by Peter Wix


The Year of the Cock, Arguing Hungarian immigrants.

Good Mourning– Herta Nyström (2011)
A nordic Jules et Jim, and the third feature produced according to the Tjärnö 09 manifesto, strictly observing the principle of “temporal and geographical alienation” as the golden rule of Tj09 moviemaking. Knowing this, however, is not essential to enjoying this homage to bucolic joys, triangular love, and life in the slowest lane. It is perhaps the best Swedish film since the days of Bergman. Gunner and Karin spend winter away from their city lives after failing to prove that their dog- hating neighbour was the poisoner of their beloved canine, Ing. They choose an isolated spot, a cabin by a frozen lake, and are content to, beg your pardon, chill for a while. Then out of the woods comes Johann, complete with realist magic and the secrets of time. He teaches a special kind of forgetting, and urges his hosts for the winter to cease to be the people they have grown to be. Through his methods, he claims, they will not only understand that forgetting is more important than remembering but also acquire the power to hold influence over all kinds of people, an art the three hasten to practice — to varying degrees of success and hilarity — on the locals of the nearest village. The constantly revealed beauty in the sights and sounds of frozen nature give Nyström the kind of impressive aesthetic authority that every storyteller would consider an advantage.            9/10
Good Mourning, Nyström’s Nordic haunter. Peter Wix

Good Mourning, Nyström’s Nordic haunter. Peter Wix

Sunderland Flying Boat — Vernon Lewis-Thomas (2012)
Maverick tycoons are a rare and forbidding breed of human. If movie treatments of them can be relied upon (The Great Gatsby, Citizen Kane, The Aviator…), only unlucky fools would come under their influence, even for a brief spell. That they can literally hijack the lives of people was a tale never told until Lewis-Thomas decided to follow-up his excellent debut feature There Were the Kind (2007) with this epic four year, now Oscar-bound project based on the 2003 Burn Ifield book, Lives for Sale. Ifield was the octogenarian ex-actor who claimed his and other identities were purchased and transformed under contract by eccentric millionaire Charles Booker Webster. Though the story took almost six decades to come to light, Ifield’s book related how famous art buyer Webster took eleven guests up on a foggy night in the early 1940s in a Short S.25 Sunderland flying boat he had adapted as a novel airborne cinema. The plane disappeared and the mystery lingered until Ifield’s revelation that all 11 guests were propositioned by Webster: live the rest of your lives with other identities but as millionaires, and under the threat of instant execution for incompliance of any of the contract’s bizarre stipulations. Lewis-Thomas has excelled himself again, which next year’s Oscar roll will surely confirm. His first master-stroke was rejecting Di Caprio for the role of Webster, for which the actor was rumoured to be prepared “to kill”. Unknown John Sheppard could not be more convincing as the altogether weird advertising magnate. Veteran stage actor Kyle Phelon is also wonderful as the Svengali-like nephew of Sigmund Freud, Edward Bernays, who carries the all-important sub-plot through which the director stresses the power of this man in shaping the 20th century. Cinematographer Elias Rudecrow, who worked on Tarkovsky’s last two features, used as many light sources as possible to film the suburban winter scenes in NYC, and apparently spent more than 18 days working on his awe-inspiring, romantic, and conceptual figures in fog sequences. A masterpiece, all of it, including Tim Horn’s beautiful, phantasmagorical score.            10/10
West is Free— Xavier Martin (2012)
Early in in West is Free, Xavier Martin’s teasing documentary comparison of lifestyle values between Western democracies and autocratically governed societies, a Spanish banker complains about the quality of service in a restaurant he has frequented for ten years. The bill for his table, at which he has entertained two banking colleagues, comes to nearly £2,000. Dissatisfied, he calls the manager and so successfully insists on a discount that he is asked to pay for just the wine, so fearful was the business of losing one of its regular customers. The next day, Martin’s cameras show us the tragic scenes of a flat eviction ordered by this very same banker. A distraught family of Slovene immigrants are muscled into the street by the police, while the grandfather of the group stands on a chair to make an eloquent speech in a language few around him understand. Translated, his eloquent and dramatically delivered discourse about the old days under the Socialist Federalist Republic of Yugoslavia serves Martin as the basis for a daring, colourfully filmed, and hugely poetic overview of a contest that makes it seem that only a toughly disputed points decision could settle this one. From the outset, we are taken on a journey of often shocking contrasts and, memorably, to the past courtesy of previously unreleased footage shot by the director’s own uncle and, amazingly, his grandfather, documenting startling scenes from the Spanish Civil War, Stalinist Gulag camps, race riots in Birmingham, Alabama, and WWII. Indeed, British domestic life during the latter conflict is studied through, among other gems, a series of also unseen interviews with war wives side by side with their US soldier lovers. It is long, at 3 hrs 45 mins, but never dull, rocking back and forth between past and present, west and east, and if it were not for the endorsements from serious historians, one would have to wonder whether much of the work here were not completely phoney. It seems, nevertheless, to have the weight of authenticity and, owing to a growing collection of awards, the authority to start many a debate in historical academia. Indispensable viewing.             10/10
The Year of the Cock — Raymond Ti-Sai (2012)
Sex and drugs and R ‘n’ R in Thailand, and a true story. Part of the longer documentary series — which I do recommend if you can find it — 24 Hours East of Java. Dick, aptly named you’ll see, faces a rather complicated Valentine’s night, dealing with his various lovers. Somewhat slow-paced for the subject matter, but it’s a long night.           8/10
The Year of the Cock, Arguing Hungarian immigrants.

The Year of the Cock, Arguing Hungarian immigrants.

Two Soldiers — Yasin Aziz (2006)
A simple story told by simple means about the impact of the invasion of Iraq on the lives of ordinary folk in Baghdad. The recreation of the city in a naïf shadow animation style brings poetry from a war-torn landscape and common sense from a complex and twisted social and political panorama. Rather than dwell on the historical rights and wrongs of Middle Eastern or US policy decisions, Two Soldiers focuses on how hard it will be for the next generation of Iraqis to grow within a society that now holds only the bitterest memories. Alone in a house he shared with his two now missing elder brothers, Ihab survives thanks to daily gifts of bread and pies. His investigation of the origin of this sustenance will lead him to a terrible surprise. Allegorical and tender, this hits the spot.              9/10
Great Invisible — Karen Short (2010)
A little undistributed gem that fantasises on what would have become of Maria, Robert Jordan’s love from For Whom the Bell Tolls, once the Spanish Civil War ended and, of course, after Jordan’s death alongside the bridge he had so heroically helped to blow. Made on a low budget, Short leaves Hemingway-isms aside and gives us a Fassbinder-sparse description of the life of a spinster in the lean years of the Franco dictatorship. Subtle, delicate, and moving. It’s impossible to find, however.  9/10

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