Against The Hype

movies, criticism and their pleasures

Archive for September, 2011

SIFF 2011: Pina Astounds, Cave of Forgotten Dreams is Documentary 101

September 19, 2011 By: Colin Low Category: Capsuled Thoughts

Drop everything and come to Shaw Lido tonight (Sept 19, Mon, 9.30pm) to see Pina, which I saw two days ago and can’t wait to see again. Here’s why:

It’s a vision of the future of 3D cinema. Even more than James Cameron’s Avatar before it, Pina makes a single-handed, multi-bodied case for what 3D cinema should look like if it is to take pride in being a legitimate art form. The elaborate planning needed to capture famed choreographer Pina Bausch’s dances—ingenious with space, and filmed nonstop before live audiences—even implies that 3D might be the key to restoring lost staging practices and less hyperactive editing styles to the movies. (Ironic that this newfangled “gimmick” should offer itself as a potential messiah to all the ever-lamenting Hollywood classicists.)

It’s the hulking Citizen Kane of dance retrospectives. As if its groundbreaking use of deep cinematic space wasn’t enough of a clue, Pina stakes its claim to being the Citizen Kane of dance retrospectives by revealing Bausch to us through the legacies and people she left behind, in ways that defy easy summary. Instead of filming regular talking heads, Wenders layers the testimonies of the dancers of Bausch’s Tanztheater Wuppertal over clips of their faces. More than one reminisces about Bausch’s penetrating gaze, which read them more clearly than they could give voice to, so it’s almost like Wenders is trying to exhume Bausch’s very gaze.

It was almost never made. The attention that Pina accords to the Tanztheater Wuppertal dancers grows even more poignant when you learn that Wenders cancelled plans to make the film after Bausch died unexpectedly, just a few days before filming was initially slated to begin. It was at the behest of these dancers (and Bausch’s fans worldwide) that Wenders decided to press on. “Dance, dance, or we are lost,” cries the movie’s subtitle as the credits end, and I can’t think of a more fitting rallying cry for these people who, through Bausch’s influence and choreography, ask to be found.

Just as Pina feels infused with the spirit of all the dancers that surrounded its making, Cave of Forgotten Dreams has the head and heart of the people that accompanied its making: academics. It isn’t a knock to say that this documentary about the Chauvet Caves, which hold the earliest cave paintings known to man, feels much like the movie an archaeologist or art historian or anthropologist would have made.

I daresay director Werner Herzog is a little bit of all those respectable professions, and he defers even more to the small group of actual professors in his midst who, like his filmmaking team, have been allowed a rare visit to study the caves under limited time and conditions (no touching, no straying from the narrow central walkway, etc). Yet Herzog’s own specific penchant for spelunking for people’s stories and dreams shines through (an archaeologist he interviews turns out to have been a unicycle-and-juggling circus man), even if his inimitable deadpan sometimes makes his meditations on the subject more portentous than his documentary-101 approach otherwise affords.

F***ed: Actress Peak Performance Barometer?

September 14, 2011 By: Colin Low Category: Picture Posts

A woman getting pounded into by a man oblivious to her distraction, turmoil, inner life: Any cinema that attends to such an image surely has an eye to that woman’s strengths and vulnerabilities in other ways that surprise and resonate.

Which of these performances do you most admire, or look forward to seeing? Do you know of others like them?

  • Melanie Lynskey in Heavenly Creatures (1994)
  • Julianne Moore in Safe (1995)
  • Zhang Ziyi in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
  • Nicole Kidman in Birth (2004)
  • Tang Wei in Lust, Caution (2007)

“No, No, No!” “Yes, Yes, Yes!”

September 13, 2011 By: Colin Low Category: Picture Posts

Lina Lamont as “Yvonne”: Pierre will save me. Pierre!

“Rouge Noir”: Pierre is miles away, you witch!

Lina as “Yvonne”: No, no, no!

“Rouge Noir”: Yes, yes, yes!

Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

Stromboli: There! This will be your home, where I can find you always!

Pinocchio: No, no, no!

Stromboli: Yes, yes, yes!

Pinocchio (1940)

How do you prefer your “No, no, no” and “Yes, yes, yes”?

  • With Jean Hagen’s helium-frizzed flutiness and an uncredited actor’s mustachioed villainy in Singin’ in the Rain
  • With Dickie Jones’ fear-struck protests and Charles Judels’ hulking malevolence in Pinocchio

Mention your pick in the comments below!


September 12, 2011 By: Colin Low Category: Picture Posts

Schindler: There’s no way I could have known this before, but there was always something missing. In every business I tried, I can see now it wasn’t me that had failed. Something was missing. Even if I’d known what it was, there’s nothing I could have done about it, because you can’t create this thing. And it makes all the difference in the world between success and failure.

Emilie: Luck?

Schindler: War.

Schindler’s List (1993)

Valmont: Now, yes or no? It is up to you, of course. I will merely confine myself to remarking that a “no” will be regarded as a declaration of war. A single word is all that is required.

Merteuil: All right.

Merteuil: War.

Dangerous Liaisons (1988)

How do you prefer your “War”?

  • With Liam Neeson’s suave amorality in Schindler’s List
  • With Glenn Close’s vindictive divadom in Dangerous Liaisons

Mention your pick in the comments below!

SIFF 2011: SISTIC Ticket-buying Troubles

September 02, 2011 By: Colin Low Category: Announcements

I just bought tickets to eight of the 11 shows that I’m planning to watch at this year’s Singapore International Film Festival! A heads-up to other buyers:

Potentially unavailable tickets
For some reason, Jang Hun’s Secret Reunion, François Ozon’s Potiche and Heiward Mak’s beside(s,) happiness are not available for booking through SISTIC at the moment. I’m not sure what’s going on here, and what other showings might also be unavailable, but this unpredictability makes ticket-buying rather inconvenient.

Misleading “bundle discount” [REDACTED: See comment below]
On the SIFF Ticketing page, it mentions a bundle discount in which you can “purchase 10 tickets in a single receipt to enjoy a 10% discount”. But according to the SISTIC ticketing agent from whom I bought my tickets, this only applies if you’re buying 10 tickets to the same screening. This would make the wording on that discount far too misleading, unless I’ve been misinformed. (It made no difference to me, since I’m still a student, but it would certainly be an annoyance to others.)