Agnès Varda at the BFI

On Tuesday evening every audience member of the sold out NFT1 screen at the BFI Southbank rose to give 90-year-old Agnès Varda a standing ovation. With astonishing humility, she responded with “I’m so glad there are so many of you. I’m impressed that I’m just coming saying things and you come to listen to me.”

For decades Agnès Varda has been confined to the margins of film history while her French New Wave contemporaries like Godard and Truffaut appear on every film studies syllabus. No more. In the past year, Faces Places screened at Cannes, she received an honorary Academy Award, protested the lack of female directors represented at Cannes, and now is celebrated by a retrospective at the BFI.

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Karlovy Vary 2018: ‘I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians,’ Brilliantly Speaks Truth to Power

This review is by our guest writer, Redmond Bacon.

The Germans have a word for acknowledging their Nazi past. Known as “Vergangenheitsbewältigung,” it literally means “coming to terms with the past,” describing the process by which the country tries to learn from the mistakes it made during the 30s and 40s, most significantly the Holocaust. This process makes Germany quite a unique country, as no other major nation-state can claim to have gone through quite the same amount of personal soul-searching.

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This dream of awakening her home country of Romania is the mission of Mariana, an artist who wants to put on a reenactment of the Odessa Massacre of 1941 in which between 25,000 to 34,000 Jews were either shot or burned to death by Romanian troops. I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians, is named after a quote that was used to justify the process. According to her, its a part of history glossed over by Romanians, who prefer to remember the time they joined the Allies three years into War. A pertinent clip from the Romanian film The Mirror, released in 1994, shows just how deep the distortion of history goes, displaying Ion Antonescu — the Romanian leader — as a sympathetic character who only “deported” non-Romanian Jews, instead of killing them. This is a blatant lie and something that Mariana is determined to deconstruct.

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Karlovy Vary 2018: ‘Jumpman’ is a Very Different Kind of Superhero Movie

The corrupt heart of contemporary Russia is mercilessly exposed in Jumpman, a savage look at a society that has lost its way. Telling the story of a boy who uses his rare ability to feel no pain to jump in front of cars in order to blackmail their owners, Ivan I. Tverdovsky has created a savage exposé of a world in which nothing matters other than the pursuit of capital.

It starts with Denis (Denis Vlasenko) being dumped at an orphanage. As he grows older, he gets diagnosed with congenital analgesia, which means that he doesn’t feel pain in the same way other people do. This ability to withstand intense physical pressure makes him a favourite with the fellow boys, who tie him up with a hose and pull it on from either side to see how long he can last. Then one day, his mother (Anna Slyu) returns to the orphanage and takes him back to Moscow. Once there, they devise their dastardly money-making scheme.

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Karlovy Vary 2018: Tradition is Fatal in Turkish Drama ‘Brothers’

This review is by our guest writer, Redmond Bacon.

Tradition is meant to bind us together, but when those customs are based in violence, those binds can be a noose, choking us into a cycle of bloodshed. This is certainly the case in Turkish drama Brothers, which displays the devastating effects of living by ancient customs.

It starts with the seventeen-year-old Yusuf (Yiğit Ege Yazar) in a juvenile detention centre near the tail-end of his sentence. He is a quiet and brooding boy, with a constant chip on his shoulder. He seems always on the verge of anger, almost starting a fight over a mistimed football tackle. One day he is released on probation and picked up by his brother Ramazan (Caner Şahin), who believes a good way of celebrating is by buying him a prostitute. This pretty much sums up the perpetual misunderstanding between the two, who cannot find a way to truly relate to one another.

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Karlovy Vary 2018: ‘Profile’ Excellently Depicts the Dangers of the Internet

This piece is written by our guest writer Redmond Bacon.

We all know that being online is dangerous – with sexual predators, fraudsters, and racists on Twitter always waiting around the corner – but have you ever tried signing up to join ISIS? This is the conceit of Profile, which displays what happens when a journalist is willing to risk absolutely everything for the sake of getting a good story. Told entirely from the screen of a British reporter’s laptop, the resultant movie works both as a great thriller and a thematically rich investigation into the nature of ISIS, reporters, and the dangers of social media.

Amy (Valene Kane) is a journalist researching ISIS recruiters who have been known to find women to join their mission online. They look for Western converts as they are seen as sexually desirable by the death cult, and can be sold as sex slaves for a lot of money. To start with, she makes a new Facebook profile. She aptly names herself Melody Nelson after the famous Serge Gainsbourg song, which is famously about a predatory man seducing a young teenager. After sharing videos of ISIS footage on Facebook, she gets a friend request from a man named Abu Bilel Al-Britani (Shazed Letif). Ostensibly using him to get material for her article, she finds herself getting drawn in further and further, until there is a very real possibility she might head off to Syria herself.

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Criterion Month: Nobuko Miyamoto, ‘A Taxing Woman’, and the Zany, Gendered Comic Body

This essay is by our guest writer Spencer Slovic.

The first part of Juzo Itami’s A Taxing Woman (1987) seen by most viewers is not its opening credits, but its Criterion Collection poster. Nobuko Miyamoto, star of the film, wife of the director, and the titular “taxing woman,” stares out at the viewer over a pair of reflective, leather-bound shades, framed by her flat-cut bangs and pristine white collared shirt. While the film itself, starring Miyamoto as a tax collector who ruthlessly pursues criminals and tax evaders, doesn’t fully live up to this vision of female spectatorship – Itami is too focused on the conniving yakuza and stifling bureaucracy to give the taxing woman the screen time she’s due – Miyamoto’s performance as Ryōko Itakura more than carries the load, at points strong and commanding, funny and absurd, and sometimes cuttingly perceptive into the machinery of Japanese society in the 1980s. Nominated for the Japanese Academy Prize for Best Actress eight times throughout her career, Miyamoto won the award only for A Taxing Woman, in a role described by Keiko McDonald as a “remarkably modern type of female lead” (166).

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Mackenzie Davis is the Eye of the Storm in ‘Izzy Gets the F*ck Across Town’

This review is by our guest writer, Grace.

Chris Papierniak’s debut aims to be a hard-packed punch, but rather, is a flame that burns for too long – rising, subsiding, and threatening to fizzle out if not for its core performance. The pink-tinted dream sequence that opens the film seems ill-fitting and amateur, as does the narrative that’s been almost as roughly cut as our main character. Stylistically, there’s an evident attempt to appear more “punk rock” or “grunge” than is needed, but the film is certainly not a total loss. Mackenzie Davis’ lead turn as Izzy, our anti-heroine and the pulse of the film succeeds in knowing when to charge in and when to pull back, affecting the right tones and nuances of chaos.

Izzy is a mess. Reckless and aimless, she’s destroyed nearly all relationships in her life. The rest are hanging on by thin and ragged threads. An aspiring musician, her career has fallen to the wayside after her sister – played (and for too short a time) by the brilliant Carrie Coon – leaves their duo group. Broke and scrambling for shining pieces of her past as a performer and her past relationships, she curses, yells, schemes, and hustles her way the f*ck across town. She runs blindly, headfirst into the golden streets of LA, gambling with her friends and acquaintances, most of which are fed up with her antics or are about to be pushed to their limit of patience. Izzy wants to be a scrappy little somebody, but she’s really just scrappy as she wrecks her way through the day, marked in eight chapters with a ninth following (without any spoilers) the day’s conclusion.

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