martedì 23 luglio 2013

Looking for Richard

I follow just one rule with this blog: writing about cinema. 
I have made, in all these years, just one exception (for the publication of my brother’s last novel). But today, I am about to add a second. 
The reason is simple: today is a very special person’s very special birthday. 
When I watched Frances Ha, some days ago, there was an interesting scene.
Frances, who is about to go to Paris for the first time in her life, asks to some friends she’s having dinner with: "Is Paris the city with that museum made of funny tubes?"
Yes, Paris actually is the city with that very weird museum, and I can tell you that those funny tubes also happened to have changed my life for good.

The two architects behind those mad tubes are in fact my boss and the man who, of all the many fascinating, amazing, inspiring people I have met through my job, is without doubt the most fascinating, amazing and inspiring of all.
His name is Richard Rogers (Lord Richard Rogers, to be precise), who turns 80 today, and I have decided to use my blog to publicly declare all my love to him.
First of all, Richard looks so young to me that he could easily be turning 20, today.
I LOVE Richard because he is generous, genuinely interested in other people, curious, funny, gentle, really smart, incredibly handsome, super cool, super stylish (oh, the way he dresses! oh, these wonderful bright colours he colours his - and ours - life with!) and he is even sexier than Michael Fassbender! Look:

Happy Birthday, Richard, e cento di questi giorni!!! 
Your biggest fan, 

Ps If you happen to be in London between today and October 13, don’t miss the exhibition that the Royal Academy of Arts dedicates to Richard’s works: Richard Rogers – Inside Out 
Simply unmissable!

lunedì 15 luglio 2013

Frances Ha

I am crazy about movies quoting other movies.
Because I feel the joy of having found soul mates, people who go through their lives constantly thinking about cinema, talking about cinema, making cinema referring to other cinema. Basically, cinema freaks like me, who can’t conceive life without the filter of movies.
When I watch films made by people like this, I feel like they’re telling me: Hey you, welcome home!
It doesn’t happen every day, but it does happen.
It is something I have constantly felt looking at the last Noah Baumbach’s movie, Frances Ha, written by him and by the main actress of the film, Greta Gerwig

The two, who already worked together in the previous Baumbach's movie, Greenberg,
are now a couple à la ville.
Sophie (Mickey Sumner) and Frances (Greta Gerwig)
Frances Ha tells the story of Frances, a 27 years old girl who lives in Brooklyn together with her best friend, Sophie. While Sophie works for a publishing house, Frances has a precarious job: she is an apprentice dancer who dreams to integrate a dancing company but always fails at it. When Sophie announces to her that she is moving to Manhattan with another friend, Frances's world starts progressively to collapse. She looses the apartment, the job and, after a monumental fight, also her best friend. It will take time, to Frances, to put together all the pieces that will bring her to become Frances Ha.
New York filmed in black and white: it is so Manhattanesque that you almost believe to have heard a Gershwin music somewhere, but instead, quite surprisingly, what you really hear is a piece called “L’école Buissonière” by Jean Constantin, taken from Les 400 Coups by François Truffaut. The whole music, as a matter of fact, is taken from Nouvelle Vague films, with a prominent presence of Georges Delerue and a hint of Antoine Duhamel
I have prevented you: this is home.
It is home to the point that, when Frances starts walking/dancing on the streets of New York on Modern Love by David Bowie, the image of Denis Lavant in Mauvais Sang by Leos Carax naturally arises, overlapping the one on the screen. 

Modern Love - Baumbach Version
Modern Love - Carax Version
And how is it possible not to think about Samy Frey, Claude Brasseur and Anna Karina in Bande à Part by Jean-Luc Godard when Frances is sharing the apartment together with Lev and Benji? Nobody will be surprised if these three would start running together in the corridors of the MET…
Bande à part - Baumbach Version
Bande à part - Godard Version
... and, of course, during her short trip to Paris, somebody wants to invite Frances to a party where there is a guy "Who looks like Jean-Pierre Léaud!"
Thus said, Frances Ha is not a good movie because of its hommages to the Nouvelle Vague universe. You can (of course!) see the movie completely unaware of them and enjoy it immensely. Frances character is super interesting: captured in one of those weird moments of life where adulthood should be installed but in fact is not already there, this young woman invades the screen with her clumsy gestures, her free-flowing monologues, her disarming need to be loved and to find her place in the world. Slightly irritating at first, gripping while struggling to survive among many difficulties, absolutely charming in her candid attempts to assert herself. The moment where, completely drunk, she explains what a relationship should be for her, is a little masterpiece, and Gerwig is astonishing in this made-to-measure role.
But be careful: this is not a rom com or a chick flick, this is a modern movie about a young woman whose first need is not to find a man but to find herself. 
Undatable, as her friend Benji keeps describing her? 
Maybe, but also very irresistible!

giovedì 11 luglio 2013

The "Before" Trilogy

In cinema, we are more than used to trilogies, prequels, sequels and sagas. Especially in science-fiction and fantasy genres, this kind of episodes-movies are very common. It is less common to have “normal” movies made this way.
There is a recent and very interesting exception, though, and it is the “Before” trilogy by American director Richard Linklater.
Linklater (from Houston, Texas, born 1960) wrote and directed three movies, with the same two actors, at a distance of 9 years from each other: the first one, Before Sunrise, in 1995, the second one, Before Sunset, in 2004, and the last one now, in 2013, Before Midnight.
The three movies tell the story of a meeting between two characters and the consequences of it all along their life: the American Jesse (played by Ethan Hawke) and the French Céline (played by Julie Delpy) meet by chance in a train when they are 25 years old. She is going back to Paris, he is going back to the States, they start talking, they like each other, and they decide to spend the rest of the day (and the entire night) together in Vienna. When they separate, they make a mutual wish: to see each other in six months time, in that same place (please remember we’re talking about an Internet/Facebook pre-era). 

