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Berlin, Cannes Winners Round Out Film Forum’s Winter and Spring Schedule

Berlin, Cannes Winners Round Out Film Forum's Winter and Spring Schedule

Film Forum is welcoming the winter and spring months with a diverse slate of films from Britain, Scandinavia, Chad, Romania, Thailand, and Italy. Romania’s official entry to the Academy Awards, Florin Serban’s “If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle” will kick off their 2011 slate in January. The film took home the Silver Bear at this year’s Berlin Film Festival earlier this year. Cannes winners “Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall His Past Lives” (Palme d’Or) and “A Screaming Man” (Jury Prize) are also set to open in March and April respectively.

Film Forum’s complete set of releases is listed below with synopses provided by Film Forum:

January 5 – 18
“If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle.” Romania / Sweden / 2010 / 94 Minutes/ Film Movement. Directed by Florin Serban.

Romania’s official entry into this year’s Oscar competition for Best Foreign Language Film and a prize-winner in Berlin, “If I Want to Whistle, I Whistle,” is a taut drama set in a prison for juveniles, where 18-year-old Silviu has only a few days left to his sentence. But when his beloved younger brother and their good-for-nothing mother arrive for a visit, their surprising news sets the stage for his psychic unraveling. “If I Want to Whiste” uses non-pro, juvenile offenders in many of the roles and features first-time actor George Pistereanu as a young thug whose angry persona is flecked with remarkably vulnerable and charismatic qualities, not unlike those James Dean brought to the screen. An auspicious debut feature by a director who counts Bresson and Almodovar, Bruno Dumont and Ken Loach among his influences.  

January 19 – February 1
“The Woodmans.” USA / 2010 / 82 Minutes / Lorber Films. Directed by C. Scott Willis.

Francesca Woodman’s haunting B&W images, many of them nude self-portraits, now reside in the pantheon of great photography from the late 20th century. The daughter of artists Betty and Charles Woodman (she a ceramicist and he a painter/ photographer), Francesca was a precocious RISD graduate, who came to New York with the intention of setting the art world on fire. But in 1981, as a despondent 22-year-old, she committed suicide. “The Woodmans” beautifully interweaves the young artist’s work (including experimental videos and diary passages) with interviews with the parents who have nurtured her professional reputation these past 30 years, while continuing to make art of their own in the face of tragedy. The film grapples with disturbing issues, among them: parent-child competition and the toxic level of ambition that fuels the New York art scene. Says Betty Woodman succinctly: “She’s the famous artist and we’re the famous artist’s family.”

February 2  – 15
“Into Eternity.” Denmark / Finland / Sweden / 2010 / 75 Minutes / Films Transit International. Directed by Michael Madsen

Onkalo (Finnish for “hiding place”) is under construction: it’s a cavernous world of tunnels and corridors, a permanent storage facility for nuclear waste, meant to last 100,000 years (that’s 20 times as long as the pyramids have so far). Conceptual artist Michael Madsen’s film is a creepy, eerily elegant meditation on human folly, punctuated by philosophical and historical references, that asks: how do you keep 3,000 future generations from inadvertently opening this Pandora’s Box? Should markers be posted in every language or in hieroglyphics that say “keep out”? (Someone suggests Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” might work nicely.) Would it be better not to post any notice and hope no one will chance upon it? And what about the Ice Age predicted to occur in a mere 60,000 years? Will the weight of the ice impact the structural integrity of Onkalo? If you thought the Gulf oil spill was scary…
February 16 – March 1
“Zero Bridge.” Kashmir, India / USA / 2008 / 96 Minutes / Film Desk / Artists Public Domain. Directed by Tariq Tapa.

In the tradition of hard-hitting neo-realist filmmaking comes “Zero Bridge,” the debut feature of Tariq Tapa, a US-born filmmaker of Kashmiri/Jewish-American descent. Having spent his childhood summers in India-controlled Kashmir with his father’s family, he was committed to making a film of quotidian life, far from Bollywood fantasies and Western news reports of terrorism: Dilawar is a teenage pickpocket whose escape plans are complicated when he develops an uneasy alliance with a woman (herself fleeing an arranged marriage) whose passport he has stolen. “Zero Bridge” is a story of two young people’s struggle to retain their humanity, despite poverty, the traditional culture into which they’ve been born, and the fatalism, sexism and casual cruelty of their families.
March 2 – 15
“Uncle Boonme Who Can Recall His Past Lives.” UK / Thailand / France / Germany / Spain / 2010 / Strand Releasing. Directed Apichatpong Weerasethakul.

