TOP 100 - 71 - 75


Persepolis (2007) is a masterpiece by Marjane Satrapi. Animated in black-and-while color, it harbors ideologies from Iran's past, and like many animation and film efforts from the Middle East, with Ari Folman's Waltz with Bashir (2009) as a near example, it involves the forever struggle of artists, filmmakers and writers for freedom and political stability. A whistle blower of a film, Persepolis became more of a political agenda than an artistic one in the Muslim world. The film tells us a cinema wrought with danger both in the part of filmmaking and within the story world. The belligerent Iranian government, who recently jailed Jafar Panahi,as it is reflected in Persepolis, is the present hegemony in the Iranian culture which faces both the old and new issues about territory, Islam and the rise of militant activism in their land. The film uses historical marks and visuals generating a pseudo-documentary diegesis. It uses a simplistic style of animation, four-fingered characters featuring the most basic features of their identities.

My Brother is an Only Child (2007) is a gem of a film from Italy's most exciting directors working today, Daniele Luchetti. A film rich with politics and ideological battles between Fascism and Marxism, it realigns Luchetti as contemporary to the filmmaker of the by-gone age of Italian cinema: Fellini, Rossellini and Bertolucci. The lushness of My Brother lies in its exorbitant use of humor to balance the weighty issues it builds up. It starts as a family drama then follows two characters in their quest to define themselves and ended by straining their relationships due to ideological differences. It surpasses Italian political dramas in such a way that the dynamics of Luchetti's plot (indeed the film is plot driven as it is in conventional cinema) decomposes into a political satire that offers questions to the Italian government. At such a large scale, for it harbors large themes, Luchetti deflates melodrama by injecting self-reflexivity by using cinema verite style and impressionist shots adding the taut realism it somehow escapes through diversions.

Do the Right Thing (1989) is Spike Lee's masterpiece, a film of great importance to Black American filmmaking it is a landmark itself. Do the Right Thing expands an out of control neighborhood scenario into a racial war that have been going on for ages. Each filmic element: the color fields, costumes, cinematography and editing are a synthesis of an abstract battle between black and white, the dominant and the marginal. At some point, one would think that the film is about the defeat of the present economic system in establishing a match-point not only between black and white cultures but within every cultural battle for equality and survival. The color difference between the costumes of the Italian owners of Sal's pizza (they wore brownish type, working clothes) and its costumers (bright colors and less of a working clothes) tells us to what level of hermeneutic comparison Lee is trying convey, a territorial difference fused in its aesthetics. Such example is one of several instances Lee developed wherein he used diegetic film elements to establish difference in ideology, politics and territory, a strategy that puts Lee among the most important directors of contemporary American cinema.

Robert Bresson's Pickpocket (1959) illustrates a pre-L'Argent (1983) aesthetics of the changing of hands. Bresson uses mild paratactic techniques in this film, a technique which Bresson will continue to use in The Trial of Joan of Arc (1983) and would reach its full potential in L'Argent. The film is about the descent of a pickpocket into oblivion. He escapes, with full entirety, the renewed life everyone wants him to be. As with many Bresson characters, the protagonist holds the moral compass. Michel, the protagonist, functions as a philosophical apparatus to deploy Bresson's parataxis about the nuance between good and bad people. Michel, as a character is circumstantial and the reason for his pickpocketing is poverty. Bresson builds a a labyrinth about a society of extremes: a society as seen within oneself and a society as seen from the outside. This disparity expands throughout the film, it presents the existentialist aspect of Bresson's cinema which he developed in Journal d'un curé de campagne (1951) and is extended till his last film.

Kings and Queen (2004) is one of my favorite contemporary French movies of this year. The core of the film is a family drama about a passing father and a reconnection between a sister and a brother, and by conventions, a drama film. However, Desplechin uses unconventional style in narrative and montage. He continuously challenges the melodrama genre by destroying stereotypical expectations in narrative by restructuring the story-arcs. Desplechin breaks the fourth wall by letting its characters speak to the audience, airing what their sentiments about their own story world and also about the film itself. This self-reflexivity is central to the narrative style of the film. The pacing is acerbic but, like most of Desplechin's films, the way it has been edited reminds one of the tendencies of contemporary French cinema to mix 1960s editing and conventional 'slow pace' French editing by Andre Techine and Oliver Assayas.