Tag Archive: utv world movies

Foreign filmmakers you should be on the lookout for

When you need a film with ex-plo-sions, who you gonna call? Well, before producers would have Transformer-toting Michael Mann on speed-dial, but nowadays he’s throwing magnesium into Boy Scout’s camp fires to quench his insatiable thirst for destruction. Plus, the audience prefers being made to think while being hoisted onto the edge of their seats.
Enter Brit/American director Christopher Nolan, the mind behind Batman remake The Dark Knight and Freudian thriller Inception. In a Hollywood genre wrought with mindless car crashes and leggy blondes, Nolan succeeded in bringing a touch of class to proceedings, like introducing English gents to wrestle in WWF. Nowadays Nolan has a third Batman film on his radar. As we speak, he is decked in oversized headphones, tracking a flashing red dot that is the caped crusader.

With a CV including the likes of cult sci-fi movie The Fifth Element and Léon , Frenchman Luc Besson is no newcomer to film. I think hitman Leon’s signature phrase, “No women, no children” should replace the chocolate bar Yorkie’s marketing slogan, ‘It’s not for girls,’ merely to enforce Yorkie’s brute masculinity.

However, it is in the role of writer and producer that Besson has found success in recent offerings District 13 and District 13: Ultimatum. The films catapult parkour, the French-originated discipline of street-running, from a YouTube sensation to the big screen. Set in a future where a crime-riddled district of Paris is walled-off from society, Besson strikes a political chord, as Parisian ghettos are often ostracised by the French media for their abundance of drugs and high-levels of unrest. Look out for Besson’s signature stunt sequences, which are untainted by CGI and gift the films a raw edge, exhibited in Besson-written thriller Taken.

The Pang Brothers

As films such as Hero prove, East-Asian cinema is never short of imagination and in Hong-Kong born directing-duo the Pang brothers, the genre has found a rising talent. Comprising Danny Pang and Oxide Pang Chun, which sounds like a chemically enhanced dish served to Chinese Olympic athletes, the pair’s recent martial arts epic Storm Warriors broke Hong Kong box office records on first day.
With cult-horror flick The Eye and Hollywood flop Bangkok Dangerous under their belts, the brothers explored elemental magic such as wind and fire to craft Storm Warriors as a homage to traditional Chinese folklore. With help from special effects and imaginative costumes, it is a truly unique spectacle. Asian legend has it the only way to replicate such levels of creativity is to give the entire Jedi council from Star Wars LSD and lock them in a room full of bendy mirrors.


Now peddling his trade beneath the neon lights of Shanghai,  Christian Seiersen uncovers five reasons why local cinemas may never show a Latin American film.
1. They Are Thirty Times Cheaper on DVD
Being a traditionally tech-savy nation, China is more than acquainted with the art of knock-off DVDs. Should a LatAm film breach Chinese screens, you can guarantee the cinema owner’s cousin is in the audience, sporting a camera and waving on the late-comers as they cling guiltily to their popcorn. This is only required if the film survives being passed around the production office like a cheap bottle of Scotch. Sometimes temptation proves too great and said film makes its way into the realms of DVD prematurely, courtesy an entrepreneurial employee.
These films can be identified by the occasional flash of writing, threatening, evidently unsuccessfully, any employee who leaks the movie with crucifixion, or whatever it is they do in China. Being able to buy such films as La Cienaga, a cutting insight into middle-class Argentinian life, for the princely sum of 60 rupees is a cheaper option than visiting one of Shanghai’s cinemas, which can cost as much as 1800 rupees. The only snag is the powers that be have recently outlawed fake DVDs, as the Shanghai World Expo approaches, forcing them underground. Nowadays, to come by such services you have to enter into hidden chambers, which are located in rebel shops and concealed behind a row of unassuming shelves like a haunted mansion. Alternatively, resembling a recession-hit businessman in 1930s America, nomadic salesmen flog their wares from leather briefcases.
2. They Are Food and Drink for the Censors

In a country where Facebook and Youtube have fallen to the axe of restriction, it would be a coup d’etat to see the likes of the sexually-explicit Mexican film Y Tu Mamá También saunter onto the screen. Due to the Chinese quota of 20 foreign films a year and a ban on any sexual content.

