Archive for June, 2013

Beginning with a flatly lit, digital image of Fannie (Johanna Orsini-Rosenberg) cynically trying on an expensive (but unflattering) dress in a boutique, Soldier Jane initially generates less than inspiring expectations. It seems mundane, stagey, even cheap, yet superficial impressions can be deceiving. Like Fassbinder’s early low-budget works, it gradually blossoms into a film of wry humour and bourgeoisie subversion, like they just don’t make anymore.

Fannie is an heiress, whose life of wealth and luxury has reached a brick wall. She has run up enormous bills on her property, yet refuses to pay them. Shopping fails to remedy her emptiness and the friendships she possesses are without substance or meaning. In thoroughly un-melodramatic fashion however, Fannie is not wracked with emotion. The emptiness of her existence initiates no crisis, but a cold hard resilience as she disciplines herself solely through martial arts. She is a woman on the edge, but of what?

The film takes its time to reveal Hoesl’s intentions and for the first 45 minutes, it is anyone’s guess. Telling each scene almost entirely in long, self conscious, static shots, the director (who previously worked as Assistant Director on Ulrich Seidl’s Paradise trilogy) remains steadfast with his sensationally unenticing stylistic approach. Fannie gradually leaves behind the luxury of her apartment and sets off, cross-country until she teams up with Anna (Christina Reichsthaler): a young woman living and working on a remote farm, surrounded only by men. Before this however, Fannie decided to incinerate all the money she has available to her.

These glorious moments are feminist, anti-capitalist bombshells amid the stagey mise-en-scene, which allow us to make sense of the retro style. Early in the film Fannie watches Godard’s 1962 film Vivre Sa Vie, specifically the sequence where Anna Karina’s Nana watches The Passion of Jean of Arc (1928) by Dryer. It is a film-within-a-film-within-a-film and it is also a statement of intent. Hoesl wishes to return cinema to bygone, revolutionary days where celluloid helped focus our passions. But herein lies the problem. With his bourgeoisies bashing, Godard referencing and feminist stance Hoesl’s is a cinematic revolution of the past.

And yet, this is not to say the director’s themes are not relevant. They are. This is why Soldier Jane does work, not as a revolution, but as a reminder of why cinema should still be used as a medium of dissent. While the films of Godard and Fassbinder made a profound mark on the medium in the 1960’s, the troubles that their films were concerned with still exist. Capital still runs and ruins lives, gender inequality still endures and mainstream Hollywood cinema is perhaps as capitalist, chauvinistic and, dare I say, propagandic as it has ever been. Soldier Jane is a timely provocation, questioning what ideals cinema should continue to tackle in the digital age.

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The 2013 East End Film Festival begins on the 25th of June, running through to the 10th of July. Founded in 2000 the festival works hard to screen films with a consciousness local to this part of London, as well as an increasingly wide remit of films from around the world. We’ll be at the festival to review diverse titles by upcoming filmmakers and veterans alike.

This year’s opening film is Mark Donne’s The UK Gold, which explores how the City of London functions within a secretive network of tax havens and tax avoidance. Set during the London 2012 Olympics Father William Taylor goes on a journey to shed light on this scandalous issue. The film features a score composed by Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and Massive Attack’s Robert Del Naja.

New works by established British directors also feature in this year’s festival, including Mike Figgis’ experimental thriller Suspension of Disbelief, Ben Wheatley’s psychedelic civil war film A Field In England and Kieran Evans’ poetic documentary The Outer Edges (which features with a live score on the closing night.)

Looking further afield, the festival has sections dedicated to European cinema, World Cinema and specific, issue driven focuses; the Zoom section looks at fiction, documentary and animated films specifically concerning deaf characters. American films also claim a slot in the lineup, notably porn star biopic Lovelace starring Amanda Seyfried as Linda Lovelace.

With the Argentine Cinema Panel there is a national focus on the New Argentine Cinema this year, with director Armando Bo attending as the Director in Residence. There is a special rescreening of his film The Last Elvis, as well as features including The Wild Ones, Leones and Extraordinary Stories.

We hope you’ll join us as we delve into the festival’s rich programme of films, which encapsulate the melting pot of culture that is London’s East End.

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Berlinale Crystal Bear winner Night of Silence is a striking Turkish drama directed by veteran documentary maker Reis Çelik. The film, set over just one night, documents a newly wed couple’s first night in their nuptial chamber. The catch is that ‘The Groom’ (Ilyas Salman) is a weary middle aged man and ‘The Bride’ (Dilan Aksüt) is in her early teens. We learn early on that the Groom has just got out of prison, a fall guy for his mobster superior, and is entering into the marriage in order to end a blood feud in their Anatolian locale. In the early scenes we see the authentic wedding ceremonial tasks being undertaken, before moving into the bedroom, where the camera stays for the rest of the film.

The two of them have never met before, and because of the veil guarding her,The Groom has never even seen her face. The Groom is relieved and happy to be out of prison, and initially seems grateful for the chance of a wife and a new start. The Bride is understandably terrified, however, to be entering into a new life away from her family and with this grizzled older man who she has never met before. For the viewer the situation creates an immediately unnerving tension, as we witness The Groom’s feeble attempts to make the Bride feel more at ease.

Essentially a two hander, Çelik revels in the claustrophobia of the environment, just a small room decorated in quietly lavish wedding ornaments that only serve to remind the two of them what is expected of them. The Bride begins to open up a little and relations begin to warm, but it is clear that she is only conforming to the duties that have been pressed on her. The film has a horrible tension running through it; will the two of them consume the marriage like the village expects them to, or will they refuse and suffer the consequences of another possible feud? The stakes are raised when we see that the Groom has brought his gun, which he stashes ominously under the pillow. Although one doesn’t like to judge the values and traditions of other cultures, it is difficult not to view the film with an expression akin to Munch’s painting The Scream.

The two performances by Salman and Aksüt needed to be excellent and they are. Salman, not quite the Justin Bieber lookalike that the Bride would have preferred, brings a naked desperation to the role. This is a scarred man painfully aware of his flaws and unable to escape them, and here it seems like he is watching his own car crash from the side of the road. Aksut, meanwhile, gives a naturalistic turn as a vulnerable and delicate young girl, trying to come to terms with the horrifying situation. Çelik’s direction is unshowy,  letting the drama play itself out. Night of Silence is a morbidly compelling, intense film with an uncompromising view of an unsettling part of Turkish culture.

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