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La última Película (#110 of 2)

Art of the Real 2014: The Second Game, La Última Película, Castanha, & Bloody Beans

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Art of the Real 2014: <em>The Second Game</em>, <em>La Última Película</em>, <em>Castanha</em>, & <em>Bloody Beans</em>
Art of the Real 2014: <em>The Second Game</em>, <em>La Última Película</em>, <em>Castanha</em>, & <em>Bloody Beans</em>

In The Second Game, filmmaker Corneliu Porumboiu and his father sit down to watch an old analog tape of a soccer match that the father refereed in 1988, one year before the toppling of Nicolae Ceaușescu. We stare with them at the fuzzy television screen for 76 minutes, the duration of the match on which they comment. The documentary, part of the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s “Art of the Real” series, is an autobiographical meditation on memory, but also an off-handed treatment on the nature of film. At one point, Porumboiu’s father remarks that the match is like a film (Porumboiu’s, or perhaps films in general): “You watch and nothing happens.” But, of course, in this sly, multilayered haunting of the past, very much happens when nothing does.

Firstly, there’s the grim fascination of watching a match without sound; it becomes a silent ballet of players indistinguishable to most viewers, a reminder that soccer, like history, creates very localized allegiances. On the field, the visibility is awful as snow trickles down, yet devout fans fill the stands, partly because this is no ordinary game: The two minor-league teams are backed by dueling factions, the communist military police and the army, a tag of war in which Porumboiu’s father, who refused to let either team buy the results, stands as a cautious, politic mediator. Offering a soccer match as a metaphor for a fallen system that transformed sports into nationalistic pageantry of pride and honor, while secretly rigging games—and, politics—behind its citizens’ backs, The Second Game turns an ordinary, nostalgic gesture into a self-reflexive time capsule.

Viennale 2013 Stray Dogs, La Última Pelicula, The Fifth Gospel of Kaspar Hauser, Sto Lyko, & More

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Viennale 2013: Stray Dogs, Joys of Cádiz, La Última Pelicula, The Fifth Gospel of Kaspar Hauser, Sto Lyko, From Gulf to Gulf to Gulf, & More
Viennale 2013: Stray Dogs, Joys of Cádiz, La Última Pelicula, The Fifth Gospel of Kaspar Hauser, Sto Lyko, From Gulf to Gulf to Gulf, & More

As a kind of “festival of festivals,” the Viennale is one of the most esteemed fixtures in the world-cinema circuit. Positioned at the back end of October, the festival is able to showcase the strongest titles that have previously premiered elsewhere. Two such titles spotlighted during its 51st edition rank among the year’s finest films: Albert Serra’s Story of My Death, which I’d seen three times in four days at Locarno in August, and Tsai Ming-liang’s Stray Dogs, an altogether different kind of epic that was also shot on digital. Telling the simple tale of a Taiwanese family’s spiral into homelessness and despair, the film manages to be emotionally and intellectually engaging despite and because of its characters’ teasingly suggestive backstory. It boasts one arresting image after another, its unusual camera angles showing people trudging through some of the most strikingly disorienting architectural or other spaces since The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and it’s boosted mightily by Lee Kang-sheng’s central performance. As a father of two who makes his living by standing at a crossroads every day holding an advertisement, Lee is an intense ball of simmering hurt.