15.February.2012: Critic Ronald Bergan files a substantial cache of Berlinale reviews with The House Next Door. Like most of the critics quoted in yesterday’s Rushes, he didn’t care for Brillante Mendoza’s Captive (“seems to have been directed by his younger brother, Mediocre Mendoza”) and dispenses with Zhang Yimou’s Flowers of War as “a waste of money and 140 minutes of one’s time.” He has qualified praise for Ursula Meier’s Sister and Billy Bob Thornton’s Jayne Mansfield’s Car but saves the best for last: “An exception, in a competition that’s yet to catch fire, is Meteora, by the South American-based Greek director Spiros Stathoulopoulos. Magically photographed around an Orthodox monastery perched up in the mountains of central Greece, it manages brilliantly to combine documentary, fiction, and animation in its depiction of an Abelard and Heloise-like love affair between a monk and a nun (played by the incredibly attractive Theo Alexander and Tamila Koulieva).”
Logging his latest batch of Berlinale grades for the Press Play, Kevin B. Lee rates Jayne Mansfield’s Car a few notches higher than Meteora: “For all the Southern Gothic rococo and cul-de-sac subplots this film takes on, there are a lot of great little things going on…This has been poorly received as a belabored, ungainly work, but it plays like music to my ears.” Writing for the Sight & Sound blog, Geoff Andrew draws attention to “two small gems from Jordan and Austria”: Yahya Alabdallah’s The Last Friday and Ruth Mader’s What is Love.
Allan Sekula and Noël Burch’s The Forgotten Space opens a weeklong run at New York’s Anthology Film Archives today. Olaf Möller waxed poetic writing about the film for Film Comment when it premiered in Venice last year. “To say that the subject of The Forgotten Space is the global transformation of labor caused by container cargo shipping is like saying that Wagon Master is a Western.” A.O. Scott is more measured for The New York Times today: “The narration, by Mr. Sekula, is at times lyrical and rarely subtle, but the film is most graceful and moving when its argument slows down or wanders into an interesting tangent. At other points, like an extended rhetorical attack on the Guggenheim museum in Bilbao, Spain, the filmmakers seem to be riding an ideological hobby horse down a dead-end street. But they have a good visual instinct for the sublimity, as well as the ugliness, of the industrial and postindustrial environments, and a patient and generous interest in what people have to say about their own lives.” Artforum’s Benjamin Young thinks that “The Forgotten Space (2010) begins as an investigative documentary and concludes as a mythopoetic essay on modernity and the sea. Along with the quickening staccato of the accordion soundtrack, the film’s rhetorical intensity slowly builds as metaphor and allusion are interwoven with the facts and conditions of global trade.” For those interested in San Francisco, you have until Saturday to catch Sekula’s exhibit with Bruno Serralongue, Oceans and Campfires, at the San Francisco Art Institute.
This coming Saturday Film Comment Selects festival showcases Land Passion War of the Dead Christ Worlds, critic J. Hoberman’s multi-projector film analysis “based on 25 years of stunt projections and class presentations.” Hoberman was schooled in this adventurous form of pedagogy by experimental maverick and erstwhile SUNY Binghamton professor Ken Jacobs. (Sildenafil Citrate) Film Comment’s Violet Lucca has a joint interview with the two of them that’s well worth the extended read.