Friday, June 09, 2006

Brooklyn International film festival day seven

I haven't really been doing all that much when it comes to the festival for most of it, there's too much "normal" stuff to do, but I did go to see some more starting wednesday. The trip from Times Square to the Brooklyn museum isn't nearly that arduous and I managed to get into at least three more films. Here are two of them:

Lower City (Cidade Baixa)

written and directed
by Sérgio Machado

Salvidor, Bahia is in northeastern Brazil, south of the Amazon river. Here, rather than a tropical paradise, we’ve got a kind of tropical hell, where people live an existence of quiet, or in this case, loud desperation. Welcome to Brazil.

Karinna(Alice Braga) is a prostitute flitting from one big city to another, looking for work as a stripper and turning tricks when that’s not exactly available. She’s on her way to Salvidor and has just missed the bus from another city on the river, when she negotiates a deal where for 40 cueseros and a screw for both of them, Deco(Lázaro Ramos) and Naldinho(Wagner Moura) will give her a ride on their trawler.

Love is in the air. So is hate. We’ve got a classical love triangle where everything’s in the shit beforehand. Karinna now works at a strip joint, while her two “boyfriends” haul freight and commit petty crimes for a local hood named Sergipano(José Dumont). Deco, who aspires to be a fighter, and Naldinho, who aspires to nothing, fight and make up, screw Karinna, and fight over her all over again.

Meanwhile, she’s preggers, and we don’t know who the father is. It’s typical for this kind of thing, but then despite the fact that none of these people are the least bit nice, we find ourselves invested in them. That’s what good moviemaking is all about. The local doesn’t seem as exotic as are some films of this type, mainly because it’s urban and to some extent, the slums of most cities seem the same.

This is nothing really special, but it gets the job done.

THE LAST QUEEN OF THE EARTH

Written and Directed
by Mohammad Reza Arab

A simple yet powerful film about a young Afghani immigrant who works in a in Iran. As a US-led attack becomes...

When in doubt, blow stuff up. That’s a pretty good rule of thumb. Especially when the filmmaker is completely inept. The reason we have this thing at the Brooklyn film festival is that it’s exotic as hell and taking us into a different world is what film is all about. However bad acting, editing and dialogue doesn’t balance the positive values of seeing the alien out.

It’s somewhere in eastern Iran. Our hero is dreaming of his wife on the Afghan border and wonders what became of her. One of his supervisor confesses to withholding our hero’s letters from home in order that he would stay at the Henna grinding factory.

But the guy is forgiven and our hero sings a song. However, it turns out the date is 9/11/2001, and the World Trade Center has just been taken down. So he has to go.

Arab doesn’t have much of an imagination. Sure the guy gets robbed, but he gets help to find the robbers from some friendly thugs, who get the crap beaten out of them offstage, He crosses the border “illegally” and the Iranian police shoot a straggler. The Taliban arrests him, but one of them is a friend of his….

It’s all typical obsolete melodrama with lots of explosions. Lots of people die even though our hero is pretty much unscathed. The climax is really dumb, too. Fortunately nobody will ever see this again.

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