In my opinion, in order to strike up a cordial relationship with the local government, LatAm films should take a leaf out of recent blockbuster 2012’s book. It cast China as humanity’s last hope against a barrage of worldwide floods and even showed an American officer saying that only China could build the arks fast enough. Take that Google, and the Chinese box office—2012 broke the Chinese record for highest-grossing film.

Unfortunately, Latin America has yet to incorporate such political shrewdness into their cinematic game. It would be difficult to see a China-friendly ending to Brazilian slum movie Cidade de Deus that pictures the Triads entering the favelas through a flurry of doves, restoring political and moral order. There is the possibility of Cuban leader Fidel Castro rediscovering his international insolence and seeing China as the new phoenix of communism, having emerged from Russia’s ashes. However, this time—due to trivial matters of world security—he would not be offering Cuba’s golden beaches to store missiles, but as exotic sets for communist propaganda films. It’s cinematic guerrilla warfare!

3. The Government would be left red-faced

Having lived in China for two months, I have arrived at the conclusion that it is a land of closet communists. Where, I ask, are the ranks of villagers partaking in synchronized exercise routines, or the Stalinist propaganda posters depicting a muscular worker with a sickle? Nowhere. The political gears are remarkably lethargic; there’s the odd policeman being accosted by old women about fronting a municipal crack down on chicken theft, but beyond that, not a lot.

 Though I gloat of my immunity, I have probably made a gross misjudgment, and, as I poke fun at their country, three of the CCP’s finest menfolk are tunneling beneath my desk to burst dramatically from the floorboards the moment I make another unsubtle communist reference.

 In Shanghai, the only political incitement I have experienced first-hand is a crazed cyclist, wielding a megaphone and campaigning down side streets, hollering political slogans. Therefore, I question what reception politically-charged films such as the Argentinean Diarios de Motocicleta, an insight into the early life of communist pin-up Che Guevara, would have in China. (I can feel the floorboards shuddering.) Though it was born out of brimstone and fire, Chinese communism nowadays is more discreet, and to show the unwashed masses, all 1.3 billion of them, stirring scenes of Che cruising through the South American countryside? Well, that’s asking for a revolution.

4. They’d Threaten the Peace

Shanghai is in the enviable position of being one of the safest cities in the world. Gang members here prefer to sing Bryan Adams in one of the city’s many karaoke bars than deal with trifling matters like extortion. It is a remarkably peaceful city. Unlike in India, you would have to literally put your foot through a Chinese cab driver’s windscreen to rouse him into beeping his horn.

 So, we have this peaceful and zen setting, comparable to a rural British town. Then throw onto this a Latin American movie like, oh I don’t know, Elite Squad. This Brazilian bash-up follows a specialist police squad who are tasked with fighting crime in Rio de Janeiro’s slums. There isn’t just a spray of bullets, it’s a monsoon! Suddenly the previously-mentioned crazed cyclist will trade in his megaphone for an AK-47 and the police will have more on their hands than karaoke bar rap battles.

No, I think playing it safe with national icon Jackie Chan being thrown into side-splitting movie scenarios is a safer option. One such sortie is the The Spy Next Door, where Chan plays an ex-CIA officer who has to babysit his girlfriend’s kids. Hilarity most certainly does not ensue.

5. They’d Scare the People

Despite becoming officially atheist in 2002, China has retained a strong sense of superstition. Because the number eight is lucky, phone numbers that are well-endowed with the lucky digit sell for ten times the price of unlucky numbers. Not that anyone would, but if, as a guest, you brought the gift of a clock to a Chinese family it is deemed a catastrophic insult, as clocks are associated with death. Perhaps the popular story of Peter Pan, and its prophetic inclusion of a ticking clock for Captain Hook, had more of a profound effect than had first been imagined.

