Marina Abramovic The Artist is Present (2012): Marina Abramovic is a well-known performance artist (now in her 60s), who recently did a performance piece at MOMA. Her older pieces were re-performed by younger artists, while she sat a chair in the middle of room. People could come and sit across from her, and she would just look at them. It produced a lot of emotional responses from people. She would sit there, the whole day, and she did it for three months. This film is about her process of preparing for the physical and mental strain of her piece, as well as the responses of audience members. It’s kind of ironic, since the whole idea of a performance piece is that you have to be there to experience it, and yet here’s a film about it. But it was quite interesting, especially since I unfortunately did not get to see the actual performance piece live (in 2010.) My dad did see it however, though he didn’t sit across from her. Definitely an interesting film to watch. My one criticism of it was that it didn’t show any of Marina Abramovic’s real critics (and I’m sure they’re out there.) Except for Megyn Kelly, a Fox News anchor, and it’s pretty easy to make of fun of her. She called Abramovic a “Yugoslavian provocateur.” I mean criticism from fellow artists. Admittedly, there was some veiled critique from her former fellow performance artist and lover Ulay, but that was about it.
Pina (3D, 2011): Pina Bausch was a director and dance choreographer in Germany who died recently. This film, dedicated to her, is about the dance company, and all of the dancers who really appreciate her. They offer commentary on her life, and there are also extended dance sequences. Pina’s style of dancing is very interesting. Kind of brutal though. It’s very different from other kinds of dance. I can’t really describe in words. That’s the argument of dancers in fact; that dance expresses something that words can’t. So you’ll have to watch it.
Le Grande Illusion (1937): Le Grande Illusion is a French film about two soldiers in World War I who are captured and put into a German POW camp. They try to escape repeatedly, and are finally sent to a place that seems almost impossible to escape from. Eric Von Stroheim plays the stiff-necked German commander of the latter place, and Jean Gabin the main character of the film, one of the soldiers captured. The other is Captain Boldieu, who is more similar to the German commander than to Marchel (Jean Gabin’s character.) The movie is directed by Jean Renoir, the son of the famous painter Auguste Renoir, and you can really see his father’s influence on him. Each shot is carefully constructed, with certain objects placed just so and just the right amount of light and shadow. Some might criticize this as not being what film is about, but I though it was quite effective (and not to mention beautiful.) Le Grande Illusion is an entertaining film, but is ultimately about class and interaction. It’s definitely worthwhile.
A Cat in Paris (2010): This is a light and funny hand-drawn animation, about a cat in Paris who lives a double life: by day with the daughter of a policewoman, and at night, going out to steal with a thief. But then Zoe, the daughter, gets kidnapped by Victor Costa, a gangster (who, incidentally killed her father.) This animation was originally in French; the version I saw was dubbed in English. The animations were really very well drawn, and at the end some of them were paper-cuts I think. This is an entertaining and funny animation that does have serious elements as well.
To Rome With Love (2012): To Rome With Love is Woody Allen’s latest film. Though not as good as Midnight in Paris, it’s another light and funny comedy. It’s his latest film shot in Europe (he’s done them in London, Paris, and Barcelona.) There are many stories that take place (over different time frames) in Rome, some funnier than others. The thing I loved about this one was that Woody Allen himself was actually in it. He’s an older man now, but he’s still quite funny. I would have liked to have seen more of him. To summarize some of the stories: there’s a middle-aged businessman, who, for some inexplicable reason becomes famous, there’s a couple from the country who have all sorts of adventures in one day, there’s a guy whose girlfriend’s friend is coming to stay… The one with Woody Allen was really funny; his daughter is marrying an Italian lawyer whose father is a mortician. But it turns out that this mortician has a beautiful tenor voice for opera…but only in the shower. You can imagine what happens. I kept expecting the stories to intertwine in some way, but they never did, and it was somewhat confusing since they all took place over different amounts of time. To Rome With Love received mixed reviews: The Olympian didn’t like it, The New York Times thought it was okay, and The New Yorker liked it. I think To Rome With Love is good for a few laughs, and is a good comedy. I think Woody Allen actually being it was the best thing.