kinocow

the grass is always green on the screen

A French style brooding Bond, deep fried in love.

How to write a show where the main antagonists are Bashar al-Assad, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, ISIS, and the vestiges of the KGB without it coming off as a tacky American spy soup? Dripped in style, cogent writing, and a cast that is both suave and vulnerable aided by brilliant production design makes Le Bureau des Légendes a sophisticated espionage thriller that manages to keep you hooked throughout its 50-episode saga.

The initial episodes waste no time in setting up the story and are a bewildering ride but the lead character Guillaume Debailly played by a mesmerizing Mathieu Kassovitz brings together all the confusing story lines to a precipitating point by his screen presence, where he broods and ponders, a humane French 007.

Though in the latter seasons Le Bureau des Légendes falls into the familiar TV trope of the copious intermingling of characters, it does not come across as forced, the show borrows this leeway from the sharp writing and its intensive focus on the key material that moves the story forward. Guillaume Debailly's love for a Syrian dissident Nadia El Mansour forms the central conflict beneath the operations of the French Intelligence Service, the DGSE.

The cinematography and production design of the show are top-notch, almost making many of the settings seem impossible from a logistical viewpoint: The scenes set in Raqqa, Syria, and Tehran make one question how a TV crew pulled off these falsifications. Any espionage thriller should be inviting its audience to invest in its believability through kinetic action pieces and a story full of contradictions, an act Les Bureau des Légendes pulls off without relying on any overt action pieces.

At its core Le Burueau examines the question of a man having multiple identities and his yearning for a love long lost, one that is further befuddled by the intrigues of espionage and geopolitics. Le Bureau treats this as sacrosanct, making way for a pensive finale that spins the show on its head by asking about the legitimacy of victory in politics and extension, espionage. It's a perfect show to accompany grey days and internal turmoil, an accompaniment for contemplation in a media landscape that offers one a few avenues.

#French #TheBureau #TV

A free trip to Antarctica and insanity

What does mean to be alive and what does it mean to be human? This is the focus of great art, as these are the questions that keep one awake at night. Living in “regular” human civilization means robbing oneself of the joy of living in an untamed universe. We live in our mole hills and rat caves distracted by the voice of other occupants of these hills and caves. Why do we humans have the necessity to control over inferior animals, what does it reveal about our nature? Werner Herzog's documentary Encounters at the End of the World asks a series of existential questions camouflaged within a nature documentary set in Antarctica, taking philosophical twists and turns in a breathtaking, alien landscape and bizarre characters. Werner Herzog himself is the main protagonist in the move, the camera follows his view and the people he selects for the film are the ones that are able to dance with his intellect. If Encounters.. was a fiction film, it would be a great adventure drama, the story of a Hero on a journey to seek answers to solve problems of his back home. Here home is the Planet Earth and the life it in encompasses, the vastness of the subject gives the canvas for Herzog's questions and the fact that such vastness can be imagined becomes microscope under which he questions intelligence itself. Here we are thinking about taxes and pay raises, figuring out work schedules and planning for retirements while juggling with news transmissions about war, strife, pandemics and poverty while on the edge of the world, a group of scientists ponder over the origins of the universe and life while making grim predictions about the long term viability of human civilization on the planet.

The movie, conceptualized on the spot follows the script of Slacker and Waking Life in terms of inquiry, while the setting of Antarctica lends itself a special character of its own. The main hero beyond what we see however, is the landscape itself, a part of this planet that we now commandeer, it's the last frontier of that's spared from the human rituals of occupations and settlement (though in retrospect, the scientific community might be the first settlers of the Antarctica, climate change might make the continent our future destination of cozy beach holidays). A day after watching the movie I had a mini-breakdown, with its content stimulating an aching existential crisis, the result of which I paraphrased here.