Therefore, it is difficult to see such an audience taking kindly to Mexican-directed film El Laberinto del Fauno, which is wrought with fantasy scenes of talking fawns and a creature that holds its eyeballs in its palms. Sure, the film does portray the Spanish dictator General Franco’s right-wing Nationalist government as being ruthless, nice start, but an eyeball-palmed monster? That’s going to cause a riot, or really good business for opticians.

Having said that, a LatAm film which could have success challenging Chinese culture is another Mexican offering Amores Perros, and specifically one of its stories about dog fighting in Mexico. Having possibly the most effeminate taste in pet dogs, Chinese men could benefit from the idea that dogs can be larger than a ferret and have other appeals than be dressed-up to look like Paris Hilton’s canine entourage.

For the next two months, Christian Seiersen will be MIA as he travels around South-East Asia. Catch up with his travels on www.christianseiersen.wordpress.com.

As Avatar jumps on, off and through the cinema screen in revolutionary 3-D format, Christian Seiersen takes a look at another five films which cannot be watched anywhere else but in the theatre.

 1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Wo Hu Cang Long, 2000)

If all fights were as picturesque as in this movie, then the street brawls after English soccer games would be shown on the Arts channel, and not on late-night cop shows. Unfortunately, though, it takes the trained eye of director Ang Lee to turn the ridiculous—such as combatants’nonchalant gravity defying leaps—into the sublime. A deserved showpiece for the elegant imagery of the Far East, Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon gave the martial arts genre a philosophical tinge whilst also creating a visual spectacle.

Set against the backdrop of dynastic China, where sword duels are contested across blossoming trees or villages’  fashionably slanted roofs,  Ang Lee’s cinematography shows a healthy disregard for the confines of reality. If, in his earlier days, kung fu legend Bruce Lee had frequented local opium dens, this is what would have emerged. Although I had not followed in these particular footsteps before seeing the film, I found it to be a sensory feast and one that is perfectly suited to the staging grounds of a cinema.

That being said, Crouching Tiger is no slouch in the department of storylines and the plot unravels graciously into an epic tale of love that has justifiably been compared to the likes of Titanic. Some may be deterred by the endless waves of subtitles, but the script is the film’s‘hidden dragon’ and well worth keeping track of.

2. Apocalypto (2006)

With a cast including the likes of Rudy Youngblood, whose name conjures images of a failed American folk singer, Apocalypto resuscitates the ancient Mayan civilization for a big screen makeover. My prior knowledge of the society had been confined to the drawings of an artist who had, to say the least, a wild imagination, but being doused in a bit of Hollywood glamour did them no wrong.

In the hands of a director—Mel Gibson—who is notorious for having few limits both on and off-screen, the film exercises little in the way of restraint and fully earns its‘R  rating with gruesome scenes that would put Braveheart to shame. Kudos must also go to Gibson for dreaming up, arguably, the most evil-looking bad guys. Unfortunately their sinister demeanor is, at times, let down by the inclusion of loincloths that leave little to the imagination. The variety of costumes certainly add to Apocalypto’s exotic flair, and it would be little surprise to see the liberal piercings and skeletal headgear being adopted by the next generation of ‘Goths.’

Although the story line can be likened to cartoon duo‘Tom and Jerry’  for its propensity for chase scenes, the film is elevated by its powerful imagery. It is therefore, understandably, in the cinema where the movie comes into its own, and the lush rainforests and towering monuments are captured with an artistic flair that defies the director’s relative inexperience. Having already directed Passion of the Christ, with his new offering, Gibson saw what he had made and, behold, it was very good.

3. Pan’s Labyrinth (El Laberinto del Fauno, 2006)

Whether by natural means or by reproducing the drug fuelled hallucinations of Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro possesses nothing if not a distinctive imagination. How else would you explain his inclusion of such characters as a branch-limbed fawn or a creature with eyeballs in its palms?

Spanning boundaries is something of a calling card for Pan’s Labyrinth and, through the eyes of the young female protagonist Ophelia, it flicks between harsh reality and twisted fantasy. A dark undertone certainly lingers over the film and its setting in postwar fascist Spain opens a door of political allegories for the astute audience.

