Jewels Under the Kitchen Sink – The Rocky Path to Healing in ‘Céline’

This piece is part of a series called Jewels Under the Kitchen Sink. Here we try to bring films, that have been overlooked during their time or were (despite their distinctive and timely nature) somehow forgotten, back onto the radar. It’s an attempt at reaching into the dusty niches of time and fishing some true gems out of there. We hope to peak your interest towards some of these films, so they can be reintroduced into today’s film discussion.

I stumbled over Jean-Claude Brisseau’s Céline per accident on Youtube, soon realizing that its presence online borders on non-existence. The rather small amount of voices that I could find, seemed to show an unusually big admiration for the utterly forgotten 1992 Berlin Film Festival competition entry. Descriptions of the film struck a chord with me and how I felt at the moment, and I took a chance on it.

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Cèline (1992) – directed by Jean-Claude Brisseau. All Right Reserved.

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There is a rather simple base narrative at play here: A nurse named Geneviéve offers Céline – a young, distraught woman – a drive home. When they arrive there, Céline tries to take the first chance to kill herself. Geneviéve prevents her suicide and starts to take care of Céline. They start a healing process – together, as Geneviéve struggles herself.

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Cannes 2018 Review: ‘In My Room’ and Growth in a Neocapitalist World

German film has been suffering from an utter lack of strong genre films during the past years. With the exception from a few, rare surprises like independent filmmaker AKIZ’s brilliant film Der Nachtmahr (which became a flop that ultimately left the director in debt), there is no real courage to delve back into certain narrative patterns, and when they do, they play it incredibly safe, which dampens the hope for possible investors of such films even more. It’s very strange, especially since turning back time reveals that the brightest lights were of German cinema, where genre films such as Metropolis, Vampyr, and shaped their successors worldwide into what they are today.

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Carolyn Genzkow in ‘Der Nachtmahr’ (2015)

While Ulrich Köhler’s In My Room, a film heavily influenced by the filmmaking style of the Berliner Schule–a german filmmaking movement that originated in the 90’s, whose representatives are often formed by a depressive, stakeless atmosphere mirroring both social and humanist grievances–is not a genre film per se, but it shows a surprising amount of flirtation with post-apocalyptic motifs and images. It’s a refreshing change of pace on a visual plane, not only for the Berliner Schule, but the entirety of contemporary german film.

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Female Director Spotlight: Maren Ade and the Discreet Charm of (Emotional) Nudity

As Megan has been off at BFI Flare, Kareem has kindly taken over the spotlight this month! Read on to hear his thoughts on the wonderful Maren Ade. 

It’s a moment of overwhelming helplessness; Ines, an emotionally drained corporate consultant (and human being), lies on a couch of a Bucharestian club. Her body language is equal to, how Germans would say, “einem Schluck Wasser” (a gulp of water) and as the techno remix of “Safe and Sound” enters a phase of temporary tranquility before the beat drops, her eyes well up with tears as the words “I could lift you up” inhabit the entire room for a second – almost like a whispered promise of comfort, directly addressed to her. She looks over at Toni Erdmann, a wigged character with fake teeth, invented by her desperate father. She sees how helpless he himself is – the tears are an expression of the powerlessness against the emotional chasm between them. She knows how hard he tries, despite his feeling of impotence – maybe because he has no one else to turn to at this point. They are both deeply lonely people, torn apart by time, space and societal conventions of emotional self-oppression.

Toni Erdmann is a film about many things, but like German auteur Maren Ade’s entire body of work, especially about how disconnected we can be from each other and ourselves, and thus how lonely.

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Berlinale ’18 Review: ‘Daughter of Mine’ and Female Nature

There is something wondrous about Vladan Radovic’s imagery in Daughter of Mine, Laura Bispuri’s warm and well-intentioned sophomore feature. The bright pink of candy cotton, the light blue of the sea, the flaming red of a girl’s head and all the other colours let the setting brim with beauty and liveliness. Everything looks gorgeous, but there is no stylization felt, the island of Sardinia is alive in a way that makes you feel the sand beneath your feet, the taste of salt water in your mouth and the warm sun on your skin.

In this landscape defined by nature, a story is told, that is fittingly defined by human nature – the story of the young Vittoria, excellently played the by incredible child (and first-time) actress Sara Casu, and her search for her “real” mother. At first everything seems to be fine in Vittoria’s life – she knows where her place is. Under the wings of Tina, a woman who tries to raise the girl as she seems to think is right, and with the aim to make her a good and stable person, she is protected and safe, but also isolated, as her interactions with her classmates show.

