Categories
Documentary Features Live Action Movies

All That Breathes

Director – Shaunak Sen – 2022 – India – Cert. – 97m

*

Set against the backdrop of heavily polluted Delhi, Muslim siblings devote their time to healing the local species of bird that seems to get injured more than most: the black kite – plays in the BFI London Film Festival 2022 which runs from Wednesday, October 5th to Sunday, October 16th in cinemas and on BFI Player, out in UK cinemas on Friday, October 14th

Plunging the viewer right from the start into a rarely seen, night time netherworld, this contains incredible intermittent footage of life in a modern city, in this case Delhi. We are on a patch of waste ground, whether an officially designated rubbish tip or simply the place people check their waste is not clear, but the refuse is piling up and you can hear creatures scuffling around. The takes are long and soon you’re picking out rats in the darkness, and thinking that if only the rubbish was more securely contained, the rat infestation wouldn’t be a problem.

There are several similar lengthy shots that punctuate All That Breathes, and they’re absolutely mesmerising. This is in no small part due to the use of the unbroken take, coupled with complex camera moves which reminded me of last year’s pig documentary Gunda (Victor Kossakovsky, 2020).… Read the rest

Categories
Animation Art Movies Shorts

The Cowboy’s Flute (Mu Di, 牧笛)

Directors – Qian Jiajun, Te Wei – 1963 – China – Cert. N/C U – 20m

*****

A flute-playing forest boy loses then is reunited with his beloved water buffalo in the mountains. available to rent online in the UK & Ireland as part of the Shanghai Animation Film Studio Retro in the Chinese Cinema Season 2021 from Friday, February 12th to Wednesday, May 12th

This opens with a lengthy panning shot of a forest drawn with pen and ink in a distinctive Chinese style not entirely dissimilar to the animated opening of the Japanese live action feature The Mad Fox (Tomu Uchida, 1962) but without the chaos or violence. Among the ink and watercolour-rendered trees wanders a boy playing a flute as he rides a slow moving buffalo, rendered like the backgrounds in pen and ink so that the effect is not of watching clumsily moving images over exquisitely rendered backgrounds, as has often been the case in Western animation departing from the 2D Disney model, but rather of watching a seamlessly moving brush and ink painting. Te Wei had already done this with his groundbreaking Where is Mama? (1960) and he pulls off the same trick again here.… Read the rest

Categories
Books Features Live Action Movies

The Birds (BFI Film Classics)

Author – Camille Paglia – 2020, 1998 – BFI / Bloomsbury – £11.99

****

I immediately warmed to Camille Paglia in her 2020 introduction to the new edition of her book about Alfred Hitchcock’s avian shocker The Birds (1963), originally written in 1998, when she lambasted academic film criticism as “egregiously unhelpful, failing in the crucial humanistic mission of interpretation and enlightenment”. She talks about a shift in audiences from wanting to see film in a cinema as essential experiences in the sixties and seventies to films as one of a range of possible technological entertainments in our own time.

She then goes on to talk about her issues with #metoo and the problem of expecting great artists to live exemplary lives as a premise of Victorian moralism. And discusses in passing the one minor change she would make to the book were she to write it today. (Really? Only one?) Which is to do with interpreting one character in the film as gay.

In addition to watching the film multiple times, it’s clear that Paglia has read many of the books and articles written about the film itself of Hitchcock’s wider body of work. Robin Wood keeps coming up and there are honourable mentions for, among others, Francois Truffaut and Elizabeth Weiss.… Read the rest