Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Elizabeth Cervantes nude in "Fuera del Cielo" [2006 Mexico]

Javier Patrón's first feature-length film "Fuera del Cielo" [Eng. Title: Beyond the Sky] is a gritty crime thriller set amidst the bad streets of Mexico City where we follow two parallel stories - one of two brothers down on their luck, and the other of a senator's relationship with his chronically ill daughter. You guessed it - it is a bleak film with very little respite or humour, and if you've seen it before, you're unlikely to rush to watch it again anytime soon. My DVD too had been gathering dust on the shelf for some time before this post...

Malboro and younger brother Cucú reunite when the elder brother returns after serving time. Cucú is training to become a professional boxer, but is also a petty criminal, and has a lot of anger stacked inside him. Malboro wants him to turn a new leaf, but he has issues of his own, not least learning to deal with his arch enemy - Rojas, a corrupt cop who not only put him behind bars for five years, but also married Sara, the woman Malboro had planned to elope with. Malboro still loves Sara and wants her back, but she fears she may once again be left to fend for herself alone with teenage daughter Elisa, and is reluctant to commit anything. Rojas catches wind of Malboro's release, and wants to find an excuse to put him away for good. An opportunity presents itself when Cucu, Malboro and their uncle lock the senator in the boot after stealing his car, with an excuse to celebrate Cucú's birthday in style. Rojas will catch up with Malboro, but not before he'd decided to stop running away from him...

Working with an impressive cast such as Damián Alcázar (Rojas), Demián Bichir (Malboro), Isela Vega (Malboro's mother), Dolores Heredia (Sara), and the talented Armando Hernández (Cucú) and Martha Higareda (Elisa), director Javier Patrón succeeds in showing us a part of Mexican life in all its mucky detail, even though it is at times judgemental and to an extent clichéd. The weakest part of the screenplay however has to be the film's climax - we're left with too many questions and few answers. I don't disapprove of the ending as such, but there hasn't been an adequate build-up to it. In summary, while the film may not exactly be easy viewing, it is a promising debut for Javier Patrón who makes a sincere effort in keeping it real. Recommended Viewing!

Amazon DVD Link [NTSC]


The Nudity:
Dolores Heredia, Armando Hernández, Demián Bichir, Martha Higareda, and Elizabeth Cervantes
Dolores Heredia, Armando Hernández, Demián Bichir, Martha Higareda, and Elizabeth Cervantes in Fuera del Cielo

Scene Guide:
  • When Malboro drops by Sara's house after five years, he gets a taste of her feistiness. This is also one of the better performed and memorable scenes in the film despite there being no nudity. Dolores Heredia plays the character of Sara.
  • Brothers bonding at the showers - Cucú, played by Armando Hernández, tells elder brother Malboro, played by Demián Bichir that he now has a new girlfriend named Rebeca and proceeds to show him how he feels about her..! :)
  • Elisa trying on her mum's pantyhose and acting all grown-up in front of the mirror. The cute Martha Higareda doesn't get nude in the film, but manages to give the audience some intermittent upskirts. She is quite convincing as the precocious Elisa.
  • Cucú takes Malboro to the strip club where Rebeca works - it appears the couple had had a tiff recently, but manage to make up at her dressing room. Rebeca later joins Cucú to celebrate his birthday.
  • Lovebirds Cucú and Rebeca couldn't keep their hands off each other in the car, and Elisa, inquisitive teeanger that she is, steals some glances of them making out, upon which Rebeca decides to have some 'privacy' outside.
  • Elisa and Malboro get talking about sex when they end up alone in the car, and Malboro inexplicably offers to pass some of his 'wisdom' to Elisa, the teenage daughter of the woman he's in love with, by masturbating her..!


Friday, 26 October 2012

Sylvia Kristel from Chabrol's underrated "Alice" [1977 France]

I would have liked this post to have been an elaborate tribute to one of the most remarkable personalities in European cinema, but will have to settle for paying my respects through an underrated gem from Claude Chabrol, "Alice ou la dernière fugue" [Eng. Title: Alice or the Last Escapade]. I hesitate to address Sylvia Kristel merely as a Dutch actress - she was a phenomenon, only comparable, perhaps, to someone like Marilyn Monroe in terms of being the object of near universal adulation and infatuation of her era. She was also influential in spawning a whole 'industry' on the back of her success - every "Emmanuelle" has strived to recreate the elegance and mystery of the character created by Sylvia Kristel. Emmanuelle was Ms. Kristel's gift to male youth of the 70's, one for which they would forever be grateful. Her recent passing may have been quite untimely, but she can rest assured of the indelible legacy she had left behind - changing men's perception of female sensuality, and furthering feminist goals. Dear Emmanuelle - may you rest in peace..!

Form is temporary, but class is permanent - I think it was a sports writer who said that. But I think it holds true to creative endeavours as well. Claude Chabrol was going through a bit of a crisis during the seventies - he was working on different genres but not exactly going places. Because people wanted him to do films he'd hitherto been famous for - murder mysteries. Several elegant pieces made during the period weren't well received, and "Alice" was one among them. While the film may not be his masterpiece, this modern adaptation of Alice in Wonderland is nevertheless a well conceived gem that oozes class. Sylvia Kristel also may not have been the most gifted of actresses, but as the eponymous Alice, she gives her character an air of mystery and a determination that makes this film tick. Alice here is no longer the innocent and curious type, but a worldly-wise modern woman wanting to make a fresh start after a failed marriage.