Metaphorical nuances are, however, spared when the film comes into contact with the villainous Captain Vidal, who personifies the brutality of war in his treatment of rebel captives. The ensuing torture scenes provide the film with an edge and, whilst steering it away from inevitable comparisons with Alice in Wonderland, also makes Ophelia’s world of escapism all the more disturbing. It is a world that is as creative as it is unusual and Guillermo’s subtle combination of CGI, music and physical movements creates scenes of atmospheric beauty that are a must-see in the realms of a cinema.

4. The Blair Witch Project (1999)

Not to be confused with the ex-British Prime Minister’s campaign for tolerance of this misunderstood hobby, the film single-handedly dismantled the traditionally joyous occasion of a camping trip. Nature-loving fathers the world over are cradling their now impotent sleeping bags and ruing the day their children were lured into the movie.

For the true connoisseurs, you must return to Blair Witch’s theatre roots to comprehend the hype that surrounded its screen release. Before going, I was recited a casualty list of the film’s previous victims as if I were undertaking a quick day trip to Somalia. Cinema attendants, temporarily undertaking medical roles, had reportedly carried out viewers, whilst others needed no encouragement to escape the flickering forest.

 The film paraded under the auspices of a student camp-out in the woods that had been filmed entirely by a hand-held camera. A camera that, afterwards, was supposedly‘found’and, in honor of the teenagers who were brutally murdered, the footage was made into a horror film. I’m sure the fictional mothers were thrilled.

Despite the film’s humble origins, it is best seen in the theatre. This provides the public setting to exhibit one’s horror movie credentials and, later, bask in the feeling of camaraderie between fellow viewers. Although I was expecting at least a back slap, all I got from the film was insomnia and a distrust of oddly-shaped sticks.

5. City Of God (Cidade de Deus, 2002)

The screen-child of director Fernando Meirelles, the Brazilian succeeds in replicating the rawness of Rio de Janeiro’s slum-life in his portrayal of its favelas. As the camera sprints between labyrinths of alleyways, brothels and drug-houses, the audience is thrown into the slums of one of the most dangerous places on earth with nothing but the narrative of Rocket, a fisherman’s son, for company.

I decided that only a movie theatre can do justice to its vigorous soundtrack; the high tempo Brazilian beats clash with the blaring AK-47s to follow you around the cinema and throw you into the midst of the vicious street battles. The gritty camerawork captures the precarious nature of daily life and, in the theatre, the giant screen surrounds the viewer and brings a sense of reality into the favelas. Something which the movie’s documentary predecessors failed to do.

Working besides these shots of cinematic adrenaline, a diverse and poignant story line pans out and lends the film a tangible element. By focusing on the younger generation in the slums, Meirelles is able to emulate the audience’s naivety in his own characters. This allows for the steep and brutal learning curve of favela life to be experienced on both sides of the screen.

How Theatrical! is a series on the delights of cinema-going, the dark pleasures of a theatre that go beyond cinema itself. Catch Christian Seiersen on christianseiersen.wordpress.com.

Globe-trotting journalist and cinema glutton Christian Seiersen gushes forth on how crowd calls and hot dog stalls make theatres unbeatable.

