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Certified Copy (#110 of 25)

Cannes Film Festival 2013: The Past Review

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Cannes Film Festival 2013: <em>The Past</em> Review
Cannes Film Festival 2013: <em>The Past</em> Review

Just like many of his fellow countrymen, including compatriot Abbas Kiarostami, Iranian filmmaker Asghar Farhadi has been forced to ply his trade outside his homeland’s borders under threat of government intervention. Whatever the logistics, however, Farhadi’s latest domestic drama, The Past, while produced in France, is a seamless translation of both his stylistic and thematic sensibilities. Farhadi arrived on an international level with 2011’s A Separation, a typically knotty character study which netted awards all the way from festivals to the Academy. He’d done similar, equally compelling work prior to his breakthrough (2009’s About Elly stands as arguably his strongest film), but with an increased eye on Middle Eastern cinema in the wake of Kiarostami’s Certified Copy and the jailing of the more radical, uncompromising Jafar Panahi, coupled with the film’s heart-tugging narrative, A Separation arrived at an opportune time for his country’s rise to international cinematic prominence. The Past parlays this goodwill with even more wide-reaching potential, extending Farhadi’s streak of strong work while cementing him as one of world cinema’s most universal storytellers.

New York Film Festival 2012: Like Someone In Love

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New York Film Festival 2012: <em>Like Someone In Love</em>
New York Film Festival 2012: <em>Like Someone In Love</em>

Of all the extant versions of the popular Jimmy Van Heusen/Johnny Burke American songbook standard “Like Someone In Love,” filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami goes with the Ella Fitzgerald version from 1957, playing the song twice throughout his new film of the same name. As ever, the divine Ella brings a thrillingly immaculate richness of voice to the song, enhanced by Frank De Vol’s lush full-orchestra arrangement surrounding her. In short, it oozes passionate yearning, which, by stark contrast, isn’t the quality one would take away from Kiarostami’s film. If anything, the emphasis in Like Someone In Love is on the “like” rather than on the “love.”

Whereas his last film, Certified Copy, managed an airy quality that elevated his intellectual concerns with authenticity or the lack of it in art and life into something genuinely soulful and sensual, this Japan-set, Japanese-language follow-up reworks those concerns into something just as visually scintillating but ultimately more downbeat. Instead of a quarrelling couple-that-may-or-may-not-actually-be-a-couple, there’s a young college student, Akiko (Rin Takanashi), who, through her side gig as a high-class escort, meets an elderly writer/translator/former college professor, Takashi (Tadashi Okuno). And the scenic Italian countryside of Certified Copy has given way to Tokyo’s chilly, impersonal metropolis.

Cannes Film Festival 2012: Like Someone In Love

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Cannes Film Festival 2012: <em>Like Someone In Love</em>
Cannes Film Festival 2012: <em>Like Someone In Love</em>

Continuing the international road show he began with Certified Copy, Iranian filmmaker Abbas Kiarostami transplants his customary techniques to the soil of Japanese culture with unquestionable success. Kiarostami’s latest plays polyphonies on the twin themes of simulation and dissimulation. Named after an Ella Fitzgerald torch song heard on the soundtrack, an equally appropriate alternative title would have been It’s Only Make Believe. Characters in Like Someone In Love step into various roles as whim and necessity dictate. What at first seems ingenuous, and even playful, grows progressively darker and more ominous, until the shattering finale reveals exactly what the stakes have been in this particular game. Like Someone In Love may bear some of the superficial markings of a comedy, even a romantic comedy Kiarostami-style, but make no mistake, by its final moments the film becomes a startling dissection of masculine jealousy and the capacity for violence.

Cannes Film Festival 2012: Amour

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Cannes Film Festival 2012: <em>Amour</em>
Cannes Film Festival 2012: <em>Amour</em>

About halfway through Michael Haneke’s Amour, septuagenarian Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) describes the deteriorating health of his ailing wife, Anne (Emmanuelle Riva), in terms that convey a bone-chilling, because universal, relevance: “Things will go downhill, then it’ll all be over.” Welcome to your future, everyone. What’s most surprising of all, then, is that, despite its death-haunted demeanor and foregone conclusion (revealed in the very first scene), this is easily Haneke’s most humane film. Grounded by heartbreakingly poignant performances from two of French cinema’s most iconic actors, Amour contains none of the moralistic finger-wagging and gratuitous sadism that so many critics have found off-putting in the director’s work. (Though I must admit that I am, by and large, an admirer of his films.) Confined almost entirely to Georges and Anne’s apartment, Amour attends the escalating consequences when Anne suffers a stroke that paralyzes half her body. Haneke handles the material with his usual clinical detachment and precision, the camera (like Georges) observing dispassionately, but never exploitatively, while nurses bath Anne and change her diapers. The only tonal misstep, and it’s a rather slight one at that, occurs with two scenes involving a pigeon that invades their apartment (shades of Reality’s cricket!). These scenes objectify the film’s themes of entrapment and release a trifle too handily.

Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Picture

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Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Picture
Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Picture

Anyone who’s invested in the preposterous hoopla of Oscarology has suffered at least one headache while poring over the Academy’s explanation-resistant math. So to ensure you needn’t have the Excedrin within reach, let’s keep the voting blather to a minimum and focus on what seem to be the most pivotal factors in this year’s top race. First of all, as was the case in the past two years, a solid, conventional roster of five movies has emerged, despite a field that welcomes additional contenders (for the headache-free unwashed, those five are The Artist, The Descendants, The Help, Hugo, and Midnight in Paris). No pundit in the game will tell you those huggable favorites aren’t done deals, so best to nudge them aside and hurry along.