The story starts with Alice breaking-up with her husband one night and setting off in pouring rain. A shattered windscreen forces her to seek shelter at a nearby manor, where she's invited to stay for the night by its owner Henri and his butler. The following morning, she wakes up to find no one at the house, but her car has been fixed and breakfast laid at the table. But when she tries to leave, she couldn't find the gates through which she entered last night, and since then every attempt at leaving would bring her back to the same manor, making her realise that she's an unwilling participant in someone's wicked game.

Chabrol recreates an atmosphere of unease and impending fate surprisingly through light images and stunning colour - the stills will bely the horror fantasy that it is, yet every scene will be tinged with anguish. There's an enormous amount of meaningful detail in the imagery if you're willing to indulge yourself. Right from the snail on the windshield, to the reading room, and Alice's red dress (what an elegant dress by the way!), it is a feast for the eyes. The music and cinematography ably assist the tone of the film, and despite the fact that this is one of Chabrol's more unusual works, he has once again showcased his sheer mastery of cinema as a medium. Fittingly he had dedicated this film in memory of Fritz Lang. "Alice" is definitely a Chabrol classic, desperately in need of rediscovery, and therefore, Highly Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon.fr DVD Link


The Nudity: Sylvia Kristel
There is a scene in the film when Alice first notices that she is being watched, when she is about to get into the bath. Sylvia Kristel briefly displays her physical charms in all its stunning glory in this scene. She hears a voice when she's about to get into the bath, realising for the first time that she is being watched. My DVD is letterboxed and I don't think it has ever been mastered in true anamorphic widescreen. So I took the liberty of enhancing this special scene to 720p.

Sylvia Kristel in Alice ou la dernière fugue


Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Marta Fernández Muro & Cecilia Roth in "Laberinto de Pasiones" [1982 Spain]

For those who may not know, early films by Pedro Almodóvar were pretty much underground affairs - he was part of Spain's counter-culture, and also fronted a music band. The 1982 drama, "Laberinto de Pasiones" [Eng. Title: Labyrinth of Passion] may have been his second full-length 'mainstream' film, but it still retained the borderline irreverence of his early period - he was after all, an 'outsider' indulgently lapping up the sweeping changes that his country was witnessing at the time. There is a reason why many (like me) prefer this phase of his early works. His later works may no doubt be far more accomplished, but the rawness and freedom of his earlier works are like a breath of fresh air, filled with conviction that nothing 'awful' could ever happen to the youth of Spain because they now have the right to express themselves as never before.

The film is essentially a series of interconnected sketches involving a gay exiled prince, his family, a gay terrorist looking to kidnap him, a laundryman and his daughter, and her fascination with a nymphomaniacal pop-singer, who's the daughter of an eminent gynaecologist. I won't explain the plot, but rest assured this is one of the most hilarious, outrageously twisted, and totally irreverent films that you'd get to see. Some of the gags are too shocking to even be taken seriously. And Almodóvar also makes an appearance as his punk-rocker self, complete with micro-skirt and facial make-up, performing at a gig with his other group members..! :)

The film showcases the genius of Almodóvar in every way, and is a must-see for anyone interested in his films. Needless to say, Highly Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon DVD Link


The Nudity:
There are scenes of nudity from male actors such as a young Antonio Banderas, and Imanol Arias, and also from actresses Marta Fernández Muro, who plays laundryman's daughter Queti, and Cecilia Roth who plays nymphomaniac Sexilia.

Marta Fernandez Muro and Cecilia Roth in Laberinto de Pasiones

Scene Guide:
  • Outrageous scene - in denial after his wife leaves him, a laundryman mistakes daughter Queti for his wife and has his way with her every other day after taking some sex-enhancement drugs. To discourage and sedate him, Queti had been giving him another drug which unfortunately causes a side effect of increasing his paranoia. I'm hesitant to use the word 'rape' for a reason - Almodóvar will play similar mind games with us in his later films too such as Kika, Átame!, and La Piel que Habito. Queti in this scene is played by Marta Fernández Muro. If you look beyond the shock factor, the scene is actually quite silly, sexy, and funny.
  • Nymphomaniac singer Sexilia - played tongue-in-cheek by Cecilia Roth, feels bored in the middle of an orgy, and asks to be excused on the occasion - she'd been thinking of a guy she met at the club. That guy is prince Riza of 'Tiran', hitherto gay, but he too couldn't perform with his boyfriend that night - now that's 'love'..! :)
  • There's only brief nudity here but it is a 'poetic' comparison to the first scene. Queti is an ardent fan of Sexilia, and undergoes a cosmetic procedure to look exactly like her idol - she'd agreed to pursue Sexilia's modelling career on her behalf so that the original could elope with the prince to a caribbean destination. But the altered Queti had now fallen for Sexilia's workaholic father, and even encourages him and her psychiatrist-friend Susanna into believing that she's enthusiastically embracing an incestuous relationship..!


Tuesday, 23 October 2012

An interview with Sebastiano Montresor

Following his most recent film, "K Smette di Fumare", I took the opportunity to catch up with Italian director Sebastiano Montresor. In this exclusive blog interview, he talks about his work, philosophy, and style of film-making.

Sebastiano Montresor

Congrats Sebastiano on completing your latest film, the peculiarly titled "K Smette di Fumare" (K Quits Smoking). I hear there's a second film to accompany this (Q Smette di Ricordare). Will it also be styled on a noire? Is there any common thread/theme connecting 'K' and 'Q'?

