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.

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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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2017: A Television Year in Review

Here at Much Ado About Cinema, the focus tends to be on films – which is great, but that’s not all cinema amounts to. 2017 was also a great year for television, and there’s a lot of arguments to be made concerning the prestige of the format; with the popularity of netflix and the prominence of many highly-regarded directors flocking to the small screen, television is experiencing something of a resurgence in reputability. With this in mind, Much Ado will be incorporating more coverage of the medium as we head into 2018, and we thought we would begin with a look back on our favourite shows of 2017, from the surprising, to the disappointing, to the consistently brilliant.

 

American Gods

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American Gods. © 2017 Fremantle Media North America

To most, American Gods might seem no different than many other fantasy series that are on cable TV, or even the network: it has cool visuals, is based on a book series, and written in hopes of captivating its viewers via carefully crafted plot twists. Built on the already complex premise of Neil Gaiman’s book of the same name, creator Bryan Fuller and his team of writers manage to succesfully carry a transition between two mediums of storytelling by doing that one wouldn’t expect from such a genre, and focusing on the people that  fantasy world rather than what makes the world a fantasy one. Of course, the fact that people are mostly the main reason that this world is magic does provide help on this subject to them, but even the visual work here is always about what it tells of instead of what it might show. Fuller might be best known for his visual perfection of Hannibal, but his work here can be even argued to exceed that. Eight episodes, each not longer than an hour, work as book chapters of their own — and they all have their own prologues in most cases, little, thematically coherent cold openings that tell smaller stories with little to no consequence, but are still able to create an impactful parallel with the bigger picture. When looked from afar, American Gods is a masterpiece of filmmaking and production — and that might even be enough for it to be considered as one of the best outings of the year: but the real present opens itself up when one begins to examine the work closely, and finds themselves in a labyrinth of significant questions abot love, life, belief and fate.

– Deniz Çakır

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Much Ado About Cinema’s Top 15 Films of 2017!

It’s been a great year for movies. From the blockbusters that broke box office records (‘Beauty and the Beast’, ‘Wonder Woman’, ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’) to the new-found classics with a real social impact (‘Get Out’, ‘Call Me by Your Name’), many films released this year will doubtlessly be well-remembered for decades to come. There’s been controversial releases from much-loved directors (‘mother!’, ‘The Killing of a Sacred Deer’), some fantastic sequels, remakes and franchise continuations (‘Logan’, ‘Blade Runner 2049’, ‘Thor: Ragnarok’) and even a new Rotten Tomatoes record for critical acclaim (‘Lady Bird’). Of course, as per usual, some movies haven’t quite hit the mark, but best not to mention those. Instead, we’ll talk about the movies that we truly loved in 2017, the very best of the best, in a year that’s been very important for film. Without further ado, our top 15 of the year:

15. Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri

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Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. © 2017 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation

Martin McDonagh’s latest is a dark comedy about the ongoing anger in our world and what happens as it explodes into something far worse. But for as much as past mistakes may have driven one’s own soul to where they are headed to in the present, Martin McDonagh’s newest black comedy isn’t so much what would have been expected. What I first entered thinking it would be another vulgar comedy in the veins of In Bruges and Seven Psychopaths wasn’t only that, but to my own surprise it was also a rather stunning portrait of grief – in order to balance the satire present with the way the American morale is perceived by many. In this world that Martin McDonagh has created, there are no heroes, there’s only anger and it explodes into more anger, we laugh along but quickly enough it bites back since we know that in this world we know that there is no greater authority that wants to control the anger. It only feels more fitting in this day and age when you come to consider that America’s driving force is anger. In the most unexpected ways, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri is actually rather hopeful amidst the darker surface and it’s also Martin McDonagh’s most optimistic film – driven by a powerhouse performance by Frances McDormand. Right next to her own role in the Coen brothers’ Fargo, it seems like the most fitting counterpart because of their antonymous morals, but it’s that anger it drives from one’s own mind that leaves ourselves to reflect upon what we have in store for the future.

– Jaime Rebanal

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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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The Endpoint of Escapism: Twin Peaks (1990-2017)

The following piece includes spoilers.

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Twin Peaks has always been about questions. The murder of Laura Palmer was the ground zero for a much bigger examination of evil, one that undermined the seemingly perfect picket fences of the United States. This description might remind you of Lynch’s early masterpiece Blue Velvet, a film that tackled taboos and its consequences in U.S. society. And in some ways, Twin Peaks always has been a continuation of that theme on a different level, but David Lynch couldn’t fully execute his vision in the first two seasons, due to viewing figures that lead to the show’s distortion into a more viewer-friendly soap/crime narrative and finally to its cancellation. With The Return, an audacious work of art, that blurs the borders of television and film, he was finally able to.

It seems strange to explain why the third season makes the show one of the most staggeringly existential works to ever grace any screen, especially facing the huge amount of slapstick humor and uncompromised weirdness it contains. But on second thought, it makes total sense. Continue reading “The Endpoint of Escapism: Twin Peaks (1990-2017)”