REVIEWS AND BLOG

Film Review: Excitable Eddie

This 2-minutes taster-teaser is an uninterrupted shot of a psych patient having a fit is designed to promote Schizo, a psych-crime novel by author Ilene B. Benator. And by “author”, we mean writer, not an “auteur” in the film world sense.

The two minutes long take of Eddie suffering a psychotic fit before the mirror, trapped in a corner and on the floor, shrinking into himself and then embodying nothing less than a total loss of the sense of reality is accompanied by a narration – that belongs to a saner, more confident voice who confesses to be Eddie’s neighbor. Enter Dan, Dan Greenberg, the protagonist of the novel, a promising med student who is derailed by a schizophrenic patient he is assigned on rotation and embarks on a dangerous journey. Dan confidently states that Eddie’s is a tortured soul, that he cheats the shrinks mimicking stupor after he’s been fed pills, that he is making up plans to break free of the ward and declares that his demons, unlike Eddie’s are… real.

film_posterIs this a good taster? Yes, curiosity-whipping to the bone and very intelligently designed. One can imagine the propaganda effect of popping up other “teasers” focusing on Dan’s other “neighbors”. Imagine Dr. Lecter talking about Multiple Miggs in the neighboring cell, only to drive the camera/fictive focus eventually to his own self and saga. Especially after reading illustrious reviews of Benator’s book on Goodreads lauding her style and fresh promise of fever, I am compelled to read her writing, even though not being a hardcore fan of the genre. Plus, Ilene B. Benator’s being an emergency physician, an insider to the domain of medicine is another wow factor, urging the prospective reader to think about the insights she could have thrown into the story. However, is Excitable Eddie a short film proper? Unfortunately, no. If a story is told only to stir appetite about another story (served on the shelf, not on the silver screen), how can one regard it as a film by reason of its own?

Let’s hope Schizo reaches wide readership and attracts the attention of the industry to be translated into a proper screenplay and to give birth to an feature adaptation.

prepared by Mutlu Yetkin.

Film Review: Brunfelsia

Vaporous purple, whispering lavender and silken, dreamy white, the three colours of the exotic plant species Brunfelsia which gives its name to the short animation directed by Anna Constantinova pervades each pixel of the movie.

This is an animated tale of two space travellers venturing into a new, enchanting and at times forbidden planet, revealing and being astonished before its secrets – a vegetative Eden hiding the remnants of a lost civilisation.

POSTERBRUNLOWDrenched in the feeling of a psychedelic carnival not solely due to its colour palette but also because of the music and the aftertaste it leaves, watching Brunfelsia is like experimenting with a hallucinogen that unleashes its effects through the magic of the screen.

However, the raison d’etre of the film is that it is made to serve as a music video for the band Artefact, a post-pop outfit who are dedicated to weave inebriating soundscapes. Ethereal sonics and psychedelic visuals share a trance-inducing effect. Does the music fit this cinematic dress? Definitely. Would it be better if it was not an uninterrupted stream, hence breaking out of the label “music video” and setting the animation free? Yes.

Techniques and difficulties-wise, Brunfelsia is a very good exercise in character development, which the studio passes with flying colours. A tour de force that lays bare what a dedicated team can deliver to challenge major players of the genre. A taster for bigger ventures to come, hitting the mark.

The film may have narrower screening prospects due to fewer outing opportunities given to animated cinema, but it for sure will enchant the auds at every step.

prepared by Mutlu Yetkin.

Film Review: ‘La liberation de AIEXIS/ The discovery of Santos’

La liberation de AlEXIS / The Discovery of Santos is Ralph Isenberg, the founder of Isenberg Centre for Immigration Empowerment, American advocate of immigrant rights narrating two different stories about the plight of immigrants before the camera along with a parade of images and a small, emotional interview with two kids that mark the final moments.

2Poster_17x20_ElGringoSchindler-02v1The documentary is tailored in a TV show aesthetic and it is stripped of any cinematic wow factor, other than a narrator, Isenberg, speaking before the camera, directly to the viewer. This conscious absence of aesthetics,  which otherwise would be a big minus for any endeavour, serves a definite purpose here. The viewer is forced to face an un-structured, plain reality via the accounting of the experiences of one man.

The story of El Salvador boy Alexis and the mother, a resident of more than a decade who wasn’t allowed into the country on her return flight, leaving her kids motherless, are just two examples out of thousands.

Isenberg’s accounts as well as his storytelling brim with emotion, demonstrating his heartfelt dedication to the cause. On the other hand, what he presents is a solid, irrefutable critique of the system. Both stories reveal the system’s self-serving nature penetrating all of its components. The aid money funnelled to Central American countries “trickles up” via the tentacles of corporate America; the immigration system is set up in such a way that it is meant to discourage and strangle, instead of offering relief and inspiration.

