Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The 3rd International Gadjo Dilo Film Festival

Just when you thought it was safe to scrape the popcorn off your crotch and go home to watch Celebrity Chlamydia Swap on the Jade Goody++ Gold channel, here’s your third festival of art and education! I was sorely tempted to include a double bill of Eisenstein films (Battleship Potemkin and October: Ten Days That Shook the World) on one of the nights, but I thought that might be too much communism (and montage) for some people. Watch and Learn!

Land and Freedom (1995)

British director Ken Loach makes socialist films, as you’ll know. Many are interesting, but the “realism” can be dispiriting and the politics not to everyone’s taste. Land and Freedom, however, concerns the Spanish Civil War, which people generally seem to find quite romantically idealistic. Ken’s onto a winner then. It tells the story of the POUM, a Spanish communist organisation that tried (in vain) to fight Franco’s Falangists. It’s all very moving – and I know Spaniards whom it’s reduced to tears - and seems more real than any other war film I’ve seen. But perhaps the best scene in my opinion is the longest and the slowest, where the International Brigaders discuss with Spanish peasants how to partition their land “come the glorious day” – it’s nothing more than that, a long and difficult but life-changing discussion.

Persona (1966)

Of the Ingmar Bergman films I’ve seen this is my favourite. It concerns an actress (Liv Ullmann) who's had some trauma and does not speak any more. In most cultures she'd simply be given a slap and kept in a backroom where she couldn’t be an embarrassment to her family; but in Sweden she gets an indefinite all-expenses-paid seaside holiday and her own personal nurse. The nurse (Bibi Andersson) is a chirpy, “normal” young woman, whereas the actress is menacing simply by her silence. The two are alone, and their personas begin to meld together as the nurse tries to maintain the barriers of her own sanity. It’s brilliantly handled, with “arty” cinematic techniques to point up the psychological conflicts. (There could’ve been a companion film to this one where Liv Ullmann is simply given a slap, but I don’t think it was ever made.)

Underground (1995)

I need a “music movie”, and my choice is East European gypsy. You wouldn’t necessarily want to employ one, but when they play it can be exhilarating. Tony Gatlif’s films - e.g. Latcho Drom and of course Gadjo Dilo - showcase this music, but Underground’s director Emir Kusturica is the other big name in the genre. He made the riotous Black Cat, White Cat which has a better plot, albeit a challenging one for non-gypsies. Apparently, Underground symbolically depicts and satirises the history of Yugoslavia since the 2nd World War, but, frankly, it just looks like chaos. A lot of the action takes place in a cellar - complete with brass band and an army tank – in which the inhabitants are unaware of the changes in the outside world. The soundtrack brought arranger (he claims he’s a “composer”, but he’s not, he’s a lyin’ thievin’ gadjo) Goran Bregović to the world's attention. What matters to me is that the film has terrific energy and the music is great, pumping, gypsy brass.

In the Heat of the Night (1967)

I choose this film for a variety of reasons. It features perhaps my favourite straight Hollywood actor, Rod Steiger, and also the beautiful Sir Sidney Poitier, who’s probably the reason why it’s one of Mrs Dilo’s favourite films. You must know the story: Deep South USA, era of the civil rights movement; it's all very steamy, racist, and vengeful, but luckily we know that Our Sid is going to win through in the end. They call me Mister Tibbs!!! It’s also a bit like Bergman's Persona, in that the two blokes get to share a few “special moments” together. There are some great touches in the film, like using a quirky pop song for a whole scene long before Tarantino milked the idea; and the soundtrack also features my favourite musical instrument, the ţambal (a.k.a. "tsymbaly", "cimbalom", etc)


And so, my turn to choose 4 people to carry on the tradition of presenting their 12 favourite films. I nominate Kevin Musgrove (whom I'm suspecting has a lot to tell us on this subject), my two new friends The Dotterel and Daphne Wayne-Bough, and my homey Andy from Csíkszereda Musings.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

The 2nd International Gadjo Dilo Film Festival

Hot on the heels of the first festival - life’s one long festival in the Dilo household. I wasn’t going to do this, but after a recent comment from Mrs Boyo I reckoned that maybe I had an ally, and so here it is, a Lars von Trier All-Nighter! I’m not sure if this breaks the one-an-evening dictum, but Lars and the lads frequently broke their own Dogme 95 rules so I’m in good company. Von Trier is a fascinating director not only because of his films’ artistic quality but also because they're all so very different from each other. Also, he pisses a lot of people off.

