The 21st Hamptons International Film Festival started off with a big literal bang for my wife and me as we were lucky enough to see the wonderful movie, set in Laos of all places, entitled ‘The Rocket.’ The Laotian cast is magnificent, from Ahlo, the little boy, who is the star of the show, his beautiful mother, his grandmother (with just black stumps for teeth, who is tough as nails, spiritual, superstitious), his father, the little girl he meets and her uncle, played by Thep Phongam, into the music and aura of James Brown, who is different and accustomed to being rejected by the drones of local society. The Laos of the story is under communist rule, and when a dammed area is to be extended to flood Ahlo’s family’s village, not much can be done but be relocated. The survival story is that of creative adaptable people, doing what they can against severe forces of man and nature. There is much joy and terrible tragedy. But the hope of the movie goes to a rocket festival, the winner of which will win a large sum of money. The panoramic landscape cinematography of this beautiful wartorn country, strewn with rockets and old bombs like the massive ‘Sleeping Tiger,’ is magnificent and frightening. A classic fantastic movie not to be missed! It won the Audience Award for Best Narrative film this year at the Tribeca Film Festival in NYC, NY.
(Now it is Saturday Oct 19, 2013 and in retrospect, yes, ‘The Rocket’ has to be my favorite movie of the entire festival. Good start this year, to see it as the first movie for us, this past Thursday 10 -10 – 13. A movie so good you might want to buy it and have it around your house to watch every year or two, maybe on Independence Day July 4 in America. Fireworks. Rockets….)
The next movie we saw was the documentary ‘Chimeras,’ another Asian film, about two Chinese artists, shot in mostly Beijing and Shanghai. The artists are Wang Guangyi and Liu Gang, real life artists struggling with their artistic creativity in an oppressive totalitarian China. Guangyi is very successful, middle-aged, doing massive works, with very interesting industrial techniques, much in appreciation of communism’s struggle, honoring Mao Tse Dung, including one gigantic portrait of him, with small bars over the image of his face. When viewing this work several times during the film, I couldn’t tell if he was behind the bars, or more likely the viewer was. The magnificence and grandeur of scale of today’s Beijing is gigantically surprising to me. All I had ever seen of it was smog and dark huge monolithic ugly buildings, but this is not what we see in Mika Mattila’s cinema depiction.
The huge scale of China’s capital city fits the massiveness of our planet’s largest country. The beauty and the architecture, the traffic, the tall needle structure like that of the building in Seattle, the colors, the intricacy of design is worth the price of admission to this interesting film. During which, Wang Guangyi is not hesitant to voice his disgust for authorities, critics, always comparing his and other seminal modern Chinese art to western art, as if western art is the basis for all fine art. We see him do this at meetings, and in discussions with other artists. His work ‘The Other Shore’ of a valley and finely depicted trees and vegetation in light yellow, green and white, as on a slightly cloudy day, starts the movie off and finishes it, but again, behind bars, as with Mao’s face, as the movie ends. Liu Gang is a young fortunate photographer who has garnered sudden success with his works in a ‘Paper Dreams’ theme that has travelled around the world. He takes shots of advertisements and other images and crumples them up sometimes to uniquify them. The portrait ends of him getting married, with very creative wedding photos being presented in his ‘paused’ career, as he now is working in a Dutch Museum in Beijing to earn money to support his three person family. He had wanted to do a next presentation about China’s ‘One Child Policy,’ but had met much opposition to this project. We also learn about children being murdered during the operation of this policy, and pregnant women being targeted, gangs of men attacking and kidnapping them at night. This is an intriguing, sometimes disturbing, intellectually rewarding film by a Finnish director that I would have to give a high A+
Good quote about art, shared in this movie: “If you fail, art is suffering. If you succeed, art is still suffering.”
‘Two Autumns, Three Winters,’ is a romantic French film shot in cinema verite, with the actor acting, then talking to the camera, then seamlessly continuing along in the context of the scene. There are basically two couples in this tale, that mostly takes place in Paris. Tragedies occur to the two male leads in separate incidents, framing the film and its romantic interludes. Maud Wyler is the lovely Amelie, and Vincent Macaigne plays the main character, another artist, who has abandoned art and a relationship that brought him to Paris in the first place, from Bordeaux.
There are series of shorts, collected as themed shows, scattered throughout the festival. Often these include the jewels of the festival, but this was not overwhelmingly true for ‘The Edge Of The World’ shorts. Mostly bleh and not very inspiring, yet interesting enough to sit through – – what deserves the only high mention is the animated ‘Oh, Willy.” Chunky small-eyed Willy returns to his mother on her death bed all sad and lonely. She is living in a lovely environment, that turns out to be a nudist colony in summer with beautiful vegetation and buzzing flying insects and birds all about. This short is delightful, and the redeeming one of ‘Edge’ – – plus it has won eighty awards internationally.
More later from day 2.
Conrad Miller M.D. HIFF 2013 October 10
I saw the Abu Raed movie last night and it was terrific. Lovely tale of an older widowed knowledgeable man with 2000 books who finds a Captain’s hat that he sheepishly plucks out of the garbage. He lives in a poor neighborhood in Amman, Jordan and works at the airport, actually, as a janitor. But now, when he wears the magical captain’s hat, the neighborhood kids think he is a pilot and want him to tell them tales of his many adventures. He tries to confess to them that he is not a captain, but then he gets carried away and there is the tale, plus that of his next door neighbor Murad, a young handsome son of a very very abusive father who beats his wife and kids esp when drunkish. Then there’s the beautiful unmarried independent female pilot who is an important part of the story and all of this interweaves into a very romantic but dire movie that deserves every award it can get. The lead actor and the female pilot are both splendid, as are all the children, and the cinematography.
The question of a woman’s role in an environment where woman are not very well protected by society is portrayed here. No veils. This must be Jordan in the new millenium, yet they are expected to be subordinate, as is the poor woman who is the next door drunken clothes salesman’s wife. The female pilot is unmarried, says she doesn’t want to get married (to her father, who keeps finding wealthy enuff young men who are nerds who she has no interested in meeting or marrying), but longs for someone intelligent and interesting. Like Abu Raed. Whose wife died five years ago, but has wisdom and vision, tho is stuck on his path after death took his one son and his wife time back. Abu Raed is a great character, mild, helpful, yearning, tho he has never left the country (of Jordan). Go see this one.