Ever since I was seduced by the glossy pages of gadget magazines, my efforts to visit movie theatres have been hindered by their cast of technological minions, clinging to my trousers and beckoning me into the realms of my living room. Even if I do make it outside, they can still be seen, clamoring at the doors of the cinema to out-maneuver this seemingly archaic means of experiencing movies. But while this horde of lesser beauties is growing in numbers, they still can’t hold an eyelash to the cinema experience. Although most visits will not be as eventful as the climax of Nazi killathon Inglorious Basterds, the benchmark for enthusiasm for the cinema was set, quite heroically, by a friend during a visit to the second Transformers film.
In his determination to make the pre-movie trailers, he leapt gracefully down a small flight of stairs, only to be met by the hard exterior of a low-hanging beam. Bloodied, concussed and in the presence of a female companion, he refused medical attention and, taking his place near the front, sat through the two and a half hour film, using his jumper as a makeshift bandage. It was only after the last credit had rolled that he allowed us to prise him from his seat and take him to hospital. Perhaps if the film’s producers had such a strong sense of pride, we would not have had to endure such a film in the first place.
Personally, I prefer to be more removed from the action and focus on the gastronomic offerings in the concession stands. Although they have yet to reach the heights of a Michelin star, the American hotdogs ooze a certain rustic charm, if not vats of grease that even Augustus Gloop might turn his nose up at. Whilst most culinary establishments prefer to embellish their offerings with the aid of a menu, you have to admire the frank honesty in which the frankfurters are displayed, leaving little to the imagination. As they revolve eerily around the large metallic machine, I can’t help but imagine it being more at home as a particularly inventive tool in a Saw film rather than anything, dare I say, productive.
This ‘grazing food’ serves its purpose for the charming romcom, but cinema food is all about choosing your battles, and when the stakes are raised to a three-hour epic, so too must you raise your game. To meet this challenge fully-equipped, look no farther than the picnic. It’s all about thinking outside the box, or rather inside the box. If it can be sealed in a plastic container and fit under the shirt, then its fair game. After that, the cinema is your oyster. Although I have yet to try that particular dish, my personal favorites include spaghetti and a well-cooked salmon.
Whilst these meals would be more appropriate for a film at home, that would also mean discounting the value of risk for ‘the smuggler.’ European cinemas seem to be leading the crackdown on this activity and more than once I have been unceremoniously removed, sushi still in hand, having given away my position by an overly generous use of soy sauce. I have found America to be far more lenient, namely, if you can smuggle it under your shirt, then the grease stains are deemed punishment enough. As a rule of thumb, I tend to pass on the more pungent food. Cheese and egg-related products are usually left at home; overpowering smells have the uncanny ability of turning an innocent face into a ruthless vigilante.
Bystanders can also be roused into action if the veil of silence, which descends over the theatre after the trailers, is broken. These keepers of the peace usually position themselves front and centre to allow for a sweeping view of their subjects. Unfortunately for them, this is also a prime spot for target practice, should their interventions go unappreciated. But, as much as we may throw popcorn at them, as soon as the cinema descends into wanton
anarchy, they become sorely missed.
One such occasion was at a cinema in Barbados, where one group of women took it upon themselves to provide a running commentary of the movie, The Dark Knight. Although most of the team’s efforts were below par, I felt a particular connection with their ring-leader when, after Maggie Gyllenhaal slaps the Joker at a dinner party, she got up and, with a dramatic wave of her finger, pronounced “Oh no she di-nt!” This cinema was all about the audience pitching in and I also appreciated the efforts of the backrow contingency, who provided their own sweet-smelling incense to contribute to the atmosphere and fragrance of the cinema.
Besides these communal efforts, theatres have their own tricks. The most recent of which has been the premium seat. Because people rarely buy tickets for these, it brings the art of gambling into the cinema. The technique I employ is the ‘stalker,’ taking a seat nearby the radiating row and pouncing at the five-minute mark into the movie. If you go in straight away, guns blazing, then you run the risk of being publicly ejected onto the aisle when the ‘premium party’ arrive fashionably late. On these occasions, backup seats are a necessity, but if you exercise a degree of prudence, the premiums are yours.
The only problem posed now is that of the toilets. To visit them would be to concede a lack of organisation on your behalf, and further still, especially for men, to admit that you do not, in fact, possess the iron bladder that you were flaunting to people as you squeezed past them to get to your seat. And even if you do make it out of the public’s glare, there is always a wizened cinema employee crouching outside, whose look of passive sympathy seems to say “My son, you should have held back on the Sprite”. No, the toilets represent a social faux-pas for the experienced cinema-visitor and, as a result, they can resemble a medieval swamp. Something I came across in a German cinema, of all places.
How Theatrical! is a series on the delights of cinema-going, the dark pleasures of a theatre that go beyond cinema itself.
Catch Christian Seiersen on christianseiersen.wordpress.com.