Adjusted rules allow anywhere from five to 10 nominees to fight it out for Best Picture, and to test the new system, the Academy held mock recounts for every race over the past decade. Results were scattered, and many years produced more than five finalists, but none were able to pack the entire slate (ergo, fewer sore thumbs like The Blind Side dirtying up the ballot, to say the least). It’s conceivable, then, that this year won’t go 10-wide either, and the recounts help to justify an eight-nominee total that’s felt just right for weeks. There are those who’ll tell you the ironclad quintet is as far as the field will go, just as there are those who’ll say preferential voting isn’t all that different than it’s always been. But if one is to accept conventional wisdom that first-place rankings are especially crucial, and that movies have to battle especially hard to join the elite pack, then predictions come down to which films seem believable as voters’ picks for 2011’s tip-top.

Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Original Screenplay

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Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Original Screenplay
Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Original Screenplay

Historically a haven for the quirk, verve, and humor that can’t quite crack the tougher races, the Original Screenplay category will openly welcome a movie like Bridesmaids, which may have a fiery fanbase and a sure shot at Supporting Actress, but isn’t about to compete in Best Picture, no matter how hard the mainstream dreamers squint their eyes and pray. The script nom might strike some as a snub-amending bone-throw to a buzz-building comedy, but Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo actually deserve to be in contention for their dialogue-driven hit (unlike The Hangover, another R-rated giggler with Best Pic whispers, to which Bridesmaids is belittlingly compared). Still, pink-clad comediennes with volatile bowels are bound to be outclassed by Midnight in Paris, the Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice victor that’s all set to squeeze another gold man onto Woody Allen’s crowded mantle.

Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Actress

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Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Actress
Oscar 2012 Nomination Predictions: Actress

If you want a good cross-section of Oscar habits, look no further than this year’s top five candidates for Best Actress. In Michelle Williams, you have the eternally baity case of star playing star, and this time the star being played just might be history’s brightest. In Tilda Swinton, you have a classic case of Academy catch-up, wherein voters nominate a brilliant talent for minor work as a means to remedy past snubs. Category fraud is exemplified by Viola Davis, whose push as a leading star is, admittedly, a falsity of the filmmakers and not of any voting body, but who should nevertheless be considered as supporting. In Glenn Close, there’s you’re wholly undeserving knee-jerk nominee, armed with a shameless checklist of Oscar-y draws like gender-bending, homosexuality, uglification, makeup effects, period details, decades-long commitment, and “past-due” desperation. And as for Meryl Streep, well, she’s an Oscar habit in and of herself, isn’t she?

Slant’s Top 25 Films of 2011

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Slant’s Top 25 Films of 2011
Slant’s Top 25 Films of 2011

From Nick Schager’s introduction to Slant Magazine’s Top 25 Films of 2011: “The auteurs had it in 2011, which delivered such a feast of fantastic domestic and international cinema that it’s difficult to remember a year in which it was harder to compile a consensus Top 25. Nonetheless, best-of-year rankings wait for no critic, and our list is practically overflowing with films by young and old masters at the apex of their games, be it Terrence Malick’s sumptuous spiritual odyssey The Tree of Life, Edward Yang’s long-unreleased 1991 classic A Brighter Summer Day, or Abbas Kiarostami’s formalist masterwork Certified Copy.” Click here to read the feature and see if your favorite films of the year made our list. And see below for a list of the films that just missed making it onto our list, followed by our contributors’ individual ballots. Happy reading.

São Paulo International Film Festival 2011: Innocent Saturday, The Waves, Look at Me Again, This Is Not a Film, & Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

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São Paulo International Film Festival 2011: Innocent Saturday, The Waves, Look at Me Again, This Is Not a Film, & Once Upon a Time in Anatolia
São Paulo International Film Festival 2011: Innocent Saturday, The Waves, Look at Me Again, This Is Not a Film, & Once Upon a Time in Anatolia

Many wonderful photographers that work with a moving camera use it to make movement seem light and graceful, as though the characters are dancing (Agnès Godard comes immediately to mind); the great Romanian cinematographer Oleg Mutu, by contrast, makes movement seem bulky and blocky. In films like The Death of Mr. Lazarescu and My Joy, his herks and jerks call attention to the weight of the camera as his subjects stumble, doubly emphasizing the difficulty of moving forward. He’s a good satirist of post-Communist societies, in other words; he’s also very gifted at working with 35mm, whose texture often makes the objects register with more detail than digital video does. This is especially true for Mutu’s preferred color palette, a mix of nighttime blacks and muddy browns that wrestle each other for light.

Photographed by Mutu, Aleksandr Mindadze’s Innocent Saturday, set in 1986, shows a young man running, then playing music and drinking, in order to avoid looking at the Chernobyl nuclear explosion. Many shots show him racing across the city; others show him fighting other men, the camera focusing on flailing hands and arms. Yet it ultimately adds up to a lot of nasty hysteria; it sprinkles the Chernobyl disaster in around the young man’s encounters with his friends and girlfriend as if to try to thrill the viewer with the spectacle of real-life disaster.