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Berlinale ’18 Review: ‘Transit’ and the state of aimlessness

Christian Petzold tells emotionally rich, often female-led stories, which he intertwines closely with the settings they are located in. But he is most of all known for the stunning conclusions of his narratives – these moments have often been considered the best parts of his work, films like Phoenix and Barbara seem to only come full circle during their last beats. The reason for that, is Petzold’s way of letting the temporal and spatial aspects of the narrative fade into the background for a moment, narrowing his gaze down on the humanist, universal and timeless truths that the characters are confronted with.

With Transit, a mainly Marseille-set story about a man that gets caught up in complications of love and identity while trying to flee Europe as a refugee, it seems like he wants to reshape the way he tells these stories – it is a logical and very bold step forward in the context of his body of work.

MV5BYTI0MTcwMDAtOGY1NC00ZmExLTlmNTAtMTAxYmRiOGE5Y2RiXkEyXkFqcGdeQXVyNTk3NTI2NTk@._V1_SY1000_CR0,0,1555,1000_AL_Franz Rogowski and Paula Beer in TRANSIT. All rights to Schramm Film / The Match Factory

The film is an adaptation of Anna Segher’s World War II novel with the same name, but while the narrative is similar in general plot points and dialogue, the film removes it from its original historical context and reframes it into a modern-day setting. One would expect Petzold to adjust the story to that new setting, but he doesn’t. It’s very strange and feels borderline kafkaesque, but it works immensely well. The narrative manages to comment on its real-life context by highlighting universality instead of being specifically descriptive – the refugees of today’s Europe get a part of their story told too, even though the book template is broadly based on the experiences of refugees more than 70 years ago.

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You Were Never Really Here Review – Living with Pain

Trauma can be unbearable.

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Joe has been trough a lot and his life is not exactly what you would call relaxed in any sense of the word. He is some sort of enforcer, his jobs eventually all leading to a point where his fist (or his hammer) will smash someone’s face in. One day he is assigned to retrieve a young girl from a sex trafficking ring, a job that disrupts his routine and thus his life, which palpably (and solely?) rests on latter.

This is not a completely new narrative at first glance, but it shows once again that cinema often finds its essence and its highs in the ‘how’ and not in the ‘what’. Not to say that this movie hasn’t got a brilliant story to tell, in the contrary – the narrative heights it reaches, affected me much more than I expected. But scottish indie darling Lynne Ramsay outdoes herself specifically from a directorial perspective, by creating a staggering crescendo of audiovisual composition, downright pressing the viewer further onto his seat with each passing minute and absorbing him on a level that is only achievable by a master of the cinematic language.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi – Passing it on

The following piece includes spoilers.

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Daisy Ridley as Rey in STAR WARS: THE LAST JEDI. ©Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures (2017). All Rights Reserved.

“We are all in the gutter, but some of us are looking at the stars.” – Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde quotes are often considered somewhat corny, but they can be quite poignant at times. In Brian Selznick’s novel Wonderstruck, a stunning work about finding one’s place in the world, the quote is pinned to a bulletin board. Ben, a young boy, will never forget about it. He is still a child and not quite able to grasp its meaning yet, but it sticks.

The stars always have been fascinating to mankind. Despite the fact, that we are nowadays able to fall back on scientific explanations and purge their mysterious shine into something less romantic, something very special inhabits the thought, that we can all look up and see them during a clear night. In that moment, it doesn’t matter who we are, where we come from and where we go. Thousands of us are gazing at the endlessness of existence and time and it calms us, because it makes us realize how small we are. This is not the most soothing thought on first glance, but it also implies that everything is possible and nothing is forever. Human suffering will never end, but we will always have these small moments that make it worth and they will come eventually. We just have to hope.

It’s something inherently human, but when the opressing systems surrounding us get too suffocating, most people don’t even dare to rise their head anymore. That’s the moment when all hope is lost, and people lose their human drive. The drive to make things better, to keep on fighting, to be happy. The complex and intertwined injustices of this world, destroy all the beautiful things that we are capable of inside. The stars become merely meaningless matter, floating through space, exactly like us.

The big picture is always depressing, but we as humans have (mostly) learned to push that aside and focus on the small things, like love and wonder. They make our stay on here worthwhile, and that’s why they are often what drives us into devastation. This world can often feel loveless and devoid of hope. We are too detached from each other to permanently express the love we need ourselves. And yet, we’re all in this together. We are all a part of what makes it so beautiful and worthwhile and terrifying and painful. It’s all inclusive in the experience of human existence. Some of us have the possibility to create something beautiful and inspiring, a spark that reignites the light in people that have already given up to some degree. Even when the spark eventually goes out, we have succeded as soon as we pass it on. That spark is what keeps us alive, because it’s hope for the future and it’s the reason we rebel against the status quo.

It feels very strange to open an essay on a Star Wars film like this.

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