Isenberg reminds the credo of JFK and the very foundations the country is based on, and shares, in a very intimate fashion, what he felt throughout his odyssey to save the futures of those people.

‘La liberation de AIEXIS/ The discovery of Santos’ is an informative piece that, in the long run, may serve as a basis for stories to be filmed with stronger directorial initiative.

prepared by Mutlu Yetkin.

Film Review: Reconnection

MTV’s need-for-speed editing meets promotional video aesthetics highlights Reconnection as, unfortunately yet another film in the line of akin titles, a meaningful tale told through an almost trite grammar of cinema, if any quality above-the-line input or directorial excellence was aimed at, in the first place.

Reconnection is the story of Sean Fletcher, a Western man whose life was a part of the rat race. He is a slave to his own reflection on the mirror of modern society. When Sean is deserted by his girlfriend, unable to win back her love, he heads to, like many Westerners before him, to India to find himself.

Reconnection-Poster-2560x3840The noise and smoke of Delhi does offer a change of scenery yet the real revelation comes with Vrindavan, where Sean will be exposed to a realm that is opposite to the one he is so used to. Through the story of God Krishna and his consort Radha, Sean comes to understand unconditional love, the value of sharing as well as the vainness of his pursuits back in the West. The villagers that surround him, all venerating Radha and using her holy name as a salute, makes him feel he’s home, remind him of the lack of tenderness unto-his-own-self. So do the foreigners/expats who chose Vrindavan as their new home, living a life of service.

The uplifting Holi festival, monkeys stealing things, Indian cuisine in its diversity and colourfulness, temples, cows (a safe space for cows), the concept of timelessness, the merging of the mundane and the sacred in almost untraceable ways, everything that comes to mind when one imagines India is in its proper place in Reconnection.

Nevertheless, what is missing at times is the promise of cinema. For example, when Stephen finds love and meaning in the act/choice of cherishing each and every moment, we are merely “spoken to” about this particular truth. Narration emphasizes this discovery of the protagonist and surrounding visuals point at it. Nothing is “shown” except via scenes that lay bare the beauty of the subcontinent’s nature and environment. Sure, it would be utterly misleading to except a web of symbols from such a story whose central premise is highlighting the beauty in simplicity letting go. Yet the concepts it trace are not as shallow as to communicate through the aesthetics of a TV show. Stunning visuals doesn’t add much to the experience itself, other than serving great pictures that absorb and inspire the viewer.

Reconnection seems to be a part of the project “Vrindavan Experience”, aimed at drawing attention to Vrindavan’s culture from around the world. In that regard, or as a not so challenging but captivating doc, it serves the purpose.

prepared by Mutlu Yetkin.

Film Review: The Eve of St Anthony

FINAL_02_V1This is not about you, Ana…
Can a seemingly lean and linear ride across Lisboa, revolving around a single

and lonely protagonist serve as such a profound mirror into the depth of emotions that surround the situation?

The clamorous, euphoric Alfama quartier of Fernando Pessoa’s beautiful, Piscean, oneiric Lisboa, where Ricardo Reis weighed anchor to exile and where King Sebastian of Portugal will return to, with all its dusky, hazy, then downright nocturnal yet festive splendour provides the stage for the gradual unfolding of João GomesThe Eve of St Anthony.

The story takes off with Ana, the main protagonist in the backseat of a car, reminiscing the dialogues she had with her clarinet teacher as she approaches the town through its outskirts. Once in the centre, Ana walks the Alfama quarter, delves into a merry crowd to bear testimony to their music and mirth. Transformed into a local-flaneuse, the exact reverse of Poe’s Man of the Crowd tottering amidst yet untouched by people, Ana becomes a treatise on the art of waiting and then entangles a Peter Pan for some time, before spiraling down into delicious meditation.

What is this all about? Is it another shot at minimalism enhanced by a scattered sense of narrative? Is it another of all too well known investigations of urban ennui, the trials and tribulations of an anonymous heroine in the face of her shadow? An arthouse attempt that carefully stitches symbols together only to end up with a straight-jacket instead of a riddle?

No, absolutely not.

The Eve of St Anthony may be a labyrinth but the Minotaur at its centre is a poet, not a monster or a professor. And when we think about Francis Poulenc’s playful music, as well as his real-life “pilgrimages”, we are handed the keys – things fall into place.

Yes, The Eve of St Anthony is definitely one of the films where music serves as a protagonist of the story. Nevertheless, despite the status of Poulenc’s music, the film is not fixated around piano and clarinet tunes and opens itself into a myriad of genres instead, from Portuguese Fado to beat-oriented electronica, from latin-pop to street music that reverberates in Alfama agora. Even iPhone ringtones have their distinct function.

Like the spirit of the music it is aided by, The Eve of St Anthony is as playful, as ornamented with subtle clues that trigger massive “aha!” moments.

