2.12.19

Laughing like crazy. My Joker 2019

JOKER

Directed by Todd Philips


Crowned rather unexpectedly with the Golden Lion @ Venezia 2019, "JOKER" is less a film about the Batman’s devoted enemy, but a fable on the contemporary culture of humiliation.

Here's an idea that had nothing appealing on paper.
It could have been an n-ish adaptation of that generous source, the comic books. One that lately transformed Hollywood in a kindergarten for old boys still clinging on their toys.

Yet Todd Philips, who had already did his ranges with a few regressive comedies (“Road Trip", “Back to College", "Very bad Trip") promised to achieve here an adult and uncompromising piece of work.
A film d'auteur, though, dubbed by comments on our troubled times. 
And yes, with an actor, Joaquin Phoenix, certainly admirable.  
But one a little too naturally built for the part of a super villain that raised from the cradle of a martyred child.

Todd Philips’ intention is here transparent.
He turns the Joker, aka Arthur Flock, into the evil genius of a ruthless society. One that eats up the weak, and engenders monsters, out of the mold of social humiliation.

But JOKER's achievement does not reside so much in this kind of empathy (which is the least we could ask from a film on monsters).
Nor in the merciless mechanics that will lead the brave Arthur to its criminal madness: bullying, death of his mother, antipsychotic treatment gone wrong, a heavy destiny and screenplay. 

The film is rather successful by its very slow paced decoction of this itinerary towards future crimes, which had been just postponed. 

Even though not a remake of "Taxi Driver", as intended, the main lesson of Scorsese's film is here.
JOKER is situated in the same New York of the "70ies, a gigantic trash,  as unctuous as Jokers' hair.

In both cases, the characters hide under their psychosis a much more common madness.
Both Arthur and Travis Bickle from "Taxi Driver" only demand to be looked at. And seen. 
As they are both ordinary candidates to the Warholan 15 minutes, the only remnant of the American dream.

"Taxi Driver" was not ending by a mass murder, but by its character's relief, even though by death.
JOKER plunges again into those years, just to explain they were the premises of a nightmare that engulfs us now up to our neck. A nightmare where the thirst of celebrity must be paid with consented humiliation. And for which Arthur's mad laughter is a righteous background.

With Arthur Fleck, who dreams to be a stand up star, other landmarks of the end of the 70ies come to our mind. Those have been times when Christine Chubbuck, for example, a TV journalist, has performed a live suicide while she was presenting the News.
Sidney Lumet got there his inspiration for "Network",  just a year after "Taxi Driver".
Those were also times for such as Andy Kauffman, a stand up genius, who interrogated as never before the public's hysteria with the thrills of live events.


All of JOKER is built on this unhealthy vertigo of acting out, the actual logics of live transmissions. And of TV.

'Why so serious?” was asking the previous version of the Joker, played by Heath Ledger under Christopher Nolan's direction. 
"Why so much laughter?" is Joaquin Phoenix' JOKER asking to a world that projects on its skylight a waltz of puppets. 

Ah, and behind this laughter, as fair as tyrannizing, Phoenix is, of course, a genius.
How could we ever doubt?

By Giulia Ghica Dobre
2.12.2019



Cause Germans do it better: LONELY TOGETHER, my favorite 2019 German Film @Munich Intl.Film Festival




Lonely together (ZU ZWEIT ALLEIN) 



Directed by Sabine Koder

 germany, 2019.



"The heart has it reasons which reason knows nothing of." 
Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)

You will either enjoy the laid-back atmosphere and chatty characters in “Lonely Together”, 
a fresh film out of the Munchen HFF oven, 
or find it all incredibly boring. 
It is though so rare to find movies that don't want to be sensationalistic and violent, 
but would rather present universal questions 
and then investigate them throughout the course of the movie.

Director Sabine Koder traces in "Lonely Together" the portrait of a couple of two undecided.
But, as the director is an obvious follower of Kant, 
she made her characters two volunteers of indecision: 

 

The two chose not to be chosen.
The two do not stop passing from one bank of the river to another, 
as much as they do not stop passing from one state of mind to another.
Yet they never interrupt their analysis and their "no choice".

The characters talk and talk, often such deeply personal matters that I had trouble keeping up. 
But the talk is interesting and intriguing.

This is a story that has to do first with the protagonists self-perception. 
Jean-Thom Lass, who plays Karl, brings a veracious mix of smug confidence and little guy vulnerability to the part.  
All this is spiked with a clear case of self-delusion that illuminates his character.

Nina, played with coquettish innocence by Eva Bay, 
is also clever and deliciously sophisticated, 
vulnerable and honest. 
And she is certainly a bout de souffle, 
a woman on the verge of a breakdown.
Karl engages in much philosophizing about choice, 
but he is never choosing. 
He operates out of how he "should" or "should not" act, rather than out of his experience of what works out. 

When life does not fit his pictures, he deceives himself with endless rationalizations. 
Through his experience with Nina, through their very ludic relationship, more of a camaraderie than of an inflammable love story, 
and especially when she takes time off it, 
he is shook out of his need for complete self-control. 
And then he finally has the epiphany of grace.

The young german director presented here a very strict construction, softened by a balance of tones, 
by the grace of the performers 
and the fluidity of the staging.
"LONELY TOGETHER", intimately linked to the german urban landscape, follows the fluctuations of the feelings of characters who do not cease to hesitate 
on their sentimental destiny.
This is a "philosophical tale", in which the questions of identity and otherness are asked. 
But the film works also as a "moral narrative" that questions the nature of the relationship between the sexes.

