Friday, November 9, 2012

WIFF Day 1 & Vreeland wins

My four films yesterday at the first full day at WIFF:
Ai Weiwei Never Sorry by Alison Klayman was a well made documentary about China’s most famous contemporary artist and activist and unfortunately – because he’s so much more than this - best known for his Bird’s Nest stadium during the 2008 Olympics. The man seems equally artist – with highly imaginative and often huge mind-bending installations – and political hell-raiser, with his famous “Fuck You” stance against all forms of authority, most notably his Chinese homeland, though he spent a good 10 years in the West. In person, however, he is a mild-mannered and contemplative soul yet never afraid – or sorry – to confront someone wanting to take away his rights, even if it means vanishing into the Chinese penal system.

Laurence Anyways by Xavier Dolan was a flick I didn’t have a great desire to see but wanted to fill a time gap. Yes I acknowledge Xavier’s immense talent. But another semi-autobiographical film about his gay lifestyle is getting tiresome. It still would have been fine if it was well made. The problem is it overshoots. Magic realism is okay up to a point but this seems too mannered, pretentious and glossy. When the butterfly flew out of the lead character’s (Laurence’s played by Melvil Poupaud) mouth, I had had it. And this story, frankly, - about the otherwise ups and downs of a romance - is not all that interesting. The movie at almost three hours is way too long and often boring; I looked at my watch five or six times. The best acting is by Suzanne Clément who plays Laurence’s girlfriend. And it’s always nice to see aging French actress Nathalie Baye, who plays Laurence’s mother.

I almost felt embarrassed to see Samsara by Ron Fricke. High art travel pieces seem a little cliched. I mean, the sights, the sounds - wow! Again, to fill a gap, I went see this. And was sucked in. I knew I’d seen something like this before in Koyaanisqatsi (1982) with a score by Philip Glass. Sure enough, Fricke directed it. That movie, and subsequent ones by him including this, are all about time lapse photography’s ability to capture surreal images of the everyday world. But Samsara takes us around the globe and shows the extremes of natural and urban landscapes and human activity. It is visually stunning, with another terrific soundtrack, and is recommended.

I don’t know why but Diana Vreeland-The Eye Has to Travel by Lisa Immordino Vreeland was my favourite film yesterday. Maybe it’s because I found Vreeland such a fascinating character. As the most famous editor of both Harper’s Bazaar and Vogue she was her own woman. Self-educated (always the best way) Vreeland thrusted herself into the fashion world by a mix of chutzpah and singular vision. I loved the fact that she saw the world as first and foremost one of style, and that personal adornment and clothing is both a physical, intellectual and emotional way of creating your place among humanity. For Diana, artifact was reality. And the role of fashion, indeed, art, is never to be boring. The film is especially engrossing when it delves into Vreeland’s years at Bazaar, with its highly imaginative fashion layouts that took photographers and models to the most remote parts of the world. Vreeland’s was the first invention of the wow factor.

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