Peter Greenaway – The Pillow Book (1996)

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Review
Nagiko’s father was a calligrapher, and when she was a little girl he would write his birthday greetings on her face. Her mother would read aloud from a 1,000-year-old manuscript, (italics) The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon, (unital) which dealt among other things with the arts of love. Because children invest their birthdays with enormous importance, it’s no wonder that when Nagiko grows up she finds a powerful link between calligraphy, human flesh, poetry, and sexuality.

Peter Greenaway, born in Australia, long working in England, is not so far from Nagiko himself. His films also work by combining images, words, quotations and sexual situations. He uses the screen as Nagiko uses flesh, finding an erotic charge not just in the words, but in the surface they are written on, His new film “The Pillow Book,” starring Vivian Wu (from “The Last Emperor”), is a seductive and elegant story that combines a millennium of Japanese art and fetishes with the story of a neurotic modern woman who tells a lover: “Treat me like the pages of a book.” Early in Nagiko’s life, she sees something she was not intended to see: Her father’s publisher (Yoshi Oida), forcing her father (Ken Ogata) to have sex as the price of getting a book published. On another occasion, when she is 6 or 7, she is introduced to the publisher’s 10-year-old nephew, and told this will be her future husband. These events set up fundamental tensions in her life, and as an adult, unhappily married to the publisher’s nephew, she begins keeping her own pillow book. The nephew (Ken Mitsuishi) is a shallow dolt, who finds her book and in a jealous rage burns her papers and then their house. Continue reading

Patricio Guzmán – Chile, la memoria obstinada AKA Chile, the Obstinate Memory (1997)

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(Chicago reader capsule ) :
“Released in three parts, Patricio Guzman’s epic documentary The Battle of Chile (1975-’79) captured such critical events as the bombing of the presidential palace during the 1973 military coup, but it wasn’t screened in Chile until the 1990s. That belated premiere inspired Guzman to make this 1997 documentary, in which clips from the earlier film are threaded among interviews and powerful sequences showing the reactions of Chilean viewers. Whereas The Battle of Chile uses voice-over narration to summarize its on-the-spot footage, manipulated only minimally by editing, Chile, Obstinate Memory is more expansive. Without ignoring or hyperbolizing the way politics affects our sense of the past, it presents many galvanizing moments; at one point a viewer who was a child during the coup shamefacedly recalls his pleasure at being allowed to stay home from school” Continue reading

Jan Peters – Aber der Sinn des Lebens (1990 – 1996)

Aber den Sinn des Lebens hab’ ich immer noch nicht rausgefunden / … but I Still Haven’t Figured Out the Meaning of Life (OmeU)

Every year on his birthday, Jan Peters filmed one reel of Super-8 material; later on he turned to video. In these few minutes of film he reveals something from and about himself. Maybe it is exhibitionism – the way he chatters on, until the blotches on the film indicate the end of the reel. Enthusiastic, sometimes tired, often doubtful, he, like everyone else, quarrels with what has come about from his own actions. On top of this, Peters, the filmmaker, blurs the individual of the same name with his dense texts and images to create something quite different: Jan Peters, the fictional character. Continue reading

Bakhtyar Khudojnazarov – Luna Papa (1999)

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Synopsis

“Mix some Monty Python with the violent black humour of Yugoslavian director Emir Kusturica, add a little South American magic realism, and you might have some idea of what goes on in the thoroughly strange and enjoyable Luna Papa, a movie set in the contemporary world of Central Asia. Within the context of its comic, fantastic narrative, about a pregnant teenager and her search for the father of her child whom she has never seen, there`s a darker impression of life revealed in this journey through the outlying former Soviet republic of Tajikistan where gangsterism, military brutality and violent surprises are a normal part of existence.” (Globe and Mail, February 2001) Continue reading

Jane Campion – The Piano (1993)

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Synopsis:
A mute woman along with her young daughter, and her prized piano, are sent to 1850s New Zealand for an arranged marriage to a wealthy landowner, and she’s soon lusted after by a local worker on the plantation.

Review:

Quote:
“The Piano” is as peculiar and haunting as any film I’ve seen.

It tells a story of love and fierce pride, and places it on a bleak New Zealand coast where people live rudely in the rain and mud, struggling to maintain the appearance of the European society they’ve left behind. It is a story of shyness, repression and loneliness; of a woman who will not speak and a man who cannot listen, and of a willful little girl who causes mischief and pretends she didn’t mean to. Continue reading