The 'K' in the title stands for King, and 'Q' for Queen, as in a poker deck. The main theme is the addiction to cinema/woman/love/cigarettes, and I think the two films complement and are necessary to each other. Q smette di ricordare follows in the wake of K smette di fumare, with similar characters and situations, even involving the same actors, who in the meantime seem to have progressed, as if they had developed new emotions, as if they’d grown up. They did actually grow up, by one year - the time the film took to be written and shot. They both belong to agrestic cinema, a genre that has also evolved, to become, perhaps, more profound, with new themes and narrative registers, while maintaining its core idea: telling stories from my native village. I chose Black&White to try my hand at a new language and distinguish it from my previous work. When shooting a film in B&W, you are aware that you cannot go back. I didn’t for a second consider shooting it in colour and desaturate later. I wanted to force myself to think as if I was living in the 40s. I like the idea to go back in time, as there’s often more modernity in B&W than in the super glossy images of series like CSI. The other theme connecting both films is the nostalgia for a past that you know will never come back. It is something that I always deal with in my work, perhaps more explicitly in 'Q'. I believe this way of working helps me think about myself, allowing me to 'somatise' events that have been stuck in my head for years. I hope the viewer will get that while watching my films.

Il titolo K sta per King e Q sta per Queen, come le carte da gioco del poker. Il tema principale è la dipendenza dal cinema/donna/amore/sigarette e penso che i due film siano complementari e necessari l'uno all'altro. Q smette di ricordare è il seguito natura di K smette di fumare, i personaggi e le situazioni sono molto simili, addirittura alcuni attori sono gli stessi sebbene spostati in avanti di segno, come se avessero vissuto nel frattempo delle nuove esperienze e quindi avessero maturato delle nuove emozioni, come se fossero cresciuti. In effetti sono cresciuti di un anno, il tempo che c'è voluto per scrivere e girare la seconda parte. Fanno parte entrambi del cinema agricolo, che si è evoluto pure lui, è diventato più profondo, forse, ha cambiato alcuni temi e registri narrativi, ma rimane il nocciolo, quello di raccontare storie a partire dal mio paese natale. Ho scelto il bianco e nero per provare un linguaggio nuovo, che fosse diverso dai lavori precedenti. Girare un film in bianco e nero significa che non puoi tornare indietro. Non ho pensato nemmeno per un momento di girare a colori e poi desaturare. Volevo obbligarmi a ragionare come se fossi nel 1940. Mi piace l'idea di tornare indietro nel tempo, tante volte c'è più modernità nel bianco e nero che nelle immagini super patinare dei serial tipo CSI. L'altro tema che accomuna entrambi i film è la nostalgia per un passato che sai non potrà mai tornare. E' qualcosa che sento di continuare a cercare nei miei lavori, forse sarà ancora più manifesto in Q. Credo che lavorare in questo modo sia anche un modo per riflettere su di me, per somatizzare alcuni avvenimenti che sono
ancora impressi nella mia testa a distanza di anni. Spero che questo arrivi allo spettatore quando guarda i miei film.


shooting 12


"Addiction to cinema/woman/love/cigarettes…” this is so in tune with this blog! I'm aware of directors preferring to work in trilogies, but you seem to like making films in duologies (Vigasiosexploitation, and now Smette...).

It’s partly a quirk and part necessity. I can’t shoot a whole film in a year. I need time to work at it, and I like to entertain the idea that when I’m editing I’m really shooting it a second time. I’m also fond of thinking of them as two films enjoyed like a double-bill at a drive-in. Agrestic cinema is born as a poor art and the idea of offering two films at the price of one adds to its value - viewers are supposed to feel encouraged to watch both, because they only pay for one ticket. In addition, if you’re making a trilogy, you must have very clear and defined plans from day one, whereas I really just improvise; while shooting 'K', I was getting ideas for the evolution of the characters I described in 'Q'. But without 'K', I could never have come up with 'Q'. I had to make 'K' to get to 'Q'. It is basically a work in progress. When I start a project, I always want to remain open to the possibility to counterbalance what I’m narrating. I believe that therein lies the strength of Vsxpl (Vigasiosexploitation), precisely in the contrast emerging between the first and the second part. Let’s hope the same will happen with these new films, although they are more intimate.

Sì, è un vezzo e una necessità. Non riesco a girare un film completo in un anno, ho bisogno di tempo per lavorarci dietro e mi piace pensare che quando monto un film in verità lo sto girando per la seconda volta. Mi piace molto poi l'idea che questi film vengano fruiti come se fossero un doppio spettacolo da drive-in. Il cinema agricolo nasce come cinema povero e quindi l'idea di offrire due film al posto di uno ne aumenta il valore. Lo spettatore dovrebbe essere invogliato a vederseli entrambi, perchè virtualmente paga un solo biglietto. Poi per girare le trilogie bisogna avere le idee chiare fin dall'inizio, io invece giro a braccio e mentre giravo K mi venivano in mente evoluzioni dei personaggi che poi ho descritto in Q. Ma senza K non avrei mai potuto pensare a Q. Dovevo girare K per arrivare a Q. Insomma, è sempre un lavoro in fieri. Quando comincio un lavoro voglio sempre tenermi la possibilità di controbilanciare quello che racconto. Credo che la forza di vsxpl stia proprio in questo, nel contrasto che si crea tra la visione del primo e del secondo. Speriamo che succeda la stessa cosa anche con questi nuovi film, anche se sono molto più intimisti.

