26 February 2007

The Amphibian Man (Человек Анфибия ), Russia, 1961

Forget Batman, Superman and all the other super heroes you have known for many years... the Amphibian Man is the real thing! Well, not exactly. At least it was in the former Soviet Union, back in the sixties. This movie, based on a novel by famous Russian writer Alexander Belyaev, tells the story of a young man who can breathe underwater, and so he gets to be called the amphibian man. The movie holds the record in the box office of Soviet movie theaters.

It is your average low budget science fiction movie, only even more low budget thanks to the Soviet special effects crew, whatever that was. Our hero meets Guitare (that would a woman's name) and falls in love. You see, he feels lonely. He lives in a mansion on the top a hill only with his father, a famous scientist, who by the way was the person who operated him as a kid, removing one of his lungs and replacing it with fish gills. It all happens in a strange country (perhaps Cuba, telling from the signs in the streets). More than science fiction it is a romantic story for children. There is dancing and singing, and our hero the Amphibian man does anything he can to keep Guitare by his side. Of course Guitare is about to get married to a rich guy, Don Pedro (yes, that is also the name of a cheap Mexican brandy).

As usual in most Soviet movies, there is a hint of hidden but easy to perceive propagandistic ideology; the Amphibian man goes to town until to come across the "greedy" fish merchant who won't give fish to the poor, while his father the scientist is trying to create an underwater world where there'd be no rich nor poor and everyone would be equal. Does it sound familiar? It is funny because it is too obvious, but I was overall surprised by the DVD transfer; the colors are rich and clear. If you want to discover what science fiction looked like back in the communist Russia, this is a definitely a classic not be missed.
79th Academy Awards

This year I am happy that the German film "The Life of Others" won the Oscar for best foreign language film. However, it's a shame that "Babel" did not win more Oscars.

21 February 2007

The Life of Others (Das Leben der Anderen) Germany, 2006

Poet and playwright Georg Dreyman and his girlfriend, the actress Christa Maria Sieland, lead a successful life in former East German. Sooner than later, the Stasi (State Security) officials begin suspecting Dreyman; he is way too perfect, and he must be hiding something. Hiding what exactly? We never know, but back in those days, almost anything that was not approved by the Communist government was considered suspicious and even illegal. The government places hidden microphones all over Georg's appartment, and he is monitored night and day until they find out he has plans to publish an article in a West German magazine. Nevertheless, the official who finds out about his is too touched by what he is discovering, and perhaps out of pity starts to protect him by reporting lies and hiding Georg's real plans. The movie is extremely well cast. All actors deserve an award here, and the story structure is remarkable, as well as the music score. The is a very intelligent movie that portrays the atrocities committed during the Communist regimes in many Eastern European countries. Little is known abut this period of history, but this movie will surely help bring some attention to this topic.

04 February 2007

Das Doppelleben von Veronika (La Double Vie de Véronique), Frankreich (1991)

Warum ist Krysztof Kieswlowski eigentlich so berühmt? Ich stimme ihnen nicht zu, wenn die Kritiker behaupten, dieser Film sei ein Meisterstück. Meiner Meinung nach ist das nicht der Fall. Hier geht es um eine Frau, die gleichzeitig in zwei Städten wohnt: Die eine in Paris und die andere in Warschau. Die Pariserin, Véronique, ist von Beruf Fotografin. Als sie nach Polen reist, fotografiert sie auf einem Platz zufällig die andere Frau, Weronika. Zurück zu Hause merkt Véronique ihre Doppelgängerin auf dem Foto. Dann später bekommt sie einen Brief, auf dem steht, sie sollte einen unbekannten Mann treffen. Nach dem Treffen erfährt Véronique, dass dieser Mann sie seit langem verfolgt hat. Was will er eigentlich von ihr? Dem Zuschauer wird fast nichts preisgegeben: Es sind nur Vermutungen und abstrakte Dialoge, die für eine eher langweilige Geschichte verantwortlich sind.

Ich hatte früher Besseres von Kieslowski gesehen, wie zum Beispiel der Dekalog oder die Trilogie Bleu, Blanc und Rouge. Das einzige, das ich interessant fand, war die Musik, und wie sie angewendet ist, um Spannung in mancher Szenen zu schaffen.

Hawaii, Oslo (Norway, 2004)

The stories of five different characters come together in a car accident. In one story, a young woman is looking for his boyfriend to get married because she had made a promise 10 years ago. In another story, two kids live by themselves and do graffitti paintings in the walls of downtown Oslo. Their mother tried to commit suicide but finally decides to look for her children. Another story involves a newborn child with a heart deficiency, whose expensive operation is the only option his parents have to save his life. The father decides to go and rob a bank, and by the last scenes all the stories start to come together. The background music is eerie and mysterious, and the photography of downtown Oslo is really good. Why Hawaii? That is the name of a bar in the city, and the place where one of the characters wants to take his brother, who is kept in a mental institution. This film was proposed for an Oscar nomination for best foreign language film in 2004.
The Sweet Hereafter (Canada, 1997)

Director Atom Egoyan explores the feelings and strong emotions of a small community struck by a tragic car accident. A school bus suddenly slips down the road and ends up in a frozen lake. Needless to say, all passengers die and the bus driver is to blame. A lawyer, who at the same time is dealing with his drug-addict daughter, decides to take the case in his hands and interview some of the kids' parents. It is an intense flashback of memories throughout the film, and it's depressing atmosphere will leave viewers wth a bitter, and not sweet, aftertaste. A very emotional and sad made for TV movie from one of Canada's most acclaimed film directors.