Tuesday, September 2
This is the first film I have ever seen by an Ethiopian filmmaker. It tells the story of a young man, Teza, who is caught up in the Marxist revolution that replaced Haile Selassie around 1970. He is sent to study medicine in East Germany, and then returns in 1980 and finally in 1990. It is a very long film (it could have used a better editor) and for the most part, artfully made. Although the people are Coptic Christians (and religion plays a big, though not very influential part in the film), tribal customs are still strong. Teza’s ideology is severely challenged when he returns to Ethiopia in 1980 to see his mother and family. He takes a job at a research hospital but a friend is killed and he never gets to see his mother. He flees back to East Germany when the revolution turns bad then after the fall of the Berlin Wall, another reversal of ideology that allows racism, sends him home, finally, maimed in body and soul. (The film also focuses son the Italian colonization of Ethiopia as well….) A film that preferences narrative over plot, but interesting.
Paper Soldier (Bumazhny soldat)
In 1961 the Soviets were preparing to send up the first cosmonaut intospace. Paper Soldier follows the angst of a medical doctor who helps train the young men, one of whom is chosen for the flight. His wife, also a doctor, is in Moscow and wants to have a child; he has a mistress back in Kazakhstan. He also has visions of his dead parents, and he and his colleagues all have existential questions about life and death. It was like a Woody Allen film without the humor.
However, Paper Soldier is an interesting film as far as contemporary Russian filmmaking goes. Most of the action takes place in Kazakhstan and the cold landscape is a principle character in the the history the film describes.
Mid-August Lunch (Pranzo di Ferragosto)
Gianni is a good-hearted middle-aged man who lives with his elderly mother in Rome. He shops for them and adds to his accounts in the shops. He is way behind in his maintenance payments to his condo association and way, way behind on his electrical bill. His super arrives for the accounting and then says he will take care of everything if Gianni will look after his own elderly mother for the August holiday. Gianni knows a good thing when he sees it even though he is reluctant. The super arrives later with his elderly mother … and an elderly aunt in tow. Another old lady arrives and this is a set up for a genuinely entertaining 75 minute film. The film is directed by Gianni Di Gregorio, writtenby him and he decided to play the main role …. Because this actually happened tohim. Well, several years ago he was asked to take care of someone’s mother and he said ‘no’. But he got an idea for the film and it stayed with him.What might have happened had he said yes? He admits it is a small film but it is also a quietly brilliant film that I think would do well in the US.