Breaking The Waves (1996)

This film centres on a innocent and rather suggestible Scottish girl who marries a hardy oil-rig worker. He gets injured and incapacitated; she has lots of bad sex with other men in order to give him vicarious satisfaction, and is rejected by her narrowly religious local community; she dies, which then (in what might be considered an act of redemption from the Catholic convert von Trier) brings him back to health. It’s brilliant, harrowing, and in addition to the lauded Emily Watson features the late and much lamented (by me and Morrissey, at least) Katrin Cartlidge. It’s often the little touches von Trier adds that I appreciate the most: the film has interludes featuring beautiful shots of Scottish landscape and the music of the period in which the film is set – 1970s, David Bowie etc – nothing to do with the story but perhaps reminding us what comparatively inconsequential lives the rest of us were leading at the time.

The Idiots (1998)

Hmmm, actors pretending to be mentally retarded, finding their “inner idiot”, and actually going into Copenhagen bars and having their interactions with the drinkers surreptitiously filmed. Mental incapacity as a release and freedom from “civilised” “normal” life – very R. D. Laing, very Summer-Of-Love, very Danish. At one point (and I can’t quite remember why) the film turns into an orgy, with people having actual sex - not really pornography, sorry chaps. I dunno whether it’s “film as therapy”, but Von Trier famously hated his atheistic, hippy mother and has more neuroses than Woody Allen. I personally “get” the whole catharsis idea, but The Idiots tends to, errr, “polarise opinion”: some people consider it disturbing, stupid, boring or just plain wrong. However, I suspect it is quite unlike any other film.

Europa (1991)

“A superb film but an empty one”, “Great techniques, shame about the plot” and “Eh, what was all that about?” are some of the responses that I seem to remember to this film. But, it doesn’t matter, because it’s a most brilliant piece of cinematography. There are more great stylistic ideas here than you can shake a hand-held camera at, but unfortunately I’m not an expert and so don’t know what they’re called or how original they are. For instance, there’s the monotony of the endless footage of train tracks, the filming of actors performing in real-time with actors captured on film, and other stuff. Also, although it gets lost at times, the plot seems to be saying something: “Europe is dying”, “Europe is dead”, “Europeans are all fascists”, “Europe is rubbish”, or simply “help!”; I’m not entirely sure, but, like I say, I don’t think it really matters.

Riget (1994)

I’ve eschewed the better known Dancer in the Dark as although it’s an interesting film - and I love Björk - I feel it’s fatally flawed by a storyline that's been described as “a bad joke”. Riget was a Danish TV mini-series, but I saw all the episodes in one night in a cinema, so it counts as a film. It concerns life in Copenhagen’s big state hospital - yeah, if David Lynch was the chief administrator. If the writers of Channel 4’s The Green Wing weren’t inspired by this I’d be very surprised. It has von Trier touches like having the ancillary staff played by people with Down’s Syndrome. Many of the jokes are culturally specific: the cast is an ensemble of Danish comic talent, though the star turn is the endlessly pompous Swedish doctor (Ernst-Hugo Järegård). The Danes in the cinema with me were paralytic with laughter, and I’d lived there long enough to be in pretty much the same condition as they were.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

The 1st International Gadjo Dilo Film Festival

I’m relishing this opportunity to show you genuine art and thereby encourage you to be better people! I warn you now that I may get a little preachy, and that the phrases “cult classic”, “alien invasion” and “lesbian vampire” won't occur too many times as these are concepts of which I have as yet a poor understanding. The National Anthem will be played at the end of each evening’s viewing and you will be expected to stand for it. Thank you.

