Modern loneliness

25 04 2017

 

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I saw two films at the International Film Festival which, by coincidence, both explored the theme of loneliness. Oliver Assayas’s “Personal Shopper” stars my new fave Kristen Stewart, as a searcher, a psychic, looking for something more than the unwanted life she has found herself in at the periphery of the fame machine, as a Paris celebrity’s personal shopper. Its a strange, meandering little film, full of moments of stillness but also little revelations, not the least of which is Stewart’s great central performance or her effortless normcore lesbo-chic styling. I saw it on a rainy day, the last day of my holidays, at Kowloon’s eighties-tastic Cultural Centre with the director himself in attendance.

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A few days later, the Monday night of my return to work to be precise – I journeyed out to Kowloon Tong, to see “Corpo Electrico” – the Body Electric. It is the first film from Marcelo Caetano, who previously worked on Neon Bull, and that film’s tone is evident again here: an almost plotless (and some might find, pointless) slice-of-life drama, but filled with beautifully observed scenes of every day life, almost like an anthropological documentary, and human warmth. We watch the handsome main character Elias as he daydreams at work, drinks with friends, smokes and does his laundry. Elias, played beautifully by Kelner Macêdo, works as a pattern maker in a Sao Paulo garment factory, passing his time with semi-flings with friends and ex-boyfriends.  At the time, I was charmed but slightly bored by his life, but now the day after I find the film lingering in my thoughts for its loving and very real portrayal of gay life in the early twenties : its intense and flirty friendships,  camaraderie and cliquishness, non-career job boredom and hedonistic weekends, all floating under an unformed and seemingly ominous future.





The amazing images of…

8 04 2017

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https://vimeo.com/211519393





Stars of Neon Bull

6 03 2017

What a strange, strange movie this is. Neon Bull is set, like the other Brazilian movie I watched recently, Aquarius, in the Northeastern state of Pernambuco. And like that movie it is a meandering, understated story – more a character study than a traditional narrative. It offers a documentary-like slice of life view on an outrageously sexy rodeo worker, his friend (or sister or ex-girlfriend?) played by my new favourite actress, Maeve Jinkings, and her pre-teen daughter.

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The film doesn’t play by the usual rules of independent cinema. Although the story centres around an itinerant group of cowboys and cowgirls in the parched sertao badlands of the Northeast, don’t expect poverty porn. The film downplays the characters’ lack of economic prosperity to show a (generally) happy family (of sorts) striving gently for their own little dreams – with occasional flashes of surrealist imagery.  Maeve Jinkings dances in a strip club in a horse costume and argues with her stroppy daughter while sweet (and very heterosexual) cowboy Juliano Cezarre dreams of becoming a fashion designer. This is interspersed with many scenes of life on the farm, some dreamy interludes and a pretty noteworthy sex scene.

I’m really not sure what to make of Neon Bull. While watching it, I veered towards being bored several times – as well as confused – but afterwards it has lingered in my mind…and  star Juliano Cezarre exudes cinematic pheromones in every scene. He is simply sexy, even eclipsing  Maeve Jinkings, the wonderfully expressive actress I had originally wanted to see, and star of both Aquarius and Neighbouring Sounds (below).

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Here Maeve talks (in Portuguese only) about her role in Neighbouring Sounds:





Age of Aquarius

28 02 2017

Kleber Mendonça Filho’s “Neighbouring Sounds” was a strange, understated tale of deeply submerged injustice played out on the sunny streets of an upper-middle class beach-side suburb of Recife.

The same theme and setting is explored again in “Aquarius.” This time though the director’s trademark light touch, so powerful in his last film, underwhelms. It is all so subtly and slowly unwound that I found myself wondering where the story was in endless scenes of Sonia Braga letting her hair down and listening to 1970s Brazilian records in her lovely oceanside apartment. There are also rambling flashbacks and passing mentions of unexplored plot points, metaphors for cancer and gay sons, flutteringly light social commentary and surprising sex scenes. But what there is not is any sense of tension or excitement, or – in the end – meaning.

It did have one powerful and unexpected side effect though. The boyfriend was inspired to go out and buy a vinyl record player!





China Beach to Neighbouring Sounds

7 02 2017

The US primetime series China Beach, set in Vietnam War-era Danang, which I used to watch as a young teenager for the theme song, which I only later realised was by the Supremes. And below: another strange cinematic echo of Danang. While walking through the beachside streets my boyfriend remarked how much it reminded him of the Brazilian movie “Neighbouring Sounds”, set in Recife, with its beaches like Danang floodlit at night, fringed by palms and pounded by surf, and the same wide sunny streets with uneasy hints of tension between the rich and poor (after all, who had lived here before all these hotels?)





La La Land at the Lido

31 12 2016

 

I went to see La La Land (which I loved) at the refrbished Lido theatre in Hawthorn, an eight screen arthouse complex above an inner-suburban arcade, complete with rooftop gardens screen and jazz bar.





Tokyo Calling

13 11 2016

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In between Macaronesian (look it up) architecture and Southeast Asian food, I also spent the weekend getting into some Japanese film and music. Makoto Shinkai’s anime smash hit “Your Name” opened in the city to packed theatres. Although we arrived to the cinema late (my fault) I still enjoyed the incredible beauty and very Japanese sensibility of the film, about two teenagers who swap bodies in their dreams while a comet makes its way in the skies above…

Also, I discovered the band Wednesday Campanella and in particular, its intriguing frontwoman and recent J-celebrity KOM_I. Intriguing to see a Japanese group with an affinity for dance beats and a very offbeat aesthetic topping the charts.