Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Portrait of a Difficult Film to Watch

Okay, I just saw some more CIFF stuff, so here's the scoop.

I saw the last part of Live and Become, a story about an Etheopian kid whose mother send him to Isreal to pose as a Jew in order to escape the harsh environment that is the gangland territory of his home. I only walked into this because I thought I was seeing the last few shorts form 32 short films about Glenn Gould, but I was so sucked into this movie instantly. The performances, the story and the cinematography were just spectacular. The only thing that sucked was there weren't any ballots left, so I couldn't vote on this one.

Then I saw Portrait of a Lady from Far Away. All I can think is that somehow I missed something. The film started super abruptly with the subtitles a little low to read what the hell this lady was saying. Then it started to make some sense. This guy who has a really loud modem on his PC connects to his son who is apparently flying out to see him and his grandparents. Then he checks his phone messages and recieves a really creepy message about a woman trying to kill herself without much concern. Then he has a moment at his parent's where we learn that smoking kills anyone who wants to be a poet. Then he slowly heads to this woman's house, finds the key under the mat at the front door and just as he's poking about taking care to turn off the bathtub faucet and hang up the phone(stealing the dice) we get a hilarious scene where this guy gives a man on oxygen a drag of his cigarette while he plays with his life and jerry rigs the O2 tank to work without having to hold this silly knob. So then this woman shows up and starts telling him about her friend and you know from there on that she's really the woman on the phone message, but she won't admit it at first. Then he goes to an art show with her where all sorts of stuff is set on fire and we learn about some singer that maybe this guy used to know. They leave, he goes to see his son at the airport and gets annoyed with the japOnese people. Then the woman jumps off of some building after going to a rehearsal in an empty theater and doing vocal excercises in arabic. Then the film gets weird(yeah I know). It starts showing some clip of this lady on videotape talking about her singing career and then the man starts looking for the young girl again and can't find her, but he keeps getting a phone call from her and she won't talk to him and so he starts explaining how he knew this singer lady(perhaps the one from the video) and she couldn't sing because she smoked too much and got fat and so he kept having to save her by taking her to the hospital whenever she threatened to kill herself and then one day he took the wrong route on purpose and she died. Then the young girl is in the car in front of him on her phone crying (a moment neblinoso and I recreated in her parking lot to much laughter I mean tears). Anyhow, there was something to do with some building and something else to do with some little kid and a gypsy lady(she was the one that rolled the dice to get his phone number... ooo.. creepy), but basically part way through the art show, I got lost and never figured it out again. Great poem by the dude's dad while he bitched about smoking too much and good images with the projected video of the old lady when she was younger as the screen was set on fire, but other than that, I doubt the film was worth this long post.


neblinoso said...

i've been thinking about this film all day, trying to make sense of it, and the more i read about it and try to understand it, the more it grows on me. there are definite themes of death/pace of life, dreams, chance, and art, however they are just kind of thrown all together, leaving you confused.

this film reminds me a little of Steve Erickson, a magnificent writer of apocalyptic tales woven through past, present, and future that converge at catastrophic events. The film also had a david lynch feel, with the manifestation of the dream spirit, and the recurring themes of loss in multiple characters: singer loses voice/fame, father loses poetic voice (both of these are caused by smoking), and the actress cannot find her voice. Perhaps the young actress was the singer's spirit, come back to give ahmed another chance to save a life he lost. i mean, how many real people can jump off a building and still be okay? i like the notion of the actress's existence being a product of the old singer's dreams. without her, the actress does not exist, and without the actress, ahmed's secret past stays buried and grows inside him like the cancer so many of the other characters physically endure. there was also the juxtaposition in the art installation, bringing past and present together with the photos of the two separate women.

the other interesting, yet confusing/annoying part of the film was the sound. the constant cell phone/sirens ringing and the abrubt way the music often stopped at the height of a crescendo. i thought that maybe the sound was some clue as to whether what we were seeing was reality or part of some dream, but i couldn't grasp any solid connection.

also, i read somewhere that this film is reminiscent of a classic iranian novel called, "the blind owl" by Sadegh Hedayat. sounds like an interesting read. here's the wikipedia synopsis of the book.

...and here are some other reviews of the film

neblinoso said...

btw...nice title (ha!)