Monday, February 16, 2009

PIFF Day 9

Today I saw my favorite film of the festival so far, "Karamazovs" (Czech Republic). Wow! It has been hailed as the best Czech film of the year, and with good reason. The story revolves around a drama company from Prague that comes to Krakow to present a play adapted from Dostoyevsky's "The Brother's Karamazov" as part of an alternative theater festival. They are staging it in the local steelworks as an experiment to place art in the midst of real life. The film then depicts a rehearsal of the production, and Dostoyevsky's themes of guilt, faith, and doubt come to life in the intermixed life scenes involving the actors in the play. I can't recall ever seeing a filmed stage production that made such great use of the setting and was so powerfully acted. The film was consistently riveting, provocative, and rich from the very first scene--I actually wanted to see it again immediately. It went by so fast I couldn't catch all that was going on. I desperately hope it gets a theatrical release here in the states--this film is a must see! You can still see it at the festival if you hurry--it's playing again on Tuesday and Wednesday evenings this week. (10)

"Crossing" (South Korea) was not so successful. It tells the story of an impoverished family of three in North Korea whose lives start bad and get worse when the pregnant mother contracts tuberculosis and the father illegally crosses the border into China to try to get medicine and food for the family. I'm very curious about the political situation in North and South Korea, but I'm not sure what to make of what I learned from this film, which plays like an old-school Cold War film, in which the North Koreans are all desperately oppressed and cruelly treated by the military and life in South Korea is rather romanticized. The heroes and villains were so crudely drawn and the tear-jerking was so shameless that I couldn't really buy in, although I recognize that stories like this are hard to tell well. I do find it curious that the films I've seen from South Korea almost never end happily. Interesting, but I can't really recommend it. (3)

Finally, even though much of it was lost on me, "Il Divo" (Italy) was a treat. It's an intriguing depiction of Giulio Andreotti, a notorious Italian politician who was prime minister seven times. The story here is full of complicated Italian politics, with names and characters flying past quicker than I could keep up--so I just relaxed into the style of the film, which was rich and delightful. Andreotti is depicted as a survivor and an intriguing rogue, who manages to survive all manner of attacks and allegations of corruption and Mafia ties. The actor who portrays him is just amazing, with a quirky, nearly cartoonish physicality and soft-spoken delivery of some amazingly wry dialogue. Watching the film is like wandering around Naples and just watching the earthiness of it all. (6.5)

4 comments:

Wendy said...

Hi, Darleen!

I'm totally enjoying your movie reviews. Have you posted your top 10 lists on this site? My friend Shannon (I think we met at her wedding) forwards your reviews since she knows I love movies, too.

Just wanted to comment to say "yay!"

Darleen Ortega said...

Hi, Wendy --Nice to hear from you! I'm glad you are enjoying the reviews. I'm working on my top-10 list and expect to post it this weekend. Enjoy!

Darleen Ortega said...

Hi, Wendy --Nice to hear from you! I'm glad you are enjoying the reviews. I'm working on my top-10 list and expect to post it this weekend. Enjoy!

Darleen Ortega said...

Hi, Wendy --Nice to hear from you! I'm glad you are enjoying the reviews. I'm working on my top-10 list and expect to post it this weekend. Enjoy!