East Bay View (a blog about several things)

now 98% free of substantive content

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Auckland International Film Festival: When you need one to blame the colour TV

Police Beat (Robinson Devor)
Not out-and-out bizarre, just off-kilter. Where Lynch works in sturm und drang light/dark contrast (literally and figuratively), Devor works in partly cloudy grey. The crims bike cop Z (Pape Side Niang) investigates are rarely evil; more often they're disturbed or disturbing. There's the guy who decapitates a bird for no particular reason, and the guy who rips open a refrigerated meat pack at the supermarket and starts gnawing on the contents; the guy who invites himself in for a quick wank and then leaves -- not worth filing a complaint about.

If you think American suburbia is weird, imagine what it's like for a Senegalese immigrant. Trying to tell the weirdoes and hippies from the truly nuts could be a confusing task; Z simply thinks everyone's nuts. Through his frequent voiceovers in Wolof, we find what's perplexing him rarely has anything to do with the oddness immediately around him. He's more concerned about his girlfriend, who's off on a camping trip with her (male) friend and isn't great at keeping in touch, causing Z endless anxiety and jealousy. It's about time moviegoers were reminded that American culture too can get lost in translation.

What I probably should have said about globalisation the other day: its major problem isn't exactly that the South gets hurt, it's more like it gives an excuse for Northerners to ignore it. Z's boss tells him he's been given all possible help, but this apparently doesn't include a patrol car. One apparent hippie berates Z for working for the Man, but whether he likes it or not, that hippie is part of the machine, and a better-placed part than Z. If Z sticks around then of course he should keep his job and his white girl; his question is whether he should stick around at all.

Ballets Russes (Daniel Geller and Dayna Goldfine)
I don't have much interest in ballet or dance except at the movies -- the pretensions are ameliorated, even when the filmmakers are as (pleasingly) pretentious as Guy Maddin -- and I didn't have much interest in seeing this in the Bay, but a screening at the Civic is another thing. In this doc we learn the absorbing story, not of the original Diaghilev company which made Stravinsky famous, but of the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo, for those who know the difference. The troupe returns to its old eminence, then splits, with the offshoots bringing their visions to four continents. The key to the film is the archival footage -- there seems to be a ton of it, dating almost from the comapny's inception (1932). If I wish they had included some lengthier clips, what we do see is enough to demonstrate how widespread grace was among the dancers. Don't know what experts (balletomanes, apparently, though that sounds like a made-up word) would think of the performance and choreography, but a philistine like myself is glad the filmmakers can illuminate stylistic differences.

Many of the stars are still alive, and they comment on their history and appear in footage shot at a 2000 reunion; in peace in their dotage, there's only the slightest hint of backstabbing. Though most are in amazing shape for octo- and nonogenrians -- many still teach and can demonstrate a step or two -- it's still shocking to see what sixty years have done to these beautiful people. While a few are disturbingly Norma Desmond-like, most have acceptance the breaking down of their bodies with dignity. Yeah, life is short, youth is shorter and all that, but unlike every reviewer, I'm more interested in what these elders did as kids (some signed up as preteens).


Post a Comment

<< Home