Broken “completeness”

 Meryl Streep in "The Iron Lady"

Aren’t you tired a bit of the films that have wonderful elements and yet fall apart, films that amaze with certain aspects of filmmaking while leaving us with the lack of overall satisfaction?   
Recently I watched two of those and both left me wondering what happens to the accumulation of brilliant minds involved in big, well financed productions.  
For example: “The Iron Lady” dazzles with acting and very clever dementia/reality inner plays but does not really say much about the subject itself.  And the subject is awesome.   The Best Actress On The Planet does her job according to her well deserved title, but somehow the whole disappoints.   
Similar thing happens in “Youth Without Youth” - extraordinary technique and breath-taking sequences in the hands of Maestro Coppola Himself do not add up to what they promise - the film  simply breaks apart, probably due to the inner flow of the original novel, which however is no consolation or excuse at all.  
Why do things like this happen?  Even if you like the above mentioned film and disagree with my opinion, you surly can come up with other titles to fit the formula according to your taste.  Is it because a film production is ultimately driven by the biggest ego around and such an ego being a singular sensitivity often can’t embrace the whole, the “bigger picture’?  Perhaps the driving ego can’t see the whole but being the “buck stops here” reference point does not (consciously or just through a production context) allow others to really contribute, or others are simply too afraid to rock the boat.  
Of course to come up with a perfectly articulated story is difficult like hell and many films are dudes.   There are however clusters of filmmaking brilliance here and there and those single or collective minds continue to give hope for something close to perfection.   The films like “Good fellows”, “The conversation”, “Stalker”, “Blow up”, “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu”, Pulp Fiction” or “Irreversible” (or whatever films you cherish for their completeness) happen often enough to give hope for more achievements in internal coherence, power and elegance of the way a story and its themes are executed.   Yet, too often within those fabulous creative assemblages things do not add up and fantastic potential does not deliver.  
Is it that the clarity of mind, esthetic, dramatic and intellectual stamina as well as fearfulness are the rarest commodities around? 


Holy Cut!

Bela Tarr on the set of “The Turin Horse” 

The long takes that Bela Tarr uses in “The Turin Horse” are not only meant to celebrate the flow and the emotional coherence of a situation (which he explains to Amy Lee on the huffingtonpost.com):

"Why do you choose to use long takes? 
When you do long takes, you are doing everything in the camera, 
you are editing in the camera. You just do not cut,
 because the tension of the time, and the tension of the movement, 
and the tension of the situation between the actors 
and between the actors and the camera 
and the whole stuff together, you can have it, 
and everyone has to be in the situation -- they cannot escape. 
If you do short takes, it takes 15 or 20 seconds then cut. 
Then the poor actor has no chance to be in the situation..."

In addition to the aesthetic and performance benefits, the long takes Tarr builds create context in which a cut becomes an extraordinary narrative tool. A Tarr’s cut changes the point of view in a more profound way than every-day film cutting. It ceases to be just an aid in the physiology of perception as it uncovers that which previously has not been considered. Moving the camera becomes a revelatory action, which offers a distinctly different way to perceive reality.


Pure cinema

"Heat Waves" 
Directed by Sophie Lorain
Screenplay by Michel Marc Bouchard 

In Heat Waves (Les grandes chaleurs) there is a scene where two lovers - he is 19, she's 52, meet his mom.

The three stand outside as the mom learns that her son sleeps with the woman about her age. In shock, various emotions galloping through her face, she unconsciously releases a cluster of balloons (it’s the son’s birthday party) into the air.

A pure cinema moment.


Cheerful gloom

The Turin Horse,
by Bela Tarr, Ágnes Hranitzky, 
László Krasznahorkai, Fred Kelemen

In “The Turin Horse” all are damned. The horse, the father, the daughter, the natural elements - water, earth, fire, the house. There is no hope for anybody or anything except ... for the gypsies, and for the philosophizing neighbor.

The neighbor clearly suffers from a depressing insight into the state of things. Unlike the father and the daughter he has not succumbed to the gloom. He still has the rage. The intensity of his vision, moistened by plum vodka, give him strength. Kudos to philosophy, no matter how bleak.

The gypsies dance, joke and drink - elated because they are going to America, one might guess. They also possess wisdom of the book which they give to the daughter. The book says that a travesty was committed “in the house of worship”. We may only guess what sin did originally paralyze the family and indirectly the horse. Regardless of what it was, the gypsies were not part of the transgression. They did not commit the sin of the house, or of the father or of the father and the daughter. If they did do something bad, they did not take it so seriously, perhaps. They happily withdraw from the condemned world. For America. Kudos to the gypsies!

Contrary to the prevailing reading of the film, the human condition depicted there is not universal. The household dread does not apply to the philosopher nor to the free spirits.

Bela Tarr leaves an opening for such a read by basing his visual narrative on successively changing points of view. If we can see daily rituals from various angles, we could also absorb the story from the angles that are not included yet in the narrative. This includes the gypsies and the neighbor.

Perhaps Tarr is a cheerful fellow, who in a perverse manner, shows us the way to transcend the nihilism. After all, isn’t his pointing to the might of thinking (the neighbor) and to the Dionysian (the gypsies) in line with the Nietzschean will to power?

Then there is the issue of drinking: the father and the daughter drink only to sustain their life force. The neighbor drinks to subdue the pain of knowing the bigger picture. The gypsies drink to have fun.

The choice is yours. :-)