K Smette di fumare - Making Of


Do you consider your films ‘B-movies’, despite the apparent experimentation and rather unusual plot devices?

I think of them as B-movies because I’m averse to the idea of evaluating them on the same scale with the flicks I see in theatres. Most of the films are structured in exactly the same way, they are all alike. So I prefer to consider them B-products, and perhaps they are so not only because of the budget, but also because of my style choices. A non-aligned film is automatically shunned by the mainstream, and that’s where the B-movie label helps, because at least it keeps you in the loop. Having said that, this is perhaps an inadequate word; I’d rather label my work – as I’ve been advised – “weird”, which has a better ring for agrestic cinema.

Li considero film di serie B perchè non mi va per niente l'idea che possano essere scambiati con i film che vedo nelle sale. La maggior parte di quelli che vedo sono costruiti sempre nello stesso modo, tutti uguali. Quindi preferisco pensarli come prodotti di serie B, che magari non lo sono solo per il budget, ma anche per le scelte stilistiche. Girare film non allineati ti porta automaticamente a essere tagliato fuori e quindi l'etichetta di B-movie aiuta. Almeno ti fa stare dentro un circuito. Ma forse il termine è sbagliato, forse dovrei chiamarli - come mi hanno consigliato - con l'epiteto di weird, che fa più cinema agricolo.


"Cinema Agricolo" or “Agrestic Cinema”. Could you explain what it means?

The Agrestic Cinema was born out of a necessity to tell anti-television and anti-narrative stories, harking back to the primitive cinematographic imagery. We live in, or rather we are passively subjected to, a videosphere that claims to create meaning by forging an altered reality, and selling it as entertainment, or worse, information. This fabrication distorts the perception of images, anesthetises the spectator's critical faculties and flattens out the historical truth of filmed events, depriving them of the importance they deserve. Everything is alike and mediocre. Agrestic cinema is the most obvious alternative; because it self-denounces the poverty of the artifice, which no longer appears as an effect, but becomes part of the staging itself, and as such is more realistic than television information. Agrestic cinema is impoverished, hapless and tattered, but breathes a noble afflatus, which belongs to all those who feel the need for a return to agriculture, meant as a common and ancestral human legacy, one made of words, music and images.

Cast and crew


There are only few people in Italy actively experimenting with cinema, and likewise few independent film makers at the moment. You must have a dedicated production crew to work with – perhaps you can tell us a bit about them. And how do you manage to maintain the passion for what you do without any government funding?

In Italy we have many independent directors and filmmakers, who are perhaps more aligned to established genres. I kind of transcend the whole lot, as I cross all genres to come up with something altogether new. This is my idea of experimentation. If I were to make a horror, I would have to stick to some benchmarks and musts, which I cannot ignore if I want to end up with a horror film. I find the works of Lorenzo Bianchini and Domiziano Cristopharo very accomplished, well shot and directed. But I don’t belong with them, as I aim at making films that don’t grow old, that don’t have to confront the passing of time. What I tell in my stories will be as relevant today as in a hundred years time. That’s it, in a hundred years, if somebody still downloads my films from torrents, that would really prove my point. Unfortunately, I don’t get any sort of funds, and I’m forced to produce myself. I work as a freelancer during the year and I spare two weeks during the summer to shoot. In winter, in between a piece of TV news and a commercial, I work at editing, post-production and audio. I am helped by excellent and trusted collaborators, such as Daniele Trani (cinematography), Airbag Killex (soundtrack), and Edoardo Vojvoda who assists me with shooting and fx. It is by now a consolidated work team, and every time we meet after a hiatus of several months, it feels as if what happened in the middle never really existed, because we are there to shoot a new film, and we just pick up from where we left some 12 months earlier. If you want to make a film, you cannot afford to sit and wait, expecting money from the State - you just do it. That’s why as soon as I complete a new work I post it immediately online. It makes sense to make a film only if it is there for everyone to enjoy. It would be ideal if people paid to see my films – so that I could afford to live off that – but perhaps that would compel me to follow different, more commercial logics, while I want to be completely free to do what I want to. It is, of course, a freedom that costs me dearly.

In Italia ci sono molti registi e cineasti indipendenti, magari più allineati con alcuni generi. Io trascendo un pò tutto, scavalco i generi e viene fuori una cosa nuova. Credo che la vera sperimentazione sia questa. Se devo girare un film horror ci sono dei paletti e dei capisaldi che non si possono omettere, ci devono essere, sennò non è un film horror. Trovo che i lavori di Lorenzo Bianchini e di Domiziano Cristopharo siano molto belli, ben girati e ben diretti. Ma non mi appartengono, voglio girare dei film che non invecchino e che non debbano confrontarsi con il passare del tempo. Vorrei che quello che racconto nelle mie storie fatte di immagini sia attuale ora e lo sia anche fra cento anni. Ecco, se fra cento anni ci fosse ancora qualcuno che si scarica dai torrent i miei film quella sarebbe la vera cartina di tornasole. Purtroppo non ho fondi di nessun genere, sono costretto ad autoprodurmeli. Lavoro come freelance durante l'anno e mi ritaglio 2 settimane d'estate per girare; durante l'inverno tra un servizio tg e un messaggio promozionale mi dedico al montaggio, alla post e all'audio. Sono molto aiutato da collaboratori validissimi e fidatissimi, come Daniele Trani per la fotografia o Airbag Killex per il suono o ancora Edoardo Vojvoda per l'assistenza durante le riprese e gli fx. Si è creato un gruppo di lavoro che dura nel tempo, e quando ci si ritrova a distanza di molti mesi è come se quello che è successo in mezzo non sia realmente esistito, perchè dobbiamo girare un nuovo film, riprendiamo il discorso che avevamo lasciato in sospeso 12 mesi prima. Se devi girare un film non puoi certo aspettare che lo stato ti dia i soldi, lo devi girare e basta. E' per questo che appena finisco un lavoro lo metto subito in rete. Un film ha ragione di esistere se tutti lo possono vedere. Sarebbe bellissimo se la gente pagasse per vedere i miei film - mi darebbe la possibilità di fare solo quello - ma forse mi costringerebbe a delle logiche diverse, più commerciali, e quando faccio i miei lavori voglio invece essere completamente libero. Naturalmente pago profumatamente questa libertà.

