Humans vs politics

What I like the most in “Cold War” and “Roma” are ways they bridge the intimate with big political backgrounds.  Perhaps one of the reasons for the movies huge success is their acknowledgement that we can’t escape the politics, that our beings cannot be separated from the social deals that in a very direct way shape our destinies.  Perhaps it’s a sign of times that this kind of sensitivity chimes so well with the audiences.  It does so because a new wave of some profound social and political rearrangement is coming and we all feel it.  A few super talented and sensitive people are acting as rods for those bulging premonitions and project our anxieties on a big screen.

Nothing new.  Plenty of movies have done it before and yet this feels so very fresh.   Perhaps it's the question of artistic balance and the swelling gravity of the external...


Farewell to Great Editor

Weeks ago I payed last respects to Agnieszka Bojanowska, the person who greatly influenced my thinking about film making.  Madame Agnieszka worked with me only on a few projects but made a huge impression.   There was something in her way of approaching material and making decisions that has stayed with me and became one of the most important "tools". 

"How would Madame Agnieszka do this cut?" is a phrase that comes to my mind very often during editing.   And I think it greatly improves the results.  

Our first collaboration was on a TV feature decades ago.  I was too young and too inexperienced to fully understand her input - aside from the fact that I liked her suggestions. 

When years and years later I brought to her "Lawnswood Gardens" and then "The View from a Cathedral" I was able to understand more of what she was saying. 

But it wasn't only about technical choices that she communicated.  Her being was larger than her craft.  Or rather her craft was the result of her being. 

Thank you Madame Agnieszka. 



"Roma" by Alfonso Cuaron

"Roma"'s brilliance comes also from its rhythms.   They express themselves in small and big scales.  They connect social and political with personal.  "Roma" says that there is balance between various layers of our existence that there is something larger than a single layer of our perception of the world, that "so above as below,"  or "everything is everything."

We tell each other stories usually favoring one aspect of reality over others, "Roma" gets it all  enveloped in one giant sigh of wonder over our dramas, defeats and victories.  A true masterpiece.

If you seek reviews of "Roma" note how ridiculous and wrong is the one by Richard Brody in the New Yorker.  It is a perfect (although unintended) caricature of a socially concerned liberal intellectual blinded by political correctness. 



"Cold War", directed by Pawel Pawlikowski

"Cold War" is audacious.  The storytelling there doesn't focus on the process, motivations, plot points, foreshadowing and all the other classical stuff.  Instead it jumps from consequence to consequence.   By doing so it sucks the viewer into the drama and makes the relationship it tells non banal and non predictable.  It restores the sense of mystery into the process of telling a story.   It had to happen as a reaction to a more and more oppressive Aristotelian or Hollywood dictum.   


Bertolucci, the anti-fascist.

"The Conformist"
by Bernardo Bertolucci, Alberto Moravia, Vittorio Storaro

Bertolucci moved to another dimension.  Sadness.  His sensitivity, passion, and insights were way above the scale.  From my school days I remember excitement among fellow filmmaker students when his subsequent movies kept shaping our understanding of what's possible on screen.

Months ago I re-watched "The Conformist" and was impressed by its use of flashbacks.  (I wrote about it in a September post).  Most flicks fell apart moving back and forth in time.  This manouer ussually significe inability to sustain deep exploration of the main character.  "The Confromist" seems to me an example of how to move the story forward inserting parts of the hero's past into the narrative.  All for enlarging and exploring his character.  Very few movies achieve that without a cheap trick of flashbacks.  "Taxi Driver" comes to mind as an example of a profound psychological study that entirely happens in the now.

"The Conformist" is also a disturbing analysis of the lure of fascism, of the mechanism in which people are drown into the arms of a gigantic monster made out of collective weaknesses, unprocessed hurt and emotional and intellectual limitations.  The weak parts of ourselves (individually and collectively) extrapolate and return its collective power to the lost and confused individuals.   "The Conformist" shows the psychological attractivness of such a monster.   Today's relevance of this analysis cannot be ignored.


Bergman or only the givers can be takers.

“Bergman, a year in life”, a film by Jane Magnusson,  
 “Bergman, sex and betrayal”, a book by Thomas Sjoberg. 

Both are fascinating because they deal with a fascination subject.  Both give intriguing details and facts.  Yet, both flirt with an accusatory tone charging that Bergman was cruel and unjust to many.  That flirt, which is not unusual when talking about giants, cheapens both accounts.   In both there are snippets of lip-service to balance the view, but the overall emotional direction is unmistakable. “How could he be so harsh, self-centred and unfair?” - the question looms in the background.   “This somehow lessens his achievements because others paid price for their creation” - seems to be the conclusion.   The presumption is based on a wrong assumption, the question is unfairly stated and never really explored.

Pity, since Bergman’s personal gifts to those around him must have been enormous.    Better understanding of those gifts would be a way to explain the level from which he dealt with reality, and to illuminate his, I suspect, enormous contributions to the lives of others.   As an artist and as a person.

Thorsten Flinck, an actor and a director who played in a stage production of “The Misanthrope” is portrayed as a super talented man brutally squashed by Bergman for altering the production, which Bergman hasn’t seen for almost year after the opening night.  The emphasis in the documentary is placed on a vicious attack by Bergman on the guy and the wound that this outburst inflicted.   Not on the production and the artistic interactions, which I guess enriched all participants tremendously.

Those who mistreat others should always be named, criticised and stopped.  Being “an artist” doesn’t give anybody a licence not to follow the rules of civil interactions with others.  At the same time there are numerous cases of theatre directors who are ruthless, short tempered, who don’t suffer fools gladly and yet who elevate those who know how to listen to their new highs.

I suspect Bergman was just faster than most and often didn’t have patience for those who didn’t grasp his ways.  On a personal level it’s intriguing that Liv Ulman in the documentary says he hasn’t ever done anything to hurt her.