Rather be a mute, inanimate spectator to the universe than being born in this world, there is nothing wonderful about being human – there's the aspect of being dazzled by the dizzying beauty of the universe and the world we live in but the human constructs like all animal constructs are boring. They have the same structures of pleasure and power, this constant battle for survival in forms both physical and mental. Better being a miscarriage than being misguided by the brief moment of consciousness that robs all the wonder of living. There's no difference between me living and a bacterial predator hanging in the deep seas, in the soup of evolution the mind has peaked and someday this will perish too.. me along with the whole of humanity. Existence as defined by the possessions one owns, born deep into a system one cannot escape, one that promotes misery and loneliness.. there's no love, I have transcended these feelings of being and belonging.. intelligence has taken me and others to the depths of self pleasure and validation that fazes all wonderment. Better be a stone in the sun, reconverted into primary elements than be subjected to the horrors of consciousness, it is no pleasure to be alive, being full of life is escapism from what we are. Intelligence is about discovery, of understanding what is and defining it in depth, narrow foci of science and mathematics, between flashes of eating and living. Possessions are a way of establishing one's presence in life, in reality we have no home, only theories of make-believe.

Encounters.. should come with a warning of having the ability to stir a great deal of existential angst, whether it be from the sounds of the seals under the Antarctic ice shelf or through the penguins wandering from their colony into the icy nothings in the interiors of the desert or the scientist who has studied the penguins for so long that he no longer prefers having conversations with people. Filled to the brim with interesting facets of science of the Antarctic life, the movie serves as a time machine to imagine a world without people and the primordial origins of life on Earth. It's an experience that will leave one speechless for a long time and be the potential fodder for innumerable debates.

The sounds of the seals and the gaze of the suicidal penguins will haunt your dreams, don't tell me that I didn't warn you.

#documentary #philosophy #Herzog

Not your typical first date movie.

what happened was

I don't think you go to a play to forget, or to a movie to be distracted. I think life generally is a distraction and that going to a movie is a way to get back, not go away. – Tom Noonan

What happened was.. was playwright, actor Tom Noonan's directorial debut about two co-workers in a law firm in New York having a dinner date together. Tom Noonan, in his directorial debut, plays Michael, a Kaufmanesque bald paralegal (this film also happens to be one of Charlie Kaufman's favorites) who hides beneath a stoic veneer of learnedness hides the bitter insecurity of not having accomplished much in life. His play-act however has an effect on Jackie (Karen Sillas) who is impressed by the artist's aura Michael wears, hiding her insecurities about being a writer and a woman committed to action. The date doesn't go as planned, with the first date's oddity of mismatched communication becoming the dramatic device to introduce the darker folds of the characters. Michael holds sway over Jackie for the first 2/3rds of the movie, building a legend for himself as a Harvard dropout and a novelist 15 years in the making.

Things take a creepier turn when Jackie reads Michael the first chapter of a children's story she has written and offers to read it to him. Michael being the snob he is asks to listen to it, perhaps to brush off Jackie's simple thoughts. Jackie's story, What happened was.. turns phantasmagorical, going beyond the conventions of a regular children's story. Michael, and us as the audience, are then treated to a ten-minute out-of-body experience as Jackie reads her macabre first chapter from the movie, with the lives of people filtering in from the other apartments and the city lights creating an eerie atmosphere. Michael, who has visions throughout the reading offers Jackie a connection with his publisher, only to be rebuffed by Jackie that she already has one and that the book went to print, which takes him aback.

Through the course of the awkward night, Jackie throws several cues at Michael showing her physical interest in him, which he brushes away. This builds a frustration within Jackie who sees her feelings are unrequited which reaches a crescendo when Michael decides to leave the house without a warning setting stage for his final revelation as a broken couch potato who amasses his knowledge from TV programs and passes it on with his bookish demeanor. It's a harrowing portrait of a man who has to accept the defeat of his intellectual sham: He has no publisher and the book he's working on at the law firm is nothing but make-believe, adding to his persona as a Harvard dropout and perpetual paralegal at a law firm where he could've been doing much better. Jackie listens to Michael and delivers her finest line in the movie, ” we are all where we want to be Michael”.

What happened was.. is a horror movie disguised as a drama, where the horrors reflected are the inner workings of the performative act we put up as humans. This is a forgotten movie washed out by the hype of Pulp Fiction released that year. It deserves a revisit and is a film experience that will stay in the mind for a long, for the questions it asks are the ones we never want to confront.

