17 Mar 2018

EVERYONE AFRAID TO BE FORGOTTEN (Jonna Lee & John Strandh, 2018)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼
A driving force behind the fascinating online project iamamiwhoami, Swedish singer-songwriter Jonna Lee (aka ionnalee) makes a fine debut as a co-writer/director of a 50-minute long feature whose title can not ring any truer. Effortlessly blending (synth)pop music with experimental cinema, she and her DoP collaborator John Strandh deliver one of the most eclectic and - well, this might sound strange, but consider it as a compliment - 'milkiest' films I've seen so far in 2018.

The basis for the unconventional, poetic narrative is reflected in every artist's desire stemming from the very human fear of oblivion and that is to create something which will stand the test of time. In their struggle to be remembered forever, Lee and Strandh present the viewer with an experience comparable to a fresh, fragrant breeze that gently infuses you with new, somewhat rejuvenating energy. And only the upcoming days will tell whether the sensation is lasting or not.
Like the Ouroboros, their story ends where it begins and believe me, this is not a spoiler, considering that the storytelling is eschewed in favor of the overall feel and atmosphere. An unnamed heroine (played by Jonna Lee herself) is stranded in an uninviting wonderland inhabited by a sect-like community who holds an 'unending party' with guests adorned in white and wolf-masks. As she tries to find her way back to the 'outside' world, the themes of isolation, treachery and exclusion intertwine in the rhythm of a low-key phantasy.
Blurring or, at some points, completely erasing the boundaries between self-portraits, music videos, fairy tales, mystical rituals, performing arts, avant-garde films and all of our realities, both physical and virtual, the duo comes up with a peculiar musical - visually stimulating and aurally spellbinding (even if you're not a big fan of the genre, as in my case). There's an ethereal quality to Strandh's cinematography, as well as to Lee's vocals and appearance, that keep you mesmerized, eyes glued to the screen, ears tuned to audio-reveries. Simply put, beautiful!

16 Mar 2018


Ten fingers, twelve plugs,
don't ever look under the rugs.
Don't ever wonder about the sore,
'cause if you ignore, there'll be no gore.

(click to enlarge)

14 Mar 2018

We Are Dead, yet We Live

Inspired by the line spoken by Laura Palmer in Twin Peaks: The Return, my latest collage holds plenty of meanings, some of which even I am not aware of. We Are Dead, yet We Live could probably be interpreted as a social commentary of sorts, but above all, it stands for my love for the strange, absurd, surreal and unfathomable, for the pain I embraced for the sake of creativity, for the enthusiasm (madness?) that still keeps this blog running, as well as for my seemingly futile and neverending struggle with unemployment...

(click to enlarge)

11 Mar 2018

Rey / King (Niles Atallah, 2017)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼
"Worldly domains wither and fold.
'Tis the kingdom of dreams the truest gold."

Like many of his fellow 'cinexperimenters', such as Rouzbeh Rashidi or The Underground Film Studio duo of Daniel Fawcett and Clara Pais, Niles Atallah is utterly fascinated by the endless possibilities of film and is eager to explore them beyond the boundaries set by standard cinema production. His sophomore feature proves him to be a filmmaker whose name the adventurous cinephiles are bound to remember.

A Franco-Chilean co-production (including the partners from Germany, Netherlands and Qatar), Rey (lit. King) (re)tells the odd and little-known story of Orélie-Antoine de Tounens (1825-1878) - a French lawyer, adventurer and eccentric (or lunatic, as some of his contemporaries would have said) who travelled to Chile aspiring to found a kingdom in Araucanía and Patagonia. Nowadays, it is disputed whether he was a self-proclaimed king or voted a constitutional monarch by indigenous tribes of Mapuche who were fighting for the independence against the Chilean and Argentinian governments at the time.

Working with 'just enough concrete evidence' to patch-up a fragmented and non-linear narrative, Atallah places his hero somewhere between facts and fiction, taking the viewer on 'a journey through a realm of forgotten dreams, the decaying memories and fantasies of a ghost' (in the director's own words). And that journey - paralleled by the oneiric, not to mention loving homages and references to the history of cinema - is mighty impressive (if a tiny bit draggy in places), especially during the film's last third when the spirits of weirdness take full possession of the daring and imaginative auteur.

Enamored with the mutable texture of celluloid, he combines digital with archival footage (the courtesy of EYE Filmmuseum of Amsterdam), as well as with the sequences shot on 16mm and Super 8, then buried in the ground to erode and corrode the tapes in various ways. Speckles and scratches flounce and pulsate to the atmospheric score (enriched with crackles to deepen the retro-experience) in a vivid, surreal, highly idiosyncratic celebration of transience, imperfection and chimerical constructs. Simultaneously stupefying and mystifying (partly thanks to the crudely crafted, truth-concealing masks worn by the characters in certain scenes), Rey is a valuable addition to the pantheon of (modern) avant-garde films.

10 Mar 2018

Angels of Revolution (Aleksey Fedorchenko, 2014)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼

Inspired by the events surrounding the Kazym Rebellion against the Sovietization in the 30s of the last century, Fedorchenko blends absurd comedy, meta-fiction, surreal satire and historical facts with a keen sense of irony and even keener sense of framing (kudos to DP Shandor Berekshi) in a tightly directed, beautifully acted and weird-as-angels-peeling-potatoes-in-a-living-room film which feels like Sergei Parajanov (or rather, Lech Majewski) meets Sergei Eisenstein, Rustam Khamdamov and Roy Andersson on The Medusa Raft by Karpo Aćimović-Godina, and teaches us that avant-garde art should not battle, but wholeheartedly embrace mysticism, opposing tried and tired formulas.

8 Mar 2018

The Obstruction of Decency

Bathed in the streams of silent screams,
he stands and smiles.
Naked she is,
alone she pretends to be.
BLITZ-torment they will both embrace.

(click to enlarge)

6 Mar 2018

The Whisper of the Jaguar (Simon(è) Jaikiriuma Paetau & Thais Guisasola, 2017)

☼☼☼☼☼☼☼(☼) out of 10☼

A strong contender for the most 'trans-genre' film of the year, The Whisper of the Jaguar (originally, O Sussurro do Jaguar) is, at its heart, a melancholic, punk-ish, neo-hippie road movie of the soul-undressing kind that flows like a mountain stream between queer performance, deadpan dramedy, spiritual adventure, satirical commentary, pseudo-documentary, sexual liberty and postcolonial theory, introducing its viewer to 'kambô' and 'ayahuasca' healing rituals, as well as shamanistic lesbian foursome (inter alia) via strikingly composed 'tableaux vivants' which capture all the beauty of Brazilian nature and lead to a trippy, candy-colored credits sequence you can't take your eyes off.

(The film plays for free on FestivalScope until the 18th of March.)