All Around the World: Foreign Film in 2013 (Part 2)
Pussy Riot: A Punk Prayer –Maxim Pozdorovkin & Mike Lerner (Russia/UK)
We know Pussy Riot and their “crimes” against the state, and the two members, Nadezhda Tolokonnikova and Maria Alyokhina, still rotting away with the gulag, but how much do we really know about the Russian feminist-punk band? Directors Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin aim to change that with their Sundance Jury Award-winning documentary (which HBO subsequently acquired) that should put Putin to shame but probably could not even elicit a steely-eyed bear shrug.
Pieta – Kim Ki-duk (South Korea)
The surprise winner of the Golden Lion at last year’s Venice Film Festival, Kim Ki-duk’s Pieta’s aim seems to be to brutally marry the iconography of Christianity with the gutter, pitting a heartless gangster against a pious woman who claims to be his mother. The key adjective to writing anything about Kim seems to be the word “brutally”. To watch Kim’s interpretation of cinema is to get a master class in learning how not to flinch at the worst society has to offer. It’s a let down, almost to the point of self parody in the past, but if this is really his comeback, that would be more than welcome.
No – Pablo Larrain (Chile)
Covering the 1988 referendum on whether to oust Augusto Pinochet or not, No stars Gael García Bernal as a political ad man who leads the month-long television campaign to toss the Chilean dictator from power. Pablo Larrin’s decision to shoot the entire film on an outdated full frame video format used mostly by news outlets in the 1980s seems like a strange one having not seen the film, but it didn’t seem to bother the Oscar committee, who nominated it for Best Foreign Language Film, though it lost out to Amour. At least there is an artistic point behind the odd video choice unlike some wizard and dwarf movies I won’t name. Heads up: this opens in Orlando soon.
Vulgaria – Pang Ho-Cheung (Hong Kong)
Personally, I prefer Pang Ho-Cheung in dramatic mode, like his 2006 drama Isabella, but this paean to the absurdities of the Hong Kong film industry which opened the 2012 NY Asian Film Festival to rave reviews might change my mind. In it, Hong Kong veteran Chapman To plays a film producer who has to deal with Triads and drug mules in order to finance his remake of Confession of a Concubine, the mid-70s erotic film that doesn’t even have an IMDb page. Hong Kong comedy doesn’t always translate that well, but Chapman To is one of the few exceptions to that rule.
We Are the Best! – Lukas Moodysson (Sweden)
Adapted from a graphic novel written by his wife Coco, Lukas Moodysson’s latest offering is to a throwback to the tough adolescences he essayed in his early films, like Show Me Love and Lilya 4-Ever. It follows the lives of three 13 year olds who have to grow up faster than expected. To distract themselves from their lives and get some anger out, they start up a punk band — without any instruments at first. Over the last few years it’s been hard to know what to expect from a Moodysson film. He’s nothing if not bold. That boldness doesn’t always pay off on screen, but it’s hard to root against someone who runs face first into the brick wall with his art and then gets up and does it again. This one seems to have that old spark to it though.