#indie #American #review

A woman alone in the world

The breakup of Yugoslavia and the resulting civil wars and resulting ethnic cleansing left thousands of families in the Balkans without closure. Blerta Basholli's film documents the tragedy of the Kosovan village Krushë e Madhe, where a hundred civilians were separated from the village and are presumed to be shot. The film follows the story of Fahrije, whose husband disappeared during the war and whose remains do not turn up in any of the mass graves excavated around the village. It leaves a lot of questions for her and her two children while facing a simultaneous battle of being a “dishonorable” woman for driving a car and having ideas for sustaining herself. Fahrije understands that she has to move on and that accepting meager handouts from the local women's community will not help her much in the future. She has to fight against the strict conservative norms applied to the women in Kosovan society to work and build a business of her own, a transformation that not only will uplift her but her friends and neighbors who are in the same tragedy together.

An intense character study, Zgjoi paints a picture of a woman finding her place in the backyard of continental Europe. It's a film with deep lows and gentle highs, though the village accuses Fahrije to be a whore for driving to the city and owning a car, the pain for her missing husband is hidden from everyone. This differential wrings hearts whenever she has to visit the mortuary to find out about the remains of her husband, oftentimes all that is left is a pile of bones or some clothes. This in turn becomes the companion piece for last year's haunting Quo Vadis, Aida? which depicts the genocides of Srebrenica, showing the faces of the men whose bodies will be discovered same way as they do around in Krushë e Madhe. _Zgjoi _ is a far more delicate film documenting the tragedy as it focuses on the aftermath for the grieving families and their struggle to find reconciliation in a patriarchal society that stacks all odds against them.

Fahrije is no ordinary hustler, labelled for being deviant she has to find ways to move on and focus on what is still left, her family. A scene that establishes her plight is a women's meeting where Fahrije protests, “we are not looking for donations, we are looking for work”. Though the women around her are slow to change fearing society, Fahrije takes an enterprising step forward making plans to set up an ajvar-making cooperative. The cooperative then becomes a safe space for the women to find collective healing and a path to redeem their past. There are moments in the film where one cannot but cry, but we cry with Fahrije, we cry for her tragedy and wish for her success. That is a win for Blerta Basholli's wonderful film.

#review #Kosovo #film

Or how to use a camera as a medium of consciousness

How to with John Wilson

A camera is a tool that functions as a buffer between the one who's seeing and the person who sees, making film one of the exacting mediums to record reality with. The camera assumes the personality of the person behind it which is often diluted because of the dramatized domains the art form occupies. Rare exceptions are found when the camera becomes a tool of localizing and meditation, giving the viewer depth and context to the nature of things around them.

The HBO show “How to with John Wilson” tackles this meditative approach to film, setting it the bizarre confined of New York City where the director John Wilson introduces specific thematic elements juxtaposed to the everyday goings in New York. It's a show that eludes a genre-specific identity, it is part comedy, part cringe, part poetry, and documentary. Set to the childlike voice-over of the director, each short episode focuses on the issues that irk us as adults but for which no one has a specific answer. John Wilson brings curiosity to find answers to problems like how to split one's check or how to be spontaneous, juxtaposing B-roll footage to great comic effect. It explores parts of the human psyche that are assumed to be functioning properly but in reality, it puts most of us in a state of anxiety. Splitting a check or choosing a bottle of wine seems like the biggest mystery of modern life, what is appropriate behavior in these circumstances? Does one go for the second cheapest bottle of wine or risk a more expensive to a Portuguese wine shop at the end of the street? Though homo economicus might be a good thought temperament to imbibe, mental accounting hasn't yet reached the inner sanctum of our behavior. John Wilson helps us understand this division through his anxiety-prone view of life, making things awkward by overthinking and exhibiting this overthinking through the multitudes of human life in and around New York, with a couple of episodes exploring the same questions in Las Vegas and New Orleans.

How to with John Wilson is at its heart a passion project funded by HBO, giving wings to ideas that otherwise would remain as thoughts. The show exposes the conundrums between the reality of our experience vs. the reality of our thoughts, not a small feat for a 30 minute TV show.

#TV #HBO #review

Not all cops are bastards.

Inspector Montalbano

As I was watching episode four of the Italian series Inspector Montalbano, “The Mystery of the Terracotta Dog”, I had to remind myself that it was a whodunit revolving around an Inspector and his motley crew set in Sicily. The episode was 1 hour 45 minutes long, enough to drain the patience of an average TV watcher but still, it managed to demand my rasp attention as the narratives veered from the mafia, interpersonal relationships, and in the end a terrific love story based around a Quranic legend. Other tracks in the series have involved Montalbano falling in love with a dog, almost adopting a son and his love for croquettes.

