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Pier Paolo Pasolini (#110 of 9)

Toronto International Film Festival 2014 Pasolini, Tales, & Don’t Go Breaking My Heart 2

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Toronto International Film Festival 2014: Pasolini, Tales, & Don’t Go Breaking My Heart 2
Toronto International Film Festival 2014: Pasolini, Tales, & Don’t Go Breaking My Heart 2

Abel Ferrara’s Pasolini may not be the finest film playing at Toronto this year, but this wholly unconventional biopic manages to stick in the brain like few I’ve seen so far. Taking for its subject only the last day of Pier Paolo Pasolini’s life, the film should, by normal generic conventions, be nothing more than foreshadowing for Pasolini’s grisly murder. Instead, it’s almost defiantly banal, focused on the simple tasks of making art, such as reviewing rushes, typing and revising copy, and workshopping ideas with peers and loved ones. In terms of commitment and research and all the other method trappings that turn real lives into showboating for actors, Willem Dafoe brings little more than his slight resemblance to Pasolini, an extraordinarily freeing decision that, in classic Ferrara style, deliberately foregrounds the actor’s own identity along with the character’s, making plain the work of acting just as the film itself looks at the other elements of artistic production.

FIDMarseille: Festival International de Cinéma 2013

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FIDMarseille: Festival International de Cinéma 2013
FIDMarseille: Festival International de Cinéma 2013

Film festivals are limited by the juicy premieres secured by their directors and the quality of their programmers. They’re also frequently the only places to view films that would rarely be seen otherwise. Highlights of this year’s FIDMarseille included works that traveled beyond the European continent in search of lost (and unknown) connections, as well as those made beyond the shadow of Euro-American art cinema, notably in the Philippines. But first, to Africa.

Last year’s FIDMarseille opened with Miguel Gomes’s critically acclaimed Tabu. Gomes is one of several contemporary Portuguese filmmakers to use his country’s colonial past as a mirror held up to its present. João Viana’s The Battle of Tabatô superficially resembles Tabu (it’s shot in black and white in a former Portuguese colony in Africa), but the similarities end there. Where Gomes’s introspection into the contemporary legacies of Portuguese colonization in Lisbon and an unnamed African country largely follows Portuguese characters, Viana’s cast is entirely of African origin and his story is set in contemporary Guinea-Bissau, in West Africa. Thirty-odd years after Guinea-Bissau’s 1974 war of independence, an older man, a veteran of a native militia used by the Portuguese to fight against their countrymen, is unable to come to terms with his residual trauma from that experience. Having recently returned to his homeland from Portugal for his daughter’s wedding, he becomes emotionally overwhelmed and accidentally kills her during a psychotic episode. At this point, the film deteriorates, falling back on a narrative device no less tedious than Gomes’s colonial-era Portuguese hipsters screwing and playing rock n’ roll in the jungle—here, though, we’re in the company of an abstracted “African culture,” which, in the case of the villagers with whom the film concludes, involves playing traditional music as an alternative to killing one another. This is a compelling concept, but one that’s disconnected from the film’s otherwise stark aesthetic and critical perspective. It’s an easy and somewhat cheap ending for what begins as an original take on the legacy of Portuguese colonialism in a country that has produced few prominent filmmakers of its own.

If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Diego Costa’s Top 10 Films of All Time

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If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Diego Costa’s Top 10 Films of All Time
If I Had a Sight & Sound Film Ballot: Diego Costa’s Top 10 Films of All Time

I can identify two elements common to the films that ended up on this list. They are either about feminine suffering and/or about the impossibility of language to ever quite translate feeling. The criteria which I came up with for this impossible, unfair, and incredibly fun assignment involved remembering the films that led me to think “This is one of the best films ever made” at the time I first saw them, and which, upon a re-screening, several years later, remained just as remarkable—perhaps for different reasons. Also part of the criteria was my (failed) attempt at not repeating directors, and making a conscious effort to go against a cinematic “affirmative action” that would try to represent different periods of time, countries, and genres. It’s also mind-boggling to notice how half of the list includes films made in the mid 1970s. But the list escapes traditional logic. It’s the warping, re-signifying logic of affect and memory that architected this list, which turns out to be nothing short of this cinephile’s symptom.