Thursday, July 23, 2009

Lucha - Movie Review

By Moira Sullivan

The audience award for the best short film at the Frameline 33 LGBT Film Festival in San Francisco which ran last month went to Maria Breaux director and producer of Lucha, who wrote the screenplay together with Tina D'Elia. The beauty of a short film is that when it is well made everything is there which represents the intention of the filmmaker. Such is the case for Lucha. Lucha in Spanish means "to struggle". Filmed in San Francisco and El Salvador Lucha is the story of two women in love during this time of civil war: Lucha played by Eloisa Ramos and Isabella played by Maria Carolina Morales A. In what is probably their last day together Lucha and Isaibella comfort themselves by fantasizing about the war being over in their life in a spacious home by the sea. Lucha is committed to arm struggle. Her tough exterior is also shown in her inability to be vulnerable to Isabella in love scenes that are symbolic of how difficult it was to be in love in El Salvador in 1982. Shots of an El Salvador is peace are inserted with a grainy Super 8 feel of better times. Contemplative photography and editing by Angela Hudson and an insightful music score by Amal Kouttab contribute to Lucha’s excellence. Lucha is a film that shows the beauty and sadness of two women in love during a war that crushed their dreams. The film will be screened at the art gallery Femina Potens (San Francisco) on August 7th for Open Eyes: Queer Film Night. Here now is Maria Breaux and Tina D'Elia who gave an exclusive interview to Movie Magazine about their film. (Interview follows).

Movie Magazine International

© 2009 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 07/22/09
Movie Magazine International

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Seraphine - Movie Review

By Moira Sullivan

Séraphine is the story of a gifted self-taught painter who lived in France from 1864 to 1942 and who got her inspiration from God. Yolande Moreau received a Cesar award as best actress of 2009 for her brilliant performance as Séraphine. Séraphine de Senlis is a middle aged plumb woman who dresses in blue, and who works at various odd jobs in people’s homes who treat her badly. That doesn’t seem to interfere with her mission to create, even when she is behind in her rent for two months. A sign on the door: "Mme Séraphine is not taking visitors" takes care of persistent creditors. Safe behind locked doors she paints and while she paints she sings religious hymns. And she spends her time in nature hugging and climbing trees and picking flowers.

One day a man arrives as a tenant for a summer place and Séraphine is asked to clean up after him. He turns out to be the reputable art collector and critic, William Udhe, played by Ulrich Tukur and who takes an interest in her paintings. Her artwork centers on painting flowers, flowers that almost seem alive, and her paints are made from natural products that she mixes herself on wooden panes bought at a village shop.

After this meeting with Udhe the film takes on the familiar momentum of an extraordinary climb from rags to riches, but not quite. The local art critics and town people bestow patronizing accolades on Séraphine's work but in time she is compared to Henri Rousseau. All this doesn’t seem to interest her. But after receiving pittances from employers, Séraphine expresses interest in all kinds of luxurious items and buys some of them too, charging them to Udhe. Her list of demands grows but she is beginning to prosper during the financial crisis of the 1930s. She wants a show, and a house, but the time is not right. One wonders if she had been a man if that show would not have materialized. Alas this setback takes her over the edge and she is institutionalized.

One cannot also help wonder if her working class circumstances and religious piety just as her gender are more than tremendous odds against her for the friendship with Udhe is a stroke of luck. Director Martin Provost poetically frames this odd companionship. His eye for detail in capturing the every day life of Séraphine is contemplative and realistic and for this careful attention the film also won Cesars for best picture screenplay, cinematography, production, costume design and music. The awards however do not convey the preciousness of this forgotten artist, brought to life through Yolande Moreau.

© 2009 - Moira Sullivan - Air Date: 07/08/09
Movie Magazine International

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Big Man Japan - Movie Review

By Purple

If you're starting to get burnt out on Hollywood superhero movies, then take a chance and step into a theater showing "Big Man Japan". While the basic premise may remind you of last years Will Smith's down and out hero "Hancock", "Big Man Japan" moves far away from the Hollywood formula and delivers a sentimental superhero story smothered in strange.

