian capital represent. The film is not willing to solve this contradiction, which is both what is fascinating and frustrating about it.

Miss Marx (Susanna Nicchiarelli)
About the difference between concept and filmmaking. Miss Marx is a cinebiography of Eleanor Marx that tries to make her as relevant and contemporary as possible both by how it approaches her work and tries to give form for her life. This is the idea, but director Susanna Nicchiarelli has large difficulties with the tires genre template, it is a conventional and official film that every tem or fiften minutes receives some refreshing energy through the use of punk rock in the score and some staging decisions that as soon returns to its stodgy normalcy. What remains like in so many other cinebios the lead performance, this time by Romola Garai. Miss Marx ends being a film with good hooks to write about, but very frustrating to watch because of its promise to deliver something it never quite knows how to.

Mulher Oceano (Djin Sganzerla)
Mirror images of feminine existences, as it makes sense for a film directed by an actress, two forms of fiction to imaging giving a body to live in the world. Very basic as drama, but imagine with a lo tof care above all in Rio-set Ana sections. The use both of Japan and the Rio nature landscape is very well developed. The echoes of Helena Ignez, Sganzerla’s well-known mother, throughout the film adds an extra element. It is a deeply felt movie, very personal with a strong subjectivity without betraying the kind of narcissism so usual in performer’s directing debuts.

My Little Sister (Stéphanie Chuat, Véronique Reymond)
This is not the worst, but it is the least interesting film I’ve seen so far. Two of German cinema best actors (Nina Hoss and Lars Eidinger) in a drama of sibling co-dependence whose starting point is one of them illness. A literal acting duet, so much so that the characters are supposed to complement each other in life and art. Everything made with very good taste by directors Chuat and Reymond that avoid as much as possible the pratfalls of illness movies, to such an extent everything ends muted beyond any interest. A film more worried about what it doesn’t want to be.

A Pleasure, Comrades! (José Filipe Costa)
José Filipe Costa’s film has a very interesting starting point: after the Carnation revolution in 1975, the new Portuguese government brought in foreigners to contribute to small communities.  The film is made out of memories and resstagings from those days. Costa hás a good eye for place and the way he sees cultural shocks and how cultural changes affect political ones is intriguing. It is a shame that this return in time through restagings never quite have much power.

Spring Blossom (Suzanne Lindon)
Director Suzanne Lindon is 20 years old and says she wrote Spring Blossom at 15. That is useful to know as the best thing about it is how it deals with a certain form of teenage alienation that cinema rarely dramatizes, more a matter of boredom and desire for something else instead of the usual revolt. It is very strong on those moments and very smart in how it uses the older man she flirts with as a fantasy figure more of a juvenile idea of idealized adulthood. Filmmaker Lindon knows how to film actress Lindon, of finding ways to let her gestures register powerfully. Spring Blossom is very conscious about the history o French teen film (there’s even a poster of Pialat’s A Nous Amours on her bedroom), there’s a clear desire to belong to tradition, but not so much to do with it. The trouble is that the film exists in a space of complete abstraction, in name of a belief in very suspicious form of universalism, there’s no reference to social media or anything else that might date it to 2020 and as my friend Lucas Saturnino observed it must be the whitest film about French youth made in a long time. The film is there completely isolated, outside of any contexto, Lindon gambles in a total subjectivism whose radicalism is very interesting if not always successful.

Summertime (Carlos López Estrada)
Carlos López Estrada’s first feature, Blindspotting, was one of the best recent debuts on American independent cinema and this is a very typical sophomore feature with its awe with its new upscale reality. It is a hip hop musical trespassing a a large multicultural cast of Los Angeles characters. It is a very aggressive movie with its desire to affirm a new multicultural American identity almost nauseous in its self-celebration. This seems to be the take from many friends who describe it to me with variations “insufferable” and I confess that ws my reaction for the first 15-20 minutes, but as Summertime moves along it becomes clear that like many other musicals, the happy surface hides a good dose of despair. If Summertime promises an utopian celebration, the movie exists in a state of paralysis, a suggestion of never ending anxiety attack. it is very much a Trump era film. One dreams with mirage and desires a little classic Hollywood hokum that might sustain it in front of a bitter, broken, cornered present.

Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue (Jia Zhang-ke)
Jia Zhang-ke talks with a group of writers visiting a literary festival in Shanxi, on his home province. It is not really a film about literature, the writers who belong to multiple generations, interest more as points of entry, the main focus their interest in Chinese provincial life and the way their views of it change over time. Swimming Out Till the Sea Turns Blue is a film about place and time. Its true subject is Jia’s own gaze and his relationship to his province. It is one of his more emotional films and the care with each this movie made out of conversations is shot exposes chow its main interest is an evocation of place and the allure it has for Jia’s eyes.

The Trouble with Nature (Illum Jacobi)
The more curious thing about Illum Jacobi’s film is how it is influenced by Albert Serra, a filmmaker that is rarely a recurring reference for other directors. There’s the same rustic fictional biographical game with displaced historical figures moving through a chosen location. One this one it is conservative philosopher Edmund Burke who travels through the Alps in company of an assistant that has a much easier time to connect with space while the philosopher’s search for the sublime fails. The Trouble with Nature main limitation is that its Burke is such a fool that he barely sustains na investigation like this one, as a 15 minute sketch it might had bigger interest, but it loses steam fast despite the power of the landscape Jacobi’s been very able with some festival favorite, but it lacks a sense of discovery or perversity that might give it more staying power.

Window Boy Would Also Like to Have a Submarine (Alex Piperno)
Cinema arrives at sterile bitter world and opens a door of possibilities. From what I’ve read a certain portrait of living in contemporary world made helped comparisons with Teddy Williamns’ The Humar Surge, but ehen it comes to Argentinian auteurs this debut by Alex Piperno made me think more about Martin Rejtman’s movies, if not as taken by formalist humour, there’s a similar feeling of a depressed and tired world enlighten by the film’s gaze.  Window Boy Would Also Like to Have a Submarine takes place in the space between a muted daily life and the fictional possibilities film allows and it is very good at it.

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