We see them again 9 years afterwards, in Paris.
Jesse is a writer and he is in Paris to present his new novel (about his meeting with Céline). When she shows up at the bookshop where the presentation is taking place, the perfect chemistry between them is still there, palpable. We find out that at the famous second meeting he was there but she wasn’t. Her grandma died and she didn’t have the possibility of informing Jesse about it or even to find him. Their lives, in the meantime, have changed: he is married and has a little son, she works for an environment protection organization and had many boyfriends, but not a stable relationship. At the end of this second episode, it is pretty clear there are strong chances that this time they’re not going to separate so easily. 

In this last (but who knows?) episode of the saga, Jesse and Céline are a couple who’s been together for almost ten years: they have twins daughters and they are spending their summer in a Greek Island, where Jesse has been invited as a resident writer.
As it was the case for the other two episodes, also this one covers 24 hours of their life. Jesse is having troubles managing his relationship with his teenage son who’s living in the US, while he lives in Paris with Céline and their daughters, and Céline is worried that he wants to move back to the States. In the long scene at the core of the movie, the two have an enormous fight during which all the “pending matters” between them come to light, obliging them to look where they really are as a couple.

I really think this trilogy is a unique case in cinema history.
One of the most interesting elements is that the screenplay and the dialogues have been written by the director together with the two actors (even if they’re not credited for Before Sunrise) and the quality of their writing is absolutely amazing (it is not by chance that Before Sunset had received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Screenplay in 2004).
While filming Before Sunrise, none of them thought about a sequel, but when Linklater asked Hawke and Delpy to participate to his experimental movie Waking Life in 2001, using the characters of Jesse and Céline, they all started to think about a possible follow-up to their adventures. The three of them admitted to have put in this story a big part of their personal life and experiences, and this is probably where the veracity of  tone comes from. Jesse and Céline are extremely real in their way of being: at 20 they are very romantic and idealists, at 30 they start to realise what they really want (and how much they’re going to pay for it) and at 40 they have to deal with the deceptions of day-by-day life, the burden of responsibilities coming from being parents and the ageing issues. 

I have always hated the notion of generational movie, but I have to admit that I completely identify myself in this trilogy (I was born three days before Julie Delpy…). 
Jesse and Céline talk about their lives in the same way we talk about ours: with that indefinable mixture of irony, disillusion, sadness and hope we daily use to face our existence. We share with them the same questions, doubts and fears and we feel relieved to see that they’re struggling on screen as much as we do to arrive safe and sound at the end of the day.
I don’t know about you, but I personally wouldn’t mind getting old together with these two.

domenica 7 luglio 2013

The HBO Bryant Park Summer Film Festival

As you probably (I hope!) noticed, I didn’t write on the blog for a long time.
I was really busy with my job, but the good news is that I was really busy… in New York!
It is not a mystery, I adore this city and in the past I have dedicated posts to its cinemas and its cinematographic atmosphere.
Every time I go there I try to go to the movies and, now being summer, I was so lucky to stumble upon an open air cinema, and the most wonderful one, in Bryant Park. Since 2006, in this beautiful city park, between mid-June and mid-August, are shown en plein air a bunch of movies, usually old, classic films, often set in New York.
The Monday I was in town, they were showing Invasion of the Body Snatchers by Don Siegel, a black and white science-fiction movie of 1956.
I couldn’t be on time because of previous working things, but when I arrived there with some friends, I had one of the most incredible visions of my life: the entire lawn area was full of people. A mix of young, old, couples, groups of friends, have pacifically invaded the place: they were seated on chairs, lying on blankets, and they were all watching the movie on this gigantic screen. They probably had a picnic before the show, and now they were there, in the dark, surrounded by all these amazing NY buildings. In the middle of the city and yet in a silent space, where just the voice of the actors on the silver screen could be heard.
It was breath-taking, and unforgettable.
I couldn’t set my eyes just on the screen, because it was like a dream to see and to feel the presence of that incredible audience, and to be embraced by the skyscrapers lights around us.
The movie, supposed to be scary, looks kind of cute nowadays.
It was shot during the McCarthyism’s era and the metaphor of the body snatchers and people spying and making unfair allegations on their neighbours is even too evident.
Don Siegel wanted to have a different final, far more pessimistic and darker, but the studios didn’t allow him to do that and he was particularly disappointed.
While in Bryant Park, though, I said to myself that if Don Siegel could see those men and women seated in a park during a warm summer’s night looking at his movie, he would have been really happy about this pacific invasion.
I leave you with this very, very short and amateur video I personally made, to give you just an idea of the atmosphere. If you happen to be in New York during the Summer, don’t miss this amazing open air cinema moment!
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