The other thirteen (Part 2)

09Sep10

Alright, so as promised, for those like myself with a greater obsession over cinema and who are fortunate enough to live in a city with decent opportunities for watching smaller films, here’s the second batch of my recommendations regarding what to look out for this Fall. You should most certainly have the privilege of seeing the first group at some point if you have access to a cinema other than the local Odeon, Cineworld or Vue. For the second group, assuming you’re not heading down to London for the Festival in October, you’ll do well to catch these anywhere except later in 2011 on DVD. Nevertheless, they’re technically late 2010 releases and thus they’re included here…

Rwandan children in 'Africa United' set off for the World Cup in South Africa.

Batch 1: Facebook to Fritz Lang

1. Catfish. This one apparently stormed Sundance and became its most talked about documentary, with many refusing to believe it’s as genuinely true as its makers claim. The shocks all allegedly come from them being just that – shocks, and thus details of the plot are few and are between. The jist, however, seems to be that some amateur media-geeks stumbled across the potential for this to be made purely by going through their daily routine. Perhaps not everybody does this, but they at least make a lot of contact with strangers on Facebook. One such encounter leads to a journey from New York to Michigan for the sake of a meet up, the boys behind Catfish being heavily suspicious of the people they are meeting up with, again for a reason we do not know. Odd, but I think we can all sense its potential. Not least because it is real.

2. Howl. Being sold as a retelling of the obscenity trial that ensued after the publication of Allen Ginsberg’s infamous poem, this one will no doubt also turn on the lifestyle of its lead man – that Jewish, Communist homosexual (Kerouac joked about how he was everything America found unusual), and his Beat friends (Kerouac and Cassady included). Strathairn stars, but presumably as the conservative lawyer trying to take Ginsberg down. What will be of more interest is how the actors here playing the crazy cats themselves will bring the men behind those wild novels like On The Road to the silver screen. If you had told me about this 2 years ago when I was reading their literature, then it would have excited me more than anything. Hopefully Howl the film can reignite or initiate everyone’s interest in the Beats.

James Franco as Allen Ginsberg in Howl.

3. Norwegian Wood. Starring Japan’s favourite actress and Oscar nominee for Babel, Rinko Kikuchi, here we have someone who’s got the balls to try an adaptation of Haruki Murakami’s simply spell-bindingly awesome novel. The only one he’s ever written that’s not even remotely surrealist, Norwegian Wood is all about life while you’re young. I’m optimistic Murakami’s name – and Rinko’s – will pull this one through and ensure it reaches Britain by March at the latest.

4. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives. The distribution for this has actually been pathetic, which was fair enough up until Cannes, but then it won the Palme d’Or, making a measly 200 votes or so rating it on IMDb so far a tad silly. Anyway, the title is outrageous and revealing enough, never mind the director’s amazing name: Apichatpong Weerasethakul. French critics have panned it as completely impenetrable, but the intrigue is too high now. Catch it at London or else wait for it to inevitably be on for one night only at your local indie cinema.

5. The Grand Master. Alright, so this one does not sound like a decent few hours at all: a martial arts story about a guy called Ip Man who allegedly trained Bruce Lee. Yeah, great. I’d be able to cross it off the list, but the only problem is it’s directed by Wong Kar fucking wai and, in a muse-like relationship that must surely rival Scorsese and De Niro’s by now, it again stars Tony Leung Chiu Wai. These are the guys that brought us Chungking Express, In The Mood For Love and 2046. I was never going to recommend missing it really, was I?

6. Metropolis (remastered). Read my original review here, and then take note of the following fact: this absolutely outrageous masterpiece has so badly been taken care of that only last year was an extra half hour of footage found that fills in nearly all the gaps anyone watching this until now would have been subjected to. 83 years on, we finally get to see Lang’s full, fascinating and belief-defying vision. Cherish it. It’s on for sure over the next month at London’s ICA.

Metropolis.

Batch 2: hunt down the DVDs

7. 3 Seasons in Hell. A Czech piece documenting the time just before and then during the Communist upheavals that swept Prague in the late 1940s, this one is seen from the eyes of a liberal, artsy young couple who talk poetry and bohemia but never (until now) have to face the brute reality of their political idealism manifested with the inspiration of Stalin. Guaranteed to feel pretentious, but also of extreme interest to anyone who just says fuck it and admits they’re at least mildly bourgeois.

8. Africa United. Rwandan children, inspired by a map of their country in one of their magazine guides to the forthcoming 2010 World Cup, head South on a mad adventure in an attempt to reach South Africa in time to see some football. If this isn’t delightfully uplifting in its naiveté that such an inspirational and easy world exists, then call me and I’ll personally refund whatever you confidently paid for it.

9. The First Grader. Again, Africa. Again, surely touching. But this one is also set to be a little bit more serious in its detailing of an 80-something year old man’s fight to have his right to an education fulfilled, when his local community finally provides schooling to children. If I could make the London Film Festival for any of the films from this batch and I could only see one, then this would undoubtedly be it.

The First Grader.

10. Carancho. I’m still too mesmerised off the back of The Secret in Their Eyes to objectively judge whether this one genuinely has potential. All I know is it’s another Argentinian death-related drama that again stars the magnificent Ricardo Darin. If, unlike me, you’re not sold already, perhaps try reading the BFI’s synposis.

11. Blessed Events. Juno and 4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days had hinted at exploring the psychological effects of pregnancy, but the former ended up too interested in doing other things (not in a bad way) and the latter had so many other messages in mind, than neither ultimately delivered on that specific front. In comes Blessed Events, a German piece on a woman’s ensuing dilemmas after a one night stand gone-wrong. Hopefully this will do for the issue of adultery what I’m hopeful Blue Valentine will do for relationships in general (see part 1 of my guide to the Fall).

12. Cold Weather. A crime film that apparently refuses to fit the cliché categories, the BFI assures us this one’s original enough not to be missed. It looks like it’s worth trusting them.

Ricardo Darin in Carancho.

13. Orion. Taking us into Iran without somehow getting into serious trouble in the process, Orion will make a scathing attack on both sexual oppression and female subordination in Islamic culture more generally. Its tool is the story of a girl who, after losing her virginity, feels compelled to try and have her hymen sewn back up to hide any evidence that might scar her reputation for life in the eyes of her parents and future Muslim husband. Another one guaranteed to be fascinating at the very least, in its exposure of a world far from the reality of the West.

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