1st Night: The Third Man (1949)

A crashingly obvious choice. Best British film ever made? Well, it’s the best British film I’ve ever seen (which is not quite the same thing, I suppose). Expressionist lighting and movement techniques; innovative use of shadows in the murky Vienna streets; letting Orson Welles add his own cuckoo clock improvisations; the tour round the ward of dying children, where we only see the visitors’ faces and not the children; the sewers (more films should be set in sewers); Wilfred Hyde-White being, errr, Wilfred Hyde-White. But best of all is the long closing shot where Joseph Cotton waits for Alida Valli at the cemetery gates after her gangster lover (Welles) has been buried; he can offer her freedom, love and safety, but without a glance she just carries on walking straight past him.... and the zither plays on.

2nd Night: Modern Times (1936)

Buster Keaton was better than Chaplin, everybody tells me. Chaplin was a sentimentalist onscreen and a tyrant off it. My father hated Chaplin with a passion. I love the man. Keaton worked superbly with props, but Chaplin returned to the problems of human life and emotional experience again and again. Call me an old softie, but I think that’s interesting, and even better if you can laugh about it, which I did, many many times. As well as showcasing Chaplin’s honed comedy technique, Modern Times is also a depiction of the human cost of industrialisation (the mental breakdown scene is just glorious), which seems something worth saying but, like the message in his later film The Great Dictator, not many other films had the nerve to say it.

3rd Night: Tenue de Soirée (1986)

Oh dear, another film that “has everything”, according to me. A riotous French comedy featuring a classic French subject, the ménage à trois. Except here the trois are a mousy bald man, a sometime prostitute, and a gay ex-con. The first loves the second who loves the third who loves the first. Violence, crime, sex and transvestism ensue. The film also has philosophical French qualities: when the trio try to rob a big house, the wealthy couple who own it walk in on them but are so bored by their bourgeois life that the burglary seems a welcome tonic. Gérard Depardieu, Michel Blanc, et al. are in fine form and the physical comedy is superb.

4th Night: The Last Days of Dolwyn (1949)

This dank little backwater of a film concerns a Welsh village that gets flooded to make a reservoir - providing water for Perfidious Albion of course. I choose it for two reasons: firstly, it struck a chord with me – must have been all those childhood holidays I spent in a mountaineering hut on the north ridge of Tryfan; secondly, it’s by way of appreciation to No Good Boyo who put me up to this task, for it is surely the Welshest film ever made. It’s as dark and wet and gloomy as you could possibly want. In fact, if my memory serves me correctly, it’s all filmed in a studio, as presumably the real Wales was not dark, wet or gloomy enough. It’s stars a very young Richard Burton and other folk with top Welsh accents. No clips of it on YouTube, maybe it never existed, maybe it was just a dream.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Moldavian Joke #1

Are there any Moldavians in this evening? No? Alright!! This Moldavian goes to visit another village* and wants to buy a pig. He asks the first man he comes across how much his pig costs. The villager holds out all the fingers of his hands, so he counts out 10 golden beans from his pocket. The villager then slaps him around the face and goes off cursing. Perplexed, our man then asks the next villager he comes across, is again shown two splayed hands, and is once again hit around the face when he proffers 10 golden beans. This happens the requisite 3 times until he meets a man who accepts his payment gratefully and hands over a pig. Our hero inquires as to why the other villagers were so angry. “My friend”, says his trading partner, “nobody in this village has 10 fingers; I myself was born with 8. Good luck with the pig.”

* In reality this would never happen. But for the purposes of this joke we're going to imagine that he’s noticed the signs of inbreeding in his pigs, and so is looking to sire his gilts from other bloodstock; he’s thinking of trying to use a goat, but failing that another pig would probably do.

For All Our Moldavian Friends: A Disclaimer

There now follows a party political broadcast by the Regional Prejudice Popular Front. Gadjo Dilo takes no responsibility for their opinions – and Mrs Dilo says that people from other parts of the country are actually not too bad sometimes - but under EU regulations they have the necessary demographical mandate to air their views publicly.