K Smette di fumare film shoot


Do the cast and crew always share your vision? It must be a challenge while working on some of your extreme subject matter where they may need to cross a particular threshold..?

The technical department is always a delight to work with. I never had any issues with them. They know me by now, they know what I like, and I think they like it too. However, I have a somewhat more conflicting relationship with actors - I am often at odds with them. In my mind everything is so clear, that I don’t understand how it can’t possibly be the same for them (LOL). They often accuse me of treating them as puppets. This happens so often, for e.g., we are all set to start shooting, and suddenly they ask me what they’re supposed to do, while it seems so obvious to me. So I try to explain and in the process mess things up even further. That’s when I give up and just let them do their thing, while I watch them on the screen. If I like what I see, we carry on, otherwise we stop. But it is very rare for me not to achieve the precise mood that I’m looking for. Usually actors know how to do their job. If you force them through extreme situations, if you catch them off guard and feed them to the camera, their skills pop out and it works, thanks to their human side. It never ceases to surprise me that they can be one thing in front of the camera and something completely different when we finish. Maybe the correct way to describe this is that they scandalize me. When I shoot, I try to lower this sort of “scandal threshold” I feel about them, and when I don’t perceive that so much, then the scene is working.

Con il reparto tecnico mi trovo sempre molto bene. Non ci sono mai problemi. Ormai mi conoscono e sanno cosa mi piace e credo che in molti casi piaccia anche a loro. Ho invece un rapporto più conflittuale con gli attori. Mi trovo molto spesso in difficoltà. E' tutto così chiaro nella mia mente che non capisco come faccia a non esserlo anche nella loro (eh eh eh). Mi accusano spesso di venire trattati come fossero delle marionette. Spesso succede. Siamo pronti per girare e mi chiedono cosa devono fare. Mentre per me è tutto così ovvio. Allora cerco di spiegare e incasino la situazione ulteriormente. A quel punto lascio perdere tutto e chiedo di recitare come se la sentono e io guardo nel monitor. Se quello che succede mi piace si procede, sennò stoppiamo. Ma raramente capita che non venga fuori quell'intenzione che serve. Di solito gli attori sanno fare il loro mestiere. E se li si costringe in condizioni estreme, li si prende alla sprovvista e li si da in pasto alla macchina ecco che viene fuori il loro mestiere e funzionano, perchè rendono l'umanità che hanno dentro. Mi stupisce sempre il fatto che riescano ad essere in un modo davanti alla macchina e completamene diversi quando si finisce. Forse il termine corretto è che mi scandalizzano. Quando giro cerco di abbassare quanto posso il mio senso di scandalo per questa cosa, quando mi sembra di non sentirlo più allora la scena funziona.

Six Sebastianos


So a director should exercise human psychology when dealing with actors - fair point. Do you plan to release these two films later on DVD?

Hopefully in December 2013 – in the meantime enjoy the first part, because as soon as 'Q' is released, 'K' will take on a whole new meaning and perhaps you will read it with different eyes. The same happened to me!

Spero a dicembre 2013 - ma intanto godetevi questa prima parte, perchè quando arriverà Q smette di ricordare K prenderà un senso nuovo e forse lo leggerete con occhi nuovi, un pò come è successo a me...


Well, I hope so too Sebastiano, I certainly look forward to watching 'Q' when it is finished. Thank you for the interview, and my best wishes for your successful completion of “Q Smette di Ricordare”. We shall touch-base soon, and bye for now.

For those interested in watching Sebastiano Montresor’s “K smette di fumare” in full, here is a torrent link for download, courtesy of Mr. Montresor himself:

Torrent Download Link for DVD


Saturday, 20 October 2012

Aura Cristina Geithner in "Mar de Fondo" [2012 Mexico]

Raúl Quintanilla's directorial feature film debut, "Mar de Fondo" [Eng. Trans: Sea-Swell] tries hard not to be grouped among the myriad melodramas that Mexican TV is famous for - the stunning locale (Puerto Vallarta), confident direction, and an interesting storyline are proof enough of its ambitiousness.

