Category: Flashbacks

Today is tomorrow’s flashback. (Armando “Melk”)

The dark shines: Alumbramiento

“Alumbramiento”: a family faces the last night of its eldest member, showing their different ways of dealing with a life’s ending. In a surprising manner, overcoming fear and taboo, one of them will guide the passing” (from website, Arrivano i corti film festival, Italy)

This short by Eduardo Chapero-Jackson is a powerful almost static cinematic experience, simple yet unpredictable. The surprise, as the title suggests – delivers in a new light the big unanswerable question. Where does life go?

Now we’re in a car, slicing through a yawning sequence of on/off lamp-posts, flashing like low-energy question marks

It’s a  journey. No peace of mind. The man drives, focused, spent. Eyes gripping the road, his mind taking logical stabs at the scarcity of solutions

His woman sits by him, navigating feelings. She offers a hand but he refuses, they don’t hold together. Pain and fear creates distance, Uncured it can be fatal. The director frames them separately, two broken halves in silent visuals of the hallucinatory real.

The dawn is further away. Can life be fixed?

Scant dialogue, surgical.
120 seconds into the film we are immersed in an amniotic texture of lucid confused re-investigation of a dead-end relationships and memory.
(what city are we in? where are they going? who is sick?)

A dark bedroom engulfs and suppresses our resistance. We witness magnetized, polarized spaces. Bare practical lights. Devastating narrative undercurrents: life is weaker or stronger, uglier or more beautiful when death arrives announced? We spend ten minutes in this bedroom. It feels like forever.

The forces of life assemble around each other’s weakening pulses, matching optimism against pessimism. “She will make it. She always makes it”.

The son-who-is a-doctor directs a nurse in the technical requirements of tonight’s pain-aversion attempts. He tries to appear in control as his woman observes. Cutaway characters come to life as pairs of silent eyes.

The old woman on the deathbed: childish, angelic. Wrapped in breathing tube and coughing all she seems to have left inside, with resistence. Time and place is now, morphine. Sister morphine.

In “Alumbramiento” the passing on of the old mother is a childhood song, not the end of the story. The doctor’s wife now replaces human logic with a peaceful caresse and a simple imperative: – Breathe, you did well in life. Just breathe.” She removes all power from the predictable. Two plain beats open “Alumbramiento” to emotional heights: fear becomes love, shared experience, forgiveness, of life as it was. As it is.

Eduardo Chapero-Jackson is the director of “Alumbramiento”, it means in Spanish both “illumination” and “delivery”.

Gracias, Eduardo. Looking forward to working with you some day.

/ daniel alegi

This txt article appeared in full length in “P.O.V.” A Danish Film Studies publication edited by Richard Raskin, now online as Short FIlm Studies.

[The Pope resigns] like in Nanni Moretti’s “Habemus Papam”.

Pope Benedict XVI resigned today, and the film Habemus Papam [We have a Pope] by Nanni Moretti immediately came to mind. Habemus Papam is a farce about the human limits of a holy man, who succumbs to the dilemma: to be or not to be Pope? The film screened at the 2011 Cannes Festival, to mixed reactions. Fact and fiction don’t seem so far apart. What other movies have predicted the future?

Resources:

http://www.filmschoolrejects.com/reviews/cannes-review-nanni-moretti-habemus-papam-we-have-a-pope.php

http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/2011/may/13/cannes-2011-review-habemus-papam

I was introduced to Nanni Moretti as a kid in Rome, Italy. My history teacher at the “Alfieri” middle school was the austere Mrs. Barbieri, Moretti’s aunt. She spoke a few times in passing about her teenage nephew Nanni and his attempts at making a super8 feature film. History proved her right: today, Nanni Moretti’s early pictures stand as masterful low budget debuts. Films made by young filmmakers about the pains of being young people are still not common today, despite the lower costs of digital film.

You can see some clips here (Italian only)

Io sono un autarchico” 1977 (“I am Self-Sufficient”)

Ecce Bombo” 1978 (…)

Both films have vision, personality and an in-your-face – uncompromising desire to mix open wounds and a pinch of salt. Moretti cracked a small opening in the italian film traditions. He appeared on scene and never left, without dominating it, but with an impossible-to-ignore brutally honest take on paradoxes and contradictions of human nature: a dark self-criticism blended with utopian optimism about politics, love and family. Every Nanni Moretti film is an unsentimental drop into the bloody battleground of hypocrisy we call “middle-class life”.

 

Twinkies -land was in Milwaukee

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This still by Dick Blau [Milwaukee, WI 1995 ] is a peak into the stop-motion animation process of “The Twinkie Movie”, a film by Chris Smith (in the foreground, to the right, by the 16mm Bolex). I [Daniel Aleg] am the head on the top left, moving the conveyor belt in the back, through a wall of Twinkie boxes. Chris’s awesome idea was this: Twinkies have souls, and they try escaping from the distribution chain in a quest to return to Twinkie-Land, far away in the desert. The story had won a funding competition from Hostess and became the official celebration of the 60th product anniversary. The shoot took place in the glorious Kenilworth building in Milwaukee. It was my first week in town.

Watch the Twinkie Movie here

The final product shows why Chris Smith later emerged as a unique cult-filmmaker: he is a cinematic wonder, a Mozart of film. His working is like thinking directly in film form, ideas in action without language or symbolic translation. He often skips the script phase all together to shoot simple stories, using simple story structures but extraordinary characters. One example of his risky but inimitable low-budget approach is his first live action feature “American Job” –http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0112345/ – Shot during one summer mostly as a solo-crew, the story was a simple masterpiece: a midwestern kid needs a job, but he can’t keep a job for the life of it. So he tries a sequence of low-level repetitive, demeaning, mind-numbing jobs (the ones that require “teamwork”).

I was happy to find “American Job” on several “best ever” lists. But the most famous cult-film Chris made, he made with Sarah Price – also from our UWM Film class: “American Movie” – http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0181288/?ref_=sr_1 with Mark Borchardt and assorted other Midwest phenoms. American Movie won Sundance (as a doc) and was picked by Sony Classics for theatrical and DVD release. It has become the narrative of record in the meta-cinema doc genre (films about people making films). Mark Borchardt – who went on to more “Late night with David Letterman” fame, had – during the shooting of “American Movie” a brief part in my own meta-cinema film “Czar Of Make Believe”, in which he played himself, a cinematographer on a low budget set, and on which Chris graciously helped with some lighting.

So this picture from my mentor Dick Blau means a lot to me.  Dick and  the filmmakers on the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) faculty made our Film Department the best “worst-kept” secret among small film schools in the country. And the motto “we keep the school out of your filmmaking” is unforgettable. It was life-changing to be part off our graduate-school class at UWM.  The name Milwaukee-Wood was coined by an indie magazine after “American Movie” won best doc at the Sundance Festival. You look up what year…

“Jumping Jasper” alias “Hopp”

A man wants to jump from a building. A hobo is looking for food in a dumpster below. Who will give way?

A one-act play written by Yair Packer and adapted as a short by Cinemahead with students from the Molkom Folkhögskola in Sweden. The director is Sofia Linn Karlsson.