Roma

I find it very difficult to comment too much in-depth on films like this, films which are so essentially personal to the film maker. And although many films to a certain extent will be personal, Roma – like Martin Scorsese’s Silenceis so deliberately and deeply rooted in the experiences of the writer/director/cinematographer Alfonso Cuarón that my opinion regarding the storytelling is largely irrelevant.

And so while I would have been interested to know more about the political background at the time, we don’t get that because the children wouldn’t have paid attention to it. And there is a whole other film to be made about the relationships between the people of Mixtec heritage and the white affluent families whom they serve.

Where I do have huge appreciation though is with the technical achievements. Roma looks absolutely beautiful, with the choice to film in black & white creating some gorgeous images, and also having the effect of reinforcing the feeling of memories being revisited. And there are some glorious long scenes which show a true master at work – the scene in the hospital emergency room for example, or the extended take on the beach are genuinely breath-taking.

For those familiar with Cuarón’s previous work, Roma contains visual references to many of his earlier films – Children of Men, Gravity, Y Tu Mama También – almost as if he had been trying out things in the past, in preparation for this, a film which he has been waiting to make for most of his life.

I liked it very much and I admired it a lot on a technical level – I just wasn’t quite as overwhelmed as I was expecting to be.

Silence

Martin Scorsese must feel a huge sense of relief, having finally brought to screen a story which has been in planning for 20 years or so.

But this is so clearly a very personal exploration of faith, doubt and belief by the director that any opinions I have seem unnecessary. Scorsese has bared his soul on screen and I don’t see how it’s my place to argue with him on this one, even though I am coming to this from arguably the very opposite direction.

I will say that I felt a profound inability to empathise with the two padres, which is not the film’s fault, I don’t think.

Speaking specifically about the film, it’s certainly beautiful, with the strongest performances from the Japanese cast. I’m not convinced that Andrew Garfield was the right choice for the lead role, and I would have liked to have seen more from Adam Driver. In fact, had their roles been switched, it may have been different all together.

 

 

Martin Sheen presents – The World is My Country

A still-in-the-editing stage screening of a film featuring a wonderfully inspirational character whose story should not be forgotten.

Garry Davis used The Universal Declaration of Human Rights to proclaim himself a citizen of the world, not of any one nation. His position is that if there are no individual countries and we are all citizens of the same place, then law can take the place of war.

Very apposite, given the thousands of refugees who currently find themselves fleeing from war without documents. Garry’s organisation provides them with what they need to try to start rebuilding a life – see here for information – it’s worth a look, as I can’t explain it properly here.

As far as the film goes, it’s a bit difficult to tell how it will play once it’s completed. It revolves around Garry telling his story on stage, interspersed with clips and images from the past to illustrate his talk. And although Davis is clearly an inspirational and entertaining speaker, this felt like an extended TED talk – very informative, and had me looking up things on the internet afterwards.

And the Martin Sheen connection? I guess it’s to get bums on seats.

Jauja

Long takes, still camera and minimal dialogue. It’s all a bit Tarkovsky, but left me asking what and why, which generally isn’t the case with the Russian director, who is clearly a massive influence here. It has also has a definite Western vibe (yet another in 2015 – see here for others) and is framed like images on those View-Masters we had as children.

This film was on the most anticipated list, but left me disappointed. I wonder if Viggo Mortensen thought this was the film he was actually making?

El Ardor – The Burning

Those of you who’ve been reading this blog for a while will know that Gael García Bernal can generally be relied upon in my view to provide high quality, thought-provoking films on a regular basis.

For some reason though, this one fails to reach those usually high standards.

Don’t get me wrong – Bernal himself is good particularly in the first two-thirds where, with very little dialogue, he manages to create a complete, interesting character who is intriguing yet grounded.

But for some reason, the final act of this rainforest-set film is a western. Not ‘like a western’. A western. Bernal has gone from being an ethereal, mysterious being who emerged from the water to a gun-toting, scarf-wearing, duel-shooting law-keeper and it’s just darn peculiar. I have no idea why this was necessary, other than the director fancied showing he could do it. And it’s not even homage; it borders on parody.

Very odd.

¿Quién es Dayani Cristal? – Who is Dayani Cristal?

Gael Garcia Bernal can always be relied upon to be part of some thought-provoking films. He was in my favourite film of both 2012 (También la Lluvia) and 2013 (No), and with ¿Quién es Dayani Cristal?, he has not let me down this year either.

Bernal mixes two strands in this documentary – one presents the tireless work of a handful of Americans in identifying the hundreds of corpses of illegal migrants, retrieved annually from the Arizona desert. The other features Bernal himself, following the route of so many would-be migrants, starting from a village in Central America as they head north in search of meagre economic rewards.

The actor/producer hits a decent note of reportage mixed with the personal story, and of course a happy ending would be too much to hope for.

Am now hoping that this man’s excellent film making streak continues in 2015 – Rosewater (also starring Golshifteh Farahani) sounds like it has potential.