Jorge arrives with girlfriend Eva to catch up with his elder brother Silvestre, who's yet to come to terms with fiancée Rossana's death in a motor accident. Erratic and with violent mood swings, Silvestre is addicted to drugs and alcohol, and hallucinates Rossana's sympathetic presence by his side at all times. A childhood friend of the siblings also drops by the seaside resort along with his fiancée. After an altercation with Silvestre one night, the two couples decide to go sailing, and Jorge and Eva get off at an uninhabited island to spend some time on their own. But an unexpected sea swell will spell peril for the couples, both in terms of their lives and relationships. While their drama is unfolding at sea, back at the resort, Silvestre has overdosed...

Apparently inspired by true events, the film tries to tell an unconventional love story while examining relationships. But the screenplay needs more work, and the performances by some of the actors are pedestrian, which inevitably invite comparisons with run-of-the-mill Mexican melodramas - I found no discernible 'swell' of emotions in any of the characters the film follows. Having said that, some parts of the film were well done, particularly those relating to the Rossana character. It is nevertheless a decent debut for Mr. Quintanilla, and hopefully his films would only get better.

The Nudity:
Aura Cristina Geithner, Adriana Da Silva, and María José Magán
The film features some brief scenes of nudity from Aura Cristina Geithner who plays Eva, and Adriana Da Silva who plays Silvestre's one-night fling that goes wrong.

Aura Cristina Geithner and Adriana Da Silva in Mar de Fondo

Scene Guide:
  • Jorge admires his Eva frolicking in the beach and invites her indoors. Just when they're about to get going, Eva gets a call - from her former boyfriend, and Jorge insists that she answer the call while he goes about his business. Eva is played by TV actress Aura Cristina Geithner.
  • Sandra (Her name is an educated guess as she's the only non-main character included among the film credits) arrives at the club appearing very available - she'd been arranged by a friend to cheer-up Silvestre. But Silvestre couldn't rid thoughts of Rossana from his tormented mind - he imagines her watching him in bed with Sandra, and loses it completely. Sandra is played by Maria Da Silva, and Rossana (non-nude) is played by pretty little Maréa José Magán.
  • Jorge with Eva...


Thursday, 18 October 2012

Emanuela Trovato and others in "K - Smette di Fumare" [2012 Italy]

Okay - now for something completely different!

Sebastiano Montresor's latest film "K Smette di Fumare" [Eng. Title: 'K' Quits Smoking] is a tongue-in-cheek thriller complete with outlandish plot and wacky characters. It is also part of a duology whose next instalment will be out in the not too distant future.

'K', a former comic-book hero, finds himself unable to cope after having been dumped by the only love in his life, Eszter, possibly owing to his cigarette breath, enthusiastic smoker that he is. However, some unresolved issues will make their destinies cross paths again. Eszter comes into possession of a 'special' cigarette pack coveted for some reason by a Russian agent who wants to become the new Czar (ok - stay with me on this one, guys). She also tries to force 'K' into giving up smoking so that they could get back together again. Eszter recommends a particular Anti-smoking clinic, to which 'K' also signs up, but he realises that they use a rather unconventional tool for his therapy - an android slave that will do anything for you provided your nicotine level cannot be detected by its sensors. Called the 'Account', it is to stick by her client 24/7 and telecast feed live to the centre. Meanwhile... Eszter gets kidnapped by a psychopathic surgeon who goes on to perform a disgusting 'Human Centipede' like procedure on her. The hero will now have to do something more apart from merely taking revenge on the dastardly surgeon - he needs to find her a new set of intestines...

This is Montrasore's tribute to film-noire, Italian gialli and the horror genre all rolled into one, using his very own Agrestic, de-constructed style. The style isn't very dissimilar to Fassbinder's in The Merchant of Four Seasons, but of course this isn't anywhere near as deep as the example. The film also features some grotesque scenes which were never intended to be taken seriously, and hence never made to look too convincing. The film is provocative regardless, not by being particularly profound, but more in jest. For me, this is by far Montresor's best work, and I'm also beginning to enjoy his unconventional but altogether refreshing style of film-making. Cinema needs jesters like him to poke fun and remind us that nothing can ever be taken too seriously. He also appears to have a talented crew who are on his same wavelength - the cinematography and editing are actually pretty good, and you can easily tell that they are quite capable of producing glossy mainstream stuff if demanded. The sound engineering by Airbag Killex is actually quite impressive, with some groovy tracks also thrown in. I thoroughly enjoyed watching this film - it is Recommended Viewing..!

The film isn't actually out yet - mine is a copy sent directly by Montresor himself, but will update this once it is made available.

Official Website | Official Trailer


Main Compilation: Emanuela Trovato, Stella Novari, Emanuela Petroni, Annalisa Lori, Carla Meccariello, and Diana Simona Gasparini
The director had requested to make these clips widely accessible for people to sample, the very reason for my making this post public. Some of the scenes don't contain nudity, but they are related to the blog in some sense and are interesting nevertheless.