Winner of the Palme d’Or (2010 Cannes Film Festival, jury headed by Tim Burton), “Uncle Boonme” is a playful, surreal trip through the mind of a man at the end of his life who is contemplating reincarnation. The title character spends his final days surrounded by loved ones in the lush Thai countryside. He’s visited by the spirits of his deceased wife and long-lost son, the latter in the form of a giant monkey ghost. And trekking through the jungle to visit a remote hilltop cave, he sees his previous lives pass before him. “Mysterious, dreamlike, gentle, quiet, magical…it all has something sublime and visionary about it, with a spiritual quality I can’t remember seeing in any film recently.” – Peter Bradshaw, The Guardian (UK)

March 16 – 29
“Bill Cunningham New York.” USA / 2010 / 84 Minutes / Zeitgeist Films. Directed by Richard Press

“The best fashion show is always on the street.” – Bill Cunningham, The New York Times’s peripatetic, octogenarian, bicycle-riding fashion photographer.  Filmmaker Richard Press says it took 10 years to make this portrait of Cunningham, the first eight spent convincing his subject to acquiesce. Anyone who has so much as glanced at the Style section of the Times will recognize Cunningham’s work: an obsessive, meticulous, witty and eclectic array of images of New Yorkers dressed to kill. Cunningham is famous for spotting trends before anyone else, for giving young and unknown fashionistas as much play as society’s grande dames, and for rejecting every hostess’s effort to get him to stop for just one moment to sip champagne or shoot the breeze. Living in monk-like asceticism above Carnegie Hall for 50 years, Cunningham is a New York original, a man who has joyously transformed fashion into urban anthropology. 
March 30 – April 12
“Le Quattro Volte.” Italy / Germany / Switzerland / 2010 / 88 Minutes / Lorber Films. Directed by Michelangelo Frammartino

An idyllic village in Italy’s mountainous region of Calabria is the setting for “Le Quattro Volte,” an exquisitely filmed take on the cycles of life. Structured in four parts, per its title (“four times”), it opens with a shepherd tending his herd of goats, then shifts focus to one goat in particular, the tree under which he seeks shelter, and the industrialized fate of that plant. A.O. Scott of The New York Times writes: “(Its) view of nature is among the most profound, expansive and unsettling I have ever encountered on film. There is virtually no dialogue, yet the film is far from silent: the rustling of trees, the sounds of agricultural labor, the barking of a dog and in particular the cries of goats supply a meaning that transcends words, while Mr. Frammartino’s eye for both comedy and mystery produces compositions that are so strange and memorable that they seem to reinvent the very act of perception.”
Opening in April 2011
“Meek’s Cutoff.” USA / 2010 / 104 Minutes / Oscilloscope Laboratories. Directed by Kelly Reichardt

From the director of “Old Joy” and “Wendy Lucy”: The year is 1845, the earliest days of the Oregon Trail, and a wagon train of three families has hired mountain man Stephen Meek to guide them over the Cascade Mountains. Claiming to know a short cut, Meek leads the group on an unmarked path across the high plain desert, only to become lost in the dry rock and sage. Over the coming days, the emigrants face the scourges of hunger, thirst and their own lack of faith in one another’s instincts for survival. When a Native American wanderer crosses their path, the emigrants are torn between their trust in a guide who has proven himself unreliable and a man who has always been seen as a natural born enemy. With Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, Zoe Kazan, Paul Dano, Shirley Henderson, and Will Patton. “In this quiet, beautiful and terrifying fable about a group of lost pioneers, Reichardt combines epic ambitions with a focus on intimate, personal detail. A film that works masterfully with space, time and history.” – Andrew O’Hehir, Salon.

April 13  – 26
“A Screaming Man.” Chad / France / Belgium /  2010   92 Minutes / Film Movement. Directed by Mahamat-Saleh Haroun.

Shot in Chad, portraying the psychological fall-out of an endless civil war, “A Screaming Man,” is titled ironically, from a director who credits Ozu as his strongest influence.  Adam is a former swimming medalist, now a middle-aged hotel employee and head “pool man,” who maintains this calm oasis as much for his own benefit as for the hotel’s Western guests. The tensions between the father and his adult son are exacerbated when Adam loses his job to the younger man and the fragile world they both inhabit begins to crumble. With subtlety and grace, Haroun’s modern fable eschews histrionics for a smart, restrained, yet deeply feeling drama in which personality, politics and place define its characters’ reality. Winner, Jury Prize, 2010 Cannes Film Festival.
April 27 – May 10
“The Arbor.” UK / 2010 / 94 Minutes / Strand Releasing. Directed by Clio Barnard.

Wildly successful and dead by age 29, British playwright Andrea Dunbar (1961-1990) wrote the screenplay for “Rita, Sue and Bob Too!” based on her own hardscrabble life. Roger Ebert, writing about the film in 1987: “An angry comedy…If it were an American film, it would be an R-rated sex romp without a brain in its head, a soft-core baby-sitter saga… But this is a movie about two tough, deprived girls… and an irresponsible feather-brained adult who thinks he’s taking advantage of them, when in fact they’re a whole lot more worldly and cynical than he is.” “The Arbor” revisits this material through a innovative technique known as verbatim theater: actors lip-synching documentary recordings of the people they’re playing. Dunbar’s daughters update a family saga of alcoholism, drugs, prostitution, sexual abuse and violence. Rarely has the cyclical nature of poverty been so brilliantly and believably dramatized. Michael Brooke in Sight and Sound calls “The Arbor” “extraordinary…a complex interweaving of this already rich material, each layer constantly informing and interrogating the rest…simultaneously hyper-stylized and uncomfortably realistic.”

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