Scribe of this journey into the self’s wonderland into the medium of film, the camera work remains outstandingly fluid, adorably unpretentious and masterful. It ensures the absence of the smallest intervention that may disrupt the experience of the viewer and manages this despite its fixation on a certain palette of angles and shots.

If João Gomes preserves his unique brand of absorbing sensitivity full of inspiration as the suspended visual note that closes The Eve of St Anthony (and the suspended notes that finish Poulenc’s compositions!), he’ll certainly have the chance to be one of the most original voices in contemporary Continental arthouse cinema. Pondering more the factor of length, though (not in means of imposing limits but of allowing flexibility) may prove useful for the director, even if only to not to challenge industry’s screening and sales protocols or attract more convenient prospects.

prepared by Mutlu Yetkin.

Film Review: Voices from Kaw Loo Thei

What makes a documentary? Is it the filmmaker’s struggling against her/his own ego to engage in as little subjective interpretation as possible vis-à-vis an expanse of reality? Is it a channeling of voices unheard and stories yet to be known in an attempt to map a terra incognita?

Since the beginning of the second decade of the 2000s, global film industry stood in awe before a new vector of creative documentaries that registered the genre is not supposed to be a total exodus of the fictive spirit. Titles such as The Act of Killing or Five Broken Cameras revolutionized the domain, blurred boundaries and pointed at new, adventurous paths yet to be explored.

American director Martha Gorzycki’s Voices from Kaw Loo Thei is a daring experiment. It reveals a tragedy that was unashamedly swept under the rug and has gone largely unnoticed in the world media. It draws attention to the pledge of Karen People of Burma, whose population have been reduced to half and who were devastated by six decades of genocide, culturcide and civil war.

The experimental methodology Gorzycki employs involves the utilization of countless photographs dissolving (or rather, condensing) into surreal textures over which the voices make themselves heard. The alchemy of images burnt into each other form cinematic talismans, capturing not the coarse ‘reality’ but the very energy of the dire ordeal the Karen people have gone through. Rays of weary sunlight shining through the shadowy forest, shades of desolation that haunt the land, bones and stones in unnamed graves, the hues of scorched earth – these all too gritty, all too bare images of life trampled underlie the idea of, as Gorzycki points out, a land of safety far away, while contrasting the false glitter of post-colonial Nat-Geo photography; imbuing the term “nature-mort” with a new meaning. Will the cyclic law of nature allow Karen people to embrace hope again?

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The voices in all too profound reminiscence that speak au fond this disaster of the soul are individual accounts of pain. Nevertheless, the spirit of the collective, in harmony with the Karen culture’s valuing collective over the monad, is prevalent.

In its totality, Voices from Kaw Loo Thei becomes a visual statue dedicated to a trauma. In the musicological fashion that names experiments in sound devoid of a dictating morphology as sonic sculptures, Gorzycki’s film is a poem of earth and clay, a homage to landlocked souls devastated by the horrors of war and a wake-up call to the dormant sparkle of hope that resides within.

The experimental quality of the documentary may block distro prospects and limit festival outings to niche avenues, nevertheless, the experimental courage itself will propel director’s future enterprises.

prepared by Mutlu Yetkin.

Film Review: Node

dugum_copy_1The muses that inspired Nuri Bilge Ceylan’s rustic minimalism, along with a passion for an excellence in photography and an appetite for philosophical, Bergman’ian enigmas get the best of NODE, a short film clocking for 20 minutes, directed by Engin Poyraz.

Three figures from three strands of age, a preteen boy, an adult man and a grandfather, their routines and intricate relationships with their environment, people around them and nature, along with a concise but thought-provoking panorama of life in a provincial Anatolian fishing town constitute the backbone of the narrative of Node. As open-ended and contemplative as it is supposed to be, the philosophical undercurrent urges the viewer to ponder on more than a pair of binaries. Where time becomes stasis, change turns into stagnation, life is so obviously entwined with death, the three protagonists, whose lives are   tied to the piece of land, turn into explorers in a hall of mirrors.

NODE’s intense attention to detail and meditative scenes secure its very arthouse mojo. However, the mystique of the tale is compromised whenever the narrating voice reads the quasi-poetic lines, stealing away from the power the image alone is supposed to have. The skilful utilisation of pieces by the genii of Western classical music, J.S. Bach, on the other hand, supports the intellectual premise of the picture.

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The film’s masterful photography, bearing the signature of cinematographer Ömer Oylar, expands on the provincial panorama and moulds thoughtful arguments from the plays of light. Albeit leaning on the cliché at times, with worn-out images of boats docked before an expanse of sea or long shots of splashes of water, it enflames the soul and gives a solid edge to the film.

NODE has already made well in the fest circuit, from LA Independent FF Awards to lately Festival de Cannes Short film Corner. The short will certainly have distro prospects, and the director will certainly enjoy backing for his next endeavour.

prepared by Mutlu Yetkin.