Emanuela Trovato, Stella Novari and others in K Smette di fumare

Scene Guide:
  • Eszter thinking about and dearly missing 'K' - Eszter is played by alluring newcomer Emanuela Trovato.
  • Visiting the anti-smoking clinic, 'K' certainly appears to approve of what he sees in the receptionist - played by Annalisa Lori.
  • Meet the directors - sorry, director, of the clinic. Played by a generously endowed Emanuela Petroni who I'm sure Fellini would've been impressed with.
  • We get to see how the 'Account', an android employed to work with 'K' to quit smoking, goes about her daily business. It's a shame the 'Account' couldn't take her clothes off because she'll begin to look less human, apparently. Merely giving us tantalising hints, the android is played by Stella Novari.
  • A maniac at work - the surgeon showcases his villainy on a hapless Eszter while disembowelling her.
  • 'K' is asked by the clinic to get back to his murderous old self so that they could broadcast what he's doing to discerning voyeurs. The 'smoking' girls are played by Carla Meccariello, and Diana Simona Gasparini. Inter-cut with scenes of a plainly suffering Eszter.
Download Link:
Mirror 1 | Mirror 2


Bonus Compilation: Emanuela Trovato
Couldn't help including more of Emanuela Trovato from the 'Making of' chapters among the DVD extras. What's more, they're in colour as well..! :)

Emanuela Trovato from the Making of documentary - K emette di fumare

Bonus Compilation


Sunday, 14 October 2012

Angie Cepeda & Rodrigo Santoro in "Heleno" [2011 Brazil]

Brazilian director José Henrique Fonseca's biographical drama, "Heleno" is about one of his country's greatest footballers never to have made it to a World Cup (and hence, unknown to the larger world), Heleno de Freitas.

Not surprisingly, this film was my first introduction to the legend whose life seems to have been scripted by a Greek tragedian. From humble beginnings, Heleno rose to stardom and nationwide fame even though he wasn't exactly playing for a top club (ironically, Botafogo will win a championship title after he leaves). As luck would have it, two successive world cups were also cancelled during his peak - understandable, it was after all the Second World War, and by the time the next one arrives, Heleno is already in a sanatorium, abandoned by his wife, and who would soon marry his best friend. Syphilis had taken its toll and he dies very young, in his late thirties. The film looks back from his final days, to a period when he had everything at his feet - the game, the money, and the women.

Fonseca's drama is an extremely sympathetic portrait of a man that some considered was irascible, with an insufferable ego. Considering that geniuses very rarely come in any other form, we are given a glimpse of what it is to be Heleno, and what made him feel so special, through some thoughtful and well executed screenplay. The talented Rodrigo Santoro gives a sterling performance as the tragic hero - by even shedding considerable weight for playing his character's final days. Shot in crisp black and white, the costumes and art direction avidly capture the glitz of Heleno's world and the period, including a memorable recreation of Copacabana in one of the scenes. The soundtrack adds to the nostalgia, and the performances by all the main actors are also of a high standard. Needless to say, this very well made film is Recommended Viewing..!

DVD Purchase Link


Compilation: Angie Cepeda and Rodrigo Santoro

Angie Cepeda and Rodrigo Santoro in Heleno

Scene Guide:
  • This is of Colombian-born actress Angie Cepeda (boy she looks so different in this film!) plays club entertainer Diamantina whom Heleno befriends and has her for a mistress. In the scene, he jealously watches her flirt with admirers, and interrupts her performance to reassert himself.
  • A desperately ill Heleno wanders around the ward in the nude, and is helped by a nurse. Heleno is admirably played by popular Brazilian actor Rodrigo Santoro.
  • Heleno picks up some prostitutes on a rare day away from the sanatorium. Unfortunately I couldn't pick the names of the actresses from the credits, so for the moment they'll have to remain anonymous.


Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Katja Riemann in "Ich bin die Andere" [2006 Germany]

As director and writer, Margarethe von Trotta is known for her female-centric films giving an intimate portrait of their aspirations and relationships from a feminine point-of-view. Until recently however, I'd only been aware of her as an actress - she had appeared in several films by RW Fassbinder before becoming a director. Her drama, "Iche bin die Andere" [Eng. Title: I am the Other Woman] concerns a woman with a seemingly split-personality as a result of a traumatic event during her childhood.

Architect Robert Fabry arrives at Frankfurt on business and meets Alice aka Carlotta unexpectedly at the hotel he's staying. He assumes her to be a call-girl - she behaves like one in any case, and he takes her to his room, only to notice the following morning that it is she who'd 'paid' for his services. Not only that, he will learn soon enough that she's also Carolin Winter, the consultant hired to work on his business contract. What was just a casual fling becomes an obsession - he breaks his engagement with fiancée Britta and pursues Carolin, before long falling in love with this mysterious woman. But just as he manages to win Carolin's heart, he will realise that he has a formidable rival to contend with in winning her total commitment - her father Karl, who had successfully manipulated her earning for his approval since childhood...

On paper, this complex storyline promises nothing short of high drama - of a young girl's desperation to win her father's approval, love, and loaded with overtones of potentially consensual incest. There is also the scenario of a fiancée forcing herself to help the person who broke their engagement. And not least the conflicting emotions of a woman who likes to move on but couldn't give up her past. But it is difficult if not impossible to do full justice to all of it in a single film - it should have been a TV-serial. And just because it isn't, a lot of the impact is lost due to the frequent but inevitable gaps in the film's narrative. The impressive as ever Katja Riemann carries through her character of Carolin as much as she could, but alas it isn't enough to conceal the glaring gaps - it is a case of interesting characterisation overshadowed by inadequate screenplay. Ms. Riemann scorches the screen with her unbridled sensuality regardless, but I couldn't help feeling the casting choice for Robert, her character's love interest played by August Diehl, makes her look more like a cougar rather than a serious lover - an obvious mismatch. But for Katja Riemann fans, this film will nevertheless be Recommended Viewing.