It is in this respect that Inspector Montalbano stands apart from Columbo, Poirot, or Beck for the angelic pursuit of his trade. During his many investigations, he lets the small-time thieves, prostitutes, and illegal immigrants free, even protecting them from the nefariousness of Sicilian politics. Given the fierce anti-immigrant rhetoric of the Italian right-wing, Montalbano comes as an agent of the State both just and clinical. Montalbano is the kind of hero we come to believe because his powers are real, we know what he eats and his morning swimming routines to keep him fit. We see his commitment (often on the fringe) to his girlfriend and when a range of women fall in love with him throughout the series, it doesn't come as a surprise. Luca Zingaretti who plays Montalbano makes one fall in love with him within the scope of an episode, from then on we're enchanted with his quirks and choices.

Inspector Montalbano is a rare police drama that does not insult one's intelligence and neither does it thrust the brutality of the world into one's face. Given the subject matter. there are hardly any grisly or risque sequences. This thematic softness is a take on the genre where the why of committing a crime is more important than the how. Given that the range of complex human interactions, the show becomes an enriching drama that probes the Sicilian life in a way that is more satisfying than the backstory of The Godfather. Montalbano has been one of the most satisfying hero stories I have seen on TV, enough to keep one engaged for more than a few months. This one is a 11/10, will recommend.

Happy New Year and see you again the next year. Thank for reading the kinocow this year and will be back with more reports in the next months.

#TV #Italian #Montalbano

Or a masterpiece of on how to see the world.

A good movie can change the way one looks at the world around. Walking out from Wes Anderson's French Dispatch on a rainy Berlin night, the city transformed itself into grim kaleidoscope of tail lights, smoky street lights and warm sign boards. A quick stop at Maroush for a shawarma makali was infused through Mr. Anderson's lens, with the soft bread pregnant with the meat and vegetable sitting warm inside press down toaster while calm Arabic music played over the speakers. It wasn't my first time at the restaurant but this time it felt different, my life played out as if a journalist from Anderson's film was following me, painting my life through words with a color palette I infused through the screen.

A common complaint about the film is that it is about too many things at once. Like a mega mashup of Wes Anderson's repertoire, like he's not going to make another film again. There is no problem with that as there's nothing like too much Wes Anderson. At some point when my bladder was giving away I was hoping that the film wouldn't end soon and that The French Dispatch be a real magazine. This film while being a cinematographic triumph is also deeply literary. I had the same weary buzz of the lack of my own intellectualism when going through the New Yorker, a rare movie that makes you want to keep reading and dreaming for days after one finishes watching it.

#film #WesAnderson #TheFrenchDispatch

“It is worth serious consideration how great an amount of time—their own and other people’s—and of paper is wasted by this swarm of mediocre poets, and how injurious their influence is. For the public always seizes on what is new, and shows even more inclination to what is perverse and dull, as being akin to its own nature. These works of the mediocre, therefore, draw the public away and hold it back from genuine masterpieces, and from the education they afford. Thus they work directly against the benign influence of genius, ruin taste more and more, and so arrest the progress of the age.” – Arthur Schopenhauer

Is it the end of cinema as we know it? Doomsday predictions say it is, cinemas have been shut for over a year and lockdowns around the world have made us accustomed to an endless stream of content from news cycles to Netflix. We are being exposed to large amounts of content making us tolerant to the pangs of drama and thrill, each new iteration demands that we get something more potent than the one that followed.

We are saturated with information now, twenty years ago watching the movies meant going to the theatres or watching something on the cable in the evenings. Now, every waking minute can be occupied from gifs to never-ending soaps and all the ancillary gossip/marketing material that follows with it. In this sense movies are almost obsolete, they cost a lot to produce, and they have to resort to the same gimmicks to keep audience hooked.

In this milieu come the Oscars, the long-standing global tradition of ranking which movies are the “best” in the past year. For all non-Americans they remain as the widely recognized benchmark of great cinema, the currency of pride and knowledge. But the Oscars in themselves are purely an American tradition, except for minuscule nod for foreign films that have found American audience or is adherent to American sensibilities. As international audience we are what our role relegates to, hawing over the gala as spectators. Take a look at this year's Oscars list, it shows a growing acceptance to diverse cinema, in tune with the diversity that America wants to show it is a flag bearer of. It is not a ceremony that bothers as a reflection to large parts of society, but the pontificating effort of an American few to keep the tradition rolling.