“Lonely together” has a quality that lingers long after the action is gone. 
The underlying philosophy about the nature of human love 
and how it conflicts or is (in)compatible with reason 
it really does reflect the above quote from Pascal, 
whose spirit is akin, although he denies it, to that of Karl, the careful protagonist of this very interesting film.

After 10 days when I have lived in the delight of consuming the newest german cinematic oeuvres, 
I found that “Lonely together” is undoubtedly 
one of the most intellectually stimulating films I’ve seen this year.



As this is a beautiful film, worldly wise, warm, 
sensual and subtle 
as a dinner by candlelight.

By Giulia DOBRE
FIPRESCI JURY @ Filmfest Munchen 2019.



Credits

Screenplay: Sabine Koder
Director of Photography: Noah Schuller
Film Editor: Kilian Schmid
Composer: Pablo Jókay
Production Designer: Theresa Scheitzenhammer, Sabine Koder
Costume Design: Olivia Andrione
Sound: Stefan Postavka, Tim Teichmann
Producer: Natalie Hölzel, Sandra Hölzel
Production Company: Elfenholz Film
Co-Production Company: Hochschule für Fernsehen und Film (HFF München)
Director: Sabine Koder


13.6.19

English tea time in Transylvania: SCARBOROUGH



Scarborough, on the Northeastern shore of England, 
is no longer a popular holiday destination. 
The English town is nowadays 
a monument to lost enamel.
 The majestic and abandoned rooms 
of the Grand Hotel 
overlooking the North Sea 
testify of it.


At its Reception Desk, first Liz, 
and then Aiden 
receive the keys of their rooms. 


They declare to be alone. 

Yet they find themselves, 
during a trip in the elevator, 
each one clinging to a younger lover. 

Over the course of a weekend, 
two love stories intersect and merge, forbidden and marked, 
mirroring one another.



The couples game is balanced.

Both Liz(Jodhi May) 
and Aiden( Edward Hogg) 
are teachers.

They struggle with their intense and problematic loves for sixteen-year-old Daz (Jordan Bolger)
 and Beth(Jessica Barden), 
two uninhibited,feisty teens,
who are still filled with the adolescent exuberance 
of those who have yet to be 
disappointed or betrayed.


Overflowing with vital ingenuity, 
the two youngsters represent 
a romantic and sensual ideal 
that begs to be lived.

Yet at the same time 
it requires to be hidden 
from puritan eyes.

As there is not only age 
to complicate things. 

But also the fact 
that every couple 
is composed of 
a professor and his/her student.


In the first part of the film 
the two stories are echoeing, 
between the Victorian bare walls of the hotel. 

They repeat the same fragments of dialogue
 between men and women. 


The result 
is an intriguing reflection 
on gender dynamics.

Here the words 
leave viewers 
free to appreciate 
the enormous differences
 radiated on tone, 
gestures, 
bodies. 

In addition, of course, 
to the balance of POWER 
within the relationships.


Six years ago the Director Barnaby Southcombe started out as a film director 
with the noir "I, Anna"
presented at the Berlinale.


"This is a hot topic 
but someone has to talk about it -
 said Barnaby Southcombe 
when I discussed with him 
last week 
at the 2019 Transylvania International Film Festival. -

 For me it is very important to focus 
on the fact that love 
is a totally subjective concept 
and always the target of criticism 
from the outside, 
especially if a relationship is 
socially unacceptable "

" But the relationships shown in the film 
are clearly sexual 
and show adults struggling with partners
 who are just of age", said I.

"There is a difference for me 
between pedophilia 
and consensual relationship, 

but in a relationship between student and teacher there is a line that should not be crossed. 

I was interested in going beyond it 
and focusing on the emotions 
of this relationship: 
what is important to those involved? 

How is this relationship analyzed 
after so many years have passed? 

Presenting two couples struggling 
with the same dynamics 
allowed me 
to analyze this topic 
in two different moments".

-"It is interesting to me that in the film 
there are the younger partners 
who are pushing 
to keep the relationship going. 
At one point, 
the young boy is even ready 
to take responsibility 
for having a child 
with his forty-year-old teacher.", I notified.

..."At 16 you think you are 
in full control 
of your thoughts and your body, 
but in the end you understand 
that it is not really so. 

I liked the ideea of ​​exploring the experience of a FORBIDDEN LOVE 
and how the young protagonists 
totally trust their own judgment. 
A temporary thing."


-"I noticed that the camera focuses more on women: 
the female student in love with her teacher, 
and the woman teacher loved by her student."

" I'm more interested in telling the story 
of a woman, 
we already have too many 
male references 
in our cinema. 

As a director, however, 
I want to continue to explore 
the fragility of human beings, 
and tell them in the moment 
of full awareness: 
they know very well 
that they are doing something wrong 
but they cannot stop. 

Some have a facade that seems stronger 
than others, 

but the truth is 
that we are all
 fragile 

in the end".


"Scarborough", 
without ever straying too far 
from its hotel, 
stages an unforgiveable,
and unforgettable 
love war, 
full of ups and downs,
with excquisite style 
and abrasive passion.


By Giulia Ghica Dobre
June 13th 2019