Amazon.de DVD Link

Compilation: Katja Riemann and August Diehl

Katja Riemann and August Diehl in Ich bin die Andere

Scene Guide:
  • The lady in red - Alice aka Carlotta, aka Carolin, accompanies Robert to his hotel room and plays the whore, only to prove otherwise the following day. Played by the multi-faceted actress Katja Riemann (did you know she's also a composer and singer song-writer?). Robert is played by August Diehl.
  • Another Rendezvous with Robert, of Carolin as Carlotta - this time at a nondescript motel. This is an incredibly sexy scene even if there is only brief nudity - Ms. Riemann is the perfect M.I.L.F one could wish for. At the end of this scene, Carlotta returns to a highly embarrassed Carolin and leaves the room in a hurry.
  • Rendezvous no: 3 - and some memories of Carolin's childhood come flooding in as she remembers catching her father in the act with her nanny...

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Georgina Hale in Ken Russell's poetic "Mahler" [1974 UK]

Ken Russell had never been stranger to controversy, he revelled in catching critics and audience off guard. He confounded critics yet again during the peak of his notoriety by making one of his most restrained and poetic of films. Whether or not we are a fan, Ken Russell's "Mahler" - a commentary on Austrian composer Gustav Mahler's life and work, will be seen by many as one of the most imaginative biographies attempted in film.

The first time I even heard of Mahler was through an earlier Visconti classic, "Morte a Venezia" - my ignorance in classical music was deep. "Mahler" went some way in igniting my interest in a music that I hitherto considered bourgeois, thanks largely due to Russell's interpretation. The film however is not just about Gustav Mahler, but also his wife Alma, whose inherent talent was overshadowed by her husband's. The film narrates most of Mahler's life through his reminiscences during a train journey with his wife back to Vienna. His torments and nightmares are shown as a consequence to his single-mindedness, insecurities, jealousy, and guilt.

To say the film is exquisitely made is an understatement. Possibly inspired by the exquisite art direction in the aforementioned Visconti film, Russell goes further by recreating various periods during Mahler's lifetime in meticulous detail. His creative choice of symphonies for passes of play is a result of a deep understanding of the composer and his music. Just as well - if a man knows his composers, it's got to be Ken Russell - he'd already been making films about them for a good many years. The cinematography and particularly the editing couldn't possibly be bettered. The impeccable casting of and performances by Robert Powell and Georgina Hale as Gustav and Alma Mahler respectively are quite impressive and totally engaging - Ms. Hale also won a BAFTA for her efforts. In summary, this is a well-conceived story, beautifully filmed and presented by a gifted director with an image problem. This may not be Ken's finest work (for me it will always be "The Devils"), but is nevertheless a movingly soulful and analytical work from the British master, and therefore Highly Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon DVD Link [PAL]



Compilation: Georgina Hale and David Collings
The film subject's severity is toned down in places through some outrageously comical sequences, like during Mahler's conversion to Catholicism, and my favourite - Mahler having a nightmare of being cremated alive while Alma, still in mourning robes, flirts with would-be suitors.

Georgina Hale and David Collings in Mahler

Scene Guide:
  • Mahler always feared his wife might one day emerge into prominence. In this dream, his insecurities take shape in the form of Alma emerging from a cocoon. Alma is portrayed rather well by Georgina Hale.
  • After a period of illness, thoughts about his own death occur frequently - in this instance, he sees Alma as wasting little time in cremating him and choosing a new partner - even before he's actually dead..!
  • A brief scene of Mahler visiting friend-composer Hugo in an asylum. Hugo is played by David Collings.


Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Scenes from "Cresceranno i Carciofi a Mimongo" [1996 Italy]

Fulvio Ottaviano won a David for his early film "Cresceranno i Carciofi a Mimongo" [Eng. Title: Growing Artichokes in Mimongo], a breezy comedy about young graduates trying to establish themselves.

Sergio is a botany graduate struggling to land a job, and tries to follow instructions from a self-help book that promises success. But he finds it hard going due to his carefree and happy-go-lucky flatmate Enzo's noisy bedroom antics. To make matters worse, his sweetheart Rita decides on marrying someone else. Sergio almost gives up when he feels he's swimming against the tide, and sees his dream of developing techniques for cultivating artichokes receding, until good fortune arrives in an unexpected way...

Shot in black and white with a limited budget in what appears to be on-location, it has the distinct feel of European art films from the seventies. The dialogues are witty with decent performances by a largely unknown cast who would later on become household names (like Valerio Mastandrea and Daniele Liotti). The direction and editing is simple, effective, and the cinematography is also competent. This film actually came as a pleasant surprise to me as I wasn't expecting anything, having never heard of the film nor the director before watching it. It also features a couple of nude scenes thanks to Chantal Ughi and Antonella Avolio, also giving me a reason for this blog-entry. Needless to say, the film is Recommended Viewing..!

Amazon.it DVD Link


Compilation: Chantal Ughi and Antonella Avolio

Chantal Ughi and Antonella Avolio in Cresceranno i carciofi a Mimongo

Scene Guide:
  • Former classmates chatting away over the phone - and one of them is Chantal in the bathroom, played by Chantal Ughi (a Thai martial arts champion in real life).
  • An annoyed Sergio knocks on Enzo's door to ask him to turn down the music, only to be surprised when it's answered by stark naked stranger Gertrud, played by a rather athletic looking Antonella Avolio. It was Gertrud's sister Inghe that Enzo was dating originally. He now asks Sergio whether it is a good idea to return through Gertrud the diaphragm Inghe had left behind earlier. :)
  • Woken up by the telephone.