Cinema was once a sanctimonious affair, going to a dark chamber and gnawing on salted cardboard and getting our minds ready for the rush. It was a public act; we went to movies with others. Now fragmented in our homes, we nibble through cell phones, smart TVs, and laptops. the act of viewing is reduced to the act of consumption, we are users not audience. But what has remained the same throughout is the commercial interests of cinema, which unlike writing or painting had to happen in the finely oiled mechanisms of local and global commerce. The Oscars represent the pinnacle of this delivery machinery, anointing new winners and legitimizing our compulsion to watch these movies. The new Buddhas of the medium generated each year, a pickling process for maximum preservation.

But do these movies really stand the test of time? Almost all the movies nominated this year were forgettable without any visible merit. They will only be remembered for being a part of this pomp but nothing else. In the test of time these Oscars will mean if anything, very little.

#Oscars #cinema #America #covid19

Starting to write is the hardest, the actual part of sitting and writing the story. The idea has been brewing in me for years now and I have mapped all the finer details, the whole film plays in my head like I was presenting it to a festival audience. But the actual words on paper are closer to 0. I look for inspiration, I read Aristotle and a whole lot of other books ranging from atomic explosions to living with narcissists.

What nobody tells you is that giving shape to abstract thought is hard, it takes commitment, humility and whole lot of willingness to pain. Sometimes I want to give up before I even start writing, I think the festival audience are booing me and that I will be a one-hit wonder. Or maybe I will not have any hits, I will be relegated to the role of a flop writer, someone who has to fill his last days judging reality TV shows with obnoxious laughter tracks. Writing to fill pages to fill pockets.

I believe that no vantage to reality is wrong, each one presents in itself an aspect of truth that's incorrigible to violate. So the movie in my head has a right to exist, the characters fighting to populate this world. My responsibility is to be their conduit and help lubricate their delivery into being. I am a silent matron to my ideas, in their birth is my continuity.

#film #writing #screenplay

An Emotional History of the Modern World

To try describe the work of Adam Curtis is to look at cryptographic code. Behind the garble of alphabets and numbers lie secrets and plain truth waiting to be cracked, waiting to be devoured. As with any code it takes patience and skill to understand what lies behind. His narratives jump timelines and geographic locations, his thesis is a constant stab in rules of Aristotelian dramatics. At times a little more context is needed to decode the events Curtis jumps through, some of them are too outlandish for the generations that come after them.

Without the BBC's emblem radiating on the top of left, it is hard to believe that it is not the work of a master conspiracy theorist, his ideas when at their mildest taunt our own ignorance. But Adam Curtis is a gentle historian, he knows that we don't know and he makes a compelling case for us to revisit our ignorance and find a voice for all the horrors we experience but cannot explain. He guides us with our hands softly enmeshed in his, while his calm voice guides us through our own journey of life. He gives meaning in a system where we have long forgotten that one exists (that is except money) and Can't get you out of my head is a spiritual canon that reminds us where we are and how we got there.

Ninja Tune · Solid Steel Radio Show 11/11/2016 Hour 2 – worriedaboutsatan

Adam Curtis occupies the diametrically opposite side of the film universe Frederick Wiseman operates in. But like Wiseman, his films are a meticulous collection of arcane film clips stitched together in tedium that both tell a story and don't at the same time. Curtis' use of music is another major tour de force, joining forces with David Fincher and Darren Aronofsky in creating the perfect marriage between image and music. One can be sure that a mixtape with the music from any recent Adam Curtis film will be stuck on loop. This electric pairing also serves in increasing the shelf life of his documentary material. One can watch an episode of Can't get you out of my head twice with getting bored and further repurpose it as a podcast substitute.

Can't get you out of my head is one of the best films I have come across in the recent past, one that induced a long hangover meaning that it would be impossible to enjoy other films without Curtis' vision projecting on the back of my head. I cannot recommend enough for everyone to get drunk on his wisdom.

#documentary #AdamCurtis #BBC

Enter your email to subscribe to updates.