Hitoshi Matsumoto is the co-writer, director and star of "Big Man Japan" and he shares his unique vision with a deadpan delivery that makes you laugh and yet ultimately feel sorry for Japan's current generation of hero. The movie is told from a low-budget handheld camera perspective, where a reality TV camera crew follows around "Big Man Japan" in his civilian identity during his off time.

The slow pacing is a bit erratic, and at first you may wonder just what the point of the movie is about, as we're exposed to the dull, monotonous and lonely life of this seemingly un-ambitious slacker type, who fills his day with hanging out in parks, eating Super Noodles, and tending to one of his many cats in his worn down apartment. And then our hero gets a call, and it's off to the action, as fast as his underpowered moped will take him.

In Big Man Japan's world, there's a never-ending stream of ridiculous monsters that come out of the woodwork to mess with the cities of Japan, and whereas in years before, defending the country gained the hero's grandfather fame, wealth and respect, the modern day hero receives taunts and disdain from the public, who can barely be bothered to tune into the late-night broadcasts that depict Big Man Japan's latest battles.

Once the action kicks in and we meet "Big Man Japan" in all his glory, the film throws at us a traditional "Godzilla" like fight scenes with computer generated menaces that are as funny as they are strange. For example there's the Strapping Monster, a bizarre monster that looks like a segmented worm with a man's face and a comb-over. And then the dreaded Stink Monster that "Big Man Japan" tries to stop from loitering in a downtown section, only to wrestle with the stink monsters over-excited mate.

If you need to satisfy your smug intellectual side, you can look at the cultural commentary interwoven into "Big Man Japan", and debate with your enlightened friends about the meaning of the Red faced devil that seems to wear down Japan's hero and argue that its supposed to represent Japan's own political rivals of China or North Korea, but then that would lead into further discussion about the role of the shiny red, white and blue descendants from the "Ultraman" family that step into the movie's closing scenes to save the day. Or you could just sit back and enjoy the lo-fi wrestlers in rubber suit antics that the movie de-evolves to; bringing you back to the days of the creature double features, where you can have a laugh at the imported insanity and enjoy the ride. In any case it's worth sticking around through the credits where our last glimpse of "Big Man Japan" is as the unfortunate guest caught in the middle of
the weirdest family dinner scene you'll see in a movie this year.

Glad that there's room for movies like "Big Man Japan" in our country for Movie Magazine, this is Purple.

© 2009 - Purple - Air Date: 5/27/09
Movie Magazine International

The Apostle - Movie Review

By Monica Sullivan

I once knew a character who joined a monastery to atone for his sins. The notion of making peace with the people he had hurt didn't occur to him. I thought he was full of hooey & wasn't surprised when he left the monastery to start a 'new' life with an entirely different cast of supporting players. Not long into the 134 minute running time of "The Apostle," Texas Preacher Euliss Dewey (Robert Duvall) commits a vicious and inexcusable act. He vanishes from the scene of the crime & passes himself off as Apostle E.F. in Bayou Boutte, Louisiana. He works as a mechanic so that he can have free air time over the radio to start a new ministry & soon assembles enough followers for a new church, "The One Way Road To Heaven."

While he's gaining the love and respect of the Louisiana congregation, he learns about the consequences of his behavior back home. E.F. stays put and preaches and preaches and preaches until the end of the movie, right into the credits. Society forces him to pay for what he did, & the press kit says that he has found redemption, but I didn't buy it. He hurt people and he hurt those who loved the people he hurt & all the evangelistic hot air in Louisiana isn't a self-inflicted penance for what he did in Texas, although it plays that way. As an actor, Robert Duvall has few peers. As a writer/director...well, this IS his film & it says what he wants it to say. I believed in the sincerity of E.F.'s followers, but I didn't believe in his redemption for as long as it takes to bat an eyelash. Farrah Fawcett and Miranda Richardson are outstanding as wife Jessie & lady friend, Toosie, & so is Duvall in the title role, although they're all here strictly to serve the plot, such as it is. "The Apostle" gets four bones for its performances and the rating above overall, at least for this viewer.

© 2009 - Monica Sullivan - Air Date: 07/03/09
Movie Magazine International