Friday, July 16, 2010

The Conformist, Holly + You, The Living

The Conformist. The Conformist is a terrific 1970 film from writer/director Bernardo Bertolucci that screams out European in every way. That's not a bad thing in my book. That usually means that its going to have a bunch of scenes and characters loosely attached to a plot that meanders along at its own pace. It means the film is extremely artistic with great attention to photography and production design. It means lots of atmosphere, style and philosophical pondering. Good things, right? Set during the 1930s when Fascist Italy was taking hold, The Conformist follows a secret policeman and his wavering duties/relationships in Rome and Paris. Even on DVD the film is gorgeous to look at, so I can only imagine it on 35mm film--major cities recently got a chance to see a restored film print but unfortunately I don't live in such a city. 1930s design, architecture and clothes also add to the film's visual charms. Watching The Conformist, you get the feeling that it was constructed via the editing room rather than on the page. Good stuff from the 1970s.

Holly. This is a depressing yet interesting little movie set in Cambodia among the brothels that litter the countries in Southeast Asia who traffic in the world of underage prostitution. Holly is an 12 year old Vietnamese girl who is about to join that world when an American ex-pat (Ron Livingston) with his own set of personal issues shows up and becomes friends with her. He wants to get Holly out of that horrific world but doesn't have the money or the knowledge how to do just that. Holly (2006),  directed by Guy Moshe and filmed on location in Cambodia using actual brothels in some scenes, has a quiet, simple power to it. The characters are all doomed, so the intensity of the story seems pretty genuine. To be a child, or woman, trapped in this awful world, is a hellish existence and Holly tackles the subject gamely. Virginie Ledoyan, Udo Kier and Chris Penn (in his last role) lend support.

You, The Living. Roy Andersson made one of my favorite films I watched in 2009 with Songs From the Second Floor but I'm just now getting to the only other movie of his available on DVD--You, The Living (2007). It's another statement of Andersson's unique style that includes absolutely no camera movement (the camera moves one time in the entire movie!), a deadpan and dry sense of humor,  beautiful and bleak production design, no plots with lonely urbanites who live quiet, pained lives while facing the mundane and the unpredictable. It's a strange visit when you get lost in the world of Andersson. I really liked You, The Living but it wasn't the absolute shock to the system that Songs From the Second Floor was. I was ready for his filmmaking viewpoint I guess. For more on Andersson, go back in the December 2009 archives as there are reviews and a youtube link to see some of his eccentric commercials.

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